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?


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.

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#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.

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#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.

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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.

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Ranking Disney: #28 – Tarzan (1999)







12 Angry Men: A Message of Kindness?

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When most people think of jury drama, they think of Reginald Rose’s play 12 Angry Men. And when some people think of the play 12 Angry Men, they think of the 1957 movie of the same name directed by Sidney Lumet. High school English teachers pop this movie in because of the way it defines American justice, its message that facts aren’t always as black and white as they appear, and its Schooling Juror #10 Drinking Game.

The story is about a jury deciding on the guilt or innocence of an eighteen-year-old boy accused of killing his father. 8 is initially the only one who votes not guilty, despite the fact that the testimonies and presented evidence show otherwise. He pokes holes in the facts and argues that the evidence isn’t as conclusive as it seems, and the other jurors slowly but surely change their votes.

While critics love this movie for its cinematography, acting, and obsession with the phrase ‘reasonable doubt,’ I thought I’d focus on a different aspect of the story: 8’s influence on the other jurors.

Let’s start with 8 and the way he interacts with the other jurors. He walks into the jury room, quiet and contemplative, only speaking when spoken to. When he’s asked why he votes not guilty, his only response is “I don’t know.” He starts his case by appealing to the other jurors’ humanity and asking to show the boy compassion by discussing the case.

As the arguments unfold and we hear about the testimonies and evidence presented, we learn that 8—though quiet—is by no means a pushover. Whenever someone says “this is fact” to him, he nearly always has a way of saying “maybe to you, but I’d like to know more.” He challenges them to stand by what they say, especially when they’re not as sure as they think they are.

But while he isn’t a pushover, he also isn’t a victim of toxic masculinity like 3 or 10. When he realizes he’s outnumbered, he gambles for support instead of trying to power through on his own. He respectfully listens to the opinions of the others, even if he doesn’t agree with them. In fact, the only instances where he ignores the other jurors is whenever 10 exhales bigoted bullshit. And the only time you see 8 visibly angry is when he catches 3 and 12 playing tic tac to instead of focusing on the case.

Now let’s look at the other jurors. 1 is a passive guy, trying and failing to keep the peace between the others. 2 is a passive banker who is more used to agreeing rather than voicing his own opinions. 3 is—as 8 refers to him in the story—a “self-appointed public avenger” who wants to see the boy die. 4 is a smart, analytical broker who is also the strongest advocate for sticking to the facts. 5 is a quiet man who grew up in the slums. 6 also tries to keep the peace, but he won’t tolerate any of the jurors being silenced or treated as less than human. 7 doesn’t care about the case at all, always checking the time and impatient to get to a baseball game. 9 is the oldest of the group who could pass for an empathetic psychologist. 10 is a bigot who values his own opinion too much. 11 is a quiet European immigrant who isn’t afraid to ask questions. And 12, like 7, doesn’t take the case seriously and cracks jokes when he probably shouldn’t.

The first six jurors to vote not guilty are 8, 9, 5, 11, 2, and 6. Out of the five who change their votes, four of them start off as quiet, and whenever they speak up they’re either insulted or not taken seriously by the other jurors. They’re treated as though their opinions don’t matter in the grand scheme of things (and if 6’s line “I’m not used to supposing” is anything to go by, they probably believe that they don’t matter). But as soon as they change their votes, they become strong advocates for the boy’s acquittal. In comparison, the majority of the other six (1, 3, 4, 7, 10, and 12) start out being loud, aggressive, and in some cases obnoxious. But by the time they change their votes, they don’t speak up as much—almost as if they’re humbled by being proven wrong.

What does this say about these two sides of the coin? Watch the film again and focus on how 8 interacts with everyone else—and how they respond to him. Again, 8 listens to everyone else and what they have to say. But he also asks questions. When talking to jurors like 2, 5, 9, and 11 in particular, it’s like he’s saying to them “your opinion does matter.” And when speaking to jurors like 3, 7, 10, and 12, it’s like he’s saying to them “your opinion is not the only one that matters.” With all of that said, maybe this movie was about more than just criminal justice. Maybe it also showed how kindness can empower the powerless and simultaneously humble the arrogant.

Photo source: http://screenprism.com/insights/article/how-does-12-angry-men-use-cinematography-to-build-tension-during-the-film

What’s With Miraculous Ladybug?

In the fall of 2015, cartoon lovers and critics saw the debut of the French cartoon Miraculous Ladybug. Not only has it involved a team of international creators (made in Korea, takes place in France, redubbed in various languages), but it’s also been renewed for a 2nd and 3rd season. Reception has been mostly positive worldwide, and it currently holds an 8.7/10 rating on IMBD.

Which begs the question: How did this show gain so much attention?

In a nutshell, Miraculous Ladybug centers on two teenagers—Marinette and Adrien—who transform into Ladybug and Cat Noir respectively in order to stop villains and save Paris. These villains come from a mysterious man in the shadows named Hawkmoth, who can not only give people powers but also magnify negative feelings to the point where he can turn people into monsters known as akumas. The two most well-known facts about this show are 1) the two heroes are classmates, but neither of them have any idea of who the other is, and 2) she has a crush on his civilian form while he has a crush on her hero form.

On the surface, there’s a lot to like about Miraculous Ladybug. The show was originally going to be an anime, but they switched to CGI. Even so, you can still see traces of anime-style animation in the character movements and facial expressions. On top of that, some of the angles make the show look like something out of a comic book. It’s an odd combination, but it gives the show its own animation style. Another thing a lot of fans love is the diversity of the cast, most notably having the heroine be half-French and half-Chinese. Nowadays it’s easy yet lazy for writers to throw in characters of different races for the sake of saying “we support diversity,” but for some reason it seems so natural for Miraculous Ladybug to go down that route…even if some episodes don’t handle it as well as others.

Sadly, even the best of shows come with flaws, and this one is no exception. First of all, the main villain is boring. Maybe this will improve in later seasons as we learn more about him, but as it stands now his akumas are more interesting than he is. Plus, he’s trying to make butterflies scary. Do I even need to make a joke about that? Also, the show is filled to the brim with clichés. The nerdy best friend, the one-dimensional bully that no one likes, the goth, the athlete, the big guy who’s a softie on the inside, the goof off, the use of deus ex machina in almost every episode…well, you get the idea.

And then there’s the one thing about this show that everyone has picked on already. HOW HAS NO ONE FIGURED OUT THAT MARINETTE IS LADYBUG?! It’s not like no one’s trying, Marinette’s best friend and Adrien are both clearly obsessed with figuring out the heroine’s identity! But we have at least a dozen hints gift-wrapped for them every episode, AND THEY NEVER PICK UP ON THEM!

Despite these flaws (and many many many more), Miraculous Ladybug is still quite popular. Why is that? Well, here are a few possible reasons.

First, there’s still a lot of heart to this show. The tropes are annoying, but they’ve somehow given the show its own identity. As mentioned earlier, the animation style is strange, but unique. And while it doesn’t always work, there’s still a lot of time and effort put into this project.

Second, the dynamics with the two main characters’ personalities (with and without the masks) add a lot of intrigue to the show. For Marinette, Ladybug is an extension of her personality. The mask magnifies her courage, wit, and determination. Take it away, and there’s still more to her. She’s an aspiring artist with a fiery temper, a passion for everything she does, and a struggle to find courage in everyday life. For Adrien, the mask is a way for him to try on a different personality. He’s shy and reserved as a civilian, but as Cat Noir he’s—for lack of a better term—a complete wildcat. The mask gives him a chance to do anything he wants without suffering his father’s disappointment.

But perhaps the magnum opus of the show (so far) is the last moment in the season finale, a flashback to when Marinette and Adrien became friends in their civilian forms. Most of the other episodes end on a high note, usually along the lines of “all’s well that ends well.” Here, the rainy setting and gentle music set up a muted, subdued, even vulnerable tone to this scene. To Adrien, it’s simply two strangers becoming friends. To Marinette, it’s her first time falling in love. But to the viewers and the guardian watching them in the distance, it marks the beginning of an important chapter in their lives. Whether the heroes know it or not, this moment and the moments building up to it have changed them forever. It’s the perfect way to end season one. For better or worse, the show will change as the story progresses. And Miraculous fans can’t wait to see what lies in store for Ladybug and Cat Noir.

Photo source: http://miraculousladybug.wikia.com/wiki/File:CU1iJclWcAA0I14_large.jpg

The First Impression Syndrome

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

I think it’s safe to say that there’s a little bit of OCD in all of us. We want everything to be perfect on the first try without having to change anything. As a result, the human race runs on impressive first impressions—or as I like to call it, the First Impression Syndrome. The best illustration for this is what women use for them: Makeup. Most girls like to wear various levels of cosmetics whenever they walk out the door. I myself prefer to dab on a little foundation, mascara, and blush before going out in public. And it’s a common mistake for anyone using it for the first time to cake it on, hiding any flaws they might not like. While makeup can certainly do that, it also has another purpose that we don’t learn until we get older: highlighting the good parts. Once we learn it, we take advantage of it. Now, putting on makeup for most women is as natural as getting hungry or sleepy every few hours.

And the proof of First Impression Syndrome doesn’t stop there. We don’t ask people out unless we find them attractive or interesting upon meeting them. We don’t hire a potential employee unless everything about him screams “perfect person for the job!” We don’t recommend a restaurant unless the service and food are phenomenal in the first visit. And many of us won’t walk out the front door of our homes if we can’t deem ourselves worthy of a perfect first impression. When I graduated from college and started looking for jobs and polishing my résumé, I started wondering what our fetish is with the first impression. Why are we obsessed with looking perfect? Why do we want others to look perfect to us? Is the First Impression Syndrome a good rule of thumb to live by?

Well, to answer the first two questions, one must ask why we rely on the First Impression Syndrome. To put it simply, we want security. When we hire employees for different positions, we want to be sure that they can handle the job and improve the company for the better. When we approach people to flirt and talk to, we want to feel comfortable conversing with them. And in a weird way, having the ability to make a good first impression gives us a confidence boost. We want to be admired. And no one is a stronger judge of you than how you think people see you.

Which brings me to the third question I ask on the subject: Is the First Impression Syndrome a good rule of thumb to live by? Not always. Sometimes, it can even be dangerous, for two reasons.

One, first impressions aren’t always reliable. Our perception of and experiences with things can—and often do—change as we grow older. As Lemony Snicket explains in The Bad Beginning, first impressions are often incorrect. Tea, for example, is an acquired taste. You might not like it the first time you try it, and then a year later it might be your favorite drink. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have a habit of finding psychopaths charming and friendly the first time we meet them. But the more time we spend with them, the more we realize that they may not be quite so nice on the inside.

Secondly, this social norm gives us the ability to fool others with the first impressions we make. And even if that doesn’t put our sense of right and wrong at risk, it endangers something else that’s just as important (if not more so): The Lasting Impression. A lot of us spend so much time focusing on how we want to look when we meet people that we forget about who we want to be when they start getting to know us. Should we strive to be good at making friends, or keeping them? Which would you rather have for a companion: someone who’s friendly at first and repulsive on the inside, or someone who’s repulsive at first and friendly on the inside? Which of those two would you rather be?

Just a little food for thought.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

Photo source: http://peilobstersuppers.com/2013/03/first-impressions/

What’s With Wonka’s Tunnel of Hell?


Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

A lot of us remember the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Based on Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it starred Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket. The film was one of whimsy and chocolate, introducing household tunes such as “Cheer up Charlie,” “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” and “Pure Imagination.”

But there was one particular scene that nobody seemed to know what to make of, famously known as Wonka’s Tunnel of Hell. Wonka takes his guests on a boat tour of his factory, and they go through a dark tunnel of flashing lights, freaky images, and Gene Wilder’s psychotic outbursts. This scene has also been dubbed as a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, a bizarre moment in cinema that pops out of nowhere and is never mentioned again. It brings the movie to a complete halt and—in many cases—scars viewers for life.

Now, why in the world would they add this scene? Some might say that it’s a demonstration of Wonka’s psychotic side. I might agree with that, but to be honest, this scene never scared me that much as a child. I thought it was a little creepy, but the most it got out of me was “…I’m not screaming in fear…but why?” And, when you get down to it, the images they showed weren’t that frightening. Okay, there was a chicken’s head getting chopped off and a worm/snake crawling over someone’s face, so I understand that. But when you get down to it, what were the other images that appeared on the wall of the tunnel? A wide-angle shot of someone’s eye, a close-up of a reptile, Slugworth, maybe a spider, and…I think the underside of a snail with legs, but I’m still trying to figure out what the last one was. Everything else is just a dark tunnel with flashing lights and Gene Wilder screaming like a kid on a roller coaster.

Others have said that it showcases the darker side of Dahl’s eccentric imagination, and honestly, I wouldn’t doubt it. If you think about what happens in this story (as well as Dahl’s other works), it’s pretty dark for kids’ stories. Four of the five kids in the factory almost die—in fact, in the 1971 movie, we never see them again. Even the lyrics of the Oompa Loompa songs, when you get down to it, sound a lot creepier in the movie than they do in the book.

There’s something else to consider, though. Take a look at the scene again and observe everyone’s reactions. Everyone’s freaking out as soon as the boat goes into the tunnel—that is, except for Charlie and Grandpa Joe. Charlie comments that it’s strange, while Grandpa Joe’s having the time of his life. They don’t really start to freak out until Slugworth pops up, and Charlie’s the only one to panic when he sees the old man staring at him. But even then, the two don’t really scream in fear like everyone else. Charlie just turns to his Grandpa, who says “it couldn’t be.” You don’t really see them being afraid until Wonka starts having a mental breakdown. Now, I’d say that’s more of an actor point than a character point. Rumor has it that the other actors on the boat didn’t know that Wilder was going to go ballistic at the end of the scene, so the fear at that point was genuine. In the book, Grandpa Joe actually defends Wonka when everyone else is saying he’s off his rocker.

Which leads me to believe that, considering the illusions in the tunnel, the scene could’ve been used as Wonka’s test of the mind. The song “Pure Imagination” is played a couple of times throughout the entire movie, more than any other song. You hear it in the opening credits, Wonka sings it in the Chocolate Room, you hear it on the boat ride before they enter the tunnel, and you hear it again in the ending credits. Just before they go into the Chocolate Room, Wonka said that all of his dreams become reality, and some of his realities become dreams.

With that in mind, I always thought that the tunnel was a foil to the Chocolate Room. Some nightmares become realities, and some realities become nightmares. The tourists, who’ve all had pretty easy lives up to this point, have commonly shared fears like spiders, snakes, bugs, etc. Charlie, who’s been poor for his entire life, doesn’t react until he sees Slugworth. If you remember, earlier in the movie, Slugworth tempted Charlie with enough money to provide for his family for the rest of his life—at the cost of betraying Willy Wonka, the Magician/Chocolatier that everyone loves and whose Golden Ticket is the first good thing that Charlie’s ever gotten in his life.

Maybe Wonka was fishing for something from the kids when he led them into the tunnel. He doesn’t really say much until his psychotic breakdown when they go through. Heck, he doesn’t flinch when the chicken loses its head (I’m not kidding; he seriously doesn’t even blink when the ax hits the stump!) Fans of the book and both movies will remember that Wonka was looking for someone to take over his factory. And considering the fact that he was testing Charlie at the end of the 1971 movie, I find it hard to believe that he wasn’t watching the kids throughout the whole tour, getting to know them, figuring out who they were, and measuring them up as possible Chocolatiers. The entire tour was a job interview, and they didn’t even realize it. I’m not sure if Wonka expected to see Slugworth appear on the tunnel wall, but learning what his potential candidates were afraid of allowed him to learn more about them based on what they saw and how they reacted to it.

Or maybe it was just a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment that should never be mentioned again. Cinema seems to be full of those, so that explanation works too. But for me, this is the Tunnel Scene I always saw. It sheds light on Wonka’s psychotic side, it sheds light on the other characters, and it sheds light on the darker side of Pure Imagination.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

Photo source: http://www.theultimateplaylist.com/music/willy-wonka-you-get-nothing-remix-by-srslysirius-memories-relived