Category Archives: Feminism

World on Fire Character Review: Nancy Campbell

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

The job of a journalist is to report the facts and let the public decide how to react. The problem is that in some countries and under some governments, the facts are dangerous.

On World on Fire, Nancy Campbell is an American journalist whose job is her life. In 1939, Nancy is in Warsaw when the Germans invade Poland. Returning to Berlin, she does her job as she has always done. But she also knows enough to know that war is coming. She tries to convince her closeted nephew, Webster O’ Connor (Brian J. Smith) to leave Europe while the borders are still open. But Webster decides to stay.

In Berlin, she is friendly with her neighbors and the army officers who she must interact with as part of her job. The journalist in her wants to report what she is seeing. But she is held back by her German supervisors who are towing the party line and need to make sure that only their version of the truth is released.

Nancy knows the risks she takes when she is determined reveal everything that she is seeing and experiencing. But in her eyes, it must be done, in spite of the personal costs she may have to pay.

To sum it up: Sometime doing the right thing requires going against everyone and everything around you. It is easy to be silent and pretend that everything is fine. It is harder to follow your own instincts. When Nancy makes the difficult and dangerous decision to speak the truth, she is standing up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Ask Dr. Ruth Movie Review

Though sex and sexuality is part and parcel of human nature, it is often viewed as something dangerous and wrong.

For decades, Dr. Ruth Westheimer (aka Dr. Ruth), has been America’s sex therapist. The 2019 Hulu documentary movie, Ask Dr. Ruth, tells her story. Born in 1928 to an Orthodox Jewish family in Germany, everything was normal for the first ten years of her life. When it became clear that being a Jew in Germany was dangerous, Ruth (then known by her first name, Karola) was sent to Switzerland on the Kindertransport.

At the age of 17, she emigrated to what was then British controlled Palestine (pre-Independence Israel) and joined the Haganah. Years later, she again emigrated to the United States. Living in New York City, she married, raised her two children and became the woman we know her to be today.

The thing I love about her is that at nearly 100 years old, she has the energy of a woman half her age. She represents hope, life, change, and that a woman can never be limited to what she can do because she is “female”. Her presence first on the radio and then on television, helped to open the door to long overdue conversations about sex and sexuality.

I absolutely recommend it.

Ask Dr. Ruth is available for streaming on Hulu.

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World on Fire Character Review: Lois Bennett

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

Love and loss often compels us to act in ways that we would otherwise act. On World on Fire, Lois Bennett (Julia Brown) is initially introduced to the audience as an idealistic young woman living in England at the start of World War II. Though she has a day job, her true passion is singing. At night, she performs at night clubs with her friend, Connie Wright (Yrsa Daley-Ward). She is also happily in love with Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King), in spite of his upper class mother Robina’s (Lesley Manville) misgivings.

But life is not all sunshine and roses. Lois lives with her hot-headed brother Tom (Ewan Mitchell) and their widowed father Douglas (Sean Bean). Douglas is a veteran of World War I. Still dealing with PTSD decades after returning home, he is against Britain getting involved in another war.

After she and Harry break up, Lois joins the ENSA and the war effort. When she finds out that he has returned to England with a young boy who is his brother-in-law, she is furious. When they meet, one thing leads to another and they sleep together.

Upon finding out that she is pregnant, Lois decides to keep the baby. But, she does not tell Harry and rejects financial help from Robina. At a local army base, Lois meets Vernon Hunter (Arthur Darvill). She initially rejects him but eventually agrees to marry him.

Starts at 3:43

To sum it up: There are two ways to deal with loss, especially loss that is associated with romantic love. We can wallow in self-pity. Or, we can find a way to move on from that loss, even if it is difficult. What I like about Lois is that she does not let the breakup with Harry stop her from living. That strength I find to be inspiring and powerful.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Throwback Thursday: The Legend of Zorro (2005)

In our capitalist, materialist based society, it is easy to forget those who are not as fortunate as we are. Sometimes, it falls upon a fictional hero to remind us of this fact.

Zorro has been a popular character for over a century. His story and his Robin Hood view of the world has inspired more than a few adaptations over the years.

Back in 1998, The Mask of Zorro was a box office hit. Six years later, the film’s sequel, The Legend of Zorro hit theaters. The narrative starts ten years after the previous film ended. Don Alejandro De La Vega (i.e. Zorro) (Antonio Banderas) and his wife Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) are happily married with a young son.

But work and his alter ego is starting to pull Alejandro away from home. Feeling dissatisfied with the status of her marriage, Elena leaves her husband. She finds companionship in the arms of Count Armand (Rufus Sewell). Alejandro is more than jealous of his wife’s new partner. He begins to suspect that Armand is part of a scheme to prevent California from becoming a part of the United States.

Compared to its predecessor, the reviews for this film are not good. In this case, I disagree with the reviewers. The Legend of Zorro is not the most intellectual film, but that’s ok. It is one of those movies that is just fun to watch and the perfect vehicle to step away from reality for a couple of hours.

I loved that Elena’s role in this film is expanded. More than just the pretty love interest, she is as badass as her husband. I also loved the casting of Rufus Sewell. He is one of those actors who has perfected the art of playing a villain.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Crown Season 4 Review

Sometimes a writer does not need to look too far back into the past for inspiration.

The 4th season of The Crown premiered yesterday on Netflix. The season follows the lives of the British royals from 1979-1989. Coming back from season 3 are Olivia Coleman (Queen Elizabeth), Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip), Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles), Erin Doherty (Princess Anne), Helena Bonham-Carter (Princess Margaret), and Marion Bailey (the Queen Mother). Adding new levels of drama and intrigue are Emma Corrin (Princess Diana) and Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher).

In addition to the internal family drama, there is political and economic upheaval beyond the walls of Buckingham Palace.

I binge watched a good chunk of the new season last night. It is nothing short of fantastic. I loved the new additions to the cast. Corrin brings a humanity to her role and adds to the mystique of the real woman behind the character.

If there is one actor among the main players who deserves an award for her work, it is Gillian Anderson. I am the first to admit that my knowledge of Thatcher’s work as Prime Minister is limited. But I know enough to know that then and now, she is a polarizing figure. As the character, Anderson plays a ball busting, glass ceiling shattering woman who is as formidable as the Queen.

The thing I really enjoyed so far is the complete 180 of how Charles is viewed. Last season, he was a young man trying to out who he was as a human being while dealing with burden of responsibility placed upon his shoulders. This season, he still draws empathy, but not as much as did during season 3.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Crown is available for streaming on Netlflix.

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Liar Review

In some cases, the accusation of rape is clear and simple. But in other cases, it is a complicated case of he said vs. she said.

In the television series Liar, both Laura Nielson (Joanne Froggatt) and Andrew Earlham (Ioan Gruffudd) are at crossroads in their lives. Laura is newly single after a long term relationship has just ended. Andrew is a widower with a teenage son. They meet at the school where Laura teaches and Andrew’s son is a student.

After they go on a date, they go back to her place to hang out and share a bottle of wine. One thing leads to another and they end up in bed. The next morning, Laura cries rape while Andrew claims it was just a one night stand. The consequences of that evening and the questions of what really happened will have far reaching consequences.

I only watched the first couple of episodes and was riveted. Both Froggatt and Gruffudd are superb in their roles. Unlike the open and shut cases is seen on Law & Order and other police dramas, this one is not black and white.

I was also drawn to the show because there was an instant comparison to the rape of Froggatt’s Downton Abbey character, Anna Bates. While Laura is both believed and her reputation is initially intact, Anna is not sot lucky. If she is to retain both her job and her good name, she must pretend that it never happened.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Liar is available for streaming on the Sundance Channel.

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I Am Greta Movie Review

The former American President Barack Obama once said the following:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

In 2018, the Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg was an unassuming young woman who decided to tackle climate change on her own. Every Friday, she would cut school and sit near the parliament building in Stockholm to protest the lack of action by the government. What started out as one young girl’s attempt to change the world grew into a movement. The new documentary, I Am Greta follows her journey from 2018 to the present.

Entitled #FridaysForFuture, the movement grew to include hundreds of thousands of people around the world following Greta’s lead. She soon garnered the attention of the media and politicians around the world. But while she inspired millions to make climate change their issue, she was attacked and ignored by some (mostly adults) for her unending commitment to the cause.

This girl is nothing short of inspiring. Given the pressure around Greta and the diagnosis of Asperger syndrome that creates a tunnel vision like devotion, it would have been easy for her to back down. But she has stayed strong and has yet to waver from the cause.

I absolutely recommend it.

I Am Greta is available for streaming on Hulu.

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Our Long National Nightmare is Over: Biden & Harris Win the Election

When we all went to bed on Tuesday, we know that the outcome of the election would not come immediately. After several days of constantly watching the news and holding our breath, we have a winner. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be entering the White House as President and Vice President in January. Knowing that we will have the first female Vice President who is also a woman of color speaks to how far this country has come.

It goes without saying, that the response from you know is the adult equivalent of a tantrum.

Tantrum starts at 4:06

Instead of being and adult and accepting that he lost, he will continue to claim that voter fraud conspiracy cost him a second term. If (and I mean a huge if) that was true, there would have been a complete blue wave. Both Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham would lost their respective elections. But they didn’t, which is completely baffling to me.

As much as we can celebrate (and there is a reason to celebrate), there are two caveats. The first is that unfortunately, we have to wait until January before the Biden administration can actually get down to business. The second is that one of their first tasks will be to clean up the mess of the previous administration.

Although we know that there is still a lot of work to do, we can still take in the moment. Normalcy is on the horizon. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to for a boring President and a boring Presidential administration.

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I Am Woman Movie Review

It’s easy to get on a soapbox and rail against whatever one feels is wrong with the world. But sometimes, it takes art and music to give that needed change life.

I Am Woman premiered last year. Starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Evan Peters, and Danielle Macdonald, the movie tells the story of the late singer Helen Reddy. The narrative begins in 1963. Helen (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is a single mother with a dream of signing a recording contract. Originally from Australia, she is currently living in New York City. Making a living as a lounge singer, it looks like her dream is just that.

Her fate changes when she meets music journalist Lillian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald) and wannabe talent manager Jeff Wald (Evan Peters). Lillian inspires Helen to write her iconic song “I Am Woman“. Jeff straddles to the dual role of husband and manager.

It looks like Helen has everything she has ever wanted. But fame and the constant grind of work begins to take a toll on her private life. Jeff becomes an addict, forcing Helen to take a hard look at her life.

The thing about a movie or television biopic is that it can feel dry and predictable. The womb to tomb story arc has been done to death. But this movie is neither dry or predictable. It is entertaining, charming, and most of all inspiring. I love that the filmmakers wove in their protagonist’s story with the burgeoning second wave of feminism in the 1970’s.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

I Am Woman is streaming on Netflix.

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Is Anyone Truly Surprised that Amy Coney Barrett is the Newest Member of SCOTUS?

When it came to making major decisions, the process would obviously be easier if it was made via strictly impartial facts. But impartiality is impossible. Most, if not all of the time, our beliefs and experiences color the final outcome of our decisions.

Last night, in a surprise to no one, Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the newest member of SCOTUS.

Her rushed confirmation hearings, combined with taking the oath of office a week before the election is the living, breathing embodiment of court packing. Those in the Republican and conservative movements wanted to grab as much power as they could while it was theirs to take. If the blue wave comes as expected (and hoped for), the Democrats will have control of the White House and Congress.

There are two problems with her confirmation. The first problem is that there are no term limits on the members of the Supreme Court. While there is talk of creating term limits, it is just talk at this moment. Justice Barrett is forty eight. This means that she could be on the court for the next thirty to forty years. She could be ruling on cases that will forever change the trajectory of this nation.

The second problem is that with the election so close, some are predicting a reboot of the 2000 Presidential election. Those of us who are above a certain age can easily remember the chaos and uncertainty during that period. In a worst case scenario, the argument could make its way up to SCOTUS. I wouldn’t put it past you know who to ensure that the judges he appointed give him another four years in office.

At this point in time, we can only guess how the election will end and how Judge Barrett will rule. I hope with everything I have that when all is said and done, we become a better nation. But hope, as it often does, springs eternal.

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