Let’s talk: Scarlett Johannsen controversy

Scarlett Johansson has stepped down from playing transman, Dante Tex Gill in Rub and Tug after backlash from transgender activists.

Now, my view about LGBTQ+ characters in film and TV is: as long as the character isn’t portrayed as a negative stereotype (unless it’s satire or black comedy), then it doesn’t worry me whether the actor is LGBTQ+.

 

I want to know your thoughts. What do you think about cis – het actors playing LGBTQ+ characters?

Transgender/ gender non – binary/ Scarlett Johanssonnon – conforming people, how do you feel about a cis – gender actor playing a transgender character?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Maybe my generation needs to take it down a peg?

I rarely watch reality TV anymore. Any I do watch are often reruns. I can’t tell you when I watched a singing/ talent reality show. However, I stumbled on this video on YouTube before. While not all of them are young (there’s a contestant who was about middle – aged), all but one fired up judges due to arrogance and rudely not taking no for an answer.

Most of the contestants seemed to be the epitome of Gen Y (and Z) stereotypes: entitled, spoiled, wanting everything now, not being able to handle rejection etc. Of course, it doesn’t represent all Gen Y (or most) or Gen Z.

Starting at 4:33, a girl named Charlotte, at only sixteen years old, tried to sing a Whitney Houston song. Judge Michael “Louis” Walsh got into a row with Sharon Osbourne after saying that Charlotte was ‘deluded’. He ended up getting wine thrown in his face. Harshness of Walsh’s comment aside (it was very snide, especially toward a sixteen – year – old), I wondered how Charlotte dealt with criticism or rejection in general and whether she ever did to that point, to be honest.

Then there were performers (one girl group and a solo male artist), who’s ego was way too big and they were quite rude to the judges and crew. Examples of the narcissism that Gen Y are often accused of, methinks.

 

How BuzzFeed copy editor made me excited about writing

Book: A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age" by Emmy Favila
“A World Without Whom” by BuzzFeed’s Emmy Favila offers great insight into the English language and offers writers and the general public freedom to express themselves.

 

I have been reading the book A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide to Language in our Buzzfeed Age by Buzzfeed’s Copy Editor, Emmy Favilla. While it took me a while to read it (an understatement, to tell you the truth), I loved it. It made me even more excited about getting into the field of professional writing.

The book went through some history of the English language and what linguists had to say. Then it focused on how rapidly language is changing, especially in the age of the internet and social media (I thought about writing ‘Internet’, just then. That was one of the debates Favilla wrote about in the book. I’ll stick with ‘i’, I think).

Basically, there are a few rules, only preferences. Sure it has to make sense and no writer should be making typos right, left or centre if they’re serious and not a maniac (myself included). Consistency is key.

Of course, there are social norms one should consider, like inclusive language. I think Favilla went into overkill with this. Here’s the thing: I believe that if someone requests to be preferred to by a specific pronoun, including “they” or “ze”, by all means refer to the person by that pronoun. I don’t think you necessarily have to ‘eliminate’ gender altogether. If you really don’t know, then, if you can ask. In  a rare case, use gender neutral, but I don’t think you need to go overboard with it.

Another pet peeve I discovered I have while reading the book is drawn out sentences. I  realised this at the start. Hey, that’s fine for Favilla, I’m not knocking that. I just prefer shorter sentences— less than twenty – five words preferably. Definitely no more than thirty.

That aside, it was exciting to read about the evolution of the English language. I loved reading about the emoticons, and how far back they went, (right back to the 1980’s, apparently). Also, there’s debate about whether one of Abraham Lincoln’s written speeches included typos or a deliberate emoticon. In regard to emojis, I nominate the Ancient Egyptians as being the first to use them. 😛

Screenshot of hieroglyphs and emojis
Screenshot: Things have gone full circle over the past 4,000 years.

 

While language, particularly grammar has become a lot more relaxed over the years, Favila emphasised the need for the need for inclusive language and the importance in using appropriate terms for one’ gender or racial identity (particularly indigenous groups around the world). I’ll put my two cents in when it comes to gender: I believe you should refer to someone by the pronouns that a person prefers (including ‘they’ and ‘ze’/ ‘zir’).  Should it be something that a writer or anyone else needs to tie themselves in knots over with everyone they meet? No. I fear that we are making things too complicated. Be courteous. If you are asked to refer to someone using certain pronouns, use them. If not, my guess is what you see is what you get.

Another thing I found fascinating was the differences in British/ Australian and American English. Of course, there’s colour/ color, favour/ favor and Imperial vs Metric measurements (miles vs kilometres, etc). However, I didn’t know that the US has slightly different use of swear words and their offense levels than the UK and Australia. Who knew? (P.S. I’m not giving any examples here. Google them for yourself if you want to know).

A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide to Language in the Buzzfeed Age was a great read and offered great insights in the English language. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has any interest in language or it’s evolution.

Have you read A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age? What did you think? Leave your thoughts below.

 

Malcolm Young has died aged 64

AC/DC rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young has died on Saturday after a three – year long battle with dementia and lung cancer. He was sixty – four.

The Young family released a statement, describing him as a “beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother”.

The Scottish – born guitarist was in the original AC/DC lineup in 1973, along with his brother, Angus. his late brother, Easybeats’ member, George, as their producer.

AC/DC has been a major part of Australia’s rock music history. Since the release of their debut album, High Voltage in 1975, AC/DC took Australia, then the world by storm. To date, they have sold over 200 million albums.

The 1980 passing of lead singer, Bon Scott from alcohol poisining could have seen the end of the band. However, former Geordie singer, Brian Johnson took Bon Scott’s place later that year. It was then, they made, what’s arguably become one of the best selling albums in hard rock/ heavy metal, Back in Black. 

Their success was far from over. In 1991, AC/DC released their twelth studio album, Razor’s Edge, which included Thunderstruck.

The past few years had been tough on the band. Drummer Phil Rudd faced charges of marijuana posession and making threats to kill.

There were fears about Brian Johnston when he was told that he’d have to quit touring becausecof the risk of hearing loss. Guns ‘N’ Roses, Axl Rose was his replacement. However, in August, Rolling Stone reported that due to evolving hearing technology, Johnston had his hearing maintained and will he able to perform again. He made a surprise appearance at the Reading Festival.

Since Young’s retirement, his nephew, Stephen Young has taken his place on guitar. Hopefully, with that, AC/DC can keep on rock for a few more years.

Malcolm survived alongside his wife, Linda, children, Cara  and Ross, grandchildren and brother and sister.

Rock in peace, Malcolm.

Do you have a favourite AC/DC memory (song, concert, etc)? Tell us about in the comments below.

 

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ – a great end to a great series

Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The last book of the Harry Potter series. A fine ending to the series.

I finally finished the seventh Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was great. A fine end to what was overall a great series.

I started reading Harry Potter when I was about eleven. I got the first book either for Christmas or my birthday (can’t remember exactly. And I might have been twelve when I read it). It was like nothing I’ve read or (later in the movie), seen before.

It had a strong story line and characters. It was sad in parts. I cried when Harry Potter saw his parents in the Erised mirror in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone movie.

I thought the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was better than the first. It had a great plot, and gave good context to the origin of Hogwarts, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry and Ron turn out to be more mischievous.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
2nd Harry Potter book

 

I won’t go through the whole series. You can read them for yourself, if you haven’t already. What I will say is that, what the whole series did really well is revealing the true colours of characters. And often, it wasn’t obvious at the start: for example, Sirius Black (Prisoner of Azkaban) was not a wanted criminal, but a man who was falsely accused of being a Death Eater and Harry’s godfather, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, celebrity and fraud who stole credit for other people’s achievements (Chamber of Secrets) and, of course, the revealing of Tom Riddle’s real identity – Lord Voldemort (a.k.a “He Who Must Not Be Named’).

I’ve got to say, my least favourite of the books and movies was the sixth one, Harry Potter and the Half – Blood Prince. It started off alright, with the revealing that Professor Snape was a Death Eater, but by the second half, I though the story fell a bit flat. The movie just went on for too long and there were moments in the film that I thought were unnecessary. This turned me off Harry Potter for a while.

However, I’m glad I finally did read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It took me over a month, but I got there (it was nice reading an actual paperback book, too, rather than a digital one). Rowling could not have finished the series any stronger if she tried.

Interesting things I’ve realised while reading the ‘Deathly Hallows’

When I was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I realsed things throughout the series that I hadn’t noticed before. There are quite a few historical references (in characters’ names mainly), and strong social and political themes.

Historical names

Minerva McGonagall: Minerva,was of course the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom, intellect, arts and war. She did seems wise, I guess. I wonder if that was deliberate.

Another ancient Roman reference is the name of Professor Remus Lupin. Remus was believed to be a demigod; son of Mars, who along with his twin brother Romulus founded Rome. Remus ended up being murdered in a bitter dispute with Romulus, who ended up naming the city.

Does anyone know exactly why Rowling used references to ancient Roman mythology?

Social issues

If you look closely, there are a number of social and political themes in Harry Potter. The main one, at least I picked up on, is discrimination. That is first evident in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when Draco Malfoy calls Hermione Granger a “Mudblood”; an offensive term used against those who weren’t born into a “pure blood” wizard/ witch family. The level of hatred toward non – Magic (Muggle) or mixed families becomes much more explicit in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Voldemort and his followers attempt to weed out non – pure blood witches, wizards and Muggles (non – Magical people).

Not only is there implicit and explicit discrimination in the wizard and non – wizard world, but there is also historical tension between wizards and goblins. In the Deathly Hallows this is revealed by Griphook’s lack of trust towards Harry, Hermione and Ron (Weasley), which prevents him from allowing them access to Godric Gryffindor’s sword.

The importance of friendship is also prominent in all the Harry Potter books and movies. Harry learns to allow his friends to help him when he needs it. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore admonishes Harry to allow Ron and Hermione know what’s troubling him. In the Deathly Hallows, Neville Longbottom pleads with Harry to allow him to help him defeat Voldemort.

 

Harry Potter is undoubtedly one of the greatest fiction series, at least in the past ten years. I doubt that such creativity and success will be reciprocated any time soon. I’m glad I’ve gone through the Harry Potter journey.

Have you read all the Harry Potter books or seen the movies? What’s your favourite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Did you know these ’90’s hits were covers?

I didn’t know that Natalie Imbruglia’s hit Torn was a cover until this morning. It doesn’t surprise me, though. Growing up in the 1990’s, I remember that many songs that were hits were covers (as in being sung by another artist before), or had been written by someone else.

How many of these do you know that were covers?

All 4 One: I swear

This All – 4 – One hit was an R’n’B rendition of a country hit originally sung by John Michael Montgomery in 1993, while All – 4 – One did it the following year. The song is written by Gary Baker and Frank J Myers.

Daryl Braithwaite: Horses

This song is as Aussie as Vegemite! Or wait, no it’s not, actually.  The former singer of Sherbet did covered this song in 1991. The song was originally recorded in 1989 by Rickie Lee Jones. It was written by Rickie Lee Jones and Walter Baker.

Nothing Compares 2 U: Sinead O’Connor

Does everyone know this song was originally by Prince?

Baby Give It Up – Cut’n’Move

This cover from the Danish dance pop group in 1993 is my favourite. It was originally done by disco group KC and the Sunshine Band in 1982. Written by frontman, Harry Casey.

Without You – Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey was massive when I was a kid. I had a video of one of her live performances and used to (try) and sing along to it every time I watched it. This song was originally released by Harry Nilsson in 1971. It was written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans. (Sorry can’t embed the video at the moment. For some reason it always embeds the Cut’n’Move one).

 

What covers do you remember from the ’90’s? Which one is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

The Biggest Loser has come to an end

Woman standing on scales with measuring tape draped around feet
After 13 years, the American ‘The Biggest Loser’ comes to an end (image: iStock)

Content Warning: dangerous weight loss, disordered eating and emotional abuse. Please proceed with care if any of these issues are triggering for you.

According to women’s site, Ravishly, NBC’s The Biggest Loser is may be dumped. This year, Australia’s TBL Transformed was moved from Sunday evenings to weekdays due to plummeting ratings. 

Since it’s debut in 2004, The Biggest Loser has had it’s fair share of condemnation from the media, health professionals and former contestants. In 2016, New York Post published a damning article in which former contestants alleged that they were, among other things, forced to put on weight when applying and taking drugs, one which is condemned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and were encouraged when they became physically sick.

The tactics used in the The Biggest Loser, including their doctor, Dr. Rob Huezenga (a.k.a Dr. H). has been condemned in the medical community. Canadian obesity specialist Dr. Yoni Freedhoff slammed the show, calling it an ‘atrocity’ and vehemently saying that the tactics of the show are not endorsed by the medical community.

In 2014, The Biggest Loser was rocked by a scandal when winner Rachel Frederickson became unhealthily thin. Even trainer Jillian Michaels admitted to E News that Frederickson had lost too much weight after weighing in at 105 pounds (47.6 kg).

 

In Australia, The Biggest Loser has also copped criticism from fitness experts as well. Trainers went as far as to say to Fitness Enhancement that if they employed the same tactics as they do on the show, it’d get them fired. The types of exercises that the often – morbidly obese contestants to do without proper techniques. Trainers and health experts were also concerned at how injuries were handled.

In 2014, The Biggest Loser (Australia) was dealt a public relations disaster when it was reported by Daily Mail Australia that 2012 winner, Margie Cummins faced health issues due to rapid weight loss during the show. Cummins revealed that she had to be hospitalised for an infected pancreas and issues with her liver after she’d lost 73.2 kg (161 lb) during the show.

Emotional abuse accusations

It’s not just the strenuous exercise, alleged illegal drug taking and dangerous weight loss that has stained The Biggest Loser brand in the U.S. Blog Dance with Fat has condemned the trainers, especially Jillian Michaels of emotional abuse. In response to a YouTube video (which the blogger didn’t post, and neither will I), of Michaels  screaming at contestants.

The trainers of the Australian series weren’t exempt from similar condemnation. Trainers interviewed by Fitness Enhancement accused the Australian trainers, Michelle Bridges, Shannan Ponton and Steve ‘Commando’ Willis and Tiffiny Hall of ‘fat – shaming and ‘downright bullying’. While the 2017’s series TBL Transformed tried a holistic health approach, it wasn’t without controversy. with concerns that one of the contestants, Nikki being deemed by some viewers not heavy enough to be on the show at 78.1 kg (172.18 lb).

 

In reality, I think that the Biggest Loser was probably never going to be about health. It was about drama, pushing the limits, and of course, weight loss. And it seems like the public, both in Australia and the U.S. has spoken. They’re not buying it anymore.

Did you watch The Biggest Loser? Did you have any concerns about it? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comets below.