Monthly Archives: December 2014

Top 3 Worst Things About Lists (in paragraph form)

We are a there always seems to be a countdown of the best songs of 2014 somewhere.

I’m all for a good list—I spent an embarrassing amount of time laughing at the 39 pictures of Renaissance babies—but I can’t help but think what this condensing of information means for society. Gone are the days when people would read articles to find information—even important news events are being condensed into an article consisting of 15 pictures.  Reading an article is evidently too tedious for the younger generations; instead, we want the bare minimum of information possible lined out for us.

Of course, I jump to the worst possible scenario and think “What will happen to books?” If my generation can’t even read a 500 word article about the riots in Ferguson, how are we expected to read a 500 page novel? Even as an English major, I find myself resorting to Sparknotes more often than I should. If I, a 21-year-old woman who has dedicated her education to books, can’t even bring myself to finish a novel, what are the people who hate to read expected to do? Read lists I suppose.

Humans of New York, the project of one man to interview random people on the streets of New York City, recently posted a n their Facebook page of a librarian who said, “I wouldn’t even agree that libraries are in the book business. I think they are in the information sharing business.” If a librarian has faith that humanity will always need books, then so can I.

And who knows—maybe I’m just being too pessimistic or bitter about the list fad. Maybe the The New York Times’s list of “ will inspire people to read all 10 books.

This is my last blog post, so I was tempted to ironically make a list of everything I’ve learned in my time at Bluestem. Instead, I’ll just end with saying that writing these blog posts has been challenging, rewarding, and entertaining, and I hope they’ve been the same for you.

–Hannah Osborne

 

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Whitewashed Exodus

I’m the first person to cheer at reinventions of old stories. Maybe it’s my incessant optimism that there will be a shred of something new, but I can’t help but hope that every remake of fairy tales, classic novels, or Bible stories will offer something unexpected. Disney’s Maleficent was a triumph in my book, so I kept my optimism and had hope that Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings would live up to my expectations. The movie is going to be released on December 12th, but the trailer is out now. When I first heard Christian Bale was cast as Moses, my initial thought was “How could Batman play Moses?!” How could Batman play Moses? First of all, he’s Batman. But more importantly, he’s white. A white man from Wales playing a middle-eastern man from Egypt.

Christian Bale must understand that there’s something not right about the movie; in a recent interview, he said, “I mean, no matter what we do, it’s inaccurate—we’re speaking English, for God’s sake! I mean, the whole thing, the basis, is an inaccuracy, but we’re trying to get the feeling, the emotion, hopefully….[Y]ou say Moses and you go, “Oh my God, how can I do that?” You say Moishe, and I can come at him from a human perspective: I was chasing some sheep up a mountain recently, and I got hit on the head by a rock. And when I came around, I spoke with God. And he told me things. And I’m changed forever. This is going to be my new destiny; this is my calling.” I can appreciate Bale’s desire as an actor to come at Moses from a realer perspective rather than relying on the basic Prince of Egypt story, a cartoon about Moses that my mother still owns on VHS. Despite his willingness to attempt to reinvent the character of Moses, it’s hard to overlook the fact that all of the main characters—all of whom are Egyptian or Hebrew—are played by an all-star cast of whites, consisting of Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul, and Ben Kingsley. I love Aaron Paul more than the average person should (I’m a sucker for his “yo bitch” on Breaking Bad), but I can’t make myself look past this glaring offense, and neither can social media. #BoycottExodusMovie quickly trended on Twitter, and there was a backlash about Hollywood’s history of whitewashing culturally rich movies.

This hilarious article from Flavorwire showcases the best tweets from the #BoycottExodusMovie Twitter trend and also the lame excuses from the producers and directors of the movie as to why they cast an all-white cast for a story that features absolutely no white people. Excuses ranged from the possible lack of support from backers Robert Murdoch’s belief that Egyptians are white (or at least “not black”). Because clearly those are legitimate excuses.

This problem has clearly been an issue for Hollywood over the years, and it doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. With the riots and protests occurring in reaction to the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, like this protest in Oakland, it’s hard to ignore the racism in every aspect of our society, including movies.

I think I’ll skip out on seeing Exodus and just stick to reading books where I can imagine an appropriate cast of characters in my mind.

–Hannah Osborne

Living in a Dystopia

It’s rare when real life syncs up with popular literature—when similar issues are addressed and suddenly the books take on a whole new meaning in the light of actual current events.

This is the case with the events happening in Ferguson and The Hunger Games.

I know I’m not the first person to notice the comparison—there have been countless posts on social media comparing the revolution in the newly released third movie installment in The Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 1, to the protests around the country in reaction to the court’s decision to not charge Officer Darren Wilson with the murder of Mike Brown (check out this BBC article for a brief overview of the case). Protesters in Ferguson even wrote the mantra from The Hunger Games—“If we burn, you burn with us”—onto an arch.

In Mockingjay Part 1, this quote is yelled by rebels attempting to overthrow an oppressive government, and it clearly resonates with the situation occurring in Ferguson right now. One of the main concerns with The Hunger Games hype is that the purpose of the books is being overlooked—that young people wholeheartedly support Jennifer Lawrence turning over the controlling government in a fictional, dystopian world but don’t see the purpose of the riots in their own country.

Alex Campbell tries to theorize why dystopian YA fiction is so popular in this article, and he comes up with some good reasons—social networking, overcoming extreme obstacles, feeling controlled from a young age—but he overlooks one crucial reason: that we are living in a world that is a dystopia.

I don’t want this post to turn into a laundry list of everything that’s wrong with our society, but news headlines reflect a society that is far from perfect. It’s hard to disagree that our world is anything but flawless, although defining it as a dystopia is perhaps a stretch. In any case, the world we live in evidently served as at least some inspiration for the dystopian societies we read about in books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Giver, all of which are now popular movie and book franchises. I think one of the main reasons these books are so popular right now is because they are an exaggerated reflection of the newspaper headlines we see splattered across the streets and our phone screens—even if the kids reading them don’t catch onto it at first.

Even if the twelve-year-olds who are totally team Peeta don’t connect actual court cases to a fictional franchise, all we can do is hope that the novels or movies spark something inside of them that inspires them to break out of their love triangle focus and see the larger implications of a revolution.

–Hannah Osborne