Indie film “Before I fall” Reminds Youth To Treasure Life

We don’t get to choose how long we get to experience life, when our last words will be, and why a specific fate has been chosen for us. This film existentially approaches the idea of chain reaction and choice by giving the lead character, Sam Kingston a chance to redeem her wrongdoings by reliving the same day of her impending doom over and over and over again. In the film’s diegesis, the lead character, Sam Kingston is given the unique opportunity to see where and why she went wrong within her life which allows her to slightly alter the day of her fate giving her the unique privilege that most humans probably aren’t given. Because Sam made her bed…she had to lie in it, see why, and seek change to become who she’s suppose to be.

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Courtesy of Indiewire

The idea of Sam ‘becoming who she’s suppose to be’ becomes prevalent when she wanders into Kent’s room and sees framed art that says “become who you are” her second day of reliving her untimely fate opening her eyes to internal and external change as well as action and reaction. Sam begins to wonder what people will say and think of her after she dies leaving her in a temporary state of shock as she opens her eyes the very the next time around. She begins to think she can make an amends with her fate by changing it. She assumes that if she performs a few good deeds that bam! OILA. Fixed. Over. Back to normal. She appears to reflect small change moment to moment but nevertheless its too early for Sam to come to terms with the idea this diegesis sets and sticks to; Sam has a fixed fate in the 13th of February at 12:39pm with the only blessing lying within the slight alterations she can make throughout the day.

Eventually Sam gets so sick of reliving the same day, she takes life for granted without showing any real groundbreaking internal change. Sam acts out by showcasing her frustrations. But there is something so deep rooted in Sam showcasing these frustrations that inspires flashbacks of pain, rebellion and a new perspective on paying the price for the sake of fitting in. The price becomes all to real when Juliette arrives to the party for the umpteenth time, Sam freaks out and runs away from the problem rather than facing it. Sam pays the price of her virginity losing time to once again face and solve the big major issue within her life: paying the price for being a follower, a coward, and ultimately, someone she’s not meant to be.

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Courtesy of Vox

Eventually, the day ends and once again we are back to the morning, Chinese origami, and the sight of Sam’s little sister Izzy. For once, Sam is inspired to make her day count and worthy. She worries what others think about her. She asks her mom if she is a good person making this film’s ending intimate as her mother’s advice on focusing on one good thing and seeing where it leads as the inspiration for Sam’s motivation to become who she really is meant to be. The audience, like Samantha, is haunted by Sam’s past memories hanging on Kent’s wall in his dimly lit room alongside of the hanging frame that says ‘become who you are.’ The dialogue reinforces these memories and Sam’s bold good personality as a young child. This leads the viewers to see that Sam is ultimately a good person who got lost along the way. Through the vivid imagery of Sam kissing Kent for the first time in years of him liking her, chasing Juliette through the rainy foggy forest leading to a back road, and the soundtrack playing songs from Astro, the Grimes and the Gems Before I Fall powerfully captures action and reaction, regret, epic change, intimacy, lost and the epiphany of growth.

rolling stone

Courtesy of Rolling Stone

For the first and last time Sam awakens, she isn’t afraid. She isn’t going to run, she will take positive action and a deep breath in recognizing her fixed fate with the limited resources to change a few things on her very last day of life. I know, I know the ending sucks (in a good way), because if she woke up the very next day after ample opportunity of fixing her wrongdoings would that really be so bad? I guess it would defeat the permanency of a fixed fate, choice, and lastly, the action and reaction. Sam was a good person but after following in the wrong footsteps this led her to paying the ultimate price leading her to having to prove and redeem herself in sacrifice before her fate truly took halt. In this way she is truly remembered and thought of as a good person before and after her fall.

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Crimson Peak

The Gothic Romance Genre is Reinvigorated by direcror Guillermo Del Toro in Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak, 2015 is a contemporary twenty-first century film set within the past; director and screenwriter Guillermo Del Toro was inspired by the Expressionism movement and the expansion of spiritualism. Del Toro contributes to the gothic horror genre by integrating these historical concepts within the film to create a consistent meaningful style. Though German Expressionism predates the film’s set time period, it nevertheless adheres to the gothic horror genre that Del Toro strives to deviate from, reinforce, and explore in modern storytelling. Through the use of historical gothic and spiritualistic inspiration, symbols and motifs, expository props, and interpretive dialogue; Del Toro effectively adheres and deviates away from the gothic horror genre all the while producing a gothic romance.

Unlike your typical haunted house film, Crimson Peak generates meaning entirely differently because director Guillermo Del Toro gains his inspiration from writers of gothic romantic literature, early filmmaking concepts, alongside historical periods to create Crimson Peak. Some of the styles Del Toro explores comes from atmospheric choices filmmakers and novelist reinforced and introduced within the Victorian, Belle Époque and Georgian eras which he reinforces within the contemporary film.

Del Toro also seemingly leans toward creating a gothic romance more than a gothic horror film because like Horace Walpole’s book The Castle of Otranto (1764); Del Toro adheres to the gothic genre by including material that contains many common tropes, twisty narrative threads, and his modern romantic touches. Aaron Sagers, Syfy writer says, “He claimed he was trying to blend the ‘ancient and the modern’ romance. He wanted to utilize ancient imagination (magic, supernatural, etc.) and incorporate modern romance with realistic people behaving in believable situations. He wrote, ‘in short, to make them think, speak, and act, as it might be supposed mere men and women would do in extraordinary positions’.”(Sagers, 2). Perhaps Del Toro was also inspired by Germany’s silent film era which called for gothic filmmaking because of the period’s depressive state in response to World War I. Prince states that “[t]he grotesque found its most enduring home during the silent era in Germany. The Expressionism art movement appeared first in German theater and painting and then flourished in cinema during the 1920s. It’s anti-realist, anti-naturalist style, empathizing dark, chiaroscuro (or pin point) lighting, sharply angled set designs, and character types such as monsters and madmen furnished natural ingredients for horror films” (Prince 371). Hollywood represented high budget filmmaking and the production of polished classical horror films which contained depictions of literal monsters, whereas Lewton’s pictures depicted horror in the sense that’s representative of reality. Del Toro’s film Crimson Peak may’ve gained its inspiration from the likes of both early low and high budgeted productions in hopes of receiving a polished look as well as a gritty portrayal of psychological fears.

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Although, the Expressionism movement took place within the early Twentieth century; like the aftermath of the Civil War, Germany’s defeat left a similar gruesome impact on the lives of Americans and Europeans. These two periods proved to fuse well together in creating Del Toro’s intended gothic style which mimics the depressive hysteria and the distinction of taboos at the time to realistically depict the unmentionable and convey a sophisticated film form throughout Crimson Peak. The post-war era made it possible for people to channel heightened emotions of fear, love, lost, resentment, loneliness and anger into the creative outlet that film allowed; these emotions arguably further inspires Del Toro’s heightened mood throughout Crimson Peak further reinforcing the gothic genre.

Crimson Peak is set within Buffalo, NY in the late 19th century. The film explores the common gothic trope seemingly following the life of a damsel in distress. Novelist Dale Bailey states that “Typically, the heroine is imprisoned in some ominous pile with a perverse history-a ruined abbey or decaying castle is preferred-where her life and virtue are threatened (though rarely violated) by the villain/hero, his hench persons, and supernatural agencies. After various perils, the gothic baddie is defeated and our hero and heroine are reunited, presumably to live happily ever after. Common gothic motifs include tangled genealogies, subterranean flights, incest, doubles, supernatural incursions, and, of course, hauntings” (Bailey, 4). The film does follow the life of heroine Edith Cushing who appears to have lost her mother to the outbreak of cholera. Edith’s life is frequently threatened however, as her fate drawls closer to Crimson Peak; she is warned by her mother’s spirit of the horrifying events to come. Edith falls in love with Thomas unaware of his dark intentions. While she is not violated sexually; she is slowly poisoned and ends up badly hurt. She uncovers Thomas’ incestuous relationship with his sister Lucille. Although it’d seem like Lucille gets what’s coming to her, the film’s ultimate horror is dead set on marriage and less about Lucille. This reinforces his ability to change the common gothic horror trope.

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One particular scene that reinforces the origins of gothic genre is when Edith’s father blackmails Thomas and Lucille Sharpe to leave. Shortly after, he’s violently killed by Lucille. A series of England’s hammer films of the 1930s may’ve inspired Del Toro to create vivid scenes such as this one. Del Toro reinforces the genre by displaying a copious amount of blood spilling over the sink onto the floor where Edith’s father lies dead with a bashed in skull. Mislead by Thomas, Edith turns to him in mourning and accompanies him to Allerdale Hall or Crimson Peak in Cumberland England.

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In exploring these heightened emotions, Toro produces a gothic mood within Crimson Peak which resided within the time period itself. Stephen Prince, author of Horror Films states that “…[c]ultures and societies impose meaning upon existence…by creating sets of basic distinctions: male and female, living and dead, edible and inedible, human and animal, self and other…” (Prince, 387). Perhaps Del Toro was inspired by the exploration of the how people treated separate distinctions, then he simply looked deeper into the sensibility behind the idea of certain earthly distinctions and how they worked culturally and socially to apply these societal concepts within Crimson Peak

In an effort to reinforce the gothic genre, Del Toro’s reasoning for using a standard gothic trope such as the setting to be a castle may lie within an effort to mislead viewers. In one perception, it represents nothing more to Edith than a haunted house tied to the lives of the Sharpes. In another perception, the castle represents the haunting history of the inescapable crimes of Lucille and her brother Thomas which binds them forever. The concept being that the castle is nothing more than a vehicle for mystery and dread full of horrible crimes impacting all those who live there. Writer for Time, Eliana Dockterman quotes Del Toro who states, “I didn’t want to make a movie where marriage is the ultimate blessing, in Crimson Peak marriage is the gateway to horror”(Dockerterman 98). This decision reinforces the notion that the castle itself functions as a red herring misleading viewers of the true danger which lies inside. Crimson Peak leans more towards a gothic romance because of its darkened love undertones. 

Spiritualism also served as a source of realism within Crimson Peak’s reflexive narrative structure. The grand, sinking, haunted castle functions as a motif which represents European commentary on the meaning of existence. It suggests that part of being a human means holding onto things that are worth fighting for. In the very last scene of the film, viewers observe the lonely dark apparition of Lucille, the film’s villain. She is playing music at the grand piano as she had done repeatedly throughout the film. Prince says, “Horror films speak to this fundamental uncertainty about the nature of being human. They respond to the existential question — what is required to remain human? by presenting the issue in its negative form, that is, by showing the loss of humanness. The genre’s story situations show grave threats to human identity” (Prince 388). This scene signifies her inability to let go of who she cares about most — her younger brother Thomas. Lucille constantly mumbles the phrase “Now’s the time.” For Lucille and Thomas, time symbolizes their untimely fate of having a rotting home, a familial relationship, and the need for financial resources.

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In the beginning of the film there is a scene where viewers see a close up shot of a butterfly engulfed by ants; at an extreme close up shot they see an ant feasting on the butterfly’s eye as Lucille says “Moths feast on butterflies.” The lives of butterflies and moths can symbolize the lives of humans. Moths are monstrous and lack fragility unlike butterflies, they refuse to come out of hiding throughout their lives and predatorily thrive within the cold and dark. This further emphasizes that happiness is a result of fate and it only ceases to exist for humans as long as they can live the lives they choose. It further explains that the world is brutal no matter if you live within the sunlight or within depths of the shade. Prince states, “…[A]udiences never tire of being reminded that their world and their sense of self is a fragile thing and easily imperiled. The genre thus remains a lively one, continuously speaking to the changing landscapes of our present nightmares.” (Prince 388).

The ghosts within Crimson Peak function as symbolic warnings throughout Edith’s life telling her to “beware of Crimson Peak” From Edith’s mother to one of the Sharp’s victim’s Enola, the ghosts serve as macguffins which help Edith survive her life-threatening experience at Crimson Peak. Realistically, it would make sense for these ghosts to be a commentary between the living and the dead. Del Toro’s inspiration may’ve come from the belief that people began searching for the ultimate closure. They wondered if there was life after death, and if the living could receive answers about the meaning of life which they could no longer comprehend in the same way.

The opening and third to last scene within the film is the same exact scene. It’s pivotal to the film’s entire theme. This scene opens up with a dissolve into a medium close up shot of an emotional Edith Cushing with labored breathing surrounded by snowflakes, wearing a white dress stained with blood in an open field. She is still mesmerized by the stain of redemption blood left on her fingertips by Sir Thomas Sharp. The camera zooms in on Edith’s face as she breathes heavily and tears flood her ducts. Edith’s voice over begins saying: “Ghosts are real. This much I know.” signifying the narrative’s reflexive structure in which Edith ends up telling the story she has been wanting to tell all along which defies what the men have told her to write — love stories.

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Another motif that helps the film come full circle is the manuscript that Edith holds onto at the very beginning of the film as she crosses the muddy streets of Buffalo. As the voiceover begins within the very beginning scene, it picks up to finish again at the third to last scene of the film further emphasizing that the voiceover functions as the beginning and ending of her newest manuscript Crimson Peak. The film was the gothic romance/horror story that Edith was able to tell as a result of her experience at Allerdale Hall in Cumberland, England. This demonstrates the strength of Edith’s character. Edith isn’t conforming to the American man’s perspective of women and their inability to write ghosts stories. She has proven that she knows more about horrors of love than love itself. “Ghosts are real. This much I know.”

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Del Toro modernly reinforces the cinematic portrayal of the gothic genre and simultaneously deviates away from it by presenting viewers with two empowered female leads that defy certain gothic tropes like the damsel in distress trope and the fallen woman who gets her due trope. Each female lead character is eager enough to pursue stability and freedom from her confinement without the approval of others. Although Edith is depicted to be somewhat prudish about love at first, she proves to be inadvertently adventurous and sexual. Once Edith falls for Sir Thomas Sharp, their honeymoon stage becomes quite romantic and erotic leading Thomas to transform into a dynamic submissive character. As an example, one night Thomas and Edith are snowed in at a hotel.  In an extreme close up low angle shot, Edith looks into Thomas’s eyes, she says, “the past Thomas. You’re always looking to the past. You won’t find me there. I’m here.” Edith and Thomas make love and the scene dissolves into an extreme long shot of Allerdale Hall (the castle). This scene proves to be a pivotal moment in reinforcing the gothic romance subgenre because, it plays on the idea of sexual thrill and the unknown within the developing relationship between Edith and Thomas.

All the while Lucile is an estranged member of society; she lusts for love and happiness with her younger brother in a secluded sinking castle. Viewers see Lucille and Thomas’ incestuous love for one another throughout the course of the film. For instance, when Edith stumbles upon Lucille and Thomas engaging in a sexual act within the attic; Edith assumes Lucille isn’t Thomas’ sister. However, Lucille joyously boasts that she is and proceeds to push Edith over the railing as Thomas shouts out “don’t do it!” In this way Del Toro reinforces the subversive and radicalized approach to the modernity of the gothic romance genre.

As Thomas becomes a dynamic submissive character changing his motivations every moment due to his fall for Edith; Lucille refuses to change. Bailey states that “…eighteenth and nineteenth century gothic novels present larger than life villains/heroes who indulge desires and appetites (many of them sexual) most of us repress…”(Bailey 3). Both Edith and Lucille strongly defend themselves and continue to battle for what they believe in as worth fighting for which is why the medieval fused modern film comes full cycle to begging a pivotal question the horror genre always explores — what keeps us motivated as humans? For Lucille it’s about being open and free about her incestuous love and living within the home she was once sent away from. “The ritual nature of these films, the repetitive visiting and revisiting of these traumas by an audience and upon an audience, suggests that these are core anxieties felt at the root of human existence. Thus, the genre keeps returning to the same primal question — what is required to remain human? – by showing how easily humanity may be lost” (Prince 388). In this way Lucille seemingly functions as the commentary on the implications of radical behavior within the culture of the time period.

In this way Guillermo Del Toro reinvigorates gothic storytelling by adding his own modern romantic flair. Inspired by 18th and 19th century gothic literature, historical events, and slasher filmmaking conventions; Del Toro effectively presents the uncertainty of the human condition by creating an existential depth within Crimson Peak.

Bibliography

Bailey, D. (1999). American Nightmares. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999, pp.1-4.

Dockterman, Eliana. “’Crimson Peak’ Arms the Damsel With a Knife.” Time, Time, 19 Oct. 2015, time.com/4065981/guillermo-del-toro-arms-the-damsel-with-a-knife-in-crimson-peak/. 98-99

Prince, S. (2004). The horror film. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, pp.369-397.

Sagers, Aaron. “31 Days of Halloween: A Guide to Gothic and the Ghosts behind Crimson Peak.” Syfy, SYFY WIRE, 17 Oct. 2015, http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/31-days-halloween-guide-gothic-and-ghosts-behind-crimson-peak.

 

The Portrayal Of Women In Film And Television Today

         During my childhood, I saw the expectations in cinematic roles change between both males and females. In modern society, women have come a long way, generally being seen as free equal members of society. The cinematic field has come far in featuring women as these independent, important members of society just as expectation would have it. Many people who have grown up watching television or film before our contemporary society would have the expectation of a man saving, destroying, and or monitoring (keeping the peace) a fictional world. Both movies and televisions shows are directed by both genders. It would seem as though equality in modern day cinema would be there. Shockingly enough, society today is still evermore growing and changing their expectations and beliefs. Women are now being displayed more and more, but it is a work in progress. As a movie goer and a fan of many shows, seeing female heroes has become one of my favorite aspects of film because I am able to see more variation within the roles of gender in film. Since the element of female heroes has been introduced, audiences have a greater appreciation for the variation within film and TV.

         Particularly the way women are now being portrayed is quite fascinating. People may be used to seeing male heroes, but heroines are on the rise. The situations of roles they are placed into have become of more importance, thus their work is cut out for them. Women are now being given roles other than the expected ones. Roles that have more depth. “As portrayals of heroic women gain ground in film, television, and other media, their depictions are breaking free of females as versions of male heroes or simple stereotypes of acutely weak or overly strong women” (Avery, Carol A.; Bajac-Carter, Maja; and Batchelor, Bob). Many women are given the roles of female characters that are positively complex, more to them than just what a reader or movie goer can observe on the surface. These complicated characters give and make viewers think past the perception of expectation and deeper into the equal decision making process of an actual human being.

       In many fantasy fiction films, the audience watches the hero become who they are and learn of why they are who they are. Today, roles for heroines ensure a variety of just that. I love that I can see more background stories, it’s absolutely interesting when it comes to both genders. Women are given many supernatural or natural situations in which their destiny leads them down a road of leadership, thus becoming a heroine. The many background stories are completely original. Many of these works include recent trilogies such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, The 100, Reign, Underworld, both the volume set and TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They all have creations of worlds in which the heroine is completely the saver, overseer (peacemaker or watcher), leader, and or warrior of her world. She is capable of determining and creating justice or security for the greater good.  You do not need a male to constantly save the world for the world to get back to normal. “Characters like Katniss Everdeen are changing girlhood and challenging tired stereotypes by not waiting for some guy to save the day: They’re saving themselves and their worlds, too. Yet Katniss, her screen sisters and the industry have a very long way to go” (SCOTT and DARGIS).

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Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

            These heroines carry on the same role as their opposite gender. They are often left with the burden carried by their leadership. I love this controversial idea of humanity. Often both female and male characters are led down this decision-making path and question their own humanity. It often seems as if a hero’s role comes with the burden of selflessness. The hero begins to feel for everyone they surround including the people they can save and those who are unfortunately not saved. I like that I can still feel for the female who carries this burden, and not look at it any other way. It is not weird, awkward or falsely done. When these emotions are occurring on screen the imagination and depth take over in the heart of audiences who can visualize it. A females’ character is as strong, courageous, honorable and lovable as any male’s, creating substance and meaning within her fictional world. My favorite television examples are the series Buffy the Vampire slayer and The 100. My favorite movie examples are Carrie (I loved the 2013 version, but the 1976 is the classic) and Underworld. These character roles were emotionally complex and suffered from fates much larger than themselves. A warrior chosen in her generation, she is the chosen one in the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 100 juvenile prisoners are sent back to the earth to test its habitability; one girl takes charge in the TV series The 100. An innocent, pure, talented girl is raised by a religious Zealot is bullied until one fateful night in the film Carrie.

       The interesting motivation, need, and idea of heroines changing their situations within their own unique feature films does not only offer the audience a different perspective in the abilities for females, but also gives way for future meaningful heroes that girls and women can look up to and be inspired by. Film has the incredible way of making it so that it is the audience who escapes their reality, and if we can do that for both men and women, that would not only be equal, inspirational, and fair but a change for the better. Growing up in the late 90’s through early 2000’s, a girl such as myself, grew up watching a wide selection of Disney movies (both Disney classics and originals). I sought out inspiration and comparability no matter what. I always wanted to be like the characters I saw.  As I got older, I was able to appreciate films other than just Disney and Pixar titles. I was introduced to a wide variety of film in different genres that had diverse heroines and it made a…huge…difference.

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Courtesy of AMC

          There are ordinary heroines who are also making a difference within the variation of television and film content today. These common heroes are keeping nontraditional, unconventional storytelling popular. Examples of unconventional films with ordinary heroes are: The help, Gravity, Flightplan and Disney warrior movies such as Brave and Mulan. In a nontraditional sense, these movies are examples that women can make a big difference in both the magical, fictionalized world and the tangible, current one we live in by staying within the contemporary universal scope of themed values we live by. This brings me to the point that women don’t need superpowers or magic to make an impact, be significant, or be heroic. Women have really proven their ability to embrace both simplistic and complex roles that they are given to them in both television and film.

           Some may say that the effect of advertisements, films, television, music videos, and video games portray women in the wrong light in respect to our current society, but I somewhat disagree. According to the Scientific American, “Superhero movies and other forms of entertainment, which are often viewed as a temporary escape from reality, may in fact be shaping our realities in ways that are more harmful than heroic” (May). Based on the study the authors found that entertainment media in contemporary society can affect gender role expectations, cultural standards, personal perceptions and attitudes in a negative way. While I do think that the authors made an extraordinary approach to the issue I believe other wise. We gain ideas, understanding, imagination, and experience from the tangible world in which we live in. The point in which this article is making about the temporary escape from reality actually being harmful for us can be countered. We need the temporary escape from our very short, busy, hard lives. If anything the media portrays our attitudes towards one another. The only way I see it as harmful is to place blame on the very medium we contribute to.

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Courtesy of NYFA

         As a culture, I believe that people tend to go with what they perceive, overhear, and believe about how things are. This kind of variation results in subjective televised, broadcasted, and aired cultural norms. Are all of our cultural norms right? I don’t believe so in the least bit, nevertheless perspectives are learned, and observed anyways. I believe that this distraction can also be the best thing for us, depending on the temporary escape. I do not believe that it necessarily should be gender based. If you think about it, fictional heroes like Thor, Spider Man, Captain America and many other heroes are pretty much all stereotypically the “preferred” unrealistic body shape or size, so how much different is it for a heroine running to save the world in her heels with the preferred body “physique?” They are both biased examples. The problem lies in the societal expectation and the overall taught mentality.

         In my opinion, we have come along way in airing diverse, unconventional content which is a huge plus however, the expectation and mentality of the variation we include within our broadcasted media is still changing. We are now beginning to show gender queer relationships in various shows like Orange is the new black, Greys anatomy, and The 100. Many shows lack diversity as far as relationships are displayed.

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Courtesy of Bustle

       The matter of the fact is that entertainment media is supposed to be a temporary escape from the world we live in, and we can only let it harm us by what we allow to go on within the tangible world we live in. There are certain things we will never be able to do such as fly, or have the strength to move a city, and we all have that understanding, nevertheless the fictional world does not limit either gender to do so within film. With that being said, if we do not limit variation of both genders to participate within what we broadcast, which adds to our entertainment we are not only being fair, but we are taking a step in the right direction. We can fix the mentality of society’s expectation by including variation within roles and creating a balanced way of thinking. For example, Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a series which portrays an equal representation of gender and sexuality.

    Thinking past cultural standards and personal perceptions, we can agree that the tangible world we live in limits our nonfictional lives. In film, we set the limits in what happens throughout the duration. Heroines like heroes are given the responsibility to save people from what they can not control. The gender related issues that have impacted the variation of women’s roles within film have somewhat dissipated which has left audiences wanting more information and having more interests in what women can bring to the screen story related. According to the Vulture List, “Over the nearly 50 years’ worth of TV and movies covered here, female superheroes have fought an ongoing battle against one-dimensional representation, lack of backstory, underdeveloped personae, and relegation to eye-candy status. As women have knocked down barrier after barrier (both literally and figuratively), they’ve kicked the damsel-in-distress label to the curb in favor of more complex portrayals” (Leeds). We gain sympathy and personal attachment for what these women do, not so much what they look like. Their character is important personality wise, and that adds a big factor into our caring about them, as well as the community built around their character.

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Courtesy of The New York Times

    Personally, I am able to see the humanity within the heroic character that a woman is portraying very well. Heroines can gain the same amount of emotional attachment from audiences as a hero can, not only through a variation of plots, but in character portrayal, that’s why heroines should be given the credit they deserve no matter their gender,  racial, and sexual differences. Heroines are not only radiating with meaning but they are affecting audiences by showing women and girls that they too are represented well.

 

Works Cited

 

Leeds, Sarene (November 2015). The 25 Best Onscreen Female Superheroes: Vulture Lists. Retrieved from http://www.vulture.com/2015/11/25-best-female-superheroes-onscreen.html#

 

May, Cindi (June 2015). The Problem with Female Superheroes: Scientific American. A division of Nature America, INC. Retrieved from

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-problem-with-female-superheroes/

 

Savery, Carol A.; Bajac-Carter, Maja; and Batchelor, Bob (2014). Heroines of Film and Television: Portrayals in Popular Culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.kent.edu/facultybooks/38

 

SCOTT, A. O. and DARGIS, Manohla (September 2014). Sugar, Spice and Guts: Representation of female characters in movies is improving. Retrieved from

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/movies/fall-arts-preview-representation-of-female-characters-in-movies-is-improving.html

 

 

 

 

The One-Dimensional, Stereotypical, “Normal” Female Detective No Longer Exists

          In the decade following Veronica Mars, the transformation of the portrayal, and cinematic focus of female detectives on TV has dramatically changed. By examining both new and existing tropes within contemporary crime series, the display of lone and partnered detective work, and how mainstream television dramas contribute “entertainment” to the reality we live in; we can then further understand how many crime series have begun contributing to the development of empowered, female detectives.

            Veronica Mars just may have influenced the need for female detectives to make those witty, one liners during very serious episodes. After all, it was Veronica Mars, a female detective that set the trend for complexed female, empowered detectives going forward. Aside from its catchy theme song We used to be friends, and her clever voice over; Veronica Mars was able to touch on important topics such as: rape culture and justice, community police work, wealth inequality, and dynamic detective partnership. Through flashbacks, the series effectively develops the characters, and sets up the plot. In doing so, viewers can understand what presents the motivation, and conflicts of interests for Veronica. One of the more recent crime series, Broadchurch depicts a female detective, Ellie Miller who is the exact opposite of Veronica Mars. Veronica does not let conflicts of interest derail her from excelling at her police work. In Veronica Mar’s world…she distrusts those around her; and anyone could be a suspect. Veronica investigates crimes associated with her classmates, neighbors, and community by researching, and gaining thorough evidence throughout various episodes.

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                                                            (Courtesy of Glamour)

Unlike her peers, she is a detective which makes her more resourceful, smart, and knowledgeable about the people she lives amongst, and the reality she lives in. However, these flashbacks remind her of who she used to be, and the world she used to know.

In the pilot, Veronica’s voiceover says, “They gave me a choice. I could stand by my dad, or stand by Duncan and my dead best friend’s family. I chose Dad. It’s a decision I live with every day. And you want to know the kicker? I don’t even know what’s true anymore. Maybe everyone else is right. Maybe Dad screwed up the investigation. Maybe I gave up my circle of friends – my life – over an error in Dad’s judgment.”

 After her rape, the loss of Lily her best friend, and the decision she had to make between her father’s reputation, and Lily’s family; Veronica decides to handle it all with strength, motivation and hope. Her dynamic partnership with her father Keith, and her friend, Wallace allows for times of sadness, laughs, and hope. This dynamic partnership may have added to relatable partnerships between detectives in various gender roles, and detectives with different personalities. Contemporary series like Broadchurch, The Killing, present day SVU, and films such as Miss Congeniality, The Heat, Rush Hour etc. present such personal bonds between the partnered-up detectives. Where a dynamic partnership forms between a male and female detective. Nicci Gerrard refers to the show Broadchurch, in her article, “Move over, Morse: female TV detectives are on the case now” stating that “There might be frictions and rivalries, but the two detectives share secrets and a wry humor, drink pints of beer and glasses of wine together, bring humanity and wit to a world of poverty and gruesome murder. The two of them and their female boss normalize female authority in a way that a woman alone cannot.”

Veronica Mars evaluated a character’s development before, and after sexual violence; this in turn focuses mainly on the detective Veronica becomes. Some tropes that I found within the series were: how Veronica hides the fact that she was assaulted from those closest to her within the first season, and how rich kids often receive different punishments than that of others. However, I also believe that the series introduces a new trope that we often see today. Veronica Mars explores the interesting notion behind the victim also being the detective as well. Similar shows like Marcella explores this idea also. “For in this female world, the detective is also a victim. The walls between the professional and private worlds collapse and this allows the viewer to identify with the character…we can never identify with the expert, the invulnerable or the flawless”, says Gerrard.

In introducing the aftermath of sexual violence, viewers could say that Veronica Mars may have used such inspiration from shows like Law and Order: SVU. However, one thing viewers can identify with today is that there is a cat and mouse like game which often forms between Veronica, and the various suspects within each episode because, the series explores the ideas of trust, and peace. Although, the three major storylines involving Veronica’s rapist, Lilly’s murderer, and her mother’s disappearance are not solved right away; there are developments on these three storylines over the course of the series. In her article, “Veronica Mars, ‘TV’s Realest Depiction of Rape, Is Going to Be a Movie” Arielle Duhaime-Ross states, “Of the series’ three main-story-lines, Veronica’s rape was the only one creator Rob Thomas sustained for the entirety of the show. Veronica loses her virginity at a party in being drugged by one of her classmates. She spends the entirety of the series trying to uncover her rapist’s identity and bring him to justice — something she finally succeeds in doing in the very last episode. [There] is [e]xceptionally smart writing, and acting aside, the date rape story-line is what made this particular teen drama different from all that ones that aired before it. Unlike most televised rape accounts, Veronica was no damsel in distress waiting to be rescued.” Unlike many female detectives that came before her, she showed strength, personality, complexity, and uniqueness; Veronica Mars may have started the ongoing portrayal, and trend of realistic, empowered, female detectives, while displaying an acknowledgement of rape culture. This led to series like: The Killing, The Fall, Marcella, and Broadchurch.

            The Fall further expands upon a classic thriller’s take on the depiction of sexual violence, and presents a complexed, unique female detective by the name of Stella Gibson. Like SVU’s detective Olivia Benson, and Silence of the Lamb’s Clarice Starling, she helps the serial rapists’ victims, whilst still trying to understand the rapist, and bring him to justice. Only the female detective, Stella Gibson, brings you home with her. Throughout the show, the viewers see beyond the surface as Gibson mixes her personal, and professional life making it extremely interesting, confusing, and complexed. “For this female cast often bring[s] their own psychodramas into the traditional whodunnit, making it rich and bleak and murkily complicated. They are themselves mysteries; they resist easy solutions and the dynamic momentum of plot, which drives forward in spite of the repeated tugs of red herrings, and gets tangled up in the downward pull of character, in the labyrinths of memory, sadness, anger and guilt” says, Gerrard. Stella gets as much of attention as the killer does. Television portrays Stella’s sexuality, and personality from an intimate perspective…and it makes viewers more interested in her character. In this way television has made the detective just as important, multidimensional, relatable, and interesting. This attention to Stella Gibson’s quirky features, views on feminism, and odd personal life demonstrates a change in the way cinema plays a huge role in determining the main focus of a character in storytelling. Gerrard states, The Fall explores notions of femaleness and sexual violence and it does so in a way that is powerfully unsettling and sometimes queasy-making. The camera lingers on its central character: her strongly beautiful profile and the full curve of her lips; her sleek hair, her gorgeous silk shirts (almost as iconic as Lund’s jumper), her shapely calves, the way she looks as she swims, as she undresses. She is itemized, fetishized, turned into a body, watched and assessed. It can feel that the way the serial killer watches his victims is eerily replicated by the way the camera watches Gibson.”

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                                                            (Courtesy of BBC)

            The Fall also addresses the “normalized” roles of gender, and challenges the stereotype viewers are historically used to. Viewers see Stella Gibson making out with a female colleague in one episode, and having sex with her male detective partner in another. Stella’s personal diary is found by the serial killer, in which presents the issues Stella had growing up with her father; this further complicates her motivations within the case. “She complicates this by her own sexual behaviour; aloof, icy, sexually passionate without being warm, she uses men the way that men traditionally use women. She turns them into objects, the way that women are turned into objects by the male gaze or, at the other end of the spectrum, by the rapist. Gibson, like Tennison or Lund, destabilises the traditional whodunnit. Fictional male detectives in the past have often been robust figures of competence, standing at the centre of the plot, from where they make sense of the incomprehensible, turn chaos into order, join up the clues to find the criminal, restore normality. But we no longer have such a belief in authority (the “Evening, all” of Dixon of Dock Green), in disinterested genius or in absolute answers. The world we live in now is more tentative, contingent and compromised; the doctor, the priest and the detective can’t solve everything”, Gerrard further adds.

Conversation between DCI Eastwood, and Stella Gibson Season 1, episode 3:

[DCI Eastwood:] When did you first meet Sergeant Olson?

[DSI Gibson:] That’s what really bothers you, isn’t it? The one night stand. Man fucks woman. Subject: man. Verb: fucks. Object: woman. That’s ok. Woman fucks man. Woman: subject. Man: object. That’s not so comfortable for you, is it?

            This leads many viewers to believe that female detective shows like, The Fall are contributing to recent ones such as, Marcella, and Broadchurch. While Veronica Mars had a smart reason for separating her personal life from that of her professional life; the two female detectives Marcella, and Ellie Miller do not. What do these female detectives have in common? They are all so strongly connected to their community. What makes them so very different is how they entangle their personal and professional lives together. In Marcella, we see this entanglement play out through an extreme, unsettling plot within the first season. It is a classic TV trope that a woman throw herself into her work because, she needs a distraction from something traumatic that has happened to her. In this case, Marcella throws herself into her work to avoid dealing with the fact her marriage is failing, her husband’s affair with Grace Gibson, and most importantly because, she has lost a child, by the name of “Juliette.” Another trope within this show, would be the cheating spouse who causes those closest to him/her damage in one way or another. Lastly, another trope within this show could be that the wife is cheated on, she can’t handle it, and she decides to kill the mistress. What is so enticing about Marcella, is the fact that viewers can witness a dirty detective’s destruction from the abuse of power. Marcella goes to great lengths to depict Marcella as someone who is innocent to viewers.

            Several major things about female detectives which have changed is that the female detectives are much more involved within their show’s plots, they also are more complexed, and they have trouble with keeping their personal lives and professional lives separate. Marcella depicts a female detective as a victim like Veronica Mars had. Except Marcella only appeared focused when covering up her own tracks, but distracted when making life changing decisions, which makes things much worse for her. Marcella has an interesting way of showing how Marcella has been affected by the aftermath of the changes that took place within her personal life. “Fictional detectives are often loners, but being women makes them doubly alone. Many thrillers are about good and evil, but these thrillers are about being human, flawed and in trouble. They make us care not only about the outcome – the satisfying narrative click is still there, if sometimes a bit muffled – but also about the characters. We identify with them, fear for them, want them to be happy, know they won’t be, want to own their shirts, or jumpers, or coats. For a while they are more real than our reality”, says Gerrard.  However, we are at odds with her complexed character, because of her violent outbursts, the terror she inflicts upon her husband, witnesses, and suspects.

MARCE                                                            (Courtesy of The Odyssey)

            In Broadchurch, viewers see a visually compelling story revolving around the death of a child in a small town. The series presents a much different female detective; however, she is very much involved within her community. Very much like Marcella, it’s all about separating one’s personal life from their professional one. Detective Ellie Miller struggles to separate how she perceives her community as a detective from her role within her community as one of its members. This causes a conflict of interest for her when she begins to investigate the death of a boy who happens to be her friend’s son. This is a realistic portrayal of a conflict of interest that probably happens for those who work within the criminal justice field. Because of the investigation that follows the boy’s death, many suspects, stories and secrets are explored. As the investigation happens, Ellie Miller, the local detective takes a backseat to avoid this conflict of interest within her community which can be just as dangerous as abusing one’s power as depicted in Marcella. This female, empowered detective is much different than what we originally saw within female, detective characters that previously followed. However, it follows the trend of complexed, damaged, and flawed female detective in very fragile situations. In his review, “A Murder Haunts a Rugged Coast” Mike Hale states, “It’s a pre-eminent example of what could be called the new International Style in television drama: a moody, slow-moving, complicated crime story with damaged heroes and not much redemption to go around.” The cinematic focus in this show is fixed on the location of the town, emotions and expressions on people’s faces to heighten the overall mood. The way that television presents this dynamic partnership is personal. By putting two totally different personalities on a case together; it focuses on developing the weak traits of each. This female, empowered character certainly challenges the “normalized” gender role women normally play on TV by paving the way for women to doubt, challenge, and grow their skills in police work. Although Ellie Miller is doubtful, and defensive most of her role, she overcomes this by working alongside the main detective, Alec Hardy. In response to the trend of messy resolutions within many series like this one Gerrard states that “[L]ives have been wrecked and grief cannot be assuaged. It uses the old tropes to make new meanings. There can’t be happy endings anymore. Female detectives represent this new kind of reality because, they often become implicated in the stories they are trying to make sense of. Women, however defended they are and strong, have a vulnerability about them simply because of their gender.”

BROAD                                                            (Courtesy of BlogSpot)

            I think it is important to realize that both men, and women can be depicted in all sorts of ways. Men are often shown as having little emotion within situations where women will have lots of emotion. But showing vulnerability is not based off gender, it’s all about cultural norms. The recent depictions of empowered, female detectives on television have been portrayed as ones with success, complexities, flaws, a range of sexualities, and determination. In creating empowered, bold female characters television is addressing the “normalized” roles of gender, and challenges the stereotypes viewers are historically used to. However, I do think that television is defining these women in a way that shows their inability to keep their personal lives separate from what is professional; Males struggle with this also.  The evolution of female detectives has come a long way. The one dimensional, stereotypical, “normal” female detective no longer exists because, the provisional truth of the world we once knew no longer exists.

                                                            Bibliography

Duhaime-Ross, Arielle. “’Veronica Mars,’ TV’s Realest Depiction of Rape, Is Going to Be a Movie.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 14 Mar. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/veronica-mars-tvs-realest-depiction-of-rape-is-going-to-be-a-movie/274028/

Feeney, Nolan. “Veronica Mars: One of TV’s Realest Depictions of Wealth Inequality.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 13 Mar. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/03/-em-veronica-mars-em-one-of-tvs-realest-depictions-of-wealth-inequality/284383/

Gerrard, Nicci. “Move over, Morse: female TV detectives are on the case now.” The Observer, Guardian News and Media, 5 Oct. 2014, www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2014/oct/05/female-tv-detectives-move-over-morse

Hale, Mike. “A Murder Haunts a Rugged Coast.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Aug. 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/08/07/arts/television/broadchurch-a-dark-drama-arrives-on-bbc-america.html

Alias Grace: Netflix’s Latest Addition

The story of Alias Grace is about an Irish woman who emigrates to Canada; By the time she tells her story of the events which have unfolded, she is imprisoned but has put the past behind her.

Grace Marks tells her story from the very beginning to end regaining her memory for Dr. Simon Jordan. As she tells her story, the viewers witness tragedy take place at each point in Grace’s life. Dr. Jordan makes it clear that he is there to assess Grace Marks on her memory not on his judgement.

netflix alias grace

Courtesy of The Atlantic

Grace goes on to tell the Dr. about the events that had an impact on her leading up the grisly murders which have institutionalized, and imprisoned her. In these vivid, raw flashbacks of Grace’s acknowledgement of the tragedy, confinement and betrayal in her life, the viewers must be in shock from the use of this trusting first person narrative.

 Viewers see how the situations Grace once faced early on in her life has affected her maturity, and well being. Each event playing a significant impact on the audience’s trust of Grace: From escaping her father and losing her mother, to escaping from her maid post in Toronto and losing her closest friend, to the events that took place at her post with Mr. McDermott. Grace informs viewers of the provisional time which once was society. With her stories, she includes universal truths about money, gender, and power. She would also casually voice her opinions through witty lines like: “I knew what he was up to; but it was not original.”

Courtesy of Variety

Alias Grace introduces a complicated story line without answering the bottom line question of Grace’s innocence, or guilt. It also introduces an overwhelming interest surrounding Dr. Jordan’s perception of Grace, and his suppressed interest in her. For its audience, it addresses many important issues surrounding women now, and back then. “‘Handmaid’s Tale’ looks forward into where we could end up with gender politics, Alias Grace’ looks back to where we came from” says, Actress Sarah Gadon for New York Daily News.

At the Tiff screenings, Attwood reportedly stated, “If I had known the truth, I probably wouldn’t have written a book. And if I had known the truth and told it to Sarah [Polley], she probably wouldn’t have made this show. The interesting thing is the way everybody projects their ideas onto Grace. The fact that she had various stories that she told to different audiences… well, that always affects the story that you tell — who the audience is. Does it not?” says, Cosmopolitan.

alias

Courtesy of The Daily Dot

Anti-Heroines; The New Trend

                These characters attract. They have these qualities that everyone desires. This package of character traits includes having courage, being wanted, and standing out. What more do you need? From Sookie Stackhouse to Cassie Blake to Clarke Griffin…audiences gain a better understanding of how an anti-heroine evolves. These women demonstrate how a character breaks out from the traditional role of being a beloved protagonist to establishing the line of what comprises an anti-heroine which is both possible, and popular today.

            To start off, I’d like to just say it. They are all blonde. Coincidence or no coincidence they all have serious problems with choosing from the love category. They occasionally take trips to a state of being unloved especially by their viewers. They are tied to a small community around them that constantly makes them the center of our attention. It all began in 2008 with the premiere of the show True Blood. We meet Sookie Stackhouse. Within a small town of Louisiana, Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress at a bar called Merlotte’s. She is known around town to have special abilities in which allow her to read into the minds of those around her. This creates a comical way to get much needed information out of other characters. Face it, this is a remarkable trait! At hindsight, she is assumed to be the only person who possesses such abilities. It makes her stand out more than any other character that we are introduced to later.

            Upon learning about Sookie, and her ability to read into other’s minds, she then meets Vampire Bill who soon becomes her dire love interest because of her bizarre attraction for him. Soon enough, there is that formation of the classic love triangle trope that viewers either really love, or hate. “…With live-action adaptations of teeny-bopper vamper books like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries making younger girls across the globe go into fits of fangirling, it was great to see adults getting their fair share of a little blood-sucking fun adapted from the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse series” says, Syfy Wire writer Afiya Augustine (3).

            This love triangle became more complex as the series unfolded leaving the series to focus on both new and existing characters. This in turn made it a perplex serial drama, thus somewhat iffy for viewers to follow. Many viewers even became tired of learning about Sookie Stackhouse when they found out that she was a fairy. Nevertheless, it seems quite evident that the series was still exploring her character three seasons in, ultimately making her the female lead within the scheme of everything. In response to the season 3 premiere, Augustine states, “While staying somewhat to the core of the Sookie-Eric relationship, the show took things to another level by introducing necromancing witches, controlling vampires, had Sookie gone for a year and presumed dead, Sam’s shape-shifting brother was sleeping with girlfriend Luna, and Bill become the King of Louisiana. Um, how now brown cow?” (6). As the plot thickened, Sookie’s importance became absurd.

            So how does Sookie evolve into an anti-heroine within True Blood? Aside from the fact that she invited a vampire into her home without really knowing him thus endangering the welfare of her family, and friends is suspect. However, that may just be southern hospitality. Well, let’s start off by saying that she pushes everyone closest to her away, yet those are the very people she needs within her life. Sookie and Tara present viewers with a close sister-like bond. However, as soon as Sookie starts spending time with Bill she pushes Tara away. Tara is disowned by her own mother, and has nowhere to stay. It becomes a problem for the town. Season two’s malicious villain Mary-Anne seeks out, manipulates and lures Tara into living a worry free luxurious life by her side. Tara begins to suspect that something isn’t right, and tells Sookie how she feels. Despite the distance, and the fights between the two of them, Sookie finally invites Tara to come live with her. By this point, it is far too late to rescue Tara from Mary-Anne’s control. Sookie further endangers the lives of both by mentioning her offer in front of Mary-Anne who later attacks Sookie in the woods.

sookie curtesy of Huffington Post 

Sookie continues to isolate herself away from other friends. Sam Merlotte reveals that he is a shape shifter. Ironically, she pushes him away. Sookie becomes brave enough to fearlessly suck the bullets out of Eric Northman’s skin unknowingly inviting him into her thoughts, and emotions. This further complicates her relationship with Bill. In the beginning of the series, Sookie drops everything and leaves with Bill to help Eric deal with vampire politics. She abandons Jason, her brother, who gets into all sorts of trouble. Jason Stackhouse gets framed for multiple murders, gets hooked on V, meets a crazy “fangbanger” named Amy Burley who coerces him into killing a vampire. He then gets in trouble with the law, and is recruited by a spokesperson for the church Leadership of the Sun. Gosh, where is Sookie when the people she loves need her? Oh, that’s right with Bill. Sookie seemingly becomes so infatuated with Bill, and his vampire world, that she is frequently willing to leave her entire life behind to explore what is enticing. Writer for Rolling Stone Scott Neumyer states, “It would be really great if True Blood pulled out of its nosedive at the last minute, and remembered what it did best in its first season: made us care about strong, fleshed out (if also bloodsucking) characters; delivered highly charged, sexed-up escapism; and centered on a cohesive storyline that remained firmly implanted in the rich downhome fright-funk of Bon Temps. Just give us a simple story about a girl, her vampy boyfriend, and the heat that the two generated on screen. Provide a satisfying resolution for Sookie, Bill, Eric, Tara and the rest of the core group we got to know originally. And as for everybody else? Let’em all burn” (4).

In True Blood’s introduction to Bill’s world, we come to know an ancient 2000-something-year-old vampire by the name of Godric. A vampire, Sookie felt strongly about. She witnessed him “meet the sun”, and cried. We saw the more caring, advocate side to Sookie. She later shows this side for Bill in the series finale. Writer for the Hollywood reporter, Austin Siegemund-Broka states, “Bill contracts a rapidly progressing case of Hep-V. He refuses the cure, which is in Sarah Newlin’s blood, and his readiness to die is incomprehensible and infuriating to Sookie”(1). After sharing their last kiss, Sookie stakes Bill right through the heart, deciding that she would like to keep her fairy light. This sacrifice really hit me.  If it wasn’t the nuisance of Eric Northman within Sookie, and Bill’s relationship that infuriated me, it was certainly the sacrifice that made me hate Bill Compton once again. This show ultimately reminded me of a similar nostalgic feeling I had for the love triangle within the series Buffy the vampire slayer.  Buffy’s relationship with Riley and Angel had a similar idea of sacrifice which Angel makes.

            If that doesn’t pull your heart strings maybe the next blonde will. The Secret Circle begins with rain pouring down, a deep-rooted secret, and a drive for the need of information not only by the teens but also their parents who experienced some strange accident 16 years ago. The series mainly focuses on the character Cassie Blake, and her development into a strong, powerful witch carrying the plight of choice between the use of dark and light magic. The missing mom trope I’ve noticed leaves Cassie abandoned and seemingly a damsel in distress. This whole idea sets the plot of events into motion. In the beginning of its first and only season, viewers can’t help but feel compelled to feel badly for Cassie after losing her last parent. Viewers begin to resonate with Cassie as she takes on a whole new school, and a whole new life living with her grandmother within Chance Harbor, Washington. When she finds out that she is a witch and that her family lineage is somehow intertwined with five other students, it makes it the all more intriguing. But when she finds out that she is different, and special by being able to practice magic outside of the circle that is needed for the others to practice magic. We begin to view her as more than that damsel in distress. However, we still like her because, we know more about her, and thus sympathize with her plight bringing us back to Buffy’s world. It’s not the fact that Cassie is both a female and somehow a special witch, but also the fact that we find out that she possesses both dark, and light energy that allows her to be free of any sort of strings. We can also relate with Cassie more this way because, she like us, struggle with making ethical decisions all the time. Though her ethical decisions are held under a huge microscope because she possesses such abilities, we are frequently reminded that she is a teen, and before uncovering the fact that she was a witch, all she ever knew herself to be was human. After deciding to join the circle, and later, deciding to use magic on her own, we see two sides to Cassie Blake.

One side to Cassie Blake shows a once-before-seen damsel in distress, caring, loyal, strong good witch. The other side shows a selfish, reckless evil witch. Where we draw the line in viewing Cassie Blake as an anti-heroine is when we see her pursuing a relationship with her father who was not only absent for 16 years of her life, but also someone who pretended to be dead and is known to be evil within the small-town community. Her worry is misplaced throughout the entire season, and she seems to be at odds with herself. In one way, she is worried about having a relationship with her father, in another way she wants nothing to do with him because, of his dark past. As she begins her search for him, she pushes those closest to her away — namely her love interest Adam Conant who worries the most, much like Sookie does to her best friend Tara, her love interest Sam Merlotte, and her brother Jason Stackhouse in HBO’s True Blood all for the sake of a relationship with someone who could be dangerous. This also seems like a recurring trope theme.

Think of Cassie, Adam, and Jake’s love triangle as the PG-rated version of True Blood’s R-rated love triangle between Sookie, Bill, and Eric. When Jake, and Cassie get close, Cassie learns more about her Balcoin lineage leading her to sneak off and explore her growing attraction to witch hunter Jake more and more. Attracted to the dangerous, bad guy, Cassie much like Buffy picks the enemy and much like Sookie senselessly trusts him. Aside from abandoning her circle in underhanded ways and learning about information that changes how she views herself. We begin to see Cassie act out in ways that draw an anti-heroine line. According to TV Tropes, “Although she has good intentions, she is highly capable of crossing the morally grey line from time to time. While Cassie wants to save, and protect people from danger, Cassie has shown that she seems to have a preference of going about achieving her goals and mission in sometimes underhanded ways” (2). Examples of Cassie deviating from the traditional heroine, are when: Cassie lets her bad temper overcome her, when she feels betrayed, gets distracted, and acts on impulse to find a solution.

cassie and adamCurtesy of Hollywood Reporter

Amid independently searching for her father, Cassie unearths her father’s medallion. She activates it unknowingly contacting her father and the spirits of witches he once stole power from. Cassie also acts on impulse when she assumes that Adam has told another member within the circle about her unearthing her family’s book (uniquely explains certain spells, and uses for magic). She almost kills him by simply giving him a look cutting off his passageways to breathe. When she travels through Jake’s adolescent memory (she witnesses the accident 16 years ago) to find out what occurred, she gets distracted and causes her presence to be known by a psychic who later betrays her and the circle. When she is betrayed by the psychic, she lets her bad temper get the best of her. She draws fire on the ground towards her almost setting her on fire. “Unlike her other fellow circle members Cassie is the one who is more likely to resort to physical violence of any kind and even kill in order to solve problems”(1). The most reckless thing Cassie does is let her father endanger her by trusting him.

At the same time, we see Cassie reacting with her good intentions using her heart, and balcoin lineage to her advantage. She doesn’t like to pursue Adam at first because, he is taken by Diana. Their lust for each other becomes too strong for Diana, and as a result she breaks it off with Adam. She does not hate Cassie for it. This may have influenced other dynamics on shows revolving around the conflict of a love triangle. Referring to the CW series Riverdale, TV tropes states that “Cassie is the Veronica to Diana’s Betty or Adam’s Archie. Later on, she is the Archie to Adam’s Betty and Jake’s Veronica” (3). Basically, she sticks to the girl code out of respect for Diana’s love for Adam. Cassie also sets witch hunters on fire to save the circle. Often, when Cassie doesn’t assume and act on impulse, she is usually right when it comes to catching up with evil forces such as demons. She informs her grandmother Jane, and her circle of friends to see about how to solve the conflict. Ending before True Blood, The Secret Circle encouraged empowered female roles for future series with strong female leads who must experience the plight of being good and bad. These series originating from the CW Network seem to be following in The Secret Circle’s footsteps: Reign, The 100, and Riverdale. This series may have also influenced the film release of Beautiful Creatures in creating audiences.

At last, our final blonde heroine’s name is Clarke Griffin. Writer Jennifer Stasak for Screen Rant states, “[a]s more and more of pop culture is beginning to embrace atypical heroines – ones who break molds and who serve larger, more integral purposes apart from just being pretty faces – Clarke Griffin is an example of a hero to model after.” Besides the cool visual effects, it’s woodsy Twilight feel, and it’s eerie, frightening theme song which prepares us for the future, The 100 may have come into our lives at the right time leading the path towards shows with strong female leads such as Handmaid’s Tale by focusing on a female and her role within the future of society. The 100 focuses on a community of humans that have been born on an Ark in space due to a nuclear apocalypse that has happened one hundred years prior. Now extreme laws exist which allow people to be killed for having more than one child, and be floated for minor crimes. What can be worse than living in a community that is running out of oxygen in space, and as a result sends down their adolescent prisoners to the ground (which may or may not be radioactive)? It’s all fun and games until it is not just a song sung by Imagine Dragons. As one of the prisoner’s (prisoner because of her father’s “crime”) of the sky box, she is sent down to the ground as one of 100 prisoners. For the majority of the first season, Clarke is a Hero mostly because of her knowledge, and courage. However, she deviates from this idea slightly like her predecessors above. She lets her individual ambition drive her. Within the first season Clarke blames her mother for her father’s death, and as a result she cuts off all communication she has with the ark. Another love triangle forms. She becomes attracted to an already taken Finn Collins. He is a protagonist for most the first season. However, later on within the season he is charged by the grounders for killing 18 of their villagers (warriors from the ground) and he is executed. Writer Selena Neumark for Pop Matters states, “[u]nlike the vast majority of love-triangles, which revolve around the inability of some boy to pick between a bitchy brunette and a sweet, misguided blonde while they duke it out for his favours, The 100 flips the script. Clarke doesn’t hate Raven and they manage to become unlikely friends.” I think that this has started a trend within plots containing love triangles. We see it play out in Riverdale too.

Before Clarke’s friends are taken by Mt. Weather (a center built for the possibility of a nuclear war), Clarke takes charge over the others and tries to create peace, and order. Perhaps the biggest event that shapes Clarke into the anti-heroine figure that she is currently is, is when she has to make a decision between saving the lives of her ‘sky people’ being held there against their will (for human trials) vs. hacking into Mt. Weather’s air filtration system killing Mt. Weather’s men, and children (who have not adapted to radiation levels on earth). She decides to do so to save her people. Ethical? Eh, I don’t really think so. Clarke also falls for Lexa, a leader for the grounders (those native to the ground) who betrayed her trust in taking down Mt. weather. Why do these girls fall for the bad guys / girls? I must say that Clarke can make hard decisions under pressure, and her intentions are mostly good when it comes to saving her own people. But as she makes these difficult, ethical decisions she becomes almost desensitized.

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Curtsey of TV Line 

However, Clarke makes up for her bad decisions when she gets to know Anya (a grounder) and gains trust and respect for saving her. Clarke takes the weight off her people when it comes to making decisions that will either rescue or protect them from tactics of war such as biological warfare, immunity serums and navigation maps. It does prove to be a hard burden to bare in trying to be the “good guy” by focusing on only her people. It gets so bad that eventually she decides to excommunicate herself from the sky people, and adapted a life closely resembling that of a grounder’s lifestyle. Viewers see a change within her perception of the world, and within her own ambition to change it. According to Screen Craft, “Though she does not always make the perfect decisions or even the right ones, Clarke’s heroism stems from self-sacrifice: she is willing to bear the burden of guilt for horrible things so that those she loves will not have to.” I believe that audiences are drawn to Clark because, she represents the common everyday leader who must make ethical decisions for the betterment of his/her people. It helps viewers see that decisions aren’t always easy to make, and provides the viewers with the plight and change of a hero who must.

Ultimately these women are all complexed whether they are a fairy, witch, or human leader in their community because, just like for viewers there’ll always be an aftermath to good, or bad decision making. We can make good and bad decisions but that doesn’t make us completely good or bad. It makes us susceptible to a cost.

 Bibliography

Augustine, Afiya. “Why I still mourn the terrible way ‘True Blood’ ended.” Syfy, SYFY WIRE, 29 Aug. 2017, www.syfy.com/syfywire/why-i-still-mourn-terrible-way-true-blood-ended

Neumark, Selena. “Why CW’s ‘The 100’ Is a Feminist Dream, Except for When It’s Not.” PopMatters, PopMatters, 10 Nov. 2017, www.popmatters.com/why-cws-the-100-is-a-feminist-dream-except-for-when-its-not-2495474225.html

Neumyer, Scott. “How ‘True Blood’ Lost Its Bite.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 19 June 2014, www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/how-true-blood-lost-its-bite-20140619

“Missing Mom.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MissingMom

“The Secret Circle / Characters.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Characters/TheSecretCircle

Siegemund-Broka, Austin. “’True Blood’ Finale Recap: How Every Character Ended the Series.” The Hollywood Reporter, 24 Aug. 2014, www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/true-blood-finale-recap-how-727516

Stasak, Jennifer. “12 Female TV Characters Redefining the Hero’s Journey.” Screen Rant, 2 Apr. 2016, screenrant.com/female-heroes-tv/

 

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Shonda Rhimes Brings us Down to Earth with series Grey’s Anatomy

If you watch Grey’s, and you have made it to season 14 then you know all too perfectly well that each episode thoroughly demonstrates the complexities of life through the use of patients and doctors. At the beginning and end of each episode, we are comforted with words of wisdom. However, if that does not wow you enough, it’s the single, important message we receive from each episode about ourselves, life, work, and others.

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It is next to painful to see these episodes unfold over the timeline in which they fall, as we learn to know patients with all sorts of cases, and the doctors we learn to love who mature into the people they are suppose to be. Shonda seemingly connects these cases to the doctors who create the overall theme, and are in some way tied to those very patients. As a basic human being, I cannot move forward with life without thinking back to these episodes for many reasons. Grey’s Anatomy mirrors real life in an almost blunt way. We worry about the simple, ordinary, casual present. As human beings I believe we very little often think about tomorrow, the future. One of the reasons why I personally think this is true is because, we do not want to come to terms with that. The very thought that our lives started a minute ago and will eventually end is brutal. Grey’s Anatomy reminds us that life is temporary no matter if we ignore or accept it.

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One of the very aspects I like about this show is that we see so many minor and major flaws in each of the characters. This aspect alone makes the show so relatable. Meredith and her past and her uncertain journey towards Alzheimers is frightening. Derek and Amelia Shepard, whom both lost their father. The secrets buried between Richard Webber and Ellis Grey created much confusion and havoc for not only them but others… and many other characters that exist in the world of Grey’s face some sort of conflict.

On that note, Grey’s Anatomy is going into its 14th season, and after 12 years of seeing the developments of plots and characters form, I believe that Grey’s Anatomy mirrors mortal struggles in reminding us that time always wins whether we like it or not. The moments we take for granted have meaning. We make mistakes along the way, and then later wish we had taken the time to make those better choices.

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Big Little Lies review

Warning: may contain spoilers!

From the moment the series begins they foreshadow the ending of the limited series by telling us that the fundraiser for the local elementary school in Monterey, CA has gone horribly wrong — that someone is dead. The series starts out as a thriller, with comedic humor. We see unique, isolating, dark moments surrounding almost every main character that is introduced to us. The compulsive, perfectionist wife Madeline Mackenzie, the controlled, and abused wife Celeste, and the fragile, victimized wife Jane Chapman. These female characters produce compelling performances that keep audiences wondering who, and most importantly why?

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Each Sunday, the limited series delivered these compelling performances in the same way that pieces make up a puzzle. The audience is constantly in this position where they receive limited, signigifcant information that could otherwise be used to target just about anyone as suspect to committing a murder at one point or another. Even if some of their transgressions seem temporary, or come across as insignificant: the audience is still trying piece together each mom’s character in conjunction to their overall part within the mix of things happening within various plot points.

What made this story line very interesting is that it showed issues that happen everywhere: the location played a huge part in demonstrating this. These issues were, domestic violence, mid-life crises, mental health, abuse, rape, and cheating. These issues are what makes the show universal and applicable to most adult viewers. The series seems to be more geared towards women. However, that is not to say that men would not enjoy the series because, of the mystery behind the thriller driven story line.

A distinctive aspect about this series is that the characters are fully developed over time perfectly. There are almost no interruptions to that. The characters stay in character; it works for it’s complexed themes, yet overly simplistic story line. Another distinctive aspect about Big little lies, is how the shot angles portray each character in an unusual, realistic way. Shots are usually done up close and over the shoulder. There are also many different, creative medium, and close up shots of the moms and their children: these shots create intimacy and intensity.

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The filming location was an excellent touch to giving the series a visually, compelling look: it also helped contribute to answering a major background question. Why these women? Culturally speaking, the series does not demonstrate a lot of cultural diversity. However, you could arguably say, it answers the question; why these women? The series also has a very, unique soundtrack; its one memorable detail that really influences the background we see.

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The series has the ability to pull audiences in all sorts of directions. The series also has the ability to seem so simple: that the audience member says to themselves; it has to be who I think it is. I think that from the start the series was meant to be what it is; a limited series. It is not like a traditional series that has many, sophisticated plots. It was always meant to be generally complicated yet, overwhelmingly simple: who and why?

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The ending of this series was somewhat of a surprise to me; however, at the same time I was pretty convinced that one situation was continually bad compared to all of the rest. The other situations became possibilities, but one particular situation continued to fester which made the series somewhat predictable. However, the outcome of that predictability became unpredictable. Two seperate situations of abuse became linked to the abuser; this not only answered who, but also why.

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