Monthly Archives: May 2014

Book vs Film: Queen of the Damned

As bad an adaption as Interview with the Vampire is, it is a fact, universally acknowledged, that Queen of the Damned is so much worse. Warner Bros. had ten years to make films out of the first three Vampire Chronicle novels; Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned. The studio was already into its last year of owning the rights before they would have transferred back Anne Rice, so in a frantic rush the remaining two books were squished into one movie which just barely resembled its source material.

Characters:

In my blog about Interview with the Vampire, I pointed out that one of the most drastic changes of the film were the difference in character designs. Queen of the Damned has very similar issues, there are also a number of key characters who were just ignored. To name a few; Louis de Pointe du Lac (remember him from the first film?), Nicolas de Lenfent (a personal favourite of mine), Gabrielle (Lestats mother), Baby Jenks and the Fang Gang, Daniel, Mekare, etc.

Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire was a pretty accurate depiction of Lestat de Lioncourt. He turned down the role, which was instead given to Stuart Townsend. So instead of our blond haired, blue eyed Frenchman, we get;

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No you are not. I actually think Stuart Townstead behaved more like Lestat when he was depicting Dorian Grey in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

We also have Marius. Marius is described in the book as being a tall Roman, with long blond hair. The film variant doesn’t have quite the same impact.

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But a large part of Marius’ characterisation was that he had dibs on the colour red, so at least they got that right.

Similarly, we have David, who is seventy years old (until The Tale of the Body Thief, where he gets a hot new body). The David in the film isn’t quite as aged as his original counterpart, probably to hint that he could have a relationship with Jesse without it being creepy.

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Remember the terrible depiction of Armand in Interview with the Vampire? Well, our red headed cherub now looks like this:

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Yeah, I don’t think they tried either.

Plot Changes:

The film focuses mainly on Lestat, which is a shame because the novel Queen of the Damned skipped around a lot, showing what different vampires were doing whilst Lestat was gearing up to his concert. One of the best of these subplots was the relationship between Armand and Daniel, and I will forever be upset that this got no screen time. Just look at these cuties:

Once Armand had dragged Daniel out of bed in New Orleans and shouted at him: “That telephone, I want you to dial Paris, I want to see if you can really talk to Paris.”

“Goddam it, do it yourself,” Daniel had roared “You’re five hundred years old and you can’t use a telephone? Read the directions. What are you? An immortal idiot? I will do no such thing!” How surprised Armand had looked. “All right, I’ll call Paris for you. But you pay the bill.”

“But of course,” Armand had said innocently. He had drawn dozens of hundred-dollar bills out of his coat, sprinkling them on Daniels bed.

I can see why they focus is predominantly on Lestat, as the premise for the film was it combines The Vampire Lestat with Queen of the Damned. However, they might as well have just skipped The Vampire Lestat all together as they did almost nothing about Lestat’s history and what they did, they got wrong. Nicholas and Gabrielle were completely ignored, which is a shame as they had a massive impact on Lestats development. Then there’s the artistic license of Marius being Lestat’s creator. In the novel, Lestat works as a performer and is stalked by Magnus who kidnaps him and turns him into a vampire shortly before burning himself. This explains why in the first film, Lestat references that he had no choice in his becoming a vampire and that he was never taught the finer aspects of being a vampire. Marius is instead Armands creator, but this is changed for the film and if you accept that Marius was Lestats maker, Lestat just seems like a bit of a jerk when he won’t tell Louis anything that he learnt. On a similar note, Marius didn’t turn Daniel into a vampire either. He seems to keep getting the blame for that…

If you want a more accurate depiction of Lestats history, you’re probably better off checking out the Elton John musical ‘The Vampire Lestat’. The script is pretty terrible and it’s easy to see how it was cancelled, but there are videos floating about and it’s worth taking a look at.

Due to the increased focus on Lestat, the film misses out the biggest plot point of Queen of the Damned; the tale of the twins. The twins Maharet and Mekare (who was left out of the film completely) were witches in Ancient Egypt. When they tried to eat their mother’s heart and brain at her funeral (following their customs), Akasha sent out an army who killed everyone and kidnapped the twins. The twins were raped by Khayman as punishment and Maharet had a baby (which is how she has human descendants). Mekare called on a spirit, Amel, to help her and the spirit developed a taste for blood, and ended up in the body of Akasha, who became the first vampire. This was completely left out of the films and nothing about the history of vampires is explained other than the fact that Akasha is the oldest around.

By cutting out a lot of Lestats back story, what they kept in needed to be altered to make sense. So in the film, Lestat plays the violin which just happens to fly off and alert him to the presence of the secret chamber. First off, Lestat was never a musician. He was an actor and Nicholas was the musician, known for his violin playing. Of course, they cut Nicholas out of Lestats history, something that I can never forgive them for. Similarly, in the book Marius shows Lestat the temple which he made, instead of Lestat just happening to stumble across it; a much flimsier plot-point.

As well as ignoring the history of the vampires, Queen of the Damned misunderstands Rices physiology. In the film, Lestat is able to walk out into the sun unharmed. Which isn’t how vampires work. At his strongest point in the books, Lestat flies as high as he can towards the sun during daylight and, although he does survive, he suffers very extreme burns. However, this film does introduce Rice’s depiction of vampires crying blood which is interesting as the Interview with the Vampire movie ignored this completely.

Interview with the Vampire very obviously glossed over the homo-eroticism of its source material. Similarly in Queen of the Damned, instead of being reunited with Louis, Lestat ends up with Jesse. Lestat does have female lovers during the course of the books, but never Jesse. It seems more like an attempt to give him a typical ‘happy ever after’ in which he gets the girl.

Interestingly the most accurate part of the film is an exchange between Marius and Armand which was deleted from the final cut:

Marius: Armand?
Armand: You thought I was dead and gone…
Marius: You sound bitter.

If you’ve read Blood and Gold, you’ll know that this is pretty hilarious, given the relationship between the pair. This is also the scene were a lot of the Ancients were introduced, so if you haven’t read the books, you’ll have absolutely no idea who these characters are. Poorly played movie.

That’s all I have to say for this review. Let me know what you think about this awful adaption. In closing, I’ll leave you my favourite piece of movie trivia:

Stuart Townsend (who played Lestat) shares his name with a character from another Anne Rice novel, The Witching Hour. Upon meeting Townsend, Rice handed him a copy of the book and instructed him to turn to a certain page number, whereupon was written ‘The Life of Stuart Townsend’. Townsend was flattered that she had written him into her new book, until she told him that she had written it eleven years prior.

 

Book vs Film: Interview with the Vampire

‘Interview with the Vampire’ by Anne Rice has possibly the worst film adaptions in existence, with the exception being its sequel, but I’ll get to that travesty later…

I’m always surprised when Anne Rice’s name appears on the opening credits, indicating that she wrote the screen play. However, I recently learnt that despite the fact that the opening screen credits read “Screenplay by Anne Rice based on her novel”, the script was actually heavily edited by the director Neil Jordan and the Writers Guild rules meant that Rice got credit despite the alterations. This makes more sense given the drastic deviations from the original storyline, but I have seen some references to Anne Rice being incredibly pleased with the adaptation, calling is a “masterpiece”. So it’s difficult to tell exactly how she feels about the differences.

Characters:

One of the most noticeably difference comes from the depictions of the main characters.

Tom Cruise is the closest to resembling his character, however he did have to be placed on an elevated platform during some scenes to reduce the height difference between his character and other vampires. The largest difference is the pronunciation of his name, in the novels it’s made very clear that Lestat is pronounced Les-dot, due to his French background. All in all, the depiction of Lestat was alright (until the sequel, but that’s a whole other blog post).

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Similarly, Brad Pitt is pretty similar to Louis, he may have the wrong hair colour (Louis is described as having black hair), but overall Louis looks pretty much like he should.
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Daniel however, looks nothing like he should. In the books, Daniel has blond hair, violet eyes, and is a great deal younger than he’s depicted in the film, in the first book he’s only referred to as ‘The boy’. The film also manages to misspell his surname, instead of Daniel Molloy we get Daniel Malloy who looks nothing like his origins;

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I can see why Claudia is depicted differently in the film. The original Claudia is a six year old who has the mind of a fully-functioning adult. It would be incredibly difficult to cast a six year old that fits the bill, so I’ll let them off with the twelve year old

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However, I can’t forgive them for what they did to Armand. In the books, Armand is a red-headed, cherub-looking teenager who was born in Russia and then raised then in Italy. And who do we get…?

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That’s right folks! Antonio Banderas. Not who I was picturing either…

Plot Changes:

The most glaringly difference between the film and the books is the lack of gay vampires. The Vampire Chronicles are well known for their homo-eroticism which they tried to cover up throughout the film. One of the best scenes in the novel is where shortly after turning Louis into a vampire, Lestat reveals that he has conveniently forgotten that Louis would need a separate coffin, and thus the pair have to sleep together. This was obviously ‘too gay’ for the film, and Louis instead occasionally shares a coffin with Claudia.

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The film is constantly pushing the fact the idea that Louis and Claudia are involved, however in the original material the trio create a family with Lestat as the father, Louis as the mother and Claudia as their daughter. This cover up of the characters homosexuality means that the ending of the film had to be changed, where Louis and Armand end up together in the book, the couple almost share a kiss on screen and then go their separate ways. Similarly, a lot of the back stories of the characters were changed and in Louis’ case this appears to be an attempt to solidify his heterosexuality. Instead of the cause of Louis’ depression being the death of his brother, Louis was instead given a wife and children for his angsty back story.

There are also a number of issues with the depiction of vampires’ physiology. When turning Louis, Lestat appears to fly, which is an ability he doesn’t gain until far later on in the book series. Furthermore, when the vampires cry in the film, they cry normal tears. Anne Rice’s vampires are supposed to cry blood, a trait which is better depicted in the True Blood TV series.

The ending of the film suggests that Lestat turned Daniel in to a vampire. Which isn’t at all what happened in the novel. Daniel wanted to find Lestat, but found Armand instead. The pair started a relationship and Daniel wasn’t turned into a vampire until the third novel in which Daniel is dying from alcohol poisoning and Armand finds that he has no other choice than to turn him.

Overall, a lot of the plot is drastically changed, and Interview with the Vampire is a pretty good example of the systematic erasure of queer characters in the media. Which isn’t exactly what you’d expect if you’ve read the books…

Let me know what you think! Did you love or hate the adaptation of Interview with the Vampire? Did it live up to your expectations? Let me know in the comments.

The Symbolism Behind the Marauders.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, for my first assignment for my Harry Potter class, I argued that “Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers, are proud to present, the Marauders Map” was the most important quote in the series, and I thought I’d share what I wrote. Now, I can’t exactly copy and paste my essay, but I can give a run down of why the Marauders are incredibly important to the Harry Potter universe.

The quote comes from page 144 of Prisoners of Azkaban and provides the first mention of the Marauders as a group. My main argument for this quotes importance was that it introduced the reader to another generation of magic which is intrinsic to the world of Harry Potter.

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Names of the Marauders:

Like the majority of Rowlings characters, the names of the marauders have a great deal of significance.

Remus Lupin (Moony): The name Remus, comes from Greek Mythology, referring to one of the twins who were raised by a she-wolf.Remus’ namesake is referenced in Deathly Hallows when Remus is featured on the radio programme ‘Potter Watch’ under the code name ‘Romulus’ (side note: if the Death Eaters couldn’t crack these codes then there weren’t particularly bright…). The name Lupin, refers to the latin ‘lupus’ which means ‘wolf’. So both of Remus’ names provide foreshadowing to him becoming a werewolf.

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Peter Pettigrew (Wormtail): The name Peter is possibly a reference to one of Christ’s apostles who denied Christ similar to the way that Pettigrew betrays his friends during the first wizarding war. His surname can be divided to form the words ‘Pet I Grew’ which may be a reference to his time as Ron’s pet rat; being the pet that grew.

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Sirius Black: The name Siriusis a reference to the ‘dog star’ of the constellation Canis Major (the Greater Dog). In Scandinavia, the star is referred to as ‘Lokabrenna’ meaning ‘Loki’s torch’. The connotations with the trickster God of Norse mythology is certainly relevant for the trouble maker.

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James Potter: The name James is a Hebrew name meaning “he who supplants” or the one who replaces. This seems an apt name for the man who replaces Snape in Lily’s eyes. Supplants can also means supersedes; indicating that he was actually better than Snape, in that Lily returned his affections. This also provides irony, as Sirius uses Harry as a replacement for James.

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Animagi:

Three of the marauders can transform into animals at will and each of their animals is particularly indicative of their personalties. ‘Rat’ is a slang word used to refer to snitches, which is suggestive of Peters deceitful nature, whereas dogs (such as Sirius) are known for their loyalty. The stag is symbolic of someone proud and noble, and was an image often used by old English kings. This imagery is particularly relevant to James, the leader of the Marauders.

Gryffindor:

The Marauders were all sorted into Gryffindor and each of the characters displays the traits of his house in different ways, the house associated with the class of Transfiguration certainly seems a fitting home for the three animagi. However Gryffindor is regarded as being the house of the ‘good guys’ and later Peter is revealed as a traitor, making him a bad wizard who came from Gryffindor, proving that the houses the characters are placed in aren’t the sole indicator of personality.

The Good Guys?:

The reader views the Marauders through the eyes of the protagonist and this begins with Harrys hero-worship of his father, his god father Sirius and his professor Remus. However, this perception is shattered once Snape reveals the nature of the boys during their time at Hogwarts.  James and his friends are revealed as bullies “every bit as arrogant as Snape had always told him”. Both James and Sirius repeatedly bullied Snape, cheered on by Peter and although Remus never directly took part in the bullying, he did allow it to happen. There is further evidence of the boys bullying students other than Snape during their time at Hogwarts. It could be argued that this bullying represents an adolescent weakness of the Marauders and that it is something which they grew out of as they matured. Their time in the Order of the Phoenix may provide redemption from the morally questionable past-times of their childhood. However, there is still evidence of the boys bullying nature in Sirius’ bigoted treatment of the house elf, Kreacher.

Friendship is Magic:

Friendship is a reoccurring theme throughout Rowling’s novels and is a trait upheld diligently by the Marauders. This is particularly evident in their treatment of Remus after learning that he was a werewolf, instead of ostracising him; James, Sirius and Peter become unregistered animagi. In Deathly Hallows Remus states that James “would have regarded it as the height of dishonour to mistrust his friends” and in Prisoner of Azkaban, Peter says that he would have been killed if he hadn’t betrayed Lily and James and Sirius responds; “THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED! DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS, AS WE WOULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU!”

Legacy of the Map:

The title “purveyors of aids…” makes it seem like the Marauders once planned to open a joke shop of their own. This is a goal shared by the next owners of the map; Fred and George Weasley who find the map in Filches drawers. The map was then coincidentally passed down to Harry, the son of one of the original creators. Rowling stated that at some point Harry’s son James would steal the Marauders Map from his father’s desk drawer. It seems apt that the child to steal the map is James Sirius Potter, named after two members of the marauders, providing a sense of circularity to the maps ownership.

Those are just a few points about how symbolic the Marauders are, and how important they are to the storyline. Unfortunately, they don’t really get the love they deserve. The flashbacks to their childhood in the films was pretty minimal and the actors looked nothing like they were supposed to (did anyone really believe that Lily and James were 21 when they died in the films?). Thankfully, the fan-base is there to fill the void and there’s a wealth of fan made literature about my favorite pranksters. I will still sign any petition to get JK to write something more about them though…

 

Nostalgia Time: Cat’s Don’t Dance

Cats Don’t Dance is an incredibly underrated animated film. It was released in 1997 by the Warner Brothers studio and follows the story of Danny, a cat trying to break into show business in the 1930’s.

Main characters:
Our main couple has the typical romantic comedy relationship. At first they hate each other, well, Sawyer hates Danny. ‘Danny’s Arrival Song‘ is pretty much dedicated to him completely ruining her morning, including him setting her hat on fire and knocking her into a fountain. The pair are forced to work together on a movie, and (as the cliché dictates) Sawyer eventually falls for Danny’s charming nature.
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As clichéd as this is, I do really like these characters. Danny is incredibly entertaining, and is obvious incredibly passionate about his career.

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Sawyer is a lot more reserved after having given up on her dream years ago. After a little bit of persuasion, Sawyer eventually performs again and it’s clear that she has the same kind of passion as Danny. Which, in a way, makes them perfect for each other.

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Supporting cast:

The supporting cast of the movie have some pretty interesting designs and personalities.

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There’s Tillie Hippo, who tries her best to find the bright side of any situation and T.W, a nervous and incredibly superstitious turtle. There’s also Frances Albacore, a cranky old fish who acts as the dance partner to Cranston Goat. I never thought I’d ship a fish and a goat, but here we are. We also get Peabo “Pudge” Pudgemyer, a little penguin who acts as Danny’s sidekick (and who reminds me a bit too much of Chilly Willy…) and Wooly the Mammoth who acts as Danny’s mentor.

These characters are all pretty well rounded and we get a good glimpse into all of their pasts. The majority of the characters came to Hollywood with dreams similar to Dannys and have all suffered in the pursuit of their dreams. They serve as a warning for Danny and act as his motivation to change the underlying systems which exclude them from Hollywood.

Villain:

The main villain of the film is Darla Dimple, a Shirley Temple style child actor who always gets what she wants. Darla’s small stature and girlish looks don’t make her appear particularly threatening but she has a large enough temper and her gigantic bodyguard Max means that she has the muscle needed to carry out any of her whims. During Max’s first introduction, we see him beat up our protagonist  just for the crime of annoying Darla Dimple.

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Her looks are very deceptive and throughout the film she uses this to her advantage. All in all, Darla is a pretty badass villain.

Music:

Like most animated films, this is a musical and the film has two very distinct styles of music. Danny and the other animals represent the jazz style, this is particularly apparent in the song Animal Jam;

All of the animal’s songs are largely jazz numbers. Whereas Darla Dimple, the main human character, represents a more musical theatre style. This can be attributed to her role as a child star, where she’s made to sing songs like Little Boat on the Sea:

But the most interesting of Darla’s numbers is Big and Loud, which has a very distinct musical theatre style to it.

One of my favourite songs in the movie is the reprise of Big and Loud, which I talked about in a previous blog about Non-Disney Villain Songs. Before this part of the film, it’s hard to take Darla seriously as a villain, she’s just a bratty little kid throwing temper tantrums. But this song reveals just how far she’ll go to hurt others if it means protecting her own career and in my opinion it’s one of the best villain songs out there.

(skip to 0:50 for the song)

The dichotomy of Jazz vs Musical Theatre is interesting as it creates a firm divide between the characters and it’s a good representation of the changing nature of Hollywood at that time with the rising popularity of the jazz style.

Gene Kelly worked as a consultant for the dance scenes which means that a lot of them are pretty realistic movements despite the cartoon nature of the subjects. This film was Gene Kelly’s last project and because of this, the film is dedicated to him. There are even references to him in the film, such as his cement hand and footprints at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre forecourt being seen in the opening musical number despite the fact that he didn’t place them there until years after the movie took place.

Allegory of the movie:

Viewing the film again now that I’m older, I kind of get the feel that it was designed to be an allegory to the struggles of minority actors breaking into show business at the time. This is particularly relevant due to the era that the film is set in (the 1930’s) and the fact that the animal characters are involved in the jazz movement. I’m trying not to dwell on the representations of black actors as being animals… but it is true that the animals could easily be replaced with actors from ethnic minorities and the plot and morals of the story wouldn’t change. This is strengthened by the fact that all of the human characters are white and Darla pretty much represents the idealised Aryan child. Of course, this is entirely open to interpretation and the producers have never stated that there’s an underlying message behind the content, but for me the representation of racism at the time is pretty clear.

Cat’s Don’t Dance received a lot of poor reviews and its failure at the box office means that plans for a sequel were inevitably scrapped. I however absolutely love this movie and would encourage you to check it out if you haven’t seen it already.

What do you guys think? Do you love the film or hate it? Let me know in the comments.

Did we really need Tauriel?

One of the most notable changes in the new Hobbit films is the addition of a new female character, the elf Tauriel.

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I’m not sure how I feel about this change to the source material. The Lord of the Rings series is notably absent of female characters, but this can be attributed to the setting of the story, in the context of war you’re a lot more likely to encounter male characters, especially in a medieval setting.

Now, equal representation is important and I can see why they thought that adding another women would be a good idea, especially as the only female who reappears in the prequel is Galadriel. But we already had some pretty badass female characters. For example:

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And I probably would have welcomed the change if Tauriel was equally as badass, and in some respects she is. She’s captain of the Elven guard and fights as well as any of the male characters. However, they did give her one of the typically female story lines in existence.

She’s so damn perfect that two guys have fallen in love with her and she in turn ends up falling for a dwarf in the stereotypical Romeo and Juliet situation. This is pretty much a rehash of the Aragon/ Arwen relationship just with bigger stakes since elves and dwarves hate each other so much (although it is interesting that she went for the dwarf who looks the least like an actual dwarf…). With the Aragon/ Arwen relationship there was a lot of exploration into the dynamics of the relationship, particularly in the difference in mortality. I’m pretty confident that we won’t get this by the third hobbit movie. Despite the gross over-extension of what really should have just been one movie, chances are very little time will be spent developing the relationship, it’s more likely to be presented as a big moral dilemma for Tauriel resulting in a quick romantic climax. And this is time that could have been better spent creating the persona of a warrior, which Tauriel really should be.

What do you guys think? Was the addition of Tauriel welcomed? Or, like me, are you sick of seeing  the same old story-lines?

Why it sucks to be a female comic-book fan: Clothing

I’ve already written a blog about the outfits which female superheroes are made to wear, but what about the outfits created for real life female fans of superheroes? As I female fan of the superhero genre, I found early on that I was better off looking for clothing in the mens department of shops. I had to do this because the female oriented clothing was oddly gendered. Here’s a few examples of shirts other people have bought me:

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As you can see, these designs are focused on the fact that girls want to date superheros. Now, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t date Peter Parker if given the chance, but I don’t think that this should be the sole focus of the designs marketed to women.

Thankfully, with the new series of Marvel films, something awesome happened. I went into Primark one day to find a load of female t-shirts which just display the fact that women like comics. Here’s a couple of the ones I’ve bought:

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It’s an actual miracle, and I’m so proud that merchandise aimed at the female audience aren’t solely “I want to date a superhero” anymore.

What do you guys think? Have you found any ridiculously gendered merchandise recently? Let me know.

Big Bang Theory: Social Anxiety

I’ve already talked about how terribly the writers of Big Bang Theory tackle asexuality in this blog post. But there is another major issue with the Big Bang Theory; the way they tackle social anxiety.

In the episode ‘The Bon Voyage Reaction’ Raj attempts to integrate his girlfriend Lucy into his group of friends, despite her problems with social anxiety. Whilst introducing his Lucy to Amy, Raj says “you can’t put her on the spot like that, she hates being put on the spot.” And then instantly ‘puts her on the spot’. This isn’t funny, it’s cruel. And Raj when pushes the subject regarding their relationship status, Lucy gets so overwhelmed that she locks herself in the bathroom, which Raj instantly dismisses as not being serious, despite the fact that she’s having a break-down.

He even interrupts when Amy is sympathising with Lucy’s condition, saying that; “You can’t talk about social anxiety with someone who’s socially anxious, it makes them anxious”. This isn’t clever wordplay, it’s Raj feeling like he knows what’s best for Lucy and taking away her voice on the subject, which it likely to make her condition worse.

One of the main thing that upsets me is that throughout her appearances, Lucy’s anxiety isn’t taken seriously, it’s just another horrendously offensive punchline.

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In the same episode, Lucy understandably breaks up with Raj, who has been putting way too much pressure on her to attend a party, and she’s treated like the bad guy. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Raj, despite the fact that it is 100% his own fault. Raj even gets a happy ending, as towards the episode he is suddenly cured from his inability to speak to women with absolutely no explanation. So they you go folks, have a social anxiety disorder? Endure a break up. That’ll solve anything.

I really need to stop watching big bang theory. It just upsets me…