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.
Song and Story: What Makes this Union Perfect
One of the best things about music is that there are so many genres, sub-genres, and artists to listen to. Whichever genres and artists you like, certain songs stick in your head and become favorites for many different reasons.
One reason a song can become a favorite is, the song tells a story. This concept goes all the way back to ancient ballads of nations like Ireland and Scotland, the Psalms of David, the oral traditions of Africa and Native America, etc. Since those ancient times, story-songs have developed into genre-specific phenomena. You can find a lot of them in country music, and Broadway musicals are built on them. Many religious songs, from hymns and spirituals to praise tunes, are taken directly from verses and stories found in holy books.
Examine the similarities and differences found in specific types and genres of story-songs. How do they work (how does a Broadway show tune tell a different story than, say, a country hit)? What does a song need in order to tell a good story–and conversely, what types of stories work best set to music? What are some of the best current and classic examples of the union between song and story?
Antagonist-Centered Stories: What Can We Learn?
Everybody loves a story from the POV of the hero–the one whose moral compass points due north, who sacrifices him or herself for others, who puts others first. Most can’t resist the appeal of an underdog or a comeback kid–i.e., the geeky kid who gets bullied in Chapter 1 but kicks the bullies’ butts in Chapter 10 because by then, they’ve discovered their inner strength and gifts.
Despite these truths, there is a definite explosion of antagonist-centered stories out there, whether in movies, books, or television. The trend isn’t new; you can find it in fairytale spoofs like Seriously, Cinderella is SO Annoying! But lately, antagonist-centered stories are far more developed, giving their evil (or formerly evil) protagonists real development and character arcs.
Look at some examples of this phenomenon, such as Disney’s Descendants, the character arcs for Regina, Hook, and Zelena in Once Upon a Time, etc. Do certain genres lend themselves more to this type of arc, and why (as you can see, it’s huge in fairytales–but why)? What does it take to do this kind of story right? Do you believe antagonists or villains always need their own stories, or should we be content to let them be evil (and in what cases should we leave them to their evil)? Have fun!
The Effects of Iconic Roles on an Actor and His/Her Career
Most actors play a plethora of roles in film and on television shows. Some actors though, are best remembered for one or two iconic roles, even after the film has been out for years or the show gets cancelled. Examples include Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, best known for their portrayal of Michelle Tanner, Jaleel White (Steve Urkel), and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter). More examples: Juliette Binoche (Vianne Rochet, Chocolat), Julie Andrews (Maria Rainer, Mary Poppins), and Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Dawson).
Does being associated with an iconic role help or hurt an actor’s career? Does it make a difference whether the actor was a child or adult at the time of the role (s) in question? Do viewers prefer that actors stay in iconic role "molds," or would they rather actors create new characters/avoid typecasting? Explore these and other questions, as well as any examples you might choose, to determine the positive and negative aspects of associating actors with very specific roles.
Why "Hocus Pocus" Continues Putting a Spell on Us
Halloween will soon be upon us and with it, classic Halloween films. Ask anyone who grew up in the 1990s or early 2000s what their first or favorite Halloween films were, and Hocus Pocus will probably top the list. With three incredible lead actresses (Bette Middler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker), quotable lines, and bewitching songs, the film will probably endure much longer than the Sanderson sisters.
This said, many critics feel Hocus Pocus is overrated and too campy. It’s not necessarily scary, unless you’re around little Dani’s age (played by Thora Birch). Many critics are unsure why a Disney movie aimed at kids and tweens talks so much about virginity and sex. Others claim that though they try, the Sanderson sisters just aren’t that funny.
So what’s the truth behind Hocus Pocus? What makes it good? If the elements listed above are not done well, what is (or is the film scarier, funnier, or smarter than we give it credit for)? Did the three lead actresses give their best or sell themselves short/"phone it in?" Discuss.
Discovering Harry Potter: Does Age Matter?
This is a fairly personal topic I’d like to write myself, but will leave to more experienced Potterheads.
I was ten when the first Harry Potter book came out. I grew up in a moderate, but still observant Christian family who considered it too much of a risk to expose me and my then-six-year-old brother to a series that contained any form of witchcraft. I didn’t read the books then and later, got too busy with other books. Besides, I didn’t want to be labeled childish for carrying around HP paperbacks in, say, high school.
As an adult, I’ve finally gotten around to opening my Hogwarts letter and starting the series, and it’s been a lot of fun. However, I can’t escape this fact: I’m a thirty-something woman. I have a different HP experience than the average 11-year-old.
And so I’m curious to see an analysis of this phenomenon. Does age matter when you’re discovering HP for the first or two hundredth time? How do children and adults view the series differently? Are there less or more "mature" ways to interact with it? Or, as I suspect, has Harry Potter bridged age gaps in a way other book series can only dream about doing? If yes, how did J.K. and Harry do it?
Fan Art: Why We Love It and What Makes It Good
Fandoms are a big part of life for most of us–many millennials, but people outside that generation, also. Reams of fandom discussion boards, shipping theories, and arguments populate the Internet. Pinterest bursts with fandom and fandom crossover Pins, including fan art. More people begin creating their own fan art every day.
Fan art may be fairly new, but it’s a beautiful and creative way to show appreciation of your chosen fandom. The question at hand is, how do we judge fan art? What, in the opinions of various people from various fandoms, makes fan art good? Are crossover examples (e.g., Disney princesses sorted into Hogwarts houses) good or overkill? What makes a "bad" fan artist, or a "disrespectful" piece of fan art?
The Evolution of Tim Allen as a Dad
In the 1990s, Tim Allen starred in Home Improvement as Tim Taylor, wherein he raised his three sons Mark, Brad, and Randy with wife Jill. Around 2010, Tim returned to the dad role, this time as Mike Baxter on Last Man Standing. As Mike, he raises and supports three daughters, Kristin, Mandy, and Eve, with wife Vanessa.
The two shows are both great and bring to mind several questions. For instance, how is Tim Taylor, who raises sons, different in personality and approach from Mike Baxter, who raises daughters? Are they alike at all? Do the ages of the children make a difference–Baxter’s daughters are pretty much grown up, and one is a mother (Eve, the youngest, is in high school. Taylor’s sons were middle and elementary schoolers when Home Improvement began and age more slowly). Which character, if either, is the more realistic TV dad, or the better one? The better/more realistic husband? What does each show have to say about raising single-gender families?
The Doctor is In: How Has 'House' Influenced Our Perceptions of Medicine?
The medical drama "House," starring Greg Laurie, burst onto the scene several years ago with an engaging and intriguing premise. A true medical detective, Gregory House seeks the answers to dangerous physical and mental conundrums that threaten to steal his patients’ lives. The show featured many rare diseases and fascinating patient stories, leading scores of viewers to tune in each week.
However, some of those viewers had a love-hate relationship with the hit series’ main character. Gregory House is anything but your stereotypical friendly, warm, family practitioner. He doesn’t care about his patients; he takes their cases because said cases are "interesting." A pit bull has better bedside manner than this man. House is also a drug addict and a consummate jerk to anyone he comes in contact with. He flaunts authority, breaks rules, and is perhaps unrealistically self-absorbed. His personality, or lack thereof, led some viewers to change the channel while others said things like, "If I’m sick, call Dr. House" (a once-popular saying on Facebook Flair).
With these two elements of the show in mind, consider how House–its premise and protagonist–has influenced our perceptions of medicine. Is House a realistic physician? Does he, or his show, prompt us to be more sympathetic and empathetic toward our doctors and other fellow humans? Does House make medicine look like a noble profession, or is he a medical Sherlock Holmes whose intelligence and curmudgeonly ways are used as gimmicks? For those who are loyal House fans, what kept them coming back for eight years?
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