Here’s what I’m not going to focus on while write about the Exodus: Gods and Kings all white casting movie controversy:
- The question whether Hollywood is misogynist, racist and homophobic. Seriously? It’s even a question? Of course it is (!!) and we have the forces of the free market to thank for. In Hollywood money talk and it likes stability and status quo.
- The historic accuracy of Rupert Murdoch declaration that Egyptians and ancient Hebrews weren’t black. No, you didn’t say it. Oh, yes you did. Whatever. But we all know that even if it wasn’t Hollywood (creative freedom anyone?) and even that “deep” historical “research” was backed by actual facts (anyone got an Exodus yearbook in hand where it says: Most likely to lead his people out of Egypt – Moses son of Jochebed and Amram) there’s at least one black person that could have gotten a role in Exodus: Oprah Winfrey. As god.
- How the way Exodus movie controversy is dealt in the media is awfully similar to the way controversies are dealt in general with in the public sphere. No one is talking and no one is listening; everyone try to stay on message and repeat it as loudly as possible. The motives maybe different in each side but the result is the same. Dead end, more hate, more ignorance and few funny memes.
So I’m not going to focus on any of these subjects. Instead I want to ask another question:
Why now? Why this movie? Why the story of Exodus invited this kind of reaction? After all, Hollywood has done far worse over the years and it’s just a movie, right?
The way I see it happened thanks to several reasons. Some are related to the bluntness of this particular case, some to timing but some…well, at least one, but crucial to my opinion, is related to the power of myths in our lives as individuals and collectives.
We are narrative creatures. We need to find meaning in things or at least create a logical tread of events that makes sense to us. Why day turns into night? Why seasons change? Why do we get old and die? Where did we come from? Why are we here? And what is the meaning of it all?
For these questions and SO much more we have stories, myths and it’s really not important if we invented the stories or if the stories invented us; we still need them and live by them even if we’re not aware of it. That’s also the beauty of these stories – they are eternal because we, the entire human race, ultimately ask the same questions everywhere and all the time. That’s why they can gap over space and time.
We all can relate to these stories in endless ways. We just invent our own variations of them that fits us. Just look at any story someone tells you or you tell yourselves about the ways of the world, life and love and loss, overcoming adversity something news worthy and so much more – it’s all wrapped up in a narrative based on an ancient tale.
Where does Exodus come in? Exactly here. You see, Exodus is one of those eternal stories. It’s a story that about oppression and freedom, about identity and faith and so much more.
Every group of people, joint together by geography, ideology, race, gender, religious faith (or anything you can think of) can find itself in it and so does every individual. That’s because the story of releasing oneself from chains is also the story of every human being. It’s the story of growing up and becoming your own person.
These kind of stories are a constant inspiration because they force us to ask the big questions but also give us comfort when we look for answers.
So when people, this time Ridley Scott, decide to read this story again and ask themselves what THEY see in it, they do what every person does – They look for themselves.
This time the result of this quest brought answers we are used to hearing: It puts the man, the hero (and anti-hero) in the center and tell his story. I bet it will be a story about a broken man looking for a calling, for a voice in the wilderness, to find who he is and eventually become his own person. I bet Pharaoh in this story will not be a complete villain because we live in the age of anti-heroes so he probably had issues and I bet faith and destiny will play a part. Does it sound familiar? It’s the story we hear over and over on TV but it’s no accident because it’s rooted in the American mythology so much. You can find traces of that in Westerns, Mark Twain stories, Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau. You can also go back a little further and find it in the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau that said that ‘Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains’ and in goes back further and further to Jesus time and to the Greek Mythology and…back to Moses.
That’s one narrative. White, Western, Male, Christian. It has its place in the world but it’s not all. Not even close.
Right now, the fight is between this narrative that dominant the storytelling world for so long and another narrative– the black narrative, that says, rightfully so, that it’s not just a story of individuals but of a group of slaves and their journey to enslave themselves.
But you see, it’s not the only narrative that’s not heard in this particular interpretation and it’s no accident. That’s because this great story, like others alike “fulfill their destiny” when we listen to the way others tell it. That’s because sharing a mutual story gives us a language. Something we can talk about and through that understand better who we are, who the others are, where we see eye to eye even if we least expected that and where we differ.
Mine is one of the narratives not present in this movie (at least according to the trailer). I’m Jewish and this story is a cornerstone in our mythology and out theology. Every year in the Passover Seder we tell this story. And guess who’s not mentioned in the variations to the scripture we tell that’s called the Haggadah? Moses. Yes, in the story we tell god did all of it and not a man, because for us, this is not a story of a specific individual but of a nation and its god (and some other stuff that I won’t get into now).
When we go back to the Hebrew bible and read the full-length of this story we discover even more things, like the fact that this story isn’t told in the regular narrative way of beginning, middle and end. The “real” tale doesn’t end in a Hollywood happy end in a song of liberation, but in a completely different way. It ends with the death of the leader, the “hero”, and the people – those that have supposedly transformed to a free nation during those 40 years in the desert scared and unsure because they’re told that finishing their task and getting into the Promised Land, is only the beginning and it can be taken away from them in any time. This story ends with a warning and an understanding that the things that were lost in the desert will always remain with us and that things that were not solved there will haunt us forever as well.
That’s not a good Hollywood ending, but it’s a good life ending for a story, because it’s not an ending.
So the story of Exodus doesn’t end with ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’. It’s an ongoing story. Our obligation is not to try to fit into this particular narrative but tell our own. We need to acknowledge other interpretations but say out loud: This is not THE story of Exodus. This is a story of Exodus and we heard it too many times
So watch or don’t watch this movie. That’s your choice. Just don’t fight about being another face in the same interpretation. It’s not just the faces that needs to more diverse, it’s the way we tell the story and the way we listen to other people stories. There are so many others to tell this story, like there are so many other ways to live life and think about the big questions. That’s what’s really important. Fight for that.
The story deserve better than a hateful hashtag. We deserve more.
My name is Shira Gur. I’m Jewish and I come from Israel and I’m many more other things. Lately I have stayed in Nashville, Tennessee (long story). It really is a great city but when people try to be friendly and engage in a conversation by asking ‘where do you come from?’ I feel like someone punched me in the stomach. Why? Read and find out.
Let me share with you a little anecdote: Couple of nights ago I took a cab to the place I’m staying at in Nashville. It was late at night and I was freezing and tired and the only thing I was interested in doing was climb into bed and sleep. What I definitely had no interest in doing at that particular moment was engage in one of those small talks that begin with the question: So, where do you come from?
When I got into the cab I noticed that the name of my driver was an Arab name so that wish started blending with a slight fear. Thankfully the gods answered my prayer and the (very nice) driver didn’t ask me directly where I come from. Instead he was interested in the origin of my name and wondered if it was Persian (tricky gods).
I could have lied, easily.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I told him my name is a Hebrew name and waited for his reaction.
I anticipated different kinds of reactions based on my past experiences. The one I didn’t expect was the one I actually got which was a moving and quite emotional speech that defended Israel, its leaders and the people in it.
What can I tell you? I love my country and all but I sure am much more critical about it than he is because I couldn’t have produced such speech.
Nevertheless, that speech led to a fascinating conversation in which I learned a lot about the situation in Balal’s native land – Kurdistan and their fight for freedom.
When I finally went to bed that night lots of thoughts ran through my head. Some of them were related to the content of the conversation and others to my initial hesitation to answer such a simple and supposedly neutral question such as ‘Where do you come from?’
Why just the thought of it makes me so uncomfortable? It’s just a place, isn’t it? It’s not like someone asks me what do I do for a living? How old I am? Am I married? Do I have or want kids? What are my political and religious beliefs? Am I straight?
All they ask is where do I come from? C’mon Shira, relax!
For me this particular question is everything but simple and non intrusive. For me, whether I like it or not this is one of the most difficult and personal questions anyone can ask me. For me, my answer to this question and the possible reactions to my answer are the sum of some of the most intimate parts of my identity and my deepest fears.
The reason for it is because for me, the place where I come from is very much WHO I AM.
Why is that, you ask? How come that a small dot on Google Maps mean so much?
It starts with the meaning of the word ‘Place’ – ‘Ma’kom’ in Hebrew.
Hebrew is a very multilayered language but not a very rich in vocabulary. It doesn’t have too many words (defiantly not in comparison to English for example).
In fact, it’s not that uncommon to find yourself, while using Hebrew, in loss of words. It’s actually quite normal and even welcome at times because silences, those gaps between the letters, are also part of this language. In Hebrew the challenge is often not just to find the right and exact word that will give a full and accurate description of something but also find the word that will hint on its inner and deep meaning. That’s because that a basic Hebrew assumption is that for the most important things in life there are no words so all a language can do is just hint and guide us but not TELL us.
What am I trying to say with all of this and how does it have to do with small talks in Nashville and the meaning of the word ‘Place’?
‘A Place’, Ma’kom in Hebrew means a physical place but also a spiritual place and you don’t need to use it in a certain context to switch between the two meanings – it’s already in the word itself so when someone ask about my physical place that person, without even knowing it, also ask about my spiritual place and the way I perceive them both.
That duality exist already in the bible that bind together physical and spiritual with this word and with Israel.
When the sons of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land after 40 years in the desert, Moses gave them a prophet about ‘the place’ they were about to enter and said that the physical place and the spiritual place are connected and in fact the spiritual is a condition for the physical.
Without getting too much into theological discussions, the significance of it is that very much like Raymond Carver that talked about Love, when we talk about a place in Hebrew we also talk about lots of other things and we try not just to describe a certain place, but also ask- what is a place?
So when someone ask me innocently this question my mind wanders into many different directions.
First, as history thought me, I hear a warning sign and a possible danger in revealing the name of the physical place, since unlike a Jew from New York or London or Paris, my physical place hint on my spiritual identity and my political association of course. I’m an Israeli and therefore, probably a Jew and that leads to all kinds of assumptions. I can’t hide or save this information for later when we get to know each other better and ask each other questions about politics and religion. It’s already out there just by spelling it out.
The second thing I hear or to be more accurate, feel – is that I am different. One might call it ‘unique’ but I don’t feel that because I didn’t choose that. At that moment I feel like my entire Jewish heritage, which I hold dear, and whatever brought me to the place where I stand are a burden. That’s because at the moment all I feel is the decision of society to label me as such and I rebel. I share this ‘uniqueness’ with other minority religions, The LGTB community, people of color (that are labeled even before opening their mouth) or anyone that seem ‘different’ in anyway. I will not even get into the labeling of women here cause that’s a subject of a different discussion. All I can say is that in one second, I feel as if this part of my identity is taking over my entire being and that I am ‘outed’, so to speak, in a very intrusive way even if no one intend to do so. My place is so many things and one of is private. My place is mine and no one else’s!
The third thing that comes to my mind is that Hebrew silence I was referring to before. That silence within the language.
You see, when you ask me and probably most Israeli Jews (and possibly lots of Jews in general) where do we come from, even without the possible bad reactions and the feeling of invasion to our private sphere, it takes us a minute to answer because we live in Hebrew, so for us, the answer is really complicated. We have to think about it since it’s not enough for us to mention the physical place-we feel the need to give an accurate description as to what this place looks like and means for us.
When you ask me that for example I see a picture in my head. The picture on top.
It’s a picture of a certain spot in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem where I spent many years studying and becoming who I am. That spot is borderline that divide the green forest and the yellow desert. On a clear day you can see from there to the dead sea. It’s a sentimental place for me for many personal reasons but it’s also my answer to that question.
I am from there.
I wasn’t born on that mountain and I don’t live or work there but I’m from there.
I am from a place of two polar ends that divide them and creates conflict but also bring them together is a special way. I’m from a place where the direction of the wind is more important than the temperature or the rain and that somehow your soul is shaped by it. I’m from a place that on a clear day you can see forever and still not be quite sure as to where you stand because something always feels fragile, temporary and eternal at the same time. I’m from a place where the shouting and music are as loud as the silence. I’m from a place I don’t always understand, that I love and hate, that I am a part of but also am forever also just a guest because it’s bigger than me. I’m from a beautiful, ugly, generous, vindictive place that will not allow anyone to define it. I am from a place that is also not really a place. I share this place with others that know exactly what I’m talking about and maybe even smile to themselves while reading these lines. There are parts of it I only share with my loved ones and parts I don’t share with anyone.
I would love to talk about it someday, because there is so much more to talk about when I talk about my ‘place’ , but for now, I came to you. I didn’t invite you in. So please, don’t ask me where I come from, just ask me how I am. I promise to answer.
Rayna and Liam rocking the stage
Photo Credit: (http://justthewayitwas.tumblr.com /)
If there’s one scene in Nashville that demonstrates just how attractive and appealing a grown woman is, it’s this one.
In this scene, Juliette Barnes is circling around the stage trying to get everyone to notice her. She is using every trick in the book but it’s just not enough and she is upstaged by Rayna Jaymes. Rayna owns the stage and in this specific moment, is just not in the mood of sharing so Juliette doesn’t stand a chance.
Rayna’s presence on stage is charismatic and sexy as hell, and to do it, all she does is simply show up.
Rayna doesn’t try to impress anyone. Instead, she relax, lay back and enjoy herself. The more she does so the more charismatic she become and that alone is enough to get all eyes to focus on her. OK, yes, it also doesn’t hurt that she looks amazing, but so does Juliette (
although Connie Britton is a godess).
The main difference between Rayna and Juliette (beside the hair and the height) that allows Rayna act so freely and for Juliette to try too hard, is that Rayna is a full realized women who is comfortable in her own skin and Juliette isn’t. Juliette is still a girl.
Women are not Girls.
Women are beautiful. Their beauty derive from a strong sense of self, inner peace and freedom that only time and experience can provide. They belong center staged. They’ve earned it (and most likely will be able to cope with it better).
Girls are also beautiful but in a very different way. Their beauty is the beauty of a fresh start and a promise. What they need most of all is the freedom to explore and decide what kind women they want to become.
One of the best ways to do so, is perhaps by having all sorts of women as role models to get inspired on the way. Juliette has Rayna, and by the second season we see that as she takes another step towards adulthood, she tries to mimic some of Rayna’s traits. Although she finds out Rayna’s `nice` just ain’t HER color it’s still a step in the right direction because she’s more aware of the possibilities and as a result become even more determine to find out what color DOES suit her and brings out “the best version of herself”.
Oh, how the world loves girls! Women? Not so much!
While Juliette, slowly and painfully grows into herself (whatever that means), Rayna simply keeps showing up, just as she is. Her challenges and conflicts in life and with herself have nothing to do with her identity as a woman. She already figured out the crucial parts and she’s leaving these things to Juliette and Scarlett.
When Rayna finds out, one time too many, how her label prefers Girls to Women, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She already made the long jouney and she lost patience for those who treats her as if she was a girl.
She’s already a woman, and a successful one who has a say, so she will not let anyone dismiss it and settle for her back catalogue from the times she was a girl or a woman in the making. No, she’s worth much more than this.
What Jeff Fordham doesn’t understand is that for Rayna what’s on the line is her authenticity, and as much as it’s hard to compromise it at any age (as Juliette recently discovered) it’s even harder to do so when you already know who you are. That’s because that feeling of a strong sense of self as a person, and clear voice as a woman is simply priceless. It’s true for every artist who doesn’t want to compromise himself, but for women it’s even harder, because there are even less open spots for them at the top.
Now it’s time for Rayna to take a risk. The risk is not simply leaving her label. It’s not JUST business as thick Luke Wheeler joked. The risk is exposing herself completely and dare asking, without anyone backing her up, the exact question that haunts so many women around the world: Do you acknowledge the journey and dare to love a woman just for what she is?
I’m looking at this scene and know my answer.
Photo Credit: http://mrs-coach.tumblr.com/
Someone wiser than me (AKA Buffy Summers) once said that “The hardest thing in this life is to live in it”
At the beginning of Nashville second season, the queen of country music, Rayna Jaymes, and her troubled ex/current/future love-of-her-life guitarist Deacon Clayborne found out just how hard it is to live.
Climbing out from a pit is not easy for anyone, but unlike Deacon, that dug himself an even bigger hole before climbing out, Rayna took a very different approach to the situation. She prefered to look ahead, move forward and leave as much as she can from the past behind her.
Both approaches come with a price. At first, Deacon’s “joyful and vital” approach led him, to depression, self-hatred, guilt and all the things that keeps a person from engaging life. That’s because no one can live fully exposed and vulnerable ALL the time. It’s like living in a body without skin – impossible.
That’s also why even Deacon slowly realized that being a martyr can get him that far and that if he wants to live he need to wear at least a small armour while stepping back into the world.
Sadly, his guitar was not and option but thankfully, so were the numb-the-pain alcohol and the yearning-for-Rayna drug. Instead, he created his own “armour” made of career ambition, father duties, and, hmm, yes, a relationship with the boring lawyer.
Rayna is a completely different story. She didn’t just wear a small armour to protect herself. No, she went for the biggest and strongest one, added a shield and a mighty sword and with all of them joined together she charged through life.
When you take this approach to the extreme the price for it is the loss of a chance to fully heal, since by closing the door on pain and sadness you also close the door on happiness. That’s because both derive from the same place.
Sadly that’s what happens to Rayna, the “all or nothing” woman. It’s especially tragic in her case since we are talking here about the woman who prefers being “naked” in her relationships and appreciate authenticity above anything else.
Until she’ll be ready to open that place in her heart again, Rayna channels all of her inner needs for ‘truth’ and ‘authenticity’ to her career and by doing so takes even bigger risks than usual.
As for her romantic life, it’s the Teddy syndrome all over again, only this time it’s with a Country music mega star (
will not mention his name cause he’s a self-centered ass and I can’t stand him ). She gets involved with the “right” choice on paper, the one who will support her current needs as a business women and a mother, but her heart…it’s in a far away closed box.
For the viewers this behaviour makes Rayna less accessible than Deacon and it doesn’t give us too many “award-winning” over the top moments of meltdowns or “fighting-to-keep-the-tears-while-all-I-want-to-do-is-die.
But truth is that more often than not, this is life for most adults in similar situations – especially people with kids and most especially women. We just deal and let time take its course. It doesn’t mean we don’t think about it or don’t grieve but we rarely allow it to consume and swallow us whole. The reason? We already know better and even when we don’t, we simply don’t have the luxury to do so.
Rayna Jaymes is no different from the rest of us (beside the obvious), and like us she also doesn’t have the luxury to enter fetal position and dwell in self-pity every time something doesn’t go her way.
Rayna has two daughters who almost lost her that depend on her and need her (even more so now that she’s divorced); She has a career she wants to keep and take to the next level after working her entire life to build it; she also has a young artist who needs her as her mentor and a whole team that she support.
Moreover, Rayna came to a point in her life where she really knows what that means when people say that life’s too short.So getting completely invested in her heartbreak, like we tend to do in our teens and our 20s is not a valid option anymore.
When you dust yourself up the first time even though your heart is aching that you can’t breathe, it’s hell. It also feels like an act. But after a few times this behavior starts to feel normal and not completely foreign, especially if like Rayna you are going through the SAME familiar pain for the 100 time. Then you lose patience for anything that’s holding you back and try to get back on the saddle as fast as you can.
Practicing and mastering this approach towards life also ,usually, gives you an unexpected gift in the form of a healthy perspective on life and a sense of humor to get through it. That way, instead of crying to the sky WHYYYYYY???? you can look at yourself from the side, laugh at how miserable (and even pathetic) you are and sum it all up like Rayna as ‘a really crappy month’.
After all, The best songs Do come from broken hearts. It’s just that someone must be brave enough, and strong enough to step out into the world, live and write them.