Saw Disney´s newest animated feature, “Moana” (2016) and loved it. Jemaine Clement voices the sort-of villain Tamatoa, which he discusses down below. Enjoy!
Saw Disney´s newest animated feature, “Moana” (2016) and loved it. Jemaine Clement voices the sort-of villain Tamatoa, which he discusses down below. Enjoy!
February in The United States is ”Black History Month”, a national holiday in which Americans remember the long, multilayered history of Black Americans. The holiday sheds light on events and struggles Black Americans have faced, but also highlights the contributions that this minority has made nationally and internationally. In honor of this holiday, here are five diverse Cultural items that discuss race and experiences of Black Americans, and which, naturally, are headed or produced by members of this vibrant community.
1. ”Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler (published 1979): While often referred to as the first science fiction book written by a Black American woman, Butler herself considered it a fantasy novel. This splendid novel follows a time travel tale of the protagonist Dana, who one day is suddenly transported from 1976 to the 19th century, where she encounters her ancestral for-bearers, who are both white slave owners and Black slaves. Thus begins a journey that not only openly discusses American Slavery, but also raises complex questions about morality and power. This novel interestingly deconstructs the concept of time traveling, while also showcasing some of the most horrid and uncomfortable aspects of human nature. Not for the hesitant, or those who have a light acquaintance with the realities of slavery, the book deals with rape quite heavily, and is explicit in the sexual violence that Black women (both free and enslaved) were subjected to. The protagonist Dana, herself, often is ensnared in situations where she wanders into morally uncomfortable territory, and a subtle swell of self doubt is entangled in the interactions and reflections she experiences with her white husband (who time travels with her) with his faint dismissals of the repugnance relations of slavery. Her relationship with Rufus, her white slave-owning ancestor, is twisted and full of abuse, verging continually between friendship and hatred. Yet regardless of all this ”Kindred” mesmerizes and can only be called a real page turner. Fast paced and very exciting; Butler is able to mix historical fiction, social commentary and action-packed fantasy all into one book. Highly recommended to both genre and literary fiction lovers.
2. ”Lemonade: the Visual album” (2016) by Beyonce: Few culture events were as buzzed about last year as Beyonce´s visual album ”Lemonade”. This ambitious hour-long odyssey adeptly combined poetry, songs and visual, while simultaneously being both an ode to Black Womanhood and Beyonce’s own personal explorations, including facing the anger for her husbands infidelity, the eternal messiness of complicated relationships one has with ones parents, Black lives matter, to name a few. Both the lyrics of Beyonce´s songs and the poems (a collaboration between Beyonce and British poet Warsan Shire) survey a riveting tale of a woman living and dealing with anger, jealousy, sadness and ultimately forgiveness towards her husband, while also remembering the resentment and love she felt towards her father, who cheated on her mother when she was a child. The mixture of visuals reflect not only the long form music video form but also makes loving nods to the production of visual artists from the likes of Matthew Barney to Pippilotti Rist. The stirring and lingering camera and vocals looking at the strides and difficulties of the Black Lives Matter movement, touch us especially as a melancholy segment where the group of (real life) Mothers of unarmed young black men gunned down in obviously racist events, stand as the human face of the stricken down in evident calm and startlingly noble demeanor. Loss and strength of a people are embodied in this scene where it´s hard not to tear up. So much has already been talked about “Lemonade”, so all that’s left to say is: watch it, you won´t regret it.
3. ”A Patch of Blue” (1965), directed by Guy Green: This classic drama which resonates with elements of the romantic genre follows the young blind girl Selina who lives with an abusive mother. Selina´s mother has not only barred her from attending school, but seeks to totally and sadistically isolate her entirely from society. By accident, Selina stumbles upon Gordon, a (unknown to her) black man, and the two become friends. The movie stars Sidney Portier and Elizabeth Hartman (who would later voice Mrs. Brisby in ”The Secret of NIMF”). These two galvanizing presences enlighten the screen and give the tale a touch nuance a midst the strength of many heartfelt moments. The film discusses Gordon’s experiences with racial segregation of the period, and how his friendship with the white woman reverberates with fears, hesitations, and anxieties. Selina, trapped in her own segregation from the society, deals with a systematized ableist world which looks askance and down on the “less than human” of her blindness. The two characters, both dealing with their own oppression’s but also empowerment, bond and encourage one other, which blooms into a deep human relation. Connecting the leads, here, nothing more important need be said then that they really do seem to have an authentic and sweet feel between them. The movie also plays with the romantic aspect in a realistic way; while the film hints at a mutual attraction, the movie does not overly prioritize the love story, and instead focuses on Selina´s development and new fond chance to get education. A little known gem, but totally worth checking out.
4. ”Home” by Toni Morrison (published 2012): While all of Morrison’s novels are worth reading, ”Home” is one of her newest releases and is fairly short, so a much more of a quicker read. The book follows two siblings, Frank and Ycindra Money, in Post-Korean war America. Frank is suffering PTSD from his time in the war, and lives in a world composed of continual confusions and a persistent mourning of the death of his fallen friends. “Home” begins with the duo being split due to Franks time in Korea, followed by him moving in with his girlfriend. Frank then hears via letter that Ycindra has grown sick, and must rush to her side. The book is told in a series of nonlinear flash backs from both Ycindra’s and Frank’s point of view, and is rounded out with segments of Frank´s internal dialogue candidly presented to the reader. While the book tackles issues such as racial discrimination and eugenics, the book also confronts the subjects of guilt, unreliable narration, and family. The relationship between Frank and Ycindra, who´s parents died when they were young and, therefore, were raised by unkind grandparents, is moving but also with it´s darker elements. The novel explores race and gender in subtle ways, with themes that anyone regardless of their backgrounds can relate to. ”Home” also gives a shocking twist that is bound to get the reader thinking. A must read.
5. ”for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf ” by Ntozake Shange (published and first performed 1976): This experimental play has a dedicated fan-base, but was highly controversial at the time of its release. The author was accused of hating men, and the all black cast was unusual for the time. The play is told in verses, and if read in book form comes across as more poetic than play (Ms. Shange is a poet, as well as a playwright and novelist). The narrative follows the intertwined stories of a group of Black women, all having their own chronicles of joy and heartbreak. The poetic text tells a myriad of tales of rape, domestic abuse, sexual awakenings, the discovery of reading, and independence. The form of the play lies with each women telling their stories, playing on a narrative open field which moves from the uplifting to the funny and, naturally, through the devastating. The style also makes the reading experience unique. The cast is entirely female, entirely black, and talks about issues that revolutionized theater in America and beyond. A play that deserves the title classic in every way.
So those are a few suggestions in honor of Black History Month. What would you all recommend? Comment down below!
This post is an outcome from getting inspiration from a post by Missmagic girl, who listed her favorite couples from literature. It was a fun blog post, so thought that I could write my own version for this blog. Unfortunately I couldn´t quite make a top ten list from literature alone (I very rarely enjoy the romantic plotlines in novels), so had to resort to films for help. But without further ado, let´s get started.
1. Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games”-trilogy by Suzanne Collins: This relationship works partly for two reasons. One is that it is slowly built up during the course of all three novels. The second is that while Peeta is profoundly kind and nice, the two younglings still are portrayed in a realistic fashion of occasional resentment and confusion, balancing these emotions with altruism and understanding. Both characters are also quite likeable, and the love story is also enjoyable for deconstructing our society’s ideas on masculinity. It´s just pleasant to have a relationship built on mutual trust and honesty, and Peeta´s overall kindness was just a refreshing form of romantic lead when I read it nearly four years ago. (I had gone through high school being frustrated at the so-called broody bad boys that was offered in young adult media back then, so the contrast for me personally was wonderful).
2. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from the “Harry Potter”-series by J. K. Rowling: Total honesty, during the whole course of my adolescence I was rooting for these two to get together. It was a big celebration when, in 2008, I finally finished “The Deathly Hollows” where they were shown getting together. Their bickering is fun, as well as their tender moments being very believable. Most fictional relationships are often quite filled with angst, or are sappy and are unrealistically tension free; Ron and Hermione, like Peeta and Katniss, however are able to both argue with each other, while simultaneously having enormous trust and faith towards each other. Finally, as a plotline, it was quite clever of Rowling to have Hermione to end up with Ron, a deuteragonist, since the cliché is often that the most prominent female character would end up with the stories hero. The relationship is subversive in structure and honest in depiction, and as a bonus quite cute.
3. Ronja and Birk from “Ronja the Robbers Daughter” by Astrid Lingren: While technically only remaining very close friends in the novel, the romantic subtext is quite heavy. The narration implies that due to both Birk and Ronja being roughly 12 year old, they naturally don´t quite understand romantic love yet, but as they get older they might end up getting a relationship upgrade. Yet even if the romance is just subtext, Ronja and Birk have a quite dramatic and powerful relationship. First they resent each other due to their parent’s disagreements, then they become such close friends that they find the courage to stand up for each other even if it results in their parents disowning them. While being forced to live alone together in the dangerous wild, it is proved that the duo make quite the team. Ronja´s and Birk´s friendship, and possible future romance, is embodied in fierce loyalty, and regardless of how the reader sees the implications of the relationship, is hugely touching.
4. Petite/Åsa and Torfinn from the “Vikinga”-trilogy by Maj Bylock: In these historical children´s books, we follow a young French girl who is abducted by Vikings and made a slave in Viking era Sweden. She escapes, is adopted by a kind couple, and grows up to become willingly engaged to a young man who himself wants to become a Viking. As a child I found myself surprisingly invested in this romance, since it raised questions of how one views themselves if they marry a person of questionable ambition, and how much one should change for their significant other. There will be no spoilers in case anyone wants to read these books (it is recommended), but let´s just say that the conclusion that the couple comes to at the end is quite heartwarming, making a sacrifice on both ends. Compromise is something that relationships truly need, but few fictional couples portray that, which I guess is why this couple actually did capture my interest as a kid.
5. Jelkele and Ulangalu from the fairy tale “Ulangalu”: This is a Monglian-Chinese story about a resourceful young mortal man, named Jelkele, who falls in love with a Snake spirit princess, Ulangalu. She´s essentially a snake that quite often takes human form. While the two hit it off instantly, Ulangalu´s father, the snake King, disapproves and decides to keep Ulangalu imprisoned in his home (which is essentially just a fancy cave). Jelkele decides to aid Ulangalu in her escape, and together they kill her abusive parent. While this couple´s story is noticeably more brutal then most couples´, the theme of loyalty is still quite strong in this tale. And while most (western) fairy tales would end up with the guy single handedly saving the princess, this tale ends with them charging the villain-father together. Like Ronja and Birk, they make a great team, and work off each other to make the best of the situation. Ulangalu, when not given the right to choose, gives herself agency. Just an overall nice, if a tag violent, story.
6. Kien and Phuong from “The Sorrow of War” by Bao Ninh: Just as a heads up, this novel is really intense but really, really heartbreaking. Kien is a former soldier for the North Vietnamese side from the American/Vietnam War who suffers from severe Post-traumatic stress syndrome, while Phuong is his former high school sweetheart. The novel goes back and forth in the narrative, showing the horrific times of the war and the propaganda for the war both before and in its aftermath. The romance is shown in a similar fashion. Kien is idealistic and shy, Phuong is energetic and daring. Later on, Kien is disillusioned with life in the aftermath of the war, while Phuong attempts to help Kien and resolve his emotional and intellectual dilemmas. While Kien´s problems prevent the couple from remaining together, their interactions are quite romantic. Phuong is quite straight forward in her opinions, but Kien doesn´t mind; in fact he always considers what she says. Phuong empathizes with Kien, and is much more sexual than him. But most of all as a reader you really feel that they love each other, but after how things have gone about in the world it is sadly not possible for them to work it out. While many War novels depict these kinds of scenarios, it is few that are this devastating to read about.
7. Toni and Maria from “West Side Story” (1961): A New York, musical version of Romeo and Juliet does not only have great songs, but a surprisingly good chemistry between Natalie Wood (who plays Maria) and Richard Beymer (who plays Toni). Beside the chemistry, the couple, despite suffering from Insta-love, is well written ground for interplay of an amorous pair. They are playful, overly sappy in dialogue, impatient and forgiving. My favorite scene with them is when they imagine getting permission from their parents to get married and make up silly dialogue towards mannequins that represent the parents. It´s silly, but sweet. It is a perfect instant of showing and not telling; the filmmakers show the couple as getting along and enjoying each other’s company, instead of constant flowery speeches of eternal love.
8. Jack Skellington and Sally from “Nightmare before Christmas”: Once more, what makes this couple great are the characters and how they interact. Sally is wise and brave, Jack is passionate, ambitious and energetic. They complement each other nicely. While for the most of the movie Sally believes her feelings for Jack are unrequited, the ending of the film features by far one of the most romantic getting-together scenes ever made, period.
9. Balto and Jenna from “Balto”: One of the reasons this couple is so intriguing is that unlike a lot of children´s films, the protagonist Balto´s love interest Jenna is interested in him and knows he´s a decent guy from almost the beginning of the film. The reason for them getting together later is because of a tuberculoses outbreak, which is endangering the town’s child population including Jenna´s owner. This works in the films advance, since the film is more about Balto, who´s half dog and half wolf, coming to terms with his own identity by using both of his dog and wolf traits to bring the needed medicine into the town (through his sled pulling skills). Balto and Jenna, like a lot of couples on this list, come to each other’s aid when needed and Jenna believes in Balto when none of the other dogs do. The film keeps their story simple, which works perfectly. It´s just a story of two generous, kind dogs who find each other, nothing more grandiose needed.
10. Homer and Marge Simpsons from “The Simpsons” (pre-season 18): Truth be told my original pick was another relationship based on subtext, so I decided to go for a couple that´s explicitly in love but is a relationship which is both complex and enduring. Homer, despite his stupidity, does truly love his wife and kids, and Marge loves Homer irrespective of his many and overt vices. In several episodes Homer works strenuously for his love of the family. And even when Homers flaws overwhelm the family, prompting Marge to get angry and temporarily leave him, he respectfully lets her and considers why she is angry with him. Marge always defends Homer to her sisters, and is shown to be a good listener towards Homer. While Homer drinks too much and does mistakes, they as a couple find ways to make things work. Even if they are perhaps a bit of the typical screw ball family, the Simpsons are a family that sticks with each other, and despite their problems love each other dearly. This bonding and devotion, in its self, makes them deserving of being one of the most iconic couples, as well as family.
R2D2 and C3PO from the “Star Wars” franchise: …What? Don´t look at me like that, they are totally meant to be a couple! On top of that, their bickering is legendary and their bond is unquestionable. One of the best written lines in “A New Hope” is when C3PO says, before R2D2 has to go off on the mission to blow up the Death Star with Luke is: “Promise me you´ll come back, won´t you R2? Because if you don´t my life will be boring. You don’t want my life to be boring, do you?”. That line right there is a better declaration of love than Han´s “I know” and everything that was written between Anakin and Padme, let´s be honest.
Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt from “Parks and Recreation”: Not much to say here but that Ben is a very sweet person, Leslie is also very kind, together they are just adorable.
Gabriel and Batsheeba from “Far from the Madding Crowd” (2015 film adaption): A slow burn romance, but, therefore, all the better. Both Gabriel and Batsheeba are power focuses of activity, while leaving Batsheeba to her stubbornness, and Gabriel his honest kindness. Just watching them grow closer and remaining friends until the end where they decide to become a couple is a moving journey. Plus, Gabriel is not brooding at all, a huge plus in my opinion.
So those are my picks in this category. I´m going to do another second list along these lines, but with focus on Interspecies couples. So if anyone has some suggestions, feel free to comment, or just comment if you have any other favorite literary or otherwise fictional couples!