All posts by Madison Hines

Comedy takes characters out of the box at box office

Many times when a movie is based off of a book, people go into the theatre with high expectations. We want everything to be exactly how it is in the novel. If movie-goers are looking for something like this, then The DUFF is not their movie.

I read The Duff a few years ago when it was first released and I thought it was a great novel. The characters were strong and funny, it had a good story, and the romance was enough for pre-teen me to squeal an appropriate amount. I read it, liked it, and then promptly forgot about it.

This is where the movie differs. Bianca, the main character, is loud, quirky, weird and tells a lot of jokes that go over most of the other characters’ heads. She is zombie-obsessed and likes quirky t-shirts. Meanwhile, her two best friends are beautiful, talented and somehow manage to attract most of the attention. Wesley, Bianca’s next door neighbor and frequent tormentor, brings this to her attention and dubs her “The D.U.F.F”, which stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend”.
Of course, Bianca doesn’t fit into this description at all, but she believes it anyway. It takes a lot of heartbreak and embarrassment for her to realize that she is the person that she is supposed to be. Bianca later understands that, no matter how hard people push, they can’t fit everyone into a box. They try to categorize, but people are complex, different, and the way they think about themselves is what matters.

I enjoyed the movie and often find myself thinking about it during quiet moments. As a young female in today’s society, I think that there are going to be a lot of people who try to bring you down according to the way you dress, the music you listen to, the books you read, or the people you hang out with. You have to learn to let it go and be comfortable in your own skin. The DUFF does a good job of driving that point home without relying on cliches. It also does a good job crushing stereotypes and uplifting people, no matter their appearance.
The writers of The DUFF understand that everyone has those moments when they feel like they’re not good enough. There will always be someone who is better at something but people just have to accept that and move on.

The only two complaints I have about the movie are that there were big differences between the book and the movie (which they can get away with because not many people have read the book) and the last five or so minutes started to get a bit preachy and sounded like an after-school special. I can allow it, though, because of how funny and heart-warming the rest of the film was.

The DUFF is not the typical teenage flick– it has real meaning and substance and the characters brought to life the messages that the book fell just short of conveying. All-in-all, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good laugh and a story of a girl who refuses to play by anyone else’s rules.

Second on screen, first in our hearts

When I am not spending my time procrastinating writing my incredibly witty newspaper articles, I tend to dabble in the art of writing novels and, occasionally, reading them. One of the many things I have discovered in my writing adventure is that, no matter how exciting or original your plot is, if your characters fall flat, the story falls flat.

Even if your main character is amazing, complex, and three dimensional, if your secondary characters are not believable, you may as well trash your story because the reader will be able to tell that you didn’t put as much time and effort into the supporting cast as you did to your main star. It’s an expectation from audiences that secondary characters be well developed across all forms of media, including television.

As it would seem, the writers of some popular television shows have not gotten this memo; although it may be by design in some cases. The hit BBC show Sherlock has two main characters, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, who are as fleshed out and flawed as two human beings could possibly be, with intricate and interesting back stories. Their supporting characters? Not so much. We know little to nothing about any of the characters except John, Sherlock and, more recently, Mrs. Hudson (who is not a main character, just a very interesting one.)

Mrs. Hudson is many things (except your housekeeper). She used to be married to an allegedly abusive man who was executed in Florida for a double-murder. She rents a flat to Sherlock for a much lower rate because he helped ensure that her husband paid the price for his crimes. Her character has evolved from just being background noise into the quirky, unpredictable person she is today. It’s revealed in the most recent series that she used to be an exotic dancer which is, more than likely, the cause of her bad hip and has admitted to taking “herbal soothers” to alleviate her pain. All in all, Mrs. Hudson’s fire and sass are not what one would expect from her sweet, few-layers-short-of-a-lasagna exterior.

Hudders is by far the most interesting secondary character on the show. Others, such as detective inspector Greg Lestrade and Molly Hooper, come off as lacking and, well, secondary. But the question we must ask ourselves is this: could that be the writers intent?

The only reason I assume the flat back up characters are made that way on purpose is because I believe the writers are trying to put more focus on Sherlock and John, and the story they have to tell, rather than the writers not being good at what they do.

On the other hand, the writers of Supernatural appear to have given one of their secondary characters more backstory than they anticipated. The story of Castiel, angel of the Lord, was intended to be a four episode arc that blew up the face of the fandom. The fans gave him so much love that he was brought back for another season, and another, and another until he was transitioned from a guest star to a main cast member last year.

His added screen time brought about a very nicely told story of an angel willing to rebel to fight for what he believes to be right. He fell from heaven for the Winchesters (the main characters) and has struggled with his identity, his sense of self, ever since. He rebelled and stood up for the people of earth and fought against his brothers and sisters because he knew it was the right thing to do (and he did it all in an ill-fitting trench coat). He is quirky and awkward and somehow completely relatable despite the fact that he is a celestial being with no business being on earth.
Castiel is an example of the magic that can happen when a writer truly gets a character right, and he definitely deserves all of the love he gets from the fans. More than that, it shows that the writers truly listened to their fans and adapted according to their demands. Without Castiel’s introduction to the show, it’s highly likely that it would have run out of storylines a few seasons ago. His character has kept the show, and its fandom, afloat.

Main characters can only carry a show so far before the story becomes flat and less-than-believable. The Mrs. Hudsons and Castiels of modern television make shows worth watching. If networks were smart, they would hire more of the writers that make all sorts of characters come alive on screen.

Through the looking glass: Teacher uses photography to introduce students to wonderland of creativity, success

A lot more than an image can be captured through the lens of a camera. A glimpse of human interaction can be frozen, a memory can be saved. A photographer is taught to pay attention to detail, to step away from a scene to catch the bigger picture, and how beauty is found in unexpected places. Photography teacher John Burrows teaches students not only how to search for these hidden meanings, but also how to find their own passion and spirit through learning. Because he struggled with school, Burrows’ goal is to make learning relatable and interactive for his students so that education isn’t as intimidating.

“In the first grade, there was a student teacher who paid a lot of attention to my inability to read,” Burrows said. “This made me want to help students the way I was helped.”

Burrows’ teaching style, while unorthodox, reaches students on a different level. Junior Bridget Craig, one of Burrow’s photography II students, finds it more interesting than a regular lecture classroom dynamic.

“His classroom is hands on,” Craig said. “You get to do more field work. It’s more useful and applicable.”

The photography world is saturated with new photographers and has grown excessively hard to break into. Burrows pushes his students to pursue professional photography if that is what they are passionate about.

“They have to find their style and be comfortable with it,” Burrows said. “They have to be confident and put themselves out there. They can’t be afraid to hear the word ‘no’.”

The main goal of Burrow’s journey through teaching is to show people that education is attainable. He struggled through school, but he made it through and became successful and is determined to make sure his students have equally successful educational careers.

“I want kids to know that school doesn’t all have to be the same,” Burrows said. “I want them to see the creative side too.”

His method of teaching has has proven to be successful. Senior Erica Constancio, a photography III student, didn’t even consider pursuing education further until this year.

“I didn’t even realize that I wanted to go to college until I actually got involved with photography,” Constancio said. “[The class] made me a better student.”

While Burrows realizes it isn’t easy to make it in the art world, he has faith in his students; however, he ultimately wants them to succeed by being themselves.

“[My students] shouldn’t try to mold themselves to what everybody else is doing,” Burrows said. “I want them to know it’s okay to be exactly who they are. Be quirky, be funny, be quiet, be whatever it is and they will find their place.”

Burrows follows his own advice and says he enjoys his job more because of it.

“I’ve found that in teaching, being who I am makes me better at what I do,” Burrows said. “I realized that I’m going to teach the way that I am and the kids will achieve more because of it.”

And, according to his students, Burrows’ message has gotten through and changed how they view themselves.

“[Burrows] has taught me that I can’t be a sellout,” Craig said. “I am only going to be able to be myself. If I try to anything else, it’s not going to work. I have to be 100% myself, 100% of the time.”

Theatre program huge hit after first performance

The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood is everything a high school play should be: funny, entertaining, clean-humored, and hilariously weird. And the quirky, lovable Viking cast brought the characters to life – onstage, and off.

It’s the classic tale of Robin Hood, who takes from the rich and gives to the poor, but with a major twist.

Robin Hood has a slight ego problem and is constantly battling to be the center of attention with the wonderfully sarcastic ‘Townsie’, who constantly breaks the fourth wall to ask things of the stage manager and the audience alike. The rest of the cast even gets off the stage to run through the “castle” (theatre), commenting on how badly designed it is and asking things of the people in the audience.

The story is bizarre in places, with a bowling match instead of an archery competition to win the hand of the fair maiden, Marian. But then, when no winner can be named, they move on to archery anyway.

At one point, our hero Robin gets thrown into the Dungeon of Despair (cue ominous music) and is forced to listen to Justin Beiber until his brain turns to mush.

The cast members played their parts beautifully, adding a special flair to the already witty, incredibly slapstick humor.

No two shows were alike, as many of the scenes were improvised as they saw fit.

It required quick-thinking, and a sharp sense of humor, but they pulled it off magnificently. I can’t wait to see the next Viking theatre production – The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, to begin on December 7.

Stereotypes: this girl’s not a fan

As I sit here in my Doctor Who t-shirt, with my Harry Potter backpack sprawled open at my feet, and BBC’s Sherlock playing in the background, I can’t help but wonder about the stereotypes surrounding the term ‘fangirl.’ How did it start? Who penned the name? And where, oh where did the rumor of fangirls refusing to bathe in nothing but their own tears come from? (Disclaimer: I do, in fact, shower daily).

Jokes aside, the word ‘fangirl’ does carry a certain obsessive ring to it. If a bespectacled, pigtailed, screaming, fanfiction-writing twelve-year-old practically foaming at the mouth came to mind, then there’s a good chance you’ve fallen prey to the rumors. And while I can consent that, yes, these rabid creatures do exist, I must insist that they do so only to make the rest of us ‘normal’ fans look bad. I, for one, do not wear glasses (anymore), have never worn pigtails (voluntarily), and try to keep my fandom t-shirts limited to one day a week (though I am still working on that one).

In years before the social media bubble exploded over the face of the internet, thus tainting it forever with endless feeds of pointless Facebook statuses (yes, thank you, we know it’s raining), the act of participating in fandom was condemned to the basement. Maybe your mother’s garage, but that’s only if you were lucky.  People only learned about things by way of mouth, and outlets such as the news and radio stations. A new product or idea could only spread if enough people talked about it; however, after things like Twitter, Tumblr, and, unfortunately, Facebook touched down, it became a lot easier for mass hysteria to spread. Someone in Australia can write about a new band or TV show that they like, and a person in California can read about it seconds later. Fandom now has the ability to spread like the plague, and odds are that everyone is probably obsessed with something. Because fandom life and, in turn, fangirls are so wide spread across media, it has become more socially acceptable to engage in the acts of fandom that were previously confined to the dark.

Of course, with the obscure becoming mainstream, there are the rare few who are actually angry that their nerdom sanctuary has been infiltrated. They don’t enjoy having their favorite TV show or book series become a fad that people only partake in to seem cool. Take Doctor Who for example. The show has been around for over fifty years now. It has a steady fanbase that has only multiplied in recent years, which has been great for merchandise production. More fans equals more fun stuff. Which should be a good thing—and is, for the most part. But when you have a person who has seen one episode and then claims to be an expert, because, ‘Look! I have a t-shirt to prove it!’ I can see why some of the longer-standing fans would be put out with the shows new-found popularity.

Honestly, the ‘fangirls’ that I’m used to are incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken people who just happen to be completely in love with fictional characters, and worry constantly over their general well-being and longevity in the show/book/whatever they’re in. We’re not all freaks. So could we please kill the idea of representing fangirls as weirdos, dorks, and losers? Can we please stop being made the butt of cruel jokes and the stars of offensive comics and sketches? Get some new material, please. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got the latest episode of Doctor Who to catch up on.