Save a Damsel in Distress

“Why does every princess need to have a prince? It’s the same old story but I’m just not convinced. Why keep on assuming men will save the day? I can be the hero and do it in my own way”

I got these lines from a parody of Disney’s Frozen. It speaks so much on how I feel towards the stereotype given to female protagonists in film, TV, music, cartoons and other forms of entertainment. What bothers me is that most of the time these platforms target young girls. I am a big fan of  arts and entertainment but wouldn’t it be nice if  ‘entertainment value’  speak for both entertainment and value? Pop songs are most of the time love songs and hyper-sexualized. Disney history has been creating female protagonists who have passive roles. I believe in Cinderella’s song: “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” My problem is that Cinderella did not have a big ambition. To marry a prince is a dream but not a real goal that can be cultivated by talent and hard work. I just want to hear stories  that empower girls to make use of their own ability without giving up who they are. Though I do not disregard that finding the right man and following your dreams have some value in life, message of celebrating individuality, independence, and family should be given of greater emphasis. These themes reflect what we need in our society.

Frozen

Disney Frozen Elsa
photo source: http://www.hdwallpapers.in/walls/frozen_elsa-wide.jpg

I’m glad that we now have female characters in fiction and entertainment who represent real girls. Disney reinvents  their female characters that fit to our generation. And I’ll never get tired of using Frozen as an example. I love this animated film not only for the songs, and the feel-good Disney vibes, but also of its practical values.

In a world where fashion models are being looked up by most young girls, we need female characters who have flaws. Isn’t it frustrating to observe lot of fashion models trying to perfect their posture, and struggling refinement and glamour? Good thing, Anna of Frozen is clumsy, bubbly, playful. In comparison with classic Disney princesses whose happiness depend on a prince, Elsa strives to be on her own and be herself. Neither Elsa nor Anna is demure or soft-spoken.  Hence, (I appeal), let the girls be themselves, and blossom in their own pace and in their own way.

Also, how many animated films tell a story about sisters? This theme resonates to most of us, and that true love is nothing fancy or out of reach. True love is a hard concept to teach if it is defined by what most movies tell us. As corny as this may sound, but true love should be basic. I have a lot of sisters and we most probably have siblings or members of the family who have been with us since birth. Frozen has made the concept of true love more accessible to everyone.

elphaba
Photo Source: Broadway.com

Wicked
Another good example of a female fictional character is Elphaba from the musical play and novel, Wicked. When I was a small girl, I dreamed of becoming a princess. But lately I wanted to be a witch. I am a fan of Wicked. I have their songs in my play list, read the novel, watch the play on web and on real life. I like Wicked because it celebrates individuality. In reality, sometimes we are defined by our color, and other exterior features. Elphaba, the wicked witch of the West is not a typical protagonist of the story. From the title itself, she is  known wicked. She represents the minority. She goes for the unpopular belief of fighting the rights of the Animals. Alas, a female character has emerged from the male-dominated world, witchcraft. ( There seems to be a bias towards wizards and bias against witch. Major characters as witches are villains while the boy with a broomstick is adorable and not necessarily wicked). Like Frozen, the set of characters in the play are female-dominated.

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I am hoping for more films, plays, cartoons and stories  that feature women as heroes. Just like Frozen and Wicked, I hope they reach mainstream success so that more girls will receive the message of empowerment.

The best way to save a damsel in distress is  not to call for a prince but the best way is to teach her to save herself from distress. Show her true colors and be her own happiness machine. Let the storm range on and let her defy gravity. Let it go!

Because you deserve to be less miserable

Source: Imdb.com

I cannot not blog about Les Misérables because I waited for seven hours in the mall, just to watch the movie. It was one of the longest days of my life! Much has been said and I think I have no right to give a critique on a movie that is million times bigger than I am. But allow me to share my penny of thoughts on why people who are not fans of the musical should watch.

It’s classic

It is based on the novel of Victor Hugo which is oftentimes included in the list of books you must read before you die. The novel has made so much influence as it talks about justice, poverty, and sacrifice. This is one of the literary influences of Jose Rizal. Then later on, it had a musical theater adaptation. And when you talk about theater, it’s one of the first few plays that come into your mind.

They sing truthfully

The music itself is one of biggest reasons why I wanted to watch it and why other Filipinos want it too. I’ve been singing the song On my Own since high school but I just could not nail it. Songs from this musical have been popular choices for audition. For us, musical theater fans,we are curious on how these songs we have loved will be interpreted in cinema. Generally speaking, I like the actors realistic way of singing. In the film, they are not technical singers who have too much vibrato, too much inflections, too much clean and clear notes. That’s difference between singing on stage and singing for movies. If you’ve heard the songs, you will understand them more after watching the movie. Not only you will learn the story behind the songs but also the depth of the character’s emotions. You will know the pain of a prostitute and of a dying loved one. You will feel the passion of revolutionists.

Anne Hathaway is an A+++ actress.

Having a soundtrack of Les Misérables anniversary concert and listening to a lot of thespians, I guess we all have our own preference or what others call “standards.” But I must say Anne Hathaway’s rendition I Dreamed a Dream is one of the most truthful performances.You can almost cry with her. She only had short time in the movie but it was very memorable. She really deserves an acting award.

At times, it feels like watching MTV.

There are a lot of scenes that look like MTV. On my own scene reminded me of the ones I watched in MTV, like singing and crying in the rain. I compare those scenes to music videos because Tom Hooper loves close-up shots. It is as if the actor is singing to the camera. This kind of shot is an opportunity for actors to show their acting prowess. I know some viewers don’t like these close-up shots but it was a refreshing way of reiterating a very familiar story. That’s also a privilege for us audience to see closely the facial expressions of actors. You cannot have that on theater stage.

Drama sells

I personally love tragedies. As you know, I like to watch men in pain and hear stories about death. I think we can identify ourselves more in tragedies than sweet happy endings. There are a lot of dramatic scenes. They say,”the movie will make you cry.” I did cry a little during the last few moments of the movie and stopped myself for crying more because I did not want my friends to make fun of me.

It’s too much

The story will not be beautiful if the storyteller does not know how to deliver and we owe it to the the people who worked hard for the movie. It’s a 157-minute film. You get your money’s worth comparing on how much you spend for a Starbucks coffee that lasts for less than five minutes. There are too many characters that you will fall in love with. There are too many songs that you want to sing along with. There are too many stories inside a story. There are many themes that make all the scenes relevant.  If you really want to heavy acting, lots of singing, and endless tears, go watch it.

Oh, and a friendly reminder:

Photo from Dennis T. Sebastian

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Larsson’s Story: Better read than seen

Am I too late to be obsessed with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Is there anybody out there still interested to listen about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Whatever.

I am experiencing Larsson’s fever. To cure such fever, I need to write all my thoughts to my heart’s content about the story that had been part of my summer. They say when you’re done reading a book, it’s like losing a friend. Like losing a loved one, it is hard to move on, especially when you think about Larsson gone forever. You need to talk about it all over again just to lessen the burden of losing someone.

Probably by now, you must have watched the film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If you haven’t, read the book first.

I highly recommend to read the book first before you watched the movie. For one reason, you will not have any feelings towards the film. You will not feel betrayed if the movie does not meet your expectation. Or, you will not learn to like it, the way people who have read the book first. You’ll just feel neutral. Why?

First, if you are not listening carefully to the dialogues of the characters, you might get lost in the story. The book is heavy in dialogue, same with the movie. It’s about digging facts. This means if you are not paying much attention to some boring movie scenes like Salander browsing her computer or Blomkvist browsing the pictures, you might not be able to understand the story.

Second, it is not as thrilling as the book. When you read a mystery novel, you end up saying, “I knew it! ” or you might say,” I should have known.” Because a 158-minute film cannot include everything found on the book, it does not mentally torture you with a number of motives, prospects, or evidence. You don’t feel like guessing at all.

Third, the film adaptation does not tell you much of how deep the partnership of Blomkvist and Salander is. Blomkvist and Salander spend a lot of time together in the book. They have long walks. They sit in the garden. They have coffee and sandwich. It is quite understandable that any director will choose to leave these details out. But these little moments in the book can make you feel that you’ve known Blomkvist and Salander for a long time.

Fourth, you will not get to know Salander and Blomkvist, the way readers do. You cannot read the characters’ thoughts in film. The movie cannot make the audience fully realize that Lisbeth Salander has a heart too (though Rooney Mara played the role well). The film adaptation does not  show scenes of  Salander and her mother which I think  is an important part of Salander’s history.

But…

I am not saying the movie is no good at all. I am happy that David Fincher tried to be  faithful to the book. I saw some parts of the first film adaptation of The Girl with Dragon Tattoo, the Swedish version. By comparison, I can say that the Hollywood version fits more to my imagination. Most of the lines were taken from the book. David Fincher kept some scenes disturbing as they were in the book. Fincher was as highly detailed  in making the film as Larsson was as highly detailed in writing his novel. He was unforgiving in brutally showing the biggest moment in the trilogy of Larsson. I had to close my eyes.

The lead actors were perfect for their roles. Daniel Craig looked stern and attractive. That’s how Mikael Blomkvist should be! Rooney Mara is such a pretty lady. But she was uglified in the movie. Did you know she need to get drunk to internalize her role as Lisbeth Salander? For someone who had not been drinking,  it was  very convincing to see her with psychological problems. Her voice also fits to Larsson’s description of  Salander’s voice, as someone who sounds like a sandpaper.  Also, she had a Swedish accent. She had an expressionless face in the entire movie which I must say, that is so Lisbeth. My only problem with Rooney is her height. Lisbeth Salander is 4’11 tall but Rooney Mara  is 5’6 tall. David Fincher said he could not  find someone who was as short as Lisbeth Salander. Oh Fincher, you should have  visited the Philippines!  LOL

What the novels lacks, the movie can provide. David Fincher captures artistic shots of Sweden. The sounds amplified the tension. You can see how gloomy Vanger’s  mansion is. The winter atmosphere made the film darker. You can almost shiver as you enter the gates of Vanger’s home. For a story that does not require a lot of action scenes, the cast and production manage to make the story visually entertaining.

Watch the movie…..

But for your own sake, read the book first.