Category Archives: Television

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition Review

At first glance, Downton Abbey appears to be just another BPD (British Period Drama).

But it so much more than that. Set in an English aristocratic home in the early 20th century, the focus of Downton Abbey is the story of the Crawley family, led by the Earl and Countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) and their household staff.

Recently, Downton Abbey: The Exhibition opened.

The exhibit is sheer perfection. Containing costumes, exact replicas of  the sets, audio clips, video clips and so much more, the exhibit was made for the fans. It’s as if the creators of the exhibit were able to read our minds as to what would like to see and experience.

When a television show is as beloved as Downton Abbey is, an exhibit like this is akin to coming home. It is as if the visitor is a fly on the wall of the set. It is beautiful, it is enticing and worth every moment of my visit.

It is a must see.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is at 218 West 57th Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue until January 31st, 2018. 

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Filed under Downton Abbey, History, New York City, Television

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Prince Charming

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Once Upon A Time. I am only writing up to the end of season 6. Read at your own risk if you have still not seen the previous seasons.

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 us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Once Upon A Time to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Prince Charming has been a stock character since the beginning of storytelling. He is there to rescue the heroine (presumably a princess in her own right or a soon to be princess), sweep her off her feet and live happily ever after with her. The problem is that this character has become such a staple of our stories to the point where we expect nothing more of this character than the standard narrative and character arc.

The writers of Once Upon A Time, have cleverly found a way to flip this stock character on his head, as they do with all of their characters. In Prince Charming’s case, he is not what he seems to be. Charming, as his wife, Snow White, calls him, was born to a poor family. Until he was an adult, he was not aware of the fact that he had a twin. This twin, James, was raised in the palace as the King’s son. When James was killed, Charming took his brother’s place and was nearly forced to marry a princess whom he did not love or care for until fate and Snow White stepped into his path.

In Storybrooke, Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) is known as David Nolan. Like his fairy tale land alter ego, David was not only unaware of the woman whom his heart belonged to, but also of his identity. Even after the curse was broken, it was not always sunshine and rainbows for David and Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin), Snow White’s Storybrooke alter ego. There were both internal and external forces trying to pulling them apart.  But no matter what, David/Prince Charming and Mary Margaret/Snow White always found their way back to each other.

To sum it up: There is nothing wrong with writing a fairy tale style romance. But, the issue that the writer must contend is that that the romance and the relationship has to feel real and human. The characters must be imperfect and face challenges. If the writer sticks to the standard and predictable narrative and character arc, the reader or audience, will see both a mile away. Unpredictability makes life interesting and makes a story interesting. Interesting stories=interested readers. And interested readers always come back for more.

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Filed under Character Review, Fairy Tales, Once Upon A Time, Television

Tracee Ellis Ross’ Children’s Book for Handsy Men

Sometimes it seems like some grown men have the maturity of a toddler.  Talking to them like grownups gets us nowhere. We need to talk to them on a level that they understand.

Enter Tracee Ellis Ross, who is guess hosting on Jimmy Kimmel Live this week. The video below is brilliant, funny and hits the point home. No means no, means no. End of story. If you don’t understand the word no, just watch the news and see the men whose professional and personal lives have been destroyed because they didn’t understand the meaning of the word. It’s not exactly a path in life that someone would actively choose to take, if they understood the meaning of the word.

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Add Another One To The List IX: Danny Masterson

The list of prominent dishonorable men accused of sexual assault and/or sexual harassment has added a new name to the list: Danny Masterson.

Mr. Masterson has been fired from his Netflix series, The Ranch, after he was accused of rape by multiple women.

The women who make these accusations are not just a series of body parts that make up the female human body. We are someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s sister, someone’s daughter, etc. The problem is that the perpetrators don’t see us like that.

Mr. Masterson has a wife and a daughter. I would ask him and every man accused of similar heinous actions how they would feel if it was their wife, their mother, their sister, their daughter, etc, who was raped or made to feel less the human because she is a woman? Would they be so willing to act as they did? I would think not.

I feel no sympathy for Mr. Masterson and I applaud the women who have come forward. Karma, after all, is a b*tch and she has no problem speaking up and fighting back.

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Billy Bush Finally Speaks

We all remember the Billy Bush Access Hollywood tape from last fall.

It was what many of us hoped would be the downfall of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign. Instead Trump won the election and Billy Bush‘s life and career were left in tatters.

Though he publicly apologized for the video’s content last year, Trump has recently rescinded that apology and claimed that it was not him making those statements.  In response to the rescinded apology, Billy Bush has not only written a NY Times Op-Ed about the video, but he also recently appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to talk about not only the video, but how his life has changed since last fall.

It’s not easy to do what he did, especially considering the very public downfall that occurred after the release of the video. Nor is it easy to forgive him for condoning Trump’s behavior. But the fact that he is willing to speak up says a lot. I hope more will join him. Perhaps then, this country will return to a state of normalcy.

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Filed under Feminism, National News, Politics, Television

Add Another One To The List Part VII: Geoffrey Rush

The list of prominent men accused of sexual assault or harassment by their female colleagues continues to grow. The newest name on this list is Australian actor Geoffrey Rush.

Rush, star of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, has stepped down from his role as as president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts because of claims of inappropriate behavior by female staff.

The fact is that male privilege has gone unchecked for far too long. We are so ingrained, as a worldwide culture to not only show preference to men, but to look away and/or call women names who have had the balls to speak up when men have taken advantage of us sexually.

Frankly, it’s about bloody time that change is finally happening. If it makes some people (especially men) uncomfortable, then so be it. I would rather be uncomfortable and know that we are finally seeing real change rather than go back to watching the same sh*t happen all over again.

I could go on, but I think the skit from Saturday Night Live last night says it all.

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Filed under Feminism, Movies, Politics, Television

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Snow White/ Mary Margaret Blanchard

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Once Upon A Time. I am only writing up to the end of season 6. Read at your own risk if you have still not seen the previous seasons.

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 us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Once Upon A Time to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Snow White is one of the quintessential fairy tales. The jealous stepmother, the poison apple, the handsome prince are all part of the basic narrative and character makeup of the fairy tale genre. But that does not mean that every writer has to stick to the same basic narrative and character arc.

In Once Upon A Time, there are two versions of Snow White  (played by Ginnifer Goodwin). In fairy tale land, Snow White is for the most part, the same character that audiences have come to know, with a few minor and important updates. In Storybrooke, she is Mary Margaret Blanchard, a teacher who in the beginning of the first season, like of most of the characters, were unaware of their true identities due to the curse that brought them to Storybrooke in the first place.

When the curse was lifted at the end of the first season, Snow White and Mary Margaret merged into one character. While she has her true love, Prince Charming/David Nolan (Josh Dallas, Goodwin’s real life husband), she also continually in the cross-hairs of her stepmother, The Evil Queen/Regina Mills).

This Snow White is an interesting mix of the traditional Snow White and characteristics of a modern, independent woman who audiences have come to expect.  She has a good heart and takes care of those around her, but also has no problem being a bad-ass when circumstances arise.

To sum it up: While traditional fairy tale characters (especially female characters) are great, they have been done to death. What the writers Of Once Upon A Time have very smartly done is taking the basic characters and narratives that exist with the fairy tale world and twisted them into new characters and narratives that audiences have not seen before. With Snow White, they have retained the skeleton of the character, but have made her human.

As writers, our job is not to create stock characters, but to use those stock characteristics as a building block for the character arc.  Stock characters are great, but if a writer just uses that stock character without building it up, the reader may feel like they have seen the story before and walk away. We don’t want the reader to walk away, so we must make sure that our characters are built up enough to stand on their own two feet and not rely on the standard stock character that has been seen for far too long.

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Filed under Character Review, Fairy Tales, Feminism, Once Upon A Time, Television

Add Another One To The List Part V: Matt Lauer

This morning, the list of prominent men accused of sexual harassment and/or abuse of their female staff grew to added one more name: Matt Lauer.

After hosting NBC’s The Today Show for twenty years and becoming one of the faces of morning news television for a generation, he lost his job and his reputation this morning.

At this point, I have no sympathy for these men. They got caught and in the process, were exposed for the predators that they are.  While I feel for Lauer’s family and I admire his victims for stepping forward, I am still shocked and reeling from the news.

We, as a culture, need to change. We need to change how we treat women. We need to teach our sons to respect the women around them and we need to teach our daughters that they are valuable and important beyond traditional female roles. Most of all, we need to put men who acted as Lauer did in his place and remind them that just because they have female subordinates does mean that these women are there to be his sexual playthings.

I just hope, that when this is done, that real change is enacted. If not, then all of this was for nothing.

P.S. Does anyone else see this as karma, especially considering how Lauer treated Ann Curry when she was fired in 2012?

P.P.S It is ironic and a sad telltale sign that while Lauer and others who have done such heinous acts have lost their jobs and reputation, a certain man in Washington D.C. who has been accused of similar acts is still in office. Why?

 

 

 

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Filed under Feminism, National News, Politics, Television

Thought On The 25th Anniversary Of Aladdin

25 years ago today, Aladdin hit theaters.

Loosely based (and I do mean loosely based) on the folktale One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin (Scott Weinger) is an orphaned boy living on the streets in fictional Agrabah.  He falls in love with Princess Jasmine (voiced by Linda Larkin) and asks Genie (voiced by the late and sorely missed Robin Williams) to make him a prince. But the king’s right hand man, Jafar (voiced by Jonathan Freeman) sees through Aladdin’s disguise and has plans to use Aladdin and Genie for his own ends.

As much as my former child self adores this movie, my adult self has a few qualms about this movie.

  • These characters are stereotypes. I get that this Disney’s attempt at cultural sensitivity and multiculturalism, but their attempt is merely an attempt, not a success.
  • Jasmine is 15 and an unnatural size 2. She is also the only major female character and tries to come off as a strong female character, but doesn’t really come off as the creative team intended.
  • All of the actors are Caucasian. Not even the scene stealing performance of Robin Williams can dull that fact.
  • The ending can be seen a mile away.
  • There is a subliminal message about underage teenage sex. Stop the video below at :19.

While more current adaptations of the movie (including the stage production, the upcoming movie with Will Smith as Genie and the reboot via Once Upon A Time have tried to correct the errors of the 1992 film, there are some things about this film that as a thirty something, doesn’t sit well with me.

Readers, what are your thoughts about this film? I would be curious to know.

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Filed under Fairy Tales, Feminism, Movies, Once Upon A Time, Television

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Mr. Gold/ Rumpelstiltskin

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Once Upon A Time. I am only writing up to the end of season 6. Read at your own risk if you have still not seen the previous seasons.

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 us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Once Upon A Time to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

In the tradition telling of Rumpelstiltskin, he is a magical imp who spins straw into gold for a young woman in return for something she will give him. One of the catchphrases of Once Upon A Time is “magic comes with a price”. The character of Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold is initially introduced to the audience as the show’s male villain. He loved nothing more than trading favors with mortals in return for something precious to them.

Then the characters of Belle (Emilie de Raven), his second wife and Neal/Baelfire (Michael-Raymond James), his first-born son were introduced. Both Belle and Neal/Baelfire forced Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold to face his own demons, his choices and his past.

To sum it up: A few years ago, when asked to describe where his character was at, in terms of the character arc, Robert Carlyle described Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold as having an addiction to magic. Like any addiction, it often superseded his relationships with his loved ones. Addiction can often break relationships, but if the person addicted is willing to do the work, the addiction can be conquered.

When writing about characters wrestling with addiction issues, it is our job to explore how addiction can potentially break families and destroy lives. If the addiction is written either lightly or over-dramatically, the audience will not believe that the character has their addiction. Written about an addicted characters is not easy, but if it is done right, the audience will follow along on the character’s journey.

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Filed under Beauty And The Beast, Character Review, Fairy Tales, Once Upon A Time, Television