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From the Teens of Washington County, MD
Updated: 9 min 12 sec ago

Here, Queer, & Someone Else’s Problem

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 18:00

An Exploration of Central Conflict and Queer Representation in Popular Visual Media

by Spencer Thomas, Staff Writer

    The past decade has entailed many triumphs for the queer community, including the legalization of same sex marriage in the United States and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation affecting queer individuals who wish to serve in the military. Also among these triumphs is the increased presence of positive queer representation in mainstream television and film. While the impact of this may seem superficial, this newfound representation is vital, as it provides queer people with someone on the screen to relate to and can offer much needed validation to those struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, even despite the benefits, the unfortunate truth about mainstream media featuring prominent queer characters is that much of the conflict revolves entirely around their queer identity. Whether it be the hardship of coming out or the presence of some homophobic antagonist, the constant portrayal of the negative experiences plaguing the queer community denies it the sense of escapism associated with much of the fictional media consumed by the masses. Plots that closely reflect real life have, of course, always been a feature of television and film, but so have aspects of fantasy and idealism. Is it so much to ask for the same sense of unwavering fairytale romance that on screen cisgender heterosexual couples have received since the dawn of silent film?

    The dawn of mainstream queer media came at a time when the mortality as well as morality of being queer was threatened.  From the 1993 cinematic landmark Philadelphia, to the 2005 adaption of the musical Rent, films centered around the AIDS crisis have presented a cast of characters who are written as queer for the express purpose of being sick. This made sense an era where the call was less for queer people to be portrayed as only fully rounded humans, rather than vessels to promote awareness of the disease. But, as the widespread panic surrounding AIDS was separated from the popular conscious, the disease itself was separated from queer characters living outside a historical narrative, paving way for stories not only featuring queer characters defined by traits other than their health, but with an ever increasing emphasis on the mental rather than physiomedical fallout surrounding homophobia.

    One example of a successful modern queer narrative is the 2018 film Love, Simon. Although the plot deviates slightly from that of the young adult novel on which it was based, the overall premise remains the same. “Everyone deserves a great love story. But for seventeen-year-old Simon Spier… it’s a bit complicated: he’s yet to tell his family or friends he’s gay and he doesn’t actually know the identity of the anonymous classmate he’s fallen for online,” explains the official plot synopsis from 20th Century Fox’s website. That is not to discredit the film’s artistic merit. Visually the film is wonderful, and it’s soundtrack thoroughly danceable in its own right. However, as the synopsis makes apparent, it’s no typical story of falling for the mystery boy. Simon and his love interest spend a majority of the film terrified by the implications of coming out, and their fear isn’t exactly helped when paired with scenes of the school’s only openly gay student being bullied and harassed for his sexuality. The main issue wasn’t Simon finding his true love through the fog of anonymity, but finding both himself and his love through a fog comprised of  bigotry. Simon’s life takes a detour through a living hell, with pit stops made to be blackmailed and brutally outed along the way, and only at the end is he granted an ounce of happiness in the form of a single intimate scene at the film’s conclusion.

    Another recent successful work, the 2016 anime series Yuri On Ice, paved its own way for tackling queer romance. While Japanese media is no stranger to queer representation, the show departed from the conventions of yaoi or “boy’s love”, a niche genre familiar to the west which usually depicts a more sexually charged form of male on male love, in order to showcase a more honest relationship. The show’s main conflict is firmly rooted in the competitive world of professional figure skating, while the two male protagonists fall for eachother unimpeded by homophobia (although their relationship is not without self-doubt, as the title character struggles with nearly every element of himself but his sexuality). Even so, what little of their relationship is explored can prove at times underwhelmingly subtle. Displays of affection are either obscured, as in the case of a pivotal kiss scene, or up to interpretation as to whether they were truly meant to be queer romantic gestures or mere zealous bromance.

    Perhaps the biggest roadblock on the path to a queer fairytale is that, in a sense, many of the narratives featuring queer characters are already employing the tropes. It has been argued that every story that can be told, already has been. Indeed, queer narratives have their dragons and damsels in distress; however, instead of being literal dragons, homophobia (internal, external, and otherwise), runs amok. And, if a true love’s kiss can’t break any spell, those elements certainly should not make every queer narrative. Is that to say these kinds of stories should be moved past entirely? Not at all. The argument could even be made that, as familiar as these concepts are to queer media, stories may not even be recognizable as explicitly queer enough in their absence. Even if that is true, it’s time for creators to branch out and take risks. Give queer people literal dragons to slay, and they have the opportunity to rise triumphant not only in any number of tales, but at the box-office as well.

Evolution, Human Dignity, and the “Last Man”

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 17:20

by Jay Trovato, Librarian and Guest Contributor

How do we know that human life has value?  Intuitively, we know that it does, but how is it that we come to that conclusion?  I’ll tell you one thing: you will never get a straight answer to that question from the culture we currently live in.

 

First, let us consider the point of view of evolution, which is the official secular explanation for how we all got here.  One concept embedded within evolution is called “survival of the fittest,” which says that only the strongest members of a species survive the violent competition called life. We are not endowed with any special dignity other than the chance fact that we somehow got to the top of the food chain through natural selection (that is, the strong outlive the weak and pass on their strong genetic material to their offspring).  From a strictly evolutionary point of view, the idea of human worth does not really exist; it’s just a random trait that helped humans survive and evolve over time.

 

At the same time, however, we constantly see individuals and groups arguing against this concept by saying that every human life has value. We stand up against the abuse of others.  We create laws that protect weak and marginalized classes of people. We believe in things like fairness, justice, and peace. But, if the earth is just an arena where the species fight it out for survival and ascendancy, why would we bother to speak out in favor of protecting the vulnerable? Shouldn’t we just let the evolutionary forces do their thing and get rid of the weaker individuals to improve the genetic code passed down to the next generation?  We, as a society, have accepted evolution as an ontological assumption (that is, as an explanation for how we got here), but it seems that we are not willing to admit the implications in terms of the negative effect that it would necessarily have on the value of human life.

 

Therefore, as a culture, we are living in a contradiction.  Evolution tells us that there is no objective source of meaning for our lives, yet society and morality tells us that every person has value that is worth defending. The contradictory position I’ve just described is something the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called “The Last Man.” In an existence with no clear origin and no ultimate goal, the Last Man only seeks comfort, peace, and security for himself as he waits for humanity to give up its illusion of dignity. The Last Man is a weak, cowardly being with no aims other than to be baselessly and passively happy.

 

I don’t know how you will escape this depressing condition. All I can tell you is how I avoid it. I believe in the God of the Bible, who created all men and women in His own image. The idea that we are created in God’s image – regardless of the human categories by which we might be categorized or judged – gives an enormous amount of value to each and every person.  Furthermore, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that each person who believes in Him can be forgiven of sin and begin a relationship with God. As a result, I owe God my life twice: He created me (which means He has rights over my life) and He sacrificed His life for me (which means He is willing to go to infinite lengths to save me).

 

My position is a matter of faith, yes. But it certainly beats the alternatives!  I’m not a blind product of natural selection. I don’t blindly subscribe to the idea of human value – I know where my value comes from. I’m not a gutless, useless Last Man. I was created for a purpose, I live a life of grateful joy, and I have hope for the future based on the character of God as revealed in the Bible.
So, let me leave you with the question I asked at the beginning of this article: How do we know that human life has value?  Or, more importantly, how do you know that your life has value?

Shelved

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 18:52

by Isabella Hendershot

 

What’s it like being taken away from your safe place,

A place you love and cherish?

Do you feel upset and lost,

Like your one source of happiness has been taken?

Or do you feel numb?

Do you go on about your normal day,

Or does your world stop?

Do you long for the moment when your reconnected,

Back in your safe place?

The fear may not be present and nerves show.

Maybe it’s just waiting to rear its ugly face.

 

Or will it sink in and become your life?

Good and Bad Things About Social Media

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 18:44

There are two things we should learn about social media: it helps us get more information about what is going on in our lives, yet it also gives us more difficulty in understanding each other. In this article I’d like to describe what I consider to be the positive and negative aspects of social media.

Social media connects people to each other, allowing them to communicate easily over long distances. For example, how many of us have used social media to connect with old friends from other schools? Businesses can also use social media to advertise, find out what customers like and dislike about their products and services, and connect to other professionals in their field. Social media gives everyone an equal voice, regardless of how much money or education they have. It can also be a harmless way to get some amusement if there’s nothing to do.

Not everything about social media is good, however. It can reduce our productivity by taking our full attention off of work or school. Social media can also become addictive.  When people post things online, it can attract negative, judgmental attention from others, which in turn can make us feel upset. Sometimes people use social media for cyberbullying, which can lead to destructive consequences for everyone involved.  Parents, school staff, and other adults in the community can help kids prevent bullying by talking about it, creating a safe school environment, and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy.

We need other people to truly thrive. Social media has the power to connect us with people we may never meet in person, yet we’re still able to form relationships with them that are just as strong (and, I’ve found, in many cases even stronger) as our relationships with people we know in person. The tool of social media must be used wisely in order to take advantage of its benefits and avoid its problems.

Grey Beauty

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 17:33

by Isabella Hendershot, Staff Writer

The clouds come in,

Cover the sky,

Cry and weep,

Bring cold and beauty all around.

 

The world turns grey,

The clouds weep,

Sorrow is felt by everyone.

 

The cold that seeps through my skin and bones,

Makes me feel warm and cozy inside,

Makes me feel happy.

 

I appreciate the grey beauty,

It’s a beauty not many understand,

But I do.

 

I understand how she wants to be loved,

How she wants others to wish for her,

Hope that she lives again.

 

I understand this grey beauty,

All the pain she has went through,

All that she lets out,

Through the cold and icy rain.

 

I understand what others don’t,

Understand that she is different,

All in her own way,

Different by how she expresses herself.

 

The grey beauty lives on,

Lives when she is not seen,

She lives on inside of me,

The one who understands what it’s like.

 

She lives on inside of me,

All for how I love her,

Notice her and cherish her,

Believe in her.

 

I notice that she is more than grey,

More than sorrow and sadness,

More than a cold entity,

More than anyone can understand.

 

She is not grey or black and white,

She is a grey beauty in my heart,

One beauty that I notice,

Love so dearly that no one can understand.

 

She is a grey beauty,

One I love and cherish,

One I understand and notice,

One who lives and breathes inside of my heart,

One I wish I can see to live another day once she leaves.

The clouds come in,

Cover the sky,

Cry and weep,

Bring cold and beauty all around.

 

The world turns grey,

The clouds weep,

Sorrow is felt by everyone.

 

The cold that seeps through my skin and bones,

Makes me feel warm and cozy inside,

Makes me feel happy.

 

I appreciate the grey beauty,

It’s a beauty not many understand,

But I do.

 

I understand how she wants to be loved,

How she wants others to wish for her,

Hope that she lives again.

 

I understand this grey beauty,

All the pain she has went through,

All that she lets out,

Through the cold and icy rain.

 

I understand what others don’t,

Understand that she is different,

All in her own way,

Different by how she expresses herself.

 

The grey beauty lives on,

Lives when she is not seen,

She lives on inside of me,

The one who understands what it’s like.

 

She lives on inside of me,

All for how I love her,

Notice her and cherish her,

Believe in her.

 

I notice that she is more than grey,

More than sorrow and sadness,

More than a cold entity,

More than anyone can understand.

 

She is not grey or black and white,

She is a grey beauty in my heart,

One beauty that I notice,

Love so dearly that no one can understand.

 

She is a grey beauty,

One I love and cherish,

One I understand and notice,

One who lives and breathes inside of my heart,

One I wish I can see to live another day once she leaves.

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