Did Shadowland Have a Secret Meaning?

If you’ve seen Broadway’s take on The Lion King (or you clicked on the video above), you might be familiar with a song called “Shadowland.” It appears in the second act, when the Pride Lands have turned into a desolate wasteland and Nala leaves home to look for anything that can help her pride survive.

But while this moment doesn’t appear in the animated movie, have you ever noticed that it’s played in the background? Like, almost a dozen times? I’ve heard the chorus line played a few times before, but it wasn’t until I bought the full movie soundtrack that I noticed just how often we hear the verse and chorus lines laced into the background music.

Granted, this isn’t the first time Disney has done this in their movies. You’ll hear the title song played off and on in Beauty and the Beast, moments of “A Whole New World” played throughout the third act in Aladdin, and the “Hellfire” theme played over and over in Hunchback of Notre Dame. But no one ever sings “Shadowland” in The Lion King. So why include it in the background music at all?

Well, to answer this question, let’s look at the moments where we hear it. It first comes up when Mufasa is showing Simba the Pride Lands. For three seconds, we hear part of the verse when Mufasa runs into the elephant graveyard to defend Simba and Nala. Then the verse and chorus are played twice afterwards, once when Mufasa scolds Simba for his carelessness and again when they’re stargazing. Then we hear the chorus line after the stampede, when Simba realizes that his father didn’t survive the ordeal. Then we hear it when Timon, Pumbaa, and an adult Simba talk about what stars are. We get another glimpse or two when Simba and Nala reunite after years of her thinking she was dead. You hear it again when Mufasa’s ghost appears and says “Remember who you are.” And we hear it again as Simba and his three friends stand on a cliff, preparing to take on Scar. It’s played off and on during the confrontation. And then we hear it one last time after Scar dies, right before Simba takes his place as king of the Pride Lands.

What do all these moments have in common? They all deal with the weight of leadership.

Think about it. We hear it when Mufasa is teaching Simba the responsibilities of being king. We hear it again when the hyenas are cornered, and they realize Mufasa can tear them limb from limb. We hear it again when Mufasa scolds Simba. We hear it again right afterwards, when we get a hint that the king might not live to see the happily ever after. We hear it again when the king is dead. We hear it again, years later, when Simba is briefly confronted with the memory of his father’s death. We hear it again when Nala realizes that Simba could take on Scar and become king. We hear it again when Mufasa tells Simba that it’s time for him to accept the role he was born to play in the circle of life. We hear it again as Simba steels himself for the upcoming battle. We hear it off and on during the confrontation between hero and villain. And we hear it one last time before Simba is named king.

This seems a little odd—especially considering the lyrics of the song. The song by itself has less to do with leadership and more to do with saying farewell. Then again, Nala is the one who sings it, and in both version of the story she becomes queen. And what is a queen except the female equivalent of a king? Maybe the writers intended to expand her story to show how she took up the mantle of leadership when Scar turned everything upside down. Or maybe the composer had some other intent altogether.

Admittedly, this theory still has a few holes in it that are worth debating. And the people at Disney might’ve had completely different reasons for including the melody as a background tune, but not as a musical number. But this is what Disney is best known for—little Easter eggs and conspiracy theories that add importance to the story. Would we enjoy Lilo and Stitch as much if they explained outright that the title meant “lost and pulled together”? Would we love Beauty and the Beast as much if the characters pointed out the significance of Belle wearing blue? So as far as the song “Shadowland” is concerned, what do you think?

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Patriotism

There are a few reasons why I’ll never fit in with conservatives. Anti-abortion doesn’t mean pro-life, people shouldn’t be denied services and rights based on sexual orientation, and whoever said “take our country back” in the 2016 election knew next to nothing about Native American history. But no matter where individual conservatives stood on those issues, there was always one thing they could agree on: patriotism.

Until recently, I used to believe that patriotism was synonymous with “America is the greatest country on Earth!” or “America first!” And sentiments like those make me cringe. How can America be the greatest when we’re far behind other countries in intelligence and human rights? How does putting America above everyone else honor God? What can we be proud of?

That clip above was aired before Trump became president. And since we turned into the world’s court jester, my view of patriotism became more and more negative. But then I saw that post-election Black-ish episode where the main character says “I love this country even though it doesn’t always love me.” Then I saw Emmanuel Macron inviting American scientists to France so that they might have the finances and resources to fight climate change. And that’s when it finally hit me:

Patriotism doesn’t mean being competitive so much as it means being loyal. Your country is a lot like your family. You can’t choose where you were born, nor can you choose who raises you until you can take care of yourself. Maybe your relationship has been great, maybe it’s been nothing short of absolute shit. But even if you leave and never see them again, you can’t bring yourself to completely hate them. Why? Because they’ve been part of you for so long.

It’s the same with your country. No matter how it’s treated you, living here has made it a part of who you are. So, America, here’s my message of patriotism to you:

We’ve had an odd love-hate relationship over the years. I never know exactly what you think of me. Sometimes you made me laugh, other times you scared me shitless. And I won’t deny that I’ve envied Europe for its British literature, French sweets, and Norwegian scenery. We haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, and there’ll most likely be many times in the future where we’ll disagree some more. But you’re still a part of me that I can’t ignore. When they wanted better opportunities, my ancestors came to you. I was born and raised here, and thus you’re all I’ve ever known. And while you’ve sometimes made it tempting to leave, the truth is there’s a part of me that can’t bring myself to hate you. Maybe it’s your people, maybe it’s your burgers and chips, or maybe it’s my inner-American tendency to defy logic and reality, I don’t know. And maybe I will leave someday, depending on where God takes me. But the fact of the matter is, I’ve come to love you too much to give up and leave now. I will fight for you, for as long as it takes, because you and your people are worth fighting for.

12 Underrated Fictional Fathers

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Last time, we observed Mother’s Day by taking a gander at 12 underrated fictional mothers. And since this is the month of Father’s Day, it only seems fair that we give 12 underrated fictional fathers the same treatment. Let’s not waste any time and dive right in.

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#12: Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka

This guy has gotten a lot of hate over the years. And to be fair, it’s not altogether unwarranted. He spends twenty years in bed until his grandson finds a golden ticket, throws childlike insults around about the other kids, encourages Charlie to steal, and has his own outburst after Wonka has a vocal seizure. But he’s still earned a spot on this list, and here’s why:

  1. Charlie’s father is dead in the 1971 movie, which means Grandpa Joe has stepped in to be Charlie’s father figure
  2. He resolves to stop using tobacco once he sees that a loaf of bread is the equivalent of a banquet for the family
  3. He believes in Charlie throughout the contest despite the impossible odds, tries constantly to keep Charlie’s hopes for a better future alive. “Kid’s gotta have something to hope for” is his excuse.
  4. He recognizes that the way the other parents raised their kids wasn’t right
  5. He’s the one who warned Charlie about Slugworth, which ultimately led to Charlie passing the test in the end

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#11: Cameron and Mitchell from Modern Family

…honestly, these guys are here mainly because they’re so entertaining. Not only do they navigate life’s ups and downs as a gay couple raising a Vietnamese girl, but it’s also fun watching them do it.

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#10: Richard Castle from Castle

Castle has the maturity level of a child. He touches everything in sight, he makes faces at a school kid who gives him hell, and he compares his first ex-wife to a deep-fried Twinkie. But when he sees a child in jeopardy, there’s nothing joking or playful about his demeanor. When his daughter is abducted, he literally flies to France to find her and bring her home. When a nine-year-old is held hostage, he negotiates for the release of her and her mother before anyone else. When it’s revealed that a child might’ve witnessed a murder, he interacts with the kids to find the possible witness, and along the way helps them open up about their fears and insecurities.

Image result for fa zhou mulan                                                  Image result for tiana's dad princess and the frog

#9: Fa Zhou from Mulan/James from Princess and the Frog

Two fascinating father figures in Disney are Fa Zhou and James. They were both teacher figures who believe in their daughters, but not to the point where they coddled them. They were both tired to the bone sometimes, but they still summoned enough energy to provide for the girls. And for much of their respective movies, Mulan’s and Tiana’s motivations revolved around their fathers. Much like Kala and Jumbo, the two fathers’ differences are fun to compare too. Fa Zhou was more stern and stone-faced, while James radiated warmth and passion. Mulan was concerned about keeping her father alive, while Tiana’s goal was living the dream her father never made a reality.

Image result for stoick and hiccup how to train your dragon

#8: Stoick the Vast from How to Train Your Dragon

The relationship between Hiccup and Stoick isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. They have different opinions on how to solve an issue, Hiccup wants Stoick’s approval, Stoick wants Hiccup to be different, you know it and so do I. Two interesting factors help this relationship stand out. One, the writers and animators for the movie know how to bring this relationship to life. From the expressions to the conversations to the actions, everything feels genuine. You know how much Stoick gets annoyed with Hiccup, but you also know how much he cares about his son. You see how much Hiccup looks up to Stoick, but you also see him trying to do what’s right for the dragons. The second factor is how the relationship develops in the TV series and the sequel. It’s awkward at first, but both parties are making the effort to communicate and compromise with each other. And by the time we get to the sequel, we get a glimpse of a healed relationship.

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#7: Hector from The Vile Village

From a cowardly grammar fanatic to a Trump-esque vice principal to a financial advisor with the humility of a peacock, Lemony Snicket seems determined to make the Baudelaires as miserable as humanly possible. The Baudelaires’ best legal guardians is an eccentric herpetologist, and he dies. But Hector is second best for a few reasons:

  1. Though timid, he doesn’t try to bribe his way out of trouble by handing the Baudelaires over to Olaf
  2. Even though it’s breaking the village rules, he provides ways that the Baudelaires can scratch their reading, inventing, and biting itches
  3. He visits the Baudelaires in jail and gives them the final clue they need to find their friends
  4. He builds an air mobile that gets the Quagmires out of Olaf’s reach
  5. He looks an entire village straight in the face and pretty much says “F*ck your rules, I’m done with this shit.”

#6: Long John Silver from Treasure Planet

In the original book as well as nearly every adaptation, Silver takes on the role of mentor and father for Jim Hawkins. Even Tim Curry understood this while scaring little girls in Muppet Treasure Island. So what makes this animated Long John Silver stand out above the rest? To put it simply: the attached clip from the movie.

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#5: Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice

Honestly, the only thing that makes this guy worth mentioning is that he’d fit right in with a modern-day stand-up comedian. In a weird family where each character has her own illogical form of logic, Mr. Bennet is one of the few voices of reason. That and his witty comebacks are a riot.

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#4: Ross Geller from Friends

He may be phenomenally stupid, but give him credit for wanting to be there when two of his ex-wives bear his offspring. And he also wanted to send his daughter to a science camp, so that’s a bonus.

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#3: Burt Hummel from Glee

Up until around the time Glee started airing, men and women had their own set of expectations to fulfill. Because of this, Burt admits that he doesn’t know how to be a father to a gay son. While he accepts Kurt for who he is, the two don’t have a lot of common ground to build a connection on. One likes fishing and sports, the other likes Broadway and clothes. This becomes especially problematic when Burt starts bonding with his new girlfriend’s son Finn, and Kurt becomes jealous. Thus, Kurt tries to act like the stereotypical man to gain his father’s approval. This relationship has all the traits of the relationship between Hiccup and Stoick, except Kurt always had Burt’s approval.

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#2: Bert from Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins and Bert have always offered a different view of parenthood that we don’t always talk about. She’s the strict and stern guardian, he’s the one having a blast. She’s the one with insane self-control, he’s the first one to join Uncle Albert on the ceiling. But even when you don’t have Mary Poppins there, Bert has fulfilled fatherly duties in ways that Mr. Banks never did. When the kids run away from the bank scared out of their minds, he’s the one who comforts them, teaches them empathy, and brings them home safely. When the kids don’t have a babysitter, he keeps them company. And when Mr. Banks wants to blame Mary Poppins for his problems, Bert gently offers him a different viewpoint. “Get to know your kids now; there might not be another time.”

#1: Iroh from Avatar

It’s hard to tell the story of Iroh and Zuko without giving anything away. So I’ll let the YouTube clip do the talking.

Photo sources:

https://www.bookish.com/articles/father-knows-best-know-it-all-dads-in-fiction/

http://www.ric.edu/sherlockcenter/dsi/chocofactory.pdf

http://tvfilmnews.com/modern-family-season-4-cameron-and-mitchell-scoop/

http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/richard-castle/images/30000275/title/rick-alexis-photo

https://giphy.com/search/fa-zhou

https://www.animationsource.org/princess_frog/en/chars/James/9553.html

https://dejareviewer.com/2011/09/13/battle-of-the-message-movies-how-to-train-your-dragon-vs-avatar/

http://www.nocturnalsoldier.org/Tealin/xhp/vfd/

http://www.playbuzz.com/limwen10/how-well-do-you-know-elizabeth-bennet

https://www.bustle.com/articles/60889-7-times-friends-ross-monica-proved-they-were-the-worst-siblings-ever

http://theartofilm.blogspot.com/2013/10/berts-chalk-drawings-in-mary-poppins.html

12 Underrated Fictional Mothers

When you think of great fictional mothers, who comes to mind? Marge Simpson from The Simpsons? Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter? Mrs. March from Little Women? Well, this blog post isn’t about them. Instead, we’re celebrating Mother’s Day by looking at twelve mother figures that we don’t talk about for some reason.

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#12: Donna Sheridan from Mamma Mia

If you haven’t seen this movie yet…don’t. The songs are pointless, the story is complete nonsense, the characters are forgettable, and everything else is insulting to Greece. But if there was one thing that was okay, it was Meryl Streep’s character. I can’t imagine how much stamina it would take not to disown your daughter when she invites three of your exes to her wedding without telling you (though you could argue Streep didn’t snap because the movie is allergic to misery). And towards the end when Sophie breaks down and asks for help, Streep agrees and even gives us a tender moment where she sings about letting go while helping Sophie prepare for the wedding.

From the moment she gets pregnant, a mother has to put up with a lot of crap. While we’re not unethical or sadistic enough to invite her exes to a wedding she has to attend, we still have to be fed, cleaned, sheltered, and cleaned up after for years. And since the movie at least understood that (to an extent), it only seems fair to bring it up.

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#11: Mrs. McCallister from Home Alone

Granted, leaving your eight-year-old at home alone to go on vacation isn’t responsible parenting. And the relationship between mother and son as shown in the beginning was strained. But when she realizes what happened, she almost immediately jumps to try to get back to Chicago. She calls local police to check on Kevin, she stays at the airport to get a flight back, she nearly trades her earrings for a seat, she snaps at a guy who tells her she can’t get there in time for Christmas, she does whatever she can to get home. She shows that responsibility isn’t so much never doing anything wrong so much as doing whatever it takes to set things right.

#10: Mrs. Brisby, Secret of NIMH

The Nostalgia Critic goes into better detail about the character, so I’ll let the attached clip showcase the awesomeness of this fictional mother.

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#9: Anne Juergens, Secret Life

Fair warning, I haven’t seen the later episodes of this show, so I’ll only focus on season one. The Juergens family is in shambles for almost the entire season. Fifteen-year-old Amy is pregnant, Anne and George are separating after his affair, and Anne’s mother is showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. But with all that on her shoulders, Anne keeps it together to help the family get through.

It’s important to note that she doesn’t coddle Amy during her pregnancy. She doesn’t scold or belittle her for being stupid, but at the same time she makes it clear that Amy has to start thinking and acting like an adult if she wants to be treated like one. While she agrees to support whatever decision Amy makes about the baby, she still does everything she can to make sure Amy has the information she needs to move forward, regardless of whatever choice she makes.

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#8: Jumbo from Dumbo/Kala from Tarzan

In many ways, Jumbo and Kala are pretty similar. They both stand up for their sons, they’re both great sources of comfort and refuge, and they both get a song number. But their differences are fun to compare as well. Jumbo became a mother thanks to a flighty stork, while Kala rescued Tarzan after losing her child. Kala doesn’t resort to violence to protect, but Jumbo reached a breaking point and felt she had to. Jumbo and Dumbo have a playful relationship—neither character even speaks—while Kala and Tarzan resemble the mother/son dynamic we see in everyday life. All in all, both have a well-earned spot on the list.

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#7: Valka from How to Train Your Dragon 2

She tames dragons. She got taken while protecting her baby during a dragon raid. She tames dragons. She can recognize Hiccup by a faint scar on his chin. She tames dragons. She teaches Hiccups more about living with dragons peacefully, even showing him a flying trick which predictably comes in handy during the final battle. Did I mention she tames dragons?

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#6: Mary Poppins

When the topic of fictional parenthood from the movie Mary Poppins comes up, a lot of people are like “oh, George Banks! He learns how to be a good father and fixes the kite!” Okay, fair enough, but how come no one ever brings up the leading lady herself? She’s the one looking after Jane and Michael for half of the movie. She’s the one taking them on fantastic journeys and showcasing the power of laughter and imagination. She’s the one teaching them generosity (and in the original book, responsibility). And she’s the perfect blend of lighthearted yet stern, nice yet haughty, and respectable yet flexible.

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#5: Mrs. Bucket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

In the book and the 2005 remake, Mrs. Bucket is a side character with only a handful of lines. But in the 1971 film, her role is expanded in the first half, giving us a more developed relationship between her and Charlie. Through it’s only limited to a few scenes, we see her trying to be encouraging but also realistic. She doesn’t like seeing him down in the dumps, but she also doesn’t want him to get his hopes too high in case they come crashing down. It’s also interesting to note that, after the discovery of the third golden ticket winner, Mrs. Bucket is the one Charlie talks to. She’s the one who witnesses his frustration, she’s the one who reminds him that he wouldn’t be the only disappointed kid who didn’t find a ticket, she’s the one who tells him to keep his chin up, and she’s the one who tells him to keep his dreams in sight.

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#4: Narcissa Malfoy from Harry Potter

                As the author and hardcore fans of the Potter books will tell you, mother love is one of the recurring themes in the story. Mrs. Weasley and Lily Potter are obviously the two most influential mother figures, but another key mother figure who isn’t talked about a lot is Narcissa Malfoy. In nearly every scene she’s in, she’s concerned with the safety of her family. The first time we meet her, she’s defying her husband’s master to beg Snape to protect her son Draco. And in her last scene, she’s keeping Harry safe so that she can go back to Hogwarts to find Draco. In interviews, Rowling explained that she used Narcissa’s defiance to close the story so that it begins and ends with a mother’s protection.

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#3: Cora from Downton Abbey

As fun as it is to mock this soap opera, you have to admit that it also has its good moments. Cora happens to be one of them. Not only does she have the protective side going for her (an example is what happens when she overhears the nanny calling Cora’s granddaughter a “wicked little crossbreed”), but she’s also a consistent voice of reason. When Edith runs away to be with the daughter she had out of wedlock, Cora tracks her down and helps her find a solution that works for everyone. When her husband is being unreasonable when one of their daughters makes a drastic life choice, she sets him straight. And…yeah, that about sums it up.

#2: Elastigirl from The Incredibles

There’s one scene that sets up a perfect example of Elastigirl’s awesomeness, so I’ll let the clip speak for me.

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#1: Mandy from Ella Enchanted

For the sake of argument, let’s ignore the movie and focus on the book.

From beginning to end, Ella’s fairy godmother encompasses the depth, difficulty, and necessity of motherhood. She looks after Ella, but doesn’t spoil her. She encourages her to be realistic, but doesn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams. Though she won’t take risks (“big magic,” as she calls it), she’ll do whatever she can for her goddaughter. She weeps when Ella weeps, she celebrates her joys, she shares hopes for a brighter future, and she’s the most trusted confidant in the story. Mandy, the most underrated mother figure.

Photo sources:

http://www.wheninmanila.com/songs-of-abba-mamma-mia-philippines-is-extended/

http://www.gurl.com/2014/12/11/crazy-interesting-facts-about-home-alone-movie-trivia/

http://www.tvguide.com/celebrities/molly-ringwald/photos/167083/14481/

https://disneymoviesfanatic.wordpress.com/tag/dumbombers/

Ranking Disney: #28 – Tarzan (1999)

http://collider.com/how-to-train-your-dragon-2-3-dean-deblois-interview/

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/new-mary-poppins-film-disney-to-set-movie-20-years-after-original-10501114.html

http://www.aveleyman.com/FilmCredit.aspx?FilmID=21386

http://www.wikiwand.com/id/Narcissa_Malfoy

http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/downton-abbey-elizabeth-mcgovern-who-2853465

http://www.paleohub.info/key/m/words-minnie-driver-ella-enchanted.html

Act vs. Wait

Image result for fighting injustice

We’ve seen a lot of injustice since the dawn of time, haven’t we? The rich get richer while the poor starve to death. Terrorism takes on different forms almost every day. Even the most well-meaning government officials are corrupted by power. No matter where we are in the world, injustice is a sad reality that we have to come to grips with.

For a lot of people, this has brought up a nagging question that has no clear answer: When trouble rises, do we act to try to fix the problem, or do we wait for someone else to try?

At first glance, it seems like taking action is the right direction to go. As we’ve seen in the last few months alone, actions such as protests and lawsuits have prevented the Muslim ban from going into effect twice. Even something as simple as paying for a meal or donating to a good cause goes a long way in demonstrating love and kindness for our fellow man or woman. That being said, there are at least two cons that come with taking action.

First, there’s pride. When we do something good, we like to brag about it. In a church I used to attend, members are given the opportunity to stand up and share how God has led them to be a temporary hero for the poor (and yes, I did roll my eyes when I wrote that). Sometimes, this kind of arrogance can lead us to berate or belittle others for not doing what we’re doing. The “I’m perfect, why aren’t you perfect?” argument, if you will.

The second con from taking action is lack of proper guidance. To illustrate my point, let’s look at police brutality and the growing lack of trust between law enforcement and citizens. A while back, some officers tried to rebuild trust by handing out free ice cream to random passersby on the street. Even if they had the best intentions, the gesture didn’t do anything to shake the fear of being approached by an officer. If you don’t have the knowledge or the humility to find the root of the problem, you won’t be able to fix it.

On the other hand, there’s also the option to stand back and wait for someone else to fix the problem. It’s a solution that Christians like to point to a lot, saying “just pray and wait on God to fix everything.” And just like action, waiting can have its advantages. If you don’t have the necessary knowledge, waiting can allow you to take a step back and learn more. Or if you’re not qualified to help, it might be necessary to make way for someone who is. But even waiting has its disadvantages too—namely, paving the way for potential apathy and/or laziness. Poverty has been around for so long that it’s too easy to say “it’ll never get better, so why bother caring?” Waiting also makes it too easy to say “I’m sure someone else will deal with it better than I can, so better not try.” Or as psychologists call it, the Bystander Effect.

With all of this said, it might be easy to just say “oh, we’ll just need a little bit of both. If we need to wait, we wait. If we can act, we act.” The thing is, that line has never been drawn—at least, not clearly. Take medicine. Would the world be a healthier place if everyone knew about the human body? Maybe. Since not everyone specializes in science, we’re not really hard on someone who decides to pursue a different path. But we could still learn if we wanted to. So does the lack of action make us lazy? Or would taking action despite lack of passion for the subject matter only make everything worse?

The sad thing is, figuring out what’s right for certain conflicts has never been easy and it never will be. We live in a complicated world, and as a result the solutions won’t always be black and white. Does this mean we shouldn’t try to find solutions at all? Hell, no! That’s not why we’re here. I guess all I’m trying to say is:

  1. Do the best you can and encourage others to do the best they can
  2. Don’t belittle people for either taking action with a hothead or not doing anything.

We’re trying to figure things out and we’re trying to get better at making the right choices. And if we want to steer people towards the right choices, we need to acknowledge our own mistakes and humanity as well.

Photo source: https://christandpopculture.com/side-ferguson-local-churches-fighting-injustice/

Tired of Chasing Beauty

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I used to obsess over appearance. Like…all the time. As a little girl, I had a small collection of princess costumes and glitter. As a teenager, I hid behind long hair and baggy clothes so that the other kids wouldn’t comment on my acne or body weight. Now, at twenty-five, I can’t help but wonder…why?  Why did I obsess over my appearance so much? Why was visual appeal so important to me?

For starters, it’s almost a given that society plays a big role in perpetuating faith in beauty. Since the invention of commercials, we’ve been bombarded with ads featuring various clothes, face-cleansers, hair products, and make up products. Beauty pageants are still a thing. And we often hear unsolicited beauty tips like these:

“Why don’t you smile more? You’ll get more attention.”

“Nice girls shouldn’t get dirty.”

“Wear your hair down more often, it’s so pretty that way.”

But that still leaves the question: why did I, like so many other girls, buy into that lie in the first place? I have two theories.

One: exposure. As a kid, the only movies I remember growing up with were Disney movies. And while Ariel and Jasmine were a clear sign of Disney trying to evolve their storytelling (I didn’t see Beauty and the Beast until I was ten), the first Disney princess to actually confront and reject gender stereotypes was Mulan, and her movie came out in 1998.

Two: easy way out. We live in a crazy, complicated world. As a result, we tend to look for easy solutions to make the world less complicated. As much as my teenage-self looked up to female characters like Kim Possible, Luna Lovegood, and Violet Baudelaire, I didn’t think I could be strong or brave or smart like they were, no matter how much I wanted to. I wasn’t good at math or science, gym class was always a nightmare, and I was that one kid who climbed up the high dive, took one look at the water below, and then climbed back down the ladder. And while I wasn’t confident about my looks either, beautiful felt at least obtainable in comparison.

But is it even worth it? On occasions where I make myself a little more presentable than usual, the compliments and attention I get only last a few seconds. And on the two occasions I intentionally dolled myself up to look pretty, one guy (who had a girlfriend at the time) told me I was beautiful and then years later admitted it was a mistake, and another guy—one I was actually trying to impress—started a relationship with another girl the next day. And on non-social occasions, looks never played a role in anything. They never increased productivity at the workplace, and they never had an effect on anything I’ve ever written.

I’ll admit, I was ready to give up on caring about my appearance altogether. If the upsides to beauty are trivial at best, why bother? Then I talked to one of my close friends from college, and she mentioned that giving appearance some thought can have two actual benefits:

One, health. Yes there’s weight watching, but some beauty products contribute to things like healthy skin and healthy hair. She may or may not have also mentioned that, and I quote, “supportive undergarments [help] avoid back pain.” Kind of weird, but then again, we live in a weird world.

Two, sense of identity. Again, to quote my friend, taking note of how you look can allow you to “mentally see yourself. You’re allowed to make yourself look any way you feel like looking, without worrying about how others perceive you.” I spent a few good hours mulling over what she said. And the more I did, the more I realized she might have a point. It’s hard to explain, but the kinds of clothes we wear and the way we set up (or don’t bother to set up) our faces say something about who we are and what we think. For example, feeling at home in a $3,000 tracksuit either screams “eccentric billionaire” or “wealthy and proud of it.” A sharp suit can say “I’m ready to go, so let’s get to work.” Or a look as simple as jeans and a t-shirt can say “this is who I am, and I won’t pretend otherwise just to make you happy.” I’ve noticed some of these trends in my own life as well. Finding the right balance is a hassle, but having it there allows me to relax and focus on what I’m doing. I’ll wear dresses and skirts as long as I’m allowed to add leggings, but slipping into pants makes me feel more like myself.

So maybe there is something to be said about the way we look. It just might take looking at the issue from a personal standpoint as opposed to a societal standpoint. Again, it’s a little hard to put into words, and again, it can be tiring to find clothes and makeup products that tell others—and myself—who I am. But maybe some good can come from it.

Special thanks to: Ashley Peters, admin

Photo source: https://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-16095685-stock-footage-woman-applying-makeup.html?src=rel/68941:8

What Abstinence Only Doesn’t Teach

Image result for sex education

When I was in high school, I took a Family & Relationships course. At one point in the class, we talked about intercourse, protection, pregnancy, STDs, and pretty much almost everything else connected to sex. While the teacher did believe that abstinence was the best choice we could make, she acknowledged that it wasn’t the only choice. As a teacher at a Christian school she also pointed out that, even though God had a lot to say about sex, that didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy it.

It was a great class, and I got a lot of questions answered. But I didn’t take that optional class until I was eighteen and in my last semester of high school. Until then, I was subjected to both my church and my school giving me the abstinence only view of sex. In that time, all I knew about sex was that I should avoid it as much as possible—even talking about it if I could.

We Americans have a weird way of talking about sex no matter where we go. Some communities like to avoid the topic altogether. As a result of the way we refuse to acknowledge the subject, America’s teens will often go into high school—even college—without a full understanding of sex. Sadly, this leads to unanswered questions. And in some cases, the consequences of letting these questions go unanswered are too severe not to address. Here’s just a few of those questions.

  1. What is sex?

John Oliver discussed the lack of sex education in America’s sex ed programs (link to his segment below), summarizing that it’s easier to find out what kids aren’t learning than it is to find out what kids are learning. And…yeah, that’s the best way to summarize abstinence only programs. They’ll tell you that it involves getting naked, but they don’t usually teach about protection, getting pregnant, or even what consent looks like.

  1. What’s the Appeal?

One of the questions I never got answered growing up is “if it’s so wrong, why have sex at all?” The media in particular has a strong fixation on sex. There are several factors that could explain the phenomenon, including but not limited to a) you can make almost anything appealing by forbidding it, and b) it’s a human drive—not a need, but a drive. Point is, there’s truth to the phrase “knowledge is power.”

  1. Is Shaming Okay?

On one hand, we believe that the “old-fashioned” notion doesn’t exist anymore. But it does, and it’s weird that we’d gloss over the idea of saying no. The other day, I found an ad from dating coach Matthew Hussey saying the best reply to a new acquaintance asking for a naked photo is “I think you’re mistaking me for a future version of myself who’s been on more dates with you.” Okay, but what if we don’t want to exchange naked photos at all? Come on, Hussey, let’s forget about my love life and talk about the legal and emotional importance of consent for a minute, shall we?

But on the other hand, people still make fun of you if you’ve had sex outside of marriage, whether you chose to or not. When I was in high school, a girl in my youth group was pretty popular with boys. To my knowledge, she never went beyond casual kissing. Yet my youth group leader made it seem perfectly acceptable to humiliate her for her “suggestive behavior,” turning our group into a hierarchy and saying she needed to earn her place in the clique despite already being part of the small group. That kind of non-virgin shaming isn’t just appalling in Christian communities, it’s commonplace. The sex education programs at Christian schools give students the right to compare non-virgins to dirty shoes or walking STDs.

As mentioned before, there’s a lot of other things about sex we don’t learn in sex education. The John Oliver segment—again, link below—is both funny and informative, so please check it out when you have the chance. But the point is, sex is more than just getting naked and experiencing bodily pleasure. So if we want to prepare our youth, then maybe we need to be more candid and willing to talk about it in a safe environment where kids can ask anything without fearing paranoid criticism.

Photo source: http://act4entertainment.com/issues/human-rights-civil-justice/sex-education/