Caution! Contains spoilers for both “Yuri!!! On Ice” and “Rogue One.”
Neo-Nazis. White supremacists. Misogynists. Hate crimes. Removal of basic human rights. Threats of violence and war. The Empire. After slowly seething beneath the surface for years (decades? centuries?), humanity’s worst elements have risen from their ugliest depths and burst forth again in 2016, unleashing wave after wave of fear, aggression, pain, and darkness. So many people feared for their safety on November 9th, and so many continue to do so, eyeing January 20th as a herald to a mass existential and physical cataclysm. Frankly, given the heavy-handed nature of proposed policies and elements of the platform, it should come as no surprise that the incoming administration and its very questionable head have been linked to the Dark Side and Emperor Palpatine. The insidious figures of hate have now seized power and threaten the very best and most necessary of what the United States has to offer. If you’ll forgive the obvious metaphor, the Death Star looms above, with populations below terrified at the prospect of its use.
And yesterday, I’d gleefully hopped in the car and headed to Alamo Drafthouse, anticipating a movie packed with FUCK YEAH rebellion and a blazing sunset powered by FUCK YEAH hope and FUCK YEAH victory. Sure, we know how it ends, thanks to “A New Hope,” but I was excited to see a woman drive a movement to fight tyranny. My faith in humanity parched, I’d been desperately seeking representations of goodness, truth, integrity, and courage in the world. “Rogue One” was going to be it. Except it wasn’t, at least not entirely. Sure, Jyn was the woman I was looking for (*rim shot*), but the end punched me in the heart. Hard. I needed to see the human manifestation of rebellion survive, and she didn’t. Instead of flying off into a blazing sunset, she and her partner were consumed in a blazing horror from the heavens. Her sacrifice ultimately saved the lives of millions, but because of my own emotional fragility, I needed her to make it. This beacon of of FUCK YEAH hope was going to help rekindle my waning trust in others, and instead it was snuffed out with terrifying ruthlessness.
From a writer’s perspective, I understand why “Rogue One” mains couldn’t live through the story. It wouldn’t make sense for the heroes of the day to be conspicuously absent from the rebel movements in “A New Hope,” and assuming the weight of their success, they would have most certainly been assigned to the assault on the Death Star. So yeah. It pretty much had to happen, if the powers that be were to create a stand-alone film that also successfully blended into the Star Wars universe. I get it. And the creators executed the storyline with such elegance and mastery that the film is worth of the massive praise it’s currently receiving. But it wasn’t the film I needed
Josh and I left the Drafthouse in the same car but in two very different places. For him, the genius of “Rogue One” uplifted him so, relieving him of stresses and pains he hadn’t been able to shake for weeks. For me, Jyn’s death punched me in the heart with such unexpected cruelty because I was desperately hoping for a strong woman who fought against something greater than herself and lived to see another day. That’s who I want to be, and I need to see other women do that. My latest depressive episode was crippling, to the point where I couldn’t function for days at a time, and the darkness called out to suicidal ideations. I had to have a model of a woman who could resist, rebel, and, at the very least, survive. And that didn’t happen.
I didn’t get the individual representation of hope that I craved, and I crawled into bed, crying for lack of understanding. I wept and told Josh that I don’t know how to have faith or hope anymore, that I felt like the world’s biggest fraud; for someone who claims that Christ is her bedrock, I was depending on a movie to give me a taste of that life-giving stuff again. No goodness, no truth, no beauty, and the barrenness of the world around me was closing in.
Then, Yuri took his turn on the ice.
I watched the season one finale last night with friends, and we squeed and screamed and laughed and cried. The purity of the story had us begging for more, and we beseeched the TV to show us more clearly Victor and Yuri’s love for one another. Both the show itself and the time with friends improved my mood and allowed my heart to rest. And this afternoon, I listened to the soundtrack while walking to the mailbox, captivated by the music and reminiscing about my favorite moments in the series. Suddenly, as I was lost in a crescendo of musical grace, Yuri’s self-discovery and sincerity and the skaters’ open hearts flipped the switch, and I started to cry in the parking lot. I was dumbstruck.
THERE. There it was, and there it had been this whole time.
These two young men, falling in love more and more as the days passed, growing with and in each other, finding the best of themselves through their togetherness: that was the representation I didn’t know I’d been yearning for. I’m so grateful because I had been seeking something besides the actual root of healing, and “Yuri!!! On Ice” took me by the chin and turned my face to one of the most tender and beautiful depictions of love that I’ve ever seen. GOD. THAT was it. I laughed as tears slipped down my cheeks; the revelation was both instantaneous and almost absurdly simple. I needed that.
Thing is, I have all the love I could ever want in Christ, in Josh, in my friends and family, and I’m so thankful for that. I have an abundance of fortune when it comes to love from others, and I know it. But I lacked sight of that love expressed outside my own existence, and today I finally found it staring me in the face, as earnestly as Yuri and Victor stared at one another rink-side.
What’s more, the characters’ love speak to the devotion poured into the anime by its creators: the writers, actors, studio crew, musicians, and production staff. These artists invested in a work that speaks to beauty, honesty, bravery, and vulnerability, and I realized that their efforts highlight a larger reality; creators across the globe communicate this same ambrosia of the human soul. The expressions of FUCK YEAH hope and FUCK YEAH victory may not be legion, but the quiet voices sharing love are. We just have to keep our hearts open, let them come in, especially since many pour in from discrete and gentle spaces.
My steps forward will be based in this movement, one that does its best to exude grace and mercy. If I can keep my heart focused on the kind of oneness so truthfully manifested in Yuri and Victor, as well as the fact that so many others generously articulate the same, then I have my external source of love and hope and faith. Instead of losing my grip, I can hold onto what God has already given me and multiply it, handing over the total to those in especial need. Shared expression of this love will be my path to strong womanhood, my fight against something larger and more sinister, and my assurance that I’ll live to see the next day that I’ve been given.
Throughout this latest descent into darkness, others told me to look for the good, and I despaired at its absence. At last, thanks to “Yuri!!! On Ice,” it’s shown itself in the greatest and most steadfast truth; love wins.