The outdoors has always provided a certain clarity and wholesomeness unavailable to us when locked up under a roof with our cell phones glued to our hands. For this reason and myriad others, our most recent family trip involved almost a dozen camping tents, and tons of water. From the moment we arrived and began organising the layout of our camp site, I had already realised that we were creating memories which made me believe in something brighter than ordinary.
For five days we were allowed to savour a venture uninterrupted by inhibition. Showers became optional due to the sheer hours spent in shimmering swimming pools. Hair remained unkempt and unbrushed, but laughter wildly framed our faces better than any hair-iron curls could. Makeup brushes lay forgotten at home, but sun-kissed cheeks and healthy glows were genuine and unfettered by artifice. Dresses became shorter as we braved the heat, and slowly but surely our tan lines began to appear, defining physically what we could only feel. In the almost unbearably languid wind in scorching afternoons, feet pattered back and forth on muddy ground carrying overflowing buckets to fill water guns, flushing the laziness away.
Soon the Camper’s Code became self-evident. Keep your swimming costumes close at hand in case of spontaneous swimming pool cravings. Never, and I mean never, leave your camping chair unsupervised for danger of another eager camper stealing your spot while you are seeking out an evening snack. Towels are not necessary since air-drying requires minimum effort and does a more thorough job. Eventually our habits blended together and at the end of each day we crawled into our tents with our batteries flat, but bursting with eagerness to begin the next day.
So our days were inhabited with unexpected water wars and unplanned ice-cream endeavours, although it does bear mentioning that horrid taste of sunblock in our mouths. Under the gorgeous shade of our acacia trees (which we really lucked out on), we napped the afternoons away, restlessly attempting to find comfortable positions on our deck chairs which we learned to be unsuited for sleep. The fears that our childhood vacations there would be unhinged by mediocre experiences were shattered. It was the type of joy which made you forget pain exists. High on Vitamin D and a legal but exclusive kind of ecstasy, we manifested dreams and created memories which are tattooed on our hearts like tan lines.
A few weeks ago on a magnificent trip to the Mother City with my best friend and her family, an acquaintance mentioned something to me which made me question myself as well as my response. Upon glancing at my cell phone background and furrowing his brow at the mischievous Tinkerbell Disneyland face character, he muttered amusedly, “You’re such a girl.” To this I stuttered, “No, I’m not.” Why did I hesitate before responding? Probably because my answer was inherently averse to every fibre of my being whispering ‘Of course you are, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of’.
The word ‘girly’ has come to imply that perhaps pink is one’s favourite colour, or that one likes chocolate and shoe shopping and discussing feelings and one’s Pinterest board is filled with wedding dresses. I don’t hold pink to any particular esteem, yet I have an immense love for shopping. I can never own enough shoes, yet I despise perusing feelings. Many have debated whether I even have any. Why is it so necessary to label people and place every person we meet in neat and tidy boxes? Is it because it represents some semblance of control in a world where we hold none?
If I could watch a romantic comedy every day of my existence, I would. I am the person they create those movies for. I am ecstatic when the end credits role and I’m left satisfied with the couple who were clearly meant for each other. In no way does this mean that I expect the same circumstances of my reality. In fact, at times I am realistic to an annoying degree. It should not be a crime to enjoy a rom-com while being a member of the female sex. The same goes for cooking shows and Marvel films and science fiction.
I am the most emotionless person I know. I don’t tear up in movies but I wail every time we witness and animal suffering on screen. I will not apologise for finding joy in certain things just because they match society’s stereotypes of weakness and submission. A woman’s femininity is not required to be compromised because she wishes to be viewed as compelling and unyielding. We can be feminine and fierce, and we do not need permission.
Anybody acquainted with me knows that I do not seek value in receiving validation from others. I found this trait to be especially helpful when one is studying in the field I am. Most of my friends studying Arts degrees are all too familiar with the confused, vacant stares and the disapproving stutters of older relatives who have nothing more to do than offer banal life advice to those unfortunate enough to be in their presence. But that is a subject for another time.
Recently, somebody asked me what my biggest fear is. I am not a person who is daunted easily, although I do seem to hold a certain aversion towards spiders. However his question was not directed at the trivialities of arachnophobia, so without hesitation I answered that what what frightened me the most is a nine-to-five job. His reply: “Well then, what are you going to do?” was accompanied by knitted eyebrows in a perplexed expression. This scared me. His befuddled reply suggested that his mind accommodated for nothing beyond the confines of a future working substandard hours in a a dusty cubicle until the time comes to go home and repeat robotically the next day.
Now, I am no expert at careers. Of any sort. But i have feeling something must be amiss when about 75% of the students I know would most probably break down sobbing if you were to ask them about their plans for the future. Last year, we were required to ask permission to use bathroom. Now we’re expected to decide on one path for the rest of our lives? Forgive us if we break out in a nervous sweat every time you ask that dreaded question:
“What are you going to do after school?”
So no. For now, I have no idea what I want. Hopefully I’ll figure it out along the way, fitting the pieces together in an asymmetrical puzzle. And if not, I’m a gymnast so I’ll trapeze my way through it and pray the net appears. For now, all I know is that my future does not involve me behind a desk for nine hours working towards somebody else’s dream. Otherwise, my book is unwritten.
Here’s a plot twist: How about a word of advice from the kids to the grown-ups for once. I understand it might seem like the only relevant topic for meaningless conversation, and even though you have no idea who I am you still feel the need to delve into my desires and pursuits in life. Nonetheless: please don’t ask us about our futures. Your guess is as good as ours.
During the last few weeks it has been an effort to remain involved in my literature. Writing and even reading felt more tedious than usual, especially when I had to begin a new book. This does not mean, however, that literature is an aspect which is in any way less essential to my happiness and survival. Staying current with news on book signings, new releases and conventions allows me a sense of purpose. Even though I don’t live close enough to attend any such events, I know that one day I will see it all. Authors and fan accounts are my celebrities, and their tweets riddle my timeline in such an organised chaos that one glance is enough to make me feel included.
Anybody who has been passionate about a piece of literature knows that sometimes there is an unequivocal desire, however small, for that literature to be adapted to screen so that the world may appreciate it. Recently I heard that another one of my favourite book series is being optioned for television, and I could not be more unimpressed. This is not one of those books.
Over the past few years I have witnessed a plethora of incredibly well-written works being butchered at the hands of casting directors and cinema producers who could not care less what runs through the minds of deathly possessive book nerds. Agreed; some masterpieces have been adapted of literature; when the movie/TV series remains loyal to the story which has already managed to gather a worldwide fan base just by being ink on paper (The Hunger Games begs to be mentioned). There is no need to compromise the understated subtleties of a character’s traits and their eclectic personalities for supermodels and overrated actors who only serve to rack up views and massacre the characters we love in the process.
The book series in question is undeniably one of my favourite. Throne of Glass gripped me from the first page, and the author’s mature approach offers moral questioning at every turn. I can’t help but feel protective over each character and what every new page has taught me – as is the case for most books I read. As much as I attempt to remain positive when it comes to movie/TV adaptations, I wholeheartedly believe that this is a book best left untainted by the superficiality of Hollywood’s glamour. I don’t see why a piece of literature so worthy of praise needs to be pressed flat into a movie reel, just so that people who could not bother to read it are able to ‘watch’ the story play out. Some books are screen-worthy. But others don’t desire the manufactured attention the cinematic world offers. They deserve better than that. If we want to escape into the fictional world, open the damn book. Otherwise, as Thor so aptly put it, you’re not worthy.
Recent extremely publicised events have brought to my attention the severity of the word ‘freedom’. Uncharacteristically, I will refrain from mentioning specifics due to the nature of the subject. Instead, I will refer to the general idea of opinion, belief, and what the concept of freedom has morphed into.
The words “freedom of speech” are flung around so often these days that we have become complacent to the meanings as well as the responsibility attached to them. Freedom of speech does not justify bullying or enforcing our opinions on others. No matter which ‘side’ of the argument we decide to take (and this is not to say that there are always sides) we never have the right to hurt others while satisfying our egos or securing our self-esteem.
That being said, I too, have experienced the tough decisions which tempt us in the explore page on Instagram or the hashtags on Twitter. Millions of disparate opinions and perspectives, and even more confused people with personal turmoil, attempting to sift through these onslaughts of images and communication. Deciphering what is right from wrong and then fitting it to what we believe in (or think we do), is the most difficult challenge facing us – especially young minds – today. I have always thought my conviction to be strong and my faith unwavering, and even I have had to remind myself not to become desensitised to the disturbing ideas we are faced with daily. Every hour we update social media there are more images we would rather not have laid eyes on, and being exposed to them more and more are bound to make us question our convictions.
Freedom of speech has become so free that anybody who opposes the majority of society’s opinions are labelled, barraged and called out. While this is nothing new, I find myself wondering when we skipped the part where everybody has the right to voice their beliefs, and jumped straight to the inverse. Why do we call it freedom of speech when society has just boxed us all in, brainwashed us into oblivion and then instructed us to turn aggressive when somebody dares verbalise their personal views? Just because they call it freedom, does not mean everybody possesses it; nor does it mean that we can turn it into a weapon and use it to oppress others.
Reading books until late nights are indistinguishable from early mornings are one of my reasons for living. If you have not experienced the dreadful pleasure of delving into the pages of a book until your head hurts and your eyes are red with tears of exhaustion, then you have indeed not lived. Having just survived another torturous night at the hands of an author and her never-ending captivating chapters, I became the victim of another plot twist.
Plot twists are what define stories and create their legacies. You would think that with the amount of books I have read I would have gained enough knowledge to gauge when a plot twist will appear and what it will entail. If that was the case, I would not be rapidly running out of space on my bookshelf. So no; I did not see it coming. And after closing the book, shutting my eyes and frantically attempting to piece together the pieces of my brain, I realised something. I should have seen it coming, and of course I was a tiny bit annoyed that I had been fooled again. But had I entered the world doubting every character and their intentions, the story and its magic would be rendered obsolete.
That was when I compared this to my encounters with ordinary people in the real world. As much as we might want to at times, we can’t close the covers on real life and forget the events which affect us. In real life you have to page back and tape together the torn words or else they will continue to haunt us chapters later. This is why I can’t seem to treat life as I do fiction. In stories I can be young and innocent and naïve. I’m allowed to open my heart to falling in love and heartbreak and loss. But in the real world, if you are as ingenuous as a character on the first page of a novel you will be broken beyond repair. This is why I keep my shoulders back and my eyes narrowed, because I know that to be too trusting might mean a battered spirit or a bruised heart.
I have to keep ahead of the real-life plot twists. Something tells me they aren’t as entertaining when you bear the brunt of them in first person. To others it may seem cold and withdrawn, but that is why I don’t like to label things. In reality, I’m a realist. In fiction I’m a dreamer. Sometimes I blur the lines but my heart remains locked away, and only those who have earned the keys hold pieces of it.
Let me begin by saying that if you don’t have a favourite avenger, you’re either housemates with Patrick the Starfish, you’re over thirty years old or you can step back into your time machine because what decade are you living in? Everybody has a favourite Avenger, and if you’re like me and have a tough time deciding then just about every single one has unique and admirable traits. Last month Disney released their movie line-up for the next five years. Yes, they are probably more organised than I will ever be, and as ecstatic as I was that we were prepared for half a decade of excitement, one expected title was nowhere to be found.
Where in the world is our Black Widow movie?
If you are wondering what the supposed storm in a teacup is about, allow me to explain. Over the next few years 25 live action ‘superhero’ movies are to be released. Out of that 25, 14 of them have their titles sired after the male character the story is centered around. 9 of these features are based on leagues of characters wherein there is an overwhelming and dominant male presence. If you passed second grade numeracy you would be able to work out the exact number of movies left which are centered on a female heroine. Two. Why is it that after all this time women can only amount to buffers for feminist rants, vulnerable love interests or hitches in plot lines who only serve to accentuate the heroes’ pain?
We need to empower our women, and young girls deserve to know that they are more than props or objects to be stereotyped or sexually objectified. Women are worth more than remaining overshadowed by male characters who are allowed to hold attention without revealing impractical amounts of skin. Over the last few movies the heroes’ love interests have borne impressive skill sets; A scientist. An astrophysicist. An intern to a multi-million-dollar corporation. But they remain supporting characters and double as romantic diversions.
Natasha Romanov is a trained Russian spy who was not born with supernatural strength or the ability to conjure thunder (I am not hating on Thor). She has played a supporting character for five Marvel cinematic features and is a scene-stealer in her own right. She has tricked the God of Mischief himself and works on her own terms, never carrying out a task she isn’t comfortable with. Marvel intends to release an ‘Ant-Man’ movie. There is also one about a talking raccoon and a tree. Let us not forget the one about the man in the skin-tight black suit called Black Panther. Even the name sounds like a rip-off. How is that any different or more appealing than the finesse of Black Widow herself?
Girls don’t want sparkly dresses or bouquets of flowers. We want well-written female characters and a standalone Black Widow movie that gives the character we love the recognition she deserves.
It is no secret that Disney runs through my veins every waking second. Fantasy has always been my safe haven when reality seemed too banal for my taste. I may appear to be a realist but I can’t attempt to understand why so much of my time is spent in fictional worlds. So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that J.M. Barry’s classic Peter Pan was being readapted into a blockbuster for the big screen. It always brings a smile to my face when my favourite stories are appreciated for the masterpieces of film and literature that they are. But when the casting for the movie Pan was announced I took a step back. Tiger Lily, an iconic figure from the Native American tribe in the original story, was to be played by a white actress.
Rooney Mara to play traditionally Native Tiger Lily
Tiger Lily in Disney’s Peter Pan
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the actress herself. I have never seen Rooney Mara (the actress to play Tiger Lily) in any previous roles and have no bias for or against her acting skills. Nor do I enjoy speaking about racial issues as if race is a design which matters in any way. Our problem lies with the fact that Hollywood is constantly casting white actors and actresses in inappropriate roles in order to raise ticket sales. A few days ago one of my favourite books-turned-TV-series cast a Latina actress to play a character, and people found it to be a predicament. The actress was stunning, and she looked the part. Why would it be a problem that she’s Latina? Acting is her profession and she can imitate an American accent as well as any American can. We have been so utterly brainwashed by the media into believing that ‘white is right’ when the reality is white is not the only race that exists.
I recently showed a friend a picture of an artist’s excellent rendition of Disney’s characters from Frozen in a different race. As much as my love for the characters of Frozen is infinite, I possessed almost unparalleled admiration for the artist and her work. The art was spoton and the images were gorgeous. My friend took one look at it and said, “That is so creepy.” My gross understanding of the situation was that whilst I had been a fan of the artist’s work for some time now, my friend was only laying eyes on the content for the first time. Also, being an artist, I would naturally appreciate the animation and artistry more than the average person would. Still, the whole incident bothered me. Why is it so difficult to imagine a black or indian Disney Princess? Because we have seldom been exposed to one.
Most of all, the revolting custom of whitewashing already native characters needs to be stopped. I highly doubt it was a challenge finding a native actress to play Tiger Lily, so the underlying issue is far greater. On the subject of Pan, I am undoubtedly disappointed. The entire cast of the movie is white, besides Tiger Lily’s father (and her tribe) who is ironically Native American. The message is clear. A supporting character being multi-racial is alright, but to have a main character as ethnic poses a problem. Whitewashing is an overwhelming concern in the film and television industry, and it is shameful. Our youth should not have to be ashamed of their race or culture because it is not the norm that they are exposed to on TV shows or in movies. We encourage diversity, and we embrace it. It is about time that Hollywood began to realise that.
Of course, every young girl who has laid eyes on her immediately wishes to take her place. She dreamed of something more, and she chased it relentlessly, iconic red hair billowing behind her as a reminder that when you want something bad enough, you will find a way.
But I am not the Little Mermaid. I am the opposite. All I know is the that there is an endless, vast expanse of the turquoise horizon, and all I want is a tail to explore it. And I would rather unchain my anchor and leave my would-be prince behind, standing on the shoreline to trace the footsteps on the white sand back home, than to have him follow me on my journeys and struggle of oxygen deprivation, or freeze in the icy depths.
Because it is not shallow.
And it is not warm.
And the poorly illuminated void has been known to swallow people whole.
Yet all I desire is to be a mermaid, so that I may plunge through that darkness to reach the cosmos of coral which lies miles beneath beneath the waves. My eyes will remain wide open and I will retrieve all the treasures those humans tossed into the ocean because they thought it was trash.
Writers all over the world have turned fifty shades of green with envy at the overwhelming success which EL James’ novel has been basking in. Many, including me, believe the hype is unnecessary and undeserved, but that does not change the facts. Sex sells, and boy do we know it. Conflicting opinions and curiosity have remained prominent throughout the series’ ‘reign’. While I remain a naturally curious person and maintain an almost unbearable need to be aware of my surroundings, my morality and personal grounding keeps reminding me that perhaps this is one conversation I can bear to be left out of.
What appalls me about the massive attention the series has received is that the novels (if one can call them that) began as fan fiction. For those unaware of the great role fanfiction plays in the lives of young adults involved in books and TV series, fanfiction can sometimes be more entertaining than the original story itself. However, through my vast experience as a book enthusiast I have come across my fair share of horridly distasteful and terribly written fanfics enough to make me wish I could burn my browser and wash my eyes out with soap. Being a writer makes me all the more scrupulous about the kind of literature I choose to expose myself to. Therefore, even if the plot of a fiction is intriguing I will not lay eyes on it if the way the text is written makes me want to barf. Illiteracy is not a joke, but voluntary illiteracy is unforgivable. This series that shall not be named had its beginnings as an unpublished and vilely written Twilight fanfiction. Each character from Twilight is reflected grossly throughout the series, but not so conspicuously that the writer would be sued for copyright infringement. To put it bluntly, an obscene twist is being placed on a story which has already been told.
To be honest, if Mr. Grey was not a billionaire this story would not have made the ranks as it did. A man so lecherous would only have gotten away with these acts the way Mr. Grey did if he was well distinguished, otherwise this would have been an episode of Criminal Minds. After painfully enduring the first chapter and picking up about fifty three literary errors which could have been scripted better by a fifth grader, I had seen enough. And I hadn’t even reached the scandalous parts yet.
I have heard that the movie was produced in a more tasteful and mature manner, but my biggest fear is that it will encourage people to entertain these types of thoughts and believe them to be acceptable. Over the recent months I have encountered many arguing that they enjoyed the love story; and yes, the book contained a lot of smut but the underlying romance and development was what really touched them. If it is the love story you’re reading the books for, I urge you to watch Twilight or stop lying to yourself. I am not stating outright that I will never view this movie in the future, but for now I prefer to stick to YA and leave the rest to the imagination. Or not.
“You must stay drunk on words so reality cannot destroy you.”