Saturday, March 27, 2010

have you any idea why a raven is like a writing desk?

Ye have been warned, this post contains spoilers.

I'm finally managing to write my review of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in 3D. I saw it last weekend (though it feels like months ago) with Christian, his sister Coryn, and her boyfriend Harold. Because it was a Disney movie, I wanted to see it. Because it was a sequel to the original Alice in Wonderland, I was not extremely enthusiastic. Walt himself said, "I've never believed in doing sequels. I didn't want to waste the time I have doing a sequel; I'd rather be using that time doing something new and different.” And have you seen some of the Disney sequels? They're awful. I'm also not OMG OBSESSED!!1! with Tim Burton the way a lot of people are. But I kept an open mind...

This was no "Belle's Magical World," or even "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." It was exquisite: Tim Burton managed to make it sinister without being overtly creepy, and beautiful without making me feel like I was stuck in a world of computer-generated images.

Of course, it follows Alice's journey back to Wonderland. It's been so long since I've read Lewis Carroll's book that I can't compare the book to the movie, but Burton's version goes further in depth with the plot and characters than Walt's animated version. I was disappointed that there was no singing ("A very merry unbirthday!" "To me?" "Yes, you!"), but the tone of this movie was somber, not lighthearted like the animated feature. It reminded me of the 1985 Disney film Return to Oz, actually.

Alice herself is a very complex character - she's come a long way from the seven-and-half year old child was in her first visit to Wonderland. She is now 19, and because she lives in Victorian England, there's a lot of pressure on her to act like a perfect lady; however, it's clear from the beginning that Alice is different from girls her age. She feels pressure from her family and society to get married because "she's getting older and her face won't last," but in her heart she knows that she doesn't want to lead a boring, stuffy life with a man who doesn't love or understand her. She's very much a modern, indepedent person stuck trapped inside the body of a nineteenth-century fragile doll.

She runs away from the real world and the problems in her own life, once again falls down the rabbit hole, and finds herself in Wonderland. But she doesn't remember anything about her previous experience in this surreal place. I won't spoil the reason why she was needed back in Wonderland, but she is faced with the decision of saving everyone from the wrath of the Red Queen. Throughout her journey, she comes to term with who she is and who she feels called to become.

Oh, and did I mention that Mia Wasikowska is gorgeous?

Johnny Depp's portrayal of the Mad Hatter was incredible. I wanted to be friends with the Hatter. He's still bonkers, but he's not his usual self. He's worried, like everyone else in Wonderland, about the fate of their beloved word at the hands of the Red Queen and her terrible weapon. He plays a much more important role in this sequel because he teaches Alice something very important. He sadly tells her, "You used to be much more...muchier. You've lost your muchness." He represents childhood, in a way; he isn't afraid to be mad, and he isn't afraid to believe in the impossible. He teaches Alice that in order to fulfil her role in Wonderland, she must revert back to the mindset she had when she was a child. "Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast," Alice confides in the Hatter. "That," he answers, "is an excellent practice."

(There should be a picture of the amazing Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, but it didn't want to show up. :[ )

Then there's the presence of good and evil in this movie. Obviously Iracebeth, the Red Queen, represents evil. (And there is no one better suited to play a crazy, cruel queen than Helena Bonham Carter, who plays the role fantastically.) But what about her sister Mirana, the White Queen? Anne Hathway is stunning, no doubt, and we are much more inclined to like her because of her unfailing kindness - but would we really want to be like her? Anne Hathaway said that her character comes from the same gene pool as her sister, but took a vow not to harm any living thing out of fear that she would go too far. I found myself pitying her.

Is it better to be good and infinitely loved, like the White Queen, but ultimately powerless to protect oneself, held captive by that very goodness? Is it better to be bad, like the Red Queen, protecting oneself and exercising power but losing everyone's faith and love in the process? To me, neither of these are ideal. Alice is a fusion of both Queens - kind and well-loved like Mirana, but strong and able to protect herself like Iracebeth.

In the end, despite the Hatter asking her to stay, Alice realizes that staying in Wonderland won't solve her real world problems - but the real world doesn't have to be a nightmare. Life is what she makes of it. So it's with great difficulty that she says goodbye to her beloved Wonderland and travels back to her life. It's a paradox that in keeping the heart of a child, she grows up.

I saw so much of myself in this Alice - 19, headstrong and somewhat rebellious, questioning everything. She always says the wrong thing, and people don't take her seriously because she's so "distracted"; in other words, she has a wonderful imagination. But eventually, she learns to accept herself despite others' opinions, and realizes that it's okay to believe in the impossible.

The ending of the movie was emotional for me: it was like seeing myself up there on the screen, realizing that realistically I cannot stay at WDW and saying a bittersweet goodbye. There's a whole lot I could say about this movie, but that would take far too long. I think anyone who was ever enchanted by the idea of falling down a rabbit hole into another world should see this, though, because it really is a masterpiece.

As for sequels, I feel like this one would make Uncle Walt change his mind, at least this once. It's much harder to enchant adults than children, and even harder to persuade them to believe in the impossibility of magic. This movie does both, which makes it pure Disney.

I hope everyone has an opportunity to see it. May you never lose your muchiness.

And as for why a raven is like a writing desk, I have no idea.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

breaking news: susie gets political

Disclaimer: this post might shock/offend you, so read at your own risk. But if you do read, keep an open mind.

I don't do politics. I vote, and I try to educate myself on current events, but I hate politics. I consider myself to be a positive person most of the time, but I am absolutely cynical when it comes to politicians. I just believe that nothing short of a miracle will straighten out this country's epic fail of a mess, so I'd really rather not think about it most of the time.

However, I do actually have political opinions, though I don't usually advertise them. I decided to blog about them today, in honor of the fact that March is Women's History Month.

In my very first semester at LSU, I took a women and gender studies (WGS) class. It was an elective for English majors, and I went in curious but unsure of what to expect. I kept an open mind and I was blown away by a lot of the stuff we learned. It also stuck out in my mind because of how open and friendly my classmates were. In fact, I'm still friends with one of the girls in that class. The class really broadened my horizons and made me realize how I was ignorant in many ways.

I learned about feminism. Feminism is a word that has many negative connotations. Some people think it was a movement that's over. Some associate feminism with butch, bitchy women who hate men. This is a gross generalization. Sure, there are some feminists out there like that. A lot of feminists are angry because the world has been such an unfair place for women for a very long time. I'm angry too, sometimes. But most feminists don't hate men. Actually, in the very simplest of terms, feminism means equality for both women and men. It doesn't mean that women are better than men. It's about equality.

Or at least, it used to it. It still is, in some ways. Women still make less money than men in the working world. Companies still don't always support very much maternity leave, and they support paternity leave even less. Women are still sexually harassed/assaulted/abused every day. But there have actually been three waves of feminism. The second wave died in around the late '80s, and the third wave continues today. But we have this problem, where so many women don't want to be identified with feminism. They believe that they cannot be feminists and still maintain their femininity.

I've always believed that I can be a strong, independent woman - a feminist - without it getting in the way of being feminine. I love wearing vintage dresses and makeup. I'm not saying that we should all burn our bras and stop shaving (that's entirely up to you). I do reject conventions of negative body images that are so rampant in the media. I do resent that almost forty years after the Equal Rights Amendment was passed, we STILL don't have equality in this country. It's outrageous. I am angry every time I hear of a rape case that wasn't reported because there would be no point to report it - because it's so hard to press charges in almost every rape situation.

Wake up - this is a problem, and we are only fueling this problem if we shy away from the word "feminism." We are slapping our foremothers, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and so many others, in the faces when we do this.

Men also have issues with the word. Why can't men be feminists? Any man who loves his mama, maw maw, sister, wife, and/or daughter should want equal rights for them, and should not be afraid to say so. This isn't a battle we will win alone.

I learned even more in that WGS class. As a Catholic, I'm supposed to be vehemently against abortion and contraceptives. We had a discussion about this in class one day. One girl stood up and calmly said, "I don't like the term 'pro-life.' That indicates that I'm pro-death. And I'm not. I don't want innocent babies to die. The issue is about power. It's about the government telling me what I can and cannot do with my own body. If abortion is outlawed, it will go back to the way it was in the '60s - coathangers in back alleys. It will lead to the government restraining my body in other ways." I sat there in shock. She was right.

I struggle with this issue all the time. Of course, there are options such as adoption, or heck, not having sex if you don't want a baby in the first place. But is that realistic? Same with the idea of contraceptives. The statistics have shown that abstinence-only methods in high schools don't work. Know why? Because some kids are gonna have sex. Many won't, like those who grow up in religious households and either truly believe that they should wait or at least feel guilty about it. But some always will. Wouldn't it be better for a girl to know how to protect herself from STDs and unwanted pregnancy if she's going to become sexually active? If I were a mother, I would pray that my daughter would practice abstinence, but in the event that she didn't, I certainly wouldn't want her to be unprotected.

I wear a ring on my left hand that bears the inscription of 1 Corinthians 6:19, which goes something like this, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? You are not your own." It's partially a purity ring and partially a reminder to not disrespect my body at all, because I'm just borrowing it. But unfortunately, not everyone believes this way. This is exactly why the separation of church and state exists. Who am I to impose my beliefs on another woman? I'm not God, and I can't judge anyone. So maybe it's best that we encourage abstinence, but still teach kids how to use birth control and condoms so they don't get themselves into terrible situations.

I won't go so far as to say maybe abortion should be legal, because at the end of the day, I can't bear the thought of the government allowing fetuses to be terminated. But I will say this - I don't much relish the idea of the government telling me what to do with my body, either.

If you've gotten this far, kudos. I hope I didn't offend you, but I also hope that I made you think a bit more about these issues. Please leave a comment or send me an email with your thoughts - if you agree or disagree, if you are exhilarated or outraged. I'd like to know.

Have a blessed, magical day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

nightmare on susie's street

I've had lots of things on my mind lately that I've been meaning to blog about, but I haven't gotten around to it thanks to midterms last week.

Firstly, a topic that is amusing to some and sympathetic to others: my reaction to a little slasher film known as Nightmare on Elm Street. If you know anything about me, you'll know that I stopped watching scary movies a long time ago. My best friend loves them, so I used to hesitantly watch them with her, but I put my foot down when I was in high school. What's so fun about having the pants scared off you? If I want to feel scared or uneasy, I'll turn on the news. I like happy films that take me away from reality.

So, I have been very content with my horror movie-free diet these past few years. Until last Friday. I vaguely remembered seeing it listed on our syllabus, but it wasn't ringing any bells. Nightmare on Elm Street...Nightmare on Elm Street...oh yeah, isn't that the movie that has the misleadingly scary title but actually isn't scary?

It dawned on me, as the first girl of the film was being slashed to bits - blood flying in arcs across the screen - that the movie I'd been thinking of was The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

So what's Nightmare on Elm Street about? Oh, nothin' big deal...just the infamous serial killer, Freddy Kruger. Who likes to kill his victims in their dreams, so it's not safe to sleep.

Oh, did I mention that my parents happened to be out of town that week, happily sailing through the Bahamas, so I had the displeasure of going home to an empty house that night?

Horror movie + empty house + wild imagination = disaster.

Thankfully, my good friend did me a favor and stayed with me that night so I didn't die of cardiac arrest every time the cuckoo clock went off. I still had trouble getting to sleep, though. Every time I closed my eyes I saw that terrible burned face, heard the horrific sound of his razor-blade nails scraping through his victims...

What kind of class would have such a movie on its syllabus, you ask? Is it a study of horror films? Um, no. It's an adolescent lit class (and the name should be changed to adolescent media, obviously). I asked my [crazy, demented, Disney-hating] teacher today, "Why did we watch Freddy Freaking Kruger in your class?"

She replied, "To show how the protagonist, Nancy, survives until the end of the film by remaining androgynous and not portraying typical gender roles. The girly girl died first."

Oh, okay. That makes sense. I mean, there aren't lots of other ways to show girl power and ideas of feminism other than Nightmare on Elm Street, or anything.

For the record, my teacher isn't crazy and demented. I was certainly cursing her on Friday night, but she's actually pretty cool, very smart and funny. I just think she should take into consideration, when compiling her syllabus, that some of us actually HATE horror movies.

Some people have been sympathetic to my plight, whereas others have cocked their eyebrows and scathingly said, "But it's not real. You big baby." No, it's not real, but my subconscious doesn't know that. Jerks.

So, the moral of this blog post: if you haven't seen Nightmare on Elm Street, don't.

Everyone have a happy, magical, non-disturbing day!

she's alive!

I'm sorry I've been so M.I.A., guys. I have lots of things to talk about now that I'm back from my midterm-induced blogging hiatus. But first, "Reflection" part three. Hope you like it!

“No, Lindsay, stop.” She held up one hand. “I’m not sleeping with Devin! How could you even think that?”

“What else am I supposed to think? You go off with this guy and I’m supposed to think you were sitting around watching Disney movies?”

She smiled. “We did watch The Lion King.”

I stared at her. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m trying to explain! Devin’s just a friend. See, what happened was—um, Logan’s being deployed next year.” She said this very fast, and bit her lip. Her words hung in the air.

I felt my mouth drop open. “Deployed? When did you find out? How long? Where?”

“I found out last night. He’s going to Afghanistan…Army deployments there are usually about fifteen months…” She took several deep breaths and I could tell she was trying not to bawl. “So Devin’s been helping me deal with it, kind of. He slept on the floor,” she added quickly. “He’s just easy to talk to. It’s a distraction.”

I sat in the dark, trying to process what she’d just told me. Ainsley’s boyfriend was being deployed. I’d never been Logan’s biggest fan, but he was nice enough, and – damn, he could die over there. This was serious.

“So why didn’t you tell me?” I blurted out, and felt my face flush. There. I said it. It sounded incredibly childish, kind of like when your best friend in kindergarten gets a new best friend, and you feel left out. “I mean, I could’ve helped you deal with it.”

Ainsley just looked at me. “You spend every moment in my presence nagging at me. And when you’re not nagging, I can see the scowl on your face. I get the hint, Lindsay. I’m not Ms. Perfect. But do you really think I want to confide in someone who’s always criticizing me?” Her voice rose in pitch, and the tears started coming for real this time. “You’re always judging me. I just needed someone to listen.”

I stared straight ahead at Devin’s nice, blue house as Ainsley cried. She cried for what seemd like hours, and I just sat there. Finally, I turned slowly to her. “Ains?” She enveloped me in one of her massive bear hugs, and suddenly I was crying, too. We sat holding each other, snotty hiccupy messes in that cold November darkness, and it was like we were two little girls again, comforting each other after a bad day of being bullied on the playground. Suddenly, I had my sister back. I pulled back from her and saw myself in those brown eyes. She smiled slightly.

“You know, I really missed you,” I blurted out, then realized she’d said the exact same thing.