Sit Down Lin you Fat Mother ******

Wow…that line looks much less needlessly aggressive in rap form. Anyway, guess which recording of a musical I just watched, that’s right we’re going to have a post about Hamilton.

Ah Hamilton, that sudden juggernaut of a rap musical that everyone – including myself – went completely Loony Tunes over a few years ago. And before anyone starts something I just want to say, I can understand why…ish. All the actors were well cast – except Lin Manuel Miranda of course, but then he’s the creator so what can you do, tell him he can’t headline the show? The music was fantastic on the cast recording and mostly fine in this performance as well. The only one whose voice I didn’t like was Miranda’s and for that, see my earlier comment. And the idea to cast this show about the founding fathers with an almost entirely non-white cast was a fantastic one that most likely opened the door for many a talent performer to get their start. Where’s before they might have been held back by the racism prolific in….well basically everything in the world today.

I’m saying all of this now so that you fully understand that I sat down to Hamilton on Disney plus, fully intending, nay expecting, to really enjoy this thing. Which makes it all the more shocking that I didn’t. I mean seriously, I really did not enjoy this thing. In fact, I’d go even so far as to say I hated it, I stopped watching at the end of act one and only went back , when I’d decided to write this post. So, the thing you must be asking yourself right about now is…why? What was so bad about this performance that I could barely finish it? The answer to that Wee Readers, lies in the overwhelming feeling I felt watching that ticking hour glass between Act One and Act Two.

That is, that I’d been manipulated.

What do I mean by this? Well, the thing about watching a performance compared to just listening to the soundtrack I’ve found – yes even with Hamilton where the soundtrack is just a more polished version of the performance –  is that because you have to sit and watch these songs play out with actors on the stage, you’re forced to think about the story they’re trying to tell you. And the story in the first act of Hamilton is ridiculously thin. We get a bunch of filler songs that don’t really advance the plot, and provide character details better summed up in bigger songs. Resulting in the whole act feeling over stretched and boring, act Two is significantly better, but that doesn’t erase the waste of time that was Act One.

Which tells us one very important thing, namely that Hamilton the musical wasn’t written because Lin Manuel Miranda just had to get a story off his chest. He wrote it to convey a message and the plot – at least in Act One – must take a back seat to that message.

Which would be fine if the message was worth saying. After all, surely letting non-white Americans, particularly young people, finally seeing themselves in the history of their country is a noble goal. And I agree, if that were in fact what the story of Hamilton was doing, but it’s not. There’s only one historical person of color on stage – Sally Hemings, the enslaved mistress of Thomas Jefferson. Who, I will emphasis, does not have any lines of her own, and in fact doesn’t even get a proper costume – she’s dressed like all the other chorus members. So, yeah – this is still history told through a white lens, it’s just better hidden than most.

It’s also not really about telling the story of then from the America of today either, except perhaps with casting and the composition of the music – which don’t get me wrong, is most of what Hamilton is – but again the story they’re telling doesn’t really back that up. This is the sort of story we’ve heard a hundred times before: the brave Americans defeat the elitist British, and found their country on the belief that anyone can do anything. Well then surely, you say, it must be telling the story of the American dream, giving the message that in America any one can achieve their dreams and become great. After all, didn’t they say ‘ a place where even orphan immigrants, can make a difference’ and to that I say, if that is what they’re doing, they’re doing it passively. And by that, I mean accidentally, and even if they weren’t, is that really something they should be proud of? The American dream is a very damaging myth, that ignores the realities of most Americans, particularly immigrates and people of color’s actual experience with upward mobility. However, I thoroughly believe that’s not the message, nay the point of Hamilton’s very existence.

No, the real message of Hamilton is – please, please like Alexander Hamilton.

That’s it – anything else is either by complete coincidence or side-lined for this greater message. Don’t believe me? Well, answer me this – why was Act One almost entirely set in the revolutionary war? Sure, Hamilton fought in it but the only connection between this drawn out wale and the much more enjoyable act two, that we really needed to know, was his connection to Washington. And we didn’t really need to devote an entire… what was it? Two, it sure felt like two, hours to establish that connection. They don’t really spend a lot of time delving into it anyway, mostly boiling it down to Washington gives Hamilton a leg up, Hamilton therefore likes Washington, so Washington is cool. Plantation of at least 300 slaves, what plantation of at least 300 slaves?

They don’t really go into that much detail about the war either – there are a about twenty-three songs in Act One, and four of them that are actually about the war itself. And by that, I mean, the nitty gritty battles. And even most of those give way to what Hamilton actually wants to talk about – just how god damn awesome Alexander Hamilton is. He’s so cool you guys, Washington wants him to be his ‘Right Hand Man’ over Burr! Lafayette spends a significant portion of his only solo song telling Washington that they can’t win the war without Hamilton. He even leads his own platoon into Yorktown, and practically wins the whole war himself – okay that last one I exaggerated on, but you see my point. The songs aren’t really here to tell the story of the founding of America, and the hard battles they had to fight before they achieved their independence. They’re here to make sure you understand just how brave, clever and heroic Alexander Hamilton was while he fought in that war. And that’s not even getting into the filler songs that have no other reason to exist, other than to beg us to like Hamilton.

No less than three drinking songs about what he believed the people of future will say about him. Only one of which – the third one – tells us anything about the story at all, and even that one is begging us to feel sorry for Hamilton, and how sad it is that he lost his friend. Farmer Refuted has a similar problem of having no relevance to the story whatsoever, other than to show just how reasonable and moral Hamilton’s support of independence really was. All the men want be Hamilton – Wait for it – and all the women want to be with him – ‘Helpless’ and ‘Satisfied’. I’d imagination that last song is particularly insulting as Angelica Schuyler was already married, happily so, by the time she met Alexander Hamilton. You see now why I called this thing bloody manipulative. The entirety of Act One is devoted to building this scumbag up in the audience’s eyes, and there’s a reason for this, you see despite the massive sympathy hoops the narrative jumps the audience through, Hamilton is extremely unlikable in Act Two.

But Wee Lassie, I hear you cry, didn’t you say that the message of the musical was to beg the audience to like Alexander Hamilton? Why would they make him in anyway unlikable? Well…and granted this is only a guess on my part, so take from that what you will…but I think it’s because Act Two was set in Hamilton’s later life, where he was a much more terrible person all round, they kind of lacked a clear way to redeem him. But remember the play still needs to beg the audience, to please, please like Alexander Hamilton – so the idea of just going through with it and making him unlikable in the second Act was not a notion that was gonna fly in this production. The only option then was to double down on what likability they could mangle out of Act One, and then determine which unlikable aspects of Alexander Hamilton’s life would make him the least hateable to modern audiences for Act Two. Should they focus on his sins at home or at work?

At least five songs devoted to Hamilton’s affair and… let’s see…half a song for the Adams Administration? Gee, I wonder which one they focused on.

You see while I personal found Act One over bloated, and insultingly obviously manipulative – it’s really more Act Two that shows the true problems of structuring your – loudly advertised – progressive retelling of the founding of your country, around the message “Please, please like Alexander Hamilton’. Yes, I am making the legitimate argument that this message is the reason behind two of Hamilton’s main criticisms, that is its historical revisionism and its very weird relationship with racism. Now while those are two separate things, the latter of which is clearly much worse, since they do crossover many times throughout the play, I’m just going to address them both in the same way.

Hamilton does not want to talk about Racism – which is probably why it really doesn’t want to talk about slavery. However, it does want you to know that you should hate people that are racist. Those two things don’t quite mesh, do they? Well, I’d like to explain that by introducing the next segment of this post – that I’d like to call…

The Founding Fathers Hamilton would please, please like you to hate.

Thomas Jefferson

Now Jefferson is a weird one because, nothing bad they say about him is particularly untrue. He did own slaves; he did have a relationship of extreme questionable consent with his slave Sally Hemings. And making him a villain on those accounts is not actually a bad idea – I’m personally in favor of anything that calls into question the pedestal we place celebrities both alive and dead on. However, none of those reasons are why Thomas Jefferson is a villain in this musical. He’s a villain purely because he opposes Alexander Hamilton, and we can tell this by the fact that his identity as a slave owner is only really brought to attention when he’s arguing with Hamilton. In glorious rap battle admittedly. But if you actually listen to the argument he’s making in those rap battles, he’s not actually wrong. Hamilton’s debt plan probably will end up taking money from the poor, and putting it into the pockets of the already wealthy. The real Hamilton was an elitist to his core, this was unlikely to bother him. However, that would be one of those pesky unlikable things we don’t really want to talk about in this play. So, the Hamilton on stage has only one choice when a legit rebuttal is nowhere to be found, remind the audience that Jefferson is a slave owner.

John Adams

Now if you’ve watched and or listened to Hamilton – and no other form of history whatsoever – you’ll know that John Adams was a fat mother****** who fired poor Alexander Hamilton from his cabinet because he (meaning Hamilton) was from the Caribbean. Well, congratulations anyone who was nodding along to that, you just learnt some complete nonsense. Yes, while most of the slandering in Hamilton is at least partially based on historical evidence – or rumor – this part here, is just one long lie. Hamilton resigned from the office of Sectary of Treasury long before Adams was even President. Now, there are many legitimate reasons to dislike John Adams both as a person and a politician, but the thing is Hamilton mentions none of them, because Hamilton can’t mention them. We can’t mention the Alien and Sedition Acts , despite the fact that they might work well as an anti-censoring and pro-immigration message in a play about an immigrant “writing his way out”, because the real Alexander Hamilton was very complicit in that. It’s why we see little to nothing of the actual Adams Administration, because then we’d have to watch our main hero literarily destroy his own party, just to get a man he disliked out of office. If I’m getting any of this wrong please correct me down below, it’s why I have comments in the first place.

However, what always alarmed me about this is that we never see Adams. So unlike Jefferson – who once again we have to remind the audience, was a slave owner – we never see anything besides his prejudices. There’s no actor to redeem or humanize him in anyway, heck King George is more likeable in this play. It’s like if we only heard Hamilton’s side of the rap battles between him and Jefferson, if we only hear one side of the argument how can we help but to agree with it – ironically very much how government censorship works. Miranda has stated this lack of appearance of Adams is because of his love of William Daniels’ portal of him in the musical 1776. And how he couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role – something that never ran completely true to me. First because, high, that’s not how theatre works and last because, he really doesn’t write like he likes the character of Adams at all. Often going out of his way to imply he’s pathetic – particularly in the election of 1800, which I’d like to remind everyone Adams almost won, even despite everything Hamilton did to see him out of office.

Just a last thought before I go full blow rant on this, but the play even implies that Adams, – one out of only two of the first twelve presidents to not own slaves (the second being his own son) – is so racist that he shocks even Jefferson. You know Jefferson, that guy that we’re constantly reminded owns people. Yeah, because that’s how earth logic works.

Aaron Burr

So, I was watching through the live recording of Hamilton, waiting for one of my favorite songs to come alive on the screen. I waited and I waited, and I waited some more before I realised that we were at the final song and there seemed to be no sign of it whatsoever. And what’s this mysterious song you might ask? Why, “Dear Theodosia (reprise)” of course. What’s that you say, why that’s not on the album, you can only see it online. Because apparently they cut it from the live show before it reached Broadway. That’s right, but I didn’t know that when I watched it first time – so you can imagine my disappointment. Apparently they cut it because people were getting confused that both mother and daughter were called Theodosia – really, people are that dumb? I mean you kept the main ‘Dear Theodosia’ song, why did that get to stay? Oh wait, that had Hamilton singing in it – okay so I see why they kept that.

Still I found it strange that they chose to cut the song where Aaron Burr’s wife Theodosia dies, and he tells his daughter. Because in doing so they’ve transformed the line at the end of the play: ‘I will not let this man make an orphan of my daughter’ from a heart-breaking motivation to kill one of your oldest friends, to just something that was kind of said. Maybe as an excuse for his own cowardice to not embrace death wholeheartedly. Actually, I take it back, it makes complete sense. Because we don’t want the audience to like Burr too much, think of him as a human that made a mistake – rather than as an ungrateful, politically conniving bastard who had to be put back in his place by our hero Hamilton. I focused on this instance of revision, rather than anything historical, because I find it fascinating that the insistence in putting everyone who opposed Hamilton in as worst a light as possible has grown so strong, that they’ve now started editing their own production. I think the character of Aaron Burr was far more popular than they had wanted him to be.

Ultimately I would argue all of Hamilton’s faults – be it the over loaded first half, the slightly insulting depiction of some of America’s founding fathers, the butchering of much of the actual history of the text, not to mention its manipulative use of racism within its narrative – lies not just in the title message of “Please, please like Alexander Hamilton” but the over fixation on telling the story of the founding of America, through one man’s story. To illustrate this, I would ask you to examine two songs. The First a deleted song from Hamilton called “Cabinet Battle #3”, which is one of the only songs written for the musical that deals with slavery directly. The second is a song from the musical 1776 titled ‘Molasses To Rum” dealing with the same topic.

Both songs discuss the issue of slavery, and in particular the culpability of the founding fathers in regards to it. But look at what the first one’s doing, really look. True, it mentions Washington’s involvement in the slave trade – notable that didn’t make it into the final show – but no where dose it mention Hamilton’s own involvement. Regardless of the arguments of whether he actually owned a slave or not, he certainly bought them for other people. And the Schuylers money came from slaves. No mention of that in their introductory number. Now look again at “Molasses to Rum”, it’s explicitly calling attention to the North’s involvement within the Slave Trade, particularly Boston, the home city of our main character. It holds the main character – not just the villain – responsible for not just their culpability in the slave trade, but the benefit they’ve received from it.

Something that we really don’t see even in this deleted song of Hamilton, because the focus isn’t on having a frank discussion on the failings of the founding fathers, but rather making sure that the audience likes, and relates to the main character. Even if the message wasn’t ‘Please, please, like Alexander Hamilton’, he’d still be the title character. He’d still be in the majority of scenes, and thus a large percentage of whether or not you actually pay to see the show again, hangs on how much you like Alexander Hamilton. Ultimately, it would seem that the art suffers because the play depends too much on one man’s reputation.

Though in the end I suppose – it all depends on what we want out of your musical interpretation of a founding father’s life. Do we want realism? Probably better go look for a documentary, because the minute they open their mouth to sing, all realism goes out the door. Want an honest and frank discussion about the failings of the founding fathers, not limited to but including slavery? Well, there’s 1776 for you, if you’re willing to sit through a musical comedy that forgets it’s a musical for one third of the run time. However if all you wanna do is just like Alexander Hamilton for a night, then this may be just the play for you.

Well, I’ve done it, I’ve finally finished this post. If you’ve enjoyed this rant on how a musical’s inner message completely failed to take hold with me – then check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Goodreads. And for all those fiction lovers out there, have a look at my newest published story – The Scientist. Until next time my Wee Readers, take courage, be bold and have a very bonny day.

Palpatine: A Villain through the Ages

Fresh off my Star Wars binge, I am very much still in a Star Wars mood – so what better time to talk about my favorite character that appears in all three trilogies: Sheev Palpatine. Now I’m not one to unhealthy obsess over the villain of the story – I mean I didn’t even like Loki – but I can’t lie, Palpatine has been one of my favorite characters for a long time now. Not in spite of his evil and conniving nature – but because of it. He tricks a whole Galaxy into doing his bidding all by the power of his own subtle political influence. And at the end of the Prequel trilogy this mastermind has won so thoroughly that the Heroes have to go into hiding for twenty years. When the light side does win a victory over good old (or would that be bad old) Palpatine, it’s in the form of the next generation, rather than the original heroes rising up and beating back the dark side. And even then, they don’t manage to kill him.

I could go on and on like this until the end of the post, but since that doesn’t exactly sound entertaining – here’s something completely different. As I’ve already mentioned Palpatine is one of the few characters that carries over into all three trilogies. However unlike say characters like C3PO or R2D2 – Palpatine does not have a consistency to his portrayal. Yet as we can observe, unlike Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader – this lack of consistency to Palpatine’s characterization stems not from extensive character development but, rather a shift in the direction of each trilogy. What do I mean? Well, let’s take a look at all three of them – and I’ll lay it out.

Prequel Palpatine – is a subtle, politically savvy politician, who just so happens to also be a dark lord of the Sith. His plan to control a galaxy through fear and a phony war is brilliant and well thought out, and when at last our heroes catch on to what he’s doing, this dark lord of the sith is sufficiently powerful enough to either turn them or overpower them. If we were to look at this from a more Meta angle we might say that this, more controlled and subtle Palpatine, reflects the tightly plotted nature of the prequels. Who, even if you didn’t enjoy them, you have to admit were the most planned out – plot wise – of all three trilogies.

Original Palpatine (or rather ‘The Emperor’ since I don’t think I heard him referred to Palpatine once in the entire original trilogy) – is at the height of his power and influence. He builds giant space stations, that blow up planets and reigns with a steel grip around the Galaxy. He is also, I’d like to point out, at the height of his madness. All subtlety is gone out the spaceport, and replaced now with the slow creeping decay of a man that once had to think for his power, and now has no need for that at all. This version of Sheev Palpatine we might say, represents the Original trilogy’s more … and there’s no way to say this without it sounding like an insult … simplistic morality of war. This Palpatine doesn’t have to be subtle in his evil nature, because the Original Trilogy’s civil war didn’t spring from the manipulation of politicians, but rather their obvious corruption. Luke doesn’t have to feel bad about blowing up the deathstar, because it blew up Alderaan.

Just a brief WARNING, before we go on – this next park may contain major spoilers.

Sequel Palpatine – is an entirely different creature, from both previous incarnations. A rotting corpse hidden within the unknown regions of the Galaxy, relying on Darth Stupid – yes, that’s what I call Kylo Ren – to bring his granddaughter home, so he can take possession of her body. I think that’s his plan, it’s not clear. Whatever the case, the whole plan feels less impressive than controlling the Galaxy through a phony civil war and blowing up planets. It’s also quite notable that unlike his earlier incarnations, Palpatine only appears in the last movie of the Sequel Trilogy. Sure they claim he was controlling everything from within the shadows, but even knowing that supposed fact, we feel none of his presence in the other two films. Ultimately, this Palpatine’s plan feels more improvised than the other two, possibly reflecting the sharp directional twists and turns the Sequel Trilogy is known to demonstrate. Is the force all about the Jedi and the Sith, or does it belong to anyone? Is Rey in love with Finn or Kylo? Who knows, and who cares, it’s romantic love in the Star Wars Universe, it’s not like it would last anyway. I don’t mean to cut down a series of films that I enjoyed, but I can’t help but note that the inclusion of Palpatine in the final film – and only the final film – gives this incarnation a feeling of being shoved in at the end to please the nostalgia of hardcore Star Wars fans. Which…is something that possibly reflects the shift of power between fan and creator in our age of social media – for not since Jaja Binks has fan reaction so impacted the direction of a character.

So there we have it, three trilogies, three men with the face of Palpatine – and everyone has a favorite. For me, it will always be the prequels – what can I say I was raised on them, they’ll always have a special place in my heart. But what about you, what’s your favorite version of old Palps? Do you enjoy the genius of the Prequels? The Dark side’s living incarnate of the Originals? Or the nostalgic corpse of the Sequels? Comment down below if any of them particularly calls out to you. If you’ve enjoyed this little exploration of my totally not creepy obsession on the most evil character in Star Wars History, make sure to follow the Wee Blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook and Goodreads. And sign up for the Wee Mailing List, for all new content. Stay vigilant, get plenty of Sun and, until next time my Wee Readers, may the force be with you.

Fandoms, more classist than you know

Truth time here Wee Readers, you know what powerful political figure I’m really getting sick of… Harry Potter. Okay, maybe a bit of a clarification needed here – in previous posts, I have made my feelings of one JK Rowling quite clear. I don’t believe she’s a a good person, and I sort of have the impression she’s trying to retroactively ruin her own books. Which, honestly is not the worst thing she’s done recently, but is probably the most weird. I mean horrible, sexist, trans-phobic beliefs are just that – but where’s the motivation for trying to ruin the thing that made you so much money? Sorry, got a bit carried away there, because for once this post is not about JK Rowling – that’s right Ms. Rowling is not the reason I’m so sick of whiny, wealthy Harry Potter. No, that responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of her mildly insane fandom.

Backstory first. I’m a bit of geek, always have been ever since I was a…well, an even smaller wee lassie. And I had the luck of being born just at the right time, Anne Rice was no longer hounding people in their own homes for ‘infringing’ on her copyright, and J.K Rowling had yet to reveal to everybody just what a terrible person she was. It was the age of the fan-fiction. And I, like any 12 or 13 year old with a healthy imagination, got stuck right in. I read a lot of fan-fiction while I was growing up, in fact strangely enough it was one of the things that made me want to be a writer. But here’s the thing, when you read that much fan-fiction you begin to notice patterns, particularly in certain fandoms. The same plots, and or tropes, appearing over and over again from authors so varied they cannot possibly have consulted each other. What do I mean? Well…what if Harry was not as gullible as he seemed? What if he got wise to the manipulations of Dumbledore and / or the Weasleys – say he discovered they were doing something terrible, like …stealing from his bank vault. So thus he decides to break away and become a power in his own right. I hear you say, why Wee Lassie that’s a very specific plot, surely it can’t have been reproduced that many times. Oh how I wish I still had your hope in mankind, but sadly Wee Readers this plot is just one of many such repetitive narratives found with the Harry Potter fandom. Now, I’m not here to judge…people like what they like, and yet you do sometimes have to wonder why? What motivates all these writers to go back to the same plot again, and again?

I focused on the…let’s call it, ‘Non-gullible Harry’ story-line (although I am sure it’s gone by better names than that) because it has the strange peculiarity to have at once everything and nothing at all to do with canon. While in cannon Harry is indeed manipulated, by Dumbledore no less, into sacrificing himself for the good of the many. And yet more often than not, Dumbledore’s faults are exaggerated to such a degree that it almost seems ridiculous that anyone would believe he was a good man. Of course, whatever the argument Dumbledore is not a nice man, he’s barely a good one – despite what J.K Rowling seems to think, he certainly deserves all the bile the fandom can throw at him. However the same cannot be said of the Weasley family – who are so hated in the fandom that they’ve even got a whole trope named after one of them ‘Ron the Death-Eater’. But for a long time I put this down other to sour-grapes about their ship not being cannon, or to the film’s butchery of the character of Ron. And yet that same repetition of plot kept repeating and I notice a troubling detail in many – though certainly not all – of these stories. Namely that when it’s revealed that the Weasleys are using Harry, it’s almost always for wealth and or status of some kind – often specifically stealing from his bank vault. Putting aside that this is complete nonsense when it comes to canon, it always struck me as strange that this is what people focused on as the great injustice that has been done to Harry Potter…his wealth being stolen by the poor. Think about that for a moment, in our world of austerity, food-banks, children being denied benefits if their family already has two children (yeah, that’s a thing now in Britain, go check it out here)- the worst thing you can think of that happened to Harry Potter – The Boy who Lived – is his wealth being stolen by the poor. For Calgacus’ sake! The boy was raised in a cupboard!

Looked through this lens, suddenly all those ‘Weasley-bashing’ fics – not limited to but certainly including the live action adaptions themselves – take on a sinister twist. After all it is a classist writing practice to portray lower-class characters as significantly stupider than middle and upper-class ones. Which I can tell you is certainly what happens in the films to lower-class Ron, compared to middle-class Hermione, and (arguably) upper-class Harry. And I’ve gotta say, this continuous putting down of Ron as stupid or beneath them is really making making me not like Harry Potter or Hermione, or the people that ship that.

So let’s say that all this hate – or rather the peculiar way it comes out in fan-fiction and adaptions – is an underlying classist sentiment, follow me to that peer. Would we then say that this is a problem confined purely to the Harry Potter Fandom? After all, J.K Rowling is a terrible person as I think she’s thoroughly proven by now – and she certainly was one of the loudest voices sneering at the actual left-wing candidates in our modern neo-liberal time; while clomping on to Blair who I’m sorry – no matter what you want to say about anyone else, is an actual war criminal and should be in jail. But no, it would be easy to say that – ridiculously easy – but this problem, for once is bigger than Madame ‘J.K.’ Voldemort; I think it’s more to do with our society as a whole. In our neo-liberal society, wealth has become a virtue in itself, rather than just an abstract fact about a person.

For instance, look at the character of Iron Man. At the time he was first created, which was sometime in the sixties I think, Stan Lee intended to create a character that was something young people would hate – that is, a war profiteer, a figure of the establishment, and a millionaire – and make them fall in love with him. Jump to today, and that idea seems to have worked a tad too well – Tony Stark’s fan-base is larger than most other heroes put together, and he is one of the main power houses’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Granted he’s dead now, but that still hasn’t stopped both Disney and Fans alike from gushing about him like he’s the second coming of Jesus-Christ, despite the fact that he’s a morally dubious character at best. Now I’m not saying that a love of Iron Man instantly makes a fan classist (that would be ridiculous) but once again, it’s how this adoration is expressed. Namely by tearing down other superheroes of more humble origins. No better example is found of this then the many fan-fictions dedicated to ‘bashing’ Steve Rogers -the former sickly son of a first generation immigrant, raised in the great depression – or Wanda Maximoff – an orphan from a war torn nation, whose parents were killed by one of Stark’s own bombs – that popped up around the release of Captain America: Civil War. Many of these portraying the millionaire not only as always in the right, but as the victim of his former friends; despite the original film being deliberately opaque in who was actually in the right. I mean god Steve, how dare you put the well-being of your PTSD suffering, formally brain-washed best-friend over the feelings of your privileged work colleague’s feelings.

This post took a very long time to complete – not helped by me being pulled away by yet another assignment half way through writing it – and looking back now, I can see that it comes off as more judgmental of fan-fiction writers and fandoms in general, than I meant it to be. Not all people who write ‘Ron-bashing’ fics do so for reasons anymore sinister than anger over a ‘ship’ and just not liking the character. All characters are flawed by nature, and not everyone is going to gel with the same ones. Same goes for those who like Tony Stark – he’s a funny character, and very hard not to like – trust me I know, I’ve tried. Rather the point of this post is to get people to stop and ask why they express themselves in the way they do. If you hate Ron, or Ginny, or any of the Weasleys so much – why make them steal from Harry Potter’s vault? Why that? And why so often? In the same vain, if you love Tony Stark so much, why act like he is the greatest victim in all the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Why demonize the characters of different classes – and I haven’t even touched upon what many fans do to characters of different races, nationalities and genders – to defend the most privileged one? If he’s so great, why do you need to bother? Why do so many people love this fairly selfish, privileged ( I know this is the second time I’ve used that word, but I feel it’s important to emphasis it) jerk? It has to be more than just that he’s funny, that doesn’t explain the hate. Rather I propose, that this may be an unconscious veneration of the wealthy – something that started out as ‘look at Tony Stark, he’s so rich, isn’t that fun to watch’ quickly became ‘look at Tony Stark, he’s so rich, and therefore better than everyone else’. Ah I see you roll your eyes at me, and you’re probably right… maybe I’m reading too much into this – but look me in the eye and tell me there isn’t something innately classist in a society that venerates Draco bloody Malfoy, over Ron Weasley.

If you’ve enjoyed this wee exploration into some of the classism – even I admit there’s deeper to go with that – within fandoms, or just think I’m full of crap, drop me a note down in the comments and tell me what you think. And don’t forget to follow the wee Blog, if you haven’t already; also you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Goodreads. Until next time Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

The One with the Male Nanny: The Complicated relationship between Friends and Toxic Masculinity

If you’ve read my previous post on the subject, you’ll remember that while I and many in today’s 2019 society greatly enjoy Friends – it doesn’t mean we’re blind to it’s flaws. Indeed, looking on it with today’s socially conscious mindset it is a piece of art with many flaws. Homophobic, Trans-phobic, Sexist, low-key racist; name a terrible thing to be, and friends probably made that kind of joke. But by far the most interesting flaw to discuss, at least from an intellectual perspective, is the show’s relationship with toxic masculinity. With the other kinds of prejudices on display, the show makes a joke about it – has the nerve to think it’s funny – and moves on to the next mildly to extremely offensive joke. However when it comes to the subject of Toxic Masculinity, the show seems on some level to not only be aware of it, but to condemn it. And yet, we still gotta make those jokes.

What do I mean? Well let’s take a look at one episode in particular, to gain a little better insight into this strange phenomenon – the sixth episode of season 9 : The One with the Male Nanny. First, a brief plot synopsis before we get to the real meat of the episode. After slogging through hordes of disappointing applicants, Rachel finally finds the perfect nanny for her Ross’ daughter Emma – but there’s just one problem, he’s played by Freddie Prinze Jr. That’s the main story anyway, there is the secondary story of the Episode with Chandler being upset that Monica called one of her co-workers ‘the funniest guy she’s ever met’; however since it only briefly crosses narrative streams with the titular plot-line, I won’t be going too deep into that .

Ross takes an immediate dislike to the new Nanny – named Sandy ; mainly because he is performing a role traditionally considered part of the feminine domain, child care. However Sandy is also a very sensitive man, he cries unashamedly when he is happy – as when he is accepted for the position – and sad – as when he is remembering his last charge. He also cooks, plays the recorder, and has the audacity to do all this while still being completely heterosexual. Ross can barely stand to be in the same room as Sandy, and laments long and hard to whoever will listen of the weirdness of having a male nanny – although never within said nanny’s earshot, such is the coward’s nature. This is a pretty standard move when it comes to Ross, he is the guy that made such a fuss when his toddler son started playing with a barbie doll. What is strange about this situation however, is Rachel’s reaction. She loves Sandy and whole heatedly endorses his non-traditional version of masculinity, being a factor in her child’s development. This is a stark removal from the Rachel Green who once dumped a boyfriend for crying too much; or regularly belittles her male friends when they step even the tiniest bit off the narrow heteronormative version of masculinity. I mean she was right there with the rest of them glaring down at Ross and Joey, when they’d fallen asleep together. That’s it, nothing sexual, just took a nap on the same couch.

So, what does this sudden turn around in one of the main characters of the show mean? Well probably many things, not least among which Rachel doesn’t find Sandy attractive – and thus doesn’t require him to live up to her idea of the ideal man. But the notion I’m going to focus on here, is the underlying message of the story-line. Namely that Ross is wrong. He is wrong to hate Sandy and he is wrong to try and encourage that hate in others – in other words he is wrong in his Toxic Masculinity. A fact that is underscored in the episode’s ending, when Ross breaks down in Sandy’s arms after recounting the abuse his father heaped on him, for not living up to the masculine ideal . Now I know what you’re thinking, Wee Lassie I thought Friends had a bad relationship with Toxic Masculinity – this all sounds really good. Ross finally realizes that he’s been continuing the circle of abusive toxic Masculinity began by his awful father – and he can finally break free of it and become a better man, nay a better person all round. Except that’s not what happens, this is Sandy’s last episode and these themes, or Ross’ connection to them, will never be brought up again. So what can we really take away from this episode? Toxin Masculinity is bad, yes absolutely, but does that lesson have any impact on the viewer, if it has none on the rest of the series?

Femininity in men continues to be mocked. Chandler continues to be called gay – with the implication that this is somehow a bad thing – if he expresses so much as the barest interest in culture ; and the men can’t so much as hint at their love for each other, without the women implying that their masculinity is somehow lessened from the action. At the end of the episode, Sandy still looses his job because he is a man working in a non-traditionally male occupation, and that is what the audience must take away from it. The Writers’ intention, either good or ill, means nothing if the product as a whole cannot reflect it. Still, even if it was only for one brief moment, at least they tried.

If you’ve enjoyed this strange analyse of a 90’s flawed tv show, remember to follow the Wee blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads , Instagram, and Tumblr. Also check out the Wee Mailing List for all new rants, photos and more. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

The Power of the Family : or why the heck is Friends still so popular in 2019

Okay, bit of a History lesson here – flick back your clock to a little year called 1994. Tony Blair (the War Criminal) had just been made Labour party leader ; yours truly was taking her first breath in this very strange world of ours, and a little American tv show set in New York, first began airing. Ah Friends, you beautiful…beautiful mess of a pop culture phenomenon. There’s just so much of you that has aged so very badly, such to the extent that each of these poorly aged elements could fill separate blog posts all their own. Shall I list them? Honestly it would be quicker to name the elements that haven’t aged badly but I’ve already planned this post so, onward we go.

There’s the fact that despite living in one of the most diverse cities in America, the friends cast are – baring an occasional recurring or bit character – monolithically white. The sheer amount of gay jokes running throughout many of the episodes of the ten seasoned show is really uncomfortable to watch, particularly on a streaming service like Netflix where you can watch episodes in quick succession…and I’m saying that as a straight woman. The jokes directed at Chandler’s Dad in particular were cringe-worthy at their best. Not to mention t it’s confusing relationship with toxic masculinity – but I’ll get more into that in a later post. Yet, all these terrible things are in no way unique to the show Friends: things like indoctrinated racism; homophobia, Trans-phobia; sexism and encouraging of toxic masculine behaviors were not uncommon in the early 90s to early 2000s – the time in which Friends aired on tv – I’d go even so far as to say they were commonplace. But what is unique to Friends – though please feel free to correct me in the comments if you feel otherwise – is that none of these things seem to have lessened it’s popularity over time. At least not in any significant way. We may no longer laugh at the gay jokes, but a lot of us are still laughing at Friends.

So what we have to ask ourselves is, why? What made Friends so special? Why has it lasted so long while other shows fall by the wayside? Well, honestly there’s probably a plethora of answers to that question, not least being the strong sense of nostalgia present in both Millennials (who grew up with it) and Generation X & Baby Boomers (who were the original target demographic). However, that would be a very different blog post than the one I have planned; so instead we’re getting freaky meta here and looking instead at the underlying theme of the show. *Evil laugh, while lightening crashes in the background.* And there’s no running away, I’ve already locked all the doors.

Okay so, themes. What is the underlying theme of Friends? Could it be the Power of Star Crossed Lovers symbolised by the Ross and Rachel story-line? Nope, by the end everyone but the writers was kind of sick of that. Could it be the power of friendship? After all that is the name of the show. Well, sort of, but I’d like to go one step beyond that in my dissection of it’s theme. Because the “Friends” ironically are not just regular friends, their deep love and affection for one another goes far beyond that. When it really comes down to it Friends isn’t just a show about friendship, but about a group of people that became each other’s family. Thus the Theme is not just the power of friendship or family, but the power of the found family.

We can see this especially clearly when we look at the Series’ Thanksgiving episodes. In the first Thanksgiving episode – season 1’s ” The One where the Underdog Gets Away” – a suspicious amount of coincidences have to line up so that the Friends’ are forced to have Thanksgiving together. Ross and Monica’s parents have to go on holiday, and therefore be unable to host ; Joey has to star in an embarrassing add, and thus have his whole family believe he has a VD; Phoebe’s Grandmother and her boyfriend have to celebrate Thanksgiving in December; and finally most notably, Rachel has to miss her flight so that’s she unable to attend her family’s Thanksgiving Ski trip. However, notice that this is the only episode where these great leaps of coincidences have to happen. Starting from Season 3 onward – since season 2 didn’t really have a proper Thanksgiving episode – it never once occurs to the Friends to eat Thanksgiving Dinner anywhere else. We can see this most distinctly in the Final Thanksgiving Episode – Season 10’s ” The One with the Late Thanksgiving” – where upon hearing that Monica and Chandler just don’t have the energy to host Thanksgiving, Phoebe decides its easier to trick Monica into it, rather than make alternative arrangements for herself. This, despite the fact that she is married to Mike at this point and thus does have someone else to have Thanksgiving Dinner with. A fact that’s even more true for the others, and yet, the possibility is never even once considered.

The affection of the found family over the traditional birth family is repeatedly shown throughout Friends’ 10 season run. A particular notable example being when Joey, and then Chandler, walk Phoebe down the isle – when her step-father is unable to do so. Despite the fact that only Ross and Monica are actually related, these people are each other’s real family. In fact it’s interesting to note that whenever a biological family member does appear on screen, trouble is never far behind. Think Jack and Judy Geller – Ross & Monica’s abusive parents introduced in the episode ‘The One With The Sonogram At The End’ – who always leave to the sound of Monica’s tears, particularly in the earlier episodes. Notably in the episode ‘The One with the Cuffs’ it is Phoebe who comforts and builds Monica back up, after she has yet again been ridiculed and belittled by her own mother. Also consider Rachel’s sisters’ Jill and Amy – who made their debuts in the episodes ‘The One With Rachel’s Sister’ (Jill) and ‘The One With Rachel’s Other Sister’ (Amy) – who give us an insight into how awful Rachel might have become if she had never found her true family . The only time we see Joey’s parents is when his father is cheating on his mother with another woman ; and of course who could forget Ursula, evil twin of our beloved Phoebe. Even Ross and Monica – brother and sister though they may be – were not at all close when they were children. With Monica even claiming that she hated her brother back then; and it wasn’t until they were adults, and away from the toxic influence of their abusive parents, that the two siblings were able to move past that history and find each other again.

I’m not saying that the love and affection these very different people show to one another, which leaves the show with an uplifting warmth not found in every sitcom then or today, excuses all the more unsavory aspects of the show. All I’m saying is it’s one explanation for why we still continue to love this weird show, Twenty Five Years after it’s original airing.

Alright, that’s me done – I’ll unlock the doors now. If you’ve enjoyed this trip down nostalgia lane and haven’t already fled, remember to follow my wee blog, if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr and now my brand new Goodreads account. Also sign up to the Wee Mailing List for all new photos, rants and more. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

Freak-out in Wine Country: or why I don’t find jokes about Millennials Funny

Aren’t Millennials just the worst? Haven’t they ruined society as a whole? Why don’t they ever look up from their phones? What makes them so special? Yes, these are just a few of many such questions modern entertainment has posed to us. Tricky, thought provoking questions all of them. However, being somewhat of an expert on the modern millennial mind – I was born in 1994 and therefore am a Millennial myself – I will attempted to answer. Okay here I go. No, we aren’t the worst – that goes to whichever generation invented the Atomic Bomb. Society was already ruined when we got here. The modern phone is a technological marvel, why should we look up from it? And, probably a lot of things make us special – we’re a very diverse group of people. Now why, my Wee Readers, do I even feel the need to say these clearly obvious truths to you. Because it feels like our modern media has forgotten them.

We can see this in things like Amy Sherman-Palladino’s cracks about ‘trigger warnings’ in the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life; the reports that Modern Family’s Haley is a narcissist ; or the overwhelming feeling of deep resentment for the youth of the world that comes off in every joke in Netflix’s Wine Country. Ah now we come to the title of the post, but don’t worry this isn’t a review for a terrible, terrible movie merely a triggering incident. And a slightly embarrassing one at that. But first some background. Wine Country, made by Netflix and staring many actresses that should know better, is a truly atrocious film. Filled with many unfortunate implications beyond it’s clear hatred for Millennials, not limited to – a successful woman giving up an amazing job opportunity for the approval of people she doesn’t know anymore, and the implication that if a 50 year old woman doesn’t see herself as a little old lady, then she’s kidding herself. So I guess whatever age you are, you’re going to find something to hate in this film. But seeing how this is my blog, we’ll focus for now on the Millennial jokes.

Over the years you get used to hearing those kind of jokes. To stamping down the embers of deep seated rage every time a character on screen makes a crack about Twitter, or Hipsters; or the general supposed self-absorption of every single member of an entire generation of people all across the globe. However, it was about the time the women in Wine Country where standing in the middle of the art show they’d been kindly invited to by their waitress, calling the other patrons assholes for admiring the – admittedly very weird – art, that I found myself overcome with tears . Not the proudest moment of my life, I will admit, but an interesting one nether the less – I don’t think I’ve ever been triggered before. I was barraged with memories of a particularly uncomfortable Online Tutorial of one of my previous Psychology courses. When one of the tutors running the course – not my own thank the Gods who don’t throw lightening at me – decided to take a detour from what we were actually discussing, to go on at length about the psychologist/ researcher Jean Twenge and how wonderfully insightful she was. Don’t know who that is, ooh lucky you.

Dr. Jean Twenge is an American Psychologist most known for her research into generational differences. She has published several books on the subject including: iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellions, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood (2017) ; The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (2010) ; Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before (2014) – which should tell you a lot about the tone of her theories. She has popularized the notion that Millennials, or young people today (I realize they’re not all Millennials, it’s more just a buzz word to refer to the young ) are Narcissistic because they were praised so much when they were growing up. For, she explains, doing nothing. Yes you heard that right, it’s the participation trophy speech. So if you ever have the misfortune of hearing some jerk complain about handing children stickers or trophies for participating in something, just remember that you have Dr. Jean Twenge to thank for that experience.

Of course you might be saying right now, Wee Lassie, surely this woman is a professional Psychologist – sure, maybe she got it wrong pertaining to a global scale – but there must be some sliver of truth in her research. Well, honestly I can’t say for sure either way in that regard, having never forced myself through the torture of reading such infuriating theory laden books. So, for all I know she could have gotten something in there right, I will allow for that slim possibility. However, Twenge has been accused of cherry picking her data. That is she decides on a theory – i.e young people are narcissistic – and chooses the test results that best correlate to this view of the world. So, it’s probably best to take most things she says, with a little pinch of salt.

Thus, as we can see this feeling of resentment towards Millennials and Generation Z (that’s the generation that comes after Millennials) is not merely limited to our popular culture. There are real people out in the world who believe and perpetrate these myths about today’s young people. But what we really have to ask ourselves is, why? Why all this venom towards the young all of sudden? Well one theory is, perhaps it’s not new at all – after all, older generations have been feeling resentful to younger generations since there were people. In fact, the term ‘Generation Me’ was not originally used to describe Millennials at all, but rather Baby Boomers. Another theory is that it might be political – at least in regards to our media output. Millennials are more likely to be/vote Left-Wing. Which is a threat to the generally more Right-Wing owners of the companies that produce many of these films and shows. But whatever the case, these views and resentments do exist and serve no real purpose in our society other than to breed resentment between us. And how dose that help anyone?

Alright, winding down the rant now.

So, what’s my point, really? Am I saying that the prejudice that young people face is worst than the prejudice thrown at older or middle-age folk? No, of course not – but nor should it be seen as less important. After all when one is trying to make a point against ageism in their film – in what universe dose it aide your message to make snide, hurtful comments about another age group? If anything it hurts your cause, because people who feel attacked – whether or not you feel that feeling is valid – are not going to be listening to your argument. Though I’d like to point out that the film that kicked off this rant – Wine Country – is so awful, I’d argue it makes no deeper point what so ever. *gasps for breath* Oh my God, that felt so good, I’ve been keeping that in for so long.

If you’ve enjoyed or been in some way moved by this mad wee rant of mine, remember to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already; and to check me out on Twitter and Instagram; also, my new Facebook page – The Wee Writing Lassie – and Pinterest just for the fun of it. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.