Fire in the Fields Underneath the Blazing Sun (Theme Music Monday)

I first heard this song in 1988, at age 13, and it fired my imagination like few songs had ever done.  The first verse talks of a people defeated and enslaved, but not broken.  Even as they suffer “for someone else’s selfish gain” they sing songs to their God.  The second is darker, more metaphorical, with its talk of “chambers made for sleeping forever.”  It was not until I was somewhat older than I understood what that meant (“waiting for the train labeled with the golden star” should have clued me in, but I was thirteen).

Though I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t get the historical references (the Jews’ enslavement by the Pharoahs of Egypt and the Holocaust, respectively) at first, the sentiment and imagery struck me to my heart.  This was the universal cry of outrage at human cruelty: “Man hurts man, time and time again, and we drown in the wake of our power. Somebody tell me why?”  But more than that, it was the hope that comes from faith.  Even at thirteen years old I could understand that.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the album, and especially the song, “Lead Me On” jump-started my dream of writing.  Though at thirteen, I was hardly writing prose, I began to compose narratives, imagine characters, and inhabit the themes.  I suppose I would be writing if I had never heard “Lead Me On,” but I think I would be a very different writer, a very different person.

It was while listening to this album that my mind started to imagine Tarafore, the fantasy world of my young imagination.  While many things have changed, the image of a group of warlords rising up to break the world, the conquer, to enslave, stuck with me.  The themes of faith against tyranny, sacrifice against cruelty, hope against domination have informed my writing – my best writing at least.

I believe in this song.  This song is a part of me, a part of who I am.  It’s one of those things that’s helped shape me.

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Sucker Punch, Witchblade, Zoe Winters, and Power

After seeing Sucker Punch, and reading Zoe Winters’ blog entry about it, and strong women in general, especially “When Weakness Wears the Mask of Power,” I am reminded of a good friend’s comments about the first Witchblade graphic novel: “it was interesting to see the contrasts in masculine and feminine power.”

I never fully understood what he meant (and I may not, even now), but I’ve thought about it some more since then and formed my own opinions about masculine and feminine power.

Zoe Winters rightfully questioned why “strong” women in fiction (especially genre fiction, double especially urban fantasy/paranormal fiction) had to either be unrealistically/supernaturally physical powerhouses or emotionally manipulative temptresses.  Winters proposed an alternative, that real strength was found in authenticity, integrity, interdependency, and even in vulnerability.

Which led me to think of masculine and feminine power, Mars and Venus, Aries and Aphrodite . . . physical violence and sexual/emotional manipulation.  That’s not to say that women can’t be violent or deadly, or that men can’t be sexually or emotionally manipulative, but that one is much more closely associated with the masculine (“manly virtue”), and one with the feminine (“feminine wiles”), to the point that physically powerful women used to be called “viragos,” a word that has the same roots as “virile,” the Latin “vir,” meaning man.

Seconds after having this thought, of Mars and Venus, violence and sexual/emotional manipulation, I realized that sane people don’t want to be around either of these.  While both kinds of power can be used defensively, it’s much better for everybody involved if human relations are kept peaceful, honest, and communicative.

It’s not much of a story, but it’s a much better life.  But a great deal of good storytelling can and has arisen from people who are truly strong (male or female), meaning they have integrity, authenticity, and interdependent, healthy relationships, dealing with the affects and aftermath of unhealthy masculine and feminine power in their lives.

Further, these masculine and feminine forms of power are, in their own ways, expressions of weakness and fear.  Those without the inner strength and courage to meet the world on its own terms feel the need to control it, generally by controlling those around them.  This domination can come in different ways, physical or social, but it’s always hurtful, and destructive.

Those who internalize this fear into obsessive compulsive disorder are objects of pity, schadenfreude, and even ridicule, while those who externalize it and dominate those around them (without getting arrested) are often lionized as “queen bees” or “alpha males” – and then everyone acts shocked when they do cross the line, someone gets visibly hurt, and the police come (using force to dominate a situation, once more) and drag them off to jail.

Is it any wonder that so many of us write and read about about grim-faced, larger-than-life crusaders who hunt the hunters, prey on the predators, and bring justice where the law can never reach?

What does this have to do with Sucker Punch?  Well, other than it having helped jump-start the conversation, not a lot.  I do recommend it, if you can handle the “unreliable narrator” aspect.  You never entirely know what exactly happens, because of the layers of metaphor/delusions, but that’s part of the fun.  (Hey, I liked The Fall of the House of Usher).

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