Thursday, December 25, 2014

Why PBS Kids Always Does Holiday Specials Right - By Not Just Celebrating Christmas

You know, I've been thinking a lot about the political correctness involved with the holidays lately, such as us Christians always being told not to "offend" anyone or leave anyone out with all of our "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Birthday, Jesus Christ" supposed mumbo jumbo. This makes holiday cheer very bland and generic with "Happy Holidays" being the ONLY acceptable greeting. It's a decent, collective phrase, and usually I don't have a problem with people or myself using it, but at the same time it tends to dismiss the importance of the holidays and strip them of their individuality when on its own.

I've always felt that I would be happy to hear whatever people wanted to say to me. For example, if a Jewish person were to wish me a "Happy Hanukkah," I'd be honored. I mean no harm if I were to wish a Jewish person a "Merry Christmas". Jewish people have wished Christians "Merry Christmas" and I have wished Jewish people "Happy Hanukkah". This really isn't a huge issue and to make an issue out of it is pretty ridiculous. Actually, it seems like not many people really care as much and we are making an issue out of it for no reason. I like learning about different cultures and it's great when we share cultures with each other. All we are doing is spreading joy.

I believe PBS Kids is partially to thank for this positive attitude of mine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Great News, SYTYCD Fans!!! :D

I HAD to blog about this one!

You probably know by now, if you are a SYTYCD fan already, that it was revealed on Monday night, November 17, that FOX RENEWED "SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE" FOR SEASON 12!!!!!!


What's so great about this is that we were all so concerned about it throughout Season 11 and FOX actually heard our pleas and took them into consideration (as well as some other business financial agreements I'm sure). We banded together and got this amazing result! Once again, thank you so much to everyone for making this possible!

I also love that my writing, my thing, my Open Letter to FOX, probably contributed to this as well.

I was actually at a diner having dinner with my family when I first found out. (I know. SO Jersey, right??) We were sitting in a booth and there was a TV in front of us and News 12 New Jersey was on. My dad cried, "Stef!" and pointed at the screen. I looked up. There on the bottom it said "FOX Renews 'So You Think You Can Dance' for Season 12." I immediately couldn't continue eating I was so happy and excited, although I had to see it show up again to make sure I read it correctly. I even got teary-eyed, feeling relief. I couldn't wait to get home and celebrate with fellow fans. I also really love that News 12 New Jersey considered this important enough to put on their news feed.

For my initial social media reaction as well as many others, check us out on Twitter. It's a love fest of rejoicing and thrill. Truly beautiful. Here are the dancers from Season 11 on tour celebrating the news. I hate to think about what Twitter would look like if they had cancelled it.

“SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE is a rare jewel," says Simon Andreae, the Executive Vice President of FOX. I love that the show is acknowledged in such a way and that the art of dance is important to the company.

However, there IS a catch. For some. Season 12 will be having a whole new format. Instead of the dance genre competitors being random, they will be split into two teams: Team Stage (contemporary, ballet, jazz, tap, etc.) and Team Street (hip hop, animation, breaking, etc.)

This new format has been getting mixed reviews so far. People are already complaining about it, saying that they shouldn't put the two styles against each other and that the original format was better and this is an unnecessary change.

However, I think it's awesome! First of all, it appears that the show was hanging by a thread so we should be grateful that it is even returning. Second, we still are going to have a Top 20, with perhaps more variety, though I'm not entirely sure how they are going to pair them off or if they are. And third, it's a different concept to look forward to. I think we should give it a chance to see how it goes before we totally trash it. If it doesn't work, then they should decide whether or not they need to shelve it and think of something else to try.

This isn't the first time the show has had an odd format. Season 7 was weird because that one didn't have a Top 20 with contestant partnerships because it was the first season to introduce the All-Stars concept. People disliked that at first too but after awhile seemed to have warmed up to it, happy to see their favorite dancers return to the SYTYCD stage. This season went down in history as one of my favorite seasons because of ROBERT ROLDAN.

As time went on, the combination between the Top 20 pairings and the Top 10 eventually dancing with the All-Stars seemed to go over well, so perhaps this new concept mixed with some of the old will do the trick. I don't picture it being overly different as some seem to be taking it.

All in all, it is SO wonderful that "So You Think You Can Dance" is still around to enjoy and I look forward to Season 12! We did it!! :D

You know, the cancellation of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and the renewal of "So You Think You Can Dance" has REALLY helped renew my faith in humanity. Seriously.

Relive some of the show's best routines here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Let's Talk About Some Awesome Broadway Happenings!

Let's talk about some theater shows that opened on Broadway this October that I am particularly excited about.

For this I am going to go by some Tony categories.

The Musical Revival: On the Town
Theater: Lyric Theatre
First Preview: September 20, 2014
Opening Night: October 16, 2014

First of all, let's get the "So You Think You Can Dance" connection to it out of the way.

It always comes back to that, doesn't it?

Ricky Ubeda, SYTYCD Season 11 winner
SYTYCD was how I first heard about the revival. Contemporary dancer Ricky Ubeda won the Season 11 competition, so therefore part of his award is landing a role in the ensemble. I originally thought that he would get a lead role, but oh well.

Part of the reason why I was rooting for hip hop and tap dancer Teddy Coffey is because of his musical theater background and singing talent, making him perfect for this, therefore a reasonable victor. Plus he wouldn't be too far from me lol. After he was eliminated I was rooting for tap dancer Zack Everhart, because who wouldn't want to see that guy in a musical? However, Ricky proves his worth and appreciation so I am glad that he won. I hope to see him in the show!

I'm excited about it because I first saw it at the Paper Mill Playhouse and even wrote about it for this blog! (Well, actually, I originally wrote it for The Montclarion, but because they didn't run it, I posted it here.)

The story follows sailors, mainly Ozzie, Chip, and Gabey, enjoying a 24-hour leave sightseeing and falling in love in New York before they embark on their military duties. It's a heartwarming musical about living in the moment and I am glad it is back.

Bonus: I just found out that SYTYCD Season 8 alum and former "Newsies" cast member Jess LeProtto of Little Falls, New Jersey is also in it.

Here is the Top 20 group number SYTYCD Season 11 did in honor of the musical. This was how I first learned about the revival and the award, as well as social media. Joshua Bergasse, the choreographer for the revival, choreographed this routine as well.:

Honorable Mention for Musical Revival: Side Show
Theater: St. James Theatre
First Preview: October 28, 2014
Opening Night: November 17, 2014

The Department of Theatre and Dance at Montclair State University actually presented this musical about two conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton working at a freak show at the Alexander Kasser Theater a few years ago. It was one of the few shows I didn't see there, but I fell in love with the music when I watched YouTube videos of it. This is another chance for me to see it live. Like "On the Town", I am happy to see its return. :)

In fact, the MSU version of "Side Show" had its own installment in my "Peak Performances and their Awkward Sexual Moments" series, if you remember. Unfortunately, the videos I mentioned have since been taken down, as you can see in the blog post.

The New Play: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Theater: Ethel Barrymore Theatre
First Preview: September 10, 2014
Opening Night: October 5, 2014

This play is based on the novel of the same name. I had to read the book for a summer reading assignment back in high school and when September rolled around we had group discussions about it.

This production looks just as artistically pleasing as the novel is. From what I remember, the book follows the adventures of and is narrated by an autistic kid named Christopher Boone investigating the murder of a dog and his interactions with people. There are actually illustrations throughout the book to showcase the kid's mind patterns, so that was a pleasant, welcome change to what I normally read for school. I expect the live play to be no less intricate.

It's not a favorite book of mine, but it is different and I like that another book that I have read now has a Broadway play counterpart of its own, considering that I missed out on James Franco's Broadway debut in "Of Mice and Men" this past summer.

The New Musical: The Last Ship
Theater: Neil Simon Theatre
First Preview: September 29, 2014
Opening Night: October 26, 2014

Finally, my favorite one on this list and the inspiration for this blog post.

This one I am particularly excited about because I see this every time I try to watch a YouTube video, and unlike other ads that just annoy me until the five seconds are up, I actually enjoy this one and normally let it play to its full course.

Composed by Sting, it follows the tale of Gideon Fletcher who works at the England town's shipyard but wants more out of life. The plot involves saving the shipyard and lost love.

Normally I wouldn't find sailing that entertaining nor am I a huge Sting fan, but something about this musical is drawing me to it. I'm excited about this one because it has a different vibe that I can't put to words. Perhaps it's that it doesn't incorporate the traditional cuteness most musical love stories often give off. I mean, it's about a shipyard. We never see musicals about that.

Plus, it seems to have strong female characters, and I always appreciate that.

That's Rachel Tucker making her Broadway debut as Meg Dawson, Gideon's jilted love. And she's clearly upset.

This is such a great scene from the unique choreography to the girl power sarcasm. I love Tucker in this because she has a deep, raspy voice in her singing that doesn't really match the high-pitched voices most musical leading ladies have. I think it might be her Irish brogue. When I first watched this, I was shocked to hear how deep and raspy her voice is. I didn't expect it.

Idina Menzel is another Broadway woman that does this I guess, but a lot of people can't really sing and belt like her and may find it difficult to sing the songs that are tailored for her. I myself do try my hand at Menzel's work at times and think I can pull it off okay, but I'm not very vocally trained.

I feel that Tucker and this song opens more opportunities for women who can't hit those certain high notes, like myself. I think that I'd feel pretty confident singing this song as opposed to others. So thanks, Sting!

Apparently a Sting musical has been in rumors for awhile now, but watching YouTube videos lately is the first I am hearing about it. That is some GREAT advertising!

Now if I can only get enough money to see all of these. :P

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Does Art Always Have to Have a Meaning? A Theater Journalist's First Green Room Interview Experience

This blog post has been inspired by something Richard Schechner, the director of Alexander Kasser Theater's 10th season's opening production "Imagining O", said to me. I was covering "Imagining O" for Baristanet, which led to my interaction with Mr. Schechner.

"Imagining O" is one of those plays that does not necessarily have a straightforward story line. This particular play more so prides itself with its little bits and pieces of dream imagination sequences. After the play concluded and I chatted with two of the cast members, I asked to meet Mr. Schechner. I was taken backstage to the green room where he was sharing notes of the night's performance with the cast. We were introduced and I asked to get a quote from him. He then told me to ask the cast anything I wanted.

I figured that now that I am a professional freelance writer and a college graduate actually working in my field, I was in a good position to do backstage interviews. I never did these back when I was a Montclarion staff writer. This was my first chance as a professional so I wanted to take advantage of it and do it right.

I turned to the girls. They were women of all different ages, so it being a female run show I was excited to interact with them all. They in turn looked thrilled to see me there, so I wanted to make a good impression. They asked me what I wanted to know, and I told them that they could tell me anything they wanted. I used this as an opportunity to let the performers just say anything they want about their experiences with no limitations. However, Mr. Schechner preferred that I ask them specific questions.

"Oh. Okay," I said, seating myself sideways at the nearest table to face the cast, who was eating their dinner on a leather couch in the middle of the room. Mr Schechner sat to my left facing them. My mind raced searching for the questions that I had been mentally asking throughout the production. So, I turned to my generic question, one that I had also asked the two cast members a few minutes beforehand.

"What message do you hope to convey with this performance?" I asked.

Now that I think about it, I think I often ask this question and ones like it. I like to get some insight from the performers based on their own perspective of the piece.

However, Mr. Schechner wasn't having it.

“There are no messages or morals,” said Mr. Schechner, “It is full of contradictions and about imagination.”

I actually used this for a quote in my article.

The cast asked me what I thought of the play. All eyes were on me and I felt somewhat unprepared, given that the play wasn't fully clear to me and once again I wanted to make a good impression.

I said, "Well, I'll be honest. There were times when I was lost." I felt a little hesitant to say that to their faces, actually turning around to place my pen on my notebook probably to subconsciously avoid eye contact. But that's understandable, right? To feel lost during an art piece?

Mr. Schechner seemed perplexed. "At what part specifically were you lost?" He proceeded to tell me to get the idea of messages out of my mind (I think this was when he said that quote.) and that the play was just a piece of art to watch. He then compared it to looking at a sunset or a thunderstorm.

"Is there a message in the sunset? Is there a message in the thunderstorm?" he asked me, awaiting my response.

A little dumbfounded, I shook my head and uttered a small, "No." I mean, he DID have a point...

But then a few days later I thought that there very well COULD be symbolic messages behind sunsets and thunderstorms!!

Since then my article was written and published, but this debate about artistic messages and lack thereof stayed with me. I always felt that art had its own interpretations based on the viewer. Art is used to directly or indirectly make a point, such as with use of symbolism and satire, two of which "Imagining O" incorporates.

I thought back to my college days (Ha! It's only been a year and a half and I'm already considering them "back to my college days.") during my junior/senior year when I took an Art of Drama course with one of my favorite professors and advisor, Professor Naomi Liebler. She enjoyed discussions and challenging her students, especially me because I often spoke up in class and she knew me from our advising sessions in her office. This same discussion came up when discussing a play and for some reason she brought up juggling. She claimed that juggling is an art form that has no meaning behind it and questioned what meaning it could try to portray. I retaliated by saying that juggling could be symbolic of keeping balance in the world or something like that.

I have always been a deep thinker, obviously.

Professor Liebler gave me a look. It wasn't, "Wow, you're absolutely right!" nor was it "No, you're absolutely wrong." It was an in-between confused, somewhat sarcastic and proud grin that said to me, "Really? You really think that? Come on, now!" She may have actually said those words, but she was mainly happy that I was thinking and willing to argue my point with her.

She gave me the same look another time when she said that drama is a genre and comedy isn't and I claimed that comedy is just as much a genre as drama is. I think she believed that drama has more depth to it with tragic heros and whatnot whereas comedy does not and is just there. However, I believe that comedy could have depth to it as well and if drama is a genre than why shouldn't comedy be? This was when she smirked at me, her head resting on her right hand as she sat before us. She then stated that she was reconsidering her claim.

So am I right in believing that all art has meaning or could certain things in this world exist without it? 

Is it even possible for things to not have meaning? Doesn't everything have a reason?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Open Letter to FOX about "So You Think You Can Dance"

Dear FOX (and any other TV station),

My name is Stefanie Sears. I am a professional freelance arts and entertainment writer from and residing in New Jersey. I am an avid fan of "So You Think You Can Dance" ("SYTYCD"), the American version, and it has been my favorite show since I began watching it back in 2007. Thank you for the show's very successful eleven seasons thus far. It has brought so much joy to my life and to the lives of others.

However, it has come to my attention that the show's fate weighs in the balance, so please allow me to express why it deserves to continue to have a spot in your summer prime time lineup.

Met Season 9 winner Chehon Wespi-Tschopp
at his Che Force Dance! The Convention Tour
1) "So You Think You Can Dance" helps some dancers' careers by focusing on them.

As an artist myself, a writer and a performing arts writer at that, I completely understand the struggle young artists endure to find good paying work for their abilities. It absolutely infuriates me to see no-talented folk constantly getting attention and big bucks for doing nothing worthwhile while young passionate artists who actually care and have talent are grabbing at peanuts.

For SYTYCD in particular, not only are dance and dancers showcased, they are SPOTLIGHTED. They are not background dancers like in most other shows; they are front and center. The first time we really saw this was when "A Chorus Line", known as the "dancers' musical," premiered on Broadway in 1975.

Let's continue to see this.

The dancers then go onto bigger things because the show has made them recognizable and I enjoy watching their careers progress. Contestants nowadays have been viewers who in the past have aspired to get on the show and end up achieving just that. Taking the show away takes away more career opportunity chances from more dancers.

In addition, the show gives the choreographers a chance to create and the acknowledgement they deserve.

2) "So You Think You Can Dance" introduces an art form that is rarely explored on TV (but the trend has been getting more popular).

In the television industry, singing competition game shows dominate, so it is great to see another art form, dance, highlighted in this way. Another show that comes to mind that does this and airs on general television is "Dancing with the Stars" ("DWTS"), a show that actually incorporates some SYTYCD alum. The difference between SYTYCD and DWTS is that DWTS focuses mainly on ballroom dancing whereas SYTYCD is more varied, though DWTS seems to have been expanding its horizons. Another difference is that although DWTS gives celebrities an opportunity to dance, SYTYCD is a way for young dancers to break out into the dance field.

A part of me wishes that "So You Think You Can Dance" wasn't a competition game show but rather just a dance variety show, but the show is what it is and does what it does.

Not only is it entertainment, it is educational, something that a lot of TV shows nowadays lack. Unlike what happens with "American Idol," SYTYCD's singing sister show that has been on the air even longer, the general consistency of the judges on SYTYCD is also a plus. I've often noticed that veteran judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy and host Cat Deeley always really seem to love their jobs.

3)  "So You Think You Can Dance" is often up for an Emmy.

This year it is up for SEVEN (and even won some!). Not only is this an honor for the show itself, it is an honor for your station as well.

Season 11's Top 18 performs a chess themed hip hop group number
(My current desktop wallpaper)

4) "So You Think You Can Dance" created "National Dance Day".

Technically, SYTYCD's executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and his Dizzy Feet Foundation created the dance holiday, but SYTYCD is how a lot of participants have heard about it and the Dizzy Feet Foundation, which was "founded to support, improve, and increase dance education in the United States." It is wonderful to share such a great day celebrating dance with a TV show that promotes it. We share this happiness together and it is one of my favorite days of the year.

5) The "So You Think You Can Dance" Tours are the best experiences.

The SYTYCD Tours have been some of the best nights of my life. I've attended the tours for seasons 4, 7, and 10. Seeing the dancers you have admired onscreen now live, up close, and personal is always such an amazing experience.

Getting to meet them and chat for a little while is even better.

Meeting Stephen "Twitch" Boss at my first SYTYCD tour with friends Lauren and Cara
SYTYCD Tour 2008

Season 7's Robert Roldan from SYTYCD Tour 2010
(I've treasured this picture for years)

Season 10 from SYTYCD Tour 2013

6) "So You Think You Can Dance" helps people make friends.

Everybody seems to have their own fandom. This one happens to be mine. We've all heard of fans who have bonded over "Doctor Who", "Breaking Bad", and "Game of Thrones", to name a few, but I ended up connecting with fellow fans across the states and the globe because of THIS show. It is great to bond with people in this way, and I ended up bonding with two groups. One is the #SOTTMP (the acronym for which is an inside joke) and the other is the #SYTYCDFanFamily. I am grateful to have met them all through this show and share memories with them.

Not only are the fans a family unit, those involved with the show are a family unit as well. Together we invest in these dancers and hope the best for them.

7) "So You Think You Can Dance" is a source of happiness.

For some people, SYTYCD may be their only source of happiness in an otherwise struggling world. I myself can attest to this to an extent.

In a world full of bad news constantly taking place and corroding our newsfeeds and airwaves, or just being a post-graduate looking for good paying work and feeling frustrated at times, watching the show and interviews with the dancers instantly makes me feel better and takes my mind off of things. The words of wisdom from the dancers inspire me and their quirky personalities make me laugh.

But although dance is something to enjoy in times of sorrow, it could also be used to raise awareness and release emotion about the negatives in the world. This is something we all need.

The show itself is something for us all to come together and look forward to every week and especially every summer. We look forward to meeting new dancers and routines. Once a season (and even its following tour) ends, we end up feeling withdrawal. No other show gets the same reaction or comes up to it, at least for me.

There could be other reasons that other people and myself could add to this, but I believe my point still stands that "So You Think You Can Dance" is one worthwhile television program.
Of course, ratings are an issue, as well as money, and all good shows must come to an end at some point, but "So You Think You Can Dance" has not yet reached that point. The show is unique when compared to other shows that are currently airing (some of which that have overstayed their welcome) and I can assure you that people do indeed tune in and appreciate what it has to offer. The show has its fans. There are also those who watch the show online or on their DVRs, so this could account for the low ratings in real time.

Ever need further proof? Check out what people have to say on Facebook and Twitter. You say yourself in the snippet to the left that you love the show, so it shouldn't be an issue for you to keep it alive.

SYTYCD helps people through their struggles and brings them joy. It deserves to continue that legacy.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. It is much appreciated if you were to please take your audience's requests and pleas into consideration.


Stefanie Sears

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Professional Website Launch!

So other than endorsing Teddy Coffey, Carly Blaney, Serge Onik, and eventually Emily James on "So You Think You Can Dance" (ALL of whom were eliminated last night! >:|), I have been busy with job searching and other moves to further my career. I haven't really been inspired to writing a "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time" style blog post, though I am interested in and brainstorming one about Teddy.

So, like I said, I don't like any month going by without a blog post, so here is July's post! Yay!

For the longest time I have been using this blog as my website, but I decided to jump in and actually finally create a website for myself after dabbling in it in the past but never being satisfied. I have been working on my professional website since March. The plan was to take a month to work on it and launch it in April but I got cold feet and kept tweaking it until I finally did publish it in late June. It might still need some decorating, but it looks nice right now. I'm actually hoping to do a photo shoot with my friend Andy at some point to get some professional head shots.

I've also been wondering if I should use different social media accounts just for my professional side. They have been created, but for right now I am just using the social media I have always been using. They seem to be working out thus far. I will let you know if anything changes.

So, here is my website! :)

Also, don't worry, "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time" will still be here for my personal musings. ;)

Let's see how this works out!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Moritz Stiefel's Hair: 'Mind-Blowing' Theories about the Bumbling "Spring Awakening" Supporting Character

Ever since I wrote about the Studio Players production of Spring Awakening for Baristanet, I've been on a Spring Awakening kick since its preview show. 

The more I thought about this musical, the more the character design of supporting character Moritz Stiefel came to mind.

Seriously, what is up with his hair?

I've always wondered this. For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, here is the original design of Moritz Stiefel, as played by John Gallagher, Jr. in the Broadway version:

John Gallagher, Jr. as "Moritz Stiefel" performing at the 2007 Tony Awards

Okay, now that you've seen it, let's talk about it. His hair definitely stands out. It stands out so much that when I first saw the Studio Players production and all of the guys first came out during the "Mama Who Bore Me (Reprise)", I immediately was able to pinpoint which cast member was playing Moritz based on his hair alone. He didn't have to do anything, he didn't have to say anything. All he had to do was walk out with his hair sticking up and flipped over and I was all like, "That's Moritz."

Here is the Studio Players version of Moritz Stiefel, as played by Montclair State University musical theater major Chris Newhouse:

Photo Credit: Claudia Budris

What's funny is it took me a little while to realize which actor was playing the lead character, resident radical Melchior Gabor. I didn't have this issue with Moritz by any means.

This tells me that the hairstyle for Moritz is so intentional that every actor who plays him has to make his hair look this way. I'm actually sensing that Newhouse grew and styled his hair out purposely for the role. If you look at the original costume sketches for the character from the book I have, you'll notice that his hair is the same there as well:

In fact, it is so iconic that it even HAS ITS OWN GOOGLE SEARCH RESULT.

So the question is: why?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Thoughts on Eric Hill's "The Bachelorette" Departure

I didn't really want to dedicate a whole blog post to this, but I need to rant extending beyond my tweets and I don't feel like making this into a video.

Eric Hill was right and Andi Dorfman was wrong. Deal.

This show has a history of people not being sincere because the cameras are on, or they're not there for the right reasons. :P That latter one is typical. There's always SOMEONE accused of that. It never fails.

Anyway, if the Bachelor/Bachelorette in question is guilty of the same, then the contestants have just as much right to call him or her out on it. This is what Eric did by saying to Andi that she has a poker face and comes across like a TV actress. In other words, he felt that she wasn't being real with him. She responded by lashing out at him.

If a guy with whom I am developing a relationship sees something that needs discussing, I would WANT him to bring it up to me. In fact, I'd be grateful to have such an honest man wanting me. I don't want him to just kiss my butt like these bachelors tend to do. Discussing certain issues is how relationships work and Eric was one of the few people on the show who has been realistic. But sorry, the show wants things to just fit its specific mold of perfection and drama. It's a fairy tale, which is part of the show's appeal anyway.

Seeing the coming attractions during the show of Andi crying, I had no idea she was crying about something HE said. You know, he could've complained about her to the other guys and that probably would've upset her even more. He was man enough to take her aside to bring up the grievance.

Okay, so maybe I can see how she was offended a bit and defensive. Perhaps she felt like he was attacking her. But she totally handled it the wrong way and I'm sure she feels the same way looking back at it now. Regardless of the somewhat decent relationship they had, she told him to leave after this one incident. In other words, too soon.

All of this makes it worse that he passed away shortly after from a paragliding accident and now people don't have closure with him.

I'm upset that he left the show in this way because that's how audiences will remember him now. I knew that she didn't choose him, but I just wish he had a less harsh exit. Even a disappointed exit would've been better. Anything besides her being angry at him. I wish it was more pleasant and that they parted on at least somewhat decent terms. I thought this is how it would be.

But what makes it EVEN WORSE is that Andi didn't seem to show any compassion about it at all. It's like she didn't even care. Andi came across really cold-hearted during that interview with host Chris Harrison. She could've been a little more respectful, remorseful, and sad. She should've addressed his loved ones saying, "You know, even though we had that spat before he left, he was still a great guy. My condolences." But NO, SHE had to be the victim! Heck, even Chris has given his condolences. MORE THAN ONCE.

Unless she did indeed do something like this and I missed it.

By the way, if she has to "try to be natural" like she said, then she's truly the TV actress Eric accused her of being. However, it might feel awkward to be natural with a bunch of cameras around so there I understand a bit why she'd feel insulted, but once again she didn't have to let him go for that ONE reason. It was as if they were looking for a small reason for her to get rid of him. They seemed to have gotten along otherwise and maybe he would've still been around if he did stay on the show. Who knows? Yet he might've still gone paragliding regardless of how or when he left or even if she chose him.

Then she goes to the rest of the guys like, "This is real for me, so it should be real for you." Pfft. Whatever. None of this is real for anyone involved with the show.

I didn't even want to watch this season because I knew that he died before it even aired and he was my favorite contestant when they first started announcing them.

I even took to Facebook to begin fangirling

He's actually the type of "Bachelorette" contestant I would want NOT to win because then he'd still be on the market. When I first saw the news on Facebook or AOL that a "Bachelorette" guy died, I saw his name and the link, clicked on it, and was hoping that it wasn't the one guy I liked. But sure enough..

I was legitimately upset about this when I first heard about it. It was so sad. And after seeing his final episode I became sad again.

I actually haven't been watching and was going to view it maybe after he left so I didn't get attached, but I did tune into these past two episodes and watched some past clips because I was curious to see what he was like. It's so strange seeing footage of him knowing that he's gone.

Based on what I read and saw of him, he was a loving, genuine, family-oriented great guy who did great things. He loved life and died doing what he loved. He was an adventurer and a beautiful person.

However, the thing is it's not like with other past cut contestants that we can think now that he would find love and have a family after the show, so that's what saddens me the most. In a world with plenty of men who aren't worthwhile, it upsets me that one of the few good ones is gone and not able to be a potential suitor for one lucky lady. In a world full of misogynistic men, why did a man who seemed like a gentleman who respected women have to die? I just don't understand!

Thinking about his passing has gotten me all questioning why good people die so young and yet there are so many bad people who are still alive. I will never fathom this.

Anyway, Eric is with God now and is even happier. That's all I can say and all that matters. My condolences to his loved ones. Heaven has truly gained an angel.

As for Andi, I think it's true that a lot of this backlash against her about the incident intensified because he did indeed die. If he didn't it wouldn't be as big of a deal because then he would just show up on "Men Tell All", lay it all out on the table there, and then everyone would move on. But her phoniness and lack of compassion during her interview knowing that he is now deceased made me lose a lot of respect for her. I've always been a bit indifferent toward her and everybody else on the show really. I'm not exactly rooting for her and knowing the history of the show, she's not going to find a long lasting relationship on there anyway.

On a future episode, they're going to show us how they all react to Eric's death.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

An Update about my Life

I made a promise to myself to never let a month go by without a blog post. Obviously consider this May 2014's blog post.

I've had different ideas for May blog posts and even started writing some, but I've just been too busy to really focus on them.

Here's why:

1) I finally got a part time job!!! All year since graduation I've been searching for a job and finally found a nice one. I'm still learning the ropes and am a little rusty, for I just started May 9, so I hope to improve.

Oh wow. I'm almost working there a month already.

My shift is great and I wanted one like it so I can still focus on my freelance writing...

2) I recently saw a play at Studio Playhouse again, this time a musical, and am reviewing it for Baristanet. So keep a look out for that. :)

I like that I am juggling the two for extra income and am still looking for additional job opportunities. But I like where I am now in my life. I'm feeling a bit more confident in my professional self.

3) I will be taking an online course called "Writing Storybooks for Children". My aunt suggested it to me because she found a Groupon for it. At first hesitant, I decided to take it because it looks like a nice little course. I'm hoping that it can help me broaden my horizons with my writing and give me something extra productive to do, for I've never considered myself a children's book writer. We even get a certificate at the end for completing it!

It says that I can work the course into my own schedule, which is great. I think I'll update you with my progress on Twitter or something like that if I so choose.

4) I'm hoping to see both Maleficent and A Million Ways to Die in the West, both of which opened May 30, with friends. I'd like to make video reviews with them for both movies, but at the same time I just want to relax and just watch a movie for once, so we'll see what happens. I especially want to do one for Maleficent but I want to do it for the other movie too because it's Seth MacFarlane's second film and I kind of want to do a Paper Cup Reviews follow up to our Ted episode. I have been looking forward to both movies for the longest time and keep hearing about them and what critics are saying, but I want to see for myself. I even think the two are being compared, such as which do you prefer seeing, a drama (Maleficent) or a comedy (A Million Ways to Die in the West)?

Okay so there are the main things right now. I'm still looking into other activities in which to partake.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why THIS IS THE END (2013) is a Strangely Appropriate Film for Lent (Written by a Christian Catholic)

It's not the best movie in the world, okay? You wouldn't necessarily consider it a religious experience considering its vulgar humor, but I found it a somewhat appropriate film for this time of the liturgical year: Lent.

To see if I am making a bold statement, I looked up some Christian and Catholic reviews of the film, which exist because of its nature, and they just knock it. So, I decided to share my positive point of view of it.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) - Fictional Woman of the Week: Carmen Cortez from the "Spy Kids" Franchise (2001, 2002, 2003, 2011)

The Spy Kids franchise is a group of movies that introduces the spy genre to kids. It's amazing how as a kid watching them, these were some of the most brilliant movies, but now watching them as an adult, they are so corny.

Anyway, that is a blog post for another time.

Carmen Cortez (Alexa Vega) is very mature for her age. When she and her little brother and eventual secret agent partner Juni (Daryl Sabara) discover their parents' secret career, they are thrown into the secret agent business themselves, family being a huge theme of the series. She and her brother embark on missions on their own, Carmen often the one wanting independence. She's well spoken, takes things seriously, and is an expert hacker. She and her brother work together and aren't afraid to acknowledge that they need each other.

The fate of the world often rests in her hands.

And yet, she's still just a kid.

She's sometimes embarrassed by her parents, fights with her brother, and develops a crush on a rival agent in the second movie. She has both a girly and tomboyish side, so therefore all different little girls can relate to her. Throughout the course of the franchise we watch her grow up. In the third movie she is somewhat irrelevant as Juni carries the story searching for her in a virtual reality game. His whole goal is to find her, so I guess she is important, but we don't really see her until the final quarter of the film. I think this is partially because at the time actress Vega was finding herself a little too old to be considered a "spy kid."

Her Outcome: Carmen appears in the fourth and so far final movie of the franchise as an experienced agent fit to train others. She and Juni reopen and become co-directors of the O.S.S. Spy Kids program.

I don't want to jinx this, but I also want to commend Alexa Vega for not becoming a child star gone bad. I highly appreciate her for this.

Well, since today is the final day of March, this is the final installment of this series this year. I hope you enjoyed my weekly posts! Thank you so much for reading. I've already been planning for next year!

Once again, Happy Women's History Month! :D

Monday, March 24, 2014

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) - Fictional Woman of the Week: The Warden from "Holes" (1998, 2003)

The Warden became another Disney villainess when the Disney film adaptation of Louis Sachar's novel of the same name came out in 2003. She was portrayed by Sigourney Weaver.

I wanted to write about a book character and asked for suggestions via social media. I expected to get Katniss from The Hunger Games series or Hermione from the Harry Potter series (later on I actually did), but instead I got Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind and Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights.

I don't know as much about Hermione or Katniss or have much of an attachment to them in order to write about them and the other two don't seem that very influential in a positive way, so I decided to choose one of the few female characters from my favorite childhood book and movie. It's still among my favorites.

She actually might be a strange choice for this series given that she is not necessarily positive herself, but you be the judge.

Holes is very testosterone heavy, so therefore The Warden stands out that much more. It isn't determined until much later that the Warden is indeed a chick. She even has this whole introduction scene.

The nameless Warden runs Camp Green Lake, which is where juvenile delinquent boys dig holes to "build character." However, there is a more sinister behind it.

Anyway, what makes her influential is how she carries herself running a company. Sure, some of her actions aren't quite honorable, but she is actually very soft-spoken and rarely needs to raise her voice for the men at the camp to do what they are told. The male camp counselors, Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) and Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson), never seem to have a problem taking orders from a woman. In fact, they actually seem pretty scared of her and her low key scoldings. She's one of those people who is frightening because she is so calm.

Until she strikes you with rattlesnake venom nail polish.

Regardless of her intentions and that she is running a sketchy facility, she is actually a pretty brave and clever woman. She is someone with whom you do not want to mess.

Her Outcome: The Warden, along with her camp counselors, is arrested for misconduct. However, you do feel sorry for her.

I can't recall if they revealed this in the book, but in the movie it is revealed that she is Trout Walker's (Scott Plank) granddaughter and Walker forced her to dig holes in this very area as a child in pursuit of Kissin' Kate Barlow's (Patricia Arquette) treasure. It turns out that the treasure belongs to the Yelnats family, and before Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf), the main character serving time at Camp Green Lake, leaves, she asks to see what's inside the chest. He sarcastically replies with her own catch phrase, "Excuse me?", and refuses.

From the audience's perspective, he could've very well showed her to give her some closure. You sympathize with her because it wasn't her fault that her childhood was ruined by her grandfather, making her frantically search for the treasure herself in her adult years.

But then again, making a sneaky institution force teenage boys to dig for her is pretty cruel.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) - Fictional Woman of the Week: Ursula from "The Little Mermaid" (1989)

Villains can be influential too, right?

She's not conventionally pretty or thin, but dang it, she is CONFIDENT! She is proud of her "body language" and isn't afraid to admit when she thinks that a younger man is hot. She also loves makeup.

Like Jafar, Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll) is one of the Disney villains that gets to share her side of the story in StarKid's Twisted. Wonderfully performed by StarKid Jaime Lyn Beatty, I had a feeling that Ursula's background would be what she said it was. Ever since I watched this, I've been inspired by this character to write about her more.

She was the last female Disney villain before Mother Gothel of Tangled. When compared to other female Disney villains, such as Maleficent, The Evil Queen, Lady Tremaine, etc., she seems the most joyous, doesn't she? While the rest of these women are your typically moody old hags out to destroy those younger and prettier than them, Ursula has her fun and is always laughing.

Ursula's motives are a lot more than just hating Ariel for being pretty; she wants to rule over the whole ocean! She also straight up gives Ariel detailed instructions and informs her of consequences. No villain is that kind.

Her Outcome: Ursula is impaled by Prince Eric's ship's bowspirit.

Check out this cute video I discovered awhile ago of voice actress Carroll reading to kids. :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) - Fictional Woman of the Week: Nikki Parker from "The Parkers" (1999-2004)

Another spinoff series, "The Parkers" was a sitcom introduced through "Moesha". Nikki Parker (Mo'Nique) is the mother of Kim (Countess Vaughn), Moesha's friend.

This basic premise of the show is that Nicole "Nikki" Parker gave birth to Kimberly Ann Parker when she was a teenager, thus missing out on college. So when her daughter attends Santa Monica College, Nikki joins her.

In addition to her studies, which she takes very seriously, this Alize-loving gal is a multi-businesswoman. She is first involved with Lady Egyptian cosmetics and then begins her own catering service.

Now, some people may not consider her a feminist character because throughout the series she chases the object of her affections, Professor Stanley Oglevee (Dorien Wilson), a man who clearly wants nothing to do with her, or even like her for that matter. In fact, he goes as far as to point out that he utterly despises her and has put a restraining order on her, but yet she always battles other women for his love, much to his aggravation. She's also extremely delusional, thinking that she is already in a relationship with him.

Then again, she might be admired by audiences for this as well because she is a woman who knows what she wants and is pursuing her man, thus switching gender roles. Whatever it may be, it makes for entertainment.

Nikki is sometimes prone to violence or threats if you cross her, her daughter, or, if you're a woman, get near the Professor, making people somewhat afraid of her at times, so in this way she may not necessarily be that positively influential. My favorite aspect of her though is that she is confident, both mentally and physically, and always stands up for herself when people push her too far. But even under her tough exterior, she also has a lot of tenderness towards others, especially for Kim. Nikki and Kim are one of my favorite TV mother/daughter relationships.

She is also often found laughing and looking at the positive sides of life.

Her Outcome: Nikki graduates college and is about to marry another man when the Professor crashes her wedding and states that he loves her and has been a fool all of these years. After apologizing to her betrothed, she then becomes Mrs. Stanley Oglevee.

I really didn't like this ending because I felt that it wasn't realistic at all and that she should've finally moved on, but I guess they wanted to end it with a happy, expected conclusion.

Since her "Parkers' years, Mo'Nique has had plenty of her own achievements. Among these are the awards, including a Golden Globe and Oscar, she won for her role in Precious back in 2009. I also give her credit for her hard earned weight loss.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) - Fictional Woman of the Week: Maude Findlay from "Maude" (1972-1978)

Happy Women's History Month, Everyone!

I decided to resurrect this series for Women's History Month, this time writing a weekly post about a fictional female character throughout the month. We begin with Mrs. Maude Findlay, played by the legendary Bea Arthur.

"Maude" is a spinoff series of another controversial seventies sitcom "All in the Family", Maude being Edith Bunker's cousin.

Maude Findlay is the embodiment of feminism. The show discusses many different modern controversial topics, such as women's liberation, abortion, politics, marriage, civil rights, gender norms, and the like. Whether it is dealing with her lackadaisical yet just as passionate fourth husband Walter (Bill Macy), her divorced live-in daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau), or her neighbors and friends Arthur (Conrad Bain) and Vivian (Rue McClanahan), Maude runs her house with an iron fist and class.

And plenty of fights.

One downside to Maude is that she has a tendency to be very combative, sarcastic, and stubborn, traits that can turn viewers off to her. But even though, there are times where if she goes too far with her arguments and Walter tells her what to do, she does it without a word. To me this is not her being submissive but rather showing the underlying respect she has for her husband even though a second ago she was just yelling at him.

This is all a result of how she genuinely cares about the issues and the people she loves. What's great about her is that she stands up for herself and her beliefs and challenges the status quo, all doing so with a sharp tongue and pizzazz. She is a strong character will strong feelings that she isn't afraid to express and has a regal presence whenever she walks into a room.

You can catch "Maude" on Antenna TV.

Her Outcome: At the end of the series, Maude and Walter move to Washington, D.C. where Maude begins her work as a Congresswoman. Very appropriate.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Parallels and Unnecessary Villainy Between StarKid's "Twisted" and Disney's "Frozen"

I am once again inspired to compare a StarKid production to a Disney one.

Back around Thanksgiving, Team StarKid released their latest musical, Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier, on YouTube. It tells the story of Disney's Aladdin from Jafar's point of view with satire and it is brilliantly done.

I actually watched it for the first time last week today around this time, and the more I think about it, the more it bears a resemblance to Disney's Frozen, and that's not just because they were both released Thanksgiving 2013 weekend.

Unlike my Starship versus The Little Mermaid piece, this won't be a compare and contrast to see which is better considering one is an actual Disney film and the other is a parody of an actual Disney film and also of Wicked. These will just be some observations I have made.

Before I proceed, I will warn you that this will be spoiler heavy for both musicals, so read at your own risk. If you would like to watch Twisted before reading, check out the video I provided for you below. Normally they upload their musicals by scenes, but for this one they decided to upload the entire show in one video as well. Also, if you are a diehard Aladdin fan, be wary when you watch this. It made me look at the cartoon in a totally different way and I don't want to ruin the Disney magic for you. So once again, proceed with caution.

Twisted contains strong adult language.

You ready?

The Poor, Misunderstood, Isolated Main Characters: Jafar and Elsa

Jafar, played by Dylan Saunders, and Elsa, voiced by Idina Menzel

Both Jafar and Elsa are misunderstood individuals with tragic pasts. Even though they both have ties to the highest hierarchy of the kingdom, Elsa a queen and Jafar an adviser to the Sultan, they are also isolated by the commoners that they are so eager to protect.

Elsa actually isn't isolated by the kingdom as much as she isolates herself from them per advice from the magic expert Trolls and her parents. It isn't until she reveals her ice powers and runs away herself that the kingdom starts to fear her and her lack of control.

As for Jafar, there is no clear reason why the kingdom hates him so much. He doesn't do anything bad but rather think realistically about the state of the kingdom and wanting reform. Everyone else is too idealistic and believe that wishing and dreaming is the only step you need to take to succeed, whereas Jafar does not. The only thing he is truly guilty of is disagreeing with everyone else.

There are actually articles I have read briefly that try to argue the claim that Frozen is an allegory for Christianity and that Anna, Elsa's younger sister, represents Jesus Christ. Well, I see this more with Twisted. Not that Jafar represents Jesus necessarily, but more so any other biblical figure, like Noah, Jonah, or Moses. Twisted actually reminds me a lot of a Sight and Sound Theatres production. I've seen shows at their Lancaster, Pennsylvania location and Twisted's characters, costumes, and makeup greatly resemble theirs, especially during the "Golden Rule (Reprise)". The whole Middle Eastern setting and time period concept is similar and Jafar is similar to biblical figures in the way that he tries to help others change for good, but there are certain people who just want none of it and brush away his pleas.

The Innocent Disney Princess Eager to Make Change: The Princess and Anna

The Princess, played by Rachael Soglin, and Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell

Ah, the naivety of Disney Princesses. Isn't it cute?

The Princess (who is never referred to as Jasmine for some odd reason but let's be honest she looks exactly like her) and Anna are two innocent yet determined young girls who think that they have it all figured out but in reality they know nothing. They believe they understand the ways of the world and that they have what it takes to make informed decisions and make change, but they are both just too sheltered up until the musical begins to fully comprehend things.

Something else the two have in common is the rocky relationships they have with the main characters that become more heartwarming and close as the musicals draw to a close.

Both princesses break out of their constraints, and after their respected adventures mature them, are eventually taken seriously. Like with Elsa's queenship and Anna's leadership in Frozen, nobody in Twisted objects to being governed by a woman when The Princess takes over. One of her decrees is that everyone is from then on a princess and even when she doesn't refer to Jafar's main henchman as one, he replies with a "Don't you mean, 'princess?'"

However, during the course of their stories, it is because of their innocence and naivety that they end up falling for the manipulations of...

The Hot Guy that Turns Out to be the Villain Through an Elaborate Reveal: Aladdin and Hans

Aladdin, played by Jeff Blim, and Hans, voiced by Santino Fontana

Hear that? Aladdin is a villain now.

I wanted to write a whole post about the unanswered questions Frozen posed, but decided that this was a better place to acknowledge my opinion...

I absolutely HATE what the writers did with the Hans character. Everybody else is all like, "What a great twist!" or "I saw that coming. Cool."

No. Stop it. It's too cliche and you know it. The writers totally messed him up.

Okay, so what happens is that since Elsa accidentally struck her heart with her powers, Anna needs a "true love's kiss" to save her from being completely "frozen." So naturally, she runs to her fiance Hans for help. But then, *GASP* Hans reveals to her that he never loved her and just wanted to marry her to become King of Arendelle. He then goes into this whole cliche speech. You know, the one where the bad guy has the hero (or in this case, heroine) vulnerable in his evil clutches as he details his most evil plan. Mwahahahaha!

See, the whole time we think that The Duke of Weselton is the bad guy, and although this guy isn't altogether good, sending his men to kill Elsa because he thinks she is dangerous, it was really Hans all along! Unless they were trying to play with the idea of how the Prince is always the expected hero and now a prince is the bad guy...

Frozen already has a conflict and it consists of Elsa controlling her lifelong struggles to end the eternal winter she had struck on Arendelle and Anna trying to bring her sister back home and forge a relationship with her. Hans is such a great character at the beginning. He develops this goofy friendship with Anna, trusts her, takes orders from her, and runs Arendelle in her absence. Making him this guy with bad intentions and have him try to put both sisters to death in order to gain the crown doesn't add anything at all. And the intention of him wanting to take over the kingdom is literally the OLDEST been there, done that story!

At least StarKid has the decency to be original. In their version, Aladdin is a psychopath murderer with a split personality that killed his parents. Also, he's 33 years old. Seriously. They dedicated a whole song to this.

Holy crap.

Unlike Hans, Aladdin is pretty much a jerk throughout the whole thing based on his selfishness and how he likes to screw with Jafar. Like the original Aladdin, he's a sweet talking, lying, immature street rat thief, but in Twisted his main goal is to ultimately have sex with Jasmine. 

Oh, sorry. I mean, "The Princess."

So already he is a decent antagonist. During the climax, The Princess puts up a front after a whole musical two hours worth of ignoring his advances and Aladdin's patience reaches a breaking point. He tries to kidnap her as Jafar intervenes, which brings us to the great reveal.

This is pretty much the best scene of the whole thing for me. Everything about it is just so perfect. Jeff Blim's facial expressions and portrayal of two different people having a psychotic conversation, the audience's reactions, the timing, the lighting, the creepy background music, the closeups, Dylan Saunders's perfectly timed Jafar reaction at the end, and what transpires thereafter. The only criticism I have about it is at times Blim bounces out of the frame, but to me it's one of the best scenes StarKid has ever done. Matt and Nick Lang and Eric Kahn Gale perfectly wrote it and Brian Holden excellently directed it.

Too bad it wasn't needed.

Much like how the villainy of Hans wasn't necessary, neither was this. Like in Frozen, Twisted already has its conflicts for Jafar to solve. Aladdin is already a problem without showing this weird side to him. This musical is full of twists as well as references to twists, the title being appropriate, but the greatest twist of all is that it turns out that The Princess is Jafar's daughter

So therefore, Aladdin is this 33-year-old promiscuous lowlife trying to bang Jafar's 16-year-old only little girl. For a father, that's enough motivation right there!

But it's just so entertaining and it brings out StarKid's creativity to put their own spin on a classic story that I can't say that it shouldn't be in there at all.

The Need for People to Take Off Their Clothes

In Twisted there are times where Aladdin constantly indirectly says to the The Princess, "Take off your clothes," which to me is an homage to the apparent very subliminal message in Disney's Aladdin. Clever. 

Another thing I wanted to point out in my questioning Frozen post is the scene where Kristoff takes Anna, Olaf, and Sven to see his Troll family. I feel like I'm the only one who noticed this part, because my friend Abby, who saw the film with me, didn't stir. At one point, one of the Trolls tells Kristoff to take off his clothes as she tries to undress him...

Nobody else seems to have noticed this line or the oddness of this request for one family member to command of another! It happens so quickly, so maybe that's why. Kristoff himself even shrugs it off. Why are they so eager for Kristoff to take his clothes off? More importantly, why is DISNEY? Why was this one line included anyway? Is not wearing clothes a normal thing for the Troll family or is it the same as a mother telling her kid to take off his or her coat and shoes upon entering the house? Or, is this a play on Aladdin's supposed subliminal message? Either way, it is something both Disney films have in common and StarKid has its own fun with it.

Anyway, enough of Disney's desire for nudity. Let's get back to the stories...

The Conflicts of Everyday Life

This section is actually what inspired this whole blog post.

Not every tale needs that one singular villain that the heroes need to defeat. Sometimes the villain is life itself, which is something to which everybody can relate.

In my heart Hans and Aladdin aren't bad guys. A part of me wants to ignore the fact that Hans's revelation scene is even in the film. If anything, they could've done something different with him to spice up the story's conclusion. And as for Aladdin, apart from his evil personality, he's just a lazy grown man that just wants to get laid. I mean, I'm willing to bet that there are some men out there like that, meaning that he's kind of normal. In that respect, anyway.

Jafar and Elsa are both a "victim of circumstance," as quoted by The Princess in reference to Aladdin. Their lives and struggles in themselves are what they have to overcome and throwing a villain into that is just adding a random extra annoyance to an already severe problem. They are placed into these situations and sometimes cannot help their circumstances right away because they must deal with the uncooperative people and problems around them. 

But then again a lot of stories involve the protagonist suffering from some kind of everyday troubles and then must deal with a villain antagonist on top of that. It makes the story more complex and interesting I guess, and normally without that villain causing conflict you wouldn't have a story. But just because that kind of plot exists it doesn't mean that every story needs it. Sometimes the archetype is overdone.

I like how Twisted came out right when Aladdin is the most recent Disney production to come to Broadway. Also, Frozen is coming to Broadway as well! It's just another thing they all have in common.

One thing I wish StarKid acknowledged is those scenes in Aladdin where, you know, Jasmine is held prisoner by Jafar as his slave and is dressed in chains and this sexy red outfit and then starts flirting and making out with him to distract him from Aladdin. According to them, she's his daughter, remember? 

We're not going to talk about that? You're not going to explain that one?


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

White Disney Princesses, From the Perspective of a White Girl

When my friend Abby and I were discussing the movie Frozen, the subject came up about how the newest Disney Princesses, Elsa and Anna, are yet again white. I pointed out from something I had read that a reason why a majority of them are white depends on their stories' origins, such as Merida from Brave being Scottish. Then Abby retaliated with the fact that they could just make these characters from anywhere. For example, Elsa doesn't have to be white in order for the whole Ice Queen concept to work, unless they were going for a "white as snow" thing with her and wanted the setting to stay true to the Danish source. Disney actually did this already with The Princess and the Frog, making a story with German origins take place in New Orleans.

We talked about how the lack of diversity in the Disney Princesses is a problem. There is also the matter that little girls of all walks of life should have a Disney Princess to relate to.

I've been thinking about this subject for a while because it is a hot topic, especially trying to consider how fortunate I was growing up as a white girl with all of these white princesses at my disposal. But looking back at it now, let me tell you something: these white girls aren't all that.

Here is a rundown of white Disney Princesses that were supposedly my intended role models. There is the very first, Snow White (Eww. Never liked her much.), Cinderella, and Aurora. Well, Cinderella is somewhat redeemable because her main song is "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and from what I recall she isn't necessarily specific about what her dreams are. Maybe she dreamt about being the CEO of a company. Or maybe she dreamt about having a better life in general, which is more likely and still honorable. Who knows? Snow White wishes for something as well with her song, "Wishing for the One I Love". She's straight forward about what she wants, but should she really be chastised for being a girl wanting to fall in love? Feminism goes in any direction.

Anyway, the only one I am able to relate to physically is Aurora, given that she has long blonde hair like myself. But that's where the similarities end. She does nothing to make me admire her, other than be pretty. Well, I do like to sleep too...

When compared to other Disney Princesses, the early white ones are pretty bland and boring. Plenty of people dislike them because they all need a man to save them and lack personality. In addition, they all kind of resemble each other. It is the ethnically diverse ones that are more active and unique, such as Jasmine from Aladdin and Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

You know who my favorite Disney Princess was growing up? Pocahontas. Not your conventional white Disney Princess, but I liked her cultural look (especially her blue necklace and long black hair flowing in the wind), love for nature and life, strong will and strength, and now I noticed that she's pretty much the only Disney Princess that doesn't get her guy at the end, making her more realistic. Like Pocahontas, I too have Native American roots, so that's another reason. In fact, I played with my Pocahontas and Jasmine dolls the most because I liked their outfits better and loved brushing their long black hair. As a child I had this phase of cutting all of my dolls' hair, but I spared these two of my beautician skills (Pocahontas's friend Nakoma wasn't so lucky). I have a Cinderella doll too, dressed up in her ballroom attire, but I never paid that much attention to her. I think it is because of how "dolled" up she is (no pun intended). You remember how she looked. Her hair is in a bun and she is dressed in a large blue gown. Maybe I felt that she looked too formal for playtime so I just didn't bother as much.

Badass white Disney Princesses wasn't really a thing until lately. I think it started with the Disney Renaissance Era opening up with Ariel in The Little Mermaid to kick things off. If you think about it, she was the character intended for girls in my age group. The movie came out in 1989 and I was born in 1990.

Okay, so I did make fun of her in the past, but she does have her own dreams of visiting land before laying eyes on Eric and makes mistakes like any other teenage girl, so I respect her for that. I like my Ariel doll more than my Cinderella one and played with it more, appreciating her shortness in contrast to my other dolls (maybe I was able to relate to her in this way), but this doll has its own annoyances. Her fin is all worn out now, her legs don't move and never did, and worst of all, her bra keeps falling off. And now she's reminding me too much of Rachel Tice from "The Most Popular Girls in School". As for Belle from Beauty and the Beast, another white Disney Princess designated for my generation made popular in 1991, though her movie has its own flaws with an abusive relationship undertone, she's more developed. She is educated through her love for books, doesn't take nonsense from anyone, and saves her father from the Beast.

It seems to me though that the strongest white Disney Princesses were born through the CGI-animated films. Meaning very, VERY recently. We were given Rapunzel (Tangled, 2010), Merida (Brave, 2012), and now Elsa and Anna (Frozen, 2013). These all came out in my adulthood, so it's kind of late for me to look up to these characters now as a little girl, but it's so great to see them existing now. The white Disney Princess just keeps evolving and Anna is actually a combination of them all. She is eager to fall in love like the earlier models, but her main focus in the movie is to find her sister and bring her back home and she stands up to the film's male characters in order to do so. Unlike Ariel, whose life goals change shape when she is inspired to make Eric love her and sacrifice herself to do it, these four girls never really include a boyfriend in their goals. For Rapunzel and Anna, it just happens for them.

I never really connected to a white Disney Princess until Elsa and Anna, which is why I felt inspired to write this post. Maybe it has something to do with the movie being a musical going to Broadway and the people who voiced them. Also, any person can relate to Elsa, suffering from the age old story of not being accepted because of differences and ultimately finding the courage and freedom to openly be yourself. "The cold never bothered me anyway," either. I watched Tangled for the first time on TV like a few weeks or months ago and though it entertained me with its charm and Rapunzel herself proves her worth, I didn't really think it was THAT special. That movie didn't seem to get the reaction Frozen has.

Although she came into the franchise later on, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, known as Disney's first black Princess, is a role model for young girls right off the bat as a hard worker aspiring to open up her own restaurant whereas we had to go through numerous white Disney Princesses to get it right. For awhile there the black girl community was under-represented by Disney Princesses while the white girl community wasn't really represented by Disney Princesses in the best positive way.

Just because white Disney Princesses existed for me as a child, it doesn't mean that I was very proud of them or that they were amazing characters for me to like. As a kid you don't really think about whether or not these characters are good role models. They're just...there. Even now as an adult I'm not that crazy about them. I mean, I like them enough and I did pose for a picture and chatted with Cinderella and Prince Charming for a good hour in Disney World back when I was four, but they do lack substance. I don't recall ever being in awe of them or modeling myself after them, but they are still part of my Disney childhood memories of which I am well fond.

I still grew up to be a strong, independent woman even after watching these movies as a kid, let's just say that. They didn't influence me otherwise.

If we want to branch out a little bit and look beyond the Disney Princesses, we can check out the whiteness that are Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Wendy from Peter Pan, Megara from Hercules, Jane from Tarzan, and Jessie from A Toy Story. These characters are nice and their main focus isn't fully romance, at least not at first. I especially appreciate Alice for never getting involved with a guy at all in her movie and Jessie provides a nice foil to Bo Peep in hers. But I'm starting to think that the one I like the most is Tinker Bell from Peter Pan. She is a spunky, jealous little bitch and I love it. She is REAL (well, as real as a flying mute fairy can get). Chances are we all know a woman that fits the Tink criteria. But then again her jealousy and realness is instigated because of a guy (well, boy), so in this respect her attachment to a dude makes her not that much different from past Disney Princesses.

Then there's Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She's not white or a princess, so she just might be the most diverse of them all. Her motivation isn't as much romance as it is love for her people. I love her look and style and my Esmeralda dolls are some of my favorites. One of them actually has flexible elbows and knees and gyrating hips, making her body a lot more human-like. Hear that, Ariel?

Quite possibly the best one of them all is Mulan. I've always been a fan. Once again, not white or a princess (though she is in the Disney Princess lineup), but she fights in a war disguised as a guy and single-handedly saves China. Her motivation is not love for a man, but rather to protect her aging father, much like Belle actually. And I loved playing with my Mulan doll. Enough said.

I think I like these non-white ladies because they are so different from me. Even their doll counterparts stand out next to my white, blonde Barbies. The Disney Princess industry has made strides, but there is still so much more that can be done. I enjoy seeing the variety. Every single one of them, including the original white princesses and unofficial princesses, brings something to the table and the Disney family wouldn't be complete without them. It's nice to see them all together as this sisterhood.

Found this on Facebook back in November and thought it appropriate to include in this.

Hey, at least women ARE being represented. There's another argument I can make that men aren't very well represented at all or as popular as Disney's female characters. There are movies that come to mind with a human guy as the title main character, such as Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre DameHercules, Tarzan, The Emperor's New Groove, and now there is Wreck-It Ralph, but the Disney Princes are often overshadowed by their leading ladies because the Disney Princess franchise is such a hit. Even The Disney Wiki just defines these guys as "an official line-up of male leads who're the love interests of the Disney Princesses." It's actually refreshing to see this change of pace and the only way the original three, Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, can be considered feminist films. Now that I think about it, what's also somewhat feminist about these three movies is that they teach and recognize that there's nothing wrong with sometimes accepting help from a man if need be and if a man is willing to help you, why refuse it? Even Quasimodo swoops in to save Esmeralda, regardless of how tough she is, and earlier in the film she comes to his defense and saves him from humiliation. Flynn Rider/Eugene lends Rapunzel a hand, even though at first through a deal, and in turn Rapunzel comes to his aid as well, perhaps more often. It's all about partnership between the two sexes.

I'll tell you what I'm waiting for. I'm waiting for an Italian Disney Princess, or better yet, heroine. All we have is that goofy marionette film Pinocchio to represent us, and that movie scarred me for life with that awful donkey scene.

Plus, there's no powerful women in it. What? That white, blonde Blue Fairy? Nah. Not memorable enough.

Get on it! :)

And since I talked a great deal about them throughout this piece, here are my Disney lady dolls from childhood! :)

From left to right: Nakoma, Pocahontas, Jasmine, Esmeralda 1, Esmeralda 2, Mulan, Ariel, and Cinderella. Like Nakoma, Mulan and Ariel were also victims of my doll hair-cutting stage. I feel like I had a Snow White doll as a child too but I think like I may have given her away HAHA. Also, Jasmine came with a flower in her hair, but I didn't want to go crazy looking for it for this. They all look pretty happy to be in the shot except for Cinderella. She was giving me trouble not looking at the camera. It's like she thinks she's a princess or something. :P