What’s There to Talk About? What “13 Reasons Why” Doesn’t Show

By Anne Isman

If you haven’t already seen it, you’ve definitely heard people talking about it; the second season of the viral Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” was recently released, consisting of thirteen new episodes revolving around the students of Liberty High as they testify in Hannah’s trial against their school.  Just as the first season dealt with the sexual assault and harassment, which ultimately led Hannah to commit suicide, this season focuses on how these issues continue to plague a high school where the administration repeatedly fails its students. This season, “13 Reasons Why” is less about Hannah, the individual and her story, and more about her legacy and what her peers have chosen to do about it.

During his testimony in the first episode, Tyler warns, “Just because you have the picture doesn’t mean you have the whole story.”  Not only are Tyler’s words true in terms of how Hannah’s life fell apart in Season One, but they seem to explain the more restrained and far less graphic imagery of Season Two, at least until you get to the last episode.  

Just as we saw Hannah commit suicide in a no-holds-barred scene that left many young viewers disturbed and mental health advocates concerned, this season has become far more aware of itself; speaking of students’ battles with self-harm and rape instead of depicting them once again. Critics of the first season’s insensitive handling of touchy subjects, mainly suicide and sexual assault, claimed these images were unnecessary in conveying the series’ important messages, which is why most of the new episodes seem to refrain from showing such upsetting scenes.

However, this is only the case for some of the season, until the viewer is faced with graphic drug use, an entirely new horrific rape scene, and a literal box full of images depicting non-consensual sex acts.  Hearing the students’ testimonies, in which they describe Hannah’s suicide and the events leading up to it, is far easier to consume than explicit scenes scattered among the final episodes in which their purpose seems simply to provoke, or worse, trigger the viewer.  

To return to the opening quote, it’s easy to look at these disturbing images and wonder what to do with what you just saw; how should I appropriately respond to a teenager’s use of heroin? Producers of “13 Reasons Why” claim that their intent is to spark meaningful discussion surrounding difficult topics, yet the actual episodes, in which characters rarely come forward about what they are experiencing, give little direction as to how to actually approach such conversations.  Instead, we see characters respond to assault with attempts to shoot up their school in retaliation, or as we saw Season One, suicide. Of course, other factors contributed to Hannah’s death, yet how can producers expect to encourage discussion when the characters on our screen don’t?

A third season is already being considered, which seems unnecessary.  A show like “13 Reasons Why” is important, much like addressing the issues depicted on the show is, but “13 Reasons Why” doesn’t know how to address them, despite their many attempts.  When so much of viewers’ response to the show revolves around the merits of the actual series, and not the content as the creators so hope, is this series really starting a thoughtful conversation?  In my opinion, no.

“David Bowie is”: Celebrating the Sensational Art of a Sensational Artist

By Ruby Paarlberg

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The “David Bowie is” Exhibition opened on March 2nd with the purpose of honoring and celebrating Bowie’s artwork. The exhibit, made up of hundreds of objects taken directly from the David Bowie archive, includes posters, handwritten music and costumes. The variety of objects and pieces within the exhibit perfectly encapsulates Bowie’s ever-changing forms of music and self-expression. With lots of daily visitors, the extravagant and well-received exhibit mirrors the uniquely captivating quality of Bowie’s art.

People swarm the Brooklyn Museum each week eagerly awaiting their chance to see this exhibit. The show is extremely popular amongst David Bowie fans in particular, but it has even gained traction amongst those who are not obsessed with the icon. Tickets are sold quickly, and customers endure up to two-hour-long waits to experience the exhibit’s wonders.

The experience begins with the suspenseful wait outside of the exhibit, where customers promptly show their tickets. The 30 or so people that have been selected for that particular time are then funneled into yet another line, where they turn their phones off. Although the line snakes around very slowly, the energy is high as most people cannot contain their excitement. Soon, people enter a dark room where they put on headphones, entering the world of David Bowie.

David Bowie was both an extremely successful and unique British singer and actor. Over time, Bowie’s music evolved dramatically. His characters transformed as he played Major Tom and Ziggy Stardust. He also acted in television and film in movies such as Labyrinth and Basquiat.   

Entering the exhibit feels magical, as each person is immediately serenaded by David Bowie’s delightful music. Although it feels loud, the room is actually completely silent except for the sound of shuffling feet. The first few moments are overwhelming as people gather around the first few pieces of art. However, deeper into the exhibits, the crowds thin out. Every time a person moves to a different part of the exhibit the headphones automatically change to a new song or a voice recording that matches a TV screen. One room in the back of the exhibit has a huge theater-sized screen that plays a song from one of David Bowie’s many concerts. Some passers-by are inspired to dance.

David Bowie’s outfits are scattered around each room in the exhibit. His outfits are sparkly, colorful, unique, and easy to admire. People often spend minutes just staring at one incredible costume made entirely out of glitter, or shaped so strangely that it is impossible to imagine it on a person’s body.

There is also an educational aspect to the exhibit. Museum-goers periodically read informative paragraphs and photograph captions about Bowie’s life and the artifacts on display. As a result, many feel personally connected to Bowie’s art and life upon leaving. The exhibit truly commemorates a unique artist who made an unforgettable mark on this world.

You can go out and see the “David Bowie is” exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, Wednesday through Friday, until July 15th, 2018.

Exploring the “The Office” Sexism Duality: Watching “The Office” in the Wake of the #MeToo Movement

By Rowana Miller

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I keep a list of TV shows and movies that are culturally relevant but I’ll probably never get around to watching. “The Office” has been on that list for some time. I watched the first few seasons about a year ago, but didn’t make it all the way through; certainly, I wasn’t attached enough to the characters, but I was also bothered by the workplace’s attitudes toward women. At the beginning of the first season, female lead Pam seemed flat and pretty — not much more than eye candy for either the show’s viewers or the male characters surrounding her. But I figured that the early 2000s were a different time, and the show had enough laughs to balance out the Sexism Lite, even if it wasn’t really for me.

 

Fast forward to this January, when I went back to watching “The Office” because there was nothing more interesting in my Netflix queue and came to two realizations:

  1. It’s not so much Sexism Lite as Sexism Subtle Yet Pervasive And Pretty Damn Disturbing, and
  2. I really like this show.

 

Realization #1 wasn’t much of a surprise to me. Because of the #MeToo movement, I — much like everyone else in this country — have become hyper-aware of the misogyny that we’ve accepted for so long. No wonder I’d started picking up on the nuances of workplace discrimination. Realization #2, however, shocked me to the point of nausea. Was I enjoying “The Office” this time in spite of the sexism, which would be bad, or was I enjoying the show because of the sexism, which would be immeasurably worse?

I don’t want to grapple with this alone, especially because I know that it isn’t a ‘me’ problem. It’s an ‘us’ problem. As a culture, we simultaneously decry office mistreatment of women and consume entertainment that derives its humor from that same mistreatment. I like to name phenomena — it makes me feel more in control of them — so I’ll call this one “The ‘The Office’ Sexism Duality.” I’m still not sure why we allow it to exist.

Why do we lambast Aziz Ansari for pushing himself on a date who was visibly uncomfortable in real life, but root for Angela to stop squirming away from Dwight when he tries to kiss her although she’s married when watching “The Office”? Why do we lament statistics like 60% of women who have experienced harassment in the workplace, but chuckle when Michael brings Pam along on a sales call for the sole reason that she’s “the hot one”? Why do we shame Reddit users who share celebrity nudes, but cringe only a little when the shipping guys hang a poster of their topless boss Jan on the warehouse wall?

Here’s why: we know that deep down, Angela really does love Dwight. A part of her does want to stop squirming away from him. This is a part that’s missing from the Ansari story. We know that the same part of Pam feels affection for Michael in the sort of ‘dirty uncle’ way, and she doesn’t really mind because Michael is a good guy and his comments come from a place of genuine appreciation rather than harassment or intimidation. But the 60% of women are different; their harassers aren’t fundamentally good guys. The men who work in the warehouse, on the other hand, aren’t bad people. Their crassness is part of their appeal. They’re brash and bold and honest, and come on, we like them a lot more than we like Jan, who’s a nutcase and we might even feel deserves ill treatment even if we’d never wish the same upon a real woman.

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“The Office” depicts a fictional reality in which women really do want it, and the word “harasser” feels too ugly to describe a group of generally likable men who sometimes engage in hyper-masculine mischief. “The Office” is the American workplace as seen through a man’s eyes. There’s nothing really wrong with the reality of “The Office” because the male gaze is truth rather than perception, and if it’s truth, this sort of potentially-misogynistic culture is totally fine because we’ve just established that misogyny isn’t an issue.

What if “The Office” centered around the struggles of young receptionist Erin, who must fight to be taken seriously by demeaning male coworkers, rather than around the struggles of middle-aged male manager Michael Scott, who wishes that the women around him would just lighten up and have sex with him? The show would be more realistic, maybe, and more timely. But for many, it would also be a lot less fun.

Let’s admit it — there’s something more alluring about a world seen through a man’s eyes than a world seen through a woman’s. There’s a delightful illusion of no societal problems, and if we can accept that as the truth, everything seems lighter. Without the film of misogyny coating a series of character relationships, the relationships aren’t threatening or dangerous; we’re not forced to deal with the unpleasantness that we’re trying to escape by watching television. The power of escapist entertainment is often derived from its ability to eliminate oppression. And the easiest way to that is by creating a universe in which the oppressor is sympathetic, funny, and in control of the way that the viewer perceives the narrative.

So unfortunately, I think it’s fair to say that “The Office” is enjoyable because of, rather than in spite of, the way that it treats women. Popularity-wise, “The Office” Sexism Duality is a feature, not a bug. In order to avoid the complicated feelings we have about sexism as the #MeToo movement becomes an essential element of our culture, we turn to media in which sexism is blissfully easy. You can apply this rule to other types of discrimination as well; the comedy of “The Office” also works because of the white man’s “lighthearted” discrimination against black and gay characters. This, I think, raises yet another question: how do we make light entertainment without laughing away the –isms?

I don’t know the answer for sure. But I do think that it’s reasonable to start by identifying the issue and being conscious of it in the work that we create. If you want to include a female character interacting with a male character, try to write the female character from a female perspective and the male character from a male perspective. Male shouldn’t be the default. That said, the viewer always has the power to choose the perspective through which he or she sees a situation, and if that makes the show a little less fun, add in some jokes at the expense of a fictional character. I’m not aiming for perfection here. I’m just looking for an enjoyable new television show to watch that won’t make me feel like a toilet. Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, a new, conscious audience has emerged, allowing us to realize the gender disparities within “The Office” and giving each viewer the choice of whether to separate them from their experience watching the show.

“Just One More Episode”: The Dangers of Binge-Watching

By Anne Isman

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We’ve all done it. Sitting in front of Netflix or our preferred streaming service, we’ve told ourselves this would be the last episode–or that this would be the last one–until we forget when we even started watching. For the few out there who haven’t spent countless hours sitting in front of a TV or computer screen, binge-watching is defined as continuously watching multiple episodes of a show or program in rapid succession. Binge-watching has become so commonplace that people even brag about how quickly they have watched a particular series, or show surprise at the mere thought of watching one episode a week.

While binge-watching is not exclusive to any genre of television, watching ten episodes of a 30-minute sitcom creates a far different experience than sitting through multiple hour-long episodes of a more disturbing or violent series. Netflix shows such as Mindhunter, which follows an FBI agent’s exploration into the minds of sexually disturbed killers, Black Mirror, which consists of plenty of gore, and intense Law and Order: SVU are clear examples of the latter. Despite how weighty these shows’ content is in comparison to light-hearted shows like The Office or Friends, many still binge-watch them.

“I watched Mindhunter in less than 24 hours,” recalled junior Leila Henry. “[But] I don’t remember anything about the show.” Often, watching a series so quickly does not allow the viewer to retain the information depicted but instead rushes the process of entertainment and ultimately, diminishes the significance of each episode. One’s focus may be stronger during the first or second episode one watches, while by the time one gets to the fifth or sixth episode, the episodes will likely start blurring together.

One student who wished to remain anonymous reported that watching Criminal Minds often caused the student’s “perception of strangers [to] change” and made the student “more cautious and anxious.” Despite this,the student continued watching, explaining, “The show is so addicting.”  

Similarly, sophomore Jake Brooks claimed that binge-watching can make him feel “unsafe” at times. After rapidly watching a disturbing show, “it’s all [he] can think about until [he] watches something else.” Even for the most unnerving show, Jake doesn’t refrain from binge-watching: “If all the episodes are available, why not?”

This temptation to watch all that’s available stops us from limiting our consumption of disturbing content. The next episode quickly pops up right after we finish the last, giving us little time to pause and consider taking a break. Yet it’s concerning that one can feel so comfortable when watching several violent episodes of American Horror Story, for instance, in one sitting. Watching graphic content so quickly may numb us to disturbing material that should be difficult to witness, enabling us to watch such shows more easily.

However, despite its popularity, binge-watching is truly the opposite of what entertainment should be. Rather than watching an entire TV series in a week, we should be slowing ourselves down to give us time to digest what we’ve just watched.  Pacing ourselves can give us a better viewing experience, one in which we can actually absorb the content of the show, which is imperative when it comes to a more nuanced and complex series. Unfortunately, our binge-watching suits our fast-paced lives; abstaining from such rapid viewing of our favorite shows will take a lot more effort than it does to sit for hours on end in front of a screen.

Michelangelo at the Met

By Sofia Colborn

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Crowds of people float through the dim exhibit, hungry for a look at the legendary Michelangelo’s work. Sketches, statues, paintings, poems, and architecture plans by Michelangelo and his social circle (students, teachers, associates, and artists influenced by his work) line the walls. People shove past each other to gaze at a silverpoint sketch of detailed muscles. This exhibition at the Met has over 200 pieces, making it the largest collection of Michelangelo’s drawings to be put on public display.

Michelangelo’s work ranged from creative pieces to designs for military fortifications, reflecting the diversity of his talents. Giorgio Vasari, sixteenth century author of Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, called Michelangelo “a unique sculptor, supreme painter, and most excellent architect; in fact, of architecture a true master.”

At a very young age, Michelangelo became the apprentice of Domenico Ghirlandaio, which influenced his work. You can see aspects of Ghirlandaio in Michelangelo’s detailed architecture and individualistic portraits.

Michelangelo had a knack for symmetry and design, as well as imagination and artistic skill. His interest in anatomy further helped his art by enhancing his depiction of muscles; he knew the human body well, which allowed him to draw accurate and detailed depictions of it. Even in the quickest and simplest sketches, you can see this knowledge show through. That’s because Michelangelo loved the detail of human form; one of his exhibited pieces in the Met shows dozens of people, and each has a unique pose and facial expression. Michelangelo’s focus on muscles and the torso make his art look three-dimensional.

Seeing Michelangelo’s work in person is mind-blowing. When you lean forward to look at the small pencil marks, you can see the precision, planning, and pressure he put into each line. The cross-hatching, shading, curves, and smudges all come together in a beautiful design to create his images. He also effectively utilized many different mediums including red and black charcoal, metalpoint, chalk, ink, egg tempera, and fresco. Interestingly enough, Michelangelo tended to reuse paper since it was expensive and as a result, poems in his beautiful script overlap with column designs.

Head up to the Met on 5th Avenue and East 82nd Street to see the work of Michelangelo (especially “Il Divino” or “the divine one”) before February 12th to be amazed and inspired!

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Queerness as a Character Trope: A Criticism of the “Plot Twist: I’m Gay!” Trend in YA Literature

By Rowana Miller

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As diversity becomes more and more of a priority in YA fiction, I’ve been delighted to witness the emergence of a new generation of gay characters in the books I read. There are queer protagonists, parents, teachers, mentors, and friends. And that’s exactly how it should be — queer characters interspersed with straight ones, just like in real life.

However, I’ve also noticed that some contemporary YA authors are incorporating queerness into their writing in a less realistic way, forming a trend that I’ll call “plot twist: I’m gay!” The protagonist, who the reader has been led to believe is straight, is hiding a Frightening Secret. We don’t get even a hint of what that secret is; all we know is that the character occasionally thinks, “Oh no. I really hope my Frightening Secret doesn’t get out!” Then, when the action gets a bit slow during the second half of the novel, something happens so that the secret is revealed — he’s gay! — which forces the action to pick back up again.

In this context, queerness is used as a plot device rather than as a feature of the character’s identity. This tactic is damaging in a few ways. Most obviously, it’s not accurate. A character’s queerness can’t be considered just another Frightening Secret because it’s so deeply woven into daily life. If a character is in touch with her queerness to the extent of dating someone of the same sex, she is unlikely to be suppressing her identity so much that she never thinks about it. As the reader, we are invited into the character’s mindset; if the character is a guy who considers girls pretty but never thinks about another guy’s attractiveness, we’re going to be blindsided by a later revelation that the character is gay.

That confusion is another reason why “plot twist: I’m gay!” doesn’t work. When an unexpecting reader encounters a certain character development that makes the full story click into place, it’s a great feeling. It’s as if the author whipped the rug out from under us but then we fell onto a very comfortable mattress. Unfortunately, “plot twist: I’m gay!” doesn’t work like that. The abrupt reveal of a straight-seeming character’s queerness makes less sense, not more, and it lowers the quality of one’s experience reading the book.

Rather than organic character development, this random introduction of queerness seems like it gets added into a second or third draft–maybe after the editor suggests that the author incorporate more diverse identities. It’s like when we only know a character is Hispanic because his mother calls him “mi hijo” or when an Indian character wears a bindi for a few pages and then takes it off and we never see any other element of her culture. This is most likely an honest mistake. Many authors are struggling to incorporate queerness without making it the center of attention in their novels. But that’s where these authors are falling off the tightrope. They can’t decide whether or not to treat queerness casually or dramatically, and in trying to do both, they achieve neither.

And that’s really why the “plot twist: I’m gay!” trope doesn’t work: it’s insulting. It implies that queerness is something that can be inserted into a novel to liven it up when it’s getting dull or to pump up the diversity factor, rather than an element of identity that intersects with other character traits to create a more complex individual with a unique worldview. The white male protagonist will have a different understanding of privilege if he’s bisexual. He can definitely still have sexist or racist beliefs, but queer sexism has a different flavor of entitlement than straight sexism. The lesbian who has a difficult relationship with her parents will often have a different kind of relationship with them than a straight character; the lesbian wonders if her parents are rejecting her for what she can’t control about herself, whereas the straight girl knows that her parents are rejecting her for the decisions that she makes. These are subtle differences, maybe, but they’re important ones. It’s not enough for a character to be queer. A character needs to be queer in a way that reflects queer readers’ experiences with queerness, and reducing a gay identity to a plot device is unrealistic to the point of becoming cheap.

However, I still think that this trope has the potential to go somewhere positive. Some queer people really do suppress their queerness so deeply that they try their hardest not to think about it, and may even succeed in hiding it from themselves. But if a character is in this stage for the first two-thirds of the novel, the end goal should probably be self-acceptance rather than becoming a gay icon or staging a public coming-out. People’s mindsets don’t tend to develop at this rapid pace in the real world. Likewise, if the end goal of a novel is that the character comes out, the character can begin her journey with denial but should then undergo a gradual and internal transition into self-acceptance as the novel progresses. The key here is that the character’s queerness evolves not as the plot develops, but as the character develops.

Read more from Rowana Miller on YA literature here: https://www.rowanamiller.com/blog

Defining Humanity: A Review of “Black Mirror” Season Four

By Amanda Fuchs

Disclosure: There will be spoiler alerts!

From its humble beginnings in December of 2011, Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror” has grown into a hot topic of conversation; for many, the show offers a harsh look at what reality could become in our unprecedented age of technology. Released this past month, season four of Black Mirror is comprised of 6 new episodes with each ranging from 40 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes, following a different storyline and characters. Although each episode is unique in its own right, all six episodes play off the effects of technology on larger society–cautionary tales that we must take seriously before it is too late.

Two episodes from the season that demonstrate this theme are “ArkAngel” and “Hang the DJ.” Directed by Jodie Foster, the second episode of the season, ArkAngel, explores the very real possibility of tracking our children’s every movement using a microchip. Through Marie, a single mother looking to protect her daughter, Sarah, the system “ArkAngel” is introduced to the audience. Presented as the solution to every parent’s worst fears, the technology provides parents with a comprehensive overview of their child’s life; metrics such as health, heart rate, distress, and point of view are all available to the child’s caretaker, and can be closely monitored on the caretaker’s respective device. Yet parents can be much more than passive viewers. If they see something inappropriate or scarring in their child’s point of view, parents can opt to blur it from their child’s vision, morphing the image into a jumble of shapes.

The fourth episode, “Hang the DJ,” follows two characters living in a world in which dating is completely controlled by one system that ultimately finds everyone their perfect match. After being paired up for a date, Frank and Amy immediately hit it off. But according to the system that matched them up, they only have 5 hours until their time together expire and they are passed onto another relationship. Everyone trusts the system without question. However, when Frank is paired up with a woman he hates for one year and Amy spends 9 months in a dull, passionless relationship, the two begin to question the legitimacy of the service.

What do these two stories have in common? Essentially, both “ArkAngel and Hang the DJ” reveal the consequences attached to the technological advancements the future could hold. While in theory a tracking system for one’s child or a dating service with 99.8% accuracy may seem irresistible, there is danger in altering natural human behavior this way. Interestingly enough, both episodes have one character who expresses this sentiment: “I don’t know what people did before this system.” The statement evokes a sense of depersonalization; fear, sadness, and heartbreak are just as essential to human emotion as happiness, excitement, and comfort. When technology is used to suppress these feelings, life becomes meaningless.

Really, the technology depicted in “Black Mirror” may not be as far away as it seems. It is important that we take the show’s messages seriously and educate ourselves about the dangers of rapid technological advancement before we lose what it means to be human.

About Time: Confronting Decades of Sexual Assault in Hollywood

By Sophie Steinberg

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In the last few weeks, the sexual assault epidemic in Hollywood has shaken the country, but should you be surprised? The entertainment business, with its recent onslaught of career-ruining sexual harassment and assault allegations, seems to fit into the increasingly alt-right atmosphere of America. In the past year, movies and TV haven’t had the privilege of being apolitical, as they incorporate Trump’s regime into storylines and messages. Now, Harvey Weinstein and others are about to get the same treatment. While liberals have started to pull back the “political curtain” from our dark-times government, Hollywood has tried to do the same.

Many journalists and celebrities had heard stories of assault for decades, but only began reporting on them when Trump entered the West Wing. Accusations of assault by Trump and his open sexism towards women have been both troubling and empowering for his presidency. His vulgar behavior has gone without consequence, as he holds arguably the most powerful position in the world, and when liberal Hollywood wasn’t able to take him down, they sought justice in other areas. In early fall, when Ronan Farrow released the New Yorker article naming Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator, the floodgates of Sunset Boulevard were opened. Victims of sexual harassment, assault, and groping in the entertainment industry have begun to speak up. Empowered by the overwhelming evidence, men and women alike feel comfortable sharing their own stories and realizing that they’re not alone.

Today the names Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, and Kevin Spacey are synonymous with the term “sexual misconduct.” In the last few months, reporting on sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood has increased exponentially. Over 34 men in Hollywood have been accused of sexual misconduct–all experiencing deserved fallout and for some, police investigations. Other offenders include Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Ed Westwick, and Roy Price. The media has given a platform to victims and finally released incriminating evidence that had been swept under the rug for years.

Actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Angelina Jolie have shared their own experiences with Weinstein. Many give detailed accounts of being violently raped and harassed by Weinstein as young actors, as well the producer making numerous unwanted sexual advances. Now, most of Hollywood looks at Weinstein with disgust as actors join forces to condemn his actions. Weinstein has been removed from the Academy and has lost multiple projects as a result of his behavior. Similarly, Kevin Spacey, who actor Anthony Rapp accused of making a sexual advance towards him at age 14, has been removed from upcoming movies and had his Netflix show, “House of Cards,” suspended.

With the sudden outpour of revelations from our stars, the media and public alike are forced to reconcile the horrifying actions of formerly beloved celebrities. For many, the news stories and accounts are surreal and burdensome. Movies are forms of escapism, creating worlds where people can remove themselves from everyday life. Today, the business is anything but an escape. The dark period of the Trump Administration is almost too Hollywood–with our president being straight out of 1984 and foreign leaders resembling Marvel superhero villains. Now, movies starring Kevin Spacey or comedy done by Louis C.K. are difficult to watch, considering the wrongdoings of their stars.

Famed screenwriter Anthony Burgess once said, “It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen.” Until recently, victim-shaming and the stigma around discussing harassment in the workplace were absent from the news. The harsh reality of assault in Hollywood has forced the nation to confront the troubling topic of sexual harassment. No longer dismissed by fellow actors or executives, the survival stories of both women and men in Hollywood are finally being heard.

In the age of the Trump Administration, Hollywood has pursued justice by blacklisting sexual predators, but the concept of assault is not new. Assault is pervasive–even in the White House! Some stories of harassment and misconduct date back decades. Gwyneth Paltrow described her experiences being sexually harassed as a 22-year-old. Rose McGowan has spoken out about Hollywood assault for years, although until now, she had been largely silenced. Her feminist views and blunt perspective of Hollywood was raw and scary to both the media and the public. It took not just an epidemic for people to believe her, but a presidential administration. Our current day-to-day politics have galvanized women and the entertainment industry to take action and hold powerful predators accountable.

Social media has also contributed to the deluge of sexual misconduct stories. Celebrities such as Uma Thurman took to Instagram to express their disgust with the scenario. She wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving, “Except you Harvey, and all your wicked conspirators.” Furthermore, many survivors of sexual assault are using #MeToo to share their stories. Actress Alyssa Milano urged women to use the hashtag when expressing their trauma, as the ability to join an online community of survivors has created a new sense of safety.

Hollywood has had to re-evaluate its standards as women are finally allowed to speak up. Now, with its ugliest side being exposed, Hollywood has even more work to do. Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men are only starting to be held accountable for their actions, but that cannot compensate for what survivors of their violative behavior have experienced. Survivors in Hollywood and around the world need to feel heard, comforted, and understood by the public. The ability to share shouldn’t be a privilege–it should be a right. At a time of national political turmoil and pervasive sexism, there is a silver lining: we won’t let the term “sexual misconduct” be taken lightly, as justice will be served for those who used to define it.

Trendy and Tasty: A Review of the Momofuko Ssäm Bar

By Phoebe Kamber

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Growing up in New York City, I am constantly exposed to amazing theater, dance, music, museums, and beautiful scenery. The part of New York City that continues to be the most exciting, however, is the food. With its high culinary standards and cultural diversity, the city’s food scene is constantly being improved with ideas for new, innovative restaurants. Even though I live just a 20-minute subway ride away from some of the trendiest of these restaurants, I find it nearly impossible as a high school student with a coffee addiction and no job to afford more than my local bagel store — unless, of course, my parents are willing to pay.

That is why when my Mom asked me where to go for my Dad’s birthday dinner, I wasted no time telling her: “MOMOFUKU!” When she told me the next week that this was, indeed, where we were going to celebrate, a smile alone didn’t satisfy my excitement. I looked up their menu so that I could see pictures of the delicious meals they serve and plan my order. Having voiced my intense craving for the scrumptious, steamy noodles that popped up on the restaurant’s site, you can imagine my disappointment when my Mom pointed over my shoulder and said, “Not that one. That one.” I clicked nervously on the spot where she pointed. The link brought me to a completely different looking Momofuku restaurant. This one was not a Milk Bar with the delicious birthday cake and “crack pie” that gets endless recognition on Instagram food accounts, nor was it the Noodle Bar with their “melt-in-your-mouth” fatty noodles and “heavenly” dumplings. This was the Ssäm Bar whose menu consisted mainly of fish with names that were unidentifiable to both me and my sister.

Let me start by saying that the food at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, while expensive, was the inventive, high-quality food that you deserve if you spend that much. The restaurant paired things like a ham vinaigrette with roasted cauliflower, spiced fish with a tangy porridge, and sweet apricots with foie gras. While these may sound intimidating, complicated and maybe even unappetizing, you will be glad you gave the dinner a chance as soon as the sweet aroma reaches your nose and you dare to try a cheese whose name you can’t even pronounce.

One of my favorite dishes from the night was grilled corn on the cob with ricotta cheese and squid ink. This plate came out with mini pieces of grilled corn that were somehow kept on the cob so that you could get the perfect bite of corn mixed with the dips, while still enjoying it as a finger food with all the flavors out of cob. Also important to mention is the impeccable service that my family received from the staff. Most waiters would find it hard to keep up with such a crowded restaurant and a table that keeps emptying the huge bottle of tap water in front of them, but not those at Momofuku. These waiters were constantly refilling my glass before it was even empty, and new waiters never hesitated to reach over and clear out empty plates—signaling to our main waiter to wipe the table and bring our next course.

While I realize that many cannot afford to eat this trendy food often, I urge my fellow New Yorkers to take advantage of the amazing cuisine the city has to offer as frequently as possible, even if that means skipping the daily coffee and saving that $2.75 (it adds up to more than we realize). Keep in mind that taking full advantage means that you experiment and are willing to try food, even if it seems gross at first, that you have never heard or seen before. You never know when you’re going to find a new favorite place.

Time To Pull the Plug: Media is Changing, But Is It For the Better?

By Amanda Fuchs

Ask any high school student today what a VHS tape is and they may not have the answer. Gone are the days of walkmans, cassette tapes, and TVs with only six channels. As young adults in 2017, we have been exposed to eleven generations of iPhones, the development of virtual reality technology, and the rapid growth of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Although comparatively, YouTube may seem like a less impressive development, its humble beginnings in 2005 gave way to an entirely new world of media — one that Russia took advantage of throughout the 2016 Presidential Election.

In attempting to understand how and why teenagers consume media differently, I turned to some of my friends and peers at Beacon to get their take on the matter. As a high school student, I constantly debate doing work or allowing Netflix to seamlessly begin a new episode of “The Office” — unsurprisingly, I am not alone here.

“I tend to watch Netflix for long durations of time instead of doing more productive activities, [like] homework for instance,” remarked Lauren Hay, a junior at Beacon. “As we are exposed to more forms of technology, we become more and more intrigued by what it offers.” This can diminish the appeal of seemingly more mundane activities like reading a book or writing an essay, and not just for high school students.

When asking my 13-year-old sister, an 8th grade student, how YouTube and other platforms affect her concentration on other activities, her answer was a no-brainer: “I will spend hours watching video after video instead of doing what I have to do,” she confided. Her story, like Lauren’s, exemplifies how easy a distraction media can become. 

The effects of this phenomenon are visible on a greater scale. According to The New York Times, YouTube is “the world’s most-visited video site,” so it was unsurprising that RT, a government-controlled Russian news channel, began using the service a few years back. The New York Times reports that in 2013, “RT became the first news organization to surpass one billion views on YouTube.” On the surface, the channel seemed incapable of threatening U.S. interests; the content posted was simply news, available for anyone who chose to watch. Underneath this, however, was something much darker — an attempt to swing the 2016 Presidential Election in favor of Donald Trump. As November 8th, 2016 grew closer, RT featured numerous stories that negatively portrayed Hillary Clinton – listed by The New York Times to include “claims of corruption…ties to Islamic extremism, frequent coverage of emails stolen by Russian operatives…and accusations that she was in poor physical and mental health.” As of today, RT has 2,229,262 subscribers. That’s a lot of influence!

It seems obvious that something needs to be done to prevent this, but what? Of course, YouTube videos need to follow the YouTube Community Guidelines, enforcing censorship against “nudity, copyright violations and promoting violence against a group based on race or religion.” Yet this doesn’t cover the removal of propaganda, despite the incredible ramifications it may have. Chris Dale, a spokesperson for YouTube, says that the company strives to carry “a wide variety of news channels” and represent “an array of viewpoints across the political spectrum.” This may be important, but at what point does enabling the publication of polarizing and polarized material go too far?

Ultimately, YouTube is an incredible tool, one that brings people together, starts movements, and spurs global change. However, nothing is ever perfect, and YouTube is no exception. Through talking with Beacon students and others who, like me, feel changed by the accessibility of media, as well as looking at YouTube’s ties to Russia, it seems as though the media giant may be inciting more bad than good. Although we may never know exactly how much weight RT’s videos had in our election, it is important to look at this event as a cautionary tale, so that we can prevent something like this from occurring again.

A Perfectly Imperfect Teenager: A Review of Lady Bird

By Anne Isman

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“I hate California. I want to go to the East Coast. I want to go where culture is like New York,” declares Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by actress Saoirse Ronan, as she drives with her mother following an onslaught of college tours. Lady Bird is a restless high school senior who dreams of escaping the confines of her Catholic School in Sacramento. As the film progresses, we witness Lady Bird conclude her high school years, experiencing ups-and-downs in her various relationships—all against the backdrop of her strained but meaningful bond with her mother, who is played by actress Laurie Metcalf. On the surface, Lady Bird may seem like another coming-of-age film, yet what makes Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut so striking is that the title character, Lady Bird, is flawed—just like any one of us.

Gerwig is no stranger to an honest portrayal of women in film, as she has played female characters struggling to maintain their identity in the face of adversity in both Frances Ha and 20th Century Women. Lady Bird is no exception, especially considering that Gerwig is also the film’s writer and, like Lady Bird, was raised in Sacramento, making the film almost autobiographical. However, Gerwig has stated that while she drew on aspects of her own life in the film’s creation, Lady Bird and her peers, played by actors Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, and Beanie Feldstein, are fictional characters.

One reason Lady Bird resonates so deeply with a teenage audience is its honest depiction of young adult relationships, specifically that between Lady Bird and her closest friend, Julie. Although their friendship isn’t perfect, the two remain united in their desire to fit in while retaining some semblance of their individuality. They don’t necessarily want to be popular or wealthy, unlike many of their classmates, but they wouldn’t mind more male attention and often light-heartedly converse about their romantic endeavors—or lack thereof. Relationships like this one are tested throughout the film, particularly when it comes to characters’ struggles with sexuality and Lady Bird’s embarrassment about her economic situation—she refers to her home as being “on the wrong side of the tracks” both literally and figuratively.  Lady Bird also encounters awkward situations with boyfriends, again demonstrating Gerwig’s honest—but never too serious—portrayal of sex.  

Meanwhile, no matter who Lady Bird is trying to impress, rebel against, or become closer to, she never comes off as an unrealistic or overwritten character. Almost any teenager who watches Gerwig’s film can find a part of themselves in Lady Bird’s character and the struggles Lady Bird faces, without feeling patronized or excessively pandered to by the film. In other words, Lady Bird is must-see.

Lady Bird (A24)

Director: Greta Gerwig  Rating: R

Writer: Greta Gerwig     Running Time: 1h 33 mins

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein

Stranger Trends: “Stranger Things” Brought 80s Fashion Back

By Sofia Colborn

Isn’t fashion just “totally tubular”? In the past year or so, we’ve born witness to the so-called “now memories” of popular eighties based television shows and fashion trends—we’ve seen it in our schools, on social media, and even in Vogue. This may have something to do with the popularity of Stranger Things, the Netflix Original Series by the Duffer Brothers. In the hallways of Beacon and on runways, eighties trends have begun to crop up—such as the vintage mom jeans that Barb displayed in the show’s first episode. Jean jackets, Vans, Converse, and classic multicolor-striped T-shirts are now everyday fashion. Sometimes, it really feels like we’ve gone back in time!

Many teen and young adult clothing stores, such as Urban Outfitters, Brandy Melville, and Forever 21 are jumping on the bandwagon and bringing back the eighties, sometimes with a modern twist. In Bella Hadid’s new ad for Nike that was featured in Vogue, the eighties are very prominent: the camera quality reflects that of an eighties home video, and she wears a variety of  turtlenecks, as well as a silver shirt. We11 Done, a new company that launched in Seoul Fashion Week, channels the eighties, too, with corduroy and velvet, and plaid and shearling.

If you want to get in on the fun, try thrift shopping while you channel your inner El, Mike, or Steve (note: when channeling Steve, hairspray is a must)! If you can’t thrift, try Topshop, Urban Outfitters, H&M, and other trendy teen stores. The trick is keeping your eyes open for stripes, denim, rugby shirts, and classic white sneakers. There’s an eighties trend for everyone: if you like black, try “Bitchin’” Eleven. Sleek back your hair, grab some black eyeshadow, and throw on an oversized suit top with a beat up T-shirt—you’re ready to go! You can also screenshot outfits you see and like online, then raid your family’s old clothes and head to a Salvation Army, Buffalo Exchange, or a local yard sale with a fashion-forward friend.

The costume designers for Stranger Things really dug deep. They uncovered small yet meaningful trends that put the show together. In one instance, director Andrew Stanton mentioned that the costume designers had Billy wearing a sleeveless shirt. At first, the actor wanted Billy to be shirtless but when they tried the scenes with the shirt, Stanton knew it was right. According to The New York Times, Stanton explained, “I heard about four guys behind I camera go, ‘Oh man, I totally had that shirt.’ I was like ‘O.K., we’re keeping it.’” The costumes are so accurate that when you’re watching Stranger Things, it doesn’t feel like 2017 anymore.  

Watch out for platform shoes and aviator glasses popping up around you—the eighties are calling and their popularity back…
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You can see the similarities in these two outfits: the belt, the statement sleeves,

patterned fabrics, and the uneven seams (Michael Kors).

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Plaid is everywhere. Both Dustin and Nancy wear it to the Snowball Dance, and it’s being walked down the runway by many brands (Lacoste).

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The classic looka cute dress with white shoes and a jacket thrown on top.

But, best of all, short or slicked back hair to pull the look together (We11 Done).

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Stripes and white collars. This is one trend I thought would stay buried…but now, it’s back and longer than ever (Rosie Assoulin).

All for Saturday Night Live: The Time I Waited 17 Hours and Slept On 48th Street in the Pouring Rain

By Amanda Fuchs

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According to Variety Magazine, this past season of SNL, Season 42, accumulated the highest ratings documented since the 1994-95 season, with an increase of 1.9 million viewers between 2015 and 2016 to a total of 10.6 million. While past seasons of Saturday Night Live, during the Obama Administration, failed to make headline news, the buzz surrounding the 2016 election manifested in a year of newfound hope and interest in Studio 8H – a year that made history, to say the least. And I was there to witness it.

I had been a fan of SNL for the entire season, tuning in weekly to see what new political sketch or commercial parody America was in store for. It caught me up on current events, became a focal point of conversation at school, and created controversy on the left and right. It was not until I heard that Melissa McCarthy was hosting, however, that I decided to embark on the journey that would test my natural limits. This may sound dramatic, and before I endured the night on 48th street, I may not have said so. But 17 hours of waiting in line can change a person.

Here’s how it works: Every year, SNL holds a lottery where they give out a select number of tickets to people who send in requests. What’s the problem with this system? Hundreds of thousands of people enter for tickets every year. And your chances? “You’re more likely to get struck by lightning,” said one of the many friends I made on line. Standby, however, gives you much better odds. Come in the afternoon and wait overnight, and you’re in. Sure, there are extenuating circumstances – when Lorde performed and brought every single friend and family member she knew, no one got in. Most of the time, however, around 50 standbys will make it into the recently expanded Studio 8H, which holds around 336 people.

Somehow, I was able to cajole my mother into waiting on line with me. The second school was dismissed, I bolted out of the building and raced over to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, itching to join my mother on line. When I arrived, however, I was shocked by what I saw. From reading blog posts and reviews online, I had concluded that, by arriving at 2pm the day before, we would be around 20th or so in line. When I walked up to the line, however, that was not the case. We were 80th and 81st. “Let’s just leave now,” I remarked to my mother, looking down at the ground. “Are you sure?” she replied. “I talked to the girls in line behind us and they said that they’ve gotten into [the studio] from this far back. I think we should do it.” Maybe it was the idea that I was already there and it would be silly to turn away, or that a small chance was better than none, but I agreed. And the wait began.

At first, it wasn’t so bad. I did some homework, watched videos on my computer, and talked with others around me about why they were crazy enough to wait 17 hours, too. There was a couple from Canada visiting New York City for the first time, another mother and daughter duo who lived nearby and loved the show, and a group of 20 something-year-olds who all knew each other only because they often waited overnight for SNL tickets. I was shocked that they acted as if waiting was no big deal. Only 5 or so hours into the wait, I was already fading.

To be completely honest, a lot of the night is a blur due to sleep deprivation and adrenaline rushes. What I do remember, though, is when the rain started. It was around midnight, and it started drizzling. Okay, this is fine, I told myself, pulling my blanket over my head and leaning back in my lawn chair. Quickly, however, it went from bad to worse.

Within minutes, it was pouring rain, and I found myself frantically stuffing my possessions into my backpack – my computer, my homework, and everything else was about to be drenched in rain. Opening an umbrella, I sat in the cold, teeth chattering, trying to distract myself from how miserable I was. That was the low point of the night – or morning, technically. In a moment of weakness, my mother said “You know, we can still go home if you want.” But the end seemed too close to give up now, so I stuck it out, despite how horrible it was, and trust me, it was bad.

Painstakingly, minute after minute inched by until the clock struck 7am. The time that tickets were distributed by unhappy pages. One by one, we made our way up to the front of the line, listening intently to those who had already received tickets share their decision. See, when you receive your ticket for the show, you have to choose between dress and live. Dress, or dress rehearsal, is taped before the show at around 8:30pm, and they do 3 or so extra sketches that are a little less revised than what ultimately makes it to live. Going into the experience, I was convinced I would pick live. Hearing other people’s numbers, however, began to concern me.

When it was our turn to go up, I chose dress on an impulse decision. It was a part of the process I had not even considered. In hindsight, I’m not sure what I would have done if I could do it again. Either way, we received our tickets, and headed home to sleep.

At 6:30pm, we headed back over 30 Rockefeller Center. Crammed like sardines into the NBC Store, we all waited to hear our fate. They began to call us up in groups, 1-15, 16-25, and so on. We were 48th and 49th (when people choose, around half choose dress and half choose live so your number halves), and finally, we heard that it was our time. It was down to the wire. When they filed us into the studio, the show was about to begin. When I saw my seat, I was even more excited than I was seconds before. I was dead center in the second row of the mezzanine. At that moment, it was all worth it.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the show. Watch it, if you want. What I will say, however, is how life-changing the experience of getting SNL tickets was for me. Reading this article, you may be deterred from waiting to see the show, but if you love SNL, it is so worth it. It may sound cheesy, but nothing can compare to being in the studio as it’s all happening and seeing everything unfold right before your eyes. Looking back on it now, I understand how and why those twenty year-olds I met on line waited so often. No, I will not wait almost every weekend to see the show, but I will be returning this season to see the show again – but I’ll make sure to check the weather beforehand.

Dinner with Eddy Lee: Career Advice from a “Hamilton” Swing

211b3982ae3542b359cff63e46667494_400x400By Mira-Rose Kingsbury Lee

 

The theatre lights of the Richard Rodgers fade to darkness. The buzzing audience quiets as a spotlight appears on the stage. A man, dressed in 18th century garb, strides onto the stage, and begins: “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean…”

In the unlikely event that you don’t recognize it, this is the beginning of “Hamilton” – revolutionary musical, winner of eleven Tony awards and all the praise theatre critics can muster. As the audience erupts into applause, the rest of the revolutionaries join Aaron Burr on stage. Among them is Eddy Lee, the first Asian-American male actor in “Hamilton.” His movements across the stage are uniquely graceful. When I tell him so, he laughs with characteristic modesty. “Oh! Thank you,” he says. “That’s so nice!”

I have the pleasure of having dinner with Eddy between the matinee and the evening show. He’s his typical charismatic self, downplaying his talent with self-deprecating humour and the kindness that he’s known for amongst the cast.

“This guy is so cool,” says James Iglehart, who, despite shining in the role of Lafayette/Jefferson, is better known for his role as the genie in the original Aladdin musical on Broadway.

Eddy plays George Eacker, and is an ensemble swing, meaning he alternates between all six male ensemble parts depending on the night. “It’s a little weird to have a different role to play each night,” Eddy says, “Sometimes I think I’m going to start taking the wrong steps, but it’s worked out pretty well so far!”

No kidding! “Hamilton” is even harder to get a role in than to get a ticket for. So how did Eddy do it?

“Well, I definitely didn’t have your conventional training process! I mean, I started [acting] late in high school- tenth grade, to be exact – and didn’t even start seriously training until four years later, after I graduated college… I just started auditioning, meeting people, going to dance classes, acting classes, and learning anything and everything I could on the jobs I booked.”

It’s simple, but it works! Ask any theater kid at Beacon what the secret is to making a brilliant show and they’ll tell you that it’s hard work.

“I auditioned for [“Hamilton”] thirteen times over two years! Every six months they have an open call that I would always go to. Sometimes I would get called back, sometimes not, but I went to everything I could.”

Hard work indeed.

And what drew Eddy to “Hamilton” in the first place? “The statement of inclusion and diversity, the history of America told by Americans today! The unconventional casting! I mean, this is how I’ve always wanted the theater community to be. It didn’t matter what you were, so long as you could portray a character honestly, and truthfully, and could make people feel – that’s all that mattered,” Eddy explains. “This show means a lot to me on so many levels.”

According to the New York Times, “Hamilton” is embodies a “sense of momentum, of [a] wave that you ride or drown in.” Eddy is a part of that wave.

It’s almost time for him to go back to the theater for the evening performance, but he makes sure to provide one last piece of advice: “Be open to anything! Broadway is great, but there are so many ways to express yourself now that it really depends on what you say and how you want to say it. There is no right or wrong way to navigate this business and you never know what something might lead to. So be open to learning constantly. Be open to broadening your experiences. Be open to being wrong! More often than not, that’s when we learn the most. Acting is a study of life. So experience everything it has to offer!”

I can’t help but notice one thing. As he bounds back to the Richard Rodgers, there’s only one way he’s looking: forward.

Additional Note from the Author:

One of Eddy’s favorite moments in “Hamilton” is when he’s playing Man 3. “During ‘Guns and Ships’, right before Washington’s lyrical segment, one of the ensemble vocal parts barks – literally, ‘woof woof!’ Listen for it! It’ll blow your mind if notice it!”

 

The City Kid’s Guide to NYC: New Brooklyn Hangouts for Teens

By Boo Elliot

  1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden

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BBG has a long history of bringing happiness in the form of exotic (and local) flora. While there isn’t much blooming outside just yet, there are still specialized exhibits in the greenhouses. The Aquatic House, Bonsai Museum, Trail of Plant Evolution, and the Desert, Tropical and Warm Temperate Pavilions are all open and flourishing. It’s a perfect place for a spring visit and conveniently located next to the Brooklyn Museum, which is free to all persons under the age of 19.

  1. The Brooklyn Museum

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The Brooklyn Museum has exhibits both modern and historical. Running through April 2 is Marilyn Minter’s Pretty/Dirty, a part of the Brooklyn Museum’s “Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism” project, a yearlong, ten exhibit project to recognize the 10th anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Her striking photography, mixed media, and paintings explore female sexuality in American culture and critique the commercialization of the female body. This “viewer discretion is advised” exhibit contains a selection of her best work, with videos, provocative photography, erotic paintings, and her explorations in photoshop and manipulation. Pictured above is Minter’s “Smash”.

  1. The Brooklyn Art Library

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Nestled in the hustle and bustle of Williamsburg sits the Brooklyn Art Library, home of the Sketchbook Project. The Sketchbook Project began in Georgia in 2006 as a flagship project from founders Steven Peterman and Shane Zucker. Their company is dedicated to uniting artists from around the globe for collaborative art projects. The Sketchbook Project is a library of notebooks that you can purchase online, fill up, and then mail back to Peterman and Zucker, who add these submissions to the other 35,430 contributor’s sketchbooks on the shelves of the Brooklyn Art Library. There are notebooks from over 135 countries available to the public both in the show space, and an online catalog (for an extra fee). The Sketchbook Project also offers challenges from creative prompts and themes to art exchanges. A link to their digital library can be found below:

https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library

 

 

 

Superfans Unite: A Day at Comic-Con in NYC

By Marco Tewlow

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From October 6th to October 9th of 2016, the annual New York Comic-Con was held in the Javits Center and I was one of many Beacon students lucky enough to be in attendance. I went on the 9th for my second year on the show floor. With endless rows filled with thousands of booths selling anything one could possibly imagine and hordes of people decked out in their best cosplays (costume play) everywhere you looked, this was sure to be one of the best city-wide events of the year. People of all fandoms attend the convention: gamers, anime fans, Trekkies, comic readers, YouTube watchers, and more. Some go with friends, some with family, and others go on their own. All arrive in preparation to buy cool merchandise, meet other fans, and attend events, panels and autograph sessions by celebrities of all types. This year’s Comic-Con promised to bring an exciting, fun, and super geeky time, and I was determined to have a great day.

 

My sister and I share a special love for a television show called “Gravity Falls,” and we jumped at the chance to attend a panel with the show’s creator, Alex Hirsch. We spent the day in full cosplay (my sister taking the role of Wendy, while I took on Ford), leaving at 6 AM to make the line for the panel and not returning home until 5 PM. We went to the panel and the autograph session afterwards. The joy that I experienced when shaking Mr. Hirsch’s hand was unparalleled. After doing so, I found myself walking across the show floor absolutely stupefied, marveling at the massive structures and snapping pictures of the sights. I met up with a friend from Long Island who had arrived at the convention with the hopes of meeting comic book legend, Stan Lee. Unfortunately, our time together ended after he chose to argue with an employee at the Funko stand. The rest of the day was spent in awe of the sights or in some form of line.

Freshman Oliver Buckley gives another perspective on attending the convention, having gone on the 6th. He went straight after school accompanied by three close friends. He has a passion for gaming of all kinds, so when given the opportunity to geek out with hundreds of others, he had to go. At the convention, he roamed the show floor, meeting many different people, exploring the rows of video game merchandise, and trying out a new energy drink, G Fuel, which he seems to be fond of. As it was a school day, he was only able to spend around three hours on the Show Floor. Nevertheless, his time was well spent, as he left with a new card game, a doll from the daily web comic “Cyanide and Happiness” that had been autographed by the team behind the comic, and many great memories.

Oliver loved the amount of gaming events and memorabilia, but despite the great time spent on the Show Floor, felt like there was an over-saturation of comics. He also feels that tickets should have been sold more selectively so that only true pop culture fans could attend. It is true that between overcrowding and non-fans attending the show, the ticketing process has become a problem. But herein lies the greatest problem with the convention. Tickets were sold online using a “fan verification” system. It was meant to make tickets only available to “true fans,” in the website’s words, but this convoluted new process just made them harder to acquire for convention goers and easier to acquire for scalpers. It became so bad that some potential attendees had no idea how to buy passes, and scalpers were selling them on eBay at nearly triple the original prices. A different ticketing system is clearly in order.

Oliver also complained about the lines, using several profanities to describe his utter distaste towards the wait for his convention pass at Will Call. I seriously agree. Within the 10 hours I spent at Comic-Con on that fateful Sunday, slightly less than half were on line. The biggest offense was the 40 minutes I spent waiting for bad Chinese food in the food court. And the signage didn’t make things any easier, as some were confused about where to line up, incidentally causing non-lines to unknown events to appear inside and outside the convention center. In some cases, there was an absence of directions or event times altogether.

But one final question remains: Was all this too overbearing and detractive towards the overall feeling of the convention? Oliver would argue no, admiring the vibe there and answering questions and recalling experiences with a smile on his face, even laughing in reference to the more annoying or tedious parts of the experience (in particular, the abundance of “Suicide Squad” Harley Quinn and Joker cosplays). I would, once again, have to agree. For every shortcoming, there was a smiling face who wanted to take a picture with you, or talk about the new Pokémon game, or perhaps tell bad jokes about demonic triangles, raccoons with pistols, and every bad choice George Lucas has ever made. Nothing can go perfect, especially surrounding the largest convention in the world, and all things considered, the staffers and presenters did an incredible job at making a judgment-free, safe, and fun environment for people of all races, religions, genders, and sexualities to just geek out and have a great time. We both agreed that New York Comic-Con was an unforgettable experience and I, for one, cannot wait to (at least try) to attend next year.

New York Comic-Con is held on October 5 – 8, 2017 at the Javits Center. Convention passes will go on sale at a date and time yet to be determined.

The Force Awakens: A Questionable Addition to a Fantastic Saga

By Lucie Swenson

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Like many other families, my parents, my brother and I set out to watch the entire Star Wars saga together before seeing the latest installment, which came out in December of last year. Re-watching the movies allowed me to appreciate them more and I found that a lot of the material felt relevant in my own life.      

Certainly, some people would like to live in a galaxy far away from the monotony of life on Earth. When people are upset with one another, it would be nice to take out a lightsaber and destroy everything around them, just as we see the villainous Kylo-Ren do in The Force Awakens. Yet in reality, the closest we can get to such an other-worldly experience is watching these films.

The new Star Wars space drama earned more than $1 billion in just a few weeks, proving just how successful these classic movies still are. Granted, old stars reappear in The Force Awakens, and they create a lot of the hype around the movie. But the new director, J.J. Abrams introduces a diverse group of new characters, all of whom are interesting and imperfect. For me, the individuality of these characters is where the true success of the Stars Wars movies lies. It’s too early to know the fate of these characters, as The Force Awakens is the first of a new trilogy, but the sight of the characters Finn and Rey each holding a lightsaber is among the most exciting moments in a Hollywood film this year.

Moreover, in The Force Awakens, Abrams decided to cast Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley—a Latino man, an African American man, and a woman—in leading roles. Abrams embraces real-life diversity, and the movie is better as a result.

In the 2002 film Attack of the Clones, the character Anakin Skywalker is shown getting his hand cut off and replaced with a robotic one, just as his son Luke had onscreen 22 years prior in The Empire Strikes Back. Perhaps, the hand is symbolic, although I see it as running out of new ideas. J.J. Abrams has been known to replicate old story plots instead of creating new ones, as can be seen in his brand new Star Wars blockbuster.

For example, it should be a huge revelation that the main villain of this film is directly related to two of the main characters, but this is not nearly as jaw-dropping as learning that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. There is also a massive spherical weapon that’s used to destroy a planet in this movie, as was the case in Episodes 4 and 5. The writing has never been a strong suit in Star Wars, so I didn’t have high expectations for this new film. The recreation of big moments from the original series, I believe, is over-used, and this was one of the film’s greatness weaknesses.

Nevertheless, this historical film saga still feels young When you think about it, Star Wars has been a great example of new and exciting trends in the capabilities of cinematic artists. This new film shows us both onscreen and off that while there is still some greatness in old legends, there is so much more to learn from new voices. Regardless of a few quirks, this movie is a must-see. So be sure to see The Force Awakens, and may the force be with you.