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 Topics

    10

    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 5 months ago
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    • 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 5 months ago
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    • 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 5 months ago
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    Disney Remakes Cinema Needs

    Disney has already remade several of its animated classics for the live-action medium, and there is no end in sight. This trend birthed plenty of controversy, since some people love the remakes and others despise the idea of changing animated classics in any way. Whether you’re a remake-lover or a naysayer, the question remains: which remakes have made the best and smoothest transitions? Which have positively influenced cinema and Disney, and which will continue to do so for years after their releases?

    Along with this, consider the reams of Disney animated films that are slated for remakes or haven’t been touched yet. Of these, which are the ones we truly need, and why? Are there any that should never be remade, and again, why?

    • Why are remakes necessary at all? Disney's appear to slavishly recreate their source material. – BallardianGorse 4 weeks ago
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    14

    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 5 months ago
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    • 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 5 months ago
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    • 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 4 months ago
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    • This is actually an interesting discussion when you consider the discussion around the death of Heath Ledger. The industry is actually starting to look at improving the mental wellness of actors and the support network required for them. Consider also the anorexia issues of the Olsen twins. Actually an interesting discussion when considered also from the lens of mental health. – SaraiMW 2 months ago
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    8

    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 6 months ago
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    • Why did I say Greg? Must've been thinking of the character and actor at the same time. – Stephanie M. 6 months ago
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    • I wouldn't be surprised if Doc Martin made house calls even to the Midlands (Amyus). Might be worthwhile considering his antics (or snide demeanor) for a more nuanced article (Stephanie). – LFreire 4 months ago
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    Locked

    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 4 months ago
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    Taken by noahspud (PM) 4 weeks ago.
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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?

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      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 5 months ago
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      • 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. 5 months ago
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      • Definitely need to address nostalgia goggles and how the new generations react to this without that previous experience. – AGMacdonald 5 months ago
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      8

      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 5 months ago
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      Latest Comments

      Stephanie M.

      On Supersize vs. Super-Skinny: As far as I know, we don’t get it in the U.S. (at least, not the channels I have). But I have seen a few episodes. I’m particularly interested in those featuring children, or Supersize vs. Super-Skinny Kids.

      Yes, the doctor featured there (Christian Something-or-Other, I think)? definitely has a much kinder approach than Dr. Now, but is still firm and businesslike in his approach (balance, people!) 🙂 There is, however, still the voyeurism issue, common to reality TV at large. And I have to wonder–putting two people in a feeding clinic and having them switch diets for a short period seems like it’s effective, but also seems extreme/played for drama. I like other parts of the show much better, like when the doctor gives advice to parents on how to help their kids eat better/how to say no to unhealthy food, or when he goes around Britain and does spots with people who, say, used to be obese or anorexic and beat it.

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

      I’m flattered. Happy to help!

      'Sister Act': Still Making Our Hearts Sing After 25 Years
      Stephanie M.

      I’m not really a Sandler fan; I find his movies crude and at times disrespectful to certain persons, groups, or situations. But I do appreciate your discussion and analysis of heartwarming vs. cheesy and how Sandler fits into that. I definitely think a good movie must have a beating heart, but it also needs an edge. At least some of it needs to feel “adult,” even if the film is billed for children. Why? Because heart + edge makes a movie and the actors in it relatable. Heart + edge, or heart + cynicism, entertains without moving too far from real life. Too much cynicism and you have a downer; too much heart and you have a cheese-fest.

      Cinema Cynicism: The Ballad of Adam Sandler
      Stephanie M.

      Nice article, and thanks for defending female characters as role models for males, and vice versa. Personally, I think the naysayers need to get over themselves.

      A Female #doctor13: Why the Controversy?
      Stephanie M.

      Nice article. I appreciated your discussion of the romanticized version of the Orient, contrasted with Joyce’s Ireland as colonized and oppressed. Whether we romanticize or oppress another culture, we project an unfair and one-sided interpretation onto it. Thus, that culture’s people are left to deal with our messes, as the protagonist of Araby tries to do. That is, he is a member of the oppressed nation of Ireland; he has no control over how his nation is viewed and interacted with. So, he romanticizes another culture–which may be a form of oppression in itself.

      Araby: Intercolonialism In Ireland as Portrayed by James Joyce
      Stephanie M.

      Yes, or the part where they’re actually in the casino and the sisters are trying to “blend in.” My favorite part of that scene is when Vince goes up to Mary Lazarus, thinking she’s Deloris, and says, “Hey, babe.” To which she turns around and says, “Yes, sweetheart?” and he gives her this absolutely weirded out expression.

      'Sister Act': Still Making Our Hearts Sing After 25 Years
      Stephanie M.

      @Karrie: I can definitely see that point of view. I don’t think it’s what the writers and production team were going for, but it’s a hazard when you’re dealing with religion in film/media. It brings up the question of how to treat the subject respectfully, which is a whole other article.

      'Sister Act': Still Making Our Hearts Sing After 25 Years
      Stephanie M.

      Yes, and we definitely need more of those.

      'Sister Act': Still Making Our Hearts Sing After 25 Years