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


    The Best YA Books for Young Women of Color

    Ever since June 2020, I have been gratified to see more books starring women of color, and have been privileged to read some. However, I’ll leave this topic to those who are more qualified than I (a white woman)am to write it.

    If you were to make an essential list of YA books young women of color should read, what would be on it? Would you mix "classics" with more current offerings, and if yes, how and why? Which authors do the best job of representing female POCs, and why? Consider comparing and contrasting modern and classic characters, such as Janie from Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston) vs. Renee Watson’s Jasmine of Watch Us Rise, or any other combination of characters you would like.


      The Impact, or Lack Thereof, of Born This Way

      Born This Way was a docudrama series on A&E chronicling the lives of several young adults with Down Syndrome. In the series, viewers saw them navigate independent lives, work, relationships, and many other frontiers the temporarily able-bodied (or non-disabled) often take for granted. Yet, Born This Way was cancelled after just a few seasons, and not a lot of people talk about it anymore. The only exception seems to be within physical or online communities of people with Down Syndrome or other disabilities. Why is this? Did Born This Way have a bigger or smaller impact than expected, on the disabled and non-disabled? What does the trajectory of the show say about representation of PWDs in the media and their stories?


        Bridgerton as a "New Form" of Austen

        Netflix’s newest hit show Bridgerton has some features of a trademark Regency England drama, such as girls looking to secure their futures through marriage proposals, ballroom gossip, and a mix of gentility, morality, civility, and scandal. Yet some critics point out Bridgerton isn’t Jane Austen’s England, or even Regency England as we know it. Bridgerton, it is said, is part of a "new genre." If so, what genre is it? How does Bridgerton’s narrative on the show and in the books the show is based on compare to other period dramas or stories? What might another show in this "new genre" look like? Discuss.


          The Best and Worst Epistolary Novels

          I recently read Things We Didn’t Say, a World War II epistolary novel by Amy Lynn Green, and enjoyed it immensely. However, it reminded me I had not encountered a good epistolary novel in several years. This led me to ask some questions about this sub-genre. Namely, what are some of the best epistolary novels? Are they classics or contemporary novels, and what are some differences between those two? Are there some things epistolary authors do that make their works less than enjoyable, and what are some of the "worst" or lowly-regarded epistolary novels? Discuss.

          • This sounds really interesting, but I think going down the good/bad road could perhaps be a little limiting. I'm more drawn to the latter part of your proposal which looks at the different ways in which various epistolary novels work. I think the nuance that this approach would allow would be more engaging and allow the author to dig a bit deeper into how they work from a literary perspective. – Hannan Lewsley 7 months ago
          • Interesting topic! Dangerous Liaison, by Choderlos de Laclos, is a French epistolary novel (published in 1782) that may be be interesting to tackle, or mention, in an article such as the one you’re suggesting! – Gavroche 7 months ago

          Analysis of the "Very Special Episode"

          In past decades, situation comedies and dramas were often known for their "very special episodes." These stories took a break from more lighthearted fare to discuss serious topics or issues, often those facing young audiences of the day. Special episodes could often be categorized thus:
          -Featuring "special" characters (often disabled), who rarely if ever appeared again but existed to educate audiences and teach the main characters lessons about compassion and tolerance
          -Analyzing the dangers of teen life (peer pressure, drugs, drunk driving, child/teen molestation)
          -Focusing on particular current events (the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, the AIDS epidemic, 9/11, etc.)
          -Teaching young audiences when and how to give or seek help in serious situations (eating disorders, abuse, CPR, etc.)

          Pick a few "very special episodes" to focus on from sitcoms or sitcom/dramas (Diff’rent Strokes, Punky Brewster, Seventh Heaven, Full House…) How has the "very special episode" evolved? Why are they often mocked, even by those who enjoyed their affiliated shows? Is the "very special episode" still around now, and what does it look like?

          • I think that this topic can be a very interesting one. However, I think that in some ways it is too broad. I think perhaps narrowing down the focus, on one specific type of episode will help someone want to write it more. – RheaRG 9 months ago
          • Good idea. I'd lean toward drug-centric ones since drugs and drinking were so publicized in the '80s and '90s (not that they aren't now, but back then we had Nancy Reagan's campaign, the advent of DARE, etc.) I personally also love focusing on disability-centric episodes as a compare/contrast to how characters with disabilities should be portrayed and treated, but I'd leave that to someone else to write. – Stephanie M. 9 months ago

          Are Competition Shows Inherently Against Minorities?

          The impetus for this topic started because, during the pandemic, I’ve become rather hooked on Chopped and its iterations. One thing I’ve noticed about Chopped though, is a dearth of female competitors and winners. Many episodes have male chefs outnumbering females 3-1, and many episodes have the female chef eliminated in round one. Some fans have noted this happens even and especially if female judges outnumber male ones.

          Then I started noticing this trend in other competition shows. For instance, I am a huge Jeopardy fan, and have noticed that men win much more often than women. Also, women can have winning streaks–some, like Julia Collins, have won as many as 20 games in a row. But this is nothing compared to the streaks of Ken Jennings (74), James Holzhauer (30 ), and other male players.

          This got me thinking, women aren’t the only ones getting shortchanged. It’s fairly common, for instance, to see persons of Asian descent on Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire, but not other POCs. It’s becoming more common to see LGBTQ people in competition shows, but not as common as it could be (and those contestants also often lose). Also, while people with learning disabilities or "invisible" diseases such as celiac or diabetes do appear on cooking competitions, trivia competitions, and athletic competitions, it is completely unheard of for people with visible, physical disabilities or disabilities like autism to appear. (Of course, in the case of athletics, the argument is, "Well, we have Special Olympics/Paralympics," but that’s problematic in itself).

          Is this trend as prevalent as it appears? Is it changing in a positive or negative way? What could competitions, from sports to cooking to trivia, do to be more inclusive and welcoming? Discuss.

          • I think this is a really interesting topic to discuss. Perhaps, an article on this topic could take into account - if possible - the demographics of those who apply for such shows, are individuals belonging to minority groups applying and just not getting selected? Or are they choosing not to apply for such programmes? Is there any reason/research for this? Also - another possible angle, is this prejudice the same across several countries? For example, does the American 'Masterchef' look the same as the Australian or British iterations of the show? Is this a problem intrinsic across the globe, or just pertaining to certain countries? – leersens 1 year ago

          Toxic Love in Literature

          Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Catherine and Heathcliff. Lily Evans and Severus Snape. Besides the obvious examples of unhealthy relationships in literature, there are also some that are commonly contested, like Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy or Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Despite the toxicity of these relationships though, and despite the fact that from a twenty-first century mindset, they could be called manipulative or abusive, people still love them. People still read the stories of these characters and enjoy them.

          Do toxic relationships in literature have a particular pull? If so, what is it? What makes a relationship toxic, and are any of these, or others, redeemable? Is the woman always the "victim," or can men be victimized by toxicity as well? Are toxic relationships more "accepted" with white couples (you’ll notice none of these examples contain people of color or minorities)? Why is that? What about LGBTQ examples? Discuss.

          • I feel like it's in large measure of the potential for abusive relationships to function as narcissist's fantasies, even regardless of gender. For example, in a story like Twilight a woman gets to imagine herself being the object of affections of a man who's so infatuated with her he's willing to cater to her every desire (even if he also treats her quite badly). Whereas men get to fantasize about having a weak, passive woman who loves having them in control and being their willing slave. Part of it might also be that some people really are so desperate for a partner that they're willing to do anything for one, no matter how degrading. – Debs 1 year ago
          • I should also add that, if anything, I think toxic relationships are more common in media with LGBT characters than without them, and that a big part of this is that something that anyone could recognize as creepy and awful if a man were doing it to a woman (i.e., rape, kidnapping, etc.), is more likely to be perceived as not that bad when it's a man doing it to another man, or a woman doing it to another woman. – Debs 1 year ago
          • This is a very rich topic. If you plan to write this topic, I suggest reflecting upon subtopics. In my opinion, the meaning of toxic relationship also differ from period to period, so pay attention to that, as well! – Crisia 12 months ago
          • A very interesting topic and at the same time a good question! These relationships are so timeless and have been attractive for generations. In my opinion, to desire someone and being desired by someone is a deep wish and / or a fantasy that has nothing to do with age or gender. – Guinevere 12 months ago

          Should Conventional Theater Change to Accommodate Diverse Actors?

          Musical theater is a huge and well-loved medium, and in recent years has given us some cutting-edge hits (Legally Blonde, Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, etc.) Yet there are some accepted "rules" of theater culture that still feel like stereotypes or "boxing in" actors. For instance: sopranos get the leads; mezzos and altos play "witches and britches." Tenors play romantic leads; basses play villains. Actresses past the age of 30 can expect to play mothers and grandmothers, but not love interests for their own sake. If you are a white male, you cannot convincingly play a male or female of any color (although I have conversely seen white women tapped to play WOCs). Actors with disabilities can only really expect casting in disabled roles.

          Most theater aficionados will tell you there are solid reasons behind this thinking, even truth. Then again, in 2019, should conventional theater change more to suit the needs and desires of actors? Could or should a musical be written to give an ingenue role to an alto or a hero role to a bass? Is it pushing the envelope to allow actors of certain orientations to play outside of them, or for a white actor to play a POC (outside of a historical context)? In short, what would and should truly "diverse," "inclusive" theater look like?

          • I think that, in some respects, it's easier for theatre to accommodate diversity than other media because, moreso than in any other medium, any actor who's qualified can take a particular role regardless of race, gender, or background. This is especially true of school performances, which have to work with the available students. I've seen a rendition of one of Shakespeare's history plays that featured Black actors, for example; and on YouTube I've found versions of Little Shop of Horrors where Seymour was biracial and the dentist was Asian. I've even found a theatrical version of the Screwtape Letters where Screwtape was played (really expertly, I might add) by a woman. – Debs 2 years ago
          • Hi, Debs, That sounds really cool. I'm glad your theater experience was more inclusive than mine. My schools (high and college) had GREAT theater programs I so wanted to be a part of. But, esp. in the case of my high school director, I was not given that chance and I think it was because of cerebral palsy (couldn't prove it, and if I'd said something it would've been, "Oh, you just think everybody's picking on you.") But the truth was, even after calling my acting phenomenal on more than one occasion, that director in particular would only assign me chorus or walk-on roles. The justification was, "Well, the leads have to dance," but chorus lines are basically there to *dance*, at least in my productions. There were other examples of non-diversity there too, such as the lead *always* went to a first soprano--and the year it went to a mezzo, of course, I wasn't in the running. But, this director was *also* willing to cast a white girl as a Hispanic lead (but not a girl of color as a white lead) ?????? Anyway, it's only been recently that I realized the full lack of inclusivity and diversity in the world at large and the theater world, so...there you go. Again, we need more stories like yours. – Stephanie M. 2 years ago
          • Interesting question Stephanie, and I find it an important one. Yet I would consider white actors playing non-white roles in the name of diversity or inclusion a farce. Whiteness is a hegemonic power structure imposed upon non-whites. Whiteness allows for participation within the hegemonic group as long as the said behavior of conditional demographics furthers white supremacy. This is why fair skinned groups such as the Irish were not considered white, and then allowed conditional acceptance into whiteness only after they proved useful to white supremacy. This example highlights that you can have fair skin and not be considered white, and that whiteness is a very real, but social construct. Considering the above, it would be dishonest to allow the oppressor to play the role of the oppressed in the name of diversity or inclusion if we are to think of these efforts as some form of progressive emancipation of the oppressed. – kurtz 3 months ago

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          Latest Comments

          Stephanie M.

          Thank you for this, especially the discussion of free will and prophecy in HP and how Harry’s choice influenced his being a Gryffindor. Personally, I think he’d have made a good Slytherin, or at least would’ve brought more nuance and goodness to the house. But oh, well. I am glad he had the choice.

          Fate in Harry Potter and Sabrina
          Stephanie M.

          Glad this article made the lineup, and as always, glad I was able to help with the revisions. I especially appreciated your discussions of how costumes show how characters exist outside of screen time, and culture vs. subculture.

          Costumes On Screen: How Clothing Has Enhanced Visual Storytelling
          Stephanie M.

          I read The Great Gatsby in high school and college, so I’ve talked about the color symbolism a lot. Bravo though, for focusing on blue and the “no money” grays, blacks, and other neutrals. Most people stop with gold, yellow, or green.

          The Great Gatsby: Exploring 1920s Class Politics with Colour Symbolism
          Stephanie M.

          Thanks for this. I love Groundhog Day; my dad and I bonded over it when I was a kid, and now I like time travel, period, although some examples are much better than others. For instance, I usually enjoy it when a sitcom plays with the time loop plot. And I enjoyed when Once Upon a Time did it, even if it did wear me out about the third or fourth time. Christmas time loops are also some of my favorites. If you ever have the chance to see the (really) old ABC Family movie Christmas Every Day, you should. It’s like Groundhog Day for kids.

          How Time Loop Movies Have Avoided Their Own Groundhog Day
          Stephanie M.

          I think we all do. Despite this article, I don’t sit around reading classics, either, but some really do stand the test of time. Sherlock is a great example.

          The Persistent Allure of Victorian Literature
          Stephanie M.

          Oh, yeah. The book is so dark that when I first read it as a kid, I was like, “When is this kid gonna catch a break?” But when you get past the gritty environment and the relentless tragedy (and it is relentless), you find Dickens has a lot to say about poverty, how humans are treated vs. how they should be treated, human nature, and so on. Thus, it’s a valuable book if not always an escape.

          The Persistent Allure of Victorian Literature
          Stephanie M.

          Well, Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol, obviously. 🙂 Outside of those, try A Tale of Two Cities or Nicholas Nickelby.

          The Persistent Allure of Victorian Literature
          Stephanie M.

          Yes! I loved her as a kid, I love her now, and I wish she’d written more books.

          The Persistent Allure of Victorian Literature