Films, Animation, and Literature (oh my!)

The reason we study so many older works of literature in school, so we’re told, is so that we can get an idea of the popular media that influenced the culture of that time period.  Stories like The Great Gatsby, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Hamlet have had a significant impact on the development of both America and western culture as a whole.  These stories were either a significant part of America’s identity as a literature and cultural powerhouse, or greatly affected the public both inside and outside of America.  Many of these writers weren’t known until after their deaths, but their works became influential long before some of us were even born.

But stories are nothing new to the human race.  Oral tales, fables, and ancient religious texts are some of the oldest records of stories we still have. These stories, too, shaped the course of human development, and some are still well-known to this day.

But what about today’s great, influential works?  What kind of media shapes the culture of America today?  What kind of creative works will people in the future be studying?

Thanks to the advancement of technology, new creative works are shared with the world every day.  Many of them can be found by other authors on this blog, in fact!  But clearly there are far too many now to read them all, so how do we determine the most influential ones?  It’s simple, really; ask yourself, what media did you consume as a child?  Movies, TV shows, or books?  Many of us reflect fondly on the animation from Disney, or J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  These are the what shaped us, and shape many children growing up today.  Of course, something doesn’t have to be for children to be influential to our culture, but many of the most fondly looked upon pieces of our modern media are from the YA rating section of books, or are for even younger audiences.  Disney has been a driving force behind the invention of new animation techniques and basically created the animated industry as we know it – and recently, they’ve purchased more and more influential franchises to put under their name.  Harry Potter has introduced a whole new wave and understanding of magic and alchemy, and has shaped generations into viewing magic in a very different light from their predecessors.  Characters like SpongeBob and Mickey Mouse are as recognizable if not more as Gatsby from The Great Gatsby.

It’s interesting to think about a generation in the distant future that may learn about our cultural icons like how we learn about old literature nowadays in school.  People may groan about having to study Pokémon all day, like how we groan about having to study Shakespeare’s plays.  Imagine a world where people who enjoy SpongeBob are labeled “theater nerds” and people who enjoy Shakespeare are labeled “history buffs”. That may very well be what our distant future is like!

-Leanne W.

Are Libraries Still Necessary?

Since the beginning of time, libraries have been an important part of human culture. For
over thousands of years, people have met to discuss, gain, and impart wisdom in
libraries across the globe.

Unfortunately, in the twenty-first century, people are starting to rely more and more on technology than on these beautiful buildings stuffed with books, and are questioning the necessity of libraries today.

The fact is, more people visit libraries every year than they do any other establishment. There was actually a study in New York that showed that the number of people who attend sporting events, museums, live performances, zoos, etc., adds up to about 30 million. Though this seems to be a rather large number, the NYC libraries counted about 37 million visitors, meaning that libraries attract more people than all other attractions do – combined!

Despite this, some people are suggesting that we do away with these wonderful libraries in favor of the internet. However, not only has overexposure to screens been
proven to damage one’s eyesight, reading books online is not nearly as thrilling
or satisfying as holding an actual library book in one’s hand.

Notwithstanding this, there are some people who still believe that libraries can be replaced with a simple Google search. What these people refuse to understand, though, is that libraries have become so much more than a place to store books. Nowadays, one can enter a library and find jobs, homework help, and many other activities, such as trivia nights and book talks, ice-cream socials and reading programs, that enrich and empower the community.

For these reasons, it is as plain as day that these power plants of knowledge are exceedingly necessary for our society and our world to not only survive, but to thrive.

-Mahak M.

Asian-American Representation Matters: Crazy Rich Asians, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved, and Searching Are Only the Beginning

Recently, three remarkable and very popular movies have come out: Crazy Rich Asians, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved, and Searching, all which feature Asian leads. These movies have become highly-acclaimed and well-loved, all garnering positive reviews and ratings. The three movies obviously are must-watches, but they mean something so much more to Asian-Americans: their positive, humanized representation in the media after a history of disparaging stereotypes.

Asian Americans have been mistreated by popular culture and media for decades, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and white-washing characters relentlessly. Asians are stereotyped as nerdy, anti-social, and unathletic; Asian women are seen as submissive and quiet and are sometimes over-fetishized, while Asian men are emasculated and seen as undesirable and unattractive. These are seen in popular movies from Breakfast in Tiffany’s to Pitch Perfect. The amount of blatant white-washing is almost uncountable; from Ghost in the Shell to The Great Wall to Doctor Strange, where roles that were meant for Asian actors were given to white people (one being Scarlett Johansonn, unsurprisingly), Asians are virtually invisible in the show business and subject to racial abuses.

Crazy Rich Asians is so important to change the perspective of Asians in the media. It is the first majority-Asian cast since Joy Luck Club, which was made 25 years ago. Crazy Rich Asians proves that Asians, despite popular belief, can do well in the box office: it is now the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade.

After Crazy Rich Asians, many Asian Americans have taken to social media to express their gratitude and happiness for finally seeing people that look like them on the screen. Jeff Yang, an Asian journalist, tweeted “Why am I #ProudToBeAsian? I’m #ProudToBeAsian because I FINALLY feel like we’re being seen and heard.” He continued on to state how “all of my life, I’ve been told to hide my food, speak louder, hold my tongue, go back where I came from, break out of my box and now I literally DGAF what you have to say if you’re not coming with respect for me and my people.”

Another tweet by an Asian writer and director, Gary King, stated how it feels wonderful “to see [Henry Golding] on screen vs. what I grew up on (and was told by the media how they thought of me). Representation matters.” The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Henry Golding and contrasting photos of the negative, emasculated, racist portrayals of Asians in the media, such as Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, who was played by Michael Rooney wearing yellow-face and emphasized Asian stereotypes as a form of comedic relief.

Similarly, another tweet stated how “Representation matters. Not just for actors but for everyone who wants to see someone that looks like them in a big Hollywood movie. I hope this movie smashes records and shows young Asian Americans they can be the hero of their own story.”

There was even a viral thread made by Kimberly Yam, a journalist, who spoke about her moments of shame and realization growing up Asian in a world that “makes a mockery of our existence.” She explains how the people around her made her not want to be Asian anymore and how slowly she began to love her heritage and culture again; Crazy Rich Asians is a symbol of long-deserved victory.

Crazy Rich Asians is an incredible, but long-awaited development for Asian-Americans. Crazy Rich Asians was also followed by the popular Netflix film, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved, which features Lana Candor, a Korean American actress, as the female protagonist. This is another development in changing the way Asians are viewed in the mass media. Even Lana Candor, the actress herself, has expressed surprise about landing the role.

“I never thought I would be so lucky to be the lead of a romcom,” said Lana Condor in an interview. “Simply because I don’t get those opportunities, for probably many reasons, but one of would likely be because I’m Asian. So when I got the audition and it said they were looking for an Asian American girl to play the lead love interest in a romcom, I was shocked. Truly. I just had never gotten that before.”

She continues on to say how Asians are rarely considered for movie roles. “I have had experiences where they say open to all ethnicities, and then I get there and it’s a bunch of blonde, blue-eyed beautiful ladies. And then myself,” said Condor. “And then I have to ask, why am I here? If we’re all auditioning for the same role, it clearly looks like you [the production] already have a picture in your mind.”

The writer of To All the Boys, Jenny Han, has also expressed how the film was almost white-washed. “Early on, I had conversations with producers who were interested in optioning the book, but the interest faded when I told them Lara Jean had to be Asian,” Han said. “They didn’t understand why she had to be Asian when there was nothing explicitly in the story that required her to be. For me, it’s not a matter of why, she simply is. And in a more equitable world, I wouldn’t have to justify that.”

To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved might have been an enjoyable, refreshing rom-com expressing young love to most people. To Asian-Americans, it is another step toward the journey of being accurately represented in the media.

Arden Cho, a Korean-American actor, expressed the importance of Lara Jean as the female lead. She states that as a child,  “I loved every romcom movie but they always made me feel like you had to be white to be beautiful, to fall in love, to be the lead . . . all I knew was I looked different and I hated it  . . . Seeing Lara Jean as the lead of [her] stor[y] was so powerful, so necessary.”

What is so important about To All the Boys is that Covey’s love life is not affected by her ethnicity. There are no stereotypes about her being a nerdy, quiet, or submissive Asian girl. To All the Boys normalizes the fact that all races fall in love and can have a cute love story — Asians included.

Finally, the most recent movie in theaters is Searching, a movie that features John Cho as the male protagonist, a father who is searching for clues about his missing daughter. This movie is also changing the narrative around Asian-Americans by featuring an Asian-American as a lead instead of a white actor. The movie has a 93% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and many people have expressed their happiness that an Korean-American actor takes a role that would traditionally be played by white men.

The golden age of Asian-Americans is dawning. No longer will we be invisible. This time, we will not be quiet.

-Audrey X.

William Stokoe: The Man Who Changed the World

William Stokoe is known throughout the ASL community as the “father of ASL linguistics”. Some might consider him a hero. He was the man who researches about the language and proved that sign language is an actual language. Even though many people doubted him and didn’t support him, he pushed through and ended changing the world with his success.

At the beginning of the research, he had little to no experience with Deaf people, their language, and the culture around them. Regardless, he began his research at Gallaudet University, a private university for the deaf and hard of hearing. After observing the students for some time, Stokoe noticed that sign language contained the features of an actual language. Even though he claimed that sign language is an actual language, his associates completely disagreed with Stokoe’s idea. Despite the lack of support, he continued with his research. After years of careful studying and observation, Stokoe was able to contradict his colleagues’ ideas of sign language not being a language. He ended up writing a paper called Sign Language Structure. His paper ultimately changed the ideas of language not only logically but also scientifically.

Essentially, he gave life to a community that wasn’t that well known or appreciated. He shined a new light on the language and culture and because of that, ASL is no longer a joke. Even when he retired, later on, he continued to work in the SIgn Language area, lecturing students, writing novels, and editing papers.

The creation of sign language has completely changed the world and how it functions. If you turn on the news, sometimes in the corner, there’s someone signing so that deaf people can understand what’s going on. There are even videos on the internet of singers having people who sign at their concerts so that they can enjoy the show just like everyone else and won’t miss out. Nowadays there’s sign language almost everywhere, it’s absolutely incredible.

-Phoebe L.

The Catcher in the Rye Spin-Off

Boy another day, another day of the countless tortures I’ll have to suffer from all the phonies in the world.  Ugh, why does this have to happen to me? Can’t I live a happier life at some point? Anyways, I endured the numerous agonies at Pencey with nothing to see, nothing to do.  As day ends, and night comes, I have the unwanted privilege of having Ackley in my room, as if this goddamn day couldn’t get any goddamn worse. I try to ignore his pitiful presence by reading Out of Africa.  His great ramblings consisted of his hatred of Stradlater and oh yeah how much he hates everyone else.  At this point, I was hoping for someone to kill me already, but as usual my prayers weren’t answered. As I was about to tell Ackley to keep his goddamn mouth shut, in comes Mal Broussard, a decent guy from Pencey.  I never thought I would be so happy to see Mal in all my life as I was fed up with Ackley’s crap. Mal came over to ask if Ackley and I wanted to see a movie. If you thought being with Ackley was a pain, watching a movie with him was worse.  Actually watching a movie with both Ackley and Mal was worse. During the entire movie, they would laugh at parts that aren’t even funny. They are stupid enough to actually fall for that Hollywood crap with even more phonies than the ones I’m surrounded by on a day to day basis.  I don’t really care what movie they pick since no one gives a damn about my opinion, and they aren’t even good friends of mine.

Anyways, the movie they suggested was one they already saw.  On the outside, I’m willing to do whatever; on the inside, I’m screaming: “THANK GOD”  So, we decided to go to a burger joint not too far from Pencey. A burger joint is a burger joint: nothing special but it’s goddamn better than the crappy food at Pencey and a phony movie combined.  We head in, and it already kills me when Ackley actually jumps to a table, making himself look like a moron. I seat myself down in this goddamn squeaky chair that’s hurting my butt like mad. I’m six feet two inches tall; this was the last thing I needed.  

Anyways, I take a look at the menu, which I’m happier to order from than eating the typical Pencey crap of steak and mashed potatoes.  Finally, some waiter who looks unexcited to be here shows up to take our orders. I order the “classic” cheeseburger with fries and the “classic” vanilla milkshake.  By putting “classic” before everything is probably just another way to say, “This is the food that sucks less compared to the other goddamn items.” Mal orders the “classic” double beef cheeseburger with the “classic” cheese fries and the “classic” chocolate milkshake.  Ackley orders practically the whole goddamn menu. I’ll sum it up for you: the burger supreme with every topping imaginable, chili cheese fries deluxe with an extra side of mayonnaise and to put the goddamn cherry on top, apple pie ala mode with a mint chocolate chip milkshake.  No surprise here, that Ackley would do something this stupid, so at this point I shake my head to the point where it’s about to fall off. As if being in the same room with a moron of a guy like Ackley was bad enough, I had to eat in the same room with him as well. Practically, the only normal person at this table was Mal, and when you think about, that isn’t saying much.  

Anyways, the food arrives; I can’t wait to be disgusted already.  My food is okay; the burger is medium rare when I asked for it to be medium, the fries are nothing short of dry, and the milkshake is a nice way of saying, “Enjoy your melted ice cream sir.”  My food experience was also ruined because I was watching the terrifying site of Ackley eating his food. You could tell he adored it, almost too much. He started off by devouring his burger as if he was the predator and the burger was his prey.  It was like a python attacking a pig. Some call it entertainment while I find to be quite phony if you wanna know the truth. Ackley swallows the burger whole, pardon me he tries to swallow it. It would have been funnier if he choked on the burger to tell you the truth.  After a good five minutes alone with the burger, he moves on to the fries, not as bad as him eating the burger but pretty close. It was like a vending machine sucking up your goddamn money, one after another after another. I’m surprised he wasn’t breaking a sweat at this point.  After a good minute and half of him inhaling his goddamn slimy fries, he finishes off with the milkshake and pie. I wish I was kidding as I’m about to say this, but he began to gurgle his milkshake with the pie. Every ten seconds, he would slurp and gurgle, slurp and gurgle, and slurp and gurgle.  It was never ending. I had never seen anything like it in my life. The mint chocolate chip milkshake was probably the only “mouthwash” or any form of dental hygiene he’s used in his entire life. I couldn’t have been any more goddamn disgusted, what a moron that Ackley kid is.

Anyways, after Ackley’s eating fiasco, I look at Mal closely; I can’t tell whether he’s used to this kind of behavior since he’s on the wrestling team or whether he was equally disgusted as I was.  I immediately go to the cashier up front to pay for the crappy food. Then, Mal, Ackley, and I head home as I watch another beautiful site of Ackley cleaning his teeth from all the schlop he ate tonight.  Boy, what a guy!

Anyways, I am back in my room, trying to pretend I never saw what happened at the burger joint and have a marvelous dream that I am an acclaimed executive chef at the burger joint where I chop and cook decadent food that everyone adores.  I am like a musician in my dream; the kitchen utensils are my instruments, and I am the magic behind it, working in perfect harmony. My dream is suddenly ruined by the sound of Ackley vomiting the night away in the hallway. I’ll get the goddamn mop.  

-Whitney D.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Untitled

The sun shone through the window. It was a new day, a fresh start. The brightness made it easy to forget the dark events of the previous night. Horrified images began to take over her mind. The screaming echoed in her ears. It was a mistake, she cried to herself. She knew she wouldn’t be able to forget it, that all she could do was find a way to live with it. No one would ever know her secret. This new day was her chance to become someone else, someone incapable of the horrible truth that was her mind.

She stared at the rays of light, imagining this, when a spot of red on the wall caught her eye. It was small enough to go undetected, but she knew its source. Tracing her eyes along the wall, more spots appeared, forming larger and messier streaks of red. There she could see it clearly, as if the color was the very paint on the wall, the color she would now wake up to every morning. It dripped down, drying at the bottom, collecting together to create a puddle.

Even with all her strength, she couldn’t pull her eyes away from the scene. It was all her fault. No amount of paint would ever cover up her pain from last night, no amount would make the tragedy disappear. It was forever stained in front of her.

In her own blood. Who would do such a thing?

 

PSA: Substance Abuse

This is not a book review or a movie review; it’s not a response to a writing prompt. Instead, I wanted to type up my opinion on a subject that’s been heavily impacting my life, my friendships and my heart. No matter how much statistics prove how deadly and negative drugs and alcohol impact lives, people repeatedly run to substances as sources of fun, escape and stability. While a wild night provides thrill and serves the adrenaline that many feed off of, one mistake can prove to be deadly and detrimental. Problems never become solved, but instead are drowned in liters of alcohol and burnt by blunt after blunt. Still, they resurface, hurting even more and provoking another urge to dive into trouble and substance use. If one truly reflects, substance abuse truly cannot provide any permanent comfort or safety. So then, I wonder, why do I seem to keep losing friends and hearing stories on the news of continuous substance abuse?

It’s a harsh pang in the heart to hear and see how many lives substances have hurt. Personally and thankfully, my family life has always been drug and alcohol free but for many, I know substance abuse is strongly prevalent. Therefore, this leads to physical abuse, neglect, financial instability and so many other outcomes that trickle down and hurt too many lives. And that is downright unjust. Too many children lack parental love and guidance, too many students lose best friends to unpromising danger. This is the darkness of the world that needs to be addressed and cleared.

Life was meant to be lived beautifully and purely. Drugs and alcohol work to distort that truth and they lie to users, tempting them to believe that life is falsely colored. But true, vibrant colors are seen in so many other aspects of this world. From the pink and orange hues of sunsets to the bright light radiated by the smiles of laughing couples, from the earthy foliage of autumn to the crisp ivory of snowfall. This world offers us so much. There are roads to be driven on, oceans to be swam in and people to be talked to. Why confine yourself to the limited world of partying and intoxication when you can release yourself to the peaceful realm of adventuring and growing? With free will, why sell yourself short to a life confined to the vicious wheel of unconscious, reckless living? Just a little food for thought . . .

-Jessica T.