Molly Brigid Flynn

Molly Brigid Flynn is associate professor of philosophy at Assumption College.

Wonder Woman: A Movie About Men

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Some of my best friends are men, so no offense. But Wonder Woman has me asking, what’s the point? What good are they?

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Disney’s Cheap Grace

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When I was growing up, there were two films the pater of my familias forbade his brood from seeing until we reached the age of 35: A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Bambi (1942). With a smirk and some curiosity, we obeyed.

This loyal filia no longer wonders why Bambi—instead she wonders why not Beauty and the Beast?

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A Musth See

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It’s probably a drag being a liberal, always boycotting things. A Progressive friend who was surprised by my politics once asked me how I could like Radiohead so much, considering its front man Thom Yorke is such a leftist. It seemed a logical error (the “moralistic boycotter’s fallacy”?). I don’t judge songs by the artist’s favorite color, either. The fact is, conservatives can’t afford to discriminate merely to maintain moral cleanliness. I wonder whose music my friend might allow me to enjoy. Kid Rock? (Blah.) Rush? (Eye roll.)

And anyway, even if an artist’s politics do affect his art, what a spiritual poverty to entertain, or be entertained by, only what confirms one’s convictions! As a psychological fact, for many the private determines the political; must we also allow the partisan to constrict the personal?

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So-So City

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Did you ever catch yourself dreaming, adrift in la-la land—only to wake up to your own, personal so-so city? A consoling (but sophistic) thought: The number of possible worlds is infinite, so there’s some possible You out there for whom your daydreamt world is actual. Isn’t it nice to know a parallel possible You gets to really enjoy it? You could equally conjure up a possible world that is worse—and in that case, so much the better for actual You.

Damien Chazelle’s La La Land shows how imagining possible worlds uplifts, and disappoints, human life. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) fall in love, but ultimately the film is more about human la-la lands, symbolized by the Los Angeles in which Seb and Mia are trying to make it—he as a nostalgic jazz pianist bent on opening his own club, and she as a barista/actress infatuated with images of old Hollywood.

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Manchester By the Sea: Dark, Beautiful, and Real

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Every person undergoes traumatic experiences. Their quantity and quality vary, but once suffered, these experiences are incorporated into the person, usually invisibly to the rest of us. When they are not hidden enough, we may wish a person would just get over it already. Yet we marvel, when a person calmly reveals some past trauma, at the human ability seemingly to tuck such things away.

Kenneth Lonergan’s magnificent film Manchester by the Sea—poignant, funny, tough—portrays the human limits of this ability.

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Love Story

Andrew Garfield as Demond T. Doss in Hacksaw Ridge

In war, sitting out protects one’s bodily safety. Sitting out of the morally messy struggles typical of adult human life protects one’s sense of superiority and innocence. Doing the good sometimes requires an odd courage: accepting the risk of getting the soul’s hands dirty. But how and how much to dirty one’s hands are difficult to discern.

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Moderately Marginalized

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Sure, as a teenager, I experimented a little—rock, but also blues, jazz, standards, alt country. Never pop—that cesspool of cheap, predictable noise shunned by all who take themselves seriously for taking music seriously.

It began as curiosity, an alienated feeling, the desire to understand. It became a temptation. The occasional trace of a melody would wriggle into my imagination. So what if I snuck away to enjoy a hot single now and then? No one had to know. But now I’ll admit it—I have two pop stations preset in the car. And I’m not ashamed.

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The Decline of the Western

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Tired of rants about how awful capitalism is? Here’s a fun trick: ask the people you’re discussing it with not to use the term “capitalism.” Politely suggest: since we seem to mean different things by it, let’s just say what we mean without using that one word. It might induce them to think, instead of grabbing pre-fab terms of abuse off the shelf and blaming every problem on that villain from central casting, the capitalist.

Emotionally loaded and so vague as to be almost useless, the word “capitalism” masks the massive phenomenon’s complexity—its fuel in varied motives, its entwinement with a legal order, and (most importantly) its moral ambiguities and mixed blessings.

But aren’t you bored? Thinking is just so . . . boring. Let’s complain about capitalism instead.

The new Magnificent Seven remakes John Sturges’ 1960 classic of the same name and has lots of complaining to do about “capitalism,” at the expense of its predecessor’s subtle and interesting civilizational themes.

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Our Big Picture Problem

The Book of Mormon, a musical by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone.

Cultures show their substance by what they make easier and what they make more difficult.

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Grammar Bender

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Grammar has consequences. My grade school still taught, in the 1980s, that words have gender; people have sex. For decades, grammar nerds have bristled at official forms asking whether their “gender” is male or female. It’s like being asked, “What’s your part of speech?”

Somewhere along the line “gender” became a polite substitute for “sex” (perhaps to reduce snickers from adolescent boys). But with sex, gender, and the difference between them now playing into legal and public policy decisions, the confusion of these words means we can barely state the issue. Our gender trouble begins with grammar trouble.

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