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.

Columnist II

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    Latest Articles


    Latest Topics


    Analyzing the Nostalgic '90s Sports Film

    The ’90s is fairly famous for several family-oriented, nostalgic sports films. From Angels in the Outfield to the Mighty Ducks trilogy, from the Air Bud franchise to Like Mike, Miracle, and Space Jam, during the decade, these films seemed to be everywhere. At the time, they were lauded as feel-good films the whole family could enjoy, particularly dads and uncles who might be moved to tears by memories of their former glories on the field or court. In the ensuing decades, these films are still respected, but also maligned as corny or overly inspirational depending on who you ask.

    Analyze the impact of the nostalgic sports film. Why did ’90s audiences seem to need so many of them, and why did they all seem to have such an inspirational format? Did they cater to a specific audience with a specific set of beliefs or aspirations? Were they meant to? Are they seen as overly nostalgic now simply because audiences have changed, or do we get our "heart" and "inspiration" in different ways? If the latter, where do we get it? Can the family-oriented, nostalgic sports film make a comeback? If so, what should it look like?


      The Blending of Christianity and Horror

      The most recent horror film on Hollywood’s docket is Prey for the Devil, which concerns Sister Ann. This devout nun wants to be an exorcist and would be great at it, but her training school accepts only men. Yet Sister Ann may be the only one who can help the patients in the school’s attached hospital for the possessed, including a ten-year-old girl. The blending of Christianity and horror in this film is by turns respectful to the Church and seems to encourage audiences to explore, if not root for, the demonic.

      It’s a conundrum found in many similar films, such as The Exorcist and The Nun. The question is why this blend comes up so often, and especially why the Catholic Church is presented on the front lines in this murky battle between good and evil (they aren’t always on the "good" side). Are these portrayals as balanced as they could and arguably should be? How can or should horror films stay true to their genre, while portraying Christians or perhaps people of other faiths, as those who would protect or save innocents from the demonic? What do these films say about spiritual battle lines in real life? Discuss.

      • Midnight Mass is a great miniseries to look at. The show expertly uses Christian/Catholic imagery as a backdrop for its story. Faith and religion are key components of the show. Its an exceptional show for this topic, and a great piece of art generally. – Sean Gadus 4 weeks ago
      Taken by Sunni Ago (PM) 4 weeks ago.

      The Impact of Thug Notes

      On June 3, 2013, comedian and actor Greg Edwards began a series of web videos called Thug Notes. Using the persona Sparky Sweets, Ph.D., Edwards summarized and analyzed classic novels using a mix of modern language and "street slang" (e.g., a character who is murdered is "iced" or "murked," a hard-working character is said to be "hustlin’.")

      Thug Notes’ mix of humor, slang, and absolute respect for classic literature helped the series carve a unique niche in the world of web and educational videos. Each video has garnered a plethora of views, and the series’ popularity has encouraged viewers to read or reread books that might not have felt accessible before (many "newer" videos contain a promotion that begins, "Hey, get the book!" followed by a web address at which to do so).

      Discuss the impact of Thug Notes, using any of these or other elements. You might choose to discuss favorite episodes, or compare and contrast certain episodes. Also, discuss whether Thug Notes, which has not posted new content in a while, would be an acceptable platform for discussions of more contemporary literature, particularly that which is currently under censorship. Discuss whether a series similar to Thug Notes would work for other subjects. For instance, could there be a Thug Notes-style series for math? History? Theatrical productions?

      • While I am not familiar with Thug Notes, I think it is worth mentioning that there have been other similar things for other subjects- while it's aimed at a slightly younger audience, Horrible Histories similarly aims to educate in a more 'accessible' and fun manner than, say, a more conventional history book. While Thug Notes may be the first internet example, and it a popular choice, it's been preceded by many other authors and creators attempting to do similar. – AnnieEM 3 months ago

      September 11 in the Arts

      September 11, 2001 changed the world as we know it. Mere weeks after the terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers, artists from all mediums responded to the tragedy with forms of self-expression that gave themselves and their consumers safe, multifaceted outlets to express their complex emotions. September 11 is now the subject of everything from hard-hitting documentaries and touching memoirs to gentle, yet serious episodes of kids’ shows and perhaps controversial country-western songs.

      Analyze and discuss some of your favorite, or least favorite, tributes to September 11 within the arts. What makes these tributes powerful, or conversely, disturbing or controversial? Which pieces do the best job of honoring the 9/11 survivors and victims? Do we need more 9/11 pieces, and if so, what should their focus and goals be? Can new pieces be tied into more current tragedies, historical ones, or a mix of the two?

      • Jonathan Safran Foer's "Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close" and Art Spiegelman's "In the Shadow of No Towers" are both deeply profound works revolving around 9/11. Both provide insight into the aftermath of 9/11, particularly how it affected families of the victims and the mindset of Americans. Any article on this topic would be incomplete without mentioning these books. – Zack Rynhold 3 months ago

      YouTube Kids: Harmless or Dangerous?

      In past decades, children got their television "diet" from specific shows on specific channels, or program blocks on one or two channels tailored for them. Today, our children have an endless list of shows to choose from thanks to streaming services and 24-7 content.

      One example of such content is YouTube Kids, a network of channels that are given new content daily, sometimes several times daily. Some of this content is positive, but just as much if not more is allegedly detrimental to kids. Writer and artist James Bridle, for instance, gave a TED Talk for YouTube that, while three years old, has 4.8M views. His TED Talk posits that YouTube kids is actually dangerous to kids’ mental health and development.

      Examine this TED Talk as well as other sources, such as the Momo controversy from the late 2010s, or certain shows and videos on YTK. What content is the most detrimental, and why? Is there anything parents, guardians, and tech experts could do to make content more educational and child-friendly? Perhaps most importantly, what exactly is the draw of YTK, and why do so many adults welcome its content, questionable or not? Discuss.

      • You should look into a youtube channel called "How to cook that" by Ann Reardon. She does debunking videos (normally 5-minute craft kind of videos) and discusses the implications of having these dangerous videos widely accessible to children. She also discusses the legalities of these videos being on youtube in the case that someone is injured following a video. – scampbell 1 year ago
      • I think youtube isn't a very informative platform for today's generation – Olivergoodwin 3 months ago

      The Appeal of Wednesday Addams

      The original Addams Family series graced our televisions in the 1960s. The show was already an adaptation of Charles Addams’ successful comic strip, but has since spawned a series remake, a cartoon, two live-action movies, one animated movie, and a musical.

      Netflix is now set to stream yet another addition to the Addams canon. However, this one is a bit different, in that it focuses mainly on daughter Wednesday. This makes sense, as Wednesday seems to be one of the family’s more popular members. But, why is she? Does this have to do with Christina Ricci’s treatment of her in the live-action films? Is it her personality, or a way she stands out in her already unusual family? Explore these or other facets of Wednesday and her popularity. You might also consider comparing/contrasting Wednesday with similar unconventional female characters, to see whether they have or haven’t achieved Wednesday’s popularity.

      • Firstly, I have loved the Addams Family since I was a child. However, as I view Wednesday Addams as an adult, I find that she is most realistic and, remarkably, the most real to herself. Similar characters comparable to Wednesday could be Janice Ian from the movie, Mean Girls. Although she is an outcast to the rest of society, she expresses herself in the most authentic way possible. Characters like Wednesday create an appeal for viewers who aspire to be as shamelessly authentic in the real world. – KatJSevillaa 4 months ago

      Phoenix's Role in Top Gun: Maverick

      Top Gun: Maverick finally hit theaters after a pandemic-induced delay. The film is filled with nostalgia for fans of the original, and also carries some new material with a distinct 21st-century feel for its newest generation of fans. One such instance of this material is female pilot Phoenix, played by Monica Barbaro.

      In an interview, Barbaro stated that she enjoys Phoenix’s character, particularly that she is not a love interest for anyone, and that she is one of Maverick’s top co-pilots during the central mission. However, she is still the lone female pilot with any significant dialogue or character development in the film. Is this realistic considering the type of films the Top Gun franchise contains? Is Phoenix still a good representation of females in male-dominated fields, particularly the military? How would the movie have been different had she had more screen time? Discuss.

      • It could compare Phoenix's role in the film with Penny's. In my opinion, the first one adds to the female representation while the second sticks to the romantic partner of the protagonist. – Nathalie Moreira 5 months ago

      The Changing Relevance of Judy Blume

      A film version of the classic and often banned Judy Blume novel Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, is scheduled to hit theaters September 6, 2022. Not much is known about the plot itself, which raises a lot of questions. For instance, when the original book was published in the 1970s, it was unusual for children to be raised without religious affiliation, as Margaret is. Will this be the case for a Margaret of 2022? Will a 21st-century Margaret’s explorations of puberty be treated as scandalous?

      These and other questions bring up just how relevant Judy Blume’s coming-of-age story, as well as her other stories, such as the Fudge series, Blubber, and Deenie, still are. Millennial adults who grew up with them still consider Blume’s books classics and have introduced their own kids to them, and some Gen Z kids still read and enjoy them. However, Judy Blume doesn’t seem like quite the gold standard of coming-of-age stories she once was. Her plots don’t read as "cutting edge" because they’re not as controversial anymore. You could call them downright tame.

      Blume is definitely still relevant, but the question has become, just how relevant is she? In the case of Blume and her books, what does "relevant" mean? How is she similar to or different from today’s hottest middle-grade and young adult authors, and can she maintain her place as a classic author, or will her books eventually lapse into obscurity? Discuss.

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        Latest Comments

        Stephanie M.

        One of the best topics from recently, and a good look at the nuances of the issue. Nice work!

        Disney, The Little Mermaid, and the Politics of “Woke” in a Polarized World
        Stephanie M.

        Glad to see this made the lineup, and honored to have worked on the revisions.

        YA Book Series That Never End
        Stephanie M.

        Well, better late than never. Enjoy!

        Inside America's Fascination with Witches
        Stephanie M.

        I think your comment just made my day. Trust me, I needed that. Glad I could help.

        Using Musical Theater as a Literary Muse
        Stephanie M.

        Oh, honey. By 17th century standards, I would definitely be a witch. Let’s see–voracious reader? Check. Likes cats? Check. Owns a cat (as much as a cat can be owned by a human)? Check. Has a different interpretation of the Bible than your average Puritan? Double check. Single? Check, check. Unconventional interests (e.g., Broadway, trivia, medicine, Irish culture, creative writing)? Hmmm, do they make nooses in size small? And can I get some emerald trim? Might as well go out in style!

        Inside America's Fascination with Witches
        Stephanie M.

        See? You learn something new every day. Thanks.

        Inside America's Fascination with Witches
        Stephanie M.

        Now, that’s interesting. I grew up hearing the exact opposite about Wicca, so what makes you use those adjectives, if you don’t mind my asking? (If you do, just ignore the question. Here to learn, not convert).

        Inside America's Fascination with Witches
        Stephanie M.

        Maybe both? Or maybe a craving for God? (I’m a firm believer in Pascal’s assertion that there is a God-shaped vacuum in every human heart, so in every philosophy, I tend to ask myself, “Who are you trying to reach and how?” Pagan roots could certainly be your version of that).

        Inside America's Fascination with Witches