Category Archives: Writing

Joss Whedon Needs to Grow Up and Apologize

I’ve been a fan of Joss Whedon for more than twenty years. He is one of those writer/director types that is only bound by his imagination and his ability to create a compelling narrative.

Between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, the 2012 Much Ado About Nothing, The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, etc, his career is nothing to sneeze at.

That being said, that does not mean that he has the right to be an asshole.

After multiple accusations of being an all-around jackass on various sets, he threw the blame back on the performers. Speaking of Ray Fisher (Justice League) he claimed that Fisher is a bad actor. If he was so bad, why did he not just fire him and recast the role? It wouldn’t have been the first time and I am sure that it won’t be the last time. The fact that he is making these claims now does not exactly hold water. At least Fisher was the bigger person, which I cannot say about Whedon.

Whedon also claimed that his working relationship with Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot went sour because her native tongue is Hebrew.

“I don’t threaten people. Who does that?” Whedon told New York. “English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech.”

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There are plenty of actors whose second (or third) language is English. That is no excuse for treating anyone on set as if they are an annoying fly needing to be squashed.

The key to any workplace success (regardless of where one works), is the capacity to be professional, even if we don’t get along with everyone we work with. Whedon either lacks this capacity or thinks that he is above it. Either way, he needs to grow up and apologize.

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Filed under Movies, Television, William Shakespeare, Writing

Carrie Fisher, 5 Years Gone

Carrie Fisher died five years ago today. Known for her role as Princess/General Leia Organa in the Stars Wars film franchise (among other roles), she was a respected writer and a mental health warrior. Dogged by mental illness and drug addiction for most of her life, it would have been easy to let both diseases get the best of her.

Though her death was and still is tragic, the fact that she was able to find a way to survive both for as long as she did will forever be a huge inspiration to me.

I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.

May her memory forever be a blessing. Z”l.

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Filed under Feminism, Mental Health, Star Wars, Writing

Throwback Thursday: In Search of the Brontës (2003)

A good biopic does more than lay out the basic facts about the life and work of the subject(s). It brings that story and the subject(s) to life, creating a connection between the audience and the characters.

In Search of the Brontës (2003) is a one-hour TV movie that told the story of the Bronte sisters, their work, and their family. Starring as the sisters are Victoria Hamilton (Charlotte Bronte), Elizabeth Hurran (Emily Bronte), and Alexandra Milman (Anne Bronte). Behind them is Patrick Malahide as their widower father Patrick and Jonathan McGuiness as their only brother, Branwell.

I thoroughly enjoyed this hour of television. It is a fascinating and deeply moving tale of three of the most beloved writers in literary history. The acting is fantastic and the actors are perfectly cast, giving the viewer the opportunity to get to know the characters outside of the dry historical facts that we know all too well.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Eyre, Movie Review, Movies, Throwback Thursday, Writing, Wuthering Heights

Thoughts on Jane Austen’s Birthday

It takes a bold person to go against the grain.

In her own time, Jane Austen may not have appeared to go her own way. In her time, a woman’s job was to marry, bear children, and maintain the home. The only way to maintain her legal rights was to remain single. Upon saying “I do”, she and her husband were in the eyes of the law, one person. If she was lucky, she had a basic education, some sort of inheritance coming her way, and a male head out household who at least respected her wishes.

But she did, and in doing so, paved the way for future generations to do the same.

Her books may end in “happily ever after”, but they are so much more than that. She talks about how women are disenfranchised in her world. Marriage was not just about finding the right person. It was a business arrangement. But Austen does not just get on a soapbox. She uses her narratives to speak directly to her readers. Whether it was about family relationships, one’s potential or current spouse, or even silly gossip, her stories are timeless. It is those qualities that keep us coming back to her novels, even when we have read them more times than we can count.

Happy Birthday, Jane!

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Filed under Books, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Thoughts On...., Writing

The Glass Castle Book Review

Flannery O’Connor once said the following about writing:

“Anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his life.”

If one were to judge writer Jeannette Walls by that quote, they would be able to say that she has enough stories for a lifetime of writing. Her 2006 memoir, The Glass Castle, is the story of her deeply unconventional and sometimes troubling childhood. Her father deeply loved his children. When he was sober, Rex Walls was dedicated to expanding the education of his offspring beyond the classroom and encouraging them to life live to the fullest. But he also had a penchant for drinking too much, often becoming destructive and abusive. Her mother, Rose Mary, was artistic and free-thinking. She was also not exactly the most maternal of mothers, forcing Jeannette and her siblings to basically raise themselves.

One by one, each of the Walls kids eventually made their way to New York City. Though Rex and Rose Mary followed their youngsters to the Big Apple, they continued in their chosen way of life and became homeless. Choosing a more conventional way of living, the second generation of the Walls family thrived.

It would have been easy for Walls to either be extremely judgemental of her parents or spend years in therapy due to a childhood that had the potential to be psychologically damaging. But she chooses to present them on the page as she knew them and let the reader decide how they feel.

I admire the author for having chutzpah. Pulling herself up by her bootstraps, she did what had to do, which included getting away if she wanted a better life in adulthood than she had in her younger years. My problem is that the book was not as compelling as I thought it would be.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Mental Health, New York City, Writing

Happy Birthday Carrie Fisher

Today is the birthday of the late, great, Carrie Fisher.

I could extoll the virtues of this all around badass, writer, icon, and mental health warrior. But I will let her speak for herself.

Happy Birthday, wherever you are.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, Mental Health, Movies, Star Wars, 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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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