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female leads

Tagline: I watched most of these shows because Maddy told me to. Who is Maddy you ask? One of the best humans. Check out her youtube channel here.

Summer is time when teachers like me catch up on curriculum for the next school year, relax, read, and also binge-watch the things we didn’t have time for when we got up at 5:30 and passed out by 9:30 for nine months.

  1. Wynonna Earp

This is the show for you if you like the following things: bad-ass ladies, sometimes cheesy effects, clever dialogue, strong black men, old-school cowboys with moustaches, curses, red-head lady cops, LGBT representation, and no killing off of minorities for the sake of it. Basically, if you enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will like this show. Fun fact: it is loosely based on a comic book of the same name. It aired on SYFY but I just want you to somehow find a way to watch it so it gets renewed for a second season.

Eugh. That comic is well, something. She’s much more realistic and #relatable on the show.

 

2. Couple-ish

Canada is our lovely and kind neighbor to the north and has always produced quality programming in my opinion. (I grew up watching TVO kids, Pingu, Fred Penner, and the Red Green Show). I’m also 1/4 Canadian so I guess that’s what we would call biased. But that quality programming has continued today on the internet. This show was written and created by Kaitlyn Alexander, a non-binary youtuber also known for acting in the web-series Carmilla. With compelling characters and dynamic acting, this show is a must.

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Not even from this show, but these two are #FriendshipGoals 

3. Carmilla

I technically started watching this at the end of the school year. Sometimes you need a treat after getting all your school-related work done.

Based on a Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, this is a Canadian Web-series featuring the plucky nerd protagonist Laura and her ensemble cast of characters. It involves chases, escapes, vampires, magic, true love, miracles. All the good stuff.

 

4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

My brother Cullen is also responsible for getting me to watch this and making it my new 10/10 would recommend. (Ps. he also has a youtube channel). This show has everything: a catchy theme song, a female protagonist, musical numbers out of nowhere, that guy who plays Hans from Frozen being snarky. (Santino Fontana is a national treasure and we should all cherish him).

The premise of this show is that Rebecca Bunch moves from New York to West Covina California to be near her ex-boyfriend from summer camp in high school. Hilarity ensues. For real though this is a fun show that doesn’t hate its characters. It handles everyone’s emotions and desires in a very valid and real way. Also it doesn’t shy away from letting its good characters make bad choices and suffer the consequences and letting its “bad” characters be shown to be humans too. It also just has really killer songs, like “Settle for Me.”

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It’s time for a new installment here: Pixar Chick Fridays! (Which became Saturday this week because my wifi is a fickle mistress). We’ve already been psychoanalyzing everyone based on male Disney characters, it’s time to trot out the ladies. Why Pixar you ask? The Disney princesses thing has been done to death on the internet. Do a lot of Pixar films fail the Bechdel test? Yes. Which is unfortunate because many of the ladies in these films are pretty compelling.

Jessie

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A bright young woman with a beautiful yarn full of hair. 

You’re into strong-willed redheads and lets be honest who isn’t? Also you love that cowgirl look and adventurous spirit. You like your women with sad emotionally nuanced backstories. Additionally you love a good wacky sense of humor.

Honestly, Jessie is the Pixar character I most identify with: gangly weirdo.

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When you see your favorite people

Bo Peep

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So porcelain and shiny

You go for woman who knows what she wants and reaches out and grabs it. Don’t let the femme pink floof fool you, this is the kind of woman full of confidence, kindness, and some adorable pets. Annie Potts is your favorite part of Ghostbusters and Pretty in Pink.

Princess Atta

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The men in this film baffle me.

Your favorite TV shows are Veep and Seinfeld. You like a woman with neuroses and sass. This chick put the dork in adorkable before New Girl was a thing. You go for giant blue eyes that judge your behavior when you mess up. And trust me, you will mess up. Most of all you love ladies in positions of power in a matriarchal society.

Celia

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Sushi anyone? 

You like purple and your favorite mythology character is Medusa. You like taking your dates to hard to get into sushi restaurants and love a lady who is impressed by this. You love a good New York accent and a girl who knows what she wants.

Rosie 

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I definitely have some stories about my past lives.

You aren’t afraid of a woman who could kill you if she wanted to. You enjoy vaguely goth ladies with legs for days. You enjoy the films of Bonnie Hunt. All of them, even Cheaper by the Dozen, because she’s a classy lady with a great voice. You appreciate a woman who does not suffer fools.

 

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ElastiGirl/Helen Parr

 

You like snarky redheads who age into gorgeous auburn haired women with a mom cut. You like women who can handle themselves in any situation that comes their way and do it with both attitude and class. You enjoy Mama Bear types, because do not cross this one when it comes to the people she cares about. Helen is #goals. Always marry Elastigirl.

Violet

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Are we having Tony-Loaf?

You go for the seemingly shy wallflower types who are actually full of depth and sarcasm. You own a lot of Sarah Vowell books. Your favorite actress is Aubrey Plaza. You also enjoy women who have a hidden weirdo side. You love Olivia Olson and Marceline the Vampire Queen.

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Generic Teen interests 2004 edition.

 

Today I bring to you, 11 fun facts of my week. Some of them might not be fun but they are all facts.

  1. Everyone should listen to Hamilton. Just do it. You’ll thank me later.

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2. It’s practically March so that means it’s time for what my dad refers to as Irish Ramadan. (Cultural appropriation can work sometimes). That’s the best way to describe the celebratory time leading up to St. Patrick’s day on the 17th. Growing up of Irish-American heritage this was like a second holiday season where I was often dancing at various events and parties. Albeit, it’s also during Lent, so it’s not like there was a ton of candy or anything. Just family, friends and fun times. Thus, I find myself taking a break from listening to Hamilton non-stop to listen to The Chieftains, Van Morrison, The Corrs, The Cranberries, Glen Hansard, The Dropkick Murphys, and many others. (We Irish are a prolific and musical folk). I’m particularly into this collab with the Chieftains and Ziggy Marley “Redemption Song.” 

The Corr’s version of Buachaill on Eirne is always a favorite as well. This video I linked translates the Gaelic into English and Spanish. It’s basically about this guy bragging about how awesome it is, yet in Irish it sounds so beautiful. Even the English translation of the last line is very poetic.

And your kiss is no more to me now than a shoe worn for a year

Burn.

3. Along with this time of year, Wack-Arnold’s (McDonald’s for the uninitiated), trots out their Shamrock shakes. Being lactose-intolerant, (which is odd for an Irish person), I cannot partake in the joy of a shake I once thought was made from actual Shamrocks. But Pinterest to the rescue! I found some really great dairy free and vegan Shamrock shake recipes I am definitely going to be trying out this month. Linkity link.

4. In the realm of more recommendations from me, the Liz Lemon-esque unrepentant fangirl, everyone should watch Agent Carter on ABC. The second season just ended and there are rumblings that it won’t get renewed which is awful. (Pro-tip, read this next part in Stefon from SNL’s voice). It has everything: late 1940’s fashion, Marvel, feminism, 2 British people, Chad Michael Murray, and a Joss Whedon-esque musical number.

HAYLEY ATWELL, ENVER GJOKAJ

I am not joking. Look how much fun they are having.

5. Tomorrow is Leap Day. Can we remember that the last Leap Day, four years ago 30 Rock was still on the TV and they aired their Leap Day Williams episode, which was weird, wonderful and I loved it. 30 Rock you are missed but never forgotten.

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Happy Leap Day!

6. This week while eating Mild curry thai food I proclaimed that I had the highest spice tolerance in my family. Coming from an Irish family, this is not saying much and is not really a boast.

7. Lentil loaf is good I learned. Delicious even. Perfect for having gone vegetarian for Lent and being on a Student teacher’s budget.

8. Today my brother was trying to think of what Secret Santa is called. Instead he said “Blind Santa Claus.” I honestly think Blind Santa Claus is what I am going to call it from now on.

9. I have been so overstressed with work that I definitely needed the two snow days we had this week. When you get overstressed, you say weird things to the kids like: “Holden Caulfield is not really a woke bae,” “We all need to focus, like a Ford Focus,” and “Today I dressed like an Urban Outfitters ad.”

10. I am in love with this Ham4Ham video featuring all the Kings George from Hamilton lip-synching to the Schuyler Sisters song. Ham4Ham is when people wait to win tickets for the show in a lottery and sometimes the actors come out and do a little performance for them. You may recognize Andrew Rannels who is Elijah from Girls, and Jonathan Groff who plays Christoff in Frozen.

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11. This video of Nanci Griffith singing the Irish tune, “Red is the Rose,” with the Chieftains is gold. The “Thank you Chieftains” at the end has become a catch phrase among my siblings and I. Not sure why, just one of those weird phrases you pick up like “the scare-floor will be painted.”

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Last week while substitute teaching, I watched Finding Nemo in German  (Findet Nemo!). Boy, it had been an awfully long time since I had seen that movie. I had forgotten a lot of it and how it’s basically The Odyssey for kids. With Fish! In Australia! Yay! But really, it got me thinking of Pixar films as a whole and how I would rate them, especially now since there are a lot of them and more coming soon. The Good Dinosaur comes out next year, followed by Finding Dory, and the promise of a sequel to The Incredibles (yay!) and another Cars sequel (nay).

So without further ado here is my list.

1. Wall-E. I love the hell out of this little robot guy. While this film is very different from the usual Pixar fare, it is in my opinion the most artistic, the most risk-taking, and the most beautiful and heart-felt of all of them. Only Pixar could make us care about a love story between two robots. I also like the post-apocalyptic nature of the story. It’s kind of a futuristic re-imagining of the Noah story, Eve is the white dove who brings back the olive-branch. Humanity re-populates the earth, etc. It’s just such a beautiful film.

2. The Toy Story films, collectively. These three films are Pixar’s masterpiece. This is the heart of Pixar, the first Toy Story is the one that started it all and I have such fond memories of it growing up. The trilogy grew with that first audience and even kids who weren’t alive to see this first one in theaters still enjoy it. The heart of Pixar is friendship and family and the bonds we form with others. Toy Story taught us to value that.

3. The Incredibles. One of the funnest, most hilarious Pixar films of all. I also wanted to be Elasta-girl when I first saw this movie when it came out. Really she is the ideal strong fantastic female role model. She does it all! And has fabulous hair while she does it. (Forget about Merida, but more on that later).

4. Monsters Inc. Everyone loves this movie. Mike and Sully have probably the best Pixar bromance since Buzz and Woody. This movie is the most quoted by my sibs and I. Seriously it scares me how much I have memorized of this film. This one ranks high because of the nostalgia vote.

5. Ratatouille. This film ranks in the weird/artsy era of Pixar. It has a unique charm and is so darn French. I just love it. The concept is super weird but yet it follows its own bizarre logic so well it becomes endearing.

6. Up. Don’t squawk that I ranked this so low. Yes it is a charming story and beautifully animated. But at the same time I think it was over-hyped as super artsy quasi-hipster fare. It still ranks above and beyond most animated schlock that gets made these days, but it just doesn’t live up to the hype for me. And way too many hipstery photo-shoots are all over Pinterest because of it.

7. Finding Nemo. I’ve posted before my satirical thoughts about this movie. And I do still think it’s scary and super emotional. But it is also a great story and a well done sort of re-imagining of Homer’s Odyssey but more child friendly and with fish. Not to mention it is beautifully animated like all good Pixar films.

8. A Bug’s Life. Pixar’s sophomore effort has always been underrated in my opinion. While it’s not as grand as many of it’s other films it still holds up in my opinion. It’s very cute, has memorable characters and hilarious dialogue.

9. Brave. This was a film I was supposed to love more than I did. First female protagonist? From a Celtic country? Accurately represents what life with curly hair is like? All things I should love except only the latter is something she succeeded in doing for me. Merida was supposed to be so, so cool. But this film fell flat of it’s potential. I really think it was because the story was re-written after half the animation was done. it could have been such a great fantasy-epic. I would like to have known what this film was before the re-write. That said, the mother-daughter relationship here was very real and heart-warming. Otherwise this movie was basically Brother Bear meets How to Train Your Dragon.

10. Cars. This was cute. The soundtrack wasn’t too bad. It was just cute the first time and maybe it’s just because I enjoy Owen Wilson. The most annoying thing about this movie was Mater. And the fact that it became such a huge marketing ploy for the company it just was so over-commercialized in a confusing way. Much like NASCAR racing.

11. Monsters University. Again, cute. But not amazing in any sense or really living up to the spirit of the original. Some funny inside jokey references to the first film. But really nothing groundbreaking like previous films.

12. Cars 2. The worst piece of dreck to be animated and possible the worst animated film of all time besides late era Don Bluth and most of the other schleck that gets green-lighted these days. (I’m looking at you The Nut Job and Shrek 15: It’s only a matter of time). Let’s take the most annoying thing from the first movie, Mater, and make a film centered around him. Bad form Pixar. Bad form. I thought better of you. This was actually the first Pixar film that made me question their integrity and creative genius. They stooped so low to cash-in on merchandising. My dreams were shattered. But the future looks bright. (Looking forward to you, The Good Dinosaur).

 

 

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        So I saw The Lego Movie last weekend. And I won’t spoil it for anyone but I will say that everything about it is AWESOME. After seeing it I turned to my 19-year-old brother and said, “This is exactly what playing with Legos as kids was like.” And he agreed. Playing with Legos was always super fun and imaginative. And even though I wasn’t the best at building with the bricks or following the instructions. I was pretty good at creating different Mini-fig characters. Part of what I loved about this film was there was a motley crew of characters that the protagonist Emmet teams up with to save the day, much like in earlier films such as Toy Story or The Muppet Movie. The world-building involved in the film was really cool as well. I almost wanted to go home and dig out my old Legos. I’m sure most kids watching it were going to go home and play with their Legos too.

And here we come to my other point in writing. I’ve read a few complaints that The Lego Movie as well as the Lego franchise in general is marketed mainly to boys and short changes girls and the female characters created for them. The review (found here) on the AVClub website has this to say: “Wyldstyle, though confident and talented, often exists to play the foil of Batman (her jerk boyfriend) and Emmet (the object of her mild envy, then affection). And the only other major female character, voiced by Alison Brie, isn’t portrayed as a mini-figure, making Wyldstyle the catchall female protagonist.”

This. Makes. Me. Very. Angry. Maybe Lego failed in most of its toys marketed to girls because it just thought hey let’s make everything pink then girls will like it. Wrong. Girls like playing with normal Legos just as much as boys. I see it as more of a gender-neutral toy since there’s something there for every type of kid regardless of gender. I liked building people and creating stories. My youngest brother liked building castles and houses and backstories for all his characters that lived in them. My middle brother who later on went to a technological university to become an IT guy, enjoyed spending hours building huge sets like the directions said or even creating new things he thought up.

Kids don’t like characters because of their gender. Most children don’t like only characters that are the same gender as them nor do they look for characters to be “role models.” I’m sick of this lens in which we always must see female characters. Can’t they just be characters first why do their personality traits have to be: I am female. We don’t like it when lead character’s traits are: I am a protagonist. So why let the gender of a character get in the way of developing them as an interesting, quirky, FLAWED, person.

My two favorite characters in this film were a lot like the types of lego people I created as a child. Wyldstyle was a lot like the spunky, independent girl lego people I would create. I usually made cool interesting boyfriends for them too. They didn’t have Lego Batman mini-figs when I was a kid, so my main ponytail-sporting horseback-rider girl dated a cargo pants wearing lego named Joe who owned a restaurant. If I recall correctly he basically looked something like a mini-fig version of Ted Mosby. (Which is weird because that show wasn’t even a thing yet).

The other character from the movie I loved was Benny the 1980-something Space Man. I had this figure! And his helmet was broken too. His crazy spastic-ness was much how I played Legos which also caused me break a lot of my brother’s creations on accident.

So what can we take away from all this? Legos are a fun, creativity inducing toy filled with lots of fun made-up and licensed characters. And the movie reflects this. It would also be great if we learned to analyze characters as people first rather than worrying about whether they represent their gender well or not.

Labor Day weekend is upon us. The official closeout of summer and welcoming in the start of school and Autumn. (Although I live in Michigan, which means we will probably have an Indian summer late into September).

At the end of summer I almost always read and/or watch The Last Unicorn. Why? Because it’s perfect for the end of the season. Unicorns in myth often represent spring and the whole story of the Last Unicorn is about the end of something ancient, myth passing away into something new and different but equally good.

The book, by Peter S. Beagle is full of beautiful prose that reads like poetry. It is full of whimsy as well as high mythology which combines the best aspects of all fantasy.

The movie which is animated by Topcraft and directed by Rankin Bass of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” Heat-miser, and animated “The Hobbit” fame, manages to capture that whimsy and mythos in its adaptation. The animation is really beautiful, even if it looks a little to anime-esque at times

Rejected Sailor Moon characters need apply.

Rejected Sailor Moon characters need apply.

Peter S. Beagle actually provided the screenplay for the film, which is cool, but you can tell at times relies on narrative devices that are great in book form, but seem awkward on screen. (Mia Farrow as The Last Unicorn talks to herself and it’s…..uncomfortable?).

This is how unicorns look. I like that they took inspiration from the medieval unicorn tapestries.

This is how unicorns look. I like that they took inspiration from the medieval unicorn tapestries.

Lovable magicians should always juggle.

Lovable magicians should always juggle.

The plot is that the last unicorn overhears some hunters in her wood talk about her possibly being the last of her kind. Bemused and concerned she sets out to find out if she really is the last. She learns that the Red Bull drove them all into the sea at the ends of the earth.

Red Bull has always driven people to crazed lengths.

Red Bull has always driven people to crazed lengths.

She is joined on her quest by Schmendrick the magician played perfectly by Alan Arkin, a hap-hazard wizard in training and a woman named Molly Grue, who is Captain Cully’s love. Captain Cully is basically a send up to Robin Hood and his merry men except much less merry. Molly is the Mary Magdalene figure in this story and I love her. Linked below is by far the best scene in the film. If you can watch it without crying you are a grinch.

Other characters include King Haggard played by Christopher Lee, fantasy king for our times. And his son Prince Lir played by Jeff Bridges which equals #awesome.

I'm even animated to look like young Jeff Bridges.

I’m even animated to look like young Jeff Bridges.

I enjoy that the unicorn is female. It opens up to a different interpretation of the unicorn mythos. Traditionally, in most literature and fairy tales (outside of My Little Pony), unicorns are portrayed as male. The medieval male unicorn curing the water of poison, appearing only to virgins only to be hunted down, killed and resurrected. He was supposed to be a Christ figure. Which is cool, I can dig that. However, why not a female unicorn? They represent beauty and purity which are most commonly portrayed as feminine virtues. Little girls (and grown-up girls) love unicorns so it only makes sense. Essentially though, the story of the Last Unicorn only really works if she is female. Toward the end of the novel and the film she has to be turned into a human woman in order to be kept safe. She learns what it is like to be a mortal human with all of it’s messiness and wonderfulness. She learns to love and also becomes the only immortal unicorn who lives to regret. At the end of the story she is changed, but she is grateful for that change.

This is a modern fairy tale full of all the trademarks of the genre, beauty, goodness, truth, and redemption. What’s not to love? It’s up there with The Princess Bride as my favorite modern fantasy.

I forgive you.

I forgive you.

ps. the film has music from the band America. Yes.

I love graphic novels. I’m a sucker for art and literature, something I chalk up to being the child of a graphic design artist and an English Degree holder/editor. Graphic novels combine both of these in the best way possible. In college one of my capstone classes for my English major was on the Graphic novel as literature. That was when I really got into reading literary graphic novels.

This summer I discovered my local library has accumulated a nice little collection of these books and I have taken full advantage.

Here are a few of the novels I read.

Disclaimer: I know some kids and teens might read my blog. These books are really for adults. There’s nothing wrong with mature entertainment, (Les Miserables is a prime example) you just should be an adult to read these in my opinion. I would not assign any of these for my students to read.

 

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Bottomless Bellybutton by Dash Shaw.

This is my kind of novel. 3 adult siblings gather at their parents’ home where their parents announce they are divorcing. (It’s a lot like the Royal Tenenbaums). Everyone realizes how much they mean to each other etc. It also has a lot about identity, the younger brother perceives himself as a frog the whole time except for one scene where we see him as others see him. A lot of great ideas/imagery.

Habibi

Habibi by Craig Thompson.

Thompson creates beauty. He is a genius. I love all of his stuff. I read Blankets in college and fell in love. His imagery is like a tapestry. This story set in the Middle East shows the turmoil and how the old outdated ways continue to exist alongside modernity and how this effects two young people growing up in the midst of it.

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Ghostworld by Daniel Clowes

This is such a weird book. It’s like Daria and everything from the 90s got together in one comic. It has the show about nothing aspect of Seinfeld and the snark of Mean Girls. But at its heart it is about friendship even though both the protagonists are kind of awful people.

 

Next on my list are Watchmen1-800 Mice, and Persepolis.