Sci-Fi/ Superheroes: Best Companions in ‘Doctor Who’

Screenshot of (left) Matt Smith and (right) Karen Gillan in ‘Doctor Who’ Copyright goes to the BBC.

Hi! It’s Annie!

It has come to my attention that I have yet to write about ‘Doctor Who’ even though I’ve loved it for so long. And I recently went back to watch some of the eleventh Doctor and thought that it was a crime that it had taken me so long to get back around to this. I will only be discussing my personal favorite companions for the tenth and eleventh Doctors, as those are my favorite ones and the only Doctors I’ve watched seasons of more than once. Each of these Doctors have had three notable companions. For ten it was Rose, Martha, and Donna. For eleven it was Amy, Rory, and Clara. And while there is no companion that I dislike of any of this collection, I do have my favorites. So I’m going to go over how each companion was with those Doctors and which one became my personal favorite! I’m going to get right into it, but before that, this is your SPOILER warning! Seriously, if you for some reason have not watched these seasons of ‘Doctor Who’, go watch them and stop reading immediately! Seriously!

Tenth Doctor:

Rose: I think the tenth Doctor really needed a familiar face when he woke up, and Rose is the most familiar face you can get when it comes to companions. David Tennant’s Doctor was full of both charm and angst; his very first appearance also involving him taking down the entire career of a woman with only six words and claiming that he was a Doctor of no second chances. Rose is one of the most compassionate companions there has ever been, she was a perfect human side to him battling with his own occasional thirst for vengeance. Though they had a bit of a rough start, Rose soon accepted him for who he was and fell in love with him even more than she had with the previous iteration of the Doctor. They also worked well together as a team and had constant adorable banter as well as inside jokes. And Rose is the only companion to actually end up with the Doctor in a way. Not exactly, but it was basically a human version of the tenth Doctor that wouldn’t regenerate. Rose is such a comforting and friendly presence that you can’t help but feel happy when she’s on screen.

Martha: The actual Doctor to the Doctor’s lack of professional medical training. Martha is insanely intelligent and compassionate with her healing abilities. She eventually becomes more of a soldier, and it is usually because of their fundamental differences that she and the Doctor butt heads so much. Martha speaks up against the Doctor distancing himself from others and acting reckless, especially after she decided to leave after having fallen in love with him and realized that being around him was no longer in her best interest. The Doctor and Martha worked well together because they were such opposites, but it was difficult to see them as having a close relationship because of how ill fitting they were. Martha is a badass, but she and the Doctor belonged more as friends than companions in my opinion.

Donna: Donna is the most amusing companion to ever exist. No one could ever give the Doctor as good as she gets before Donna. On top of all of this, David Tennant and Catherine Tate were great friends before they even played opposite of each other here. And this wouldn’t be the last time they played opposite of each other either. They did several comedy specials together as well as theatre. If you haven’t watched them as Benedick and Beatrice respectively in Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, I also highly recommend that. They are always hilarious together! This chemistry comes off in waves. Never has banter between two characters seemed so easy and seamless. Donna lets the Doctor know the minute she disagrees with him, but she more importantly views him as completely a friend and an equal. When the Doctor is upset she treats it as a genuine emotion and cares for him as a friend. She also constantly teases him, all in good fun though.

Winner: Donna. I love all three of these companions, but for me nothing can beat the combination of David Tennant and Catherine Tate. Their banter has never been matched since their appearance on the show, and I doubt it ever will be. Donna also had one of my absolute favorite introductions; Donna teleporting directly into the TARDIS in her wedding dress was iconic. And Donna not viewing the Doctor as someone to look up to and just her best friend, created a dynamic between them that made it feel as though the Doctor was being cared for himself. I love every scene that they’re in together and, though I love Rose and Martha, I can’t get over how perfect and amusing the Doctor and Donna were.

Eleventh Doctor:

Amy: The girl who waited. The introduction of Amy comes not long after the introduction of the new Doctor, and she is the first face he sees. She helps him discover his love of fish fingers and custard. And she’s quite possibly the sassiest companion the Doctor has ever had. Though she starts out with a crush on the Doctor, their relationship turns into something that’s more like the ultimate best friends. Amy can tell when the Doctor has reached his limits and the Doctor can tell when Amy has reached hers. Though her storyline gets very convoluted and messy as things go on, Amy will always be his family in some way. Even when that means she doesn’t always travel with him anymore. More importantly, I think Amy understood the Doctor in a way that no one else had before this. She really saw the Doctor for who he was and accepted him fully into her life. And she became an author. How cool is that?

Rory: Amy’s fiancee and eventual husband, who ends up becoming somewhat of a constant companion. Their marriage is one that the Doctor endeavors to protect, and even tricks them into getting back together on some occasions. But while Rory begins as something of an idiot, he proves himself to be one of the most true hearted people to ever board the TARDIS. He waits for Amy for two thousand years and loves her so innocently. He’s THE devoted boyfriend. Though he might not always be the smartest person in the room, his presence is lovable and needed all the same.

Clara: The impossible girl. Clara’s wit was evident from the first moment we met her, or a version of her, in the Dalek asylum. And then again when we met her as a governess in London. And then again when we met her in present day. Clara’s very good at keeping up with the Doctor, and also very good at watching out for everyone including him. The fact that Moffat essentially made her the most important companion was not great and definitely overly ambitious, as was the decision to make her almost completely on parr with the Doctor himself in some episodes with twelve. Obviously, being as smart as the Doctor is great. Not everyone can do what the Doctor can, and companions should have their own strengths. But her playfulness still comes through despite that and I always love seeing her. Establishing her as a school teacher and giving her more of a life to herself also made her more dynamic.

Winner: Though I love all of these companions, I think I’m going to go with Amy. I have several issues with Clara, more than I mentioned before and all to do with writing. Clara didn’t have much of a personality beyond the wit we first saw, and when it came to twelve she treated him as something disposable. Amy is a great example of being able to set barriers with the Doctor while still feeling like an intimate part of his life. The Eleventh Doctor was very affectionate, and seeing him hug Amy or press a kiss to her forehead was always sweet and not forced in the slightest. I think it also says something that Matt Smith and Karen Gillan are still close friends. The chemistry really does come across. And then there’s the addition of Rory, who is such an adorable and lovely character. Even if he didn’t quite always get in on the Doctor and Amy dynamic. I just don’t think many companions top Amy. And I’m sure the Doctor thinks so too.

The tenth and eleventh Doctors both had such excellent runs and such excellent companions. Though I don’t watch ‘Doctor Who’ as much as I used to, it’s still a comfort show that I occasionally go back to. And every time I’m always blown away with how lovable so many of the characters are and how much chemistry all the actors have together. So much so that they often end the show extremely close friends. The BBC has made so many of my favorite shows from ‘Merlin’ to ‘The Musketeers’ to ‘Doctor Who’ and all of these shows have become comfort shows for me. I’ll always eventually go back to one if not all of them, and the ‘Doctor Who’ seasons are full of such amazing messages about life and love and how precious it all is. If you haven’t dove into the world of BBC shows, I would recommend you do. Just prepare to fall down the rabbit hole!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Studio Ghibli: Films That Emotionally Destroyed Me

Screenshot of Nahoko and Jiro from ‘The Wind Rises’. Copyright goes to Studio Ghibli.

Hey! Hallie here!

Studio Ghibli films have a tendency to make audiences extremely emotional. I’ve cried at least once during the majority of their films. But some films hit just a bit harder than others. After crying, yet again, at the end of one of Ghibli’s films just yesterday, I decided it would be fun(?) to talk about all of the Ghibli films that have absolutely destroyed me emotionally. On this list there will definitely be sad films, but some of these films are more emotional by simply confronting everyday struggles that audiences can relate to. So with that out of the way, let’s get started! SPOILERS AHEAD!

‘Howl’s Moving Castle’:

We’re starting out with a film that isn’t really sad, but dealt with mental health in a way that I found deeply personal. And no, I’m not talking about Howl sliming his entire house for the sake of being dramatic. I’m talking about Sophie and her journey overcoming her self hatred. Sophie begins the film as a reclusive hat maker, uncertain about her interactions with everyone else who works in her stepmother’s hat shop. Pretty early on in the film we see her get turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste, and surprisingly, she accepts it pretty easily. From the way she speaks to herself we begin to learn that Sophie doesn’t see much of a difference between her usual appearance and her appearance as an old woman. As an old woman she feels plain and unattractive, which is evidently not uncommon to her. The only real surprise she experiences is the fact that she’s having an adventure, which is something she never envisioned for herself. As the film goes on we see that the spell on her is something she’s partially responsible for, as it begins to dissolve in moments where she experiences self confidence. When she stands up for what she believes in by defending Howl to his former tutor, she turns young again. As a direct contrast, in a moment where she completely forgets herself and her self hatred when admiring the flower garden Howl gives her as a gift, she turns back into an old woman by telling Howl that she isn’t pretty or capable. At the end of the film Sophie completely rids herself of the spell by losing all of her self doubts, embracing her abilities to protect Howl and her new-found family, and believing that she is deserving of Howl’s love. It’s a gorgeous transformation and one that makes me emotional every time I watch the film.

‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’:

Here’s another film that deals incredibly well with mental health. This movie is almost entirely about overcoming a loss of passion in your craft and even in the world. Kiki starts out her journey excited and eager to prove to the world that she’s a skilled magic user. While trying to find what she wants to do with said magic, she decides to open a delivery service. But her first deliveries go horribly wrong. The first results in a temporary loss of the toy she’s trying to deliver and a hasty attempt to get it fixed while Jiji takes its place. The second seems as though it will go well when she encounters two elderly ladies who are very kind, but ends badly when the recipient rudely accepts the delivery while simultaneously insulting it. Meanwhile, Kiki tries to balance the interest of Tombo and the social life he promises with her work, and at one point Kiki even gets seriously ill. All of that results in Kiki losing her magic and slipping into a deep depression because of it. This sequence is incredibly raw, but serves as a very realistic look into feeling inadequate and lost. It’s cathartic to watch Ursula explain to Kiki that artist blocks are difficult but normal, and even more cathartic to see her find new purpose when she rescues Tombo at the end of the film.

‘When Marnie Was There’:

This movie centers around the character of Anna, a foster child with social anxiety, clear depression, and asthma. She gets sent away to her foster mother’s sister, or her aunt, to get some fresh air to help ease her asthma and also to take her away from some of the stressors that may have caused her depression. The exploration of Anna’s depression throughout this movie completely shatters me. As a foster child, Anna feels as though none of the people around her truly care for her and that they will get rid of her should they ever find her annoying. Because of this she’s distant. She spends most of her time sketching but refuses to show others her drawings. However, it’s clear she wants other people to be interested in her sketches and she wants to let others in, she’s simply afraid of being abandoned in the same way she believes her blood relatives abandoned her. Because of this she lashes out, at one point calling a girl she’s meant to befriend a “fat pig”. What makes matters worse is the reveal that she knows her foster family gets money to take care of her and she fears that it’s the only reason they keep her around. It’s through her relationship with Marnie that she’s able to see everything through a new perspective. Not only do Marnie’s encouragements bring up her confidence, but an outside perspective allows her to see just how much her foster family loves her. At the end of the movie Anna discovers that Marnie was her grandmother and is finally able to know how much her blood relatives loved her as well, giving her peace and the ability to start healing.

‘The Wind Rises’:

If you know anything about the man this movie is based off of, Jiro Horikoshi, you know this movie isn’t happy. Though it’s a fictional retelling of his life, it’s still about the man who invented one of the deadliest war planes of all time. But Hayao Miyazaki turns this story into a beautiful piece about the morality behind creating art during times of tragedy and the fraught idea of greatness. Jiro is an extremely kind man with a kind heart. He attempts to give his dinner to starving children and he carries a stranger on his back to safety after a horrendous earthquake. But his dream is to make planes and this dream is one he intends to realize while Japan is fighting a losing war. He struggles with his dream, trying to design a plane that does justice to his large imagination while encountering many failures. And then he meets Nahoko, a woman who he briefly encountered when he was young, and the two fall in love. He proposes to her without much haste but she refuses because she’s suffering from Tuberculosis. Meanwhile, at the retreat where this romance occurs, he meets a German man who is clearly against the war and makes Jiro question his role in it entirely. At this point it feels as though Jiro could take two paths, one where he continues trying to perfect his plane-crafting during a pointless war, or one where he dedicates himself to the woman he loves. But, of course, the movie carries out this true historical figure’s destiny by having him complete his art while Nahoko, whom he marries when her illness gets worse, passes away. And while Jiro grapples with the fact that he wasn’t there for her, he also acknowledges his art was something he relied on his entire life. It’s a sad movie, but also a fascinating look at the need to create even when the world is at its bleakest.

That’s my personal list! Noticeably absent from this list are ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ and ‘Grave of the Fireflies’. I left these two out for different reasons, though I enjoy them both. ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ has some of the most gorgeous animation I’ve ever seen as well as an emotional story, but, for me personally, the sad nature of the story became more frustrating after a movie full of immoral characters making decisions they were warned against by Kaguya herself. As for ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, I was 100% emotionally devastated by this film. But I was so destroyed by it that I really don’t want to spend too much time talking about it. The movie is basically just two children starving to death. Need I say more? In any case, I highly recommend all of the films I listed above. Sure they’ll destroy you, but who doesn’t want to be destroyed by something as beautiful as a Studio Ghibli film?

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Live Entertainment: Renaissance Faires

Official image off of the ‘Renaissance Pleasure Faire’ website. Copyright goes to the ‘Renaissance Pleasure Faire’ in LA and the many talented performances.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Lately, I’ve been missing some of the things I wanted to do before Covid hit pretty badly again and put a lot back up in the air. One of the things that I’m hoping this current spike doesn’t effect, is the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Los Angeles in the coming Spring. Because, if you haven’t been able to tell from many of my other posts, I am a giant geek. I’ve even talked about playing Dungeons and Dragons on this blog before. Which I’m so glad is being more normalized by shows like ‘Critical Role’! But, if you’ve never been to a Renaissance Faire and you’re at all interested in medieval style entertainment and have an interest in immersive entertainment, I would highly recommend going to one at least once. Renaissance Faires are magical in the way that they seem to transport yourself to another place entirely, and the people who work there are even better at adding to the immersion than anything around you. I’m going to talk about my personal experiences with Renaissance Faires, specifically the one in Los Angeles, and what they usually entail.

The Joust/ Sword Fighting:

In the US, we generally have the same Renaissance Faire group that goes to most Faires. One of my favorite things about this group is that they generally travel with female knights and the master of ceremonies is also a woman. This is amazing considering establishments like ‘Medieval Times’ still don’t allow women as knights in their venues. So if you want to see a woman fight professionally as a knight, Renaissance Faires are some of the only places you can see that at. The show usually has several times, usually around three or four per day, and the last one is always different compared to the other three. While the first three might just be the joust and competition, the last one is usually that along with a giant fight between several of the knights. You never know, the knight you were cheering for in the first show could reveal himself to be a villain you didn’t expect. And the knights are always very in character, it’s so fun to hype them up from the crowd. I have never been a sports fan, but apparently jousting is my form of sports. You can’t expect how into it you’ll get and how into it everyone else is too.

Ambiance and Performances:

Renaissance Faires are usually very big and full of tents of shops, food, and games (such as axe throwing and archery). Also, in some more scenic Faires, there’s plenty of greenery and sometimes they even take place by rivers. There’s a lot to walk through, so there’s always some sort of entertainment around every corner as well. A newer addition to most Renaissance Faires is the presence of elven or otherwise fantastical characters. They often don’t speak and are in full body paint to represent a specific element. They mostly interact with kids and are overall really good photo ops. There’s also expected things like acrobatic shows, sword juggling, and groups playing Medieval type music throughout the Faire. The music especially really sets the mood for everything else. My favorite thing that I saw other than the joust was actually a one man Shakespeare puppet show of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that was more of a comedy. It sounded odd to me going in, but it turned out to be hilarious. Never underestimate any of the acts at a Renaissance Faire. Most of the performers have been practicing all year for this event, and they’re all very good!

Tents and Shops:

Be prepared to spend a lot of money if you decide to go, because there’s way too much to spend all of your money on. If you’re looking for costume pieces such as corsets, dresses, or even armor, all of those things are available. I got lost in a headpiece tent that had amazing pieces such as tiaras or other more elven like pieces with gorgeously colored jewels. If you are interested in buying an actual sword, there are those too. I know that some Faires even have a tent for buying “pet dragons”, which are of course really expensive. They are smaller shoulder sized dragons that are also intricate puppets and very realistic looking. Much like going to Ollivander’s in the ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter’, they match you to a dragon and make the experience as realistic as possible by treating them like actual pets. There was also a tarot tent that was mostly outside and covered with plants of every kind. It looked like you were entering a mini-garden. Also, expect the food to be theme park fare and expensive. It isn’t great, but it’ll get you through the day unless you decide to bring your own. Some Renaissance Faires, like the giant one in New York, have actual cottage-looking building fixtures as shops instead. While most Faires don’t have this added detail, I hope to eventually go to one that does!

Costuming:

There’s a common misconception that everyone who goes to a Renaissance Faire has to dress up. That’s very not true. I saw almost just as many people dressed up as not. You’ll feel like you fit in no matter what you wear. I am personally the type of person who likes to go all out with my costume. I bought a dress specifically for this event and I’m really into flower crowns so I went searching for the exact color flower crown that would match it beforehand. Just as a note, if you want a flower crown I would recommend buying one online or making your own because the ones I’ve often found at Renaissance Faires can have quite small flowers. That aside, I would definitely try and look into what you want to wear to the Faire at least a month in advance. Most places that make costumes specifically for events like this can take four to eight weeks to get your costume to you. I bought my dress off of Holy Clothing, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for something to wear to any event from a Ren Faire to a LARP. Their time frame is often pretty long. The dresses are more sturdy than regular costume pieces. But if you want to buy pieces at the Faire, I recommend doing that somewhat. Just don’t count on buying an entire costume, maybe just some pieces, because it can be really pricey.

Interactions:

I would highly recommend going to the Faire with a group if you can! Bring your D&D group! That’s essentially what I did. But if you just go by yourself, you won’t feel alone. So many people walk up to you and really make you feel at home. I haven’t been called “princess” that many times since I was a child at Disneyland. And this time people somehow treat the perceived nobility of your costume with seriousness. It’s kind of world bending in a way. You can also interact with the Queen; I know that certain Faires even allow you to pay extra to have tea with the Queen. I’m personally ok with just walking around the Faire and seeing where it takes me, so I’m not personally going to try that but it seems to be a popular event. Expect people to talk to you, but they aren’t persistent so if that’s not your thing they’ll back off. But sometimes interactions are some of the best parts of the Faire!

If you are a giant geek like me, I would highly recommend going to your most local Faire. They are also full of small businesses that need your patronage, so it’s a great way to support those businesses as well in a fun and immersive way! Just don’t expect to leave with that much money left. I really hope I’m able to attend this year!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Books: My Opinions on Popular ‘Harry Potter’ Ships

Screenshot of Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as Hermione and Ron in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’. Copyright goes to Warner Bros. Pictures and Heyday Films.

Hey! Hallie here!

We always have a pretty large gap between ‘Harry Potter’ posts mostly because, as much as ‘Harry Potter’ has been influential to Annie and I, it’s rightfully controversial to talk about. Rowling is pretty adamant about continuing to be an awful person and her writing is full of harmful stereotypes. We’ve talked about this more in detail in the past, but none of that’s really my goal with this post. My goal is to, once again, discuss what Rowling wrote as opposed to what the fan community has popularized by talking about the romantic relationships in ‘Harry Potter’. To be honest, I don’t like any of the romantic relationships Rowling built up throughout the series. None of them. I’ll discuss that in a minute. I don’t like all of the relationships fans have popularized either, some are very disturbing, but I still see a reason for, and even a need for some of these relationships. Most fans do ship two characters together for a reason. (I say most because I’ve seen genuinely crazy things on fanfiction websites.) I won’t get to all of the ships in ‘Harry Potter’. I’m not intending to write an entire novel. But I will get to most of the most popular ones! So let’s talk about some of these ships!

Ron/Hermione: I’m going to address the main romances in the books right away. This relationship is awful. Ron and Hermione spend about half of every single book fighting. Every. Single. One. And they don’t make up because either of them admit wrongdoing. Most of the time they don’t even seem to have any respect for the others desires or feelings. They make up because Harry either takes it upon himself to negotiate a truce between them, or Harry’s safety becomes the main focus. Some people have mentioned that Hermione and Ron going from constantly bickering to a romantic relationship falls into a common romance trope, but I’d argue that Rowling doesn’t pull it off. Because, as I said above, the respect for each other just isn’t there. Their insults aren’t light annoyances, they genuinely hurt one another. They go months ignoring each other and refusing to communicate. And does this behavior ever change? Does it develop into something more healthy as the books go on? Nope. The cycle repeats from book to book. Their friendship is barely functional and even that never developed over the course of the books enough for it to be fixed.

Harry/Ginny: There’s nothing here. It feels like the only reason these two ended up together was because of the desire to make Harry a Weasley by the end of the books. To be fair, the relationship between these two in the books isn’t as bland as it is in the films. In the films they just feel thrown together and they only have a few small romance scenes that lack any chemistry whatsoever. In the books they spend more time together and you see more of Harry admiring how cool of a person he feels Ginny is. But there still isn’t anything substantial there. They share a few interests but neither of them go to each other to talk about those interests. The developing feelings Harry has for Ginny are vague and sidelined, just as Ginny’s feelings for Harry are. And their time as a couple still lacks chemistry.

Remus/Tonks: I’ve talked a bit about this in the past, but I want to clear something up. I don’t have a problem with age gaps between two consenting adults. As long as no manipulation is present, a thirteen year age gap, as is the one between Tonks and Remus, doesn’t bug me. What bugs me is the way this relationship affects both Remus and Tonks. Firstly, Remus is very clear that he isn’t ready for a relationship. He doesn’t believe himself capable of love (A problem that is infuriatingly never resolved, even when he’s with Tonks), and until he is, he doesn’t want to endanger someone or impose upon them by being in a relationship. It is only Tonks begging him to reconsider in front of a bunch of other people who voice their support of her that convinces him to give the relationship a shot. And once the relationship starts, not only was Remus right about not being ready for a relationship, but Tonks gets turned from a confident woman who stands up for herself into a weeping mess who refuses to challenge Remus on his ideas. Harry’s the one who has to yell at Remus on her behalf in order for him to put his insecurities behind him for the betterment of his new family. I love both of these characters so much, but this relationship is a giant no.

Snape/Lily: So many people have discussed how wrong this relationship is, but let’s go over it again, shall we? Snape’s care for Lily is entirely selfish. He calls her a slur and expects her to still be friends with him. When Lily questions Snape on the friends he’s keeping in school, he sees it as a betrayal rather than something worth considering from someone important to him. When Voldemort plans to kill Lily, Snape bargains for her life but has no issues with the deaths of her husband or her infant child. When Snape takes it upon himself to watch over Harry for Lily’s sake, he mercilessly bullies him and threatens him multiple times. He’s obsessed with Lily but he never considers what’s important to her.

Hermione/Viktor: This relationship is featured in the books but is not the relationship Hermione ends up in. And that’s a shame because it’s by far my favorite relationship in the books. The movie takes away everything I like about this ship by making Krum a dumb jock who falls for Hermione while working out. In the book, Viktor isn’t a dumb jock and he isn’t seen as one. He’s quiet and solemn, to the point that some feel he’s creepy. But he’s kind and intelligent. He first encounters Hermione in the library and returns to the library daily to catch a glimpse of her. He also asks her out in the library once he finally works up the courage to approach her. When they start a relationship and Rita Skeeter spreads rumors that Harry and Hermione are together, he calmly asks Harry about it and takes him at his word when Harry denies the rumors. Hermione references Viktor a few times after the fourth book because they send letters back and forth constantly, and according to Ginny, she remembers him fondly. Rowling only kills this ship in the last book, where she paints Viktor as a skirt chaser for no reason in order to make Ron seem like the better option.

Draco/Hermione: We have an entire post about this. I don’t like Draco. His relationship with wizard slurs is a little too close for my liking. The fact that some people feel it makes sense to pair him up with the girl he lobbed most of his wizard slurs at leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Draco is supportive of Voldemort’s group of wizard nazis and never shows a desire to change, so why he would end up with the object of his most vicious torments is beyond me. However, while I do think it’s out of character for Draco, I do see a lot of Draco and Hermione shippers attempting to make Draco a more supportive and respectful partner for Hermione as a direct contrast to the Hermione/Ron relationship. So at least we can all agree that she deserves a less toxic relationship. Overall though, would this relationship actually be less toxic? Probably not.

Draco/Harry: I have a lot of the same criticisms here as I do with the Draco/Hermione ship. Draco is a terrible person and he bullies Harry without remorse. While there’s less slurs being thrown around here, that doesn’t make it any less awful. However, once again I see fans using this ship as a vehicle for fixing a major issue in the books. That being, Harry actually dealing with the trauma inflicted on him throughout his life by being hunted by Voldemort and brought into a war. I don’t know why Draco fans are so good at making him an empathetic and respectful guy, but I appreciate it. Even though I still believe it’s out of character for him.

Harry/Luna: I think this ship is really cute. Harry is one of the only characters in the books who doesn’t constantly criticize Luna. He even admires her ability to unreservedly just be herself. He genuinely thinks she’s a cool person to spend time with, so much so that he invites her to Slughorn’s party as his plus one. And Luna, in turn, appreciates his company. She isn’t used to spending time with someone who likes her without caveats and she clearly appreciates it. She even reads Harry well enough to help him through his emotions and keep a clear head. These two are definitely better matched than Harry and Ginny.

Luna/Ginny: These two are friends in the book, but their friendship isn’t explored much. It’s mostly left off-screen because they aren’t really in Harry’s social circle as the two are both a year below him. That said, LGBTQ+ relationships are always worth exploring in media that ignores them, and Luna and Ginny definitely have the potential to be incredibly cute together.

Luna/ Neville: A relationship that grew so much popularity that it was confirmed in the movies. It’s cute. I see what people are going for when it comes to pairing up the two social outcasts together. Do I think these two have chemistry? Not really. But it isn’t a bad ship by any means.

Snape/Hermione: This is a problematic ship. Let’s put aside the fact that Snape bullies Hermione about just as much as Draco does despite being a teacher and an adult. Let’s also put aside that many shippers draw creepy comparisons between Hermione and Lily in order to justify Snape’s attraction to Hermione. Most shippers don’t age up Hermione. So this is a minor and an adult. THIS is an age gap I’m 100% uncomfortable with. Please stop shipping this.

Sirius/Remus: We also have an entire post about this ship on this blog. I left this one for last because it’s my favorite ‘Harry Potter’ ship. On the one hand, this ship would have solved multiple missteps Rowling made in the books. One is the fact that she queer-coded Remus by making his condition an allegory for those suffering with HIV/AIDS without actually making him queer. The other is constantly claiming that she had LGBTQ+ representation in the books without actually writing it in. This relationship would also help Remus work through his issues nicely. It’s canon that Sirius being framed for alleged murder was one of the major things that made Remus’ mental health take a dive. It’s also canon that having his friends support him throughout his changes during the full moon helped him embrace himself a whole lot more than he had before school. Sirius coming back and mending their relationship could have easily been the catalyst for Remus healing. And having someone to help him through full moons again could have also helped him through his self loathing. As for Sirius, his relationship with Remus could have also helped him through the trauma he has from spending twelve years in Azkaban. It would have developed these characters so much more than anything Rowling actually did write.

And those are my thoughts on the biggest ‘Harry Potter’ ships! I tried to get to as many as possible but I definitely missed a few so I might return to this concept later. As of now, I really want to thank all of the fans for attempting to heal some of the wounds Rowling created with her writing. You guys are doing so much more for this community than she ever did.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop: ATEEZ on Tour And BTS in the Clear

Promotional image of Kim Namjoon. Copyright goes to HYBE and BTS.

Hi! It’s Annie!

The last time I wrote a K-Pop news update wasn’t all that long ago, but there have been so many updates to what I wrote last time. Most are good to an extent, but some of which I really wasn’t expecting at all. I was really waiting to update until we heard anything about the ATEEZ tour, and I think some of the moves regarding that specifically have shocked everyone. But we also have gotten some more confirmation from BTS about exciting things and an update regarding their health that probably everyone knows about right now. This post will most likely mostly be about what I hope for when it comes to the ATEEZ concert that I will be attending in less than two weeks now. Which is absolutely insane. But I know that I missed so much BTS news and that deserves to be talked about as well. So with all that out of the way, I’m just going to get right into it!

BTS Updates:

First and foremost it is very important to note that BTS is now all clear from Covid. Yoongi, Namjoon, and Jin have all made full recoveries after minimal time quarantining, so it really was just a light case for them thanks to their vaccinations. Since then we’ve had absolute confirmation that BTS will be releasing an album this year. Many of us already figured that it was going to happen, but it’s nice to have more official confirmation. We have already seen both Namjoon and Hobi post photos on their respective Instagram accounts of them back in the studio. Though it seems as though Hobi is working on his own mixtape while Namjoon may or may not be working on the album itself. Namjoon could be working on his own mixtape and I would definitely cry if he surprise-released one. But I’m with most people in thinking that it’s probably more to do with the new album. In addition to all of that, we also got confirmation that BTS is back together after taking their vacation time. It’s unclear if their vacation is over or if they’re just getting together. I hope they still get some time to vacation! But many of them shared similar Instagram posts where they all could be heard in the background, confirming that they were spending some time together after all of the quarantining. It’s nice to know that they’re together again!

Another recent update is that the BTS webtoon, “7FATES: CHAKHO”, has been released. I’ve already read the first part and it’s more than I expected. I didn’t expect it to have a darker twist and I love that each of the members have weapons that match their old microphone colors. But Jungkook’s character has been trending because there was an implication from something, that his character might be gay. I don’t even know what exactly it was because it was so buried on Twitter by the time I got to it that I don’t think that most people knew what it was about. I think it had something to do with his character’s reaction to Namjoon’s character. (Me too, I’m still so happy that they gave Namjoon’s character canonical glasses!) #RESPECTJUNGKOOK started trending, and I, like many other people, thought that it was very stupid. It is not disrespecting Jungkook if you do something different with a character that is based off of him. The character is not him. It has never been implied to be an absolute one hundred percent adaptation of Jungkook. View it like acting. An actor is never completely represented in the character they portray. All of the time, they are absolutely different. This webtoon is set in a fantasy world where the boys are fighting demonic creatures. Do you see them fighting demonic creatures in real life? Exactly. Leave this alone. This isn’t disrespecting anyone. And if his character turns out to be gay, more power to him. Just don’t start assuming things about the real Jungkook if that happens because, once again, he is not his character.

ATEEZ Tour:

This tour has had my head spinning in so many directions that I have no idea what to make of anything anymore. Before their first few shows in Seoul to kick off the tour, many fans thought that they were going to just cancel because of the Covid spike that we’re seeing internationally right now. The show, however, went on without a hitch. It was a little odd considering that nobody could cheer at the concerts in Seoul, but everyone made the most of it! And it’s good that there were such protective measures in place! The idea before this turned out to be successful, was that if they cancelled the shows in Seoul then they would probably postpone the entire tour. And considering that the next legs of their tour required travel, many still though that this was the end of the tour for now and the rest would be postponed. Not long after the Seoul concerts though, ATEEZ announced the postponement of the European leg of their tour. All of which have dates that span between February and March, and most of them during the time when Covid is expected to see a little bit of a downturn. But the dates for the US tour, which are all in January and still during the spike, were not spoken about for a while. I think I can speak for most US fans when I say that every day I was expecting an announcement that the US tour would also be postponed. But then they made an announcement that they were flying to Chicago and this is the first day of their US tour, which did happen. I’m still not really trusting it. I’m still almost expecting a last minute cancellation, but now that they’re here I really hope they can travel safely and everything goes well without anyone getting sick.

I’m going to be as blunt as possible, for those of us going to the ATEEZ tour in the US, we have to be even more careful than we’ve been before. Possibly even for the BTS ‘Permission To Dance’ concert. Because the PTD concert took place before the spike and, though many fans travelled to see it which probably wasn’t smart then, at least the boys were quarantining and weren’t really traveling. When some of them travelled afterwards is when they got Covid, which was right at the beginning of the spike. I know ATEEZ is hotel quarantining in every location, but they are still traveling. And though there will be less fans traveling, it is more important than ever to keep everyone safe. Including each other. Now is NOT the time to be going to large events, out to big cities, or to any busy places. Now is the time to try and quarantine yourself as much as you possibly can before your concert date. Double mask, keep yourself safe. If you test positive, don’t go to the concert. I was personally hoping that ATEEZ would postpone for the safety of themselves and their fans, but I understand the decision to keep going. I am also very excited and impatient to see them. But it would have been much safer to try and postpone for late Spring or Summer when sicknesses in general are proven to go down. But that’s unfortunately not what’s happening. I’ve seen some people who are going to the concert in LA boast or post about going to giant events. Or some people who are planning to travel to LA from other parts of California or nearby states planning to do a list of things in the city while they’re here. I hate to be that person, but I wouldn’t recommend doing any of those things right now in general, especially not before the concert. It usually makes sense to do some of those things, especially if you’re on a trip. But the placement of this concert in the spike doesn’t really allow you to do any of those things safely. I would even strongly recommend double-masking at the concert itself.

I can’t speak for the venues in different states, but at least the one in LA requires you to be vaccinated and masked the entire time. If you can’t produce a vaccination then you must produce a negative Covid test within 48 hours of the concert. There will be other locations that don’t require some of this and just strongly encourage it. I think to go to this concert unvaccinated and not wearing your mask the entire time would be irresponsible. I wouldn’t even recommend taking your mask down for a picture. Please try and keep yourself and everyone around you as safe as possible. As excited as I am to see ATEEZ, I can’t say that the concert happening right now doesn’t make me a little nervous. I’m going to try and look on the bright side, but that depends on everyone being responsible and respectful of the artists and the people around them. And if the unthinkable happens and there’s some sort of an emergency that causes the concert to be postponed, please do not get angry that you won’t see them so soon. That should not be our first priority, everyone’s safety should be, and that also only means that safety precautions were put in place. Most people say that this spike won’t last very long. So if it gets postponed they will be back soon! Personally, I’m hoping that a decreasing spike might mean another BTS tour this year. But we’ll have to see!

Update: As of today because of the postponement and change of dates for the Monsta X concert, my sister and I will no longer be able to attend due to vacation plans we’ve had for months now. So unfortunately, we’ll have no post about that concert. But we still have the BTS concert post and, if everything goes to plan, we will have an ATEEZ concert post soon!

All I’m trying to say here is that we really need to keep our boys and each other safe! The concerts have already started and that’s an accomplishment in itself! But just because the US leg of the tour has started, doesn’t mean that the people hoping to attend their concert should drop their guard. We need to be vigilant. Let’s have fun but also keep each other safe at the same time. But seriously, all the worries and my general anxiety aside, I still have not registered the fact that Yunho is going to be in front of me. My brain is short-circuiting with this information.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

K-Pop: Oversexualization in K-Pop

Promotional image of the original Monsta X lineup. From left to right, Chae Hyungwon, Sohn Hyunwoo (Shownu), Yoo Kihyun, Im Changkyun (I.M), Lee Jooheon (Joohoney), Lee Minhyuk, and Lee Hoseok (Wonho). Copyright goes to Starship Entertainment.

Hey! Hallie here!

Oversexualization is a term that gets thrown around a lot in K-Pop fandoms. Sometimes rightfully so and sometimes with no reason whatsoever. Though it doesn’t really ever go away, I’ve seen this word pop up a lot more often in recent days. Every once in a while ARMY will get into fights about oversexualizing Jimin and Jungkook specifically, which is starting to pop up again. This topic is complicated and there’s a lot of things to consider here. At the same time that a lot of groups, both girl and guy, market themselves partially off of attractiveness, at what point do fans start taking this whole thing too far? What is respectful and what is so disrespectful that it no longer acknowledges the idol as a human being? I’m going to dive into this for a ton of groups, not just BTS. And if the photo above is any indication, Monsta X will be a big part of this conversation. Let’s get into it!

What is Oversexualization?:

It seems kind of simple. Oversexualization is the act of aiming sexual content or comments at others to an inappropriate extent. In the K-Pop community, it most often takes the form of making content that’s sexual in nature featuring an idol, or making explicit comments about an idol, when that behavior is unprompted. The issue is deciding when that behavior is unprompted. As I said above, the K-Pop industry, as much as it might try to deny it, is run partly on looks alone. Attractiveness is a major aspect of choosing an idol for an idol group because it’s considered extremely marketable. As such, a lot of music videos and photoshoots use concepts most find attractive and rely on the fact that many people will be drawn to the idols as a result. So if idols and idol companies are inviting others to view them in a sexual way, when does oversexualization step in?

Oversexualization of Idols Against Their Wishes:

This one seems really obvious. If an idol tells you that they’re uncomfortable with certain explicit comments, don’t circulate explicit comments. But there are ways this can get a bit more complicated. Particularly when companies force their idols to adapt a suggestive look without their consent. Most girl groups have experienced this. Music videos that are intended to be cute end up not-so-cute because of the costumes the company chose, or companies shame girls who don’t seem sexy enough when they dance for “lacking self confidence”. These things run rampant through the industry and often times primarily affect minors. I mean, look how many girl groups start out their careers with either the school-girl or femme-fatale theming despite their ages. But yes, it’s simple to just say don’t oversexualize minors and move on, so here’s your warning that people can and do over oversexualize those who aren’t minors. Such as the group After School, who were forced by their company to do a pole dancing concept for a music video despite the fact that none of them agreed. What resulted was all of the women getting major injuries from trying to master a skill that takes years of practice in only a month. The moral of the story is, you can find members of K-Pop groups attractive, but if they don’t want that type of attention, don’t aim that type of content at them. Even if they are using suggestive themes for their work, if it’s not something they want themselves, they won’t want your sexual comments.

Oversexualization of Idols Who Don’t Invite It:

Above I listed the situations that are obvious examples of harmful oversexualization. I think most people would agree that oversexualizing idols against their will is disturbing in every situation. But this category starts to get trickier. In this category we have groups like BTS, where their general image is not tied to a “sexy” look, but they aren’t explicitly against it either. BTS has done more suggestive concepts. “Black Swan” and “Blood, Sweat & Tears” are great examples. They have also done photoshoots where they’ve played around with their self-confidence in both their personalities and their looks. So what counts as “oversexualization” here? To be honest, I think there are a few things people should consider when approaching comments that are sexual in nature towards groups like this. First, what is the content? If you’re posting something sexual in nature on a music video or concept that’s meant to be cute and endearing, you can probably count that as pretty uncalled for. When the idols do want to branch out and explore something sexier, It’s definitely alright, and may even be flattering, as long as you’re still being respectful. There’s a level of explicit that’s uncomfortable to everyone involved. Be sure your content or comments don’t reach this level. (Describing sexual acts in detail or dehumanizing an idol in any way is never appropriate.) It all comes down to making sure that you’re respecting the idol as a person first and foremost before saying anything. If it would make you uncomfortable, don’t say it to them.

Oversexualization of Idols Who Invite It:

Yes, this does exist. And this is where I bring in Monsta X. Monsta X has built a reputation for themselves off of breaking some cultural taboos by discussing sex in a lot of their songs. It isn’t the only thing they talk about, but they do base their image quite a bit on those themes in particular. Their concepts go along with a lot of “bad boy” imagery that goes very well with songs that break some societal norms and fall completely into the “sexy” category. You’ll also find some of the most strip-teases and thirst traps in K-Pop from some of these men. Shownu and former member Wonho in particular are known for these. The members help write songs, have some say in their general image, and take pride in what they do. So obviously, they’re inviting sexual comments. In that case, how is oversexualization possible? Simple. When fans forget the members are human beings. You can comment things that are sexual in nature all you like, but if all you have to say about the members are about their bodies, then you’re oversexualizing them. Be sure to note they’re people with lovable personalities as well. One of the things that irritates me the most with pictures of Shownu and Wonho in particular are the amount of people who crop their faces out of thirst traps and just keep an image of their bodies. Yes, they willingly post thirst traps and they have no problem with you making comments about their bodies. But cropping their faces out is an act of dehumanizing them. Whatever you do in any K-Pop fandom, never dehumanize idols. They are people just like us, not pieces of meat for you to fantasize over.

I hope this gives everyone a better idea of what oversexualization is and how to avoid it. I’ve said multiple times on this blog before that I’m asexual, and for me in particular, an excess of sexual comments does make me uncomfortable even when idols invite it. For that reason I did try my best to talk out my opinions with others and read other opinions to best navigate this situation. Overall though, I think this just comes down to critical thinking and respect. As long as you’re paying attention to context and you’re acknowledging the idols are their own people with thoughts and feelings, you should be fine. When in doubt though, be sure to do your own research on the idols you love. That way, you know if they’ve explicitly said how they want their fans to interact with them!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Book Adaptations: The Three Musketeers

Screenshot from ‘The Three Musketeers’ (1993) starring (from left) Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt, Charlie Sheen, and Chris O’Donnell. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I recently picked up ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexandre Dumas after not having read it since High School. I honestly don’t know why I haven’t picked it up since considering I liked it so much the first time I read it that I read it again not long after. But now it’s been years since I last read it, even though I liked it so much. Probably because I’ve reread more recent favorites more than this one since then. But waiting so long to reread was definitely a mistake, because I haven’t even read through all of it and I already love it! ‘The Three Musketeers’ is well known for its action, adventure, wicked sense of humor, and (most importantly) camaraderie. The best part of the book is the characters; specifically Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. The want to make these characters come to life has spanned decades and several adaptations of the famous book. Specifically, three adaptations are the most popular and I’ve found to be the most talked about. All of them for very different reasons. So I will go through all three of these adaptations in detail and determine which of these is the best and which of these kind of missed the mark. SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

‘The Three Musketeers’ (1993):

I want to first mention that most versions of ‘The Three Musketeers’ take quite a lot of dramatic license. Which I completely understand, because the book is both very old and does go more into detail about things such as the gambling endeavors of the main characters. The stakes in the book are also often not as high as most film adaptations of the story would prefer. But really, the main point of the book is the camaraderie between the main four characters, so a good adaptation of especially the three and also of the camaraderie of all of them is what really makes an adaptation for me. And I have never seen the camaraderie between the group as well portrayed as it is in this adaptation. The sense of humor from the original book is present in spades in this movie, which means that all of the Musketeers participate in the back and forth bantering.

Athos- Most adaptations of ‘The Three Musketeers’ that I’ve seen often forget that Athos took just as much pleasure poking fun at people as his other companions. While Athos was wiser than his companions and less prone to flights of fancy, he was also just as witty and a known gambler. I don’t usually like to see portrayals of Athos where he spends most of his time brooding, because Athos sometimes broods but definitely does not spend most of his time brooding. And while I usually am not the biggest fan of Kiefer Sutherland, this is probably my favorite adaptation of Athos that I’ve ever seen. He’s wise, broods when he needs to, but also has fun with the others. He gives as good as he gets and he usually does it while laughing at something he or one of his companions said. Athos comes off as the leader he is without the creatives having him come across as humorless and brooding. This Athos is very warm and I love that about him!

Porthos- This is definitely a great adaptation of Porthos and the funniest that I’ve seen. Porthos in the book takes great joy in pretty much everything except for losing. And the way Porthos absolutely beams through every fight and every obstacle is a hilarious portrayal. Porthos in the books is described as being a dandy, meaning that he’s very cautious of the way he dresses and probably a little vain. Porthos’s vanity is rarely explored in adaptations, and it barely is here. But they do keep his vanity in the way he wants to look impressive to other people. But he’s mostly concerned with hilariously roasting people and faultlessly having everyone else’s backs. I laugh nearly every time he opens his mouth.

Aramis- Charlie Sheen is another person I am usually not the biggest fan of. Somehow, he makes Aramis extremely likable. Which is a miracle considering that I usually find his characters just as unlikeable as he is. Aramis is hilarious and a womanizer, but the pious nature of him is kept in tact while also making the former personality traits clear. Aramis is also more noble in this version than I had seen him before. He is always one of the first to be understanding towards someone else or lay down his life for the cause. I have always had a difficult time choosing which of the Musketeers is my favorite, but when it comes down to it I usually choose Aramis and this is no different. Aramis is charming, but to a likable degree, not just in flirtatiousness.

D’Artagnan- D’Artagnan is usually my least favorite of the four main characters, and this is no different. But I can’t say that it is all that different from the book. D’Artangnan is young, proud, and lacks wisdom. Though this version of D’Artagnan brings it to a bit of a new level. In the book, the other three eventually view him as an equal. This version of D’Artagnan never quite gets to that point. Though I’m not the biggest fan of him, he’s not all that different from his origins. Maybe just a little worse off.

My main gripes with this one is probably the lack of other Musketeers and the treatment of female characters. The Musketeers have been completely disbanded, and I like to see the camaraderie between the entire garrison. But I understand wanting to only focus on the four. The original material was also not very kind to women, but I don’t think that means that a newer adaptation can’t try to make this better. In fact, I think a newer adaptation should try to solve that problem. All that aside, this is a comfort movie for me and my favorite adaptation of the classic novel.

‘The Three Musketeers’ (2011):

This version of the story is by far the most ridiculous I have ever seen. Have you ever wanted to see an overly fantasized version of this story with flying ships and odd steampunk aspects? No? Neither did I. Especially because it doesn’t actually commit to it, it just kind of shoehorns it in. And the villain off this story is, oddly, Orlando Bloom as the Duke of Buckingham. Even though the Duke is usually a pretty small character and using him doesn’t tackle the original theme of fighting corruption within France that is usually prevalent throughout every other version. The camaraderie is also often not focused on in favor of action and other drama. Which pretty well ruins the entire point of the characters, but I’ll go through them anyways.

Athos- I can’t say that this adaptation focuses much on any character. Especially if they aren’t D’Artagnan. Athos in this version is pretty broody until he finally accepts D’Artagnan at the very end, which is an odd way to show brotherhood. While I absolutely love Matthew Macfayden, this one isn’t very kind to the lighthearted side of Athos that I love so much. I’m not a huge fan of how much this character obsesses over his past and neglects his current friends.

Porthos- Hilarious as usual, but probably one of the least focused on. He’s a giant and a charmer, but nothing much more than that. At least he comes with some of the banter that I missed.

Aramis- The nobility and the humor still comes across. At least Porthos and Aramis feel like friends here. But I wanted to see so much more of my favorite Musketeer. And I feel like I got him the least of any of the Musketeers

D’Artagnan- This D’Artagnan is actually a charming one. His pride stays in tact while also being likable. But my favorite part of this character is usually how his relationship with the other Musketeers develops. This pits D’Artagnan as the only main character, and his character doesn’t learn if he doesn’t have others to learn from.

There’s not a lot of nice things I can say about this adaptation. I liked the actors, the cast was amazing, but it seems to me like they were barely used. And, once again, all female characters are pushed to the side. Not to mention the absolute absurdity of almost every plot point. This movie is unfaithful to the original in almost every aspect and it doesn’t really pay off.

‘The Musketeers’ (2014-2016):

This was a series that aired on the BBC for three seasons and featured an amazing cast including Santiago Cabrera as Aramis. I am extremely biased here because I love ‘Merlin’ so much. This version of the story bases it’s entire existence on the fact that the four main characters are so lively and so important that they can be put into any storyline and they work. While this is not a perfect adaptation, it does try and treat its characters with love. It sometimes succeeds, especially in the first season of the show. And it certainly is packed with enough action and sword fighting to keep anyone entertained. This also has a different take on each of the Musketeers, some of which really work and some of which don’t. But in a way, this is also one of the most faithful adaptations I’ve seen to the book. Especially with it keeping the entire garrison of Musketeers including the Captain.

Athos- He is my least favorite character of the four main. He spends most of his time brooding until the final season where he seems to pick up some wisdom somewhere. But the brooding is his only character trait for far too long. Usually it is difficult for me to choose between the Musketeers, but the nobility of Athos is so barely there that sometimes I couldn’t even see the origins of the character. I just wish he also had a lighthearted side to him, because this version of Athos doesn’t seem to. I don’t hate him, but this version of Athos needed far more humor and wisdom. I like him much better once they put Sylvie into his life.

Porthos- I actually very much like what they did with Porthos in the way of honoring Alexandre Dumas. Many people don’t know that Alexandre Dumas was of mixed race, and his mother was a slave. Dumas was very against slavery because of it and often did not try to hide who he was. Porthos was cast to be the same and is given several storylines against slavery, which is something I was very happy to see within the story itself. His brotherhood with Aramis and eventually D’Artagnan is adorable and this adaptation of Porthos is just downright huggable.

Aramis- Can you get any better than Santiago Cabrera as Aramis? Probably not. This version of Aramis does not start out as a man of God, but his faith is built as the seasons go on. Which actually made for a very interesting depiction. Seeing his faith grow gives Aramis so much time to become the noble man we all expect, and I loved that development. I also found it interesting that they paired him off with the Queen. In the book Aramis’s mistress is actually the banished best friend of the Queen, so I didn’t find this as much of a stretch. But his learning to take on responsibility after that as well as his overwhelming charm makes him a character you can’t tear your eyes away from. Aramis was my favorite in this series.

D’Artagnan- Never before this have I seen D’Artagnan be the voice of reason. Ever. But I kind of like it. As I’ve said, D’Artagnan has never been one of my favorite characters, but he is here. He is still proud and runs headfirst into a fight, but he also knows when to take a step back and be more tactical. When someone is over-emotional it’s actually him rather than Athos that is usually the voice of reason. And his immense respect for every character in the show despite their status sets him apart. I wish I could see more depictions of this character this likable, but preferably not as much like what Athos should have been.

This show is by far the best I’ve seen for female characters. The Queen often takes care of herself, Constance becomes a badass in every fight, and eventually they also bring along Sylvie. A Black woman who becomes a strong point in the show as well. I’ve been waiting for an adaptation to portray women so well and I’m glad one finally did. They even talk about the unfairness of the way women were treated at the time. Though this show doesn’t go off of much of the original plot, it feels more like a spinoff using the characters. And I can get behind that. Especially because of the camaraderie between Porthos, Aramis, D’Artagnan and sometimes Athos. But the show could be better at establishing them as a group and the second season in particular is not good.

If you haven’t picked up ‘The Three Musketeers’ in a while, I would highly recommend it. It’s hilarious. And maybe check out one of the adaptations I mentioned! Some of them are really good and worth watching! I always love a good fantasy story with plenty of action for escapism and this is exactly that. I hope some of these suggestions have proven useful!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Star Wars: ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ So Far

Screenshot of Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett in episode one of ‘The Book of Boba Fett’. Copyright goes to Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Studios.

Hey! Hallie here!

So I’ve been pretty radio silent on ‘The Book of Boba Fett’, a series I have fully intended to cover since its announcement. I’ve really liked Boba Fett for about as long as I’ve liked Star Wars. While it has always been true that he wasn’t focused on enough to have much personality, his armor has one of the best designs in the entire series and he was the audience’s main introduction to the interesting concept of bounty hunters in Star Wars. And honestly, the mystery really worked for Boba Fett. His menacing voice made him so intimidating and his presence was so intriguing that no personality was really needed to acknowledge how cool of a character he was. But, of course, curiosity only made fans, and me, want more. When Boba Fett appeared in ‘The Mandalorian’ I was thrilled. It was such a badass way to set up a solo show for him. So why haven’t I been gushing about ‘The Book of Boba Fett’? Well, because I’m not that big of a fan. For now I continue to hold out hope that this series will grab me in its remaining four episodes, but let’s talk about what I’m not liking here so far. SPOILERS ahead!

Episode 1:

Episode one had a great setup. The show jumped immediately into Boba Fett’s attempts to take over the position Jabba the Hutt once held, making it clear that though some are intimidated, Boba Fett hasn’t proven his power to Mos Espa yet. Making it even more difficult, the Mayor of Mos Espa outright refuses to honor Boba Fett as the Daimyo, or the new crime lord in town. This is just the type of introduction I wanted from this series. I wanted to see Boba Fett prove himself a more capable crime lord than Jabba ever was, and for him to do that, he needs to come up against opposition. However, in this episode we also see the beginning of a very confusing plot element. Boba Fett wants to rule with respect rather than fear, but his means of doing this seems to just be to act as the people pleaser. Whenever Fennec Shand warns him that he will have to make some sort of example to prove his position as the new Daimyo, he brushes her off for being harsh. And look, I understand that he wants to be noble, but he’s still a crime lord. I don’t know how anyone can take him seriously as a crime lord when all he does is play into the mayor’s ego by going to him while Shand and Jabba’s former men fend off attacks better than he does. Between this storyline we get tons of flashbacks. So many flashbacks. I did like seeing Boba Fett escape the Sarlacc pit, but the entire storyline where he was captured by the Tusken Raiders and slowly earned their trust really slowed down the story. I’m not a fan of prolonged flashbacks because I feel they often slow down the plot, but they can be used well if they tie into what’s occurring in present time. But these flashbacks don’t. It feels disjointed and boring, and this episode didn’t do a good job of making me interested in Boba Fett overall as a character.

Episode 2:

This is the episode where I slowly began to realize that the flashbacks are just as much the main plot as the present day story. And let me just say, as someone who doesn’t generally like flashback storytelling, it really rubbed me the wrong way. For the present day storyline Boba finally gets in contact with the mayor to make some threats that seem pretty empty as of now considering Boba Fett’s current respect level, and then he himself gets threatened by two of the Hutts and a badass looking Wookie. Otherwise, this whole episode is dedicated to that one time Boba Fett saved the Tusken Raiders from a murder train. It’s a very western storyline, but once again, the show doesn’t give us much reason to care. Nor does it tie in to anything that’s happening in the present. After a few of the Tusken Raiders die, Boba decides to steal a bunch of speeders to teach the Raiders how to ride them. Once he deems them ready, they take on the Pykes in control of the train, and in doing so, manage to gather some water. As thanks, the Tusken Raiders let a lizard crawl up Boba’s nose for what is akin to a drug trip, and then give him some cool new clothes. I like that the characterization of the Tusken Raiders in the show is influenced by Indigenous communities, but I don’t love how out of left field every aspect of their storyline is. The only thing we get out of this whole episode is the Pykes, who are a group set to play a bigger role in this series. Hopefully they fare better than the Hutts. I’ll explain in a moment.

Episode 3:

The cold open consists of a very smarmy seeming man coming to Boba Fett to ask for help with a few teenagers who have been stealing his wares. Which is just water. He’s selling overpriced water. Boba Fett accepts despite the fact that the request is obviously ridiculous and Fennec Shand rightfully thinks he should brush it off. Boba Fett then finds some edgy teens in a back alley whose designs are completely different from literally everything else in the area, tells them all to get jobs, and then offers them jobs when they say they have none. The whole concept was so amusing that I was giggling through the whole thing. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? No idea. I don’t think it was what they were going for, though. This episode finally takes more of a stand in modern day. All it really establishes with a short flashback is that Boba Fett found the Tusken Raider camp he had joined destroyed with the inhabitants likely all killed. After this flashback though, the Wookie returns to try to kill Boba Fett. And once again, Boba Fett needs help to fend off the attack. This time, the teens (and Fennec Shand) manage to take down the Wookie. Why they fare in hand-to-hand combat better than Boba Fett is beyond me, but they do. After this, Boba Fett has a meet up with the Hutts, who gift him with the cool Wookie, a Rancor, and Danny Trejo! Yay! They also tell him they give up and are done threatening him. So much for that plot line. All Boba Fett really has to worry about now is the mayor. But when they go to see him, the Twi’lek working for him lies that the mayor is busy and makes a run for it. Here we get to see the teens take on another one of Boba’s foes, this time in speeders that look like Power Rangers motorcycles. Turns out the mayor is working with the Pykes. I genuinely hope the Pykes manage to pull some story elements together. But overall, this episode felt ridiculous.

Though I do enjoy joking around about how much I’ve disliked this show so far, I don’t want to dislike it by any means. I really want to like ‘The Book of Boba Fett’. I have so much respect for Temuera Morrison and I want to see him do more with ‘Boba Fett’. I love Ming-Na Wen and Fennec Shand is quickly becoming my favorite character in this series, she just needs more screen time. I love the creature design in this show and I still adore the concept. It’s just the execution that’s disappointing me. I hope that this show completely blows me away with the last four episodes. But as of now, I can honestly say I like ‘The Bad Batch’ better. And if you know my opinion on that show, that isn’t a very glowing review.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Comfort Entertainment: ‘Victorious’ and Theatre Arts

Screenshot of Avan Jogia in ‘Victorious’. Copyright goes to Nickelodeon.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Lately, a video completely analyzing the Nickelodeon show ‘Victorious’ has been making its rounds on Youtube. And while the video is five hours and I couldn’t possibly watch all of it, I did watch some of it and reminisce on the show. Because this used to be one of my absolute favorite shows to watch. This is the show I probably watched the most other than ‘Power Rangers’ and I desperately wanted to get into performing arts and have this community because the show draws you in so much with the school itself. So, that’s exactly what I did. I think I’ve mentioned that I was deeply entrenched in a Theatre Arts program before on this blog. So the trending Youtube video kind of made me want to go back and look at how the show portrayed Theatre Arts as a whole, and which of these characters would actually succeed in a Theatre Arts program. Now that I actually have the experience to get all the references the show threw at us as kids, I couldn’t not talk about it! So I’m going to go character by character and talk about the way these characters interact with the Arts and whether or not they would actually succeed at Hollywood Arts. (Please note that I have a college perspective on this and not necessarily a High School one, but I do know some things about lower grade Arts programs from my experiences.)

Tori Vega:

It’s difficult to not start with the main character of the show. Tori Vega initially starts out the show with no performing experience, but a great singing voice despite that. When she has to take over for her talentless sister Trina, the school sees her talent and offers her a place in the school. Which I guess makes sense after her performance. I just have no idea why the show let go of the music classes, which we know are there, to only focus on acting classes. When Tori first tries acting she’s kind of thrown into an improv scene, which I can’t blame her for, and breaks a bunch of rules of improv. Like, not going with the flow of the scene and directly addressing the audience watching her. But Sikowitz in this instance should have let Tori watch a couple of scenes before trying to tackle it herself without knowing any basic rules of improv. But, as we all know, Sikowitz is crazy. Still, Tori gets blatantly bullied in that class and I don’t blame her for wanting to quit. Especially because acting is not what she came to do. As we get more into it, Tori’s role at the school becomes even more confusing. Usually students in any Arts program have to pick an emphasis, but Tori is continuously doing concert performances at the school and consistently getting cast as the lead in plays and musicals. I want to mention here that singing for musicals and singing for Pop performances is an altogether different form of singing and the show never really acknowledges this. In fact, every time Tori gets the lead in a musical she seems to sing directly to the audience and sing in her usual Pop style, both of which are usually not present in musicals. The one thing I will give Tori, is I thought the use of “The Bird Scene” was pretty clever. In most Arts programs you have to go through juries; in my program that meant we had to perform a scene in front of all the professors in the department in order to determine if we would move up in the program. Usually, you didn’t get cast in main stage shows unless you had passed juries or already had other theatre experience. While juries is not used to teach a moral lesson, it can help you learn to be more confident in your acting. So I liked this addition. But, over-all, it seems like Tori gets a lot of preferential treatment that realistically would not be given in Arts programs. She probably needs to choose between her Pop-Star dream and her actress dream. She can take classes on both, but she shouldn’t be performing to this degree in both. It shifts her away from her goals too much.

Andre Harris:

Andre can suffer from some of the same things Tori does, but to a lesser degree. Andre is not cast as leads as much as Tori is and talks about taking music classes far more than Tori does. So here we see a more realistic balance of what would actually happen, though still not completely consistent. But Andre is doing a lot more of the tasks you would think Tori should also be doing considering her focus is on a singing career. Tori never writes her own music and instead constantly asks Andre to help her, which is something that Tori would probably be forced to do herself if she was actually taking more singing related classes. Ideally, Tori should not just know how to perform as a singer. In a program like this, she should also know how to write her own songs. I know that Andre wants to be a songwriter, so he would have more experience with that, but Tori doesn’t seem to know anything about what she claims her goals are, other than the singing part. Which would be fine, if she wasn’t going to a school where she should be taking classes that assist with this stuff. Andre learns to play various instruments, sings, and writes songs. Andre would probably be following a similar track to Tori, so it is interesting that the school prefers Tori when Andre seems to be doing so much better at this track. Music majors and Theatre majors are often split up, even in fully integrated departments. Andre demonstrates this while still being involved and he’s definitely one of the most chill of the group to be around. I’d definitely hang out with Andre.

Jade West:

I see her potential for this program. She has a deep love of horror movies and she does her own writing and directing as well as having a passion for acting. But I still can’t see how Jade would survive in an acting program. Going back to the first episode, Jade immediately calls out Tori for not following improv rules. But she repeatedly breaks some herself. For example, in most Arts programs you are never allowed to call (or end) your own scene. You can gain a reputation amongst the teachers for that and then you have much less of a chance of being cast in shows. Even small things like that can be seen as big forms of disrespect. So Jade interrupting the scene to complain to Sikowitz is a huge no-no. Not to mention that she bullies Tori and pours someone’s coffee over her. Not only are you usually not allowed to use props in improv, but taking coffee away from a theatre student on a bad day might cause a rampage. Bullying is everywhere, but bullying to that degree in an Arts program gives you a reputation that it would be difficult to break away from. As soon as Jade makes herself known as too much drama, she can still take the classes but she’ll never be cast as a lead or in anything substantial. If she does survive the lack of casting, it will be because the teachers cast her in some small background role in order for her to get enough needed credits to graduate. And I can’t see how she and Beck are still together considering their conflicting morals and the fact that neither of them seem to like the relationship the way it is. Beck deserves better. (Not Tori.)

Beck Oliver:

He is by far the most talented actor that we see in the show, and that’s because that’s what he focuses on. For me, Beck feels like the most realistic character in the combination of where his talents are and the classes that he takes. Beck only focuses on acting, and you never really see him jump too far into the Pop performance or strict musicality role. He’s an actor, that’s what he does. But he also learns the entire scope of things and you see him pull his talents from his acting emphasis on various occasions. Like working backstage, writing his own one act plays, and also directing. More than anyone else, Beck also auditions for things outside of the school and is consistently trusted by the teachers to star in productions. Beck does what he does and he perfects it. He’s good at it instead of the writing from the show spreading him far too thin. I also want to talk about Avan Jogia playing this role, because he was one of the best actors on the show and I don’t think any other actor could have made Beck that effortlessly laid back and cool. Beck feels real, and he’s also one of those characters that you just wish that you knew so that you could hang out with him. Beck just needs someone who actually feels like they care about him. He also constantly complains about his relationship for comedy, but I don’t view that as funny, so I am very confused at his relationship with Jade. Besides that, Beck is the type of calm laid back actor that every professor (and student) would love.

Cat Valentine:

Cat confuses me, just like she confuses pretty much all of her friends. Cat performs and she acts, but she never seems to commit to anything in particular. She generally doesn’t get any substantial roles in plays nor does she try for them. When someone is trying to get a leading role in a show, it’s usually Tori and Jade. Cat also performs, but she’s always a background singer and she never talks about taking any music related classes. From what I can tell, it seems like she mostly acts. But she also never writes or directs anything. Cat’s more of a wild card, which makes sense for her character type but makes her very difficult to place. She definitely has the personality to be a Theatre student, but she’s sidelined so much in performance shots and she talks about class so little that I don’t know what she does. I think I’ve seen her work behind the scenes as a tech student just as much as I’ve seen her on stage. She could probably scrape by with the credits that she’s getting, but she wouldn’t be a premiere student. Even though she definitely has the talent to be one. And the show could do with infantilizing her less.

Robbie Shapiro:

Ventriloquism has aged out for the most part, but I understand that this was an effort to make a student who wanted to become a stand-up comedian. Except, this never really comes across. There aren’t really any classes that help with that at this school and Robbie only seems to take some acting classes and some tech classes. He once takes a required dance class which is absolutely realistic, but the ballet class is mostly men which is definitely not realistic. Despite not actually being a tech student, he has the record for a tech class final for some reason. This is then taken by Tori (who skips tech classes), which is even more unrealistic. Robbie also never expresses any interest in comedy nor does he ever perform stand-up comedy. I have no idea why Robbie even goes to the school and he probably confuses me even more than Cat. One of the only things Robbie does that is shown to be one of his interests is journalism. Which isn’t usually covered by this kind of an Arts school. I have no idea why he’s even in the school to begin with. At least Cat is shown doing activities for the arts. Also, Rex being “urban” is very racist and it shouldn’t be in the show.

Sinjin Van Cleef:

I’m glad that the show decided to actually focus on a tech student, but this is a pretty bad depiction. Tech students have just as much to offer and are just as important as performance students. In most Arts programs now, you are required to take tech classes in order to get a better understanding of the Theatre in itself and also to better understand and respect tech students. I liked that this show took time to show all of the major characters working backstage, because that’s something that everyone is now being required to learn in real Arts programs. But the fact that none of them are actually tech students, and Sinjin is the only one who really is, makes the representation of tech students in this show pretty insulting. They are all shown as being overly nerdy and creepy. I wish that one of the main characters had been a tech student, because tech students deserve to be treated as just as important as performers.

Trina Vega:

Nobody knows why she’s here. The fact that she’s even in the school is a running joke. It’s kind of pointless to talk about her when she’s supposed to be a mystery that never gets solved. But, needless to say, she would never make it into an Arts school realistically.

Mr. Sikowitz:

A lot of theatre teachers are a little bit crazy. Not this crazy, but he makes sense for Hollywood. He seems like a fun teacher to have, and most theatre students will connect with their favorite professor more than people in other majors or academics. So the students closeness with Sikowitz is both amazing and reminds me of my relationship with some of my professors. My biggest complaint with him, is that he teaches method acting as part of his curriculum. His curriculum includes necessities such as improv, acting challenges (though these usually don’t include the entire class), and scene work. In one episode Cat and Beck do a cop drama scene that, other than the unnecessary slapping, really reminded me of a scene that I had to do. But method acting has been proven to be dangerous and we are actually taught in most programs to never method act and make sure that we’re drawing a line between ourselves and our characters. Method acting is never helpful or useful and especially should not be taught to High School students. Other than this, Sikowitz seems like a funny and fun teacher to have.

So that’s it! Some of the details in this show are actually really accurate, and other details are there for more drama or to try and show the main characters doing more activities. But I love how this show exposed the Arts to kids in a more realistic way than what people usually see. The show even sometimes goes into how messed up Hollywood can be. And even though it sometimes isn’t perfect with facts, I love the escapism of the show enough for it to be entertaining. Even if some things, such as toxic relationships and the use of the word “urban”, definitely did not age well.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Theme Parks: Anticipating ‘Super Nintendo World’ Hollywood Opening

Screenshot of Mario from the official ‘Super Nintendo World’ Japan teaser. Copyright goes to Universal Studios and Nintendo.

Hey! Hallie here!

Now that it’s the beginning of January, I’m really starting to feel the anticipation building towards the opening of ‘Super Nintendo World’. ‘Super Nintendo World’ is set to open at Universal Studios Hollywood sometime this year, though Universal Studios is always pretty secretive about exact opening dates. The land opened early last year at Universal Studios Japan to some pretty glowing reviews, meaning Hollywood’s won’t be the first of its kind but will be something to look forward to. Given that the amount of space Universal Studios Hollywood has access to isn’t as large as the space ‘Super Nintendo World’ inhabits in Japan, it’s safe to say that we won’t see everything that Japan included in their land. But we’ve still been promised major attractions and scenery, plus some new characters to interact with. There’s so much we might get, so while you should be sure to keep your expectations in check, here’s what we might see when ‘Super Nintendo World’ opens later this year.

Attractions:

Of the attractions available to experience at ‘Super Nintendo World’ in Japan, we know for certain that Hollywood will be getting a ‘Mario Kart’ attraction. This attraction is groundbreaking in that it marries practical animatronics and sets with Augmented Reality technology. Each rider is given a headset that provides the Augmented Reality experience, including virtual interactions with characters and obstacles, while they sit in a kart and race through multiple areas. This attraction is really the centerpiece of the land and it’s very clear a lot of work and care was put into it. Reviews for the ride have been mostly positive but not entirely so. Many have complained about the speed of the ride, which moves too slow for those expecting a racing ride similar to Disney’s ‘Radiator Springs Racers’. Apparently the ride is slower in order to give guests time to fully comprehend all of the physical and virtual events happening around them. However, given that the ride is partially delivered via headset, it’s really hard to tell what the experience will be like if you haven’t ridden the ride. So for now, we’ll just have to see what we think once the ride opens in Hollywood. The other major attraction in ‘Super Nintendo World’ is ‘Yoshi’s Adventure’. This ride is a slow ride that occurs around, and sometimes in, the major scenery surrounding the land. While there are some cute animatronics and sets made specifically for the attraction, the main purpose of it is letting guests get up close and personal with all the details put into the general scenery, as well as allowing guests an overhead view of the area. This ride would be nice to have, but there’s no word on whether or not it will be brought over to Hollywood. Though we might not have the room for it over here, I still have my fingers crossed!

Power-Up Bands:

Almost as anticipated as the rides are the Power-Up Band interactive experiences. Much like ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ has its wands, ‘Super Nintendo World’ has Power-Up Bands guests can purchase in stores around the park. These wristbands are themed after various ‘Super Mario’ characters and allow the guest to interact with multiple set pieces around ‘Super Nintendo World’. You can activate certain animatronics, enter into games, and hit blocks to gain points. All of it sounds like a ton of Mario nostalgic fun, but I would be somewhat cautious if the videos in Japan are getting you hyped up. If I were to guess, I’d say that good chunks of the areas Japan has dedicated to these Power-Up Bands will not be present in Hollywood. Similar to the way that Orlando has an entire underbelly in Diagon Alley that has more interactive sets for guest to use their wands in (Knockturn Alley), ‘Super Nintendo World’ in Japan has a whole underground area dedicated to the Power-Up Band experience. But frankly, similar to the way we don’t have room for Wizarding World extras, I don’t think we’ll have the room for some of it over in Hollywood. While I do think that there will be plenty of Power-Band experiences in Hollywood, I get the feeling that we’re going to have less areas to use them in. Still, based on what Japan has demonstrated, the Power-Up Bands look even more interactive than the wands are. I’m excited to see just how interactive all of it really is.

Extras:

There are plenty of other things to see and do throughout the park that we may or may not see. First let’s talk about characters. I can’t see a reason why there wouldn’t be characters given the fact that Universal tends to love their character meet and greets, so I am expecting to see Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad in the park. In Japan all of these characters have designated areas, including an entire gazebo for Peach. Some of those areas likely won’t be present in Hollywood, but I think the characters are enough. They’re cute, they speak, and their eyes and mouths move. Yeah. I can only hope they actually let us go up to meet them considering the pandemic precautions. As for the other places to visit in the park, I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ll get the 1-Up Factory as well as Kinopio’s Cafe. The 1-Up Factory is the major gift shop in ‘Super Nintendo World’. There isn’t much to talk about here since Universal Studios Hollywood is already getting merchandise for ‘Super Nintendo World’ and the main theming of this shop is just pipes, but I’m still excited for more Luigi merch. Kinopio’s Cafe is another story. The cafe is located in a giant mushroom and hosts cute mushroom decor, digital windows where Toads will stop to say hi, and animatronic power ups. Once again, we might see a downsize here, but I don’t think they’ll skip out entirely on this restaurant. As for the menu, I really can’t say. There are some pretty delicious looking burgers, cakes, pastas, and adorably themed drinks on the menu in Japan, but usually theme park menus change drastically from country to country. Lastly, we have no idea what major scenery pieces will be present in Hollywood. Bowser’s Castle is guaranteed given that it’s the facade for the ‘Mario Kart’ ride, and I will say that it’s already looking like a pipe will be the entry to the park, but Peach’s Castle might be too much to hope for. Either way, I’m sure they’ll make the most of the space they have.

That’s it! I stressed pretty often throughout this post that we will be seeing a much smaller ‘Super Nintendo World’ over here in California, but don’t let that dampen your excitement! Universal Studios has proven time and time again that they’re at the top of the theme park game when it comes to immersive lands. Their ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ lands have been some of the biggest successes in theme park history and fans from Japan have already said ‘Super Nintendo World’ is on par with them all. I’m not at all expecting Universal to skip out on that quality when it comes to the Hollywood park. If anything, I hope this post gave you some idea on what to expect while we anticipate the inevitable surprises in store for all of us!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie