On Demi Lovato’s Departure from Music Industry & Social Media Celebrity Culture

“They” say that if you have a voice, you should use it. If you have a brain, you should use it.

And if you have a platform, you should use it. 

I’m someone who has a voice and a brain, but no platform. No power. Every day, I am frustrated by my lack of ability to make a difference in the world. I still try, but it’s a disheartening effort as I know it reaches a very small audience — an audience of already like-minded individuals, at that. My words have almost no impact. And I have no real way to amplify them. 
So, I’m with “them” when “they” encourage famous people to speak out about important issues. 

Many times, the onus is put on famous people to be “role models” and “good influences,” etc. 

So why do “they” also hate it so much when famous people do precisely what we ask of them?
There is a copied+pasted comment going around Facebook. You’ll see it on virtually any and every article that has to do with a celebrity endorsement. (West Wing cast, LeBron James, etc.) I won’t quote it here because I don’t want to boost its circulation. In fact, the only reason I bring it up at all is because it is indicative of this fickle attitude we have toward celebrities: it essentially posits that celebrities exist to make audiences happy for a brief period of time (the length of a song or movie, etc.) but that their purpose in our lives stops there. They have no more influence, no more power than that, no meaning. Therefore, they should shut up. 

… But weren’t we just encouraging people to speak up, if they have a platform?

Weren’t we just telling that up-and-comer that they can be a good influence? 

Didn’t we say, through our constant consumption of the work they produce, that we want this person around? 

Doesn’t the very fact that we call ourselves “fans” mean we are justifying the promotion of celebrity culture? 

Yes. Yes, it does. And we did. And we were. 
We’re just fucking immature hypocrites when it comes right down to it. 
We ONLY want a celebrity to speak out if they’re saying what we want to hear. 

And that standard changes. FREQUENTLY. 
One minute, we’re changing the Miriam-Webster definition of “snake” to include a picture of Taylor Swift’s face AND THE NEXT we’re shunning Demi Lovato for criticizing Saint Swift? Ok. Sure. Here’s the problem: you assholes will just flip on Taylor again in six weeks anyway! 
Because she’s in the same trap as Demi. They ALL are. One wrong move, and you get a storm of hate. And a wrong move can be any of the following: 

– Stealing someone else’s backup dancers

– Lying about giving a rapper permission to use your name in a song

– Being in a relationship 

– Claiming to empower women & then pitting women against each other for money 

– Licking donuts 

– Sounding too much like Madonna

– Not acting like a Disney kid forever

– Speaking out about mental illness

– Speaking on behalf of a political figure

– Holding people to a high standard, and then realizing that society doesn’t appreciate being held to that standard, and feeling a need to escape for a year.

– Anything, really. The list goes on forever in a committed, nonsensical fashion.  
When one person needlessly attacks another online, with the intention of making them feel bad for their traits/actions, which largely do not effect them, there is a word for that:
It’s called “cyberbullying.” And it’s usually a bad thing.  

‘Celebrity culture’ is fine, I guess, and fun when you’re at a convention or something — but there’s always been a fine line between criticism and bullying celebrities, just as there has always been a fine line between admiring a celebrity and being obsessive. 

Now, to get randomly political (stick with me, there’s a thread), we have a loud section of society, and a presidential candidate who represents that section of society, who have normalized it to the point of insanity. 
Literally — people in our society are more prone to mental illness now than ever before. A topic about which Demi Lovato has routinely spoken out. 

Coincidence? Obviously. 

But you can’t deny that there’s a correlation between people who bully, and people who think that mental illness awareness, political correctness, education, and basic decency are all big jokes. 
Or worse — some kind of insidious agenda, something worth fighting.

They’re the ones that push people like Demi away, and make them feel like it’s just not worth it anymore.
These people are the reason we’re in this Trump mess, and I hope Demi finds the strength to continue helping us fight them. We need her voice, and not all of us will shame her for using it. 
– THE DUEL CITIZEN

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American History, with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

Grab your tea, grab your shade.

Early Years & Revolution:
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful land.
In this beautiful, happy land lived beautiful, happy people toiling day by day, trying to figure out life and the natural world, their place in the cosmos, etc.
Then one day, a new group of people arrived. There was some initial conflict, but eventually, they were able to clear a space for themselves in their new home. And then a little more space. And then a little more. Eventually, the first people were ‘relocated’ to a much smaller, much less familiar patch of land to make room for group #2.
But group #2 wasn’t all bad! They were industrious – builders, explorers, inventors! In just a couple of centuries, they built up whole towns out of ‘nothing,’ and even broke free of their cruel oppressors. You see, they were paying taxes to a government that they felt did not represent them, and declared this an ‘injustice.’ They weren’t wrong. By today’s standards, that’s still upsetting.
But the point is, they kept building. (Because they were awesome. The awesomest. Ever.)
Have you forgotten about group #1 yet? Good. They won’t matter again for a long time.
Eventually, group #2 grew so large, it finally spanned from one coast to the next, in the completion of a vision known as ‘manifest destiny,’ which basically translates to “arbitrary ego thing” or “nonsensical precursor to concept of American Exceptionalism.”

And it ONLY happened through the magic of group #2’s hard work and superior religion!

There was no aid or guidance offered by the relocated first peoples, no massive deal with Napoleon, no war with Mexico in which we stole about half their land, and CERTAINLY no unpaid workforce of millions helping group #2 to achieve ‘greatness.’ And even if those things DID happen, there’s obviously no reason to focus on them, because their names aren’t on the sides of buildings, so who cares?

Also, no women. Not yet.

Civil War:
BACK TO GROUP #2.
They made a lot of money from all of this building and expanding.
So much so that they were starting to be taken seriously by the rest of the world, and the new nation entered the world of international trade. Soon enough, the two halves of group #2 (2A & 2B) got jealous of each other: one had factories, the other had crops, and neither could decide who was better.

They also had differing values in many respects, particularly concerning the size of government, and the practice of slavery – which was the whole reason 2B could boast about their crops at all.

So instead of getting along, 2A and 2B each tried to weaken each other, in various ways. For instance, the Bill of Rights was included as part of the Constitution, so that citizens could defend themselves from tyranny. Because who wants to be told what to do by someone else?
Speaking of slavery, group #2 ultimately decided on a “compromise” that more or less codified the growing geographical division (Kansas-Nebraska Act) by allowing new states to be either free or slave, depending on whosever turn it was – the start of a wonderful tradition of ‘just letting those other guys be assholes for now so we can get stuff done in the short run,’ or ‘kicking the can,’ as it were.
When one side felt as though its right to enslave other human beings and infringe upon their basic rights for their profit was itself being infringed upon, the aforementioned political and geographical division came to its natural conclusion in the form of an armed conflict that lasted 4 years, and became the bloodiest war in the beautiful land’s history. (Even when the warring ‘savages’ roamed the land, they never did THIS kind of damage to each other.
Group #2 really is the best at EVERYTHING.)

To this day, LIVING descendants of group 2B still insist that the war was fought over ‘states’ rights,’ which answers the question, ‘Why didn’t 2A just tell 2B to shut up in the first place, because they always had the moral high ground, instead of passing the stupid Kansas-Nebraska Act?”
It is also a hint as to how Donald Trump came to be nominated for President of the United States, but that’s much later.

Reconstruction/ Post-Civil-War: 
Nothing happened to the former slaves. *cough* Jim Crow *cough*
They all lived happily ever after. Until the 1960s, I think.
In fact, nothing else happened in this period to anyone but group #2. African Americans (Now *technically* citizens! Yay! All your troubles are over!), Latin Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans were all perfectly content, and enjoyed equal privilege in society. So much equal privilege that they got lumped into those listed broad ethnic categories which have been embraced ever since, because that’s easier than learning new words like “Chumash” and “Senegal.”
And group #2 continued to fracture amongst Irish, Scottish, German, Dutch, Swedish, French, Italian, and British immigrants. Because to group #2, cultural distinctions are VERY IMPORTANT, and we have to talk about them all in order to be wise and fair.

Even though, in this period, Group #2 (and all its various cultural sects) was actually SUUUUUUUPER BORING, and basically just did more building. And banking. And inventing.
But the politicians and bankers were crooks (Tammany Hall; rise of Wall Street; anti-trust laws came about in this time, etc.) and the inventors were thieves (Edison). The builders were a more ethically-diverse group, but let’s not look into who actually built our railroads. (Answer: lots & lots of Chinese laborers).

Oh! You know another thing group #2 did in this period? Mostly 2B, but not entirely. A relatively small number started donning these really fashionable white hoods and terrorizing people who were different. Not sure why. I assume they were trying to ‘make America great again.’
(Fun fact: this look is copied directly to illustrate Death Eaters’ racism in Harry Potter. But I guess comparing Donald Trump to Voldemort would be too… on-the-nose (pardon the villain-body-shaming pun).

In 1898, there was an oft-forgotten war with Spain. Group #2 was unable to swallow Cuba and the Philippines (and have been all pissy about it ever since) BUT they DID manage to swallow Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii in the process.
2 of which became states, and the other doesn’t have enough clout in territorial North America for me to even finish this sen

Anyway, group #2 made lots and lots of money in what was called the ‘Gilded Age.’ Because gold is valuable, you see, and that kind of thing is important to group #2.
Possibly the only thing, when it comes right down to it.
The wealthy became obscenely wealthy, and the poor became destitute.
A ship sank in 1912. This matters because it was expensive and famous rich people died.
Also, movies came about in this time. This matters because it was the first time poor people could become crazy rich without doing much work. Hence why every poor creative person (without connections) ever since has been looking for their ‘big break’ in Hollywood. Suckers.

Now is when we get to talk about women – they exist! And after a prolonged campaign to FINALLY acquire the same rights as those other, lesser, browner people, group #2’s women finally got group #2’s men to listen to them, and grudgingly enfranchise ALL women, including those not belonging to group #2. How generous of them!
Sexism and racism were then over forever.

World Wars and Other Wars that Matter:
But the beautiful land was lonely, and longed to be a part of the world at large.
It had been trading for a century already, building a reputation for itself, even gaining respect from its former motherland, who was starting to see it as a real ally.
That backfired when the beautiful land (not just group #2) was asked to help them fight in a war.
The beautiful land tried to broker a peace agreement, but failed, and so it got involved, and won!
Because it’s the possibly greatest country of all time!

The President even tried to create this weird multinational cooperative unit, but his countrymen knew it was silly, because they were obviously superior to other countries. Like, dude, they just proved that.
Then a crazy guy came to power in Germany, because the Germans were all depressed about that last war. And it was almost funny to laugh at his moustache for a while, but then our allies started screaming for help again, because they were getting bombed to shit or whatever. And some of the non-Christian people in occupied areas were kind of trying to come to the beautiful land for safety, because they were facing genocide, but like, they were gross so group #2 said no.
Then, our newly-swallowed kingdo- STATE of Hawaii got bombed, and that was it.
To seek vengeance, and prove we’re the greatest, and I guess to help our beleaguered allies, we finally got involved. And won again.
Now, the residents of the beautiful land knew FOR SURE that this was the greatest country of all time! Who could ever challenge them?

[Enter RUSSIA.]

These cold-blooded, cold-hearted, cold-countried monsters were claiming to be the new “superpower,” as if they even read Captain America.
That could not stand.
So group #2 and Russia rattled sabres for a while, and for the next 4.5 decades, group #2 acted like this was the only thing that mattered.
There was a war in Korea all based around the spread of Communism, which was never in itself evil. But hey, mobs gonna mob. And an anti-communist fervour was born!
Group #2 started to cannibalize itself, clearing the riffraff out of Hollywood as best it could, all in fear of a political idea that cannot be stopped from spreading.

The spread resulted in a fringe counter-culture that valued things like racial and gender equality, peace, deep poetry and music, surfing & climbing rather than baseball & football, long hair, and marijuana – the anti-tobacco. To control and suppress this weird new group 2C, groups 2A and 2B had to treat them like all the other ethnic groups, even giving them special slur-names, like ‘hippies’ and ‘beatniks.’
Group 2A and 2B were just “people.”
And when 2A and 2B tried to start ANOTHER anti-communist bullshit war, 2C was none too thrilled about it. Many refused to fight.
Many simply sought convenient excuses not to fight. One of these might become be our 45th President.

And speaking of those ethnic groups, they were quite busy during this time, many striving for social respect and equality in the form of peaceful protest movements and civil rights activism.
There was a guy named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I think he did some stuff.
There was also a guy named Malcolm X, and he also did some stuff. But for some reason, 2A and 2B really didn’t appreciate it. What the first guy did resonated with them much more. He has a holiday now! And racism was once more over in America.

I mean, it was already over, but now it’s super-duper over.

Post-Cold War/ Rise of “Millennials”
Apparently, racism isn’t over.
We just invent new kinds now. And calm down, we’re not talking about black people.
Why would we? They’re not out making groundbreaking, controversial music or anything. No, they’re safe and sound in the prison system, because group #2 decided in the 90s that they were scary, violent, and responsible for all drugs that weren’t Colombia’s fault.

Which brings us to Mexico – because one Spanish-speaking country might as well be another.
Like Guatemondurazuela!
Group #2 had to figure out a way to keep ‘Mexicans’ out, because they kept immigrating to the beautiful land, because their country(ies) were becoming dangerous, thanks to the drug trade which was propped up by Group #2’s voracious consumption of illegal drugs.
Anyway, group 2B made immigration much harder, despite 2A insisting that it wasn’t really necessary.
In an effort to help poor foreign people, misguided 2A people passed NAFTA, leading to decades of exploitation and the resurgence of legally-sanctioned slavery. But HAHAHA don’t criticize them ‘cause they meant well.

Also, damn, have you seen those Arabs? Both 2A and 2B could agree: something had to be done about THEM. They were helpful during the Cold War, but now, I don’t know… oil is getting rather pricey.
And their religion is so barbaric. A damn shame for those poor women.
*totally sincere and not at all condescending sad face*
Then, for the first time since our precious stolen islands were attacked, we got attacked! And wouldn’t you know it – it was those damn Arabs! Specifically, an extremist group from Afghanistan armed with weapons we sold them during the Cold War. (Oh right, that.)

So obviously, group #2, and by this time, all other ethnic groups because the *media* was overwhelmingly staffed by members of group #2, decided this could not stand, and they started 2 wars, because they had it on REALLY, REALLY good authority that there were totally nukes hidden in Iraq.
They were wrong. And the beautiful land ended up obliterating the region’s already-fragile stability in the process. But what do you expect from those warring, primitive hill-folk?
They didn’t lose sight of the important thing: brown people are scary.
What was group 2B to do, then, when 2A and 2C (and all the other groups we don’t talk about) went off the deep end and elected one as President??!

Obviously, make sure he had the smallest, least significant impact on history he could!
DUH.

Which wasn’t easy, because while the beautiful land was distracted by its ill-conceived wars, the banks were systematically screwing the people of the beautiful land over – group #2 and all other groups alike. Now that’s equality! It resulted in the biggest crash of the world’s economy since the Great Depression.
But the new President actually managed to get things under control, and back on track within 8 years, despite 2B’s crusade to destroy him. By the end of his presidency, Barack Obama left the country in a much greater state than he found it… Economically, anyway.

Because 2B was very frustrated by its recent failures. Because they’re NOT JUST recent failures. If you’ve been paying attention, 2B has been failing since the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The question of slavery symbolized the first time 2B realized that other members of group #2 do not see eye-to-eye with them on ALL things. That was the first time they were told they were wrong, in a historical context.
And they’ve been fighting the idea of being ‘historically wrong’ ever since.

We liberals call it ‘being on the wrong side of history.”
And now, they’re coming back with a vengeance. If they don’t “fix” history now, well, at least they’ve made their mark. One final, caterwauling swan song.
These are now Trump’s supporters.

The same people who fought for slavery so hard the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed,
The same people who invented a hate group in response to the emancipation of slaves,
The same people who refused to enfranchise women & yet still expected that to be enough,
The same people who rejected the League of Nations on face value alone,
The same people who denied entry to Jewish refugees while bragging up the Statue of Liberty,
The same people who wanted the military segregated, and supported internment,
The same people who still fear and hate Communism despite having access to enlightenment,
The same people who felt threatened by the mere existence of counter-cultures,
The same people who are constantly looking for new enemies (preferably, races) to fight,
The same people who refuse to educate themselves on banking or environmental FACTS, The same people who are trying to eliminate feminism and people of colour from history books,
The same people who protest every time a diverse casting announcement is made,
The same people who believe the ONLY reason people are voting for Hillary is her gender,
The same people who want to keep out Syrian refugees, like in WWII and for the same reasons,
The same people who support building a pipeline through sovereign Native territory,
The same people who believe money matters more than ethics,
The same people who despise the idea of a more global, less nationalistic world enough to want to BUILD A WALL to keep other people out —

BASICALLY, the same people who have fought progress for the entirety of American history, are the same people who are about to put their names on ballots marked “Trump” in November.

Don’t ask ‘how did we get here?”
We already know; we’ve been held back by these same people for centuries.
But by that token, DON’T ask, “What is the next thing they’re going to try to prevent, and how do we preemptively outsmart them for the sake of making human history the most positive thing it can be?” Though you might be tempted to.

What we should be asking is this:
“How do we get *those same people* to embrace the ideas of change and openness? How do we get them to fall naturally on the side of cooperation instead of fear? How do we reach out to them and make them see the same future we do? Can we come together & create that future?”

These aren’t easy questions to ask, let alone answer. That’s why they’re the ones worth asking.

Dear Emilia Clarke: Why Raping Women for Entertainment is NOT OK, and NOT EMPOWERING.

Dear Emilia Clarke & Men-in-General (because yes, it appears to be 99.999% men objecting to the truth of this statement, everywhere I look) who seem confused at why “no one objects to violence against men” and use this apparently-universally-accepted truth as justification for sexist depictions of women being raped for entertainment value:

The history of entertainment media is also the history of protests against media depictions of “obscenity,” the history of censorship. People have long thought that showing violent images for the sake of entertainment value would lead to a damaging tolerance of said things, desensitizing people to the pain and suffering felt by others. Hell, according to journalistic ethics, showing *real* violence can be irresponsible, even if it is historically significant! Need I remind you of the campaigns against comic books, video games, action films, etc., all of which were perceived as too violent for not only children, but for everyone? The justification being: these things happen in reality, effect people deeply, and should not be a laughing matter.

The reason those campaigns ultimately failed was because people (translation: MEN, because MEN have historically been the vast majority of lawmakers & entertainment producers) ultimately agreed that censoring violence was unnecessary. First of all, censorship is a violation of constitutional rights to free expression, and 2nd) people are strong enough to handle fictional imagery without thinking it’s acceptable behaviour, and emulating it themselves. Even young kids are smarter than that, they argued, though children’s cartoon censorship has admittedly gone through its rough patches.

The logic: there was already a justice system in place for punishing violent crimes. Why create further (unconstitutional) disincentives to curb behaviour that was already illegal?

This makes sense in the context of traditionally-depicted violence against males. It is abhorrent and horrific to watch someone be tortured or murdered… But murderers are often caught, and only a very sick, small portion of the population enjoys seeing people die. This is in no way considered normal behaviour.

And no one blames murder victims for being murdered, no matter their sex.

That’s where the case for raping women in entertainment fails. Because though censorship IS a violation of 1st Amendment rights, there IS a justice system, and technically rape IS illegal… there is STILL a rape culture in our society that perpetuates its normalcy, and leads to an overwhelming imbalance when it comes to rapists being punished. 2% of accused rapists are incarcerated. As a result, most rape victims are still blamed and shamed into not even trying to bring their rapists to justice. On top of that ugly truth, viewing rape & fantasizing about rape is *SO NORMAL* there is an entire genre of pornography devoted to it, and viewers of said materials always offer the same excuse as Game of Thrones fans: “It’s not real.” So therefore, they’re not sick bastards for getting off to it. But what about when it is real?

These same people are the ones arguing that there is no such thing as rape culture.
& That’s the ultimate consequence – the reduction of the problem until it’s not seen as a problem anymore.

So forgive us “survivors” when we see rape happening on tv, and just groan knowing how many men are getting hard as they watch, and fantasizing about doing it themselves… and worse, getting away with it – sadly, a harsh reality for women, even in 2016.

With each new high-profile rape case, it becomes more and more unlikely that rapists will be punished for their crimes, unlike mass shooters and terrorists and everyday murders – against whom we are ALL UNITED. Women have everything, EVERYTHING, to fear when it comes to interacting with strange men; a man, however, does not have to worry about 99% of the violence he sees on screen actually effecting him in any way. And if it does happen, you can be damn sure the crime will be taken seriously & the perp will be caught and punished.

Final point: violence against men is ALSO often seen as a perfectly natural source of entertainment. Look at the popularity of fighting for sport, such as professional boxing and wrestling. Is this because the patriarchy insists that men must behave a certain way, and many males adhere to that out of convenience? COULD BE. Either way, you ALMOST NEVER see men getting raped for entertainment value on tv, and when women complain about seeing rape happening for entertainment value to women, men bring up general “violence against men” in response, as if they don’t statistically, demonstrably enjoy seeing it themselves. It’s voluntary (male directors depicting violence against males, knowing other males want to see it) and not used simply as a narrative device to make other characters look stronger/nobler in comparison.

TL;DR: The people who said that violence against men was fine, because it was entertaining and censorship is wrong, are the same people saying that violence against women is fine, because it is entertaining and censorship is wrong, AND THEN arguing that violence against men is not fine, because it happens in real life, (“What about violence against men?”) and that violence against women is fine, because it doesn’t happen in real life (denial of rape culture, & #NotAllMen).

But please, try to mansplain to me how this argument still holds water so you can feel good about continuing to watch women get raped “for the sake of the plot.”

– THE DUEL CITIZEN

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Emilia Clarke plays Daenerys Targaryen on HBO’s Game of Thrones – a show known for pissing off women by featuring gratuitous rape scenes that weren’t even in the source material.

“Equal protection” vs “Free Exercise”: Cherry-Picking from the Constitution

When do we start punishing people for defying the law for the sake of their “religious freedom” – especially when sympathetic politicians actually create and pass laws that are themselves illegal, and enable this illegal activity?

Most people’s understanding of the First Amendment might give them pause when answering this question, so let’s discuss it.

North Carolina has just passed a sweeping piece of anti-LGBT legislation that will allow for businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community on the basis of sexual orientation for the sake of protecting “religious freedom.”

Without sifting through the legislation itself, we know at least one citation will be the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, which clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[…]” which seems pretty definitive, right?

Weeeeelllll….. *deep breath*

The Supreme Court has made gay marriage legal in all 50 states, not to mention that it has already made landmark rulings on the interpretation of the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment. Anti-discrimination laws already exist with the intention of preventing unfair treatment on the basis of sexual orientation. Christians are already not forced to engage in homosexual behaviour (obviously), nor are they forced to work in industries that punish discriminatory behaviour according to the law (i.e., the clergy) … Of course, the scarcity of available positions in said non-regulated industries would explain why they don’t all choose this option, but the point remains valid.

Furthermore, no one is forcing them to live in a country whose laws are so tolerant, and I don’t like getting so close to the “IF YOU DON’T LOVE ‘MERICA, THEN YOU CAN GIT OUT!” argument, but the point is also undeniably valid in this context nonetheless.

And according to the text of the 14th Amendment (which… I’m not CERTAIN but I’m PRETTY SURE is just as significant at the 1st Amendment), “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

I know that’s a lot of words, but it basically means: the law is the law, it applies to every citizen, and you either have to follow it or risk violating the Constitution.

So: alternatives, disincentives, and escape routes exist – all supporting the concept that 1) the relevant laws we have are extant & binding and 2) you can either put up with them, or find a legal way to avoid being impacted by them at all.

But that’s not what people like Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A, Kim Davis, that asshole bakery, the North Carolina State Legislature, etc. want to do. Clearly.

No, they want to live in a world where the 14th Amendment is subordinate to a choice interpretation of one section of the 1st.

That way, they can continue to justify their hatred by passing brazenly illegal laws.

So I’ll repeat the question: When do we start punishing people for defying the law for the sake of their “religious freedom” – especially when sympathetic politicians actually create and pass laws that are themselves illegal, and enable this illegal activity?

I don’t want to live in a country where people can’t practice their religions freely; but I also don’t want to live in a country where the “free practice of religion” is actually code for “an excuse to violate the freedoms of others.”

Not when Justice has already spoken so loudly and clearly.

– THE DUEL CITIZEN

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Liberal South Carolina legislators walk out in disgust before the vote.

In light of Ankara & Brussels, it is more important than ever to welcome refugees

Human life is precious.

This is why we grieve for those we lose, and why we devote ourselves to preventing that kind of pain. On that one basic level, we can agree: every human life matters.

Every human is a child, a friend, maybe a sibling, possibly a spouse, parent or grandparent.

So it is troubling that, after moments of great tragedy, when we are inspired to show our deepest outpouring of humanity, some lives are still deemed less important than others.

Why are lost lives more worthy of respect and honour than those we can still save?

I understand the impulse toward fear. As a person who wants to see their family safe and happy, just like millions of others, I too can ask the basic questions that would lead a person to draw a dangerous conclusion. “Who planted the bombs?” “Who were they working for?” “Why did they do it?” “Are there more of them?”

“Exactly how scared should we be that this could happen to us?”

These questions are not asked out of fear and ignorance alone, but out of a protective instinct to defend the things one loves, particularly from the very violence being visited upon others with whom we deeply sympathize. We look at the reality, the pain and suffering, and ask ourselves how best to cope with it.

But our beautiful world is a complex place.

In many cases, the answers to those questions are not as simple as we would like them to be. A person could be acting independently, their actions claimed by a larger organization. An organization could be coordinating attacks, but for a number of reasons beyond religion. An innocent person can be from the same country as a terrorist, and see the world from an opposite perspective. A country can be lost to extremism, but still be full of good people, who just want to live in peace.

And those good people can bravely choose to flee all they know and love, risking death and disease, sacrificing their sense of belonging – and still be determined to use their lives & bodies to make the world a better place, if only they can find a country that will give them the chance.

These are the children, friends, siblings, spouses, parents, grandparents we mentioned earlier. The artists and scientists, dreamers and creators who propel human progress forward. What difference does a border, an imaginary line – worshipped or forsaken, make?

The one thing left that has no nuance or complexity is the basic truth we started with: human life is precious.

We have a responsibility to protect it.
#Ankara #Brussels

– THE DUEL CITIZEN

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GOP: This is what happens when you court fear & hatred.

It’s December 2016. Hillary Clinton is President-Elect.

A group of disgruntled Trump supporters gathers in a garage, bitterly grumbling about their days at work – same old stuff, but it’s just so much worse now for some reason.
One of them tells a story about a smug liberal coworker. The others grunt and nod in mutual understanding. That kind of person is just the worst. You know, the kind of person who is happy their candidate won. Assholes.
Another person mentions how the businesses that were discriminating against Trump supporters have all taken their signs down. So if they want to, the group can go and eat there without the owners knowing who they are. That’ll show ’em. They all chuckle.
And then the chuckling dies down.
Nah, you know what would really show ’em? I say we hit back. Because what gives them the right to come into our country and tell real Americans what we can and can’t do? That’s discrimination! That’s a hate crime. It’s an infringement on my Constitutional rights! And two can play at that game.
Then they don their white hoods, and they torch the restaurants, the churches and mosques, the women’s clinics, who knows what else – everything that doesn’t stand for white Christian straight male supremacy.
& Maybe it’s not December. Maybe it’s 2017. January, July, October, does it matter? What can we do to prevent it?

The Republicans who are voting for Trump have been “awakened,” not that they haven’t already been boisterously embarrassing the country since around 2007 (give or take the Bush years). Have we forgotten the enduring popularity of Rick Santorum? Michele Bachmann? This is the final stage of the Tea Party’s metamorphosis, from the Party of Hannity and Beck and O’Reilly, to that of EMPEROR TRUMP. What reason do you have to believe any of these supporters will quiet down? Have their figureheads finally abandoned them? Not really. Because THESE PEOPLE never truly wanted Romney, or Ryan, or McCain. They wanted Palin. And now, when they’re so close to getting the *super candidate* of their fever dreams, they’re not just going to throw in the towel and accept the “will of the people” should a Democrat win.

They ARE ALSO the people, remember? And they’re the people who believe violence solves problems.

I don’t think it’s a paranoid stretch to predict impending conflict. Judging from current events, those conflicts will escalate and becoming increasingly more intense. What IS a stretch is pretending this isn’t entirely the GOP’s fault, for willfully manipulating the media and their constituents for so long, turning America into a sun-addled prospector lapping at a stream of opiating vitriol for nothing more than fool’s gold.

But maybe, on this one occasion, the fools have a point: the GOP establishment has to go the way of the phoenix, & SOON.

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Why I Believe Boys & Girls Should Receive the Same Upbringing

Cartoons/toys marketed toward boys encourage them to be STRONGER.
Cartoons/toys marketed toward girls encourage kids to be KINDER.

Both are virtues, and inspire even greater virtues over time.

Kindness, when we boil it down, is an outward expression – it’s about caring more for others than oneself.
Strength, boiled down, is an internal affirmation – it’s about believing in oneself and one’s own power to make a difference.

A kind child will go on to devote themselves to their families, communities, the greater good – and make the world a better place.
A strong child will go on to achieve large, great things, which can uplift the people around them – and make the world a better place.

So just to be clear: I don’t think teaching the value of strength is ill-advised. Just stay with me.

As time goes on, the behaviour of girls who defy these gendered norms – let’s say she’s a “me first” kinda girl, rather than a “let’s all go together” or a “you first” type – is generally seen as less tolerable than boys who do the same thing, even if she didn’t mean it in a bad way.

A boy who volunteered to go first would be seen as an enthusiastic and assertive go-getter (unless he was pushing and shoving to be first,) whereas the girl would be seen as selfish and inconsiderate. Perhaps “bossy,” which is a term almost never used to admonish boys. She might also be deemed stubborn and defiant, which are punishable offences when you’re a child, since she was taught to be more self-sacrificing.

And what do you think a girl learns when she is punished for being “stubborn” and “defiant”?

She learns to not be those things, which is hard when those definitions are so subjective.

Oddly, boys are often commended/ criticized for acting both aggressive AND considerate, just in different contexts. Which I’m sure can get confusing for them. As I mentioned before, roughhousing is not a universally-accepted behaviour for either gender; it is generally frowned upon, to be fair to parents. But there is no denying that this more physical behaviour is seen as more acceptable in boys. “Boys will be boys” is a dangerously popular phrase, usually said in a wistful, slightly affectionate tone.

And there are many excuses made for why this is still the case, none of which hold much water when you consider how advanced our society has become. We don’t have to fight for resources anymore; so why do we teach boys that it is ever necessary to establish physical dominance amongst their peers, as if they’re going to need these skills in the real world? This is why we have laws, and a justice system. You don’t need to provide your own muscle in order to survive anymore. (Or, if you believe the world is on fire and aggression is more necessary now than ever before… Why not teach girls the same things? Every human for itself, right?)

The good thing is we ALSO teach boys the importance of kindness, but often in a context of violence. Superheroes and video games will use harmful imagery to reinforce the idea that only a violent conflict can quickly ad decisively achieve a positive outcome – even if the heroes are equal aggressors. “It’s the only way! Don’t even bring up diplomacy, or compromise. NO. NEVER. That is WEAKNESS.” …Yeah, and that “weakness” is also what they teach girls to do in ‘girl cartoons.’ Girls are taught to seek out whatever solution benefits *everyone,* instead of just the main characters. Boys are taught to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Kindness vs. Strength.

Protagonists in cartoons marketed toward girls very rarely kill their enemies. Depending on the intended age demographics of the cartoon, many directed toward boys will find… more delicate means of eliminating bad guys. But watch one episode of Star Wars Rebels and count how many stormtroopers bite the dust. Just saying, in boy cartoons, death is often treated with a shrug and a high five from the “good guys.” Kindness vs. Strength.

I think, all things considered, it’s a little irresponsible to say there’s no difference in the way boys and girls are inculcated and influenced by the media they consume. And to think that there’s no difference, then, in the way they behave as they grow into adults? That’s sheer folly.

As time goes on, men and women can watch whatever they want (though women will often face crap like constant objectification, labels like “chick flick” and being accused of not really *getting* the entertainment that is popular with males).

But we will not have equality until we acknowledge that inequality exists, and that it almost always starts from Day 1:

Pink blanket? Or blue?

Kindness? Or strength?

– THE DUEL CITIZEN

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Famous Feminists & How They Will Change the World #ThePowerOfCinema

***For the purpose of simplicity, because cinema pervades nearly every aspect of our culture, including music and politics and so on, these lists are not limited to actresses/actors. They are also not listed in any particular order. Hopefully that doesn’t cause any confusion.***


The term “feminism” has been in use since the 1890s (France) and early 20th Century (UK, US). Since then, it’s been adopted by different movements, and adapted to suit specific purposes.


But it has always meant the same thing: gender equality.

We’ve come a long way from the days when just seeing these names would invoke images of angry (read: misunderstood) feminists:
Marlene Deitrich
Katharine Hepburn
Coco Chanel
Eva Peron
Betty Friedan
Gloria Steinem
bell hooks
Jane Fonda
Joan Jett
Barbara Walters
Lucille Ball
Yoko Ono
Coretta Scott King
Maya Angelou
Lena Horne
Rosa Parks
Diane Von Furstenberg
Marilyn Monroe

To a day when all these names refer to modern, contemporary feminists, who are able to express their views in a much more positive light (thanks in large part to those listed above):
Emma Watson
Malala Yousafzai
Demi Lovato
Ellie Goulding
Natalie Portman
Jennifer Lawrence
Amy Schumer
Taylor Swift
Zendaya
Chlöe Grace Moretz
Cate Blanchett
Reese Witherspoon
Ronda Rousey
Anna Kendrick
Natalie Dormer
Emilia Clarke
Lena Headey
Nadia G
Julie Andrews
Hillary Clinton
Oprah Winfrey
Katie Couric
Viola Davis
Kerry Washington
Gemma Chan
Ellen Page
Mila Kunis
Kristen Bell
Idina Menzel
Christina Aguilera
Britney Spears
Chelsea Handler
Jennifer Aniston
Sarah Silverman
Kate Bosworth
Michelle Rodriguez
Anne Hathaway
Mindy Kaling
Tina Fey
Amy Poehler
Victoria Beckham
Felicia Day
Shonda Rimes
Rose McGowan
Pamela Anderson
Zooey Deschanel
Ashley Judd
Angelina Jolie
Charlize Theron
J.K. Rowling
Sheryl Sandberg
Lena Dunham
Ke$ha
Olivia Wilde
Sophia Bush
Adele
Kate Nash
Nicki Minaj
Miley Cyrus (unfortunately a loud symbol of *specifically white feminism*)
Lorde
Ariana Grande
Selena Gomez
Jessie J
Charli XCX
Ariel Winter
Sarah Hyland
Willow Smith
Lily James
Beyoncé
Laverne Cox
Janet Mock
Carmen Carrera
Kelly Osbourne
Geena Davis
Helen Mirren
Meryl Streep
Helena Bonham Carter
Carey Mulligan
Rachel Weisz
Jessica Chastain
Bryce Dallas Howard
Isla Fisher
Gemma Arterton
Leighton Meester
Hayley Atwell
Ming-Na Wen
Krysten Ritter
Cara Delevingne
Kat Dennings
Rashida Jones
Amy Adams
Keira Knightley
Emma Stone
Jamie Chung
Kirsten Dunst
Michelle Obama
Jennifer Garner
Claire Danes
Annie Lennox
Kate Mulgrew
Melissa McCarthy
Elizabeth Banks
Kim Kardashian
Anita Sarkeesian
Sandra Fluke
Alison Bechdel
Cecile Richards
Wendy Davis
Naomi Watts
Nicole Kidman
Susan Sarandon (has said “humanist” in the past, but changed her mind this September and claimed to be a “feminist”)
And many more, of whom I’m simply not yet aware.

AS WELL AS all these names:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Mark Ruffalo
Aziz Ansari
Barack Obama
Daniel Radcliffe
Patrick Stewart
Kiefer Sutherland
John Legend
Ben Affleck
Eddie Vedder
David Schwimmer
Ezra Miller
Pharell Williams
Jon Hamm
Louis CK
Prince Harry
John Oliver
Neil Gaiman
Simon Pegg
Alan Cumming
Tom Hiddleston
Benedict Cumberbatch
David Tennant
Ryan Gosling
Hugh Jackman
Tom Hardy
Daniel Craig
Russel Crowe
Alan Alda
Dustin Hoffman
Will Smith
Matt Damon
Peter Gallagher
James Van Der Beek
Wil Wheaton
Jim Beaver
Matthew Lewis
Harry Styles
Richard Madden
Forest Whitaker
Eddie Redmayne
Luke Newberry
Chris Colfer
Emile Hirsch
Logan Lerman
Ben Barnes
Nigel Barker
George R.R. Martin (no, seriously, he used the actual word and everything).
And again, probably many more of whom I’m simply not yet aware.

And sure there are all these names, belonging to “Women Who Have Publicly Distanced Themselves From Feminism (For Now):”
Glenn Close (who marched in rallies alongside Gloria Steinem, but didn’t feel she really belonged there)
Kaley Cuoco
Carrie Underwood
Kelly Clarkson
Lady Gaga
Gwen Stefani
Lana Del Rey
Evangeline Lilly
Shailene Woodley
Katy Perry
Geri Halliwell
Björk
Demi Moore (& the following 3 are Team “Humanist, Not Feminist” urgh -_-)
Madonna
Sarah Jessica Parker
Meryl Streep (has called herself a “humanist,” but when it’s convenient, she calls herself a “feminist.” Specifically, a “man-eating feminist.” So basically,
“urgh -_-” (x3). Thanks but no thanks, Meryl.)

And COUNTLESS OTHERS who simply have not weighed in on the subject.
They get a pass, for obvious reasons.

So, how does this effect history? Why does it matter? I'll tell you.

So, how does this effect history? Why does it matter? I’ll tell you.

I think we’re getting to the point where most of the names on the last two lists will be added to the longer ones eventually, if examples like Taylor Swift, Susan Sarandon, and Meryl Streep are any indication.

And it’s not about peer pressure or popularity. It’s about eyes being opened, and patience being spent.

These are the people who have actually experienced the sexism in Hollywood that the rest of us only hear about. Casting couches and weight loss regimes. Ageism and wage discrepancies. Impractical costumes and decorative roles. *And the poses.* Hollywood may be a hotbed of feminist support – but yet, entertainment is one of the most anti-feminist industries in history. That is legend, fact. We know those two things to be true, but we don’t know how it feels, or how it keeps happening, or how those repeated themes are really impacting society,

Or how to stop it.

What this means, if the vast majority of entertainers and highly-paid celebrities in Hollywood these days are feminists, is that increasingly more feminism-friendly films will be made, not to mention how “business as usual” may be upset by such a dramatic shift in attitudes all across the industry: These are the people who will now opt out of roles and projects they feel are harmful to women, and fight for their characters to have more depth and less objectification (Michelle Rodriguez, Emilia Clarke). They’re also the most famous, popular people in the industry at the moment.

Jennifer Lawrence discusses the pay gap in Hollywood, and the difficulties women face in many workplaces.

Jennifer Lawrence discusses the pay gap in Hollywood, and the difficulties women face in many workplaces.

These are the people who are now directing (Shonda Rimes, Jessica Chastain, etc.).


These are the people who are now demanding equal pay (Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, etc.).

These are the people who are now correcting the way they are interviewed (Scarlett Johansson, Cate Blanchett, Ariana Grande. etc.).

These are the people who are showing the other half of society that “feminism” means “gender equality” (all male feminists).

These are the people who compose all of our most popular and most lucrative franchises, from Game of Thrones to Hunger Games, from superhero movies and summer blockbusters to children’s (and adult’s) cartoons, and so on.

Imagine a world where movies no longer portray women as weak, helpless, incompetent, manipulative, etc. (unless flaws like these are just one side of a more complex character) and especially, as sexual objects. Because that is what these celebrities are trying to accomplish. And many have been for some time! Because they know they’re some of the most well-equipped among us to make it happen!

Eventually, the ignorant pockets of society will change their views as well. Because that is the power of cinema. Even the most ignorant people watch movies. [But that’s a topic for a whooooole other post. (Seriously, just because movies are accessible doesn’t mean everyone understands them.)]

So when you ask yourself, “Why do celebrities get involved in politics?” and if the answer that “They are also citizens of the world, who happen to face sexism every day” isn’t good enough for you, try thinking of the future. Something as simple as a celebrity openly supporting feminism can be a vitally important part of changing the world – especially if the work they do from that point on is as influential as cinema.

Cinema will change the world. This is just one example of how. #ThePowerOfCinema
– THE DUEL CITIZEN

Bringing Hollywood Home: Natalie Dormer steps outside of a fictional role to discuss the reality of domestic abuse.

Bringing Hollywood Home: Natalie Dormer steps outside of a fictional role to discuss the reality of domestic abuse.

P.s. I’m not getting into the whole “Why do we have to use that specific word?” debate.

It’s not about the word, per se, it’s about the core concept, which is why the word matters; those who understand and believe in the core concept have no trouble embracing the word. Capeesh?


Rejecting “feminism,” rejecting gender equality, rejecting the notion that inequality exists – they all result in the same thing: more of the same. So, I’m sorry, but silence on this topic is inherently making you part of the problem. It is an implicit reinforcement, not to mention arguable endorsement, of damaging traditions. I understand being hesitant, being worried their career might suffer as a consequence, but bravery isn’t supposed to be easy.


That’s why I put the anti-feminists/undecideds in separate lists and called them out for it. I’m not spewing hatred towards these women for their beliefs, or even really criticizing them that much, (and there’s a difference between criticism and bullying) so I don’t want to hear about uppity feminist double standards. Sadly, that just has to be done in order for us to move forward.

Why Gun Lovers Don’t Get To Grieve Another Massacre With Me

john pavlovitz

Grieving
I am grieving again today.

Once more I am mourning the senseless execution of beautiful souls torn to shreds in the prime of their lives and in the middle of their ordinary. I am grieving more premature funerals and canceled weddings and discarded futures—and I want to be alone right now.

Gun lover, please don’t tell me you’re grieving along with me today too. I just don’t think I want your company.

If you’re still against greater gun control measures—you don’t get to grieve with me today.
If you’re part of the zealous, gun-glorifying community—you don’t get to grieve with me today.
If you are a militant, unrepentant NRA apologist—you don’t get to grieve with me today.
If your right to bear arms ultimately matters more to you than the human wreckage strewn about the Umpqua campus (and schools and movie theaters and shopping malls and highways)—you don’t get to grieve with me…

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How Comedy Television Will Bring A Bright Future for DreamWorks Animation

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One major difference between Disney and DreamWorks animation is the humour.

Disney *though phenomenally creative* will almost always play it safe when it comes to comedy, whereas DreamWorks will take more risks – potty humour, adult humour, topical pop culture references, and just-plain-wacky humour. As a consequence, a lot of it falls flat. Not every audience member will agree on what is funny, especially when it comes to entertainment that is meant to be enjoyed by children as well. THAT BEING SAID, I respect DreamWorks’ willingness to take risks, and sometimes they hit it out of the park.

For instance, they have yet to misstep when it comes to their How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, and Despicable Me franchises, and arguably the less-loved/underrated Rise of the Guardians and Monsters vs. Aliens ones, too. Shrek started to go downhill during the later instalments, but I think we all remember how brilliant it was at the beginning. (The first two had Disney quite hot beneath the collar, and in my opinion, forced the improvement of the genre, thus saving animation in their own right. It’s a medium that has to keep evolving, and I think Shrek played a huge part in that.) Same with the Ice Age and Madagascar films. Though they’ve been run into the ground, and the plots have become more contrived and predictable, the reasons behind their popularity are easy enough to understand.

Then, there are the smaller franchises that never really made it off the ground, and of course, the spin-offs. Of the former group, the largest titles that come to mind are Megamind, Bee Movie, the 2013 stand-alones (The Croods, Turbo, Mr. Peabody & Sherman), and the 2D titles from the late ’90s/early 2000s (Prince of Egypt, Road to El Dorado, Spirit, Sinbad). It is easy to see why these films, though brilliant, offer few opportunities for expansion. The spin-offs, however, is where I think the future of DreamWorks could either be made or broken.

Last year, Netflix released a series dedicated to the asinine lemur-king, King Julian, and though it seemed to generate relatively little buzz, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. I just watched the first episodes of The Adventures of Puss in Boots, Netflix’s new show which was just released on January 16, 2015, and is centered around the titular feline of Shrek fame, whose popularity has already been acknowledged in one semi-successful (and in my opinion, pretty darn good) movie. The Penguins of Madagascar have had a successful tv series running on Nickelodeon since 2008, not to mention a film that was released in theaters last November – and, just a quick aside, is Benedict Cumberbatch just in *everything* now?? – which brought in decent box office revenues/reviews. Counting the straight-to-tv/DVD holiday specials and shorts featuring their more central characters, DreamWorks has proven that they know how to make the most of episodic storytelling mechanisms, perhaps even more so than Disney, (whose Pixar Shorts and Sofia the First are the closest things the company has to bringing their big screen characters to the small screen with any sort of commercial success).

Taking into account the improving quality standards of television, with shows like Game of Thrones even achieving such cinematic appeal as to be screened in actual movie theaters, this may be the perfect time for DreamWorks to invest heavily in children’s comedy television. With their bizarre, yet lovable characters, and fearless propensity for risk-taking, DreamWorks could seriously take command of the children’s television genre, and parlay that into future theatrical success. I, for one, am in favour of any move that will ultimately benefit the art-form of animation.

And who wouldn’t want to watch a Rise of the Guardians or How To Train Your Dragon tv show??