What to Marathon When You’re Stuck Inside

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Snowed in (as much of the East Coast will be when this post goes up)? Sick with whatever’s going around school/the office? Just received one of those miraculous days where you have nothing to do and nowhere to be? Unless you have a great book to curl up with (or, y’know, homework), sounds like you need something to marathon!  Read more

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Agent Peggy Carter & Sarah Jane Smith: So Awesome They Got Their Own Show (Pt. 2)

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Last week, we started exploring the similarities between Marvel’s Peggy Carter and Doctor Who‘s Sarah Jane Smith, in terms of their roles as supporting and leading ladies.

This week, I’d like to continue this exploration by going into what makes these characters tick. What is it that we love about these characters so much? I confess, it is hard to put into words (and even harder to find evidence in video or gif form). But finally, I think these words best sum it up: 

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Maria, there are two types of people in the world. Those who panic, and then there’s us. – Sarah Jane Smith, “Invasion of the Bane.”

 And then there’s Peggy Carter and Sarah Jane Smith. Bold and intrepid, they face danger unflinchingly, doing what must be done to save others. Where others may panic, they stay calm and figure a way of the situation. This, ultimately, is what makes them valuable both as supporting characters and as leads.

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Agent Peggy Carter & Sarah Jane Smith: So Awesome They Got Their Own Show (Pt. 1)

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So yes – I, like many others last week, have jumped on the Agent Carter bandwagon. Captain America: The First Avenger, I’m not ashamed to admit, is my favorite film of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (though Avengers and the first Iron Man are very close seconds). But, much as I love Steve Rogers (and I do, I really do), his leading lady Peggy Carter is a big part of why I loved that film.Though I don’t like that Peggy is the only substantive female role in the film, I can overlook that due to the depth of the role she is given.

Agent Peggy Carter is a direct, no nonsense, unflinching woman in a man’s job, who constantly proves she is just as, if not more, capable. Rising from her mere love interest status in the comics, Peggy’s character stood out so much to fans and to creators that she has not only appeared in a number of Marvel companion works, but is now the center of her own mini-spinoff.

Which is so awesome! She is so far the only female character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have her perspective as the central narrative**. Steve Rogers might be Peggy’s inspiration and the story’s jumping-off point, but Agent Carter truly is Peggy’s story.

Y’know who’s another awesome female character who went from a supporting role to starring in her own series?

Sarah Jane Smith is acknowledged by much of the Doctor Who fandom to be the most iconic and beloved of the Doctor’s companions (friends who travel with him through time and space, for all you non-Whovians out there). A strong-willed feminist journalist, she appeared on the long-running series from 1973-1976, and was intended to break from the typical female companion of the time, who often screamed at the sight of danger. Though she still acted as the Watson to the Doctor’s Sherlock, she was confident and courageous, and often held her own in bad situations. After leaving the show, she reappeared in an anniversary episode or two, but not much that furthered her story…

…That is until 2006, when the character was brought back for an episode of the rebooted Doctor Who (as the showrunner had been a fan of her character as a child). Viewers appreciated her reappearance so much that she was soon given a spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which was aimed towards a slightly younger audience.

In her spinoff, Sarah Jane becomes the leader of a group of children, using brains instead of brawn to deal with alien threats. Is it childish? A little. There are less developed stories, some gross-out jokes, hammy aliens. But Sarah Jane kept it grounded, always making the stories believable, and causing a new generation of children to fall in love with her. 

Just what is special about these two ladies that caused them to break out from supporting roles to lead their own stories? Perhaps in seeing what they have in common, we can pinpoint that touch of star quality. Though their stories are rather different, we can see a number of parallels in their personalities, initial roles, and later development. Here is part one of our exploration into these two characters.

(SPOILERS for both Captain America films, Agent Carter 1×01-1×02, Doctor Who, and Sarah Jane Adventures)

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What Harry Potter Has Taught Me About Family, Pt. 2

Welcome to the first Kate’s Curiosities post of 2015! Woo! 

I’m not sure if it was bad planning or good planning on my part to make the first post of the year a continuation of the last post of the old year. But either way, I hope you enjoy this further exploration into the dynamics of family in Harry Potter.

If you just found this post and have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the link to last week’s post. Basically, the idea was to ruminate on what Harry Potter can teach us about the complications of family, something I think we all reflect on at this time of year as we see family that we maybe don’t see much the rest of the year.

So, without further ado, let us continue where we left off last week (BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD):

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What Harry Potter Has Taught Me About Family, Pt. 1

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The holidays have come and gone, which means a lot of quality time with family we may not see all that often. For many families, it’s a lovely time of year. But we have to acknowledge that, for some, family time isn’t such a good thing. I sometimes feel that our culture generally doesn’t acknowledge the work involved in the care and keeping of family.

And I think a lot of the misconception comes from the works we absorb when we’re younger. A lot of stories aimed at children either give a pleasant picture of family, the only problem usually a lack of appreciation, or are about finding family rather than dealing with one you already have. Serious family issues come up later in YA and adult works, usually with a dose of crudeness and cynicism. But if we started talking about these things earlier, in a constructive way, maybe it could help kids to understand and defend against stressful family situations earlier.

Family entertainment in general has made strides in recent years with depicting different types of families, such as mixed family and single parent situations. But there are certain works that do an exceptional job at dealing with the complexities of family in a clear, concise, and constructive way. 

The Harry Potter series, I think, is definitely one of them.

Despite that Harry starts out the story an orphan, the series is actually very concerned with family for two reasons:

1. Love is the strongest force in Rowling’s Wizarding World, and love and family are closely connected.

2. Rowling develops her characters so thoroughly that she knows the family background of even the supporting characters. This family background often influences the characters’ decisions and values, either in support of or against the way they were brought up. The characters feel real because, just like us, they are effected by their families, but can still make decisions and grow to be better. 

Now, I’m not saying family can’t be made of people you aren’t related to or grew up with. I mean Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, and the Weasleys all became Harry’s family,  James became Sirius’s family when Sirius ran away from home, the Marauders became Remus’s family when they protected his secret and kept him company on the full moon. But, as stated above, the relationships a person has with the people they grew up with, who often are blood related, can effect much of their decisions and outlook, and thus, for better or for worse, we have to deal with and understand these people. 

I’ve loved this series from a young age, but the more I revisit it, either through Pottermore, fan articles, rereads (or, when using the audiobooks on car trips, relistening), or the films, the more I see how Rowling’s depiction of family is both wholesomely simple, and yet surprisingly mature and complex. So, I have to wonder what we can learn from the family relationships of the Wizarding World in navigating our own relationships?*

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Three Musical Christmas Carols: Muppets, Magoo, and Scrooge

When it comes to musicals, songs are utilized to dramatize moments of high emotion – the characters are so emotional they have to sing about it. Thus, when adapting a pre-existing story to musical form, the creators look at the story for the emotional high points and parts that lend themselves to a musical number (think Legally Blonde‘s “Bend and Snap”) before creating the songs. In this way the addition of music does not feel superfluous, but feels like an expansion of the existing plot and characters.

With Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, we have a unique opportunity to look at multiple adaptations of the same, well-known story. There have been a number of musical versions, but I will be concentrating on my two favorites: The Muppet Christmas Carol and Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol. 

Like many people in my generation, I am quite fond of The Muppet Christmas Carol. The addition of the Muppets, though hilarious, does not intrude much on this retelling of the plot, and the songs are quite splendid.

Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, on the other hand, was a classic from the previous generation, introduced to me by my parents. It’s actually considered the first animated Christmas special, beating out A Charlie Brown Christmas by three years, so that’s a pretty big deal. Other than the framing device of having Mister Magoo acting in the show on Broadway, this is a pretty straightforward retelling, actually. 

“Use the force, Scrooge!”

However, since these were both comedic adaptations with characters from other media, I’m also bringing in the musical film Scrooge starring Albert Finney and featuring Alec Guinness (before he was Obi-Wan) which was a more straightforward adaptation, for comparison. I don’t know this version as well, but I have listened to the songs, so I hope you’ll bear with me on this. 

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On Love Letters (and Other Forms of Communication): You’ve Got Mail & Lizzie Bennet Diaries

As I mentioned at the end of my post last week, I am writing love letters to strangers as part of the 12 Days of Letter Writing for The World Needs More Love Letters. Love letters, in this sense, are not about romance, but simply about sending thoughtful, handwritten notes to people who need some kind words. It’s not always easy to do, but it reminds me of how important it is to tell family and friends what they mean to us – because if the words of strangers can help that much, how much more can we bolster the spirits of people we know?

Anyway, when trying to find words to help people in uncertain situations, there are two things that keep popping into my head: The 1998 film You’ve Got Mail, and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (which I have discussed before on this blog).

 

The two works have quite a bit in common: two people who initially hate each other come to love each other – the guy, who seems like an entitled jerk, turns out to be a kind person, and the girl, wondering if she is too afraid to live the life she wants, faces massive life changes and takes the first steps towards doing it. All this with wonderfully witty, realistic dialogue and the Internet in play.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune… must be in want of a wife.”

They also both take a lot from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (whose birthday is today, btw). LBD is based directly on it, and in You’ve Got Mail, Joe Fox compares Kathleen Kelly to Elizabeth Bennet for her inability to see past her pride and prejudices towards him (see above). Really, I could do a whole blog post on those similarities alone (and I might, just warning you now).

But, in the vein of love letters, I’m going to talk about communication in both works.

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Character Comparison: Prince Hans & George Wickham (LBD). Or: Why I Won’t Excuse Hans.

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Trigger warning: Discussion of emotional abuse.

Okay, so I know I covered Frozen last week. But this is something I’ve actually been thinking about for a year, and recent events in colleges nationwide, including my own alma mater, have spurred me to think about this, so bear with me.

One year before Frozen premiered, I started watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modern vlog adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The show was a pioneer by engaging with its audience through social media platforms, and added new layers to the story through videos created by other characters. But the biggest, most talked about change the show made was in the handling of the relationship between Lydia Bennet and George Wickham through Lydia’s vlogs, The Lydia Bennet.

(Spoilers ahead!)

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Character Comparison: Princess Anna & Princess Tutu (Ahiru)

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(Note: I apologize for the late posting. Certain things came up, and this took longer than I expected. Hope you enjoy!)

It’s been almost a year since Disney’s Frozen came out in the US, and it has since taken the world by storm!

Sure, we get to the point when we think, “If I hear ‘Let It Go’ or ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman’ one more time, I might just kill someone.”

But we have to admit it’s a well-crafted Disney film worthy of admiration. The characters are easy to fall in love with (or, in the case of Hans, fall in hate with), and often subvert our expectations of what we expect characters in a fairytale to do.

Another animated fairytale in which characters subvert expectations is the Japanese anime series Princess Tutu (which I swear is a lot better than the name suggests). I see quite a few parallels between the main characters, but in particular I find the female protagonists, Princess Anna and Ahiru (also known as Princess Tutu), very similar, both in temperament and in the values they represent. I think these similarities reveal a lot about the values of each story. 

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