Blade Runner and the Weinstein Avalanche

Hi team! First off, I can’t take credit for this post. Sarah Dinwiddie, the one and only gets it all. Before I introduce her, make sure you take a moment to head over to her blog and show her some serious LUV. Her outlook on life is captured in such a unique and personal style of writing. Again, all my friends kill it at writing and I’m just over here tryna fix my grammar.

I remember first meeting Sarah in grad school and thinking that she was such a breath of fresh air, and now that I’m thinking about it, I think she played a pivotal part in the rebirthing of the dream I have of combining the music world and the counseling world. (She doesn’t even know that, since I’m just having this revelation now.) She is one of the most dedicated, thoughtful, genuine humans I know. You know that saying, “leave it better than you found it?” Well, Sarah does that with people. She truly leaves them better.

Last thing – I haven’t seen Blade Runner, but I did specifically listen to an NPR podcast review of this movie because I was very curious if they’d address the tipping point that sparked Sarah to write this. And wouldn’t you know it, they actually did. I was a bit worried when they were 13 minutes in with only a few minutes left, that they wouldn’t even touch the topic, but it was actually the last thing they addressed. And now for the reason you’re all here…

Like the fool that I am, when one of my sisters asked me to go see the new Blade Runner movie at 10:10 PM on a Saturday night, I said Yes. I thought to myself: sci-fi, Ryan Gosling, and movie tickets cheaper than $12? Yes, yes, and CHECK yes.

It was 1:30 in the morning when we walked out of the movie theater. It was raining. Of course it was raining. Every radio station I flipped to ticked me off. ‘Strip That Down’ had gone from ‘Liam, you’re not a teenage boy at the prom’-amused to staunchly nauseated. I punched off the radio. Then I started sobbing into my steering wheel in the dim yellow light of an empty parking garage.

Was it another wretched Jared Leto performance that had done me in? The bleak future within Blade Runner 2049 itself? Or the grief of watching Harrison Ford die on-screen for the second time in the past two years? No, no and, thank the good Lord, no.

What, then, had caused me to burst into tears after sitting through almost three hours of a pretty boring, mostly annoying film? The answer still takes me by surprise. My hungry, tired, less-filtered self somehow decided in that grungy yellow garage lighting to let the floodgates loose…about the practically incessant sexual exploitation of women’s bodies that I’d just seen play out for three hours onscreen. Call it hormones, call it minor PTSD, but something in me had snapped.

I always assume that the artistic shop talk over using more exposed women in films goes a little like this: “We’re making a social commentary about the over-prostitution of the female body for profit.” Then they proceed to over-prostitute the female (and yes, also male) body for profit.

But Sarah, you chose to go see an R rated movie. What else should you expect? Touche. This isn’t a call to boycott pop culture, simply a confession.

A few days after my weird breakdown, I woke up to a New York Times article announcing the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

I think his name pre-scandal would have suited a cartoon character. Now, I’m thinking ‘next Batman villain.’ I can’t speak for all women just because I am one; I can say that the air feels electric with hope, that a cascade of change in the treatment of women, and the protection of womanhood from exploitation, may be on the horizon for us in our workplaces and in our personal lives. It’s what I’m praying for.

Harvey Weinstein is a symptom of a much broader issue within our culture. I’m not a rape victim, but I have most certainly experienced sexual harassment that has wounded or traumatized me.

I mean, I didn’t grow up inside a vacuum. Ladies, ami’right?

When I was in middle school, I learned that three of my nearest childhood friends were sexual assault survivors. We’d grown up having slumber parties, going horseback riding, enjoying our fair share of sci-fi movies…and they’d been stripped of the dignity in their femininity before they even had their drivers licenses.

That news, as a 6th grader trying to figure out acne and feelings and cool, it haunted me. Unbeknownst to me, really. It’s like I lived with tunnel vision about the threat of my own female identity for years.

I don’t think I am the only woman, or man, out there who’s suffered from their own kind of tunnel vision about the harassment, belittling, and objectification of our bodies, our tendencies, or our inherent struggles.

That exploitation may feel rampant, but it DOES NOT have to have the last say.

Here we are, folks. Here we are, Lord. Let this be a marathon. Please, Lord, let this be a marathon, and not a week-long dining room table discussion that flavors our words with gossip a little juicier than usual until something else comes along to pique our interest.

I tried to write my first novel about my childhood friends and their breaking. More than any other injustice I’ve been privy to in my short life, this is one that I’ve ached to see redeemed. My novel didn’t quite turn out, but an undercurrent of revelation came from that experience anyway.

I learned that, ultimately, I cannot redeem their injustice on my own. I cannot heal, cannot forgive, cannot fix the brokenness of their femininity on my own, theirs or my own or other women’s. I can be courageous. I can be honest, and earnest, and ask forgiveness, and seek it for my enemies.

If you’ve every experienced harassment or assault, or felt responsible for the twisting shame you’ve seen inside a loved one who has—it’s not your fault.

It. Is. Not. Your. Fault.

There is a gorgeous, life-giving relief in recognizing that I can believe in the power of God to miraculously change a heart, heal a wound, or shift a mindset. God is here to restore us, men and women, to redeem and make whole the parts of ourselves that don’t fit what he sees. He takes the lies and the fear, breathes truth and love over them, and calls our exhausting mess beautiful. I cannot do that for people on my own—but we can, together, when God goes with us.

The same is true for this journey of protecting, emboldening and cherishing female identity as a culture. The problem may seem terrible, even insurmountable. I have to believe that it is so on purpose that this type of scandal has arisen out of a part of our society that our culture obsessively holds up under a magnifying glass. It happens every day, in all types of work settings, but where does our culture look to for wonder and relief and advocacy and meaning? Art, especially film.

Lord, if art shapes culture, let the art culture in our country help to heal how our overall culture perceives of and values all men and women created in your image.

I know. It’s a big ask. I gotta believe that, with God, all things are possible.

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