Lost in Translation

OKayyy, so I DID go and see the latest installment of the Hunger Games series: Catching Fire. I won’t give anything away, but it was everything I dreamed of and more. Tons of action, love drama, and suspense.

Now, the books were aimed at bringing to light how countries can be oppressed by government (in this case, the Capitol), and how one girl can make a huge difference in how people think and react to what’s being shown them via media (in the Hunger Games, in the form of public broadcasting). Katniss is a heroin, a person that people look up to for defying stereotypes, especially those surrounding girls. This is a great leap for woman, as little girls have a role model to look up to (in Katniss as well as her actress, Jennifer Lawrence). However, Lionsgate and Cover Girl have merged to produce a make-up line called ‘Capitol Couture’.. uhm what? This seems as though the message of strength, individuality and going against the grain have been lost. The Capitol was the enemy, why would girls and woman want to embody something that they’ve been told is evil?

Very interesting article surrounding the debate, I encourage you to check it out and make your own judgement!

No Spoilers

I have not watched the second installment of the movie “The Hunger Games” yet, but I have heard from more than a few people about its greatness and how I have to watch it. The Hunger Games for those who don’t know is about last man standing competition, to the death, executed by children.

Since this being one of the “movies of the year”, I have a few friends already asking me to go watch it with  them. But just like the first of this series, I chose not to listen to any details about the movie or watch any reviews. This idea is relevant to the topic of meaning we talked about in class. For the past couple years I have gone into movies with no prior knowledge about them and therefore no expectations. I love it. I have enjoyed movies more and it has helped me make my own opinions about them.

One of the better movies I have done this for is Inception. Although it was hard to avoid the buzz about the movie since many people were talking about it, I went not knowing a thing. Whether it was drama or thriller, love-story or fantasy, or if there was a lesson to be learned. This way of viewing movies and all artistic forms (music, television, books) give you a sense of open mindedness in a world where you are always told what to think and what you are supposed to take from watching or listening to something.

What do you think about this? Is it a waste of money? Should we as viewers always know what kind of movie we’re watching, how good or bad it is, and what the major plot points are before we watch anything? Or is being uninformed a better way?

From Paper To Film

After the interview we had yesterday (awesome insight into Horizon by the way!), I was reflecting on the small discussion regarding the Transformers series and realized I’ve never actually read any of their paper media. I fell in love with Bumblebee after the first blockbuster movie came out, and was left (wistfully) hoping my car would someday come to life as well. This realization really got me thinking – how many of the movies I adore originated as comics, graphic novels, novels or series’?

Now, I’ve covered the most basic: Lord of the Rings (including the Hobbit), Harry Potter, and yes, I’ll admit, even The Hunger Games. However, so many of my favorite movies, many of them being Marvel’s work, I have yet to delve into. X-men, Batman, Superman, Sin City – how much have I been missing out on? What internal meanings have I completely missed, by being dazzled by increasingly realistic explosions and fight scenes?

Another thought to ponder – which is better, the story or the screen? I’ll definitely be wearing my critic pants when I go to see the latest installment of The Hunger Games 🙂

Infinite

Recently, after finishing with the last of my midterms, I finally got the chance to read the book “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” after watching the movie right when it came out (Since i’m a little obsessed with Logan Lerman).  I’m most likely behind though and many of you probably read it already, possibly in high school.  This book was honestly something like i’d never read before.  It’s not a typical book with a clear conflict climax plot and all that stuff you learn in English class.  It wasn’t even showing a story really, it was a story in itself if that makes any sense.  It basically just follows the life of a misfit boy dealing with adolescent problems told to “participate” or fit in because he’s “different.”  It relates so strongly to what kids go through in high school, but it also goes much deeper than that.  From friendship, relationships, letting loose and just fitting in, all the way to loneliness, depression, drugs, abuse and even suicide.  I feel like this book can relate to everyone in some way or another and the lessons to learn from this book are so strong, that they can have a great impact on kids and even help some through tough times, since high school really can be emotionally tough.  It also teaches how to come out of your shell and see the world for what it really is, a beautiful place if you only look through the imperfections.  It shows that you’re not alone in your problems, others are just like you but you need to stay strong and keep moving on past them.  I just feel like this book or movie even, are very inspiring so I had to share it.  For those that have read/watched this, how does it inspire you?

“Even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there” – Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

A Glimpse of the Lovecraftian

I’ve been a big fan of horror novels for most of my life, and I’ve always been interested in the creepy and the weird, so it’s no wonder that I’m a big fan of HP Lovecraft, to the point where I own multiple collections that not only contain the same stories, but most of these same stories are available for free legally on the internet. I figured since the last class we talked about horror in comics I figured I’d talk a little about the precursor to those comics, pulp fiction (and no I don’t mean the movie! Though I might get to that in a later blog post).

Lovecraft is widely known for the creation of Cthulhu, the ancient and incomprehenisble god that slumbers beneath the pacific ocean, but he has written a much larger mythos that has captivated many a reader.

Lovecraft’s works commonly feature themes like misanthropy, nihilism, sanity and the lack there of, and hopelessness. Reading a Lovecraft story is like taking a glimpse into your own sanity, often making you question the worth of life and the human existence. Good guys don’t win in Lovecraft’s universe, in fact not many good guys even exist at all.

One of my favorite features of the mythos has always been the focus on how insignifcant us humans could be to whatever else might be out there. I feel it’s akin to what an ant must feel when confronted with a human, creatures as large as us must be nearly incomprehenisble on every scale, in that same way we could be but ants to whatever lurks between the stars. It certainly makes you wonder about our place in the universe as well as the place of those ants.

Of course it can be a little draining to be submerged in the ideas of a man such as Lovecraft. Misanthropy is a scary path to walk, even from a third person perspective, but Lovecraft makes it so easy to see why we as humans could be disdainable. Of course even Lovecraft could not steer entirely clear of humanity triumphing over adversity, though it is a scarcity, such as in the “The Dunwich Horror”. Though to be fair these victories are usually hollow or temporary.

I think Lovecraft’s works resonate especially well with teenagers in that near universal stage of angst. That time in your life when you question what being human really means, when you wonder if there is really any worth in living, when you can’t help but look for the boogeymen hiding in the dark.

I think I’ll go into more detail with Lovecraft in the future, maybe examine some specific stories, but that’s farewell for now dear readers. But one last question/remark, if you stop and think about how there may be something out there somewhere that would see you as but an ant, imagine the feeling those little bugs have when you crush them underfoot, or destroy their entire civilization with some chemicals you bought at Walmart. Does it make you uncomfortable to imagine?

Beauty

So after listening to Summertime Sadness, I decided to check out some other Lana Del Rey songs that I hadn’t before.  As I was creepin’ her, I remembered a song I had heard a while ago from a movie I went to see The Great Gatsby, called “Young and Beautiful.”  This Lana Del Rey song just makes the movie.  The lyrics fit the characters absolutely perfectly, because the song is about a love that is hoped to last a lifetime.  Money and parties are main themes in this book turned movie.  From the extravagant clothes, to the elaborate parties, both these themes add up to one thing, beauty.  The characters are also extremely focused on the way they look and the way they present themselves.  Gatsby holds parties every weekend decorating his mansion from top to bottom, hiring singers and performers; all of this hoping one day his old lover Daisy would come to one of his parties so that they can be reunited.  The chorus of the song sings “will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”  The message this is sending out is that as you age, the less attractive you become, which are the exact thoughts of the characters in the movie, hence the emphasis on beauty.  Although this song fits a fictional story, the message it sends is not particularly a good one to the real world.  It is basically teaching younger boys and girls that they can only be attractive while they are young, and it’s not certain if anyone will still be attracted to them once older.  The song continues “will you still love me when I’ve got nothing, but my aching soul?” This is saying that looks come before personality, and that the way a person looks matters a great deal more than what they have to offer.  Although brilliantly written, the song portrays narcissism.  This is not a message that seems fitting for children or teenagers who can be easy influenced. This is another example of how the media is portraying the need to be perfect at all times. Do feelings really change when appearance changes?

I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Te11UaHOHMQ

I Want to Be Like Katniss, Confident, Sexy and Eat Like a Caveman

After years of being exposed to magazine covers, advertisements and tabloids there isn’t much in the world of Hollywood that shocks me anymore. Honestly, how many ‘pregnancies’ can Jennifer Anniston have in a lifetime?

In all seriousness, it is unfortunate that we cannot control the amount of negative and deceitful media being thrown at us everyday. The subconscious effects it has on people can be detrimental. The spectrum of too skinny to too big in Hollywood is unrealistic. No one is perfect and they make that especially obvious in magazines while displaying pictures of celebrities sitting down in a bikini as fat or eating a burger as if it is a crime to indulge in food. With the endless amount of weight loss tricks featured in every magazine and the endless budget for fitness marketing it is not surprising that women and men everywhere struggle with body image issues coupled with severe insecurities.

I grew up in a small town in Ontario but moved away nearly five years ago. While keeping in touch with some people on Facebook, I’ve watched the downward spiral of girls falling victim to these high standards; those who have had babies are among the worst examples of social pressure. Clearly, gaining weight to carry a baby is ridiculous, how could they let themselves be healthy for their children? Ugh. Watching Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy in the tabloids was devastating; the fact that she was compared to a killer whale was an all time low. I do not want to focus this blog strictly on women because men are affected just as badly. I cannot imagine being a boy going through puberty and having the pressures of looking like Chris Hemsworth plastered everywhere they look. Unfortunately, the men from my hometown have turned to desperate measures of being fit, they openly and proudly admit to doing steroids. When did that become okay? I wonder how it became acceptable considering everyone knows the harmful side effects of these drugs. Do they not realize that their bodies get bigger, but other parts get smaller? It is depressing to think men and women are willing to sacrifice their health to look good. What we don’t realize while looking at these superficial pictures of celebrities is that half of them admit to not even recognizing themselves on the cover of magazines. Even without realizing it, the media has an effect on me almost everyday. This destructive media makes me second-guess if I should eat certain foods; it constructs body image issues and instills unwanted insecurities. I am embarrassed to admit these insecurities as I’ve always seen myself as someone who is not easily influenced and I act as though confidence has never been an issue for me, however as self worth is being judge by body image everywhere around me it is very hard not to judge my self-worth based on my weight and appearances.

Considering extreme standards of being skinny have always been featured in magazines the comparisons made of Kim Kardashian while pregnant and the pictures of fit celebrities in bikinis hardly deserve reaction as I’ve realized that they are extremely touched up or exaggerated. However, as I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook last week, I came across a seemingly flawless picture of Jennifer Lawrence. I could not get over how beautiful she looked. Then I read the quote featured beside her, “In Hollywood, I’m obese. I’m considered a fat actress. I eat like a caveman. I’ll be the only actress without anorexia rumours! I’m never going to starve myself for a part. I don’t want little girls to be like ‘oh I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner‘”. This shocked me. How can she be considered a FAT ACTRESS!? I’ve always loved her movies, admired her wit and looked up to her confidence. After reading this quote I respect her more than any other celebrity. I was so proud of her for accepting that she is human. For the first time since I was 10, I accepted my body. Unlike many other celebrities (cough – Miley Cyrus) she knows her fame is highly influential to young girls and women. After reading this post, I was enraged and sad, but hopeful that more will come from this. Maybe, if more people are as shocked as I am, she will make a difference. What were your reactions to her statement? Has the world become so entranced by the beautiful pictures featured in advertisements and magazines that we forget there are people on the other side dealing with greater pressures to be beautiful?

Ends and Means

It’s not very often that I read a book that actually surprises me and makes me question things. It’s not arrogant of me to say that I’ve read more books than most people will in a lifetime as there was a point in my life when I would read at least an entire book a day, very often more.

Then recently I read a trilogy of fantasy books entitled the Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence and the author made me question a protagonist like I never have before. Honorous Jorg Ancrath is the truest antihero I have had the pleasure of meeting. From the beginning to the end of the trilogy he murders and pillages without a thought or care. He’s not traditionally likeable, he’s not charismatic and in fact another character in the trilogy, The Prince of Arrows is basically the stereotypical hero of fantasy literature but the Prince fails where Jorg succeeds. It’s interesting to read from the point of view of a character that in another series would be the villain or the rival of the hero, the Draco Malfoy to Harry Potter if you will, though Jorg never quite crosses into the wholly evil you can’t help but question every decision he makes. His ruthlessness is what leads him to triumph and I can’t help but wonder if he represents what the author thinks of as the truth of the real world, that the strong and ruthless prevail where the merciful and just fall.

I don’t want to spoil the series too much as I’d like people to have a chance to read it, but in the end every decision Jorg makes seems to be the right one in so far as the greater good is concerned, which is another concept the author explored, whether the ends justify the means. Jorg saves the day despite the fact that he ruins the lives of so many people.

Finally I just wanted to talk about an interesting quirk in the series, if you want to avoid spoilers skip this paragraph; throughout the novels Jorg finds himself discovering many artifacts and secrets related to the ancient past, but these “artifacts” may seem strangely familiar to the readers. It seems this seemingly generic fantasy world takes place in the distant future of our own world after a full scale nuclear war has devestated the earth and its peoples. The use of such ancient weapons is one of the things Jorg brings him to do when no one else will, to terrible, but undeniably useful effect. This also leads into the revelation for why things like magic exist now, it seems the scientists of the past took hold of the wheel that is the laws of reality and turned it, giving man a much greater control over his surroundings. This event seems to be what lead to the near destruction of humanity, as the old saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I’ve never read anything quite like it, I found myself hating Jorg as much as I loved him, and I certainly ended up questioning my own morality, wondering whether I would be able to make his choices for the greater good. So dear readers, to what extent would you say the ends justify the means? To what extent would you delve into the morally grey for the greater good?

 

World within a world

In answering the question of if I was stuck on a deserted island and could only bring one item of pop culture with me, I came up with the answer to it almost immediately.  Being stuck on a deserted island for basically your whole life, you need to choose this one item of entertainment out of millions carefully.  You need to make sure that utilising this one item over and over again will help you spend your days, and won’t get repetitive very fast.  The item that I have chosen is a series of books, a very popular series of books by J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter series of course.  The reason for choosing novels out of all the choices available to me such as music, TV shows, movies, comics, and so on, is because I feel like it would be one of the least repetitive items of the list.  With items such as cd’s or anything on TV, it would be like listening to or watching the exact same thing over and over again.  However reading these particular books in general, you can’t really get bored with them since there’s so much that goes on.  Reading these books over again, can actually still be pretty interesting since reading the books over can show you things you missed along the way such as clues you didn’t really pay attention to the first time, but know about now.  So in some sense it actually can be a new experience each time making the lonely life just a bit more entertaining

Another major reason why I would bring the Harry Potter books with me, is because it’s a whole other world in them, literally.  When you’re reading these books, it takes you right into the wizarding world, and you feel like you’re actually a part of this world and get completely immersed in the book.  This is helpful because in the time that I am reading these books, I will definitely forget that I am even in this world, let alone an island anymore because nothing else will matter.  There’s one thing to get your mind off the island.  These books also make you think and even when you’re done the book, you’re still thinking about it because the effect of this world and storyline in general, is that powerful.  So with me I would bring this whole other world to be occupied with, and who wouldn’t want that?

The Deserted Island Conundrum (Or, Harry Potter and the Deserted Island)

There’s something I’ve always found very hard about choosing “just one”. I suppose you could say I’m a greedy person at heart, or perhaps I just suffer from a constant case of analysis paralysis; whatever the case may be, let it be known that when asked to choose that one single piece of media that would be my sole companion on a deserted island for all eternity the choice wasn’t an easy one (I am very thankful this conundrum is hypothetical).

At first I just sat staring blankly at the wall; as often happens when receiving a new assignment, but eventually I decided that wasn’t helping much at all. Instead I categorically went through all my favorite novels, movies, albums and video games, not quite able to select a single type of media, but narrowing down my options among each type. I quickly discarded anything that I knew would lose entertainment value after its tenth, hundredth or thousandth use (hell, I am going to be on this island a looong time, might even be ten thousandth). Away with the mystery novels whose mystery had already been undone, away with the movies that were so much more simple on rewatching, away with the albums holding only one or two good songs, and away with video games that lacked replayability. At that point I was stuck, I couldn’t just remove items based on their flaws anymore, everything I had left was lacking in those, now I had to choose what stood above the rest, a lofty task that I wasn’t sure how to tackle. Perhaps there is an album out there that screams lyrics at you of how to systematically escape a deserted island? Alas, I feel that is defeating the purpose of this assignment, so I carried on with my task.

In the end my decision was made based on a simple fact: The piece of fiction I chose was one that could be a companion and a friend, had in fact been a companion for most of my life; where the characters in it were just as true friends to me growing up as those I had in real life. I speak of course of the Harry Potter series. The novels, not the movies (as any true fan would agree). There are other books that have felt as engrossing and important to me as Harry Potter, but none in which I have felt so emotionally entangled (and anyone who is young enough try telling me you didn’t wait for your Hogwarts letter on your 11th birthday without lying to me, I dare you).

So there you have it, if I was trapped on a deserted island, I know Harry, Ron and Hermione would have my back. Though to be fair Frodo and the Fellowship were a very close second, and if you asked me this question in a year my answer very well could be The Lord of the Rings. Or any of these other fine runner ups including: The Wheel of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, The Prestige, and a collected volume of HP Lovecraft’s many amazing short stories. Though somehow I feel being forced so close to the ocean would make Lovecraft’s works an entirely new kind of terrifying that I would love to experience.

By the way, have you guys seen some of the awesome covers the Harry Potter books have in other countries? The Swedish covers are my personal favorite: