Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Art Gallery of South Australia | what studying Art History is really about

The Art Gallery is one of my favourite places to visit, even more so since studying Art History. Art History has given me a curiosity and openness about looking at the possible meanings in art and how that meaning is made through colour, style, medium, etc., regardless of whether I like it or not.

The great thing about studying Art History (studying English is much the same) is it teaches you and gives you the confidence to engage with art. It’s not about over analysing or saying an artist (or writer) was completely conscious of the array of meanings to be found in their work. It’s about learning to interrupt the ways, as humans, we create meaning and how the ideas and ideals of a time are reflected within art and literature.

One of my lecturers warned learning to analyse and think more critically about art and literature can interrupt your ability to just simply enjoy things until you reach a stage when you can enjoy and analyse simultaneously. Luckily I haven’t found it a problem so far, mostly it’s just made me much more curious.

And now I go to the gallery, not just for the atmosphere and architecture but actually for the art.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Why Representation Matters | thoughts on representation and the thirteenth doctor

Representation is a topic I’m immensely interested in in my studies and passionate about in my writing and, with the recent announcement of the thirteen doctor, it seemed like an apt time for a post on that very topic.

Stories are powerful, they can influence the way we see and think about people and ideas, they can comfort us by reflecting our likeness and challenge us by showing us a different way of being and experiencing the world, all while entertaining and enthralling us.

‘The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognising how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.’ - We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 34

My approach and interest in representation revolves primarily around women and gender in the fictional sphere. My goals in writing are about creating better, more diverse representation for women. How people are represented in stories affects how we, subconsciously, view ourselves and others, that’s why I think putting women into more central roles that don’t abide by old ideals is vital to helping to end gender stereotypes.

There’s a challenge that comes with all change, though, the status quo is comfortable and familiar and when someone tries to change that it can feel confronting and unnecessary. Which brings me to the recent casting of the thirteenth doctor in BBC’s Doctor Who, one of my favourite tv shows. The casting of Jodie Whittaker was predictably controversial, when a new doctor is announced the news is usually met with apprehension, but her being a woman complicated matters.

Whilst, I’ll admit, I’m a bit worried about this change, it’s mainly that I don’t want the show itself to make a big deal out of the change. In other words, I don’t want the doctor’s gender to become a gimmick. However, regardless of potential over focus of the changed gender, making such a prominent hero character, of an already much-loved and successful tv show, into a woman is an exciting move. Even if the doctor being a women is just to increase female representation, I don’t see that as a bad thing to be trying to do.

There is a comfort in things staying the same, which I understand, but taking the step of changing a character to be a woman, not just any character but the title role, is a positive step. I think Peter Davidson did a really good job explaining why people might be apprehensive of a female doctor and it’s true, the doctor shows a male role model that isn’t as typically masculine as quite a lot of others. However, making the doctor a woman allows girls to see themselves in a hero’s position, which is not something that’s as common for them as it is for boys.

Working to improve female representation allows girls to dream big and, hopefully, by raising the appreciation of women and traditionally womanly attributes, boys can be freed from their gender stereotypes, too. Reading and watching people who are like ourselves doing and achieving, helps us believe we can, too (except maybe time travel…).
And that is why I think representation and a female doctor who are so important. 

I hope that all made some sense. If not, I think I can sum it up by saying that greater and more diverse representation of women in media is vital in breaking down gender stereotypes and I’m really excited to see the thirteenth doctor in action next year!

Recommended Reading/Viewing 

 ~ This Tumblr post. Funny, sarcastic and makes its point well (although it’s also kinda depressing…).

~ We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a brilliant little book that explains what feminism means. She brings up some great points about how we raise girls and boys to think in certain ways that damage and limit both genders.

~ This video on how the language we use effects the way we think about people and things, specifically the term ‘girl,’ is both enlightening and very similar to how representation works subconsciously. 

~ Past Doctors react to the Thirteenth doctor.

~ Freema Agyeman being wonderful and talking about how everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in art. 

Friday, 7 July 2017

Film Review | Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast (2017) dir. Bill Condon  
...Certain as the sun...Rising in the east.....Tale as old as time...Song as old as rhyme......Beauty and the Beast...

Disney’s 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast was my favourite movie when I was little and I still love it today, so I was excited when Disney announced an upcoming adaptation of that very film, starring none other than Emma Watson.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, the story begins with an enchantress cursing a selfish prince into a beast until he can ‘learn to love another, and earn her love in return.’ Belle, the story’s protagonist, becomes The Beast’s captive, but with the help of the castle’s enchanted servants, she begins to look past The Beast’s exterior and he, in turn, begins to change…

As I had no expectations that it would surpass the original, I really enjoyed Disney’s 2017 version. As a tale Beauty and the Beast is a great romantic adventure, with heart, humour and a fantastic female lead.

The 2017 movie is incredibly faithful to the 1991 animated film, its plot varies only slightly and even recreates some dialogue word for word. While the beginning of the film is a bit awkward, perhaps in its desire to lovingly recreate everything, it improves noticeably as it continues.
 Throughout the film, there are moments where the closeness of the two versions made the 2017 film feel stilted. Having said that, there were plenty of times where the dedication to the original was appreciated, particularly the ballroom scene. The details that were added to the plot seemed on the whole unnecessary but not unpleasant. However, the climax suffered from these small changes, lacking the drama of the 1991 version and dialogue added in scenes that otherwise exactly recreated the original lacked subtlety. I did love the humour that was added, especially in the banter between Cogsworth and Lumière.

The film was never going to be as good as the original in my eyes, however, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast is still a very enjoyable film.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Quote | If you have a real dream

Dreams and future planning have been floating around my head the last week or so as I’ve come home for the holidays and have a bit more time to spend on other things. I’ve been working on my novel again (yay!) and also started looking into universities for my exchange. I watched this TED talk the other day and it’s really got me thinking.

I’ll be celebrating my birthday over the next couple of days and like the New Year, it feels like the perfect time to have fun planning and thinking about goals and dreams and fears.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Reading Classics

Before starting my Arts degree, the only ‘classic’ book I’d read was probably Pride and Prejudice (after seeing the brilliant 2005 adaption). I’d always felt a bit apprehensive about reading older books, assuming they would be too difficult to understand or incredibility boring, perhaps both.
However, studying English literature somewhat forces you to read older literature and, thankfully for an English major like myself, I discovered it’s not as difficult or as boring as I feared. In fact, older literature can be just as entertaining, moving and interesting as contemporary fiction.

Classics and other older books that have survived long enough that you can still borrow them from a normal library have done so for a reason, because they’re actually quite good. The novel has gone through various incarnations, but at a fundamental level, it’s stayed the same for hundreds of years. Realism is still the gold standard, as my lecturer put it, and Victorian (and I’d argue earlier) realism is actually quite similar to the current realist genre (normally just called ‘fiction’). Different eras preferenced different subgenres and styles, some of which can be confusing (post-modernism, for example), however that can also be part of the fun as it allows you to see what people enjoyed reading.

Reading older books can also be a great way to get a sense of how people lived and thought at a particular time and, especially with realism, an authentic view of the world as a particular writer saw it. Books are such a marvellous way of getting to understand a different way of seeing or thinking about the world and that’s what makes reading books of every and any age, but especially classics, so interesting.

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