Elsewhere: A collection of interesting links and articles that I’ve come across in the last week or so. Follow me on Twitter for more of the same.
Nick Brickwell contends that Wesley Wyndam-Pryce “is the most intensely actualized character in all of the Whedonverse” and I have no problem with that.
Joss Whedon has created some of the most impressive characters in television history. From the iconic Buffy Summers to the redemptive Angel to renegade Captain Mal Reynolds, his protagonists are uniquely recognized as extraordinary, fully realized creations, and are acclaimed by critics and fans alike. Whedon’s characters are often used as vehicles to explore facets of life and the human condition. His super-powered heroes, like Buffy and Angel, always serve a greater metaphor or overarching message, and while Whedon creates fantastical realms in which to enact his perceptions of the world, his characters nonetheless echo the human plight. Through these characters Whedon explores love, loss, friendship, betrayal, vengeance, redemption, empowerment, familial relations, purpose, hope, failure, triumph, and sacrifice.
While some these themes may be realized, individually, in a number of characters, one character encapsulates them all. He is neither Slayer, vampire, nor futuristic space captain, but rather an ordinary human: Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. Former watcher, rouge demon hunter, loyal ally to the good fight, and morally mellifluous hero, he is the most intensely actualized character in all of the Whedonverse, and one of the few characters whose journey is most fully explored within the confines of the series. Whedon and his team of writers, such as Tim Minear and Steven S. DeKnight, write Wesley as the Biblical Job of the Whedonverse, repeatedly pushed to the brink of darkness, only to rally time and time again behind the forces of good. Wesley, portrayed brilliantly by Alexis Denisof, undergoes the greatest transformation of any character Whedon has written, facing challenges that mirror the enduring and conquering spirit of humanity, and in doing so becomes perhaps the best developed character of not only Whedon’s work but also television as a whole.
Sidenote: Wesley Wyndam-Pryce may or may not have figured into the name we chose for our firstborn.
We all love to hate it, but as this in-depth article points out, Internet Explorer did get a few things right:
It’s the browser that everyone loves to hate — sometimes justifiably so. What was once the most innovative browser became the thorn in every front-end developer’s side. Amidst the turmoil and complaints today’s developers throw at Internet Explorer, what’s often not heard is how Microsoft changed the face of not only front-end development, but web development as a whole.
Timothy Dalrymple posts a thoughtful article regarding Rob Bell, discussions of hell, and “the Ethics of Christian Conversation”:
To believe in hell is not to be hateful. And to defend the truth as you see it is not to be angry, arrogant or abusive. The truth matters, and we are not free to rearrange the truth to suit our preferences. If there is a hell, then it would be unloving in the extreme to say that there is not. The world loves the “love” that gives its blessing to what the world wants to do and believe. Yet if our act of “love” is to announce that there is no eternal torment in hell, and yet there is one, then our “love” is a lie. Authentic love must be willing to be perceived as hateful in order to serve the good of the beloved, and so sometimes the most loving thing we can do is confess the truth Christ taught even though the world hates us for it.
On the other hand, I strongly sympathize with those who would press Christianity in a universalist direction. Theologically, anyone who does not feel cognitive dissonance between the profession of a God who is Love and the teaching that this God makes or lets his creatures suffer everlasting torment is failing to take one or the other idea seriously. Personally, there is for many Christians a nearly unbearable tension between the doctrine of eternal damnation and their own experience of a God who is endlessly loving and gracious. A tension is not a contradiction, of course; intelligent Christians for centuries have found ways to harmonize these elements. Yet the cultural and psychological costs of these tensions are high.
Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, “basically agrees” with Rob Bell’s theology:
If I were given the assignment of writing a careful theological essay on “The Eschatology of Rob Bell,” I would begin by laying out the basics of C. S. Lewis’s perspective on heaven and hell. Lewis held that we are created for a relationship with God as human beings who bear the divine image. When we rebel against God and commit ourselves to evil ways, we move further away from this positive relationship with God — and, thereby, further and further away from our humanity. Our ultimate destiny, then, if we do not change directions, is to cease to be human: we end up as monsters who have chosen to live in an outer darkness, removed from God and from other humans.
And I certainly do believe that some folks choose that hell. The Hitler types. The man who kidnaps young girls and sells them into sexual slavery. They are well on their way to hell, to becoming inhuman monsters. To be sure, as the hymn rightly reminds us: “The vilest offender who truly believes/that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” But for those who persist in their wicked ways, eternal separation is the natural outcome of all the choices they have made along the way.
Jeff Cook wonders, are there really any significant differences between Rob Bell and C.S. Lewis, and the theology they’ve expressed in their writings?
[L]et’s not kid ourselves, I suspect the fire behind the debate is often about envy and resentment of a very talented man, about our own inability to get a hearing in the public square, and about the fear that new ways of talking about Jesus might trump what some have preached for decades.
These issues are big, but they are not only about doctrine. The issues at hand are about culture and control, about how the theology of emerging Christians will be defined, and about the continuing fight between postmodern and modern expressions of Christianity. This seems clear to me now, for I would like to defend the following claim:
There’s not one controversial idea in Love Wins that is not clearly voiced as a real possibility by the most popular evangelical writer of the last century, CS Lewis.
Needless to say, an interesting debate is occurring within the comments.
Brent McKnight reviews The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu and really likes it:
Horror comedy is a tricky genre, or subgenre, or classification, or whatever it is. For every Shaun of the Dead and Slither there are 50 half-assed attempts that fail to be either funny or horrific. The Last Lovecraft, however, is not one of these failures, and is both a gore-soaked monster movie and hilarious from end to end.
So many movies that try to be scary and funny start out with promise only to abandon the things that worked early on. Or they feel like a good idea that is not fully developed, and when the initial joke runs out, the filmmakers are left scrambling to fill the rest of a feature-length movie. The Last Lovecraft is a complete work, with characters, plot, and a story arc, as well as an awesome concept. It’s short, clocking in at 79-minutes, but it’s definitely a finished product.
I wrote about The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu, as well as several other recent H.P. Lovecraft-inspired movies, earlier this month.
Netflix is working on a deal to become their own network and provide original content, starting with David Fincher’s House of Cards:
An executive close to the negotiations confirmed the report that Netflix had entered the bidding for the show. There was still considerable uncertainty Tuesday about the terms of the potential deal, and a Netflix spokesman declined to comment.
A second executive close to the negotiations dismissed the $100 million estimate, noting that there was no deal between the parties yet, and that in the event a deal is struck, it would cost Netflix significantly less. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by their bosses to speak about the negotiations.
Picking up the exclusive rights to a television show would effectively make Netflix a network similar to ABC or HBO and would underscore just how disruptive the company has become to the media business.
The New York Times ponders the eternal questions of free will, determinism, and moral responsibility:
[I]n another way it makes perfect sense to hold Bill fully accountable for murder. His judges pragmatically intuit that regardless of whether free will exists, our society depends on everyone’s believing it does. The benefits of this belief have been demonstrated in other research showing that when people doubt free will, they do worse at their jobs and are less honest.
At an abstract level, people seem to be what philosophers call incompatibilists: those who believe free will is incompatible with determinism. If everything that happens is determined by what happened before, it can seem only logical to conclude you can’t be morally responsible for your next action.
But there is also a school of philosophers — in fact, perhaps the majority school — who consider free will compatible with their definition of determinism. These compatibilists believe that we do make choices, even though these choices are determined by previous events and influences. In the words of Arthur Schopenhauer, “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.”
Does that sound confusing — or ridiculously illogical? Compatibilism isn’t easy to explain. But it seems to jibe with our gut instinct that Bill is morally responsible even though he’s living in a deterministic universe. Dr. Nichols suggests that his experiment with Mark and Bill shows that in our abstract brains we’re incompatibilists, but in our hearts we’re compatibilists.
Richard Clark explores how video games can help us explore the concept of sin:
Artistic mediums that ignore the reality of sin are sentimental at best. Thomas Kinkaid may paint a lovely cottage, but there is very little richness and resonance to his work because it lacks an acknowledgement of this key truth. Videogames, on the other hand, tend to acknowledge our inherent sinful nature without even trying. In fact, videogames’ biggest strength is that they illuminate our nature and force us to come to terms with it. In a videogame we are, simply put, selfish jerks.
When I am given a blatant moral choice, I may make the outwardly righteous choice, but my inward tendency still remains. I do what it takes to progress, not because it’s right, but because it alleviates my boredom and allows me to feel good about myself. While playing Pitfall, I used crocodile heads as stepping stones. In the city of Rapture, I killed untold numbers of people, simply because they are insane. It wasn’t enough to win a match of Mortal Kombat against my friend; once he was unconscious, I had to turn into a dragon, and bite him in half.
These days, we long for meaningful moments to occur within our games, and we’re embarrassed for the action game that contains awkward and stilted social interactions. Even still, after spending much of Far Cry 2 doing deeds for the notorious arms dealer known as the Jackal for some extra diamonds and burning men alive, walking into a nearly empty bar and receiving nothing more than empty stares and impatiently quick explanations just seems right. I don’t deserve a relationship with these people, and they can’t risk one with me.
I’m only 20 hours or so into the game, but so far, I’m in nearly complete agreement with Kirk Hamilton’s review of Dragon Age 2:
When it comes down to it, Dragon Age 2 simply feels flat, unfinished and short on soul. In many ways it combines the advanced graphics of a current-generation videogame with the tedious inconsequentiality a casual Facebook title, and it seems expressly designed both to be accessible to newcomers and to easily accommodate post-release downloadable content. Its main storyline is a sloppily scripted tease for a grander tale that has yet to be told, and its side stories feel empty and pointless.
My friend Matt touches on many of the same issues and complaints in his mid-game review of Dragon Age 2.
Read more about Elsewhere.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.