Letter from the Editor: Bianca’s in Town for a Reason

Poor Lars. Life isn’t going the way he wanted. He’s lonely and longs for love; it doesn’t help that he’s shy and socially awkward or that he lives in a small town with few options. This is the premise of Lars and the Real Girl, a drama-comedy starring Ryan Gosling as Lars. But then a new girl comes to town. Bianca and Lars fall in love and become inseparable. You’d think this was happily ever after. But as Lars introduces Bianca to his family and the community’s cast of characters, all are greatly alarmed. Bianca happens to be a life-size inflatable woman. Lars treats Bianca like a real person, however, leaving us viewers to wonder how far his crisis will go. When his family seeks advice Lars from a therapist, she encourages them to be supportive because “Bianca’s in town for a reason.”

That line has come in handy for me over the years. It’s a favorite catchall phrase to label the often-inexplicable ways we cope with life’s difficulties. Although no one actually sat me down and told me life would be easy, I can still be caught off-guard when life behaves the way it does. Life isn’t a fairy tale for any of us. Our lives are full of trials that we didn’t ask for and don’t know how to deal with. We all have a Bianca in town, a way that we are coping with the discrepancy between the way life is and the way we wish it would be.

Facing the realities of life with all it’s dysfunction and mess isn’t easy. This is why we get busy tending to our own personal Bianca, whatever that may be.

In this issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine, “Realistically Ever After,” the features and support articles speak to the realness of life in all of its glorious imperfection. Olivia Ard kicks it off in her article, “Willing to Wait for It.” Ard shares her struggle with infertility and how the music from Hamilton has helped:

Until recently, I didn’t know why I listened to [Hamilton’s] “Wait for It” on repeat almost every day. Of all the songs in Hamilton, it seemed a strange choice on which to fixate—a ballad from the villain’s perspective, justifying adultery and maligning the eponymous hero? Shouldn’t I have been rocking out to the fun, catchy notes of “The Schuyler Sisters” instead? But as I scheduled yet another series of doctor’s appointments and prepared to pick up yet another round of fertility medication, my love for Burr’s anthem clicked into place. Of course I sympathize with Burr, bitter and vengeful though he is. I sympathize with anyone whose circumstances dictate waiting.

Waiting for the ideal life isn’t easy for anyone, whether it’s waiting for children or love or work or an anxiety-free heart. Society paints perfect pictures for us to wish for, planting in us the assumption that we need to make our lives look a certain way. We falsely assume that the ideal is possible for us all. But for the majority of the world, that ideal is unattainable. D. L. Mayfield points to the TV show Superstore as a way for us to see the very real lives of those who will never achieve this version of happily ever after. She presses us in her article, “The Island: A Longing to Be Real in a World of Inequality”:

Superstore … is asking us to consider what it means to live in a divided country like America. It is asking us to stop pretending like we are all the same.

[…]

[T]he America I live in is not the same America that exists for many others. I have been in proximity to people who are similar to those on Superstore—people for whom there will be no vacations apart from cigarette breaks, people who use all of their earnings to support countless relatives, people who are one bad break away from disaster at all times.

Facing the realities of life with all it’s dysfunction and mess isn’t easy. This is why we get busy tending to our own personal Bianca, whatever that may be. She becomes a distraction from our trials, an outlet for our sorrows, a way to live the ideal instead of the reality. Facing reality is not what viewers were expecting from award-winning film La La Land—another Ryan Gosling film. In “Learning about Life, Love, and Dreams from La La Land and The Intern,” Tim Briggs explores the endings of two films that are full of both success and sorrow:

[The Intern] ends with Jules joining Ben for a Tai Chi exercise group in the park. And as the viewer, you’re giving this sense that it’s all going to work out great.

But is it? I don’t think Tai Chi is going to magically make everything work in Jules’s life (in fairness, I’ve never done Tai Chi so maybe I’m underestimating it). Nothing has changed. … [It] communicates that you can have your cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, that’s not how it always works out.

Which leads me back to La La Land. Yes, we were denied the fairy tale ending. Mia does not end up with Seb. But quite frankly, the fairy tale ending would have been just that. Perhaps it would have been satisfying at some level, but we have to acknowledge that it would have also been cheap and disingenuous. The reality is that dreams and love rarely coexist well. The situations where they do work well together is when one, or both, is somewhat sacrificed, if not entirely.

But reality is hard to swallow, which is why so many found La La Land greatly disappointing. Real life, the one we are in, the one that isn’t happily ever after, includes a whole lot of heartache—and death. Erin Wyble Newcomb wraps up our features with “A Good Life, a Good Death, and Good-Bye,” sharing the loss of her beloved cat Sula:

Both of my girls wanted to come with us. My husband and I explained what would happen and why. We tried to reinforce that veterinarians do other things for animals too. We tried to remind them that Sula was elderly, that not all sicknesses lead to death and that not all shots kill. We wanted them to understand, to contextualize. They still wanted to come, and my mother expressed her concern. Won’t it be hard for them, especially the littler one who cries about everything? Yes. It will be hard for them. It won’t get easier. There is no life that is never marked by loss. The longer we live, the more losses we accrue. It doesn’t get easier.

Real life isn’t easy. The fairy tale isn’t possible in this life, in this world. But real life is more vivid than the fake ideal we think it should be. Like Lars, we need to put Bianca aside if we’re going to live for real, letting our hearts ache and love the way God created them to. Living this real life won’t be easy, but it will be full, and we will be fully alive.

In This Issue

Willing to Wait for It

When we find ourselves in a period of limbo, needing to wait, we may reframe our situations to make us feel in control, but the truth is, we’re powerless.

by Olivia Ard

The Island: A Longing to Be Real in a World of Inequality

Superstore is asking us to consider what it means to live in a divided country, to stop pretending like we can ever be all the same.

by D.L. Mayfield

Learning about Life, Love, and Dreams from La La Land and The Intern

La La Land embraces the tension of living on this side of heaven, calling us to face the difficulty head on and enjoy the ride.

by Tim Briggs

A Good Life, a Good Death, and Good-Bye

The longer we live, the more losses we accrue. It doesn’t get easier. There is no ideal life.

by Erin Wyble Newcomb

Put Down Your Birth Plan: How Idealizing Motherhood Is Causing Post-Partum Depression

“The rite of passage that is pregnancy and childbirth is set upon a pink and blue pedestal in our culture, making for a nasty fall back to reality.”

by Guest Contributor

Pride & Gender Roles: Demythologizing Marital Income Disparity

Getting a job in a competitive, capitalist society is a lot like playing dodge ball in grade school- it involves praying you aren’t picked last and getting your buddies who have already made the team to vouch for you. But unlike a game of dodge ball, the career world can affect every aspect of your life indefinitely. So what happens when Christian men, convinced that they need to be the predominant fiscal provider, get out-earned by their wives?

There seems to be an innate, archetypal desire in most men to want to bring home the bacon. Which historically has proven to be societal glue and for the most part, a good economic system that made it harder for men to be cowards.  However, today things are obviously different. After World War II, the workforce was saturated with women who didn’t want to leave their jobs just because their husbands were home. And today American universities are well over 50% women, a fiery industrious spirit is the new staple of femininity and gender is assumed to be a thing of the past.

Read the full article…

by Nick Rynerson

Panel Discussion: ‘The Vision’ and the Danger of Chasing Our Dreams

Tom King is giving us, through The Vision’s storyline, an opportunity to consider how the pursuit of our dreams could result in the destruction of our deepest values and convictions.

by Jeremy Writebol

On the Other Hand: Jealousy of Youth Is No Surprise

“So we’re jealous. But so what?”

by Ben Bartlett

Touchdown Jesus: Ronda Rousey’s Loss and the Worship of Winning

Ronda Rousey’s defeat signals a universal human vulnerability—one that is meant to equip us for communion with others and with Christ.

by Val Dunham