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Posts Tagged ‘YA’

Veronica Mars: The Movie!

In Veronica Mars Movie on March 23, 2014 at 9:46 am

Phoebe B. and Melissa S.

MV5BMTQ4MDc0Mjg4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk3NjYyMTE@._V1_SX214_Since lady sleuths are the coolest and both of us have been waiting for the Veronica Mars movie with serious anticipation, we thought we would take a moment–or a post–to reflect on the revival of the most badass lady sleuth. We find Veronica, nine years later, living with Piz (who works at This American Life! And there was a special guest appearance by Ira Glass) in New York on the verge of becoming a high payed corporate attorney. As Veronica’s new boss (Jamie Lee Curtiss) suggests that Veronica’s job will be to defend powerful corporations against frivolous lawsuits, we get the impression that this is perhaps a bad fit. Even though Veronica has made it to the realms of the wealthy, it’s hard to imagine her sifting through papers behind a desk and defending the likes of Kane Software. After all, in Veronica’s words: she is addicted to mystery-solving and helping out those in need. And so it begins as she swoops into a still-corrupt Neptune to save Logan from a murder charge, attend a high school reunion, and find her true (job) calling.

Alert! some spoilers ahead …

What is your favorite part of the Veronica Mars movie?

Melissa S: I had too many. I had to make a list. My top 3 favorite parts included: 1) the fact that there is a club in Neptune called “the 09er,” introduced thus: “When you’re too old the exclude the undesirables from your lunch table, open a club, charge $22 for a vodka tonic, and put up a velvet rope. Make ’em think this must  be heaven.” That right there perfectly captured the inelegant slide from high school dreams of making it to adult lies to yourself. 2) Mr. Clemens’s brief appearance!!! 3) The moment where Veronica calls Wallace (now a basketball coach at Neptune High!) and asks him to get a student’s permanent file.

Phoebe B: I think you nailed it. The description of the “09er” club was perfect and amazing. I also loved every scene with Dick … and especially his flask belt.

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An Interview with Elizabeth Wein, Author of “Code Name Verity”

In books on April 1, 2013 at 10:41 am

codenamecoverElizabeth Wein has had quite a year. Since her World War II-era spy novel Code Name Verity came out last spring, it’s racked up young adult book awards right and left, as well as accolades from publications like The New York Times and NPR.

All that acclaim couldn’t go to a more deserving book: Code Name Verity is a ferocious, dazzling tale of the friendship between two young women who also happen to be ace British spies, and the courage they summon under terrible circumstances. I stayed up late into the night finishing the book all in one gulp, and the next day, I started reading it over again. After that, I still wasn’t ready to let go of the world Wein had created, so I sat down and emailed Wein herself–who graciously agreed to an email interview with Girls Like Giants. Read on for her thoughts on villains, best friends, facing your fears, and what learning to fly a plane taught her about feminism. –Sarah Todd

‘Verity’ (aka Queenie) and Maddie are such distinctive, vivid characters. Were they inspired by particular people you’ve known or read about?

The things they do were inspired by real people—I read a lot about women of the Special Operations Executive and the Air Transport Auxiliary when I was doing the research for CNV, and I made altered use of some of their experiences. But the characters of Queenie and Maddie are totally original and developed as the book developed. They really aren’t like anyone I know—they are just themselves.

Often books about female friendships seem to focus on the jealousies and tensions between women. But Queenie and Maddie’s love for each other is pure–maybe because they become friends during wartime and establish that baseline level of trust from the get-go. Do you have a best friend? What’s your own perspective on female friendships been?

I have had several best friends at different points in my life, and there has occasionally been some jealousy involved (Queenie and Maddie do actually admit that they are sometimes secretly jealous of each other, and Maddie now and then expresses her irritation out loud to Queenie). But basically I *love* having a best friend—several different people have filled that role at different times in my life. Writing CNV was partly a celebration of that. When my closest friends live far away, as they do now, I really miss that easy and close-knit interaction.

Although I wouldn’t say the friendship in CNV is based on any ONE of my friends, the development of Queenie and Maddie’s friendship was consciously patterned on my friendship with Amanda Banks, who was enrolled in the same PhD program as me (CNV is dedicated to her). At the time we lived about 100 miles apart and only got to see each other every couple of weeks, and we really lived for those brief meetings. Also, we were under a lot of stress studying for our PhD exams and struggling with some academic backstabbing issues in our department—add to the mix a dorm fire at 2 a.m. and the two of us having to usher all the undergraduates out from the fifth floor—it wasn’t wartime, but our friendship developed very quickly sunder stress, a small bit of danger, and in spite of physical distance. So you can maybe see the parallels. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Stolen Kisses” (Season 3, Episode 8)

In Pretty Little Liars on August 2, 2012 at 10:49 am

This week on Pretty Little Liars, everybody kissed everybody, which was fun, or else they flirted about dry-cleaning, which was very wrong. In other news, Maya had a vlog full of secrets, Ezra has Old Money and a vengeful mom, and A has a pocketful of sunshine. (Pocketful of sunshine = mad cash.) Read on for more on “Stolen Kisses.”


Emily was with Paige on the night of the flask-driven wanderings that ended at Ali’s grave! Discuss.

Phoebe B: Oh my goodness! This was SUCH an interesting development and their KISS! SO amazing and such a long time coming. I felt like their conversation, including Emily’s reaction, about the night Emily was drugged was really interesting and seemed reasonable to me too. And then Paige’s apology to Emily was so heartfelt and sad and heartbreaking including her comment about how mad she was at whomever drugged Em. It became so clear to me in this episode how much Paige just adores Emily and is protective of her too. Then their kiss! And then the synchronized swimming!

Sarah T: I was also excited about their kiss and the metaphorical synchronized swimming, and I thought this plotline was often pretty hilarious. Like how Emily and Paige went on a run but really it looked like Emily was chasing Paige through the woods to try to get her to slow down and talk to her about That Night. It’s funny to me when people on TV set up a conversation explicitly to talk about something and then they don’t talk about it until, like, midway through the activity. Emily’s tiny hat was funny as well. She still looked amazing obviously because she’s Emily, but tiny hats are never not silly. Oh and then Paige’s speech to Emily was definitely heartfelt, but also so melodramatic (“It was like a dream… and then you were gone”). That’s just the way Paige rolls I think.

What are your thoughts on Fitz’s family? And his mean (yet super wealthy) mom?

Phoebe B: Ezra is secretly wealthy! And clearly the product of like serious East Coast prep school life! Madness. I did not see this coming at all but maybe it helps explain his random sock drawer full of rolled up bills in a giant ziplock bag. His mom also seems horrible and I couldn’t (and yet could) believe that she tried to buy Aria off. I did love Aria’s storming out (and her dress was SO beautiful) and her breakdown with her dad was also heartbreaking (so much emotion in this week’s episode). It was nice in some ways to see Byron be more supportive and present although I missed Ella and really wanted to know how her hot date with the cafe owner went!

Sarah T: This revelation about Ezra’s old money past makes soooo much sense, actually. That’s why he’s kind of generally dapper and uptight, and why he buys Aria expensive pinhole cameras, and why his version of struggling writer looks so elegantly scruffy — microbrews, Westerns, manly yet bohemian apartment decor. He practically has lightly worn elbow patches. Read the rest of this entry »

A Great and Terrible Beauty: A GLG Reading Group

In A Great and Terrible Beauty, gender, girl culture, Libba Bray, YA on April 3, 2012 at 8:19 am

Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty (AGTB), set primarily in Victorian England, is the first in a series of three books that trace the coming of age of Gemma Doyle. Gemma is not like every other girl at her boarding school, Spence. In fact, she is the last in a line of powerful women in possession of supernatural power. In a society where women must behave according to very specific and constraining codes of behavior, Gemma comes to realize that these constraints are not meant to protect women, but rather to control them. As Gemma becomes aware of the patriarchy that defines her world, she also realizes that the world of magic is one controlled and managed by men. AGTB is a novel about young women finding power, but also learning to manage and control that power — for without control, we learn, come terrible and terrifying consequences.

After finishing AGTB and missing Pretty Little Liars, we thought another reading group might be fun. Read on for our favorite characters and some more general thoughts on AGTB. But beware: spoilers abound.

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Weekly Round-up: The Hunger Games & Race

In Hunger Games, race, violence, Weekly Round-Up on March 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Keeping with this week’s theme, here are some good reads from around the web on The Hunger Games and race. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

From Jezebel:

From Racialicious:

From the Awl:

From the New York Times:

From Nerdgasm Noire Network:

And, from Slate a really cool slideshow of the town where District 12 was shot:

GLG Responds to the Hunger Games: On Silencing Katniss and Lady-Feelings

In gender, girl culture, Hunger Games on March 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

Like many of you out there, the GLG folks could not wait to see The Hunger Games on the big screen. And this last weekend, we did! Given our serious fandom of The Hunger Games more generally, and Katniss specifically, we thought we would do a little HG response fun. So we asked the GLG folks to pick a particular topic from the film and respond to it. This week, read on for thoughts on HG and violence, terrifying technology, Hunger Games fashion, and much more! And if you have a topic you want to discuss, post away in the comments or send us a question at

Chelsea B.

The absence of Katniss’s voice in The Hunger Games movie didn’t become clear to me until after it ended. Once I realized that her silence was bothering me, even more troublesome questions began to arise. Why eliminate Katniss as narrator?

The answer to that question is probably found in Twilight. In the Twilight franchise, Bella is the primary narrator of her story, sharing the minutiae of her emotional life with abandon. Many of Bella’s musings read like they come from my (early, okay?) teenage diaries. They feature a singular, laser-like focus on herself and her place in the world, with little concern for anything or anyone not directly involved in helping her through the process of self-actualization.

Sarah Blackwood over at The Hairpin and GLG’s own Melissa Sexton have eloquently analyzed the problems with dismissing Bella and the Twilight franchise on terms of its emotionality and subsequent feminization. Such defense of The Hunger Games won’t be necessary since (as also noted by Melissa) the filmmakers circumvented such criticism by eliminating the primary female voice entirely.

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Rebound: Katniss & Body Snarking

In body politics, gender, girl culture, Hunger Games on March 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Phoebe B.

GLG contributor Brian Psiropoulos recently alerted me to the trend of body snarking Jennifer Lawrence. This Slate article takes on the New York Times and others’ truly destructive and sexist criticism of Lawrence’s body. But I find myself still unsettled even by the Slate response, which argues against the criticism of Lawrence’s body as not skinny enough to play Katniss by asserting that Lawrence is in fact skinny. This assertion, while true, is not the point. Rather, as the Slate article does note, this body snarking is exclusive to Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss and is not a kind of scrutiny the male actors undergo. Oddly enough, the film version of both Peeta and Gail’s characters did not align with the ways in which I imagined them. But this disjuncture is not reason enough to suggest that their bodies ought be different or would make them more believable. Given that the snarky criticisms about these male characters’ figures are conspicuously absent, it seems that the discussion of Lawrence’s body has everything to do with her being a woman.

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Pretty Little Liars Finale Recap: “‘A’ Day” (Season 2, Episode 25)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television on March 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

This week, on the season finale, the PLLs wore some masks; traveled to a Psycho-like hotel in search of A; Spencer found A’s lair but was tricked by Mona; and Mona was revealed as part of the A team. Read on for more on this week’s crazy episode!

Mona is A! (Or at least part of the A-team.) How do we feel in our hearts and souls?

Melissa: Sad! I believed in Mona’s redemption, up until this very episode. But I also still kinda love her, because she is such an evil mastermind, and it was gratifying even to me (Spencer’s biggest fan!) to see Mona outsmart Spencer for a few moments. (The muttered line, “Cashmere sweaters……” was so hilarious to me. What a reveal for Spencer!) I also feel like this was a half-reveal. Mona herself admits that she’s only part of the A-Team (a fact the rest of the PLLs seem to be blithely ignoring, God only knows why) and I feel like she’s clearly not THE mastermind, as the closing tag shows her saying, “I did everything you told me to!” I’d say whoever is pulling Mona’s strings is the real (wo)man behind the curtain…

Chelsea B: The whole Mona storyline over the last half of this season felt so weirdly centralized that it was always suspicious. However, I did think Mona did a good job of bluffing with Spencer (Master of Suspicion) up until she was good and ready to show her hand. She knew the black swan thing would be a tipping point, for reasons I’m still unclear on. I suppose I mostly feel validated, but interested in more details about the Mona/Vivian Darkbloom partnership because if her story about shopping in Brookhaven and running into Ali wasn’t entirely fabricated, the red coat that appears in the final scene has important implications.

Phoebe: Yes yes and yes! So, I loved Mona’s final monologue about lipstick and things. It was so creepy and amazing and felt straight out of Psycho (as did the rest of the episode I suppose). And, I was gratified to find out that Mona is actually super smart and kind of like an evil Spencer. And, the red coat at the end I feel like is a sign that Ali has a twin. Okay, so I just really want Ali to have an evil twin who is running the show.

Sarah T: I was only really sad when I thought Mona was dead — when her eyes flew open and she checked her watch I was flooded with relief. Because as Melissa and Phoebe say, it turns out she’s a pretty awesome psycho-villain-genius, just as she was a pretty awesome superficial mean girl with a heart of gold and a pretty awesome eager nerd with braids and glasses. Mona just gets five stars whatever she does in my book. However, I feel awful for Hanna, who really loved Mona and must be experiencing serious trust issues (and now Lucas is implicated too?).  Good thing Dr. Sullivan is back in town. OR IS IT? Trust no one. Read the rest of this entry »

Scored: A GLG Reading Group

In Uncategorized on March 13, 2012 at 5:59 pm

In Lauren McLaughlin’s Scored, all public school children are monitored and scored on their “fitness.” This includes academic achievement, but also behavioral items such as relation to “peer group,” “impulse control,” and “rapport.” Imani, our working class, mixed-race protagonist, must only maintain her above-90 score for two more months in order to receive an automatic scholarship to any state university and thereby fulfill her dream of resuscitating the dying Atlantic coastline she calls home. However, the arbitrary police state apparatus associated with the score proves more challenging for Imani to navigate than she expected. Consequently, she faces a host of ethical quandaries that she had never encountered before. Complicating her struggle, of course, is a boy—Diego Landis, one of the dreaded “unscored.” He challenges Imani with an audacious proposal that may prove her salvation—or her downfall.

Recently, GLG’s Sarah Todd interviewed McLaughlin about her novel. Subsequently, GLG opted to do a digital reading group of the book. In it, we discuss race, the education system, and the sisterhood between Imani and Katniss. And, we would love to hear what you thought of Scored in the comments!

Sarah S.

Respondents: Sarah S., Jeni, Gina, and Austin.

*Spoilers Warning! No joke!*

Let’s begin with the questions that McLaughlin posed at the end of her interview with Sarah T: “I’d love to ask readers what they think they would do if they were in Imani’s shoes. Would they give up their best friend to salvage their future? Or would they remain loyal? Also, I’d love to know whether they’d ever faced similar moral dilemmas in their own lives.”

Sarah S: In all honesty, this is a tough one for me only because Imani faces real consequences because of Cady’s behavior and the stakes are incredibly high. Obviously, the system is totally screwed up and unfair but I also think it’s unfair to judge people by privileged ethical standards in such cases. At the point when Imani’s score drops because of Cady, the potential for her future life plummets as well. I like Cady as a character, and am glad they resuscitate their “pact.” But I also think she was unfair to keep her relationship a secret from Imani and, therefore, deprive Imani of the true opportunity to choose friendship over the score. In this sense, I think the book brilliantly unfolds these ethical quandaries, making them complex questions to be wrestled with, rather than obvious missteps.

Gina: But I think that Cady keeps her relationship a secret, precisely because she is afraid of how it will influence Imani’s score. She is naive (she’s only a teenager) and believes that she can outsmart the magnetic chip tracking. In my own life, I have had friends like Cady, young women whose lives seemed predestined to preclude them from academic or financial success and who try to protect their friends from a similar fate. These are the young women who don’t invite you to a crazy party or to hang out with a sketchy boyfriend because, even in our “unscored” society, they want to keep you pure.

Read the rest of this entry »

Engaging Television: An Interview with Writer Jacob Clifton

In gender, girl culture, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars on March 7, 2012 at 9:59 am

Sarah Todd

“Why bother watching the show when the recaps are so amazing?” my friend Ali emailed me in 2008. We were talking about the Television Without Pity recaps of Gossip Girl, a show then in its headband-wearing, Met-steps-lunching glory days. The in-depth recaps, written by Jacob Clifton with a killer combination of fiery passion, arch humor, and wide-ranging cultural references, were an essential part of the Gossip Girl experience.

Jacob’s recaps didn’t just help us see things about the show that we might not have spotted otherwise. They also influenced the way we thought about friendships and power dynamics and teenagers and surveillance—and, of course, how we thought about television.

I’ve looked forward to Jacob’s weekly Gossip Girl recaps ever since, along with his writing on True Blood and Pretty Little Liars. He’s one of the few writers I’ve followed quite so faithfully. The author of novels The Urges and Mondegreen, he currently recaps American IdolThe Good Wife, and more for Television Without Pity.

Jacob graciously agreed to talk with Girls Like Giants about recapping, teen dramas, feminism, the power of stories, and why Elena from The Vampire Diaries is way under-rated. Come join the conversation in the comments.

How did you start writing for Television Without Pity?

The internet, in 2001, was a very different place! TWoP (MightyBigTV, back then) was a small enough concern that I was able to lobby for some small, one-off assignments that, over a few years, turned into regular assignments. It was a very empowering, very encouraging chance to be given, and I’m still very grateful to the editors at that time for giving me a shot.

You have a very distinctive and dynamic recapping style. A recap of Pretty Little Liars might have made-up dialogue that highlights Aria’s crazy pants (and the fact that she is crazypants), followed by a Jungian analysis of how the four main characters’ personalities complement each other, followed by a mini-treatise on bullying. How do you approach writing your recaps? What do you want them to be, and how has that developed over the course of your career?

I think that, for me, it’s about capturing the sort of tangents and thoughts and jokes that you might go through on the couch, just watching anything. For shows like PLL, that obviously brings up a lot of stuff and thoughts that I feel like are worth representing on the page: This is what it was like for me watching this show, what was it like for you?

I mean, obviously I have my preoccupations — critical, philosophical, political, feminist — and I don’t really hesitate to bring those to bear on whatever’s actually happening on the show, but I trust myself to know the line as far as what’s worth saying and what’s just blabber or personal axe-grinding. (I also cross it regularly, of course.) But that’s what it means to me: A sort of taking shorthand minutes on where the show takes me as a particular person.

However, I do think there’s a certain amount of workshopping that goes on when you’re forced to pay such close attention to a show over such a long period of time. I don’t know if my writing has improved, but I definitely understand television and storytelling a lot more than I did ten years ago — and part of my mission is to bring that into it as well. The opportunity to turn our brains off, or to reject a show or episode for false reasons, is always there. So by bringing out the storytelling qualities, or the writing tricks, or the production values, the hope is that readers can find new ways to enjoy their television shows in a more interactive way. Read the rest of this entry »

Rebound: GLG responds to Flavorwire’s Fave Female Characters

In girl culture, race, Rebound on March 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Rebound is a new short-form GLG column that seeks to respond to, critique, and ask questions about current media events and affairs. –Phoebe & Sarah T.

Today Flavorwire published their list of the top ten most powerful female characters in literature in honor of Women’s History Month. The list includes wonderful literary (and filmic) women from Jane Eyre to Hermione Granger and many more. GLG discusses our take below, but we also want to know what you think. Do you like the list? Who would be on your own list of most awesome female characters?

Chelsea H: I’m not familiar with everyone on the list, but those I know I generally approve of. I adore the inclusion of the Wife of Bath – she takes control over Chaucer’s project in a way few of his other characters do, and in fact, I’ve just entered revision stages on a dissertation chapter that deals with her and her self-creation and performativity a la Judith Butler. She certainly belongs here among these greats.

It surprises me that Katniss gets knocked for “boy-related waffling and wailing” more than Jane Eyre does – the internal monologue Jane provides is much more brooding and agonizing over Mr. Rochester than Katniss’s confusion. As I read her, at least in the first book, Katniss can’t understand why Peeta would be acting the way he does – she can’t even fathom that he could have genuine feelings about her given their circumstances. That seems more practical than whiny to me.

I might want to add Sethe from Beloved. Talk about strong and conflicted! Her story is all family and self survival. Maybe Lady Macbeth too – though most of the women on this list are heroines and Lady M. is a “bad guy,” her power is incredible as she manipulates her husband through desire, ambition, treachery and murder. Her downfall at the end of the play, I think, only enhances her power and independence: though she descends into madness, she makes her own choices through the whole story. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: YA Author Lauren McLaughlin on “Scored”

In gender, race on February 21, 2012 at 11:46 am

Sarah Todd

The hyper-competitive college admissions game can turn any high school student into an insecure, anxiety-ridden puddle. But what if kids spent their whole lives knowing exactly how they measured up, aware that every move could make or break their futures? That’s the scenario Lauren McLaughlin explores in her deeply compelling young adult novel Scored.

In Scored‘s not-so-distant future, a computerized surveillance system ranks students according to their academic performance and selected social behaviors. High scores guarantee them college scholarships and stable jobs. The lower their scores are, the narrower their options.

Imani LeMonde, a bright teenager from a working-class, mixed-race family, is exactly the kind of student who’s supposed to benefit from scoring. The system was created in the aftermath of a Second Depression that wiped out the middle class and made upward mobility virtually impossible. Merit-based scoring offers students access to higher education regardless of their income—though the rich can still buy their way into college if necessary.

At the novel’s outset, Imani’s dream of going to college and becoming a marine biologist seems secure. But when her score plummets unexpectedly, she must choose between her future and her friendships. Soon, she begins to question the system she’s grown up with, asking whether scoring has only exchanged one form of inequality for another.

Smart, socially-relevant young adult books are currently riding a wave of well-deserved enthusiasm on the success of The Hunger Games trilogy. Scored stands out from the crowd, interweaving a fast-paced plot with complex characters and thoughtful discussions of race, class, politics, and history.

Author Lauren McLaughlin graciously agreed to talk to Girls Like Giants about her novel, which was published by Random House in October 2011. Read on for her thoughts on standardized testing, status obsession, and the secret ingredient for great young adult fiction.

In Scored, Imani begins to question the standardized rankings and surveillance culture she’s grown up with. Do you think there’s a natural connection between dystopian stories and young adult fiction? How can young protagonists explore and challenge their societies in unique ways?  

I do think it’s very interesting that dystopian fiction is having a big moment right now with teens. Personally, I can’t help but speculate as to whether it may have something to do with the fact that we are living in very trying, even dystopian, times. Many aspects of our society are crumbling. Our economy has hit a brick wall and many believe our democracy itself is at risk of collapsing under the weight of extreme corruption. Perhaps the authors of dystopian fiction are hoping to channel the revolutionary inside every teenager in hopes of turning things around. I know I am. I sincerely hope today’s teenagers do a better job of managing society than we’ve done. We messed some things up.

How did current events inform your depiction of the world Imani lives in? Did any personal experiences with standardized testing and surveillance influence the novel?

I graduated from high school at a time when the standardized-test-taking experience was comparatively benign. Of course I got nervous taking the SAT’s, but back then (in the ancient eighties) college admission wasn’t nearly as competitive as it is now. I was very much influenced by the stories I heard of young people with good grades and real talents being kept out of college because of weak SAT’s and ACT’s. That seemed outrageous to me. I think we’ve become so obsessed with status and ranking that we’ve allowed it to warp the entire educational experience.

Are there similarities between Somerton, the blue-collar Massachusetts town in which the novel takes place, and Wenham, the Massachusetts town where you grew up?

Somerton is more similar to Essex Massachusetts, which was home to the marina where my Dad kept his boat. Geographically, I basically just used my exact memories of Essex to create Somerton then added bits and bobs here and there. But the socio-economic status of Somerton is entirely my creation. As far as I know, Essex is still doing quite well, whereas Somerton, as with the rest of the nation in the world of Scored, has fallen on extremely hard times.

What would you say Imani has in common with some of your own favorite female protagonists, and what sets her apart?

Like all good protagonists, Imani has a big dream, or quest. In her case it’s to go to college, study marine biology, then return home to save the dying fisheries and shoreline. What gets in her way isn’t so much the evil actions of Score Corp, but her own conflicted conscience. I’m always drawn to protagonists whose make-or-break moments hinge on an internal realignment of their own morality. I think of Katniss choosing to sacrifice her own life to protect her sister. The whole Hunger Games trilogy hinges on this essentially moral plot line, which I think elevates it above many other dystopian stories. The risk with dystopian fiction is that you make the world itself so dark that the protagonist can only ever be seen as a sainted victim. It’s much more interesting when the protagonist’s own morals are engaged. Read the rest of this entry »

Puppy Love: Remembering Celebrity Crushes

In Uncategorized on February 14, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Well friends, it’s that time of the year again: the one-and-only Anna Howard Shaw Day, when we break out the champagne and Marvin Gaye tunes to honor one of the top women’s suffrage leaders ever to be born on Feburary 14.

And of course, it’s not too late to dig into some waffles in honor of Galentine’s Day, the February 13 holiday in which we appreciate our dearest friends over delicious breakfast foods.  (Guy friends can totally celebrate Galentine’s Day too.)

But what of our first loves? When do we set aside the time to celebrate everything they’ve given us and tell them how we really feel? I refer, of course, to the celebrities and film and television characters who first made us go all moon-eyed. Just because we’re busy sharing our love with suffragists and chums (and maybe with our special gentleman- and lady-friends too) doesn’t mean it’s all right to neglect the stars who taught our pulses how to race. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “A Kiss Before Lying” (Season 2, Episode 17)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, The Bachelor, Uncategorized on February 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

This week we encounter our prettiest of liars as they say I love you for the first time; discover bruises on their fake boyfriends; happen upon false identities and fake hairstyles; and protect those most dear to them. Read on for thoughts and opinions on the PLLs! Read the rest of this entry »

How to Be Awesome Like Hanna Marin

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 10, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Phoebe B.

As any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to regular television programming, several of the Girls Like Giants crew teamed up to crack the awesomeness codes of the core four.

Hanna is one of my favorite PLLs (although I love them all for different and various reasons) in part because she is the funniest PLL, but also because just like the rest of them she is far from perfect. Part of what makes her so awesome is that she is both loyal and tricky at times; sometimes she gets hurt and makes crazy choices but other times she is the best of friends; I feel for her when A (and/or Ally) is mean to her (often more than for the other ladies) and I think her sense of humor often makes the show. So here are a few ways to be awesome like Hanna.

Hanna with some mighty fine shoplifted sunglasses

Most importantly, always cut tension between your friends with some humor and witty one-liners

Never use your powers for evil. Even when Hanna becomes the new “it” girl post-Ally, she is never mean (in the way that Mona is) and instead befriends Lucas (to whom Mona is quite cruel), joins the student paper briefly, and is an all around nice gal.

Be a super loyal and supportive friend to the other PLLS. For example, invite your best friend stay with you (Em) when her parents move out of town AND give your soon-to-be boyfriend a place to stay when he has no home (remember, Caleb briefly slept in the school library). Hanna is also seemingly always the first one to find out about the other PLLs secrets (for example, that Em is gay, about Aria and Fitz’s super secret romance, etc) and she is always 100% there for her friends. She even tries to intimidate a guy who is following Caleb in order to protect him (she thinks he is a police officer, although he is not). Hanna is just pretty much the best of friends. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Be Awesome Like Aria Montgomery

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Chelsea Bullock

As any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to regular television programming, several of the Girls Like Giants crew teamed up to crack the awesomeness codes of the core four.

It’s no secret that I, much more than most of my lady-friends here, adore Aria. She does dumb things, is super stubborn, is kind of sneaky, and is borderline boy-obsessed. However, there are also lots of great things about her. Want to channel awesome Aria?

Don’t be afraid to experiment with style. One of the things that I love most about Aria is her ever-changing, occasionally wacky-yet-dark sense of style. She isn’t afraid to be punk-rock chic on Monday and laced-up, prim and proper on Tuesday. Her style often reflects her mood rather than some lofty, solidified sense of self. She also embraces trends–even unfortunate ones (hello, dangly hair feather)–but is never apologetic about her choices because she simply doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s too busy having fun trying out different versions of who she might be through her clothes.

Love your family really, really hard. Most of Aria’s biggest mistakes happen with her family. She keeps a secret for her dad and she tells an almost two-season-long lie to her parents and her brother. However, she never hesitates to make her devotion and affection for her family known. Her parents, even when they probably shouldn’t, depend on her and treat her with respect. This means that even when Aria is making big-time mistakes, she returns that respect to them and trusts that their mutual love for one another will make everything okay in the end. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Be Awesome Like Spencer Hastings

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Melissa Sexton

As any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to regular television programming, several of the Girls Like Giants crew teamed up to crack the awesomeness codes of the core four.

Spencer Hastings is my favorite Pretty Little Liar, because I see a little too much of myself in her: skeptical, aggressive, competitive, driven, and rabidly loyal to the people she loves. Nobody else is as likely to drag the girls into hair-brained schemes that are aimed at vengeance or vindication…but that result in further complication. Her stubbornness and bossiness often create tension with the group of girls; her affection for older boys, especially her sister’s boyfriends, gets her into all kinds of family conflict; and yet she is a fiercely awesome leader and friend. So how can you channel Spencer’s awesome qualities?

Stand up for yourself and for your friends: Spencer often gets into trouble because of her smart mouth and her lightening-fast temper. On the other hand, though, she is a girl who knows how to stand up to the petty manipulation of high school and of murderers. She is the one girl that Ali feared because she refused to be bullied by her and because she would openly fight with her. Whether it’s standing up to Ali in the midst of sleepover, standing up to her sister’s husband Ian when she thinks he’s a killer, or standing up to her father when he refuses to tell her why he seems to be involved in sneaky cover-ups around Ali’s murder and is mean to her boyfriend Tobey, Spencer sets boundaries and speaks to them loudly. Sometimes her protective nature makes her seem bossy and controlling towards her friends, like when she goes to talk to Ezra Fitz about Aria’s budding romance with possible killer Jason; but as their reconciliation scene suggests, even then Spencer has her friends’ best interests at heart and will risk danger and open conflict to help them. Her penchant for conflict also comes in handy as the basis of many a ruse, like the recent season-re-opening battle with Emily that she stages to throw A off their conspiring tracks. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Be Awesome Like Emily Fields

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Sarah Todd

As any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to regular television programming, several members of the Girls Like Giants crew teamed up to crack the awesomeness codes of the core four.

How to Be Awesome Like Emily Fields

Be the hardest worker who has ever worked so hard. Emily’s athleticism is a big part of her identity, and with good reason: sports reward daily dedication and a desire to push yourself harder. She’s the best athlete on the swim team because she puts in the time and effort. When another girl on the team, Paige, tries to upset Emily’s game with homophobic comments and assorted low blows, Emily’s response perfectly summarizes her philosophy: “If you want to beat me, work harder.” What a perfect comeback: not only does Emily strike at the root of Paige’s insecurity, it’s actually good advice she’s giving. To a mean girl who just made a homophobic comment about her. That’s our girl.

Have serious self-respect. As Emily begins dating girls, multiple people try to use her sexuality to manipulate her or make her feel like she should be ashamed. A blackmails Emily and sends pictures of her kissing her girlfriend Maya to both Emily’s mom and Hanna. Paige tries to use Emily’s sexuality as a weapon against her, and Paige’s father does the same to the nth degree. But even as people try to make Emily feel guilty and wrong about who she’s attracted to, Emily becomes increasingly comfortable with her sexuality. When Paige eventually confesses that she’d like to date Emily, but not in public, Emily wisely but gently breaks off their budding relationship. “I’m not ashamed of who I am,” she says. “But I used to be. And if we have to hide like this all the time, I’m going to start to feel that way again.” Emily’s integrity encompasses but is by no means limited to her sexual orientation. What it comes down to is that Emily is growing up, and part of that process is learning how to refuse to betray herself–no matter what anybody else says or wants. She can be the strongest person in the room just by standing her ground.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Through Many Dangers, Toils, and Snares” (Season 2, Episode 14)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 5, 2012 at 3:53 pm

This week we welcome back our favorite little liars in full force as they fake fights, sneak into scary greenhouses (alone!), tell parents their secrets, and much much more. Read the rest of this entry »

Unshelved: The Secret Garden

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Young adult books through regular adult eyes.

Sarah Todd

Based on knowledge gleaned from heart-warming turn-of-the-century classics like The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables, as well as even earlier Victorian works such as Jane Eyre, it is safe to assume that historically, in the British Empire, it was a common custom for people to tell young girls how unattractive they were. “Hey, lookin’ weird!” various guardians, family members, classmates, mentors, friends, and co-workers tell poor orphaned Jane Eyre as she silently tries to blend into the curtains. But of course she looks kind of pale and twitchy and bug-eyed. She’s constantly getting insulted by strangers and close friends! Every day of her life is like, Will this person hire me as a governess, or will they call me a goblin? Probably both!  This seems nerve-wracking.

Meanwhile, Anne gets mad attitude for her red hair from the denizens of Prince Edward Island, who are tragically unaware that future Rita Hayworths, Julianne Moores, Joan Holloways, et al. will conclusively prove that red hair is always, always what’s up. (Gilbert Blythe knows the score.)

And then there’s Mary Lennox, the heroine of The Secret Garden, who has jaundiced skin, “a little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression.” When Mary’s parents die of cholera in India, she is sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven—a recluse with a hunchback—in a mansion on the English moors. As soon as she sets foot on English soil, people begin proclaiming that she is an unusually ugly ten-year-old girl. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Going to See Breaking Dawn OR How A Smart, Independent, Educated Woman Learned to Love Twilight

In gender, girl culture on November 23, 2011 at 12:48 am

Melissa Sexton

The first time I went to visit my sister in her new home in Seattle, I needed something to occupy my time during the long days she spent working. I was a 2nd year PhD student in a literature department, so the last thing I wanted to do on my downtime days was read anything serious. Still, my sister made a full disclaimer when she handed me her roommate’s copy of Twilight. “It’s not great literature,” she said with a shrug. “But I bet you’ll be entertained.”

Such a disclaimer was more than warranted given my lit snob past. I had spent my teenage years aspiring to an elite aestheticism, sneering at my younger sisters for their fantasy novels and their mainstream movies. Like many a wanna-be intellectual before me, I wanted to like the right things. I wanted to read philosophy and great literature; I watched old movies, not blockbusters, with my boyfriend. I didn’t watch TV; I backpacked, hello. Before I ever even thought about drinking, I started going to “shows.”  I was relentlessly and, to be honest, baselessly opposed to anything that could be construed as popular. Luckily for me, I was already outgrowing what I still think should never be more than an an adolescent phase: the conviction that, just because we don’t like something, this makes the object of our disdain inherently and objectively bad; that there are good and bad things to like, and your aesthetic preferences say something meaningful about your character; that there were things not just that I hadn’t read but that I wouldn’t read, that I shouldn’t watch. Read the rest of this entry »

Hopelessly Real: Anticipating Katniss’s Transition to the Big Screen

In gender, girl culture, race on November 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Melissa Sexton

A couple of weeks ago, following my Halloween debut as Katniss Everdeen, I posted about the awesomeness of The Hunger Games‘s main heroine.  Today, the Hunger Games hype has kicked up again as Lionsgate released the official full-length trailer for the March 2012 film. From the chatter I’ve seen on the Internet and heard amongst friends, a lot of speculation has centered on exactly how the film will depict Katniss – a matter that has been of particular concern given the novels’ self-conscious reflection on the repeated manipulation of beauty and sex appeal as part of the televised spectacle of the Games. Concern has also been high because Katniss is an unusual heroine, self-consciously rejecting beauty and romance, constantly conscious of her class situation, admired for what she does rather than how she looks. I think many girls, like me, are rooting for a female heroine that isn’t supposed to be ugly but also isn’t way prettier than her role necessitates (there’s been quite a range of these, from Zooey Deschanel in New Girl to Hermione Granger in The Past 4 Harry Potter Movies). While I might have indulged in some extra eyeliner for my Halloween costume, I like many others fear a sexed-up Katniss – an ass-kicking heroine in the Tomb Raider tradition. All I really want is a girl whose toughness, independence, and anger isn’t made more palatable for polite (male) consumption by disguising it with pursed lips and big boobs: Don’t be afraid of Katniss! She might brutally slay you, but she looks so good doing it; she might look angry, but that’s just disguised passionate lust. Can’t a girl be fearsome and not a sex machine? There was also plentiful reaction to the Katniss casting  calls for a Caucasian actress (a narrow set of parameters given Katniss’s ambiguous racial identification, marked by dark hair and olive-toned skin). Read the rest of this entry »

How to be awesome like Katniss Everdeen

In gender, girl culture on October 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Melissa Sexton

For Halloween this year, two of the GLG writing crew dressed up as Katniss Everdeen.  As my friend Brian said at the party, after he recognized my mockingjay pin with delight, “I’m surprised there aren’t more Katnisses.  I mean, I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it’s the obvious thing to be!”

Perhaps you are not as familiar with Katniss as we think you should be, and perhaps you don’t know why she is the obvious character every girl wants to be when putting on a costume. One of the reasons I ended up loving my costume, despite its limited recognition value, was because it allowed me to proselytize for The Hunger Games hard core and explain to strangers and old friends that Katniss is the most kick-ass heroine who survives a post-apocalyptic dystopian society by drawing on her own inner strength as well as the hunting skills that previously enabled her to provide for her family.  The movies are starting to come out next year, and trust me – once the films hit the public eye (and if the films manage to keep so many of the things I and many people I know love about Katniss) everyone will be wishing they could be Katniss.

So why do we love Katniss with such universal passion? [Behind the cut, I’ve separated my lists into spoiler-free and spoiler-filled categories so those hoping to read The Hunger Games trilogy needn’t worry about finding out too much!]

Read the rest of this entry »

The Secret Circle Roundtable, Season 1 Episode 7: “Masked”

In teen soaps on October 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm

This week on The Secret Circle, Cassie throws a Halloween party replete with kidnappings; Faye wears a daring top and Diana wears some rad fake teeth; lots of people bleed, one person dies, one person burns, and one person gets a concussion (Cassie’s grandma, hope you’re okay!). Read the rest of this entry »

The Secret Circle Roundtable: Season 1, Episode 6, “The Wake”

In teen soaps on October 25, 2011 at 7:01 pm

This week finds our young witches mourning (or oddly not-mourning) the death of one of their own; reconfiguring with the appearance of a new circle member; and ducking witch-hunters. These kids can’t catch a break. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Roundtable: “The First Secret”

In teen soaps on October 21, 2011 at 10:18 am

Our beloved PLL came back for one very special Halloween episode! And now, the long wait till January begins…

1) Thoughts on a episode-long flashback for the PLL ladies?

Phoebe: I do love a great flashback episode! I rather enjoyed this episode, although it was rather scary. Especially that creepy person in a creepy mask that was following Ali and the girls around. Also, how scary was the twin story?! So creepy. And Ali really comes off in this episode, more than any others before I think, as terrifying. We really see the way she manipulated the girls, which seemed somehow attached to the fear of being tormented by our currently masked scary person.

Sarah: I was delighted to have a flashback episode where Ali got to be a more central character. I think it’s really helpful to see more of what life was like for the PLLs when she was around. Also, I think it’s a good way to extend the life of the series. If the show backtracks like this sometimes, it gets to develop a richer back-story and open up some new mysteries without falling into common mystery-based double bind of either telling us who the killer is and losing its engine or dragging out the mystery for way too long and driving fans up the wall. Flashbacks all next season would be okay with me!

2) What are your thoughts on meeting Jenna? Her relationship with Ali? And her and Mona’s introduction? Also, who was the better Gaga?

Phoebe: As for the Gaga competition, I’m not gonna lie, Jenna totally won that contest, as Mona duly noted. Jenna looked so great! And so weird and different without her giant sunglasses. Also, it was fun/interesting to see where that rivalry started … AND her and Mona’s introduction … Wow! I feel like that was some sort of huge hint, but I am wary of presuming too much about PLL as they are so sneaky with their red herrings. But I feel like we have all talked about suspecting Mona and we know that the cop and Jenna are in on something. Thus, that made me think, are all three of them working together?  Also, I found myself liking Jenna a lot in this episode, particularly when she told Ali that she wanted to choose her friends.

Sarah: Ha I agree, Jenna was by far the better Gaga (and SUPER-hot, no?). I was really interested to see how her personality must have changed since the accident—here she’s much lighter. She’s got Ali’s determination and queen-bee personality, but she seems less desperate than Ali too. With Ali, you can see all the work she puts into being in a place of power; old Jenna seems like she might be able to do it kind of effortlessly. I was also really excited about her talking with Mona—they would both have good reason to want to team up against Ali.

3) How scary was the creepy costumed person? Also, who do you think it is?

Phoebe: SO scary and that there were randomly so many people in the same costume suddenly was strange and a very creepy twist on the Thomas Crown Affair’s final scene (with the bolo hats … such a good scene!). So, I think that it is clearly someone in the circle of people we know, or at least that the girls are supposed to know. And I think that because at the end, when the person in the creepy costume takes off his/her mask, seemingly he/she belongs at the party/nobody is shocked, otherwise they wouldn’t reveal themselves. Right? But as of yet, I have no good guesses. Unless it is Garrett? But it seems too early for that, because the Jenna/Ali rivalry is just getting going.

Sarah: Oh man, I hated that baby doll-burlap costume of my nightmares. But I think practically everybody is the creepy costumed person, right? We know Lucas and Noel were both wearing that costume, and people like Mona and Ian also could have easily slipped the robe and mask on over their other costumes. Also, I don’t think we saw Jason at the Halloween party, so I’d put him down as another possible candidate.

4) Twins! What did you think about the scary twin story, coupled with the revealing of the doll from the story being real, and also the sanitarium truck, and threatening notes to Ali from A? Does Ali have an evil twin?

Phoebe: So I am convinced that Ali has an evil twin. And I re-watched the pilot last night after the new episode, and there is this one moment where Spencer is staring out her window and she thinks she sees Ali and the next shot is blond hair in a window as the person disappears from Spencer’s view. Evil twin? Perhaps! But also, I thought that the twin story that Ali tells in this episode, was perhaps a true story (minus the killing) of Ali and her twin, especially because we see that doll that is in the story later on when Ali pulls her creepy secret box out of the heater grate. Same doll = true story, yes? Maybe? Anyway, I am totally convinced that A is at least in part something to do with Ali’s creepy background … which she kind of is an emotional terrorist…

Sarah: Good detective work, Phoebe! I’m very much on board with this sleuthing, I think it’s all adding up to a real twin story. (Also: interesting, between the doppelganger storyline on Vampire Diaries and the twins on Ringer and The Lying Game.) Maybe the person throwing down with Ali in the haunted house was actually her twin, too!   Read the rest of this entry »

Suburgatory: When Abercrombie Attacks

In girl culture on October 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Sarah Todd

What teenager hasn’t hidden out in the biggest high school bathroom she can find, luxuriating in reading a book away from prying eyes? Who among us hasn’t rolled her eyes at blondes who can’t blink (too much mascara) and at jocks humping lockers in the hallways? To people who are lucky enough to have escaped such fates, these descriptions may sound like teen movie clichés. But as someone who attended a small, preppy, wealthy, hugely white Midwestern public high school until age 16, I feel like I can say: The blondes who can’t blink are very, very real.

The new ABC series Suburgatory knows from high school horrors. The half-hour comedy/terrifying flashback-inducing documentary of my teenage years tells the story of a 16-year-old girl whose single father transplants her from a happy New York City life to the suburbs after finding a package of condoms in her dresser drawer. Jane Levy plays Tessa, a red-headed, sarcastic heroine who greets each new Stepford-like vision with perfectly raised eyebrows. Inside, she’s sprinting toward the nearest Metro. Jeremy Sisto plays her dry yet sweetly befuddled father. Among those rounding out the cast are Cheryl Hines of Curb Your Enthusiasm as a perky suburban mom with a heart of gold and Carly Chaikin as her daughter, the popular, mean, permanently bored Dalia, whose personality Tessa accurately described as being as flat as her hair.

Suburgatory has plenty of fast-paced quips and sly visual jokes (a glimpse of a glee club with members who, from the neck down, look very much like the cast from Glee, the flowers on bathroom windowsills and student desks). And Tessa has the makings of a great heroine in the Daria/Lindsay Weir/Emma Stone-in-Easy A mode. But as the show finds its voice, I’ll be curious to see if it will keep playing quite so safe, and so conservative.

For one thing, there’s that unopened package of condoms. It’s easy to imagine a dad–particularly a single dad–getting freaked out by finding his teenage daughter with them. But deciding that the box of condoms means they’re packing up their Manhattan life and moving to the suburbs seems like kind of an over-reaction. If she was doing drugs or if she’d gotten pregnant, maybe you could see a worried father dialing U-Haul. But those kinds of plot points seem like they’d be too edgy for this show. Tessa objects to the pristine, bland, conforming nature of the suburbs, but Suburgatory itself is pretty clearly targeted at the very audience it satirizes–there’s a reason it airs in the same family-friendly line-up as The Middle and Modern Family.

It’s also notable that the audience never finds out what Tessa was doing with the box of condoms–is she sexually active, or did she have them just in case? Is there a specific someone, or was she just trying to be prepared? The only further comments about the box come from Dallas, who seems willing to believe the story that Tessa was holding them for a friend. Whether or not viewers are meant to go along with that belief is unclear, but it was interesting that the show felt it needed to give viewers that kind of out–perhaps so as not to upset the abstinence-only set.

I also worry that Suburgatory has a bit of Glee‘s mean-spiritedness. Glee often gives viewers whiplash: one minute cruel comments from Sue or Santana or Quinn or whoever are punchlines, the next there’s a lesson of the week encouraging tolerance and acceptance. These lessons nearly always ring false, because moments earlier the show was effectively asking the audience to laugh with the bullies.

Hopefully, as Suburgatory develops it’ll get rid of uncreative joke-cliches about weight and sexuality (like how the girl who is supposed to be overweight but actually isn’t overweight isn’t allowed to eat dessert, or how gay men wear sweaters knotted around their necks and lesbians are vegetarians) and include more jokes that are genuinely original and funny–and a more diverse cast who can offer new twists on Tessa’s outsider perspective.

When Suburgatory does avoid cliches, it’s pretty great. Dalia’s deadpan delivery of the line “Sucks your mom died, bi-yatch” was just the kind of moment I’m looking forward to seeing more of. As the two teenage enemies stand in front of a dressing room mirror, wearing matching outfits with furry pink vests and sparkly sequined goggles, you can see our city girl realizing just how far from home she really is. She tells Dalia her mom’s not dead. Dalia barely notices.

The Secret Circle Recap, Season 1, Episodes 4 & 5 (“Heather” & “Slither”)

In Secret Circle, teen soaps on October 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm

This week we recap times two! On the agenda, Heather and demons, Nick’s untimely death, more demons, wonderful grandmothers, and so many mysteries!

How scary do you think TSC was in the Heather-demon episode, on a scale of one to ten? Is the show scarier/darker than you expected?

Phoebe: I would say it was an 8, but maybe a 10 on the Secret Circle scary chart. I thought the Heather with demon situation was scary but so intriguing and added an extra layer to the mystery, which was rather intriguing.

Sarah: I agree with Phoebe’s rating. I normally don’t expect to be scared by CW shows—Buffy’s special effects were way too ridiculous to be fearsome, and Vampire Diaries is suspenseful but rarely chilling. But seeing Heather-as-demon levitate and chase Cassie really freaked me out. I think it bodes well for the series’ range, but badly for my ability to watch the show without hiding under a blanket.

Why do you think Heather went with Cassie’s mom that night? And now we know Cassie’s mom was good, yes?

Phoebe: Now I am thinking she went because she believed in Cassie’s mom or something and that Cassie’s mom was it turns out really good and not evil, as it was perhaps suggested last week. But she bound the demon and that seems like a good and nice thing. Or, maybe Heather already had the demon in her when they went to the shipyard? Or maybe they summoned the demons in the ship yard and Heather and Cassie’s mom went there to stop it? I don’t know! I want to know more …

Sarah: I think it seems like Heather went with Cassie’s mom because she wanted to support her best friend in preventing whatever dangerous ceremony was about to take place—which means that both Heather and Cassie’s mom were good. My guess is that they arrived too late, and the demon had already been summoned and entered Heather. Cassie’s mom couldn’t get rid of the demon, but she could stop the pain/torment by effectively sedating Heather.

What do you think about this evil demon apparently summoned in the parents’ binding ceremony? Did they intentionally summon the demon? What is its story/purpose? And, does this mean that the parents were always out to practice black magic, or was black magic an unintended consequence of the quest for more power?

Phoebe: I am so curious about this issue … It seems that the binding had already happened and they were toying with their magic and got intrigued, as a teen might, with black magic. I can imagine teen witches getting curious about summoning demons and then not able to foresee the consequences and still not wanting to ask their parents for help. It seems very much like teen life but with the added power of witchcraft things. But clearly, I think the parents got into black magic, but then maybe as we saw last week did not want it around anymore. I want to know more!!

Sarah: I think you’re right, Phoebe, that the parents were experimenting but not necessarily intending real harm when they summoned the demon. It seems likely that they didn’t understand what the consequences of their actions would be but were excited by the idea of getting more power and exploring their dark sides.

How great are television grandmas?

Phoebe: I love love television grandmas and particularly Cassie’s grandma. But it reminds me of how great Hanna’s grandma is on Pretty Little Liars. So great! She is so strong and badass and amazing. And she brought so much power into the room and commanded so much attention and respect and also is so supportive of Cassie. I ❤ her so much.

Sarah: I concur. It’s so nice to see strong older female figures represented on television (not that the grandma is actually very old at all, she’s probably about 50 aka not anywhere near grandma-age in my family. But when you’ve got Cassie’s mom having a baby at roughly age 18 max I guess that makes sense). But yes, the grandma is awesome, and I’m relieved that she and Cassie are talking more openly about witchcraft now. I hope that openness doesn’t mean the bells are tolling for her!

What do you think about Nick’s untimely death?

Phoebe: I am so sad! i was loving the relationship between Melissa and Nick and how it was developing and I was sure that the grandma would bring Nick back to life in the same way that Dawn brought the school president back to life. But alas, not yet! Ugh. I was so interested in that story line. And also, what about Melissa’s possession? That was crazy! But also, I am really glad they did not kill her off as she rocks my socks, particularly as we are seeing her come into her own.

Sarah: I can’t believe Nick is really dead, and so early on in the series—it seemed like the show was really developing his character and his relationships with Melissa and Faye, so it was surprising to see him killed off. Assuming he doesn’t come back, though, I can see how his death may act as a catalyst for our other characters. Melissa will be grieving, Faye will be comforting Melissa, and Adam/Diana/Cassie will be trying to figure out a way to prevent such a death from happening again. I’m also interested to see whether Nick’s death will weaken the circle’s power—based on the dance episode, it seems as if one member’s death lessens the strength of the whole.

How do we feel about Charles and Dawn now? Post-killing Nick …

Phoebe: I feel SO conflicted. Like at once they did it to help Nick sort of, but also to protect the kids and themselves. Also, I feel like Charles is clearly interested in Dawn and so there may be some post-kill blossoming romance which seems weird. And interesting too that their crystal didn’t work and now what will they do? And I want to find out why they are so into getting their powers back I understand if you know once you were a witch and now you’re not and that that would totally suck. But, I feel like they have some super secret plan that we are not yet privy to.

Sarah: Yeah, I like that the show is deepening the complexity of those characters. Clearly they (and especially Charles) feel terrible about Nick’s death, but at the same time they’re guilty of causing it—not only because they drowned him to try to rid him of the demon, but if Dawn really wanted to be a hero she would have let the demon enter her instead of Nick. I think Dawn ultimately looks out for number one (and Faye, as an extension of number one). She’s not necessarily out to kill without discrimination, but most other people seem negligible, at least thus far. Charles, on the other hand, seems more conflicted—particularly when it comes to the kids.

When are we going to find out what happened the parents in the fire?!

Phoebe: I want to know SO badly. And I guess this is kind of covered by the other questions but I just want to know! But I also thought it was interesting that we learned that Cassie’s grandma did not know what happened with her daughter (Cassie’s mom) and so that now she seems not to be holding things back so that is interesting potentially …

Sarah: Yeah, my number one question is what happened that caused the death of one parent minimum per kid. And good point about the grandmother—it’s helpful to know that it’s as much a mystery to the elders (at least to a certain extent) as it is to the youngest generation.

How to Be Awesome Like… Veronica Mars

In girl culture, teen soaps on October 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Sarah Todd

“Veronica Mars,” Wallace proclaims with a grin in an early episode of everyone’s favorite teen detective drama, “you should hear what people say about you!”

Wallace is referring to the swirls of high school rumors that surround Veronica like a vituperative Starry Night, but she really should hear all the great things fans of the show have to say about her. Veronica Mars is a heroine for the ages. She’s tough, smart, sassy (50 points!) and flawed in the very real ways that most non-television characters are. The soul of Humphrey Bogart resides within that 5 foot blonde. What’s more, she’s a shining beacon of hope for anyone who’s ever struggled with self-esteem issues, because if there’s one thing Veronica has, it’s self-respect–the kind that starts with natural strength and gets honed by facing down a whole town that’s turned against her.

And so, without further ado: some ways to do awesomeness, VM-style.

  • Be a protector. Veronica stands up to power (most frequently in the form of Sheriff Lamb and the privileged 909-ers). Not only that, she does her best to convince people to stand up to power themselves. This exchange from “Hot Dogs” provides a great example: here, Veronica confronts a rich, popular guy who’s been picking on a girl who has a crush on him.

Veronica Mars: Did you crank call Mandy?
Dude: What if I did?
Veronica Mars: Well, I wanna congratulate you, shake your hand. Congratulations. You’ve been named the world’s biggest cockroach. This award is given in recognition of your unparallelled lack of decency and humanity. Bravo. You’re gonna die friendless and alone.
Dude: Hey everyone knows you’re the biggest…
Veronica Mars: Shut up! If I want you to speak, I’ll wave a snausage under your nose. If you use Mandy again to try to convince yourself you’re not a loser, I will ruin your life, got it? You got it?
Dude: Okay, geez.
Mandy: I can’t believe you did that…
Veronica Mars: I can’t believe that you didn’t! You want people to leave you alone, Mandy, or better yet treat you with respect? Demand it. Make them.

  • Never let people see their blows land. Whether it’s a big fake smile and a finger gun for Dick after he makes a gross double entendre, a snappy comeback, or simply walking away, Veronica never gives jerks the satisfaction of seeing her get ruffled.
  • If you ever have the opportunity, befriend the leader of the local motorcycle gang. He’ll be good in a pinch.
  • Know how to apologize when you’re wrong. Veronica’s not a perfect character, which is huge part of what makes her so great. She’s overly suspicious of others, big on revenge and payback, stubborn, and a bit bulldozing. However, she’s also a big enough person to recognize that she’s made a mistake and say she’s sorry. Most frequently, these apologies are to her dad or Wallace, the two people who love her best and are–perhaps as a result–most frequently manipulated by Veronica in the name of serving justicce.
  • When people underestimate you, use it to your advantage. People are always dismissing Veronica because she’s a tiny blonde teenage girl (not unlike a certain vampire slayer). But she turns dismissals into a weapon: since nobody suspects her, she’s all the more likely to crack a case. And the satisfaction of proving her doubters wrong gives Veronica extra motivation.
  • Be curious. The secret to Veronica’s success as a detective isn’t her hardboiled demeanor, persistence, or even her quick thinking. It’s that Veronica wants mysteries solved and discrepancies explained. Even when she doesn’t want to work a case, she ends up taking it on just because she wants answers. Her interest in the world around her, and in exposing the darkness underneath, is perhaps her biggest driving force.

What am I missing, Neptune fans? Please feel free to share your own Veronica-like awesomeness tips below.

The Secret Circle Roundtable: “Pilot,” Season 1, Episode 1

In girl culture, teen soaps on September 22, 2011 at 8:00 am

Teen shows are a kind of siren song for the ladies of Girls Like Giants. Naturally (or perhaps supernaturally?) we felt compelled to check out the CW’s new show The Secret Circle. Read on for a breakdown of the bewitching world of sad teens, missing and evil parents, youthful grandmas, and beautiful frozen raindrops (a perfect way to set the mood during a romantic trip to the woods!).

Cassie and Her Secret Circle

Sarah: So what do you make of our witch-y protagonist?

Phoebe: Well I have a soft spot for her post her performance as Lux on Life Unexpected. So I like her, as I think she is kind of grumpy which I like and stubborn.

Sarah: Yes, I didn’t see that show but I think she is a promising lead — I also like her grumpiness and the sense of integrity she projects. I think it’s interesting that Faye calls her “sad and delicate” because she’s understandably sad (given the death of her mother) but she didn’t really seem delicate.

Phoebe: Yes true. But not delicate at all

Sarah: It’s like Faye sees her as a Bella, but I have a feeling she’s way more of a Hermione

Phoebe: Yes, indeed and oddly unlike many of our current teen brunette heroines, she is blonde

Sarah: Right! More like a Buffy/Veronica Mars

Phoebe: Yes, totally like Buffy and VM (my fave). And all the other girl witches have brown-ish hair

Sarah: Which relatedly. What do you think of Faye and Diana? And their relationship with each other?

Phoebe:  I think Faye reminds me a little of The Craft and Neve Campbell/Robin Tuney, which I am digging. Diana, I am not sure yet especially given her dad is seemingly evil and a Vampire Diaries Elijah look-alike

Sarah: He does! I liked Faye a lot because I think she’s got the bad-girl vibe but isn’t evil herself. She’s interested in power, but she clearly doesn’t want to hurt people either. Read the rest of this entry »