Why the ‘Strong Female Character’ is Bad

There is a real problem in the film industry at the moment regarding the idea of the Strong Female Character. Particularly in the sci-fi genre. The reason I am discussing this at the moment is because I am currently studying the A2 Media course at college, and this is the problem that I am exploring for my coursework.

The three films that I have chosen to analyse for that case study are The Hunger Games, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy. In this post, I will be talking primarily about Guardians of the Galaxy.

I won’t spend too much time explaining the Strong Female Character, as I think this article does it perfectly. Basically, the problem is that the Strong Female Character is being interpreted in the wrong way. Female characters are too often being created simply because the creators believe that they need them. If a film is made with no female characters at all, it will be rightly criticised for it. What the ‘Strong Female Character’ should mean, is to have a ‘Well-Written Female Character’ or a ‘Three-Dimensional Female Character’.

It’s not enough to simply stick a character in there for the sake of it. They need to do something. They need to be wound into the plot. And while being a love interest is fine, if they have no character outside of that romance, then she loses all credibility. Where’s the gender equality in having a female character who simply follows the men around? Where’s the equality when her character is defined by the kiss scene, when she gives herself to the male protagonist as a trophy?

Guardians of the Galaxy is an extremely male-dominated film with only two memorable female characters: adopted sisters, Gamora and Nebula. Gamora, who is quoted as saying “I’m a warrior and a weapon”, is a trained assassin. She is actually a fairly well-written character, with her own motives, wants, needs and fears that become apparent throughout the film. But what is she doing there? She could very easily be replaced with a male character, and the other members of the cast would probably manage just fine without her. After all, it’s really the talking raccoon and animate tree that hold the group together. Of course.

Clearly, the retailers didn’t think she was particularly important as they left her off of their merchandise.

gog merch1 gog merch2

When confronted by a twitter user, the clothing manufacturer ‘The Children’s Place’ responded with this:

gog merch3I am sure that you can see the problem with this. Mothers of young girls who wondered why their favourite character wasn’t on their new pyjamas, had to be told that they’re not good enough to be on their clothing. Attitudes like this are adding to the cultural idea that women cannot equal men in a male-dominated genre.

There are still no female main characters in superhero films. Black Widow is the closest that we have got at the moment. There is currently a film out where a talking raccoon is considered to be more inspirational and have more purpose than the female character. What does this say about our society? What is this teaching children?

 

THEATRE REVIEW: Les Miserables at Queen’s Theatre, London

les mis master of the houseThe West End’s Les Miserables, is a humorous and heart-breaking adaptation of Victor Hugo’s (who also wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame) novel of the same title, brought to life through the marvellous medium of song. I will admit that I went to see this way back in March and there has been a cast change since then but I assure you that it remains just as spectacular as it was all those months ago.

The story takes place in pre-revolutionary Paris, where the impoverished are kept in poverty and the rich become wealthier. After Jean Valjean (Daniel Koek [covered by Chris Holland on the date I saw]), a man who broke his parole, witnesses the death of Fantine (Na-Young Jeon), a woman who formerly worked in his factory, he takes her daughter, Cosette (Samantha Dorsey), into his care. She was previously being taken in by the Thenardiers (Cameron Blakely & Wendy Ferguson), who abused her.

Years later, revolutionary groups are being created. One of them is run by Enjolras (Anton Zetterholm), and is participated in by Marius Pontmercy (Rob Houchen). The Thenardiers’ daughter, Eponine (Carrie Hope Fletcher) is hopelessly in love with him, which he is oblivious to. Instead, Marius falls in love at first sight with the now-older Cosette. Because the police inspector, Jarvert (Tam Mutu), almost finds them after searching for years, Valjean and Cosette are forced to run for England, leaving Marius behind.

Meanwhile, Enjolras is planning a movement against the monarchy. As the battle rages on, many characters die, but Marius and Cosette end up together, marrying with Valjean’s blessing.

les misThe set of the West End production is spectacular. Based on a revolving stage, the main piece of scenery is a gigantic structure that the actors are able to move around and transform while transitioning between scenes. It changes beautifully from a building to a barricade.

The music is absolutely unforgettable. Even as I sit here six months later, I can still hear it in my head. Not only the songs with lyrics that will make you weep, but also the twinkly transition music, full of hope and stars. The music of Les Miserables is simply magical. There is nothing like it in the world.

Adam Linstead’s solo verse as Grantaire in the song Drink With Me is such a heartfelt, poignant moment. It was a travesty to cut them from the film version, as I truly believe that those words have so much meaning for all of the characters, and show the theme of the entire musical.

“Drink with me to days gone by,

Could it be you’re scared to die?

Will the world remember you when you fall?

Could it be your lives mean nothing at all?

Are our lives just one more lie?”

carrie as eponine1Of course, the acting is astounding. Carrie Hope Fletcher, in particular, shines. She brings the character of poor Eponine to life, depicting her as a girl who never really knew love but had a lot of it to give. With a stunning singing voice, Carrie is an extremely talented lady with a bright future ahead of her. She will be taking some time out as Eponine this year while she is touring the country as Beth from The War of the Worlds – The Final Arena Tour. Look here to see if tickets are selling in your area. You can also visit her YouTube channel here.

After the show, I briefly met Carrie as well as Jonny Purchase and Dale Hodge, who are members of the ensemble. Everyone was lovely, taking the time to talk to their fans despite not having long for their between-shows break.

Other stand-out talent included Anton Zetterholm, Tam Mutu, Rob Houchen, Wendy Ferguson and Adam Linstead.

If you get the chance, Les Miserables is a monumentally impressive show and I recommend that you go see it when you can. The current cast are:-

Jean Valjean………Peter Lockyer

Javert………David Thaxton

Fantine………Celinde Shoenmaker

Thenardier………Tom Edden

Madame Thenardier………Wendy Ferguson

Eponine………Carrie Hope Fletcher

Cosette………Emilie Flemming

Enjolras………Michael Colbourne

Marius………Rob Houchen

I would recommend this to:-

  • Anyone who isn’t afraid to cry.
  • Revolutionaries.

Star Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

(Pictures of the 2014 cast belong to Johan Persson.)

TV REVIEW: OUAT, A Tale of Two Sisters

Warning: This review will contain spoilers of episode 4.01 of ABC’s Once Upon A Time.

When I saw the finale of the third season, I think I might have squealed. Ever since then, I have been avidly waiting for the debut episode of the fourth season and I was not disappointed. At all. This episode was everything that I had looked forward to, and more.

First off, there’s the brilliant opening scene – the brilliant, tragic opening scene – but I’ll let you see that for yourself.

Let’s start with the characters we know and love. Regina’s story is a tricky one. Always the villain, will she ever get her chance at the Happily Ever After she’s always dreamed of? The problem lies with Marian, whom Emma Swan brought back from the dead when she travelled in time.

In this episode, we see Regina’s heart get broken all over again when Robin tells her that he has to choose his wife. There was a lot of nervousness around whether Regina would revert back to her evil ways, but to many breaths of relief, she has come too far for that. At least we think. There seems to be a rather interesting storyline developing involving the author of the book.

Has everyone forgotten about August? Anyone else find it uncanny that he claimed to be a writer, and knew exactly how to format and make the pages of his story for Henry’s book?

And then we have Rumbelle, and their intriguing story that is being unravelled. As they go on honeymoon, we witness the most beautiful scene in Disney history. As the gorgeous music begins to play (‘’tale as old as time…”), Belle’s dress and Rumplestiltskin’s suit are transformed into the iconic costumes that have taken breaths away since 1991. This heartwarming scene is possibly the best thing I have ever witnessed, but it can only be a calm before the storm which makes me nervous.

Another interesting development in Rumple’s tale is the discovery of a little box. When Rumple waves his dagger over it, it transforms into an object just as iconic as the Beauty and the Beast ballroom scene; a hat owned by a certain Magician’s Apprentice.

And, of course, there’s Captain Swan. Although they are rather busy running around after a giant, angry snowman, they still manage to share a few precious moments. The characters are clearly infatuated with each other, and I believe possibly even in love. Hook is certainly ready to love Emma, but Emma is clearly struggling to find space for it.

But have no fear, Captain Swan shippers! There is light on the horizon yet. The sweet little kiss they share is enough evidence for that. And my favourite sharing of lines:-

Emma: You wanna go home and see what’s on Netflix?

Hook: I don’t know what that is, but sure! (He smiles adorably.)

Finally, we get to our new characters, and boy did they fulfil my expectations! Georgina Haig (Fringe) and Elizabeth Lail (Model Airplane) are absolutely perfect for their roles as Frozen’s Elsa and Anna, and Scott Michael Foster (Greek)’s Kristoff more than fits the bill, too. I cannot express just how much I love these characters, and how well these actors play them. I am truly full of nothing but praise.

And, of course, we can’t forget dear old Grand Pabbie, voiced by John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings). The animators created the rock troll absolutely flawlessly.

I feel like every single scene of this episode is a highlight. I am sure that you will all agree with me when I say that the show creators, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, have outdone themselves with this one. Well done, and thank you!

Who would I recommend this to?

  • Disney fans
  • Frozen fans
  • Anyone who enjoys becoming emotionally attached to fictional characters, because trust me, you will be.

Star Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

BOOK REVIEW: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I think it’s something extraordinary that, while I’d usually have about five books on the go and switch between them, as soon as I started reading The Maze Runner, all other books were forgotten. Honestly, this book is something special. From the moment I opened it, I fell in love. The moment I closed the last page, I felt like I had been told the meaning of humanity.

The book opens with the protagonist, Thomas, waking in an enclosed space with absolutely no memory of his identity, pulling us in with the first and possibly most important mystery – Who is Thomas? Soon after, we are introduced to the other characters: tough Alby, sweetheart Newt, scary Gally, lil’ Chuck, and later, superhero Minho. And let’s not forget the plot’s trigger, our gorgeous, independent lady whose name I shall not mention.

It is impossible not to become attached to these characters, even the most despicable of them. They all have their own set of unique traits and flaws, and Dashner builds the different relationships between them beautifully.

Quickly, we learn that nothing is quite right in the Maze, a horrible place with seemingly no escape, where the boys have been living for years. And not only are they trapped; they’re trapped with the Grievers! The Grievers are awful, half-machine half-animal creatures that stalk the maze, coming out mainly at night. You don’t want to get stung by them (although they also offer worse ways to go), or you’ll have the Changing to look forward to. Not much is known about the Changing because the only ones who have been through it refuse to talk about what they saw, but their pain is obvious. No one is the same after the Changing.

The entire book is a thrill to read, with twists and turns right up until the last page. Nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted.

Who would I recommend this to?

  • Sci-fi fans
  • Hunger Games fans
  • Anyone who is interested in seeing the film (read the book first!)

Star Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

(The Maze Runner will be in cinemas from 10th October, 2014)

Photoshop Fun

I seem to have developed a rather tender love for Photoshop. As far as I can remember, it began while I was scrolling through beautiful images on Deviantart. If you have never come across this website before, you are missing out. Both amateur and professional artists post their work onto the site for exposure, and can even sell their art there! I found the site a long time ago, although I didn’t post anything for a while.

Eventually, I decided to tentatively dip my toes into the waters and began posting my extremely amateur attempts at art. Over the years, I’ve become acquainted with some very interesting and talented people through the website. If you’re ever wondering how to make friends out of strangers, a compliment can go a long way.

But back to Photoshop. I was inspired by a few stunning pieces of photomanipulation. Try CindysArt and EnchantedWhispersArt – both of these artists left me in absolute awe with their art. So, me being who I am (the kind of person who wants to be amazing at everything first time), I decided to give it a go.

My first attempt left a lot to be desired.

Marius and Eponine are my Les Mis OTP and you can’t change my mind that they were meant to be.

My next go was much better although still needed work. It wasn’t based on any fandom either, so that’s good!

‘Don’t Look Back’.

My recent goes were different but I’m proudest of them, especially my Harry Potter-inspired Witch Weekly magazine (even though I used the wrong Weasley twin, as a few people have pointed out; let’s just pretend, ok?)

George Weasley on the cover of Witch Weekly post-DH.

This one probably only makes sense to Once Upon A Time fans, but I spent a long time on it and like it. It’s supposed to look like pages out of Henry’s fairytale book.

My most recent. Again, it’s a Once edit, but I’m so proud of it. I was doing a lot of experimenting with tools I’d never used before.

I’m planning on making the Witch Weekly magazine covers into a series featuring different members of Dumbledore’s Army. I hope you like them.

Here’s the link to my Deviantart profile if you want to look at the pieces of ‘art’ that I’m too embarrassed to put up here (don’t even ask about the username. I can’t change it.).

Entering Fictional Worlds

The thing that I love the most about reading, writing and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix is that they introduce me to new worlds, ideas and people that I never would have known otherwise. They completely sweep me away. It’s not that I’m not satisfied with the world I live in now because I freaking love my life, but fictional worlds give me a sense of exploring my world deeper.

One of my favourite questions to ask people (and I do ask it quite often) is which fantasy world they would most like to visit: Narnia, Hogwarts, Neverland, Wonderland, Panem, Middle Earth or Westeros? All of the characters from that world would be there for you to interact with. You can explore the worlds to your heart’s content. I think the answer that people give is always interesting. It says something about the person – not only that they are a fan of the story, but also what they want out of life. The kind of people they want to mix with. The kind of adventures they want to spend their lives having.

My answer is Hogwarts. Make of that what you will.

Just think. When you’re standing in the middle of a library, you’re surrounded by thousands of different worlds. Thousands of different characters to get to know. Thousands of adventures to be had. And when you write, more worlds, characters and adventures spill from your fingertips.

Everyone has a story in them. A writer’s job is to dig deep and pull them out in as many different ways as they can want. An artist does the same thing. So do actors, directors, musicians, chefs, builders, and basically every job you can think of. Everyone’s story is different. So is everyone’s world.

There are over seven billion people on Earth. That’s seven billion different stories. Seven billion different perspectives of the world they live in. I once read that every single person you meet knows something that you don’t, and I think that is a magical sentence.

What’s your story?

RIP Robin Williams

aladdin miss you genie me too

On 11th August, 2014, we received the devastating news that actor, Robin Williams, has died. Immediately, the internet burst into outpourings of grief and condolences from fans, friends, and everyone whose lives he had touched. It is believed that he committed suicide after suffering from severe depression.

Of course, Williams’s most memorable role for me was the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin. With such an iconic role, he inspired millions of children to be the best person that they can be. Other roles included Flubber (1997; a film that has stayed in the back of my mind since the very first time I watched it as a child), the unforgettable Mrs Doubtfire (1993) and the heart-warming Hook (1991).

As well as all of his films and comedy work, Williams also worked with charities. While supporting St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital for many years, he also worked with Comic Relief, as well as other charities.

While it is devastating that the world has lost such a remarkable, inspirational man, it is important to remember that he has left behind a legacy. He has brought laughter to generations of children, and his films will continue to bring laughter to the lives of future generations. The term ‘legend’ is thrown around rather loosely these days, but I think we can all agree that Robin Williams has more than earned this title. Robin Williams was a legend of comedy, and a spark of hope in many lives.

Watch this and enjoy.

If you feel like you need help or someone to talk to, the charity Samaritans is available to talk to at this number: 08457 90 90 90. Or you can email them at: jo@samaritans.org.

Lost Girl

I am obsessed with Peter Pan, and it’s not just because I have a crush on Robbie Kay who played him on Once Upon A Time. It is the entire concept of Neverland. The conflicts between childhood and adulthood, dreams and reality, innocence and corruption, and freedom and responsibility resonate with me more than they ever did before.

As I am reaching my eighteenth birthday, it might seem silly to some people that I’m so attracted to a fairytale. Truthfully, the story of Peter and Wendy never interested me much when I was younger. It’s only now that I’m approaching uni and have to think about earning money that I really understand what it’s all about.

In the early 1900s when JM Barrie wrote the play ‘Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up’, childhood was cut short very early. The ages of the characters are never specifically stated in either the play or novel, but Peter is described as still having all of his baby teeth, and Wendy is just his height. Nowadays, childhood seems to stretch on for as long as possible. In early adolescence, children seem desperate to grow up, unlike Wendy.

Now, at seventeen going on eighteen, I find myself torn between wanting to live my own life in my own house, earning my own money. But, at the same time, the thought of all that independence terrifies me and all I want to do is crawl back into my childhood and hide there forever. Maybe that’s why I love the idea of Neverland so much.

Can you imagine how wonderful it would be? Someone turns up on your windowsill and whisks you away on an adventure full of more excitement and happiness than you have experienced in your entire life. Unfortunately, there are laws against that kind of thing now.

But at the end of the day, Wendy makes the ultimate decision and says goodbye to Peter, returning home with her brothers to face the inevitable challenge of growing-up, a feat that Peter was never able to accomplish. And it is so sad. The novel depicts the sadness of it much more than the Disney film.

Peter promises to return every year to take Wendy back to Neverland so that he would never forget her. But he does. Because time doesn’t work the same in Neverland, and although he holds to his promise for a couple of years, he soon leaves her for many years. In that time, Wendy gets married and has a daughter. Then, one night, Peter returns to take Wendy (or whom he believes to be Wendy) back to Neverland for her annual visit. And so occurs one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking scenes that I have ever read. Wendy wakes from her chair in the shadows in the corner of the room and sees Peter standing over her daughter’s bed. Peter cheerfully explains that he’s returned after a year to take her away, and Wendy says that it has been longer than that. It has been years. And slowly, Wendy emerges from the shadows and Peter recoils. She’s all grown-up. In the end, Peter takes her daughter to Neverland, and then her granddaughter, and so on. But he always forgets them.

If that hasn’t tugged on your heartstrings enough, then maybe this piece of information will. JM Barrie grew up with seven siblings. When he was six, his fourteen-year-old brother, David, died. His mother was so devastated that Barrie tried to fill his brother’s place by acting like him and wearing his clothes. In Margaret Oglivy (1896), Barrie described a moment when his mother saw him and asked, “Is that you?”, to which he replied in a small voice, “No, it’s no’ him, it’s just me”. He said that his mother took comfort in the fact that David would remain a boy forever and never have to face the horrors of growing-up and difficulties of adulthood.

This adds a whole new side to Peter Pan, who clearly has similarities to Barrie’s brother. The idea that Peter leads other little ‘lost boys’ to the place where they never have to grow up suggests that Peter makes it easier for dying children to move on. It is a sad but oddly comforting idea.

Peter Pan clearly has many layers and themes that are not as obvious as we thought. It is about more than just the struggle of growing-up; it is about the more complex ideas of life, death and love.

I strongly recommend that you read JM Barrie’s Peter and Wendy. Barrie writes in an imaginative style that is completely unique to him. His use of often surreal imagery creates an atmosphere that you can just lose yourself in. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Peter-Pan-and-Wendy-Darling-peter-pan-14526250-576-416


On a different note, my dad now has a blog in which he posts reviews of films, TV shows and books. You can visit it here.

You Are Extraordinary

Today, I am going to write to you all about something that I am only just learning myself. I know that at the moment I have a mixed bunch of readers, but I believe that this is a subject that will mean something to everyone.

A few weeks ago, I had something of an ‘existential crisis’ in the words of the wonderful Dan Howell (YouTube and BBC Radio 1’s danisnotonfire). It may have been partly due to stress of my exams, but that didn’t make it any less awful. I got it into my head that I wasn’t enjoying any of my college courses, and because of that, I started to lose hope in everything else that I enjoyed. I’m a writer but I couldn’t write anything. I love acting but I couldn’t find any energy to act. Singing is my favourite hobby but it just seemed so exhausting. I didn’t know what on earth I wanted to do with the rest of my life because nothing seemed to be working out at that moment.

The problem, I realise now, is that I was so consumed in the stresses of that one moment that I couldn’t see past it. I didn’t need to decide who I was going to be right then, and I still don’t. Neither do you.

The future is a wide expanse of exciting opportunities, and it is all yours. As cheesy as that sounds, it is completely true. You can be whoever you want to be and you can change who you want to be whenever you want. It doesn’t matter what age you are – if you’re not happy with the way something is going in your life, then change it. You’re never too old or too young to be yourself.

If you are in the middle of a job but you want to try something new or have a go at that dream that you’ve dreamt of achieving since you were eight, then go for it. If you are just starting at college or picking out your GCSE options, and you don’t have a clue what you want to do when you’re older, that’s fine. Just pick the things that you enjoy doing, even if they end up being a crazy eclectic mix that doesn’t make any sense. You still have your whole life ahead of you; don’t get hung up on this one part of it. There is always the option to change.

It seems like in modern society, people are scared to change who they are, or who they think other people think they are. I think this is due to the huge amount of judgement that is pressed upon us on a daily basis. But I promise you that it is perfectly fine to change things if it will make you happier. No one should judge you for that and if they do then they are not worth knowing. But that’s a story for a different blog post.

The point that I am trying to make here is that you shouldn’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do in life. You are an extraordinary person and this is no one’s life but your own. You have people who love you and in the end, as long as you are happy, nothing else matters.