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.

Correspondent III

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    Latest Topics

    1

    The Portrayal of Young Black Women in YA Literature

    Young adult literature has seen a needed explosion of Black protagonists lately, and particularly Black females. Many of these new protagonists are also involved in Black Lives Matter or similar, sometimes fictionalized, organizations. They may be involved with other fictionalized organizations like Innocence X (The Innocence Project), seeking justice for incarcerated loved ones. Some Black female protagonists also rap, blog, or otherwise create to have their voices heard, and face both support and backlash.

    Examine the voice and portrayal of the young Black woman in today’s YA literature. Who is she? Is her representation fair and nuanced, or do a lot of her incarnations look the same (and why is that)? If you choose to discuss historical Black females, how are current fictional protagonists different from those written in past decades? What do Black female characters have in common, and how do they differ from each other as well as other races? Who are some of your favorites, and/or whose stories do you think today’s young adults should read first if they’re trying to gain an understanding of Black, female personhood?

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      Pending

      Apocalyptic and "Rapture" Fiction for Kids

      In the late ’90s, Harry Potter burst onto the literary scene amid controversy. Many parents, Christians in particular, would not let their children read Harry Potter because of witchcraft motifs. However, when asked to provide alternative choices and reading assignments for their kids, some Christian parents advocated that they read series like Left Behind: The Kids.

      This caused confusion for teachers, administrators, and some other parents because Left Behind: The Kids runs on the premise that a group of teens must live on their own and survive a totalitarian, one-world government after their parents and younger family members disappeared with no explanation. Such a premise was deemed much scarier and sometimes more inappropriate than Harry Potter or similar books like Lord of the Rings, particularly because the teens were "left behind" due to a lack of religious belief (or the right kind of religious belief, as in, they knew *about* Christ but made no personal commitment to Him).

      Discuss how and when apocalyptic or "rapture" fiction is appropriate for kids. How young is too young? How should writers handle, or not handle, the content? How might religious writers in particular get their message across without resorting to scare tactics and leaving possible conversion as a free choice? And, why do you think some parents or teachers are eager to let kids/students read this kind of fiction, but remain so cagey about magic-based fiction/fiction in that neighborhood?

        2

        Children's Animation and "Bad Behavior"

        A recent social media meme reads, "I heard a woman say she won’t let her kids watch Peppa Pig because it encourages bad behavior like jumping in puddles. I saw Road Runner and haven’t blown up anyone yet."

        Laughs aside, and whether the account is true or not, this does bring up how concerned adults have become about children’s behavior, where that concern is coming from, and when that concern is or isn’t justified. For instance, there are parents who sincerely believe Peppa Pig is a bad influence. Others have excoriated every series from Caillou (whiny, bratty behavior) to Fancy Nancy (melodrama) to Sofia the First, Elena of Avalor, and The Lion Guard (too much emphasis on royalty, princess mentality).

        Is children’s animation actually encouraging bad behavior, or do adult audiences focus too much on instances of normal childlike actions? Do any of today’s animated shows have good messages, about behavior or anything else, and what are they? Which animations are the best and worst when it comes to presenting characters and behavior kids should emulate? Discuss.

        • This is an interesting topic for discussion. In my experience, it's not so much the television shows themselves that are the problem, as that parents aren't doing the nurturing and moralizing that they used to. If parents aren't there to provide their kids with a value system, the kids turn to media, including television, to make sense of the world. Ultimately this creates a feedback loop, where the TV programs pander to what they think the children will like in order to make money, and therefore cut them off from their parents' values even more. – Debs 1 week ago
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        2

        How the Rugrats Reboot Will Influnece Television

        On May 27, a Rugrats reboot featuring CGI animation, new character voices, and adventures with a distinct 21st-century flavor will premiere on Paramount Plus. Some fans of the original Rugrats are eager to experience the reboot and compare/contrast, while others are skeptical at best. No matter what side you’re on though, there’s no denying this reboot will influence how people see the Rugrats franchise and perhaps, associated television (e.g., Nickelodeon).

        Discuss questions such as how the Rugrats reboot will influence these spheres, as well as the potential positives and negatives of the reboot itself. For example, how will the reboot’s location on a streaming service change the viewing experience and relations to the characters and plots? Do you think kids or adults will be more invested in the reboot, and why? It seems many of the new adventures will take place in the babies’ imaginations; is this a positive or negative move?

        • I like this topic if possible, do you have a more narrowed scope for the article. For instance, in my experience Suzy played side character growing up and I look forward to perhaps seeing her in every episode. Are you looking to compare their general influence then and their possible contributions now? Just looking for clarity – CardinalRayPrints 6 days ago
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        • Influence is a big part of it, yes. I like how you brought up Susie, because in this day and age, she needs to be more of a main character, which will impact the show's influence for the better. On the other hand, there are certain things that may make its influence negative. For instance, I grew up watching the show and having to wait for episodes. The instantaneous nature of a streaming service may mean the new version, all its updates notwithstanding, has less of an impact because the audience can so quickly move on to something else. – Stephanie M. 5 days ago
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        1
        Pending

        Are Readers Burned Out on YA Dystopia?

        Recently, talk among book enthusiasts has circulated that YA dystopia has burned out. The genre is certainly huge, but whether it’s burned out, cliched, or tired in any way depends on whose books you read. Are there certain authors who give YA dystopia a burned out feel? Are there authors, or characters, who have brought fresh situations or themes to the genre? And if the genre is burned out right now, how might it be "revived?" Discuss.

          3

          The Evolution of the "Family Sitcom"

          Family sitcoms, also known as domestic comedies or dom coms, have existed since Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and My Three Sons, which aired around the 1950s. In the ensuing 70 years, the family sitcom underwent plenty of growth and change. Simple domestic problems that could be solved in 22 minutes with commercials gave way to edgier and more realistic family-centered plotlines. Traditional nuclear families made room for single, adoptive, LGBTQ , and other "non-traditional" parents (ex.: Henry Warnamont of Punky Brewster, a bachelor senior citizen, or the grown-up incarnations of Stephanie Tanner and Kimmy Gibbler, who raise their kids while raising others’ in the same house as their patriarchs did before them.

          Examine the evolution of the family sitcom using a few of your favorites. You can discuss changes in family dynamics or plotlines (e.g., plotlines about keeping virginity vs. plotlines about teen pregnancy, plotlines about avoiding racism vs. ones about becoming inclusive). You could discuss race, religion, disability, or other minority statuses as topics that are getting more attention. Other topics might include the parenting styles presented on different shows, how the humor has evolved, the expectations placed on adults and children, and so on.

            5

            The Most Pervasive Personality Types in Literature

            Today, it’s common for writers to use Meyers-Briggs, Kiersey, Enneagram, or another personality test metric to type their characters, or at least to determine how characters might act in certain situations. Even if writers don’t consciously do this, their characters can often be "typed." For instance, many people discuss the Meyers-Briggs or other types of characters in popular series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and so on.

            In exploring literature, what personality types do you think come up most or least, and why? For instance, do you think authors tend to create characters based on their own personalities? Are you attracted or repelled by certain types of characters–say, a bookish yet adventure-seeking character like Jane Eyre, vs. a "trickster," street smart character like the Artful Dodger?

            • By the way, the ISFJ is definitely in the realist camp. In general it would be the N-types gravitate toward the idealism. – J.D. Jankowski 5 months ago
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            • I've found that especially in YA literature, the main character is the clichéd portrayal of 'nerd' or 'introvert' - i.e. shy, wallflower, bookworm, etc. In some literature that starts out this way, this character often turns out to be more confident and outgoing than previously believed, thus becoming more likeable in the subjective eye of the reader. While it seems to be quite popular in modern fiction, I lean towards liking the characters that appear to be introverts and bookish and actually are. – MishaniK 4 months ago
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            • I feel like sensory (Se and Si) types tend to show up more in YA stories because the narrators often describe their immediate surroundings without getting too big into abstractions or making elaborate connections out of vague ideas (like someone with Ni would do). – Emily Deibler 4 months ago
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            3

            The 1980s: The Heyday of Scary Children's Movies

            The 1980s was a great decade for children’s movies. From The Neverending Story to The Princess Bride, from Return to Oz to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, young audiences had all kinds of new cinematic stories to whet their appetites. Some movies, like ET and The Black Cauldron, went on to become classics (or "cult classics") and achieve great fame even if their initial box office performances were less than stellar.

            However, the kids’ movies of the 1980s are famous–or infamous–for scaring kids, too. On YouTube especially, but also other forms of social media, you can find detailed discussions of which films and moments from this decade were the scariest and what effects they might have had on kids. As adults, millennials might look back at these movies and wonder, "What were we, and our parents, thinking?" But we still hail these films as classics, and mainstays of the children’s cinematic canon, so to speak.

            Choose one, or perhaps two, of your favorite scary ’80s movies for kids. What made them memorable? What made some scarier, thus "better" or "worse," than others? Has cinema "softened" too much toward kids since the ’80s? If yes, what could it do to bring the edge back (do we need/want it)? Why do you think scary moments from kids’ movies stick in our minds, and what would it take to create such memorable moments now?

            • I remember the scariest 80s movie to me, as a kid, was Gremlins. It was hardcore and uncompromising, with some grotesque violence, threats of animal abuse, and most memorably the bomb-drop that there was no Santa Claus after a horrible story told by Phoebe Cates about her father's death. Gremlins was absolutely uncompromising in the realm of harsh reality. Since the eighties, mainstream cinema has doubled-down on the disturbing for adults and spares kids the slightest wink of real-world danger for the most part. The bit that seems especially odd to me is the total refusal now to kill the villain. I think children's movies are an incredible medium, or were, but there's no element of conflict anymore, which A, never gives kids that cool opportunity to see something frightening in a movie, and B, never gives kids the chance to form their own moral stances and see the clash between real good and evil. By lightening the conflict of children's cinema's stories, kids are left to believe that good and bad can always find common ground. By always letting the villain live, kids never feel that triumph anymore. Bring back the bad guy and whack him. – HankMelluish 4 months ago
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            • The cartoons were also pretty bad for scaring kids. Case in point: "The Secret of NIMH" (1982). I still find it disturbing as an adult. Then again, it was better than the sequel. – OkaNaimo0819 2 months ago
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            Latest Comments

            Stephanie M.

            Ahhhh, welcome to the club!

            Six: The Musical: The Little Musical That Could, Did, and Does
            Stephanie M.

            Amen to that. We need more like it. Hamilton, Les Mis, Six…we need an entire canon’s worth of historical musicals, and it seems we’re getting there.

            Six: The Musical: The Little Musical That Could, Did, and Does
            Stephanie M.

            If you need help, we all do. Six is quite the addictive little musical and quite frankly, I enjoy my fixes.

            Six: The Musical: The Little Musical That Could, Did, and Does
            Stephanie M.

            I would pay big money to see that.

            Six: The Musical: The Little Musical That Could, Did, and Does
            Stephanie M.

            I personally would love to see us invent time machines so we could sit Henry VIII down and watch him get royally roasted.

            Six: The Musical: The Little Musical That Could, Did, and Does
            Stephanie M.

            I had the same thought when I first heard “Don’t Lose Your Head” and saw digital excerpts. Now, my *personal* belief is that Katherine of Aragon was Henry’s wife in the sight of God, and so the whole “six wives” thing should’ve stopped at the beginning, never should’ve happened. Katherine of Aragon was, to me, the only “real” wife. And I think Anne *may* have calculated her way to the throne, at least partially.

            Having said that, I don’t care which wife it was, Henry was an abusive, power-hungry, arrogant **** (word I won’t use). None of his wives deserved what they got from him, and that goes double for Boleyn and Howard, who were straight up murdered. I don’t believe Anne cheated, I do believe she loved Henry at least for a time, and I do believe she was innocent (even if she did scheme or calculate some, she got in over her head, no pun intended). After all, it’s not as if she could say no once Henry decided he wanted her.

            If I could redo, I would definitely want to see a song that made more use of Anne’s intelligence and the deeper parts of her personality (bubbly and wants fun, maybe, but not a ditz). I’d also want her to speak directly to the fact that she didn’t expect or deserve what was coming. Maybe even empathize a little more with Howard. If you’ve seen The Tudors, there’s an episode where Henry speaks with Anne’s ghost and she says, “Katherine…lies in the cold ground next to me…poor child.” And just–oof! Gut punch right there.

            Six: The Musical: The Little Musical That Could, Did, and Does
            Stephanie M.

            I’ve heard different interpretations. Anne is supposedly either Lily Allen or Avril Lavigne.

            Six: The Musical: The Little Musical That Could, Did, and Does
            Stephanie M.

            An Abundance of Katherines? 🙂

            Six: The Musical: The Little Musical That Could, Did, and Does