Stephanie M.

Stephanie M.

I'm a content writer and novelist who loves books, writing, theater, and my cat. I have published two novels and traveled to London and Paris.

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    Latest Articles

    Latest Topics

    5

    Crowns of Glory: The Importance of Hair in Women-Centered Literature

    Throughout women-centered literature, hair is a popular symbol and motif. The Bible consistently describes hair as a woman’s source of beauty and glory, even her vanity. In classic novels such as Little Women, hair serves as a symbol; Jo March cuts off and sells her hair, her "one beauty," to help her wounded father. In so doing, she symbolically casts off immaturity and vanity in favor of womanhood.

    The trend persists in modern books such as Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent; women brush, braid, and stroke each other’s hair during crucial moments throughout the novel. Women whose hair is forcibly cut or shaved are consistently shamed, and they mourn the loss as if mourning a person. Male characters often stroke, twist, or otherwise fondle love interests’ hair as a form of non-sexual intimacy. Even in fairytales and children’s lit, a young girl’s hair is often pointed out as a defining trait.

    Using the examples listed and/or any others you are familiar with, examine why hair is so important in women-centered literature. Have attitudes toward hair played a role in the shaping of females and feminism? What about the lack of hair for female characters who have cancer or other conditions? Are the perceptions and usages of hair in literature changing, and are our perceptions of womanhood changing with it?

    • Fun Fact: early comic books made female characters have bright red hair to sell more books, as it was very eye-catching, leading to the many red-haired comic book characters of today – m-cubed 2 weeks ago
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    • Didn't know that! :) I don't know if it would be quite on topic, but one could certainly explore hair color as part of this. It tends to be symbolic. For instance, did you know directors of child-centered movies, such as those starring Shirley Temple, would often cast dark-haired girls in "nemesis" parts? – Stephanie M. 2 weeks ago
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    • Ooo, this is a really interesting topic. Hair is so important in gender and race in lit and film and I would love to see more about this. It's interesting as well the different ways that haircuts can be framed in film (a shaved head on a woman can often be a demeaning act, but a woman cutting or shaving her own hair can be a moment of liberation.) – Emily Christ 1 week ago
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    • I also think this is an incredibly interesting topic. The symbolism behind hair is present through ALL our human history, from vikings to monarchies. The obsession with hair and hierarchy reflects so well today, as it did hundreds of years ago, and the use of it, the natural importance we imbue upon hair (or lack thereof) is inherent in our perception of each other. To use it in literature is a fine tool indeed. – bbartonshaw 1 week ago
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    • I was actually considering posting a topic of braided hair used as artistic political statements. I've noticed a trend that braided hair is a common design element in many propaganda campaigns. Many Nazi propaganda pieces used women (such as athletes and pilots) in braided hair in their posters. I noticed the same trend in Chinese propaganda during the 1960s. In modern times, I noticed that strong female characters in movies also sport this hair style such as Katniss Everdeen from the hunger Games and Maddie Ross from True Grit. I think hair is a very interesting topic that I would like to explore! – AaronJRobert 22 hours ago
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    • I didn't think of braids in particular, but you're right. They do seem to be a popular hairstyle in real life and fictional mediums. In fiction, especially for young girls, they're also often used to denote childhood. A girl begins to grow up when she trades braids for a French twist or other up-do. For example, in The Giver, little girls stop wearing braids when they turn ten. Laura Ingalls Wilder was shown wearing them in the TV version of Little House on the Prairie, until she began dating Almanzo. There are thousands of things to say about braids, for sure. – Stephanie M. 21 hours ago
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    • The more I think about this topic, the more complex and vast I realize it is. You can break this topic down by hairstyle, culture, chronology, genre, or medium. I was also thinking of Laura from the Little House on the Prairie. As a child with braided hair, she challenged conventions and ventured on her own (I remember an episode where Laura ran away to a mountain for a spiritual retreat). But when she grew older and began seeing Almanzo (taking a more domestic role), her hairstyle changed into a bun. Braids could be a sign of girlhood, but maybe they can also be a symbol of female empowerment? – AaronJRobert 11 hours ago
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    Does TLC Participate in the Exploitation of Women?

    TLC. formerly known as The Learning Channel, has become a place to watch voyeuristic shows. That alone is disturbing, but what’s more disturbing is that many of these shows seem to exploit women. What Not to Wear, which ran from 2003-2013, performed makeovers on infinitely more women than men, and while Stacy and Clinton were encouraging toward their contributors, one could argue the message was, "Women can’t get away with dressing less than their best, ever."

    What Not to Wear is not the only example. In five seasons of My 600-Lb Life, the vast majority of obese contributors have been women (as many as 80% in a 10-episode season). Counting On focuses on Jessa, Jill, and the other Duggar women instead of the Duggar men, playing up the girls’ pregnancies, weddings, and other "traditional" activities. Toddlers and Tiaras featured airbrushed, enhanced beauty pageant participants as young as 2-3 years old.

    Using these examples and any others you might like, discuss whether TLC is in fact exploiting women over men. If so, do they mean to do it, or are they just trying to net a bigger female audience? Is that a form of manipulation and if yes, is it okay? Why does TLC not seem as focused on men, men’s lifestyles, or the self-improvement of men who might be overweight, sloppily dressed, etc.? Is TLC promoting or demeaning traditional women’s roles such as wife and mother, and if yes, why?

    • Another good question would be what exactly are we learning from the programs on "The Learning Channel"??? Even educational channels are now giving in to the 'reality show' boom, much to the dismay of us who grew up watching shows that actually taught us something. You bring up an interesting point that may point to a bigger problem within our society. – MikeySheff 2 weeks ago
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    • I was just thinking about that (ironically while watching TLC). Why call it The Learning Channel, because you're not actively teaching things people need to know. Yes, you could argue, for instance, that My 600-Lb Life teaches people about health--but do you need to stick a 750-pound woman in front of us, and say what a pig she is, to do it? Do you need to use toddlers with blonde wigs and fake teeth to decry unrealistic standards of beauty (when actually, you're doing the opposite)? Now that I think of it, TLC isn't even the only guilty channel. Have you seen the "History Channel" lately? – Stephanie M. 2 weeks ago
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    Pending

    Television's Modern Portrayal of Christianity

    From the Camdens of 7th Heaven to the O’Neals of The Real O’Neals, there are plenty of fictional Christians populating our TV shows. Those portrayals are refreshingly diverse and imperfect, but one wonders if they are all accurate or the best representations of Christianity.

    Choose a couple of shows, such as 7th Heaven vs. The Real O’Neals, and compare and contrast their approach to Christianity. What do the shows make look attractive about this religion? Off-putting? Which one is the best representation of modern Christianity? What do these shows say about Christianity in general, particularly to audience members who aren’t followers?

    • I disagree about relevance and interest, but I do understand what you mean. Maybe contrasting two different shows, one with a more "traditional" approach and one more "modern" one? 7th Heaven vs. The Real O'Neals, perhaps? – Stephanie M. 4 weeks ago
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    • Is there really a true portrayal of Christianity? There are so many sects of the religion, and so many individual views of those sects, that any interpretation can seem normal to at least some viewers. – MikeySheff 4 weeks ago
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    • Hmmm, that's a good point as well. Let me ruminate on that for a while. :) – Stephanie M. 4 weeks ago
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    • You could also add movies such as A Walk to Remember – Munjeera 4 weeks ago
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    • I thought of that, as well as movies that are specifically targeted toward a Protestant Christian audience (mostly people from the Bible Belt). Examples: God's Not Dead, Courageous, Fireproof. I've seen these movies and been entertained by them, but the narrowness of the intended audience bothers me. It also bothers me that in many cases, Christianity is the defining trait of the main characters, and that the directors take the easy way out (i.e., painting an atheist professor as unnecessarily cruel to his students, and then letting a car run him down). That's what I mean by an unhealthy portrayal of Christianity. I just wish the entertainment industry could get past either treating Christianity as a joke, or as something only fundamentalist Protestants are interested in watching. I also wish writers of Christian-based movies would do a better job of presenting Christians as multifaceted, normal people. Anyway, rant over. – Stephanie M. 4 weeks ago
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    • I really felt the title "God's Not Dead" should be adjusted to "Stereotypes Are Not Dead." Every single stereotype was portrayed in the movie: the strict Asian dad, the freedom loving hijab wearing young girl who wants to express herself and the atheist professor. I do not believe the sequel was any better. Why is it so difficult to write Christian screen plays?Even The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe fell flat in the dialogue. But The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was much better in my opinion. Frustrating! – Munjeera 3 weeks ago
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    • @Munjeera: It is frustrating and in its own way, gives Christians a bad name. I have rarely, if ever, seen Christians portrayed as "normal" people in the media, or their lifestyle portrayed as such. Instead, Christians often come across as goody-goodies with persecution complexes which...no. Some of the things that have happened to American Christians are grossly wrong. But compared to the followers in other nations, we have it made. – Stephanie M. 3 weeks ago
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    5

    Why are we so in love with time loops, time travel, and body switching?

    Film audiences love plots centered on time loops, time travel, body switching, and similar phenomena. From Groundhog Day to Freaky Friday, to the myriad of specials where a character wishes it were Christmas every day, we can’t seem to get enough of this type of plot device. Why though, when we know by rights, these devices should be stale?

    A few reasons come to mind. Perhaps it’s because characters in a time loop or body switch are doing what we want to do–get another chance at doing something, or see how the other half lives. Perhaps it’s because we want to reassure ourselves time is dependable and thus, these things could never happen. Of course, these are only two possible explanations.

    • Consider expanding the topic to include literature, or connect this trope with how we view these films and how the films progress. – SarahKnauf 2 months ago
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    • Good idea, although I'm not as familiar with time travel literature. :) Does anyone out there have suggestions? – RubyBelle 2 months ago
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    • Interesting topic. I think that looking at the Harry Potter series use of time travel would be interesting. It was only really used in the third book, and they brought it back for the recent play (which most seemed to not enjoy from what I heard). – Daonso 1 month ago
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    • Cool topic. I'm sure there's a lot of research in psychology and communication out there that could be useful. And actually, while I think it's good that your topic is specific, I'm just going to throw out it there that this angle could be applied to really any of the plot devices we see over and over again. Any of it could make for an interesting study. – OBri 1 month ago
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    • Yes, it could. I think it was Shakespeare who said there are only what, 13 plots? And yet writers manage to make old plot devices original all the time. I'd love to see someone examine the most popular devices--not only time loops but others. Some are even genre-specific, like the plot where two business rivals end up in a romantic relationship, or the one where the murderer looks like the most innocent person alive. – Stephanie M. 1 month ago
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    • A topic I would most certainly like to read on. I could think many related titles in animation and comics but would be interested in hearing more from film. – dekichan 4 weeks ago
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    6
    Locked

    Does Writing Fiction Ruin the Experience of Reading It?

    I am a fiction writer and voracious fiction reader, so I like this topic. Yet I feel like I shouldn’t write it since it would be in first person, so it’s up for grabs.

    Do any fiction writers out there find their craft ruins the reading experience? For example, do you catch yourself zeroing in on when an author tells instead of shows, or when characters are undeveloped? Do books you once liked become tedious? If yes, how do you–and we as writers–cope with that? Is there a way to keep one’s craft from ruining reading? Conversely, does writing make reading a great book even better, and does it enhance one’s taste in literature?

    • I love the topic! I also write myself and I do often have this issue of honing in one possible mistakes or weaknesses in stories (writing- or even story-wise) that my friends miss. But I also think it's given me a higher appreciation for works I do love and that are written very well. Of course, this would be a subjective topic for anyone to write, but I do think you're onto something. – Karen 1 month ago
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    • I love this topic. I think some solutions should be addressed to help writers read without criticizing. – DB752B 1 month ago
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    • This is a great questions. Fiction has long been a part of literature and who knows if it has its own downsides. – BMartin43 1 month ago
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    • I like this topic, and I think it could be written with an open-ended conclusion. I.e. writing might "ruin" reading in some ways, but it vastly improves it in others. I do find that as a writer, I notice weak plot devices or predictable character development far more than I used to or than other readers. As Karen noted, however, I also appreciate some things more, like artfully dropped foreshadowing, beautiful symbolism, or unique scenes. For me, these positive results outweigh the negative, but this could be argued either way. I also think it can relate to tv (I can't stand some shows just because the script is poorly written, while my friends are able to excuse that for high quality acting and cinematography) but it's up to the writers discretion to note this or not. – EmmaBeitzel 1 month ago
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    • I definitely agree writing fiction gives you a better eye for good books, although what is "good" remains subjective. I've also noticed it gives me a better idea of what I want my writing voice to sound like, so whoever writes the topic could discuss that if they wanted. – Stephanie M. 1 month ago
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    Latest Comments

    Stephanie M.

    I’ve been meaning to become a Whovian, but haven’t gotten around to it. I actually didn’t start watching OUAT until a couple years ago. It premiered when I was in grad school and had zip time for television. Now I’m wondering why I didn’t make time for it sooner.

    Once Upon A Time: A Work of Creative Genius or a Tangled Mess?
    Stephanie M.

    Keen: I absolutely agree, despite the fact that I had to be objective. Just because a show has problems doesn’t mean it can’t continue or that those problems can’t be fixed. I’ve seen much worse shows go on for 8-10 seasons or longer. Actually, I think that’s how a lot of good shows like OUAT get the shaft. People give up on them too soon.

    Once Upon A Time: A Work of Creative Genius or a Tangled Mess?
    Stephanie M.

    I do remember those; in fact, I owned one. From what I hear, they caused a lot of injuries back in the day. 🙂

    Toys Will Be Toys: Barbie vs. LEGO
    Stephanie M.

    Thank you so much for this article. We as adults have gotten so involved with gender stereotyping and protecting our kids from it, that we’ve forgotten the toy is an art form. It’s there to help kids play, and learn as they play, not to be a deciding factor in their ideology. Just put the blocks, the Barbies, the Tonka trucks, and the dress-up trunk in the middle of the floor and let the kids play with whatever the heck they want!

    Toys Will Be Toys: Barbie vs. LEGO
    Stephanie M.

    Lovely article; I especially enjoyed Whedon’s quote about hope, the use of stories to connect with hope, the use of stories to change heroes, etc. I’ve never seen Buffy (I was a bit outside the target demographic when the show first came out). But this article makes me interested to check it out. I’d also be interested to see how writers think Buffy compares with shows like Joan of Arcadia or Touched by an Angel.

    God in the Whedonverse: Faith, Hope, and Truth
    Stephanie M.

    I don’t know if it’s “fluff”; it feels too complex to be fluff. But yes to the commenters who say the creators could do the complexities better. I feel like in books, you can get away with intense complexity because it’s easy to go back to a previous book and find where all the threads go. With TV, you can’t necessarily do that, which makes the writers’ jobs harder.

    Yes, fairytales are being done to death…but as someone who always liked them, and who was never into vampires and zombies, I say go ahead and mine what you can. When you run out of ideas though, just admit it.

    Once Upon A Time: A Work of Creative Genius or a Tangled Mess?
    Stephanie M.

    Nap: I definitely liked him better at age ten. Personally, I’d have made it so Henry didn’t age either, even if it meant replacing him every couple of seasons, but I guess that would be an unpopular decision.

    Once Upon A Time: A Work of Creative Genius or a Tangled Mess?
    Stephanie M.

    Sheila: The show has definitely gotten darker in the past couple of seasons. Some of that darkness I’m okay with and some was a little much (Season 5, looking at you). I’m not going to spoil anything, but let’s just say Emma and Regina still have shots at happy endings. I just don’t know that the writers are going in good directions to get there.

    Once Upon A Time: A Work of Creative Genius or a Tangled Mess?