Aug 13, 2023Liked by Jake Marquez and Maren Morgan

THANK YOU for this. Seriously. Brilliant insights. I haven’t seen either movie, but have felt extremely skeptical and put-off over the hype of Barbie, despite so many people trying to convince me otherwise. This was extremely refreshing and relateable.

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Aug 21, 2023Liked by Jake Marquez and Maren Morgan

I also very much want for people to be conscious while watching these movies. I feel frustrated by the reaction at large to consume rather than contemplate (a reaction I find present in myself as well). I agree that change can only come from changed minds, and a shift in consciousness won’t happen unless people are indeed confronted by the realities of the world.

From my perspective, there seems to be a gap somewhere between being complacent and unthinking, becoming unblinded to the mollification of consumerism and entertainment, and actually being able to confront and accept this reality and our own responsibility. Yes, it is necessary for the bars of our cage to be pointed out to us (regardless of whether they are made out of amusement and pleasure or external oppressions), but I think there is already a knowing in all of us that the bars are there, and even a gentle reminder can be more than uncomfortable, it might be unbearable. This isn’t weakness or something to be ashamed of, we simply do not have the capacity to hold that reminder in the forefront of our minds alone.

I would like to add to this well crafted and thoughtful essay by acknowledging that the numbness, passivity, and even denial present in us are perhaps deserving of appreciation. Our psyches were not designed to contain such large scale and abstract griefs of the world. We are not suited for the intake and processing of a bombardment of constant catastrophe happening both in our immediate worlds and at a global level. On our own, we cannot confront this. Numbness becomes a sort of lifesaving process.

Our culture is not set up for the processing of grief in any effective way. Feeling these “negative” emotions of sorrow, outrage, and heartbreak is a hidden affair. We tend to only let these emotions surface when we are alone, hidden. And even then, they’ve likely taken us by surprise and surfaced on their own and the common reaction is to stuff them deep back down.

I have so much compassion for all of us who are numb. I hope for us all to not feel any shame in our responses. Don’t judge yourself if you go numb, but ask yourself… what do you need in order to turn into it rather than away?

We need the support of a village. Grief is communal. It is not meant to be a private affair. We need to collaborate together in creating holding spaces for grief and healing to emerge. Without this container, how could we even begin to be fully present with the reality of our own imprisonment and participation in consumerism, corporatism, and consumption?

What does this container look like? There is no one right way. I think it needs to be spontaneous, not prescribed. A present, raw response from which authentic communal grieving emerges, specific to the needs and feeling of any one place and the beings present.

I understand grief is often perceived as a negative experience, perhaps even unhelpful or something that just gets in our way or slows us down from ‘progress’ or ‘improvement.’ I might come off as a Debbie downer to some by suggesting it is absolutely imperative to establish a healthy relationship with sorrow. I invite you to consider a different perspective: to grieve is to be alive. It enhances vitality. Grief is not just tears. It is a door to a soul reawakened and to showing up. As Francis Weller has said, “grief is also outrage. It is protest. It is an adamant refusal to allow things to proceed as they are.” It is also a gateway to feeling again… deep joy, reverence, gratitude… to becoming more human again.

It is the broken heart that will be big enough to generate the courage necessary for making a difference. Let us find compassion and patience for ourselves and others as we enter into this period of cosmic inhale, darkness (not meant in a negative sense), decay, and unknown. “I don’t think we’re going to figure this out way out of this one. But I do think we can sit together quietly in the dark and become receptive to some new imagination… we must learn how to sit in the dark together and not heroically try to “figure it out,” but to become patient enough to listen to the dreaming earth. What if the earth is a dreaming creature? We need to slow down enough to practice that togetherness.”

I have so much love for you all.

Thank you Maren and Jake for your dedication to being present, feeling, and inviting us all to join in thinking critically about the world and culture at large. I am inspired again and again by you both and I appreciate the many opportunities offered to challenge my perspectives and process feelings stimulated by your work.




P.S. I feel compelled to offer this word of caution: processing grief is not just a step to take in some walk of ‘self-improvement’. It’s not some prerequisite to creating ‘solutions.’ More than an emotion, it is a faculty that we need to become skilled in and exercise throughout our journies. This is not a box to check and move on from.

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Aug 13, 2023Liked by Jake Marquez and Maren Morgan

Wow! What a read and what a writer. I subscribed today to simply share my appreciation.

You hit so many points that I have pondered yet have never spoke aloud. Why? As I too get painted as a 'Debbie Downer', rather than a conscious human being, who is aware of the mass conditioning that happens with big-hitter films like these.

I worked for Disney/Pixar in early adulthood and you are spot on with how these companies approach adverts/films/products. Every meeting or conversation, their potential audience are only labelled as consumers and 'humanity' is only referenced when speaking of psychology and how to manipulate people to buy more. Thankfully I didn't stay there for long, but heck was it an eye opener.

The length of this article and the many angles you chose to critique these films is impressive - I look forward to reading more! I also have a couple books to add to my reading list :) Thank you, Maren.

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You’re intuitions are correct sadly, the ‘Disney (Marvel) Consumer Products’ team, Hasbro and the film writers work hand in hand to ensure the products are included and manufactured ready for launch. It’s all constructed together. I giggle now at my naivety, yet I used to suggest sustainable practices (20 years ago) yet I was told ‘you need to play the game to survive here’, I left.

I refused to watch the Barbie film (all Disney films) as I knew what was coming. Plus with every view it gives them the green light to say in meetings...’the numbers prove this is what consumers want - let’s make another’ 😩

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Wonderful essay! Very deep analysis and comments! I marvel at you young “whippersnappers” for your depth of analysis and feeling. When I was in my twenties I had two kids and was in the depths of a deep depression. It took me decades to surface and find a pathway forward for myself, let alone think about or care about the world or culture or anything existential.

I’m in my 60s now and just starting, really, to explore the wider world of cultural upheaval and my place in the process. But I am nowhere near the depth of thought that you have on all this. I can recognize it though and that counts for something.

I stumbled upon Death in the Garden podcast while looking for information about diet and nutrition. I really enjoyed your interview with Nina Teicholz and that led me to searching your podcast for other people of interest. There, lo and behold, was your interview with Paul Kingsnorth, who is one of my favorite voices these days!

I get a feeling of almost panic at Paul’s reflections on “The Machine “ and what I can do as an individual to not contribute to it; ways that I can separate myself and be in the world but not of the world.

Pretty soon I’m going to be attending the Taylor Swift movie at an IMAX theatre. My 38 year old daughter invited me. She’s a “swiftie” who went through agonies to get tickets to the ERAs tour last year. She made an elaborate costume to wear to the concert and traveled with a friend to the city where she attended the concert and posted many Instagram videos and pictures. Now she wants me to listen to and memorize a few of Taylor Swift’s songs for this IMAX experience so that I will “know what’s going on” and be able to sing along!

I know this is all fun and enjoyable. Who doesn’t want to have fun? Isn’t fun a part of life? Am I just an old stick in the mud for not feeling the vibe? What’s wrong with me?

So I listened to the recommended songs and they were good. But I felt a void. Swifts songs are mostly about love and loss. I admire her talent but am left feeling like I just ate 3 snickers bars back to back. I hope I can just let loose when I go to this IMAX experience with my daughter. She’s so excited for me to go.

But in the back of my mind I’m sure I’ll be feeling like “what the hell am I doing here”? Playing in the band while the titanic sinks. Oh well, you can’t live in a perpetual state of alarm. One must let go sometimes and smell the roses or else life is just a slog full of anxiety.

I subscribed to this substack and look forward to exploring it and the podcast. Thanks for all your efforts!

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