Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Back to the Gender

I love Back to the Future. It's one of those movies that just screams "quintessential 80s flick," and as a card-carrying member of Gen X, it holds a dear place in my heart. I'm surprised at how many people I know who didn't grow up in that era who also have a soft spot in their heart for DeLoreans, Doc Brown, and Marty McFly. 

I mean, Eric Stoltz was just amazing as Marty McFly, right?


Not so much.

Not everyone knows this, but Eric Stoltz was the first actor cast as Marty McFly. They filmed a good number of scenes with him, and - as the legend goes - after seeing the lack of chemistry on screen between him and Christopher Lloyd, they recast the role. At a considerable cost to both the schedule and budget, they reshot all the scenes already completed - this time, with Michael J. Fox in the lead role.

And the rest, as they say, is heavy.

This isn't to say that Eric Stoltz was then or is today a bad actor. He's actually quite talented, and the recasting was not meant as a strike against his abilities. It's that he simply didn't fit the role. He wasn't right for the part. And with all due respect to every other character he's played on television or in the movies, Marty McFly was the role Michael J. Fox was born play.

Eric Stoltz? Good actor. The role of Marty McFly? Good role. Stoltz as McFly? It simply wan't in his nature to be that character.

A natural dissonance occurs when we try to fit something or someone into a role that goes against their nature. For example, I'm not the manliest of men. I have the athletic ability of a garden slug. My wife, even currently at six months pregnant, could easily kick my butt in any sport - especially basketball - we might participate in. It's not in my nature to be "that" kind of guy. Could I study the plays, memorize the stats, and even execute myself as a player with some level of competency? Yes, but my heart wouldn't be in it.

Now - drop me in a kitchen, give me free reign in the pantry and with the spice racks, and watch the magic happen. Sit me down with my journal for a few hours and life will emerge from the blank pages. Give me time with Kai and (soon) Kid #2, and my soul soars.

These examples illustrate how in my life what I do on a daily basis flies in the face of the roles men are expected to play in their families and in society. But, they're where my nature lies. They're what I was born to be and do. Arguing that societal norms should not dictate what we should or not should do is a touchy enough subject. 

Add faith into the mix, and the discussions skew quickly towards how heretical or unBiblical the voices speaking against bucking what is accepted without any spiritual foundation are.

When men try and quantify Biblically how we are supposed to "act like men," without the masses stopping to give pause and even consider if those who are yelling the loudest about how we are to act are the most qualified to speak on the issue or even if they are taking into account that not all men are the same, we assume theology and Western traditional gender roles are interconnected and can be swapped out so much like a battery without any problems. 

When a woman comedically but sincerely tries to open a dialogue on the fact that "Biblical womanhood" is far more layered, complex and difficult to pigeonhole than the average one-day retreat complete with complimentary pastel-colored T-shirt might lead one to believe, we attack them, claiming they're twisting Scripture out of context.

You know. The same action we don't take against the guys.

This isn't to say that there isn't a place for gender roles. The roles, however, must be something that the individual is willing to act on and is led by their nature to participate in. It's got to fit. Ashley can cook - and cook well - but she always follows a recipe. She doesn't have the heart to be a chef. I'm good (laughably so) with a budget. But I always tend to wriggle within the margins a bit. I don't have the analytical mind she has and is needed for working with money.

Theoretically, any actor could have walked onto set and begun acting as Marty McFly. Odds are, though, that without Michael J. Fox in the role, we never would have come back for two additional installments of the franchise. We'd be without hoverboards, knowing that calling someone "chicken" can change their life for the worse, and that throughout generations, dumping manure on your enemy was a time-honored way of dealing with bullies.

Theoretically, any man could act as the head of the house, while the woman submits meekly to his Biblical authority. Odds are, though, without the voices of those who question the accepted "norm," or those who speak the truth in love against oppression, the enforcement of biased and unbalanced modesty or sexual biases, or those who stand firm for justice, ending discrimination in all its forms, and work to bring love as an action and not just words to the ones whose souls lie wounded...

...we'd have a pretty good snapshot of a great deal of modern Christianity.

And GREAT SCOTT, that's just not how it is supposed to be.


Lisa Mikitarian said...

most excellent.

Sonny Lemmons said...

HA! A Bill & Ted's reference! All we need now is the DeLorean and the phone both to bump into each other :)