Diversity in Hollywood – The Sticking Block

Diversity in Hollywood – The Sticking Block

There is a lot of discussion at the moment, around the lack of diversity in many films and TV shows. There are people all over the place trying to argue why there is not better diversity in our stories. I think, the answer is down to more than just some rich-tycoon big-wig calling all the shots about who is and is not cast in a particular show. I think the answer to better diversity, first starts with the writing!

There are some amazing writers out there producing some incredible works of fiction. Screenwriters, play-rights, authors and writers alike, have been continuing to push our conceptions on what fictional stories are able to offer. An original plot should be the ultimate prick-tease. It should offer you everything but provide you with very little until you are ready to fully commit to it. Plot lines can take months of planning, writing and re-writing. And that is before you have even written any actual dialogue or substance.

To have a plot of course, you must have characters. And it is here, where I wish to make my first point. When writing, the characters created will have a unique bond with the writer who made them. When they have been written, has the colour of their skin even been thought about by the writer? Is there a specific characteristic which, mentions the colour of their skin? I just cannot understand why, a writer would not push for better diversity. I appreciate I am a complete novice, but I have 1 fantasy novella and another concept in the works, both of which, have people of all shapes and colour. It is not hard to do.

An argument to my opinion will be that it has nothing to do with the writing and it is all down to casting. But I think the character profiling could be improved upon. The issue with Hollywood is that it is a ‘business’. Until recently, television had become quite lazy. It was the same kind of shows being made with the same kind of characters. Now it has some of the best stuff in years being produced and Hollywood is left lagging behind.

A good example of what I am trying to say is this: Ghostshell was recently released starring Scarlett Johansson in the main lead role. This, I believe is a popular anime series. With this being it’s origin, there was uproar from fans over a white woman gaining the lead role, rather than an Asian woman. At first, I thought the same. But then I tried to take a more diplomatic look at it? Maybe, Scarlett was the best woman for the role? She is after all, a good actress. The scepticism in me though, says that she was cast in this role because there are virtually no Asian Hollywood actresses well known enough to play this leading role. And when you are producing a movie on this scale, you need an actress people have heard of to go and see it. And right there, is the sticking block.

Hollywood has been a grotesquely in-diverse place for years. It has not quite managed to modernise itself in that regard but I do believe, that sort this issue out once and for all. It starts with the WRITERs. After all, without us you would have bugger all to watch!

A Defence for The Cursed Child

A Defence for The Cursed Child

***CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM THE ENTIRE HARRY POTTER SERIES INC. THE CURSED CHILD***

A couple of months ago, I finally read Harry Potter’s stage play The Cursed Child. Since it’s release, I have read an awful lot of criticism about this play. Having now read the play, I feel I can now provide my opinion on both the play itself and the reaction that has swarmed around it.

The Plot

At the end of Harry Potter and The Dealthy Hallows we were left with 3 words.

‘…All was well….’

The conclusion we were provided allowed us to believe that everyone in the series was as happy as they could be. Harry especially seemed to have found some sort of peace at what appeared to be a hideous process for any teenager to go through. I think though, the ending should have stated ‘…..All was well, until….’

In The Cursed Child, Harry is a 30 something man struggling to connect with his son Albus. I think we can agree that parenting does not come naturally to Harry. He is not perfect. In the book, he handles certain situations poorly and makes mistakes. One of the things I enjoyed most about the play was Harry’s imperfections to deal with his son and his own emotions. He had an exceptional childhood. If this was an more adult storyline, I would be almost certain the guy would have turned to alcoholism or such to help deal with what he went through. That fact he fails to cope with his son, who very much struggles with his dad’s ‘legacy’. Also, the kid was named after the greatest wizard of all time, as well as the most controversial one. The poor sod was always going to struggle!

When reading it, I thought this was very much a story about teenage angst and confusion. People were still affected by the past but of course, a person’s actions are always going to affect those around us. None more so than our children.

I was a little pissed at the time turner making another appearance. This is mainly because I struggle to understand the rules around time travel at the best of time. For this reason I am unable to criticise the issues people had around the travelling stuff. Hopefully, someone will be able to explain it to me without me getting a headache over it all!

Overall, I enjoyed the story. I did not GRAB me like the other books but this does lead me to my next issue with all the criticism.

I read a script, NOT a novel

I had a bitter-sweet reaction to hearing that The Cursed Child would be released as a script. I was excited that the story was continuing but I was so upset that it would not be another novel.

All you get with a script is a brief description on the setting, limited stage directions and dialogue. That is it. This in itself cannot even minutely compare to Rowling’s in-depth telling of the Wizarding World. Her novels were packed with tiny little details, some of which you will not even pick up until reading them for the 2nd or 3rd time. Her descriptions on the settings she had created, the characters she had named and the world we all craved to be part of, must be appreciated.

I truly believe that if this was to be turned into a novel, the reaction to it would have been a lot less harsh. To read The Cursed Child you must already be in the Harry Potter. It is no good thinking a script will take you there. It will not. Well, this one will not anyway. That is what the staging is for.

I hear the staging for this play is spectacular. Everyone who has seen it, says it is amazing. Having never seen it, I cannot comment but if the reaction of those actually going to see it is good, then that tells me that the script must only be providing us with slice of what this play has to offer.

The Casting of Hermione

I will be dedicating an entire blog to the issue of casting different ethnicities into certain roles. But for this blog I will say this – despite the colour of her skin (which, remains undescriptive in the books but I will acknowledge Hermione does blush), the actress Noma Dumezweni has a better likeness to the ‘book’ Hermione than Emma Watson. Also as long as she performs the role well, it should not matter what her ethnicity is.

Some roles do require a specific ethnicity to portray them. This is not one of them. So, the argument in my view is entirely invalid.

“JK Rowling did not write The Cursed Child. It is not more than badly written fanfiction”

This is another argument which, frustrates me. Harry Potter is a massive empire. When it is given opportunity to become a westend play you want to ensure the best play-writes are involved. Rowling has so far, written 1 movie screenplay. She has never written a westend play before. I think having someone else write it was a good idea. I could tell it was written by someone who has experience writing plays for the westend.

The worse complaint I have come across though, are fans who will outright refuse to accept this story as canon. YOU CANNOT DISMISS SOMETHING AS FANFICTION JUST BECAUSE YOU DO NOT LIKE THE ENDING! If Rowling has put her name to it, then you cannot ignore it.

Ultimately, I put the reaction to this book in the same context as the films. Is it perfect? No but seeing as Rowling gets final say in nearly everything about this world, if she is happy you should be too. After all, it is her creation.

But if you hated it that much, then re-read the first novel and fall back in the love with Harry Potter again!

Story of the Year goes to….2016!!

Story of the Year goes to….2016!!

2016 has been an eventful year. If Dr.Who arrived back in January with his TARDIS and informed us of what would happen, I think even his second heart would not help him survive the abuse he would receive. 

So much has happened, in fact, I think it should be a contender for Story of the Year. No single author can retrieve a prize as, unlike other great literary works, this story was achieved through a large collective of contributors. 

The year did not get off to the best start with the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman. The world (which, is still mourning) found this hard to cope with but then with every week or month that went by another beloved celebrity would leave us. And we are not just talking about Z Listers who had a brief stint at showbiz, are we? Particularly in the U.K we have lost some true geniuses from the creative industry. These loses alone were enough to call 2016 a less than awesome year but then we had all the politics. 

Even if you HATE politics, you cannot deny this year has err…..eventful. With the raise of alt.right wing groups gaining popularity, Britain voting to leave the EU and now Trump being elected President, my response to nearly anything political at the moment seems to be “What the actual fiddly doo is going on?” I know there have been loads of experts provide their knowledge as to why all this has happened but I am not one of these people. (This may surprise but I am not an expert in anything!) I blog about the concepts of storytelling, writing, the joy of particular works of fiction/non-fiction or characters. I blog about ANYTHING to do with the world of imagination.

But even someone with a wild imagination like mine, could not have foreseen or envisioned the contributing events that have made 2016 what it has been. In 40yrs time I will be telling my grandkids about the Year some abhorrent parasite of a human being became US President. In the same year, Maggie Thatcher resurrected herself as a leather trouser loving, double standard Christian and Britain’s most kick-punching appealing face (I.e. Nigel Farage) clogged up every fucking news article despite having no real of power. 

I am hoping 2017 becomes a lot more mellow. I wish for a peaceful end in Aleppo, I wish for the politics to go back to being boring and I wish Victoria Wood could provide one last stand up routine. I am wishful but not expectant!

The Casting of Grindelwald

The Casting of Grindelwald

Just like millions of people all over the world, I am a proud Potterhead. It would be very easy for me to discuss nothing but my love for the overall story but instead, I am going to discuss the recent, yet somewhat controversial decision to cast Johnny Depp as Grindelwald.

The Ultimate Prequel

There are several stories within the ‘Harry Potter’ universe that many people would love to see turned into their own series. It was recently announced that alongside Fantastic Beasts, we will be treated to 4 more feature films which, will include the story of Grindelwald – one of the darkest wizards of all time.

It is one of the most intriguing stories within the Pottersphere because his significance to the wizarding world has so far, been understated.

I seem to be the only person who is unsurprised at Johnny Depp being cast as the new villain.

I have heard some of the most ridiculous criticisms about this casting including “he is too famous”! Are you fucking kidding me? Harry Potter has some of the most famous names involved in the franchise I.e. Maggie Smith, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Heleana Bonham Carter, to name just a few! So, this is a ridiculous argument. 

Another argument however, is a lot of people believe he will ruin whatever goodness may come out of these films. Well, let’s just take a step back for a minute and have a look at this. 

Firstly, Depp has been cast as Grindelwald NOT Voldermort. Many of the reactions I have read seem unable to make a definition between the two. Grindelwald must have had a certain level of charm/charisma about him in order for Dumbledore to fall in love with him. Also, many students allowed themselves to be subject to his ‘experiments’. His agenda may have seemed the same as Voldermort’s but it wasn’t. Despite some similarities (like the decision to live in the world of dark magic), ultimately their personalities and characters were very different. 

Secondly, Johnny Depp is a brilliant character actor. It seems most people are incapable of envisioning him as anything other than Jack Sparrow! Watch any of his other work and you will see he has played a vast collection of personalities. He does not play ‘1 kind of role’. He has played some amazing fantasy and horror people, as well as some true life characters who were scarily accurate.

Ultimately what I am trying to say is, trust the film makers and the actor who has been doing this 30 years. Rowling will have a vision in her head of what Grindelwald should be and if she was not happy with the decision, he wouldn’t have been cast! 

The Elephant in the Room

The biggest argument I have read a lot is the fact he was accused of committing domestic abuse. It is hard to make a judgement on this because the truth is, we only know what the media have told us (and we can certainly trust them to provide an impartial view on situations like this. Not!) I know there are a large number of guilty people who remain unconvicted with domestic abuse. But we are not a jury! Also (and this is where I’m going to talk controversially, now) how is this a valid argument against giving him an acting role? I cannot see the link between acting as a fantasy villain and getting accused of domestic abuse? Dislike him as a human being, disagree with his life choices but unless you have the ability to charge him, you are not in a position to state otherwise.
But if you feel this casting really is the worse thing since a very bad thing, then stay at home and do not watch the bloody film! Plenty of other people will go in your place!

The New Age of Television

Do you remember a few years ago having to wait each week for the next episode of your favourite television program? Or having to get the VHS set up on record so you would not miss your favourite show? And let’s not forget the gold membership holders of Blockbusters and Choices. For the price of a round of drinks, you could hire out multiple films per fortnight. It all seems a generation ago does it not?

Let’s be honest, until 5years ago having the ability to record/pause live TV via your box was a talking point. Now the television world has changed so dramatically it is hardly recognisable to how it was. 

For starters, you do not even need a television. All that is needed is the ability to project an image. The internet now holds all of our television viewing. With the raise of Netflix and Amazon Prime, virtually everything can be watched as a box set. An entire series can be watched in a weekend. The only way to do that in the nineties was to venture out in public and buy the DVD box set. But even then, you would not buy 20 of the most talked about shows would you? That is what streaming allows us to do. 

But something else has happened to our television viewing. The production of certain TV shows are now so expensive, they are now competing with many films being released in the cinema. Take Game of Thrones for example. Season 6 cost a whopping £10million PER EPISODE! That’s £100million for the entire season. And so many other shows are now following suit. It used to be predominantly, actors worked in either television or film. Now, our favourite shows can afford to offer them some of the best roles in television and they are taking them. Not just because of the price tag but because these shows are GOOD! Each episode is filled with that many cliffhangers and plot turns, it can become exhausting to watch (but for all the right reasons!)

And if we are discussing the new blossoming of television we must talk about the opening credits. It has become a new appreciated art form which, sets up the entire series brilliantly. It seems these new shows want to grab our attention for the entire length of time they appear on our screens. It is hard to even hold a discussion until it is finished.

As someone who has always been a bit of a telly addict, I am LOVING this new age of television. I used to be an avid cinema attendee but with the now astronomical costs to see 1 film, I am far from dissatisfied with what my television has to offer, instead. 

The Mad World of Fanfiction

The Mad World of Fanfiction

It happens to all of us. You come across an excellently produced piece of fiction. You end up savouring every scene that is implemented into your brain, as well as each character and their unique qualities. Then the inevitable happens…..it ends!

Or worse still, it does not end how you wanted it too.

Oh dear! *Sad Face*

What do us new obsessed fans do now? With an inevitable sequel (that we are told will never happen) at least a few years away, how are we going to get our series fix? We can re-read those pages until the ink fades away or watch the DVD until the disc breaks in two. But there is another option which, I only took serious notice of a few years back.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen I have delved into the mad world of fanfiction.

For anyone who has been living in a cave, fanfiction involves changing certain concepts or relationships between well known characters in some of our most loved stories. It is a controversial form of writing and often has the reputation of being poorly written. Sometimes, this is true but occasionally you will come across an idea that is not make you flinch with embarrassment.

I feel fanfiction has gained an unfair reputation because so many see it as ‘not proper writing’. But these people seem to have forgotten the essence of this style of writing. It is entirely unique because you are not writing because you want to say something, or because you have your own ideas. You are writing, because you have fallen in love with someone else’s story and you want it to continue. You have come across a specific character who you feel an instant connection with, and you feel you can take that person on adventure’s the author may have not thought of. I think, having someone write fanfiction from a certain story is the ultimate compliment. The author does not have to like it, but they certainly have to accept that their readers may have had different ideals for the character’s they have been reading about.  Fanfiction also provides something else to beloved readers. It allows a story to continue, potentially forever!

Now, it is impossible to discuss this subject without talking about the deep, dark depths that fandom’s often go to. I have read some abhorrent stuff including Harry Potter running a whore house, Katniss Everdeen going on a murderous rampage and enough smut to make 50 Shades of Grey look like an interior decoration guide! I can never unread some of what I have seen but those that wrote it are unashamed about it.

If you decide to write fanfiction, it’s seems that you are accepted into this community. Everyone support’s one another. No one is ever cruel or comments unnecessarily. The criticism I have read always tries to remain as positive as possible. It seems, no matter how good or bad your writing ability, if you have taken the time to write something, someone will thank you for it. I feel the writing community, as a whole could learn a lot of from this! I understand that part of the reason they can be so supportive is because they are looking at a story in the same way however, to not have anyone criticise your writing in a negative way must be wonderful.

Personally I have never written, nor do I have any desire, to write fanfiction. But I would be lying if I said I have not enjoyed reading it! It is apparent an intense amount of passion, enthusiasm and enjoyment goes into fanfiction. Often, we writer’s end up wanting to throw our computers out the window with our own ideas but it appears, fanfic writer’s do not have the same issues (although I may be completely wrong about this!)

Ultimately, what I am trying to say is this – I think you have to be a specific type of writer to write fanfiction and I applaud any of you that do.

 

Star Wars: My Interest Awakens

Star Wars: My Interest Awakens

Whether you love or loathe it Star Wars is a fictional phenomenon. Focused on a movie set up, the reaction to the first film was (from what I have read/heard) unlike anything else ever released in cinema history. To this day, nothing in terms of cinema, has managed to draw in such a huge audience and die-hard allegiance of fans.

It is no surprise therefore, that once Disney bought the rights from a rather tired George Lucas, a new movie was announced within months. Many of my friends and family went into a new realm of insanity when they found out. I however, remained unexcited.

I had never been able to understand what all the fuss was about? The main characters: Princess Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker annoyed me quite a lot. Princess Leia especially seemed to spend a lot of her time whinging, being rescued and falling in love with a rather uncharismatic Harrison Ford. The only characters I liked were R2-D2 and Yoda. C-3P0 did my head in as well (and still does)! Whenever I was forced to sit with my brother and watch it, I would get bored. So I become entirely uninterested and rather annoyed at anything involving Star Wars. An incessant grown would be heard from my direction if ever, I had to endure anything on the subject.

When episodes I, II, and III were released, this did not spark my interest either. Just like the original films, I have failed to sit through one from start to finish.

That is until a few weeks ago. My husband wanted to watch the new film The Force Awakens, again. He had seen it at the cinema but must have been getting light saber withdrawal symptoms! So much fuss had been made about the new film that I decided to keep an open mind and endure it, if not only so my husband could watch and enjoy it again. To my surprise not only was I able sit through it without complaining but I really enjoyed it!

I had heard some criticism over the film stating it was to similar to the original film A New Hope however, having never been able to sit though it was I more than happy to enjoy The Force Awakens for what it was – a decent big budget sci-fi movie. One of the things I loved about it was Rey – the female lead character. She was everything I have been hoping to see in a film, like this one. BB-8 was also incredibly cute but a complete rip-off of Wall-E!

Now, I cannot say I loved it enough to try and watch the original films again. Maybe I should but the idea of sitting through any of them feels me with dread. Nor am I waiting with baited breath to watch the films yet to come.

I am however, happy that a Star Wars film has finally been made that I have been able to enjoy! Hurrah!