Category Archives: Writing

Does Sarah Silverman Have a Point About Hollywood’s “Jewface” Problem?

In today’s media environment, representation is key. After too many years of the Caucasian, Christian, heterosexual male dominating our screens, the call for diversity has only gotten louder and will continue to do so.

Last week, comedian and actress Sarah Silverman called out Hollywood for “Jewface“. In laymen’s terms, it is when a non-Jewish actor plays a Jewish character (ala Kathryn Hahn playing Joan Rivers in the upcoming biopic). Her description of this phenomenon is as follows:

“It’s defined as when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with the Jewishness front and center, often with makeup or changing of features, big fake nose, all the New York-y or Yiddish-y inflection. And in a time when the importance of representation is seen as so essential and so front and center, why does ours constantly get breached even today in the thick of it?”

In response to Silverman’s comments, actor Tony Shalhoub, who plays Rachel Brosnahan’s father in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, (neither of whom are Jewish) said the following:

“We were trained to — at least I was — to not play myself, to play characters and so it’s troubling to me that they’re limiting actors.”

He is right. An actor’s job is to pretend to be someone else. As long as they can play the role, it shouldn’t matter what their ethnicity or family background is. The problem is that too often, a character who is a minority is either ground down to the base stereotype or the actor is Caucasian, but the person they are playing is a POC.

I think she has a point. The problem as I see it is both in casting and the writing. If every performer was hired solely based on their race, religion, or where their ancestors came from, dramatized fiction would be severely limited. While it would be nice to see a Jewish actor playing a Jewish character, I have to be realistic. For me, it comes down to the script. The person I am seeing on screen must be fully drawn. If the writer(s) rely on how they think a Jewish person (or anyone) thinks or feels without making them human, that is where the problem lies.

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Filed under Misc, Writing

Thoughts on The Jagged Little Pill Controversy

Art has a way of changing the world as few things can. But that does not mean that the final product is approved of by everyone in the audience.

When the musical Jagged Little Pill (based on the Alanis Morissette album of the same name) hit Broadway opened at the end of 2019, it was met with rave reviews. The story of the Healy family and their struggles spoke to the shit we all go through everyday. With the show re-opening at the end of the month, there has been some issues with the character of Jo, played by Lauren Patten.

If what has been said is true, Jo was supposed to be non binary, but was written as a lesbian. In the statement released by the producers, they will be reworking the role to reflect the criticism.

One of the topics that has come up with this controversy is representation. I completely agree that representation these days is super important. Though there has been a vast improvement in both the image and numbers of non cis-gender heterosexual Caucasian men in the media, the truth is that we have a long way to go in truly reflecting the audience.

Speaking as a writer, one of the aspects of this conversation that is missing is how Jo evolved from the first draft until the premiere. In the process of writing, both characters and narrative change over the course of the creation of the work. What also may have happened is tryouts and previews, she was tweaked by both the actor, the writer(s), and the director until everyone was satisfied with the final product.

I have two concerns with everything that is whirling around Jagged Little Pill. The first concern is that it will ultimately force the show to close. When a scandal erupts over an IP, one of two things happen. The first is that it arouses interest and brings in audiences who otherwise would have passed it by. The second is that the scandal become so overconsuming that the executive team has no choice but to call it quits.

The second concern is that producers will look the scandal and if they see a script that is similar to JLP, it will go into the “no pile”. Not because of the quality of the work, but because of the possibility of negative press.

Only time will tell if JLP survives or closes. My hope and my prayer is that it survives because it proves that there is room for creativity and new concepts on Broadway.

P.S. Lauren won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical last weekend. It is an honor that is well deserved.

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Filed under Broadway Musical Review, Music, Thoughts On...., Writing

The Madwoman Upstairs Book Review

When Patrick Bronte died in 1861, he was the last surviving member of his immediate family. Outliving his wife and all six of his children, his legacy would have faded into history if not for the extraordinary books of his three youngest daughters.

Though history tells us that Patrick died without any descendants, author Catherine Lowell asks what if someone living today could claim otherwise. In her 2016 book, The Madwoman Upstairs, Samantha Whipple is an American woman raised in Boston who can make this kind of statement. Raised by her late unconventional father after her parent’s divorce, many believe that she has access to a treasure trove of previously unseen materials created by her ancestors. But Samantha has no knowledge of these artifacts and believes them to be fiction. When she enrolls at Oxford University, clues begin to confirm that what Samantha believes to myth is fact. Working with a handsome professor who she gets along with like oil and water, the mystery of her birthright starts to reveal itself.

I loved the first half of the book. There are plenty of Easter eggs to please the most ardent of Bronte fans. I will warn that the reader should go into the novel with at least some knowledge of their life and work. Otherwise many of the details of the plot will go over their heads. The problem is the second half. The unraveling of the truth is not as exciting as it could be. Neither is “romance” between Samantha and her professor. The sisters are known for heart pounding, blood pumping sexuality (Charlotte and Emily to be specific. Anne‘s novels are not as highly charged in that manner). There is no chemistry between the characters, nor do I believe that in their happily ever after.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Writing

Letters Across the Sea Book Review

War has a way to pulling us apartment, forcing us to see someone else as “the other”. It can also bring us together and remind us of our common humanity.

Letters Across the Sea, by Genevieve Graham, was published earlier this year. In Toronto in the summer of 1933, Hannah Dreyfus and Molly Ryan are best friends. Both the grandchildren of immigrants (Eastern European Jews and Irish Catholic respectively), they are friends in a time in which antisemitism is rising in their hometown. Though Molly only sees her BFF and has a crush on Max, Hannah’s big brother, other people are not so tolerant of their differences. Things come to a boil in August during the Christie Pits riot, forcing Hannah and Molly to go their separate ways.

Six years later, World War II is on the horizon. After years of toiling at any job she could get, Molly has finally gotten her dream job as a journalist. Men from across the country have enlisted. Among them are Max and Molly’s brothers. When the letters from the soldiers start to arrive, Molly must contend with the past and the unspoken truth that has been buried since that night in 1933.

This book is amazing. Graham’s eye for the historical facts while creating a fictional world is top notch. I was fully invested in the story, hoping that Molly and Max would get together while praying that the male characters would come home. It was a history lesson in the best way, learning about this time in Canadian history without feeling like the reader is sitting in a university lecture hall.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Writing

Celebrating Jane Austen on the 204 Anniversary of her Passing

Today is the 204 anniversary of the passing of Jane Austen. To say that she was extraordinary in her time and ours is and will always be an understatement. Though her physical remains are long gone, her name and her work will last forever.

Z”L.

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Filed under Books, Emma, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Writing

Jane Austen: Writing, Society, Politics Book Review

Art does not come from nothing. It comes from the world around us and the experiences that have shaped our lives.

Jane Austen: Writing, Society, Politics by Tom Keymer, was published last year. In the book, Keymer walks the reader through the Regency era and how that world had a hand in developing her voice as a writer. He goes into the politics of the period, the complete disenfranchisement of women, and how a strict, but slowly fading class system played a role in her work.

I loved it. It was short, concise, and a reminder as to why Austen’s work continues to be timeless and universal. I will say, however, that it is aimed at two specific and different groups of readers. The book can be read in an academic setting, but it is neither dry nor stuffy. It also squarely falls into the Janeite camp. My one warning is that to truly enjoy it, the reader should be well versed in her life and work. Otherwise, they may not understand the nuances and the details that a long-time Jane Austen fan can easily identify.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Politics, Writing

How to Write a Blog Post

  1. Just start writing. The only way to to get the juices flowing is to turn on the faucet. A shitty first draft is better than no draft at all.
  2. Be you. The best way to gain to new readers is to write as only you can. Your unique voice and your cumulative experiences creates a perspective that only you have.
  3. Don’t be afraid of writing about controversial topics. Your opinion as important and valuable as anyone else’s.
  4. Be flexible. One of the things I have learned over the years is that the way to improve my own blogging is being open to different formats and subjects as I go along.
  5. Be creative. If you have an idea for a blog post or a topic to write about, go for it.
  6. Use WordPress to the fullest. The range of tools we have is awe inspiring.
  7. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. We can only improve our writing if we actually write.
  8. Have fun. Writing is fun, even when it feels like work. I don’t know about you, but I always feel better knowing that I have gotten my thoughts onto the page.

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6 Ways Journaling Improves Your Mental Health — Feed Your Curious Mind

You have probably heard the advice to keep a journal numerous times before, but somehow you have never started doing it. Or perhaps you started, but the habit did not stick. Journaling involves writing down your innermost thoughts and feelings in a notebook, phone note app, or on your computer to understand them more clearly. […]

6 Ways Journaling Improves Your Mental Health — Feed Your Curious Mind

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6 Easy Steps To Write An Awesome Blog Post (With Practical Tips) — Ravenful | Designed By Creativity

Writing a blog post is a great way to share your inspiration to others or discuss a certain topic with public. Whether you’re planning to write your first blog post or you wish to write more engaging content you need to follow the right steps to get there. With millions of bloggers creating content every […]

6 Easy Steps To Write An Awesome Blog Post (With Practical Tips) — Ravenful | Designed By Creativity

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The Worst Part of Depression is Exhaustion

There is no part of depression that is cheerful or pleasant. It is debilitating, physically and mentally. Whatever joy or pleasure you take from life, it destroys, leaving emptiness and darkness in their places.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

The worst part is the complete and utter exhaustion.

I can do everything right and it never feels like I never get enough sleep. Eat right, limiting caffeine intake, try to keep a regular sleep schedule, work out regularly, etc. Nothing works. At this point, crashing into my couch and napping for 3ish hours on top of the sleep I get a night is normal. It used to be that if I took anything more than a catnap, getting a good night’s sleep would have been difficult. But not recently.

The worst part is the loss of precious writing time I lose almost daily. Writing is my release from the day and the sometimes difficult aspects of my job. Instead of turning on my computer and doing the thing I love to do, I lay down after work and before I know it, its dinner time. I may get some of my work done, but not as much as I would have, had I not felt like I had no energy.

So yeah, depression sucks.

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Filed under Mental Health, Writing