Scientology and the Real Negan

The "Thud" Heard 'Round the World
BY SmrtPhonRtistCF
The Walking Dead premiered it's 7th Season with the most disturbing image ever aired on television. Our hearts were crushed when our favorite character got his head bashed in with a baseball bat by the villain we had awaited seasons for. We don’t know much about Negan’s back story, but we can piece some things together. He is charming, charismatic, good looking, funny… and scary as hell. 

Negan is a monster to say it lightly. We would hope that only someone as frightening as him would be tucked away in this fictitious world. However, if the Zombie Apocalypse ever did break out, there might be a real life Negan out there waiting to bring fiction to reality. And Leah Remini seems to have exposed him or rather we may have discovered Negan’s perfect backstory, the leader of a religious dictatorship. 

In her new show, "Scientology and the Aftermath", Remini interviews former parishioners of the Church of Scientology who have broken free from the confines of it's brainwashing livelihood. Through flashes of bravery, these individuals have begun to tell the real stories of what it's like to be a part of the science fiction-based belief system only to reveal that Scientology is not so much a religion as it is a cult.

The leader of this cult is shown to be Dave Miscavige, who calls himself the Pope of Scientology. As the episodes progress, more and more stories are revealed about Miscavige's violent behavior or his “Neganistic” personality.

I'm not making the claim that Miscavige is a vicious murderer like Negan as I don't have any information on him other than what is presented in the show. I would simply like to make an artistic comparison of two characters, one real and one made up, to showcase the stark similarities that bring about intrigue when it comes to use, authority, and power.

“This personalist norm, in its negative aspect, states that the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as the means to an end. In its positive form the personalist norm says that the person is a good toward which the only proper and adequate attitude is love.” - Karol Wojtyla

Wojtyla echoes the philosophical words of Rene Descartes and adds the resolution of love in this ideology which has come to be known as the "Personalistic Norm". It is Wojtyla's message that the normal way of treating another human being is a deep refusal to ever desire to use them. Rather, each human life, whether saint or sinner, is deserving of love and should be treated that way.

Both Negan and Miscavige are users. They use people for selfish and malicious reasons. Negan will use people he finds in this new world as slaves to "collect" items for him. He uses women, men, and even “walkers” to do his bidding. Love does not exist in his world, only fear. Miscavige is the same. He uses members of “the Church” as a permanent source of income, forcing each parishioner to pay for "self-help" courses to move up a false ladder of spiritual enlightenment. The average parishioner of Scientology spends a quarter of a million dollars, the average cost of raising a child, on these courses which take up all of their time, studying twelve hours a day. Much like Negan's "parishioners" who spend all their time scavenging for him. Negan and Miscavige use fear to control their Church. Miscavige forces members to “disconnect” from their family and create dependency on the Church... even when these members are as young as age twelve, in some cases. Their ideology is not revolved around love, but rather improving oneself without the results. It is a true Utilitarianism. 

Authority is a powerful tool towards motivating human beings. Human life is fragile and it yearns for authority and order. Watch Tony Robbins’ film “Im Not Your Guru” and you will see how easy human beings give in to someone who acts as an authority figure over their life. We have to be careful who we give authority of our lives to, else we lose our identity. It is a huge responsibility for those who have authority over someone, namely a president, a boss, or religious leaders of a church. One must echo Wojtyla’s “Personalistic Norm” again and refuse the urge to use a person who has given you that authority. 

Negan is not like this. He takes authority through force. If you do not follow his rules then you suffer greatly. Sometimes the suffering inflicted on the victim is through torture or through the death of their friends and family. He knows the surest way of keeping his authority over his people is to threaten the ones they love most (Hence, the opening death in Season 7). Look at the character of Dwight this season. He does Negan’s bidding because Negan has taken authority of his wife. Any misstep on Dwight’s part would cause Negan to rape or murder her, thus keeping him "loyal" to the cause.

Miscavige abuses his authority as well. Like Negan, he threatens the lives of loved ones to try and keep people in line. When someone questions the Church or leaves the Church he convinces the other members of their family who are still active to “disconnect” from them. In her series, Remini has showed us at least a dozen examplesof families being forced to disconnect. The emotional turmoil that ensues because of this is too much to bear. Some families try to become active in the Church again just so they can see their children or parents. Children have written heartbreaking rejection letters to their parents who have broken away from the Church. Miscavige knows how to control the masses of his Cult, by cutting their ties to the most fundamental human grounding: family life.  

When Negan takes Daryl hostage and brings him back to Alexandria, he prevents Rick from even looking at Daryl. He breaks the familial bond and won't allow Rick to ask questions. Rick becomes afraid to question his new lifestyle. A person who questions will always be a threat in the eyes of the user. As Remini points out, Scientology does not allow for questions. You are deemed an enemy of the Church if you start to question it’s motives, teachings, and beliefs. The veil of authority that Scientology holds over it’s parishioners begins to shed once questions begin festering in the hearts of the parishioners. That’s why Leah Remini broke away. She asked one simple question that was deemed “none of her business” and she knew. She had to reclaim her power of self. 

Power and Authority go hand in hand, but Power, which is forced upon someone, can be taken away whereas Authority is freely given. Negan is powerful because he is charming, charismatic, and humorous in his own way. He develops the guidelines by which his group must abide, therefore earning authority over his group. Miscavige, too, is charming and motivating. He is a self-esteem builder. He has been credited with building up and inspiring two of Hollywood's most reputable actors, Tom Cruise and John Travolta. He has the power to make new laws, create "new-found" courses, and ideologies within the Church that no one can question. 

What both of these characters choose to do with their power is to influence the masses by convincing them that their work has a deeper purpose and meaning. When Negan shows Carl his home base, he walks up to the rafter’s and looks down below at his followers. All of them slowly begin to kneel. Negan looks at Carl and says, “See, that’s power.” By naming his community "The Saviors", Negan  gets his  people to murder, steal, and bully other groups by telling them that the Saviors keep the world safe from the dead and the living, but as long as the other surviving humans play by his rules. The Saviors believe this because of Negan’s complete sense of confidence. His conviction that his evil choices are for a greater good makes others forget the hell that they are actually living in with the dead roaming the earth. The Saviors believe that the acts they are doing are nothing more than protection from the evil around them. So, when Negan asks them to use brainwashing torture techniques by confining Daryl to a cell, playing the same song every time he is fed, and giving him false hope in order to break his spirit, the Saviors go for it. Negan won’t stop until he clears, a term used in the show meaning to rid the world of walkers, and have everyone working for him. 

Miscavige uses the Sea Org, a naval based group started by L. Ron Hubbard, to act much like the Saviors. He convinces them that they are helping the planet. He puts on annual conferences with false statistics about how many people have been saved from poverty and drug addictions through their efforts. He has them confine members to cells if they feel someone is questioning the Church. He puts them through rigorous mental anguish for months in order to break their spirit through what they call the “auditing” process and even makes them pay for it. He has assaulted many of his leading staff, including Mike Rinder, by choking him with his tie and then convinced Mike to state that Miscavige did not assault him to reporter John Sweeney from BBC. As Remini puts it, “Scientology has you believe that not only are you fixing yourself, but you are helping mankind.” Miscavige won’t stop until he clears, a term used in Scientology meaning to rid the world of evil, and have all worshipping him. So much of this reeks of Negan.

As much as we would like to turn an eye to this documentary series, we have a human obligation to expose this and stir up conversations. Negan loses his power when everyone begins to think for themselves, question their own purpose, and face the rouse of fear. I believe now is the time to do the same for Scientology. Let’s support Leah Remini and stand behind her in solidarity shouting the words of Wojtyla that “No person can be used as an object and the only adequate response is love.” 

Oscar Showdown: Moonlight Vs. La La Land

Moonlight is a film. La La Land is a movie. 

I watched Moonlight and La La Land back to back right after the Golden Globes. The hype for Moonlight has been enormous. I have been hearing about it for months, especially from my wife who had a former schoolmate co-produce it. I haven't heard anything about La La Land and never even seen a trailer. I originally thought it was a film about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers because I saw a clip of tap dancing. So I dove blindly into both of these films believing that one of them would end up as Best Picture this year at the Oscars. Sure enough one of them will definitely win even with the pressure of Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and Scorsese’s Silence (both with Andrew Garfield as lead amazingly). I feel the political pull for the Academy to give it to Moonlight however, since last year's all-white nomination scandal. While Moonlight is definitely a must see, I don’t think it really beats out La La Land

Here's why La La Land should win and why the Best Picture should not be based on righting last year's wrong, but just on overall production value.

Moonlight is a film about lost identity and homosexuality. It's about the masks one is forced to wear to hide from their personhood. The underlying theme is the same as in The Imitation Game, a 2015 contender for Best Picture. In that film, Alan Turing uses his amazing mind to hide behind from his homosexual identity. In Moonlight, Chiron (or later called “Black”) uses his brute strength to make him “hard” and hide his true self. Both of the films showcase prejudice against gays from their social scene, but Moonlight shows us a different world. Chiron is Black where Turing is White. We haven’t seen a film explore the violence against homosexuals within the African-American community, but also showcase the compassion towards gays from those we would least expect.

Three identities emerge in the film separated by chapters. Little is the shy boy who opens the movie. Without saying more than a few words, we understand his internal struggle when it collides with his external circumstances. He is bullied by kids at school for being gay, something he doesn't understand within himself yet. His mother is a crack addict and his father figure is the drug dealer who feeds her addiction. Chiron is the pubescent teenager who has his first sexual encounter with his male best friend. His social awkwardness is cause for violence as other classmates force his best friend, Kevin, to physically abuse him in front of the school. Black is the buff drug dealer with the kindest eyes you’ve ever seen. He is only looking for his purpose and meaning in life. With three versions of himself, Chiron remains confused until the end when he finds solace from his childhood friend, Kevin. 

Moonlight is worth seeing and would probably take home best picture if La La Land was not a contender this year. The problem is the film’s pacing. We are taken on these three journey’s that eventually lead to an unsatisfied anticlimactic conclusion. It would have been more interesting to see it as three short films and have to piece the clues together of who this person is. The identity crises would have been more prevalent. The great thing about this film though is that we hear a voice that has never been heard, but unfortunately that voice is drowned out this year by the dying sound of jazz. 

La La Land
The plot in La La Land is not as deep and dark as Moonlight. It’s not meant to be. Its purpose is not to flood the audience with tears or create a cult classic. La La Land serves to remind us of how entertaining the movie experience can be. It brings us back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, but in the 21st Century.  

The film follows two lovers who cross paths on several chance encounters. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a passionate jazz pianist and Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress who dreams of one day being one of those celebrities who regularly walk into her coffee shop on an L.A. studio lot. Together they find inspiration in each other while singing and dancing their way into he audience’s hearts. They’re dreams however cannot be sustained while they’re together and it becomes apparent that in order to fulfill their callings it would have to be done a part from one another.   

The genius of this film is not found in the romantic story, but in the belly of it’s theme: movies can still inspire. Throughout the film Sebastian refers to his sadness of the eventual loss of jazz music. He claims that jazz is dying and there is nothing that can be done because the newer generation won’t even listen to jazz. As I was watching it I suddenly had a revelation. Like Jazz, movies are slowly dying. More actors are crossing over to television. Shows are more talked about nowadays. With the ability to binge watch comes the opportunity for writers to create characters that evolve in real time. The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are great examples of how character development has changed. Every season you root for someone you once hated or hate someone you once loved. Your are bound to their deep humanity as they reveal their good and bad habits.  Shows are creating the most memorable characters of our generation, when it used to be movies that did that. 

La La Land’s soul intention seems to be to remind us of how we can have fun at the movies once again. With it’s upbeat original songs, it’s captivating dance numbers, and lovable cast, entertaining movies can beat out serious films. In a year where movie theaters have become stained with the mark of isolated mass shooters and online streaming is the safer and more preferred choice of experiencing the visual story, La La Land so effortlessly sings to us that our escape haven is still intact. We can still go to our own La La Land when reality breaks us in. We can still dance in the heavens when the weight of our lives pushes us to the ground. We can still achieve our dreams when the world’s eye rolls at our passionate attempts. La La Land has not reinvented the way we watch movies, but has reminded us of the way we used to. Hence, we wouldn’t be able to see a film like Moonlight without having the ability to escape into the uplifting world that is La La Land

What Batman and Superman need to learn about Civil War

Marvel and DC released the same film last summer. Sure, they had different characters, a different tone, and a different title, but they had the same theme: Civil War, one superhero against the other, Batman against Superman and Captain America against Iron Man. Yet, only one of these plots actually worked, can you guess which one? 

That's right! Marvel prevails over DC again, but did we ever doubt that? Marvel has spent so much time methodically writing their storylines to tie in multiple heroes and villains into one universe. They committed to this over a long 10 year period. DC took a shortcut, trying to cram in emotional relevance towards a new Batman whose storyline diverges from the Dark Knight trilogy completely. 

While I enjoyed parts of Batman Vs. Superman, it felt like a whole franchise stuffed into one film.   The most interesting character of the film, Wonder Woman, only appeared in the last thirty minutes. Batman’s new obsession with guns, the weird FLASH forward scene warning Bruce Wayne about somebody that doesn’t even tie into this storyline, and the introduction of a poor CGI version of Doomsday were all things the film could have done without. This movie was supposed to be focused on Batman versus Superman, but derailed into a sappy dual “Momma Martha” brotherly bonding film. 

Captain America lived up to the expectation and masterfully introduced new characters without overshadowing the veterans in screen time. It gave us what was promised, a true Civil War of heroes wh
ere you had one foot on either side of the battles. Since you understood the characters and their developmental process over the course of 10 films, you could reasonably see each of their points of view. 

Civil War
What I like about both of these films was that they addressed the big elephant in the room, the massive deaths of civilians. When I first saw Man of Steel, I was flabbergasted with how many innocent victims were killed in the process of this alien war. It seemed as if that was never going to be discussed, but luckily it was the main topic of Batman Vs. Superman. The same goes for The Avengers: Age of Ultron. So many victims, innocent bystanders were murdered for our enjoyment. It got to the point where with these films you forget people are people. So this is the main focal point of Captain America: Civil War. Superheroes need to be controlled or else they become a threat to humanity rather than an ally. Tony Stark and Superman agree with this, but Captain America and Batman do not. This is where the war begins. 

What DC can learn from Marvel

1) Don't push a civil war on us with new characters. This was a new Batman. Christopher Nolan's Batman never would have played with guns. The introduction of Wonder Woman is great, but don't get her involved in a Civil War storyline yet. We barely know her and want to like her. Yes, Marvel introduced Black Panther, but gave us a badass motorcycle chase before we got to the Civil War battle to make us like him, which we did from the moment he came onscreen. 

2) Don't have the war end by the characters mother having the same name. Okay I get it, their mothers have the same name. How does that make them relatable? They disagree on something much deeper than their mother's. If you want to make a strong connection between them then either make them have the same mother or focus the connection on loss of parents. Simply hearing the common name of Martha should not make Batman question his existence and stop beating up Superman. Captain America played out this brotherly connection well where we discover that the Winter Soldier murdered Tony Stark's parents and the Captain knew about it. That's a way to start a war, but still ends on respectable terms with a beautiful letter written to Tony from the Cap.

3) Pick your war audience.  If you are a rated R movie then live up to it! Batman was a rated R film shredded of its character to make it PG-13. Apparently, Suicide Squad had the same problem. Pick your audience DC. You are not Marvel, so if you want to make a darker series for adults then do it. Don't limit your ideas just because you want tweens in the theaters. As a tween I still made my way into the theater to see Scream when it first came out. They always find a way! 

At the end of the day, DC is light years away from doing what Marvel has done. At least they are trying, but my word of advice is to try harder!

Moana: Family, Nature, and Trump
©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Disney has made some bold statements in 2016 in terms of prejudice (Zootopia), disabilities (Finding Dory), and the destruction of Nature (Moana).

As Moana takes the hero’s journey, the story unfolding around her is much deeper than saving the day. The security of the entire ecosystem falls on her shoulders. A thousand years after the demigod, Maui, steals the heart of the Goddess Te Fiti, the world begins to decay. The fish disappear, the plants die, coconuts rot, and islands are blackened.

Moana is the chosen one called to bring balance to the earth and return the heart to the Goddess of Nature.

This is a beautiful story with a powerful theme. Yet, it's another film about the human destruction of nature. Moana portrays boldly and beautifully what M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” (or what I’ve renamed as “The Crappening”) could not. It makes the case that, when in danger, Nature has the freedom and the creative right to fight back; however, not in an angry or irrational way, but simply in a naturalistic way like an animal defending its life.

The main theme in the movie is missed though, at least from all the reviews I have been reading. In the beginning of the film Maui goes to reclaim the heart of Te Fiti because he wants to bring to mankind the ability to create anything, a power that is not deserved of man. For this kind of creation would mean that man would be able to control the earth, when the earth is not an object to be used. The earth is living, breathing, and life giving. The Earth calls to a deep relationship with man where there is altruistic reciprocity rather than dominance.  A healthy relationship does not work out that way or at least don't work out well. We can't have the power to dominate nature, rather we must work with nature in a partnership. For both man and nature are working for the same thing, the same being… the same creator. God called Adam to till and guard the garden. He probably never thought he would have to defend it against his own humanity.

To abuse nature is like allowing your child to draw on a Dali painting, using it for scrap paper rather than allowing it's natural beauty to be absorbed by all for generations.

Maui doesn't understand this because he has been blinded by the effects of his own human history, so he takes the heart and causes Te Fiti to transform into a vicious monster. She does so, not because she wants to, but because nature robbed of it's naturalistic creation is the very description of chaos, a void blackened landfill that the Greeks spoke about. The most trifling thing is not that Maui actually stole the heart of Nature, but rather why he stole it.

Maui was a human once and was abandoned by his family. An orphan who was alone in search of belonging was found by the Gods and raised as one of them, given power as a demigod. With his unquenchable desire to please humanity due to its own rejection, he stole the heart as a gift. He did it to simply feel loved.

How simplistic his reasoning, yet how devastating the consequences. When it comes to the most fundamental aspects of creation, human life and nature, we have become so willing to rob them of their life-giving attributes for personal gain, glory, or simple applause. The irony in Maui’s plot is that he believed that humanity did not have the power to create to begin with when in reality humanity was blessed with the greatest gift, the power to create and cultivate human life in peaceful coherence with nature.

Which brings me to the Trump Administration. While there is a plethora of topics for Trump to tackle, Moana brings up two that are so intrinsically connected, to separate them would be a travesty: family and climate change. They go hand in hand. For the destruction of the family is destruction of nature itself. As John Paul II said, “The family is the nucleus of society.” If we want a better nation than we have to develop our families, from those in our impoverished cities without clean drinking water or school materials to our middle class and even the 1%. If we want a strong national change on our climate crisis, then we need a leader who is going to help us put back the heart we humans have stolen.

We have not seen this sense of leadership from Trump so far. No passionate father of a daughter speaks about women with a gravitas of indecency the way he does. So I’m afraid the role model of our country's family-life is in jeopardy. And we know that he believes that climate change is a hoax developed by the Chinese despite the fact that 2016 has been the hottest year on earth in recorded history followed by 2015 and 2014. So we find ourselves at risk to these cataclysmic effects on the nature of our humanity. But just as Moana proved to be the one who could put back the heart without the help of the demigod, so too can our nation take the hero’s journey for our families and our environment.

I think we all pray that Moana speaks to Trump’s heart when she sings at the end “This is not who you are” shattering his Twitter-obsessed facade and revealing a man who places the care of 350 million people above his 350 million dollar ego.
Next PostNewer Posts Previous PostOlder Posts Home