(Insert Updated Table Here)

Hello, Internet.

So, about three years ago, I did a project called “Who’s at my table”. This project consisted of choosing several role models who I would want to be “at the table” with me during a meeting to make important decisions.

The people that I chose for this project were Jo March, Hermione Granger, Tim Burton (or, more accurately, Tim Burton’s work), Shannon Taylor, and my sister Charlotte.

Today, my list of role models look a little different. I could probably still make a case for Jo March being on the list – she’s a character who inspired me pretty young, and probably one I will always identify with – but the only person from my original list that I would still immediately say is a role model for me is (unsurprisingly) my sister. So, I’ve created a revised list; five women, some real and some fictional, who I look up to.

Like many people, I’ve been watching a lot of TV since the beginning of the pandemic, and I was excited to watch the most recent season of Brooklyn Nine Nine. While B99 has several characters who would make excellent role models, the one that I personally  connect with is Amy Santiago, a smart, driven career woman with a love of crosswords.

Amy starts out the show already possessing several qualities that I strive to have myself. She has a strong work ethic; she’s ambitious and always willing to work for her goals; she values learning and is constantly excited to find out new things, no matter how mundane they may seem to the people around her; she’s generally responsible, organized, and dependable; and she’s (usually) true to herself and openly passionate about her interests, even when they aren’t shared – or are even openly mocked – by those around her. As someone with the (somewhat lofty) career goal of eventually owning my own business, many of these things are specifically necessary in order for me to achieve my dreams.

Amy’s journey and character development over the series are also inspiring to me. She struggles with being over-competitive, due in part to the fact that she has accomplished siblings; she has difficulty relaxing or enjoying life due to her type A personality, and her perfectionism can lead her to become anxious or lose confidence in herself; she has to balance being able indulge in feminine things like fancy dresses, while still commanding respect in a leadership role. As the series goes on, she works to overcome these issues, and although they certainly don’t disappear, she sticks with it, and is able to improve as a person.

I’m a pretty competitive, type A person myself, so I enjoyed seeing a character who acknowledges that while those things are not necessarily bad, flaws may stem from them if you don’t temper them, and then puts in the work to do just that.

Throughout the show, we see Amy consistently becoming more successful as a result of her hard work. She excels at her job as a detective; she gains the respect and mentorship of her captain; she becomes a sergeant; she accomplishes all of this while also getting married and starting a family; and she grows as a person throughout. Amy’s arc is a success story, with a still relatable and flawed character, and it’s hard not to be inspired by her accomplishments.

While I love Brooklyn Nine Nine, the show that I generally cite as my favourite is Buffy The Vampire Slayer. While, again, there are several characters on this show who could be considered positive role models, I think the best one is also the most obvious: Buffy Summers herself.

Buffy is certainly a character who was written to be a role model. In the universe of the show, she is the archetypal “chosen one”, born with a destiny to fight vampires and demons. When we start the show, she already knows about this destiny (following the events of the movie), but is attempting to reject it in favour of a normal life. Throughout the first two seasons, we see her come to terms with this aspect of her life, and time and time again, she steps up to save her friends, her town, or the world. She learns to make sacrifices for the common good; she becomes strong, smart, and resourceful; most of all, she is endlessly resilient, continuing to fight regardless of the effects on her own life or emotional state.

In the later seasons, Buffy has a young sister retconned into her life, followed shortly by her becoming the sole guardian of said sister after the death of their mother. Buffy is forced to drop out of college and get a minimum wage job to support herself and her sister. Despite her grief, she has to be mature and responsible, suddenly finding herself tasked with yet another very adult responsibility, at the age of only 21. While Buffy had already lost much of her youth to her job as a slayer, it is after the loss of her mother that she really has to grow up.

Also at around this time in the series, Buffy sacrifices her life to once again save the world, and is brought back from the dead. This, in conjunction with the loss of her mother, leads her to become deeply depressed, and we see her struggle to overcome this – and, although she is forever changed, she does come out the other side with her ability to just keep fighting intact.

While the events on Buffy are much more extreme than Brooklyn Nine Nine, or real life, Buffy’s heroism and character development are no less inspiring. Buffy acts as a reminder that no matter what happens, recovery and success are possible, as long as you don’t give up.

Of course, I haven’t only been watching TV during the pandemic. I’ve also been watching YouTube, and listening to music! Mostly Dodie Clark, a British YouTuber and musician. Unlike with a TV show character, I of course can’t know the details of her life. However, her videos and songs often have themes of mental health, or more specifically combating mental illnesses such as depression. Additionally, her work often has a comforting vibe, and – again, in contrast to TV shows – her videos are often about mundane things like making a cup of tea or assembling Ikea furniture. While being a successful musician would have some pretty drastic effects on one’s lifestyle, these sort of mundane videos paint a more achievable vision of success. As someone who’s about to graduate, and (once the pandemic has subsided) move out, it’s helpful for me to have a role model who is just going through adult life, getting an apartment and a job, and working on being happy even when things get in the way, often more so than it is helpful to have a role model who is literally saving the world.

Going in a completely different direction, the next person I want to talk about is Coretta Scott King. While most famous for being Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wife, she was also a proponent of intersectional activism – aside from being very involved with the civil rights movement, particularly after MLK’s assassination, she was also involved with the women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights movements. Her contribution to these movements is often overshadowed by the fact that she was married to MLK, but she was an exceptional person who stood up for what she believed in, and I think everyone should aspire to be more like her.

Finally, I want to talk about the one person who I had on my list of role models three years ago who is still on that list – and probably always will be.

I am pretty close with my whole family (which is good, since we now have six adults living in one house, and none of us leave to go to work or school), but my sister Charlotte has always been a particular role model for me. She is the person closest in age to me – currently she’s 22 and I’m 17 – and she’s typically in essentially the next stage of life after wherever I am at a given time. When I was in elementary school, she was in high school, throughout my time in high school, she’s been attending university, and this year we both graduate, so when I start university she’ll be working full time. This means that whenever I am anxious or unsure about what my future is going to look like, she is always someone I can look to as an example of success.

Growing up with older sisters, I both wanted to be like them, and wanted to differentiate myself. I have many interests that I share one or both of my sisters – hockey, boxing, choir, piano. Both of my sisters got excellent grades all throughout school, and while I try my best to do the same, I am not always successful. However, as we have all gotten older and grown as people, I have been able to develop my own identity that is not a carbon copy of my sisters, allowing me to just look to them as role models and not people I need to work to set myself apart from. In the case of Charlotte, I am particularly inspired by her creativity and academic success, and I know there are always things I can learn from her, like how to make new friends at university, or how to build cool LEGO robots.

All of these role models help me stick to my personal mission statement: I will do everything I can to achieve my goals, and grow as a person, while also remembering to “sharpen the saw” and take care of myself, and stick to my principles and beliefs. Watching all my role models work hard to achieve success helps motivate me to put my all into my goals. Watching Amy and Buffy develop as characters onscreen, and Charlotte grow as a person in real life, remind me to keep pushing myself as a person. Watching Dodie and Buffy struggle with mental health issues, and eventually make progress and start overcoming them, reminds me that it’s important to take care of myself, and not to get burnt out in the interest of hard work. Reading about Coretta Scott King helped inspire me to stand up for my beliefs and stick to my principles no matter what.

Keeping in the theme of the last time I did this project, when I chose to represent my role models and myself as pictures in an art gallery, I have decided to represent my new list of people as statues.

I enjoyed coming back to this assignment, and seeing how much the list of people I looked up to has changed in just three years. In another three years, I’m sure it will be completely different.


(Insert Dystopian Dystopia Here)


So, it’s been a while since my last post and things are… different, to say the least. There’s an ongoing global pandemic. Schools and businesses are shut down except for “essential work”. People are protesting because they want haircuts. In short, it’s a mess.

In fact, you might even compare it to a dystopia, which is precisely what we did in our most recent project.

Well, actually, before we did that, we did an assignment where we broke into small groups and designed our own utopias. Parker and I pitched a world with no problems, lots of snacks, a muppet government, and a beautiful flag that I made in all of five minutes.

Aside from highlighting my graphic design skills, this assignment allowed us an insight into everyone’s idea of a “perfect” world. That the answers varied greatly, and that most people designed fairly outlandish fantasy worlds, both speak to the fact that a perfect world cannot really exist. It’s difficult to even seriously conceptualize what a real life utopia would look like.

It’s a lot easier to picture a real life dystopia, since we’re essentially living in one, but in order to answer our driving question – how do literary dystopias help us understand what is happening now – we also had to dive into some not-so-real-life dystopias. We were given a list of four novels to choose from: George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and Max Brooks’ World War Z.

I chose to read Station Eleven, which follows the impact of a flu pandemic on the lives of several characters at different points in time. Aside from being about a flu pandemic, the novel is set in Canada, and unlike many dystopias, a portion of it takes place in the present day. All of this made the story feel very grounded in reality, but it also meant that reading it hit pretty close to home.

The similarities to current events did make it easier to pick topics when we had to write paragraphs connecting the events of the book to the present day, although I initially misunderstood the assignment and just wrote a paragraph analyzing the use of multiple narrators throughout the book. On my second try, I talked about people intentionally breaking social distancing restrictions, and even directly protesting against them.

Who's telling the story? Why do you think the author chose this narrator? Station Eleven is an interesting story in that the perspective changes from chapter to chapter, jumping between Jeevan, Kirsten, Arthur, Miranda, Clark, and in some cases – as in the chapter that is just a list of things people can’t do post-collapse – the perspective seems to be purely that of the omniscient narrator. Certain sections, such as the ongoing interview with Kirsten, or the chapter of letters that Arthur wrote, are also epistolary. Despite this, I think that the main character is Kirsten, and that by telling the stories of other characters who have had an impact on her life, we the reader gain a deeper understanding of her story; in some cases, one that she herself doesn’t even have. I think that this is a good writing tool for a story like Station Eleven where the reader isn’t instantly familiar with the world that the story takes place in, and may need to be directly communicated information that would be implicit knowledge for the characters. I think that the author has chosen to focus on Kirsten’s story because she is both a character who can remember things from before and after the collapse, as any reader who imagined themselves having to go through the collapse would be, and a character who is constantly asking questions and trying to learn about the world, which the reader would be doing as well, and in this way can act as an audience surrogate while still being a character who is familiar with the world around her.
A significant amount of part five of Station Eleven focuses around Jeevan and Frank’s attempt to quarantine themselves away from the virus. There are many things in this chapter that are relevant to current events; Jeevan talks about getting fixated on missing small things, such as espresso, the brothers watch the news almost constantly for the first few days but eventually stop because it’s too stressful, and when describing their reaction to strangers knocking on the door, it’s stated that they “[don’t] trust anyone who [isn’t] them”. There is one thing is this section of the book that struck me as different than our current situation, however. As they shelter in place, Jeevan and Frank watch people attempt to leave the city en masse, with traffic eventually getting so gridlocked that they must get out of their cars and walk. It seemed strange to me that these people would not also be quarantining or self isolating, like in the current pandemic, especially with the virus in the book being somewhat localized to Toronto once it is brought over to North America, and possibly able to be contained there. However, I reasoned that it is likely that in Station Eleven people are being killed too quickly for effective restrictions to be set, with the survivors left to their own devices. While some, like Jeevan and Frank, might be in quarantine, others have taken to the streets in a panic. This is not unlike the way that people today have gathered in cities such as Denver, Colorado, to protest the government restrictions. While it is not exactly the same scenario, it’s still a large group of people gathering during a pandemic, with no regards for how being in a large group of people may affect their own safety or others, trying to find an easy way out of the situation they’re in when one doesn’t exist, and essentially making the situation worse. While this may not have been the most direct connection between this section of the book and life during a pandemic, it stuck out to me to see an example of people doing what we would now consider all the wrong things.

After reading and discussing our books, it was time to tackle our main assignment: creating a presentation that actually answered the driving question. My group decided to use animation throughout our presentation to make it more engaging. We also decided to talk about The Maze Runner in an effort to broaden our definition of “literary dystopia”. Station Eleven is only one example of a dystopian novel, and one that’s incredibly close to our specific situation. Bringing in another example of dystopian literature helped ensure our answer was applicable to dystopian fiction at large, not just the book we had read.

We also wanted to have a specific focus on the neurological effects of the pandemic, and social distancing.

With these things in mind, we created a thesis – literary dystopias can help us process what is happening in the world by using an extreme or allegorical set of events that we can compare to our own situation, but they cannot account for the specific circumstances and neurological effects people will face in a mass crisis – , pitched our idea, spent a few days doing research, and put together our animation.

Although school is very weird right now, I enjoyed doing this project. However, I feel I could have written a clearer thesis that better answered the question, since I mostly looked into just “how can (or can’t) literary dystopias help us in the current situation” rather than how they specifically help us understand it.

I also really enjoyed reading Station Eleven, and I’m interested in rereading it once the pandemic is over and seeing if the experience is different. Until then, I’m planning on leaning more into escapism with some non-dystopian fiction.


(Insert Political Spectrum Here)

Hello, Internet.

So, we’ve been learning about the political spectrum. In doing so, I’ve taken notes on various political ideologies, as well as a test (actually, two tests) to see where on the political spectrum I personally fall.

First of all, notes.

Political Ideologies - Feminism, socialism, communism, fascism, conservatism, liberalism, etc - Political belief system - Action oriented - Ruling class - Worldview - Class/social interests - Propagate false consciousness among exploited/oppressed - Social context & collective belonging - Officially sanctioned ideas - Comes from the French Revolution (idéologie) - “Science of ideas” - Politicized by Karl Marx - “The ideas of the ruling class … are subject to it” (The German Ideology) - Ideologies: have a common worldview, have a desired future, have a plan for political change - Modify or overthrow the existing power - Not just important to politicians - Influences everyone - Sometimes unaware - Goggles (filter how you see) Liberalism: - The “industrialized west” - Individual, freedom, reason, justice, tolerance - Uniqueness reconciled with equality - Commitment to individual freedom - No hurting people - Have faith in reason and intellect - Justice as it’s ”due” - Coexistence of different morals, cultures, politics - Liberalism is everywhere in western culture Conservatism: - Tradition, human imperfection, organic society, hierarchy and authority, property - “Without tradition, society would crumble” - Cannot reach perfection - Stability, security via government - Cannot exist outside of society - Believe that authority develops naturally Socialism: - Common Humanity - “Brothers and sisters” - Plasticity of human nature - No pre-destiny - Cooperation > competition - Social class defines society - Disagree with private property - “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” Socialism v Communism: - Often confused - Communism is “classless”, no hierarchy - Socialism is a middle point Human Nature - Conservatism: Inherently imperfect and selfish - Liberalism: Inherently good - Socialism: Inherently good Of individual - Conservatism: Individual is to obey the power structure - Liberalism: Free to pursue individual goals - Socialism: Supports the common good Of society: - Conservatism: Society > individual - Liberalism: Made up of individuals, working together - Socialism: Hierarchal divisions are natural Fascism: - Originated between world wars - Relatively new - Mussolini came to power in the 1920s, lasts until war, is executed and dragged through town and spat on - Hitler came to power in 1930s, lasts until war, is defeated and kills himself - Anti-rationalism - “Life is struggle” - Elitism > equality - Nationalism and superiority Capitalism: - Economic system - Private ownership - Generate goods and services to create profit - “The market” - Procedure of selling and buying goods - Supply & demand - Economic growth: all people increase their material wealth - “If all people are concerned with increasing their wealth, this will maintain order in society” Totalitarianism: - Political system - States belongs to one person or a small party - All freedom removed - All subjects under government control - Ideological manipulation - Terror & brutality Anarchism: - Opposition to state and government - See government as an offence to freedom and equality - Believe in natural goodness and cooperation Religious Fundamentalism: - “Politics is religion” - Commits to “fundamental” ideas and values - Rejects modernity - Often militaristic and violent Nationalism: - “Nation” is principle of politics - Collective, shared sense of belonging - Daily life/ideas of a nation - Celebrations, literature, artwork, multimedia, writing/telling history, politics Environmentalism: - Nature is most important Feminism: - Regard power relationship between men and women - Women are denied power - “Patriarchy” - Distinction between sex (biological) and gender (cultural) Globalisation: - Integration of societies and cultures - Progression of communication and transportation - Whether it’s an “ideology” is debatable Political Spectrum: - Left wing versus right wing - Communist – socialist – liberal – conservative – fascist - Left: equality, progress, common ownership - Right: authority, order, hierarchy, duty - Vertical as well as left and right - Authoritarian v libertarian - Economics and social

Or, if you don’t want to scroll through my notes, let me put things laconically. The political spectrum is a spectrum of political ideologies (wow!) ranging from the far left (Communism) to the far right (Fascism). Further left ideologies value personal freedom, equality, progress, and common ownership. Further right ideologies value tradition, structure, duty, and authority. Intersecting with these political ideologies are systems of government (such as Totalitarianism), systems of economy (such as capitalism), and social ideologies (such as feminism).

To further explain some of these ideologies, I made an infographic explaining how pizza would be distributed to citizens in a country following each political ideology.

I also, as I mentioned, took some quizzes about where I fall on the political spectrum – or, more accurately, the political compass, which takes into account not just the left-right political ideologies, but also the spectrum of authoritarianism (total government control) to libertarianism (very little government control).

The first quiz I took gave me this result:

This was not surprising to me. I’m aware that I have more left and libertarian leanings, but I’m certainly not an extremist on either count – I think I have pretty typical political views for someone in my demographic (young, female, raised in west coast Canada, etc).

The second quiz I took was more geared to Canadian youth. Instead of an authoritarian-libertarian axis, it had an axis showing progressiveness versus conservatism. It gave me this result:

Again, this result was not particularly surprising to me. I was happy to see that I was far, far away from the PPC. I also thought it was interesting that my results put me at more progressive than the average voter of any given party – while I’m sure this is partially because an average is, you know, average and not usually extreme in one direction or another, I think it also reflects (again) on my youth.

While I knew a little bit about the political spectrum already, I learned a lot even in just the week which we spend studying it.


(Insert Bob Dylan Here)

Hello, Internet.

You’ve probably heard of a man (a PIANO man) named Billy Joel. He’s famous for songs such as Uptown Girl, The Longest Time, and the song I want to discuss today: We Didn’t Start The Fire.

There’s a pretty high chance you’ve heard of this song (particularly if you’re a fan of The Office). However, the chance you could sing even one verse of it correctly is significantly lower, because the lyrics are essentially a rapid fire list:

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom Brando, "The King and I" and "The Catcher in the Rye" Eisenhower, vaccine, England's got a new queen Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye We didn't start the fire It was always burning Since the world's been turning We didn't start the fire No we didn't light it But we tried to fight it Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron Dien Bien Phu falls, "Rock Around the Clock" Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", trouble in the Suez We didn't start the fire It was always burning Since the world's been turning We didn't start the fire No we didn't light it But we tried to fight it Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, "Bridge on the River Kwai" Lebanon, Charlse de Gaulle, California baseball Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide Buddy Holly, "Ben Hur", space monkey, Mafia Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy Chubby Checker, "Psycho", Belgians in the Congo We didn't start the fire It was always burning Since the world's been turning We didn't start the fire No we didn't light it But we tried to fight it Hemingway, Eichmann, "Stranger in a Strange Land" Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion "Lawrence of Arabia", British Beatlemania Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say We didn't start the fire It was always burning Since the world's been turning We didn't start the fire No we didn't light it But we tried to fight it Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan "Wheel of Fortune", Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law Rock and roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore

What they’re a list of, exactly, is a series of significant events and people from around the 1930s through the 1980s. Our assignment for this unit was to choose a topic mentioned in the song, from before 1979, and explain its significance.

Now, maybe I should establish exactly what significance is. As per one of the curricular competencies we looked at in this unit – understanding how we make choices about what is worth remembering – we spent a while discussing what it meant for something to be significant. We came down to a set of criteria for significance: something significant should have widespread impact, remain important over time, have a meaningful effect on the people it impacts, and/or be relevant to how we understand the world.

For my topic, I chose another man (a TAMBOURINE man) you’ve probably heard of: Bob Dylan. I really enjoy learning about music history, and I knew that Dylan had written some protest music, but I didn’t know a lot about his life beyond that. I decided to research Dylan and create a CD insert explaining his significance, as well as a podcast which would be the audio content of the “CD”. In order to understand how Dylan and his work met the criteria of being significant, I filled out a chart detailing the different aspects of significance.

So, I started doing research. I listened to Dylan’s music. I read articles. I listened to podcasts. I watched the first couple hours of a documentary. I compiled a research document with all of my notes, and my thesis: Bob Dylan’s songs in the early 1960s acted as a call to action for the youth of America at the time, and touched on themes that are still relevant in American politics now, such as racism, poverty, and war.

However, I found that while Bob Dylan was – and is – certainly well known, and his music describes very significant events, he himself did not make as much of an impact on the world as I expected. Aside from the music he made, I don’t know that Bob Dylan did anything that was really unique at the time – he wrote protest music, and attended protests at which he played said protest music, but other musicians were doing that, but he didn’t consider himself overly political, and after a few years, he tried to remove himself from politics as much as possible.

However, he does hold some significance, at least as a musician, so I used the evidence I had to argue for why.

I started out by hand drawing and writing the CD insert, which I was envisioning looking sort of like a zine. However, I was promptly reminded of the fact that my handwriting is illegible, so I decided to fix the problem as any normal person would: by printing out a typed version of all the words and pasting them over my handwriting.

After that, I wrote and recorded the podcast.

Finally, I did a presentation about everything I had learned, alongside a keynote which refused to stay up on the screen for longer than two seconds.

All of this is where the second core competency for this unit – how I share my own ideas when I write, speak, and represent – came into play. While I normally feel that communicating my ideas, particularly through writing and presenting, is a strong suit of mine, I think that I did a poor job communicating through the format of a CD booklet. I think that if I had had a clearer vision of how exactly I wanted my booklet to appear, and if I had found a different way to change the handwriting to typing, my communication could have been stronger.

While I had a fun time learning about Bob Dylan, I think that I could have done a lot better on this project. My argument wasn’t very strong, and I think it would have been better if I had either broadened it, or chosen a different topic. However, all I can do now is learn from my mistakes.


(Insert Final MPoL Here)

Hello, Internet.

(After four and a half years, I’ve finally learned how to make gifs work!)

Oh, and of course, hello to those of you who are here in real life. You may recall also having been here  four years ago. I went back to check what my goal was for my original Student Led Conference, but as far as I can tell I didn’t have one. My blog post just ends with this:

Aside from the oddly subject-appropriate Tim Curry gif, that probably wouldn’t fly in this blog post. After all, we are now at Peak MPoL – or, at least, as close as I can get, since this is my last MPoL, and I’d like to leave things off on a positive note.

Not that it would have flown in the last few PoLs either – we’ve been setting goals for a while now, and I’d like to take a look at whether or not I’ve achieved mine.

In my last TPoL, I mostly spoke about how vexed I was about having had to miss school for mono, and then I ended by saying how I should probably start taking care of myself properly.

Since then, I’ve started working more often, continued to play hockey and box and do school and choir, and now I’m also in the midst of attempting to convince universities to accept me. (Maybe I should send them cheesecake?) In fact, this isn’t the only instance where I’ve taken on a lot of responsibility this year. However, I think I have learned something, even if it isn’t exactly what I set out to learn.

So, first of all, let’s talk about cheesecake for a second. I’ve given you all cheesecake today (if you’re here in person) for two reasons: first of all, to create a serotonin response in your brain so you’ll associate my presentation with something positive and thus believe it’s better than it actually is; and second of all, as a smooth segue into my topic for this MPoL. Now, for many years, I’ve refused to eat cheesecake. Somewhere, maybe after trying it as a child, I got the idea that I disliked it. So, I’ve been eating other baked goods, and avoiding cheesecake like the plague.

Recently, however, it occurred to me that I hadn’t eaten cheesecake in so long, I couldn’t recall what it tasted like. I decided that I couldn’t be sure that I didn’t like it unless I tried it again. So I did, and lo and behold, I had a new, cheesy overlord to worship.

How does that relate to my learning, you might ask? Well, there’s a lot of lessons to be learned here: Take risks. Keep an open mind (a growth mindset, perhaps). Remember that things can change. Stay optimistic. Push your boundaries. Reread Green Eggs And Ham every once in a while.

Many of these are things I’ve struggled to do in the past. Some of my recent goals have included trying to push myself more, doing my best learning even when I don’t care about or like the subject we’re discussing, and rolling with the punches. All of these, along with the whole “taking on a lot of responsibility” are things that I experienced during our horror movie project.

Now, I was actually really excited about this project, as I think I actually mentioned in my last presentation. I love horror movies, and also any excuse to try and impress people with how calm and un frightened I am during any sort of horror experience. (The key is being stressed and terrified all the time!) I was interested in being a screenwriter for the movie, which would allow me to work in a medium I felt really comfortable with – writing – as well as, much more importantly, giving me the chance to contribute creatively to the actual plot and message of the movie. I didn’t end up being a screenwriter, but I did get put on the script team.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the minute details of this project, since I just wrote a whole blog post about it, but being on the script team was stressful. While I was initially able to push for the elements I thought should be included in the story, after some very honest critique sessions, and the implementation of some executive decisions that I had to comply with, I watched a lot of my work be thrown out. More frustratingly, I felt that my power to contribute creatively in any way was taken away – I was now just executing other people’s ideas, which is about where I stopped having any sort of excitement or passion for the project. However, I stuck with it, and continued to put in effort despite this – something I’d struggled to do in previous years. I helped rewrite the script, and agreed to play the part of Lynda, a character from our original story who I had been going to act as.

By the time I got through the scriptwriting, I was essentially able to regain my sense of interest in the project. I was still disappointed, but I wanted to enjoy the unit I’d been looking forward to for so long. So, in true cheesecake-trying fashion, I decided that just because I hadn’t enjoyed the project during the scriptwriting process didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy it during the filming process. I was still getting to play the role I volunteered for, and I could leave the writing and editing behind me.

When we started filming, we were already on a tight schedule. We did a few, very long, days of filming, realized that we were behind schedule and our footage was unusable, cut down the script as much as possible, extended our timeline, did another few days of filming, and then some more executive decisions happened.

At this point, almost everyone was given new jobs. I was asked to be director alongside my friend Parker. I was excited about the idea, which would give me the creative control I was seeking, but Parker wasn’t interested. So, I took it on alone, while continuing to act, and edit the script as necessary. I don’t think I talked a lot in my blog post about what I actually did as a director, but I immediately annotated the whole script with directions about lighting, shots, set pieces, acting, mood, additional actions or lines of dialogue, and character motivation.

I had a conference with the actors where I went through these notes, as well as asking them about their own ideas or visions for the characters, and I spoke with the other departments about my visions for various scenes and characters, and the movie as a whole. Although I was frustrated and we were running low on time, I was determined to put my best effort into the movie, and not to dwell too much on the setbacks we had come up against. I wasn’t sure if people would listen to me as a director, especially after the reactions to the initial script were so harsh, and since it’s not a role I would normally occupy, but everyone was very receptive and respectful, and I really liked directing (in fact, it’s something I think I would have enjoyed doing from the beginning – which I can’t change now, but is important to note for future reference.)

When our time for filming was eventually cut off and I left, covered in fake blood and emo clothing, to go to a family dinner, I did have some frustrations about how things had ended up, but I was not as upset as I had been at earlier stages. I was, in part, relieved to be done with what was overall quite a stressful experience, but I also felt that I had done all I could do.

During our MPoL meeting, this project was brought up as an example of something our class didn’t do well on – and, certainly, there were aspects I could have improved on. The first script, evidently. Clarifying the message of the story. Coordinating time, and planning in advance so that everything came out well the first time. However, I put a lot of work into this project, and I truly feel that I did the best that I could, and that a lot of the reasons it didn’t work out were out of my control. My main takeaway, then, was not where I could improve my work, but more about my attitude towards my work; the importance of not giving up or getting so caught up in being upset that you never actually move forwards, the risk and reward of trying out new things, and the fact that just because you don’t enjoy something at one point doesn’t mean that you can never enjoy it.

I would like to keep the same goal as last time – learning to sharpen the saw, and take care of my own needs – because I don’t feel that I’ve markedly improved at it. As my time in high school, and in some ways this phase of  my life, draws to a close, it becomes increasingly important that I am able to take care of myself, especially since I may no longer be able to count on the supports I have now (like seeing my friends and family every day, having a pre-existing knowledge of my school, teachers, and community, and having my own room and space where I have privacy. Additionally, the lead up to o much change is still the cause of a lot of anxiety for me, and I want to lessen that so I can focus on enjoying my last year while also doing well.

My question to those of you who are here is what things you do in your own life to maintain a sense of balance, especially in the face of change or a foreign environment. As you answer, I am going to sit back, eat a piece of cheesecake, and reflect on how good change can sometimes be.


(Insert Lack of Movie Here)

PHello, Internet.

So, way back in October we started a unit on horror. Things started off well – we went down to Seattle for a few days, where we visited the Museum of Pop Culture, as well as a very fun haunted house. Then, we started planning for our main project for this unit: a class wide horror movie.

We all pitched our best horror movie plots, and then our teachers selected a director, producers, and screenwriter for us, as well as assigning other, less major roles.

The plot we eventually settled on was this: two groups of students, one comprised of more popular, athletic students, and the other of more nerdy, outcast students, sneak into school on the same night to play grad pranks. While there, they start getting killed off one by one. Initially, they blame each other – however, it eventually turns out to be the school janitor, unhinged and angry about students sneaking into the school to make a mess. All but two students die, and those two survive only by breaking their stereotypes and working together.

From there, we wrote up a story treatment and began further developing the characters.

A group of friends have snuck into the school to pull some grad pranks. There’s four of them:Kirk, horror aficionado and known theatre geek, gleefully planning pranks that reference his favourite movies;Marcus, a techie with stage fright, working to make said pranks operate smoothly (and attempting to quell his fears); Barbara, a band geek suffering under high expectations from her parents and acting out for the first time in her life; and Lynda, an anxious loner that others are trying to befriend. Meanwhile, another group of friends is there on the same night also to pull grad prank. This group is a little different. It consists of amiable jock Chet, cheerleader Stacey, and their friends Cory and Bud, both known for partying. While there, the two groups realize that each other have snuck into the school, and start messing with each other, jump scaring each other and terrorizing each other with fake knives/blood/etc that they brought for their pranks. Midway through, Marcus wanders off from his friends and doesn’t come back. Eventually, they go to look for him and find him dead. They assume that the other group has gone too far, and killed him. Meanwhile, Stacy and Bud have also wandered off from their friends and turned up dead in the janitor’s closet, presumably having been making out. Their friends, unaware of Marcus’s death, also assume that the other group has gone too far. The two groups find each other, and are arguing. Lynda, anxious and on the verge of panicking, goes out for some air. Some time passes, and everyone else decides to go look around to see if she has left. They find her dead in the school, and realize that she must have been killed by someone not a part of either group, since they were all in the same room. Terrified, they go back into the room and lock the door. They decide that they aren’t safe and they need to move. The group looks for a way out of the school, and realize they are locked in. Kirk feels confident that he isn’t going to be killed, as his horror movie knowledge will keep him safe, until he makes a fatal mistake. He goes off by himself to find a way out and figures out who the killer is. With his new knowledge, he has to be killed and is murdered before he can warn the others. The remaining group members head toward sounds of screams, and find Kirk’s body. With little to no hope remaining, they head to the wood shop to try and find a tool to use to break out. In the wood shop, the teens find a tool they can use to break a lock, and all they have left to do is head to the door. They start to hear noises and the lights start to flicker. They know the killer is coming. Chet grabs a saw to try and defend himself as they see the shadow of the killer. He tells Barb and Cory to run and he will stay back and protect them. They start to leave, but Cory pauses. He admits his love for Chet, but knows he has no other choice and has to leave. Cory and Barb run away with tears streaming down Cory’s face as Chet is brutally murdered. The remaining two teens escape the school and head to safety, not knowing who the killer is. They are now good friends, who’s stereotypes have been broken down, leaving two natural humans. The janitor is revealed as the killer as he mops up the blood with a wink.

We had a couple of little snits in creating the original character summaries – we found it difficult to agree on small details like whether Bud was an acceptable name. However, we got through it without any major disagreements, so the script team (myself included) set about writing a first draft of the script.

We finished our draft without too much trouble, and a few weeks later, we opened the floor to the non-script writers for critique.

They had a lot of critique. So much, in fact, that we ended up having our entire script, two of our characters, and much of our storyline completely scrapped. We then rewrote the script based on the new story we were given: the day after pulling grad pranks, the students are made to stay after school and clean up their mess as punishment. Instead of cleaning, they decide to pull further pranks on each other, at which point the janitor becomes angry and starts killing them.

Once we’d written and edited our new script, we began preparing for the next stage of our project: filming. We cast actors for all the main characters – I played Lynda, am anxious emo girl who ends up getting pushed down a flight of stairs.

After our first few days of filming, it was clear that things were not going well. We were well behind schedule; we had, like in any project, unforeseen issues to contend with; and we were all incredibly stressed. So, we decided to make a few more changes.

First, we scrapped all the footage we had filmed so far. Second, we cut as much of the script as we could afford. Third, we made some personnel changes: namely, putting a lot of the class in different roles. For my own part, I maintained my role as an actor – but I also became the director.

We extended our timeline as much as we could, and we set off on our second attempt at filming. We made it through more of the movie this time – but still not all of it. When we hit our deadline for filming, we were still missing a few crucial scenes. So, we packed up our supplies, turned out the lights, and I headed home to wash the fake blood out of my hair. (I also showed up to a dinner with my extended family looking a little… mussy.)

After a two week break for Christmas, we were left with a lot of footage that we couldn’t turn into a movie. However, we still wanted to create something to show for our months of hard work. So, our editing team got to work making the footage into a trailer. While it wasn’t what we had originally intended to create, it was still a product showcasing all the time and energy we had put into the project.

So, here it is: the trailer for a movie we will never finish: Dirty Work.

After working on this project for the past few months, I think the thing I really learned was to just keep a positive face and try and find the good in the circumstances given to you. Historically, this is not something I’ve been great at. However, I love horror, and I really didn’t want to spend this whole project being grumpy or upset just because things weren’t going the way I wanted. So, whether it was volunteering to screen test our prop blood by having it poured onto me with a ladle, titling our movie after an old class inside joke, or drinking four cups of coffee onset, I found things to enjoy about our project. That being said, I’m happy that it’s finally done.


(Insert Real Monster Here)

Hello, Internet.

So, in the recent weeks my class has been reading Mary Shelley’s famous novel Frankenstein. We’ve compared the novel to some horror movies – namely Halloween and Get Out – but this week we finally watched the movie itself. We also watched a movie about the director, James Whale, and now we’re facing a question: who is the real monster?

This is a much discussed question when it comes to Frankenstein. Of course, we literally refer to the creature as “Frankenstein’s monster” (when people aren’t mistakenly referring to him as “Frankenstein”), and he has become an iconic monstrous figure much like a vampire or a zombie. I can clearly recall having nightmares about Frankenstein’s monster as a kid – I hadn’t seen the movie at the time, but the image of the creature is one that has permeated our cultural conception of what monsters look like, and via osmosis it became a symbol of my understanding of evil.

However, the original story of Frankenstein is not so clear cut.

So, I had some peripheral knowledge of Frankenstein as a kid. At one point, maybe around the age of eleven or twelve, I even tried to read the book, although I didn’t make it past the end of the first chapter. Eventually, a few years ago, my dad and I watched Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein in anticipation of Halloween.

I can’t exactly say I was blown away; the movies are from 1931 and 1935, respectively, so the acting, writing, and effects leave something to be desired. However, it’s always cool to see something so iconic, and I enjoyed watching the movies (probably more than I enjoyed the Kenneth Branagh version, which was more accurate to the book, but lesser-known and still nothing amazing just as a film). While the films didn’t differ significantly from the generally accepted idea that Frankenstein’s monster is, in fact, the monster, he did read as more sympathetic than I had excepted.

In particular, the film version of the creature essentially reads as a tortured animal; from almost the moment he is brought to life, he is mistreated and abused, and has little to no understanding of the human world. He can’t speak, he is given no affection or really almost any positive human interaction, and he is literally kept in the dark for the first few days of his life. Nobody even bothers to give him a name, and he is referred to largely as “it”. Fritz, Frankenstein’s assistant, waves a torch at the creature, hurting him if he gets too close to the only other living beings he knows. When the creature, unaware of his own strength, or any concept of life and death, lashes out and ends up hurting people, he is immediately vilified and sentenced to death. There is no attempt to give him a human life, a fair trial, or to communicate with him at all; he is treated as dispensable and purely evil. By this reading, the end of the first movie is very bleak, as the true monster – Frankenstein (the scientist) and by extension the townspeople – comes away the victor.

In Gods and Monsters, the movie  about James Whale that we watched, comparisons are drawn between Whale and the creature. Whale, who was gay and forced to retire because of it, may have related to the idea of being mistreated for being different, while actually having done nothing wrong. However, towards the end of the film, Whale sexually assaults another character (an act far more reprehensible than anything the creature does in the film), so it’s difficult to feel any actual sympathy for him.

The actual text tells a different story. Frankenstein’s creature, while still abused, isolated, and treated as inhuman, is shown studying humans and gaining a sense of empathy and an understanding of the human world. His actions from this point on are a choice, slaughtering people he knows to be innocent in order to torture Frankenstein.  Frankenstein himself greatly regrets what he’s done, and despite having been at fault for creating and then neglecting the creature, he is justified in trying to stop a creature that is intentionally killing everyone he loves. Both sides are much more humanized and sympathetic. However, both sides also do a lot of wrong, and nobody walks away a winner.

In the novel, the creature is given a voice. He speaks about his motivations, his growing frustration with the way he is treated by humanity, and his resentment towards his creator. He describes himself as “solitary and abhorred”, and after several encounters in which he attempts to peacefully interact with a human and is driven away, he declares “everlasting war” on humanity, and on Frankenstein in particular. However, he attempts to come to an agreement with Frankenstein, vowing to leave if he is granted a companion, a deal which Frankenstein initially agrees to but doesn’t end up complying with. Towards the end of the novel, the creature says that he will “ascend [his] funeral pile triumphantly” – a concept echoed in the film Bride of Frankenstein when the creature ever so eloquently states, “I love dead. Hate living”. The creature is a complex character; he becomes a monster, certainly, but only as a result of everyone around him being monstrous first.

Frankenstein sets up the plot of the book when he becomes determined to create life. He isolates himself to work on his experiment, becoming hubristic and reckless, daydreaming about how his creations (the plan at the time is to create many creatures) will be filled with gratitude that he brought them into the world.

Perhaps he should have read a parenting book or two before he got so ahead of himself.

It’s known in modern psychology that getting love and affection, and being able to bond with their parents or guardians, in the first few years of life can have drastic effects on a child’s brain development, particularly in regards to empathy (source). Now, the creature isn’t exactly a typical case – he already has an adult brain – but being abandoned by his ostensible primary caregiver, and then never being shown any sort of affection, is still going to significantly impact his psyche.

After essentially abandoning his child, Frankenstein becomes ill, partially from not taking care of himself while he was so wrapped up in his project, and partly due to the stress and fear of what he has done. Similar things happen several times throughout the book; after Frankenstein returns to his home in Geneva, while he is imprisoned under suspicion of murder, and at the end/beginning of the book when he reaches the arctic and is discovered by explorer Walton. Every time he becomes ill, someone nurses him back to health: Clerval; Frankenstein’s father; at one point an actual nurse; and finally Walton. Frankenstein is surrounded by love and support, and still cannot come up with an ounce of empathy for the creature he created.

In a sense, both Frankenstein and the creature are monsters in the novel. In fact, even many of the more minor characters are far from morally pure. Walton is selfish and values fame and recognition over all else; the people the creature interacts with throw rocks at him, chase him away, and at one point actually shoot him; the people Frankenstein meets after Clerval’s death wrongfully imprison him with no evidence that he has actually committed a crime; Justine’s mother hates and mistreats her own child. The only truly good characters (Elizabeth, William, Clerval, Frankenstein’s parents, Justine’s father, and Justine herself) all die, most as a direct result of Frankenstein and the creature’s actions.

So, to recap: Book creature, monster. Book Frankenstein, monster. Book Frankenstein’s family and friends, not monsters. Movie creature, not a monster. Movie Frankenstein, monster. Movie Frankenstein’s family and friends, somewhere in the middle. James Whale (as he’s portrayed in Gods and Monsters), monster. As far as I can find, Whale didn’t actually assault anyone in real life (although a radio presenter of the same name did), so real director James Whale, not a monster. In both the book and the movie, it’s lack of empathy and fear or mistreatment of those who are not like us that are the driving forces behind most of the monstrosities, which is very true to life.

While I think your view of who the monster is can differ based on perspective, I believe there is a case to be made for either or both of the major characters to be the monster, as they both become increasingly morally grey throughout the story. Either way, I would recommend both the book and the movie (as long as you’re not looking for anything fast paced).


(Insert Scary Movie Here)

Hello, Internet.

About two years ago, a friend of mine called me up (or, more likely, texted me) to ask if I wanted to go see a movie. The movie she had in mind wasn’t one I knew much about, except that it was a horror film, it was directed by comedian Jordan Peele, and it was called Get Out.

For the first half of the movie, I was completely enthralled – and horrified. Somewhere towards the latter half I lost track of the plot, not really comprehending the events that rapidly spiralled out on the screen.

Get Out stayed in my peripheral vision in the following years; I heard that it did well, and that Jordan Peele since directed another horror film called Us, but I didn’t think about it too much otherwise.

It was called back to the forefront of my attention last week when we watched it in class, and this time I was much less confused – but just as enthralled.

The setup for Get Out is this: an African American man, Chris, and his white girlfriend, Rose, are planning to visit Rose’s parents for the weekend. Her parents don’t know that Chris is black, as Rose claims it won’t be a big deal because they aren’t racist. Chris is wary, but he agrees to go meet them for the weekend anyways, and so the two set out on their way.

Before any of this happens, however, the movie opens with a seemingly unrelated scene. We see a man walking alone at night. He’s black, fairly young, making his way down a suburban street. He’s clearly uncomfortable, muttering out loud that the area is “a hedge maze”, and saying in a conversation over the phone that it’s “creepy”. A car slows down, apparently following him. Noticing this, he turns around and starts walking in the opposite direction, proclaiming aloud, “Not me. Not today.” He checks behind him to see if the car has turned as well. It hasn’t.

Instead, it’s completely stopped, doors open, Run Rabbit Run playing on the radio. A man in a mask appears, strangles the first man until he stops struggling, shoves him in the trunk of the car, gets in, and drives away.

This scene, like the rest of the movie, is informed by current American events. The man walking is uncomfortable even before the car slows down and starts following him, and not without reason. Suburbs like the one he’s walking through are often predominantly white, and it’s not uncommon for black men to be reported to the police, injured, or killed by racist white people who see them as a threat – like in the case of Trayvon Martin, a seventeen year old fatally shot for, it seems, being a black man in a suburban neighbourhood. Unlike in other horror films,where the suburbs are seen as a safe place being encroached upon by killers, here the suburbs themselves, and the regular inhabitants thereof, present the danger.

As the car drives away, the sound of Run Rabbit Run fades out, and a few string chords take its place as the scene transitions to the title sequence: shots of the forest along the road to Rose’s parents house, accompanied by a Swahili song called Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga. The lyrics, translated to English, are as follows:


Listen to the ancestors.


You need to run far! (Listen to the truth)


Listen to the ancestors

Run! Run!

To save yourself,

Listen to the ancestors.

They seem to be encouraging the listener to do the same thing as the movie’s title: get out. However, the eerie music is quickly replaced as the title sequence ends. This time, Childish Gambino’s Redbone plays as we are finally introduced to Chris, Rose, and their prospective road trip. The song’s hook of “stay woke” seems to be both another warning that something dangerous is going to happen, and an ironic nod to the non- nblack people throughout the movie who think that they’re being “woke” while actually mistreating Chris.

So, Chris and Rose are driving to Rose’s parents house and they hit a deer. They pull over, and Chris gets out to take a look at the dying deer, lying a few feet off the road. He looks at it; it looks back at him. They seem to have a moment of solidarity.

Cut to a policeman standing by the car, telling Rose to call animal services in the future, not the police. Rose apologizes, and then the policeman turns his attention to Chris, and asks to see his driver’s licence. Rose protests, saying Chris wasn’t driving, while Chris attempts to politely comply with the police officer. Eventually, Rose gets the policeman to back down and drive away, and Rose and Chris continue driving.

This is another scene that very blatantly comments on a major issue in America: racial profiling. Police will wrongly stop, accuse, hurt, or kill people of colour (usually black people) without proper cause, often not facing serious consequences.

Once they’ve reached Rose’s parents’ house, we are introduced to her father, Dean, and her mother, Missy, and quickly learn that the rest of Rose’s relatives are going to be there for the weekend as well. At the same time, we meet Walter (the groundskeeper) and Georgina (the maid), both black. Both of them act strange throughout the day, speaking and dressing very formally, and in a style reminiscent of the 1950s.

We learn that Dean is a neurosurgeon, and Missy is a hypnotist, who later hypnotizes Chris to get him to stop smoking. While he is hypnotized, we learn that his mother was killed in a car accident when he was a child, as he sat at home watching TV.

Chris has various conversations with Dean and Missy, as well as Rose’s brother Jeremy, who arrives that night. All three of them appear initially to be, as Rose said, not racist, but through a series of microaggressions it quickly becomes apparent that they aren’t as progressive as they think. Chris has a similar experience with Rose’s extended family, with many of her relatives fixating on the fact that he is black, and making insensitive comments. Eventually, Chris finds the one other black man there (save for Walter). His name is Logan, and like Walter and Georgina, he speaks formally and dresses in outdated clothes – including a hat reminiscent of the one worn by Emmett Till in this well known photo of him.

Chris, a photographer, snaps a photo of Logan with his phone, not realizing the flash is on. When it goes off, Logan suddenly freaks out, grabbing Chris and yelling at him to “get out”. He is led away by some other relatives, then comes back, calm again, and apologizes, saying he had a seizure. Chris and Rose go for a walk, while Dean leads the other relatives in a game of bingo that is eerily reminiscent of a slave auction. Chris decides he wants to go home because he is feeling creeped out, and Rose agrees to go with him. Meanwhile, Chris sends a picture of Logan to his friend Rod, saying he recognized him, and Rod identifies Logan as being a man named Andre who disappeared a few months earlier.

Chris and Rose are packing up to leave when Chris finds a box in the closet with a stack of photos of Rose with different black guys, generally looking to be ex boyfriends, despite the fact that she had told him he was the first black man she had dated. Chris becomes more urgent to leave, but Rose can’t find the car keys – and then it’s revealed that she actually has them, but isn’t willing to give them to him. She and her family stop Chris from leaving, knock him out, and he awakes tied to a chair, watching a TV.

On the TV, a man explains that the family has invented a procedure called the Coagula: a way for someone’s consciousness to be transferred into another body, while keeping that body’s original consciousness dormant. The family has been abducting young black people and transferring the consciousnesses of elderly members of the family into the younger bodies to preserve them. Walter, Georgina, and Logan – who is actually the man we saw kidnapped at the start – are all elderly members of Rose’s family inhabiting young, black bodies. While the reason given for them using specifically black people is that members of the family thought they would be cooler or stronger, it would also be easier for them, as things like the abduction in the first scene go more easily unreported than if a white person went missing in the same spot.

Chris is repeatedly knocked out through the use of the sound and image of a spoon clinking in a teacup, which Missy used to hypnotize him. He escapes by putting cotton in his ears, and fighting the family members one on one, until he has killed all of them except Rose, who is upstairs. She hears the commotion, and comes downstairs with a rifle, attempting to kill him. He gets in Jeremy’s car (the same car from the beginning of the film) and tries to drive away, but he hits Georgina and, feeling guilty about not having saved his mother as a child, decides he can’t leave her. He puts her unconscious body in the passenger seat, and she wakes up and attacks him. He fights her off, and is still pursued by Rose and Walter, when he uses the flash on his phone to bring Walter back to his senses, at which point Walter shoots Rose and then himself. However, Rose is still alive, and as Chris is attempting to kill her before she kills him, a police car pulls up. It seems that Chris is going to be killed by the police.

It turns out that the driver of the police car is Chris’s friend Rod, a TSA agent, who has been piecing the whole thing together based on what Chris has told him. The two drive off to safety, and the film closes.

While I was writing this post, I pulled up a copy of the film’s script, which had a few differences to the actual film, most notably in the opening scene and at the very end. Instead of just focusing on Andre walking alone at the start, the scene is interspersed with scenes of a white family preparing to go to DisneyWorld:

A perfect suburban house with bay windows and a front lawn. The SHAW family. Caucasian and warm – RICHARD, 34; NANCY, 30; JOSHUA, 6; and MAY, 4 – eat dinner inside. Richard reads something on his tablet illuminating his face.

JOSHUA: Which one are we going to?

RICHARD: The one in Orlando.

NANCY Disney World.

JOSHUA: Tony said that Mickey is not really Mickey; it’s someone else in there.

RICHARD: Mickey’s Mickey.

JOSHUA: Tony said Mickey’s face doesn’t move.

RICHARD: That’s right. Mickey’s always happy.

EXT. SUBURBAN STREET – CONTINUOUS The driver carries Andre to the car.

JOSHUA (O.S.): Why?

RICHARD (O.S.): Because he hasn’t aged in 100 years.

It’s chilling. Then and again, pretty much everything in this film is chilling, as it conveys a very present fear: racism in America, specifically internalized racism by people who claim to be “woke”. Much of the tension throughout the film is built up through examples of everyday racism, until it’s eventually revealed that everything is part of a bigger, more sinister operation.

As for the end of the film, the script has the whole police-showing-up thing played much more grimly, ending with Chris getting arrested and going to prison, as Rod still searches for evidence of what really happened. Chris, however, is happy knowing that he was able to defeat Rose and her family.

Get Out is a modern and innovative film, but it still has similarities to the roots of horror. Like in Frankenstein, it shows someone being outcast by society for the way they look – and, in the original ending of the film, Chris is literally penalized for killing the people who were attacking him, much like Frankenstein vows revenge on his creature for his actions. They have similarities from a science fiction angle too, with the horror of someone playing God and essentially controlling the body of another person, via reanimation in Frankenstein and the coagula in Get Out.

Overall, Get Out was an excellent and creepy film that I really enjoyed watching, even if it took me a couple tries to fully understand the plot.

Anyways, until next time –


(Insert Awesome Horror Movie Here)

Hello, Internet.

I would like to ask that, for a moment, you cast your mind back to the late 1970s – specifically 1970s America. A lot of change was happening. Serial killers such as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy were terrorizing the country, the Vietnam war had ended, Apple and Microsoft had just gotten their start, Roe v Wade had recently legalized abortion, Richard Nixon had resigned after the Watergate Scandal, and after years of fighting, the Equal Rights Amendment had been ratified. If you were a conservative in America, you were probably pretty afraid. If you were pretty much anyone else – a woman, a person of colour, a queer person, or just someone who was fighting for a civil rights movement – things were perhaps starting to get a little better (except for, of course, that whole serial killer thing, which wasn’t good for anyone).

Meanwhile, a lot of cultural events were reflected in pop culture. Apocalypse Now portrayed the horrors of the Vietnam War, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest focused on the institutionalization and mistreatment of mentally ill people, One Day At A Time centred around a divorced mother raising her children, and Black Christmas, a horror movie about several young girls being murdered, has a young, pregnant protagonist who is planning to get an abortion.

In 1978, inspired heavily by Black Christmas, director John Carpenter released a movie called Halloween.

Halloween is a simple movie: a six year old boy murders his sister, is locked up for fifteen years, escapes, and kills four more people. Meanwhile, his doctor, Sam Loomis, tracks him down to attempt to stop him from hurting anyone. For a slasher movie, it’s relatively bloodless; there are only five deaths, only four of which are onscreen, two of which are strangling, and one of which is heavily obscured. There are no fountains of fake blood, or gruesome torture sequences. Even if the creators had wanted to include these things, they didn’t have the budget for it.

Halloween was made for about $300k, provided by producer Moustapha Akkad. This meant many of the actors were not well-known, and that the cast and crew were generally underpaid, and most of the props and costumes were decided by what could be obtained cheaply – most famously, the mask worn by Michael Myers is actually a mask of William Shatner that was altered to look scarier and less human, costing the crew less than five dollars. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, was hired in the lead role of Laurie Strode, giving the film a lot of publicity. Most of the film was not gore and violence, but just shots of various characters walking or driving around, talking, and being teenagers, while the movie’s score played in the background, never quite letting the audience forget that something terrible is about to happen.

The score was composed by John Carpenter. It’s sort of a weird piece – it’s in 10/8 timing (each measure is composed of ten eighth notes, which is fairly unusual), which makes it sound slightly off kilter and very distinctive; it has a very high melody juxtaposed with low synth chords, which sounds unnatural and alarming; and there’s an ominous ticking sound throughout the entire thing that is reminiscent of a clock counting away the seconds.

It’s incredibly effective. In fact, the audio is a large part of why the film works. Aside from the score, which has now become iconic, you can hear the sound of Michael breathing through the mask throughout the film (which is essentially the only sound he makes, since he never speaks). At one point, we hear a character being choked to death over the phone (a scene that would later be referenced in the opening of Wes Craven’s Scream). Once Michael starts attacking Laurie, we hear the scream that gave Jamie Lee Curtis the title of “scream queen”. All of this together is terrifying.

Of course, the audio isn’t the only thing the film utilizes to create a sense of horror. Another strong point in terms of style for Halloween is camerawork. In particular, the scenes from Michael Myers’ perspective – one extended POV shot at the beginning that puts you inside the killer’s head while he stabs his sister to death, and hides the fact that he is a six year old child until after he has murdered her, and several shots throughout the movie that show his perspective as he watches characters from behind hedges or outside windows, all with the sound of breathing in the background.

While the audio and camerawork lend themselves to the terror of Halloween, they are only supporting factors in the thing that truly makes the film scary: the fact that it could be real. When Halloween was released, slasher movies weren’t really a thing the way they are today. There were a few– Psycho is a sort of early template, and the aforementioned Black Christmas – but they wouldn’t be popularized until after Halloween’s release. What was common in horror movies prior to this was the supernatural: demons and possession, or monsters such as vampires and werewolves. It was all fantasy. Halloween shows a terrifying scenario that is very much a reality: a human being, a child, doing great evil. It’s a very naturalistic movie. The setting of Haddonfield, Illinois doesn’t exist – it’s a classic Everytown, America. It could be any town. It could be your town.

The characters in the movie feel real as well. Debra Hill, Carpenter’s wife at the time, co-wrote the movie, and she and Carpenter wanted to make sure that the teenagers acted and talked and dressed like real teenagers. The women weren’t meant to be meek and void of personality and essentially there to be viewed, as women were often portrayed in movies – they were given agency, desires, and in the case of Laurie Strode, enough resourcefulness and willingness to fight to fend off a killer using a knitting needle, a coat hanger, and his own weapon. The movie has sometimes been interpreted as misogynistic for killing off all the female characters who are shown drinking and having sex, while allowing the more conservative, booksmart, virginal Laurie to live and defeat the villain. However, this was apparently not an intentional commentary, and John Carpenter, Debra Hill, and Jamie Lee Curtis have all mentioned that the characters are meant to be realistic teenagers, not a portrayal of what teenagers (or women) should or shouldn’t be. (Not to mention, Laurie is shown swearing, smoking pot, helping her friends to shirk their babysitting duties in favour of using the empty houses they now have access to for their own enjoyment, and it’s mentioned that she has a crush but has trouble getting a boyfriend – she’s not exactly trying to be angelic, she’s just a little dorky). The idea of teenagers being killed for drinking or having sex would be portrayed more explicitly in Friday the Thirteenth, a copycat slasher film released in 1980, and the idea of an innocent final girl surviving would be echoed in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, and deconstructed in his later movie Scream.

Another thing that made Halloween scary is the utter lack of explanation for Michael’s actions. He doesn’t seem to have a specific motivation – in fact, he doesn’t seem especially motivated at all. He walks slowly, he shows no emotion, he kills people at random. At one point, upon finding a dog that Michael has killed, Loomis says simply, “he got hungry”. Seemingly, then, Michael is just acting on his whims. He isn’t killing people out of a need for revenge or to make a point, he just sees people and decides to kill them. Brad Miska’s article The Boogeyman, Fear, and Responsibility – A Close Analysis of ‘Halloween’ (1978)  suggests that Michael is killing characters who “(throw) off their responsibilities in a way that reminds him of his first victim” – but he identifies his victims, stalking Laurie and her friends, long before he sees them shirking their babysitting duties, suggesting that he didn’t have a reason to kill these teenagers specifically. This reflected the serial killers of the era, who would kill people seemingly at random, often horrifically.

A running theme throughout Halloween is characters asking for help and being ignored. Sam Loomis desperately tries to convince anyone who will listen that Michael is armed, dangerous, and heading for Haddonfield to kill more people, but is constantly told he’s overreacting. Laurie tells her friends that a man in a mask is stalking her, and they laugh it off. Tommy Doyle, the boy Laurie babysits, sees Michael and tells Laurie that “the boogeyman” is watching him, only for her to dismiss it as childish fear. When Michael is chasing Laurie, she screams for help and bangs on a neighbour’s door, and the neighbour is seen looking out the window and consciously deciding to ignore her. These are all examples of a very real human behaviour: the tendency to ignore bad things, to sweep them under the rug and look in the other direction rather than getting involved. Not only could the events of Halloween happen to you, but nobody is going to help you, or even believe you, if they do.

Halloween also harkens back to themes present in some of the earliest horror stories that we still enjoy today. For instance, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.

Like Halloween, Frankenstein has a villain who is quasi human, isolated from society, feared and rejected, and, eventually, a merciless killer with little to no empathy for his victims. Both stories make you wonder what it means to be human – and whether or not being human automatically means you have humanity. Both stories allow you to see from the perspective of the antagonist as well as the protagonist, although Halloween does this to create horror, and Frankenstein does it to raise questions of morality. In Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein abandons his creation and refuses to comply with his demands for a partner once he realizes the creature is capable of doing evil; in Halloween, Sam Loomis attempts to treat Michael for seven years, and then gives up, and focuses on keeping him contained instead. Both Loomis and Frankenstein dehumanize their respective charges, referring to them as “the creature”, or “it”, or “the demon”. Although the creature eventually learns to speak French, he has no formal education, and for the first part of his life he doesn’t know how to communicate at all, much like Michael, who has been silent, locked up, and heavily drugged since the age of six.

Of course, there are some pretty significant differences between the two stories as well. Frankenstein gives an immense amount of focus to why the creature does what he does; he speaks eloquently and attempts to reason with people, and although his actions are terrible, you sympathize with his situation and his feelings. Michael Myers is given no such motivation, and thus, no such empathy – his demeanour is cold, he is silent, and he wears a mask that makes him look more like a blank slate than a person. While much of the horror of Halloween comes from how real the events feel, Frankenstein is a work of science fiction, and although it may feel plausible to the reader, it’s not nearly as grounded in reality as Halloween. Halloween is also much more recent, so the fears – the people around you not being who they seem, injustices being swept under the rug to keep up the appearance of happiness and wholesomeness, bad things happening for no reason – are still pretty relevant today.

Halloween has its flaws, and it isn’t as scary, as novel, or as effective for a modern audience as it would have been when it was released, but it is altogether a good movie with an iconic legacy, and arguably the best slasher movie to date. That being said, it is a few days into November now, so we’ll give Halloween a rest (after all, the Black Christmas season is rapidly approaching).


(Insert Tamed Shrew Here)

Hello, Internet.

So, what feels like eons ago, we were all on summer break. Over said break, we were asked to choose one of a list of “classic” novels and write a short response to it. I chose Stanley Park by Timothy Taylor, which references the major park in Vancouver.

One of the things that drew me to Timothy Taylor’s novel Stanley Park was the fact that, as a lifelong Vancouverite, I was very familiar with the book’s setting — the eponymous park, as well as the city of Vancouver generally. This familiarity helped make the book an enjoyable read, as I was able to both picture the scenes more vividly, and have a pre-existing knowledge of some of the issues brought up throughout the book, such as the problem of homelessness in Vancouver. Another thing that I really liked about the book was the prose used; although it became a little bit flowery at times, for the most part I really enjoyed the focus on description and imagery. I appreciated this aspect of the book especially because the plot was on the slow side, and without interesting writing it could have quickly gotten boring. While I enjoyed most of the book, however, the climax of the book – protagonist Jeremy Papier getting his own restaurant and then serving the patrons foods such as raccoon on the opening night, while claiming it was more traditional meat such as beef – bothered me. I think there can be merit in writing about amoral or disturbing things, but I disliked that the book presented Jeremy’s actions as being positive, or at least neutral, with the characters that challenged them being antagonized. All in all, I liked the book, but found parts of it difficult to stomach.
Picture a classic novel. The term may call to mind works such as Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, or Oliver Twist. These are old books that have been learned and loved for an eon, because the writing, characters, and timeless themes give them lasting appeal. Timothy Taylor’s novel Stanley Park, which tells the story of a man running a restaurant in 1990s Vancouver, probably isn’t the first thing you picture. However, there are many aspects of this book that qualify it as a classic, and perhaps the most important one is its universally applicable themes. The protagonist, Jeremy Papier, struggles with money, and how to strike a balance between attaining the resources he needs without losing integrity or giving up his dream; he rebuilds and reexamines family relationships as he deals with the repercussions of his father living in a forest in Stanley Park, and his mother’s death several years prior to the beginning of the book; he has a few key romantic interests that show different forms of romantic love and attraction; and he changes his plans and his identity time and time again as the events of the book take their toll. These themes – money, integrity, family, death, love, and identity – transcend a particular setting and time period. Taylor’s use of these themes to create a compelling story is what makes this book the classic that it is, and may keep it as a classic for a long time to come.

Once we had analyzed our respective classic novels, we moved on to the piece of media we were actually studying: William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The rest of the class went on a field trip to see it at Bard on the Beach, which I did not attend, although I did see it on my own time. Having seen the play, we set about our task: resetting one act per group of three or four people in another era to examine the perspective on women in said era.

The group I was in was looking at Act III, which sees Lucentio and Hortensio attempting to subtly hit on Bianca while ostensibly giving her lessons, and then Kate and Petruchio getting married while Petruchio does everything he can to embarrass Kate. Our time period was the 1950s, a time at which the view on women was better – but not that much better – than in Shakespeare’s time, so we had to make a few changes.

First of all, we made some decisions about the characters’ backstories and motivation. We changed Bianca’s lessons in lute and Latin – both rather outdated subjects – to piano and cooking lessons, which would have been common for young women in the 1950s. Specifically, we had her learn to cook a jello salad recipe.



We decided that Kate would be a working woman who didn’t want to get married, but was being pressured by her parents, who were obsessed with status and worried that since she was past the normal marrying age, she would be alone forever. We spent a while discussing what Kate should look like and how she should dress before realizing she only appears in a wedding dress in this act.

There were also a few changes to the script itself; we cut most of Hortensio’s lines, as well as a whole conversation after Kate and Petruchio had left, we trimmed down the content in the middle, and we peppered in some words from the 1950s – like changing the title to The Taming of the Frump, which was a derogatory term for a women at the time.

We decided to create our video as a stop motion, which was perhaps not the best choice for the time constraints we were facing, but did allow us a lot of finite control over the characters and sets.

While all of this was happening, we also had a few other assignments.

One was to create a short video explaining the role of women in our assigned time period. I used keynote to create my video, which talked about the general perspective on women in the 1950s, as well as our plans to apply that perspective in our larger project.


We also had to write an essay on why we thought The Taming of the Shrew was or wasn’t a classic. Mine digressed a little bit from this topic, because while I think that the play is a classic, I also think that it comes with some important considerations, such as what is acceptable to put onstage today, and how much we should change a work that has been around for so long.

In 1995, Disney released a movie called Pocahontas. The film tells the story of a young Native American woman in colonial America, who falls in love with a white man named John Smith. In the years since its release, the film has come under fire for romanticizing a very dark period in history as a whole, and the story of one girl in particular. It “[whitewashes] colonial history… [and attempts] to give a generation of children the impression that the conquest of the Americas was a cheerful, cooperative effort between the enlightened Europeans and the accommodating natives” (The Guardian, 2008). It is not the first film to be criticized for glossing over history in the name of a happy ending, and it will likely not be the last – many a film has been lambasted for this issue. However, in the case of some works, this issue is present but goes uncriticized, or is even lauded as progressive. An example – or, more accurately, several examples – of this is the slew of film and stage adaptations of Shakespeare’s classic play The Taming of the Shrew. As a general rule, referring to a work as a “classic” is considered to be complimentary. A classic stands the test of time; it inspires other works; it has a pervasive set of themes that could appeal to, in theory, almost anyone. In short, it’s the best of the best. The Taming of the Shrew exemplifies these qualities. It has been around since the 1600s and is still performed and studied widely today. It has inspired other works from several direct film and stage adaptations to the 1999 teen comedy Ten Things I Hate About You. It focuses on themes of family, marriage, identity, gender, and autonomy, which are all still important topics today. However, since 1590, there has been a significant shift in society’s views towards several of these topics, as well as a large number of other works centred around these themes that embody a more contemporary perspective. With this in mind, I don’t think The Taming of the Shrew still deserves the high praise it receives, nor do I think it should be constantly edited and re-edited to make it palatable for each new, more socially aware generation. That’s not to say that it’s not worth studying. As a historical artefact, and as something to teach us about the time period and social climate it came from, it’s useful. Like anything so old, it’s worth preserving just to further our understanding of the people who wrote it. The 1590s were not nearly so well documented as the last hundred years, so any document which can lend us an insight into that time is potentially important. In this particular case, it is especially important because the person who wrote it is an influential historical figure – one whose life and values we are still trying to fully piece together. Additionally, it’s important not to sweep the more unsavoury aspects of history or historical figures under the rug in the interest of purifying the more favourable elements. William Shakespeare is a revered and respected playwright with a significant impact on Western media. He was also a man living centuries ago whose views on women, among other things, would not be acceptable today, although they were the norm at the time. Understanding these views is important to fully comprehend his plays. Now, plays are a unique media in that they demand to be repeatedly performed. Unlike a novel or a movie, which are generally made by a person or group of people and then consumed by others solely in their original form, a play requires people to actively perform it each time someone wants to see it. This means that for a play to last several centuries, there must be a group of people in each generation of that time – or at least often enough for the script not to be lost or forgotten – who are willing to attach their name and face and creative input to the message the play maintains. However, the very concept of a comedy where the supposed victory is a woman being abused and broken for daring to have a voice is, by today’s standards, reprehensible. It calls to mind the likes of Punch and Judy or Family Guy – not exactly what you’d call classics, but rather, shows dependent on low brow humour for cheap laughs. In many cases, a play may be edited a little bit to accommodate the modern viewpoint, which is typically fine – the play is preserved but becomes inoffensive. I believe this is generally what people are attempting when they alter the text of The Taming of the Shrew to make it more politically correct. However, where The Taming of the Shrew differs from other plays in this respect is that the element people are typically changing – that Petruchio abusing Kate into submission is viewed as a victory; that being able to control women through any means necessary is a positive outcome – is the crux of the whole play. As in the story of Pocahontas, it’s important to recognize this play’s place in history, and to avoid glorifying or glossing over the horrific realities of our past in the interest of making the story fit our present views. It seems odd and a little insensitive to praise this play – or to keep performing so-called direct adaptations that alter the perspective and important plot points to make it more palatable to a modern audience. Doing this achieves perhaps the same thing that forgetting about the play completely does: it blunts the unsavoury edges, sweeps the unacceptable parts of history under the rug to help us sleep at night. As a general rule, if something is so offensive you have to dramatically alter it to passably present it in what is supposed to be its base format, that may be a sign it’s time to retire it. So how do we recognize The Taming of the Shrew for all the things that have made it a classic for so long without pardoning the rather archaic message it perpetuates, or romanticizing the horrific events it portrays? First of all, I think it’s important to study the original text – as well as the various reiterations of it throughout the last few centuries – rather than focus on creating more and more modernized versions. Second of all, I think it’s important to look at the context around the play – its meaning and reception when it was written, and the social climate at the time – and analyze the things that make it a classic with that historical perspective in mind, while separately evaluating whether it is deserving of prestige today. If the play is performed, I think it should be prefaced with a discussion of the context around the original play, and our understanding today of the themes and perspectives portrayed therein. All in all, I think there are several aspects of The Taming of the Shrew that qualify it as a classic to this day. Its long history, its revelations about how still-relevant themes were viewed during Elizabethan times, and its influence on Western literature and media, are all reasons that we still study it today. However, I think that we need to respect the history around this work without putting it up on a pedestal or altering the message to fit our current perspectives. Unlike Disney in 1995, we shouldn’t erase the negative parts of our history – instead we should study them, understand them, learn from them, and move forward from them.

This was an interesting unit, and an important subject to study, but I am excited to move onto our next unit, which should be both seasonally appropriate and an excellent excuse for me to use all the fake blood I got for my birthday.


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