“We” are nuanced people, too!

Islam is not a race, yet Islamophobia partakes of racist characteristics.  Most Muslims do not “choose” Islam in the way that they choose to become doctors or lawyers, nor even in the way that they choose to become fans of Coldplay or Radiohead.  Most Muslims, like people of any faith, are born into their religion.  They then evolve their own relationship with it, their own, individual, view of life, their own micro-religion, so to speak.

Variations among believers:

There are more than a billion variations of lived belief among people who define themselves as Muslim – one for each human being, just as there are among those who describe themselves as Christian, or Buddhist, or Hindu. Islamophobia represents a refusal to acknowledge these variations, to acknowledge individual humanities, a desire to paint members of a perceived group with the same brush. In that sense, it is indeed like racism. It simultaneously credits Muslims with too much and too little agency: too much agency in choosing their religion, and too little in choosing what to make of it.

Lived religion is a very different thing from strict textual analysis. Very few people of any faith live their lives as literalist interpretations of scripture. Many people have little or no knowledge of scripture at all. Many others who have more knowledge choose to interpret what they know in ways that are convenient, or that fit their own moral sense of what is good. Still others view their religion as a kind of self-accepted ethnicity, but live lives utterly divorced from any sense of faith.

On women and Islam:

I have female relatives my age who cover their heads, others who wear mini-skirts, some who are university professors or run businesses, others who choose rarely to leave their homes. I suspect if you were to ask them their religion, all would say “Islam”. But if you were to use that term to define their politics, careers, or social values, you would struggle to come up with a coherent, unified view.

Stereoptypes of Muslim men:

In my early 20s, I remember being seated next to a pretty Frenchwoman at a friend’s birthday dinner in Manila. Shortly after we were introduced, and seemingly unconnected with any pre-existing strand of conversation, she proclaimed to the table: “I’d never marry a Muslim man.” “It’s a little soon for us to be discussing marriage,” I joked. But I was annoyed. (Perhaps even disappointed, it occurs to me now, since I still recall the incident almost two decades later.) In the cosmopolitan bit of pre-9/11 America where I then lived, local norms of politeness meant that I’d never before heard such a remark, however widely held the woman’s sentiments might have been.

-Mohsin Hamid, writer (from a recent Guardian op ed piece)p017j094

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Spoiler Free Review: Maps to the Stars (NOW PLAYING)

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Jerome (Robert Pattinson) is a chauffer/struggling actor & screenwriter.

This film is NOT for everyone- it certainly made me and my gal pal think “WTF!?”  The small audience (perhaps 15 ) we saw it with were nearly silent, aside from a few awkward/small laughs.  One woman sitting close to me looked at her watch, asking “How long is this movie?”  It contains material that could be VERY offensive, but that’s not a shocker in a David Cronenberg film.  I think MANY folks want to see Julianne Moore, BUT don’t go if that’s the ONLY reason! 

This is the latest from the veteran Canadian director who brought us Dead Ringers (disturbingly good- mainly for Jeremy Irons), The Fly, Crash (somehow I got through it), A History of Violence (which I REALLY liked), and Eastern Promises (read my review).  His style is “cold, mechanical, and detached” (as one of the critics on the 3/22/15 ep of The Film Stage podcast noted).  This is a scathing portrayal of Hollywood celeb types, w/ VERY few laughs and an (almost) soundless score, which adds to its disturbing nature.

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Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) gets a job as an assistant for has-been actress Havana (Julianne Moore)

I was confused as to the purpose of Robert Pattinson’s chauffer/actor/screenwriter character, Jerome.  At first, he seems genuine in his interactions with the mysterious Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), but then he comments to Havana (Julianne Moore): “Isn’t it all just research?”  I learned that the screenwriter used to be a chauffer in Hollywood.  As for Havana, she’s like a teen girl in the body of a middle-aged/insecure/overly medicated/selfish woman.

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Teen actor Benji (Evan Bird) w/ his dad (played by John Cusack)

Agatha is supposed to be a disfigured young woman, but she doesn’t look THAT bad; one of The Film Stage critics thought that Cronenberg was showing “the difference between what’s on the page and what’s on the screen.”  Perhaps the most irritating character, Benji (Evan Bird), hangs out with a small group of teen celebs “who are supposed to be pretty people, but are really not that beautiful” (The Film Stage).  Where fame, beauty, youth, and money are so valued, there is “a sort of moral decay” (The Film Stage). 

There is one (badly done CGI) scene that several commentators (on IMDB) wrote was “laughable.”  Perhaps the director didn’t think this was a big deal?  Or maybe it was intentional?  VERY little of this film made sense to me, so I had to look up what critics/reviewers thought- that’s a BAD sign!