Maleficent Scene Symbolizes Rape, But That’s Not a Bad Thing

by Nancy French

My family was on a Trans-Atlantic Disney cruise when Disney’s Maleficent debuted. Half of my family (the half that wasn’t six years old or taking care of the six-year-old) stayed up to watch it at 12:01 a.m. Thursday night, and chattered about it during the next morning’s leisurely breakfast. 

When I decided to see it later on Friday, the whole family tagged along to see it again. That’s how we saw Angelina Jolie’s film twice in less than 24 hours . . . with popcorn, a gently rocking boat, and nothing else to do in the world.

The movie, which re-imagines the story of Sleeping Beauty, focuses on the traditionally evil Maleficent. Jolie stuns in this role, emanating a grace and dignity while conveying an injustice that wounds her so deeply that the audience (sort of) understands how she eventually ends up cursing the king’s baby.

Not an easy feat.

In the film, (mild spoiler alert) her wings are stolen by someone whom she loved.

Since the movie came out, Jolie has said that this scene is symbolic of rape.

In a kids’ movie?

Yep.

But movie critic Rebecca Cusey says this isn’t a bad thing.

After all, fairy tales have always covered dark topics, and this one is no different. She writes in the Federalist:

Jolie isn’t talking about rape culture, as defined by the current crop of American feminists. It’s no accident that her film rules the global box office just as she takes the stage to combat the idea of rape as an inevitable part of war.

Western women have it relatively good, she argued at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict on June 10-13 in London: “We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence — that the shame is on the aggressor . . . We need to shatter that impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes,” Jolie said. “I have met survivors from Afghanistan to Somalia and they are just like us, with one crucial difference: We live in safe countries, with doctors we can go to when we’re hurt, police we can turn to when we’re wronged,Sc and institutions that protect us.”

In other words, Western women have what many women around the world do not: Tools to fight back. That’s hardly the word from the #YesAllWomen crowd.

Fighting back for justice has become one of the major themes in Jolie’s film projects. In addition to other projects about reconciliation and justice, she produced Difret, an Amharic-language film out of Ethiopia that has been making the festival circuit. It tells the story of a fourteen-year-old girl kidnapped by a man who wants to marry her, as is a custom there. As she defends herself, she kills him, only to find herself on trial for his murder. This film explores the boundaries between customary practice and law that attempts to change custom.

For Jolie, the story of rape does not end at the violation nor at fighting back. She goes further. “Maleficent” baffles victim-centric American feminists because instead of merely a story of victimhood or vengeance, it goes beyond both to become a story of rising above abuse and choosing to be better. As Jolie told the BBC, victims have a choice: “The core of ["Maleficent"] is abuse, and how the abused have a choice of abusing others or overcoming and remaining loving, open people.”

That message is increasingly the Gospel According to Saint Angie: Evil is complicated and must be stopped, but can only be overcome by good.

New Study: ‘Cool Kids’ Do Not End Up As Functioning Adults

by Nancy French

When I was in junior high, I lived in in awe of the kids at school that seemed to know more about life than the rest of us. 

There was the girl who wore a mini-skirt to school that was so short the principal sent her home — and her mother was indignant!  (A mom who sides with her kid? Unimaginable.) There were the kids who knew how to slip out of school without detection and those who knew how to get into a rated-R movie without their parents — or the movie management — ever finding out.  Of course, every movie, kids’ show, and book seems to celebrate the rule-breakers, the “cool,” the uninhibited.

However, a new study shows that what has always been described as normal adolescent behavior has long-term, real-life repercussions. Abby Phillip reports:

According to the study, which surveyed 184 seventh- and eighth-graders and then followed up with them 10 years later, the kids who were involved in minor delinquent behaviors or precocious romance and obsessed with physical appearance and social status were much worse off in adulthood than their less “cool” friends.

In Allen’s data, he found that at 22 or 23 years old, these kids had 45 percent higher rates of alcohol and drug problems and 22 percent higher rates of criminal behavior; their ratings of social competency — their ability to have normal and positive relationships with others — were 24 percent lower than their peers.

“We were surprised by it, because in general, being popular and being accepted by your peers is associated with good outcomes,” Allen said. “There’s a subgroup that kind of cheats — they’re trying to appear more mature than they are.

“These are behaviors that a lot of parents would think are typical adolescent behaviors but early on are really marker of significant risk,” he added.

Interestingly, the study didn’t include trouble makers who’d already committed major crimes at an early age.  Rather, it focused on kids who flouted rules — the social strivers who might break small rules and who typically seem to have it all together. Apparently, that perceived advantage doesn’t last, because it’s hard to shake the heady feeling that popularity gives a kid.  Once he or she gets into the patterns of rule-breaking, it’s hard to get out of that pattern to face normal, adult life.

“They look like they’re on the fast track to adulthood, but it ends up being a dead end,” said University of Virginia psychology professor Joseph Allen, who conducted the study.

As the mom of a middle school boy, this study is next on our summer-reading list.

Bitter New Trend: “Divorce Cakes”

by Nancy French

Anna Quinn writes about a disturbing new trend in the bakery business:

“Let them eat cake,” Marie Antoinette may have mockingly said upon hearing that the French peasants had no bread to eat. Recently divorced couples seem to have taken her cue. During what was once considered a dark hour, people are now throwing divorce parties, complete with what they are now calling “freedom cakes.” 

The AP reports:

Divorce, it seems, has turned into a party — special cakes and all.

Event planners, bakers, lawyers and academics note the rise of “divorce parties” over the last several years, many with cakes featuring weapon-wielding brides or gloomy black frosting on inverted tiers.

“I’ve taken to naming them freedom fests, as you aren’t celebrating the end of the marriage but the freedom you have chosen in your life,” said Richard O’Malley, a New York-area event planner who organized one divorce blowout that cost a woman about $25,000. Michal Ann Strahilevitz, a marketing professor at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, has been to a few such parties and sees them as part of a larger trend in celebrations.

“People are also celebrating ‘coming out’ to their parents or co-workers, and the birthdays of their pets. Cancer survivors are celebrating relevant milestones of being cancer-free. There has been an enormous increase in the variety of things that Americans celebrate,” she said.

So why not a divorce, asks Steve Wolf, who lives outside Austin, Texas. He marked his amicable split with a party co-hosted by his ex that included a gluten-free cake she baked herself in lemon, a favorite flavor for both of them.

Wolf, the father of three boys, considers the end of his marriage a “conscious uncoupling.” Yes, like Gwyneth Paltrow. The party, he said, offered closure, especially important because kids were involved.

“We wanted to do something that expressed the fact that we were doing the divorce not so much as an end of our relationship but as us moving into things like co-parenting and co-business management,” said Wolf, whose former wife works for him in his special effects and stunt business serving the film industry.

“We cut the cake together like we did the wedding cake 10 years before. When life gives you lemons, make lemon cake,” he joked, noting the sentiment she wrote in the icing.

Read more here. (And check out this disturbing “divorce cake,” as well as this comical one.)

As odd – and inevitable — as this development may be, it makes me think of this family-owned bakery in Colorado about which Todd Starnes reported:

A family owned bakery has been ordered to make wedding cakes for gay couples and guarantee that its staff be given comprehensive training on Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws after the state’s Civil Rights Commission determined the Christian baker violated the law by refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Or this one in Oregon:

The owners of a Christian bakery who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after they were found guilty of violating the couple’s civil rights.

I wonder if the day is coming when a Christian-owned bakery refuses to celebrate the dissolution of a marriage, on the same Biblical grounds on which they have refused to make cakes for same sex marriage?  (Not all divorce is un-Biblical, of course.)

Either way, owning a bakery in modern America is now rife with unexpected moral complications.

He Said He Was leaving. She Ignored Him.

‘Fifty Percent of All Marriages End in Divorce’ and Other Myths

by Nancy French

“Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce,” right? Not so fast. Author and social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn is trying to change the way we talk about marriage and divorce: “There is no such thing as a 50 percent divorce rate. It’s never been close,” she told The Blaze. “Right now … 72 percent of people are still married to their first spouse — that’s Census Bureau data.” She explained her analysis of the marriage data to The Blaze:

And of the 28 percent who are no longer married to their first spouse, Feldhahn said that a good chunk of those people were married when their husband or wife died and were never actually divorced. So, theoretically, the divorce rate must fall somewhere below the 28 percent mark.

What about this statement? “Church-going couples divorce as frequently those who never darken the church doors on Sunday mornings.” Is that one correct? Not according to Feldhahan:

When comparing Christians to the general population, Feldhahn said that asking the question nominally presented some problems. For instance, if someone says they are a Christian, it doesn’t necessarily mean that person is a practicing believer. So, Feldhahn partnered with Barna and re-ran their data to focus in on church attendance in the past week — one of the clearest indicators of how deeply one practices his or her faith. While the divorce rate was similar for nominal Christians and the general public, she found something profound among practicing believers. “The divorce rate dropped by 27 percent between those who went to church last week,” Feldhahn said. “The theory is that attendance in other worship faiths would have a similar impact — being part of a community where people are around you will notice when something is going wrong.”

Feldhahn, who researched this topic for eight years for her new book “The Good News about Marriage,” says everything we’ve been told about marriage is wrong. Why is this important when it’s obvious marriages are seriously under attack from a culture trying to undermine the principles on which they are founded? Feldhahn believes the excessive pessimism breeds more failed marriages. “One of the biggest patterns that I’ve seen over the years as a social researcher is that there’s one common denominator about whether marriage survives or fails,” she told TheBlaze. “If a couple thinks they’re going to make it, they generally do. The outcome is very different if they think, ‘This is never going to change. We’re never going to make it.’” In other words, we should take care to speak accurately about the state of marriage today to make sure we aren’t inadvertently making things worse.

On the Mother’s Day Front

by Colette Moran

Andrea Caumont and Wendy Wang of Pew Research dug up all kinds of facts and figures about motherhood in our nation. According to a U.S. Census report in 2012:

  • There are more than 85 million moms in the U.S., and 4 million of them gave birth in the last 12 months.
  • Utah leads the nation with a fertility rate of 2.5, while Vermont is last with 1.6. 
  • There are ten million single moms, and 5.2. million of them are custodial parents who are owed child support.
  • Almost twice as many American women who are done childbearing had no children (19%) vs those who had four or more (10%).

Pew also reports:

And Ipsos reports that cards top the list on Mother’s Day, followed by phone calls and dining out . . . and women are more likely to celebrate mom than men.

ICYMI: Here is how people reacted to being offered  ”the toughest job in the world” — yes, motherhood.

The Social Mobility of Baby Boom Women

by Colette Moran

One of the latest political footballs is how women are faring in the workplace, particularly their wages. A report from Pew’s Economic Mobility Project has six key facts that Brookings found notable. When comparing Baby Boom daughters to their parents:

1. All daughters earn more than their moms did, but most earn less than their dads, as shown below. (Sons are earning more than both parents.)

2. But as the above chart also shows, a high percentage of poor daughters are making more than their dads. (Nearly four out of five daughters from the bottom 20%.)

3. But those higher wages for poor women aren’t raising poor families’ overall incomes because of the marriage gap. (More on that here from Brad Wilcox at The Atlantic.)

4. Working daughters whose moms did not work seem to be marrying men who make more money, resulting in higher family incomes. (It’s unclear why.)

5. Daughters born in the bottom 40% tend to stay there (unlike the sons) and daughters born in the top 20% are more likely than the sons to drop downward.

6. Working has been good for daughters’ mobility, especially the poorest, compared to their moms.

Find the full report here.

An Extra Special Contestant on Wheel of Fortune

by Colette Moran

Props to Wheel of Fortune for having their first special-needs contestant. Other contestants have been accommodated in the past, including a few contestants unable to spin the wheel for themselves who had a “designated spinner,” but this was a first for the top-rated game show. 

Trent Girone, a 21-year-old from Peoria, AZ, who has Asperger’s and Tourette’s syndromes, has been a fan of the show since he was a toddler. In his contestant profile he wrote: 

My best advice to future contestants is to relax and have a good time. It is a lot of fun, whether you win big or not. That is my number one guarantee.

I want to thank all of the contestant staf for taking the time to help me, and would like to thanks Pat Sajak for his assistance, as well. I have some physical challenges that they were aware of and they made sure I was safe and comfortable.

Here are the highlights of his appearance — way to go, Trent!