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

    9

    What Exactly is Happily Ever After, and Why Does it Matter?

    So the other day, I’m surfing the Internet looking at Harry Potter writings (I’m a recent Potterhead and enjoying the addiction). I came across someone complaining about The Cursed Child and the Deathly Hallows epilogue, saying that they were too "heteronormative." In other words, this person wanted to know why it was always necessary for our favorite characters to get married (to a heterosexual, but I guess really to a person of any gender) and have kids to be happy.

    Now, I’m a sucker for what TV Tropes calls Babies Ever After, but that post made me wonder. Why is marriage/babies held up as the ultimate happy ending? Is it the only one? What works can you name where this didn’t happen, but the characters were still happy and fulfilled? How has the concept of "happily ever after" evolved? Discuss.

    • I would say read Madame Bovary as it works as an antithesis to the traditional happily ever after. The character of Emma Bovary originally wanted nothing more than to get married, but soon starts desiring other things in life and becomes frustrated with the mundanity of married life. I don't want to give away too much here as it may spoil the story, but the idea of marriage and being a parent as the ultimate form of happiness is challenged in that story. You may also consider different gender perspectives in the happily ever after or "Babie ever after" trope as a lot of feminist literature likes to point out how what makes a female happy in marriage may vary for males. And for the LGBTQ community, it may because marriage and adoption is something that is legally denied to them in many countries. This theory has a lot of layers to it that need qualifications. I personally like stories that end with this trope as well, but I'm also aware of how it was used to keep females in a secondary position and treated them as a prize to be won. Though it is not to say that males did not desire as well. A good example of a male protagonist that wants desires this trope is Sanosuke Harada from the Hakuori Shinsengumi visual novels. – Blackcat130 6 months ago
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    • A couple of things to consider: The happy ever after (babies ever after) is a pacifier that stems from an industry pushing an 'aspirational' social value. Keep the status quo rolling along by showing us what we should want. Secondly, the romance novel industry dictates a happy ever after ending as it is expected. Queer romance sells best when it is HEA, but there is also a place for happy for now. – sheena 6 months ago
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    • I definitely don't think marriage/babies is the only type of happy ending. I love movies like Waitress, where the protagonist is able to get out of the abuse she may be in and leave any other baggage in order to do something for herself or coming of age movies where you see the protagonist really become an adult in a positive way. I hope that makes sense! – CatBeeny 2 months ago
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    6

    Television and the Resonance Factor

    Those of you who have seen my profile and work on The Artifice know I’m a Oncer. Of course, Once Upon a Time ends next week, and of course, the fangirl in me is bummed about it. But I recently came across some interesting cast interviews, where Lana Parilla, Ginnifer Goodwin, and others talked about the "resonance" of OUAT. According to the cast, OUAT was a hit and ran for seven seasons primarily because it resonated with its audience. This got me thinking – what exactly is "resonance" in the television world? What other shows have achieved it, and are there different ways to do so? How do you know when a show has achieved the type of resonance that will ensure a multi-season run, a broad and loyal fan base, and overall endurance? Discuss.

    • This sounds like a very interesting topic, especially when comparing the producer's intentional and unintentional factors. – inkski 4 months ago
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    • Oof, resonance. I agree with inkski in that producers play a role in, I suppose, sustaining that resonance. I think good TV shows recognise their influence and will strive to prolong their on-screen stay. The biggest example of resonance I know of is from Doctor Who, whose influence can be derived from one of the greatest ideas in television history: the constant return of its titular character via 'regeneration'. I think Doctor Who's stories of life, death and how you spend the adventures in between, are what resonates with its loyal audiences. Though in sustaining resonance, I'd say there needs to be constant growth in the story. I haven't watched OUAT in ages but I'm sure it still resonates because it expanded beyond Storybrooke, in the same way it expanded on characters. Doctor Who constantly expands on the nature of the Doctor. I'm interested in how you tackle this topic, not only in how 'resonance' can be identified, but captured and sustained. – Starfire 4 months ago
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    4

    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. 2 years 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 2 years ago
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    • Hmmm, that's a good point as well. Let me ruminate on that for a while. :) – Stephanie M. 2 years ago
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    • You could also add movies such as A Walk to Remember – Munjeera 2 years 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. 2 years 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 2 years 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. 2 years ago
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    • I actually live in Canada so it is a little bit different here than in America. I have not felt that movies with Christian themes have nuance. I really liked A Walk to Remember. I think that Mandy Moore did an excellent job, and Roger Ebert agrees. Shane West, also was believable. I am not sure what it is but most movies with Christian themes focus too much on stereotypes and the characters come across one-dimensional. A Walk to Remember was based on a true story written by an older brother whose younger sister died of cancer. If I were rating Christian movies, I would put A Walk to Remember at the top. Movies based on religious themes would be a good comparison overall. Maybe it is difficult to pull off for any religion. – Munjeera 2 years ago
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    • The Simpsons both reflected and defined the church-going, 'religious only on Sunday morning' type of Christianity for an entire generation. They may have portrayed God and Flanders in a comic light but they ultimately shaped millions of people's views. – jackanapes 1 year ago
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    4

    Enough with the Dead White Guys, Already

    Ask any English major, teacher, or even English student about the current literary canon, and you’ll probably get a tongue-in-cheek response about dead white guys. Although the canon is expanding, most English literature curriculum offerings are still centered on Shakespeare, Dickens, Faulkner, Twain, you name it. If a class or canon is not centered on dead white male authors, it is labeled as such (World Literature, African-American Literature, etc). and sometimes taught as an elective. This sends a negative message to minority and female students, or those who may be white but of non-European heritage.

    Then again, I have no problem with some of the old dead white guys. I was reading Dickens when I was ten; he actually inspired some of my (rather bad) first forays into creative writing. I developed crushes on Shakespearean heroes. You get the drift. But we need so much more variety in our literary diets. So the question at hand is: How can we balance the canon so that all authors get representation? How much "dead white guy" literature do we need? Whose works deserve to stay in the canon, and who needs to go? If you could design an entire curriculum or canon yourself, what would be in it? Why?

    I’d love to write this myself, but I’m even more interested in what others think…so let’s get going. The floor is open!

    • This is a largely debated topic in many tertiary institutions and part of the issue is that the original categorisation of "Classic Literature" was developed by a dead, white guy. I agree that these are still texts that have great literary merit and power, but perhaps the issue is rather that the people who categorise the canon need to be those who are disenfranchised by the original canon. What would minority, female, students categorise themselves as powerful literature that fits in the category of English Literature. – SaraiMW 3 months ago
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    • I would like to propose a title change. You are mostly talking about native English speakers. There are so many other dead, white guys that have written amazing things that are not that well known (or known at all), because they did not write in English. Do not put all of them in one pot. – tanaod 3 months ago
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    • Noted. Perhaps something like, Expanding Representation in the Western Canon? – Stephanie M. 3 months ago
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    4

    Suspension of Disbelief: How Far Should We Take It?

    Many of today’s most popular stories require some suspension of disbelief to be enjoyed, and yet there are some who believe there is a line that suspension of disbelief shouldn’t cross. I’m not sure where that line is, but I have found my suspension "breaking" and disrupting the story sometimes. This is especially true for children’s and YA novels. For example, I love A Little Princess but as an adult, I find myself questioning, "Isn’t Sara’s rescue extremely contrived? Am I, a modern reader, supposed to believe this to any extent?" Same for Harry Potter–the adult side of me continually says, "Deep cover or not, how did Severus Snape ever manage to keep his job? Has Hogwarts never heard of ethical hiring practices or HR?" Same for Narnia–"You’re telling me these four children maintained what is essentially a double life for years, and then just died/disappeared at the end of The Last Battle, and no one said a word?"

    Of course, many of these books, and adult books too, are fantasies and can play by looser rules in terms of disbelief suspension. But even in those cases, questions remain. Even today’s children are reluctant to suspend disbelief because they know more than ever about how the world around them operates. My big question is, has the amount of information and analysis we’re privy to in the modern world made us too cynical to enjoy a story that demands we suspend disbelief? Have we suspended it too much or too little? How can an author do suspension of disbelief well? Discuss.

    • The concept of suspended belief I think also needs to be considered from the intended audience, for example the children's literature you outlined I think only needs to meet the suspended belief of its age group. However, I would also add that both Tolkien and Lewis had a lot to say about the importance of accepting the genre as part of suspending disbelief - as in that by accepting it is a fantasy genre means that real life concerns should be overlooked. Yet I too agree that I struggle with this at times, yet less often in literature where I am more likely to allow an author "literary license," but rather in film I struggle with this when I feel they are stretching beyond the "realistic." I think too with the visual we are so aware of what visually something looks like in real life, or should fit the parameters of, that it is harder to suspend disbelief. Added to this is most people's understanding of costuming, make-up and CGI. In regards to the second point it is worth acknowledging that different genres have different levels of suspension, and then target audience may influence this. However, at the end of the day I think most of the time it is good writing and an amazing narrative that carries you through. – SaraiMW 5 months ago
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    • Suspension of disbelief is also a core theatrical convention that implies a level of cognitive dissonance from the audience; they know there are lighting rigs and stage doors and one space within which the action occurs, but leave this knowledge at the door. Conversely, actors imagine a "fourth wall" between themselves and the audience who subsequently become flies on the wall. That is true of realism. Other non-realistic styles of drama shatter this convention and want the constructed elements to be made as overt as possible to achieve the desired audience effect. In this way, suspension of disbelief may be seen to be a function of specific genres. Didactic, "Brechtian" theatre does this well through direct audience address, placards, non-linear narratives and costume changes on stage. Such conventions work to enhance the experience of the story and can also apply to novels. In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter House, the convention of a linear narrative is shattered. The audience embrace this as fundamental in conveying the disenfranchised, mentally ill central character. Can audiences of movies and readers of literature rather embrace the "gaps" in suspension of disbelief? – danielleraffaele 5 months ago
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    Published

    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)?

    • 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 11 months ago
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    7

    Do We Always Need to Know What's Next?

    The media loves sequels. Name almost any popular action, animated, or other movie from the last decade and you can pretty much bet it has a sequel or is getting one this year. The same is true for television shows. For example, Fuller House serves as a sequel to Full House, although it’s something of a reboot, too. Books that were not meant as series also get sequels. The wildly popular Wonder (a personal fave) has some short story sequels from the POV of other characters besides Auggie.

    Sequels are great, and there’s obviously a huge market for them. But do we always need them? That is, do we always need or want to know what’s next, or can we be content to let characters live happily ever after, as it were? What about writing our own sequels – besides being a ton of fun, do fanfictions and headcanons fill some sort of creative void? Discuss.

    • I like this, so long as the focus is on the creative merits of sequels, rather than a look at the financial incentives to produce them. The two are inexorably linked, but the latter topic has sort of been done to death. – John Wilson 6 months ago
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    • The media loves sequels? No! The production companies love sequels to swell their bloated bank accounts and, in my opinion, have been (and still are) guilty of pumping out any old garbage because they know there are fans who are desperate for more and so will even accept something that doesn't come up to the originality and/or quality of the first. Conversely, I have no problem with genuine sequels taken from source, or imaginatively created sequels that stay true to and further explore the world of the first, but when we get to the point where a James Bond sequel is based on an idea based on a novel that Bond happened to be reading in one of the original books, I despair! It also makes me wonder why some fans of a certain film or TV series can't simply accept that the story ends here - why do they need a continuance? One example I can use is a You Tube comment in response to the 2012 anime film 'Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki' (released in the West as 'Wolf Children'); she wanted to know what happened next. Why? The story is complete as it is and had she been paying attention to the story then she would have understood that there is no need for a sequel. – Amyus 6 months ago
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    17

    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 year 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 1 year 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 1 year ago
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    • Speaking from personal experience, the way my twelve-year old brother and I experience the books completely differently. The Harry potter series is indisputably fascinating and entertaining to most readers, but age is usually required to see the broader themes of discrimination (blood purity) and class struggle (sacred 28) in the wizarding world, ideas not really important to younger readers. – JoanneK 7 months ago
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    • I didn't experience the Harry Potter book series until I was in high school, and only watched the movies as a kid growing up. When I finally did read the books I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to interpret and appreciate it, feeling as though I would have missed out on a lot of understanding had I absentmindedly consumed it as a child. I still grew up with Harry Potter, just in a different way. That being said, I think Harry Potter does transcend certain tropes that people can appreciate in all woks of life-- whether they are currently experiencing the struggles of growing up or relating to them in our past. It truly is a phenomenon. However I think a large part of it might have been the widely accepted exposure of such a developed fantasy world is mainstream media. Harry Potter was something we could share with others and through social interaction our connection to the franchise grew even deeper. Sharing is caring. – Slaidey 7 months ago
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    • Harry Potter has the ability to inspire and excite both adults and children reading it for the first time - however, in vastly different ways. Being someone who first read the books at age 8, I have an entirely different relationship with the story and the characters than my mum did when she read them mid-40s, and even my best friend who has just read them age 20. I think that a child's mind is so much more open to wonder and magic, so can really imagine that Hogwarts and the wizarding world could be real. I felt excited when learning about magic, and I felt scared when Harry faced Voldemort. I felt happy when Gryffindor won the House Cup, and I COULD NOT WAIT to find out what would happen in the next instalment. The events in the story and the emotions that they produce have more of an impact on a child, who view the story as a thrilling adventure that they may never have experienced before. Along with this, being a similar age to the characters, children will automatically have much more of a connection, and an ability to understand and relate to what the characters are going through themselves. An adult, however much they enjoy the story, accept it as being just a story. I think age does matter when it comes to Harry Potter; not that it cannot be enjoyed at any age, but I do feel glad that I had the experience I did with Harry Potter, because I don't think I would have the same love and appreciation for it if I hadn't read it until now. – nicnac 5 months ago
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    • @nicnac: I've noticed the same phenomenon you mention. It really makes me regret that I didn't read the series as a kid, or at least ask my parents for permission. It can feel a little awkward, being a brand new Potterhead in your thirties. But then, I do like how all the thoughts and feelings I have about it are new. As in, I haven't grown up with HP and known everything there is to know about it for as long as I can remember. So each discovery is like a new surprise. :) – Stephanie M. 5 months ago
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    Latest Comments

    Stephanie M.

    And I respect that opinion. In fact, I was leaning toward it at one point while writing this. But I chose to write about Keating because (A), he is controversial. He’s not by any means a saint, and Hollywood sometimes goes too far in painting teachers as perfect. (B) and more importantly, it could be argued that since Keating’s students had no concept of self-determination that we know of, they had to start somewhere. Were Keating’s methods unhealthy and perhaps dangerous? Arguably yes. But did he leave a good impact? Perhaps, for some. (In retrospect, maybe he was more of an in-between? Maybe the English teacher version of Snape, sans the bitterness and sarcasm)?

    Lessons from Our Favorite and Least Favorite Fictional Teachers
    Stephanie M.

    Indeed, non-teachers have very little if any idea of what real teachers go through, and that goes double for Hollywood. That said, I’d be curious about your reasons why some of the teachers in the article should get fired (some reasons are obvious, but some not so much. For instance, why fire Miss Honey? Why Ms. Gruwell)?

    Lessons from Our Favorite and Least Favorite Fictional Teachers
    Stephanie M.

    @Phillis: I tend to agree with you, but I think in Matilda’s case, there was more than enough good reason for Miss Honey to step up like she did. Whether Matilda should have let the first kind adult she saw adopt her–that’s a whole other debate.

    As for Keating’s students, I’m still on the fence about how much he should’ve influenced his students. I knew he would be a controversial choice though, and I’m prepared to live with that.

    Lessons from Our Favorite and Least Favorite Fictional Teachers
    Stephanie M.

    @Mittie: I almost did, because some people consider it “Dead Poets’ Society for women.” But I like DPS much better.

    Lessons from Our Favorite and Least Favorite Fictional Teachers
    Stephanie M.

    I like Stand and Deliver too, but didn’t use it because I’ve only seen it once.

    Lessons from Our Favorite and Least Favorite Fictional Teachers
    Stephanie M.

    Glad to help! I think you’ll like it; I’m anxiously waiting for Season 2.

    "Anne With An E": Elucidating Light and Dark
    Stephanie M.

    Precisely. I once heard someone say, “If you hear, ‘it’s a nice little story,’ don’t smile. That’s not a compliment.”

    Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists
    Stephanie M.

    @purplelight71: Ah, the eternal question, is Snape a hero or a horrible person, a sinner or a saint? And you’re absolutely right – he’s both. And yes, now that you mention it, I don’t think J.K. quite understood that when she was writing Snape or even talking about him. I love that Snape is morally gray, because it means he’s human and realistic. Yet I wonder if J.K. left some things out of his character, or if she was quite fair to him. Frankly, I kind of want to take Snape, Lupin, Tonks, and a lot of the other characters away, wrap them in warm blankets, give them tea, and tell J.K., “You can have these back when you learn to play nicely!” 🙂

    Harry Potter: The Importance of Antagonists