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.
The Arts' Love of All Things Winter
Disney’s Frozen burst into our theaters and onto our small screens in 2013, and no one has "let it go" since. The film became a franchise, with rumors of a third installment coming in 2023 or later. But Frozen is not the only wintry tale media consumers love. "Winter tales" can be found across mediums, from TV series like Game of Thrones whose tagline is "Winter is Coming," to a plethora of books with titles like The Snow Child, WinterFrost, and Girls Made of Snow and Glass. Many of today’s super-powered or "chosen one" protagonists also have winter-related powers; Queen Elsa might be the most obvious, but there is also Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians, as well as Freya from Snow White and the Huntsman.
Winter permeates the arts, no matter the season. Yet what is it about this season, out of four, that captures the imagination of writers, filmmakers, and other artists? Analyze a few prevalent winter tales across mediums, looking for commonalities among characters, character arcs, plot threads, powers, and more. Could the other three seasons garner this kind of attention, and if yes, what would it take to make that happen? Are artists, authors, and others who craft "winter tales" trying to make a statement about their art, themselves, or humanity through winter? If yes, what is it? Discuss.
The Cancelling of Sapphic and Women's-Centered Series
Social media is buzzing about a disturbing, but not necessarily new trend–the cancelling of sapphic television series, especially on streaming services like Netflix. "Sapphic" refers to content "of or relating to sexual attraction or interplay between women," and disgruntled and confused viewers aren’t seeing enough of it. They point out the short-lived nature of once-popular series such as The Baby-Sitters’ Club (2020) and Paper Girls, to name only two.
Even more disturbingly, some series that might not be called sapphic, but are certainly women-centered, have been cancelled, were panned by critics, or have disappeared into long hiatuses. (See Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Anne With an E for examples).
Discuss why these series, especially on Netflix, might have been disproportionately represented on the chopping block. Do the "powers that be" see women-centered content, particularly the sapphic, as a threat, and if yes, why? Do cancellations happen just because of the nature of Netflix–shorter seasons and encouragement of "bingeing"–but if yes, why is male-centered content not cancelled as well? Do female viewers want different types of content, and if yes, what do they want? What would it take to bring female-centered shows, sapphic and otherwise, front and center on streaming services again?
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.
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?
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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?
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?
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.
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.
I enjoyed this article very much and was honored to help with the revisions!
Enjoy! I, too, think NYC has lost some of its true spirit. I’ve never been, but just from the media I’ve consumed (obviously), plus the overall “tone” of America during C-19 vs. before. I believe there are still Annies and Jacks and Alexanders and Elizas out there eager to live their dreams. How do I know? I am one.
They are absolutely more enjoyable in the movie.
I apologize for offending you. Having said that, I absolutely have watched the movie, more than once. If my analysis didn’t make that clear, I’m sorry, again. I do respect your view of Quasi/Esmeralda’s relationship, and see your point. But I’m not 100% sure she and Phoebus were as close as they could/should have been. As for calling Quasi a “boy”–no, I’m not going to defend that, even if Esmeralda saw him as a younger sibling. Why? Because he’s at least 20. Once you’re over 18, at least in my view, you are an adult, and to be called a “boy” or “girl” is demeaning, esp. if you are disabled. The only time I *might* accept that is from a loving parent, for whom every child of theirs is always a child. But even then, it’s iffy and I prefer to be considered a “woman.”
You see, that’s funny. I completely agree that in this case, the movie is better (I tried to read the book in eighth grade, and aside from eighth grade being too young for that, I didn’t enjoy it. This despite the fact that I had enjoyed other classic literature). For me though, had they kept Frollo a priest, he would’ve been scarier, but that may just be because I grew up in church and was used to trusting the majority of adults in the church/members of the church hierarchy. Then again, Disney would *never* have gotten away with outright criticizing any church or faith. (Whether they do this subtly is up for long, hot debate). But yeah, overall it’s a great, underrated movie.
Thankfully, musical audiences have room for all types.
Well, not every musical is for everyone, and that’s okay. I personally took a while to warm up to it because of the lack of female characters, and because as a disabled person, I thought Crutchie would be used as a token/inspiration porn. But when I did give it a chance, I found out those worries were…well, not for nothing (it is still 1899, so women, disabled people, etc. are still in historical roles, and that’s something I can accept). But I definitely had a “where have you been all my life” reaction.
I’m so sorry you had that experience! I hope you get to see it again someday under better circumstances.