Common Culture
A bright and shiny new blog and it’s all mine? How exciting! Welcome to Common Culture, the site you find yourself scouring, which covers all things pop culture and current events. I’ll start by introducing myself—my name is Dayna, I’m a theatre major here at BSU, and I can’t wait to share with you all my ramblings about things I find interesting!

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Hello everybody and welcome back to Common Culture. So this past Saturday, the NFL draft took place. Not gonna lie, I don’t know much about it. Football is not really my jam, just like it isn’t for probably a decent chunk of gay men (not generalizing – you go, football loving gays! I’ve seen Glee! Kurt was the best kicker they’d ever seen!). But this weekend, football was the subject of quite a bit of talk amongst the gay community because Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL.

In the past few years, gay rights have become a much more heated issue, and so it may seem that this is not anything new. However, one of the places most grudgingly facing off against equal rights efforts are sports leagues. It’s unfortunately not surprising. In cave men terms, sports = men. Tough. Sweat. Muscles. Gay rights = not tough. Not manly. Yuck. This mindset didn’t apply to everyone but the headlines that began filling the newsstands couldn’t be ignored. Stories of athletes using homophobic slurs in locker rooms, avoiding teammates who they suspected of being gay, and athletes coming out after their careers were finished were everywhere. It just seemed to be a fact that athletes didn’t feel comfortable or safe with being gay and involved in sports.

And they had good reason to feel that way. Approaching the draft, Michael Sam, a defensemen for the University of Missouri, too felt the pressure of mixing sports and homosexuality. His chances of being drafted were lower simply because he was gay, and chances were high he would face the same scrutiny and judgment that others had faced.  But he was willing to take the chance. Sam purposefully came out before the draft because he wanted to be upfront about who he was. An incredibly gifted player but also gay. An asset to any team but one that refused to hide or pretend to be someone else. Michael Sam wanted the team that picked him to want all of him. And, historically, the Saint Louis Rams did.

This is history in the making that we’re watching. Because on Saturday, we saw a gay man be consciously chosen by a sporting team to join their organization, no matter his sexual orientation. We saw the opposing sides of sports and gay rights bridge the gap and progress be made. We saw Michael Sam cry tears of joy as he received the phone call that he’d been chosen. We saw him kiss his boyfriend and no one jeered or called them names. We saw history moving in the right direction.

I’m so glad to be alive at this time. A time where, even though it has been slow going, the organizations that had the hardest time accepting love, no matter what it looked like, are making progress. We are seeing people achieve their dreams and be supported and loved, whatever their situations. We are seeing through race, through gender, through religion, through sexual orientation. We are in a time where people try to put themselves in the positions of others, try to be open-minded, try to love in spite of and because of our differences. Because those differences are what make us valuable and what make us able to help each other to grow into better people.

So thank you for Michael Sam. Thank you for being someone bringing sports and gay rights together. Because maybe (and hopefully) one football-loving gay-hating guy in Saint Louis will see you on his team and root for you to bring the team glory and will realize that the team you play for has nothing to do with how you should be treated as a person. Hopefully he buys your jersey and wishes you happiness. Hopefully that spreads. Because we are in a time of change, and you are helping to bring it.

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5/5/2014 

Hello everybody and welcome back to Common Culture. Today was a slow news day so I thought I would just talk about something I love – Ellen DeGeneres. I think the only people who don’t love Ellen are those without souls, because Ellen is a gift to the world. So on this blog, I am going to give four reasons explaining why Ellen is a gift to the world and why I think we might as well just give it to her. The whole thing. Because she deserves it.

1.       Ellen is so funny. There’s something about a talk show host with a sense of humor who’s actually funny that immediately earns my endless love. Ellen’s opening monologues, the segments on her show, her pranks and her social media presence are always gold, A+ earning comedic bits. Ellen always has a smile on her face and doesn’t take life too seriously. The whole premise of her show is to be able to make people laugh, even if only for an hour a day, to better their lives. And to be honest, it works. My family and I used to watch Ellen together every day and would end up laughing with tears down our faces sometimes. That is quality time you don’t forget, and Ellen is to thank for it. If you don’t believe me about how funny this show can be, watch this clip, I dare you not to laugh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKA0f9vRO38

 2.       Ellen is so cool. At 56 years old, Ellen is cooler than most people I know. She has excellent fashion sense, is always up on the current trends and fads, and has no problem making fun of herself, playing games, or acting like the kid she is inside. Ellen is such a good sport and she doesn’t let anything get in the way of having fun. Check out this video to see Ellen being so cool I don’t even know how to describe it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKkCMYYXikI.

 3.       Ellen is so generous. I don’t know anyone who has a bigger heart or gives more than Ellen DeGeneres. Every day on her show, she is giving money to those in need, bringing attention to causes that need it, and making a positive difference in the world. She supports so many charities and organizations that, with her help, can make real, important changes. Ellen understands that her fame can be used to make the world a better place and she constantly does so. She is a true inspiration for what we should all hope to be: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mg3vFfRKak. (I am tearing up watching this video right now! Man, Ellen is the best!)

 4.       Ellen is a role model. In a time where gay people were still hiding the truth about themselves, Ellen was brave enough to come out. Since then, she has served as a role model for so many people who felt that they weren’t represented in mainstream media. Ellen has fought tirelessly for gay rights, standing up for people like her and against bullies and laws and discrimination that keep them down. Ellen has championed with the “It Gets Better” campaign to prevent youth suicides due to the pressures of coming out. She is a hero, an inspiration, and someone  who cares endlessly about the well-being and happiness of others.

Is my love for Ellen showing? Pop culture has its share of stories about new haircuts and expensive vacations of various celebrities, but it also does the important job of giving us figures to pay attention to and look up to. Luckily, a few of them are people we can respect and aim to be more like, and I’m thankful I have Ellen as one of those!

 

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4/26/14

Hello everybody, welcome back to Common Culture! Today I want to talk about a sensitive topic—the growing issue of body shaming in the media. The idea for this blog came from an article I read.

If you didn’t read it, the gist of it is that model Cassi Van Den Dungen has had comments made in the past about the seemingly unhealthiness and thinness of her frame, to which she responded with a few Instagram comments saying, “Why are you allowed to love your ‘curves’ but it’s wrong for me to love my ‘bones’? Why is it OK for you to call me anorexic, but horrible for me to call you fat?”

As a naturally skinny girl for the whole of my life, I know what it’s like to have people say, “I hate you. How do you just look like that? How do you eat whatever you want?” I know what it’s like to feel guilty for the metabolism you were naturally given. I know what it’s like to have doctors question how much you’re eating or to imply they know about the eating disorder you’ve obviously got. And I certainly know what it’s like seeing pictures of girls who look just like me on the Internet with captions like, “This isn’t REAL BEAUTY” at the bottom.

In a time where media is so often used to stress what the perfect life is like—the perfect clothes and hair and body—we are all caught between what we are and what we’re supposed to be. As we’ve all been told a million times, these magazines and TV shows and celebrities shouldn’t set any standard for what we’re supposed to look like. But the truth is, they often do. External forces are always pushing against us, and unless you’ve found some way to live inside a bubble, you feel it.

The unfortunate truth is that somewhere along the line, “Skinny is the look” became the mantra of those external forces. Somewhere along the line, the body I was naturally given became the societal goal for beauty. And because that somehow happened, it changed the way I am seen by others and the way I should be able to act according to their standards. It took away my right to have my own judgments on my body because others didn’t think I deserved to complain. It took away my right to be a human with her own issues to conquer and made me an object people can observe and give opinions on: “Look at you! You’re so skinny. I wish I looked like you.” These are judgments under the guise of compliments. And sometimes, it was more than that: “You’re sick. Eat more. You’re ugly; skeletal; bones.”

And suddenly I am right with everyone else—uncomfortable in my own skin, looked at as other than human, feeling objectified and criticized, determined to work on something to fit in better with what I’m supposed to be. Suddenly I’m in the same boat as anyone overweight, anyone average, and certainly with others my size. And let me be clear: I don’t, by any means, think I am perfect. My small frame may be something others wish they had, but I am not perfectly happy with it. I don’t look at myself and feel like those girls in magazines. I am just trying to love myself, much like I’m sure Cassi Van Den Dungen is in spite of continuous comments on her weight.

That’s the point that people seem to miss. No matter the “ideal body” of any given time, everyone is insecure about certain facets of themselves. We are all (or should be) working not to become what we are supposed to, but to be able to look in the mirror and love ourselves. That is what I believe in. I don’t care what you look like, and I try every day to pay less attention to what magazines are telling me I should value in myself and others.

So, in response to Cassi Van Den Dungen’s posts, I don’t think anyone has a right to comment on anyone else’s bodies. Calling a skinny person skinny can be just as harmful as calling a fat person fat. We all have mirrors. We all know what we look like and what we’re “supposed” to look like. And we’re all battling something. So why do we label? Separate the “attractive” from the “not attractive?” Those are just made up ideals that don’t matter, so why do we make it harder on each other to move past them? And why do we feel we have a right to say anything?

People do this under the guise of “concern.” They criticize others, calling them “unhealthy,” which is true in some cases. But for the majority of us, who are not in dire circumstances, we are not on the verge of death. And, therefore, our bodies are no one else’s business but our own. It’s no one’s job to tell us we’re fat or we’re thin, or we should eat less or work out more or take some vitamins or gain weight. What they should tell us is, “You’re normal. We all look different; we’re all born into different genetic situations. That’s OK. That’s life. And you know what? Whatever situation you’re born into, or that you choose to live with, I love you for it. I love your fat; I love your bones; I love you and I want you to love yourself.” That is the best way to inspire self-love in your friends and in your family. That’s something you need to tell yourself every day.

I think it’s time we just stopped talking about others’ bodies. Stop making it our business; stop valuing it as something that defines a person. Stop commenting on every single thing we see, whether or not it is ours to judge. Because we’re all fighting this battle to overcome the ridiculous expectations our world sets up for us—the least we can do for each other is create a supportive, judgment-free environment to try and do so.

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4/25/2014

 

Hi everybody and welcome back to Common Culture! The school year is winding down and I know we’re all running out of steam. My advice for beating the end of school blues is as follows: 1. Spend a lot of time working on schoolwork. 2. Spend an equal amount of time not working on schoolwork. Half and half it; it’s always worked for me. And if you’re in need of a way to fill your lazy half, I’ve got your back with this blog post, which will detail one of my favorite procrastination materials: “Orange is the New Black.” I watched the show last year and haven’t been able to get it off my mind. Luckily, the trailer for Season 2 has finally been released (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e99SkdcB2UU) and the show is looking at a season premiere on June 6.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to finish this blog, then move on to Netflix to watch the show, and then to Google to read as many OitNB posts you can find. This show is a must see for anybody. It follows Piper, a woman who goes to jail after assisting her ex-girlfriend Alex in a drug-smuggling attempt. We watch Piper try to navigate prison and met all of her diverse inmate pals along the way. It is hilarious, emotional and so, so good. A little heads up—this show does feature quite a bit of crude language and material, so beware. Don’t watch it with little ones or your parents. Please. Just don’t do it.

As an attempt to convince those of you who haven’t been wise enough to watch the show already, here are my ten reasons why you need to go fire up Netflix and start catching up immediately.

1.      1. The cast is very diverse. This show has such a wonderful mix of characters. It’s almost entirely made up of women, which is so lovely to see! In a world where women roles are mostly reduced to two-dimensional love interests or a hot toss-in, covered in leather for the sole purpose of pleasing men, OitNB does a wonderful job of utilizing as many women as they can, while making them all fully fleshed out people with their own wants and dreams and desires! On top of this, there are so many different races, gender identities and orientations, ages, religions and personal backgrounds represented with these characters. It’s such a melting pot of people—almost like real life! Weird! I love seeing the differences in these people being celebrated and acknowledged.

2.      2. It’s an interesting look into the lives of inmates. I’ve heard people serving sentences in jail being referred to as “the scum of the earth,” “those pedophiles and perverts” and the like far too many times. The unfortunate truth is, yes, those people do exist in jail, but other stories also must be told. OitNB doesn’t reduce all of its characters to “bad people.” It asks us to see them as human beings and question why they did what they did, and what brought them to where they are. So many of these characters are people we grow to love and understand and empathize with. I love that OitNB doesn’t take the standard perspective on these jailed women but wants us to ask ourselves what we would do in their shoes. We’re all human after all, right?

3.     3. Laura Prepon. My personal favorite point on this list. You may remember Laura Prepon as sweet Donna on “That 70’s Show,” but Donna is not who you will meet if you tune into OitNB. Instead, you’ll be introduced to Alex, a rockabilly chick with an interest in drug smuggling. She’s serving out a prison sentence with her ex-girlfriend, Piper, and… well, let’s just say, they aren’t “exes” for very long. Alex is my absolute favorite character on this show. Laura Prepon is badass, hilarious and so great in her role.

4.      4. Laura Prepon’s eyebrows. They’re so well shaped.

5.      5. Laura Prepon’s glasses. They’re very hip.

6.      6. Laura Prepon’s voice. It’s sort of gravelly. Very nice.

7.      7. Laura Prepon’s face. This one’s self-explanatory.

Need I go on? I think I’ve got my point across.

8.      8. The show is hilarious. I cannot even count the number of times I have cracked up laughing, watching this show. Highlights include Crazy Eyes’s line, “I threw my pie for you!” Or maybe her peeing on the floor in front of Piper’s bed. Or Taystee and Poussey’s banter. Or Red wanting to eat the strongest chicken and absorb its power. This show is full of one-liners that will have tears soaking your laptop, I promise you.

 

9.    9. The show is emotional. On the other side of the spectrum, this show will break your heart. You will begin to care about all of these characters and then you will watch them get squashed under corrupt prison practices, societal pressures, or just the ghosts of their past decisions. The odds are against these women and watching them try, over and over, to beat them and rise up is moving and poignant.

10  10. The show is addicting. Need a break from studying? Need something new to love? Need a way to spend a day? I promise you, once you start this show, you won’t be able to stop. We all need some “me” time every once and awhile, and if you’re the type of person who loves to binge watch TV shows, this is the show for you.

Season 1 is up on Netflix now, and Season 2 will be out June 6. I encourage you all to watch! You won’t be disappointed!

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4/20/14

Hello everybody, and welcome back to Common Culture. Today’s blog post is going to stray from pop culture a bit and go straight at “culture.” Theatre, particularly. As a theatre major, I am always interested in theatre’s place in modern culture and how it’s growing and progressing. And, in my opinion, the technological age has not been kind to this art form.

In theory, it makes sense that theatre may seem less accessible to people. We live in an age where communication with others is a click or tap away; entertainment, too. Everything we could need is essentially available within the walls of our rooms, provided we have a phone, a charger and a bucket to pee in. If we truly wanted to, we could lock ourselves in, have food delivered to our doors, watch movies all day forever and die after years of glassy-eyed screen tapping; we could.

However, I don’t think anyone wants to live that way. No sane person objects to a good night of entertainment, of connection, of communication, and of involvement every once in a while. And theatre offers all of those things. For the price of a ticket, an audience member can connect with a bunch of other strangers for one unique experience, happening only once ever, that only this one particular group people can live through. And after an hour and a half of laughs or tears, you leave the theatre and consider what you watched. You think about what was said. You think of how it applies to you. And for that glorious ten or fifteen or twenty minute drive home, you feel like you can rule the world. You feel like you can take that post-theatre-high to bed with you and wake up the next morning a better person. And in my opinion, you can. I’ve been made a better person plenty of times in my life after every play or musical I’ve ever seen. There’s something about the raw, live energy of a play that gets into your heart and makes living seem a little less hard for a while.

You can’t get that from a movie, or Facebook, or homework, or a nap. Not that those things aren’t important or valid or perfectly fine, but there’s a reason we’ve been doing theatre for centuries upon centuries. Because sometimes we need to get out and we need to feel something.

The theatre people who put these shows together know this. They know this and believe in this so wholeheartedly that they dedicate their lives – their time, their energy, their effort—into putting these shows up months before you even know they’ll be running. The night you come into the theatre, the actors and crew around you have been rehearsing for this very moment for months, slaving and working and crying and pounding our heads against a wall. For you. For the hour or two of straight emotion we hope you feel.

The thing is, if we don’t have an audience, there’s no experience. There’s no payoff. While many of you may work for months on a paper and feel that satisfaction when you receive a good grade; we wait for you to walk into our world and experience what we painstakingly set up for you. This is our test. This is our term paper. This is our presentation. This is what we’ve got. And all we want is to share it.

I promise you that you will lose nothing by taking some time out of your life to see some live theatre. It will make you better, make you smarter. It will make you more cultured and more open. Only good things come from seeing plays, and only you coming to see plays allow us to make more.

So please—if you’ve got a free night and a few bucks to spare, grab a friend or a date and catch a play. Boise has plays going on all the time, put on by extremely dedicated and talented people. The Boise State Theatre Department and the Theatre Majors’ Association are also always ready to share our stories with you. I encourage you to take us up on the offer and come with us on a ride soon.

4/11/2014

Hello everybody, welcome back to Common Culture! Today I want to talk about Shia LaBeouf. Most of the Shia-related buzz died away around February, but I still can’t get Shia LaBeouf off my mind. When I wake up, I think of Shia LaBeouf. Before I go to sleep, I think of Shia LaBeouf. As I dream, I think of Shia LaBeouf.

Okay, not really. But the truth is this guy is so interesting to me. So this blog will be a sort of rudimentary overview, psychoanalysis, and praise-fest of Shia LaBeouf. Get ready.

Firstly, Shia was a Disney Channel star. As a person who grew up on Disney, I am a fan of anyone who has ever been on Disney usually, no matter where they end up. We grew up together, so I support them. I know how hard it is to be a kid and a teen, and it can’t be easy to do that in the spotlight.

My true love for Shia LaBeouf didn’t even really start when he was on Disney Channel, however, and it wasn’t during his Transformers-sort-of-real-celebrity time either. My love for Shia truly started after he started to slide back down toward obscurity, because that’s when he started to do the really weird stuff.

For example, here is a really interesting music video that Shia acted in: http://vimeo.com/45185028. It is surprisingly beautiful and artistic, and shows off a lot of Shia’s hidden acting chops. He started getting into arty things like this for a while, and that was a golden time, and then … the breakdown of Shia.

It all started with a plagiarism fiasco involving Shia trying to artistically build off another artist’s work without properly crediting them. Instead of really apologizing, Shia was sort of a jerk about it and danced around it. This made a lot of people angry. In response to people being angry, Shia acted sort of like the world was being mean to him and threw a really artsy temper tantrum.

First, Shia began acting really strangely in public. He wore a bag over his head at a movie premiere that said, “I am not famous anymore.” He seemed to be obviously in some altered state of mind at a press conference, at which he left immediately after the first question, which he answered in a bizarre obscure movie quote from the 1995 movie “Looking for Eric.” He tweeted for a month straight, “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” and “I AM SORRY.” He dropped out of all of his planned movie roles. He started skywriting messages over LA.

And that is not my favorite Shia stunt so far. In February, Shia opened his own art installation in LA. He allowed people, one at a time, to enter a room where he sat behind a table with the “I am not famous anymore” bag on his head and he stared at them. Just stared at them. A lot of people cited the performance art piece as quite a moving experience, where oftentimes, Shia and the person emotionally connected. A lot of tears were shed. It was a very touching and peculiar experience.

A lot of questions have been asked of why Shia is doing all this. Some say Shia just feels really bad about the plagiarism issue and wanted to show that he felt guilty and apologetic, and even went so far as to apologize face-to-face with people. However, I am more of the opinion that Shia didn’t like all the heat he was getting for it and so he decided, “Hey, you want me to apologize? I’ll apologize. I’ll apologize so much and so ridiculously that you won’t even remember the plagiarism thing.” And to be honest, I think it worked. There might be some backlash about how Shia is acting childish—he did something bad and is going about dealing with the consequences entirely wrong. However, I don’t really care. What I do care about is what he’s going to do next. I think it’s entirely interesting. I can’t remember the last time a celebrity opened a face-to-face art installation where they cried in front of tons of people, one at a time.

There’s the possibility that Shia has grown up and is opening himself up to different forms of art and expression. If that’s it, I am a fan and can’t wait to see what his next move is. However, there’s also the possibility that the public shaming has really got to Shia, not to mention growing up in the spotlight, the years of working in the industry like an adult, or the pressure of being at the forefront of media. There is speculation that Shia is in the midst of a nervous breakdown and all of these weird behaviors are further signs of his mental instability. Different pop culture sites declare that whenever he’s been seen in public, Shia appears to be in various states of not good.

If this is the case, I am worried for him. I would never want to watch him dance like a monkey through some sort of personal crisis. If he is unwell, I certainly hope he gets the help he needs and can stabilize himself. However, I have a feeling Shia is just the kind of guy who gives the people exactly what they don’t want and keeps them on their toes. And that’s the kind of celebrity I want to watch.

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4/7/2014

Hello everyone and welcome back to Common Culture. Today I want to talk about this James Franco thing. I’m calling it a “thing” because I don’t really know what else to call it.

If you haven’t heard, here’s the lowdown: James Franco met a seventeen-year-old girl from Scotland named Lucy Clode after a performance of his Broadway play, Of Mice and Men, in New York; after she tagged him in a video from the performance, they began to communicate on Instagram. This moved to some flirtatious text messaging, where Franco tried to meet up with Lucy. She eventually declined his requests and then put the evidence online.

When I Googled the situation, I saw a lot of stuff I did not like. Mostly things like “Female Fan Puts Franco on Blast! Not cool!” or “Young Girl Desperate for Fame Flirts with James Franco for Attention!” One of the articles I read asks why she even bothered to flirt with him at all? Obviously she is looking for her fifteen seconds of stardom, stupid girl!

And I am here to say – this is ridiculousness. Another absurd circumstance of victim-blaming in which a teenager is called names for not actually doing anything at all with a grown man who happens to be James Franco.

All of these articles make it sound like Lucy is desperate to get her name into magazines and so she threw James Franco under the bus! Firstly, James Franco deserved to get thrown under the bus for this one. And it’s not even that she threw him under it, it’s that he threw himself under it and then let her take pictures. He is a very prominent 35-year-old man. You don’t go around asking teenagers to hook-up with you through Instagram! You just don’t! You’d think that’s common sense. When asked about the situation, Franco laughed it off and claimed he’s old and doesn’t understand social media; when a meme about how Franco is into teenage girls appeared, he just responded with “I am not!” This is weak. You are weak, James Franco. There is some sort of belief among celebrities that they can do whatever they want and laugh it off, but this should not be one of those situations. Thankfully, during his appearance on Live with Kelly and Michael, James apologized and admitted he used bad judgment. On the path to redemption, buddy.

Secondly, I don’t know about you guys, but if James Franco tried to hook up with me, I would probably want to tell someone. This is not a fifteen seconds of fame situation. This is a James-Franco-wants-to-hook-up-with-me situation, and that definitely warrants the right to tell someone – first and foremost because you interacted with a celebrity, which is cool, but secondly, because he is trying to do something uncool, and that is also worth mentioning.

So no, I don’t think that the derogatory articles about Lucy Clode are fair. Victim-blaming is wrong always, and calling out a seventeen-year-old for making the right decision to not hook-up with a grown man is not the proper way to respond. I think she was right to come forward with what happened because that is something people should know about the man they are worshiping. Not all celebrities are angels, and it seems James Franco is just another to reveal some weird inner part of their personality we never needed, or wanted, to know.

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4/7/2014

Hello all and welcome back to Common Culture! I hope I find you well and healthy and happy. Speaking of happiness, my topic today is about that very thing. Well, not happiness exactly, but close to it – glee!

That’s right. To all of you who hate Glee and don’t want to hear about it, now is your cue to leave. Or stay – this blog may interest you because it is not going to be a Glee-Praise-a-Thon. As a Glee watcher since its premiere in 2009, I do always try to look on the positive side of its decisions, but on the other hand, as a student studying dramatic writing and hoping one day to write for TV and movies, I can’t ignore its bad choices. So I will stand in the middle and hopefully try to uncover exactly what went wrong.

Season 1 is Glee’s shining moment. The show burst onto the scene with a weird concept that no one expected to succeed: a musical comedy about a bunch of underdog high schoolers in a glee club. Musical TV shows had been tried before, and they hadn’t done well. Yet, for some reason, Glee did. Maybe it was its cast of talented unknowns, or its snarky dark humor, or its earnest and heartwarming story that we could all relate to – one about a bunch of kids just trying to find their way in the world. Despite the fact that it was often cheesy or that people randomly breaking into song and dance is just hard to get on board with, Glee’s moral that even the underdogs can be winners helped the show become a winner. The previously unknown stars of the show became household names, music and merchandise from the show was selling like crazy, and Glee was just about the coolest show on TV.

Then came Season 2 – the season where we started to see traces of what Glee would become deep inside the guise of a mostly decent season. The usual plot lines filled this season: Sue tried to end the glee club, the students tried to navigate the complicated high school hierarchy, and all of the characters dealt with bullying, sex, religion, drinking and other relevant social issues. Important characters Sam and Blaine were introduced in this season and somehow they managed to avoid the axe the writers tend to bring down on many other new characters they write in. I’m not sure why they continue to introduce characters and then pull them out for no reason but more on that later. The important part is these are still the days when the writers were conscious of what they were doing. And for the most part, it did pretty well.

However, we do start to see weird things happening. My theory is that the writers got drunk off their unexpected success and got overconfident. They expected nothing from this show, got everything and decided that the world was their oyster. The show that was once filled with mash-ups and innovative covers of songs began to rely heavily on top forty’s. The famous guest stars began to pour in and the icky over-relevant-to-pop-culture plot lines came much more often. I mean, I cannot count the number of times Sam is referred to as “Justin Bieber” in this show just because his hair is sort of shaggy. It seems that the writers sort of lost track of what they were trying to achieve – a heartwarming, honest, quirky story – and got sort of stuck on “make money, be funny, and write a lot about Justin Bieber”.

And from here on, Glee totally loses its mind. I cannot even remember all of the things the writers have done that have confused or disappointed me in this show since it went haywire, but things I can remember are: having characters act completely out of character, forgetting facts and plot lines and just ignoring them like they never existed, writing something and then writing something else a week later because apparently they didn’t like what the wrote, consistently making their characters unlikable, writing most of the leads as caricatures of real people, making their characters behave poorly without ever feeling the consequences of those actions – need I go on. From a writing standpoint, Glee is a… how do I put it? A hot mess.

I don’t know what happened. It always makes me sad because Glee had such potential and such a fanbase. The only speculation I can really give is that the show was helmed by writers who did not know how to handle such pressure and expectations, and unfortunately, didn’t have enough knowledge of screenwriting to fall back on. I am still impressed that this show is being run by the same people, to be honest, because it literally just doesn’t make sense at times. It’s sort of tragic.

And now you’re thinking: “Wow. A blog about how Glee was great and now it sucks. That was pretty mean.” And I respond with, 1.) It wasn’t mean, it was critical. And 2.) I have more to say.

The truth is, though I think Glee’s writing is pretty crappy and I have hated watching characters I thought I knew turn into strangers at the hands of poor writers, I will always love Glee. Because one thing that the writers haven’t failed to do is retain the moral of the story, even if at times it seems to be fading. No matter what, in every episode of Glee, we are reminded that even the unpopular kids in school can live their dreams; that you can have the strength to do anything with good friends and family behind you; and that music can truly create bonds between the most diverse group of people. I grew up with these kids – I watched them go from nervous freshman to successful seniors to young adults out in the real world, recording albums and starring on Broadway and falling in love. Is it all realistic? No. But it’s TV. Maybe all the writers ever wanted was to allow kids like me, the theatre nerds who always felt a little weird in school, some sort of alternate world where it was the kids like us who succeeded and achieved their dreams. So even if I know it’s not real, even though I know no eighteen-year-old flies straight from Ohio into Broadway, I see myself in those kids. I see the drive and passion and the potential that I see in my own reflection. And that is why I continue to watch and support this show. I can acknowledge it for its mistakes and bad choices, but I can also keep my promise to see it through because of all it has done to inspire me to become one of those unrealistic impossible stories of success.

 

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3/29/2014

Hello everybody, and welcome back to Common Culture after a little pause for spring break! I had a wonderful week of not catching up on sleep and instead catching up on all the papers and projects I have due right after break! Now that we’re back, let’s jump right into a topic that most people will probably think is in generally the same area as homework-over-spring-break on the Things That Suck Scale – Kim Kardashian!

I know what you’re thinking: “Dayna, we’ve been reading your blogs, and you’ve been posting about some generally fun stuff, I thought you weren’t going to stoop to shallow pop culture topics like Kim Kardashian!”

Or maybe I’m just assuming you’re thinking that, because that’s what I thought when I initially considered the idea for this blog post. As a person who likes to consider herself generally intelligent and interested in things that matter, I usually give Kim Kardashian a pretty small sliver of my attention. However, this blog is going to be less focused on “Kim Kardashian dyed her hair; Kim Kardashian had a baby with a ridiculous name; Kim Kardashian is crying over something” and more focused on her as an icon.

I mean, really, why is Kim Kardashian famous? First and foremost, we probably all know her from her less glamorous past – am I talking about the sex tape or her position as Paris Hilton’s footstool? No one knows! The truth is that all celebrities have “less glamorous pasts” – things they did that nobody considered glamorous enough to pay attention to. Then one day, they did something more glamorous, and bam, people cared! We have to remember that Kim got herself a reality tv show, and producers don’t give shows to just anyone. There’s achievement number 1.

Since the tv show, Kim has done company endorsements, lines of clothing, fragrances and cosmetics, some acting, some singing, some modeling, wrote an autobiography and even produced her own show. There are achievements 2-10, and I’m sure I missed some because, even though people like to act like it’s not true, Kim Kardashian has quite an extensive list of accomplishments. Most recently, Kim and her fiancé, some unknown guy named Kanye West, landed a cover on Vogue – a decision that received a lot of backlash because landing a Vogue cover is an extremely prestigious honor that many believe Kim didn’t deserve.

It seems to me that the people who claim this have not traced Kim’s stepping stones to where she is now. Of course, I think Vogue covers should go to models that have worked their whole lives for something like that to happen for them. But I don’t believe that Kim hasn’t worked her whole life to get to where she is. No, she’s not a model, but Kim Kardashian is a hardworking entrepreneur who has earned her success.

Okay, let’s discuss the elephant in the room: “But Dayna, Kim is only famous because she made a sex tape!” Yes, I know, and here’s my opinion: lots of people have sex. Lots of people make sex tapes. Sometimes the tapes are released and sometimes they aren’t. But the point is I think it’s time we stopped focusing on what people do and don’t share of their lives in the bedroom and start focusing on what differences these people make in the world. I don’t care what Kim Kardashian did in a sex tape. I know that she is worth a ton of money that she’s worked for; she’s started many business ventures, and she supports many charities and organizations.

The important thing is that when a person becomes a celebrity, it doesn’t matter how they did it. That’s not how media works. If a person does something to launch them into the public eye, no matter what it is, they are there and they will be watched. If what we see of Kim after she’s on our radar is something we don’t personally like, we have every right to not watch her; not buy her magazines. But let’s put to rest the notion that Kim hasn’t worked to get to where she is or that she’s “not really famous”. Because every action she’s taken in her life, whether or not we agree with it, has led her to become a very wealthy, successful, prominent business woman. And I don’t know about you guys, but in my opinion, that makes her deserving of a bit of praise.

 

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Hello everybody, welcome back to Common Culture! Today I want to talk to you guys about a topic that is endlessly misunderstood and constantly frustrating—book-to-film adaptations. This blog was inspired by the newly released trailer for the movie The Giver, which can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJNNugNe0Wo. If you haven’t heard of The Giver, I’m not sure that you actually went to elementary school. It is a dystopian fiction novel by Lois Lowry that chronicles the experience of 12-year-old Jonas, a boy who lives in a society called “the Community” that has effectively removed pain and diversity from their world. When he is chosen to be the “Receiver of Memories,” he begins to learn from an old man called The Giver details of how the world used to be, and of things like color, music and emotion. In the end, Jonas must decide whether to stay in his world—one that is safe and painless—or to leave the society and bear the weight of the real world on his shoulders.

The Giver is one of my absolute favorite books and it is now being given the fancy Hollywood spin in a movie adaptation (one that is far overdue, might I add). It has been added to the long list of my favorite books that have been turned into films, and like all of those before it, it is already facing criticism from fans of the novel: Will cast members like Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard do the film justice? Why is it in color when all the characters see in black and white, and Jonas himself doesn’t even see in color for a while into the book? Why is Jonas a 24-year-old man? And why is Taylor Swift in it?

I want to break down how film adaptations are treated for you guys. The process usually goes as such: A person reads a book and thinks, “I can imagine this as a film. I want to see this as a film!” And the moment a trailer, a cast list, even a notice that the film is being made comes out, the person loses their mind: “This is going to suck! They won’t do it right! They’ll destroy my baby!”

In my eyes, there are two ways people address book-to-film adaptations:

  1. The movie is meant to be a film version of the book. The movie is meant to be a literal, exact translation, a visual representation of the book.
  2. The movie is meant to be an interpretation of the book. The movie is meant to capture the essence of the book; the text should be used as a starting point to create a film.

The thing about films and books is that they are not at all the same medium. So to expect a filmmaker to forfeit their form for purposes of being more like the book is to ask them to stop being a filmmaker and be a visual-bookmaker (this sounds weird because it is not real). A filmmaker makes a movie because they know how to make films, and an author writes books because they know how to write books. The artist uses a medium they are most well-equipped to use, and see the story working best with. When a story transitions over various mediums, it must be understood that it will translate differently.

Therefore, #2 is how book-to-film adaptations work. #1 is how many readers want them to work and how they think it does. This is where the trouble comes in.

“Why is Jonas going to be so old?!?!” Well here are a few possible reasons: Brenton Thwaites, who is playing Jonas, is a hottie and that will sell in the box office; pre-teens onscreen financially do not do as well; it is much harder to find skilled young actors than older actors.

Do I think this is the best choice for the film? I don’t know. I do think that Jonas’ age is important because he is so young—he is naïve and trying to find his place in the world. Watching a 12-year-old discover his life is a fabricated lie is probably more heartbreaking than watching a 24-year-old discover this. However, we haven’t seen the film. We don’t know what Thwaites brought to the project or the character of Jonas. We don’t know why the filmmaker made this decision, but we’ve got to trust that they know their art.

When fans pitch hissy fits over small details in a book, it frustrates me, because they’ve got to understand: there are reasons. Things do not always come across as well onscreen as they do in a book. It may be in the end, some wrong decisions may be made, and that can be determined and definitely discussed after the film is released. Filmmakers aren’t always perfect and they do make mistakes, but they it is their right to construct the film the way they see fit. It doesn’t give them license to destroy a story, and if they do, that is something they absolutely have to own up to (see: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief movie adaptation. Oh man. So bad). But sometimes changes to the story aren’t the end of the world. Nobody complains that Emma Watson played Hermione, even though she is a goddess on earth and Hermione is described as plain and frumpy, because nobody minds watching Emma Watson onscreen. Nobody.

So next time you want to complain about an actor having baby-blue eyes when they are supposed to be sky-blue, ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Will he still be able to portray the role properly?
  2. Will the exact shade of his eyes really affect the film?
  3. Will he still look great on a poster on my ceiling?

In the end, that’s all that really matters.

 

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to Common Culture! Today, my topic is one that might cause a roll of the eye at first glance: teenybopper stars. And I’m going to start with the most famous of them all, Justin Bieber.

See, in general, I am, and always have been, indifferent about Justin Bieber. I’ve never particularly loved him and I’ve never particularly cared about the guy. That seems to be unusual, because in my experience, around the time when Bieber was just coming onto the music scene, whenever his name came up in conversation, undoubtedly a barrage of unnecessary criticisms followed: he had the horrible swoopy haircut that eventually became known as the “Bieber” haircut; his only fans were obsessive teenage girls; he seemed “gay” or “girly” or “high-voiced” to people (which are not actually criticisms at all, but are constantly used as such against him). We all know what I’m talking about. Justin Bieber, for a LONG time, was the “scapegoat” celebrity. The one that everyone loved to hate just because he was Justin Bieber and it’s “cool” to hate whoever is cool.

I was never on that bandwagon. I always felt that he was a talented kid who had come from nowhere and made a career for himself. He was the same age as me, selling out arenas and changing music. There is nothing lame about that. Yet, his YouTube page was filled with mean and untrue comments. I saw the same thing with celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Lindsay Lohan.

Fast forward a few years: Justin Bieber has one of the worst attitudes in entertainment and is always in the news regarding some sort of legal entanglement; Miley chopped off all her hair and is a completely different performer; Demi has come and gone through rehab for self-mutilation, an eating disorder and depression; and Lindsay has just fallen off the scene after various issues with substance abuse.

Now, I am not the biggest fan of any of these people, but I think we can all see a trend. All of these people started their careers very young and all of them have gone through some sort of big change in terms of attitude or behavior. I wonder why.

Everyone told Miley that Hannah Montana was dumb, that she couldn’t act, that she was stupid; we told Lindsay she was a drug addict and worthless; Demi, that she was overweight and unbeautiful; and Justin, that nothing he did was right.

I don’t condone bad behavior. But I do understand that people are driven to make bad or unusual decisions based on their situations in life. And for these people, and many other people in show business, they are bombarded, day after day, with criticism, founded or not. As a teenager or young adult, a person should know right from wrong, so there’s no excuse for being a jerk, but really, maybe the question should be why have they become this way. If we see it over and over, celebrity to celebrity, maybe it’s time to question how we are treating celebrities. I know if I lived my young adult life under a microscope with my every move mocked and questioned—if I was trying to build a career for myself that was constantly crapped on by anonymous faces on the Internet—I might have my own sort of breakdown.

It seems to me that we treat our celebrities like they are our toys to do with what we choose, that we built them and their careers and so we can discard them when we see fit. Even worse, this happens so much more often to young celebrities than older ones who are more prepared to handle this kind of pressure. We write stories about how charitable Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are, we talk about their family and marriage—and not that those things aren’t great; they are and I would rather read about them than about Justin Bieber egging a house. But we also didn’t read about the many Make-a-Wish events Justin has taken part in, the money he has donated to charities and organizations, the positive message he has tried to spread among his fanbase, built mostly of young girls. These are the things we don’t see in media. We spin a story of how Justin Bieber is untalented (when really it was his talent that even got him to where he is), to the point that this kid literally loses it and goes on a rampage. The Justin Bieber I see in the media now is not the Justin Bieber I remember coming onto the scene a few years ago.

There is some unspoken rule that whoever is cool, we must crush until they are uncool. We must look at their every flaw—we must call out everything we don’t like about them like it’s our right—until they break. And when we do, we must ask, “What happened to them? Why did they become a jerk?” And we must stop buying their albums, supporting them, helping them, because no one wants to support a jerk. We must build them and then destroy them, because after all, a creator is in charge of its creation.

I hate that rule. I see myself in Justin Bieber. A kid that was born at the bottom, and through hard work and (yes) talent, he made something of himself. And what has happened to him and other celebrities long before he was around makes me really sad. It makes me wonder how compassionate we really are. Have we forgotten that celebrities are people? We say it but we don’t act like it. Maybe next time we post a “Why is Miley wearing so little clothing? What’s with her hair? What’s with her tongue?” online, we should look deeper—look at a girl who was mocked mercilessly for what she was doing; who felt that she had to turn a 180 into a different person the moment she grew up to prove that she isn’t Hannah Montana. To prove she’s worthy of some support.

That’s not pathetic. That’s not weird. That’s what any of us would do who received so much hate—to change and try to receive some love. I vote that we try to give it to them. Let’s support instead of destroy, you guys.

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A bright and shiny new blog and it’s all mine? How exciting! Welcome to Common Culture, the site you find yourself scouring, which covers all things pop culture and current events. I’ll start by introducing myself—my name is Dayna, I’m a theatre major here at BSU, and I can’t wait to share with you all my ramblings about things I find interesting!

With welcomes all out of the way, I’ll jump right into my first post—that bomb J.K. Rowling decided to drop on us the last month. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you either live under a rock or don’t have an Internet connection. Seeing as you’re reading this, I’m guessing it’s the former. Here’s a handy link to fill you in: http://www.hypable.com/2014/02/07/jk-rowling-ron-hermione-interview/. Essentially what happened is that J.K. Rowling ventured out from the shadows to very quietly and calmly offer that she considered Ron and Hermione’s relationship and marriage in the Harry Potter novels—which is arguably the most significant relationship in the novels—possibly not the best decision she could have made. In an interview with Emma Watson (who portrayed Hermione in the HP movies) for Wonderland Magazine, Rowling casually suggested that Hermione and Ron have a “fundamental incompatibility” and that “in some ways Hermione and Harry are a better fit.” … What? If you’re a Harry Potter fan like I am, you probably responded to this with a mixture of shock and the feeling that your childhood was a lie.

Many readers felt this way, responding to the interview angry that Rowling would attempt to erase what is printed in 75 million books worldwide with an offhand remark. However, if a reader were to actually consider the words as printed in the interview, Rowling never explicitly states that she regrets Ron and Hermione’s relationship or that she would pair Hermione with Harry instead. It seems to me that Rowling is simply discussing the merit of her final decision and the different ways she could have gone with it. And I’m sure many readers can understand that predicament—the question of who Hermione would end up with divided Harry Potter fans into two snarling, ferocious teenage factions in the 2000s. (Personally, I always thought Ron was too bumbling and selfish for Hermione, but Harry didn’t care about her enough to have married her in the end either … I don’t think either of those boys are good enough for her—can we petition to have Rowling release a new edited statement that Hermione ends up a strong, self-sufficient single woman?) In the end, both Harry/Hermione and Ron/Hermione have some credibility, with each relationship having its own sets of strengths and flaws. Even Rowling can see this, and who said an author can’t speak about their writing afterward? Unfortunately, a lot of readers feel that Rowling is speaking a little too much.

A “less talking, more writing” perspective has become popular among Potter fans because this isn’t the first time J.K. Rowling has made headlines with some new Potter development that changes the way they see the books. In 2007, she dropped the “Dumbledore is gay” bomb out of the blue. And in terms of advancing the franchise, J.K. Rowling has been very involved in the movie series, spin-off books, an interactive website, and more recently, a new spin-off movie series and stageplay in the works. It’s not unfair to wonder at what point J.K. Rowling is going to let Harry Potter go, or if she ever will. As an obsessive Potter fan, I understand the fear of the line Rowling teeters on between giving us what we desperately want and giving us something that ruins the whole thing. And maybe that’s what fans who love Ron and Hermione are feeling—that Rowling’s spontaneous easter eggs are muddling up the series they know and love. And as much as I fear the day that J.K. Rowling says, “Actually, Harry wimped out and ran away and Voldemort killed everyone” will come, I have to remind myself: anything she says about the books doesn’t change the books.

They are printed in ink and they aren’t ever going to change, even if the all-knowing Rowling makes a spontaneous statement or two. They belong to the fans and readers of the series and, in the end, even the author can’t edit a universe that has already been accepted and acknowledged as fact by those who care about it most. As a writer, I understand Rowling’s dilemma. It’s easy to get stuck with an initial idea and to stick with it, whether or not it’s the best choice for the integrity of the characters and situation. I also know what it’s like to fall in love with your story and want to talk about it until the end of time. I’m sure if I had a mega-best seller book series, I wouldn’t shut up about it either. I can imagine all the different concepts and backstories and traits that didn’t make it into the book that Rowling still considers fact. But the truth of the matter is that they aren’t fact, because they didn’t make it into the book. I can concoct in my head a thrilling saga where Harry leaves Ginny in the end and enters into a whirlwind romance with Professor Grubbly-Plank, and guess what? It’s just as valid as Rowling’s thoughts. So in my opinion, she can say whatever she wants.

It doesn’t matter one way or another. The story is as it’s always been, and always will be. To those who feel that their cherished Ron/Hermione pairing is threatened, remember that every time you open the book, they will still exist there. And to everyone who doesn’t like it the way it is, that’s what fan fiction is for. Maybe someone should let J.K. Rowling know about that outlet; I would be very interested in reading her alternate Harry/Hermione ending.