I have struggled with depression and suicidal ideation for years. My darkest period was as recent as 2013. In fact, there was a day last September when I let my guard down for just a few minutes. It was enough time for me to walk into my kitchen, pick up a large knife, and touch the blade to see how hard I would need to press down to cut through my skin.
Sometimes that’s all it takes. If I hadn’t scared myself and snapped out of that headspace as quickly as I did, I might not be writing this right now. That’s the truth.
I’m not telling you this as a plea for sympathy. I’m telling you this because Robin Williams is dead, and like everyone else on the Internet, I am deeply sad about that. Yes, part of my sadness is because I grew up watching him in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Aladdin,” “The Birdcage,” and “Dead Poets Society,” and it’s awful to think of someone as talented as he is gone so soon. But another part of my sadness is because suicide is always heartbreaking. I know people who have committed suicide. I know people who have attempted and considered suicide. I am someone who has considered suicide. It is a serious problem that far too many of us know all too well. Keep reading »
A few months ago, I chatted with a newly pregnant friend over ice cream. Eventually, after we exhausted the areas of the politics of maternity leave and the excitement of decorating her baby’s room, our conversation turned to reproductive choice. Specifically, we talked about her decision to terminate her pregnancy if she and her husband learned that the fetus had developed a major chromosomal abnormality that would drastically decrease its chances for a viable, healthy life. Although both she and the baby were currently healthy, and tests proved that the likelihood of such abnormalities was negligible, she and her husband chose to keep the option of abortion on the table, in case they truly needed it later in the pregnancy. “I want to be a mother,” she told me, “but I want my child to have the best possible chance at life.”
I am relieved that, for my friend’s sake, this is probably not a choice on which she will need to act. In all likelihood, her baby will be healthy and safe. But in case a difficult decision needs to be made, it is critical that such options exist for parents to consider. I thought about our conversation when I saw Martha Shane and Lana Wilson’s new documentary, “After Tiller,” an official selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Like my friend, the majority of the women featured in are women who want to be mothers. They want to have healthy, happy children, and they want to provide their children with the best lives possible. Yet, when faced with the reality that their babies will not have the lives for which they planned, the mothers choose the option that they believe will demonstrate the greatest display of love and dignity. “After Tiller” shares these stories through the perspectives of the mothers seeking third-trimester abortions and the doctors providing them. Keep reading »
On Wednesday afternoon, the president of Exodus International, one of the largest “ex-gay” organizations in the world, issued an apology to the LGBT community. “I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage,” Exodus President Alan Chamber wrote in a sincerely worded letter. “But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.” Hours later, Chambers announced that Exodus would be closing its doors permanently, after 37 years in operation. I felt two distinct reactions to this news: relief for LGBT people who have felt attacked and abused by the social and political messages perpetuated by Exodus, and hope for what this change means for both gay and “ex-gay” people alike.
I have some first-hand experience with Exodus – not as a participant, but as an observer. In November 2007, I attended the organization’s North Atlantic Regional Conference in upstate New York. At the time, I was producing a short documentary film, “Just As I Am,” which explored the “ex-gay” movement through two opposing perspectives: an active Exodus ministry leader, and an ex-”ex-gay” minister who belonged to Exodus in the 1980s. BK, the ministry leader, was going to the conference to lead the music during the worship services, so she brought me along. Keep reading »
When I was in middle school, I was required to create a diorama illustrating a hypothetical synagogue sanctuary (as you do, at Jewish day school). All I remember about my project is that I glued a picture of Gene Siskel to one of the walls. My teacher rightly called this out for being inappropriately idolatrous, but in the moment, I’d thought that I’d been paying appropriate reverence to an important man. After all, Siskel was Jewish, he had just recently passed away, and, until his death, I watched him and Roger Ebert weekly on television. I loved movies and knew I wanted to be a filmmaker, so I valued the words of Siskel and Ebert as highly as any of the words I was reading in school. These men cultivated my already-growing passion for cinema, and I’m certain that their enthusiasm was a contributing factor in my eventual interest in writing and film criticism.
In the years that followed, I’ve paid attention to Ebert’s ever-expanding body of work, and though I knew of his illness, I was shocked and saddened by his passing last week. I’ve now read plenty of articles praising him for his accomplishments and successes, and I can’t disagree with anything that’s been said. His writing was prolific, his persona was friendly, and he made the general public give a damn about film criticism. His absence will be felt by all who love movies.
Where I begin to disagree with the accolades, however, is the claim that Ebert was a feminist. Keep reading »
When I sat down to watch “Silver Linings Playbook,” I had high hopes. Friends whose opinions I respect loved the film and praise for her performance has made Jennifer Lawrence a front-runner for Best Actress in this year’s Oscar race. I’ve loved Lawrence since “Winter’s Bone” and I’m constantly amazed by her ability to play incredibly tough, independent, strong-willed protagonists.
But “Silver Linings Playbook” left me with an uneasy feeling, and it wasn’t because of the film’s flawed grasp of mental illness or its contrived and formulaic plot. It had everything to do with the treatment of Lawrence’s character. My first reaction to the film when it ended was: “What was with all the slut shaming?” [Spoilers after the jump!] Keep reading »