Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

Sarai is a free-lance literature enthusiast who current works as an academic. An avid horror and fantasy reader she is an advocate for its cultural importance:

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Latest Articles


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Warrior nuns...really?

A bizarre name that can as easily put you off as draw you in – ‘Warrior Nun’ (WN) is the latest TV series from Netflix. It is based, unsurprisingly, on a comic book character by Ben Dunn. It tells the story of a young woman who is reincarnated by an angel’s halo during an attack by demons on a sect of warrior nuns. The presence of the halo in her body, when the previous Warrior Nun died gives her abilities and a new life.

Sounds ridiculous right?
It is. It is also a fascinating look at a range of new archetypal roles around women that are becoming increasingly popular in TV and film. Similar in format to the ‘Motherland: Fort Salem’ with the focus on a military-esque sect of women only warriors it pushes against traditional gender stereotypes and a patriarchal society. WN actively critiques concepts of free will, religious determination and the complexity of friendship. It has a Buffy feel that fits within the scope of a traditional monomyth narrative, but also brings new perspectives that consider issues of racial roles and language. Much of the dogma linked to the catholic church is considered and critiqued within the way the myth of the halo and the order is presented. It further utilises a fantastic bilingual approach that Netflix does seem to be actively beginning to incorporate, whereby any Spanish spoken in the show is not subtitled, but at points where Italian or other languages are used these are provided with subtitles.

The show is worth a deeper analysis both for the development of themes and ideas that are reflecting changing perspectives on gender, race and religion, but also from the perspective of wider changes that are being reflected through the stable of shows from Netflix and other show providers. What do you think?

  • Excuse me for playing Devil's advocate here, but what is the point in a streaming service not subtitling one specific language that many of its viewers do not speak, and yet subtitling other languages? As a subtitler, I'd hardly consider this to be a 'fantastic bilingual approach.' An explanation please. – Amyus 8 months ago
  • Spanish is the second highest spoken language in the United States behind English. That's about forty-one million people speaking Spanish in their homes in America, not to mention that it is also the most frequently taught secondary language in America too. To me this seems to encourages people to learn and understand a language that may not be native to them while also catering to a large section of their audience that it is native to. You could also consider that this show is available in Spanish speaking countries, too, so Netflix just nabbed a huge section of their world-wide viewing audience in one fell swoop. Point being, many of its viewers do in fact speak it and that number is increasing. – FarPlanet 8 months ago
  • "Warrior nuns"--two words i never thought would go together. Sounds fascinating! – Stephanie M. 8 months ago
  • I don't know what to think. If it's not lambasting the Church and mocking nuns, great. On the other hand, I can see a lot of things Catholics/Christians will take issue with. I look forward to this article with great interest. – OkaNaimo0819 7 months ago
  • I just assumed this was an outgrowth of the movie "Priest." – Joseph Cernik 7 months ago

Star Trek: The commitment to storytelling

At the time I loved the new Star Trek movies. They were exciting, full of space travel, linked to nostalgia and full of "larger than life" characters. However, a re-watch of these was almost as painful as re-watching the Fast and the Furious series; instead of vivid I realised the characters were one-dimensional, stereotyped, almost all white and when I actually took note of the ridiculous 70s dresses of the women, actually quite insulting.

Now this realisation did not occur randomly, this was the result of returning to re-watch the films after completing the TV series Star Trek Discovery – and what I discovered was that the films lived up to the franchise (hated by fans, full of over blown situations and lacking the depth of storytelling in the shows). Now with the launch of Star Trek Picard I am blown away by the commitment to storytelling in both the shows. The focus is on personal growth, the difficulty of sticking to your convictions, taking responsibility for your actions, understanding the complexity of dealing with people (human and alien) and it is committed to showing diversity.

I think there is a lot in the new Star Treks that is showing the way forward for all TV – in a post MeToo world, in a post Black Panther world, it is not acceptable to continue to show narrow stereotyped, outdated and offensive perspectives. We often talk about the power of pop-culture and mainstream entertainment because it does offer a platform to not only reflect the world, but offer paths to change. This is a lot of lauding and pressure to place on a set of sci-fi TV shows, but I think Star Trek has more to teach us, even if it is just a better commitment to storytelling. What do you think?


    Space yoga, red lighting to sell meat, and terrible decisions on Avenue 5

    Avenue 5 is a recently released HBO touted as sci-fi comedy, as was Orville, however, the difference is astounding. A5 appears to be taking a more "reality show" approach to storytelling. The cinematography moves between constant vignettes that hone in on the various character groups, and then multi-character scenes are shot in an often long framing to appear as the fly on the wall while you watch characters shout over each other in a very "naturalistic" dialogue approach. The focus so far seems to be on the lack of competence of everyone involved. This reality/sit-com approach is especially unusual in sci-fi and even though Orville began with elements of this it rapidly became a Space Opera with focuses on moralistic decision making and character growth. I’m not sure if we are going to see that occur on A5. But does that matter? A5 appears to be offering a new take on sci-fi which could open the genre wider to further hybrid versions. A deeper analysis is needed to look at what A5 offers the genre.


      The Mandalorian

      Star Wars has been a popular culture icon for decades now. The revival of the early episodes and the continuation of the later that have altered the canon of literature, comics, and games have brought in a new generation of fans. Now with the move to Disney there are high expectations of the money-milking enterprise of a thousand spin off variations, yet interestingly there is the new tv show ‘The Mandalorian’. It already has a youth friendly vibe with a limited range of onscreen violence, no swearing and an over produced cinematography and sound track, yet still…it is the story of a bounty hunter, a criminal…but [SPOILER] he chooses at the end not to kill his bounty when faced with a "baby Yoda." Are we to assume then from this that the story will focus on a lone warrior with his own code, or will this be a redemptive arc – the hero was always within. It indeed fits into the franchise that has always been about hope above all else. The question will be though, like the most recent films, does this show actually have anything new to say or will this once again be a reiteration of the single monomyth that has plagued the SW franchise?


        The rise of the female action hero?

        We are slowly seeing a rise of all female or at least female dominated films in genres that have not traditionally been female friendly. Traditionally action films, whether they are specifically categorised as Action or Action slash (/sci fi, /western, /crime), have focused on varying interpretations of the masculine lead. Sometimes he is flawed, and sometimes he may as well be a plastic figurine for all the depth of character demonstrated, but always he is strong, determined and takes action, and is accompanied with weak or "temptation" women whose role is to look good half dressed. Yet a handful of recent films are starting to challenge the role of the female action hero.

        The supernatural action genre has given us three intelligent, funny, and active women in ‘Ghostbusters’. The heist genre laid out eight women of varying skills whose expertise held up against the original male roles in ‘Oceans 8’. The sci-fi action adventure has most recently given us three power and diverse roles in the latest ‘Terminator’. However, the question is this – does this indicate a substantial change in Hollywood’s approach to the representation of women in film, or is this just a trend that will fade away again to be replaced with atypical machoism?

        • Shout out to Terminator: Dark Fates for its three female action heroes. The film is market poorly in this regard as Arnold shows up in much of the marketing but the film is truly dominated by Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, and Natalia Reyes who are all compelling in their own ways. Overall, Terminator and Alien remain two series where women have been the protagonists and have been fully realized nuanced characters for decades. – Sean Gadus 1 year ago
        • @Sean so very true and I was so happy to see the return of old Hamilton, with all her issues and bat-crazy attitude. I was really impressed with the actual film focusing in on the women, but I agree it is interesting that there was still such a focus on Arnie in the promotion - does this then undermine the focus of the film or is it a sign of the fact that we still can't truly promote a female action film without it bombing at the box office? – SaraiMW 1 year ago
        • The female action hero rose around three decades ago. – monkeylove 1 year ago
        • I truly want to believe that this change is here to stay. Even though female heroes may have been present in previous decades, they were sexualized and belittled by the presence of a man. I think that Hollywood is shifting, because there is a need for strong heroines. All the time in Hollywood films, you will notice that the woman only discovers her worth when the man comes along. People see this as a problem, because women are not helpless damsels. There is an increasing amount of mental health disorders, LGBTQ+ characters, and strong females present in modern film. Hollywood is finally starting to make changes, because they must change with the times. People simply won't accept the traditional standards for characters in movies anymore. Hollywood needs to continue to incorporate important topics and characters into their films. – nicolemadison 1 year ago
        • There have been fantastic female leads around for longer than the past few years, you only have to look to Sigourney Weaver in Alien to see that. Not to mention that Linda Hamilton was a driving force in Terminator 2, well before Dark Fate was an idea. It would be be good for the writer to examine the difference between these films that have female leads at the heart of their story and established/maintained an IP largely due to these characters, and those films that have come out in recent years that are aiming to use existing IPs to market a "female reboot" for better or worse. – CAntonyBaker 1 year ago

        The detrimental toll of hype

        Part of marketing is the driving up of hype, but in fact little active promotion is needed by many films and TV these days as most fans drive the movement with their own social media discussions and excitement. But is this proving detrimental to the work? For instance, with the close of the saga ‘Game of Thrones’ the hype and expectation around the wrapping of the series was incredibly high, with people taking time off work/study etc. to catch the "on time" release on Netflix around the world. But what seems to have come out is a post malaise of criticism about the ending that for some may have soured the entire show. Now is this a fair state of affairs? Was the ending really poor or is this simply a reaction to heightened expectations that just can not be met?

        It would be interesting to explore the fan expectations, hype and marketing surrounding the completion of ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘End Game’ (throwing as hugely hyped film into the mix) and ‘Big Bang Theory’ (maybe even look back at other colossal series ends such as ‘How I met your mother’ and ‘Breaking Bad’) to examine how their completions differed and seemed to have resulted in a very different spectrum of responses from fans.

        What makes an ending great? How do you manage fan hype? Can anything live up to a finale expectation?

        • This is really awesome and what you wrote shows how much you really like. – Markh32 2 years ago
        • I love the question you pose at the end of the first paragraph. Was it really that bad of an ending, or did we have unbelievably high hopes? It definitely gets the reader thinking about the topic. Personally, once I got past the disappointment the ending actually made a lot of sense.The other examples of shows are good to include as you're appealing to different genres. It will allow more readers to think about the questions you're asking in context to shows they enjoy. – briannat 2 years ago

        The appeal of darkness

        So often we are drawn to the darker side of life, a quick purview of most films coming out in the last 5 years tends to support this. Yet why is this?

        Why are we so drawn to the dark, to the evil, to the bad?

        Is it a desire to engage safely with taboos? Does this appeal to our baser natures that desire an interaction with danger and amoral ideas? Or simply do we want to watch safely from our seats the downfall of others?

        There are obvious genre appeal in watching horror or thriller films, an aspect of the viewing is the narrative structure and the expectation of the horror themes. But what about drama or action or even romance films that are also engaging with these darker tones? Why is there a trend towards the macabre, the sinister and the frightening?
        Consider ‘Coco’ a Pixar animation in the land of the dead, or ‘Three Billboards’ about the lack of progression in the investigation of the murder of a young girl, or even ‘I, Tonya’ with its brutal depiction of domestic violence, even the romance ‘The Shape of Water’ features a rather horrific villain.

        • Films that portray a darker side allow the audience to experience something dark and scary without actually having to physically live it or be harmed. Also, life itself can be very dark, imperfect, violent, and so on. Thus, sometimes the dark side of things can address certain issues present in modern society and be relatable to some viewers. Another way to look at this is that having darker tones in a film can instigate conflict and thus make stories more interesting. – jay 2 years ago
        • The Movie, Priest (2011) or the way Gotham in any Batman movie is presented are dark cities. So the impression created adds to what viewers feel. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago
        • I think that it is largely a desire to engage with these rather frightening ideas while still remaining perfectly safe. These bad things are out there, and by engaging with them through fiction, we can learn about them and how they come about, as well as considering how we might deal with them if they impacted us, but don't have to worry about any real world consequences. In a similar vein, we get attached to villains we see in stories who reflect our darker impulses, but again, because they're not real, we can engage with and explore these darker thoughts we have without anyone getting hurt. – Debs 2 years ago

        The Victorian Historical Romance and Urban Fantasy Mash-Up

        It is not as silly as it sounds.
        Victorian historical romances are exactly as they titled, they are romance stories set in Victorian England, but are written by modern authors and tend to feature modern sensibilities, such as the right to choices, agency for women, the right to work, but still have aspects of the period such as passivity, manners and gender responsibilities. Urban fantasy are stories set in distinctly urban locales that incorporate the presence of supernatural forces. They also tend to feature strong female leads, moralistic messages and evoke the essence of city life.

        The Victorian era was actually the period of the emergence of city literature, with great works by Charles Dickens that captured the new industrial London. It was a period too when superstitious beliefs and the beginning of science-fiction with Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ and Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.’ It was a period that saw much of its literature immersed into the urban. This is a central concern of urban fantasy, and with the suggested supernatural interactions into the city that highlight the anxiety and fear present in the modern city, as captured beautifully in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula,’ it is unsurprising that contemporary authors are still so captivated with using this as a setting.

        As such a new mash-up genre has emerged that is not yet named but is basically ‘Historical Victorian Urban Fantasy Romance’ genre – terrible name but a descriptive working title. Key authors in this field have been C. J. Archer with her series ‘Glass and Steele,’ and ‘The Ministry of Curiosities.’ Both feature strong female leads that must navigate through the streets of London on a series of adventures, with magics and supernatural forces surrounding them. Another is Colleen Gleason’s series ‘The Gardella Vampire Hunters,’ which focuses on Victoria, the most recent hunter called to hunt the vampires of London and Europe.

        This new genre deserves further discussion and a closer examination.

        • Thanks for bringing up this idea! I saw this movie "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", another of such mash up fiction. I absolutely enjoyed the film. It's interesting to see how such Victorian canonical texts constituting primed-up characters are usually mashed up with supernatural creatures. Also, you have strong female leads taking the front pitch against the invasion of supernatural creatures, so you have a feminist undertone to it. – Azira101phale 2 years ago

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        Latest Comments

        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        Thank you for writing this. This has been an absolute favourite of mine for so very long, one of the few books that I have read across decades and found that it has lost nothing to a re-read. Even knowing the answer to the situation does not diminish the read.

        The Secret History: A Novel with Staying Power
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        A great discussion that identifies a really important component of the role of fanfic in normalising diverse perspectives, indeed it is a great way to truly represent the wider world rather than the narrow, perpetually reinforced standards of “mainstream” (although that term needs a review as it no longer matches the mainstream audience or the demographic that views it) entertainment.
        Thanks for sharing.

        Fanfiction: An Ally to Queer Fans
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        A great discussion with a needed reminder that others have already come before in pop-culture and their mark and their work should be remembered and reviewed. It is becoming more “normal” to see aging stars in TV and film but it would not have occurred as smoothly without these forerunners.

        How The Golden Girls Changed the Face and Narrative of Aging
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        Thanks, great little read – who doesn’t love cosmic horror?

        How Cosmic Horror Made Paganism Great Again
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        Thank you for your interesting discussion, I particularly valued your final discussion of the threats present in the response to current “female power” presentations in Hollywood. I agree that we are still a long way off seeing genuine female storytelling, but as always it is unsurprising that TV is leading where film is still just stagnating.

        GLOW: Actual Feminist Filmmaking in #MeToo Hollywood
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        In interesting discussion. I’m a little unsold though as I think it is great to praise these changes I am still not sold on Disney’s genuine desire to demonstrate change – I think they have had better success in their portrayal of topics and issues then they have had in their gender development. But thanks for continuing the discussion.

        How Princesses of Color Have Improved the Disney Princess Narrative
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        I do so love Carmody and Obernewtyn is a great text, but I think you would have had a more cohesive discussion if you used Kristeva’s concept through an exploration of a number of Carmody’s texts as this is quite a common theme for her and the use of mutation as a form of disruption to identity is indeed present. Thanks for sharing.

        David Ireland’s A Woman of the Future and Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn : Abjection and Mutation
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        Good opening discussion of a very popular trope. I think though it would have been great to include a discussion about why we keep going back to this well – what is it about the concept of timetravel that draws in not only the creators but also the viewers. I like that you acknowledged the biggest issue is when obvious plot holes are present, and I think it is done best when it is built more fully into a longer experience not just a solution or a meaningless accident.

        Is Time Traveling an Effective Means of Storytelling?