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

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    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!

      • Try and find some more obscure examples of where antagonist-centred stories work and where they don't work, don't just stick the mainstream titles. This might help either prove your case or highlight why it might not work (depending on which way you go with this) – AidanGuagliardo 1 week ago

      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.

      • The best actors would tend to belittle any type of impact, I would say. Take my childhood idol Clint Eastwood: traded his spurs for a holster, plays good guy or bad guy with equal tact; and still going strong in politics of all things--makes it seem as just matter of dusting off the layers of script material and moving on to the next being thing (nothing to it). Not convinced? Then, there is Arnold Schwarzenegger: Mr. Universe, Mr. Titanium, and Mr. Dream Teacher; still turning heads in politics. Positive and negative in Hollywood, not these guys. – LFreire 3 weeks ago
      • Yet another interesting topic suggestion from Stephanie. I suppose there are examples of iconic roles that have helped an actor's career and others that have hurt a career. Off the top of my head I could mention just how long Sean Connery took to shake off the '007' tag, as some people actually confused the actor with the role, but he has gone on to more interesting roles, even if he did revisit Bond in 'Never Say Never Again' (1983). Conversely there's the controversial 'unsimulated sex act' that Chloë Sevigny performed in 'The Brown Bunny' (2003), which she will no doubt be forever remembered for and appears to have damaged her standing as a serious actress. Remaining in an iconic role certainly helps with the bank balance, but doesn't stretch an actor in any way - the actor Adam Woodyatt, who plays the character, Ian Beale in the long running British soap 'Eastenders', lives a few miles away from me and is often seen around in his Maserati (No, I'm not envious!...Well, maybe a little). The locals all refer to him by his on-screen character name. However, for me, the best example of someone who has never let the grass grow under his feet is Sir Patrick Stewart - perhaps best known for Captain Jean-Luc Picard in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', who has since returned to his Shakespearean roots with vigour as well as delivering one the best performances as Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1999 version of 'A Christmas Carol'. – Amyus 2 weeks ago
      • I think being strongly associated with a role is probably harmful for an actor in terms of their future career prospects. It's difficult to be type-cast and if an actor is type-cast than I suspect it would be very displeasing for them to have to struggle to break into new roles and in new genres. That being said socially it's probably neat for them to be strongly associated with a type of character or genre which would be cool if it didn't also impact what casting agents and directors think of them. – LucianoTheWriter 2 weeks ago
      Taken by LucianoTheWriter (PM) 2 weeks ago.

      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.

      • I've always been mystified by the popularity of this film. A critical discussion about its craft and elements would be very interesting. Perhaps, this exploration could increase my appreciation of this quirky romp. – L Squared 4 weeks ago
      • I watched it last year to see what all the fuss was about (saw it as a kid, but in an elementary cafeteria with poor acoustics, so I didn't hear/understand a thing). IMHO, some parts are good but it's not the A+ film a lot of people seem to think it is. I'd argue that with films like this, the nostalgia filter blinds viewers to certain flaws. Of course, that could be good or bad. – Stephanie M. 4 weeks ago
      • Definitely need to address nostalgia goggles and how the new generations react to this without that previous experience. – AGMacdonald 3 weeks ago

      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?

      • Oh, this is a really good point. I grew up with HP and participated in fan culture while it was still going on, but recently met someone who never got involved until last year. We both love the series, but we have vastly different interpretations and relationships with the HP universe. Partly because of age, sure, but I think also because of our relationship to the fandom/culture surrounding it. – Emily Esten 1 month ago
      • A nice idea for a topic, Stephanie. I have to confess to having a little bias in favour of the HP books as I was an extra on the last HP film, but having said that, I too discovered the books shortly afterwards. So, at the tender middle-age of 49 I started reading them. As an adult, what I discovered was a remarkably consistent form of storytelling that also matured and darkened in its subject matter as its young readers grew up.One thing I will credit Rowling with is encouraging a generation of children to do what successive UK governments had failed to do - namely to read for pleasure! I enjoyed discussing the stories with my nephew as he grew up and trying to solve the great puzzle, so in that respect alone it helped to connect the young and the not so young in a shared literary experience. It also opened up a few interesting discussions with other adults who saw me reading the books on the Tube; those who, perhaps under different circumstances, I might never have spoken to. – Amyus 1 month ago
      • I grew up with the Harry Potter series so it's an important part of my childhood. I was actually too young when they first came out, so my mom would read them to me as bedtime stories instead. It turned into a bonding experience as my mom became almost equally immersed in the wizarding world as I was. I'm sure it was a different experience for her than it was for me. Since I was a child and the Harry Potter series involves a "coming of age" narrative, the human issues I was reading about were mostly on par with my own experiences growing up. The books and my life could co-exist side by side. For my mom, it perhaps provides a bit of nostalgia. It takes her back to when she was younger and makes her feel like a kid again. Feeling "like a kid" again while reading the books and actually being a kid while reading them is obviously a completely different perspective. Perhaps, for adults, it provides a mini-vacation from a world that seems to have lost a bit of its magic. It reminds you of an innate sense of curiosity and wonder we often lose as we get older. For kids reading them, there is perhaps less of a barrier between the wizarding world and our own. After all, Harry Potter incorporates our own (Muggle) world and the wizarding world within the same universe. The wizarding world seems like an undiscovered realm that we're too oblivious to realize is hidden right under our noses. The capacity for human ignorance can be astounding, so why can't there be a bit of magic we've failed to notice? Our entire existence is both a miracle and a mystery. Maybe J.K. Rowling is a witch herself! She certainly cast a spell on several generations worth of readers. As to how she did that so successfully, that's a more difficult question to answer. Audiences tend to like the ole' good versus evil storylines. Its voices aren't solely adolescent ones either, which separate it from YA that almost exclusively focus on kids' perspectives. I also greatly admire anything that's relegated to being mere "children's entertainment" which is instead handled with maturity and depth and acknowledges kids' capacities for awareness and intelligence that exist outside of adult comprehension. – aprosaicpintofpisces 1 month ago

      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?

      • Oh my, you'll certainly open the proverbial can of worms with this subject! I agree with your comment about fan art (in general) being '...a beautiful and creative way to show appreciation of your chosen fandom', but I think the answer to your following question might well be reliant on a personal preference expressed by the fan of a particular story. What some will love, others will hate; it's human nature. I've seen what I consider to be some superb examples of fan art based on various anime stories, even if they haven't always been technically brilliant in their execution - it's the spirit of the piece that will pique my interest. Having said that though I do dislike the deliberate sexualisation of certain characters when that depiction is completely at odds with the character being portrayed. Such is really little more than the sexual fantasy of the artist and I would prefer it didn't appear on the Internet. In my opinion as long as fan art stays true to the official canon or even playfully experiments with shipping then I have no problem with it. – Amyus 1 month ago

      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?

      • I am so psyched to read this future post. – Emily Esten 2 months ago
      • Thanks, Emily. I considered writing it myself, but I haven't watched enough Home Improvement to make any definitive calls. I am, however, a Last Man Standing fan. – Stephanie M. 2 months ago

      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?

      • I've never watched 'House' although it's notoriety is such that even I, stuck out in the boondocks that is the Midlands (UK), have heard of it and know what the series is about. Perhaps I should give it a go, especially as Hugh Laurie (not Greg) is an exceptionally fine actor and superb musician, as well as a great comic, writer, raconteur...etc. Well, you get a thumbs up from me for this great suggestion for a topic. – Amyus 2 months ago
      • Why did I say Greg? Must've been thinking of the character and actor at the same time. – Stephanie M. 2 months ago
      Taken by larissacouto (PM) 2 months ago.

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      Latest Comments

      Stephanie M.

      Indeed. Looking back now, I also wonder how much is scripted or played for drama, like conflicts with family members or the doctor, or even what the participants eat. Call me cynical, but it kinda wouldn’t surprise me to learn there’s somebody behind the camera urging, “Go ahead, eat a whole plate of fried wantons.”

      'My 600-Lb Life': Dead Weight TLC Should Shed?
      Stephanie M.

      I tend to agree. I’m not entirely on board with what they did with Hook (won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it). But if the story built *around* that is believable, or fits into the overall arc, then I’m fine with it. I think the biggest thing detractors of OUAT forget is, the show takes place largely in magical universes. As in, fantasy. As in, the rules are much more fluid than in the real world. Now of course, that fluidity can get wearing, as you know from the article. But in my opinion, the realms in which a show operates is no reason to say the whole show is garbage.

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

      I’m not really a fan of The Great Gatsby, but you bring up some great points. My favorites, I think, were the ones about money as a link between decades and the endurance of dreams. No matter what century you’re in, money is king, as classic and contemporary authors show us every day. But fortunately, on the other side of that cynical truth, is that dreams are timeless.

      The Endurance of Gatsby
      Stephanie M.

      This article certainly increases my respect for fan-made films, trailers, and other media. 🙂

      Process and Reception of Fan Films: A Promising Future
      Stephanie M.

      I especially enjoyed your analysis of Luna and Hermione’s attitudes toward faith and reason. I have often said that, were I a Hogwarts student, I would be friends with both. I now realize that’s because I see myself in both. 🙂

      After reading this article, I wonder if you plan to do follow-ups? I’d love to see one specifically about Christian or other religious elements in the books – that is, whether they exist or not and who they would appeal to. Considering the whole “HP is witchcraft” controversy from when the books first came out–it’s still a reason a lot of Christian parents won’t let their kids touch them–I think that would be a worthwhile discussion.

      Harry Potter: Faith and Superstition
      Stephanie M.

      Lovely article. As an adult reading and enjoying HP for the first time, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. I’d have liked to get started as a kid and participated more in the fan culture, but I do think being older gives me some advantages, like the ability to immediately probe into analysis.

      Why Harry Potter Appeals to Adults as Well as Younger Audiences
      Stephanie M.

      Good point. I’m not that far into the series yet (although I basically know what goes on because there are spoilers everywhere). But I am eager to see how Draco develops. I love what you said about him as a victim vs. perpetuator of abuse. Someone once said they picture Draco as an adult, waving his son or daughter off to Hogwarts and wishing them all the fun in the world because he never had it. Kinda made me misty…

      Why Draco Malfoy is one of the Most Underrated Characters in 'Harry Potter'
      Stephanie M.

      I’m not what you’d call a Draco fan by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he’s the kind of student that would have driven me bonkers in school. Having said that, it’s always interesting and worthwhile to probe into the antagonist’s story. It’s said “history is written by the winners,” and the same is true for fiction. Antagonist-centered fiction opens up tons of new perspectives across fandoms (check out Disney’s Descendants series for another example, although those aren’t as nuanced as HP).

      Why Draco Malfoy is one of the Most Underrated Characters in 'Harry Potter'