The Other Woman

Thinking about this passage from Brian Jay Jones’s lovely biography of George Lucas:

What wasn’t right was that George and [then-wife] Marcia’s thirteen year marriage was quickly imploding, largely because of Lucas’s own neglect. He knew he could be difficult to live with. “It’s been very hard on Marcia, living with somebody who is constantly in agony, uptight and worried, off in never-never land,” Lucas told Rolling Stone. Charles Lippincott, Lucasfilm’s master of marketing, wasn’t entirely surprised…”George would take problems to bed with him,” said Lippincott, “and [Marcia] said this caused a lot of problems.”

But it went deeper even than that; for George Lucas, movies would always be the other woman. As devoted to Marcia as he might be, there was forever one more movie, one more project, demanding the time and attention he couldn’t or wouldn’t give to his wife.

I’ve read a lot of Christian books and heard a lot of Christian speakers talk about strategies for avoiding adultery (the “Billy Graham rule” is a timely example). But I don’t believe I’ve ever read an entire chapter or listened to an entire session by a Christian on strategies for avoiding having an affair with work. Why is that? Why, for people who believe that husbands ought to sacrifice themselves for their wives as Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for his Bride, is the threat of all-consuming careerism not taken more seriously?

Right out of college I spent over a year working in the marketing department of a well-to-do mortgage firm. It wasn’t a particularly good experience, but it was at least eye-opening. I heard the way professional men and women casually talked about how little time they spent at home. If you want to know how what is supposed to sound like complaining can actually be a form of bragging, hearing professionals talk about their time away from home is an education. It was remarkable to me how easily a company that was explicitly “family-oriented” corporate rhetoric could nonetheless cultivate this kind of attitude.

Even worse, it’s scary how easily the veneer of godliness can be applied to this “other woman.” If a man is working long nights and weekends so he can spend time away from his family and with a female coworker, he would be (rightly) rebuked. But if he’s working long nights and weekends just because he derives from his career a peace and identity and thrill that home cannot match, what do we say then?  If you want to get really uncomfortable, go back to that previous sentence and replace the word “career” with the word “ministry.” The temptation for celebrity pastors to put their spouse and family on autopilot must be sore indeed when there are so many book deals and conference invitations to be gained.

It’s sobering to think how many Christians might pat themselves on the back for not being the foolish young man whom Solomon sees going by the house of the forbidden woman, when the only reason why is that they are still at the office with the “other woman.” “The safest road to hell,” said Screwtape, “is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

First thoughts on “Rogue One”

Some first impressions from tonight’s screening of Rogue One:

This is the Star Wars film that critics of George Lucas’ prequels wanted instead. I told my brother-in law-in the car heading home that Rogue One is a love letter to fans of the original series.

The comparisons to The Force Awakens are inevitable. But these are, I think, two very different films. The Force Awakens was a nakedly cyclical jumpstart to the Star Wars mythology, whereas Rogue One is more of a panache the series’ best (and sometimes its flawed) elements. Those who left The Force Awakens very satisfied may feel frustrated with Rogue One, and vice versa.

Rogue One stands on its own without having seen any of the other Star Wars pictures, but series devotees will get the most delight out of it.

This very well may be the most action-packed, most violent Star Wars film of them all. It is considerably more battle-oriented than The Force Awakens. Lovers of dialogue and character exposition will be disappointed.

Related note: Rogue One’s characters, outside of Felicity Jones’ excellent Jyn Erso, are not that interesting. This is a film of plot and event, not people (and all the Attack of the Clones bashers said, “Amen!”).

Without spoiling, I will say that the filmmakers here have perfected a remarkable technology that will likely transform the entire way movies, especially reboots and sequels, are made. I won’t say more, but you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about after you see the film. The accomplishment is serious, and audiences will leave Rogue One with their impressions formed significantly by this dazzling technological achievement.

All in all, I think this film’s best achievement is recapturing the energy and joy that the Star Wars franchise is known for. The Force Awakens did part of the work, but its nostalgia was often overbearing and rote. Rogue One isn’t as richly imagined as Awakens, but it might be more fun. And isn’t that what counts in the end?