A new documentary asks: Who killed Bishop Juan Gerardi?

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

‘The Art of Political Murder,’ produced by George Clooney, is now streaming on HBO. There is a lot of blood. Blood on the concrete next to the car. Blood on the chunk of concrete used to bludgeon his head. Blood on the cloth covering his body. And then there’s the blood on the hands of the people who murdered bishop and parish priest Juan José Gerardi Conedera. In Guatemala in the 1960s and ’70s, Gerardi was bishop of Verapaz and Quiché. He became auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Guatemala in 1984. He was an outspoken human rights activist working for official acceptance of indigenous languages and the improved status of Mayan peoples. He openly criticized the military’s violence against … Read More

The Christmas Card From Strangers

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, EssaysLeave a Comment

This December week, I received precisely one dozen Christmas cards. They’ve been collecting day by day in the garage, slowly shedding their potential viral load  out there next to the band saw.  I have a large family, and the holiday letters and annual summaries typically numbered many more times that. But this is the social media age, and one of the treasures of that technology is that I do not see my cousins once a year on a flat Kodak card but weekly in Facebook and Instagram. I watch their children and grandchildren grow in increments rather than suffer the shock that yearly photos from afar can deliver of seeing a child I remember as a toddler suddenly appear six … Read More

Netflix’s ‘Hollywood’ asks if media could have changed the status quo

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

Would the world really look different with better media representation? What if way back in 1947 Hollywood had produced films by Black screenwriters featuring gay actors for studios run by women? Would the world look different today? The Netflix series Hollywood (2020) positions itself to address this question then doesn’t quite get around to confronting it. Regardless, it’s intriguing ground to cover, however incompletely, and if the thought-provoking discussion doesn’t happen on screen, it might still happen in living rooms after the credits roll. The series weaves imagined stories of celebrities such as Rock Hudson, Anna May Wong, and Hattie McDaniel into an alternative, fantasy history that suggests racism, sexism, and homophobia might have been neatly sidestepped had the film industry just … Read More

Writing on the table

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, Milwaukee WeddingsLeave a Comment

Come the holidays, I feed a lot of people. I have five sisters, they went out and got five husbands, the begatting began, those kiddos grew up and brought home new people, and soon we needed a valet to park the cars for a family dinner.  I order two birds and a breast, set up a turkey roaster on the mudroom bench, and buy so many pounds of potatoes that the grocery bagger helps me schlep them to the car. I move the buffet out of the dining room, tie up the chandelier so it doesn’t bonk people on the head, and scour the house for every available chair. My grandmother’s table takes five leaves and seats 12 if I … Read More

‘Spinning Out’ unmasks the lived experience of mental illness

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

This Netflix drama sparks meaningful conversations about family life. Behind the scenes in competitive ice skating, all is not sequins and sweetness in Netflix’s one-season wonder, Spinning Out. The series is compelling for unexpected reasons, and it takes uncommon risks in tackling a verboten topic. Spinning Out sidesteps the glamour of the Winter Olympics fan-favorite competitions and fixes its gaze on the fact that these girls and young women are accomplished, elite athletes—and they didn’t get there by humming “Swan Lake” and wearing cute leotards. There are sweaty workouts and demanding drills from coaches, crack-of-dawn ice times in chilly arenas, and backstabbing mothers gossiping in the bleachers. Skaters fret about injuring tendons, bruising bones, and recovering from terrifying falls. The … Read More

A new PBS documentary gives us a rare look inside the Vatican

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

‘Inside the Vatican’ premieres Tuesday, April 28 on PBS Next week, PBS releases a new documentary of the Vatican offering tantalizing peeks into spaces no tourist can access and revealing the everyday work life for some of the 2,600 people working in the independent city-state. Filmed during Pope Francis’s fifth year, “Inside the Vatican” is loosely structured around the church calendar and important events: Easter, a papal visit to Ireland, installing new cardinals, preparing for Christmas. It feels a bit like three documentaries: one of workers and who make the Vatican run, one of the clerical leadership, and a closing—and hopeful— section on the sex scandals inside the church. It’s an espresso-tinged steep in Italian culture (The sculptures! The paintings! … Read More

We are asking the wrong questions about Domestic Violence

Pamela Hill NettletonEssays, Star TribuneLeave a Comment

Focus needs to shift from the victim to the abuser. When it comes to domestic violence, we ask the wrong question: “Why does she stay?” We ought to ask: “Why does he hit?” In media coverage of domestic violence, in social media conversations about intimate partner violence, and when we as individuals try to think through why tragedies like the Nov. 24 Schladetzky familicide in Minneapolis occur, the focus too frequently turns to what part the victim played in attracting violence. Our conversations rarely ask why men abuse women. In an attempt to be helpful, we offer information about how women can leave abusive men or where the local shelters are located. But there are no messages for men about … Read More

In ‘Tales of the City,’ A Netflix Reboot that Celebrates our Differences

Pamela Hill NettletonEssays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

This miniseries will change how you see the world. When you turn on the television, the people you see may look like you. But if they don’t, you may feel invisible to the very culture in which you live.  The most powerful tasks media perform are to show us ourselves, show us one another, and show us how others see us. For example, most Christian Americans were taught what the Crusades were about—which side was honorable, which side was godless. I recently edited a military history novel, Brotherhood of the Mamluks (The Sager Group) by former Marine Brad Graft, about a disillusioned crusader who switched sides to fight with Muslims. That uncommon perspective changes how you see the world working—just … Read More

Perspective: Engaged, at Your Age?

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, Milwaukee WeddingsLeave a Comment

An older newlywed shares what it’s like to walk down the aisle when you’re in your 50s, 60s or beyond. Saying “I do” is gutsy at any age, but when that age also qualifies you for an AARP card, it’s downright heroic. Senior newlyweds understand what those vows really mean, having lived through the better and worse bits a time or two already. When a 25-year-old promises to hang in there in sickness and in health, he’s probably imagining heading to Costco for Nyquil when his partner gets a cold. But when a 55-year-old speaks those same words, he knows whereof he speaks. He’s hauled kiddos to the ER in the middle of the night, done laundry for 24 hours … Read More