Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wasted Wednesday: Thoughts on Shameless Season 4

When Shameless first premiered on Showtime, I hated it.  The show was unnecessarily crude and featured scenarios that I was not comfortable watching.  I'm not sure what made me continue watching but I eventually made it to episode three and by the end, I was hooked.  The third episode of season one brought humanity to these characters and this story that I had not noticed before.  Finally I began to see how well crafted this show was and how ground breaking it was at the same time.  It is among the many shows on premium TV today that are breaking the mold in what television is and will be in the future. 
Watching Shameless on Sunday nights during the winter has become an insanely awesome ritual for me.  I gather some snacks and a drink and venture down into the basement where the big HD family TV is and I am allowed one hour by myself with my favorite TV show.  Every season always captivates me and leaves me begging for more.  Each season has it's own vibe to it yet they always remain completely and utterly the same.  But season four was a lot different than any of the previous seasons.  Shameless the TV show broke the mold and season four seemed to break Shameless's mold.  No longer was I watching the show where a dysfunctional family sticks together through shameless acts and questionable ethics.  Season four depicted a family still acting shameless but drawing apart and it really had me feeling crappy on Sunday nights.  Every time I finished an episode I felt like I had hit a new low.  This isn't a criticism of the season but just a general thing I noticed on a consistent basis. 
This week for Wasted Wednesday I want to talk about my thoughts about season four and how I felt about character development and the overall story.  WARNING, this post WILL contain spoilers from all four seasons.
Let's start out with Frank, our main man.  Frank is the character we all love, even though we hate him.  Because Frank has his moments of redemption that glimmer on the horizon for a few seconds but always burn out and are short lived and if he does do something good, it is usually for his own benefit and not to help others or grow as a person.  But this season was totally different.  At the end of season three, Frank and his oldest son Lip get drunk and afterwards go ice-skating until Frank throws up an enormous amount of blood on the rink.  He is taken to the hospital and told he must change his habits or he will die.  This was a huge twist on the writer's part and also a huge risk.  Putting Frank's life in jeopardy also jeopardizes the show.  This isn't Game of Thrones where a main character can be killed off and still go on.  Frank is the entire basis for this show and provides motivation for the other characters he impacts.  I would be very shocked if they killed him off which is why I found his storyline to be very weak.  As I watched Frank's life deteriorate before my eyes, I knew that somehow a last minute miracle would come and save him and sure enough, it did.  Frank hit a new low this season, manipulating his son for drugs, manipulating his long lost and forgiving daughter to help him (and by the way, Sammi was an awesome addition to the show), and just his physical appearance each episode was enough to make me turn my head from the screen.  Add to the fact that the story line was completely pointless for two reasons.  One is that we know that the show is not going to kill off Frank.  It's too obvious.  They didn't leave me guessing if he was going to live or die.  I knew he would live because while the other characters make the show and all are engaging, Frank drives the show.  Everything these characters do stems from Frank and what he has done, does, and will do.  Secondly, in the finale we see Frank receive a new liver and start up drinking straight away.  He even makes a speech to God saying that he won the battle against the almighty creator as he holds his beer bottle toward the sky as if he is going to throw it into the river but then takes a big gulp and then passes it to his underage son.  I get why the writer's wouldn't want to change Frank as a character but you can't give him such a life evolving storyline and then act like he wouldn't be changed in some way.  It was very weak writing which is usually not the case with this show. 
Next up is oldest daughter Fiona.  Fiona's story was hard to watch this season.  Everything starts out
really well and I was so happy for Fiona.  She had a great job and the Gallagher's were moving up on the poverty level.  But then she went and cheated on her boyfriend with his brother, left drugs out that her baby brother got into and almost died, went to jail but then went to house arrest and then went back to jail after not returning home one night when she felt she couldn't take what the world was throwing at her anymore. But unlike Frank, Fiona's growth was awesome!  She came to the realization that she does have her father gene's and she can't blame him anymore or anyone else.  In the end she has to look to herself.  I was very pleased with how her story ended for the season.
Lip's storyline was awesome as well as his character development.  His story was in my opinion the strongest of the season.  Watching him struggle with college and juggling family crisis and learning to forgive Fiona for what she did and moving on from's a lot of pressure.  And you see a different man sitting on the porch steps of the Gallagher household on the last episode.  The only story that I feel measures up to Lip's is the relationship between Ian and Mickey.  These two have been called the most realistic gay couple on television and I agree 100%.  Shameless bravely took on these two as early as season one!  Their relationship has bloomed since then and both have grown as people and so their relationship grew as well.  Mickey's coming out scene made me cry.  The two actors have a way of casting certain expressions on their faces that doesn't require any dialogue because you can read what they are thinking.  And it isn't just these two.  All of the actors are so incredibly gifted and clearly understand their craft.  I have yet to see a bad actor on the show.
Ian's storyline itself felt a bit forced, especially in the beginning and at the very end.  I guess him
being bipolar like his mother Monica makes sense since Frank isn't his father so we won't be seeing any of those genes.  I like that the show doesn't forget Monica even though she has been gone since season two.  I'm a little nervous to see where Ian goes from here because Monica's storyline really rubs me the wrong way and I find it difficult to watch.  I've grown to love Ian as a character and watching him go through this won't be easy.
Debbie and Carl's both had hard to watch scenes as well.  Debbie drove me up the wall.  I don't think the writer's are at fault because they are perfectly depicting what middle school can be like but watching Debbie having a count down to when she will lose her virginity was frightening.  I miss the old Debs!  I really hope the next season we will see her getting rid of her dumb sex obsessed friends and see her make new friends and meet a boy her age...though I do like Mattie even though he is way too old for her to date.  As for Carl, I found his scenes to be more agreeable which is weird to say.  Carl's storyline has gotten better and better with each season.  In season one he was definitely just a background, trouble maker character that only existed to cause trouble.  But he is now growing up and we see him yearning for a relationship with his father and constantly being let down.  I think the hardest thing to accept with these two is their defiance towards Fiona most of the season.  They completely turn on her which doesn't help her story at all. 
Kev and V had a strong storyline.  I wish there would have been more from them in the finale though.  It seems like the writer's were like, Oh the babies are born and that is all you really care about so now we can forget about them.  They should have been included way more toward the end.  And I guess I should also comment on Sheila's storyline.  Sheila is Sheila.  Joan Cusack was wonderful as always.  She always makes me laugh.  Both of these were different than usual which fit with the direction the writer's took this season. 
The finale episode was by far my favorite of the season.  One thing that made me super happy was seeing Jimmy/Steve...Jack at the very end.  When season three ended, I was convinced he was dead and was happy about it.  I was sick of him and ready for Fiona to move on with her new boyfriend, Mike.  But this season went so far away from what I know to be Shameless that I found I wanted Jimmy/Steve back!  I couldn't believe my own thoughts!  I can't wait to see where his story goes in season five.  The episode was also pretty great.  It was titled "Lazarus" which is referring to a character in the Bible.  The allegory behind this title is incredible.  In Frederick Buechner's book titled Telling the Truth, he talks about this passage in the Bible.  In John 11, Jesus arrives to find that Lazarus is dead and has been dead for four days.  Jesus weeps for Lazarus, his friend.  He weeps not only for losing his friend but for his inability to save him.  The son of God himself who can do all things was unable to save his own friend and so he weeps.  Afterwards, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  In the Shameless season four finale, each of the character's finally gets their happy ending...and I say that very loosely.  This is why this show is so incredible.  Right from the beginning the show starts out great and we are happy for the Gallagher's but then suddenly their family begins to metaphorically die right before our eyes, just as Lazarus died and Jesus could not save him.  But then, they are brought back to life in this final and triumphant episode just as Jesus brings Lazarus back to life.  It is a very moving depiction and a very daring place for the writer's to take the show.  The only complaint I have about the finale is something I already stated which is Frank's terrible speech to God when he drinks beer.  It just seemed to be poor writing and confirmed my superstition that this entire season his story was utterly pointless.  It was just there for the drama of it and Frank became a plot driving device rather than being a character driving force on the show like he usually is.  Overall, different season but strong season.  I hope they go back to their usual format though because I don't know if I can take another gut wrenching season like this one.
I can't wait for season five.  I hate these long premium channel hiatuses!  Waiting until January is going to be terrible! 
Do you watch Shameless?  What did you think of this season?  Did anything stand out to you that I didn't mention?  Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Why Disney Princesses Are Good Role Models, Part 2

In September of 2012, I wrote a blog defending the Disney Princess name.  I was defending them for a number of reasons.  In the blog I talked about society's definition of feminism and why it isn't necessarily a healthy definition and how it applies to the Princesses and their impact on girls.  I then went on to address a blog condemning the Princesses by selecting specific points and proving why these points were essentially invalid arguments to say that these characters are bad role models.  And finally, I stated why each of the Princesses are good role models and their virtues.  If you have not yet read that post, click here.
Well, it is National Princess week and this is as good a time as ever to post a follow up to my first
blog.  Note - although I posted this during National Princess week, the week after I wrote it I had a sudden inspiration so I rewrote much of this piece so it isn't entirely in it's original form.  But it's a whole lot better now so I'm content.  A lot has happened since I wrote Part 1.  Two new Princess movies came out and both attacked the issue of feminism in their own way.  There was also a Princess redesign that sparked a lot of controversy.  This blog post will do accomplish three things.  It will discuss the millennial generation and why the study of this general gives a good look at why people view Disney and their Princesses the way they do.  Next, I will discuss the Princess redesign in comparison to the release of Average Barbie.  And finally I will talk about the new films, how the new Princesses are good role models, and why these two new films aren't focused enough on making a genuinely good film.
I was reading an article in Relevant Magazine by Jesse Carey titled Generation Rising.  The article discussed the growing controversy of how the world defines the millennial generation.  Either we're lazing and entitled or authentic and creative.  There is no middle ground apparently.  After presenting a lot of research and perspectives from all sides of the spectrum, it is implied that our generation feels like we were lied to.  We were told to believe in ourselves and anything is possible.  But that isn't true and I think Disney played a big part in sending this message out.  One of Disney's biggest criticisms today is their message of dreams coming true with little to no work (magic) or, for a girl, finding a man to do the hard work for her.  I think there is a bit of misconception to this idea which I discuss in my first defense of the Disney Princesses post but I digress.  
Reading Carey's article was a real wake up call for me because even though it had nothing to do with Disney, it screamed the answer as to why this debate exists between Disney and the public.  The millennial generation is defined as being born between the years of 1980 and 2002.  Disney peaked in 1989, right in the middle of the millennial generation, and they continued to capture children from this generation with their spectacular films.  Essentially, critics believe that Disney held a stick with a hundred dollar bill tied to it and millennials kept chasing it, believing that one day they would catch up and get that hundred dollar bill.  But it isn't that easy and neither is achieving your dreams.  When the harsh reality set in, people became angry and the the public began to look for someone to blame for their misconception.  Disney was the scapegoat.  What bothers me about all of this is that there is something that people have failed to see about the movies Disney released during the years millennials were growing up.  Yes, Disney promoted easy ways to reach dreams.  It is Disney's market and signature and has been since 1940 when Gepetto wished upon a star for a real boy.  To say that Disney has lied to our generation is an overstatement.  You might as well say they lied to every generation (which I disagree with).  But people fail to see what Disney did right during their Renaissance and through most of the corporations career in film and other aspects of entertainment.  Disney has a keen sense of depicting the inner reality of it's viewers and making films that are just plain good.  In other words, they are good at what they do.  If we can learn anything from Disney, we can learn from their artistic depictions of the inner reality of the child within all of us.  We can learn from the detail and research they put into their movies.  We can learn from the hard work they put into their animation.  We can learn from the well crafted musical scores and numbers.  No, Ariel's choices are not going to necessarily push young girls on the right path.  What Ariel's choices do is depict a human being - a 16 year old girl who yearns for adventure in the unknown and finds out the hard way that things are so easy.  No, young children aren't going to have good advice from films that use magic to solve their problems.  But whoever said we are to take fairy tales literally?  When we read Harry Potter books, do we believe brooms will magically carry us away when a bully comes near?  Of course not.  And when we watch the Wizard of Oz, do we believe tapping our red shoes three times together while take us home?  No.  So why would we expect Disney to be any different?  I fail to see why critics are being more harsh on Disney than any other fairy story.  They have just as much right to stretch fantasy as the next story-teller.  I think it okay for me to speak up as a millennial myself because I too fell for this lie that your dreams will come true no matter what.  However, if I ever had to blame an institution for planting this idea in my head, I would blame the school system that told me one day I could be a writer and follow my dreams.  Even in high school I was lied to when my teachers said when I went to college I would be able to focus on what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Well, that is a clear lie for the simple reason that gen-eds exist.  My point is that Disney should not be blamed for the so called ideas they plant in our heads.  They are a company that makes fantasy films.  It is time we stopped viewing these movies as kid movies and stick to Walt philosophy of making films for the child in all of us.  Disney is not to blame for making kids a certain way.
I think the millennial generation is a generation searching for authenticity and sometimes Disney movies don't come off as very authentic.  Fair enough.  A statistic in Carey's article says that 60% of millennials have abandoned religion and it is fairly clear as to why.  Religion, like the idea of dreams in Disney movies, has proved to be a let down.  Not only that but religion is represented by hypocritical people who constantly aren't who they say they are.  My generation is searching for truth in places other generations have not looked.  As a millennial who is still involved in religion, I can say that religious leaders are not what Christianity is and secondly, Disney actually dips into religious topics with their characters.  I would love to talk about all the ways Disney brings Christianity into their films but I will stick to the Princesses in this post.  A question many people are asking is if we should be telling girls they are Princesses or not.  Are we all royal in God's eyes or is there a problem with this terminology?  In my opinion, there are two sides to calling a little girl a Princess.  Of course God views little girls as Princesses and little boys as Princes.  He values them and loves them and wants the best for them.  However, we shouldn't expect God to treat us as Princes and Princesses.  We should expect God to be God, to be fair in the ways he sees fit which won't necessarily seem fair in our earthly ways.  Another issue that I sort of skimmed over in my last blog was the issue of following your heart.  Disney promotes this idea but points more toward doing the right thing and saying that your heart will guide you toward doing the right thing.  But the Bible says otherwise.  Jeremiah 17:9 states, "The heart is
deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?"  I don't think Disney wants to promote getting your way all of the time.  Their films point to doing the right thing when the easier choice is to do what you want.  But their films also promote this idea that if you want something and work toward it and pray when it feels necessary, you will earn your heart's desire.  I don't want to get into all of the reasons why Disney distorts Christianity though, I want to talk about how the films promote it.  Christian symbolism is littered throughout Disney movies, even in the newer ones.  Many of the Princesses present Biblical imagery whether we are aware of it or not and I want to share this with you all.  I will not include some of the Princesses because I do not want to force symbolism.  If I saw it, I will include it.  Let's start with Elsa.  Elsa is the prodigal son figure.  She runs away and then returns accepted and forgiven completely and earns redemption.  Anna is a Christ figure.  As I said above, her love for Elsa never dwindles even when Elsa mistreats her and in the end, she gives her life up for Elsa as Christ did for his people on the cross.  Rapunzel's tear could symbolize baptism.  When she cries onto Eugene, she renews his soul and gives him new life and he is a new man.  Pocahontas is a very spiritual Christian figure.  She teaches us to love and accept the nature around us and use it to speak to God by listening to the wind or the flowing rivers or the animals speech throughout the forest.  Belle is another Christ figure next to Anna.  She gives up her life for her father when she becomes prisoner in the Beast's castle.  And finally, Snow White shows grace.  Her character is seemingly perfect and when others are not so perfect, she still accepts them just the same as we all should love and accept one another for our similarities and our differences.
Back in April/May last year, Disney gave their Princesses major designs.  The results were shocking.  Disney has always milked the Princesses for marketing.  They release videos with the Princesses, dolls, McDonald's toys, clothing and shoes, posters, notebooks and pencils, backpacks, etc.  The Princesses are always dolled up in their signature dresses and many have complained that this takes away from their character.  I would have to agree with that.  I would love to see Belle in her village outfit with a book or Cinderella in her maid outfit but at the same time, I'm okay with the glamor because a lot of girls like to dress up their dolls and it seems fitting.  I'm not okay with the Princess redesigns though. The Livejournal blog titled "Oh No They Didn't" spoke out straight away about the new Princesses, saying things like, "This is the Kardashian-ization of the Disney Princesses" and "It can be subtle (Rapunzel) or it can look like cosmetic surgery.  Cinderella now looks strangely like Taylor Swift, while poor Belle - I can't decide if she looks more like Kim, Kourtney or Khloe."  And I have to agree.  Most of the changes are horrifying and it isn't just for the reason that they look like culture clones and that their redesigns take away who they are as characters.  Not only that but they all look like they were designed to be sexually objectified.  This redesign begs us to ask the question, what is beauty?  Because the definition of beauty has changed over the years. Another big issue is with the popular doll, Barbie.  I grew up playing with Barbie dolls and I never had any issues as an adult.  But apparently some people feel differently and so not long ago Barbie was redesigned and sent out to toy stores with the name "Average Barbie."  You know, there is Dentist Barbie and Scuba Barbie and now there is an Average Barbie.  But apart from her figure, people say she doesn't look much different than any other Barbie.  Her face is still our ideal model of beauty, which begs the question - is Average Barbie really average?  She is still thin, still has a typical beautiful face, and wears nice clothing.  What about the girls who don't dress "nice" and like to wear all black or prefer not to wear bright blue or plain old blouses?  What about the girls who are heavy?  What about the girls who aren't white?  In my opinion, there is a screaming problem with this whole thing.  Constantly we think that telling girls that everyone is beautiful will solve things, yet that isn't true.  Too many girls are learning that they define themselves by what they look like.  They are still learning to identify with their outward appearance rather than being taught to find beauty in other places.  Hannah Anderson, author of the book Made For More, said in an episode of the Christ in Pop Culture podcast when discussing Average Barbie that "we are so focused on womanhood, we forget to focus on personhood."  This is the argument I was making in my first blog.  We need to stop looking at ourselves by what makes us different but rather what unites us.  Yes our skin may be different colors and gender differs but it is who we are on the inside that matters.  We are all people when it comes down to it.  The reason these Princess redesigns bother me is that they take away from these characters their personhood.  They have become culture clones rather than their individual selves that people can relate to.  They are a tool used to make money off of kids. 
Disney has been criticized for years about their female characters, specifically the Princesses.  We have now entered a modern age where Disney faces public scrutiny from every direction.  People are so focused on films being politically correct, especially Disney movies.  I think people are more critical of Disney because they are seen as a company that makes kids movies.  I think the real issue with all of this is, 1. a film shouldn't be judged by how it represents people/places/or things and 2. animated movies should not be judged as kids movie because many kids movies are animated.  Number 2 I touched on in my first point and is not an issue I plan to discuss any further in this blog but it is something to be aware of.  Number 1, however, is a real issue with animation today, especially when it comes to Disney movies.  Instead of critics and moviegoers paying attention to the film's artistic integrity, they are only focusing on it being politically correct.  In this case, people are expecting a female character to not be rescued by a man and be her own hero.  I am all for doing something different.  It is known that Disney typically has male and female characters interact very intimately and that men are usually there to either save the day or help save the day.  I am okay with Disney changing it up instead of doing the same thing over and over again (though while Disney does this style over and over again, they change up the way they come to the conclusion and in my opinion, they do a really good job with each story) but what I am not okay with is them creating a story that conforms to a certain expectation from outspoken moviegoers.   In my opinion, it takes away from the artistic integrity of the piece.  It shows that Disney is working around this limitation rather than just making a good movie.  This is particularly apparent in Disney's newest Princess movie, Frozen, when they adapted the story The Snow Queen, which had a strong female character already in it and Disney changed it.  The film would have had a strong female character if Disney had stuck to the story yet they went in and changed it completely and in my opinion ruined their chances of making a strong female movie.  It was still a strong female movie...but a particularly silly one.  It will be hard to take seriously in years to come.  Disney's newest Princesses are very much in the expected feminist Princess mold and the public seems to be eating it up.  Just look at the bucks Frozen brought in.  Money doesn't lie.  I'm happy that Disney has been successful and I am happy they are changing things up...but I'm not happy with the reasons for doing it.  Disney has taken a new approach to advertising their new Princess films as well.  They are trying to veer away from their typical Princess movie and instead make a general family movie for both genders and all ages to enjoy.  This theory in itself is silly to me since Beauty and the Beast didn't try hard to do this yet was a genuinely good film and was enjoyable by all ages and both genders.  Today, Disney creates silly movie trailers that give little to no detail about the actual film that will be released in order to give their new film a particular look.  They want to portray a family cartoon.  I see their reasoning behind this tactic but like many choices Disney has made in the past ten years (like switching to making movies in CGI permanently because Home on the Range was a poor movie made in 2-D animation), it is a poor one and won't work in the long run.  Soon they will be searching for new ideas.
The newest Disney Princess movies have not fallen victim to the redesign.  Although Merida was given a new look, people became infuriated and Disney cowered under pressure and switched her back to her original design.  Why just Merida though?  Why didn't all of the Princesses get some defense?  Well, maybe we will find out by looking at the newest Disney/Pixar Princess movie Brave and Disney's newest animated feature, Frozen.  I saw both of these movies in theaters and want to comment on both.  First, let me talk about the story in each one.  Brave's story was all over the place which made it very weak.  Some of Disney/Pixar's best films are simple ones and Brave was trying too hard to be all kinds of stories rather than telling a good story in itself.  The movie borrowed too much from different places and didn't have time to return back to the things they borrowed from which made the film feel incomplete.  Frozen fell victim to the same issue where it tried too hard to accomplish many things and ultimately left us feeling unsatisfied.  Both films only fixed one of the issues they created and everything else was left unexplained.  Of course, many people didn't notice this because the things these two films accomplished had to do with feminism and as far as today's moviegoers and critics are concerned, that is all that matter.  Never mind telling a good story, right?  The characters in Brave were typical and forgettable.  Merida was...unique.  I definitely think she is an awesome Princess but once again her character was simply created to fit a gender ideal for our modern day.  I cared more about Merida's mother than Merida herself though.  It seemed to be a story about a woman struggling with the job of motherhood and how she could learn not only to accept her children for who they are but also learn to teach them without making an enemy of them.  The characters in Frozen weren't as strong as the characters in Brave.  Again, very generic apart from Elsa.  Elsa was the only character worth caring about.  Anna has depth to her character but her silliness ultimately ruins it for me.  I did like however that Anna wasn't an obvious feminist character.  Besides her annoying silliness, she surprised me at the end when she found that true love didn't always have to be romantic love.  At least Frozen did something right.  The music in Brave isn't really worth commenting on as it didn't drive the movie.  It had the cultural Scottish instruments and fit the movie well.  Frozen's music started out epically and then all too quickly became a generic pop phenomenon, lacking any culture that it had previously established.  The lyrics were very ditsy and American.  The instrumentals could have easily had a culture feel but there was none.  I won't say I don't enjoy the music but it doesn't hold up next to most Disney films and will be forgotten in 50 years.  And finally, I want to comment on the animation.  Both films were beautiful but my biggest issue is character animation.  Brave is a Pixar film and so I knew what I was getting into and they didn't disappoint.  Merida's character design bothered me though.  Why is her face so circular?  Frozen had terrible character animation in my opinion, specifically for the girls.  Why are their eyes so huge?  And why all the makeup on Elsa?  I mean, I get that the animators were experimenting but couldn't they have experimented with a short film?  She looked like Shakira with her sexy hips during "Let it Go" and almost like...well, like a redesigned Disney Princess.  Overall, as you can probably tell, I don't hold either of these films in high regard.  They are both okay at best. 
But let's talk about why the newest Princesses are good role models.  I had a hard time with these three ladies but I think I have come up with unique attributes for each of them.  I will start off with Merida.  Merida is a good role model because of her belief.  Right away we see her believe in herself and she has confidence.  She believes when she goes out to get a potion to change her mother's attitude, she believes when she takes her mother to the woods to change her back from a bear to a human, she believes when she lets the wisps guide her, and she believes at the end that she and her mother will mend their relationship.  Anna is a good role model because of her unfailing love.  All throughout her life she is seeking love from her sister who does not show love in return but gives Anna the cold shoulder.  In a desperate attempt to accept love whenever it comes her way, she clings to Hans who immediately shows her love and wants to be with her for the rest of his life (seemingly).  Then, when she becomes aware that Elsa has been lying to her for her entire life, Anna still goes after her sister and believes she is not a monster despite what everyone else is saying.  Then, she jumps in front of her sister to give the ultimate sacrifice of love by giving her life.  And finally, Elsa is a good role model because of her humble nature.  While teaching her to fear her own powers was never the right away to go about things, her experience was almost a mirror to Harry Potter's.  Harry was shut in a cupboard under the stairs while the Dursley's hoped to stomp the magic out of him.  When he discovered he was a wizard, he came from a mindset that he wasn't good enough and therefore went into the world always thinking himself to be average because he had been led to believe that he was never special.  Elsa as well was taught that she wasn't special in her powers and that they needed to be contained, just like Harry's magic.  When she becomes free in the mountains, she tests what she can do and does this without hesitation because she is alone.  Once it is recognized that she is not to be feared, she gives her magic to the people but not to gain anything for herself or take any credit and therefore shows her humble nature just as Harry shows he is humble when he doesn't take full credit for the things he has done when recognized.
After looking at these three Princesses by discussing their movies and now their attributes, I want to bring up the question off goodness.  Do we want a Disney Princess to be relatable or to be a good role model for young girls?  In my opinion, these three new Princess are more relatable than good role models while the Princesses previous are genuinely good role models while also still relatable.  I believe that Disney doesn't reflect our outer reality in terms of their stories because we know no one can create ice with their hands and people don't turn into bears but Disney reflects our inner reality and that should be what matters because it is good fiction.
That concludes my Part 2 post of Why Disney Princesses are Good Role Models.  Do you have anything to add?  Do you feel the newer Princesses are better or worse role models than their predecessors?  Why or why not?  Do you see the Christian symbolism that I mentioned?  Was there some I left out?  What do you think of the newest Princesses movies?  Did they exceed your expectations or do you think Disney is losing it's touch?  I would love to hear your feedback and what you have to say!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wasted Wednesday: The Manipulative Side of Television & How I Met Your Mother

I'm back!  Finally!  I've missed writing Wasted Wednesday blogs...
So, I don't think it is a surprise to hear that most television is a bit manipulative.  Most story lines seem to be written to hook people rather than to write a good story.  How I Met Your Mother is the king of this writing style.  The name itself screams - MARKETING PLOY! MARKETING PLOY! MARKETING PLOY!
With the recent season finale of this show, I figured it was a good a time as ever to write about my true feelings toward the celebrated comedy that I just never quite got.
I want to start with the title of this show.  Right from the beginning the audience knows that eventually all things will lead to meeting the mother.  I'm sure the writer's were aware that with a
Pssht, a love story in reverse? Easy slogan
show like this, they could hold on to their audience with a fishhook.  They could take their audience on all kinds of twists and turns that excite and bring tears as long as in the end, the audience met the mother.  They could drag it on and on and know that people will watch because the audience really wants to know who the heck the mother is.  Nine seasons is a long time to hold on to a fishhook but boy did some people hang on tightly.  I bet some people feel like they were caught with the series finale and cooked for a nice family dinner rather than letting go with a triumphant bang and swimming away full of content and a feeling of closure.
Not many shows can hook an audience the way this one did...or at least not in the same way.  The classic 90's hit, Friends, one of my favorite shows, did a similar thing as How I Met Your Mother except they did it with an idea.  The idea - that Ross and Rachel were meant to be together.  I won't open that can of worms, but what I will do is state that this attribute is not the only thing Friends and How I Met Your Mother have in common.  In fact, there are so many similarities between the shows that I could not name all of them if I tried.  And to me, that is a problem for How I Met Your Mother.  I'm all for drawing from past material and re-spinning things, but this was so overly obvious and on top of it, the show claimed to be not doing it on purpose.  I'm going to guess some of the same writers for Friends were on this writing staff as well?  I'm not sure.  It seems too obvious to be an accident yet they play it off as an accident.  It's just lazy writing but I guess the writers had that opportunity giving the fact that, as I said, they knew they had people hooked for a good five seasons at least.
And finally, I want to discuss the God awful series finale.  One of my close friends is a fan of this show and was ultimately let down by this sorry excuse for a finale.  He felt betrayed.  He had grown to love these characters and felt very attached to them and suddenly everything that happened in nine seasons was reversed and ultimately didn't matter.  For example, the character Barney was a ladies man who never was in a relationship because of his sexual desires.  But when he married Robin, she changed him and he grew from that.  Then the finale sweeps in and says..."Oops, sorry just kidding.  You guys get divorced and Robin ends up with Ted, the end."  Why make a show at all if every single episode between the pilot and finale were utter garbage to the plot and essentially don't matter at all?  Well, I can't say I didn't see that one coming, right?  Yeah, the finale was a cheat.  The writers tried to make it this surprising twist of an ending but, as my friend says, it reversed everything that had happened...all of the character development and plot points during the course of nine seasons was tossed in the trash for the apparently well-thought-out series finale.  It was a cheat.
Those are my thoughts on the show, How I Met Your Mother and the series finale.  What do you guys think of the show?  Are you on my boat or did you enjoy the show and why?  If you did watch the show, what did you think of the series finale?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. - News flash!  The series is also starting a spin-off called How I Met Your Dad.  Can we say money spinner?!  I want a show called, How I Write Easy Comedies and Earn Millions!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Reading: Bambi by Felix Salten

The reason I picked up Bambi is because I am now on a Disney critical discussion podcast and feel it is appropriate to read the original texts that Disney would later adapt. I have now since read Snow White, The Snow Queen, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, and am currently reading the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  I'm not reading these books to see how the original stories are better.  I come from both sides of the pond in the argument between book purists and Hollywood gurus.  99% of the time I would be on the book purist side...but then there are Disney movies and I'm actually a big supporter of Disney and what they do, so coming at the issue from this angle is challenging for me because I am starting to see why some complain that Disney ruins their favorite story.  That being said, I do not believe that Bambi was ruined by Disney. 
Bambi is a story written by Felix Salten about a young deer growing up in the woods.  It is a coming of age narrative in which Bambi must learn to face the harsh reality of life amidst such beauty and majesty within the space that surrounds him.  He grows from a curious young fawn to the wise Prince of the forest.  The book places heavy emphasis on a character called "He" who the deer believe to be a three armed creature who creates a thunderous clap and one of their own ends up dead straight afterwards.  From the very beginning when Bambi's mother takes him to the meadow, Bambi is taught to be cautious and to run when his mother runs and to be on the lookout.  Many of Bambi's relations are killed by "He", including his mother which is known to be one of the saddest moments in Disney history.  The forest that surrounds Bambi is alive.  The leaves speak to each other just as the birds speak to one another.  It seems to have been the choice of Salten to make the forest alive to make the reality of "He" that much more real.  The Disney film has often been referred to as a nature preservation activist statement.  Neither the book nor the film shy away from painting man in a really really awful light...and just when they seem to be redeemed, something awful happens that ruins their image to the reader once and for all.  Since Salten humanizes the forest and the animals, a strong bond is formed between them and the reader and the reader grows to sympathize.  After all, that is what good story telling is all about - seeing something from another perspective and learning to sympathize with that particular situation.
As I said above, the novel is very much a coming of age story.  Ultimately, as the reader gets further and further into the text it is learned that Bambi must one day take the place of the great Prince of the forest, his father.  Through his circumstances Bambi gradually becomes more and more distant from his own kind and instead grows close to the great Prince who he admires dearly and the forest itself, where life blooms but is quiet and reflective without forcing interaction.  Bambi was always destined to become the great Prince though he never was aware of the fact - his circumstances led him to it.  The great Prince before him seems to have carefully planned Bambi's development to one day take his place.  This reminds me of Dumbledore from Harry Potter, who we learn from the very beginning when Harry obtained his scar had a plan to defeat the Dark Lord Voldemort. 
Now, I did make the statement that the Disney movie does not ruin the book and I am sticking to that statement.  The film deviates from the original text in small ways - for example, it takes out a lot of characters that don't need to be there for the movie.  They work for the book but it is hard to keep up on screen.  Another deviation is that there is no fire in the book...though Bambi does get shot.  What I think the film captures from the book is the very peaceful and reflective tone.  The film is unlike it's predecessors which are very much based on structure and plot while this story focuses on the characters and the poignant beauty of their world.  For example, in the film we hear the beautiful music that coincides perfectly with the rain storm and see a wide array of colors depicting the landscape in which Bambi resides.  I listened to a commentary of the film earlier this year and the two gentlemen watching this film kept complaining about how boring it was because of the long shots of the leaves falling to the water or the long scene where Bambi and his mother search for food in the winter but I actually love these small touches to the movie.  It gives the viewer that much more perspective and lets them digest everything that is happening.  Stories like Pinocchio and Dumbo seem to move very quickly while Bambi decides to take things in a slow pace and I really like it.  The book is very slow as well...a fast read but a nice and slow pace.  I always felt very satisfied when I finished reading a chapter. 

Is this book quality?  Absolutely.  I would recommend it to one and all, whether you be a Disney fan or a nature activist or a children's lit lover or maybe even just a book lover.  The book is wonderful and it makes me rather sad to know that so little people have read it.  I will also clarify that I don't blame Disney for the fact that so many people don't read the original text.  Yes Disney dominates the screen but they aren't at fault for people being lazy and not doing research.  This book is an A++!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mini Book Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I should state right away that I never saw the movie that was loosely based on this short story. I may once have been interested to see it but have since cared much more about reading this fairly unknown book by the author of the great gatsby. It took me under an hour to read this story. At first I found it to be a bit much but I really enjoyed the turns this book took the reader on. It really seems to comment on what it means to be a child and what it means to be an old man and what it means to be in between the two. The story comments on stigmas of society, showing Benjamin's father and son both almost afraid of him and embarrassed by him. No one seems to be aware of how wonderful and scary his predicament is. Watching Benjamin de-age was heartbreaking because even though he is an old man and has experienced much, he is not taken seriously and told he can't do anything. One thing I wondered while reading is, where is his mother? She is hardly ever mentioned. And can I just comment on the fact that it isn't explained how she gave birth to an old man? I know this is a short story and it shouldn't be taken all too seriously when it comes to nitty gritty facts but come on!  Can't think of much else to say about this story. It was a nice quick quick quick read but I don't think I have gotten much out of it

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Mini Book Review: The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

The MoviegoerThe Moviegoer by Walker Percy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't quite know what to make of this book...
I've never read Percy before so this was an entirely new experience for me.  I knew beforehand that he was a Christian writing of sorts, having studied him in a Christian literature class but not having enough time to read his book The Second Coming. 
I found the author's use of language to be very sophisticated to the point of over saturation.  There was rarely a time that I knew what was going on and when I did finally get a grip of the story, it went right back to confusing narration.  I could tell while reading that Percy was trying to make unknown realities known to the reader but the use of obscure references didn't make these unknown things any more known and in fact made the read even more confusing. 
I'm not saying the writing was particularly bad but it wasn't very readable either.  It was very inconsistent.
As for the characters, I grew attached to none.  Of course, that is not what should be the mark of a good book.  Fair enough.  But apart from not growing close to the characters, I didn't come close to understanding them either.  I mean, you would think our main character would at least be understood but I found it hard to follow his train of thought.  Possibly his train of thought was beautiful but it's hard to tell past the obscure writing style.  Plus, he is said to be a moviegoer but I would have liked to see more scenes of him actually at the movies.  We only see him go, what...three times at most?  Maybe four?  It seemed like he was looking to have a picturesque movie/Hollywood story life which was beautiful but again, I can't tell if I am right on that account or not.
Kate was the strangest character yet.  Sort of like a Daisy Buchanan to me except mentally unstable. 
And then there are all of the other hundred characters that I could hardly keep up with.  The only I can recall is Binx's aunt, Sharon, and Lonnie.  That was another thing, suddenly about halfway through the book Lonnie is randomly introduced and I really wonder what the purpose of him was?  What was the purpose of that side of the family anyway?  Sure, to develop Binx's character a bit more but still, I wasn't convinced of anything.
I am aware this was Percy's first book so I guess he can be cut some slack but when I read on the front cover that this book was awarded the National Book award and is considered to be one of the greatest books of the 20th century, I have to scratch my head in confusion or apparent ignorance.
Overall, the story fell short for me, the characters were too many and too confusing to grasp and the execution was overdone.  I want to like this book but can't bring myself to it's level of apparent sophistication.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mini Book Review: Washed & Waiting by Wesley Hill

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and HomosexualityWashed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this book at a bargain store randomly and had not heard anything of it previously. I didn't read it right away though. The book I got to first was similar in topic, Torn by Justin Lee. I read that and found the entire subject of gay marriage and the gay vs Christian debate to be utterly fascinating and misconceived in today's culture...well, it has been misconceived in practically every culture but today's culture especially has a sugar coated and ignorant view on the issue. Anyway, I finally came to this book a few months after reading Torn and I made a point to see how this book compared not in the ultimate message of what it means to be gay in the church or why this is an important issue or what the author's stance on the issue was but rather how it compared in writing style. I found Hill's writing style to be an utter drag. Please don't misinterpret what I am saying. His story was relatable and heart wrenching and blunt. But relatability and sympathy in a narrative don't make it good. What makes it good is how well written it is and this book was not particularly well written. I found it is be utterly dull and dragging. It took so much effort just to get through one chapter which was usually super long and just another turn off to the book. The middle of the book seemed to go uphill in quality but quickly went back down toward the end. I don't plan on keeping the book. Yes I feel it was an important read and I am really glad someone is adding to the conversation in a unique way but this book really didn't hook me or make me passionate about it's topic quite like Justin Lee did with Torn, which was written much better than this book but had a bit of a different angle and overall message. So I give this book 3 out of 5 stars because yes the topic is interesting and it is awesome to see some more literature on the issue but the writing was not nearly as good as I would have hoped. I should also add that there were some sections in the book that were well written but glimpses of good writing isn't enough to make a book written well overall.

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