Beauty and the Beast

Honestly, I was kind of excited to see the new live action Beauty and the Beast. Like some people my age, I grew up on Disney and Dreamworks films. I knew many of the popular songs by heart and The Lion King was one of the first movies I remember watching. I would daydream of going to Disneyland or Disneyworld and while I don’t think she’s perfect, I love the idea of Emma Watson as Belle.

But there’s a part of the movie that I feel conflicted about: LeFou being gay. Because of this tiny subplot, there’s an Alabama theater not showing the film, Russia has banned those under 16 from seeing it, and Malaysian censors requesting that the tiny scene showing him dancing with another man, all of which makes me want to see it just to spite them. And from what I hear, this subplot is one of the tiniest points in the entire film.

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The Hunger Games.

I know I’m several years late to the game (pun intended) but a few weeks ago, I finished all the books and two of movies from The Hunger Games series. I had been peripherally involved in the fanfare of the series when the movies first started coming out through a few good friends but it took finding used copies of the books to really spark my interest in the girl on fire (pun yet again intended).

For those who don’t know, the series takes place in a dystopian future in which North America is now separated into thirteen districts and ruled by a Capitol. A savage rebellion and war between the Capitol and districts tore apart the country, now known at Panem, 74 years earlier and as a reminder for the surviving districts’ failure (as the thirteenth had been destroyed), The Hunger Games were born. The games take place once a year and each district is required to pick one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 18 to literally fight to the death. The 24 tributes, as they’re referred to, are sent to an arena in which only one can leave and thus, becoming a tribute is almost certainly a death sentence.

But when Katniss Everdeen volunteers in place of her younger sister, everything changes. She manages to unwittingly play the Capitol at their own game by getting her and the other tribute from her district to both be declared victors and accidentally starts a revolution in the process. The books and subsequent movies follow from the start of Katniss being chosen for the games to the war and rebellion against the Capitol to the eventual win and rebuilding of the country.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

I just recently finished the eighth and latest story in the Harry Potter universe – Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. Being a huge Harry Potter fan, I was really excited to hear about the play and the recently published script because I was so excited to see where the story picked up nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts. But honestly, I ended up being a little disappointed in the story.

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Learning More.

I think that any sort of ally behavior should include continuous learning and listening to marginalized people when they speak. A part of this is also not insisting that marginalized people speak on demand or educate us on the issues because one, it is centering us and our understanding in the conversation rather than other people and two, other people are not and should not be responsible for our education.

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The way we learn history.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way we learn and understand history – in part because of my own love for the Broadway hit musical Hamilton. That musical has taken the life of the first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, turned it into a popular hip hop musical, and made learning about the founding fathers of the United States a little less boring. (Unless you’re a part of the founding fathers fandom, which is in fact an actual thing on the internet and includes romantic shipping of historical figures.) But at the same time, the show hasn’t told the full story and has spun some of the facts into a more dramatic retelling.

Hamilton has skyrocketed into mainstream popularity, received awards and praise, and has gained a sizeable and dedicated following. People show up in droves to watch the live #Ham4Ham mini shows during the ticket lottery in New York City and a book was created to show behind the scenes of both the show and creation. But not everyone has been praising the production and that’s a good thing.

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Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.


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Bad Feminist was my first real introduction to Roxane Gay’s writing and it was an incredibly wonderful start to this amazing writer. Gay comes to the table in this book as a contradictory and complex person – she openly embraces the fact that she contains multitudes and this shows in a remarkable way. She writes about Scrabble competitions in one essay and misogyny in another, all with a sense of vulnerability and understanding that really speaks to her as a person and society in general.

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We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

tumblr_nj7gv0Pcra1qd9a66o1_1280Today, I read and watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay and TEDx Talk We Should All Be Feminists. And honestly, there is so much that I love about this essay – Adichie does a really wonderful job of defending the label of feminist and how gender needs to be considered when thinking about inequality. (Although, there are some flaws.) Her TEDx Talk is below and you can buy the adapted essay here. In this post though, I’ll be focusing on reviewing the adapted essay.

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Fictional Villains.

I probably spend too much time thinking about fictional villains. Mostly I think about why villains talk so much when they could just do the things and maybe win?! I also think about the villains and anti heroes that are loved in their own ways and what makes a well written villain.

 

Some of the things that really makes a villain great are the complexity of their character, the background to their story, the reasons for what they do. (As the quote next to this says, every villain is a hero in [their] own mind and when that shows? It can make the character really great.) Lauren Martin wrote about some of the reasons as to why this generation is obsessed with the anti-hero and the villain, including that these characters can be flawed and complex in ways that heroes might not be. Sophia Jacobbs wrote about how Loki has gained such a following, despite frequently being the villain.

This is mostly related but also off topic but something I’ve always wondered is why do villains seem to talk so much (and ultimately ruin their plan)? I mean look at Voldemort at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It would have been so easy to be like “bam Harry Potter is dead and I win”. But no. He just has to talk to the returned Death Eaters and then challenge a 14 year old boy to a duel.

I mean I can see the appeal – you’re an evil powerful wizard who managed to terrify most of the wizarding world and Harry’s a tiny little wizard with like, no training. But still. Voldemort could have so easily won in book four AND Harry managed to beat him all the way back when Harry was just a baby so to be completely honest, I don’t know what Voldey was thinking. Also I’m not the only one to think about the ways in which Voldemort could have totally won throughout the books but didn’t.

At one point, Dr. Horrible in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog does the same thing – he announces one of his plans on his blog and is thwarted by his nemesis Captain Hammer because (you guessed it!) he announced what he was going to do pretty much to the entire world. (Okay so he announced it on the internet which is basically the same thing.)

The Nerdpocalypse also wondered about why villains talk so much about their master plans (and how that can be their downfall) and wrote that:

…why would a super villain share their plan with their rival before (or after) it is completed? In truth it is because whether or not they’d like to admit it the hero is the closest thing the villain has to an equal. To let them die, or for the plan to succeed, without the hero knowing everything that went into it would leave their accomplishment devoid of that acknowledgement.

Maybe I’m spending too much time thinking about villains that don’t exist outside of movies, books, or television shows. And I still have many more questions about villains but for now, I’ll leave it at that.

The Bechdel Test and Every Single Word.

There have been several projects and tests that have called out the lack of diversity and general problems that Hollywood has in regards to representing anyone other than a cishet white male. Hollywood has an undeniable diversity and representation problem and the problem seems to at the very least start at the top. I think it’s unbelievably important for us to be critical of the mainstream media that so many consume on a regular basis, especially along the lines of a lack of representation towards race/ethnicity and gender.

Dykes_to_Watch_Out_For_(Bechdel_test_origin)The Bechdel Test, for example, first started in 1985 and named after the cartoonist Alison Bechdel whose comic the rules first appeared. The Geek Feminism Wiki highlighted the rules for the test (taken more or less straight from the comic itself), saying that the requirements were:

  1. the movie [media] has at least two women characters;
  2. who talk to each other;
  3. about something other than a man.

And the test is more important than you might realize. Charlie Jane Anders wrote about the importance of the test over at io9, saying among many things that while the test is not fool proof, it does force many to think why so many films would fail such a low bar in regards to representing women.

Additionally, Dylan Marron, a New York based actor, has recently been working on a project titled Every Single Word, which has been a compilation of movies edited down to just the words spoken by people of color. He’s covered many mainstream videos like Birdman, Juno, the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy (which fit into one 46 second video), Into the Woods (which was silent…), and many many more.

The videos highlight how few words are actually said by people of color in big/mainstream movies and the race problem in Hollywood. And the project highlights the dynamics behind a study done by UCLA a few years ago, which found that minorities and women are underrepresented (compared to actual demographics in the US) both in front of and behind the camera.

It’s both interesting and extremely disappointing that so many mainstream movies and television shows fail to have any sort of representation. The new reboot of Doctor Who started off strong in regards to passing the Bechdel test for the first couple seasons but once Stephen Moffat took over as showrunner, the show began to do significantly worse.

Whovian Feminism wrote about the problem between the first few seasons and the last few as far as the Bechdel Test and also addresses the fact that this test is not a measure of feminism but a measure of female presence within a medium and not talking about a man. And fan artists of the Harry Potter series have also helped many to reimagine the characters other than the default white that took over the movies.

Race and gender are not the only identities that Hollywood fails to address – there are so many other problematic issues that Hollywood and mainstream media needs to address. I am happy to see things like the Bechdel Test and Every Single Word addressing the problems, particularly in such blatant ways.