Posted in episodes

Episode 35: Remixing the Bard

The homework for the episode:
Martha: As I Descended, 2016 novel by Robin Talley
Pete: Ran, 1985 film directed by Akira Kurosawa
Maren: 10 Things I Hate About You, 1999 film directed by Gil Junger

Two teens scheme to topple their school’s It Girl in a plan that goes horribly awry for many people. Also known as: Macbeth, but with lesbians and also ghosts.

A Japanese warlord is the victim of his own violence as his familial empire slowly crumbles from within. Also known as: King Lear, but set in Feudal Japan and also the king has sons instead of daughters.

Sisters are the focus of a high school’s social ecosystem. Also known as: The Taming of the Shrew set in a 90’s high school.

Maren is back to help us dissect the ways in which we appropriate and reuse the stories of Billy Shakes. Surprisingly, everyone likes the YA book Martha picked!

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: Weird Al’s 77 songs mashup
Martha: The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding
Maren: New season of Queer Eye

I think we’re going to be mixing up the credentials portion of the podcast – don’t worry, you’ll still get to hear what we’ve been consuming as pop culture “experts,” but we may shift focus to the stuff we actually WANT to talk about and not just the most recent mobile game Martha has been wasting time on. Stay tuned!

There’s a reason Shakespeare is so enduring in our pop cultural landscape, and we take a crack at figuring out why. Here are some of the things we touch on:

  • Why exactly Shakespeare’s stories are so enduring
  • Why they work particularly well in high school settings
  • What the gender flips do for the stories, if anything
  • What is lost and gained from translating these stories to different times and places

We don’t go as deeply into the gender question as I might have wanted to, particularly in relation to As I Descended. If you have thoughts on the issue, please leave us a note or a comment!

We’re going a little lighter in the spirit of summer for our next episode, which is all about Zombies as Metaphor. We’re joined by Pete’s friend and coworker, Austin!

Your homework for July 4:

Martha: Feed, 2010 novel by Mira Grant
Pete: The Girl With All the Gifts, 2016 film directed by Colm McCarthy
Austin: Warm Bodies, 2013 film directed by Jonathan Levine (also weirdly enough a Shakespeare redux!)

Find Pete on Twitter @piko3000, and find Martha on both Instagram AND Twitter @magicalmartha. Follow us online @DYDYHpodcast, e-mail us at show@homeworkpodcast.com, and find us on Facebook.

And remember, if you have questions, comments, or ideas for a show, give us a shoutout here or send us an e-mail to show@homeworkpodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in episodes

Episode 34: PTSD

The homework for the episode:
Martha: Netflix show Jessica Jones, 1.01 (“AKA Ladies Night”) and 1.02 (“AKA Crush Syndrome”)
Pete: Macbeth, 2015 film directed by Justin Kurzel
Joel: Perks of Being a Wallflower, 2012 film directed by Stephen Chbosky

A former superhero-turned-private investigator has to face her former abuser(and deal with her lingering trauma) when evidence emerges that he isn’t as dead as she thought he was.

A man in old-ass Scotland kills his way to the throne and is summarily bloodily deposed.

A young boy deals with past trauma and also the everyday difficulties of being a high school student. Also he makes new friends.

We get a bit personal today with help from our special guest, friend of the show and 40 Going On 14 cohost Joel Kenyon! Thanks for lending us a measure of your podcasting expertise, Joel.

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
Martha: Welcome to Night Vale podcast
Joel: The IT Crowd tv show

Martha is absolutely SCANDALIZED that Pete has never read Ursula K. LeGuin before. Joel is watching The IT Crowd for 40GO14, and Martha is only now realizing she missed her chance to roast him for also being a newbie to Parks & Rec like four weeks ago. Martha continues her streak of promoting podcasts that aren’t hers, but in her defense Night Vale is her proto-podcast, from which all her podcast endeavors spring.

We don’t really have formal discussion questions to give you this time, but our discussion does broadly cover the following topics:

  • What our characters are experiencing trauma from, and how they are processing it
  • How their PTSD is influencing character motivations and actions
  • How our homeworks handle different kinds of trauma
  • How pop culture can help people process their own trauma

Trigger warning on this one, as we get a little personal with our own lives. Deep thanks to Joel, without whom this discussion would not have been as richly complex or nuanced.

Unofficial third chair Maren Hagman helps scratch our Shakespeare itch next episode when, inspired by this rendition of Macbeth, we turn ourselves totally toward Shakespearean Adaptations (or as Pete has dubbed it, The Bard: Reimagined).

Your homework for June 20:

Martha: As I Descended, 2016 novel by Robin Talley
Pete: Ran, 1985 film directed by Akira Kurosawa
Maren: 10 Things I Hate About You, 1999 film directed by Gil Junger

Joel can be found on the internet reviewing horror movies on Creepercast and podcasting at 40 Going on 14, The Coffin Joe Cast, and The Sunshine Happy Kpants Hour.

Find Pete on Twitter @piko3000, and find Martha on both Instagram AND Twitter @magicalmartha. Follow us online @DYDYHpodcast, e-mail us at show@homeworkpodcast.com, and find us on Facebook.

And remember, if you have questions, comments, or ideas for a show, give us a shoutout here or send us an e-mail to show@homeworkpodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in episodes

Episode 26: Body Image

(CW: body image, eating disorders. We talk about anorexia, bulimia, and other sensitive subjects.)

The homework for the episode:
Martha: The Art of Starving, 2017 novel by Sam J. Miller
Pete: Zoolander, 2001 film directed by Ben Stiller and starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Christine Taylor
Maren: Hairspray, the 2007 film directed by Adam Shankman and starring Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Queen Latifah, among others

A teen boy believes that starving himself gives him super powers, that he plans to use to get revenge on the people he thinks are responsible for making his sister run away.

Male models overcome professional jealousy to take down the seedy underbelly of the fashion industry, which is secretly the cause of political assassinations throughout history.

A girl on the chunky side takes a local dancing show by storm in 1960’s Baltimore, and uses the momentum to fight racial discrimination.

Friend of the show Maren Hagman is back to help us get into the serious topic of Body Image. Our subjects range from conceited male models to small town teens, that deal with eating disorders, self image, body positivity, and other related topics. It’s a sensitive conversation and we get a little prickly about it!

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
Martha: “Girls Talk” by Dave Edmunds
Maren: Civilisations trailer

Everyone freaks out a little when Pete tells us that In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is TWENTY YEARS OLD, WHAT. Martha has been watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but not close enough to the episode for that to be her pick, so instead she waxes poetic about one of the closing credit songs. Maren catches us all up to speed on our Historical Society

Much like our episode on bullying and suicide, this is an episode where there are a lot of feelings about a very sensitive topic. We dig into the way our three homework media portray different bodies and the relationships we have to them, across the spectrum from positive and healthy to decidedly not. If you find talking about bodies and eating disorders too overwhelming, you may consider skipping this one.

Some of the questions we discuss are:

    1. How do these media conform to or subvert expectations of body image? Are they body positive?
    2. What does healthy body image mean for the protagonists?
    3. How do gender and race impact characters’ body image?
    4. Do Hairspray and Zoolander use humor effectively to reinforce or challenge traditional body image?

Here is a link to the article I mention about body image on Broadway. Also, here is a tremendously relevant article that just came out in the New York Times about Adam Rippon and the prevalence of starving in figure skating, that also gets into the idea that eating disorders among men are one of the worst kept secrets in our cultural landscape.

In addition to the broader discussion on weight and eating disorders, we also have the chance to touch on the question of self image and race, although we all acknowledge that we are three white people talking about things we can’t possibly have experience with.

If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, you can reach out to the National Eating Disorders Association via phone (1-800-931-2237) or chat through their website here.

Next episode, we are joined by Martha’s coworker Lauren Maxwell to talk about Fairy Tales!

The homework for February 28:

Martha: Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006 film by Guillermo del Toro
Pete: Hellboy volume 3: The Chained Coffin and Others by Mike Mignola
Lauren Maxwell: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Find Pete on Twitter @piko3000, and find Martha on both Instagram AND Twitter @magicalmartha. Maren is educating children on Twitter @a_star_danced.

Follow us online @DYDYHpodcast, e-mail us at show@homeworkpodcast.com, and find us on Facebook.

And remember, if you have questions, comments, or ideas for a show, give us a shoutout here or send us an e-mail to show@homeworkpodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in episodes

Episode 21: Transformation

The homework for the episode:
Pete: The Wicked + the Divine, vol. 1: The Faust Act, by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen
Martha: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Sarah: Fright Night, 1985 film directed by Tom Holland and starring Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, and Amanda Bearse

We are joined for this episode by friend of the show Sarah Caputo! Welcome, Sarah!

We’ve talked about identity and character growth, and now we discuss Transformation and all the ways it changes us (heh). We have some feelings about character agency, the virtues of self-driven transformation vs. the non-consensual kind, and the use of metaphor, among others – and can we just say a special Thank You to Sarah for getting us to watch this masterpiece of 80’s camp horror?

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: Political blog posts linked from Twitter (like this one)
Martha: Animal Crossing Pocket Camp on mobile
Sarah: Live show from Maria Bamford

Pete is reading about depressing political stuff as per usual, but it does sound like his reading would be helpful to anyone trying to lie to the FBI (spoiler alert: don’t). Martha has once again been drawn into the seductive world of mobile gaming with the new Animal Crossing property, while Sarah, the lucky duck, got to experience Maria Bamford LIVE and IN PERSON.

We go a little long in this episode – I would apologize, but we got very swept up in the discussion of character agency, and that is a topic I (Martha) could discuss FOREVER. So be glad we didn’t go EVEN MORE longer! Anyway, in this episode we discuss the following broad questions:

  1. How do the characters in our homework transform? How do their physical, emotional or mental transformations inform their characters and character growth?
  2. Are these character transformations metaphors or stand-ins for anything? If so, what are they representing?
  3. What difference does self-induced vs. non-consensual transformation make to our characters?

We get a bit in the weeds on this one, but only in the most interesting ways, I promise. Our homework subjects run the gamut from pop stars to vampires to plastic surgery-obsessed teenagers, which makes for some extremely interesting parallels. Martha gets to blow Pete’s mind when she informs him that Uglies was written in 2005, paving the way for basically all dystopian supergirl fiction. We all get super excited about Fright Night because let’s be real, Prince Humperdink playing a vampire named Jerry is basically the best thing ever. We also get deep into a discussion about character agency and where the line is between agency and compulsion.

On December 20, we are joined by friend of the show Caitlin Flynn to discuss the (poorly worded, perhaps) topic of Moments of Character Transcendence. Our homework:

Martha: The Wee Free Men, 2003 novel by Terry Pratchett
Pete: Serenity, 2005 film directed by Joss Whedon and starring Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyck, and others
Caitlin: Wynonna Earp, 2016 TV show, episodes 1.02 (“Keep the Home Fires Burning”) and 2.12 (“I Hope You Dance”)

Follow us online @DYDYHpodcast, e-mail us at show@homeworkpodcast.com, and find us on Facebook.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @tinyrevOKC and Instagram @tiny.revelations. Check out her Etsy store Tiny Revelations, where you can find very cute art, cards, and now even shadow boxes (which make great gifts).

And remember, if you have questions, comments, or ideas for a show, give us a shoutout here or send us an e-mail to show@homeworkpodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in supplementary material

Ambition: Not as Unflattering on a Lady as You Might Think

(Written by Martha S.)

Why does Macbeth get to be a tragic figure, and Lady Macbeth the maligned instigator? Why is it a common sight in rom-coms for career-driven women to get “caught” by a romantic lead? Why are ambitious women so frequently tarred as bad people in narratives?

Look, if you’ve been around the blog at all you know I’m pretty passionate about gender dynamics in media – I’ve tried to make it an episode theme, but it feels too big right now, so it’s been back-burnered until I can get a better handle on it. Until then, it’s probably where my mind is going to go most frequently following an episode, especially when we don’t get a chance to touch on it while recording. In our last episode, we did briefly light on the subject of gendered ambition: specifically, that while ambition in general is usually a negative character trope, men are more frequently allowed to be ambitious (or driven, or passionate, or goal-oriented, whatever) than women without being narratively punished for it.

Women are culturally trained to think of all other women as competition. Because the world is constantly comparing us to each other, we grow up comparing ourselves to each other, and are usually trained to find ourselves the one that’s wanting. We’re not allowed to call ourselves the best, or to find ourselves the superior one – in an environment that demands that someone be “the best.” To do so is to be branded stuck up, conceited, a bitch. Ask any girl who’s accepted a compliment on a dating app how fast that turns into “You’re not actually that pretty.”

Media is a reflection of cultural attitude. So we get narratives with harpies, with shrill wives, with backstabbing mean girls, with cold career women who just need the right man to warm them up and put a baby in them. And you get people like me, who are going to shove the opposite narrative at you in the hopes that some day, by boosting these stories, we’ll drown out the people who say that girls can’t be friends.

Without further adieu: narratives featuring girls who are ambitious and also great.

Abigail Rook in the young adult series Jackaby by William Ritter, first book published in 2014. Abigail leaves her wealthy family in England to pursue a life that encompasses more than just playing the piano, getting married, and looking pretty. She is an aspiring archaeologist who becomes an accidental assistant to a supernatural investigator. Abigail’s ambition is interesting because it grows over the course of the series – in book one, she has mostly unformed desires to do something with her life, instead of being consigned to the house. She originally goes on an archaeological dig that ends up being mostly farce, and when she realizes that, she moves on to more and bigger opportunities.

Diana Prince, also known as Wonder WomanDiana’s opening line in the 2017 film directed by Patty Jenkins is “I used to want to save the world.” Indeed, this origin story is not only about a woman dreaming of ending all war – it’s about the only woman who actually can. Her aspirations are noble and lofty, and the narrative makes it pretty damn clear that they’re attainable, as well.

Jane Grey in the 2016 novel My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. This fantastical retelling of the story of Lady Jane Grey imagines Jane as an intellectual who prefers books to boys, who would rather use a sudden political opportunity to actually improve her home country than for personal gain, and ultimately as an alive person (which is less than what history gives her, I’m afraid). Jane discovers she has a taste for ambition when her family uses her as a political pawn, only to discover that she won’t be used for other people’s purposes – no, if she is to have power, she is going to use it the way she sees fit.

Judy Hopps in the 2016 animated film Zootopia, directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore. Judy Hopps is a bunny in a big world full of predators, and she defies all expectations to become the first bunny cop in the city of Zootopia. And she does so in a montage that makes me cry every time.

Peggy Olson from the critically acclaimed 2007 tv series Mad Men, created by Matthew Weiner. From the secretary pool to ad professional in her own right, Peggy is a great example of a lady that gets her career AND her man (spoilers for the end of Mad Men, I guess). She is also an example of a character that the internet doesn’t like very much! The internet can suck it, Peggy rules.

 

 

Posted in supplementary material

Episode 16: Follow-Up, Finally

(By Martha S.)

Good morning, all. This INCREDIBLY DELINQUENT blog post is coming to you courtesy of writer’s block, which is not an excuse – any creative worth their salt will tell you that writer’s block is for amateurs, and that true professionals will strap in and work their way through it. Let’s never mind the fact that I am not actually a professional podcaster, merely a pretender to that throne, and actually get on to the meat of the matter.

We started posting follow-up blog entries to our episodes to explore questions, topics or media that we don’t have time to cover in our hour-and-change episodes. Sometimes, those posts are easy for me to write – the topics we pick are rich, and the constraints of mortal time mean we can’t cover everything we may want to talk about in only 60 minutes. Sometimes, the topics don’t resonate with me as much; not because they’re not Good Topics, Brent but simply because every person has different things they find deeply relevant and can talk about for hours.

Clearly, “You Can’t Go Home Again” is a topic I find interesting, but not resonant, otherwise this post would have gone up on Thursday like it was supposed to and I wouldn’t be sweating like I had a list-minute school essay to write (see what I did there?). I’ve been trying to understand why that is – certainly it is an idea that I, as a 30-year-old woman who went away from college and has moved through four different apartments post-living in my childhood home, have a familiarity with. And I think I have finally come to some sort of understanding about why I find it difficult to write about: I think all stories, in some way or another, include an aspect of this, which makes it almost overwhelming to examine under a microscope.

Think of it like this: changing identity is a core theme in YA literature. Frequently, this involves our main character realizing that the things that have been familiar and comfortable to them (their home, their family, their lifestyle, their sexuality, whatever), is not actually who they are. Cue their search for themselves, whether that’s an introspective or outward search. When they find themselves, the familiar is no longer comforting. Home is no longer home.

Literally all Epic Quest stories feature YCGHA(tm). Literally all Hero’s Journey stories feature it. Any story with a character growth arc will have an element of it. Like the Hero’s Journey (or perhaps in conjunction with? Discuss in the comments), YCGHA is a pervasive theme throughout storytelling.

Where am I going with this? I’m not sure. But it’s interesting to think about, because overthinking things is what we do around here.

(To make this entry not completely a self-indulgent wankfest, here are some supplementary things to read/watch on our theme. They are all excellent stories and I hope you enjoy experiencing them, even if they give you existential angst.)

Exit, Pursued by a Bear, 2016 novel by E.K. Johnston
Firefly,
2002 TV series created by Joss Whedon
Grosse Pointe Blank, 1997 film directed by George Armitage
Outlander,
novels by Diana Gabaldon and TV series developed by Ronald D. Moore
Runaways, 2003 comic series originally by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona
Stardust
, 1999 novel by Neil Gaiman and 2007 film directed by Matthew Vaughn

Posted in supplementary material

Episode 15 Follow-Up: Forgiveness of the Self

(Written by Martha S.)

Let’s talk about self forgiveness real quick.

One of the things we talk about at length in our last episode is whether or not granting oneself forgiveness is valid or not. We talk about forgiveness as a two-way street, and I believe some pretty strong words are used in relation to Briony seeking to forgive herself for the lies she told during Atonement. I will admit to you now, dear readers, that I don’t remember what side of the argument I came down on in the episode; if I was against the concept, I am now revealed to you as a fraud and charlatan, because I’m about to talk to you about narratives that hinge on self-forgiveness as a means of character growth.

I recently finished listening to We Were Liars by E. Lockhart on audiobook, which was a fascinating listening experience, as the story unfolds in fits and starts as Cadence, the main character, recovers her memories of a summer previous when something terrible happened (but no one will tell her what). She has returned to the island owned by her grandfather, which serves as a family summer destination, to spend the summer with her three best friends before they start leaving for college. The only thing is, as the summer progresses and Cadence’s memories return, you (the reader) realize that not only did something horrible happen, but that Cadence was the cause of it – and only by remembering and acknowledging what she did, and forgiving herself for it, can Cadence move on from it.

Here is where that difference between forgiveness and absolution comes in as well, I think – Cadence forgiving herself for what she did does not absolve her blame or guilt, but at least puts her in a position where she can recover mentally from what happened (in the case of We Were Liars, the tragedy was an accident caused by rashness and foolhardiness, and whether or not Cadence forgives herself, this doesn’t change – what CAN change is whether or not she learns from, and moves on from, the accident).

In Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (one of my favorite emerging YA talents – his superb debut novel The Serpent King won the Morris Award last year for best debut novel by a new author in the YA world), Carver Briggs is dealing with the fact that his three best friends died in a car accident probably caused by one of them answering a text from him while driving. While I as an adult human can look at that and say “It is not your fault, Carver, for sending that text – your friend should not have been texting and driving, that was a choice he made without you,” Carver is a teenager without such insight and spends the novel trying to reconcile his continued existence while his friends are buried one by one. He seeks to be able to forgive himself, while pursuing the forgiveness of the families of his friends.

Did you think I wouldn’t find a way to link in Hannibal? YOU THOUGHT WRONG, DEAR READER. (Honestly, it was either this or Supernatural, since those shows encompass so very many of my favorite storytelling tropes.) Season 3, episode 2, “Primavera,” largely deals with Will Graham coming to terms with the fact that he’s willing to forgive Hannibal for the events of the past two seasons – I like this example because the forgiveness itself isn’t in doubt, simply Will’s acceptance of that within himself.

Last, for something I haven’t figured out how to work into conversation about seventeen thousand times, consider the movie Captain America: Civil War. One could argue that many, nay, all of the events in that film are the result of Tony Stark seeking a way to forgive himself for the events of Age of Ultron. He sees a way to moderate his guilt about creating a homicidal AI that destroyed a country by yoking the superhero group he’s been kind of de facto in charge of for two movies to a larger governing body. He may as well be screaming “Please love me again, I promise I’m a good boy.”

I would also argue that he never figures out how to forgive himself in this particular film, which is why he can’t fully commit to Cap’s side of the argument. But forgiveness is a process, whether it’s facilitated by oneself or someone else.

Posted in episodes

Episode 15: Forgiveness

The homework for the episode:
Martha: The Walls Around Us, 2015 novel by Nova Ren Suma
Pete: Doctor Who S9 e6 “The Girl Who Died” and s9 e7 “The Girl Who Lived” (2-parter)
Maren: Atonement (2007 movie directed by Joe Wright, starring Kiera Knightly and James McAvoy)

Amber is in a high security prison for violent girls. Violet is a dancer on the path to Julliard. Orianna is the strange girl who unites them both, in a story about the walls we build and that are built for us.

The Doctor saves a girl, and a Viking town, and realizes he has duties beyond simply saving a life.

A girl sees something she thinks she understands, but what she says afterward causes grief and heartbreak for many in this World War II drama.

Our theme this week is forgiveness as we plumb the depths of some…pretty strange stories, to be honest. Stories that we have a lot of strong feelings about!

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: Iron & Wine’s new album, Beast Epic
Martha: Season 4 of Top Chef
Maren: CityLab article by David Lepeska: “How Bon Iver Saved Eau Claire

Let’s get this out of the way: Martha is a garbage reality tv show fan and at some point she’s going to make her hosts watch some episodes of…something. For now, she’s basking in the glory of Stephanie Izard’s win on Top Chef as the first lady winner. Pete thinks Martha probably has heard a lot more Iron & Wine than she thinks, and both he and Maren lose it a little when she mentions she may have seen him at Jazz Fest? Maybe? Maren gets to school everyone on how Bon Iver is revitalizing Wisconsonian territory.

And then…and then we all had a lot of feelings.

Big Questions for Forgiveness

    1. How successful are characters in achieving forgiveness?
    2. Should characters pay a price in their quest for forgiveness? What price do they pay?
    3. Does forgiveness need to be reciprocal?
    1. What function is forgiveness playing in the narratives?
    2. Are forgiveness and absolution the same thing?

Martha’s not a Doctor Who fan, don’t @ her. We dig deep into semantics here, and it may be the first episode where that’s a good thing! Across all three media, we encounter characters who are seeking forgiveness in some capacity or another: from their loved ones, from themselves, on behalf of themselves. Are they successful? What defines success? Is, perhaps, the act of seeking forgiveness enough to warrant it? We also get meta and look at what role we as an audience have in being able to forgive characters. This is a good ep for looking at how an audience interacts with a narrative, and how that may or may not effect the way in which you interpret a story – having more emotional cache with a character from a serial narrative, for example.

On September 13, we’re talking about how You Can’t Go Home Again with special guest Cory Ruegg. Your homework for next episode:

Pete: The Fifth Elephant, 1999 novel by Terry Pratchett (part of the Discworld series
Martha: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014 film directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and starring Chris Evans
Cory: Gone Home, 2013 PC game available on STEAM

Follow us online @DYDYHpodcast, e-mail us at show@homeworkpodcast.com, and find us on Facebook!

And remember, if you have questions, comments, or ideas for a show, give us a shoutout here or send us an e-mail to show@homeworkpodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in supplementary material

Episode 14 Follow-Up: A+ Leaders Who Are Also Women

(By Martha S.)

You may have deduced by now that gender portrayals are important to me in the media I consume – I am very prone to loving things that feature fully-realized, interesting, multifaceted women (notice I did not say “strong” – strength means many things, and I am just as likely to love a female character who is whiny and evil as I am to love one that is strong and likable). The gender disparity in the materials we talked about last week is bugging me, because I do try to pick media for the show that presents a range of experience and characters and obviously I need to do better. With that in mind, here is a bevy of women who lead in some way, whether successful or not, charismatic or not, likable or not. Because it is important to remember that while there are obviously brilliant and inspiring women leaders in fiction, there are also women who fail, and their failure as leaders does not equal their failure as characters.

Wynonna Earp, Wynonna Earp (2016 tv show by showrunner Emily Andras and starring Melanie Scrofano)
Long have I searched for a show that could ease the Supernatural-shaped hole in my heart, ever since it went to hell and I realized it hated women. Wynonna Earp seems to be doing just that. In brief, the titular character, the great-granddaughter of the infamous Wyatt Earp, is back in her hometown with Earp’s gun and a mission: kill the outlaws Earp originally laid to rest, who are cursed to come back from the dead every time the heir to the Earp name dies and the mantle is passed to a new heir. Wynonna is a booze-soaked, vulgar, rude, and frequently selfish character and I love her – she’s also becoming an increasingly more effective leader of her ragtag support group with every episode. The qualities that make Wynonna worthy of following? Pragmatism, street smarts, efficiency, and a strong sense for when her people need to take a break (also her little sister Waverly is the best and cutest exposition-fountain anyone could ask for).

Mirabel, Arsinoe, and Katharine, Three Dark Crowns (novel by Kendare Blake)
This fantasy YA novel features three wanna-be queens engaged in a fatal battle for supremacy. In the world of the novel, when the queen of Fennbirn dies, the crown is passed on to one of three sisters – each has a magical gift that they use to try and eliminate their competition. In Three Dark Crowns, the perspective rotates amongst the three sisters, who each are raised by a different group of people and trained to rule. It’s an effective story about the people who shape leaders, the influence they can have, and how a potential leader can either mitigate or succumb to that influence. By the end any one of them could be an effective Queen (although you’re getting very different flavors of leadership: clear and direct from Arsinoe, traditional and regal from Mirabel, cunning and grabbing from Katharine).

Eadlyn Schreave, The Heir (novel by Kiera Cass)
Gonna put this out right in front: The Selection novels (of which this is technically #4) are cotton candy novels. They are wonderful fluff. They are full of romance and pretty dresses and sometimes occasionally Cass remembers there’s kind of a story? This is more true in The Heir and its follow-up The Crown, wherein Princess Eadlyn is conducting her version of The Bachelor and also learning how to be Queen. I will also put this out front: Eadlyn is a TERRIBLE leader. She has no sense of how to inspire loyalty, is incredibly entitled, has no work-life balance, and can’t read a room to save her life. She’s intellectually intelligent and completely people-stupid. I would argue that the novels she stars in are actually the story of someone realizing they should absolutely not step into a leadership role, finding an alternative, and implementing that, rather than the story of someone learning how to be Queen.

Dorothy Vaughn, Hidden Figures (2016 film directed by Theodore Melfi and starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae)
I’m singling out Octavia Spencer as Vaughn in particular because she’s in charge of the team that Henson and Monae begin the film working out of. She’s overworked, underpaid, and has no guarantee that she’ll ever get the recognition she deserves – but she still identifies a threat to her staff, learns its ins and outs, teaches her staff the skills necessary to operate the giant computer, and makes them all instantly indispensable. Not only is Vaughn capable, intelligent, and resourceful, but she cares about the women who work with her, and goes extra lengths to ensure they have job security as well. Everyone in Hidden Figures is admirable, but Spencer brings a steely determination to Vaughn that I found incredibly admirable.

Posted in episodes

Episode 11: Grief & Grieving

Better late than never, right, y’all?

The homework for the episode:
Pete: The Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the Pitchfork review of the album, and the Wikipedia page for it
Martha: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
Calee: Scrubs, episodes 5.20 and 5.21

A musician familiar with the sounds and strains of death exorcises his grief through a brief, but haunting, album.

Mara Carlyle, high school senior, leads a pretty normal (albeit substance-fueled) life – until her schoolmates start spontaneously combusting.

Dr. Perry Cox makes a call with the best information he has, which kills three patients. This is the aftermath.

Grief is something that everyone experiences in some shape or form during their lifetimes, and pop culture can help us develop the tools to deal with and overcome it. We thread our way through three stories that show us how characters overcome their grief, and also how an artist can use his art to express it.

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: Plizzanet Earth
Martha: Awful Squad: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds stream from Polygon (here)
Calee: “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” trailer

Martha’s new zen place is watching Polygon employees get shot a lot in Battlegrounds; we debate how long is too long for an animated short before a Disney movie; and Pete tries to explain Snoop Dogg to Martha (J/K; she gets Snoop Dogg, she just doesn’t quite grokk his unique method of speech).

Martha also mentions the trailer for the upcoming Disney/Pixar feature Coco, which you can watch here.

Pop Culture and Mental Health: Discussion Questions and Big Ideas

  1. How do media portrayals of grief and loss align with “typical” experiences?
  2. Does knowing the story behind a highly personal work of media change the way we view it? How?
  3. How can media/pop culture help people deal with loss, both as consumers and creators?
  4. How do others respond to those grieving? What responsibility do we have to people?

There’s a whole lot to unpack here, and not just the notion (a carry-over from last episode) that the idea of “normal people” and the “normal way” of dealing with things is a whole lot of B.S. We all agree that one of the things media can do is normalize the fact that there IS no one way of dealing with grief, but that seeing characters we love go through the grieving process can help us when we suddenly have a heft of it and no tools of our own to process it.

We’re getting our Joseph Campbell on in our next episode, which is going to be all about The Hero’s Journey. Background reading of The Man With the Thousand Faces is 100% optional (PETER). Enjoy doing your homework!

Your homework for June 28:
Martha: The Book of Life
Calee: Shrek (the first one)
Pete: The “Beren and Luthien” chapter from The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkein

And remember, if you have questions, comments, or ideas for a show, give us a shoutout here or send us an e-mail to show@homeworkpodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you!