Gothic Horror, Fairy Tales, and Christian Marriages

Today I read “How I Know My Wife Married the “Wrong” Person“. In it the author expresses how he had married the “wrong” person, debunks relationships “myths”, and explains what marriage is “really about”. I do not disagree with  all of  his points, but what has always bothered me about these Christian marriage advice columns is how lacking they can be. They often feel vapid, saying things that most people know. They are also constantly regurgitating Christian key words without really unpacking the message.

The author did offer some helpful advice, but he does so shallowly, contributing to a dialogue that has evolved. For example, the ideas of fairy tales are already being challenged, look at the reactions to Disney’s revamping of Merida. Disney used to be the capital of, and would capital on, fairy tales. It even has a castle, and it’s female characters are either all “princesses”, or witches and step-mothers (save Brave). What the author is missing is that our “fairy tales” has changed. Books like “Twilight”, “Safe Haven” (and other Nicholas Spark’s books-turned-into-movies), and “Hunger Games” are capturing our imagination with imperfect individuals. Even animations like Brave (although not very radically), which featured a princess, is trying to resist fairy tale motifs. They are trying to be more feminist, more aware of the changing attitudes, and be more accessible to a variety of audience members

This is an important detail because that means the dialogue is shifting. But what is it now trying to say?

The author writes:

“there has been a myth floating around our idealistic individualistic society. A myth that claims that marriage will only work when you find your ‘smoking-hot, high-class, filthy rich, love-at-first-sight, sexually compatible, accept-me-as-I-am, Titanic-Notebook-Sweet-Home-Alabama-Twilight-esque, soul mate’.”

Our society is far from idealistic, it’s hard to be. Technology has a funny way of reminding us of the horrors that is constantly happening all around us. I actually found out about the Boston Bombing through Twitter. Amanda Palmer’s fans were tweeting if she was alright, which prompted me to try to find out what was going on. Ironically, later on people will be tweeting for her to be bombed.

Which is why I find our fascination with horror-romances like Twilight and Warm Bodies disturbing. We seem to ignore the flippant treatment of violence in romantic relationships, and forget that the leading men were trying to kill our heroines to begin with. The difference with traditional gothic tales like Dracula, Carmilla, and Frankenstein is that people ran away from the monsters. No one was trying to date or marry them because they were monsters. Clearly, the symbols for the monsters are changing. Amongst many things, they are no longer men/women you should avoid, but misunderstood men/women that are clearly good. They follow the “Beauty and the Beast” motif. But instead of recognizing that Prince Charming is now Beast, the author is still fixated on the past images of all men being Princes.

Admittedly, I was very willing to forget that R had earlier on been eating the heroine’s ex-boyfriend’s brains. But that’s what makes them truly scary: these monsters are able to seduce us with their sparkly (pun intended) personality and appearances. It’s like Lucifer who can be the angel of light, the most beautiful of all the angels, but also the demon who stalks us like a hungry lion. What worries me isn’t that people will want a super pale, 6-packed boyfriend who likes reading and can play the piano very well, but that people will mistake Edward’s behavior with what’s acceptable in a relationship. By arguing that no men are perfect, the author is giving the Beast leeway because the author is missing that the Princes are now Beasts. What we should really be problematizing is that “Beauty and the Beast” is constantly being slipped into contemporary themes like a roofie, and we’re now all waking up from bad relationships and asking, “What happened?!”

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Dear Parents

I grew up in a Christian home. If I had to pick a denomination, we’d be Pentecostal with a strong foundation in Scripture. I was taught the fundamentals, such as:

  • Jesus is the only way to achieve salvation.
  • Baptism is an open declaration of your faith, so if you’re a Believer, you should get baptized. You won’t go to hell if you don’t, but if you’re a Christian and proud, why wouldn’t you get baptized?
  • No pre-marital sex.
  • No dating non-Christians
  • Dad is the head of the household
  • Scripture is 100% God’s word. Do not nit-pick and choose what to follow. Follow all of God’s word.
  • etc.

My parents were good parents, but they were also awful people. My mother had no qualms with encouraging us to spy on each other, and my dad had no problem with asking my high-school teachers to spy on me and a guy I wanted to date. They also requested that we never sit next to each other, be close together, etc. We were not “fooling around”, but my parents didn’t like that I really liked this guy and that I wanted to date him. Ironically, my parent’s attempts to forbid me from seeing him was the first time I even considered that maybe I loved him. It was my mother who shouted out that I loved him. I never even thought that I did, and probably wouldn’t have as I only knew that I really liked him, and was attracted to him. I even told my mom that I didn’t love him, and yet she shouted back that I did. Isn’t that so strange? So unwise? Understandably, we felt attached to the story of Romeo and Juliet.

My parents gave me the best education they could afford. I always had plenty of food, new clothes, new shoes, and make-up and hair done for school banquets. When I went to University, my dad had bought me a brand new Mac labtop, and he had paid for my higher education to the best of his abilities.

I am trying to help you understand, dear parents, that I grew up in a “good family”, but it wasn’t healthy. My dad, and I had participated in this as well, would often justify that he wasn’t  “bad” because he never molested us, hit us, or starved us. My father was aggressive with my brothers, and although he never laid a hand on me, he hurt me in other ways. My mother would always take me on dates and go shopping with me to cheer me up, but when I had asked her when I could date she replied with, “after college”. This was detrimental to me as a blossoming young woman because I should have been guided, not forbidden from a healthy desire to find a mate. My mother could have taken that opportunity to talk to me about why I wanted to date, about what I was looking for, about what a relationship should be like, etc. But I had to learn a lot of this on my own.

As a child I had felt helpless and depressed. I wanted very much to be a good Christian and therefore a good daughter. I cried a lot in bed because I was so exasperated with my environment. I even once thought about running away but I had nowhere to go. I am thankful that when I did finally run away, I did have a place to go.

Dear parents, my own parents believed strongly in the verse to not “spare the rod” or you’ll “spoil the child” (Proverbs 13:24). I’ve been spanked, had my mouth washed with soap, grounded, and had internet/computer taken away from me. Yet as I got older, I began to realize that my parents were equating love with control, love with censorship, and love with being like God. We have heard this often, God is a parent to the Church, and so like God, parents must (insert behavior).

I wasn’t allowed to watch Japanese anime because my parents thought it was too often perverted, and yet we watched “Face Off” when I was in 3rd grade and my youngest brother was in Kindergarten. I was scared and didn’t want to watch the scene where his face was being peeled off. My dad and my brothers would play “Doom”. I was also scared because I didn’t like the demons and the spooky music that it’s so famous for. I was often frightened because I was sensitive, because I hated not finding Carmen Sandiego and being booed at, because I was confused why certain shows and games were off limits, and yet others were. I understand that often my dad wanted to be able to watch “adult shows” and play “adult games”, but as a child it confused me because I was reading about only putting “whatever is noble, whatever it true” (Philippians 4:8) in me, and yet I wasn’t always seeing such materials.

Gentle readers, clearly, my parents aren’t like God. It is impossible to be like God. Even though it is a metaphor for God’s faithfulness and His everlasting love, this metaphor can only be extended so far. Parenthood is not a theocracy. Although there is a point in a child’s life when it isn’t a democracy, parents should be trying to teach their children to be healthy, independent, loving, respectful adults, and not mistake for the hand of God with their own hand. Parents should strive to equip them with the language, the courage, and the strength to answer tough questions and to live a worthy life, not mold them to be the kind of Christian they think they should be. Dear parents, how can your child be a good Christian and human being when the protection under the wing of the hen becomes a leash? When their personal relationship with Christ isn’t personal, but one that is deafened by the whirr of the helicopter parent?

Yes, there are fundamentals that can’t be argued, but how do we carry out the nuances? This is equally important and should be just as humbly, lovingly, struggled with. How do we explain killing animals and eating meat, and yet fighting for an unborn life? How do we explain not allowing women to be leaders in the Church, and yet try to teach our daughters to be strong, independent women? How do we explain “living by faith”, and yet vote against a health care system that could help so many people?

Remember this: “All things are lawful for me,but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me,but not all things edify.  Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

My parents aren’t perfect, and when I become a parent, I won’t be perfect. But I do not allow my frailty to excuse my actions. My parents would often say, “well, I’m not perfect, but I have faith in God”. Although this sounds like a beautiful statement, it had its danger because it was sometimes an excuse. My parents were okay with punishing and censoring us without wisdom. They forgot to “not exasperate your children” (Ephesians 6:4), and often let their personal fears and bad experiences interfere.

My dad saw a lot of women in unhappy marriages, and my parents were often worried that I’d marry too young, or the wrong person.

They did not know me. Do you truly know your child?

I have often struggled with vegetarianism because of the things I’ve heard my parents and other Christians say. How can we march against abortion and yet advocate guns, steak, and violence? They would argue that the Bible says it’s okay, that the animals are in our dominion, etc. misquoting or misrepresenting ideas that were meant by Peter to unburden the Christian Jews.

I am now a vegetarian, and I believe it’s crucial for all Christians to consider this path. No, you won’t go to hell if you don’t, but it is just as important to care for our environment as it is to care for your human neighbors.

I do not talk to my parents, and yesterday my brother called me to congratulate me on my graduation. He said he loved me and it gave me hope. My parents do not think that God will favor my path because I refuse to accept my brother’s actions, or my parent’s reaction. Yet, I humbly and bravely dare to say that God has shown me favor, mercy, and kindness by giving me four cats, a perfect partner, and his family, who comfort me when I remember my orphan state. I have not been without work, food, or shelter, and I am successful in my writing career.

God is good.