Star Wars: The Clone Wars
2008 • 98 minutes • Warner Bros. Pictures
Can you hear it? The slow, subtle turn of fandom’s head back to Marvel? The sound of dust being brushed off Captain America shields and hankies being stuffed into knapsacks against the impending Bucky Barnes feelings?
Well, if you can, I can’t, dear reader. Despite all the signs that the wind and your tumblr dashboard is starting to change direction to a different Disney property, I remain almost composed of Star Wars. After the glorious high of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it seems that my fever for that franchise will never abate. This is liberally aided by the fact that Star Wars, as a film series, is composed of four quality films and three exquisitely choice bad movies, satisfying my entire cinematic palette in one go. It is only the Expanded Universe’s decanonization that keeps me from running full tilt into it.
To soothe this ravenous appetite, I decided to finally embark upon Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I’d thought about picking up The Clone Wars—the only Star Wars property currently streaming on American Netflix—over the holidays, but my dreams of introducing my nephew, Wolfboy, to Star Wars were shattered when he declared The Clone Wars “too scary” and went off to to his favorite movie, the existential horror show that is Cars. I mainlined holiday cooking shows instead. But it was only a matter of time. I’ve heard such good things about this television series, about how it gives Anakin Skywalker more time to develop from frustrated young Jedi to Sith Lord and gives Obi-Wan a quasi-romantic interest in a Mandalorian duchess named Satine. (Yes, she’s named that for the same reason you think she’s named that.)
Throne of Glass
by Sarah J. Maas
2013 (originally published 2012) • 406 pages • Bloomsbury
When Sarah J. Maas mentions that she got the idea for Throne of Glass in high school, inspired by dark music in Disney’s Cinderella, in the supplemental material in the paperback edition of said book, I thought—well, that makes perfect sense.
I do not say this to be shady, or, more correctly, needlessly shady. (Shade is being cast, is what I’m trying to say.) But it made sense to me that Maas has spent years and years with these characters. The overall effect of reading Throne of Glass is a bit like wandering into somebody else’s high school reunion and finding yourself bewildered, simply because you don’t have access to the connective tissue between in-jokes, knowing looks, and old stories told in laughter and dropped phrases.
by Elissa Sussman
2016 • 272 pages • Greenwillow Books
I am very weirdly proud of my local library for carrying both Elissa Sussman’s Stray and Burn. I may have mentioned that my local library has the lackadaisical policy of never really circulating books back to their libraries of origin when holds crisscross this fair island, which means that I get to see what my neighbors are reading. (This is how I know that I managed to get somebody else hooked on Ōoku, because they are way ahead of me!) While I’m not as familiar with their young adult selection as I was of the public library I volunteered for in my teens, I am nonetheless very happy to see some feminist-minded fantasy young adult novels mixed in with more traditional fare. The teenagers of Brooklyn deserve Elissa Sussman’s books!
Ms. Marvel: Generation Why
by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt
2015 (originally published 2014) • 136 pages • Marvel
Ms. Marvel: Generation Why (or issues 6 through 11) finds newly minted Ms. Marvel, Jersey City’s own hometown hero, navigating the usual trials and tribulations of a teenage superhero—hiding her identity to protect her loved ones, interfacing with the larger world of superheroics, and, of course, saving the day. Specifically, saving the day from the Inventor, the strange cockatiel-human hybrid who has been kidnapping teenage runaways for assuredly nefarious purposes.
Generation Why keeps up the same high level of quality seen in Ms. Marvel: No Normal—unsurprisingly, as the only major difference in the creative team is Jacob Wyatt stepping in to illustrate issues 6 and 7. Wyatt plays nicely in the quirkier house style of Ms. Marvel (I especially love the way he draws Kamala’s prominent nose), but Adrian Alphona’s teen indie movie in a bottle style is still the most perfect complement to G. Willow Wilson’s writing.
The Princess Diaries
based on the novel by Meg Cabot
2001 • 115 minutes • Buena Vista Pictures
If, by some strange and vengeful act of God, every Disney Channel Original Movie was wiped from the face of this earth, we could probably reconstruct them using The Princess Diaries. Despite its theatrical release, its Whitney Houston production credit, and the good name of Gary Marshall back when that meant something other than another American rendition of Love Actually (Mother’s Day, coming to theaters April 26th, I am literally not joking), The Princess Diaries is nothing if not the platonic ideal of the DCOM: glossy, sweet, and fun, complete with the optional side order of a big star (Julie Andrews) gracing a smaller production with her presence.
It’s so sweet, in fact, that I remember being very disturbed as a preteen by the discovery that the Grandmere found in Meg Cabot’s novel (upon which the film is based, obviously) bares little resemblance to Julie Andrews’ kindly Queen Clarisse. I mean, she’s amazing—tough as nails, glamorous, and a fan of permanent makeup—but she’s, you know, different.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2015 • 135 minutes • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
I have never really been a big Star Wars fan. I’d always found the franchise fascinating, as both a pop culture junkie and an amateur fandom historian, but I’d never developed the deep, enduring affection I’d seen it generate in other people. But something about the run-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens woke something very strange within me. I watched a fanedit of the prequels. I talked endlessly about how terrible Obi-Wan Kenobi’s life is. I threatened to make Mrs. Captain Phasma sweaters (which will totally happen). I plotted endlessly about what the film could hold. I became, bit by bit, obsessed with Star Wars.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens made me a Star Wars fan before it came out, and now? I am completely composed of Star Wars for the time being and I am loving every minute of it.
Addams Family Values
based on the comics by Charles Addams
1993 • 94 minutes • Paramount Pictures
Bowie among us, you could not make Addams Family Values these days. You can’t put a baby in constant, mortal danger for laughs in anything but the blackest of comedies these days, and Addams Family Values does so in a dark but ultimately lighthearted family film. A family film which also includes a joke about a stripper being baked to death in a cake by one of our heroes. This all seems a little weird in the context of 2015, but Matilda got pretty cartoonishly violent three years after this hit screens.
The nineties—apparently, the self-esteem of a Bill Clinton presidency and a booming economy means that the idea of children in mortal danger is so outlandish that it’s funny. The past is another country indeed.
Of the two theatrically released Addams Family films (the third film, Addams Family Reunion, was a direct to video release, even though it technically debuted on Fox Family—LONG MAY YOU RUN, BELOVED CHANNEL OF MY YOUTH), Addams Family Values seems to be the more fondly remembered. It boasts most of the charms of the first film while having a plot that’s more interesting and much bettered structured than the meandering question of whether or not Fester is or isn’t really Fester.
Addams Family Values pits the Addamses against some worthier rivals—the elder Addamses become the latest target of black widow serial killer Debbie Jellinsky and the younger Addamses are, after Debbie gets them out of her hair, pitted against the privileged excesses of an uber-WASPy camp.
by Rainbow Rowell
2015 • 522 pages • St. Martin’s Griffin
Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On may be the most anticipated deconstruction of Harry Potter since we all stumbled out of our midnight screenings of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, feeling very strange indeed.
Of course, there have been other deconstructions. The Magicians, The Unwritten, and Mr. Toppit are all deconstructions of Harry Potter to a degree, but they’re at once more broad and more narrow than Carry On. They pull from a variety of other texts, like The Chronicles of Narnia and Winnie the Pooh—but they pull only from those texts. What Carry On does differently from those deconstructions and, in fact, any other deconstruction I’ve read is that it also pulls from the metatext that is the vastness of the Harry Potter fandom, the ur-gateway fandom for Millennials.
In her acknowledgments, Rowell states that Carry On is her take on a Chosen One narrative, but you’d have to be (unfathomably) unfamiliar with Harry Potter to read this and not think of the Boy Who Lived. And, of course, that’s rather the point. Carry On is a deceptively soft deconstruction of Harry Potter: while it lacks the sheer brutality of The Magicians, it’s more interested in picking at holes you may have not noticed in the original text to unearth and engage with the strange implications underneath than trying to shatter your childhood innocence in one blow.
(No, I’m still not over how The Magicians ended, if you haven’t noticed how I’ve not finished the trilogy.)
The Phantom of the Opera
based on the musical based on the novel
2004 • 143 minutes • Warner Bros. Pictures
Crimson Peak’s box office may not be what Universal wanted, but I have been having a ball seeing it hit home with its intended audience: gothically and/or Romantically inclined women of all ages. I’ve seen (and, of course, promptly misplaced) tumblr commentary indicating that this was exactly what they yearned for as preteens when their mainstream and more current peers were focused elsewhere. All of this delighted sighing over romance and stylized frights brought me back to my own adolescence.
In 2004, back when I was a young preteen full of unspeakable urges (queer ones, not Byronic hero urges—well, not those Byronic hero urges), it was The Phantom of the Opera that captured the bloody hearts of the preteen Romantic hordes.
I mean, let’s face it: The Phantom of the Opera boasts a lot of similar elements as Crimson Peak. Beautiful, crumbling architecture, death looming in the shadows, young love, beautiful young women rising above their stations, gorgeous costumes, and brooding. Of course, there’s a Phantom in the sewers of Paris rather than [SPOILER REDACTED] in the attic, but both looming threats are surprisingly seductive. Oh, and there’s songs.
by Maggie Thrash
2015 • 272 pages • Candlewick Press
I’m always fascinated by stories about the messy process of becoming a person, whether that’s by developing one’s own identity outside of one’s parent, developing a sense of morality, or developing a sense of one’s desires. Chalk it up to a sheltered childhood or a belated coming out, but that process is fresh enough in my own narrative that I’m always hungry to see someone else’s just to compare notes.
Maggie Thrash’s Honor Girl, a graphic memoir about Thrash’s experiences at Camp Bellflower and her first crush on a girl, falls perfectly into that category. Every summer, Maggie (as I’ll call the Thrash in the memoir to avoid confusion with the Maggie who wrote it) has attended the all girls camp as one of the few out-of-towners for years. She loves it, but, one summer, when she’s fifteen, she develops a crush on Erin, a nineteen year old counselor. Confused by both her first all encompassing crush and the fact that it’s on a girl, Maggie tries to make it through the summer like normal—but, of course, she can’t.
Maggie spends the bulk of Honor Girl puzzling out what’s happening to her, in a space that’s meant to be a safe haven for girls. But there are edges and limitations to even that, since it’s not a truly liberated context. Girls excitedly police each other’s gender presentation; Erin fights constantly with a girl named Libby over the ultimate safe space of the firing range; girls ritually tease and humiliate each other about crushes on the male members of staff. Once her crush on Erin becomes known to the main counselor, the counselor tells her that not only is being gay distasteful to talk about, but it’s an active threat to the innocence of the other girls around her. Because, I guess, queer kids aren’t entitled to innocence and safe spaces. Vomit.