Books, TV

A Time For Starks

It’s Wednesday of the week between (possibly one of) the greatest episodes of Game of Thrones ever and the finale. So there’s a lot of think-pieces and questions needing answers floating around there. Is Sansa pregnant? Will Jaime kill Cersei? Where is the wildfire?! As much as I need these questions answered, there’s one question that’s more important to ask, and that’s this: why are people hating on the Starks?

Whether they’re your favorite house or not, it’s been set up from the beginning that the Starks are important. We spend most of the entire first episode, and most of the first chapters of A Game of Thrones, in Winterfell. The series starts with the honorable Ned Stark fulfilling his duties of Warden of the North in front of his young sons. Even our first cliffhanger is “is Bran Stark alive?!” He’s a seven year old boy in a series about kings and warriors. Why should that even be important?

And yet it is, partially because we’re not sociopaths who want to see the death of children, and partially because the Starks are crucial to the story. They were the example of goodness and honor in Westeros, where most people didn’t feel the same. They were a cute family who just wanted to be reunited, and over the course of five seasons weaved in and out of each other’s lives, just missing each other so many aggravating times. And now that they’re finally making their way back to each other, people seem to be wanting their story to take a different course. “They’re all back to where they started,” people complain. Yeah. And…? We’ve known from the start that there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, and now we’re finally getting back to it. If you’re like me, noticing that slowly but surely each ‘villain’ is getting picked off one by one, you recognize that the culmination of the series has to be heading toward one big brawl against the White Walker army. Genuinely, who is more important to that story than the Starks? Jon, with his Valyrian steel sword and Night’s Watch knowledge; Bran, with his connection to the Night King and all-seeing wisdom, Benjen, who’s halfway to becoming a White Walker himself; Winterfell, the closest stronghold to the terrors beyond the wall.

All their stories are wrapping up neatly, too. Arya has completed her training and knows where she is- and thank God, because I couldn’t have handled one more section with the Waif. Sansa, who’s been brutally abused as long as we’ve known her, finally got the revenge she needed, and with her first kill and war-time strategies she’s becoming a real player in the game. Jon may not be the best leader, but I’m behind him, and we’re so close to the reveal that he’s half Targaryen I’m sure that Drogon can even feel it. You may not love them, but they’re finally home.

And hell yeah I clapped when Sansa had Ramsay’s face ripped off by dogs. It’s about time the good guys got some wins.

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Books, TV

Television & Surprise Reveals, AKA the Jon Snow Predicament

How do you pull off a big reveal? Not a hypothetical question, I’m really asking: how do you do it? I can only image how much easier it was back in the Dallas days, where there were no Twitter rumors or grainy iPhone photos from the set that could spoil what you’ve spent months and millions on hiding from your dedicated audience. Poor Kit Harington has been bombarded with questions for close to a full year, and though his lying finally paid off and (spoiler alert) Jon Snow came back to life last night, was it all worth it?

I’ve recently read the A Song Of Ice & Fire series that Game of Thrones is based on, a summer’s worth of train rides intended to tide me over before season 5, since I had binged 1-3 right before season 4 began and was in desperate need for a fix. So it’s all relatively fresh to me (except the Greyjoy stuff, I’m sorry but I skimmed), particularly the cliffhanger ending of Jon Snow being stabbed to death by some choice traitors of the Night’s Watch. Not that anyone would need a refresher on that- if I never see that image of Jon Snow dying in the snow ever again, I’ll be good!- but when the scene concluded season 5 I was less than surprised. I also wasn’t worried at all. Was it because I firmly believe in R+L=J, something that the show couldn’t get away with not revealing eventually? Was it because Harington would be spotted in Belfast more times than anyone could count? Why didn’t I care that one of my favorite characters had just been killed off a show that infamously kills favorite characters? And why does it matter?

I don’t watch The Walking Dead, but I have a feeling they’ll run into a similar issue next season, when it’ll be revealed who Negan brutally murdered at the end of last season. From the internet’s reaction, it was sort of a cop-out to have an entire season leading up to a death that is never seen. Are viewers going to find out who is dead at the beginning of the premiere episode? Mid-season finale? I’m interested in how they’re going to raise the tension for some that everyone’s already expecting- something that Thrones currently has to tackle with The Mountain, a character I’m fairly certain everybody knows has been reincarnated by Qyburn as Cersei’s champion, but hasn’t been explicitly revealed to the audience. What’s the hold up?! At least with Jon, we got some answers. My sister guessed during the episode that they’d make us sweat out Snow’s fate for one more week, and I was thrilled to see that they didn’t. Jon Snow dying was a good cliffhanger, regardless of how much you believed he was really dead, but his resurrection mostly just made me glad that we wouldn’t be heading into another week of “not knowing” if Jon Snow was “really dead.” After a while, all the waiting lends itself to disappointment and wasted time.

It brings to mind similar reveals this television season, specifically The Flash. It’s big-bad reveal this season was sort of a wash- Earth 2’s Jay Garrick wasn’t really Jay Garrick, he was Hunter Zolomon, AKA Zoom! But the audience already knew this, having figured it out weeks before Barry, so the lead-up and discovery of his secret was a little lukewarm (I’m really not going to blame The Flash on that, considering the story was really only bogged down by obligatory network prep for the Legends of Tomorrow spinoff, but I digress-). Maybe the audience is just getting too smart. After all, everything I’m referring to here is based on a pre-existing written series. We can’t expect the source material to be completely re-written just to keep TV audiences on their toes. But at the same time… Can’t we? If Hollywood is going to keep adapting, they’re going to need to not get lazy about the execution. Or maybe just don’t give us an important, beloved character and expect the actor not to cut his hair immediately after dying on screen… You know what, maybe audiences are just asking for a lot these days. Anyways, long live Jon Snow.

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Books, Movies

Take Your Little Sibling to See Divergent

ImageDivergent, the latest in dystopian-teen-literature-turned-film-franchise, opened this weekend, and while it’s no Catching Fire, I would highly recommend seeing it and taking every young (and old) girl and boy you know. Set in an ambiguous future where people are separated into factions based on traits (honesty, selflessness, bravery, knowledge and kindness), Divergent focuses on 16 year old Tris, who’s inability to fit into one single faction makes her a threat to the government. Constantly compared to The Hunger Games series, it’s undeniable that the two share a lot in common, probably making a lot of people want to skip out on the Divergent craze entirely. But trust me, if you see the movie and aren’t struck by the intense fight scenes, Shailene Woodley’s performance, or Theo James’ face, you will remember one small but very important scene that I think everyone should see.

Tris, who chooses to join the “brave” faction known as Dauntless, has to pass a series of tests in order to complete initiation and join the Dauntless for life. Without giving too much away, one of these tests involves taking a serum that forces you to combat your fears, and allows the people around you to look inside your mind. Tris’ more insignificant fears involve being attacked by birds and being trapped in a glass case filled with water. But her deepest fear is of intimacy with her new boyfriend Four. Though Four and Tris have a good relationship in real life, she that Four will take advantage of her and force her to go too far without her consent. Under the serum, Tris manages to escape by physically fighting back, and when she awakes she is greeted with applause and Four’s acceptance. Yes, it was just a simulation, but the message is clear: Tris can defend herself against an attacker that she knows and loves, and people will be proud of her. It’s a small scene altogether, but the most important in the film, and will probably be the most important in its following two sequels.

A scene like this is featured in no other film in this genre. It goes without saying that Twilight portrays nearly the exact opposite, with Bella completely helpless around Edward- maybe they were in love, but who wants a heroine who physically can’t control herself around her boyfriend? And I’m completely Team Katniss, but half of The Hunger Games features Katniss forcing herself to get close to Peeta and act out the “star crossed lovers” bit so that she gets sponsors and becomes a fan favorite. It’s a survival tactic, no doubt about it, but when you really think about it, it’s pretty gross that either of them had to experience that. Divergent is a completely new outlook on this situation. Four isn’t a hero for respecting Tris’ wishes, but is just an example for how all boys should act. It’s not revolutionary, and maybe Divergent isn’t the next huge hit, but if it should be remembered for anything, it should be for this. You can be a badass heroine, and get the guy, and still feel safe about it. It’s your choice, and it’s a choice I’m happy to see portrayed on the big screen. Well done.

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Books, Movies, TV

What’s a “Guilty Pleasure,” Anyway?

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Since I was a little kid, I’ve had an obsessive personality when it came to books, movies, and TV shows. Caught between my older and younger sisters, you could also say my taste was eclectic when it came to the things that my peers were paying attention to.

And for some reason that is still beyond me, people have constantly used this trait as a way to taunt me. When I was little, I read too much Harry Potter. I was still watching Lizzie McGuire when everyone else graduated to Laguna Beach. In high school, it was absolutely ridiculous that I listened to the Jonas Brothers, and why in the world am I currently obsessed with One Direction? As if it was something that could infect the people around me, my “bad” tastes have been the target for teasing for as long as I can remember.

As an adult, I couldn’t care less what people have to say about my interests. And though it never extensively bugged me much as a kid, it did make me feel embarrassed whenever people asked me to play my iPod or started talking about what they watched on TV the night before. Any interview I watched with a celebrity would include the question, “whats your guilty pleasure?” and for a while it felt to me like everyone was on the same page: you could like whatever you wanted if it was popular, or if it wasn’t popular you could admit that it wasn’t cool and feel bad about it, or it was cool because it wasn’t popular. Plain and simple.

But if thats the case, then what is pop-culture? If everyone is going to either go along with the often-trivialized mainstream media that defines our society or hate it for everything that it is, than what is its point? Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t movies and TV shows made for people to think, and for people to enjoy themselves? Sure, the making of films is becoming all about making money (which is an entirely different post all together), but I can’t be the only one who turns on the TV or opens up a book to at least learn something. Whether that “something” is educational, thought provoking, or just something else I’ve learned makes me laugh, it seems like it should be all about just enjoying yourself.

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Which brings me back to my original point. Harry Potter, apart of the mainstream pop-culture since the 90’s, is something that made me happy and made me want to read as a seven year old. Lizzie McGuire, one of Disney’s most popular shows, gave me a role model in Hilary Duff. And One Direction’s music is catchy as anything, and they’re talented, and cute. Who cares? Why has it been put in our heads that we should feel guilty for liking something that someone distributed for widespread enjoyment or education? As long as it’s not hurting anyone, and as long as any problematic issues are being acknowledged, then why should a third party be given the right to make me regret something that makes me happy?

I’m not saying that I walk around forcing the people around me to dissect the Jonas Brothers break-up with me, or bring up High School Musical in job interviews. But I am saying that this whole “guilty pleasure” idea needs to stop. Stop feeling guilty about the things you like! If people take issue with the things that make you happy, then they’re probably just jealous their taste isn’t as original as yours.

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