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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Faerie Tale Theatre: Sleeping Beauty

No, I haven't forgotten about Faerie Tale Theatre, it's just that my free time has been whittled down to practically nothing. Next on the programme is the show's take on Sleeping Beauty, which puts a spin on the usual proceedings by relocating the story to Western Europe (allowing for some crazy accents) and throwing in some subplots involving undesirable suitors along the way.
It's also the most racy of the episodes (so far) with several jokes that are bound to go WAY over the heads of younger viewers.
This is not taken out of context. What you think is happening is happening.

But what makes this one really different is that for the first time it embraces the definition of "faerie tale theatre". Not only does it take place on a soundstage with fake plywood trees, but our narrator is a woodsman who talks directly to the audience as well as to the prince and his squire (which serves as a framing device for the whole thing).  

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Woman of the Month: Sally

Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas
My new least favourite reason to hate a female character is because she's “just a love interest” – especially when it's applied to characters that are embroiled in fandom shipping wars, making the integrity of the accusation rather questionable. (Female characters that are liked or tolerated are suddenly critiqued within an inch of their life the moment they catch the interest of the male hero. It's pretty damn transparent and I've seen it happen dozens of times: Guinevere from Merlin, Mai from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Echo from The 100).
Would it be nice if all female characters were able to have storylines outside of being a love connection with a dude? Of course! But in real life there’s no such thing as a woman who is just a love interest, and even when that narrative is grafted onto a fictional woman it doesn’t mean she’s a waste of space or an affront to feminism. I think this is best illustrated in Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas.
As far as I know, she’s a fairly popular character, yet not many people point out the fact that everything she does throughout this movie is driven entirely by the fact she has the hots for Jack Skellington. She sneaks out at night to watch him perform at Halloween. She spends half the movie fretting about how he might come to harm in his attempt to hijack Christmas. She rescues Santa Claus in an attempt to help him clean up the complete mess he's made.
And yet she’s still a great character – easily the most intelligent and thoughtful resident of Halloweentown, who manages to bag her man by the end of the film. Her role as a love interest doesn’t subtract from her appeal, and one of my favourite scenes has her pull off a Gender Flipped Romeo and Juliet scene, in which she sends up a basket of homemade treats to Jack’s window while she waits on the ground outside. It’s adorable.
There are other parts of Sally's characterization that give her depth: her great longing for freedom, the way she utilizes her detachable limbs to escape, her precognitive abilities (remember the scene when the dandelion she's holding turns into a Christmas tree and then catches on fire?)  but her biggest motivator is Jack.
So next time you see a female character get dissed for being "just a love interest", ask yourself why she's being dismissed as such and whether that narrative role makes her any less unappealing as a person. In Sally's case, the answer is no.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reading/Watching Log #21

I made September "Finish What You Started" Month, which meant I had to track down all the book series I had started and never finished. And there were quite a few – I only made a small dent in the large pile of library books currently stacked against my dresser.
It was also time to play catch-up on the viewing side of things, with me heading all the way back to the Nineties to finally put the first season of The X-Files under my belt. I saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena Warrior Princess as a kid, but this is my first introduction to Dana Scully, the third great feminist icon of that decade. It feels like I missed out on a formative experience, though the show was a bit too scary for me back in the day.
Oh, and I watched the first seasons of two shows that the entire world has been urging me to watch: The Handmaid's Tale and Stranger Things. They couldn't be more different, but now at least I can join in the conversations at the water cooler at work.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword

If nothing else, Guy Ritchie's take on the King Arthur mythos epitomizes the phrase: "everything but the kitchen sink." No matter how you otherwise feel about the film in its entirety, you can't say you were ever bored.
But what struck me was the realization that Guy Ritchie clearly wasn't all that interested in the Once and Future King – this would have worked so much better as a Robin Hood movie, and after reading this interview it's obvious that he harboured flat-out disdain for the quintessential character of Arthur.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Game of Thrones: Predictions

I should probably wait until the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones is about to air before posting this, but hey – I'm still hyped up on the fumes of the seventh season finale. Here are my predictions on who will live and who will die...

Friday, September 1, 2017

Woman of the Month: Ahsoka Tano

Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars
Ahsoka Tano is nothing short of a miracle. First appearing in the pilot movie of a television series that wasn't initially well received, introduced as a Padawan apprentice to Anakin despite having never been mentioned in any of the preceding films, and characterized as a brash teenage girl who had difficulty following orders (fandom hates a teenage girl at the best of times, making her butt heads with male authority figures was practically a death sentence), she was poised to become the most loathed Star Wars character since Jar Jar Binks.
Roger Ebert himself had this to say about her: "Ahsoka Tano, by the way, is annoying. She bats her grapefruit-sized eyes at Anakin and offers suggestions that invariably prove her right and her teacher wrong. At least when we first met Yoda, he was offering useful advice."
The deck was well and truly stacked against her, and so what happened next was astounding: she became one of the most popular characters in the entire franchise. In what is perhaps the most breath-taking case of Rescued From the Scrappy Heap since 24's Chloe O'Brian, the show's writers stuck to their guns, course-corrected the ship, and turned Ahsoka into an earnest, loyal, conflicted, brave and ultimately tragic figure.
And make no mistake: The Clone Wars is fundamentally her story. Rey might be the first female protagonist of a Star Wars film, but the distinction of first female protagonist period goes to Ahsoka. She grows from a fourteen to a seventeen year old across the course of the show, and despite its format – a series of mini-arcs that focused on a wide range of characters – its underlying structure was built upon Ahsoka's maturation.
Here is a child-soldier that was thrown into mortal danger, forced to watch people she cared about suffer and die, driven into leadership roles far beyond what would normally be expected of someone her age, and who is eventually betrayed by the very Jedi Order that raised her. Yet for all of this, she does not break; she does not relinquish her moral compass.
In this respect it's fascinating to watch the dynamic between herself and Anakin, not only for its brother/sister/student/mentor rapport, but in the way each one is indelibly shaped by the conflict tearing up the galaxy around them. Each one goes through their own personal crucible set against a backdrop of war and hate and violence, but only she emerges with her soul still intact.
The culmination of her character arc at the conclusion of the fifth season adds a particularly tragic note of irony to her story: leaving the Jedi Order may break her heart, but it also saves her life. More than that, it leaves a series of "what might have been" questions in her wake. Had she not left the Jedi Order, would Anakin have fallen to the Dark Side? Would she have been enough to keep him tethered to the Light? We'll never know, but it serves as a reminder that it's our choices more than our circumstances that define who we are. Anakin broke, but Ahsoka remained true to herself.
(Oh, and did I mention her distinctive fighting style? She has two lightsabres, each one wielded not as a sword but a dagger, the blades pointed inwards and used to shield her body. It's cool).