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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Whip It

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

The hard-edged world of women's roller derby provides the setting for the coming-of-age tale "Whip It" (Fox Searchlight). Rather than serving as a forum for feminist self-expression, as first-time director Drew Barrymore seems to intend, the rough and tumble of the showcased competition—with its skimpy outfits and bruising smackdowns calculated to delight boorish male fans—comes across as more exploitative than empowering.

Throwing herself into this ostensibly liberating underground sport is restless small-town Texas high school student Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page). Since her strong-willed, socially ambitious mother Brooke's (Marcia Gay Harden) fondest wish for Bliss is that she become the queen of the local beauty pageant circuit, Bliss carefully conceals her new enthusiasm both from Mom and from her amiable but henpecked father Earl (Daniel Stern).

With the support of her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat), and despite not having skated since she was a little girl, Bliss gains a spot on an Austin-based team known as the Hurl Scouts, becoming the protege of their captain, Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig). As her skills improve and her star rises, Bliss—who now goes by the moniker Babe Ruthless— discovers romance, falling for derby fan and local rock singer Oliver (Landon Pigg) whom she meets at one of the Scouts' matches.

Barrymore's genre-blending debut—partly a sports drama and a romantic comedy as well as a chronicle of teen maturation—in which she plays Smashley Simpson, another of Bliss' colorfully nicknamed teammates, is buoyed by heartfelt performances from its principals.

But, though Shauna Cross' script, adapted from her own novel of the same title, has Bliss grapple with the negative consequences of premature freedom—and come to a better appreciation of her parents—it also, at least partially, glamorizes her irresponsible sexual experimentation.

The film contains nongraphic nonmarital underage sexual activity, brief partial nudity, underage drinking, occasional irreverence, a few uses of profanity, some sexual humor and references, about a dozen crude terms and much crass language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

______________________________
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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