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How Wes Anderson Films Reflect the Sanctity of the Family

23 Oct

“I wonder if the three of us would’ve been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people.” –Jack, The Darjeeling Limited

The distinct flavor of a Wes Anderson film is unmistakable, as any even remotely hipster college student can assuredly tell you. From the colors to the music to the plot, Anderson has a way of creating something absolutely singular in a world of largely repetitive blockbusters.

But amidst the ironically kitschy details and brilliantly funny dialogue, what is Anderson ever really talking about?


He loves to take the family dynamic, strain it, put it in a different country or under dire circumstances, and tell the story of what happens. As I’m writing this, it’s taking everything in me to not spout into line after line of the boys in the Darjeeling bickering, or Margot and Richie in the Royal Tenenbaums, or the awkward fumblings of Moonrise Kingdom‘s young lovers, and let them speak for themselves. Anderson truly has a gift for capturing the reality of family in all its totally annoying, surprisingly hilarious, completely ridiculous absurdity.

But what he’s really apprehending is a not so poetic reality long known by the Church: When your family annoys you, it leads you toward Heaven.

Anderson’s characters and their relationships between each other are always ultimately redemptive (even when the redemption is incomplete, or years late, or not glamorous) solely because they are family. Your family is the situation you were purposefully put into by the only All-Knowing Author, and it affects you, shapes you, and even can cause you to suffer far beyond what any other acquaintance or friend relationship can. No matter whom you consider to be your family, if they’re close enough to call family, they’re close enough to hurt you, build you, and love you more than any other people in your life. Family is permanent, regardless of death, distance, or disregard.

Family life is the constant state of the person, even regardless of to which vocation they are called. If you are called to start your own family with another person, you can rest assured they and your children will annoy you, madden you, love you, and increase your joy every day in the same way your parents and siblings did. (In fact, vowing yourself to one other person for the rest of your lives is essentially saying, “I want your particular ability to frustrate me as my daily opportunity for holiness.”) If you are called to a religious order, your brothers or sisters will undoubtedly do the same, maybe even to a greater extent than a nuclear family (more siblings, more opportunities!). And, despite it often being viewed as the loneliest vocation, with the priesthood there is absolutely no chance you’ll scoot through life without being totally annoyed, driven insane, frustrated, and ultimately redeemed by that one giant, universal family of the Church.

Family is family. In all its glorious weirdness.

No, unfortunately there is no escaping the annoyances and trivialities of the family existence. But the wonderful news is that that’s absolutely okay. Like Anderson understands, the family is where our sanctification immediately lies. God wouldn’t have given Adam an Eve at all if they weren’t ultimately better off putting up with and being bettered by each other’s seemingly insurmountable differences. Our families, in all their incomprehensible behaviors, quirks, and flat-out-aggravating-as-all-get-out personalities, are the unfailing opportunities for our holiness and sanctification on earth.

They are the constant chance for us to love someone we might not really like at that moment. Or ever. Our families are our first and foundational instances of self-sacrificial love in the community of saints, and learning this skill opens us up to loving the rest of the world rightly.

When Francis, Peter, and Jack have to put up with each other, they locate themselves. When Margot and Richie and Chas have to deal with their parents and brother-of-sorts Eli, they are able to embrace their true selves. Only after Steve loses his friend and has to learn to relate to his estranged family does he grows.

When, in Genesis, God decided, “‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”, He created the first persons of a family unit, the first instance of true communion between persons. He necessitated for us the ability to relate to others, put up with others, and love Him through loving others, even if our attempts are imperfect in our fallen states.

And He also provided Wes Anderson with endless fodder for hours and hours of truly great cinema.

As a director, he’s sometimes criticized for making what is essentially the same movie again and again, just swapping out the soundtracks and placing it in a different setting (he even uses the  same actors in varied compilations every time). But, isn’t this really the only story we all know? Family, in its many and differing forms, is the only avenue by which we each have direct opportunities for sacrificial love. Sanctification of ourselves by way of the family is humanity’s built-in avenue to holiness and Heaven.

 Mrs. Fox: This story’s too predictable.
Mr. Fox: Predictable? Really? Then, how does it end?
Mrs. Fox: In the end, we all die. Unless you change.


How Zooey Deschanel Embodies the Mystery of Femininity (And the Church)

23 Oct

We all know that story. It’s been and continues to be a Hollywood staple from the time of Hepburn. It’s the story of the quirky girl.

The quirky girl is an archetype of sorts, and the stories of her grand and whimsical adventures almost always turning topsy-turvy the life of some random, slightly stodgy, unsuspecting man. From What’s Up, Doc? (Let’s be real. Streisand is adorable) to Liza Doolittle to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the story remains the same.

And no contemporary embodies this archetype to a greater extent than our dear Zooey.

Anyone with a Pinterest or a Tumblr has undoubtedly seen this picture. But just short of crying over tea kettles, what’s she really saying? Why do we love the quirky girl so much?

Because, um, hello. Women are

What’s even cooler is that the Church has known this for centuries. The Church is obsessed with femininity. Because in it lies the nature of the Church herself.

While the Gnostic heretics saw the feminine principle as representative of the earthly, fleshly matter and negativity they so loathed, the early Fathers of the Church saw it differently. The Feminine principle, to the Church, is the perfection of active receptivity. In no way is this the same thing as passivity, as only waiting and be done unto.

Women are the image of the soil in which the seed falls. The soil receives the seed and provides the nutrients and matter it needs to grow into fruit. There is nothing passive about it. The soil pours itself out, gives all of its goodness to create life. The seed by itself cannot do anything; it needs the environment, the acceptance into something greater.

Femininity in its deepest nature is this amazing receptivity, this ability to grow something from within yourself. Where masculinity is focused on the external output, femininity is deeply and interiorly rooted. Be it emotional, spiritual, or physical, women grow from inside themselves, produce the greatest wonders from an internal well-spring of being and emotion.

This is why a woman is so priceless to the life of the world. We cultivate the art of being a human within our very hearts. We grow wonder and feeling and truth in our very souls by the pouring out of our feminine being.

Femininity is astounding.

People often think of the Church as a masculine entity. In truth however, it is theologically only ever referred to as “She”, and the early Church Fathers were obsessed with her nature as the Bride of Christ. It is not intended to have an industrialized mentality of numbers and productive output.

Papa Ben, before he was our Papal pal, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar (a theological Batman) wrote excessively and passionately on the power and necessity of the feminine interiority, especially in its perfection in Mary and her example. Il Papa said,

“Only the Marian dimension secures the place of affectivity in faith and thus ensures a fully human correspondence to the reality of the incarnate Logos. Here I see the truth of the saying that Mary is the “vanquisher of all heresies”. This affective rooting guarantees the bond ex toto corde -from the depth of the heart- to the personal God and his Christ…”

The Church is not a manufactured item, but a Marian mystery. It is, at its heart, holy soil for the Word. The Kingdom of God on earth is intended to be the constantly emptying, growing, loving, richly receiving heart of a woman. It is founded on the vulnerable imperfection of its members and a home for the life of the world. All the Church, laity and religious, men and women, are called to grow in the feminine principle of the Church. Every single person is designed to be receptive to God and His Word in the same way that women already bear in their very beings, their very design. Every person is called to be the soil that gives itself up to grow the beautiful, the true.

If you’re not absolutely terrified by the exquisite power of the feminine,  you’re not thinking about it extremely enough.

And nobody displays the sheer might of affective interiority like Mary. She’s not messing around.

Without woman, without Eve, without feminine receptivity, the world is a seed that can never flower.

Quirky girl is such a staple in our culture because she represents something true: The fact that your utterly unique instance of being feminine (because each way is as unrepeatable as it is united in the common wonder of the feminine heart) is meant to change the world. In fact, if lived right, it can’t not change the world. If you accept whole-heartedly your ridiculous, epic worth as a woman, you step into the shoes of the quirky girl. You are the one who will turn the life of not only a man (although, he’ll luck out!) but the whole world upside down, simply in being your unique feminine self. And you don’t need bangs, cat-eye framed glasses, and polka-dotted dresses to do it (but that would also be adorable). You are already that powerful. You can already cultivate the beauty of the world. Admire things. See the world. Think things and have ideas. Read books. Listen to music. Someday, maybe have children. Love others. Love Christ. Because from your interior springs the life of the world.

So, woman, “Don’t let someone steal your tenderness.”