Category Archives: Films

Anne With An E: A Reflection on Representation

Film and TV adaptations of novels have always remained popular with the masses. In recent times, however, adaptations have evolved to suit modern sensibilities and issues. One such impressive adaptation is Anne With An E, based on the timeless classic Anne of Green Gables written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. 

While the show retained most of the essential characters and storylines, it also introduced new characters and themes such as sexism, LGBTQ+ discrimination, racism, and feminism through Anne’s adventures in Avonlea. 

For instance, in season 2, the show featured two LGBTQ+ characters and also explored the friendship between Bash, a native from Trinidad, and Gilbert, Anne’s school rival and eventual love interest. Creator Moira Walley-Beckett emphasized the importance of this representation and stated that, “When I was first conceiving Anne With an E, I was troubled by the lack of diversity in the book, especially since Canada is such a diverse nation, both then and now.”

In season 3, the story took a bleak turn and dived into the dark parts of Canadian history — the Indian residential schools. In the first episode, Anne is shown to befriend a young Native called Ka’kwet while the rest of Avonlea is wary of the so-called “savages.” Ka’kwet’s family is convinced to send her to the residential school in hopes of a better education. However, she is forced to adopt a Christian name, cut her hair and speak only English, all under the guise of civilization. 

In one harrowing scene, Anne visits the school where the nun greets her while choir practice is in session. Though she is forbidden to see Ka’kwet, she unwittingly remarks on the joys of hearing the choir, proclaiming that “singing is a great fortifier of the spirit.” The camera then shows Ka’kwet and the children singing desolately, with a vacant gaze reflecting their broken spirits. 

From a representation standpoint, the series achieved a great milestone where the characters were portrayed by Indigenous actors and actresses who had the opportunity to narrate their story on a global platform. It also allowed an accurate depiction of the trauma faced by the children as they essentially lost their sense of identity and culture, the repercussions of which are felt even today.

Unfortunately, the show was cancelled before it could further expand this storyline and Ka’kwet’s story is left on a cliffhanger. However, it isn’t hard to imagine the outcome and sadly, it isn’t one that guarantees a happy ending. 

Nevertheless, the journey of Ka’kwet opened up a whole new conversation as a vast majority of viewers revealed their lack of awareness and shock on the issue. Many also expressed their eagerness to learn more about the residential schools. It only proves to show that in understanding issues of white supremacy and racism, awareness, representation, and education can go a long way.

Amala Reddie

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Claudia Kishi’s Everlasting Influence on Young Readers

If you loved to read as a child, chances are you devoured Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club. A series entirely featuring young girls grappling with divorce, illness, loneliness, and other realities of life, all while running their own business, The Baby-Sitters Club was revolutionary. As of 2000, the series has over 213 books. 

While the series was known for its theme of babysitting, tackling difficult situations, and female-centered narrative, there is a character who constantly stood out among the rest: Claudia Kishi. While also being considered the most stylish and creative girl in the group, Claudia is the only Japanese-American character. Claudia was one of the first Asian-Americans to be portrayed in children’s media, and she broke away from the stereotype of “being quiet and good at school.” Instead, Claudia is unconventional; she is an artist that struggles in school and often feels misunderstood by her family. More importantly, her Japanese heritage was not the focal point of her character but an embellishment. “With Claudia, it was a part of her, but it wasn’t the only part of her. That was huge,” says filmmaker Sue Ding, whose documentary The Claudia Kishi Club explores the legacy of the young babysitter and fashionista. 

For many, Claudia Kishi was the first “cool” literary character young Asian-Americans were able to identify with; in other words, her legacy will live on forever. Now adapted into a Netflix series, fans are thrilled to see that the unique essence and coolness of Claudia’s character lives on. Rising star Momona Tamada(who played young Lara Jean in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, another important piece of Asian-American media) plays Claudia in the new series. Momona read The Baby-Sitters Club novels when she was younger and cites Claudia as “the first time I saw Asian representation in a book that I read at school.”  

You can watch The Baby-Sitters Club and The Claudia Kishi Club on Netflix now. You can also purchase the series here

Kelsey Allen

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Simon Says I Love Love, Simon

The movie we (I) have all been waiting for is now in theaters! Love, Simon is a romantic-comedy based on the young adult book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The titular character is a closeted gay boy with a loving family and close friends. Simon falls in love with a fellow closeted classmate with whom he exchanges anonymous emails, but while trying to find out the identity of his mysterious flame, he must also contend with a blackmailing classmate threatening to out him to the school.

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Disclaimer: I have not yet read the book and so cannot comment on how the movie compares, but can I just say the original title is so much more cute and clever?

Watching this movie, I felt a strong sense of familiarity. I have watched this movie before many times over. Rom-com, check. Falling in love with an anon online, check. Someone threatening to reveal the main character’s identity, check check check. The plot follows many similar points as straight rom-coms before it, and that in itself is kind of revolutionary. That this can be considered as just another movie in a long line of rom-coms is indicative of the slow acceptance queer stories. Unfortunately, this does mean the story can feel a bit boring at times.

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It is most definitely refreshing to have a queer movie that does not end in death and destruction, but a little more nuance would have been appreciated. Simon is surrounded by liberal friends and family who without a doubt would accept his coming out, a fact that he acknowledges in his narration. The homophobia depicted in the film was displayed strictly by two bullies, who eventually get the discipline they deserve. I would have liked the movie to explore the subtle homophobia that is more typically seen in real life, such as the jokes Simon’s dad tells.

The highlight of the movie were Simon’s coming out scenes. Despite him coming out many times to multiple people, the scenes always felt new and special, different based on his relationship to the other person. After the entire beginning of the movie with Simon keeping his distance from all his loved ones, this felt intimate and touching. Many tears were shed, and I am not referring to the characters in the movie.

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The cuties that made the movie

All in all, this was a good and wholesome film. Even when the plot lacked originality, the charming cast, particularly Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton, X-Men) and Katherine Langford (Thirteen Reasons Why), was able to add that pizzaz that brought the movie to life. This is a great movie to watch if you want the warm and fuzzy feelings.

I give this movie:

4 out of 5 rainbows.

🌈🌈🌈🌈

By the way, Leah on the Offbeat, the sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, is out April 24, 2018. This book follows Leah, Simon’s best friend, as she navigates her family life and her own bisexuality. Buy it at your local bookstore now!

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Do Movies Really Ruin Books? A Closer Look at Me Before You

 

“Hey Clark,” he said.”Tell me something good.” I stared out of the window at the bright-blue Swiss sky and I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn’t have met, and who didn’t like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other. And I told him of the adventures they had, the places they had gone, and the things I had seen that I had never expected to. I conjured for him electric skies and iridescent seas and evenings full of laughter and silly jokes. I drew a world for him, a world far from a Swiss industrial estate, a world in which he was still somehow the person he had wanted to be. I drew the world he had created for me, full of wonder and possibility.

Jojo Moyes, Me Before You

When I first laid eyes on Me Before You, it was sitting on the shelf in the CVS on Washington Street beside the periodicals. For years I had passed by the works of Jojo Moyes in libraries and bookstores alike (these were far more bonafide literary establishments than the neighborhood convenience store). I had always been drawn in by the bold, calligraphic typeface of her covers, calling out to me in bright red, hot pink, lime green and cerulean blue. On that day, I happened to notice the copy I would end up pouring over for the next week, adorned with the cheesy movie-poster cover featuring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin gazing longingly into each other’s eyes.

Best selling love stories inevitably get short changed just on the principle of what they are. When I finished the novel, I approached my boyfriend raving about its excellence and prodded him incessantly to read it. Like most incidents of this nature, he begrudgingly agreed. When our roommate David saw it sitting on the counter, he made a hasty judgement about its presumable femininity and berated Vick for even having cracked it open. Cases like these are textbook examples of “judging a book by its cover,” which I thoroughly frown upon.

Each book deserves a chance to preserve its literary street cred before it is laughed at for being mentioned in some tabloid’s list of hollywood rom-com Summer must-sees. True, it may be a heart-wrenching tear-jerker sporting two unlikely lovers who are (spoiler alert) tragically pried apart by the very same twist of fate that brings them together. But damn if it didn’t have me, a proud (you guessed it) literature major, tearing through it until the wee hours of the morning only to end up sobbing uncontrollably in the final pages.

On to the necessary discussion of the recently released motion picture adaptation. I will choose my words carefully here–don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into an angry, irrelevant rant about all the reasons why the book was better than the movie, although that statement is true. I will say that there was a certain montage scene during which I found the soundtrack to be extremely ill-fitting. Let’s just say that a punchy pop song lasting approximately ninety seconds isn’t the best way to convey the slow, complex build-up of Lou and Will’s relationship over a period of months. I feel that because of scenes like the this, the movie version rushes through, and consequently sacrifices, the audience’s ability to invest in their story. This is a result of Hollywood’s vicious cycle of convincing American audiences to eat up any love story they are fed, as if from a spoon.

Aside from the predictable dumbing down of the story, this was a satisfying rendition of one very dear to my heart. I think the biggest favor movies can do for books is to give the readers a picture of what the setting looks like in real life. Some prefer to maintain their own mental image of the books’ world as if it were sacred. For me, it’s often difficult to picture. My brain kind of jumbles up memories of similar places, puts it into context, and results in a strange and dreamlike interpretation of the setting. One central facet of Will and Lou’s surroundings is the medieval castle that characterizes their town. Seeing it on the big screen is very satisfying after attempting in vain to picture its grandeur while reading. I understand why many dislike the movie version of a beloved book–I feel that way about some of my most favorite novels (I would never want to see a movie of The Bell Jar) and of course there is always The Catcher in the Rye argument, with Salinger’s refusal to allow an alternate interpretation of the book in any form.

Still, I remain firm in my belief that the book doesn’t always have to stand alone. One of my favorite novels of all time, The Virgin Suicides, has a fantastic movie counterpart and soundtrack that actually enhance the overall experience of the story for me. I believe that books and their subsequent movies should be judged on a case by case basis. They are different genres after all, different mediums of expressing art. Pitting them against each other is futile; at the end of the day, you’re still comparing apples and oranges.

– Margeaux Sippell, Intern

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