Recently, my fourteen-year-old self knocked on my window in the dead of night and asked me to reconsider demon butlers. Or, rather, I went to watch Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic (a movie adaptation of one of the later arcs of the manga) in the cinema with a friend, where we were both promptly reminded why we’d loved this series so much as teenagers. The Black Butler manga is more than ten years old and still going strong, and the movie reeled me back into this world of supernatural action and Victorian Era finery with enough force and finesse that I was compelled to revisit the first few volumes of the manga—the “Jack the Ripper” arc, the storyline I remember being my favorite and starring my favorite pair of villains—and dive back into this story to see if it held up. Is it still good? Certainly. Is it also riddled with problems I’m much more wary of and attuned to now that I’m older and wiser? Absolutely. Spoilers for the arc ahead!
As with many families during the 90s, my family was a Disney family. In my eyes, though, there were fairy tales far more enrapturing than The Lion King or Pocahontas. My mom had this stash of fairy tale stories that I’d never heard of before—it was from this stash that I’d first learned about The Snow Queen and got a head start on my Frozen disappointment. Fairy tales don’t tend to age well under a critical eye, but I remember there being one story in particular that seemed outwardly feminist, even to my tiny baby mind, which had no idea what feminism even was. Jane Yolen’s 1989 Dove Isabeau doesn’t manage to escape all of the not great fairy tale tropes, but the agency given to its heroine and the rejection of typical masculinity saving the day is enough to make me forgive the tropes the story does hold onto.
The Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale and the story’s frightening relevance in Trump’s America has led to a resurgence of interest in the original book. I read it back in high school, but watching a couple episodes of the show rekindled my interest in reading it again. Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to listen to a copy of the audio book. Atwood’s magnificent prose delivers a chilling, timely tale of a world where women have lost all control over their own lives and bodies. Despite its 1985 publication date, the book engages with numerous issues that remain relevant today, especially in light of current events.
Warning for discussions of slavery and rape below. And, of course, spoilers through the very end of The Handmaid’s Tale novel.
It’s almost the Fourth of July, and for those of us here in the United States, we’ll soon be celebrating our nation’s founding. For me, that often meant watching 1776 with my parents, and I have to say that I adored this musical. The film version of the musical 1776 came out in 1972, and the musical itself came out in 1969. It follows John Adams as he tries to get a difficult, cantankerous, and often divided Congress to agree on American independence.
However, if you are a Hamilton fan, this musical might be a disappointment for you. This movie is very white and almost entirely male, with the exception of two female cast members, only one of whom plays a significant role. Regretfully, while there are some great moments in this musical, as far as representation goes, it definitely falls short.
There are many dystopian novels that are considered classics of literature. 1984 obviously springs to mind, as does The Handmaid’s Tale. Another book that’s constantly numbered among these titans of type is Fahrenheit 451. If 1984 is about government oversight, and The Handmaid’s Tale is about (white) women’s bodily autonomy, Fahrenheit 451 takes its stand against the evils of censorship. And while I always knew that was what it was about in a vague intellectual sense—the titular temperature is that at which author Ray Bradbury believed books burn—I’d never actually read the book to learn what the story inside was.
Earlier this week, I finally did that. And now I’m kind of pissed off to discover that Bradbury’s idea of censorship is about as sensitive and compelling as a 4chan forum.
One of my favorite movies when I was a kid was the 2003 Dreamworks movie Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. It didn’t get great reviews and its plot was nothing to write home about, but I loved all the characters, the adventure, and the romance, and I wore out our little VHS tape and annoyed all my family members by watching it over and over. I even bought the video game (side note: wasn’t great, do not recommend). Then I went on to other movies and mostly forgot about Sinbad until I caught a glimpse of it while channel-flipping last month. Fascinated, I watched it all again from the beginning, and then did what I didn’t think about in 2003: I went to research it online. What I found was that Sinbad could have potentially been far more creative and representative than the version that we got.
Spoilers for Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas below.
After revisiting the adorable Doctor Strange of the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur comic last week, I found myself craving more Strange stuff. And while I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to bring myself to watch the MCU movie, I do own a few trades’ worth of Doctor Strange comics. I remembered enjoying them well enough when I first read them, so I figured the time was nigh to revisit one and see if older, woker Saika still thought they were any good. And that’s how I ended up rereading the 2007 comic Doctor Strange: The Oath, by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin. Turns out, while it’s a good standalone story to read if you’re interested in the good Doctor, it’s also full of some tired tropes and isms.