Monthly Archives: November 2014

No Excuse

I read a blog post which told a story about a non-American man’s friends telling him which clothing suggests homosexuality in America. He quit wearing the clothing in question because he didn’t want to be mistaken for gay. His now-wife wrote the blog post and expressed anger over her husband being made to feel embarrassed about his clothing preferences and went on a very long rant about how people should be free to dress however they wish and love whomever they desire.

I get defending my husband. I get not judging people based on what they wear. Once upon a time, having tattoos was indicative of a criminal lifestyle; in America, that’s no longer the case (though in Japan, it’s still true). However, there’s a reason why certain types of clothing are associated with straight men, some with gay men, and some with women in the same way that wearing a ring on your left ring finger is associated with being married. If a majority of gay men wear a certain type of clothing, that type of clothing becomes associated with gay men, and people may, for very good reason, assume a men wearing that clothing is gay. If a man doesn’t want to be mistaken for gay, he shouldn’t wear that clothing. If he insists on wearing clothing commonly associated with gay men, he shouldn’t get angry at people for assuming he’s gay. In the same way, a woman who insists on wearing a promise ring on her left ring finger (which I used to do) shouldn’t get angry at men for assuming she’s married and not approaching her. In either case, romantic relationships may be inhibited and such people have only themselves to blame (myself included, as in the case of the promise ring). Similarly, I’ve known women who, for various reasons, were unable to wear their wedding rings and so wore them around their necks, but as a result, people often assumed they were unmarried. Any of the above individuals (including myself) have no excuse for being angry at people who draw the wrong conclusion. Furthermore, if I were to move to a foreign culture and wore clothing that suggested something I don’t want people to assume about me (such as my being a slut, a single woman, a drug addict, or a lesbian), I would appreciate my friends warning me about how others would view my clothing preferences, even if I was briefly embarrassed by the news.

A similar issue is people who choose not to cut their boys’ hair. I get being mad at people for trying to control your parenting, regardless of what your choices are, including anger at people for telling you how to cut your son’s hair or how to dress your child. Having a girl and hating the color pink, I feel for you. But there are also certain cases where you have no excuse for your anger. For example, in a day when girls often dress like boys, sometimes the only way to tell gender is the hair. You certainly have license to be mad at nosy people for telling you how you should or should not do your son’s hair, but you have no excuse for getting mad at people who mistake your longhaired son for a girl. It’s a legitimate assumption in a society where boys traditionally have short hair, girls traditionally have longer hair, little girls or little boys who vary from that norm are in the minority, and it’s rude to refer to someone as an “it” when you can’t tell the gender (therefore, you have to make a guess and God help you if you guess incorrectly).

The same is true of flat-chested girls who cut their hair short, don’t wear makeup, and dress gender-neutrally. I feel for you. I was a flat-chested girl who didn’t wear makeup and wore jeans and shapeless t-shirts as a teen. And you can’t control being flat-chested. But if, being flat-chested, you choose to cut your hair short and dress gender-neutrally, you have no excuse for your anger at people who mistake you for a guy. I feel worse for guys with slender frames because people may assume he’s a neutrally-dressed, short-haired, flat-chested girl, and there’s nothing he can do about it. On the other hand, if a slender-framed guy grows his hair long, regardless of how he dresses, he has no excuse for anger at people who assume he’s a flat-chested girl.

Cultural differences may make it difficult to know what’s considered feminine or masculine or homosexual. In Japan, pink clothing and skinny jeans may be worn by men or women, but both are generally feminine or “gay” in America. A man wearing either in America has little or no excuse for anger at people who mistake him for gay. If I were to move to a foreign culture and I had a habit of wearing something typically associated with lesbians, and I had no desire to be mistaken for a lesbian, I would be embarrassed but grateful to my friends for telling me the truth.

At any rate, my point is that if you don’t mind yourself or your child being mistaken for the wrong gender or for the wrong sexual orientation, go ahead and break the cultural norms. However, if you do break the cultural norms and people assume the wrong gender or the wrong sexual orientation, you have no excuse to be mad at them for doing so.

じゃあまたね!

Advertisements

Strong Women

I love Disney’s Mulan. In addition to being entertaining with a non-annoying and actually quite hilarious sidekick in Mushu, it holds forth several great character traits, such as the selflessness and loyalty of Mulan’s desire to save her father’s life and Mulan’s determination in her insistence. Furthermore, I think there’s an unintentional anti-feminist, pro-realist proposal in depicting Mulan’s physical progress in “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” Many people are probably aware that the U.S. Armed Forces has a different set of standards for women than for men because most women can’t meet the male standards, and so the Armed Forces would appear sexist if the only thing reported was the proportion of women disqualified versus the proportion of men disqualified. Unfortunately, while it seems like kind of a “duh” moment that women might have a different set of physical standards, given that most women in the Armed Forces have non-combat roles such as desk jobs, it is nevertheless true that women in the Armed Forces do occasionally take on combat roles and having a physically sub-standard soldier in such a role can prove dangerous for her fellow soldiers. Mulan, however, by virtue of pretending to be male, is held to the same physical standards as the other men; knowing that having a physically sub-standard man in the Army endangers the other warriors, she is treated fairly—that is, when she fails to meet male standards, she’s kicked out. Nevertheless, as yet another evidence of her determination, she works harder in order to meet the standard and is only readmitted into the Army when she succeeds.

However, I have one big problem with the movie: it pictures a woman’s power as being solely related to her physical prowess, her similarity to men. There are valid arguments against this thesis statement—for example, people might argue that it’s not her fault none of the men will listen to her when she looks like a woman and, furthermore, she did use her feminine characteristics to get close to the villain. However, she then defeated the bulky, physically powerful villain who’s at least twice her size in the most unrealistic way possible: physically.

This sort of characterization of women is common in post-feminism Disney films. Early films created prior to feminism’s attaining a strong foothold in American society depict strong women as being feminine. Think about it…

Snow White (1937) carves out a comfortable life in awful circumstances by caring (cooking, cleaning, etc.) for the dwarves—very strong, but very traditionally feminine. Perhaps if created today, Snow White would have devised a plan to reenter the palace and take away her stepmother the queen’s power (though not by killing her directly, since that also seems to be forbidden in Disney movies post-feminism). Bambi’s mother (1942) saves her son by sacrificing herself—very strong, but very feminine—while Bambi saves Faline twice by attacking first Ronno and then the dogs—very strong, and very masculine. Perhaps if created today, Bambi’s mother would have saved him by attacking the hunter. Cinderella (1950) also carves out a comfortable life in awful circumstances by caring for her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and then exits the awful circumstances by marriage, which itself was a feat involving determination not to be beaten down by her stepmother—very strong but very feminine. Perhaps if created today, the story would have involved Cinderella rebelling against and defeating her stepmother without resorting to marriage. Briar Rose/Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty, 1959) did, in my opinion, nothing particularly remarkable. She was the traditional damsel in distress rescued by a dragon-slaying prince. Perhaps if created today, Briar Rose would have been the one to slay the dragon.

Fast forward. Belle (Beauty and the Beast, 1991) physically attacks Gaston and physically rescues the Beast, though she is feminine in other ways. Pocahontas (1995) demonstrates physical prowess superior to that of John Smith (interestingly, he was a perfect climber on the ship, but he suddenly becomes an utterly incompetent climber when facing off against Pocahontas in a tree) and her greatest strengths are shown in rescuing him by running to his aid and facing off against her father, who was armed with a club, though she is feminine in other ways. Ariel (The Little Mermaid, 1989) physically attacked Ursula and several times physically rescued Prince Eric, though she is feminine in other ways. What’s interesting about these women is that they are feminine in many ways, but when they face off against the villains or against difficult situations, they do so in very physical ways.

Fast forward even further. Although Megara (Hercules, 1997) fulfills the required role of damsel in distress, Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996), Mulan (1998), to some degree, Jane (Tarzan, 1999), Kida (Atlantis, 2001), and Nani (Lilo & Stitch, 2002) are more physical than feminine.

So what does strength look like in modern Disney women? In their most tense moments requiring a display of strength, most female characters who play major roles do so in masculine ways. I’m not saying that a strong woman who is genuinely feminine shouldn’t physically stop a wicked sea-witch from shooting their beloved with magic underwater lightning bolts… I know I would… I’m just saying that women in traditional Disney movies were strong while being genuinely feminine whereas modern Disney women seem unable to rely on anything genuinely feminine—that is, that they need to be masculine in order to be strong. There are some notable exceptions, but my point is that there has been a huge shift from feminine-strong women to masculine-strong women. In some ways, it may just be a lazy shortcut. We all recognize masculine strength as strength and so it’s much easier than trying to display feminine strength, which is more often quiet and unobtrusive or calm and collected and coolly reasoning, as opposed to hastily swinging a sword around and drawing blood. However, I can’t help but think feminism has something to do with it, too. If we’re just like men, we have to erase the gender differences. In so many ways today, it’s considered offensive to suggest that males and females are inherently different in any area other than the anatomical. So to show a woman in a traditional role can often be considered offensive, like she’s not fulfilling her true purpose in life if she doesn’t try to be more like a man.

It got me to thinking: “What is a strong woman supposed to look like?” I love Disney and watch it frequently… consequently, I’ve been brainwashed with images of Disney women’s strength. I don’t trust myself to know what’s truly strong in a woman and what’s a lazy shortcut to masculine strength. So I turned to the Bible. I’m only going to look at three women, though, the three I consider the most unusual: Ruth, Deborah, and the Proverbs 31 Woman.

I consider Ruth unusual partly because she’s a Gentile who’s praised in Jewish Scripture. Furthermore, in spite of being a Gentile who married a Jew in the land of the Gentiles (and therefore spending her whole life outside of Israel/Judea), she was already apparently quite well-versed in Jewish law by the time she came to the land of her late husband. She could easily have left her mother-in-law and returned to her family—nothing was stopping her—but she chose to do the hard thing and followed Naomi to a strange land where she, Ruth, would not only be a stranger but would also potentially be ostracized as the only non-Jew in a Jewish land. To me, the most interesting part of her story is how Boaz describes her. In Ruth 3:11, he says (KJV), “…all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.” In some other versions, it’s rendered “excellent.” The same word was also used to describe Boaz in Ruth 2:1 as (KJV) “a mighty man of wealth,” again rendered “excellent” in some other versions. The Hebrew is chayil, and this word, oddly enough, refers to strength, usually physical strength, and is used to describe an army or warriors in about two-thirds of its appearances in the Old Testament. Is Ruth really chayil? Perhaps not at first glance, being a penniless Gentile widow living in a patriarchal Jewish society. But her character gave her power, a fact which Boaz recognized. If we are to take her example, a strong woman is selfless, righteous (sexually and otherwise), diligent, not manipulative, caring, hard-working, and more. But she definitely did not take on any traditionally masculine roles.

Deborah is exceptionally odd, in my opinion. As told in Judges 4-5, she was a prophetess and a judge over Israel—and she was married! A Jewish version of Queen Elizabeth, she was not! The prophetess told Barak that God wanted him to take 10,000 men to battle and he accepted the role but insisted that she go with them. The interesting part is that Deborah agreed and went to war, but the Bible doesn’t indicate that she fought. (Interestingly, the Bible also doesn’t say whether her husband went to war or remained home.) I suppose you could say she led from behind. I’m especially intrigued by her case because she obviously had the blessing of God; she was married, and so had a husband “over” her and yet still served as a judge when there is no indication that her husband did, too (in fact, the only mention of him is in Judges 4:4, where he is identified as her husband, which is very unusual in itself). There is no indication as to whether she had children and no references to her outside of Judges 4-5. I’ve wondered in the past whether women ought not take leadership roles in politics, but Deborah seems to indicate quite clearly that women may do so with the full blessing of God. If we are to take her example at face value, a strong woman may judge men and women alike and co-lead men, even to war, but not fight.

Finally, I’m especially intrigued by the Proverbs 31 Woman because King Lemuel describes her as being so much more than a housewife. She’s hard-working, willing to get dirty (literally speaking, not metaphorically speaking, that is, not in an unrighteous way), industrious, wise, not lazy or idle, charitable. She considers carefully before passing a judgment or making a decision, engages in commerce with or without her husband (even purchases land with no indication that she first consulted her husband), speaks wisely and kindly, takes care of her family and household. Her husband is well-known, and though the passage doesn’t explain why, I like to think it’s because of her influence. “Strength and honor are her clothing…” (Prov. 31:25)

So while it’s possible for a woman to be strong in leadership over men and even to go to war with God’s blessing, that’s certainly the exception to the rule and a woman is not Biblically considered strong due to physical prowess over others (a distinctly masculine trait), but due to diligence, wisdom, and a willingness to work hard.

Coincidentally, right after writing this post, I came across this listicle <http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/times-tumblr-made-harry-potter-fans-cry-all-over-again&gt; of Tumblr Harry Potter moments that make fans cry, and number 7 specifically addresses exactly what I discussed here. In part, it states, “So often, female characters are allowed to be aggressive or rebellious, but in exchange are stripped of any traditionally feminine qualities and instead are forced to pick up traditionally masculine traits. However, Hermione is never made to do that. Most notably, she is written to be highly logical and emotionally expressive, a combination not commonly afforded to most of today’s leading ladies.”

I have nothing against women enjoying physical activities traditionally meant for men. In fact, I personally enjoyed Tae Kwon Do (a type of martial arts) and archery as a young person. However, I think we do ourselves and our daughters a disservice by portraying only women with male characteristics as strong (setting male-based standards such as physical strength which the vast majority of women cannot attain) and ignoring the possibility of feminine strength (which does not rely on impossible-to-attain male-based standards).

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

じゃあまたね!

Free Natural Disaster Films: 03: Supervolcano

As I said before, I started watching movies that are available for free online since I have little access otherwise. Previously, I reviewed Absolute Zero (*1.5) and Night of the Twisters (*2.5). I’m rating these free films based on Believability, Graphics, Story, and Acting. The latter three—Graphics, Story, and Acting—are judged simply:

* Poor

** Below Average

*** Average

**** Above Average

***** Excellent

Believability is based both on the scientific principles presented in the film and on the activities of the actors within the movie. There may be times when scientists generally agree with the basic concept, but the details of how it is accomplished in the movie may make it unbelievable.

* Completely unbelievable

** Mostly unbelievable

*** Moderately believable

**** Mostly believable

***** Completely believable

Supervolcano

Supervolcano (2005, BBC) *4.5

Warnings: TV PG, primarily due to thematic elements. Blood/Gore—none. Violence—none. Language—none. Sexuality—none.

Summary: The story is told in docufiction format, similar to Europa (an excellent film I highly recommend, but which is not available for free online to my knowledge). I very much enjoy this format, but not all people do, so if you didn’t like Europa for that reason, neither will you enjoy Supervolcano. Rick (the main character), a geologist in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, and his team take note of new earthquake and other unusual geological and wildlife activity in Yellowstone and use their new holographic computer program Virgil to predict what would happen should seismic activity occur in the area of a certain geyser. According to Virgil, in the worst-case scenario, such activity would set off a moderate eruption, which would in turn set off a chain reaction causing a supereruption of globally catastrophic proportions. Though they keep this to themselves to prevent widespread panic as they conduct more research, unfavorable media coverage leads the director of FEMA to pay Rick an unexpected visit. Rick explains to the director what would happen in the worst-case scenario, and further explains that FEMA could do nothing in such a situation. Rick’s team sets up camp in the area of the troublesome geyser and detects harmonic tremor, which indicates an impending eruption. Rick flies to Washington D.C. to brief the leadership of FEMA and, against Rick’s advice, FEMA chooses to keep this quiet in order to prevent widespread panic. Nevertheless, panic, looting, other crime, and massive traffic jams do occur as thousands either stock up on supplies or flee the area. Rick flies back toward Yellowstone, but the eruption occurs before he can arrive and the plane makes an emergency landing in Colorado. Rick’s team is also caught by the eruption while attempting to flee Yellowstone. (Who lives and who dies among Rick and his team is a major part of the suspense and plot of the film, so I won’t reveal that here.) Rick and his brother-in-law seek shelter in a military installation while his team attempts to flee Yellowstone. As predicted in the worst-case scenario, multiple vents (grey eruptions) open, spewing tons of ash into the air and trapping millions of Americans in their homes. As the days pass and the vents show no sign of slowing their activity, FEMA struggles with knowing what to tell people to do and how to rescue millions of Americans. How it all resolves and specifically how FEMA goes about rescuing people is also a significant part of the plot, so I won’t reveal that, either.

Believability:  *****  The movie is based on known scientific fact and on the worst-case scenario for Yellowstone Supervolcano’s next eruption. In essence, there is a massive chamber of magma beneath Yellowstone Park (the largest volcano in the world), which is the source of Yellowstone’s hydrovolcanic features and which experiences a major eruption approximately every 600,000 years. To our knowledge, the last major eruption occurred approximately 640,000 years ago. The next eruption is believed to be unlikely for at least another thousand years. At the least, an eruption would be very minor. At the worst, due to the massive size of the magma chamber, there would be a supereruption. There are two kinds of eruptions: red (involving primarily lava) and grey (involving primarily or solely ash). Red eruptions are the least frightening because lava moves very slowly. However, grey eruptions (the kind predicted for Yellowstone) can be catastrophic because the ash is composed of microscopic particles of rock, which create slush in rain or in the moist environment of a human’s lungs, can become so heavy as to collapse a roof, and may result in a pyroclastic flow (a current of hot gas and rock that moves away from the volcano at up to 450 mph and was responsible for the death and destruction in the Pompeii and Mt. St. Helens eruptions). The worst case scenario of a Yellowstone eruption would involve such numerous and/or large grey eruption(s) as to cover the entire United States in ash (possibly 3 ft deep at the source, though historical record suggests a previous Yellowstone eruption caused ash 6 ft deep at the source), severely drop global temperatures, and kill crops and herds across the globe, resulting in worldwide unending winter, famine, and disease, similar to but on a worse scale than the effects of the eruption of Tambora in 1815, which triggered major snowstorms as late as June on the east coast of the U.S. In essence, the entire movie is based on scientific fact regarding the worst-case scenario and is completely believable. In the film, roofs do collapse under the weight of the ash, killing at least one member of Rick’s team; people find it difficult to breathe due to ash in the air and in their lungs (though the movie doesn’t progress far enough to depict anyone getting pneumonia, it’s suggested as a risk toward the beginning of the film); other members of Rick’s team are unable to outrun a pyroclastic cloud (in Dante’s Peak, for example, the heroes manage to outrun such a cloud, but if you’ve ever taken a geology course, you know it’s impossible to do); crops and herds die worldwide; and the U.S. is depicted as being in a state of unending winter five years after the event.

Graphics:  *****  What can I say? The graphics were top-notch. If it weren’t for the frequent references to “kilometers,” I would have thought this was a Hollywood production. As it is, it’s a Hollywood-quality British film and, quite honestly, far better than any American-made volcano movie I’ve ever seen.

Story:  ****  Initially, I thought it was an American-made production, but their frequent references to “kilometers” instead of “miles” confused me enough to make me look up the production company (in this case, BBC). They also make a reference to the ash cloud causing a “30 degree drop in temperature,” but don’t specify whether that’s Celsius or Fahrenheit. Since it’s a British production, I assume that means 30° Celsius, which is 86° Fahrenheit. It was made for TV, so there are occasional breaks that don’t quite flow with the film, but if you view it as a series of TV episodes, it’s excellent. I fault it only because they don’t spend enough time helping the viewer get to know the characters, and so much of their activity and many of their reactions are not as easy for the viewer to understand or empathize with. I’m not sure how that could have been helped, though, because the docufiction format means that it goes back and forth between simulated interviews with survivors and depictions of the actual events, but since whether Rick lives or dies is a significant part of the plot, they couldn’t depict any interview scenes with Rick. Unfortunately, however, the interview scenes are where you learn the most about how the characters feel, think, and react. I didn’t personally feel connected to any of the characters except, ironically, the FEMA director, who appeared far less frequently than did Rick but who had more interview scenes than any other character, including Rick’s wife.

Acting:  ****  The acting was generally very good, but there were a couple areas where emotion was slightly overacted or underacted, primarily by Rick and by his brother-in-law.

Overall: Excellent. Highly recommend. I’ve watched it two or three times now and I’ve known about it for less than a year and a half.

Free Natural Disaster Films: 02: Night of the Twisters

As I said before, I started watching movies that are available for free online since I have little access otherwise. Previously, I reviewed Absolute Zero, one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I’m rating these free films based on Believability, Graphics, Story, and Acting. The latter three—Graphics, Story, and Acting—are judged simply:

* Poor

** Below Average

*** Average

**** Above Average

***** Excellent

Believability is based both on the scientific principles presented in the film and on the activities of the actors within the movie. There may be times when scientists generally agree with the basic concept, but the details of how it is accomplished in the movie may make it unbelievable.

* Completely unbelievable

** Mostly unbelievable

*** Moderately believable

**** Mostly believable

***** Completely believable

night of the twisters

Night of the Twisters (1996, MTM Enterprises, Atlantis Communications, and PorchLight Entertainment)  *2.5

Warnings: Not Rated (but I would call it PG primarily for suspense and thematic elements). Blood/Gore—one instance of a tiny spot of blood on a bandaged head; although the characters also come across a dead body, the body is intact with no apparent trauma so not gory, just a thematic element source for caution if viewed by young children. Language—none. Violence—none. Sexuality—none.

Summary: This movie is based on a novel by the same name, which was based on an actual event. In the movie, a tornado touches down in Nebraska and the weather unpredictably moves southeast and multiple tornadoes hit Blainsworth, the home of the main characters in the film. Although a storm chaser employed by a weather center follows the storm to Blainsworth and arrives ahead of the tornadoes, he does not attempt to predict what will happen, admitting that this storm has not followed the usual patterns and that he therefore cannot predict what patterns it will follow. The mother of the family is working at a diner while her sister is on the way to pick her up, the father leaves home to check on the grandmother, and the teenaged son Dan (the main character of the film), Dan’s infant brother, and Dan’s teenaged friend remain at Dan’s house. The storm hits before the father makes it to the grandmother’s house. Dan’s house collapses with him, his baby brother, and his friend in the cellar, but they survive and escape, pick up his friend’s sisters (the oldest of whom is named Stacey), hijack a car from the deceased driver, and head toward the grandmother’s house. When they discover the road to the grandmother’s house is blocked, Dan and Stacey break through the barrier while the others stay behind with law enforcement, who take them to a shelter in town. They pick up the grandmother and, with help from firemen, rescue Dan’s father from where he is trapped under his overturned truck. Dan and his father go with the sheriff to the diner and find it destroyed and all survivors already evacuated, then head toward the shelter where they hope to find the mother. Meanwhile, the mother and aunt are at the shelter with the storm chaser and worried about their family, who haven’t arrived yet. The storm chaser offers to take them to their house to check on their loved ones. Therefore, when Dan, his father, and Dan’s infant brother arrive at the shelter, they cannot find the mother or aunt, but another survivor informs them they went home in search of family. Finally, the whole family plus the storm chaser reunite at the rubble that was their house, then look up to see several tornadoes heading their way. The storm chaser comments that there is nowhere to take shelter and advises trying to outrun the tornado by car. They manage to make it to shelter beneath an overpass and survive the storm, then walk out arm-in-arm into the sunrise.

Believability:  ****  I gave it so many stars on believability primarily because it’s based on a true story. In reality, the storm did behave unpredictably, did involve multiple tornadoes, and did occur in Nebraska (though in Grand Island rather than in Blainsworth), as depicted in the film. However, they occurred in the spring in reality versus the fall in the film (but both spring and fall are tornado season, so both are believable); all stayed within Grand Island city limits and moved only 8 mph in reality versus first touching ground far away from Blainsworth and moving quickly toward the town in the film; and numbered seven in reality versus 10-15 in the film. Nevertheless, it seems the filmmakers primarily just upped the ante rather than creating something that is genuinely unbelievable. However, the one issue of believability that I have with the film is the very end, when at the storm chaser’s recommendation they try to outrun the tornado by car in spite of the storm chaser admitting in the middle of the film that most people who die in tornadoes do so in their cars (in fact, when threatened with a tornado while in your car, it’s recommended you get out of your car and lie down in a ditch beside the road because it’s very unlikely that you can outrun a tornado); they take shelter beneath an overpass (in reality, tornadic winds move at over 200 and up to 300 mph and wind moves far more quickly under a bridge than over it due to the wind tunnel effect, putting you at far greater risk of injury or of being blown/sucked up into the tornado, so it’s recommended that you avoid bridges or overpasses when there’s a tornado); and the back window shatters and Dan is almost sucked out of the car (in spite of some research, I’m still not sure how believable that is with only the back window and not the front windshield shattered). One of the characters states incorrectly that tornadoes only move northeast; in reality, they usually move northeast or east but can actually move in any direction, even completely backtracking. But perhaps this statement was correct based on the most current knowledge at the time the film was made. Midway through the film, before the tornado hits Dan’s house, he opens all the windows. This was once thought to be an appropriate step to take because it allegedly equalizes the air pressures and reduces the risk of damage to the house. In reality, if a tornado is close enough to damage your house, opening the windows won’t do jack squat. Furthermore, taking the time to open the windows puts you at further risk of injury. Nevertheless, because it was believed appropriate at the time the movie was made, Dan’s actions were scientifically sound and believable. If you survive a disaster such as a tornado, the best way to be reunited with your family is to stay put and wait for rescue workers rather than to go wandering around. In contrast, the family in the film goes gallivanting all over the area looking for each other. However, it’s not uncommon for people to do this, even though it’s not recommended, so their doing so was certainly believable.

Graphics:  **  The graphics were surprisingly good for such a low-budget film, though that may be because the tornadoes occurred primarily at night and so were shrouded in darkness. Even so, they could have been much better than they were. The low-budget quality of the graphics was most noticeable in the prologue, when a tornado is seen in the daytime. The low quality of the graphics might not have been noticeable at all had all the tornadoes in the film occurred at night.

Story:  **  The story was very predictable, very much a Hallmark Family type of film. There’s a conflict between the kid and a parent, primarily due to the kid not realizing how much the parent loves him. Ho hum. It’s also typical Hollywood in that the kid is practically perfect and the parent is in the wrong. A lot of the kids’ interactions with each other was unrealistic, the result of very flat writing. Furthermore, I felt the epilogue where Dan explains what happened to each character in the movie was entirely unnecessary, but since this is a book adaptation, perhaps it was included in the movie because it was in the book. There was one glaring issue with the story: In the end, as the family is walking away into the sunrise after the last tornado disappeared, Dan comments that the tornadoes occurred over three hours… but it’s sunrise, which occurs at about 7:50 am in Nebraska in the Fall, implying that the whole thing started at 4:50 am—while the mother was at work in the diner, the father was checking on the grandmother, and Dan and his friend had just finished eating dinner.

Acting:  **  The father is unrealistically harsh on Dan, which in this case I felt was more acting than writing. The remainder of the acting was average (for example, the mother, the aunt, and the storm chaser) or sub-par (for example, all of the kids in the movie). Some of the acting was downright wooden.

Overall: Worth seeing once if you’re willing to watch low-budget films. Very similar to Hallmark family films. Very much a family-friendly film, though all disaster films will have some suspense and thematic elements not suitable for young children.