Comfort Movies: The Muppets

Promotional image of the Muppets. Copyright goes to the Jim Henson Company.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I absolutely refuse to put this under the Disney category because Jim Henson’s work should be recognized as his own, but there are several Muppet movies that are very comforting to me. You have ‘Muppets in Space’, ‘Muppet Treasure Island, ‘The Muppet Movie, ‘Muppets Take Manhattan’ among many other Muppet movies that I love and grew up with. But mostly I grew up with the massive influence of Jim Henson in my life. From anything involving the Muppets, to ‘Sesame Street’ when I was little, to ‘Labyrinth’ which is one of my favorite movies, to the newer ‘Dark Crystal’ series that I adore. (Let’s be honest, what child was not absolutely terrified at the original ‘Dark Crystal’?) More recently, Disney+ finally released the original ‘Muppet Show’ and it’s been such a source of happiness for me since it came out on Friday. In honor of this, I want to talk about the actual Muppets. And especially the ones that I feel are often overlooked.

Kermit:

You really can’t talk about the Muppets without talking about Kermit. The disgruntled host of the Muppets that’s just a humble frog stuck in several stressful situations. I specifically want to mention him because if you have ever watched the original Muppet Show, you’ll know he was originally the main Muppet voiced by none other than Jim Henson. Kermit has never been as warm since Jim Henson was Kermit and that’s probably because he put so much love into this creation. Of course, I have to pay homage to Kermit because of this and because he’s so iconic. Henson was also Rowlf, Waldorf, The Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth and Ernie in Sesame Street.

Miss Piggy:

She originally started as one of the nurses on the Muppet Show’s ‘Veterinarian’s Hospital’, specifically questioning Rowlf and his ability to be a Doctor. It wasn’t until a couple episodes in, that Miss Piggy began to show feelings towards Kermit and also started kicking people around. Basically becoming the Piggy that we all know and love. She had a cat fight with a guest in the first episode but she didn’t start actually yelling “hiya” and doing martial arts in that one. Piggy has, for the most part, been brought to life by the infamous Frank Oz. Frank Oz is also Fozzie, Animal, and Sam Eagle in the original Muppet Show. He’s also known for playing Grover, Cookie Monster, and Bert on Sesame Street.

Gonzo:

Gonzo began as a very scraggly and overall creepy character without much personality. He only later became the loveable character that we all know and love today, completely because of the influence of his puppeteer. He’s such a cute character that definitely did not make me cry when he sang “I’m Going to go Back There Someday” (lies). Gonzo is played by Dave Goelz who is also Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot, and the voice of Figment (if you’ve been to Epcot in Disney World).

Rowlf:

Rowlf is one of the main characters of the original Muppet Show and has since fallen out of popularity for some reason. I have no idea why, as he is still one of my absolute favorite Muppets. Rowlf is the main doctor in ‘Veterinarian’s Hospital’ and he has his own segment in the original show where he plays piano and sings songs full of puns and bad jokes. Such as lamenting that he’s never harmed an onion so why should they make him cry. He is one of the Muppets with the most heart and bad jokes and I have no idea why he is so overlooked. As I mentioned before, he was originally played by Henson himself.

Sweetums:

This is another character that has completely fallen in popularity, maybe because he mysteriously did not have as much popularity as the other Muppets in the first place. I will never understand this as Sweetums is one of my favorites and a favorite in my house in general. He’s sweet and giant and absolutely huggable. Though I can see that some children may have been frightened by him due to his size. Because he walked and was closer to the size of the guests, there is barely an episode of the original Muppet Show where Sweetums doesn’t have an interaction with the guest. Sweetums was played by Richard Hunt who was also Scooter, Beaker, Janice, and he also was the back half of Snuffleupagus hilariously in Sesame Street.

Statler and Waldorf:

While Fozzie is loveable, his comedy has only ever been great because of this duo’s reaction to his bad jokes. There’s even an episode of the original Muppet Show that acknowledges that Statler and Waldorf are the best parts of Fozzie’s comedy act. They are also an excellent example of the teamwork between Jim Henson and Frank Oz who played Statler and Waldorf respectively. Henson was Waldorf, of course. There is no Muppet Show without these old men sitting in the rafters watching it along with the audience.

Sam Eagle:

Sam Eagle is by far the most straight laced of the muppets and that’s what makes him even more hilarious. He is ridiculously serious and is always judging the other muppets for one reason or another. But in the end he’s just as ridiculous for wanting to have things like a “spectacular” three hour salute to America.

The Electric Mayhem:

This band consists of Dr. Teeth, Janice, Zoot, Floyd, and, of course, Animal. Though each member is scattered throughout various musical acts at the beginning of the Muppet Show, they later become a very memorable rock band. ‘Can You Picture That?’ is one of their amazingly adorable songs that just gets stuck in your head and each of the band members have their own distinct personalities. Dr. Teeth is both very chill and crazy, Floyd is the most laid back and takes care of Animal, Janice is a hippie fer sure, and Zoot is just completely out of it. Of course, Animal is the most well known and loved for his absolute insanity and general accidental cuteness. They are all very loveable.

And those are just a few of the Muppets that I have loved since the beginning of the Muppet Show; but there are so many I didn’t include. For example; Fozzie, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, Rizzo the rat, Gonzo’s wife Camilla, and so many more. I love them all, so I really did have to shorten the list down. But if you aren’t as familiar with Muppets, or even if you are, I highly recommend you watch the original Muppet show on Disney +. I will warn you that it is an old show and isn’t always completely appropriate, but for the most part it is a heartwarming show that will give you just the laughs and happiness watching it that we all need right now. So, go watch it and give Kermit your reviews! Especially because Disney has been considering getting rid of all of their Muppet Show stuff in the parks, which I really don’t want them to do. (And they have already done this in Disneyland pointlessly.)

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Marvel: ‘Wandavision’ Episode 7 Review

Screenshot of Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in episode 7 of ‘Wandavision’. Copyright goes to Marvel Studios and Disney.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’m back to talk about another episode of ‘WandaVisiion’! This episode had a lot of reveals, raised even more questions, and made me a bit skeptical about where the story is going. I’m not exactly sure what the reveals in this episode are implying, but I very much hope that the show sticks with it’s character development so far. But that’s enough of me being vague. Here’s your SPOILER WARNING before I start talking about things in detail. Let’s get into it!

What I Liked:

Wanda: Wanda always gets her spot in this list. This episode Wanda was already losing a bit of her control. Everything inside the Hex, especially items close to Wanda, were constantly switching between different eras. She was, obviously, very worried about the situation. Although it didn’t majorly inform her characterization in this episode, she was also extremely mad at Vision. So angry that she refused to let him come home despite the extremes she went to to save him. Ultimately Wanda spent most of the episode in a cozy outfit attempting to relax and sort out her feelings. And who can blame her? The only moments she broke free from this were her fight with Monica, which resulted in nothing more than Wanda getting angry, and Wanda’s discovery of Agnes’ true personality. We’ll have to wait for the next episode to see what heroic or not-so-heroic things Wanda decides to do with her new information.

Vision and Darcy: I kind of have to pair these two up in this post because they were together for most of the episode. And, although I couldn’t have imagined putting these two together before, I found this duo to be one of the best parts of the episode. Darcy started out the episode as an escape artist that was part of the circus Wanda created, although she lost none of her sarcasm in the process. Vision very quickly disconnected her from Wanda’s effects and found Darcy eager to help him out. The two ended up stealing a van from the circus, speculating about what exactly was happening to Vision, and being stopped by several road blockages on their trip together. These two were hilarious together. Both were equally mischievous and still adorably kind to one another. Where Darcy was blunt, Vision was polite, and it resulted in some really fun dialogue. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this pair up.

Monica: Monica was my other favorite part of the episode. Darcy has consistently been bringing up that Monica has been extremely effected by her time in the Hex. Which made me suspicious that the Hex rewriting Monica’s cells meant her superpowers were coming up soon. And I was right! In this episode Monica attempted to use a heavy-duty SWORD van to get through the Hex. But the van didn’t make it through and Monica barely escaped it before it was destroyed. Unsatisfied with the result, Monica decided to walk through the Hex barrier herself. Which resulted in one of the most badass hero transformations I’ve seen in Marvel. By the time she was on the other side of the Hex, her eyes were glowing blue and she was displaying what looked like super strength. Monica decided to immediately confront Wanda, attempting to appeal to Wanda with her own experiences losing her mother. But Wanda, as usual, didn’t want to hear what Monica had to say. When Wanda tried to throw Monica around, however, Monica ended up relatively unharmed because of her powers. With the help of Agnes, Wanda retreated. But Monica is still attempting to get through to Wanda, and it’s possible Pietro could be helping her in the next episode.

What I Have Questions About:

Agatha Harkness: We now know that Agnes is Agatha Harkness. Which everyone saw coming, but it was still a fun reveal. We got to see what Agatha’s been doing behind the scenes, the realm that appears to have given her the ability to enter Wanda’s Hex, and her true villainy. But is she really our main villain? Agatha Harkness isn’t exactly a villain in the comics. She isn’t a hero, but she isn’t a villain either. And can we really assume that Wanda isn’t responsible for everything that’s happened so far? This is where I become skeptical of this reveal. If we’re to believe the montage that came with the Agatha Harkness reveal, we’re to assume that Agatha was the one that caused most of the problems we’ve seen in this series, rather than Wanda. And, strangely enough, I’m not sure I’m exactly on board with this idea. Wanda’s entire character arc has been built around the fact that she’s doing awful things but for a tragically understandable reason. The audience takes the side of Monica. We don’t agree with what she’s doing, but we still want what’s best for her. If Agatha Harkness is truly responsible for EVERYTHING then a lot of that character development goes down the drain. I don’t mind Agatha being behind Pietro’s presence and the like. But I don’t want her to be the scape goat for everything Wanda has done.

Pietro: Pietro was gone for most of this episode. So where was he? Tommy and Billy asked Wanda where he went after Wanda became angry with him, but they didn’t receive much of an answer. He showed up next to Monica at the very end of the episode, but what are his true intentions? We know now that Agatha was responsible for bringing Pietro to Westview. But is he working for her? Is he being controlled by her? Or is he a normal guy? We also still don’t know who he is. He could be Pietro with a new face, although that seems less likely as the episodes go on. It seems more likely that Agatha gave him Pietro’s memories. So is he a random guy? Or is he Fox’s Quicksilver, Peter?

Billy and Tommy: It’s already been established that these two have powers. Tommy has been using superspeed whenever he gets the chance and Billy can sense when anything goes wrong. But are we going to get Wiccan and Speed? Also, much like the comics, it seems like Billy and Tommy disappear whenever Wanda isn’t there. In the comics, this is because their existence hinges on Wanda, their creator, and also Mephisto, who ends up absorbing both the twins and eliminating their existence. This is also why Wiccan and Speed have so many different backgrounds in the comics. Because, initially, they just end up dead. There hasn’t been any sign of Mephisto in the MCU so far, but could these two end up disappearing by the end of all this? Or are we looking at two Young Avengers for upcoming MCU projects? I really hope we get these two as full characters because Wiccan is a LGBTQ+ icon in the comics. The community is very much in need of representation in the MCU at the moment.

Why did Wanda steal Vision from SWORD?: We finally have confirmation that SWORD was attempting to turn Vision into a weapon. Exactly what Vision specifically said he didn’t want to happen after his death. So did Wanda break him out of SWORD because she knew what SWORD was doing to him? Or did she do so without knowing SWORD’s intentions?

How is Vision alive?: This is the biggest question that everyone seems to be confused about. Even Wanda doesn’t know how Vision is currently alive. Darcy discussed the issue with Vision, but even she seems confused. So what is keeping Vision alive?

We only have two episodes left and a lot of questions still need to be answered. I’m excited to see what will happen, but I’m worried as well. Every time I’m impressed by the writing in this show, a new idea is introduced that could possibly undermine it all. So far the series has been expertly subverting my expectations whenever I become skeptical. I sincerely hope it does so again. I was one of the most skeptical about turning Wanda into a villain going into this series. But they’ve done it so well that I’ve been praising Wanda’s characterization every episode. I don’t want them to retcon all of this amazing writing.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Books: Peter Pan is Misunderstood

Screenshot from Disney’s ‘Peter Pan’. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I’ve done a post on the best adaptations of Peter Pan before, which was very fun because I absolutely love Peter Pan; but I don’t think I was able to say everything I wanted to about the character of Peter himself. (I’ve also been thinking about Peter Pan more because of ATEEZ most recently leaning into the lost boys theming.) Peter Pan is a character that I feel is highly misunderstood by most, and really not in the way you would think. When most people think of Peter Pan they think of escaping with a heroic figure to a land where dreams come true and you never grow up. I’ve barely touched on this before, but Peter Pan is not really a hero. He’s an amazing character and a comfort to me, but I wouldn’t exactly describe him as a hero. At least, not for most of whatever book or movie he’s in. I’m not creating this post to kill your dreams about Peter Pan, but there are things we should acknowledge about him.

The Stories:

I find that a lot of people take the beginning of Peter Pan and twist it so that Peter, in an act of selflessness, sees that Wendy wants to escape and decides to take her with him to Neverland. Some people even say that Peter had fallen in love with Wendy. None of these really seem to be the case though. When Wendy tells Peter that in some versions she’s going to be moved from the nursery, Peter is definitely appalled and doesn’t want her to grow up. But I don’t think this is as much concern for Wendy as it is his regular disgust for growing up. Peter wants to take Wendy to Neverland because of the stories. Peter Pan sits at the window and listens to her stories and, essentially, falls in love with the stories she tells. In some versions her stories are actually about him. He’s definitely not a humble kid. This is kind of proven when John and Michael also want to go to Neverland and Peter initially doesn’t want to take them as well. He only takes them when Wendy insists, and at various times forgets that they’re even there. Peter does not have a good memory, especially when it comes to the things that he doesn’t care so much about.

Wendy, Tinkerbell, and Tiger Lily:

There are many versions of the story where all three female characters that show up have a crush on Peter. In the 2003 movie Tiger Lily has a crush on John instead, which was something that shocked me because I had never seen that before. But there’s even a book called ‘Tiger Lily’ by Jodi Lynn Anderson that focuses on her character and her love for Peter. The book also dives a bit more into why Peter might not be the best person to have a crush on. With Tinkerbell it is implied that she has always loved Peter. Something that doesn’t quite make sense to me because in the book and in several movies, fairies are described as only being capable of feeling one emotion at a time. If this were true, then Tink cannot always love Peter. Whenever she feels jealousy towards Wendy she wouldn’t love Peter anymore. But I digress. Anyways, Peter never does anything to bring on their advances, he’s generally ignorant of it, but he also never does anything to dissuade them. They give him more attention because they’re all in love with him, and Peter is generally happy as long as someone is giving him attention. His relationship with each of these characters is mostly as deep as he wants it to be. Which is, often, not all that deep.

The Heroics:

None of this is to say that Peter Pan is completely not a hero. Because that isn’t true either. Though it really depends on the situation whether or not he’s being heroic for his sake or someone else’s. I would argue that he initially views the rescue of Tiger Lily at Skull Rock as nothing more than a game. He spends much of his time making fun of Hook and, in the Disney version, even forgets to save Tiger Lily. Wendy has to remind him to go back into Skull Rock to do what they were essentially there to do, and Tiger Lily is very annoyed and almost drowned by the time he gets to her. In other versions of this scene, Peter almost dies instead. Peter immediately turns to look at this as a game by saying that “to die would be an awfully big adventure”. But Peter eventually sees the value of life and learns not to throw his life and the lives of others around so carelessly. He amends his statement to the very powerful; “to live would be an awfully big adventure”. A note that gives hope to anyone who reads or hears it. In fact, the movie ‘Hook’ closes out with this line. And I think this is also evidence of Peter growing as well. Peter realizes that he doesn’t want himself or his friends to die and faces Hook head on for the sake of his friends by the end of the story. He is incredibly selfish, but he does learn a bit more about what it means to be a hero throughout each adaptation.

Growing Up:

I definitely relate to Peter Pan as many do. Nobody really wants to grow up. And even at the end of each adaptation, Peter stays in Neverland. Even though in many cases he stays without the lost boys, as the lost boys are convinced by Wendy to grow up. In a way this is because of his fear, but in a way Peter also knows that there will be more lost boys to take care of. Peter Pan is almost an exact halfway between hero and villain. He is both at different times. He is both selfish and kind. I mean, he tells Wendy at the beginning of the story that there are only lost boys because girls are too intelligent to fall out of their prams. Nice, right? Peter will always be a comforting presence that represents escapism. But we shouldn’t talk about the character like he’s not flawed.

If you want a more concise view of the Peter Pan character I would highly recommend checking out Andrew Ducote’s video on Peter Pan on the Thingamavlogs channel, where he probably sums this up better than I do. He is more or less an actor who used to be “friends” with Peter Pan at Disneyland park and married his wife, Hali, who used to be “friends” with Wendy and Alice. He has such an understanding and love for that character that it’s infectious. But one of the things that makes Peter so great is that he’s flawed. It makes him a better written and more dynamic character. It makes him more interesting and even more loveable. But, seriously, think twice before you fall in love with Peter. Seriously.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Twins in Media (Round 2): Twitches vs. Liv and Maddie

Screenshot of Tia and Tamera Mowry in ‘Twitches’. Copyright goes to Disney.

Hey! Hallie here!

This week in Twins in Media we’re looking into the two Disney Channel twins that made it past our first round. Liv and Maddie are a more recent interpretation of twins that have some surprisingly realistic pieces of their relationship. However, they still suffer from many damning tropes. And Twitches, surprisingly, hits a lot of the same beats. They also have endearing pieces of their relationship that twins can relate to. But they also have many tropes that will most definitely pull them down in this battle. These two have some surprising similarities and I have no idea who’s going to win this one, so lets just get started!

Audience Perspective:

Twitches: Camryn and Alex are pretty well-rounded characters. They spend a lot of the plot together, but they have separate storylines that branch off on occasion. These storylines include an entire cast of side characters for each twin, which helps show off their different relationships with the people around them. Camryn has a close friend she shops with and has a very close relationship with her parents. Alex’s single mother passed away right before the events of the movie, but she has an almost sisterly bond with her childhood best friend. Unfortunately, a lot of this is the result of the Separated at Birth trope. These two do have a good connecting storyline, though. They both play very sperate roles in the legacy they face. Camryn represents the sun and drew many of the scenes the girls encounter throughout their journey as a child. Alex represents the moon and wrote most of their story without realizing she was one of the characters she was envisioning. Camryn is excited about the idea of having magical powers while Alex is skeptical. A lot of this slips into the Opposites trope, which is never realistic. But, at the very least, the movies spends as much time as possible trying to make sure these characters have separate personalities. Regardless of the tropes, this is important for any twin characters.

Liv and Maddie: These characters get a bit more time to explore their separate personalities because they have an entire television series dedicated to their character development. They have separate friends, separate relationship drama, and yet, once again, often fall into the Opposites trope. Liv and Maddie don’t suffer from the Separated at Birth trope, fortunately. They do, however, have a storyline where Liv moved away when she was quite young, which doesn’t create the most realistic dynamic between the two. The Opposites trope is played up a lot in reference to the very different conditions Liv and Maddie have been living in in the recent years. Liv has been living as a superstar while Maddie has been living a normal life and putting her focus on basketball. Once again, this does benefit the characters by highlighting to the audience that Liv and Maddie are different people. But it isn’t a realistic way of depicting twins, and often perpetuates the idea that twins must have drastic differences in order to be perceived as separate people. The one benefit here is that their relationship is really healthy. When their storylines do converge they’re allowed to fight, disagree, share common interests, and act as best friends. This is more than can be said of their competitors, who don’t have the luxury of being familiar enough with one another to act this way.

Winner: Liv and Maddie win this by a very small margin. Both sets of twins have well developed personalities and equally focused on stories, so it isn’t much of an issue of the characters needing to be developed separately. The biggest issue with both sets of twins is that the writers made each sister so insanely different from each other that it becomes unrealistic. Liv and Maddie win because they get a bit more time for their personalities to be explored, and because the friendship between the sisters reflects a real sisterly relationship a bit better.

Twin Perspective:

Twitches: I already started the trope talk above because the major tropes they suffer from are really ingrained into their characters. First is the Separated at Birth trope, which ensures that the girls spend more of the movie trying to get to know one another rather than acting as actual siblings. And, as usual, the Separated at Birth trope runs right into the Opposites trope. They were raised in opposite environments doing opposite things. Because of that their personalities are drastically different, and their powers, the moon and the sun, match their different personalities. This, once again, perpetuates the idea that twins either have to be the same person or complete opposites to be recognized as twins. Their powers are another major problem. Their powers are presented as two halves of the same whole, implying that Camryn and Alex can’t be complete without one another. I assure you, twins are complete individuals without their sibling. The fact that the movie strips the characters of their individuality while also portraying them as entirely different is quite a feat. What Camryn and Alex do get right, however, is the casting of actual twins. As a twin, I can absolutely tell the difference between two twin actors playing twin roles, and one actor attempting to pull of twin characters. Twins always have physical differences, even if those differences are small. They also have different acting styles, which makes watching twin actors more fascinating. Camryn and Alex are more compelling as twins because they have separate actors who happen to be twins.

Liv and Maddie: These two were affected by the Opposites trope from the very beginning. They were advertised as the “tomboy” and “girly-girl” in every poster and commercial. And the show doesn’t do much to fight back against this common trope. While Liv and Maddie don’t suffer from many of the things twins written with the Separated at Birth trope suffer from, the show does use a similar story device to drive an even bigger gap between the two girls’ differences. The superstar vs. the normal girl is constantly brought up throughout the show to try to make the two look even more like opposites. However, they don’t have to spend most of the series getting to know one another. They spend most of the series acting like sisters. Not only that, but the quote “Sisters by chance, friends by choice”, is a very realistic way of portraying twins. The quote implies that they have found similarities despite their differences, and even despite the ties they’re expected to have because they’re twins, that make them want to spend time with one another. All that said, one of the biggest issues with Liv and Maddie is that they’re portrayed by the same actress. And I wouldn’t even say they’re portrayed by the same actress well. Dove Cameron acts very much the same as both characters, leaving a change in vocal pitch and costuming to do all the work. Take her acting for emotional scenes, for example. There is never a difference between how Liv or Maddie respond to bad news. You will always find the same exhale turns into the same crying. You will never find a different habit of Liv’s that Maddie doesn’t have, or vice versa. These characters are some of the biggest proof that one actor should not be playing two twin characters.

Winner: Liv and Maddie. While the casting of one actress definitely holds these characters back, the tropes they suffer from are much less harmful. They’re allowed to be themselves without the narrative suggesting they’re incomplete without each other.

Winner: I have to give this to Liv and Maddie. I can gripe about the acting in the show all I want. And I will, because it’s frustrating that so many pieces of media think they can get away with using the same person to portray twins. All without having to acknowledge the stereotype of “twins are the same person” that always comes along with that. However, Liv and Maddie do make an effort to portray actual twins with a healthy sibling relationship. They are opposites, but they still have similarities. They have many of the same friends but have different relationships with those friends. They like many of the same things and disagree about many other things. And the show emphasizes their friendship over everything else. Twitches uses it’s twin characters to explore twin magical abilities, and their sibling relationship isn’t realistic, or even relatable considering they spend most of the movie not knowing who the other one is. Liv and Maddie put more effort into creating their twin characters, and it shows.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Theatre: ‘Kinky Boots’ Needs More Recognition

Promotional image of Todrick Hall as Lola surrounded by the Angels in Broadway’s ‘Kinky Boots’ created by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein.

Hi! It’s Annie!

For the most part, ‘Kinky Boots’ is a popular Broadway show. It’s well known to the point that people would recognize the name. But the content of the show itself isn’t generally known and, for some reason, the popularity of the show seems to have faded over time. The peak of it’s popularity came when Brendon Urie, the front-man of ‘Panic! at the Disco’ was cast for a limited time as one of the two leads, Charlie. But the occasional celebrity castings isn’t what really made this musical so special. ‘Kinky Boots’ is a revelation in both music and plot. It tackles the issue of acceptance and boasts songs created by the eighties icon Cyndi Lauper to push forward it’s plot. I would argue that this is one of the most influential musicals of all time. So come and take my hand and welcome to the land of Lola.

Kinky Boots (the movie):

The musical of Kinky Boots is based off of the movie of the same name, which was actually based off of true events. When an owner of a family-owned shoe company faced closure for producing pretty generic and expensive men’s shoes, he saved his business by going into a more niche shoe market. Creating shoes that were traditionally worn by women that would be comfortable for men as well. This, of course, included booted heels. Though the original film did feature a similar heartwarming message and a few big names, the film didn’t really do well at the box office. Fortunately, the creators of the Broadway musical saw the heart in it and saw a way to make it better. Of course, it’s still fun to watch Chiwetel Ejiofor deliver a shouted monologue about the significance of the color red before his career really took off.

Cyndi Lauper:

This was Cyndi Lauper’s first time writing for a musical, and it doesn’t show at all. Try watching the musical and then getting ‘Land of Lola’ out of your head. You can’t. Though she definitely knocked it out of the park with her more playful numbers for the show, both she and Harvey Fierstein, a drag queen himself, believed that the key to this show was Charlie and Lola relating to each other over their rocky relationships with their fathers. Lauper said that these were the songs that she created to have the most heart in them. This is where the musical differs the most from the original movie. While the original story focused mostly on saving the factory, the music Lauper wrote and the story Fierstein created was much more character driven. Lauper ended up winning at the Tony’s for best score and became the first woman to win the award without a male writing partner (Anais Mitchell is the second). Though the show actually won six Tonys, it’s main competition was ‘Matilda’ which did not do overly well with critics. ‘Kinky Boots’ was the “obvious” choice, which for some reason means that many people don’t think it would stand up against some of the shows that won “harder earned” awards.

The Characters and Casting:

The show focuses on Charlie, a man who takes over his father’s shoe company after his father suddenly dies, and Lola, a drag queen who gives Charlie the idea of the shoes and makes the idea work in every possible way. The standout for most people when they see this show is Lola. Lola comes off as confident, bright, and flashy but also suffers from just as much self image issues as Charlie. Lola’s father never approved, and this makes Lola both relatable and unbelievably eye-catching. It’s difficult for your eye to be drawn to any other character while on stage because of the character’s warmth. And I think it’s incredibly important that this integral role to the plot is generally played by a black gay man. With the media being so whitewashed now, it’s important to put the spotlight on people who we needlessly cast aside before. My favorite casting for the role of Lola, as you could probably tell, is Todrick Hall. If you haven’t checked out his work, he is a talented and hilarious musician who has worked tirelessly to make drag queens accepted by society. Lola in the musical requests of someone that they accept someone else for who they are, and Todrick Hall embodies this as a person and then some. Also, his rendition of ‘Land of Lola’ is iconic and intimidatingly perfect.

The Message:

There is no musical about acceptance as fun as this one. Not only does the message hit you in a heartwarming way, but the musical doesn’t end sadly. We need to stop killing off so many gay men in musicals. A happy ending is something that not all people need or want in a musical, but has always been something that I appreciate. But the message isn’t just stuck on one character. The musical features two stories of people who were not accepted by their families as well as others who struggle in life based off of assumptions others have made about them. This story has always had the potential to be about more than the factory and this musical accomplishes that deeper message while also having this incredible sense of warmth. Like I said, having a happy ending isn’t important but it’s something that makes the musical very watchable at depressing times such as what we’re living through. It also makes quite a few really important points about masculinity and femininity such as in the song “What a Woman Wants”. When Lola asks the women in the factory what they would want in a man they say things like affection, sensitivity, and compassion. Traits that Lola points out are traditionally feminine traits. This is used to combat a man saying that women want things like muscles and masculinity. It’s a fun musical but it is not without things to think about.

‘Kinky Boots’ is everything that you might want in a musical. It is warmth, it is fun, and it is used to teach important lessons. The musical also contributed significantly to the diversity we are just beginning to see become more widespread in the theatre community. It wasn’t just ‘Hamilton’ that contributed to that, though that musical’s contributions should not be diminished either. ‘Kinky Boots’ often gets overlooked for musicals people believe to be more profound, but it is one of the best and most important musicals in recent Broadway history. We really need to stop overlooking it for other musicals and see it for the brilliance that it is.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: Happy Birthday Jung Hoseok!

Concept photo of J-Hope (Jung Hoseok) from the “BE” album. Copyright goes to Big Hit Entertainment and BTS.

Hey! Hallie here!

Jung Hoseok, or J-Hope, is turning a year older on February 18th! However, considering South Korea is quite a bit ahead of my time zone, that means he will be celebrating his birthday tomorrow. In the interest of getting this post out in time for this marvelous man’s birthday, I’m going to go ahead and say an early happy birthday to my bias! Hoseok will be turning 27, or 28 in Korea. Which is absolutely insane considering he was 19 years old when BTS debuted. Since BTS’s debut he’s released several amazing solo songs and an entire mixtape of his own. His songs are considered some of the best in the entire K-Pop industry, and it isn’t hard to see why. Between singing about his desire to make others happy, to confessing the struggles he faces as a figure meant to represent only positive thinking, Hoseok makes music that is easy to love and relate to. So for his birthday, I’ll be going through all of his released solo music to look at the powerful messages and fun songs he’s gifted to us over the years. Let’s get into this!

“1 Verse”:

This was J-Hope’s first solo release. It’s rap heavy and shows off his major skills, especially with flow. This track is directly addressing his haters. At the time BTS’s rappers were, and sometimes still are, attacked for “Idol” rapping. Many disregarded the praise BTS’s rap line were receiving because BTS is considered an Idol group, and therefore attempted to criticize the rap line for being sub-par compared to “real” rappers. The entire rap line has responded to these comments with diss tracks of their own, but this one is the one J-Hope released. This track directly challenges his haters by showing off just how powerful J-Hope’s rapping is. It criticizes them for only looking at him on the surface and shows them not only that they underestimate him, but that they aren’t even on his level. J-Hope mainly uses the track to tell his naysayers that their hate doesn’t effect him at all and that he’ll continue getting the praise and recognition he deserves. It insults the negative commenters and tells them that they aren’t worth his time all at once, and it’s incredibly satisfying to listen to.

“Intro: Boy Meets Evil”

This song was the introduction to the “Wings” album and it showed off just how dark Hoseok could go. In it, Hoseok talks about how his ambitions and success have made him greedy for more and are consuming his life. He talks about how he can’t escape his fame now that he has it, and while it’s terrifying, it’s also enticing. The entire song balances a bleak look at his fame with the sweetness he also sees in it. It’s an admirably blunt look at his career. It also showcases his amazing singing voice with some intensely captivating rapping. This is one of those songs that you NEED to look up the music video for. Hoseok choreographed a dance piece that is so insanely complicated and badass, you can’t help but admire his talent.

“MAMA”

“MAMA” was a song written to thank Hoseok’s mother for being a major influence on him. It details what his life was like growing up with his mother and how much she supported his dreams. The lyrics talk about how she had to work hard to financially support him. Hoseok tops it all off by telling his mother how grateful he is for her support and how he feels he is finally able to support her back and make her proud. It’s a sweet song that focuses on Hoesok’s strong singing voice more than many of his other songs. He also admitted that it touched his mother so much, she cried when she first listened to it. And who wouldn’t?

“Hope World”

I could go into detail on every song of this album, but it would take a very long time. So I’m going to do an overview of it. The concept of the album is an idealistic world that fans can visit when they are sad or depressed. It provides upbeat melodies and hopeful vibes that very much reflect his stage name, J-Hope. In the title song he talks about how happy he is with his life and he invites fans to be happy along with him. In “P.O.P (Piece of Peace) Pt.1” he talks about how he knows what it’s like to struggle, but he encourages listeners to find happiness within themselves and to use his music to find strength. In “Daydream” he reminds his audience about the dual life he must live between his personal life and his public life. J-Hope wishes that he could always be himself without being judged by the public, but knows he also has to be a role model to his fans. “Base Line” is another track where J-Hope disregards his haters and conveys how hard he worked to be where he is now. “HANGSANG” reveals how grateful he is to be experiencing the incredible life he has with his seven best friends. Despite the fact that it’s his solo album, he’s heartwarmingly quick to mention how grateful he is for the members of BTS. “Airplane” is a song that was so appreciated by BTS, the group made a sequel to it. J-Hope uses the song to look back at how far he’s come and how grateful he is to be so successful. “Blue Side (Outro)” ends the album with both nostalgic desire for the innocence of his past and a wish that the listeners could stay in Hope World with him. The entire album shows the complexity of J-Hope while still attempting to share a positive outlook with the world.

“Trivia: Just Dance”

Hoseok uses this song to tell a love story through the frame of dancing, one of his biggest passions. He talks about sharing the same rhythm with someone and compares dancing together to falling in love. It’s a beautiful song that focuses a lot on his singing. It also has some impressive choreography that I highly recommend checking out.

“Chicken Noodle Soup”

This song is majorly influenced by the 2006 song of the same name. The original song, by Webstar and Young B, was something J-Hope listened to a lot when he was first learning to dance. He paid royalties in advance to pay tribute to it, and he eventually decided to bring Becky G into the project. The lyrics they wrote for the song are in their native languages and demonstrate both love for their heritage, and how hard they’ve worked to be recognized for their talent. It’s a fun song with some surprisingly impactful lyrics.

“Outro: Ego”

This track takes an even deeper look into what Hoseok struggled through to get where he is. It talks about self doubt and depression. But he ultimately shares how he learned to trust himself and is now more confident in the decisions he makes. Just like many of his other songs, Hoseok is up front about his struggles. He shares that he hasn’t been optimistic all the time, despite the hopefulness many expect of him. But he also encourages fans to be hopeful about their own futures and to pursue their dreams. This song is upbeat and fun to listen to, but you can’t help but appreciate it’s deeper meaning.

That’s all of Hoseok’s solo work so far. He also was the main writer for the song “Disease”, which talks about his relationship with work, especially during the pandemic. Hoseok is known for his happy and upbeat songs. But he’s also known for his very honest depictions of his life. While many people, including myself, find his optimism extremely inspiring, I sometimes find his honesty about his mental health even more inspiring. J-Hope’s smile lights up a room, his dancing makes you gasp in awe, and his laughter is contagious. His sound effects and loud screaming instantly make anyone within earshot happier. But his kindness and integrity are just as beautiful. I couldn’t have picked a better bias. Thank you for everything Jung Hoseok, and Happy Birthday!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: Common Misconceptions About ATEEZ

Promotional image of (top left) Jeong Yunho, Choi Jongho, Jung Wooyoung, Song Mingi, (bottom left) Kang Yeosang, Choi San, Kim Hongjoong, and Park Seonghwa. Copyright of KQ Entertainment.

Hi! It’s Annie!

With every song I listen to of ATEEZ’s discography, they only seem to get better. Their songs are more and more addictive the more I listen to them. Of course, this also means that I actually had to look more into the band. Despite many people seeming to support them now and more people being able to identify their work, it still feels like a lot of people don’t really know about the amazing members. I honestly feel the same way about myself considering I barely knew them when I wrote my last post about them. So, now that I’ve officially become an ATiny who really wants to go to their concerts, I figured I would talk about common misconceptions about the members. Including misconceptions that I’ve made.

Hongjoong is too carefree to be the leader : At first glance, Hongjoong seems to be one of the most carefree members. He has a killer style and his sense of humor is always apparent. He can generally be seen cracking jokes in many of their variety shows, so many people don’t necessarily think of him as the typical father-like leader that we see from many groups. Even though, Hongjoong is definitely this. And I’m not just saying this because he recently dressed up as a grandfather for one of their variety shows. The other members will often tease Hongjoong for nagging them and he’s known for keeping the rest of the members on track and for writing much of their music. He does keep spirits up, but he’s extremely hardworking and definitely the father of the group.

Seonghwa is probably really intimidating off-stage : I mentioned this a little bit in my last post, but Seonghwa is a master of duality. On stage he sometimes even appears to be a demon with his facial expressions and intensity. Off stage, Seonghwa is a giant sweetheart and softie. He is known for being the mother of the group, a role that he has acknowledged and seems to view with pride. In the episode where Hongjoong was dressed as a grandfather; Seonghwa was the grandmother. Sometimes when one of the members is frustrated at another for not sharing, one of them will go and get Seonghwa. While Hongjoong will nag the other members about the group itself in order to get them to work as a team, Seonghwa is often teased for nagging them about their health and cleanliness. But don’t think for a second that he is not aware of his duality. He has talked several times about how proud he is of his onstage persona. He is a sweetheart, but he totally knows that he’s doing this to us.

Yunho doesn’t have much duality : There is duality when it comes to every member of ATEEZ, but I feel like Yunho’s duality is some of the most impressive. He is one of the tallest members of ATEEZ and he’s often centered because of his vocals, making him extremely noticeable. Off the stage he is the biggest puppy dog you will ever see in your life, both literally and figuratively. He jokes around with the other members a lot and is also sweet with literally all of them. He kind of becomes the leaning post for many of them during interviews. I mean, they all lean on each other a lot, but Yunho will stand there and hug the other person most of the time. Despite this, his sense of humor is one of the most teasing of the group. This often results in him cracking jokes to ease the tension between members. There are so many sides to Yunho’s personality and his puppy attitude definitely comes off as more intimidating onstage.

Yeosang is really closed off : I see this one a lot and I kind of understand. If you watch some interviews he can definitely seem like that initially. I think the best way to realize that there’s more to him than meets the eye is to watch one of his fancams of ‘THANXX’. Specifically the one where they’re all wearing white and his hair is blonde. Right before the chorus on the second salute, Yeosang will often do his infamous pout and it’s the most adorable thing ever. Yeosang is known for being really cute in the group and also with fans. He often plays up his cuteness too. This can be difficult for new fans to see between his intimidatingly statue-like looks, his quietness in interviews, his very deep voice, and his tendency to hoard chicken. Yeosang really loves his chicken. Yeosang is an introvert who has talked about having symptoms of anxiety before, so all of this is completely relatable. But Yeosang is also the member most likely to lean on other members. (Side note: This is probably why you often see Yeosang leaning on Yunho.) If you look a little more into Yeosang, you’ll realize that he has just as much duality as everyone else.

San is extroverted and overly masculine : I also could have put there that a common misconception is that San is the main dancer. But that’s something I’ve already talked about a lot and really only takes a second to debunk. San didn’t even really dance before he started the group, which is insane to me. But it may surprise you to find out that San actually identifies as an introvert. Whenever he’s not putting time into training and getting fit, he’s generally at home playing games or sleeping. And while San might seem very masculine, he also has a cuter side too! San sleeps with many stuffed animals (he really likes one that Yunho gave him) and he took his stuffed animal, Shiber, with him to Universal Studios in Hollywood. He’s just as much of a softie as the other members of the group!

Mingi doesn’t take things seriously : I’ve seen this a lot from newer fans who come into interviews and see that Mingi is one of the ones who is joking around the most. A lot of people seem to say this also because he seems to have a very “cool” persona on stage. I don’t understand this. Though Hongjoong writes most of the music, Mingi is one of the only other members who has contributed to helping write their music. He can act like a kid sometimes, but he’s also one of the members quickest to sober up if need be. Recently, Mingi noticed that he was having issues with anxiety and decided to get help for it. That’s an incredibly admirable and mature thing to do. Mingi honestly deserves more recognition for how mature he can be.

Wooyoung is absent-minded : Wooyoung is the member of this group with the cutest persona and I often find that group members that have this persona will be accused of this. Wooyoung is one of the youngest of the group and teases many of the members. He’s known for teasing Seonghwa a lot. But I feel like this accusation comes mostly because of the entire controversy around Wooyoung and San being best friends even though Wooyoung was Yeosang’s best friend first. I don’t think we know everything about that situation and I don’t think we should be drawing conclusions when it’s really none of our business. The group seems to be on good terms with each other and that should be enough for us. Wooyoung, just like everyone in this group, is young and still learning. But he also has shown an incredible maturity in caring for the other members of the group on multiple occasions. Sometimes he’ll even play peace-maker. I think this goes for most people in this industry, but I definitely think that Wooyoung is mature for his age.

Jongho must be popular because he’s the main vocalist so there’s no need to support him : I have seen too many people think this and it’s just wrong. I think this mentality is also why Jongho seems to be one of the most underappreciated members. Firstly, no matter the popularity of a singular member of a group, they all need support. Secondly, Jongho’s voice is absolutely insane and out of this world, that’s even more reason to support him. Jongho has one of the best voices in the industry in my opinion. He’s also an adorable maknae who is weirdly strong and naturally hilarious. Jongho should be noticed for his personality just as much as he is noticed for his voice.

There you have it! Those are the most popular misconceptions I see about each individual member of ATEEZ! I hope some of these revelations will shock you or you’ll at least learn something that you didn’t know before. All of them are very endearing and this is another group where you can definitely feel that they are all very close. But, obviously, it’s really nice to get to know them all individually as well!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Book Adaptations: The Best Adaptations of Hades and Persephone

Art of Persephone and Hades from the WEBTOON “Lore Olympus”. All credit goes to the creator, Rachel Smythe.

Hey! Hallie here!

It’s pretty late in the day on Valentine’s Day, but I couldn’t leave you guys without a Valentine’s Day post. Today I’m going to be talking about my favorite fictional couple, Hades and Persephone. Calling this a book adaptations post is a bit of a stretch considering all of the texts that come together to give us the original mythos of Hades and Persephone. Regardless, their story is so incredibly interesting that many authors and artists have decided to try their hand at an adaptation. So in honor of this, and the fact that they’re one of the only couples in Greek mythology to have any sort of healthy relationship, I’m going to talk about my favorite adaptations of this couple!

“Lore Olympus”:

This one might be the most popular adaptation of Hades and Persephone right now. In it Persephone is a young college student with a very overbearing mother and Hades is a businessman in a toxic relationship with his secretary. They both attend one of Zeus’ parties where Aphrodite hears Hades remark that Persephone is more beautiful than Aphrodite. Which never ends well in any story Aphrodite is a part of. She arranges for her son to get Persephone drunk and promptly dump her in the back of Hades’ car, where she hopes Persephone will make a fool of herself and make Hades regret his words. However, both of them become immediately interested in one another. Throughout the series Persephone struggles with her feelings for Hades. Especially because her college scholarship was given to her by a group of virgin goddesses called The Goddesses of Eternal Maidenhood, who expect Persephone to eventually join them. Persephone also has a few dark secrets, one of which being that she lost control of her powers and killed a mortal after a group of mortals killed a few nymphs she grew up with. Hades, on the other hand, has to balance his feelings for Persephone over his attempts to be loyal to the nymph Minthe, despite her constant unkindness and gaslighting. Hades and Persephone are a very cute couple in this adaptation and there’s no kidnapping involved! They’re interested in each other the first time they meet, but it takes them a long time to admit their feelings for one another given how many other things they have to deal with. The web-comic is a nice slow burn and it’s free to read! I definitely recommend it!

‘Hadestown’:

If you’ve been on this blog recently, you’ve seen me talk about my love for ‘Hadestown’. To be honest, the adaptation of Hades and Persephone in the show is one of the reasons I was drawn to it in the first place. This adaptation isn’t a retelling of the original mythos, unlike “Lore Olympus”. Instead, it’s an exploration of what Hades and Persephone’s relationship might be like hundreds of years after they married. In the original mythos, Hades fears that Persephone will never come back if she leaves to help her mother bring Spring and Summer back to the world. So he has her eat pomegranate seeds to bind her to the Underworld. ‘Hadestown’ takes this action as a majorly informative part of Hades and Persephone’s relationship. Hades becomes so concerned that Persephone will refuse to return to him every time she leaves, that he keeps bringing her back to the Underworld earlier and earlier. As a result, the weather in the mortal realm becomes harsh and unpredictable. Many people starve without crops or freeze to death in the cold. Persephone becomes so upset with the turn of events, and feels so trapped in the Underworld, that she becomes an alcoholic. Meanwhile, Hades turns his attention to making the Underworld like the mortal realm so Persephone will be happier in the Underworld. He overworks and dehumanizes the souls he sets to work on these projects, however, which makes Persephone more upset. By the end of it, most of the characters rightfully blame Persephone’s alcoholism and Hades’ blinding fear of losing Persephone for much of their misfortune. And for most of the show Persephone and Hades can be seen arguing. But Orpheus and Euridice’s plight makes Persephone decide to sober up, and Orpheus’ song opens Hades eyes to the mistakes he’s been making. By the end of the musical they haven’t fully forgiven one another, but they promise to work on their relationship once it’s all over. This adaptation is one of the most creative and interesting versions of Hades and Persephone’s relationship and I can’t recommend this musical enough.

There are many more adaptations of Hades and Persephone, and many books retelling their story in various settings, but these two adaptations have stood out to me as especially exceptional. I see a lot of authors, especially Young Adult authors, portraying Persephone as helpless and na├»ve and Hades as a brooding bad boy. But I think those adaptations miss the point. Many times in mythology Persephone is presented as an intimidating and frightening queen of the Underworld. She’s considered Hades’ equal in the Underworld and sometimes she’s even mentioned more than him. Hades, on the other hand, is more lenient than many other Greek gods. Any adaptation that shows Persephone’s power and allows Hades to be more laid back than the insane villain most media has portrayed him as, has my immediate respect. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Book Adaptations: The Best Cinderella Movies

Brandy as Cinderella in Rodger and Hammerstein’s ‘Cinderella’ (1997). Copyright goes to the Walt Disney Company.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Recently, Roger and Hammerstein’s ‘Cinderella’ was finally put on Disney + for Valentine’s Day. Though this version of Cinderella was seemingly forgotten for a while, it is still known to be one of the best and most iconic depictions of the story. It has taken far too long for this version of the story to appear in a way that’s easily accessible. Especially for how good it is. But, obviously, there have been many many versions of Cinderella in several mediums over the years. In honor of this movie, I want to list my top five film adaptations of the story of Cinderella. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

5. Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted is actually based off of a book that took inspiration from many different fairytales, but mostly Cinderella. Hence the name, ‘Ella Enchanted’. This movie depicts a woman who lives with her evil stepmother and stepsisters and eventually meets and falls in love with a Prince; but that isn’t actually the full point. Ella was cursed as a child to be obedient, so she must do anything that is asked of her. Her main goal throughout the film is to break the curse and gain her freedom. Through her adventures she becomes friends with an elf who resents entertainment and wants to become the first elf lawyer and a sarcastic book. She also meets Prince Char, a cocky prince who is sure that everyone must be in love with him and is shocked when Ella isn’t. This movie stars Anne Hathaway and also features her singing a cover of a ‘Queen’ song. This is definitely not your conventional Cinderella movie, but that’s what makes it that much more fun. Also, if you’ve ever wanted to see Cary Elwes, Westley from ‘The Princess Bride’, play a mustache twirling evil villain, this movie has got you covered. He’s both evil and comedic. This is a very entertaining, different, and cute version of Cinderella.

4. Disney’s Cinderella

This is the classic adaptation of Cinderella that everyone’s seen. It’s also one of the movies that ensured the success of the Walt Disney company. It’s probably the most basic version of this story to exist in film. Here you have the basic story without the more gory bits, like the stepsisters cutting off parts of their feet or the birds pecking their eyes out. The only problem with this story is that this is the only adaptation of the story on this list where Cinderella has no agency. Everything happens to her rather than her going out and trying to do something. But this movie is still the classic story of a dreamer experiencing her dream coming true. Though the love at first sight isn’t really advisable, it is still a romantic and enjoyable movie. Maybe the story isn’t memorably changed, but it will probably remain the most classic and popular version of Cinderella to be made.

3. Cinderella (2015)

This is one of the only live action movies that Disney has made that I like. Partly because you can hardly call it a live action version of the animated film since it’s such a different version of Cinderella. This adaptation spends much of the movie actually focusing on the characters of Cinderella and Prince Kit. Yay, Prince Charming finally has an actual name! Or at least a nickname. I also definitely prefer the adaptations where Cinderella and the Prince have met and talked before the events of the Ball, so that they at least know something about each other. Cinderella and Kit are attracted to each other because of their kindness, not only towards each other but to everyone around them. Also, the quote “have courage and be kind” is one that everyone should hear. The story of Cinderella is first and foremost about a young woman getting through a difficult time with kindness and hope, and this movie is a perfect example of that. It’s also really nice to have an adaptation of Cinderella where Cinderella eventually stands up for herself against her stepmother. She also tells her stepmother that she forgives her at the end in a really powerful scene. Though this isn’t a very different version of Cinderella, it presents the classic story in a beautiful way.

2. Ever After

This adaptation and the one that I put at number one are practically tied for me and it’s difficult to choose between one or the other. They are both some of my favorite movies of all time. The reason why I put this here is simply because this is definitely not an adaptation that stays particularly true to the original story. I would say it diverts from it even more than ‘Ella Enchanted’. Ever After depicts the life of Danielle de Barbarac played by Drew Barrymore, a woman who you are told was the inspiration for the Cinderella tale in this fictional universe. She is a poor woman who also is abused by her stepmother and stepsisters and has a very close relationship with the other servants in her household. When her stepmother sells one of the other servants into slavery, Danielle disguises herself as a noblewoman so that she can order his release. Through a series of events, this makes the Prince believe she is of noble birth and feels free to fall in love with her because of this. Eventually he discovers the truth and becomes angry, but it ends happily. This film includes a fictional depiction of Leonardo da Vinci and a scene where Danielle and the prince are surrounded by thieves and she is told that she can keep whatever she can carry, prompting her to pick up the Prince. Danielle is a complete badass, but this adaptation only keeps a few elements from the original tale. Even so, it’s a romantic and deeply complex version of the tale.

1. Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997):

Everything about this movie is gorgeous; the cast, the set, the colors, the music, the singing. It is a classic version of the story that remains pretty true to the original, but tweaks the story in ways that are seemingly perfect. Firstly, we need to talk about the cast. Brandy carries this movie as Cinderella and her singing voice is beyond gorgeous. Then we have Paolo Montalban as the Prince who is definitely the most dreamy version of the character that I have ever seen in my life. This movie also has the likes of Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, and Whoopi Goldberg. Every member of the cast absolutely shines in their roles to the point that they all seem like standouts. It’s also really nice to see such a diverse cast because we have definitely seen enough predominantly white versions of this story. Cinderella herself is given more agency in the plot when the Fairy Godmother tells her that making her dreams come true is up to her. The notion of love at first sight is also questioned in this adaptation with a meeting between Cinderella and the Prince before the Ball and the questioning of “do I love you because you’re wonderful or are you wonderful because I love you?”. The acting is on point and it’s difficult to not find this version touching. It seems like every song has some of sort of relatability to it. Especially now when everyone is stuck inside and the main characters are singing about how they feel like they’re living the same days over and over again. That one really hits home.

Really, any tale of Cinderella would be a good choice to watch on Valentine’s Day. Or, as I should also call it for myself and a lot of other people out there, SAD (Singles Awareness Day). So don’t be sad on SAD! We all can daydream in our own little corners in our own little chairs until this all passes and we can get out there again! I hope this gave you some ideas of what to watch and I also hope that you’ll take care of your mental health and not be too sad! Happy Valentine’s Day! And remember to have courage and be kind now more than ever.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Marvel: ‘WandaVision’ Episode 6 Review

Screenshot of Elizabeth Olsen in Episode 6 of ‘WandaVision’. Copyright goes to Marvel Studios and Disney.

Hey! Hallie here!

Once again this episode was crazy. Every episode I feel like the tension can’t rise any further, and every episode I’m proven wrong. There’s so much to talk about, so I’m just going to jump right into it. SPOILERS ahead.

What I Liked:

Wanda: This episode explored Wanda’s character a little less than previous episodes have. She was really into her role as the 90’s mother and she didn’t seem entirely eager to break character. Even when she discovered Vision had lied to her about aiding the neighborhood watch for Halloween patrols. She was, however, extremely suspicious of Pietro. We saw her actually begin to question why Pietro didn’t look the way she remembered him. We saw her getting closer to him but still hesitating to tell him anything personal. And, eventually, we saw her lose her cool and send him flying after he made a bad joke about Vision’s death. Wanda did, however, tell Pietro that she had no idea how she had created Westview. This might imply that someone else helped her create Westview. Whether she knows this person or not, as well as whether or not this person has good or bad intentions, is yet to be seen. We do know that a few things in Westview have been beyond Wanda’s control, like Pietro’s appearance, and that does seem to imply that someone else is playing a role here. Wanda also demonstrated the ability to grow the area affected by her alternate reality. In growing the area to prevent Vision from dying, she also turned SWORD into a huge circus and swept Darcy along for the ride. Whether she’s fully in control or not, her powers only seem to be growing and there are very few people who can stop her now.

Vision: Vision wasn’t in the mood to play Wanda’s perfect husband right from the beginning of the episode. When Wanda thanked him for wearing his ridiculous Halloween costume, he was very blunt about the fact that it was the only thing in his closet. But immediately afterwards he was sweeter to her. His sweetness turned out to be a ploy so she would trust him enough to let him leave. After he lied to her about his plans for the evening, he decided to wander out to the edge of Westview. There he found people acting like nothing more than robots set to fill space. He also ran into Agnes who “took a wrong turn”. He disconnected her from Wanda’s spell, as he did before, and Agnes informed him that he was both an Avenger and dead, neither of which he remembers. Eventually he found the barrier to Wanda’s alternate reality. As many suspected, though, his attempts to leave Wanda’s alternate reality began to kill him, returning him to the state he was in before Wanda created everything. Wanda barely saved his life, but her distrust of him after his attempts to leave might turn their relationship even more hostile than it was before.

Pietro: Pietro was undoubtedly the strangest part of this episode. Pietro knows exactly what’s going on. He knows that he’s stuck in an alternate reality of Wanda’s creation. He’s able to reminisce with her about their parents and events that happened in the real world. And he was weirdly pushy about asking her questions. Especially about how she created the alternate reality. He was so pushy that even Wanda was suspicious, which is something that SWORD has avoided when sending people in to talk to Wanda in the past. Pietro seems like a plant, or in the very least he’s someone from an outside world attempting to gain information. While this could mean that Pietro is from an alternate universe and his memories are simply there because of the effects of Wanda’s spell, it could also mean that Pietro isn’t exactly who he appears to be. It’ll be interesting to see who Pietro really is.

SWORD: SWORD seems to get more villainous each episode. Especially Director Hayward. This episode we learned that SWORD has been keeping it’s eye on Vision, not Wanda. In other words, their main priority isn’t stopping Wanda. It’s regaining possession of Vision. Which confirms the theory that Vision was being held by SWORD to create something dangerous of his remnants. This also means it’s very likely that Wanda stole Vision’s corpse out of necessity, which many suspected after we were shown the tape of Wanda stealing Vision’s body. Hayward attempted to have Monica, Jimmy, and Darcy removed, but Monica and Jimmy proved how badass they are by taking out the agents escorting them off premises. Monica and Jimmy left Darcy in order to gain Monica’s “way back into the Hex”. Because of this they were able to escape being overtaken by Wanda’s alternate reality when the barrier grew. However, Hayward also managed to escape. What either of them are planning next is a mystery, but it’s clear they’re going to need a lot more help if they’re going to stop Wanda.

What I have Questions About:

Is Wanda Really Behind All of This?: Is this just a demonstration of how Wanda’s powers have grown beyond what she even believed possible? Or is her confusion actually a sign that she isn’t the only person behind the creation of Westview?

Who is Pietro?: Is Pietro a plant sent by a different organization to gain information? Is Pietro a villain sent to push Wanda to her limits? Or is Pietro simply a Quicksilver from an alternate universe, likely tying in to Fox’s X-Men, trying to make sense of the new situation he’s in?

Who is Agnes?: Is Agnes actually Agatha Harkness? A large group of fans, including myself, thought that Agnes was absolutely Agatha Harkness. She seemed to know more about what was going on with Westview and she didn’t seem very surprised about Wanda’s display of powers. However, when Vision disconnected her from Wanda’s spell, she seemed like a normal person. Was she playing dumb while she was talking to Vision? Or is she really an innocent in all this?

Why Did Wanda Steal Vision’s Body from SWORD?: Did Wanda know what SWORD was doing with Vision? Did she always plan to bring Vision back or were there other motives to breaking him out of the SWORD facility?

What Happened to Darcy?: I hope Darcy is okay! Hopefully she’ll reunite with Jimmy and Monica soon!

Those are my thoughts on this week’s episode! I’m way too excited to see the next episode but, unfortunately, we’ll all have to wait until next week to see what happens next. We only have three episodes left and the story is already promising an exciting ending. I know I’ll miss this show when it’s all over.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie