Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Virginity...for Men

Recently I have been coming across different things associated with female virginity until marriage. In this trailer for the documentary The Purity Myth, based on the book of the same name by Jessica Valenti, the subject of female purity is the focus, seeming to put it in a negative light. My first impression of this trailer wasn't necessarily a good one because to me it seemed that it was downplaying waiting for marriage, which is something I promote in one of my other posts. However, I then noticed that Valenti's point is more so arguing with the notion that a woman's worth is labelled on whether or not she is "pure" and that purity pushes women into submission, which are concepts I do not agree with, so in this way I began to look at the trailer more favorably. I like how she brings up the idea of the purity balls when daughters pledge their virginities to their fathers (which is cringeworthy, because women shouldn't have to pledge their virginities to the first man in their lives and make their purity "official" through a ceremony) and how people look down upon feminism and think of it as this evil concept in the world (which angers me, especially when women talk against it). People have the wrong idea when it comes to feminism, Planned Parenthood, etc., so I'm glad this documentary brings it out.

I then came across a book in CVS called 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter, written by Vicki Courtney. Here is the website pertaining to the book. At first this book had a bad impression on me as well because I felt all she was doing was promoting abstinence as the only answer, which to a lot of people it is not. She argues how the media masks female promiscuity as female empowerment when in reality that is not the case. However, I began to appreciate the book as I kept reading because she is entitled to write about how she feels on the subject just as much as I, and it is refreshing to see a mother write books about these subjects, helping women realize that it is okay to wait, encouraging them that it is the right path, rather than brainwashing them to do so, and also include truthful information about abortion, not lies. It is very comfortingly written and explores options in a non-condescending manner.

This got me thinking: "Why don't we have this conversation with young men?" Perhaps Courtney will touch upon this idea in her new book 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son, but it just seems like women are often the focus for purity and virginity until marriage and men are often disregarded. In fact, it seems that men are more encouraged to lose their virginities than keep them, whereas for women it is the exact opposite. There are comedy movies dedicated to this sort of idea, such as Superbad and American Pie. The old double standard: A boy has sex, he is a MAN. A girl has sex, she is a SLUT.

I actually like the idea of women saving themselves for marriage, even though there are times I write favorably towards the free love concept. I find that saving oneself for that special someone to whom you eventually make a commitment is very admirable and safe. My thing is, however, if a man isn't going to wait for his woman, why should a woman wait for her man? I think that might be my main argument against saving sex for marriage, other than the fact that this is a concept we are normally taught, not necessarily a realization we come upon later in life after we sexually mature. In other words, it should be mentioned as the best option with the best outcomes, but it shouldn't be something mentioned as the only option, keeping people in the dark of what other alternatives they have. I know I wrote before about how sex is a normal human thing just like eating and sleeping is, but I guess what I did not include is how sex is more connected to emotion and attachment between people as opposed to the other two, which is why we should be more careful. It should be an honor to be each other's first, and last. There are times that I have been told that a man who is a virgin over the age of twenty-five is probably not the kind of guy women should get involved with, for there must be something wrong with him. It's just that male virginity is looked upon as such a bad thing that men feel so inadequate if they don't place their penis inside some kind of female orifice. It seems like everything in the world convinces men that they should act on their primal instincts right away or else they will immediately be emasculated.

This is why I am here. I felt the need to write this piece because I guess I should be the one to help men realize that their virginities are not in vain. Men have a right to be virgins just as much as women do. The thing is, virginity should be a choice, not because a man finds it difficult to lose it and that a woman is taught to save it. People should save their virginities for their significant others if they so chose because they feel it is the best thing to do. It's doesn't even have to be because it's what God wants, though I do believe it is what He prefers. It should be because it's what feels right and what a couple wants to share with each other in the moment of passion.

So, virgin men, these are the words I want to say to you: It's okay. Really. It's okay. Just because you have never had sex before doesn't mean you aren't a man. Even if you don't like the idea of being a virgin until marriage and your current virginity isn't by choice, just because you haven't had sex yet it doesn't mean you are a freak of nature. There is nothing wrong with you. There are people out there, women included, that appreciate male virgins entirely. You know why? Virginity these days is unique. Virgins are different and interesting. Also, you know virgins are most likely sexually healthy with no children. In fact, your virginity is actually nobody's business. If you are proud of your virginity, by all means feel free to proclaim it. But to me, virginity and sex life should be revealed between two adults who are going strong in their relationship and figuring out their next step as a couple. I believe that everyone has his or her match with whom he or she will gel well. So don't worry. Chances are your day will come when you will have sex with someone and that person just might be worth waiting for in the long run.

In other words, don't be afraid to be like this guy. This young man is 24-year-old quarterback for the Denver Broncos Tim Tebow, who is pretty much portrayed as a godsent to the world. (No pun intended but this is actually pretty accurate. His devotion to his Christian religion is his trademark.) I saw his photo on the cover of one of my father's magazines awhile ago and ever since then he's all I've been hearing about. A lot good, some bad. For instance, people have been mocking him for his faith. "Tebowing," the act in which Tebow gets down on one knee and prays during a game, is now very well known and is now an act along the lines of "planking." I'm not sure if the whole "tebowing" thing is supposed to be mocking Tebow's praying tendencies or not, but regardless I admire Tebow for sticking to his beliefs, taking everything calmly, and just being a decent human being. He seems to have a lot of fans who constantly admire him. He does nothing wrong whatsoever. He makes it impossible to dislike him because you never hear anything bad about him and I hope we never do. He almost seems too good to be true, almost too perfect.

Then I found out something else that made me admire him even more and decide to include him in this post. Apparently, he is remaining a virgin until marriage. Oddly enough, he reveals this at a press conference.

Now, I'm not sure if there is any truth to this, but if you think about it, what man would say he is a virgin waiting for marriage if he isn't? 

Isn't this amazing? It's very rare that you meet a male virgin let alone meet a man who admits to it so proudly so I commend Tebow entirely. He is actually one of my current heroes. Tebow gives me hope that there are indeed men out there that are saving themselves for that special woman and are not ashamed of it. 

You can find the Facebook pages of both Jessica Valenti and Vicki Courtney on my Facebook page.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone! :D

Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Boun Natale! Happy Hanukah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Las Posadas! Happy Holidays Everyone! Enjoy Every Moment! :D

I was thinking about writing a post about some of my Christmas specials like I did with my Thanksgiving post. However, though I have a lot in mind, I thought against it because a) There are so many and writing about them would be time consuming, b) Though it crossed my mind after Thanksgiving as well, I thought of this kind of last minute and didn't necessarily have the muse to write about them all because I have been focusing on school and other blog posts so I want to do it when I have more time to focus on it, and c) I wanted to give my computer a break today. Perhaps I will do it next year leading up to Christmas Day.

This year has been one of my favorite Christmas seasons. I did a lot to celebrate this season and I'm happy about that because I feel like all I have done this year has revived the exciting spirit of Christmas that I had experienced when I was a kid. These include:

Riding the carousal and walking around seeing the Christmas cheer at the Paramus Park Mall
My friend Janis's Christmas Concert
White Christmas at Paper Mill Playhouse 
St. Thomas the Apostle 17th Annual Christmas Concert featuring the Garden State Concert Band
Christmas Dinners at Charlie Brown's Steakhouse
The Holiday Lights Spectacular at the Turtleback Zoo
Baking Struffolis
Helping my family decorate the house for Christmas
Going to Church (especially when the church is dim and quiet playing choral angelic Christmas music)
Helping my mom prepare for and cook the traditional Italian seafood Christmas Eve dinner (and eating it! It was delicious!)
Exchanging presents Christmas Day
Watching Christmas specials
Wearing Christmas attire
Wishing people Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc.
Listening to Christmas music and eating Christmas food
Taking pictures of everything (lol)

All in all, it was one of my best Christmas celebrations ever. I found myself very cheerful and am happy I got to celebrate it with wonderful people by doing a nice list of experiences to remember it! It was also very relaxing.

Here's some footage of the production of White Christmas I saw at the Paper Mill. It's funny because a week later I had to take a final for my class "Introduction to the Theatrical Medium" and I wrote about this! I also like how it was advertised around Montclair's campus. It was a very heartwarming, Christmasy show!

During intermission, this happened. I took my own video of it, but this is one I found on YouTube.

I finally got my photo with Santa! I had been wanting to do this to relive my childhood and seeing him at the Paramus Park Mall a few weeks ago had inspired me. I got it out of my system by doing this. He was an awesome Santa Clause as well. He was really joyful and even asked me what I wanted for Christmas! This photo was taken at the Turtleback Zoo by my Aunt Ea.

I also wanted to extend my wishes to you, my faithful readers! Merry Christmas! I hope you and your families have a blessed holiday! <3

Happy Birthday to Jesus Christ, our Savior! :D

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yet Another Version of The Nutcracker...

I just found out tonight that "So You Think You Can Dance" judge Adam Shankman will be directing a gothic version of The Nutcracker that will be released in 2013. See? This is exactly what I was talking about when I wrote my other piece about this very idea!

I'm sure that all of these different versions are interesting and it's nice to see different perspectives and versions of the same story. It shows creativity, enriching The Nutcracker so that it never dies out and is always a new experience. A part of me wants to see this movie when it comes out and I am interested in seeing what is done with it. But still, I have my opinions and reservations on the matter. I just find this ironic considering I just posted a full essay about the subject so I just had to post it here. It's also ironic that a man involved with one of my favorite TV shows is directing it. Click here to learn more about Shankman's film.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Good Twist and Variation...or a Rip-off of a Classic Ballet? A Look at Changes in The Nutcracker

So I guess my question is, does change to an original classic piece ruin it, or enhance it?

Now that it is December and we are in the Christmas season, now is a good time to write about this. Last month I discovered a trailer for a 2010 3D film version of the classic Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. Check it out:

Here's the thing. I grew up with The Nutcracker. My family and I would try to go see it every year. It is one of my fondest childhood holiday memories and actually might be the first theatrical show I had ever seen in my life, so this show is a big deal because it triggered my interest in theater. I remember the dancing, the costumes, the scenery, etc. I am attached to it.

Before I go on, allow me to provide you with the basic premise of The Nutcracker with this simple video. You'll probably need this information to understand what I am talking about. Something I forgot to include in this clip is that the "Land of Sweets" is also referred to as the "Land of the Sugar Plums." This is actually the title I grew up with. No two versions of the actual ballet are the same, but they all seem to follow a basic structure.

This 2010 movie isn't the only version of The Nutcracker that exists. There are plenty of other versions as well. Even Barbie had her own version in 2001, which doesn't really follow the set up of the original ballet in any way. What I am wondering is, do these many different versions enhance The Nutcracker and continue and perhaps strengthen the tradition it brings to the holiday season by making changes and adding different flairs to it, or do these flairs make The Nutcracker out to be a watered down joke and not as much of a classic as it once was? Should it just be left alone in its original state, should it be altered for creative purposes, or does it make any difference?

I guess you can argue that there are plenty of remakes of anything. Movies have been remade, songs have been remade, so this shouldn't be an issue. However, that doesn't mean that these remakes are necessarily good. My argument is that this is a ballet with classical music composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky we are talking about. A lot of times it seems like dance isn't as showcased or appreciated as it should be in today's world. Today, in popular culture, dance is people in the background bouncing around in little clothing. There's not much of a focus on the art behind it. A reason why I like "So You Think You Can Dance" is because that show tries to rekindle passion in regards to dance. I think that might be why I don't take too kindly to other versions of The Nutcracker. There are too many different storylines and not enough focus on dance! It's odd that I would be saying this because in a majority of my other blog posts I discuss on how to improve storylines. In this one, however, I recognize how in The Nutcracker, dance is more of the focus rather than the actual story.

This has gotten me to thinking about why the Mouse King, the ballet's villain, is so evil. So many of these different versions always try to come up with explanations as to why he tries to take the Prince's (whom he turns into a nutcracker) kingdom away from him. In fact, it seems to be a reason why these versions are even created. They find something missing from the ballet and decide to use their own imaginations to fill that void. I can relate to this because it sounds like something I would do with my own writing and I appreciate creativity. But does it really matter? When I was a kid watching it, it never really occurred to me why the Mouse King was the bad guy, and the lack of reasons didn't alter my enjoyment of the ballet in any way. The battle sequence between the toys and the mice was actually my favorite part that I looked forward to it each time I saw it. I still love that part to this day. I think here and there I may have wondered what his motives are, but I never really sat down and truly thought about it. 

What annoys me about the 2010 movie is how the Mouse King doesn't even look like a mouse! He looks more like a Dr. Seuss character in a live action film. Growing up I remember the Mouse King having multiple heads and looking like a rodent, considering he is a MOUSE King. Also, he actually scared the crap out of me at times. Recently, the Mouse Kings don't look as frightening. At one point in the trailer the Mouse King randomly hisses...or growls...or whatever you want to call that. Is this supposed to add some scariness to his character? Well, it doesn't succeed. The growl seems to be just another ploy added to a trailer to add some exciting shock value. Randomly hissing out of nowhere does not add the same level of intensity the original Mouse Kings have.

Another thing that bugs me a bit about the numerous versions of The Nutcracker is the constant debate of the main little girl's first name. I grew up thinking that her name is "Clara," but then I find versions of her named "Marie," and finally, in this 3D film, apparently her name is "Mary." Just choose a name! Why does this kid have so many first names? Perhaps it has to do with cultural versions of it, and I don't hate the name "Marie" for her, but I just find it odd how a main character doesn't have an official first name. I also found out that the uncle who gives the little girl the Nutcracker is called Uncle Albert in the 3D version. Uncle Albert? The original guy's name is Uncle Drosselmeyer! What they're pretty much doing is Americanizing German characters. Yes, this is supposed to be a German story in a German setting. There's no need for that. American audiences can still enjoy a flick even though the characters' names are a little bit cultural. Oh! And the Mouse King is actually called the "Rat King." Wow, they are seriously going out of their way to make this guy bad, aren't they? Um, did the word "rat" just sound more evil to the writers? Hey, at least the Barbie version got a majority the names right! However, they do make her Uncle Drosselmeyer her Aunt Drosselmeyer...

From what I hear, the 3D film didn't do too well. This does not come as a surprise, people.

But another thing I often wonder is if Clara (I'm calling her Clara. I refuse to call her anything else.) and the Nutcracker Prince fall in love. Obviously they probably aren't going to touch on this in the 3D film because they have children playing the characters, but it is suggested in the ballet itself sometimes, because it did cross my mind as a kid. But it is made obvious in the Barbie version.

I'm noticing that part of the magic of The Nutcracker is making a majority of the story up for interpretation. As long as the audience knows the gist of the story and what is going on, the minor details aren't much of a bother. However, the Barbie version doesn't leave anything up for interpretation. I actually enjoy the Barbie version and own my own VHS copy of it (It's also on YouTube if you want to check it out.), but it's just not traditional! I mean, one of my biggest problems with the Barbie version is that the dances are all mushed together at the end when the Mouse King is defeated, a feat that also takes place at the very end. Dances and music that should be during the Christmas party scene or any other scene in the actual ballet take place sporadically throughout the movie out of context. Scenes like these prove that it does not follow the original structure of The Nutcracker at all. The rest of the film is dedicated to the storyline of them traveling the mystical land, developing the love story, and other additional ideas that aren't in the original ballet. It may be a good creative story, but it is not necessarily The Nutcracker.

E. T. A. Hoffmann wrote the novel, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which the ballet is based. Only Hoffmann knows the real deal. So I guess there could've been arguments back then about remaking a book into a ballet as well. I don't mind if movies remake ballets, as long as they do it right. 

Okay, so I just ranted a lot and gave plenty of points, so let me try to answer my original question: Do changes to The Nutcracker ruin it or make it better? It definitely depends on the individual. I don't see how any altered version can surpass the original ballet, but that's not to say that it is a horrible movie in itself. It also depend on your age. If a child watches a newer more enhanced version of The Nutcracker, with no previous knowledge of the original ballet, he or she may think it is the most epic piece of work ever. Maybe this whole time I am comparing film versions to the stage ballets. We all know that film and stage are two entirely different mediums so that isn't entirely fair. More can be done with fun so filmmakers take advantage of the technology to use their imaginations.

The changes I noticed have a lot to do with audience and popular culture. In the 2010 version, it seems that they incorporate modern forms of technology, such as what is used in the story itself and the fact that this is the first 3D version of The Nutcracker from what I see. I'm also thinking that because these film versions seem to be gearing towards children, they include storyline and slapstick to keep them interested. However, as a person who was a fan of the ballet as a child without anything additional, everything about it kept me entertained except for one scene, and that is the final dance, the Pas de Deux, between the Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy. It is beautifully danced and the music is just as beautiful, but boy is it boring. To me, it is the longest routine in the whole ballet. Well, at least it feels that way. The other dances can drag on a bit as well, so maybe the time that was once dedicated to the routines is now dedicated to storylines to once again keep children interested.

I think what is best is taking it as a piece standing on its own, rather than comparing it to the original ballet. Though that can be hard to do considering the similarities they have, it should be fine to watch and considered Christmas enjoyment just like the original piece.