Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Could Take a Tip from Arundhati Roy

Recently, I have been reading a lot of popular Sci-Fi and Fantasy books that all feel like they are lacking something. While the world is usually intriguing, I often find myself bored or unsettled by the characters who are the stars of the novels. Through reading GOST, I have figured out just what these books are lacking and why.

In the first chapter of GOST, we are taught more about Rahel and Estha’s world than I was taught about any of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy worlds that I have read in the entirety of their first novel. Along with this, the chapter doesn’t feel rushed or jam-packed and all the transitions are swift and unnoticeable. This is quite different than the Fantasy book that I most recently read called An Ember in the Ashes, where the transitions between perspectives were abrupt and random.

I think Roy’s writing differs from many of these Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers because of what/who she centers her story around. GOST is primarily driven by the characters, particularly Rahel and Estha. Their desires and feelings decide where the plot will go and what conflict will arise. In a Dystopian book that I just read called Legend, it felt as if the world was the main character and drove the plot while the actual protagonists were a mere backdrop.

I believe that many of these authors get too caught up in making their make believe world into something that is bigger and better that they forget about what is supposed to be the driving force of the novel. This does not mean that big and beautiful book worlds cannot exist, for Roy explains all the intricacies of Rahel and Estha’s world. The difference is that she does this in a swift and coherent manner that ultimately supports the action and conflict of the main characters. This is why Roy’s writing has come to inspire my current sci-fi story writing, even though it is a completely different genre.

Orientalism in “The Nutcracker”

A few years ago, back at my old dance studio, I participated in the annual “Nutcracker” ballet that always took place around Christmas. Everyone would dress up in their fun costumes and go out and perform amazing choreography. While I always remembered it as a time of joy and cheer, I now see “the Nutcracker” for all of it’s faults. These faults came in the form of obvious culture stereotyping all throughout the ballet.

Because it has been around since 1892, the Nutcracker has been performed countless times by a countless amount of famous ballet companies. It is so ingrained into the ballet world, that many fail to recognize the Orientalism that plagues it. In particular, this exists in “the Land of Sweets” section of the ballet, and is abundantly present in the “Chinese Dance” and the “Arabian Dance.

While the “Chinese Dance” of the Nutcracker is often completed with many different variations, the most popular versions of it include movements with the index fingers pointing upwards and many bows from the waist. In addition to this, many of the variations include fans or umbrellas. This portrayal is both inaccurate and highly stereotypical.

Another dance that exhibits Orientalism is the “Arabian dance” which has been most popularly done as a pas de deux (dance between a man and a woman). The costumes for this dance usually include a woman in a bejeweled bra top and flowy pants and a man in pants and no shirt. The movements are often slow and the woman is supposed to be seen as beautiful and alluring. This promotes the common and inaccurate western stereotype of Eastern women as existing solely for a man’s pleasure.

All in all, I hope that major ballet companies can work in the future to alter the Nutcracker so that it does not exhibit such blatant Orientalism. Not only this, but many other ballets such as La Bayedere and Le Corsaire also need to be edited to remove all to present Orientalism. While many choreographers feel the need to preserve the historical roots of dance, Orientalism should not be something that is accepted.

The sketch for Guns-SNL

A Sketch for guns created by SNL was created to show the impact and importance guns have on Americans; in a funny almost overboard representation of it. The skit is designed to show how life can be going good or bad but once you include a gun it will make everything more extraordinary and amazing. during the time period of 2015 guns were a big topic in politics since they were seen as dangerous to others and useful to others; satire is used heavily to show that guns can be there with you in your first love or in big moments in life and how guns are always going to be there to stay by your side.

Hyperbole is used throughout the skit the women is speaking on different events that transpire in our lives. She says things like ¨Wherever life takes you guns were here to stay. she says this in a very soothing almost therapeutic tone. It shows that it is a serious topic but spoken about in a comedic manner. The skit also uses Irony when saying ¨Guns unit us¨ it is said in a tone that is very in a funny tone. And that In most cases people feel guns do the complete opposite and that we cause more damage to each other with them then if we did not have guns. 

What “Beauty Queens” Will Do For Beauty

For the 50 teenage female contestants in the “Miss Teen Dream” beauty pageant, beauty is everything. A lot of them have spent their whole lives believing that this was the only thing that they could strive to do. So when the plane that they were traveling in crash lands on a deserted island, it immediately becomes apparent that they care much more for their looks and outside characteristics than they care about surviving and getting off the island. This creates a gloriously funny satire that coveys the point that the current standards of beauty for women are completely ridiculous and girls shouldn’t let them define who they are.

While all of the characters are completely hilarious, a great deal of the satire regarding beauty standards can be attributed to Miss Taylor Krystal Rene Hawkins (Miss Texas). During the beginning of the novel, her character serves as almost an internal antagonist to the other main characters. This is in most part due to her extreme desire to ensure that everyone is still doing all they can to prepare for the beauty pageant and conform to the society’s beauty standards even when they are running out of food and water on the island. Since this is obviously wrong, the reader can take away Libba Bray’s point that society needs to stop pushing women to prioritize beauty over everything else.

Interspersed throughout the novel are “commercial breaks”. These are short yet hilarious interruptions of the plot and usually come at times of great intensity in the novel. Most of these commercials advertise weird beauty products that seem completely ridiculous to the reader. These “commercial breaks” are one of the main sources of humor in the book and reflect the unnecessary beauty standards of the world we live in. By reading these advertisements, the reader can see how sexist and misguiding the current media is regarding the way women should act and dress.

While reading this book, I couldn’t help but laughing every 10 seconds. Each of the different personalities and voices of the girls was represented on the narration and the way that they interacted with each other was hilarious. The satire of the book was clearly understood and beautifully written and I completely agree with the argument she made about the beauty standards that society forces women to follow.

A Musical Theater Nerd’s Guide to Beloved

*This post includes a spoiler for the musical Next to Normal. And also for Beloved, but my guess is that part won’t be a problem for the majority of this blog’s readers.*

I love musicals. So when Mr. Heidkamp suggested that we blog about an addition to the Beloved soundtrack, a couple of show tunes immediately popped into my head, even though the musicals they are from have pretty different stories from Beloved. I wanted to share them in hopes they make the soundtrack, so here goes:

  1. I’m Alive” from Next to Normal

While, in my personal opinion, the lyrics of this song fall somewhat short of Toni’s Morrison’s signature originality, I feel like it has to be part of the Beloved soundtrack because it is just so on the nose. It is sung by the son of the main character, who died as a baby and now returns to “haunt” the main character in the form of her hallucinating that she sees his teenage self. (I told you it was on the nose!) Like Beloved, Next to Normal explores a mother’s grief at losing a child and how it contributes to mental illness in her life. Gabe, the main character’s son and the character who sings this song, wants to pull his mother back into the past and prevent her from moving on and confronting the reality of her present, much like Beloved does with Sethe. 

To me, some really key lyrics of the song are when Gabe sings, “I’m your wish, your dream come true/And I am your darkest nightmare too.” He also asserts that he is both, “what you want me to be” and “your worst fear” and that he will both “hurt” and “heal” his mother. Like Beloved, he represents the past as both a place of comfort that people can be nostalgic for (because it was a time when a lost loved one was alive) and a place of horrors and trauma (in Next to Normal, because of Gabe’s tragic, premature death; in Beloved, not only because of Beloved’s tragic, premature death but also the many other horrors Sethe faced). And although this strange dichotomy exists, it is also true that part of what makes the past so dangerous to dwell on is how good parts of it were– that is the seductive part that keeps people from moving on, recovering, and getting to a better present. 

  1. Mama Who Bore Me” from Spring Awakening

This song deals with a young woman’s resentment toward her mother because her mother shelters her and wants to keep her a “baby” forever rather than allow her to learn about the harsh reality of the world. While I have never actually seen Spring Awakening, and so don’t entirely know the young woman’s mother’s motivation for sheltering her daughter, this song reminds me of how Sethe wants to protect her children from everything. Not only does Sethe attempt to kill all of her children to prevent them from being enslaved, but before the reader even finds out about that, she is shown keeping Denver inside 124 and treating her like she is much younger than she actually is, much to Paul D’s frustration. As Sethe says on page 54, “‘I don’t care what she is. Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that supposed to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing.’” (54) I find “Mama Who Bore Me” a really beautiful song, and think its general theme, as well as its use of motifs that also show up in Beloved (such as sleep, religion, and fire), would fit the Beloved soundtrack very well. 

One other thing that is interesting about this song that also reminds me of Beloved is that the character who sings it at first sings that her mother made her “sad” and then later sings that her mother made her “bad.” I feel like this relates to how the pain and suffering that Beloved experienced (for example, on pages 248-252, when she recounts being on what seems to be a slave ship and being abandoned by the one person she loves and feels like is “herself”) is what causes her to become a toxic person who drags other people down. Beloved is not just a “devil-child” who derives pleasure from doing evil, but rather a character who is so deeply sad and broken that she cannot help but poison everyone around her with the sadness and brokenness that seeps out of her through her behaviors (such as clinging to Sethe and not permitting her to take care of herself in any way). She is “bad” because she is “sad.” I think this holds true whether she is merely a ghost of Sethe’s daughter or a personification of past sadness.

Exit West and Carnival Row

Throughout reading this book, I found myself constantly comparing it to a TV show that I watched recently called Carnival Row. Carnival Row is an eight episode Amazon Prime show set in an expansive fantasy world based off of the Victorian Era of England.

In this world, the Fae, or Faeries, come to the Burge as refugees when their home kingdoms become war torn by the ongoing international conflict. The Burge is the land of the humans, but not all of the humans are willing to accept the Fae into their society. Many murders and crimes are plaguing the Burge and the newly migrated Fae are the first to get the finger pointed at them.

While the cast of this show is quite large, the plot of Carnival Row mainly revolves around two central characters and their journeys throughout the episodes. The characters are Vignette, a fierce-willed warrior Fae who has come to the Burge for refuge, and Philo, an open hearted and curious investigator of the Burge.

The journey of Vignette and Philo in Carnival Row reminded me of the journey of Saeed and Nadia because they are both trying to navigate their relationship in a society where some separation and prejudice occurs regarding migrants. In addition to this, Vignette’s story parallels that of Saeed and Nadia because she, too, came from a place that she watched succumb to war right in front of her eyes.

Maria and Matthew: 2 Meursaults, One Movie

When I first read about Trust, a movie directed by Hal Hartley, and how it was supposed to be from the perspective of a “female Meursault”, I was expecting there to be only one character similar to Meursault. Instead, while watching, I found myself looking at 2.

In my opinion, I thought that both Marie and Matthew represented Meursault’s character. I think that the similarity in names to The Stranger in some sense, is to throw the watcher’s view off. Maria, is expected to be similar to Marie, and Matthew is expected to be like Meursault. However, because of their personality traits, I think that Marie’s lack of understanding for people and Matthew’s alienation from people around his community, cause them to both be similar to Meursault. Together, both of them face problems from all sides, whether its Matthew’s abusive father or Maria’s extra controlling mother.

Matthew and Maria’s “last hurrah” can be seen as the grenade going off at Matthew’s workplace. Similarly, Meursault’s last hurrah can be seen as him killing the Arab. Though, Maria didn’t end up getting punished for the grenade (because she wasn’t the one to ensue the problem) however I think she played a large roll in the events leading up to it.

Her lack of empathy towards Matthew can be seen when she tells him she no longer wants to marry him and wants to pursue what she wants individually; Matthew is heavily affected by this, most likely because it’s his last string of hope he had. Nevertheless, I think that while the two of them are not “fully” Meursault, they both have characteristics that are very much similar to him.

I also think that Hartley’s writing up of the characters were fantastic. In my class, I found that many people found the characters weird if not just boring; I think that the lack of emotion and the grittiness of the camera work added to this aesthetic that was very much Stranger-esque(?)…

Honestly, I missed a day of viewing so to say the least, I was pretty confused watching the ending. Other than that, I thought the movie itself was pretty interesting. What are your thoughts on Trust? Do you think that both of the main characters represented Meursault? Or only one?