Monday, February 24, 2014

Do You Wanna Build A Controversy? Over Nothing?

Recently, a blog that I will not link to because I don’t want them to get any more clicks then they’ve already gotten, came out (see what I did there) with the complaint that Frozen, the newest Disney film about the bonds of sisterhood (ya-ya!), hid a secret pro-gay agenda that was slowly warping children’s minds. Because, of course, reasons. Some of those reasons being the terrifying premise that the hit song sung by former Wicked Witch and... lady... on.. Rent.. playing (not all iconic roles are easy to put into words) “Let it Go” was all about gay people and being gay and whatever, and not an uber-ballad sung to let us all know what was going through the mind of a character that was supposed to be sympathetic who had just frozen her entire town and abandoned her sister. All because her sister wanted to marry a man she just met. 

Quick side note, I kind of wish the sister in Frozen were around to help out Snow White. I really feel that she should have ended up with Doc instead of the handsome Prince, and she could have helped that happen. That movie was all anti-Dwarf propaganda. 

Of course, the other reason I feel that basically the other blogger realized that Frozen was doing pretty well in the box office, then when a few other controversial topics didn’t fit the storyline she wanted to push out, she decided on “the gay agenda” and a really slow news day allowed her blog to be picked up. I wish I were that smart, as I’m posting this after the Olympics and we’re finally getting new episodes of Parks and Recreation, which means no one is going to pay attention to this. 

But they will when I reveal the real secret meaning behind Frozen. You see, the snowman, Olaf, secretly represents man, who is constantly praising Summer, which represents God, and he doesn’t realize that finally finding God will destroy him, much like us who all worship a nuclear weapon that will destroy Earth and send the Apes back in time to when they can wipe us all out. 

That may have been the plot to Return to the Planet of the Apes. I’m not really sure, but it’s THAT easy to invent a controversy, everyone. It’s that easy. 

As I’ve said before on this blog, I have no issue with anyone’s sexual orientation, and I’m not sure why so many people want to make a big deal out of, at the end of the day, what is really no one else’s business. And blogs like the one posted kind of make me a little angry, not only because it’s trying to find a reason to be offended where there isn’t any, but because it’s being posted like some kind of authority on the subject when at the end of the day the person posting the blog has just as much ability to talk about Frozen as anyone else who’s seen it. Including me. I’ll still tear up a little at “Do You Want to Build A Snowman?”

Speaking of which, what is up with the Pro-Snowman agenda in this movie, like it’s normal for them to be staring at us with their dead coal eyes, judging us for not having carrot noses.... I’ve got my eye on you, Olaf.

Then of course, there’s the brand new complaint during the song “Let it Go” when the ice-princess is singing her ice-song that celebrates the fact that she no longer has to hide the fact that she’s got awesome superpowers (right before her sister barges in and tells her that her awesome ice superpowers doomed an entire kingdom), she has the gall to put on **gasp** a gown. A GOWN FOR THE LOVE OF HUMANITY WHY SHOULD SHE? WHY?

The answer is, of course, that the writer of this other article didn’t have anything else to write about, and probably went to the movies a few hours before deadline. Good for you for figuring out how to get your work done while slacking off.

You know I could solve this by not going to see Disney Princess movies. As I like the songs, it’s probably not going to happen.

Then there’s the rest of the planet, that saw a decent musical about the bonds of sisterhood and why Ice-Man was really the best X-Man if he would just use his powers more freely. It’s a nice reminder that Newsflash: Not everything is out to offend you.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Classic Literature. Original Gangsta

As some of you may have noticed, on the Bad Shakespeare Facebook page (oh... you didn’t know there’s a Facebook page? Have you liked it yet? Let’s make our relationship Facebook Official) I’ve been posting clips to a new Web Series, Thug Notes. This webseries has been picking up popularity lately, with profiles in The New York Times and NPR, and I’m surprised I haven’t said anything sooner because it’s completely awesome.

For those of you who don’t know, Thug Notes features your host, Sparky Sweets, PhD (Actually Greg Edwards, not PhD) who summarizes and analyzes classic literature in a unique and actually extremely accurate manner. But in language pretty much anyone can understand. For instance, the characters in Hamlet all “end up in chalk”; Oedipus was “boning his mama... HIS MAMA”; Wuthering Heights is referred to as “Dub Heezy”... you get the drift. Essentially re-telling all these classic pieces of literature in plain language. Well... plain-ish language. 

Also, the analysis is freakin’ awesome. It’s just... it’s a thing of beauty. It’s usually only about two minutes of analysis, so it’s not the entire thing, but everything could be used as a jumping off point for further exploration. He goes into some serious detail about what these stories are about, even managing to bring in other pieces of literature that can help discuss what he just talked about.

What I really enjoy about Thug Notes (and this is something that has been echoed by Greg Edwards in recent interviews) is that it is a different way of looking at literature. It’s a fun way of looking at literature, as a way to sort of make it fun again. I think somewhere along the line we forgot that literature used to be our television and movies. William Shakespeare wasn’t writing to make things all high and mighty or to prove a point... sometimes at the end of the day he just wanted to write a quaint little piece about a guy and his wife who bond through regicide. Alexander Dumas wanted to write a swashbuckling adventure that involved swordplay and deep political intrigue. And Herman Melville just wanted to write a book about a guy hunting a whale, no deeper symbolism.

Wait... what? Man’s quest for the unreachable? Moby Dick? Really? Wow, you learn lot watching Thug Notes.

Recently, I did an entire series of posts talking about the wonderfulness that was Breaking Bad, and how it tied directly to Shakespearean themes. I thought it was a good series of posts, but it was also a reminder that literature is where we can look for it. If we dismissed Breaking Bad as simply “not literature” because it’s a television show and for some reason not high art, we lose those themes of loss, betrayal, greed, we lose great moments of symbolism like the teddy bear in season 2, and whatever the hell purple was supposed to represent with Marie. Simply put, we lose those things because we’re too busy trying to find “what is art” and landing squarely on “art isn’t anything we produce today because it’s Television and reasons.”

Also, I’ll be starting up an analysis of Sons of Anarchy, which is loosely based on Hamlet and has similar themes that I’d like to explore. Coming in May, following this whole internship thing when I don’t go long stretches without posting anything. Which I also consider a form of literature. Why? Because it still contains those themes that we should be exploring, updated for today’s hip, motorcycle loving audience. 

But the other great thing about Thug Notes is the fact that it’s a reminder that sometimes looking at analysis can be fun.

A few years back I took a course on Shakespeare. There was a lot of analysis in that class, obviously, of the themes, symbols, etc that were deep not just in Shakespeare’s plays, but some of the earliest plays that ever graced the stage. They were good analysis, but let’s face it: it was a graduate class full of graduate students, and we were all trying to sound smart. The best classes were the ones where we had fun with it, we talked about revenge but threw something funny in it, or we played up a line out of context that was hilarious. We took our time to enjoy the class and not just sit around trying to figure out exactly what Iago meant when he looked at the audience the whole time. (It meant he loved us. All.) 

Thug Notes is just fun. And that’s the important thing: we need to have fun with it. We need to enjoy ourselves and have fun with this literature, and have fun with the analysis. There are jokes hidden deep within some of these texts. The opening scene of Julius Caesar is some of the funniest dialogue in the play, believe it or not. (Before the betrayal and killing, that is.) It’s just fun stuff that we need to start enjoying. And not pretend that scholars have some kind of hold over what makes literature great.

And where can you check it out? Well, Bad Shakespeare has a link for you!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chicks Bumbling Sidekicks.

Recently, J.K. Rowling spoke about Harry Potter, because what else would she talk about, and announced that she regretted getting together series hero/token ginger Ron Weasley and series heroine/resident know-it-all Hermione Granger. This announcement which stunned the Harry Potter world, despite the fact that the last book came out 7 years ago, and the last movie came out three Paranormal Activities ago. (I used to measure time in Saws, but sadly the Jigsaw Killer retired. Or died several movies ago. I can’t follow the plot, like everyone else, I tuned in for the last five minutes.)

Naturally the world was stunned. They were just SO CUTE together. At least in our minds. And Rupert Grint and Emma Watson weren’t to hard on the eyes, either.

I’ve discussed author intent before, particularly with you Hobbit haters that don’t understand that more Martin Freeman is never a bad thing, especially so he can become famous enough to carry even more Hitchhiker’s Guide movies. But this is a bit unique, as it was a major part of the books, and while not obvious became sort of an organic part of the book series as time went on. I find it hard to believe that Hermione would end up with someone as reckless as the titular Harry Potter, and not someone she could feel superior to, like Ron.

That’s neither here nor there. J.K. (mind if I call her J.K? We’re both writers after all. She’s written a series of 7 books that changed the way people thought of young adult literature and made literally more money than the queen of England, spawned an 8 movie series, countless merchandise, and a theme park. I write a blog that’s seen by literally dozens of people a month. We’re practically colleagues.) ahem, Ms. Rowling has the right to regret whatever she wants. She can even go back and change some things if she really wants, and suffer the ire of fans. She wouldn’t be the first. The most famous, of course, is George Lucas and his constant tweaking of Star Wars, because if something is a classic we need to add in more explody lasers, droids, and Greedo shooting... nope. I refuse to finish that sentence.

Then there’s the granddaddy of all edits, J.R.R. Tolkien, who decided that the happy little magic ring that the happy little hobbit picked up on his happy little journey was actually a harbinger of doom and actually going to destroy the lives of whomever it touched. He actually started re-writing it before just deciding that happy story was the influence of the corrupting ring.

Don’t get me started on Stephen “Dark Tower” King. 

But knowing this, going back to the story, does that change anything for us? Does it change for us now knowing that the author dislikes part of the story that quite frankly, all of us like? Other twists were mentioned in the last book (Spoilers for a book that came out back before Jared Padelecki had only long-ish hair on Supernatural.) such as Snape being THE good guy in the book, Dumbledore using a cursed magic wand, and a little piece of Voldemort being with Harry the whole time. Also, J.K.’s... Ms. Rowling’s other revelation that Dumbledore preferred the company of men. (Which, when looking back, was kind of obvious.) Do these things change how you feel about the book series?

For me, it doesn’t. (The twist things do a little bit. I like Snape more than I did before, but I never thought he was truly evil. ) Ms. Rowling can discuss whatever she wants, but at the end of the day she wrote Ron and Hermione hooking up and making even more little Weasley’s running around, because we need more of those. (Sarcastic Eye Roll. It was like a plot device at the end... they need help, let’s find ANOTHER Weasley!) I suppose she could have ended up with no one, or even her wizard-college crush that she ultimately left Ron for after she realized that the fun and excitement that drove them together while they were hunting trolls or cursed rings or whatever wouldn’t last. (Unless they had more adventures at Hockwarts, which is wizard college they all went to that I just made up. J.K. - call me.) 

But the ended up together. Nothing  - including author’s regret - can change that. 

Besides, I was happy to see that Hermione ended up with the real hero of the Harry Potter series: Ron Weasley. 

What’s that you say? Sidekick you say? Stop asking questions on a blog and get to the point, you say?

Sorry, got a bit carried away.

Ron Weasley was the hero of the Harry Potter series. Fact: in the first book, Harry wouldn’t have passed the chess game if not for Ron. Fact: Ron provided a place for Harry to stay when things got rough. Fact: Ron was Harry’s guide to the wizarding world. Remember, Harry knew exactly two things about wizards before he became one: Jack and squat, and Ron, who could have taken advantage of this famous, wealthy, naive kid, didn’t. Harry would have been killed repeatedly if Ron hadn’t taken that spell repeatedly. And in the last book, who was drowning and who jumped in to save him? Yeah. that’s what I thought.

So, raise a glass. And re-read your Harry Potter books with the firm notion that it doesn’t matter who regrets hooking up with whom, your favorite couple: Hermione and Ron. The writer can regret whatever she wants, at the end of the day, this couple got together. And we get to enjoy it for what it was. Until we get Harry Potter: The Special Edition, in which Nevill is replaced by a robot.

Now to get started on Harry Potter and the Admissions Officer.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Goodbye to One of the Greats...

“Well, enjoy. And perhaps we'll see you again some time, Dude.”

I’m a visual person, so when I read a book I generally take some time thinking about what the characters look like. It’s important to me. This way, I can follow them through the book, usually following them a little too closely, and getting a little too involved. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what makes books important: Getting involved with the characters.

I can remember reading a book called Empire Falls. It’s a good book about a small dying town in Maine and a house that was built by a rich, eccentric short dude named Charlie Mayne. While reading that book I thought to myself, “if they ever made a movie of this book, he should be played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.” Then I proceeded to imagine Philip Seymour Hoffman every time the writer mentioned Charlie Mayne, including those times the writer didn’t explicitly mention it was Charlie Mayne, just the hint that it was him. Spoilers, I guess. 

Then, they went and made a movie about it. And the director cast Philip Seymour Hoffman as Charlie Mayne! I was excited. They screwed up literally every other aspect of the casting, but hey... they got one of the characters right.

I don’t make a habit of writing about celebrity deaths. But I was really saddened to hear that Philip Seymour Hoffman died yesterday. I know it was a drug overdose and some people are going to focus on that, but I don’t really care. Philip Seymour Hoffman may have been troubled, but he was a man who enjoyed his work. He was a man who looked like he was having a blast in any movie that he was in, whether he was being serious in The Master or hamming it up with Ben Stiller. This was a man that was having a good time, and we could all learn something from that.

My favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman movie, of course was The Big Lebowski, which, is the greatest movie ever crafted and placed upon this Earth for our amusement. And while the movie was great, with the Dude, The Big Lebowski, Walter... but it wouldn’t have been the same without Brandt, the loyal servant to the Big Lebowski. Brandt played by Philip Seymour Hoffman... who brought a specialness to the role I don’t know anyone else could have. I remember laughing at the movie, but really enjoying him as much as any character. And it’s important to remember that this was a character that could have easily faded to the background and been forgettable... but he wasn’t, because of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I don’t often even think of it when a celebrity passes on. But I have to admit... I was really sad when I heard that he was gone. He was a great talent. Apparently, one that was a little more troubled than anyone knew. But one thing for certain, he’s a man that is going to be missed. He’s an actor that has had an influence on me. I’m going to miss that influence. I really feel today that the world has lost something important today.

I’m going to mourn Philip Seymour Hoffman by putting in the Big Lebowski... again, and maybe having a White Russian in honor of Brandt, the loyal butler to the Big Lebowski.

RIP, Philip Seymour Hoffman. I hope you are at peace. You’re going to be missed.