Video Games: We Need to Talk About Hogwarts Legacy

Screenshot of the upcoming “Hogwarts Legacy”. Copyright of WB Games.

Hey! Hallie here!

This is a geek blog that has not only spoken on “Harry Potter” before, but involves two people who were obsessed with “Harry Potter” more than anything else for nearly half our lives. When I was sorted into Gryffindor it changed my life. I started believing I was brave enough to go after things I was too scared to do before. I’m also a huge supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and have been absolutely horrified by J.K. Rowling’s recent comments about the Trans community. And yeah, looking back at the books, there’s harmful stereotyping ingrained into many of the characters, and it goes far beyond the portrayal of twins. I can’t say I didn’t brush off my suspicion of characters like Cho Chang when I first read the books, and I regret not recognizing how blatantly racist her portrayal was. However, I’m also a giant video game fan and “Hogwarts Legacy” has been my dream game for many, many, years. So am I going to buy it? No. Absolutely not. I’m going to go through why in a second, but this topic is already so debated that I already know some of my points are going to be controversial. These are all my opinions. I’m absolutely up for a civil debate, but if talking about why I don’t think anyone should buy this game is going to trigger you, feel free to leave.

The Timing of the Announcement: I have a feeling this was purposeful and it’s both a very frustrating and very smart plan at the same time. The same week J.K. Rowling’s transphobia made it back into the news, we got the announcement for this game. If you haven’t heard the most recent news, early reviews for J.K. Rowling’s book under the name Robert Galbraith have come out. They aren’t pretty. It’s not simply that the book is bad, but that it depicts a man dressing up as a woman in order to murder people. Given her past comments about Trans women being untrustworthy, it’s absolutely unsurprising that she wrote something like this. It’s more revolting that she could be this blatant and disturbing. Only a few days after this topic became a popular conversation on most social media platforms, “Hogwarts Legacy” was announced. This is smart in the way that pretty much everyone is talking about “Harry Potter” right now. It’s also disturbing in how obviously insensitive this ploy is. Warner Brothers isn’t giving this time to die down so her transphobia is distanced from the game. (Although it never should be. Regardless of the creative team, Rowling will still profit off of this.) Instead they’re using it to keep their new game in the news. I can admire a smart tactic when I see one, but I can also hate it for how slimy it is.

Warner Brothers Comments: Almost immediately after “Hogwarts Legacy” began to come under fire, Warner Brothers released a statement ensuring that Rowling was not directly involved with the game. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that she wasn’t consulted at any point or that the game isn’t heavily influenced by her. In fact, Warner Brothers also stated that she was the foundation behind all writing in the Wizarding World. And regardless of what she did or didn’t contribute to the game, Warner Brothers is right. “Harry Potter” is J.K. Rowling’s baby and no matter what happens, she will have a hand in everything that comes out of the franchise. Warner Brothers can wave off her involvement all they want, but that won’t eliminate the fact that she will profit off of anything made under the name of “Harry Potter”.

The “Other Developers of the Game” Argument: So many people are talking about this. I’ve seen so many variations of, “I know I shouldn’t support Rowling, but what about everyone else who worked on the game?”. Yes, a lot of creative work went into “Hogwarts Legacy” and many of the people who worked on this game do not share the opinions of Rowling. But keep in mind, this is true of every boycott ever. Boycotting a company because of one person in a powerful position is also harming the other people who work for the same company. Does that mean we should stop boycotting overall? No! Boycotting is a form of peaceful protest and it’s made a difference on more that one occasion. I can’t promise that this game won’t make money, or that boycotting it will deal such a blow to Rowling that she’ll make a change, but it is important. I’ll get more into the importance of this below. As for the realism of this argument…uhhhh. Most of the game designers are being payed through salaries. This is way too big of a company to give them royalties as compensation.

Will Boycotting Hurt Rowling at All?: There’s no way to tell. “Harry Potter” is still a giant franchise and we can’t say this game won’t make money. In fact boycotting may not make a difference at all. But it’s important to stand with the Trans community at this time. Asking yourself what standing against “Hogwarts Legacy” is going to change is, obviously, not going to change anything. We have to start somewhere, and the best place to start is supporting the people who are hurting the most in this situation. Buying this game will only further the side that is standing against the Trans community.

Buying the Game and Donating to Trans Organizations: I saw a few influencers propose this solution to wanting the game. Whatever money they spend on the game, they would equal in the amount they donated to a Trans supporting organization. This, once again, accomplishes nothing. Giving money to both sides isn’t picking a side, and it most certainly isn’t standing with the Trans community. Why not put all of that money towards supporting a Trans organization? If everyone who wanted this game and also wanted to support the Trans community spent all the money they would have used to pay for the game on donating to a Trans organization, that would be making a statement. Giving money to both sides makes no statement at all.

Those are the main topics I’ve seen debated and I wanted to throw my two cents in. Like I said, I’ve been a “Harry Potter” fan for a long time. It changed my life in many ways, and I bonded with most of my friends over “Harry Potter”. I can’t begin to explain to you how heartbreaking I find this situation. And you should in no way hate on people who still like this series. In fact, I’ve seen many people in the Trans community re-claiming “Harry Potter” and I fully support this idea. But I don’t support J.K. Rowling. If you don’t support her either, if you don’t want to stand for her comments on Trans people, the answer is simple. Stop giving her money. Buy books or movies second hand. Stop going to “Fantastic Beasts” movies when they come out. Stop buying official “Harry Potter” merchandise. And most definitely do not purchase “Hogwarts Legacy” when it’s released.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Twins in Media: Wanda and Pietro Maximoff

Screenshot from ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. Copyright goes to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Welcome back to our weekly posts covering twins in media! This week, we decided to go with some of the current most popular portrayals of twins in movies. Wanda and Pietro are definitely that. I will say that they are slightly different in the movie than they are in the comic books, but I haven’t read much of the comics so my information there is pretty limited. But I will say that these two had a huge impact on me. The idea of twins as superheroes has always been popular. We’ve already talked a little bit about twin telepathy in other posts, but the idea of this supernatural connection between twins spurred them into becoming regular additions to comic books and other superhero stories. What surprised me about these two was not that they were there in the first place, but that they are twin superheroes who aren’t like how twin superheroes are generally portrayed. Let’s get into it! And for the few people who haven’t seen this movie, this has major SPOILERS.

The Bad:

  • One twin must die. This is one of the most common twin tropes and I will never not hate it. It is definitely safe to say that this is one of my least favorite twin tropes. Even if what people predict comes true and Pietro suddenly comes back to life in ‘WandaVision’, that will not erase that this was the trope they went with in this movie. Often writers will feel that both twins surviving a war-like situation is “too obvious” or even claim that it’s unrealistic even though a pair of siblings that aren’t twins generally have more of a chance of both surviving a piece of fiction. Even worse, some writers will feel that because they are twins, one is somehow expendable. This happens way too much. The idea that there’s two of us so one is expendable is an idea that basically means you don’t care about our individuality. You don’t see us as two different people. We are somehow each a half of a whole to you. The other reason this is used is to further the story of one of the twins by giving them the easiest trauma you can find. Taking the other twin away. This is just lazy writing in general. There are so many other things you can do, there are even other people in each singular twin’s life that you can look into for that. Why do they always choose the twin? The fact that Pietro has never been talked about in a movie since is proof that this was lazy writing to push Wanda forward. This trope is still used so much and is still widely accepted, which makes me disappointed at best. I’m honestly also just sick of all the death jokes I get as the older twin, because I get a lot of those considering that the older twin is generally the one that dies.
  • Over familiar. This happens a lot, especially with twins that have different genders. Why are they always standing so close together and grabbing each other’s faces? Do you generally do that a lot with your siblings? There are two reasons as to why I think this happens. Firstly, the writers want to show that their relationship is somehow deeper and stronger than regular siblings. I hate to break it to you, but that isn’t necessarily true. We are just like any other siblings that are somewhat close in age. Most of the time we get along, but sometimes we fight and we aren’t always on the same wavelength. We have the same kind of bond that any close siblings no matter their age would have. The second reason is the normalization of twincest in most media when you have a pair of twins with different genders. This can show itself in situations like a pair of twins kissing drunkenly in a comedy movie (it happens more than you think), or in situations like this where they show a relationship that almost looks to the watcher like the characters are bridging on a romantic relationship. All of this needs to go. Until you portray all twins like regular siblings, your portrayal of twins is going to be wrong.
  • Twin testing. This is one of the biggest examples of twin testing and I can’t say I know exactly how to feel about it. For those who don’t know, twin testing was a major part of World War II. Germans would pull aside twins in concentration camps or in transportation to concentration camps and do horrifying experiments on them. Many did not survive the testing. Things like this are why my sister and I make the posts we do. The stigma and fascination with twins has often left us treated as less than human or as some sort of experiment or circus act. I put this in bad, because this was put into the story for plot and definitely not necessarily handled with care.
  • Same-sex fraternal erasure. This doesn’t necessarily have to do with them, but does include all fraternal twins in media. Let me ask you a question; how many twins have you seen in media that are fraternal and the same gender? If your answer was none, I am not the least bit surprised. I have even met people who thought that all fraternal twins had to be different genders because of this. All identical twins will be the same gender, but not all fraternal twins will be different genders. My sister and I are fraternal, though we look alike so we are most often confused for being identical, and are living proof that that’s not true.
  • Twins of different genders. This is similar to the one above and is more of a general thing about fraternal twins. Twins of different genders are more likely to be portrayed as having different personalities. It’s great that there are twins that are getting that, but this needs to be extended to all portrayals of twins.

The Good:

  • Different personalities. Of course I have to say this. Wanda and Pietro are way different without having to be opposites or exactly the same. They’re just different. Wanda is more responsible, pays attention to detail, and is more introverted. Pietro is consistently sarcastic and sassy. He’s not afraid to go up to a girl he likes and give her a dress (That was such a cute deleted scene!) or tell people to move their asses. They are characters that compliment each other without being extreme caricatures. They are equally lovable and have very different relationships with each of the other Avengers. Take Clint Barton for example. Wanda is like Hawkeye’s daughter in a way and is someone he looks after. Pietro is like his annoying little brother. Different personalities and different relationships with people make these two stand out to me.
  • No twin telepathy. They had a pair of superhero twins. They could have given them unnecessary super powers to try and further connect them for the audience. They didn’t and I respect that. Like their personalities, their super powers aren’t exactly the same or exact opposites of each other. Pietro has super speed and Wanda can control energy and the world around her with her mind. Different but not extreme, once again. The fact that their super powers do not themselves suggest that the characters are twins is amazing.
  • No birth separation. Often times in media when a pair of twins is separated, it means they are more likely to have different personalities. These two have separate personalities despite them having lived in the same household for their entire lives up until the point the movie starts. They have a close relationship while still being different people. Most twins aren’t separated at birth, so this is important.
  • Realistic sibling relationship. Other than the overly touchy parts of this relationship, this is actually an extremely good representation of a sibling relationship. They fight sometimes, they tease each other so much, and they have a genuinely caring relationship. Wanda at one point gives Pietro orders and he teases her about him being older than her. This is one of the most realistic sibling interactions I’ve seen in anything ever. It’s not portrayed like him being older means anything, it’s just used as a teasing point between the siblings. They worry about each other and argue because of their worry sometimes. They rely on each other when they’re confronting someone else. Pietro throws Wanda a jacket he knows she’ll like. Also, not all of the closeness is bad, just the fact that there’s too much of it. If one of them is scared or worried about the other, they’ll stand closer to them. Things like that are realistic because you would do that with any person you’re close with. I would say that most of this relationship feels realistic.

So, are Wanda and Pietro good representations of twins in media or not?

I want to say yes, but that’s difficult. In this movie, the acting in the portrayal of the two are great. Some of their sibling relationship moments in this film are the most realistic and relatable that I’ve seen. The issue is that their characters are built up on so many bad tropes and they even added a major one on for this movie. Pietro doesn’t die in the comics. They are an excellent example of twins that could have been amazing, but the writers got way too caught up in tropes to actually let them thrive. So once again, I have to answer with yes and no. They could have been some of the best I’ve ever seen in media but they, like media in general when it comes to twin representation, have a long way to go.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Twins in Media: Luke and Leia

Screenshot from “Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope” featuring Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. Copyright of Lucasfilm Limited.

Hey! Hallie here!

We’re back around to our weekly “Twins in Media” posts and starting out with a really popular representation of twins. Luke and Leia are probably the most popular twins in media right now. What’s funny about them, though, is most people don’t really think about the fact that they’re twins other than to comment on how gross the kiss was. (Very.) There’s a debate on whether or not their status as twins was planned from the beginning, or thrown in later to prevent fans from liking Leia with Luke more than Leia with Han. I’ll weigh in on that in a second because it’s absolutely crucial to this analysis. Still, there’s no denying that Lucas has since doubled down on the twin label. So let’s start unpacking some of these tropes and see how well these two fare.

The Dark Side:

  • Separated at birth. Wow this trope comes up a lot. Luke and Leia are basically the definition of this trope. Leia lived as royalty on Alderaan while Luke lived as a farmer on Tatooine. Leia spent her teenage years serving as a diplomat for her planet while Luke went to Tosche Station to pick up power converters. There isn’t really any similarities between them. I’ve mentioned my love/hate relationship with this trope before. While it allows twin characters to be two very different people, it usually falls under one of two extremes. Either the twins have too much in common because “fate”, or the twins have absolutely nothing in common to demonstrate how different they are. Leia and Luke could do with having more in common than just the Force. Real siblings have some likes, dislikes, and traits in common while maintaining their individuality, and twins are no different.
  • Twin telepathy. Okay, this one is a bit complicated. When Leia and Luke discover that they’re related, their Force connection becomes way stronger than it was in the first two movies. This could be seen as twin telepathy, which is absolutely a harmful trope. It furthers the idea that twins are single minded and that they share the same thoughts and ideas. The amount of times I fight with my sister would prove otherwise. However, it should be noted that Leia could feel Luke’s presence at the end of “Empire Strikes Back”, before they were confirmed to be twins, and a lot of their abilities seem to be more of a demonstration of the Force rather than a commentary on twins. So this is absolutely a loose addition to this list.
  • Twincest. Let’s all take a moment to gag at the kiss that happens in “Empire Strikes Back”. It will come up again later, I assure you. Done? Ok. Let’s move on.

The Light Side:

  • Different lives. This is all of the good that comes from their separation. They have different adoptive families which they had very different relationships with. (Before they all died, that is.) They have the same friends but they have different relationships with them. It’s kind of nice to see these two trapped in a scenario where they’re devoting their lives for the same cause. It forces them to stick together, to go through many of the same experiences, and still demonstrate how different they are and their separate goals within the Rebel Alliance.
  • The separate actors. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher look nothing alike. That still makes them a more realistic representation of twins than Lindsay Lohan in “The Parent Trap”. Why? Because, even if it’s difficult to notice, all forms of twins differ in appearance. One actor playing two roles doesn’t allow for differences. Some twins do look nothing alike. Especially fraternal twins, which Luke and Leia most definitely are. The fact that they cast these roles as individuals rather than as twins makes me appreciate these very different actors in these roles. Even though it’s likely no one, including George Lucas, knew that Luke and Leia were going to be twins when they were casting.
  • The overall lack of preparation. Here we go. This is the conversation we really need to have about these two. I am of the opinion that Luke and Leia being twins was a late addition to the story. Given how they were portrayed, I don’t think it was planned from the beginning. There was not even slight hinting that the two were siblings during the first half of the original trilogy. Not to mention the kiss in “Empire Strikes Back”, which I would really like to believe was written without their status as siblings in mind. The first possible hint we get is at the end of “Empire Strikes Back”, when Leia senses Luke is in danger and is able to help Lando navigate the Millennium Falcon underneath him to rescue him. I think it could be argued that this scene was only meant to demonstrate her Force ability and nothing more. After all, we do get Yoda hinting that there is another potential Jedi they can count on if Luke fails, which is later revealed to be Leia. We can go back and forth on whether or not Leia having the Force in the first place shows that she’s related to Luke, but my point is there was no written preparation or hinting in the first half of their story that these two were related. So why did I put this total lack of preparation as a positive? Because the narrative built them up as individuals before the twin reveal. They were written as separate, fully-fleshed out characters, making them stronger as siblings. That’s why there are hardly any tropes to be spoken of here. A lack of stereotypes and tropes is always a good thing in my book.

So are they a good representation of twins?

I’d say so! They’re twins who are portrayed as normal siblings. They have separate likes and dislikes. They live different lives even though they have some similar goals and friends. However, I would like to point something major out. Twins should be written this way on purpose, not simply on accident. I want to see twins who are twins from the beginning and are still separate characters. Luke and Leia are great, but they almost don’t feel like twins at all. The Force is really all that connects them and it would be nice to see twins in media who are connected by much more and are still different. But I digress. Anyway, I’m a huge fan of these two and I hope some of the things they accomplish can help twin representation become even better in the future.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Book Adaptations: Little Women

Screenshot from ‘Little Women’ (2019) starring (from left) Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan, and Eliza Scanlen. Copyright of Columbia Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m definitely a classic literature fan. ‘Little Women’ was one of those books that I would just pick up for fun as a kid because, even if I forgot a book and was staying at a relative’s house, they would always have a copy of ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott for me to read. I didn’t quite understand just how impactful this book was for many of my friends too until I heard someone call themselves a Jo girl, and then my perspective on this novel changed. Just like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen, this novel was ahead of it’s time in the depiction of women as they really think and act, rather than how men have always written us to think and act. This was one of the only books on my school reading lists that meant something to me and changed me, and it’s like that for many of the women that I know too. This novel was one of the starting points that made me start to consider how women are portrayed in media. For this too I have seen multiple adaptations, and hopefully I’ll be able to provide some insight on what adaptations to watch and what adaptations are better to skip.

Little Women (1933):

Katherine Hepburn stars as Jo in this version of ‘Little Women’ and, as much as I love Katherine Hepburn, there is really nothing memorable about this adaptation. It focuses so much on Jo that the other sisters feel very sidelined and nobody in this movie feels well cast. Jo is here to be pretty instead of smart and all the other girls feel like they fill similar roles. This one isn’t that worth watching.

Little Women (1949):

This movie adaptation is probably most known for starring the late, great, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy March. There is nothing inherently wrong with this portrayal of ‘Little Women’. It sticks pretty close to the book and leaves out what most film portrayals leave out because of only having so much time. So, why is this one of the worst film adaptations of ‘Little Women’? It’s entirely to do with old Hollywood acting and romance styles. None of the girls really feel spunky or fiery (though they try to make them that), they are all portrayed how Hollywood portrayed women at the time. The biggest example of this, and probably the most painful to watch in this movie, is Jo. This version of Jo is nothing like the Jo you’ve read about and fallen in love with. The best way I can describe this is by saying her character is very watered down. Where Jo normally gets angry in the novel, she cries instead in this version. It almost feels as if they were trying to make the character more palatable for male audiences. This isn’t a horrible movie by any means, but it hurts so much to see Jo portrayed like this.

Little Women (1994):

This is one of the best adaptations of the novel. Before the 2019 version came out, this was THE version of ‘Little Women’ to watch. This stars Winona Ryder as Jo, and she is definitely one the best actresses to play the character. Jo does not feel here as though she is watered down or a caricature of a “fiery woman”. She is a real life human being and exactly the character you fell in love with. Christian Bale is also in this movie as a very charming Laurie. Everything you felt was important in the novel is in here and the girls are all themselves. Also, the chemistry between the sisters in this movie is excellent and only makes the movie feel so much more believable. This is among the must-watches when it comes to adaptations of the classic novel.

Little Women PBS Series (2018):

If you liked Maya Hawke as Robin in ‘Stranger Things’, you will love her here as Jo. This PBS series is incredibly well-cast and the most detailed and close to the novel of the adaptations out there. Partly because this is a series instead of just one singular movie. The only place that this version of ‘Little Women’ does suffer, is actually how close it is to the book. Many of the adaptations to come out more recently change a few things about the book or the sisters to make it somewhat more relatable and modern. This does not do any of that. Despite this feeling less modern, you might appreciate that it stays so close to the novel. That’s entirely up to you, but it is worth a watch if you can get access to it. If not, there are better adaptations to watch.

Little Women (2018):

DON’T. This incredibly bad adaptation starring Lea Thompson and Sarah Davenport is a modern retelling of ‘Little Women’ apparently for a modern audience. I generally find modern adaptations of novels like this to be pretty bad with only a few exceptions. (One of them can be found in my ‘Pride and Prejudice’ adaptation post.) This movie is definitely not an exception to this. None of the characters feel true to the original novel, the sisters have no chemistry to the point where you wonder if the cast ever bonded on set, and the sheer amount of out-of-character moments in this movie is horrifying. In the confession scene between Jo and Laurie in this movie, Laurie non-consensually kisses Jo after she has already rejected him. If you ever wondered if there would be any version of the story to make charming Laurie completely dislikable, this movie is your answer. This movie advertises that it is for a modern audience, but tries to force you to like a character who non-consensually kisses the main character. How modern! This was created in 2018. Do yourself a favor and skip it.

Little Women (2019):

Please forgive me as I rant about what is by far the best adaptation on this list. This was directed by Greta Gerwig (A female director! Yay!) and is just the right mix of modern ideas and the original work. This is the version that Louisa May Alcott would love, but I’ll get more into that later. Saoirse Ronan is an inspiring version of Jo that represents what we all loved about the character while also providing an amazing insight into the mind of a modern woman. However, the stand out of this movie may just be Florence Pugh as Amy. If you were anything like me, you didn’t like Amy when you first read the book. I’ve always been very into writing, and when Amy burned Jo’s manuscripts I could not help but be angry right there with Jo. Amy is completely likable in this version and even one of the best characters. Not only that, but this movie leaves it up to your imagination if Jo ended up married or not. This is important because Louisa May Alcott never wanted Jo to be married. The book was written based off of her and her sisters, she was Jo, and she was not interested in men. Evidence suggests that Alcott was actually more interested in women. She was forced to marry Jo off in the books to make them more “publishable” and she absolutely refused to marry Jo off to her best friend Laurie, hence Bhaer. This movie keeps true to what Alcott originally wanted. I personally believe that this movie is one of the best for female representation in media in general. Everyone should watch this movie at least once. Lines such as;

“Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. And I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it! But I’m so lonely.”-Jo

and

“I’m just a woman. And as a woman, there’s no way for me to make my own money. Not enough to earn a living or to support my family, and if I had my own money, which I don’t, that money would belong to my husband the moment we got married. And if we had children they would be his, not mine. They would be his property, so don’t sit there and tell me that marriage isn’t an economic proposition, because it is. It may not be for you, but it most certainly is for me.”-Amy

are so incredibly relatable and heartbreaking that I cried several times in this movie.

If you want to see a good version of the novel or even if you want to see a good movie for women in media in general, this is a great watch. This is a must watch for everyone no matter what your opinion on ‘Little Women’ is.

There are so many versions of this already, but I honestly believe that this story will continue to grow and change as the years go by. It already has more than most other classic novels. It always has and always will have something relatable for everyone. I like to think I’m a Jo girl, but I am often the Meg in my friend groups. But the brilliance is that any sister you relate to is ok! Every single woman in ‘Little Women’ feels real and is an incredible role model and will continue to be for years to come. This story deserves all of the love it’s gotten over the years and I love seeing all the versions of it as it continues to live on.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Book Adaptations: Why You NEED to Read “The Princess Bride”

Screenshot from “The Princess Bride” 1987. From left to right, Mandy Patinkin (Inigo), Wallace Shawn (Vizzini), and Andre the Giant (Fezzik). Copyright of Act III Communications.

Hey! Hallie here!

I think it’s safe to say that “The Princess Bride” has shaped most of quarantine so far. Early on we got short, silly, videos of famous actors acting out different scenes from the comfort of their own homes. We have the promise of these scenes all coming together on Quibi soon. (Does anyone even use Quibi though?) Also, as I’m typing this, a virtual script reading of the original movie, starring most of the original cast, is underway in support of the Wisconsin Democrats. I love “The Princess Bride” and I never miss an opportunity to re-watch the movie, especially now when I have a lot of free time on my hands. But recently I came to a shocking realization. There are people who don’t even know “The Princess Bride” was based off of a book. A REALLY good book. So if you haven’t read the book, or didn’t even know the book was a thing, here’s some reasons why you should pick it up right now.

The Same Writer: The late William Goldman is the genius writer responsible for both the original book and the screenplay of the movie. For that reason you won’t miss anything you love from the movie when you read the book. It’s all there, plus more witty dialogue and absolutely hilarious descriptions that you miss when watching the movie. Did you ever think it was weird that at the end of “The Princess Bride” the grandfather reads about all the kisses ranked most passionate? Well that’s because, in the book, there’s a ranking for EVERYTHING. It’s a gimmick that gets so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh. That is just one of many examples of the amazing writing style you miss when you don’t read the book.

The Other Storyline: This is probably the most surprising to people who first open “The Princess Bride”. No, I’m not talking about some small sub-plot. I’m talking about a completely different storyline that runs adjacent to the story of Buttercup, Westley, and Prince Humperdinck. The movie hints at this storyline with the sick boy lying in bed while the grandfather reads “The Princess Bride” to him. In the book however, there’s so much more to it. Your first hint that something is different is that Goldman’s name isn’t the only one on the book. The name of S. Morgenstern appears on every book, with the promise of an abridged version done by William Goldman inside. Does that mean S. Morgenstern is the author? No. S. Morgenstern is a fictitious author, and inside the book you’ll find several introductions and side notes written by William Goldman as a fictitious version of himself. He has several stories to share, including his retelling of how he was introduced to “The Princess Bride”, his father read the book to him while he was sick, and the story of how he tried to get his son obsessed with the book only to realize that chapter two was filled with historical familial records. He even details his own trip to the Cliffs of Insanity. While these are very much fake events, some events read truer, like his time on the movie set that he added into later editions of the book. There are small notes from William Goldman throughout the entire book, and they’re gleefully enjoyable whether true or not.

Character Backstories: In the movie the most complete character backstory we get is Westley’s. Part of this is because his time among pirates and the way he became the Dread Pirate Roberts is explained by Westley himself in the fire swamp. Our other three main characters, Buttercup, Inigo, and Fezzik, all get more backstory in the book. The beginning of the book shows Buttercup’s life, her parents, and the moment that Count Rugen, the six-fingered man, discovered her. The event even ends with her embarrassing first confession of love to Westley. After Westley leaves and she hears news of his death, it doesn’t leave Buttercup’s depression up to the reader to imagine. The book follows Buttercup through every emotion as she loves and loses Westley, and it adds something interesting to her character. As for Inigo and Fezzik, the book actually pauses before each of their fights with Westley to talk about their childhoods. You learn so much more about Inigo’s father and Fezzik’s rough entrance into the world of professional fighting. There’s so much more to learn about the characters, and the book definitely provides answers to questions you may have asked yourself after the movie.

Fezzik: My favorite character in “The Princess Bride” movie has always been Inigo. So when I finished the book and realized Fezzik was my favorite character, I was kind of surprised. Fezzik is great in both versions, don’t get me wrong, but Fezzik is also a largely silent character. That’s where the book has leverage over the movie. The pieces of the book told from Fezzik’s point of view give you insight into his mind. Not only is he more intelligent than Vizzini gives him credit for, he’s also the voice of reason between himself and Inigo. Inigo is quick to go off the rails when something doesn’t go his way, while Fezzik remains calm and collected most of the time. It’s upsetting to discover this adorable character has been holding back his intelligence because he’s been told his entire life that his size is his only feature worth noticing. The movie made me like Fezzik, but the book made me love him, and I think everyone should take the chance to fall in love with this character. (Fun fact: Fezzik was William Goldman’s favorite character as well.)

“Buttercup’s Baby”: “Buttercup’s Baby” was the supposed sequel to “The Princess Bride”. William Goldman expressed both disinterest in writing the full sequel, and then, later on, hinted that he might have written some of it. Given his reputation for joking around, and his untimely death, we’ll never know how serious he was about this sequel. Regardless, the first few chapters of the sequel can be found in the back of the book. It gives you a little bit of insight into what the characters might have been doing at the end of the story, plus even more Fezzik. Also, naturally, some action and chaos. It’s not exactly the happiest of stories, it ends on a cliffhanger, but there’s also a few hilarious and interesting pieces of information given about “Buttercup’s Baby” early on in the book. All I’ll say is there’s a giant bird and a whole lot of William Goldman’s fictional trip to Florin.

And there you have it! Hopefully I’ve convinced you to pick up the book next time you’re in a “The Princess Bride” mood. Which is always. You should always be in the mood for “The Princess Bride”. Let’s be honest, you’ve already watched the movie a million times. Who hasn’t? So go read the book now. You won’t regret it, I promise! Also, when you finish, be sure to give a silent thanks to William Goldman. Not only did he write this amazing story, he also spent YEARS fighting to maintain the rights to it so that he could get the movie made exactly the way he knew it deserved to be made. I think we can all agree it payed off.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-pop and K-dramas: But Namjoon

Screenshot of Kim Namjoon from BTS’s ‘Dynamite’ MV on Youtube. Copyright goes to Big Hit Entertainment and BTS.

Hi! It’s Annie!

For those of you who weren’t aware, today, September 12th, is Kim Namjoon’s (RM from BTS) twenty-sixth birthday! What’s funny is that I had the idea for this article a while ago and had no idea I would be posting this on his birthday. For those of you who aren’t too familiar with BTS or the fandoms in the K-Pop world, you might be looking at the title of this article and have no idea what that means. “But Namjoon” is a popular phrase coined in the K-pop world, generally used when a K-pop star says something racist. Many hardcore fans of a K-pop artist who is accused of saying or doing something racist will respond with “But Namjoon” because of a few things that he’s done in the past. If this sounds stupid to you, that’s because it probably is. This phrase was most popular a couple years ago, but recently it has gained traction again for unknown reasons. Namjoon hasn’t done anything of this nature for years, even when the phrase was popular a couple years ago it was entirely targeting things he’s done in the past. Before I go farther into this, I want to mention that this is my perspective on this issue and it’s incredibly important to listen to Black voices and validate what they’re feeling as well. As always, please do some of your own research on this topic as well.

The acts in question:

Namjoon was accused by many people of sexism a while ago when certain people decided to revisit one of BTS’s first popular songs; ‘War of Hormone’. I’m going to be honest here, the song isn’t pretty when it comes to sexist undertones. While most of the song is just sexualizing women in general, there are lyrics like; “Women are like an equation, us guys are the solution”. Not great. However, it’s important to talk about how Namjoon reacted when this song was criticized. He took complete responsibility for the song, confessed that he wrote most of the criticized lyrics, and apologized for them. Then he did the best thing he could have possibly done; he never did it again. Not only that, but he now has women oversee lyrics he writes about women in order to make sure he never does it again. ‘War of Hormone’ is bad, but is the music we generally have in America any better? And have we ever gotten apologies from any American artists about how they sexualized women or promises from them to never do it again? This is the beginning of a much bigger conversation about how women are still portrayed in music in general, but we know that Namjoon and BTS will now be a positive part of that conversation.

Namjoon has said the n-word before. There’s really no getting around that fact. He once said it while covering an American rap song and then he allegedly said it one other time on a live, but I have yet to find definitive proof of that. It may be out there somewhere, I don’t know. I am not a person of color, so I can’t say anything definitively on this situation, all I can talk about is how young Namjoon was and what he’s done to change. Not only has he apologized several times for saying this and never done it again, he also has since worked to remove the Korean word “naega” from all BTS songs even though it is a common referral to oneself in Korean. It is not a racist word, but he has still removed it from every song so that an English speaker won’t misinterpret the word and feel uncomfortable.

So, why are people still using this phrase?

I honestly can’t say. A band like BTS that has such a big fan following are bound to have people that don’t like them too. Maybe people are using this phrase to remind people that the newest artist who does or says something racist can turn themselves around as well. I seriously doubt the last one, as this phrase has a notoriously bad connotation. Mainly I see this as an example of people not allowing others to grow and become better people. It would be very different if Namjoon has never apologized or made any moves to change, but he is an excellent example of someone who has done both and has become infinitely wiser because of it. It’s also important to point out that Namjoon was nineteen or twenty when all of the things I mentioned above happened and his turn around occurred incredibly quickly. Because he listened and checked himself. I’m not a big fan of people actively condemning cancel culture, because we’ve always had some form of cancel culture. It’s not anything new, and lately it’s mostly been used to help move society forward. But we should definitely be careful about making sure we acknowledge the people who do change after they’re called out. We shouldn’t keep bringing up someone’s past mistakes if that’s something they have moved past and are still actively trying to become better because of. If anything this proves that Namjoon is an even better role model. Namjoon has gone from those mistakes to saying things like:

“If you can’t respect, don’t even open your mouth.”

and

“No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, gender identity: speak yourself.”

and

“I believe that there’s no improvement if you have an inferiority complex and victim mentality.”

Of course, I’m biased. Namjoon is amazing and I’m a giant fan of BTS. But things like this make me even more proud to be a fan of BTS. They are excellent examples of people with fame who actually care and have compassion for everyone. Their philanthropy is unmatched, including donating to causes like BLM in countries that aren’t their own. Namjoon is the leader of this amazing group, and rightfully so. He is well-spoken, kind-hearted, and an excellent example of someone who listened and became one of the strongest allies for equality we have. I have an immense love for this band and that definitely includes Kim Namjoon. Happy Birthday, Rapmon!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Video Games: Why “Undertale” is Still Worth Playing

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is undertale.jpg
Screenshot from 2015’s “Undertale”. Copyright of Toby Fox.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’m sure many “Undertale” fans already know this, but we’re quickly approaching the game’s 5th anniversary. Amidst all of the announcements I felt it was only right to return to the video game that started my obsession with video games. I had played games before “Undertale”, but “Undertale” made me want to buy an actual game system. I’m completely aware of the various reasons why some have steered away from this game, especially after interacting with some of the more infamous parts of the fan base. But if you’ve let the actions of the worst of the fans steer you away from this amazing game, it may be time to reconsider. Not only are we anticipating more installments to the franchise, but it’s messages are still incredibly valid five years later.

So why should you pick up the game right now?

The Player’s Influence: This is probably what the game is most popular for. This is also probably the hardest piece to explain without any spoilers, and as I’m venturing for this to be a spoiler-free discussion, I won’t give anything away. Just, if you haven’t played the game, PLEASE go in blind. It’s worth it. This game doesn’t have choices like many other player-influenced games, but don’t let that fool you. Your actions do matter, and characters will treat you differently based on how you decide to play. Making a rash decision can start you down a dangerous path, and you’re just as easily able to make enemies as you are friends. The way this game involves the player is so sneakily done that you won’t even notice how much impact you have at first. After you’re a few hours into this game, however, you will absolutely start questioning your morals.

The Characters: The art style of this game is adorable and quite deceptive. The characters may look simple and cute, but there’s much more depth to every character than meets the eye. The game doesn’t even try to hide from you how little you know from appearances. The very first scene of the game the player meets a flower named Flowey. Cute, right? Come back to me after you meet him. Another example is Sans the skeleton. If you know anything about “Undertale”, you know Sans. He’s a squat little skeleton, known for his love of hot dogs and general laziness. But as you get deeper into the game you realize Sans has a much darker side. He’s not someone you want to piss off, and it’s not just because he has a temper. You’ll be rewarded for getting to know these characters and trust me, you’ll need more than one playthrough to learn everything about them.

The Soundtrack: Toby Fox, the creator of the game, also composed the music for the game. He’s unfairly talented. Each new area you enter has it’s own theme to fully immerse you into the new landscape. Snowdin sounds like Christmas. Waterfall’s tinkling notes remind me of rain. The soundtrack blends in so seamlessly with the background that you’ll appreciate it without even noticing it’s there. Each character also has their own theme. The themes match with the character’s personalities so well that I can’t even look at a character without getting their song stuck in my head. If you haven’t listened to any of the soundtrack, at least go listen to “Megalovania”. It absolutely wrecks what you think can be done with the soundtrack of an old-school style video game.

The Humor: This game is hilariously funny. It succeeds impressively at being both dark, and chalk-full of goofiness. Don’t get me wrong, most of the jokes in this are bad jokes. Not slapstick, thankfully, but still bad. But they’re the good kind of bad jokes. The jokes so stupid, you can’t help but laugh. Between Sans’ skeleton puns and Napstablook saying “zzz” out loud to pretend he’s asleep, there’s always something that can make me laugh on bad days. And the best part? The game is completely self aware. It doesn’t aim for comedy that makes you think. It aims for comedy that will make you laugh purely for how magnificently meta and dumb it is.

The Style: I’ve mentioned it’s old school design and cute characters above, but it’s really worth talking about the entire design of this game. The style calls back to old 8-bit games, but with vibrant colors and unique character designs. The color palate is so gorgeous that I legitimately paused for several minutes to stare at the flowers in one of the final rooms. Also, the sheer amount of characters in this game, especially counting the monsters you meet in combat, is impressive, and none look even remotely the same. (Aaron, the horse with both a snake tail and huge muscles, is one of my favorites). Some of the credit for the design goes to Toby Fox, he’s really THAT talented, but some of it also goes to Temmie Chang. Temmie even has her own creature in the game thanks to her contributions. They’re appropriately called Temmie’s and they’re adorable, so keep your eye out for them!

The Gameplay: The gameplay isn’t really what you expect going into it. Each combat round takes you into a separate black and white screen where you face off against monster attacks as, wait for it, your own heart. You can take actions, like telling the monsters a joke, or you can decide to simply fight back. All that while trying to dodge attacks from inside a small, white, box. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s very fulfilling. The game teaches you how to dodge new attacks as you move along in the story, and eventually you have to learn to react faster and faster as boss battles demand more from you. At times the system can be frustrating, but with enough practice you’ll be proud of what you can accomplish.

These are only a few of my favorite things in the game. Maybe I’ll make a spoilery post down the line to talk about all of the amazing twists and turns that made me love this game. But, for now, I hope I gave you a few good reasons to check this game out. And if you’ve already played “Undertale”, first of all, you have my respect. Secondly, what are you doing here? It’s almost “Undertale”‘s 5th anniversary. Go hang out with Sans at Grillby’s or something!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Disney: Mulan (2020)

Screenshot from Mulan (2020) starring Liu Yifei. Copyright of Walt Disney Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Over the weekend I was surprised by my family with watching this movie right in the middle of deciding whether or not I was going to watch it. I am a giant fan of the original ‘Mulan’ movie, it is quite possibly one of my favorite movies of all time. I also am not at all a fan of Disney feeling the need to do all of these live action reboots. In my opinion, even if they are somewhat enjoyable, they end up feeling useless and lacking in creativity at the end of the day. But that doesn’t even begin to describe where this movie went wrong. There’s a lot wrong about this movie before you even watch it; so in the interest of this review leading to some sort of recommendation on whether or not you should watch this movie, I should mention at least some of the arguments surrounding whether or not this movie deserves a boycott.

The Boycott:

Firstly, Disney jumped through hoops to please the Chinese Communist Party in the making of this movie. It was filmed where there are Muslim concentration camps. You have to go into this movie knowing that many argue that this was meant to be a Chinese propaganda film, not to necessarily express the culture or the people. Pleasing the government is what’s going to make them money, so that’s what they did because that’s what they care about. Liu Yifei and another actor in this film also faced backlash for siding with Beijing against Hong Kong. I’ve heard some people point out that freedom of speech in China as an actor is way different than what people seem to think it is. Actors, especially ones going out into the world to represent China, are often pressured by the government into saying certain things. What she said she stood for wasn’t pretty, but just because she said it doesn’t mean anything in regards to whether or not she actually stands for it. Lastly, I should point out that this film has little to no Asian creatives of any sort behind the scenes. Yes, it’s good that all the actors are Asian, but there were no people actually a part of this culture writing this movie and it shows. Many people worry, when it comes to this film doing badly, that Hollywood will think that this film failing means western audiences aren’t interested in seeing Asian culture. Even if the true case is that the movie was just bad and controversial. All of the things above that I just mentioned are important things to think of before you make the decision on whether or not to spend your money here. I’m going to tell you right now, it probably isn’t worth it. I’m also not the be-all, end-all, of information regarding all of the reasons to boycott this movie, nor am I the first person you should ask about it. Please do your own research and listen to Asian voices regarding this issue.

LIGHT SPOILER WARNING: Not that you’re actually going to watch the movie now that you’ve read the above paragraph.

The Bad:

  • No Mushu. I know a lot of people wanted Mushu in here but I didn’t really see why. I wanted a more realistic approach to the tale of Mulan, so I wasn’t really looking for a Mushu in here. Instead, the fact that Mushu isn’t here is almost baffling. There’s a random Pheonix that appears sometimes and doesn’t have much to do with the story and a shape-shifting bird woman who also doesn’t really make sense in the context of the movie because she’s the only one shown with this ability. They don’t even explore why she has this ability. Literally anything weird about the movie is explained as “chi”. The more they do this, the more you become certain that the writers have absolutely no idea what “chi” even is. This will come up again.
  • Chi. There it is! What the heck is chi in the context of this movie and why is it even there? One of the great things about the character of Mulan in the original movie is that she’s a normal woman learning at the same speed as everyone else and she just wants to save her father. When she progresses or fights well it’s because she shows that women can be just as strong and work just as hard as men do. In this, all of her achievements are attributed to her chi. This is why the movie thinks she’s a good fighter, this is why the movie thinks she’s brave. It’s because she’s some sort of chosen one rather than a strong woman and warrior. This idea of chi is very inconsistent in what it’s actually used for and it isn’t ever explained to the audience either. I will again express my belief that the white writers chose a random Chinese idea that was somewhat popular and wrote it into the script without actually doing research on it first.
  • The westernization. This was so apparent throughout this entire movie. From the way they spoke, to the words they used, to the way the characters acted around each other. Watching this movie was really interesting after having watched so many C-dramas lately that are actually written by Chinese people. Everything here just felt off and I realized that it was because Asian people didn’t actually write this script or the dialogue in it. This movie felt more like it was trying to pander to its western audience than it felt like it was actually trying to teach us anything cultural. Each culture has a different way of communicating. Some cultures are more outgoing than others. Every culture has progressed differently so we’re bound to be different. The way I talk to my friends in public is going to be very different than the way someone half-way around the world talks to their friends in public. Researching and recognizing this before you visit that country, never mind before you make a film about said country, should be common practice as a way to be respectful. I guess that tells you what you need to know about the writers of this movie.
  • The girl power. I am really sick of movies claiming to be feminist and advertising that way, only for them to feel the need to give a woman a reason to be great as if we can’t be on our own. There must be some sort of reason that a woman is more powerful than a man. I already talked about this when I talked about chi, but I want to take a second to talk about the hawk lady. All of Mulan’s conversations with the witch are about how men treat them. Even if it’s supposed to draw attention to the inequality of the time, it also means that this movie fails to pass the Bechdel test. This movie that was advertised as feminist doesn’t pass the Bechdel test even though they put another female character in this movie specifically for Mulan to talk to. I’m not saying that every film that passes the Bechdel test is great for women, or every film that doesn’t is horrible. The original ‘Mulan’ doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. But the original ‘Mulan’ doesn’t largely because Mulan spends most of the movie surrounded by men while pretending to be a man. This movie doesn’t have that excuse because they added in this new character. And when the witch woman dies, it isn’t emotional because she dies for the sake of woman-kind rather than the movie actually taking a moment to give her some sort of personality trait that isn’t just “feminist”. We want multi-dimensional characters for women! Them being only “feminist” and nothing else isn’t going to cut it!
  • The side characters. Everyone but maybe Mulan and her father are one-dimensional. The movie doesn’t know what to spend time on, so it goes off on several tangents and basically leaves all of its side characters to rot. They might as well have all had the same personality because there was no depth or exploration of the characters to be had here.
  • Same plot. The base plot of this movie is exactly the same as the original movie. They didn’t even try to really change it too much, and it leaves you sitting there wondering why you’re watching the movie. The original animated ‘Mulan’ does this plot so much better, so if you’re going to watch what’s virtually the same plot you might as well turn this off and watch the other ‘Mulan’ that’s also on Disney Plus. If you’re interested in watching a more culturally accurate version of ‘Mulan’, there are many adaptations to choose from that were actually made in China and created by Asians. This movie is a very useless watch.

The Good:

  • The imagery. If this movie has nothing else, you can at least say that it’s beautiful. Many of the scenes feel like paintings and the movie itself is shot very well. It’s very pretty to look at while you aren’t enjoying it that much.
  • The acting. For the very little that each actor was given character-wise, each actor manages to stand out in some way. Every actor gives a piece of themselves to their performance and does an excellent job at doing so. The acting is charismatic, fun to watch, and makes you wish that the movie was better so the actors would have been given proper material to work with. They carry the movie on their backs and each and every one of them deserved so much better writing than what they got.
  • The swordsmanship. There is a specific scene where actor Donnie Yen is moving so fast with his sword that they had to shoot the scene in slow motion. It was one of the most beautiful scenes in the entire movie. If you can find that scene by itself on Youtube or something, it is definitely worth the watch.
  • No Li Shang. Don’t get me wrong, I love Li Shang. He is one of my favorite Disney characters of all time, but there is nothing he would have been able to do for this movie. There is another character they have as Mulan’s love interest that fits the narrative much better, and really makes you wonder what would have happened if the writing was better and he was given more to work with as a character. Disney cited the reasons for taking Li Shang out as not wanting Mulan to have a romantic relationship with an unbalanced power dynamic. I actually really respect this decision. If only they could have done more with the new character and this movie in general.

So, is it good?

No, not really. You probably could tell from what I wrote about the good in this movie that I didn’t like it that much. There’s really not much to say here. There’s so much rightful backlash about this movie and really, it makes you wonder what would happen if we actually had a more diverse Hollywood. Also, if it was more popular and normalized to watch movies and content that are made in other countries. When it comes to our media in America, we can be really self-centered. I didn’t have high expectations for this movie, because I really don’t for any Disney live-action films. I’m just going to tell you to skip it and not pay the ridiculous thirty dollars. Watch the original again or watch an adaptation of it from China. Both experiences would probably be much better. Disney is coming out with ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ next year and that actually has many Asian creatives working behind the scenes on it. Hopefully that will be better, especially because it’s an original idea. (And YAY Kelly Marie Tran!) And can we stop with the live action remakes? Please???

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Twins in Media: The Parent Trap (1961)

Screenshot from “The Parent Trap” (1961), starring Hayley Mills. Copyright of Walt Disney Productions.

Hey! Hallie here!

If we’re going to talk about “The Parent Trap” we need to talk about the original movie. I’d heard a lot about this movie going into it. This definitely isn’t the first adaptation of this story. There are so many versions. SO MANY. But this is the one that the Lindsay Lohan version remade, and the one that popularized the song “Let’s Get Together”. The story of this one is pretty much the same as the Lindsay Lohan movie with only slight differences. However, most of these differences come from the twins, in this Sharon and Susie, and the way they’re portrayed. So let’s look into these girls and see how they hold up next to their 1998 counterparts.

The Bad:

  • Same actress. This trend is always going to bug me, but I don’t think it’s ever bothered me as much as it did in this movie. It can’t be stressed enough that twins don’t look exactly the same. Not even identical ones. So not only is one actress playing two characters instantly eyebrow raising for me, but it puts a major responsibility on the shoulders of the actress, director, and even writers. How do you make sure the audience can tell the difference between these two characters? Well, in this movie, they can’t. At the beginning of the movie it’s stressed that Sharon speaks and holds herself more properly as a result of her upbringing, while Susie uses more slang and bites her nails. That’s something to work with! Unfortunately, their speech patterns and mannerisms are lost as the movie goes on. The actress acts like the same person in both roles, and even has a constant habit of licking and biting her bottom lip that is prevalent in the film regardless of which character she’s playing. There’s even one scene where both twins are sitting on a bed and one starts biting her nails, only for someone to refer to her as Sharon. So apparently both Sharon AND Susie bite their nails now. Needless to say, I was very confused. As you can probably tell, this bothered me a lot, but I’ll stop ranting and move on.
  • Impersonation. This is going to be the same in both movies because it’s the whole idea behind the movie’s plot. I can count on one hand the amount of twins I know who pulled this move on purpose. The reason twins don’t really do this is because most twins aren’t separated at birth. Surprising right? We don’t really have the opportunity to switch places in any sort of satisfying way. We’re too busy spending most of our time trying to help people tell us apart so we can be seen as individual people. Trust me, most twins would find more satisfaction in you knowing the difference between them than they would in pranking you by pretending to be their sibling.
  • Different but the same. This trope kind of does the same thing as the Separated at Birth trope in this movie. Both use extremes to try to highlight the differences between the twins. I have such a love/hate relationship with this trope. It is very effective at making the twins completely different characters, but takes everything way too far. The twins must have completely different tastes in everything for their differences to be obvious. My sister and I have very different personalities, but also enjoy a lot of the same things. The remake avoids this trope by showing that both girls have similar interests while at camp. In this movie they only share an interest in pranks.
  • Mischievous twins. This one hits a bit harder than the Lindsay Lohan remake. The personalities of the twins are dropped about halfway through this movie in favor of giving the parents more screen time. Because of that, being mischievous actually does become both of their personalities. Suddenly their characters are only fun because they’re twins and tricking their parents, not because of the individual traits that were brought up earlier in the movie. It had potential at the beginning at least.
  • Psychic connection. At the beginning of this movie there’s a whole scene where Sharon says her mom tells her she’s psychic because she gets goosebumps when something big is about to happen. After that happens, both Sharon and Susie get goosebumps at the same time. Ummm no. Just no. That’s all I have to say about that.

The Good:

  • Not the same person. I mentioned some of the tropes they accidentally fall into while attempting this, but I can’t deny that it’s here. Sharon and Susie are presented as two very different people. Two people so different that they don’t get along at first. They come from different areas, have different definitions of what’s fun or what’s polite, and don’t have the same tastes. Susie has a moment where she’s trying to explain her favorite stars to Sharon, and Sharon hasn’t even heard of them. (As a side note, Sharon is from Boston in this adaptation and she’s treated like she lives under a rock, which I found kind of hilarious.) I’ll give credit where credit is due. Creating two distinct characters for twins instead of one is always a major plus.
  • Observant housekeeper. So the parents are as bad as ever in this version and the Grandfather only realizes something is wrong after listening in on Sharon and Susie’s phone call. Not great. Verbena, however, is a gem. Verbena is the original Chessy, and she is just as observant of a character. When Sharon pretends to be Susie and becomes instantly distant from Verbina, she not only notices, but also notices her change in personality. Verbina figures out the difference because she knows the difference, and for that she gets my respect.
  • Different lives. Welcome to another plus of the Separated at Birth trope. Susie and Sharon have different people in their lives who they care about in different ways. They don’t even make the same friends at camp. It’s pretty much the same as the 1998 movie, but I appreciate it anyway. This coming from a twin who is in the same friend group as my sister and chose the same college major for the last two years of college, we STILL don’t live the same life. We have different relationships with our friends and different goals we want to reach. It’s nice to see that twin characters can have different goals and relationships, even if it’s within the most extreme situation you could possibly imagine.

So how do Susie and Sharon hold up? They kind of hang out in the middle. The tropes that they suffer from aren’t great, but they aren’t as harmful as some other tropes we’ve covered before. The intent to write two separate characters is there and appreciated. I did list more bad traits than good, but there’s nothing about them I find as offensive as how the actress portrayed the two, which is more inconsistent than bad. They aren’t anywhere near a great representation of twins, but I appreciate that this movie set a precedent for future movies of the same nature. I’ve seen Separated at Birth done as a story about two people who coincidentally have the same lives because Twins! and Fate! but “The Parent Trap” has made this content less popular. For that I’m grateful.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Twins in Media: The Parent Trap (1998)

Screenshot from “The Parent Trap” (1998), starring Lindsay Lohan. Copyright of Walt Disney Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

To continue on our ‘Twins in Media’ venture, my sister and I thought it only right to go back to our namesake. We spent the weekend watching both ‘Parent Trap’ movies so we could examine what both movies did for and against twins in media. Besides this film being the far superior of the two, it was also a little better at the portrayal of twins on the whole. There’s really a lot to unpack here, and rightly so. This movie is quite possibly the most popular depiction of twins to ever have been in media. Let’s figure out if Annie and Hallie are actually good representations of twins in media, shall we?

The Bad:

  • Impersonation. This is what the entire movie is about, and really it’s no surprise. The public has been fascinated for as long as I can remember about the prospect of twins switching places. Are you not good at math but your twin is? Have her take your test instead! I know I’ve mentioned it before, but this doesn’t happen regularly. My sister and I have actually never done it. But I’ll give it points for having them switch for reasons that aren’t mischievous.
  • Mischievous twins. That brings me to this trope. While they don’t switch places to play pranks on people, they still both play a lot of pranks. The first part of this movie is mostly made up of them playing pranks on each other. However, this is not by any means a main personality trait for either girl.
  • Same actor. This is one of the biggest issues I have with all of these movies. Either fraternal or identical, all twins have differences. My sister and I are fraternal, but we are told we look identical. We can personally see the differences, and all of the people in our lives who are close to us can also easily tell us apart from certain facial differences, our habits, our postures, and the way that we speak. Our tones and voices are completely different. You can’t capture all of that at all when only one actress is playing two roles. There may never be a pair of twins who look one hundred percent alike, so it would be nice if media would stop casting the same actor as two different characters and instead cast actual twins or at least two people who look somewhat alike.
  • Oblivious parents. There are instances where one of my parents is looking in the other direction and I accidentally say something that sounds kind of like my sister, so there’s a moment of confusion. It barely happens and it never happens if my parents are looking straight at us. Most parents of twins have identifiers to tell a pair of twins apart even when they’re babies. The fact that neither of the parents figured it out at all is absolutely awful. It feels like neither parent is actually that close to either child and they treat the two like they’re a reversible sweater. It’s really simple, if the parents can’t even tell their twins apart, they probably aren’t great parents. At least the Dad has a moment where he actually figures out which one is Hallie in a scene where she is wearing orange and Annie is wearing pink, as Hallie is seen to wear warmer colors than Annie. But he immediately second guesses himself, so it really isn’t that much to be proud of. Also, the fact that they separated the siblings at birth and never told them they had a sister is also kind of a dick move.
  • Separated at birth. It’s become a common trend that only twins that have been separated at birth have different personalities. I mean, props to them for being different characters. I just want to point out that most twins are different people while having stayed in the same household their entire lives.

The Good:

  • Similar and different. This is one of those rare occasions where a pair of twins is not portrayed as exactly the same or exactly the opposite. A great example is that both sisters have a liking and a talent for fencing and playing poker; but Annie is a much better fencer than Hallie is while Hallie is much better at playing poker than Annie is. They like similar things but they have separate talents. This also comes across when the movie is explaining their different personality traits to the audience visually. Hallie is shown to be adventurous, sarcastic, and more stubborn. Annie is responsible, proper, and anxious. Hallie has mid-length hair and wears earrings while Annie has longer hair and wears headbands. None of the things that I just mentioned are exactly the same or exactly the opposites of each other. They just have different personality traits, and that’s amazing! They are different people who both enjoy oreos and peanut butter. They aren’t ever presented as one half to a whole; they are each their own whole.
  • Observant family. So the parents in this movie aren’t great. But Martin the butler, Chessy the chef, and the Grandfather are all amazing family to these girls. While the parents don’t suspect anything, these three are quick to figure out that something is wrong. Chessy even has a list of things she noticed that were off and mentions them to Annie while she is impersonating Hallie. (Can we also talk about how the Dad should have broken up with Meredith the moment she bought a bell to summon Chessy with?) It is extremely clear in this film that Martin and Chessy know more about Hallie and Annie than the parents do. Chessy knows what Hallie likes to eat and Martin has a special complicated handshake that he does with Annie. These two are gold and the true parents of Hallie and Annie. Martin and Chessy deserve each other in the best way possible.
  • Different lives. They have different goals, different people they care about, and different friends. Even when they go to camp, they each make a different set of friends. My sister and I do have a lot of the same friends, but we have different relationships with them and there are some people that one of us is closer to than the other. Our relationships with anyone aren’t going to be exactly the same. They do this with the members of the family as well. Annie’s relationship with Martin, her Mom, and her Grandfather, are portrayed as different than when Hallie is impersonating her sister. The same goes the other way around. Twins have different lives and different relationships with people, even if it’s the same person. This was really good at exploring that.
  • The actor depiction. Even though I’m not a huge fan of casting the same person as two people, I will admit that this is one of the best times I’ve seen it done. Lindsay Lohan gave Annie and Hallie different ways of talking both in tone and pitch. Each character has their own set of habits, and they don’t do exactly the same thing. It isn’t perfect, but an attempt is made and is as successful as it can be.
  • No twin personality meld. I also see this happen a lot. Sometimes a pair of twins in media will act separately while apart, but once the movie gets them together they will pretty much be the same person. This movie was really careful at keeping Hallie and Annie separate people unless they were trying to come across as unidentifiable for the plot.
  • I am me. When their Mom finds out that Hallie had been pretending to be Annie this entire time, Hallie immediately tells her Mom that she wants to be loved as Hallie and not as her sister. Little moments like this that remind the audience that they are different people are really important, especially in movies like this that can easily fall too deep into what the public wants to see about twins instead of how twins actually are in real life.

So, are Hallie and Annie a good representation of twins in media or not?

Surprisingly, I’m going to go with yes for the most part. Don’t get me wrong, there are still things I don’t like at all about this portrayal of twins in media. I am really getting tired of one actor playing two different roles just because the roles are twins, and it still happens so much. I didn’t even get into how the popularization of movies like this perpetuate same-sex fraternal twin erasure in media. But, what this movie does well, it does really well. This movie is very nostalgic for both me and my sister and watching it again reminded me of how much I truly do love this movie. This is not a perfect movie for twin representation, but I honestly don’t think there is a really good representation of same-sex twins in media yet. At least, not that I’ve seen. As far as same-sex twins go, this is one of the best examples of at least semi-good representation that we have.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie