Thursday, November 8, 2012

If Ann Rice Knew What She Started...

Hi there. So, I've decided that analyzing literature is my life calling, so I'm creating a blog specifically for those intents and purposes. It's called "The Literature Grill" and I'm transferring this incredibly popular post over to that. Please be sure to check there for more literature hate, soon to follow!! At the end of a couple months, I'll be taking this post down (which will make me sad because LOOK AT THE VIEWS!) but it will be for the benefit of all.


From the second you meet Bella, she's being a martyr. In fact, all the way through the first couple of chapter, she's a pale, whiny martyr, that for some reason is incredibly (oddly) intriguing to the male population. This is reaffirmed by the way Bella reacts to Edward's behavior throughout the series. When he leaves her, she falls into a disabling depression that could have easily been remedied by writing a horrible, emo poem in her journal and then getting over herself. And Edward... but mostly herself. So, maybe Meyers wanted to convey just how deeply Bella felt? By describing how hollow she feels?... FOR FOUR MONTHS?! Isn't that just the LEAST bit excessive? This is how we know that Bella is NOT a strong female protagonist.

Well, Bella soon discovers that she imagines Edward every time she's in mortal peril. Does this make it the plan to place herself in danger all the time? If she truly loved Edward, then she would have valued the way he treated her life (which, admittedly, he didn't do so well BUT for the sake of argument, we'll say he truly loved her.) Point is, she wouldn't have been so childish. Definitely wouldn't have been childish enough to use her "friend" Jacob like a tool while playing on his emotions for her. Let me ask you guys something, is that appealing in a woman? Because if it is, I now know why I don't get too many dates nowadays. She pays little attention to her friends and, in the end, hurts them in emotionally cruel ways.

Bella isn't a strong female protagonist for another reason: she refuses to be herself. The entire series, she's begging Edward to "change her." If there's one thing I learned from High School (Musical) is that it's "Be an Individual." Nothing but pain comes from changing who you are physically or metaphorically. What I expect from a strong character is someone who is confident in who she is. Anyone that chooses Bella Swan as a role model must be some sort of crowd-pleasing sycophant. Harsh? What Bella could use is some tough love because she refuses to move on from her emotionally abusive boyfriend. That sounds like Abused Woman Syndrome. Can I get a psychologist to back me up on that diagnosis? In sum: Bella is the most selfish, immature and childish character EVER. More than Voldemort. More than Sauron. More than Senator Palpatine. Because at least Voldemort magicked Peter Pettigrew another hand when he cut it off for his Dark Lord. THAT'S how you keep your friends, you trampire!


Because at least Hamlet had the good sense to tell Ophelia to "get [herself] to a nunnery!" (And that came from the same guy that stabbed her father through a curtain.) Edward can't even do that, he just passively tells Bella that he's no good for her, the subtext here being "I will crush your skull and drink your blood from a sippy cup." But he's too selfish to actually think about her safety, until, you know, "it's too late" and he makes her a target for a powerful, vampire mafia. Not only does he put her in danger constantly, but when the time comes to save her, he's to weak to do it. If Meg can risk being crushed by a pillar to save her boyfriend (Hercules) AND if Hercules can risk drowning forever in a river of death, I think it's perfectly acceptable to expect some self-sacrifice on Edward's part. Even as he attempts to save her, he's too weak to stop gulping her blood. What a weirdo.

Speaking of being a weirdo, has anyone head/read his internal monologue when he and Bella meet? (in Midnight Sun, the book of Twilight told from Edward's view) He meticulously plans out how to kill an entire classroom of students. The only people that think of that are the writers for Saw and comic book villains. Wait, why was Edward committing 3rd degree murder in his mind? To tear into Bella and fill that sippy cup with her life blood. Which brings me to my next point, are we ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE that Edward ACTUALLY loves Bella? Or is it just an incredibly sick and twisted fascination? All couples have their nicknames and whatnot, but I'm not so sure that being referred to as a dangerous drug is healthy for relationships. Actually, I'm positive. You want to know WHY it's not real love? Because their intimacy is based off of pure hormones.

Ah. Listen to the screams of pre-teens. How they shriek out in vague and indecipherable arguments.

They tell me I am misunderstood, that they are in love! Oh really...? How many pre-teens do you know that have a complete perception of love? Actual love, I mean. Look, I know college kids incapable of a love to withstand the storms of artistic differences much less pre-teens. ARGUMENT INVALID.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that, despite all of Edward's "warnings" and whinings, he doesn't consider changing himself to become better. He just goes on, complaining about how he's going to Hell and then just sits there and does nothing. Not a thing for his damned soul. He's just as passive as Bella. So maybe they are meant to be together... Well, one thing's for sure, and that's how much Edward wants Bella to be HIS and ONLY HIS. Because he alienates her from her friends and family. At the end of the series, it's just Bella and the Cullens, having sex and monstrous birthing sequences that scar me for life. But just before Bella's turned into a vampire, Edward has this thing where he just LOVES to remind Bella how fragile and human she is, that he could kill her at any second... I'm gonna go ahead and let that be the last creepy habit of Edward's that I talk about and I'm not gonna mention the whole "coming into her room at night, regardless of her father's parental rules."

Not sorry.


Well, now that I've revealed the two main characters for what they really are, let's move on to the story! As I've already mentioned in this here rant, Stephanie Meyers is really good at writing in the way that candy is really good for your teeth. It tastes good, you can eat it all day long (they have a Holiday for that now) but when you go to the dentist, he'll tell you that you've been eating empty calories that give you cavities. And that's pretty much what the Twilight series is: empty calories. It is literally a story about an abusive relationship that culminates in the complete moral degeneration of the main character. Nobody would read that if they knew that was what is what about. These days, I'm not sure what constitutes a good book, but as far as I'm concerned, if your character is degrading, it must make a poignant effect on the reader and not make for a dissatisfying and hollow character.

As I also said before in the aforementioned rant (the link to which is up there in the beginning of that paragraph) I was watching a flame war on the internet and someone perfectly summed up Bella's character. He went through the series and pointed out that Bella changes into a monster, is cut off from her true family and friends, and has degenerated from her "more pure state." If Bella was meant to be a heroine of the story and a role model to girls the world over, then Meyers has failed to do her job. And this is Meyers's first flaw in the book is that her female protagonist has too much moral degradation too be a strong, inspiring character. She could have gotten away with too, if it weren't for that meddling story line.

See, having a character that self-destructs isn't uncommon and it's rather fun to write mental breakdowns if I do say so myself. Anna Karenina, Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, they're all great books with the poignancy needed to drive home that message of the destruction caused by human error. But Twilight can't even hope for the fiber and strength to carry the weight of an anti-hero because it's a YOUNG ADULT VAMPIRE "ROMANCE" NOVEL. The story's theme is about how important it is to have a boyfriend at whatever costs. The premise and general summary of the main character is enough to create a very depressing but passable book. Instead, Meyers does what she does best and writes worthless fluff.

The motifs of an eternal love or ineffectual, because they're centered around an abusive relationship. Even though Twilight isn't as graphic as its devil spawn, 50 Shades of Grey, it still carries the motifs of sadism and masochism. Not necessarily in a sexual way, but on a social level. The worst offense (as far as motifs go) is the fact that Meyers used VAMPIRES. VAMPIRES. Ever since Ann Rice, people stopped fearing these blood-sucking parasites and started to sympathize with them. And by sympathize, I mean romanticize and sexualize. That's the final strike against the Twilight series. If you take out that pithy vampirism stuff, you get a girl who, albeit a whiny martyr, was a good and nondescript girl. She got into a horrible relationship that she couldn't escape and was ultimately forced into marriage by an intimidating family that spawned an insensitive, abusive creeper. She was then impregnated, and gave birth under horrible circumstances that almost killed her. In the books, Bella actually dies. But is "brought back to life" by, literally, POISON that is injected directly into her heart. When she wakes up, she's not the Bella at the beginning, she's a monster and void of humanity. That there is pretty powerful when you say it bluntly.

Stephanie Meyers is no "god of writing," as she calls herself. Unless, of course, she meant to write about the moral degeneration of a simple girl and veiled this through stuffy and unhealthy "romance" and that vampire crap. If that was her intention from the beginning, then I'm sending her a postcard with my deepest apologies for underestimating her power. I just don't think it's within her brain to come up with something as worthwhile and deep as a modern version of Anna Karenina.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Act Well Thy Part

I can see why you might think that this blog's theme is love and theatre. It's just something that is incredibly relevant in my life and a lot of self-realizations come from it. I suppose as soon as show season is over, I'll go back to the other part in my life.


The latest theatrical realization is actually pretty darn important and it's a shock that I haven't come to it when I started theatre because it's sort of important when you start theatre that you know why you're doing theatre.

At the beginning, I was always interested in theatre. I was taken to shows as a child and had the soundtracks for a dozen classic shows. Even though this was the world I was born into, I'm really not sure what drove me to pursue the theatrical life. It was just a joy for me to perform and the more comfortable I was on stage, the more I was able to do. I fell completely in passion with every aspect of theatre and even though she's a struggling mistress, she does me well. We just have a chemistry together. But there was never a personal or heartfelt reason or purpose.

I've asked many of my actor friends why they continue in theatre. Most of them say it's simply for pleasure or fascination. But there was one actor I met that impressed me with his reasons. He told me that he doesn't perform for himself.

'Well, obviously, " I said. "You don't dance in front of a mirror, that's not theatre."

"No, I mean, I don't perform for selfish reasons. I perform to give my gifts to other people. It's for them."

Up to that point, I had believed that theatre was MY moment. I shined, I danced, I sang, it was the time that I could ask the audience to look at me and they would. For a long time, that was my internal monologue every time I danced. I would think "LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME" until the energy and ferocity shone out of my eyes and gave me, what I believed to be "star quality." I'm ashamed to admit it, but that really was why I did theatre. I wanted to be loved and admired and looked at. So the idea that performing was a selfless act was a very new idea to me.

But I liked it. I saw the difference between those actors that wanted the focus to be on them and the actors that just wanted to make someone laugh or smile. It inspired me into the actor and writer that I am today. I desired a greater purpose for myself, a bigger reason to be on stage than to just be looked at. For once, being a pretty thing no longer satisfied me.

This principle has been working well for me for a couple years, but it still hadn't hit that "home run" in my pathos. I hoped that my work touched those I came into contact with, but nothing had been affirmed. Until several days ago.

One of the shows I'm working on right now is a children's theatre piece called "Clever Jack and the Pirates." It's a simple, sweet show, meant for nothing more than to make children laugh. For those of you that don't know, an audience full of children is probably one of the most gratifying feelings in this world. They let you know EXACTLY what they think of you and if you're doing what you're supposed to do, they'll fill the theatre with their laughter. Well, as I'm sure you could guess from my build-up, my purpose came from a child after one of these shows. Friday's show to be exact.

After the show, the cast members have the chance to wander into the audience, interacting with the kids, answering questions, having fun, giving high fives, all manner of fun. One small boy in particular came up to me and another one of my fellow cast members. He told us (and I quote) "you guys memorized your lines really well and you were magnificent." I could tell that he was a special needs kid, which automatically brought him closer in my heart. His teacher waved him on to go with the rest of the class as they were boarding the bus, but she stayed behind to tell us more. She thanked us for our work and then told us the story of that little boy.

Apparently, he had a little panic attack when he got into the theatre. He didn't want them to turn off the lights and was incredibly scared for the moment when we would. His teacher pinned him to his chair and promised him that it would get better. And from the moment the show started, he drew out of his panic attack shell. He smiled, laughed, we made him feel better and he wasn't scared anymore.

As a cast, as a production, we changed this little boy's perception of theatre but most importantly, we made him happy.


That is why I'm in theatre. While I harbor a love for drama and intensity, while my favorite thing to do is kill off the most likable character (that's called pulling a Joss Whedon) if there's one thing I love, it's making people laugh.

Now, I've heard actors say some of the most beautiful prayers. From pleading with God for energy and focus to praying for protection for a specific cast member who had a scary stunt, actors really know how to ask an all-powerful entity for what they need. Not what they want, but what they know that they need. My best lines have been said backstage in the quiet moments when I've asked a kind and loving Heavenly Father to take away that pit in my stomach. But the best way to sum up how I feel collectively for my job as a performer and the roles and duties that go with it, is in the prayer of one of my cast mates. He bowed his head reverently, the entire cast in a circle.

"I guess what I'm asking for God... is to help us forget ourselves." he said.

I work with the most selfless people on this earth. They're constantly giving and giving of themselves with little return. They wake up early, stay up late, risk a lot, and we never know what the audience left with, what they thought. Sometimes they'll send us letters of offense (assuming that we care for their small-minded opinions). But most of the time, we judge what they thought of us based on their laughter throughout the night. There's only one reason why I continue to suffer through the pain, soreness, stress and occasional good times and laughter and it's of no benefit to myself. There's only one reason why my fellow actors put themselves through a lemonade diet so that they know what it's like to be hungry for character research and development. It doesn't do us any good, whatsoever.

Whether we act to teach or to entertain or to just see someone smile, the theatre was and never will be for the self-centred people of this world.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Story Time: Benson Diaries Episodes 1-5

Benson is my technical theatre professor. He's a very smart man and VERY good at what he does, but more than that, he's an EXTREMELY funny man. I've taken the liberty of making a few notes, and I've compiled some stories that are too short to be individual blog posts themselves. But with their magics combined, they make for such delightful vignettes. Without further ado, I present, The Benson Diaries, Episodes 1 through 5.

Today, Benson did the “as;lksdnf;jdn;fjA;SFJB;dogub;dojgb;sdjbg;ajfbg;a” to my keyboard. Then walked away laughing maniacally. He says “I grew up once, but I didn’t like it. So I went back.” He’ll be doing this sort of thing well into his 70’s. His wife must be so patient. 

Benson’s wife gave him a cane-sword; you know, where the cane is the sheath, hiding a slim blade? Kind of like Watson’s in the RDJ Sherlock Holmes. Well, he chased Chloe Myers up the stairs in the Snow building, brandishing his cane, yelling “GET BACK HERE.” All for a mother duck and her ducklings. In his defense, they were very fluffy. 

Benson’s a “bad man.” He has a skull ring. To demonstrate his level of hardcore-cery, he burst through the Black Box theatre doors, sunglasses, purple shirt and a tie rather reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” He sauntered towards me and Chloe Myers, then threw-tipped over a chair. He looked at our mirthfully twitching bodies, then proceeded to kick over some safety cones a la Jackie Chan style. A flurry of karate kicks and the caution tape was wasted. 

“I’m a bad man.” he said. 

In New York, Mormons have the occupational hazard of getting asked silly questions. Benson’s aware of this. His favorite thing to do is make the people that ask him foolish questions feel silly. When they ask him “how many wives do YOU have?” Benson would reply “One...” then look at the questioner’s wife or daughter and say “But I’m always looking for more!!” Lesson learned: don’t gaud Benson into these kinds of tussles and fights. 
“Because... I will always win.” said he, as he threw a pencil at the ceiling. 

It stuck. 

“Sleep deprivation is for everybody.” says Benson after a long night of programing light cues.