Got Problems? Here’s a Bear!

Spoiler Alert!

Yesterday, I went to see Brave with a few friends—yes, although 20, I know I’ll be watching cartoons for the rest of my life.

If you haven’t seen the previews, here it is:

Having seen the previews, I was curious as to how this was going to compare to other Pixar movies with a male protagonist—there has never been a female protagonist completely without a prospective man in her life. Were they going to introduce one, like they had in Tangled? Although in Tangled, he female protagonist seemed promising—independent, sassy, and a fighter but turned out to be like any other girl—this one seemed like the real thing.

It started off well; the accents were awesome. Much to my neighboring viewer’s consternation, my friend and I spent a majority of the movie repeating certain words in the accent.

“Feyyyyy-te,” we whispered, as Merida’s impossibly voluminous hair whipped about.

And, it addressed the issues of how she had no control of her own fate as a woman as it came time for her to choose a suitor.

However, it quickly became a bit ridiculous, when she seeks help from a witch in order to change her mother in order to change her fate. Those two were already weakly related. And, if that wasn’t enough, the witch decided that changing Merida’s mother into a BEAR would best suit her needs.

What?? After my initial shock, I brushed it off, giving Brave another chance. Maybe it just wants to be original; maybe it’s feeding off of their history with bears.

From there, they bonded while introducing each other into their preferred spheres; Merida taught her mother about the beauty of nature and her mother taught her how to be a proper Princess.

Excuse me, have I suddenly been thrown into a Brother Bear rerun?

Then they met up with the antagonist, also a bear, who had also gone to the witch and asked for the strength of twenty men. Again, her solution was to turn him into a bear.

What good is a witch if you can only turn people into bears? And when have bears become the solution to every problem?

In addition to the bear that attacked her family in the beginning, her mother as a bear, and the antagonist bear, the three younger brothers were also turned into bears.

The father never stopped talking about that one time he fought a bear.

The witch, who carved wood as an occupational hobby, only carved bear figures.

So. Many. Bears.

I admit that things got a little emotional at the end, when it seemed as if it really was going to follow Brother Bear’s footsteps where the mother is cursed as a bear forever—so much so that my friend flipped a shit when I leaned over to whisper, through my welling eyes,

“I guess her stitching wasn’t good enough.”

Hey, I use humor to dissipate the tears, ok?

Oh, that’s another ridiculous thing. In order to undo the curse, Merida had to repair the bond. Whatever you’re thinking of, it’s not what they’re asking for. Unlike what usually happens, Merida didn’t have to repair the figurative bond, but the literal bond.

She had to repair the tapestry that she had ripped earlier by stitching it back together

Again, STITCHING. it. back together. 

Although it redeemed itself by including her in a fight scene and rendering all the buff men around her useless.

All in all, Pixar did a pretty good job at writing a female protagonist without a romantic plot; however, the plot itself was a bit ridiculous.

But, I guess it’s a step forward in the right direction.

Fifty Shades of Grey: Society’s Current Bent on Unhealthy Relationships

I was asking what my friend, Rachel, was reading one day while I was with another friend, Alyssa, at Barnes&Noble and was introduced to Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James. I had seen the trilogy before, had watched its foray from top three free Kindle downloads to the top three paid Kindle downloads but I never had the urge to read it.

This is Amazon’s book description of the novel:

“When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.”

Ok, so it’s an erotica novel. Big deal; I shrugged it from my mind.

Rachel had another description ready for the novel:

“It’s quite disturbing… I don’t know what to think about it, but I can’t stop reading….” 

Intrigued, Alyssa and I hurried to the Romance section and picked up two copies of the novel. We both turned to a random page and skimmed it, but it quickly became clear that we would enjoy it much more by reading it aloud to each other, our hysteric laughter chasing surrounding customers away from our area.

It was erotica, as I first thought, but my reaction to it was completely unexpected. While reading out loud to Alyssa, I straddled a very fine, previously non-existant intersection between surprisingly delighted, mortified, and hysterically amused. Surprisingly delighted because I love finding a bestseller so terribly bad; mortified because it was so bad and uncomfortable; and hysterically amused because it was so bad. At times, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to gasp in horror.

The language was unnecessarily crude—I remember reading a particular sentence: “I don’t make love, I fuck” (emphasis mine). E L James’s prose could hardly be called such and the events of the book were repetitive; I don’t have enough hairs on my head to count the number of times the hero says “Don’t bite your lip.”

However, worst of all was the relationship depicted. The hero was so scarred/damaged that he was unable to allow the heroine to touch him, although he was free to do with her as he chose. Fifty Shades of Grey came close if not crossed to emotional abuse many times.

First, Twilight spot-lighted unhealthy relationships—Bella basically sacrificed everything for Edward. Now, it’s Fifty Shades of Grey. Does no one else find this disturbing? Sure, people will object that there’s a difference between fiction and reality; I’m not arguing with that statement. What I find disturbing is that, from its continuous spot on the Bestseller’s list, a majority of people have sought out books like these—and they seem to really enjoy it.

Fifty Shades of Grey embodies a more explicit form of the dormant ideas in Twilight. 

Instead of verbalizing these dormant ideas myself, here are a couple links that explain the phenomenon so much better than I would:

E L James takes all these ideas a step further. Instead of creeping around and exuding danger, Christian is actually dangerous, terrorizing Anastasia physically and emotionally. Much like Edward inherently controls Bella through love, Christian demands Anastasia’s obedience and punishes her physically when she regresses, reducing her to hysterical tears.

The worst thing is that when Christian realizes he has overstepped some bounds, he gives Anastasia some crap excuse about how he can’t help how he is due to childhood trauma and ends up having degrading sex with her. Last time I checked, sex isn’t an appropriate apology, no matter how well it’s done.

Like Screen Crave states, Bella is a shell of a person; Anastasia is forced to become something else to appease Christian—she is forced to become a shell, if she had any personality in the first place. Through punishments, Christian is able to control what aspects of Anastasia’s “character” is emphasized and what aspects should disappear. She is basically his wet dream.

Twilight objectifies Bella because she is constantly being protected by the men in her life. Fifty Shades of Grey objectifies Anastasia more extremely: she is basically Christian’s chattel. One of the more uncomfortable scenes includes him commanding her to kneel, naked, in a corner until he releases her.

Are women’s fantasies taking a turn towards the dark end? Or is it because of the constant reinforcement of these “bestsellers” and the normalization of such relationships that encourage women to take on these fantasies?

Side note: After reading it, I discovered that Fifty Shades of Grey began as Twilight fanfiction that won a contest and was so popular that it was published (much like Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, which insults Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by its claim as a sequel).

Kindle(Touch) Revolution!

When I first saw the direction that reading was heading, I hated it. A machine that acts as a library for you? Something you read off of without being able to see and feel a tangible book; why, that’s the experience!

Reading is a engagement of all senses: you take in others’ stories through sight, imagine the scenery and the actions through your mind’s eye; you feel the weight of their impact with your hands, pick apart an author’s brain by flipping through their creation; you smell the book’s use—had it been well used in its lifetime or is it a brand new edition?—and perhaps, if you think hard enough, you smell the dew off the grassy field in the countryside setting; you hear each flip of the page, sure that if you listen hard enough, you’ll hear the book whispering to you; and, as you turn the final page, on your lips, you taste success and completion—if reading a difficult novel—and the emotional remnants that stains your teeth—if reading a book for pleasure.

How could they dare change this experience?

And then, my materialism got the better of me.

I purchased a Kindle…

… and entered a whole new world of reading. 

For those curious, I bought a Kindle Touch (with promotions) after days of contemplation. My reason for Kindle over any other e-reader: I knew that Amazon would have excellent support—which I ended up needing after my first one malfunctioned after two days—and that the classics were free. My reasons for choosing a Kindle Touch above a Kindle or a Kindle Keyboard? Having gone through a Nook before (which was not as life-changing as my current e-reader), I realized that having to navigate to a certain sentence or word in order to highlight a passage was very annoying. With the touch, I could just use my finger to jump to a certain part in order to highlight or look up a definition.

It was in one of my many English classes that I realized the importance a Kindle can be to an English student. Like a physical book, you can turn to a certain page by keying in the page number—after looking up which edition it was based off of first—and it will bring you to that page. However, it takes the experience even further in two ways: the X-Ray capability (only available in certain editions) and the My Clippings.

  • X-Ray:
    With the X-Ray capability, the Kindle gives you an outline of the book based on certain characters, events, or places of the novel. It gives you how often a certain character or place is mentioned. You can search passages by character (useful when you’re analyzing a character’s motivation) as well.
  • My Clippings: Your highlighted and noted passages do not go to waste with this option. Although you can always search the entire novel for a specific phrase or character, you can browse the highlighted or noted passages with this—as long as you remembered to do so while reading.

Thanks to Amazon’s continuous improvements, another feature of the Kindle includes the ability to share your notes by making a certain book’s notes and highlights public. Other readers can then follow your public notes to be able to view what you do while reading.

I’m currently reading Moby Dick with an English major friend of mine who also owns a Kindle and, after discovering this feature, we are now going to use it frequently! It would help facilitate discussion (for us English nerds) as well as see how the other is reacting to certain events of the book. I’m hoping that Amazon will continue to improve so that users can share with specific people rather than having it up on a public forum—but if you’re not famous, who would really care to follow you?

Therefore, the Kindle has not only made reading more friendly—before this, reading was becoming something quite outdated—and now, by creating a desire to own yet another piece of technology and by opening up access to all types of books, Amazon has renewed it.

The only thing I have against the reading revolution is that libraries and bookstores who cannot keep up start closing down. For example, Borders has met its decline by not providing a successful e-reader like Barnes & Noble has done. Even so, I’m concerned for Barnes & Noble’s ability to compete with Amazon’s prices and renown. I’m predicting that in the future, existing bookstores will only be Mom-and-Pop type bookstores as well as antique bookstores.

My library has managed to keep up so far, to my pride. They now feature the ability to lend e-readers (for what reason, I know not) and have kept up a healthy collection of e-books for members to download onto their devices. Well done. I suspect, however, it’s because I live in quite a well-off city that the public library has been able to do so. I’ve heard of many of my friends’ libraries in other cities that have been closing down, sadly.

Though the Kindle has taught me many things about reading, it has also reminded me to be open—something that I thought I had already perfected by being born and embracing new forms of technology every day. Although there was no need for me to “keep up” in the way that the older generations do because I’ve been growing up with technology, there was a need for me to overcome mental stigmas. Just because I like the old way (not necessarily old because I still enjoy the feel of the physical book) of reading, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try out the old way. In some ways, trying something new reveals that there are actually ways to heighten experiences in ways you never imagined.

Book Review: Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score

image from Amazon

Anyone who has ever salivated over a sports pro or mooned after a movie star will relish this fanciful romance between brainy Seattle Times columnist Jane Alcott and hockey player Luc Martineau. Luc, nicknamed Lucky for his ability to score with women and keep his opponents from scoring on the ice, is less than thrilled to hear that Jane will be reporting on the team’s games and digging into his unsavory past. Still, he can’t help feeling attracted to the pint-sized writer, despite her drab clothes and unfortunate profession. For Jane, the assignment is the perfect opportunity to stop writing fluff and break into serious reporting. But following the progression of the puck turns out to be less challenging than getting the players to talk, particularly Luc, whose lusty looks make her want to ditch her black clothes and wear red. The two eventually wind up in bed together, but Luc’s fear of commitment and Jane’s fear of abandonment may keep them from taking the next step.”

– From Publisher’s Weekly

This was my first Rachel Gibson novel, and I was not disappointed! I’m at that point of my romance novel journey where each novel I read now seems too formulaic—however, that was not the case with See Jane Score.For those that enjoyed Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Chicago Stars series, this would be a book to read. And, judging from this one novel, this series would satisfy your contemporary sports romance cravings.

Jane, the female protagonist, is aptly named since she is made to be known as a plain Jane, which I am a sucker for. However, unlike many romance novels, this wasn’t her only defining quality—other than respectably writing for the Times, she also writes smut for a men’s magazine to supplement her income. She possesses a character depth that is unusual in this genre.

Luc, on the other hand, fell a little flatter in comparison to the heroine. He was a very typical hero in a plain Jane novel: at first, he didn’t really notice her—he even antagonized her a bit—but once she proves that she looks fine in something more appealing, he hones in with single-minded focus.

The plot was well developed. Sometimes, romance novels get so wrapped up in the romance as its sole plot that we forget the characters have lives outside of their relationships. This was not the case with Gibson and it was a nice change of pace. Usually, in romance novels, I enjoy the heart-twist effect that shows how involved I am in the novel; in See Jane Score, I totally got it. There were even some tears as the novel came to an end.

Overall, See Jane Score became one of my favorite contemporary novels and made me interested in reading more from the Chinooks Hockey Team series as well as her other works. From the first page, I was captivated by Gibson’s pleasant, humorous tone that propelled me into reading it in one sitting. It was evident from the beginning that this was a book that didn’t take itself too seriously and would offer a gradient of emotions that would stick with you for a while.