The Joy And Sorrow of Watching The Top Gun Sequel…

Watching the new Top Gun sequel (Top Gun: Maverick) recently in the theater (which was excellent by the way) and hearing that old “Danger Zone” song thump through the theater’s sound system, I was immediately transported temporarily back in time to 1986 when the original was released.

May of 1986 to be precise, I was 13 years old and a lover of movies already in life. My parents were still alive and hadn’t fully descended into their crazy drama yet. I also hadn’t picked up any addiction yet, nor had I been molested yet either. Honestly, my only real concern back then was how alone I felt in life, as I was generally friend-less back then. That’s why I loved movies so much, as they helped me forget about that for the few hours I’d sit in those dark theaters and stare at the screen in awe.

I’m quite sure there’s a young naïve teenager somewhere in this world who also found themselves staring at the screen in awe watching the now 60-year-old Tom Cruise playing Maverick once again and aspiring to become something greater in life once the credits rolled at the end. That’s precisely how I felt back in May of 1986 when I was also a young naïve kid who simply loved to watch movies, swim in the pool, hike in nature, and hoped to become something greater in life eventually. Sadly, all the PTSD I’d endure and all the detours I’d take with one addiction after another and one unhealthy relationship after another, would derail all of it.

Having endured what I have since the original Top Gun, I often find myself asking others if they could go back in time while retaining their memories to have a chance to do it all over again, would they? Most say no, yet I consistently say yes, as I struggle with acceptance of where my life is now. I frequently think that maybe if I just had another chance, I could do things differently and achieve those dreams I once had as that naïve young kid. Unfortunately, time travel doesn’t exist nor do I have the youthful exuberance anymore. Yet what I do have is God at my helm and much wisdom gained from the many hard lessons I learned since that original Top Gun.

While I am thankful for all these hard lessons and life experiences I’ve gained, watching the Top Gun sequel really did make me miss where I was at in life in May of 1986. It made me miss the innocence I had then, the amazing health I carried then, the vitality I used to exude then, and the excitement I used to have then just to be alive. It’s precisely why I experienced both joy and sorrow while watching the Top Gun sequel. Joy for how much movies continue to be a wonderful escape where I’m able to forget about all the stressors of my life for a few hours and immerse myself in something amazing, but sorrow for remembering the three decades that came after the original Top Gun, decades that had me drifting far from God and far from being true to myself.

Whether another Top Gun sequel will ever be made again I don’t know. If one is though, I pray that the only feeling I have when watching it will be that of joy. Joy for my love of movies and joy for how far I’ve come in life by then. Rather than feeling sorrow, sorrow for all the choices I once made that led me into a life without God, a life of addictions, a life of detours, and a life of many dead-ends, things I won’t need to ever experience again, so long as I remain in recovery, trusting God to keep leading my way…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Lunana, A Yak in the Classroom”, A Moving Testimony Of A Film About Where True Happiness Comes From…

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where I share my weekly writing entry in gratitude. For today, I’d like to express my gratefulness for a 2022 Academy Award nominee in the Best Foreign Picture category titled, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”, a movie that is a moving testimony of where true happiness comes from.

“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is based upon the true story of a young man named Ugyen (Sherab Dorji) from Bhutan who dreams of moving to Australia to pursue his dream of a singing career. Having completed four of his five mandatory years of training as a teacher for the government, Ugyen is tired of doing that career path and considers quitting, especially after getting his final assignment, which is at the most remote school of his country in the mountain village of Lunana. With a population of only 56 people and an eight-day hike to get there from the closest town, Lunana is the last place Ugyen wants to be at. But, after considerable urging by his grandmother to complete his last teaching assignment, Ugyen sets off on the journey into the mountains with two guides, Michen (Ugyen Norbu Lhendup) and Signye (Tshering Dorji). It’s overly apparent how at peace and grateful Michen and Signye are with what they are given from the land and the people who help them along the way, and how ungrateful and frustrated Ugyen is with his current life’s circumstances. It becomes even more apparent the difference in attitudes upon his arrival in the village where Ugyen is greeted with the warmest showing and unconditional love that should melt anyone’s heart, but all Ugyen can think of is how quickly he can turn around and head back home to the life he thinks he’s meant to be living. That all begins to change though when he meets a very young bright-eyed class captain named Pem Zam (playing herself), who somehow finds a way into Ugyen’s heart. “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” tells the wonderful story of how one young man ends up travelling what some say is the longest distance to travel in our world, that being from living in our minds to one of living in our hearts.

While I wrote the other day of how so many films and television shows these days seem to be becoming so dark and depressing, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” stands the complete opposite and most definitely moved my soul. Having been filmed on a measly $300,000 budget in the actual remote village of Lunana where nothing but solar power exists and only when the sun is fully out, I was blown away at how real the film still felt. I learned the director wasn’t even able to review his daily footage because of his lack of electrical power. To have a film of this caliber shoot on such limited constraints and move me as much as it did says a lot. In contrast, many of these dark and depressing big studio films these days cost upwards of $50 million to $150 million. Nevertheless, on some level, this film felt so real to me that I actually thought I was watching a documentary about the life of these villagers!

One of the biggest reasons why I was moved so incredibly by “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is how much I could relate to Ugyen’s spiritual journey to find himself. Having once been a big city kid myself who thought that having more meant a better life, only to discover that having less brought about far greater contentment in life, I saw strong similarities between myself and Ugyen. I also experienced plenty of gratitude for the villagers in this remote location who have learned to appreciate all of God’s beauty in each other and in the land around them.

In our society today, we often overlook the things that are beautiful right around us, like the bald eagle I would have missed seeing years ago, but thankfully saw in a farm field I was driving by the other day, who was just staring at me as I drove by. Instead, we often are constantly immersed in our phones and other technology, missing out on some of the best things to see that don’t cost a thing. Seeing the life of these remote villagers find happiness in just singing, communing, and supporting each other, I ultimately felt a ping in my heart by the end of the film wishing I could go spend a week with them.

I feel so many of us have forgotten in this world how to be thankful for what we have, even on the smallest of level, and “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” was a great reminder of both that and how far I’ve come from the days where I once thought I knew were happiness came from, only to discover that sometimes happiness comes in just being with another and sharing with them a piece of my heart.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Why Are Films And Television Becoming So Dark And Depressing?

For most of my life I’ve loved escaping into the movies solely to watch something that really moved my soul and hopefully uplifted me. On some level, I have used films ever since I was a young kid for an anti-depressant of sorts, and it worked, for a long time, until only in recent years where it seems as if movie studios keep pumping out films that are becoming darker and darker and darker, doing the exact opposite of what I hope to get from them.

The most glaring example of this came just over a week ago, prior to the evening of the Academy Awards. I had gone to a local theater to see the five Live Action Shorts that were nominated this year in that category. Each of those are typically around 30 minutes or so, yet still tell an entire story in that brief amount of time. I have watched some pretty amazing submissions over the years in this category, even writing about one of them last year that moved me incredibly. This year though, every single one of them was sad, dark, and depressing.

The first was about a husband who was about to unplug his wife from life support and how he was coping with that. The second was about a young guy in the future who’s wrongly imprisoned and held without trial, in the worst of conditions, all because of our world being run by technology. The third was about a dwarf female who had never been with anyone and just wanted to be loved, who meets a truck driver who she thought liked her, and then ends with him raping her. The fourth was about a South Asian family in the UK who is just living out a happy day together when a far-right, all-white march singles them out and executes the majority of their family. And the final one deals with a woman from the Kyrgyz Republic who just wants to live out her happy dream of going away to school and becoming something more when she’s kidnapped one afternoon and forced into a marriage.

As you can see, none of those sound uplifting and they weren’t, not on any level. Of course, one would argue that film is art and art tells a story no matter how tragic it may be. My argument though is that the reason why superhero films continue to rake in at the box office and why art films like these and others continue to fail is solely because people are looking to be uplifted.

We live in a world now where people are afraid of deadly viruses, the threat of war, violent crimes, blatant racism, police brutality, and so much more. Why would anyone want to go to the theater and watch something right now that’s so bleak and depressing? The theater I was in had only a few others and I could tell we all left in a very morose condition. Personally, I left the theater angry and frustrated that I had spent my evening doing something that only brought me more down than up. Thankfully, I went to the Cold Stone Creamery nearby and treated myself to an ice cream to uplift my inner child, who really needed that at that point.

I’m not sure why film studious continue to think what the world needs right now are films that are far from uplifting. Sadly, television seems to be following in the same trait, with many shows focusing in on all of what’s wrong in our society. And any uplifting show seems to be cancelled after one season.

I’m often told that what we focus on becomes even greater, so if we continue to focus on all the dark and depressing things in this world, especially in our visual entertainment, it’s only going to make our world feel even darker and more depressing, which I’m sure is something none of us want. Film and TV directors keep questioning and putting down the success of superhero films and television shows. What they don’t realize is that it’s the only genre out there right now that’s lifting anyone up.

I sincerely long for films and television shows that get back to what much of the stuff from decades ago did, which was to inspire and uplift, to bring joy and peace, and raise camaraderie. I miss those days of leaving the theater talking to total strangers about how good some film was that we all just clapped to at the end. I miss those days of talking about television shows that did the same, that connected us more than disconnected us.

I fear we are headed in the wrong direction, moving farther and farther away from becoming a brighter society. I hope for our world’s sake, I’m wrong, and the entertainment industry will wake up and start focusing on bringing greater light in than darkness. As until then, I’m probably going to start avoiding watching what’s considered “art” in the movie and television sector, because sadly, it’s no longer a healthy escape for me and most definitely not an anti-depressant of any sort…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

My Frustration With The Film “The Power Of The Dog”…

With it being Oscar season for the film industry, I’m always busy this time of the year catching up on movies the industry says is worthy of Academy Award consideration. One such film that garnered the top number of nominations this year, that being 12, was The Power of The Dog, a movie released on Netflix starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a repressed homosexual and extremely angry cowboy named Phil Burbank. While the film was electrifying in its acting, cinematography, sound, directing, etc., there was something I discovered that took place in the film that actually happened in real life and it disturbed me greatly because it dealt with animal abuse.

During one of its scenes, Cumberbatch was deep in his role as Burbank when he took his character’s anger out on a horse, beating it with his fist. When the horse reacted to the hard contact on its face that came at it multiple times, it ran out of the barn it was in and was jumping around outside in obvious pain and fear. At first, I thought, “Wow, this horse was well-trained!” Yet, something in me felt otherwise, as on some level, I felt like I was feeling this horse’s pain, so I investigated it further only to discover something very troubling. The movie was filmed overseas in New Zealand and never got PETA’s blessing. And in an interview with the press, Cumberbatch admitted he actually did hurt that horse because he wanted it to be as real as possible for his movie’s character. He also admitted that the other two scenes in the film where animal abuse took place happened as well. One is where he castrates a bull, and the other is where he torments a rabbit that ends up getting a broken leg in the process and then has its neck snapped. After learning this was all true, I became angry and came to despise both this movie and the Academy for nominating it.

Why something like this has not gotten more press I don’t know. Maybe it’s because PETA has made such issues with many small things I don’t know. But animals truly were harmed in this film and being an animal owner myself with two cats, as well as having many friends who own plenty of other types of animals as well, I felt this went way too far for the purposes of making a film seem more real.

Cumberbatch was probably near the top of my list as actors I enjoy seeing on the screen. I feel completely different about him now, much to my dismay, because my favorite role he presently continues to carry is his Marvel role of Doctor Strange, something he does extremely well. There is no reason though he needed to hurt an innocent animal who couldn’t defend itself.

Animal abuse bothers me immensely. I once knew an alcoholic who often beat his dog each time he got drunk and it made me so angry every time it happened. I always tried to stop him from doing it, but you can’t really stop an active alcoholic from doing anything. Eventually I had to walk away from this individual because of things like that he did.

Regardless, Cumberbatch wasn’t drunk during the filming of The Power of the Dog, he just was method acting, and chose to hurt something that didn’t deserve to be hurt. I am disappointed and frustrated that most probably don’t know this really happened during the filming and I honestly hope Cumberbatch doesn’t win his Best Actor nomination he received for his role. Because winning only says that the animal abuse he did was ok, and it’s not. As I’m sure it wouldn’t be if it was your animal on the screen he was abusing…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Can Hollywood Please Make More Films Like 2021’s “CODA”?!

I recently watched the 2021 film CODA on Apple+ and was simply blown away. It’s one of those movies that will move you, and then move you again, and again, heart, mind, and soul, that when it finally comes to an end, you feel better about yourself, this world, and life in general, something I think we all need a lot more of right now in life.

Directed by Sian Heder, “CODA” stands for Child of Deaf Adults and stars Emilia Jones as Ruby Rossi. The film centers around her as the only hearing person in a family of deaf individuals, where her life becomes torn between pursuing a gift she’s only just coming to learn she has, that of singing, and of not abandoning a family who depends on her. When Ruby opts to join the school’s choir solely out of pursing an attractive male interest who’s also joining the choir (Miles, played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), she’s quickly introduced to its teacher, Bernardo Villalobos (played by Eugenio Derbez), who immediately sees her potential and the prodigy she is. But the more Ruby pursues her gift and a path that can lead her to the Berklee College of Music, the more her deaf family and their fishing business seems to depend on her, leaving her to choose in life what’s more important, the love she has for her family, or the love she has for music?

CODA was such an enlightening and uplifting film. In recent years, I’ve grown weary of what Hollywood considers awards-based contenders, as most have been dreary and dark. In this COVID-bleak world, where the news fills us every, single day with dread and horror stories, where the world seem charged with negativity all the time now, seeing CODA was truly a breath of fresh air and exactly what my soul needed. It was the first artistic film I’ve seen in a long while that truly moved me to incredible tears, not tears of sadness, but tears of joy, one that left me filled with that long after the credits had rolled.

I don’t believe that people need depressing movies with depressing endings right now in life, where crime and violence, greed and manipulation, addiction and its demise, and anything of the sort rule a film’s storyline. What I think people need are a lot more of right now are uplifting films that inspire us to be better people, that drive us to love each other far more than we have been in the past bunch of years. CODA was able to do this for me and then some.

Why films like The Sound of Music, The Shawshank Redemption, It’s a Wonderful Life, Forest Gump, and even E.T. continue to stand the test of time and watched by one generation after another is because they are inspiring and inspire people in general to be better individuals in life. But films like 2021’s The Power of The Dog, where real animal abuse actually occurred on set and where its ending was so very tragic and desolate, will most likely become one more film that’s forgotten about in the years to come. But why a movie like Spider-Man: Far From Home makes over $1.5 billion dollars worldwide and will probably be viewed countless times in decades to come is because it’s inspiring and that’s what people are driving to in droves right now.

CODA was THE most inspiring film I saw in 2021’s slate and one I plan on buying for home watching when it becomes available on Blu-Ray. I pray and hope that one day what Hollywood finally recognizes is that our world needs uplifting films far more than it needs a crop of artistic bleak, depressing, and downtrodden movies that leave a viewer feeling more down than up by the time the credits roll. Thankfully, I will remember CODA long after this pandemic and even this decade has come and gone.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Why Superhero Films Continue To Be Box Office Successes, While All Other Films Aren’t…

Why are Marvel movies and other superhero-based films continuing to do a killing at the box office during this pandemic, when most other movies are either becoming financial bombs in theaters or barely making their budgets back? I’m sure industry experts are doing their best to figure that one out, but honestly, I think that answer is rather simple, and I don’t believe it’s what everyone else thinks the reason is, that being the fear of going to the theater and getting COVID.

Here’s why I say that. Spider-Man: No Way Home, another Marvel movie, just made $253 million on its opening weekend, and had a total global opening of $587 million, off a $200 million budget. Obviously, people are going to the movies with numbers like that! Personally, I sat in a very crowded 2pm showing of the new Spider-Man movie the other day, so I know people are going to the theaters in droves, but only for certain movies.

But take Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake for example. It cost $100 million to make, yet only earned $11 million on its opening weekend and $3 million on its second weekend. It was well-reviewed and well-liked by those who saw it, including me, but is most likely going to become a financial disaster when all is said and done.

And how about this interesting fact? Did you know that five of the six top grossing films of 2021 have been Marvel/superhero-based films with Spider-Man: No Way Home being in 1st, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2nd, Venom: Let There Be Carnage in 3rd, Black Widow in 4th, and Eternals in 6th?

So why are superhero films continuing to draw such large numbers at theaters when so many other films aren’t? My theory? People really need a serious escape right now from the stark reality of the life we are still having to live in, an escape of good winning over evil. Presently, I think people see this pandemic as an evil in our world and they are desperate for this evil to go away once and for all. What better way to feel amazing in a bleak pandemic-stricken world where isolation and worry surround so many of our thoughts than to go see a superhero film where good triumphs over evil. It does help to improve the mood for so many!

Look, people aren’t going to overcome any of their fears and worries during this pandemic by attending dark movies like Nightmare Alley, or artsy movies like House of Gucci, even when big-named stars are attached to them. For most movie-goers presently, having a plot that takes them out of this world and into another, where they can eventually leave a theater feeling more hopeful and uplifted because evil was conquered by humans that could be just like them, that’s what people want right now.

To further make my point, rounding out the top ten of this year’s box office are F9: The Fast Saga in 5th, No Time to Die In 7th, A Quiet Place Part II in 8th, Free Guy in 9th, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife in 10th. I saw each of those movies in the theater as well, which all dealt with some form of good triumphing over evil, where fantastical elements that really aren’t grounded in our current reality were present, (like Ludicrous and Tyrese Gibson going into outer space in a Fiero for example in F9!!!).

The reality is people want to escape the drama of this world and see a huge win over evil rather than watch something where the focus leaves them negatively charged. Why would the general movie goer want to go see any film presently that keeps them in their head and makes them feel more depressed and down, when their everyday world is already filled with so much of that right now. The fact is people want heroes currently to save the world from itself and so they’re looking for that in the theater and are willing to brave the pandemic for those types of movies. For the rest of films that aren’t superhero-based, well streaming has become the best solution for most now where they can hide in their own feelings in the comfort of their own home.

So, while Hollywood continues to try to figure this out in a world that has most definitely changed since this pandemic began, I decided to leave everyone with my own silly movie concept that might just work in these crazy times to become a box office hit.

Plot: A pandemic has hit our world even worse than COVID and has been around for a few years now. 1 in 3 dies from it by the time they reach 18 years old. But those who get sick and survive emerge with amazing new superhuman abilities and never get the virus again. Vaccines are available now to prevent any further deaths and can stop the virus even during a person being sick, yet they will also suppress any superhuman abilities from ever manifesting. Actor Timothy Chalamet and Actress Zendaya are the two lead characters, Eli and Ivy, who come from very different families in Chicago. Eli doesn’t believe in vaccination, but his entire family does due to all the losses they’ve endured, none having every survived without vaccination. Ivy’s family on the other hand are all unvaccinated due to their strong spiritual beliefs, including her father who almost died from the virus but survived and developed his own superhuman ability. He keeps his ability in secret though like most others do because most have vaccinated and those who haven’t and survived have become shunned in society, being blamed for why the virus is still around. Vaccination status is still kept private though and Ivy’s father works for Eli father’s company as a lead foreman for the largest construction company in Chicago. Eli works in the corporate office and occasionally is sent onto job sites for assessment. When one day he’s sent to Ivy’s father’s job site, a major accident occurs where Ivy’s father is forced to reveal his ability to save Eli’s life. Eli’s father fires him though over his superhuman status, knowing he was unvaccinated, even as his son protests his decision. When Eli decides to visit Ivy’s father’s home to apologize and offer help in any way he can, Ivy answers the door. Eli’s heart flutters as he lays eyes on her beauty for the first time, but Ivy slams the door in his face knowing who he is and what his father did. When Eli knocks again, Ivy reopens it choosing to hear out what he has to say. Eventually her heart will find a place for him, just in time for when they both succumb to the virus. Will they vaccinate to ensure their love’s survival, or will they take a chance to hopefully become a superhuman couple?

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“West Side Story (2021)”, A Story Still Relevant Today That Needed To Be Retold

I never have seen the original West Side Story movie that was originally released back in 1961. Yes, I know how absurd that sounds for a movie aficionado like myself, especially in that the film is now deemed a classic and has 10 Oscars under its belt. You would think a guy like me who sees as many movies as I do and even took a film class in college would have opted to watch it at some point in my life thus far, but I never have. I’m not sure why, yet when I learned that Steven Spielberg was remaking it, I decided it would be worth seeing solely because I’ve rarely been disappointed with any of his directorial work in Hollywood.

Beyond Spielberg, the only name attached to this film that I even knew was Ansel Elgort, an actor from Baby Driver and The Fault in Our Stars, two movies I really enjoyed mostly because of Elgort’s incredible acting in them. In this modern retelling of West Side Story, I learned he would be playing one of the main leads, a guy by the name of Tony. While another big star was also attached to it, Rita Moreno, someone who had also been in the original, I honestly didn’t know her name or any of her prior work, so I went into this movie rather blindly about who else was in it or what it was even about. I knew of course that it was a musical, but given I’m not much of a musical fan, (which so many of my gay friends think is a travesty!) I went in with low expectations, unsure if I was even going to enjoy any part of it. But ironically, I did, and then some. I attribute that mostly to the genius of Spielberg, someone who seems to place magic in just about everything he puts his hands on in Hollywood.

For those like me who never saw the original film, the plot of West Side Story is simply about two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, fighting over territory in New York City in the 1950’s just as urban sprawl begins to truly take shape. The Jets are comprised of a bunch of young guys who want to keep their area filled with nothing but fellow whites, while the Sharks on the other hand, are made up of a bunch of guys from Puerto Rico just trying to defend themselves and make a new and better life in the big city. It’s clear the Jets don’t want them or any of their “kind” there right from the start, just as much as the same is true of the Sharks with them. But enter Tony, a former very active Jet who recently was just released from prison and is now trying to stay on the straight and narrow. When his eyes fall upon Maria (Rachel Zegler) one night at a local dance meant to try to integrate the two rival groups together, lines get crossed, tensions rise, and battle cries ensue. Will Tony and Maria be allowed to make it as an item? Will peace ever come between the two rival gangs? How far will Tony and Maria go for their instant love for each other?

While the plot overall of this 2021 version of West Side Story seemed like a rather subtle retelling of the story of Romeo and Juliet to me, Spielberg of course put his modern-day spin on it that felt very fresh. I did learn that he did make some big changes from its original counterpart, but so as not to ruin any of it, I simply want to say the story overall felt quite relevant even to this present day and one that I believe needed to be retold again in the way it was.

Our world has changed dramatically in the last five years. I have seen far too much of the racist overtones depicted in West Side Story emerge and take a front and center stage in our country during this period. While this racism has probably always been there, I feel there are far too many now who proudly and boldly display how much they desire a return to a predominantly, white-ruled America, something I’d totally abhor.

I have spent much of my adult life spending time with numerous people from many other cultures, immersing myself in practices and belief systems far different from the ones I was raised with. Sadly, I grew up in white America, in a middle to upper class Caucasian family. It wasn’t even until my junior to senior year of high school that I had a single person of color in my life. Finally in college that all changed when I grew to love and care about two women of color, Carlean and Renee, and saw how racist our world was even then, on both sides. African Americans hating the fact that a white man was dating one of theirs and whites constantly calling me a traitor and labelling me often with a racist word that instead of beginning with the letter “N” was replaced with a “W”. Over the many years that have passed since those collegiate days, I of course came out of the closet, and learned a lot more about other forms of racism that I eventually became a target of.

All in all, I’ve learned much over the years hanging out in one culture after another. Unfortunately, at their core I discovered there is still a gross disunity that exists in society no different than what was originally depicted between the fictious Jets and Sharks in both versions of West Side Story. The Sharks these days are all the non-white cultures just trying to make a life in this world where too often they have to defend themselves from far too many threats. Threats that come from the Jets of today, those from white society who are afraid of losing a dominance in their world that came only because of our country’s racist roots.

I am neither a Jet nor a Shark. I am someone though who only wishes to help foster a peace between both in this world, something that I continue to express through both my writing and speaking, and something I ask God every day for the strength to continue doing, while so many around me vie for me to take a side.

West Side Story’s 2021 release truly is a phenomenal film, one that inspired me enough to write about, and one that’s left me thinking long beyond the credits ended.

Peace, love, light, and joy
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Ellen Page To Elliot Page, A Transgendered Journey That Helped Me To Spiritually Grow…

Over the past decade or so, I came to really appreciate the acting career of Ellen Page in just about everything I saw her in. Her roles in Juno, Whip It, and Inception were astounding on every level. Most recently, I became an avid fan of her role in Umbrella Academy on Netflix, with her playing a superhero of sorts by the name of Vanya Hargreaves. Then quite abruptly, the entertainment news suddenly reported that she was no longer Ellen Page, and was now Elliot Page. I was shocked given how long I had followed his career as a woman and struggled to understand how one makes a choice like that to change their sex. But, then I thought about it and asked myself, what if the decision for a person to be transgender was not a choice at all and was no different than me coming to accept the sexuality I was born with?

I know there are many out there who have thought my sexuality has been a choice all this time, all starting back with a mother who thought she did something wrong and assumed it was a choice I was making to be the way I was. While she never did come to acceptance and unconditionally love me for who I always was, as a number of others along the way in my life never have either, I came to realize many years ago that I was born the way I was and didn’t need to make anyone else understand. I came to see that my being attracted to the same-sex as I isn’t and never was a choice, it’s who I was from the beginning, and instead I made a choice for the longest time to be something I wasn’t by trying to play heterosexual in a world where male and female copulation was the norm.

Thinking about my own journey to acceptance of my sexuality has helped me to fully appreciate the journey that Elliot Page has been on to now. While it was quite shocking to see his shirtless chiseled picture in the news, I must say I applaud his finally being at peace with himself, enough so to share a picture of him like that with the world. I’ve read a little about his arduous journey to get to this place and how difficult it was to remain female for as long as he did. I can relate, as I never had peace dating any of the woman I dated over the years and felt exceptionally guilty forcing myself to be sexual with the woman I did. It wasn’t fair to them or me, as I solely did it for the appeasement of everyone else, to be accepted in this world, rather than get rejected.

Nevertheless, while I myself am extremely happy with the sex I was born with and can never see myself as anything but male, I actually appreciate Ellen Page’s transition to Elliot Page a lot more now than I probably would have years ago, as I used to judge transgendered people thinking it was just a psychological issue within them. I’m sorry I spent the years I did feeling that way and actually now have immense gratitude for those who finally find the peace they’ve sought for years after adjusting to the sex they feel they were always meant to be, but weren’t assigned at birth.

So, the bottom line I have now surrounding transgender individuals is that I don’t have to ever understand anyone’s decision who goes through gender reassignment. All I need to do is simply unconditionally love and accept them as being exactly who they are meant to be in this life, no different than I’m exactly who I’m meant to be as well. Thank you, Elliot Page, for your braveness to finally become who you always were meant to be and for all other transgender individuals in this world as well. We are all children of God, worthy and deserving of God’s unconditional love and acceptance. Never let anyone tell you otherwise…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Them”, A Series With A Disturbing Reminder Of The Racism That Still Exists Today

I recently finished the first season of a new series on Amazon Prime called “Them”, which in a nutshell is about a black family (The Emory’s) moving into a predominantly white neighborhood in Compton, California in the early 1950’s, just after housing segregation laws were removed there. While the show itself has an otherworldly side to it, much of it is actually grounded in the terrible racism that black people have faced in this country, especially when desegregation began.

To be perfectly honest, there are times I feel very ashamed to be white because of all the awful racist things people of the same color as I have done to blacks throughout our history, something I saw depicted quite well in “Them”. The racism in the series that the Emory’s faced in North Carolina before their move to California was one of the most egregious examples of it I’ve ever seen portrayed on television. What the Emory’s endured both there and in California are ones that countless blacks have experienced throughout our country’s history. Actions that included an entire high school classroom acting like monkey’s and apes while taunting 15-year-old Ruby Lee Emory (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and her getting blamed for it by the teacher. Actions like her father Henry (Ashely Thomas) getting passed over projects he was totally qualified for at his engineering job, not getting invited to company functions, and verbally being bashed repeatedly by his boss. And actions from their neighbors that included a sit-in in front of their home for an entire day with tables and loud music, effigies in nooses placed all around their porch and front yard, racist words burned into their grass, and physical attacks as well.

Sitting through this heart-wrenching series was difficult for me and left me pondering the very same thought I’ve had for many years, that being why so many white people throughout history have been so afraid of those of different races then them. Ironically, some of my best memories in life have been with my best friend Cedric who is black, and whose color has never been the focus or even a forethought in my friendship with him…EVER. In fact, I’ve had many other friends over the years of many different skin colors as well, each of which I’ve been thankful for enriching my life, which is why I found “Them” so sad, as I watched one white person after another never even give any of the Emory’s a chance, solely because of their skin color.

While “Them” depicts much of this racism back in the early 1950’s, it’s regrettably very much still present in our society today, and all it takes to see that is tuning into the daily news. Frankly, it’s sickened me and I’ve felt helpless to do anything about it, other than to continue being who I am, which is someone who loves and accepts everyone unconditionally, regardless of their skin color, or anything else really. I give credit to my Dad for helping me to become this way, as he loved everyone no matter what. My mom, on the other hand, not so much, as I occasionally would hear a number of racist statements come from her mouth from time to time.

Living here in the Midwest of Northern Ohio, I’ve come to see racism more than I ever did when I lived in the Boston and Washington D.C. areas. Hearing people regularly use the “N” word here has disgusted me, and I’ve frequently had to ask people to not say that around me. All of it has led me to believe that racism is a sickness in itself and lies within the insecurity of the racist individual themselves. Deep down I think it’s one’s own inferiority complex in the world that ultimately leads them to try to dominate and control another, often in racist ways, just to feel better about themselves.

I saw much of this during my college years, especially when I dated interracially and where most of my friends were black. I’d frequently be on the receiving end of racist comments then where people of my own race called me a “wigger” and regularly told me I should stick to my own kind. I abhor behaviors like this and want nothing to do with any individual who feels their skin color makes them superior over another or entitles them to anything.

Nevertheless, racism, on many levels, is still very much present in our society today. Many turn their cheek to it, hoping to ignore its ugly presence, but it’s there and it’s never going to go away through policy changes, laws, or punishments. It’s only going to change when each of us go within and fully change ourselves, by learning to love each other for our differences, and not just for our similarities. “Them” was a great reminder of this and I’m at least thankful for having a father who once helped me to see that whether one’s black, white, yellow, or any other skin color, we’re all equal in God’s eyes and as much as God loves each us of unconditionally, so should I with everyone else too.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Would You Want To Know Who “The One” Is?

In the dating realm, one often tends to look for their “soul mate”, a match believed to be made in Heaven. Many have hard sought for that perfect partner time and time again, hoping to meet the one who truly feels right on every level, mind, body, and soul. What if such a thing actually existed? What if science had a way to find that for every individual in this world? This is the concept of a new television series I just got done watching its first season of the other day on Netflix called “The One”.

If such a science existed, if there truly was a genetic component in all of us that blended perfectly with another on the planet, would you want to know who the other person was that was meant for you? If there ultimately was indeed a perfect match for all of us, would you seek it out through a simple DNA test?

Watching “The One” really got me thinking. How often in my life have I sought out the perfect partner, only to discover time and time again the imperfections in every one of them, especially with myself. But what if I could take a test just like one that “Ancestry.com” offers to discover their ancestral roots, where a tiny tuft of my hair could lead to finding my perfect match somewhere in the world that blended perfectly with me? Would I take such a test? I’d have to say knowing my personality, probably.

In the television series, I love how this concept gets explored, how it shows the many difficult choices and complex paths that each individual takes when having the potential of “The One” being out there for them. Like, what if “The One” for you was someone already in a relationship with another person? Or, what if “The One” for you had passed away? Or, what if “The One” was actually someone of the same sex as you, where you didn’t identify as gay or lesbian, or vice versa, you did identify as that, but your match was of the opposite sex? Or even better, what if you were so insecure of a person that you might even take some of your partner’s hair unknowing to them, just to discover who their perfect match was? What would you do if it wasn’t you? Each of these questions and more get explored in this series, all leaving me to ponder them quite a bit myself, as to how I’d handle every one of them, if such a science existed in this world for relationships.

While I love my partner Chris a lot, we most definitely have our problems and our vast differences in our relationship. I wish we blended together perfectly, where we never argued and felt more of a unison in our connection than not. But we don’t, and honestly, I’ve never felt that with any of my former partners either. In the past, I’d jump from one partner to the next hoping to find that, but never did, which is why I’ve opted to remain with Chris, as I don’t think there is a perfect partner out there. Yet, if such a science existed that could reveal a perfect match made in Heaven so to speak, I think I’d really want to know who it was given all the dating woes I’ve faced in life.

Some have said to me over the years that they’re with that match made in Heaven already. Many of them have been in their relationships for decades and couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. It’s hard to fathom what would happen if such a DNA test existed that could prove whether they truly were always meant to be together. Or better yet, could prove there was an even closer match?

While I’m quite sure that many decades-long relationships in this world would never take such a test if it existed and would accept they’re already with the one they were always meant to be with, I’m just as sure, like “The One” series explores, that hundreds of millions and more would want to know.

When I approached my partner Chris about this, he said he wouldn’t want to know who “The One” was for him. But ironically, I think I’d want to know who it was for him, because of a past partner he constantly speaks so fondly of, a relationship that ended only out of fear. What if that person was meant to be his perfect match? In light of all these challenges that might arise if such a science became real in our world, it’s probably a good thing there isn’t such a DNA test yet, because it would probably only lead to mass heartache and pain on our planet, something we already have enough of.

In the end, I think I like best what my good friend Rob answered when I asked him about whether he’d want to know who “The One” was for him. He said part of the excitement of dating is just leaving things to fate and chance and all the growing and learning that comes through it all.

Regardless, “The One” is a great series if you like science fiction that’s grounded in science possibilities. And while its left me thinking I’d really love to know who “The One” was for me, I trust “The One” I’m with now is who God wants me to be with, even through all our ups and downs.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Land”, A Film That Beautifully Portrays The Extremes Some Go In Life To Heal Their Brokenness Within…

It’s actually been a good while since I saw any movie that truly moved me enough to write an article about it in my blog. That all changed when I caught a screening of “Land” starring Robin Wright in the theater recently.

Wright plays a woman named Edee, who from her very first moments on screen shows how extremely unstable she’s become, both mentally and emotionally. Something tragic has obviously happened in her life that has caused her to find no reason left to live. Her sister Emma (Kim Dickens) is distraught over this and pleads for Edee not to take her life. While the viewer has no idea exactly what has caused Edee to feel like this, it’s apparent it’s something horrific. As a last-ditch effort to cope with whatever she’s dealing with, Edee decides to completely go off the grid in a remote part of the Wyoming wilderness and start up a life of complete solitude. Little does she know she’s bit off far more than she can chew when she arrives at the very old mountainside rustic cabin she’ll now call her home. In the middle of nowhere, without any attachment left to the living world, including no phone or car, electricity or otherwise, Edee begins a spiritual journey within, one that will face her two biggest fears, that being the pain within herself and the fear of connecting with another human being again, one that will only come by way when another lonesome soul named Miguel (Demian Bichir) enters her life by happenstance.

“Land” is exactly the movie I needed to see lately. Watching a seriously wounded woman overcoming the greatest of odds and finding herself along the way is the hopeful story my soul has been calling for. Most of the films I’ve watched as of late are depressing. They’ve all dealt with fighting, bickering, cheating, stealing, and well pretty much every type of low vibrational behavior that’s filling our world quite a bit now, especially as everyone continues to cope with this ongoing pandemic. What my soul needed the most was a spark to uplift it and “Land” most definitely didn’t disappoint in that.

What I think I related to the most in “Land” was the number of times I saw myself feeling just like Edee, having no purpose to keep going, that life doesn’t matter anymore. That’s a very scary place to be in, where every day you awake and feel that life is pointless. I know the pain of that oh, so, very well. Watching Edee in “Land” walk through that pain is something I continue to face myself. There are countless days where I don’t know if I can take this pain anymore, but like Edee, there’s an inner resilience somewhere deep within me that keeps me going. While I’m not sure if I’d ever go to the extreme of living in a remote mountainside wilderness-based existence to find myself, I am spending more time alone in stillness, as I too hope to find greater inner peace and serenity, just like Edee desperately sought in the movie as well.

By far, “Land” is at least a four out of five-star film with Robin Wright giving an Oscar-worthy performance that was more than believable and well worth its hour and 29-minute running time. While the film takes one through the most heart-wrenching of moments via Edee’s eyes, it’s one I definitely felt ended on a positive note and left me with exactly what I needed, which was the courage to keep going.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Why Professional Athletes Rarely Retire On Top…Is It The Love Of The Game Or Possibly An Addiction?

I was once one of Michael Jordan’s biggest fans when he played for NBA’s Chicago Bulls and won them six championships. After winning his sixth, Jordan went into retirement for a second time, the first having been motivated mostly due to the stress from his father’s tragic killing. When Jordan came out of retirement for a 3rdtime and played for the Washington Wizards for two seasons, he told the press it was out of his love of the game that brought him back, but I silently wondered if his decision to return yet again, especially at almost 40 years old, was one more based out of an addiction.

I’ve often pondered if many professional athletes like Jordan push themselves well beyond their prime playing days because of the dopamine high that comes from the love of winning and being on top. Honestly, that drive is no different than what an alcoholic, drug addict, gambling addict, sex addict, or any type of addict goes through. Because once that high gets achieved, it’s game on for them to keep getting that high, at any cost. Is that really any different with a professional athlete who pursues the glory and high of winning and constantly fights the aging process along the way as to when to retire? And if it indeed was an addiction-based drive that led Jordan to come back that third time, at least it didn’t leave him after those two final seasons with any life-altering injuries. Sadly, it did leave him though with two losing seasons, and only an occasional reminder of the razzle and dazzle he once was.

Now, I see the same thing happening with Tom Brady. Ironically, I’ve often referred to him as the Michael Jordan of the NFL. The guy has won seven titles, six with the New England Patriots, and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While he’s never gone into any official retirement, he’s 43 years old, playing in an extremely physical and often dangerous sport. Now, he’s planning on coming back yet again at the ripe “old” age of 44 to play another season. What more does he have to prove when he’s already surpassed just about every record and will forever be considered one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. I’d say there is nothing to prove other than him doing exactly what Jordan did, saying the love of the game keeps him coming back. But is that “love of the game” really just code for the high that comes from playing the game?

I’ve played a number of sports before and there indeed is a nice high that comes from winning, especially when you come out on top at the end of a season. What risk though is Brady putting himself in coming back yet again? The guy has three kids and a beautiful wife who I’m sure love spending time with him. Beyond the limited time he probably has with them when he’s in season, he puts himself at risk for permanent life-changing injuries each time he steps on that field, especially each year he gets older. I think Brady would seriously regret playing another season after seven titles if he permanently gets injured and God forbid, one that paralyzes him or gives him that concussive disease (CTE) that many NFL players have gotten.

I don’t see this as any different than any other addiction. Addicts in general get a high from something and chase after it over and over and over again, putting themselves at risk more and more each time they engage in it. And the older they get, the more at risk they are continuing to do it. But oh, that high drives their mind and egos so great, just like I’m sure six championship titles for Jordan did and seven for Brady. I’m convinced it’s why Jordan came back, because retirement didn’t provide that high, which is most likely why Brady keeps playing as well.

In my book, this is why I wish Tom Brady would retire now, while his body is still relatively healthy enough, rather than potentially having a complete losing season next year or even far worse, sustaining some life-altering injury. But that’s the price addicts risk chasing some high. Personally, I wish I had “retired” from all my former addictions when I was still “on top of them”. But I didn’t, because an addict has no control over their addiction. And maybe indeed in the end, that’s why I often wonder if athletes like Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and many others are addicts as well, constantly seeking the high of winning and being number one, all while risking so much to lose each time they come back for one more season…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

A Little More On Those Frequently Portrayed LGBTQ Stereotypes In The Entertainment Industry…

After posting a review of the Netflix remake of “The Boys In The Band” about a week or so ago, I received a number of heart-felt and very interesting comments from a number of readers. While I understand that the original film this remake was based upon was one of the earlier strongholds in the LGBTQ movement, it still made me cringe given how many of the same stereotypes that heterosexuals often place on the LGBTQ culture depicted in this film, continue to be depicted more than not in the entertainment industry today.

Case in point, I recently watched a second LGBTQ film shortly after watching “The Boys In The Band”. It was on Netflix and titled “The Prom”. It was about two lesbian girls attempting to go to their high school prom together and encountering massive resistance from the powers that be on the school board. While the depiction of this lesbian couple itself wasn’t laced with any strong stereotypes, the depiction of the prominent gay male character in the film, Barry Glickman, played by James Corden, sadly did and ultimately ruined the movie for me. Beyond the fact that Corden is a married heterosexual man in real life, his performance was so over-the-top flamboyant, that it honestly made me feel disgusted at the ongoing Hollywood portrayal of so many gay men.

Look, there are countless gay men in our world who you would never know are gay, who don’t act feminine, who don’t sashay when they walk, who don’t use overly strong hand gestures when they talk, who aren’t into drag, who aren’t into showtunes or Broadway, who like things like sports and cars, and do many other things as well that are the exact opposite of what the entertainment industry often portrays of them. Honestly, I rarely see any mainstream movies and television shows that depict average type of joes just like me.

If there’s one thing that truly upsets me the most that comes from all this constant stereotypical portrayal of the LGBTQ culture in the entertainment industry is whenever someone says to me, “I never would have guessed you are gay!” A close second to that would be when someone says to me, “Have you ever dressed up as a woman?” or “Do you like drag?”

Just because I was born being attracted to the same sex doesn’t mean I have to talk with a feminine lisp and like either dressing up in women’s clothing or watching other men do that at some type of bar! Sadly, those types of judgments ALWAYS seem to come from heterosexual men and women who have never had any gay friends and only know of what a gay person might be like by what they see portrayed in films and on television.

Thankfully, I have a number of friends today who really appreciate the fact that I am an average type of joe, who doesn’t come off as appearing gay, and doesn’t fit those typical LGBTQ stereotypes. While I know there are plenty of people out there who do fit those typical LGBTQ stereotypes regularly depicted in film and television, if only the entertainment industry might begin to focus more on average type of joes like me, maybe the world would stop thinking all gay men for example are like Nathan Lane’s or Robin William’s characters from The Birdcage.

And lastly, I need to also mention that while the entertainment industry tends to show many LGBTQ individuals as promiscuous and not caring whatsoever about having a relationship with God, there are plenty out there who do like to settle down, remain monogamous, and focus their life on their spirituality and having a closer relationship with God. While many, many years ago I did explore my sexuality a little too promiscuously and avoided God at the same time, today I am with a partner I’ve been monogamous with for almost nine years now and spend every day seeking a closer connection to God.

Why the entertainment industry must always place gay men in roles that are consistently floating them from one sexual act to another and never doing any sort of praying and spiritual work, I don’t know. For as much as the series “Queer As Folk” for example was groundbreaking in its own way for the LGBTQ movement, it also focused a little too much on promiscuity and led many to believe that there is nothing spiritually healthy that can ever exist amongst gay men. It’s precisely why I feel it took so long to get gay marriage approved for these constant stereotypical portrayals of gay individuals.

Nevertheless, I tend to avoid watching LGBTQ-centered films and tv shows these days mostly because far too many of them frequently depict these typical stereotypes that pigeon hole people like me into them when I am so far from being like them. Hopefully one day, there might be films and shows that regularly depict average type of joes just like me falling in love with another man, all while doing things like hanging out at NASCAR races for the thrill of loud car engines and high speeds, or watching football games, not because of men in tights, but for the thrill of the sport itself…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Why This Avid Movie-Goer Fully Supports Warner Brothers Decision To Stream Their New Films In 2021…

A few weeks ago, Warner Brothers movie studio made a huge announcement for the film industry. Their entire slate for 2021 is going to be initially released to their HBO Max streaming channel rather than exclusively in theaters. While many big named film directors, theater chains, and other studios are furious over this decision, I actually applaud Warner Brothers for the big move, which is probably quite ironic to hear given the countless hours I’ve spent in theaters throughout my life.

So, why am I welcoming this decision in the film industry that looks to be moving people away from watching films in theaters and instead keeping them more at home in front of their much smaller screens? The first thought you might have is that it’s probably related to health worries, i.e. contracting Covid-19. Oddly enough, that’s not my reason for fully supporting Warner Brothers decision.

Truth be told, it’s grown very expensive to go to a movie these days, especially when the price of two tickets is well over $20 now in most theaters on most evenings. Add in any concessions you might purchase and you’re now in the $40 price range for an evening out at the cinema. Then consider the constant talking, texting, and lack of sound and picture quality that often happens in theaters I go to, and finally factor this tendency to have to go to the bathroom at least once during a 2 ½ hour film in recent years, and suddenly the notion of seeing brand new blockbuster films at home becomes a far more satisfying thought.

You see at home, I can pause a film as many times as I need. I can also eat my own food. I don’t have to wear a mask or have anyone sitting next to me or in front of me if I don’t want to. I don’t have to worry about someone shouting at the screen or talking to their friends nearby when I’m trying to pay attention. I can also adjust the volume to fit my needs, which generally is very loud! And I can even rewind a film if I miss something. The fact is, it’s just more cost effective and suitable to my own personal needs now to watch a movie at home and that really is saying something for someone who has spent so much of his life in a theater.

If you can believe it, in 2019 alone, I probably spent close to $5000 in theater going once you factor in the cost of all those tickets I bought (close to 200 films), concessions I consumed, and gas I purchased to get there. Yet, after adding up all my streaming costs for the same year, it was a mere fraction of that.

Nevertheless, I think COVID has changed the way people see things now anyway, including doing public things like going out to the movies. Honestly, I’m not sure if the world will ever return to having those sold out theaters where people get so packed in they seem to be sitting on top of each other, like I felt during Avengers Endgame for example.

Regardless, the world is changing, people’s tastes are shifting, with rising costs and reducing quality, along with new fears of pandemics and compromised health systems, I feel that going to the movie theater might just very well be on the way out, especially when such avid movie-goers like me are looking more forward to seeing blockbusters at home than in cinemas.

So, while many in the film industry might be upset with Warner Brothers over their decision to release their 2021 slate to their streaming channel, HBO Max, I’m not upset at all and instead, am looking forward to finally being able to see some new blockbusters on my comfy couch, eating higher quality food, with great sound and picture quality tweaked for my level of enjoyment, all while not having to fret anymore over the constant texting, talking, and general disruptions that seem to happen more so than not nowadays in theaters. And while I’m not fully saying goodbye to theaters, I simply look forward to having a new movie-watching experience that will in the end, save me a lot of money and frustration.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“The Boys In The Band”, A Superbly Acted And Directed Film With Overly Upsetting LGBTQ Stereotypes

While my partner regularly enjoys watching LGBTQ-based movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, I’m not normally one to do so myself, mostly because of the stereotypical way they often end up depicting our culture. And what I mean by that, I’m referring mostly to the feminine depiction of gay men who are overly promiscuous-based, that regularly use alcohol and drugs, and tend to be vicious towards each other. Occasionally though, I still do watch one from time to time because of Oscar buzz surrounding it, which is the case with the recent release of “The Boys in the Band”.

Starring quite the cast of a number of well-known openly gay actors that include Jim Parsons (Michael), Zachary Quinto (Harold), Matt Bomer (Donald), Andrew Rannells (Larry), Charlie Carver (Cowboy), Robin de Jesus (Emory), Brian Hutchinson (Alan), Michael Benjamin Washington (Bernard), and Tuc Watkins (Hank), “The Boys in the Band” centers around a birthday party being held at Michael’s home for Harold in a 1968 New York City setting. There a surprise guest and a drunken party game leave each of the attendees dealing with unspoken feelings and buried truths.

For as much as I thought the acting and directing in this movie was superb, I really found much of the storyline overly upsetting due to the stereotypical depiction that continues to be made of the gay culture both on film and television. From the over the top flamboyancy of many of the party guests, to the cutthroat and ruthless comments they regularly made towards each other, to the drowning of their sorrows in booze and marijuana, to suggesting that most gay men don’t want to remain monogamous, I ended up cringing more than applauding the overall art direction of this film.

Please let me clarify though that there have been a number of LGBTQ-based movies that I have found spiritual connection with, that depict true love, devotion, kindness, and a desire for monogamy. Movies like “Brokeback Mountain”, “Love, Simon”, “Call Me By Your Name”, “Boys Don’t Cry”, and “Moonlight”. Why “The Boys in the Band” isn’t one I’d place with them is simply because it continues to portray that ongoing stereotypical belief that many religious folk continue to have of us who feel we can’t be monogamous, that all of us are feminine, that we all do alcohol and drugs and regularly promote the frequent use of them for our fun, and that we all are so self-loathing that all we do is put each other down in our day-to-day connections with each other.

I sometimes wonder if that’s why so many Christians interpret the Bible in the way they do towards us, saying same-sex relationships are sinful because of the way we depict them over and over and over again in films and television shows. I mean if we keep on showing the predominance of promiscuity, femininity, alcohol and drug use, and cutthroat cattiness towards each other in the majority of LGBTQ individuals in movies and television how can anyone ever know that there is a world of diversity out there in the same culture, where there does exist masculine men and feminine women having beautiful, healthy, caring, and monogamous relationships just like the one I’ve been having for many years now.

While of course there is indeed promiscuity, feminine men and masculine women, alcohol and drug use, and meanness in the LGBTQ culture, there too exists very much of the same in the heterosexual culture, but at least in that culture, there have been countless films to depict otherwise.

Maybe our culture wouldn’t have such a constant stereotypical depiction being made of it if we could start making more films and television shows that depict true unconditional love and devotion centered around both men and women who have higher principles in life and do their best to live in connection with a Higher Power guiding them.

Regardless, while “The Boys in the Band” blew me away with how well acted it was and how believable the characters actually felt, I was left in the end feeling quite saddened by the overly upsetting stereotypes that continue to be made of our culture. Hopefully one day this won’t be the case. Hopefully one day relationships just like the one I’m having with my partner Chris get depicted just as much in film and on television. Relationships where masculine men and feminine women are shown in same-sex relationships that are truly monogamous, where alcohol and drug addiction doesn’t guide them, and where unconditional love, acts of kindness, and a desire to serve God at their core exists. Maybe then, when more of those types of relationships are shown in LGBTQ-based film, people will finally stop placing those stereotypical and sin-shaming judgments upon us.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

 

“I AM SO FILLED WITH CHRIST’S LOVE!!!”

One of my favorite exchanges of lines out of all the movies I’ve ever seen with religious overtures comes in the film “Saved” starring Jena Malone as Mary, Mandy Moore as Hilary Faye, and Macaulay Culkin as Roland, and it goes as follows:

Hilary Faye: “Mary, turn away from Satan. Jesus, he loves you.”
Mary: “You don’t know the first thing about love!”
Hilary Faye: [Throwing a Bible at Mary] “I am so filled with Christ’s love! You are just jealous of my success in the Lord!”
Mary: [Mary picking up the Bible] “This is not a weapon! You idiot!”

So, why do I consider this one of the best exchanges of lines ever in a religious movie, even if this one was in a religious comedy? Because it’s such a great depiction of why I don’t label myself a “Christian” anymore and why I maintain that I am instead simply a follower of Christ.

First of all, I just have to say this, in my humble opinion, Jesus Christ’s message wasn’t, “Hey, let’s create a whole new religion called Christianity, where we’ll have this book with a bunch of new chapters that we’re all going to follow. And hey, we’re going to use this book as a weapon at times for those we judge aren’t following it or doing things the way we think they should!” But sadly, that indeed is what much of Christianity has become and what many other religions have become as well around the world.

That’s why when I’m asked now what my faith is, I tell people I follow the true teachings of Christ to the best of my ability, which at their bare essence was not to follow a set of rules and laws, and create judgments and opinions from them. Rather, it was merely two principles.

“To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love others as much as you love yourself.”

But, somehow, our world has drifted so far away from this and instead created a complexity that Jesus himself came two millennia ago to abolish. And sadly, now I’m seeing this complexity even in this presidential race.

Everyone seems to be waiting with baited breath presently on who’ll become our next president for the following four years, and many of them who label themselves as Christians are angrily shouting to the masses about who Christ would want as our next president and who carries the best values of Christianity. But do you know what I think? I think Christ wouldn’t have cared less about who our next president is going to be. He’d tell us all that the real work is not at that level and instead is within us to love each other no matter what our differences are.

That’s why every time I watch this Republican versus Democratic battle play itself out on the news or in social media or even amongst friends and loved ones, I think of Mandy Moore in Saved throwing her Bible at Jena Malone. The fact is, none of this is practicing the unconditional love that Christ came here to spread. Judging someone by saying, “It’s in the Bible” isn’t being unconditionally loving and doing so only makes the person sound like they’re speaking on behalf of God. I know many Christians who think it’s ok to do this, simply because, “The Bible says so.” But, no matter what way you put it, condemning a person using the Bible, or any other spiritual book for that matter, isn’t being unconditionally loving, it’s judging.

So, how did we all get so far away from truly loving and embracing each other like Christ once asked from all of his followers?

My answer would be fear, as to embrace everyone just as they are, no matter what walk of life they come from can be quite difficult for many, especially when it feels so different from what one’s mind thinks should be the norm. That’s why I feel the Bible has become such the tool of segregation and division in the world these days, as it’s sent far too many people into great places of darkness when passages get thrown at them, when they’re told they’re sinners in the eyes of God. I often feel that it’s religion itself that continues to drive our world into the very darkness that many religious people want to prevent.

Because of that very reason, the message I do my best to live now is to love all people, from all walks of life, to love followers of Trump and followers of Biden, to love both the gay and the straight and everyone in between, to love not only those who worship like me, but those who may not worship at all or worship quite differently, and to even love those who don’t or won’t ever love me because of who I am, because in their eyes I’m an abomination to God.

So, until I see Christianity living out the true message that Christ brought of loving each other unconditionally and until I see all those Bibles and those passages from it not being thrown anymore at others like Mandy Moore did so comically well in the film Saved, I remain simply a follower of Christ and won’t label myself as a Christian. And, you know what, I think God is quite ok with that, because Christ wasn’t the one who created Christianity anyway, human beings did.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Words On Bathroom Walls”, A Truly Stunning Masterpiece About Schizophrenia For A New Generation

With as many health issues as I have, including some mental and emotional-based ones, I most certainly can relate to the plight of others who face their own health challenges on a daily basis. Maybe that’s why my heart connected so much to the very first movie I finally got to see in theaters since COVID shut them all down back in March of this year.

“Words On Bathroom Walls” is the name of the movie I saw and is a stunning masterpiece of a film about a teenage boy named Adam (played incredibly well by Charlie Plummer) who gets diagnosed with schizophrenia midway through his senior year of high school. Talented on so many levels, especially in the kitchen where he frequently recreates culinary masterpieces without any formal training, Adam’s sole desire is to go on to chef school and eventually, own his own restaurant. But after a severe schizophrenic breakdown in chemistry class causes his best friend to get seriously injured by some chemicals, Adam gets removed from his regular high school and instead, is enrolled into a local Catholic high school with the help of his mother Beth (played by Molly Parker), a person who never gives up on trying to find a cure for her son’s mental disorder. Conditions for Adam’s enrollment are made quite clear from the onset by head nun, Sister Catherine, (played by Beth Grant). He must maintain an A average and remain medicated and stable. Having had such a terrible experience at his former high school, Adam vows to take his medicine and do his best to keep his mental health issues a secret at his new school, but it becomes apparent how difficult that may be upon meeting Maya Arnez (played by Taylor Russell). That’s mostly because Adam continues to react to his ongoing schizophrenic presences whenever she is around, which include Joaquin (played by Devon Bostick), Rebecca (played by AnnaSophia Robb), a person known only as the Bodyguard (played by Lobo Sebastian), and a dark and sinister voice that often tells Adam to do bad things to himself. Will Adam be able to keep his secret and finish high school without any incidents or will his mental disorder ruin everything, including his cooking school dreams? “Words On Bathroom Walls” is most assuredly “The Beautiful Mind” of this millennia and a far younger generation.

Overall, this movie truly touched me. With every passing feeling of helplessness Adam felt due to his schizophrenia, I felt it too. Living with my own set of mental health issues and physical limitations due to chronic pain, I often have felt like an outcast in society myself, unable to ever achieve any of my deepest dreams and desires in life. And while I personally have never dealt with schizophrenia, “Words On Bathroom Walls” really helped me to understand the disorder as much as “A Beautiful Mind” with Russell Crowe did for me eons ago.

Living with chronic physical pain is one thing, and far easier to deal with than living with a mental disorder that controls just about every aspect of my life. The hypochondria and OCD I regularly battle robs me of becoming mindful and present, like on my recent vacation I took with my partner Chris.

So, I absolutely have a lot more compassion now for all the souls on this planet who continue to struggle with schizophrenia. I’m thankful for all of you and for enjoying “Words On Bathroom Walls” as much as it did. Playing out much like a John Hughes movie, I highly recommend seeing this film, as it’s sure to become a classic for a new generation.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawsson

“The Neighbors’ Window”, The 2020 Oscar Live Action Short Film Winner With A Reminder For Us All…

I’m sure there is a voyeur in every one of us somewhere, because simply put, humans are just curious people, especially when they can spy on someone where the person they are spying on doesn’t know they are being spied upon. That’s the basic premise of the 2020 Oscar Live Action Short winner.

Coming in at a run time of 21 minutes, “The Neighbors’ Window” is about a couple, Alli (Maria Dizzia) and Jacob (Greg Keller), who one evening in their city apartment look out their window and see that in the apartment directly across from them is another couple who are madly and passionately enjoying sex with each other. They watch for a while, remembering the days when they too were able to do the very same thing, prior to having three children who now take all their time up. They immediately decide to turn their lights off, in quite the comical fashion, continuing to appreciate the view, and it doesn’t stop there. As time passes, they can’t seem to stop themselves from being voyeurs of a couple they don’t know, feeling jealous all the while of the pair who from their eyes does nothing but have parties and engage in lovemaking. They even pull out an old set of binoculars to further engage in their incognito voyeuristic viewings, when one day Alli notices the man suddenly comes home with his head shaved and remarks how he must be trying one of those new hip hair styles. Not too long after she then notices he’s now in a hospital bed with the woman he obviously loves crawling into it next to him, sharing what appears to be quite a sorrowful moment together. And then, the day arrives shortly thereafter when Alli fully comprehends what’s been happening, when the man is taken away in a body bag, while the woman tearfully leaves her apartment alongside the paramedics. Alli abruptly decides to race downstairs, finding herself now standing at a distance from the woman sobbing outside her apartment building as the ambulance takes the man she loves away. Wanting so badly to comfort a person she feels she knows, but really doesn’t, Alli’s grief consumes her enough to approach. After a moment of sheer awkwardness, the other woman (played by Juliana Canfield) unexpectedly apologizes saying that she and her husband (played by Bret Lada) had spent their last few months together watching Alli and her family from across the way, wishing they had the happy life they saw through the window of a happy couple and their three beautiful kids. As shock overwhelms Alli, the film ends with her deeply embracing the woman in tears.

Wow…was all I could say when the credits rolled and tears fell from my eyes. Even as I write these words, I find myself still choking up about the message this film presented.

How often in my life have I silently observed someone who didn’t know I was observing them, whether that be through Facebook or Twitter, or maybe in a mall, or at a dinner out, or at a movie, or some coffee shop, or maybe something else altogether, believing the life I was watching was so much better than my own? I wonder how many of them have looked at me in the very same way?

It’s so easy to believe that which we silently observe in another’s life looks so much better than our own. But the truth is they often tend to be just as much filled with their own pains and sufferings of life, yet we just aren’t privy enough to ever know of them. Because people often put on faces and facades in what they post on social media or what they present out in public, keeping the negative parts of their lives in secret.

Far too regularly, people have misjudged me from a distance in the same way, thinking I have this great life because I don’t work at a day to day job, because I spend my days in my gardens and my evenings working in the recovery realm or going out to dinners and movies. They don’t see the pain that ravages on in my body that never seems to end, or all those mornings, afternoons, and evenings, where I’m gushing torrents of tears over the state of my life, or loneliness I feel, or the depression I battle, all because God remains silent with me.

Life is usually far different than what our eyes perceive from a distance and “The Neighbors’ Window” is such a clear reminder of that. Coveting another’s life we may observe from afar put quite simply, isn’t healthy. Because maybe the life we’re living is better than we allow ourselves to believe solely because we spend too much time comparing it to others instead of being thankful for what we’ve been given…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

What Do All The Television Program You Regularly Watch Say About You?

I decided to make this an easy and light entry today and it deals with television programs. Most people these days watch something on TV through its many forms, some more than others of course. I’m definitely in the “more” department when it comes to this, as I follow a lot of series and I do mean A LOT.

That being said, I truly believe that the programs each of us repeatedly tune into say a lot about who we are. In fact, I’ve really gotten to see how true that is with the many people I’ve befriended over the years by just asking what they watch on a regular basis on television. In light of that, the rest of my article today is simply a list of all the TV shows I’ve already watched, am currently watching or will be watching in 2020. And I’m sure by just reading my list, you’ll probably know me a whole heck of a lot better (beyond realizing that I probably watch way too much TV!!!).

  1. A Discovery of Witches (AMC)
  2. Agents of Shield (ABC) (Note: Ending in 2020)
  3. All American (CW)
  4. Altered Carbon (NETFLIX)
  5. America’s Got Talent (NBC) (Note: The only reality show I watch)
  6. Arrow (CW) (Note: Ending in 2020)
  7. Black Lightning (CW)
  8. Black Mirror (NETFLIX)
  9. Blindspot (NBC) (Note: Ending in 2020)
  10. Castle Rock (HULU)
  11. Charmed (CW)
  12. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CW)
  13. Dispatches From Elsewhere (AMC)
  14. Doom Patrol (DC UNIVERSE)
  15. Emergence (NBC)
  16. Evil (CBS)
  17. God Friended Me (CBS)
  18. Good Witch (Hallmark)
  19. Grace & Frankie (NETFLIX)
  20. Harley Quinn (DC UNIVERSE) (Note: This is a cartoon series.)
  21. Helstrom (HULU)
  22. Impulse (YouTube)
  23. Legacies (CW)
  24. Locke & Key (NETFLIX)
  25. Lost in Space (NETFLIX)
  26. Lucifer (NETFLIX) (Note: Ending in 2020)
  27. MacGyver (CBS)
  28. Manifest (NBC)
  29. Marvel’s Spider Man (DISNEY XD) (Note: This is a cartoon series.)
  30. Messiah (NETFLIX)
  31. Mom (CBS)
  32. Roswell (CW)
  33. Russian Doll (NETFLIX)
  34. Stranger Things (NETFLIX)
  35. Supergirl (CW)
  36. Supernatural (CW) (Note: Ending in 2020)
  37. The Boys (AMAZON PRIME)
  38. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (NETFLIX)
  39. The Falcoln and the Winter Soldier (DISNEY+)
  40. The Flash (CW)
  41. The Good Place (NBC) (Note: Ending in 2020)
  42. The Magicians (SyFy)
  43. The Umbrella Academy (NETFLIX)
  44. Titans (DC UNIVERSE)
  45. Twilight Zone (CBS STREAMING)
  46. WandaVision (Disney+)
  47. Young Justice (DC UNIVERSE) (Note: This is a cartoon series.)
  48. Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Messiah”, A Riveting Netflix Series That Asks Us To Ponder What We’d All Do If The Messiah Supposedly Had Returned?

I’ve never been a big fan of overly religious movies or TV shows that attempt to sway my beliefs and conform them into something straight out of some religious text, but when I watched the trailer for a new Netflix show titled Messiah, I became curious and decided to check it out the day it debuted, which was January 1st.

Simply put, the storyline of this show is what might happen if someone suddenly showed up on our planet claiming to be the Messiah and actually began demonstrating various acts of faith that seemed to support that claim. Would people start believing him?  Who would follow him? Is he sent from God or is he a fraud who has some underlying self-serving agenda? These are all the questions the show tries to answer and does so in a very good way in my personal opinion.

Starring Mehdi Dehbi as Al-Masih (Messiah) and Michelle Monaghan as Eva Geller (a CIA agent who’s convinced he must be a fake and quite possibly a terrorist), the show handles some very touchy subjects that will most definitely spark some great watercooler talk amongst anyone of faith.

Without spoiling too much, there is a second storyline in the first season of this new series that I found extremely thought provoking as well. It involves a boy named Jibril Medina (played by Sayyid El Alami) who is one of the first followers of Al-Masih. Jibril’s faith really moved me incredibly and honestly, I was more drawn to his story and spiritual journey for the humility he showed throughout it all.

Nevertheless, the return of Christ has always been a hot topic of discussion amongst persons of faith and something I’ve usually done my best to steer clear away from talking about. There are too many people who believe the Bible is the only true word of God and this show doesn’t exactly follow that to a “T’, which I was actually pretty thankful it didn’t, and the very reason why I liked it as much as I did.

The fact is, I stopped believing the Bible was the only true word of God long ago when it started to be used as a weapon of judgment and separation towards me and many others on this planet. “Messiah” does a great job dealing with some of those sensitive subjects and also involves other religions and their beliefs as well, something I feel Christ studied long ago and accepted on His own journey of faith, but something that purposely was left out of the Bible when it was being put together, most likely for self-serving reasons.

Regardless, the main question that stayed at the forefront of my mind throughout the entire 10 episodes of the first season was…Would I follow a person who claimed to be the Messiah and showed various demonstrations of faith?

The answer really is I don’t know. My faith has been shaken quite a bit over the past few years with the ever-mounting losses of friends, loved ones, and countless days of physical pain. There were moments during the show that I cried and felt my Spirit long to have a Messiah return and would probably have dropped everything to go be wherever this person was in the world, while there were plenty of other moments where I felt a lot like the CIA agent and a few others she worked with, who kept feeling like Al-Masih was a fake, where I absolutely would have watched it all play out from a distance. Either way, I think it’s safe to say, the show accomplished what it was probably set out to do for anyone who ends up watching it like it did for me, as it totally pulled me in, made me question my faith, and on some level, possibly even deepened it, as I found myself talking to my Higher Power both during and after each episode.

In the end, the show clearly left the door open for another season, and purposely left many questions unanswered as well, something I ended up actually being glad for, because that indeed is what I prefer when it comes to my spiritual journey. Now, I look forward to hopefully another season of this on Netflix in the future, and, to continuing to deepen my faith by watching shows like this that challenge the stereotypical religious beliefs that exist out there by leaving it to us to ask, as in this case, what would we do if the Messiah supposedly had finally returned?

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Uncut Gems”, A Deeply Disturbing, Yet Incredibly Accurate Portrayal Of A Gambling Addict

To think of Adam Sandler as a potential awards-worthy contender might seem a little preposterous in light of people’s first thoughts always being of him in silly goofball comedies such as Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. Over the years though, Sander has dabbled in a few movies here and there that showed he actually has a true range of talent beyond comedy, including films such as Punch Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories. With his most recent film, Uncut Gems, Sandler, playing a deeply-entrenched gambling addict named Howard Ratner, ultimately demonstrates his best performance to date.

In the movie, Howard is by all means driven on every level by his gambling addiction. Always consumed to the very core with getting that next big payout from one of his many gambling endeavors, nothing is beneath him to achieve it. He constantly lies, cheats, barters, looks for angles, makes promises he never seems to keep, uses other people’s property to borrow temporarily for cash solely to gamble away what was never meant to be used for that purpose in the first place, regularly commits infidelity on his wife, and pays little to no attention to any of his family, especially his children, unless it involves a part of his addiction. One day though, when Howard receives an uncut gem from Ethiopia, a black opal, that might be worth via auction over a million dollars, his addiction immediately becomes completely focused on the potential future payout of it. But when pro-basketball player Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics enters his store one afternoon and sees Howard’s new beautiful uncut gem, he asks to hold on to it as a good luck charm for his playoff game happening that night. As collateral, Howard is given Garnett’s championship ring to hold on to, which to the gambling addict he’s become, immediately is seen as potential cash to be used in another big sporting bet. As one bad decision turns into another, and ruthless people Howard owes money to begin to chase him down for collection on previous bad decisions, all stemming from his gambling addiction, Howard fully believes the eventual sale of his uncut gem and another high sporting bet on the side is going to be the very thing that will finally fix his broken life.

As I watched Uncut Gems, I was blown away at how accurate a depiction of addiction was portrayed on screen. There are few movies that truly make me feel the way Uncut Gems did, that being me feeling like I was back in my old addiction and its toxic behaviors. While I suffered from gambling addiction at a minimal level in the past, I have fallen prey to many others that carried the same destructive traits that Howard carried in this movie. What destructive trait was hardest to watch though was Howard getting one chance after another to entirely break free from his vicious cycle of gambling addiction, yet continuing to dig himself a deeper and deeper grave, always hoping that the next bet, would be the score to end all scores. I remember those days so vividly, constantly believing that the next drink, the next drug, the next sexual conquest, the next anything was going to deliver me immediately out of the hell I was living in and vault me straight back into the original state of pure ecstasy that originally kicked off my addiction in the first place. It never happened though and thus the sad plight of the hardcore addict like Howard and like I once was.

Uncut Gems will most definitely be appreciated for the recovering addict of any kind though. But I must say, that for someone who is living in any type of addiction that’s still controlling them, the film is probably only going to annoy or anger them, mostly because they’re not ready to face how sick they’ve become. That’s why I’m quite thankful I enjoyed Uncut Gems as much as I did, as it showed me how far I’ve come in my own recovery from all the addictions I’ve suffered from.

Overall, I highly recommend seeing this film and for Sandler’s sake, I really hope he finally receives the acting credit he deserves, as this movie most definitely showed he’s capable of delivering a performance that’s outstanding on every level…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Richard Jewell”, A Film That Clearly Reminded Me To Never Fully Believe Everything I See In The News…

“Richard Jewell”, a movie directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell, sheds light on something I’ve really come to detest when it comes to news and media, that being the willingness to put any story out there that will gain primetime exposure, even if it may be inaccurate or even completely false.

I know our current President is always talking about fake news and as much as I can’t believe I’m going to say this, on some level I agree with him. There is a lot of fake news that’s put out there for the world to see, which is precisely what happened to Richard Jewell back in 1996 when a bombing occurred in Centennial Park during the Olympics.

Richard Jewell may not have been the brightest person in the world, but he truly was a hero who saved many lives when he discovered a very large pipe bomb planted under a bench on the grounds of an extremely crowded Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics. Sadly, the FBI saw him as something different during their initial investigation and erroneously labeled him as their main suspect and a potential terrorist. When a lead reporter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kathy Scruggs (played by Olivia Wilde), catches wind of this from her FBI contact Tom Shaw (played by Jon Hamm), she convinces her editor to immediately run with the story, even when there was no official proof that Jewell was guilty of anything. Once the story gets printed, Jewel suddenly goes from being lauded to loathed. As he becomes public suspect number one, Jewell quickly enlists the help of a lawyer, Watson Bryant (played by Sam Rockwell), to clear his name, while his mother Bobi (played by Kathy Bates) loyally stands by his side knowing he’s innocent, even when the media continues to viciously defame her son. It doesn’t take long for Bryant to believe in Jewell’s innocence, as Jewell gained much of that in a previous job they worked together at. From the moment Bryant becomes Jewell’s lawyer, the film does a brilliant job depicting the pain and hardship Jewell had to go through to clear his name from the villain the news and media painted him as, and return him to what he should have been all along, a hero.

As I watched “Richard Jewell”, I totally felt myself becoming angry at the government and all those news and media outlets for slandering the name of such an innocent person. It’s sad to think about the number of people whose lives have actually been ruined because of erroneous stories getting printed that weren’t completely factual. It is estimated that up to 10,000 people are wrongfully convicted every single year and I wonder how much of that is due to all the slander that news and media outlets often put out there. This is specifically why I rarely watch or read the news because I don’t want it to bias me, like so many people were when the media blamed Jewell before even having a shard of evidence against him.

This movie led me to wonder how many others have gone through what Jewell did. How many lives have been wrecked by what the news and media have reported over the years? I even began to question if Jewell’s heart attack that killed him in the mid 2000’s was a direct result of all the pain and stress his heart went through during the years he was vilified.

The bottom line that the film “Richard Jewell” so clearly reminded me of is to never fully believe everything I see in the news. Rather, to accept that much of it is sensationalized and often falsely represented solely to gain readership or viewership, rather than “accurate-ship”.

Maybe we all just need to stop following the news and instead, begin to follow our hearts…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Honey Boy”, A Sad, Yet Very Realistic Portrayal Of How An Innocent Youth Can Become Such A Self-Destructive Adult

In July of 2017, when Shia LaBeouf was arrested for the first time and got charged with obstruction, disorderly conduct, and public drunkenness, I totally judged him. I said, “Oh, here’s another one of those spoiled-rich Hollywood elite acting out again because they can, because they know they’re only going to get a slap on the wrist!” That WAS how I truly felt about Shia LaBeouf…until I saw the movie he made about his life titled “Honey Boy”.

“Honey Boy” was an eye-opening film for me and one that was another perfect reminder that I shouldn’t ever judge anyone. The movie begins with the arrest of an actor named Otis (played by Lucas Hedges) who’s completely inebriated and mouthing off to the police from the back of a squad car as they drive him to jail. The viewer is then quickly transported back into time where they get introduced to the pre-teen version of Otis (played by Noah Jupe), just as he’s beginning to emerge into the popular actor he’s destined to become. It’s immediately apparent how very little young Otis ever gets the chance to be a kid and be himself due to the constant pressures from his overbearing father James (played by LaBeouf himself). It also doesn’t take long to see just how abusive and controlling his father really is, none of which Otis deserves. Ironically his father is also a convicted sex offender who’s really just trying to find his way back into the world and hoping to escape the stigma of being a convicted sex offender by way of the Hollywood success of Otis. In turn, watching young Otis do his best through his acting to earn his father’s approval is extremely heart-wrenching, especially when Otis begins to pick up some of his father’s negative traits along the way, like chain smoking. In the end, it’s pretty obvious why Otis becomes the rebellious adult he becomes, and as sad as this movie is, “Honey Boy” is still a very realistic portrayal of how an innocent youth can become such a self-destructive adult.

I have to give it to Shia LaBeouf for completely exposing the truth of his life, on why he becomes the way he is, through “Honey Boy”. On some level, learning about his father’s toxicity was very difficult for me, as it reminded me so much of my mother. I constantly vied for my mother’s approval more than not during my youth, always wanting her to just look at me one day and say “I love you son and am so proud of you!” But like Shia with his Dad, I never got that from my Mom, instead, I picked up most of her negative traits as I frequently sought her approval and never got it, by engaging in alcoholism and other addictions, falling into self-pity, and eventually becoming so self-absorbed that only my problems mattered to me in this world. Ultimately, I became a very self-destructive adult because of it, no different than LaBeouf, and in many ways, I’m still trying to find my way back from. So, yes, “Honey Boy” was a great reminder of my own upbringing and in seeing clearly how far I’ve come from the toxic person I once was. But even more importantly, I’m grateful that this film helped me to dispel the judgments I was holding onto against LaBeouf and a number of other famous people as well, who too have walked in similar painful childhood shoes like I once did, who eventually became such self-destructive adults because of it.

The fact is, most self-destructive adults, whether famous or completely invisible in this world to the vast majority, are often simply only the by-products of tragic upbringings where unconditional love was more than absent or never present at all…

I highly recommend “Honey Boy” and truly commend Shia LaBeouf for his courage and his transparency, something I wish more of us in this world would exhibit a lot more of…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”, A Film That Will Inspire You To Be Yourself And Help Better The World…

I love a feel-good movie. I really do. Especially when I’m feeling somewhat blue going into one, like I was last week when I went to see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”, a film about the real-life relationship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod.

I don’t remember much about Fred Rogers or his show Mister Rogers, seeing that the last time I remembering watching him or it was back in the mid to late 70’s. What I do recollect about it was how it was one of the few programs that my parents allowed me to watch as a young kid and one that I remember for always being uplifting, something that I feel is quite rare on television these days.

Nevertheless, I didn’t know this story about Junod’s and Rogers’ relationship until I saw the film and what a wonderful story it was. Junod (played by Matthew Rhys), a writer for Esquire magazine is tasked to write a piece about Fred Rogers (played by Tom Hanks), much to his dismay, because it’s not even close to the type of “juicy pieces” he normally writes about, which are usually far more controversial in subject material. Regardless, his boss Ellen (played by Christine Lahti) tasks him to do it anyway, which Junod begrudgingly agrees to, as she doesn’t give him any other choice.

It’s apparent from the onset of the two meeting that Rogers sees a broken man in Junod, something that he was apparently extremely gifted in doing his entire life with many others, and subsequently always finding unique ways to help heal that brokenness in them as well. In light of that, it doesn’t take long for Rogers to get to the source of Junod’s brokenness, something that immediately makes Junod overly uncomfortable. But, as their relationship develops, the film goer can easily see just how gifted Mister Rogers was in overcoming other’s walls and emotional obstacles to help bring about healing where no one else could.

Overall, I was amazed at how emotional this film made me. From laughter to tears and joy to sorrow, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” totally ran me through the gamut of emotions. When it was all over, I left feeling so uplifted with a sincere desire to not only better myself, but also to help others do the same in their lives as well, just like Mister Rogers once did.

Mister Rogers was truly a blessed man on this planet who made others the priority in his life more than himself day in and day out for the majority of his adult life. Selfless, kind, giving, unconditionally loving, and joyful in spirit, I decided I want to be more like Fred Rogers, especially after seeing this move, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Brittany Runs A Marathon”, An Exceptional Film That I Went From Totally Hating To Totally Loving…

Have you ever watched a movie that you found yourself hating throughout the majority of it until suddenly it all came together by the end making you completely love it instead? “Brittany Runs A Marathon” was one such film that did this very thing to me just recently.

Based upon a true story, “Brittany Runs A Marathon” is about a woman named Brittany (played by Jillian Bell) who is extremely unhappy with her life on just about every level. Self-loathing, self-deprecating, hating the fact that she’s seriously overweight, frequently drinking and drugging to numb herself from those facts, and constantly character-assassinating others to make herself feel better, Brittany is an incredibly hard person to like. Her only friend is her attractive, self-absorbed roommate Gretchen (played by Alice Lee) who seems to enjoy being around her because it makes her look better. One day when the pain becomes great enough though, Brittany decides to go outside and start jogging, for one entire block. Quickly realizing how unhealthy she’s become on just about every level in life, she sinks to the floor in her kitchen and begins to sob, which in turn attracts the attention of her physically fit and regularly jogging neighbor Shannon (played by Jennifer Dundas), someone Brittany is very much jealous of and judges quite a bit. But when Shannon extends an olive branch and invites Brittany to jog with her in a local running club, Brittany actually shows up and along the way runs into another person equally as unhappy with their health, that being Seth (played by Micah Stock). As new friendships attempt to make their way into her life of people who actually do genuinely care about her, and what begins as a desperate attempt for a quick fix but soon turns into a quest to become something better and far different than the person she’s come to loathe so much, Brittany is on a marathon to discover that deep down within her is and has always been a person to like and to love.

Going to see “Brittany Runs A Marathon” honestly came as a last-minute decision due to feeling exceptionally frustrated and empty inside one afternoon. Making that abrupt decision to go see it was definitely one of the best ones I’ve made in recent times, as this movie totally ran me through the gamut of emotions that in the end paralleled the spiritual journey I’ve been on since 2010. Back then, I was no different than Brittany, silently scorning myself and everyone else too, living in addiction, and selfish and self-centered to the core. While my desire for change didn’t begin with a pledge to jog one city block, it did begin when I opted to get on my knees and mutter a deeply-heartfelt prayer to God to become a much more spiritually-centered, instead of addiction-centered, individual. Ultimately, I simply wanted to become a selfless disciple of God. Ever since, I’ve been on my own marathon of sorts, one that on far too many days I’ve wondered if I’m ever going to make it to the finish line, wherever that is and whatever it looks like, neither of which I’m sure at this point. Indeed, like Brittany, along the way I’ve gone through many intervals of transformation that’s included a lot of pain, hardship, losing a number of friends, and feeling like God is a million miles away. Yet, somehow, like her, I’ve kept running, one day after another, all with one goal in mind, to complete my marathon, that being to self-heal from within from all the toxicity I took in from countless lower vibrational actions I partook in from this life and four prior ones as well. While God may not have shown me any ending in sight yet from this long-suffering marathon of sorts, I can say that the individual I’ve become thus far is a far more likeable one than who I was when I began it.

So, for now, I continue to live with faith and hope that one day I’ll cross some type of finish line where like Brittany, I can look back and see that all the pain and agony I experienced getting there was more than worth it because frankly, I’m worth it.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Downton Abbey”, An Intriguing TV Series And Film That I Related To Far More Than I Ever Thought I Would…

Mere weeks ago, I knew next to nothing about Downton Abbey, other than it was a television show surrounding some English aristocratic family from the early 20th century that ran on PBS from 2010 to 2015. Truthfully, I was never very interested in watching it mostly because I wasn’t too keen on seeing a show about wealthy people of great status I couldn’t relate to who were from a time I didn’t live in and a country I wasn’t from. But, after seeing the trailer for a theatrical movie being released for the same show and after hearing all the buzz surrounding it, including the many friends of mine who said how good the show actually was and how much they were looking forward to the film, I finally decided to start watching it on Amazon Prime with my partner to see what the hype was all about. Halfway into season 1, I was hooked and three weeks later I was all caught up, including with the movie itself, which I must say was thoroughly enjoyable for many reasons, but one most in particular.

Beyond the fact that I liked watching the lives of the servants and could relate more to them versus the aristocrats, I was actually drawn most to the journey of Footman/Under Butler/Butler Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier), a closeted gay man living in a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness and perversion at best. To the casual viewer, especially someone who isn’t gay, it’s quite easy to hate Barrow’s character, as he was always conniving some type of scheme to try to make it ahead in life, stepping over the feet of everyone else, and backstabbing without regard of who might get hurt. While my partner regularly expressed displeasure in Barrow’s character, I always saw Barrow in a much different light. What I saw was a spiritually wounded man who truly struggled to relate to anyone else, who just wanted to be someone that was appreciated in a world that rarely appreciated people like him. While most of Barrow’s selfish attempts to make something of himself usually backfired, he occasionally exhibited true moments of humility and selflessness that showed he did have a loving heart and soul. Sadly, they usually got overshadowed by all his self-serving actions though, which tended to keep most everyone at arm’s length.

Man, I can so relate.

Over the years of me trying to find acceptance, I regularly hid my sexuality, which often led to me doing actions that hurt others as well, leaving me with a lot of self-loathing and very few friends. Thankfully, I’m a lot more accepting of myself these days and have become far more open with my sexuality, yet there are still days I find myself wishing I wasn’t gay and have even joked about being a straight man stuck in a gay man’s body, all because our world keeps on struggling to practice the true teachings of Christ, instead using things like the Bible and other spiritual books to judge others as sinners rather than unconditionally loving them and leaving all judgments in God’s hands.

It was even worse in Barrow’s time, when homosexuality was considered a sickness by medical standards. These days, while that’s no longer the case, being gay is still far from being widely accepted on this planet. And even when it is, I’ve regularly seen many still make plenty of stereotypical judgments around gay people including why they tend to be such perfectionists, act so prim and proper, and often have incredibly ornate homes and yards. Truthfully, I think it’s because so many of us try to over compensate for being in a minority that continues to hold such a negative stigma of sorts. In Barrow’s case over compensating translated into wanting to be in a higher position that held more responsibility and stature, as in his mind, then and only then, might he become more accepted in the world and make up for his reality that the world was never going to fully accept him for who he was.

Nonetheless, while I was thoroughly engrossed in a number of the other Downton Abbey character’s backstories and growth throughout the series and movie, it was Thomas Barrow whom I found myself the most drawn to, not in a sexual way, but in one where I silently cried quite often for the pain he and so many others like myself have endured throughout the ages, all for being born with a sexuality that frequently has led to rejection and religious persecution.

All in all, Downton Abbey is a phenomenally written series that I’m more than confident no matter what walk of life one may come from, rich or poor, gay or straight, black or white, man or woman, etc., that anyone will find at least one character to really relate to like I did with Thomas Barrow. I highly recommend watching this series and film if you haven’t already and sincerely hope that a follow-up sequel may be on the horizon in the near future.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Hustlers”, An All-Too-Real Film About How Far One May Go For Worldly Gain, Even When It May Hurt Another…

Sometimes there are movies I watch, such as the recent release of “Hustlers” starring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu, that hits home all too well of the many dark days I once lived where I didn’t care whether I hurt others or not, so long as I got “mine”.

“Hustlers” is actually a phenomenally realistic movie that portrays the dark side that exists in each and every one of us, the side that stems from the ego that constantly looks for how to get ahead in life, even if it means stepping on another’s toes, including those we care about. That old saying of “hurt people hurt people” is so apropos to this film. Based upon a true story, “Hustlers’ is about a young woman named Destiny (played by Wu) who becomes willing to do just about anything to become something more in life. Finding very little financial success as an exotic dancer, she looks to a fellow dancer named Ramona (played by Lopez) who makes it look so easy to make money in their line of work. It doesn’t take long for Destiny to learn the tricks of the trade and follow in Ramona’s footsteps, preying on the clients as if they were like sheep where they were the wolves. But, when the financial market takes a major downturn and causes their line of work to really suffer, Romana eventually comes up with a get-rich scheme and draws Destiny even deeper into behaviors that cross the line of morals and then some. How far will Destiny and Ramona go to get ahead in life? Just how far will they fall into the darkness that comes when money becomes the sole source of one’s happiness? “Hustlers” tells the true story of two people who become willing to sell their souls, all for the sake of seeking worldly riches that ultimately can never bring about the happiness they seek.

I was truly blown away by this movie and feel it’s Lopez’s best work yet. As for Wu, she continues to show she’s well on her way to stardom as an actress between her role in “Crazy Rich Asians” and now this. Both strongly reminded me through this film of how far I became willing to travel down the rabbit hole into behaviors that today I find myself so disgusted by. The number of people I used to get what I wanted in life by stepping on their toes. The amount of times I gave my body away for things I thought would make my life better. The pain I caused both myself and others along the way was immeasurable. Watching Destiny and Ramona treat men as if they were nothing more than expendable objects was almost too painful to sit through, not because the movie itself was done in poor taste, but rather because of how well it portrayed my own old behaviors when I preyed on older attractive men without any regard to their feelings. Sometimes I think the amount of agony I’ve gone through over the past nine years is some sort of a punishment or a release process from all the pain I caused those I once took advantage of. I’m not proud of how I used to live my life and have asked God many times over to forgive me for all the hurt and suffering I caused plenty when my ego ruled my existence and fleshly gains were the sole source of my happiness.

“Hustler’s” is most definitely a superb film that showed me a perfect reflection into my past to a time when I didn’t care whether I hurt someone else or not and the damage I caused to so many in the process. Thankfully, I was able to leave the theater and breathe a sigh of relief knowing it’s not who I am anymore and instead can say I’m doing everything I can now to rectify my past and be a better person. In light of that, I highly recommend this movie and hope when awards season comes around that it may get recognized with a few nominations, as it definitely is one that well-deserves it, especially for Lopez and Wu.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“The Farewell”, An Emotionally Heartstring Pulling Movie About Keeping A Painful Secret At All Costs

Could you keep a secret at all costs from a family member or some other loved one from your life who was diagnosed with a terminal disease but didn’t know? That’s the very premise of a very emotionally heartstring pulling movie titled “The Farewell” starring Awkwafina as Billi and written and directed by Lulu Wang.

The film begins with Billi living her life far away from her roots in China in downtown New York City when she receives a phone call from her grandmother, who she affectionately refers to as her Nai Nai (played by Shuzhen Zhao). It’s obvious how close the two of them are, even though they haven’t seen each other in person in a long while. That’s all about to change though when Billi discovers from her parents, who actually brought Billi from Changchun, China some 25 years ago to America, that her Nai Nai has stage 4 lung cancer and has been given less than three months to live. Due to a Chinese tradition, the family has opted not to tell Nai Nai the truth about her health and instead decide to carry the burden for her. Chinese culture believes it’s far better for the person who’s diagnosed not to know, as it tends to make their remaining days on Earth far more positive. Nevertheless, everyone from Nai Nai’s family is in on the secret except for her of course and a wedding has been quickly arranged to bring the whole clan together under a much more hopeful pretense rather than a saddened one. Unfortunately, Billi is asked not to go by her parents because they don’t think she can keep the secret, yet Billi is determined to go anyway. Can Billi ultimately hide her sadness and spend a few of her Nai Nai’s remaining days connecting as they always do? That indeed becomes Billi’s greatest dilemma and hardest challenge she’s had to face in her life yet.

Watching this movie made me realize just how different Chinese culture is from our own. Here in America, the idea of keeping a terminal cancer diagnosis from the patient themselves seems utterly preposterous. Yet, in Asian culture, not knowing about a terminal diagnosis has actually proven to have beneficial effects on the patient, and in some cases led to much longer times of survival. I get that completely, as I can absolutely promise you that if I was diagnosed with a terminal illness and told I had very little time left, I’d probably just give up and crawl into my shell until I moved on from this plane of existence. On some level, that’s precisely why I don’t go to doctors anymore, because the news they always gave me did nothing but make me depressed and leave me with very little room for hope. That’s why I’ve lived with chronic pain for so long without doctor intervention because my hope has absolutely superseded what doctors first told me years ago.

Regardless, I’m not sure if I could keep a secret from say my partner Chris if his family suddenly told me they knew he had a terminal disease, but he didn’t. It’s not that my words would break the secret and bring the truth out though. It’s more like I don’t think I could hide the pain of it from my face or stifle the tears. I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, which is precisely the battle Billi faces throughout the film.

“The Farewell” is mostly spent in subtitles and truly explores Eastern culture in a way that felt extremely genuine. It really helped me to understand just how different the Chinese-American culture is from the Chinese culture itself and kudos to Lulu Wang for creating such an authentic film on every level. There wasn’t a single moment where I felt like I was watching people acting, as more so it was as if I was watching the tragic events of a terrible diagnosis unfold before my eyes with a closely-knit family who truly loves and supports each other in ways I’m not sure I ever could. I fully expect this movie will garner a few awards season nominations when it arrives and I definitely give it five stars.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where I find gratitude in my life to focus on and start my week off on a positive note, which for today is for Kodi Lee, a blind and autistic contestant on this year’s America’s Got Talent who is incredibly inspiring and gifted beyond belief.

I’ve been watching America’s Got Talent now for about 7 years and usually find myself looking forward to the beginning of summer each year, as that’s when a new season always begins for the show. It’s the only reality type of show I continue to watch and that’s because I enjoy being inspired by the many ways people in this world are gifted with some type of unique talent.

While America’s Got Talent has definitely highlighted plenty of that, it also occasionally places negative emphasis on acts that are either downright ridiculous with people doing silly things to get their few minutes of fame or people who in their own right mind feel they are talented, but in this show’s standards, are really not. So, when the final act of the first episode of the season began, with a guy being led out on stage by his mother, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Frankly, I probably thought what a lot of people did at that moment, which was wondering what kind of talent a 22-year-old guy who was blind and autistic could actually have. After all, he really wasn’t able to effectively communicate to the judges when asked questions before his act began, other than offering one-or-two-word answers, and he constantly was rocking back and forth like many who are autistic.

Nevertheless, his mother explained Kodi was going to play the piano and sing for everyone, as that was his greatest passion. After sitting down and playing a few random keys on the piano that sort of reminded me of what a little kid might do the first time they placed their hands on an instrument, I found myself feeling a little nervous as I didn’t want the audience to boo this guy or give him any bit of negative energy. Sadly, there have been many times this does happen on America’s Got Talent, which honestly, is probably the one thing I don’t like about the show, because anyone stepping foot on a stage in front of several thousand people is quite a feat in itself, but trying to demonstrate a talent they really believe in themselves is far more of a feat.

So, as Kodi began to play, my heart fluttered somewhat in fear for him, that was until he started singing. Immediately, my jaw dropped and tears proceeded to fall from my eyes. The way Kodi played on those piano keys and the way his voice soothed my soul, words couldn’t ultimately describe what I was feeling in my heart. All I know is that I felt the presence of God during his two or so minute performance and it was then that I realized that no matter how bad my life and my health may be, that God has a specific talent within us all that is meant to inspire others somehow.

Kodi Lee’s talent is something I find myself weeks later still thinking about. How can someone who is blind and autistic be so darn amazing! I have never in seven years of watching America’s Got Talent, EVER SEEN SUCH A GIFT in someone with such limitations in life! When Kodi got the season’s first golden buzzer, which guarantees him a live show appearance, I pretty much became a blubbering idiot and was kind of glad I was watching it alone. My partner Chris, who had watched it already earlier that evening had told me it was one of the best episodes he’s ever watched and I honestly didn’t know why he said that, that was until Kodi’s performance.

It’s pretty easy in this world to overlook someone like Kodi Lee and count them out before they even get a chance to prove themselves. Given he doesn’t have that Hollywood look or persona, one could pass Kodi on the streets and feel sorry for him just by what they see. But Kodi reminded me of why all of us should NEVER, EVER, focus on what we see with our eyes, and instead look to what’s beneath all that. Because beneath Kodi’s exterior is a piece of God that just inspired millions and millions of people in a way, that only God could make happen in my humble opinion.

I’m truly grateful for Kodi Lee and his incredible talent and will most certainly be rooting for him to win this season now. He single-handedly gave me enough inspiration to keep going and never count myself out, no matter how much my body and health continues to be riddled in pain and anguish. Because maybe, just maybe, I have a talent within me too, even in my current unfortunate circumstances of life, that one day will inspire many others as well, just like blind and autistic 22-year-old Kodi Lee is doing right now on America’s Got Talent Season 14…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Rocketman”, An Elton John Biopic That Totally Changed My Tune About The Man And His Music

I really have never been much into Elton John’s music, even though he is a great singer and song artist, as his style and genre just hasn’t ever been my cup of tea so to speak. But that being said, it’s funny how a movie can change all that and create a profound appreciation for someone that was never there before. After catching an early release of “Rocketman”, a biopic about Elton John’s life, starring Taron Egerton as the famed musician, I suddenly find myself seeing him and his music in a totally different light.

For years, I overlooked this man who screamed flamboyancy and the words “pay attention to me” in any appearance I ever saw him in. On some level for me, it was always a turn off and probably a big reason why I avoided listening to his music more than not. Yet, after watching “Rocketman”, I now understand a lot more about why he became such a showy person. And truth be told, by the end of the movie, I saw myself in his very shoes.

Having grown up in a household where he was neglected, unloved, and unappreciated by both his mother and father, and spending years of his life deep in the closet, Elton John created a stage persona that was essentially a chameleon-like response solely in an attempt to erase that painfulness of his childhood. Sadly, I know all too well about becoming a chameleon, as I did it myself between the ages of 17 to 37. Nevertheless, no matter how deep Elton John tried to hide himself behind his own fabricated stripes, a dedicated friend and songwriter, Bernie Taupin, played so incredibly well by Jamie Bell, consistently stuck by his side, even when the talented singer was at his worst. Taupin reminded me much of my best friend Cedric who too remained by my side through thick and thin through all my addiction-fueled years.

And speaking of addiction-fueled years, besides being something I saw I had in common with Elton John, “Rocketman” did an amazing job portraying the sad plight of a fallen addict. You see, the more Elton John tried to suppress his pain and his past behind his extravagant stage persona and chameleon-like stripes, the harder his partying became and the greater his blackouts grew, until he finally realized one day he couldn’t run from it anymore. Deep down, like so many other addicts eventually discover, he saw he couldn’t run from the pain anymore and understood he was going to die from it until he faced it head on.

Thankfully, Elton John did just that and found sobriety in his own life, having over 28 years of sobriety now from alcohol and drugs, which in of itself is an incredible achievement I never knew about him. Maybe that’s exactly why my tune has now changed of a man who I once constantly shrugged my shoulders towards each time I saw him sport louder and louder outfits and extreme showiness.

While I wouldn’t put “Rocketman” and recent Freddie Mercury Biopic “Bohemiam Rhapsody” in the same league, I can definitely see the similarities between both, in the films themselves, as well as in each of their lives too. Both Mercury and John struggled to like themselves and heal from painful pasts, using plenty of alcohol and drugs along the way to numb the pain until the pain became great enough. I can so relate to spending years trying to run from pain, all while placing an image out there for others to see that they would like, even though deep down I didn’t like myself at all.

I’m still learning to like myself and heal from my own crazy past, which is why I’m grateful I spent the time watching a movie about someone’s music and life that I never used to appreciate at all. Ultimately, “Rocketman” totally changed my tune of Elton John and his music to one where I admire the man quite deeply now. For someone who faced his biggest hindrance, himself, and fought his way back from darkness to find his own inner light, Elton John is a beautiful soul and “Rocketman” was well worth my time seeing and one I highly recommend…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Arthur”, A PBS Kids Show Under Fire For Depicting A Gay Marriage

Say what?! Mr. Ratburn on the kids tv show “Arthur” is gay and getting married? Oh, the heresy! Well, that’s at least what Alabama Public Television (APT) thought, opting to not air the episode depicting the marriage and instead airing a re-run.

While a number of conservative value-based families from Alabama and beyond praised APT for their decision, many others expressed their disapproval. For example, school teacher Misty Souder from McCalla, Alabama saw the marriage as a celebration of inclusion and was looking forward to watching the episode with her 9-year-old daughter, only to be severely disappointed when she discovered a re-run was aired instead. In response, she reached out to the APT and used the experience to teach her daughter about the importance of speaking out for minority groups.

The statement provided by APT in regards to why they made their decision was that “Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programs that entertain, educate, and inspire. More importantly, although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children and talk about what they have learned afterwards, parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision. We also know that children who are younger than the “target” audience for Arthur also watch the program. Our feeling is that we basically have a trust with parents about our programming. This program doesn’t fit into that.”

Sadly, back in 2005, another episode of “Arthur” came under similar controversy when it depicted the children of two lesbians living in Vermont. Except back then, PBS, who airs “Arthur”, pulled the episode due to how much flack it received, mostly from fundamental Christian groups that said the show was no longer “clean”. Ultimately, the feeling seems to still be the same in regards to this recent gay marriage episode, at least in Alabama, with 48% of those living there agreeing with the decision.

48%! With almost 5 million people living in Alabama, that means that there are at least 2.5 million people there who are still strongly opposed to homosexuality and feel it goes against their spiritual and moral values. In light of that, I began to wonder how many also feel the same way in the rest of our country? Does half of our population still strongly oppose homosexuality and feel it goes against the will of God? Honestly, I’m beginning to feel like our country is going backwards and I often think that at some point, there’s going to be an attempt to abolish gay marriage in our country.

Frankly, all of this makes me quite sad and maybe a little angry too. It’s 2019 for Pete’s sake and our country remains strongly divided on something all because the Bible continues to be thrown at people and judgments placed that God considers homosexuals to be sinners. UGH!

Sometimes I really wish that Christ would just get it over with and return, if only to remind everyone that the two most important “laws” were to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Somehow, far too many people continue to forget that and opt to protest things like a kid’s cartoon that’s showing a gay marriage because it goes against their spiritual beliefs and the God of their understanding.

My feelings about all this? Why can’t people just let people be people. Why can’t we just live and let live for Heaven’s sake! For as long as the Bible continues to be used as a means for judgment and not love, I honestly think our country is going to go in the exact opposite direction as to where the God of my understanding would love to see us headed in.

Sometimes I think we could actually be headed for a Tolitarian society that is Biblical-based and while many fundamentalists may totally cheer the idea of that, others like myself shudder at the notion of living in a country that could become no different than back in Christ’s time when there were so many severe factions and laws, something Christ fought hard to abolish. And if Christ is nothing but unconditional love, are all those judgments that continue to fly out towards homosexuals including decisions like not airing a gay marriage episode because it’s deemed “unclean”, really depicting Christ’s unconditional love at all?

That being said, I profoundly applaud PBS and “Arthur” for creating an episode that showed an act of unconditional love between two male characters, Mr. Ratburn and Patrick. Someday, hopefully I’ll live in a world where people simply love each other and don’t use a spiritual book as a weapon for separation and disunity, rather than one for inclusion and acceptance, as maybe then, people might actually see Mr. Ratburn’s and Patrick’s marriage as something to celebrate and not to denounce.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson