Ugly Stepsisters

JAN / FEB 3017: BY SCARLETT GRANT

Let’s be honest, Cinderella wouldn’t be the story that it is without her Stepsisters. In fact, the characters of the Stepsisters are as old as the story itself. The oldest variation of Cinderella is the Chinese Ye Xian. The Stepsisters in this story are actually just one half-sister called Jun-li, unlike Ye Xian, Jun-li is ugly and lazy. Eventually, Jun-li and her mother, Jin, meet their end after the warlord that Ye Xian marries banishes them and they are killed by a rain of stones. Continue reading Ugly Stepsisters

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The Golden Duo: Ron & Hermione

JAN / FEB 2017: BY ELORA SHORE

Harry Potter has been, and continues to be, a part of our childhood. We identify with the characters, their hurts, troubles, intense friendships, and humor. The things they do for each other are what we hope we’d be able to do for our friends. Ron and Hermione are iconic characters that perfectly encapsulate the type of friends we’re closest to being—or feel, and hope, that we are. The one that’s always helping, or standing up for a friend, and often enough, the one that looks like a fool. The foolish champion; the guardian angel. Continue reading The Golden Duo: Ron & Hermione

Prince Without Fear or Reproach

JAN / FEB 2017: BY MARIANA KAPLUN

“Sire? Do you…like yourself?”

“What’s not to like?”

A princess, who is prepared to be wed with beautiful prince, is sent away to New York by an evil queen, where she falls in love with a lawyer.

We all know this story of the wonderful Disney movie Enchanted, but what do we know about the prince? Yes, you heard right, the Prince… who was supposed to marry Giselle, ordained to her by fate. This hero is Prince Edward. Let’s get to know him better.

“Nathaniel likes the way I leap? <…> I’m handsome even when I sleep!”

Edward is a prince in Andalasia and the stepson of former Queen Narissa. He is “very pure, very simple-minded and naive, but innocently narcissistic.” Edward is charming and handsome, athletic, yet goodhearted. He ends up confused with the world of New York once entering it. “Ha-ha-ha! You’ve met your match, you foul bellowing beast!” (Prince Edward, as he stabs a city bus) or “Tell me, magic mirror, what is this awful place? Why is everything so… difficult? Will I ever find my heart’s duet?” (Prince Edward to the television) or “It appears this odd little box controls the magic mirror!” (Prince Edward, upon discovering the television remote). Yes, he is a little obsessed with mirrors. Coincidence?

 

In Andalasia and the real world, Edward is a large-built, extremely handsome young man with prominent cheekbones and jaw. He has brown hair and blue eyes. Edward is usually dressed in an elaborate royal uniform, with cape and sword, as befitting a Prince. He is notable for his strong singing voice and having an enthusiastic, larger-than-life manner. I would say he is too cheerful for others. Problem? Not for Edward.

 

“Well, this has been a splendid date! Shall we go? <…> Why, back to Andalasia, of course! To be married, to live happily ever after, forever and ever!”

 

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Our hero strongly believes in instant love (and shouting about it on every street corner). He hopes he and the beautiful Giselle can be together forever (and ever, and ever, and ever). So he tries to find her in a new world for him: New York. “Fear not, Giselle, I will rescue you!”. “What say you, sir? Don’t try my patience! <…> I seek a beautiful girl, my one coquette…the answer to my love’s duet.” (Prince Edward to Arty). And, yes, he really tries to rescue her, because he is determined to marry the woman he loves. But stop! Is it really true? Does Edward really love Giselle or does it just seem like love to him? The fact is Edward just wants to marry someone he loves and who loves him! But he doesn’t really know who is his true love. A little sad for the Prince, isn’t it?

 

When Robert suggested a true love’s kiss would reawaken Giselle from her eternal dream, Edward quickly saved face by claiming he knew that. He leaned in and lightly kissed Giselle, but when she did not stir, tried kissing her again repeatedly, harder and harder (a true prince, really). Just as he was about to panic, a revelation dawned on him. He urged Robert, who he had correctly guessed was now the one meant for Giselle, to kiss her. As Edward stood aside and watched, Robert tenderly kissed Giselle, and she awoke. As the crowd applauded, Edward smiled in joy. Edward is very compassionate for Giselle even when he understands that she is not his “heart’s duet.”  He cared for her so much, he was willing to let another man kiss her in order to save her life. Ah, how romantic and noble!

 

“Why so sad, beautiful lady? <…> It’s a perfect fit.”

But Edward is true prince and he must have his princess. Edward is a warm and polite person, even to people he doesn’t know. He tries to be heroic and likable, but can come across as pompous. Later, Edward came across a despondent Nancy Tremaine studying a slipper left behind by Giselle. He comforted her, and even placed the slipper on Nancy’s foot. When it was revealed to be a perfect fit, the two instantly fell in love (well, finally). Having already happily accepted the fact that Giselle loved Robert, Edward was now enraptured with Nancy, and so the two returned to Andalasia, where they started to live happily ever after.

 

Our hero is handsome (yes!), brave (maybe too much), passionate (very much) and kind (very, very much). We have never known such a true and wonderful prince. I will rescue you! Yes, let’s go!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianna Kaplun was born in Moscow. She is a philologist specializing in Ancient Russian drama and theatre. She’s also a film and television critic by calling and librarian by profession. You can find her essays on her Facebook page and on Lumiere. She also blogs in English and Russian.

Valentine Wiggin in Ender’s Game: Taking over the world via the internet

JAN / FEB 2017: BY VICTORIA WILLIAMS

If you’re looking for a female character who is extremely intelligent, who sets that intelligence against very unique challenges, and who emotionally invests deeply in her loved ones, you can’t do better than Valentine Wiggin.

However, you might not choose her for an impressive character full of charisma and charm. Valentine is neither a beautiful heartthrob, nor an influential matron of her community. She is a child. (“They have a word for people our age,” she reminds her older brother Peter. “They call us children and treat us like mice.”) Valentine does not come into view as an overt leader. She comes as a sister. Her contribution and influence won’t make her name famous; she works in the background. But when we see Valentine’s heart and thought life, we find her remarkable.

That thought life was viewed up close when Peter and Valentine made it their goal to save the world from its own insanity. Peter foresaw one likely future coming: war devastating continents, a plunge into poverty, and the entrenched chaos of nations emptied of legitimate leadership. But he had a solution: He and his sister would turn the world aside from this course before it was too late. Hiding their youthful identities behind the online personae of “Locke” and “Demosthenes,” Peter and Valentine would participate in political discussions in the most prestigious online forums. But to get there, they would need attention. So they “stirred up the pot,” with provocative debate tactics and abrasive dialogue. They crystallized existing polarizations, gained readers, and became the de-facto leaders of two newly-formed factions. Then, “Locke” and “Demosthenes” could use their followings to influence world policy on a massive scale.

But the risks were immense: who is sufficient for such things? Thus, Peter’s first battle was to convince Valentine to take those risks. But why should she help him? If the scheme could succeed, Valentine doesn’t want so much power to land in Peter’s hands. And she has a simple reason for this: she knows him. Peter is a sociopath. He has threatened Val, threatened Ender, and threatened Valentine with harm to Ender. And this is how it has been for their whole lives. But in such a battle, both sides will grow in skill; over the years, Valentine has become the person whom Peter constantly wants to test his ideas against. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses intimately. They can refine each other’s ideas, plans, and theories, “as iron sharpens iron.”

These conflicts play out on the “home front” while the youngest and most high-profile sibling, Ender, is far away in a space station orbiting earth. He has been sent for training in a special Battle School filled with children who are gifted. Their future mission? To fight an incomprehensible and innumerable foe, a feared alien race with an insectoid appearance and obscure ways. But here too, there is an enemy much nearer at hand. Ender’s life is set among the vicious conflicts that rage among the children at Battle School – and the deeper conflict in which the children are pawns of the adults who make the official decisions.

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The machinations of those official decision-makers don’t end at Battle School, though. Their work to turn the brilliant, capable Ender into a fine-tuned machine for leading armies in an epic space battle works almost perfectly. Until one thing that they can’t fix goes wrong. In that moment, Valentine’s love for him is profoundly influential — it stands alone as the reason for Ender to take up an enormous weight of responsibility after he’d decided to give up on it all. And her love is so powerful because of the ways it’s been unconditional: “….Valentine, the person who loved him before he ever played a [combat practice] game, who loved him whether there was a bugger war or not…” But even that love can disappoint sometimes.

Valentine’s failures to love her brother disappoint her, too. When she started thinking of Ender less often because he was distant and unreachable, she felt guilty. If love is about doing good to the one loved, it looked as though her love had shifted to Peter: she was side-by-side with him in his schemes, helping him accomplish his purpose in the world. For Ender, she could do little. But how could she turn her back on the brother who is good, and constantly help the brother who is evil? In all this, Valentine disentangled relational problems that adults flounder over while solving strategic problems that adults wouldn’t solve, and wrestling with her own demons every step of the way.

Ender’s Game is a story that is eminently relevant — not because of its clever tactics, or amusing technological thought experiments — though those are delightful. No; Ender’s Game is so relevant because it cuts out the heart of a false story our society tells. Society says young people are not capable of individual responsibility, but only of responsibilities that existing society defines for them. Ender’s Game says, “No; even when the society you are placed in seems to be against you, you have a responsibility. Even when the system is against you and is very, very confining, you have a responsibility. You may need to be creative. You may need to approach things from an angle nobody else would attempt. You may need to throw yourself at your work with your whole heart, and constantly be alert and ready for action. But what are our minds for, if not to do good?”

As all three Wiggin children shoulder their responsibilities, they are are caught between the tension between a call outward and a call inward. We all have “a call outward” — to find our place rescuing and strengthening a needy world filled with people whom we will never meet, and “a call inward” — to bring healing in our relationships with nearest friends and family — the people whom we know so well.

And the way Valentine copes with that tension makes her a fascinating character to watch. She can call out the best in the heart of her greatest enemy while still standing firm against his dangerous wiles. Yet she can crush the heart of the person she loves most in all the world with a few heavy-handed words. But she loans her brothers to the world to fulfill their destinies. So it’s no wonder that Valentine’s love for her younger brother is treated as a critical resource by international authorities. And perhaps it is, but perhaps not in quite the way those authorities understood it to be.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victoria Williams is a Christian woman who loves reading, teaching math, and watching people grow. Her obsessions include the Gospel, loving the weak, peacemaking, cross-cultural ministry, storytelling, nerdy conversations with friends, and coffee. She also blogs.

Sabrina: The Thought of What Could Happen

NOV / DEC 2016: BY RACHEL KOVACINY

Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, not far from New York, there was a very, very large mansion, almost a castle, where there lived a family by the name of Larrabee. The widowed mother, Maude, and her two sons, Linus and David, men so wealthy and influential and handsome as to be almost princes. And above the garage there lived a chauffeur by the name of Fairchild with his daughter, a young woman named Sabrina. Continue reading Sabrina: The Thought of What Could Happen

“Do I Offend?”: Duckie in Pretty in Pink

JAN / FEB 2017: BY RACHEL SEXTON

Sidekicks as a type of character prove to be very interesting. They are not the lead character of a story but they can often be so entertaining that the audience comes to care about them just as much or maybe even more than the main character. Many times, the comedy in a story can come from the hero or heroine’s best friend, and this can result in some of the viewer’s favorite moments. The same can be said of the actors who play these characters. Lead actors may get more attention but the appeal of a supporting performer cannot be underestimated. Pretty in Pink provides a sidekick like this in the teen genre. Duckie in Pretty in Pink becomes a classic secondary character through the use of style and humor. Continue reading “Do I Offend?”: Duckie in Pretty in Pink

Never Satisfied: Angelica Schuyler’s Story

JAN / FEB 2017: BY KATIE FRIEDMANN

“You strike me as a woman who has never been satisfied.”  These words essentially sum up Angelica Schuyler, a powerful figure in the musical Hamilton. She even sings/raps a song called “Satisfied.”

“Satisfied” is a key word in the show.  Both Alexander Hamilton and Angelica are never satisfied and that leads them to be attracted to each other.  Even in real life, she and Hamilton had a very flirtatious relationship; you could even go so far as to say it was an emotional affair. However, Angelica notices that her sister Eliza is similarly smitten, and decides to help her sister instead of herself.

Before we examine Lin-Manuel Miranda’s characterization of Angelica, we should get the historical inaccuracy out of the way. In “Satisfied,” Angelica claims that “my father has no sons, so I’m the one who has to social climb, for one.” In reality, General Philip Schuyler had two older sons, but Miranda said that he “definitely had to take a dramatic license.” So why does Angelica do what she does?

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Her character is defined by love. Though a significant amount of her stage time is devoted to her attraction to Hamilton, she is characterized by how much she loves her sister. She sacrifices the man she expects could be the love of her life and intellectual equal because of Eliza’s crush. Later on, when he cheats on her with Maria Reynolds, Angelica returns to America from London just to tell Hamilton off. It is spelled out plain as day in “The Reynolds Pamphlet”: “I love my sister more than anything in this life, I will choose her happiness over mine every time. Put what we had aside, I’m standing at her side. You could never be satisfied. God, I hope you’re satisfied.”

In a new, stronger wave of feminism and the rise of the Bechdel Test, it is becoming increasingly prominent how often women are just placed into stories to fight over men.  Angelica and Eliza (and Peggy, for that matter) are a testament to sisterly love. Eliza puts her sister over Hamilton as well; after the affair, in “Burn,” Eliza repeatedly quotes Angelica’s warning advice, showing that she was well aware of her husband’s flaws and trusted her sister above all else. In “Take a Break,” when Alexander goes back on his promise to spend the summer with the Schuylers, Eliza goes with Angelica anyways. Throughout this musical, despite the many bridges burned and bonds broken, the one between the Schuyler Sisters remains strong. The two women refuse to let a man get in the way of their relationship and still have the utmost respect, admiration, and love for each other.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: If you don’t see Katie Friedemann get on Broadway, she’s died trying.  When she’s not geeking out, acting, or writing, she’s adoring her beautiful dog. You can find her on Tumblr as @ver0nica-sawyers.