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.