Thursday, May 31, 2018

Is Nostalgia the Only Effective Marketing Scheme Nowadays?

What do "Spongebob Squarepants" (1999-present), Mean Girls (2004), The Band's Visit (2007), and Frozen (2013) all have in common?

Why, yes! They are all movies and a TV show that came out at least within the last 20 years that have gained quite the followings.

They're also all up for the Tony Award for Best Musical this year! I'm not kidding!

Let's talk about the Tony Awards! Particularly this observation (and my observations of people's reactions to these musicals).

When I first saw these nominations, my first thought was, "That's it? Surely you jest. Is there really no other new musical right now?"

But no. These are the ONLY nominees for Best Musical. Basically, there's nothing new here. They are just staged musical versions of movies. I thought at least The Band's Visit was an original idea, but nope! I was notified that this too is a pre-existed piece.

This is somewhat equivalent to the consistent popularity of books becoming movies. Now movies are becoming staged musicals.

Most specifically, in this case, nostalgic movies.

This isn't an entirely new thing, but looking back, I think this might be the first time EVERY nominee for the Best Musical Award is based on a film, hence why and how I took notice of it. Plus, these are films that I am very familiar with, so therefore at least nostalgic for me and my generation.

Nostalgic connections have been running rampant as of late. On June 15 we are getting the long awaited sequel to The Incredibles and in August we're getting a live action Disney film called Christopher Robin, with Jim Cummings voicing Pooh! And not to mention all of the TV and film remakes, revivals, and the live action adaptations of Disney franchises we are getting in the next few years!!

It seems as though Broadway is now using this same formula...

Okay, so let's check out some of the possible debates regarding this:

1) Broadway has officially run out of ideas.

We see this argument everywhere. Anytime Hollywood produces something seemingly dumb, overdone, or most commonly, unnecessary, or remakes something that was once prevalent, it's "Hollywood has officially run out of ideas." Audiences then voice their opinions about wanting to see new stories and leaving the past in the past.

Is Broadway suffering from the same ailment? It sure as heck seems like it, at least this year.

Remember, these aren't in the Best Musical Revival category. These are brand new shows.

2) Why?

I actually have been seeing this argument more than anything. Why do these movies need a staged musical adaptation to begin with? Just leave well enough alone and stop ruining our childhoods, darnit! :P

Though these shows have grown on audiences now, this wasn't always the case from my perspective. The interesting thing is, if banking on nostalgia to sell tickets is what they are going for, it initially wasn't working.

When the conception of these musicals were first announced, people reacted more like "No!" instead of "Yay!" I don't know about you, but I saw more complaints about all three even happening than anything, involving comments asking why these particular films were even chosen. "What's next?? Blah Blah Blah The Musical??"

The funny thing is that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two, which is up for Best Play and is of course associated with the nostalgic Harry Potter series, didn't get the same dread or flack from fans. This play excited them and still does. Maybe it's because it's not a musical but rather a successor, so therefore not necessarily "ruining" anything. Maybe it's simply because it is Harry Potter.

Or maybe people just have something against musicals... Are Broadway musical versions just too corny for our precious nostalgic films?

I clearly don't know a great deal about The Band's Visit, so unfortunately I can't speak on that one as much, but let's talk about the other three.

Well, I guess I understand the issue with Frozen. The most recent of the movies, people were constantly getting tired of this film's hype. It's a musical already, but because it's a Disney movie, it already gets points against it for just following the Disney Broadway musical trend. There were objections urging to "let it go" for awhile so we can miss it and give the spot to another deserving, perhaps less prevailing, Disney film, but nope. The Frozen mania is still alive and well.

People's problems with the Spongebob Squarepants musical are similar, not only against the musical itself, but the television show as well. It is currently one of the longest running animated series of all time, so therefore viewers are starting to consider it stale and lacking the flavor it once had. Like with Frozen, for Spongebob Squarepants it's more like, "Why are they doing THIS now??" and "They're really milking this franchise for all it's worth..."

Sometimes these musicals are somewhat at a disadvantage because they aren't creations being first introduced to us but are instead rather reminiscent (and therefore nostalgic) of their source material. Thus, comparisons are inevitable. This feedback was especially frequent with the Spongebob Squarepants musical. I had some of my own same criticisms as others about that one's portrayals without even seeing it, such as the whole "But they don't look like animals! Spongebob doesn't even look like a SPONGE!" protest. But then my friend Abby, who saw it for her birthday, convinced me otherwise while we were chowing down on Applebee's after suffering through a screening of Downsizing (2017).

Spongebob Squarepants still has the same humor, sound effects, and overall tone of the TV show, with the performers impersonating the characters so well that it raises audiences' suspension of disbelief. This, according to Abby, matters much more. It's just a different take on the show.

If you think about it, this is actually surprisingly an ADVANTAGE to the Spongebob Squarepants musical as well. No one would believe that Ethan Slater is playing a sponge unless we already knew the sponge the character was based on. Otherwise, if Slater was developing this character from scratch without any original source material to fall back on, he's just a giggling guy in a yellow t-shirt and we'd ask, "Why are we supposed to believe that he is an underwater sponge?"

The Mean Girls musical receives the least amount of beef I'd say, because Mean Girls is considered a classic, especially for people my age. It resonates so much with my generation but is still so relevant in today's American society as well (There are always catty women in every generation.) with just enough changes to perhaps make it more current. Also, people just love Tina Fey.

Mean Girls can be considered the most "grown up" of the three too, and we have seen this type of show accomplished before, so why not, I guess? The style resembles Broadway's Legally Blonde the Musical, Bring It On the Musical, and especially even the Off-Broadway Heathers the Musical, all of which were pretty successful and nostalgic in their own right. Taylor Louderman (Regina George) and Barrett Wilbert Weed (Janis Sarkisian) both have experience with these other musicals (Louderman with Legally Blonde and Bring It On as lead character Campbell Davis and Weed with Heathers as lead Veronica Sawyer), so audiences probably trust them more to do a good job with this one. Also, unlike the others, we haven't really been seeing Mean Girls everywhere throughout the years to the point where now seeing a musical version of it would bother us. This is the only one of the four that never had musical numbers before, so this is a new path for the story altogether.

Producing these shows in innovative ways gives them new structure instead of just copying the original movies. Theater is always going to be a different medium from film anyway. The musicals have the same tones to draw us in but they also offer something fresh.

The only musical that doesn't do this for me much is Frozen. Aside from a few new songs and some diverse casting, it doesn't really seem that much different from the movie. But there is also the criticism that the actresses playing Elsa and Anna, Caissie Levy and Patti Murin, don't look age appropriate for their characters. (Then again, I've seen this complaint for Mean Girls as well...) Otherwise, the approach looks pretty exact, down to the color schemes and costume design.

BUT, why SHOULD everything change just because it's onstage instead of onscreen? There are probably audiences that would prefer not many alterations anyway too so that they can connect the musicals to the films that much easier. I don't mind it. However, I will say that I love Janis's hairstyle in the Mean Girls musical much more than in the film.

Like I said, constant comparisons. But that's not really a bad thing.

However, this all being said, with these shows now moving onto performances and music distributions, more people seem to be jumping on board the nostalgic Broadway musical train. The shows are gauging plenty of approval now, and hey, they're now all up for Tony Awards. Maybe nostalgia does have something to do with it in a positive way.

The only thing is that none of them are really groundbreaking like the past couple of Best Musical Award winners Hamilton (2016) and Dear Evan Hanson (2017), which is seemingly a requirement to obtain this particular achievement. Instead, these are all just feel good, fun musicals that reinvent well known characters and stories. But maybe that's okay. My friends are pleased with them, stating that as long as they are good musicals, they deserve this acknowledgment.

Regardless of this blog post, I'm not complaining myself here. I would love to see all of them. This is just a trend that I felt was worth discussing. I'm excited to even write this because I feel so qualified enough to do so, partially because I am indeed very knowledgeable about the initial films.

By the way, isn't it cool how they are all kinda color coded? Mean Girls, Frozen, Spongebob Squarepants, The Band's Visit.

As for my Tony Award predictions, I think Spongebob Squarepants is actually going to be the one to take the trophy home considering how uniquely they reimagine the cartoon and it has been a family favorite of many for years. Mean Girls is my close second choice, Frozen is "meh" to me in regards to winning everything, and unfortunately, The Band's Visit doesn't stand a chance simply because I never really hear about that one as much, which is interesting because I am now seeing that it is up for 11 nominations as opposed to Frozen's three.

What do you think?

The New York Times Reviews:

'Spongebob Squarepants'

'Mean Girls'


'The Band's Visit'

The 2018 Tony Awards airs on Sunday, June 10 at 8/7c EDT on CBS.

Monday, April 30, 2018

I'm Extremely Heartbroken and Angry Over "Digimon Adventure Tri." and Now I'm Here to Complain About It.

(I have since calmed down a bit about the following, but I am still disappointed and not pleased. Here are my thoughts about this that I have been working on throughout the month of April.)

I would normally say beware of spoilers if you haven't watched or heard about what happened in this, but frankly I am so annoyed about it that I don't even care.

But seriously though, I guess beware of spoilers here.

There's a lot to not like about this series, but this is the part that hit me the most. I felt the need to write this because I feel alone in my misery.

I can't believe I want to cry over an anime. That is so not me. But hey, it's "Digimon".

Before "So You Think You Can Dance" took over as my television obsession when I was 16, there was "Digimon".

"Digimon Adventure" was an anime that eventually came out as an English dub in America in 1999, so this was my thing during my late childhood, early preteen years. I was about 10 years old, let's say. I talked about this a bit when detailing my childhood friendships.

This show has gone through many incarnations, but my favorite will always be the absolute first season (aka the only season that really matters) with the original eight DigiDestined, Tai, Matt, Sora, Izzy, Mimi, Joe, T.K., and Kari. Given that I was their age when the show came out, it's like I grew up with them. As I age, they age, so that's pretty cool. This is unique to "Digimon" because it's very rare to watch animated characters age through time. I had a lot of "Digimon" merchandise regarding these characters growing up and the show influenced a lot of my creativity that I still have today. For example, I too tend to create large ensembles of characters with my own writing. :P

I'm actually surprised that I haven't blogged about this show more. I plan on sharing some more "Digimon" material on here in the future. :)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Stef's Female Friendships, Women's History Month 2018

These recollections of the female friendships I have made throughout my life are some of my favorite blog posts that I have ever written. They took me a couple of years to prepare because I wanted to make sure they were right, so I feel extra accomplished having finally published them all. Here they all are now in one blog post! :)

My Early Childhood Friends

My Childhood Friends

My High School Friends

My College Friends

My Adult Friends

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Stef's Female Friendships - My Adult Friends

I'm posting this one now because it's Holy Week and I don't want to blog on Good Friday.

I refer to this group as my more recent set of friends because I met them gradually toward the end of my college life and then we stayed in touch after graduation. Like me, they too are writers. I met plenty of female writers during my college and adult life, forming a community with them, but these are the girls with whom I correspond the most. I also graduated the same class from Montclair State University with most of them. Unfortunately I don't have a group shot of us all for this blog post. lol

The following women have all attended Literally! writing group meetings that I have hosted and give me great, helpful feedback regarding my writing. I am thankful that I feel at ease sharing my pieces with them.

One of the first times Kacie and I hung out
I consistently refer to my best friend Kacie as my right hand woman. We're usually always on the same page about things and hang out quite often. We met towards the end of college but corresponded earlier on Facebook. In my sophomore year, I saw her in an opera on MSU's campus called Albert Herring, which I actually blogged about in the past. I somehow found her Facebook page, reached out to her, and shared my blog with her. Then we kept in touch. Eventually we found a way to meet each other face to face and the rest was history. She is a family-oriented only child like myself, so I believe we bonded over this, and we have a lot in common.

Kacie is very kind, patient, understanding, and always there for me, and like Abby, I feel like I can always go to her without receiving any judgment. Anytime I am upset about something, I seek advice from her and she automatically makes me feel better and calmer with her perspectives. I feel comfortable with her.

Kacie is definitely who I would call my creative friend. She is a music teacher but also a singer/songwriter and musician. We have the same artistic goals and are constantly encouraging each other's work.

I met my friend Lindsay (not pictured because we haven't taken a photo together lol) on a Montclair State University Facebook group. She was a fellow English major graduating a year or two before me asking for suggestions on another course to take to finally reach the credits in order to graduate. I commented on her post, recommending theater classes (of course), and then the two of us started talking from there. I would sometimes visit her at her job on campus and we also attended another writing group meeting together. That was fun. :) I also like her unique sense of humor. lol

I consider Lindsay one of my most logical friends. She contributes advice to the business side of things and gives me a taste of reality. It's nice to have a companion who knows the technicalities of a lot of things, particularly the freelancing life. That's true too. Lindsay is a fellow freelancer like myself, but while I mainly do journalism, she does more copywriting.

Next is Evaline. I actually met her through Bonnie! Although she was not a broadcasting major, she and Bonnie took a broadcasting class together called "Electronic Journalism". Evaline needed writers to interview for a video project for this class and so naturally Bonnie thought of me and I agreed to it.

Here is the final product.

Since then Evaline and I have stayed connected. A creative writer herself, at one point she said to me that if I ever needed a writing partner, she was available. So then, as a result, I invited her to Literally! meetings and she, along with Kacie and Lindsay, was one of the group's initial members and participants.

She is always such a kind, sweet, patient, and grateful person.

Finally there is Sashel. I met Sashel, and a bunch of other fellow writers with whom I still keep in contact, in my Intro to Fiction Writing class my senior year at MSU. I always thought that she was very quiet, but it turns out that she is actually very bubbly and outgoing once you get to know her. She is always laughing and smiling. Like many of my friends, I see her as my religious, spiritual friend as well. She incorporates plenty about God and strength in her written work and I appreciate this trait.

She's a delight. ;)

And for some reason, she and I have bonded over our mutual love of food... Random, but yes. lol

So, there you have it! My Women's History Month blog project "Stef's Female Friendships" is complete for this year! To all of the women that I have wrote about in this series (or not), thank you for being positive influences in my life. Happy Women's History Month! :)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Stef's Female Friends - My College Friends

In college, friends come and go. Coming from a small private school and now entering a large public state college, I met and befriended a lot of people at this point. This is the group that remained constant all four years. We refer to ourselves as "The Originals" because we were the original friends freshman year. lol

Taken the first day of freshman year, Red Hawk Day, on Bonnie's MacBook Pro Photobooth and then Katlynn filtered it. I wanted to recreate this for graduation, but we never did. lol
Clockwise from left: Me, Kelly, Katlynn, Bonnie, and Shan
Not pictured: Melissa and Anthony (but he's a boy anyway so :P)

Here's another shot from the same time so you can actually see us. lol 

Facebook was a thing now, so that's how friendships were made. I corresponded with them all on a Facebook group that was created for the incoming Montclair State University Class of 2013 and then we all, along with some others, planned to meet in person on Red Hawk Day, which is a day that celebrates kicking off the new school year. We actually all connected because none of us were interested in drinking, which was a friendship quality I held dear back then.

This day was one of the best days of my life. Instead of participating in the freshmen ice breakers, we all opted to go to the Willowbrook Mall together because Shan, Bonnie's roommate that year, needed to buy a new phone. It's funny because I was so used to being surveyed in high school that I thought that I would get in trouble ditching the ice breakers. I actually snuck by them in the Student Center Quad thinking that I would be pinpointed, but nothing happened. This was when I realized that college would be a totally different atmosphere. I considered this my first college independent adventure and I loved bonding with my new friends. It also got me more excited and relaxed about college because that morning I was nervous.

Now I walk the MSU campus like I own the place. :P 

Alas, the excitement died down because eventually schedules got in the way and it was a struggle to see each other. I commuted to school whereas they lived on campus and we all had different majors, so that all contributed to the withdrawals I was feeling. I was an English major, Katlynn was also an English major with a Creative Writing concentration but yet we only took one class together throughout the four years, and Kelly majored in Nutrition. Bonnie and Shan were originally undeclared, but then majored in Broadcasting and Sociology respectively.

Melissa (not pictured) could be considered another member of The Originals. She too was an English major and I actually took an Art of Fiction course with her sophomore year. Bonnie was into Japanese culture (still is) and so she joined Japan Club, which is how I met Melissa and others that would turn into my group of college friends. Even though we weren't as into anime and such, Kelly, Katlynn, and I found ourselves attending a lot of these events just to hang out with Bonnie and the rest of the members.

Kelly, Bonnie, and Melissa eventually all became roommates in sophomore year and I hung out in their dorm room often. I considered myself the fourth roommate. lol

Even though Shan and I gradually didn't really see each other as much as the years went on, whenever we ran into each other on campus we would greet each other and converse. She is a very funny person, the type with whom you joke around. However, we would also talk about serious stuff, like Christianity. I remember this one time when she and I chatted for like an hour or so about this subject on campus.

I wasn't kidding about the whole almost drowning thing. :P
Katlynn and I walked and sat next to each other for convocation (the one that nearly drowned us :P) and to this day she and I still chat writing. She was my closest writer friend throughout college and I talk with and relate to her the most these days, especially regarding our careers. She and Kelly would be the ones to come see either campus shows with me or readings of my plays that I wrote for my Drama Workshop classes, so I am so very grateful for their support.

Katlynn, Kelly, and I actually had our own subgroup called "Cheerios". The three of us were all into "Glee" at the time so therefore we associated ourselves with The Unholy Trinity. Katlynn was Quinn, Kelly was Brittany, and I was Santana.

Bonnie is what I call my optimistic, encouraging friend. No matter what I said I was considering, she would be the one to usually say "Go for it!" or "Do it!" usually starting or ending with "Girl!" For example, I once auditioned for a Players (MSU's student run theatre organization) Lady Gaga show with her.

Anyway, she would always be up for anything and was always a ray of sunshine even when I was gloomy. These characteristics are useful for her current profession. Even though she majored and graduated with a broadcasting degree, she then went on to get her Masters in education and is now a teacher to little kids and loves it. :)

Funny enough is that one thing she, Kelly, and I are doing lately post-college is making fun of the Elf on the Shelf on Facebook. I don't know how I started this, but it has turned into a Christmas tradition for us now. lol

I had a lot of personal issues in college. Even though I always say that college was the best time of my educational life (elementary and high school were kinda meh), I questioned everything about myself, specifically about my role as a woman, as a person, as a professional, and as a Catholic. Now college is the time to do this and "find myself," but it made me so stressed out and confused about who I was that I was constantly an emotional wreck. Thankfully I had Kelly there to ease this. She and I were the same when it came to concerns like this and she was often a listening ear to whatever issue I was having and I took on the same role for her. She was the one with whom I hung out the most and I missed her whenever we weren't together. We were your typical dynamic duo: she was tall, and I was short, and we had a lot of the same interests. She was my best college friend. She was also the one who introduced me to the Nostalgia Critic (while she was introduced to the character through our mutual friend Jess), whose criticisms of film eventually got me interested in pursuing the same.

Given the distance between us all and life priorities (somewhat reminiscent of early freshman year), we don't really see each other anymore. However, we're still connected on Facebook and meeting up is always a possibility. We've actually been discussing this recently.

These girls will always be icons from my college life. :)