Tag Archives: teen

So many new books!

Yes, I have two Doctor Who books out this week for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who (yay!)

ImageImage

Free from now through Monday on Kindle is 

Doctor Who: The What Where and How

http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/

Doctor Who is a show about books, TV, and science fiction for the fans within us all: The Tenth Doctor loves Harry Potter, the Eleventh Doctor wears costumes, Martha Jones wants to record Shakespeare’s lost play and sell it on the internet. As the characters gush over Agatha Christie or tangle with Men in Black, they enter a self-referential world of fiction about fiction, delighting in pure fandom. Producers Davies and Moffat nod to their other creations, from Sherlock to Casanova, and share their love for both the classic series and the larger world of Doctor Who novels, audio books, and comics. As the franchise riffs off Star Trek, Star Wars, Alice in Wonderland, and Hitchhiker’s Guide, it both celebrates the world’s most popular works and takes its place among them.

The other book, so new it’s just beginning to arrive, is

Doctor Who and the Hero’s Journey

The Doctor is certainly the legend with untold faces, the mythic hero who dies to save mankind only to return, regenerated into an undying god with new wisdom of the ages. But his companions are journeying too. Rose Tyler and Donna Noble cross the TARDIS threshold and grow from ordinary women into goddesses of transcendent light, restoring the world with their golden auras. Martha learns faith and Amy, the power of imagination, until both can save the Doctor purely with the strength of their belief. By willing the world to reshape itself, they harness the power of the oldest goddesses who ruled with creation magic rather than conquest. River Song is the divine child of the TARDIS, magic itself, while Clara learns the heroine’s mythic power of spreading herself through eternity and thus reshaping reality as the Doctor’s world. United, they battle for the earth’s redemption by confronting the shadows within.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/book/doctor-who-and-the-heros-journey/

It’s available on

ALSO, my Hunger Games guide,

The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen: Exploring the Heroine of The Hunger Games is only 99 cents right now on Amazon. http://t.co/6vxNIKUgvb Of course, my terribly popular

Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in The Hunger Games is always 99 cents on Kindle and other ebook formats. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/130687 or http://www.amazon.com/Katniss-Cattail-Unauthorized-Symbols-Suzanne-ebook/dp/B0078EKMOU/

There are also paperbacks.  On with the promotions!

ManyFacesKatnissKatniss the Cattail

Leave a comment

Filed under About Me, and Publishing, Books, Doctor Who, The Hunger Games

Catching Fire Review–This is What Movie Making Should Be!

Catching Fire, the movie, was very good–everyone agrees. The first half is the best as Panem descends into a police state (or moreso) with endless Peacekeepers, public whippings, and the ominous lines of trucks driving in. Gale and Katniss’s transgressions are made more sudden and dramatic, but worked well in the film. All around them are bits of graffiti alerting the public to the Mockingjay.

Scenes from President Snow’s point of view seemed briefer than in the previous movie (though this might be an illusion) and could have been more nuanced as he and Plutarch summarize their plans in what feels like mildly colorless exposition. His granddaughter, only mentioned in the books, is shown here, with a braid like Katniss’s as she mimics the world’s heroine. She’s one of several excellent bits of foreshadowing not present in the second book as Katniss and Johanna allude to Annie Cresta as “the one that…” or there’s an early threat of bombing District 12 into ashes like 13. In fact, as a little girl tells Katniss she wants to volunteer for the Games and Prim tells Katniss she can handle herself now, a theme of this next generation and their place in Panem is cautiously cropping up.

Some fans were wondering if the plot of poor Seneca Crane, martyred gamemaker, would continue through the sequel, perhaps with soppy memorials to the poor “filmmaker” who was sacrificed for his art. (See John Granger’s “Gamesmakers Hijack Story: Capitol Wins Hunger Games Again” at http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com for more on this).

To my relief, it didn’t. Nonetheless, as Snow watches Peeta and Katniss’s love story and discusses it with his little granddaughter, they’ve turned into the audience…passive helpless audience by the end. Katniss and Peeta are performers on multiple levels, though they seem sincere within the games–their pretense for the camera dies when they’re flung inside. (And in fact, the spile is all the sponsors give them…perhaps Haymitch and company have bigger things on their minds). Katniss’s Seneca Crane dummy, compete with her perfect curtsy from the previous film was a perfect giant middle finger to the gamemakers, only surpasses by Johanna’s dirty mouth. Ever Caesar had trouble putting a lid on her.

She shines as one of the beloved book characters brought to life. Mags and Wiress, the show’s sad victims were well done, but I adored Johanna’s snark and Finnick’s terribly sincere range. Whether preening in his outfit or offering Katniss her sugar cube, he’s the right mix of defensive, pragmatic and charming. “What about you, girl on fire? Any secrets?” he smirks. In the Games, he’s panicked, desperate, but also self-willed enough to charm Katniss with only the force of his personality…and us along with him. He, like Haymitch in the first movie, is the Katniss character, defensive and traumatized. Both characters struggle to protect a loved one under their flippancy, both are tortured by the jabberjays. Seeing them side by side emphasizes that Prim is Katniss’s truest love as Annie is Finnick’s, that both characters are emotionally wounded. When Finnick loses Mags, it foreshadows Katniss’s loss to come.

The film compensated well for losing the first person point of view–Katniss and her friends have three kinds of mortified expression when Johanna strips in front of them (with perfect comic timing, just after Haymitch claims the Victors aren’t so strange). In her first scene of the movie, Katniss’s PTSD comes out clearly as she freezes before a crowd of turkeys. Even frivolous Effie comes out devastated when she must choose Katniss in the reaping and bid her goodbye in her wedding gown. Scenes like the Tributes’ fighting to end the games during their interviews, or Katniss finally, sweetly making friends, are brought to life beautifully, with stunning emotion.

In many ways, this one’s closer to its original than movie one was (movies 3 and 4 have me wondering if we’ll suffer from Harry Potter 7 syndrome with all the good stuff ending up in one of the two films). We see the terrible prison camp of District Eleven and the brighter, prettier Career Districts. Katniss’s Appalachian home is stark and cold with winter, like her feelings at the start. And for those disappointed about minutiae the last time (as I was, admittedly), Buttercup the cat was recast with an animal the right color (obviously, this still works in the story, as Prim could have gotten a new pet). Director Francis Lawrence notes:

That was a request from Nina the producer and Suzanne the author. That they thought the cat from the first movie was not the way he was described in the book. And that had annoyed a bunch of fans, and things like that. But it also just kind of bothered them that Buttercup was not a black and white cat. So I was happy to get one that felt like the Buttercup of the book…That was, quite honestly, the only simple thing, the Buttercup situation. http://io9.com/the-hunger-games-author-insisted-the-cat-be-recast-in-c-1462912646

This show offers a believable love relationship with Peeta and also Gale…as Katniss remarks in both book three and this movie, she’s trying to survive, not obsess over boys. Nonetheless, she, Peeta, and Haymitch have become a family as seen in the previous movie…though complete with their sass and teasing (“Take a bath, Haymitch” after Katniss has pelted him with water “I just did”). By contrast, Katniss meets with Snow while the holo of her act with the berries is playing right on the table, both reminding/warning the audience what she did and compelling her to watch along with them as her guilt is played out in front of her.

Capitol fashions are more disturbing than ever, with Effie’s devotedly cheerful butterfly dress that might even be constructed from real ones. The Capitol citizens celebrate in front of the President’s horrid pink and blue mansion with multicolored fireworks, and as he toasts, in a sinister moment, his drink turns red. Of course, much of the costuming was an acknowledgement that it was a reestablishment of moments seen in the previous film–she’s the girl on fire again in the parade, Effie dresses horribly as do the Capitol citizens again as well. Finnick and Johanna’s parade outfits were impressive, but once again, not strikingly unique. There was little surprise there until the beauty of the Mockingjay gown.

This long-awaited moment was impressive–the original gown is designer but with a metal winglike structure suggesting her own strength and the Capitol’s artificial cage. As she twirls, the metal vanishes, and for a moment, she breaks free. “The metal pieces rising up from the bodice are meant to signify fire and flames, while laser-cut feathers at the waist and shoulder hint at Katniss eventual transition into a Mockingjay.” EW reports.

Katniss’s gown for the Capitol party is reminiscent of a mockingjay, dramatic in red and black as she prepares for battle. I thought the reaction to the food wasting should have been bigger–Katniss obsesses over it so in the book, and it’s part of the central message. The Avoxes once again are basically cut, as is the suffering of people in District 12.

I was surprised Plutarch had lost his watch but the movie did a delightful job of keeping new viewers guessing. He’s excellent as a self-serving gamester using other as Snow dies…until it’s time for the Game to end. Katniss’s final shot, now seen in the Gamemakers’ lair, is wonderful, though on the practical side I must be concerned over the rescuers nearly smashing her with fallen debris. She rises into the air with a messianic glow, the Mockingjay, flying at last.

Fans will miss a few other moments–Cinna’s famous line that he’ll risk his own neck through his art but not anyone else’s, the teens’ discovery of how Haymitch won his Game. The sponsor gifts to encourage the new team. However, Haymitch’s snarky notes are back, or at least one.

Many fans likely admire the movie’s incredible similarity to the book, but I would have preferred a different ending – with the new medium, graphics, and point of view, the camera could have stretched over the revolutions and war-torn Panem instead of focusing on Katniss’s immediate world. All in all, Haymitch’s line brings the point of all war stories home – “No one ever wins the games, period. There’s survivors…there’s no winners.” As Collins’ saga of the torments of war and its afterefffects, this seems the standout moral of the story.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

You Can’t Say that in School! Glee Issues

The episode “Funk” shows Vocal Adrenaline TPing Glee’s classroom. All right, Sue lets them in. But when high schoolers in my neighborhood TPed the outside of someone’s house they were marched off to jail. And doing it to the competition screams bad sportsmanship. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them disqualified from Regionals for their attitude. But instead, Will leads his students in planning a retaliatory escalation. The Glee kids steal the mascot and they are threatened with jail time. There’s no permanent censure for Will, their mentor and teacher, who pushed them into this mess. School stories have rules and consequences. But not always on Glee.

One day, Rachel walks into school dressed in the Brittany Spears naughty schoolgirl outfit. A list from high school orientation echoed through my head: no bare midriffs, no cleavage, no miniskirts. Even without uniforms, there’s still a dress code forbidding spaghetti straps and short-shorts. All right, television will have more provocative outfits than real life. But the next scene should have involved her being ordered to wear borrowed clothes or brown paper to cover all her bare skin.

In a more realistic scene, the students aren’t allowed to perform Rocky Horror, even when they skip the cross-dresser. But why does Will insist on pushing for it and wasting all the students’ work? And what about Cabaret as the school musical in “Preggers”? My own school banned that one because it contains an abortion with ambiguous judgment on it. To say nothing of prostitution. Sue doesn’t seem to have thought that one through.

Parent protests are often the cause of censorship. (Though there are plenty of rules about what can be taught or performed on school property). Holly the substitute’s risqué material would likely not be allowed, for instance. And the other teachers are problematic as well. “Sue the bully is out of control. No teacher can speak to students like that. She calls students freaks, bullies them and abuses them. I understand she is supposed to be the bad guy, but no one can get away with that kind of behavior,” one commentator protests (“Watching Glee”). And imagine how Rachel’s doting dads would feel upon hearing her school counselor tell her the lack of a gag reflex will be a blessing.

The parents’ complaints about the grinding, thrusting dance of “Showmance” seem quite justified. Will, however, doesn’t make the “inappropriate for high school” speech he does in “Grilled Cheesus.” He only tells Rachel she shouldn’t have been sneaky about it. And speaking of “Grilled Cheesus,” it seems unlikely the principal would ask his pastor for songs to sing with Jesus in the titles. What about church and state? Wouldn’t the parents of those kids who celebrate Hannukah andKwanza complain?

In fact, real-life parents are complaining, as the Parents Television Council calls Glee the “Worst TV Show of the Week.” Their article complains of “twisted humor and raunchy sensibilities,” adding that the episode “Showmance” “should have also contained the “S” descriptor for sexual situations, given the suggestive dancing and raunchy balloon antics.” There were more protests over a few Glee stars posing in a “near-pornographic display” in GQ (Parents Television Council).

High schoolers won’t watch a few episodes and instantly break school rules to stuff tater tots in a tailpipe or dress like Brittany Spears. But there’s some irritation on the horizon at how the reality of high school is simply ignored. Censorship, always a frustrating issue in high school performances, comes out ambivalent and arbitrary. The rules and their punishments shift. And if there’s one thing high schools can be counted on for, it’s consistent firm rules about how to dress and behave, which subjects are taboo, which rules must not be broken. And so, as a mirror of high school, Glee is a bit wobbly.

Leave a comment

Filed under Glee, Pop Culture

The Secret Hunger Games: Adults vs. Kids

The Hunger Games is coded as a battle of adults versus children. Katniss’s parents are useless, from her dead father to her withdrawn mother who forces Katniss to care for herself and her sister. Katniss is the one to hold them together and keep them from starving, and through the book she dwells on her mistrust for her mother. Only Gale, a fellow teen and protector of his own family, can be relied on.

In Katmiss’ world, the older children protect the younger, as she does her little sister, or Rue does for her younger siblings. Since Rue is the eldest in her family, there’s no one to protect her but Katniss. Katniss realizes that Thresh and Rue would be her friends if not for the true enemy, the ones who hold the games.

Her true allies, she ones she shares sympathy with are the tongueless girl in the capital, Thresh, who would have been a friend, her hunting partner Gale back home. Even Madge, the baker’s daughter, gives her the mockingjay pin she wears as a symbol of home, while Katmiss discards her mother’s dress and shoes. Half the children in the games are relucntant to fight, from Thresh, who lets Katniss escape, to Rue, showing her she’s in danger from hornets, to Foxface, darting in to steal and run.

Adults are using her, from Cinna, who selects her dazzling outfits to show off his own talent long before he sees her as a person to Haymitch, who pushes her to shine for the sponsors. The Games themselves are the most fundamental example of this, run by adults to kill children for entertainment. In this world, the president is the ultimate adult and ultimate user, murdering families to control the victors of the games.

1 Comment

Filed under Pop Culture, The Hunger Games

Love Among the Misfits: Twilight and Glee

“I see a future where it’s cool to be in Glee club. Where you can play football and sing and dance, and no one gets down on you for it. Where the more different you are, the better.” Finn says in “Mash-Up.” But of course, the football jocks lock Artie in the Porto-Potty and Finn’s girlfriend calls him gay for signing up, worried that now they’ll never be prom king and queen. Glee, though Will remembers it as cool, is the haven for all the misfits: the gay boy, the pregnant girl, the black overweight girl, the wheelchair kid, the nerds. Into this walks diva Rachel, who appears to have everything in a world of have-nots and broken families. It’s a little hard to take her seriously when she believes she’s friendless and needs a haven to belong. But her tale makes more sense when she’s compared to the remarkably similar Bella Swan.

Many have criticized teens’ beloved Twilight as a wish-fulfillment story. Shy, unattractive Bella arrives at a new high school. Instantly, everyone wants to be her friend, invite her to prom, ask about glamorous Arizona. And creating even more of a stir, she has the attention of the insular teen millionaire Edward Cullen, who’s never even glanced at a girl before Bella.

Glee echoes some of this high-school fantasy attitude. “You’re the best kid in there, Rachel, but that comes with a price,” Will tells her (Pilot). She will have to be the role model for the other kids who can’t sing nearly so well. And he offers her all the solos just so she can feel better. True, high school theater and singing directors give the best parts to the most talented students. But all the solos? When he’s trying to restart this thing?

Though Rachel looks intimidated by the row of blonde cheerleaders in the celibacy club, she quickly stands up on her first day to tell everyone their philosophy is “a joke.” She knows better, and Quinn’s pregnancy certainly supports that celibacy doesn’t work. But Rachel’s always right in her snap judgments, always beloved despite her “high maintenance” personality. When Mercedes protests singing backup for Rachel in the pilot, everyone turns on her—of course Rachel should continue. She’s their diva. And now that Will has conveniently broken all his ethics to threaten Finn, Rachel gets the perfect partner and the pair can begin a perfect relationship.

Rachel pictures them as the hot male lead and the stunning ingénue who everyone roots for. All right, there are some bumps along the way, but deep down, that’s exactly who they are. Here we have idealized teen romance, in which fate and everyone in the story conspire to help the two kids make it. Life for Bella, or the Glee Club for Rachel falls into disaster whenever these star couples quarrel or break up in their “Romeo and Juliet style” romances (“Hell-O,” New Moon).

“I’m so sick of hearing you squawk, Eva Peron!” Mercedes tells Rachel.

“Let her talk!” Finn says, rushing to her defense though he barely knows her (Showmance).

Finn gives up his friends, his top-of-the-school jock status, and his football, all to sing with Glee Club. His miserable girlfriend Quinn calls him gay, and threatens to leave, but Finn won’t budge. Sometimes people change. But in the high school world where reputation and conformity are all, where guys don’t want their friends seeing them as “wimps,” this change feels a little unlikely. Edward, too, risks his secret getting out, and even risks Bella’s life to get close to her, protect her, jump with her among the treetops. And he brings her to the secret haven of the vampires: his adopted family who are just as big a cluster of misfits as the Glee Club.

Esme was an abused wife who lost her child then tried to kill herself. Rosalie, once gang-raped nearly to death, longs for her lost humanity and the ability to have children. Alicewas institutionalized by her suspicious parents. Jasper battled through depression in a hundred years of murder that nearly cost him all traces of humanity. And Edward and Alice are often tormented by their mental gifts, as each learns dire knowledge they’d be happier without. All of them are cut off (by choice) from normal vampire society, and forced to hide their true nature from the surrounding humans. John Granger comments in Spotlight, “In short, we have our postmodern collection of marginalized freaks—a certified rebel, an Appalachian hillbilly, and a Mason, no less! With the Cullen women, they’re all damaged goods who are united only in their struggle to live their lives outside the ‘vampire first’ metanarrative of the Vulturi” (68). These vampires, like the X-Men and other fantastical high school misfits, are more powerful than everyone else, and their abilities separate them from society.

The entire Glee team echoes this. “We’re the outcasts but we’re also better than everyone else” is an echoing theme. In the first episode, Will recalls an idealized Glee Club, filled with spotlights, trophies, and adoration. Glee club? The world of singing, especially small-town high school singing, is unlikely to lead to stardom. Traditionally, Glee Club has been a place for fun and acceptance, a safe place for Rachel to practice her songs in front of peers and Kurt to wear fun costumes, not somewhere where Broadway-class stars get discovered. In a more honest moment, Will admits that the jocks are unlikely to join and Finn points out that maybe Glee still is the “lamest place on earth.” But it’s not about that—as he also adds, it’s about finding a place to express their talents. It’s a haven for Rachel and the other gleeks, just as the Cullen clan is a haven for Bella.

The Twilight series ends with Bella outshining all the vampire clan. As a newborn vampire, she is stronger than her muscle-bound brother-in-law. Even her clumsiness and closed-off mind are revealed as her hidden power—she is a shield who can protect her entire family. Rachel, too, goes on to discover her mom (Idina Menzel!) and lead Glee Club in competition. After three years of leading the group, Rachel continues as star, “President of fourteen clubs” and even Prom Queen (though she wasn’t elected!). As even marginalized Tina accepts that Rachel should indeed be their diva, her old boyfriend-enemy recommends her as the greatest star he’s known, New Directions beats out the more talented Vocal Adrenaline, and one of the world’s top acting trainers shows up to Rachel’s performance to give her a second chance, the perfect wish-fulfillment current of Twilight returns.

Rachel has been the narrative voice of the series, so it’s quite tough to imagine Glee without her. She’s been the leader as all the misfits stand up for one another, making it clear that an attack on one is an attack on all. Like the vampires of Twilight, they form a community where their prima donna and her true love can be teens in love together forever, casting themselves as supporting characters in her drama. And that’s the fantasy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Glee, Pop Culture, Twilight