One of the things I did to numb the pain of my beloved Bunheads’ cancellation this summer was to search through the ABC Family lineup for a suitable replacement. I was looking for something funny with a dash of sass and maybe a little dancing. Instead, I found The Fosters, a heartfelt family drama about a blended family living in San Diego, California. I was pretty skeptical of The Fosters at first, because the premise felt like it might be gimmicky; The Fosters is about an interracial lesbian couple, Stef and Lena (Teri Polo and Sherri Saum), who are raising Stef’s biological son, Brandon (David Lambert) together with a set of Latino twins, Jesus and Mariana (Jake T. Austin and Cierra Ramirez) adopted out of foster care. In the show’s pilot, Lena and Stef agree to be a foster family to a girl just out of juvenile detention, Callie (Maia Mitchell), and her younger brother, Jude (Hayden Bryley).
September 14, 2013 • Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite
August 12, 2013 • Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite
I first heard about Rainbow Rowell’s book Eleanor and Park on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast in August 2012, and it finally appeared at my local library in March 2013. The book is labeled as young adult fiction, so I expected to finish it fairly quickly. Over the next week, I read it three times, each time hoping that I would uncover something new, just to make the story last longer.
Eleanor and Park takes place over one school year in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1986. Its protagonists and title characters are misfits for a variety of reasons, but those reasons don’t feel contrived or trite like in other YA novels. Eleanor is new in school, a “big girl” with tons of red curls and a penchant for men’s ties. Park is “the only Asian kid in school,” who loves comic books and doesn’t really like his friends. They both live in the Flats neighbourhood of Omaha, but while Park lives with his parents and (much taller) younger brother in a sterile, knick-knack filled house, Eleanor shares a tiny bedroom with a gaggle of younger siblings and lives in constant fear of her abusive stepfather.
June 21, 2013 • Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite
There are some TV shows that keep you on the edge of your seat from episode to episode (Scandal, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones come to mind), and there are some that require a little more patience for a big payoff in action, romance, or some other development that is integral to the show. One of these shows is Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman Palladino’s newest show, Bunheads, an ABC Family drama/comedy about a dance studio in a tiny California town. From this description alone, many people will write off this show before attempting to watch it. It might be weird for me to be writing about Bunheads now, considering it hasn’t been on the air for almost a year and its second-season renewal has yet to be confirmed. I might be going through withdrawal, but I felt compelled to share my feelings about this great program with you all. Perhaps some new fans is just what ABC Family needs to cement Bunheads’s return to the small screen. To those individuals, I plead: try it. The payoff is worth the wait.
October 8, 2012 • Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite
For many women, the menstrual cycle is a process that is complicated, unavoidable, and often annoying. But for the amount of time and money that women and girls spend on menstrual issues, many women don’t know the specifics of the cycle itself. Alison Sanchez, a Missisauga, ON-based entrepreneur, has created the Female Empowerment Bracelet as way for women to track the basic changes in their menstrual cycles. The bracelet, also called a Feby bracelet, has 28 beads that symbolize the different days of the cycle, and are coloured accordingly—black for pre-menstrual, red for menstruation, white for “neutral” and pink for ovulation. The beads are arranged in a pattern that matches the cycle itself. Each day, the wearer can move a knot in the bracelet’s string in between the beads, which helps to keep track of what day it is in her cycle. The 28-bead bracelet may not be useful for girls whose periods are shorter or longer than the average, but can provide a girl with a general sense of how her cycle works in relation to the average.
I was provided with a sample of Feby while manning the Shameless booth at the Word on the Street Festival, and decided to try it out. On her website, and during her visit to the Shameless booth, Sanchez says that Feby is intended to be an educational tool for girls and younger women who are beginning their periods. She also suggests that girls can use the bracelet colours as coded ways to discuss their periods with other girls, in order to feel more comfortable discussing their bodies. In this way, Feby can be both an educational and an interactive tool, especially for younger girls who are just beginning to learn about their unique experiences of the menstrual cycle.
September 19, 2012 • Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite
This week marked the end of an MTV show that has been both polarizing and extremely popular since its inception three years ago. The show is Teen Mom, which began as a 2009 spin-off of MTV’s documentary series 16 and Pregnant. Created by Lauren Dolgen, 16 and Pregnant depicted the lives of real teen parents before and after the birth of their children. After the first season of 16 and Pregnant aired, MTV selected four girls to be part of the Teen Mom spin-off, and filmed their first years of motherhood. Since then, MTV has aired three more seasons of 16 and Pregnant featuring three different casts. Two of these seasons have spawned a Teen Mom series: Teen Mom 2 (in its second season) and Teen Mom 3 (greenlit by MTV). So despite the end of the original Teen Mom series, the Teen Mom franchise remains active on MTV.
Given the makeup of the network’s other successful programs (Jersey Shore, the Real World, Campus PD, The Hills, etc.), it would be easy to write off Teen Mom as another sensationalized “reality” program that exploits its protagonists for profit. It is important to acknowledge that Teen Mom has changed as a series throughout its four seasons, and that these changes have affected its impact as a hard-hitting expose on being a pregnant teenager in the United States. However, it is a political and cultural event that warrants closer examination for its impact on discussions of teenage sexuality in contemporary arenas.
Teen Mom features season-long narrative arcs that involve the women and their families, partners, and children, focusing largely on negative or dramatic events in their lives. This focus is in contrast to 16 and Pregnant, which focused on the financial, educational, and familial issues of one pregnant teen per episode. As a result, Teen Mom focused less on the everyday difficulties of teenage parenthood and more on the dramatic interactions between the mothers and their partners, friends, and parents. This makes the show more entertaining to watch, but takes away much of the “reality” that characterized 16 and Pregnant as a groundbreaking and interesting look at teen motherhood.
July 30, 2012 • Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite
Much was made of Pixar’s latest release, Brave, before and after its premiere, for a number of different reasons. Prior to the film’s release, viewers knew that this would be Pixar’s first animated film to feature a female protagonist (a slightly embarrassing admission considering how many great films have come out of that studio), and also the first film to really master the animation of human hair. After the film’s premiere, many critics complained that the film was “uninspired” and “conventional”. While I agree that some aspects of the story were not exactly groundbreaking (spells, witches, marriage issues), and the Scottish history may have been a bit murky, Brave is actually more innovative than some of Pixar’s earlier releases, just not in the way that many were expecting it to be.
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