In the spirit of Halloween I have come up with three simple costumes inspired by 19th century American short stories. Whether you are a somewhat troubled trickster or a passive treater there’s something for everyone.
For the more passive trick or treater…..
Rip Van Winkle! Yes, this guy is really easy. He comes from a short story of the same name by Washington Irving. Set before and after the American Revolutionary War, it follows Rip as he falls into a deep slumber atop the Catskills after drinking some mysterious liquor among a group of complete strangers. He awakens years later to find that his family and friends have died and America’s allegiance has switched from King George III to George Washington.
To dress up as Rip, all you need to do is find a comfortable spot on the outskirts of your town donning a full beard and a glass of something potent. Then simply have a nice snooze and awaken in the depths of confusion.
For those who would like to be the conscience of their loved ones for one night only……
The Tell-Tale Heart is the costume for you. The short story of the same name, penned by Edgar Allan Poe, features “a tell-tale heart” which is the manifestation of the narrator’s guilt having just committed murder. The heart begins with a subtle throb and grows to a maddening beat, leading the narrator to admit his guilt and invite the police to tear up the floorboards and reveal his crime.
Simply find or construct a good heart costume and glare at the shiftiest of your peers for the duration of Halloween. To achieve the ultimate Halloween trick though, try squeezing beneath the floorboards (or furniture if more comfortable) of your guiltiest friend’s home and making throbbing noises every time they enter the room!
Finally, for those of us who like to be “part of the furniture” so to speak….
Try The Yellow Wallpaper! Again, this costume idea comes from the short story of the same name by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The yellow wallpaper adorns the bedroom of a young woman who is confined there by her husband due to what he calls “a temporary nervous depression – a slight nervous tendency.” Today, we call this post-natal depression and have more humane methods of treating it rather than locking women up like prisoners with nothing to stimulate them but the four walls of their cell.
If The Yellow Wallpaper is the costume for you all you need is the right shade of clothing and a good lick of matching body paint. Then stand against the nearest wall and blink disconcertingly at passersby.
My colleague, Niamh MacNamara shared this image on Facebook and it reminded me of so many books that have drawn me in to the point where I feel like I’m part of the narrative. For me, however, my most immersed literary experiences give me a sense of belonging rather than “emotional trauma” and I believe this is true for many readers. Women and Girls in Literature like George Kirrin, Jo March and Buffy Summers diluted my awkward childhood and teen years with soothing images of independent tomboys with attitude and ambition.
It started in childhood with The Famous Five series. Of course I wanted to be George, a tomboy whose family and friends accept her to the point where they are happy to forego her real name, Georgina, allow her to wear boy’s clothes and crop her hair. I remember begging my mother to allow me to chop off all my goldilocks like George (didn’t work!). I felt utterly ruined by my name, Donna, which means “lady” – no name for a relentless tomboy!
Later it was Jo March of Little Women, the 19th century tomboy whose independent spirit captured my imagination! Again we have a character who adopts a masculine version of her name, crops her hair, uses slang, earns her own living and almost always rejects society’s expectations of her.
As a teenager Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a revelation – a female superhero who banishes her abusive boyfriend to hell and has a witticism for every situation. Of course this may seem like a deviation from the literary theme of this post. But one look at my Buffy book collection should assure the reader otherwise.
Not only did these women protagonists reassure my growing sense of self, but they encouraged me to read more and I have no doubt that they played a significant role in shaping my education and career choices to date. Then imagine my disappointment when I re-read The Famous Five last Christmas and found myself thinking what a petulant child George was – I guess this means I am getting old…
However, I had my annual Little Women indulgence this summer followed of course by Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys. As always I was Jo, annoyed by Meg, bored by Beth, impatient with Amy, but warmed by the enduring Jo. Often readers comment on Jo being a sell-out for marrying. While it was probably the case that Louisa May Alcott sacrificed a vision a bit with this plot decision, one must not forget that Jo refused to settle for less than a man who respected her as an independent intellectual equal. Let us also remember that Jo was the breadwinner and head of the family in Little Men and Jo’s Boys, not sacrificing her autonomy while still carrying on the March family values that we first read in Little Women.
Finally, Buffy has become even more dear to me in the wake of Twilight-infused Fifty Shades of misogynist mania – need I elaborate on these books’ shared message on the importance of having a boyfriend who abuses and infantilises you???
I recently read a post by the Thesis Whisperer that asked, “what is your edge?” In this time of economic crisis and job scarcity how can you as a doctoral candidate use your unique strengths to gain a career that suits your skills if not your research interests. This post came to me during a crisis. I was internally panicking about my future and whether or not I was being taken seriously by friends and family outside of academia. I realised that most people outside of my academic colleagues and friends do not understand what I do, what my everyday work life involves and why I am doing it. This reveals a problem with outreach. Many people assume that a PhD student will immediately get a lectureship upon finishing their studies, that this is a streamlined, easy progression. The reality is that more and more people are pursuing doctoral research, and there are less academic jobs available to us,. Therefore, we often have to investigate other options. Realising this can be scary, stressful and worrying. Trying to explain or even justify this to others is very difficult.
The Thesis Whisperer states that passion follows skill, and when I examined my own skills this became a very relevant statement. Aside from the obvious ones like writing and research, PhD students develop a variety of useful skills during their studies. Over the course of my PhD, for example, I have organised a number of events: conferences, a book launch, and art exhibition. The first time round, I was unsure. I asked lots of questions and made some mistakes. Since then I have become more efficient at organisation and I really enjoy it. I relish the opportunity to do so. I am naturally a multi-tasker and event management gives me the chance to put that side of my personality to good use.
Since beginning my PhD I have become more immersed in social media. I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, academia.edu, and I blog. I use these outlets for publicity, debate, conversation, learning and outreach. On several occasions I have been asked to live blog and tweet at events like workshops and conferences. Through this I have developed an ability to process and disseminate vast amounts of information quickly while at the same time engaging with the public who interact with the events via social media. I suppose this is a digital and/or communication skill. It is certainly a skill that I am passionate about and one I hope to put to good use after completing my doctoral research.
So, taking these two examples from my own experience, I now realise that when people quiz me about what I do and why I bother, I have more to offer than just a bumbling explanation of form and genre in Chicana poetry. I can in fact tell them about the transferable skills that I have developed, skills that are applicable to any number of careers, and that show the diverse value of doing a PhD.
“Jus’ and ol’ Graveyard Ghost”: Past and Present in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Bruce Springsteen’s, “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”
*This was originally published in my MA in American Literature and Film Research Journal (March 2010)*
“You can get killed just for living/ In your American skin” – Bruce Springsteen “American Skin (41 Shots)”
This post examines the continuing relevance of John Steinbeck’s social and cultural vision in The Grapes of Wrath. It shall be argued that this novel which follows the Joad family’s trek across the Southwest in search of employment during the 1930s Depression has an ability to be transferred into other genres and socio-cultural issues at different times in America following its original publication in 1939. Indeed, Gavin Cologne-Brooks states that “something in Steinbeck’s vision crosses boundaries and transcends the mere text” (159). Thus, the central focus of this paper shall be on Bruce Springsteen’s song, “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and its social and cultural links with Steinbeck’s novel.
Firstly, it is necessary to briefly discuss the protagonist of both the novel and the song in question, Tom Joad. During the course of the narrative Tom steadily becomes a radical activist figure, inspired by both Preacher Casy and the struggle of the migrant worker community. H. Kelly Crockett actually refers to Tom as Casy’s “resurrection” at the end of the novel (198). Therefore, it can be contended that there is a sense of longevity about the character of Tom.
Indeed, the character’s subsequent reincarnation in Springsteen’s 1995 song, “Ghost” is a testament of Tom’s enduring cultural and social significance. For the singer, the radical spirit of Tom lives on in the American Southwest where similar issues of migrant workers and the associated social injustices are still taking place today. Springsteen himself states in a 2007 interview, “if you go to my hometown, in Freehold, there’s tremendous Hispanic influence, and that was California fifteen years ago. So when I wrote ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ and wrote a lot about what was going on, it felt like ‘This is what the country’s going to look like in another ten or fifteen years.’ All those immigration issues that people are trying to ride right now to wherever they think they’re going were all in the news and in your face in the early Nineties in California.” (Levy). Even in other songs like “American Skin (41 Shots)” Springsteen shows an awareness for the plight of the underprivileged and the underrepresented immigrant communities in America.
Additionally, the music video for “Ghost” expresses the links between the past and present, novel and song. Firstly, it is shot in black and white, evoking a sense of the past and a nostalgic atmosphere. The entire video is a photo montage of the American Southwest. All of the images are contemporary. However, a person could easily mistake these images for the work of Depression Era
photographers, such as Dorothea Lange whose photography also provided inspiration for the film version of Steinbeck’s novel. Additionally the perspective of the video is from a rear-view mirror in a car. This technique is suggestive of travel whilst watching the vacant landscape pass by. The emptiness of the Southwest and the symbolic presence of the road evoke the same atmosphere of migration and hopelessness that one senses when reading of the Joad families trek across the Southwest. In my opinion, the message of this music video, and indeed of the song lyrics, is that America has as little to offer its working class citizens today has it had during the 1930s. Springsteen explains that the song is “about people trying to find their way in, but somebody won’t let them in. Or they can’t find their way in. And what are the actions that leads to?” (Corn 24).
Moreover, in terms of the performer himself, Springsteen is widely considered a working-class hero, a rebel whose songs reflect the dark, gritty, hidden corners of America and American identity. Concerning his influences Springsteen states, “the people I loved — Woody Guthrie, Dylan — they were out on the frontier of the American imagination, and they were changing the course of history and our own ideas about who we were” (Levy). This folk influence is certainly evident in “Ghost.” The acoustic style, the simplicity of the harmonica, and Springsteen’s low, husky voice certainly summon up Guthrie and Dylan. The simplicity of the sound also emphasises the bleak and desolate tone of the song.
The lyrics of “Ghost” are influenced by Grapes, thus linking contemporary America to the Depression Era. For instance Springsteen sings,
Now Tom said ‘Mom, wherever there’s a cop beatin’ a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there’s a fight ‘gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I’ll be there (Ghost).
These lines are inspired by Tom’s original speech to his mother in the novel: “Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there” (495). In choosing to recreate this visionary speech, Springsteen is stirring up the essence of Tom’s activist spirit. The singer clearly believes that a radical icon like Tom is still needed in the contemporary Southwest as he croons,
the highway is alive tonight
But nobody’s kiddin’ nobody about where it goes
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light
Searchin’ for the ghost of Tom Joad” (Ghost).
Guthrie’s influence on the song is also evident in the lyrics. Guthrie’s folk ballad, “Tom Joad” gives biographical sketch of Steinbeck’s activist character. The lines,
wherever little children are hungry and cry,
Wherever people ain’t free,
Wherever men are fightin’ for their rights,
That’s where I’m a-gonna be, Ma.
That’s where I’m a-gonna be
bear a striking resemblance to Springsteen’s “Ghost” (Guthrie). Thus, Guthrie’s concern for the dispossessed and under-represented communities in America in during the mid-twentieth century is shared by Springsteen today.
Additionally, Springsteen parodies George H. W. Bush’s well-known 1990 speech in which he talks about “a new world order” (Address). The president calls for “a new era — freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony,” and a world “where the strong respect the rights of the weak” (Address). In contrast, Springsteen states sardonically,
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin’ in their cars in the southwest
No home no job no peace no rest (Ghost).
Bush’s dream of equality and justice is squashed and scorned in “Ghost.” Just as the Joads suffered among the multitudes of displaced migrant workers it is now the plight of Mexican, Asian and Chicano/a communities instead of “Okies” that Springsteen is writing about.
The cartoon above, taken from the SouthWest Organising Project’s blog, expresses the irony that Springsteen protests against. We are presented with a group of Mexican migrant workers building the U.S-Mexico border in the background whilst a fat, greedy banker-pig slyly whispers to Uncle Sam a plan to exploit the workers and then oust them from American soil after they have built a barrier against their homeland. This capitalist neglect of worker’s rights is exactly what Tom wants to rebel against by the end of Grapes, and it is exactly what Springsteen highlights as he sings in search of Tom’s radical, activist spirit. Springsteen says of the political aims of “Ghost” that “there is a part of our population whose lives and dreams are declared expendable as the price of doing business” (Corn 22). This is the reality of Bush’s “new world order” (Address).
To conclude, this paper has argued that Grapes can cross boundaries in a society that upholds so many social, political, and physical borders. Clearly, both Steinbeck and Springsteen share a similar social consciousness. The message of Steinbeck’s Depression era novel is translated smoothly into the genre of song without losing sight of the social and cultural issues that are still deemed significant in America today by Springsteen. Hence, Springsteen evokes the past to effectively express the present situation.
Bloom, Harold ed. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. NY: Infobase, 2007. Print.
Bush, George H. W.. Session of the Address Before a JointCongress on the Persian Gulf Crisis and the Federal Budget Deficit, 1990-09-11. George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Texas A and M U. 1990. Web. 17 Jan 2010.
Cologne-Brookes, Gavin. “The Ghost of Tom Joad: Steinbeck’s legacy in the Songs of Bruce Springsteen.” John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Ed. Harold Bloom. NY: Infobase, 2007. 159-169. Print.
Corn, David. “Bruce Springsteen Tells the Story of Secret America.” Mother Jones Magazine. (April 1996): 22-6. Google Book Search. Web. 12 Jan 2010.
Crockett, H. Kelly. “The Bible and The Grapes of Wrath.” College English 24.3 (1962): 193-99. JSTOR. Web. 14 Jan 2010.
Guthrie, Woody. “Tom Joad.” The Official Woody Guthrie Website. The Woody Guthrie Foundation, n.d. Web. 12 Jan 2010.
Levy, Joe. “Bruce Springsteen: The Rolling Stone Interview.” Rolling Stone Magazine. 1038 (1 Nov 2007): n. pag. Rolling Stone. Web. 14 Jan 2010.
Springsteen, Bruce. “American Skin (41 Shots).” Bruce Springsteen. Thrill Hill Prod., 2009. Web. 12 Jan 2010.
—. “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” Bruce Springsteen. Columbia Records. 1995. Web. 12 Jan 2010.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. London: Penguin, 2000. Print.
I join the masses in shock and horror at the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman was on trial for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on the 12th February 2012 in Florida. Martin was a 17 year old black teenager and was unarmed when he was shot twice by Zimmerman. The shooting and trial has sparked international outrage and a race debate that continues to gain momentum. Soon after the shooting I was added to a Facebook group: “Bulletins from Post-Racial America” which defines itself as follows:
A wave of optimism and hope after the candidacy and election of President Barack Obama in 2008 has generated some assertions that America is now in a post-racial period of decreased racial tension and discrimination. However, the facts of ongoing racism and oppression in a nation built on slavery clearly indicate that America is not yet void of serious discrimination, racial violence, and deep prejudice. This group sets out to share daily (or almost daily) posts that offer evidence against and crucial discussion of the theory of a post-racial America. We will ask questions about the realities of race relations, state and police violence against people of color, and the economic realities of being a person of color in America. We take as our starting point, March 20, 2012, the twenty third day after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year-old black boy from Sanford, Florida. Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, walks free without arrest all this time later despite having shot and killed the young boy who was armed carried nothing but skittles, an iced tea, a hoody, and a “really suspicious” look.
As a student of American studies I have come into contact with many texts detailing racial discrimination and many instances of it in American history and in recent times. The term “post-racial” does not exist in my vocabulary. It seems to me that the not guilty verdict is symbolic of an ill in American society (and indeed the whole world!), a very visible wrong that has been engaged with, challenged, but not yet defeated: racism.
Following the Zimmerman verdict I thought about the case of Emmett Till, a black boy who was murdered in Money, Mississippi at the age of 14 in 1955. Originally from Chicago, he was visiting family when he was lynched by a group of white males for speaking to the white female proprietor of the local grocery store, Carolyn Bryant. Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam arrived at Till’s great-uncle’s house where they took Till, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighting it with a 70-pound (32 kg) cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body was discovered and retrieved from the river three days later. Till’s mother chose to have an open casket and public service to show the country and the world the brutality of her son’s murder. His killers were acquitted by an all-white jury.
I am also reminded of a short story by Richard Wright that I studied during my undergraduate degree, “Big Boy Leaves Home” (1938). Big Boy, the black protagonist, and his group of friends decide to go swimming in a local pond. They are all naked and playing innocently in the water when a local white woman comes upon them. In disgust she calls for a nearby white man who shoots two of the four boys. Big Boy runs home and is quickly hidden by his family until he can escape the town the following morning. Over the course of the night Big Boy witnesses the lynching of one of his friends. The story ends with Big Boy being driven to safety the next morning as he reflects upon the murders of his teenage friends. The story highlights the volatile and bloodthirsty Jim Crow environment that black people had to endure in the early 20th century.
Bruce Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots)” (2001) encapsulates the fear and anxiety of many parents in America right now who worry that their children are in danger of brutality and murder due to the colour of their skin. Springsteen sings:
41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school
She says “On these streets, Charles
You’ve got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you, promise me you’ll always be polite
And that you’ll never ever run away
Promise Mama you’ll keep your hands in sight”
Well, is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in your American skin.
The song is a criticises the prevalence of racial discrimination in the U.S. It directly references the New York City police fatal shooting (with 41 shots) of the unarmed Bronx resident Amadou Diallo in February 1999. The police suspected Diallo of matching the profile of a man wanted for rape. When he attempted to pull out his wallet they assumed he had a gun and opened fire killing him with 41 shots, 19 of which hit him. The officers were found not guilty of his murder. The words in the above verse of mother coaching her son to survive the inevitable discrimination that permeates the streets of America is deeply moving and emblematic of the poisonous nature of discrimination. Rather than being able to kiss her son goodbye and wish him a nice day, this woman must instead worry for his safety and provide him with the best advice possible to ensure his return home.
From the early 20th century to present, what has changed? Black men are still guilty until proven innocent. Mothers still worry whether or not their sons are going to return home alive. Killers are walking free under the assumption of self-defence, the assumption that they have the right and the necessity to defend with deathly force against black men and boys. The administrators of “Bulletins from Post-Racial America” are correct. We are not post-racial, not even close. We have not evolved, and boys like Emmet Till and Trayvon Martin will continue to be oppressed and shot at until justice systems begin to acknowledge the value of their lives and the futility their deaths. Boys like the fictional Big Boy and Charles will continue to have their youths distorted and even destroyed by the unwarranted abuse and danger they face by going about innocent games and journeys to school. The Zimmerman acquittal is the latest shame in a long legacy racial discrimination.
In a nutshell, the television series, Under the Dome (2013), is based on a novel (2009) by Stephen King which focuses on the town of Chesterville as it’s inhabitants cope with their entrapment under a giant, impenetrable dome. Before I get into the specifics of this review I must say that I have read the novel, Under the Dome. As viewers were informed before the premiere that some changes and additions have been made to the original plot I am not going to spend the next few paragraphs pointing these out. Instead, as the series will potentially run into a second I am examining it in its own right. This review contains spoilers, so read on with caution.
Under the Dome achieves a Poe-esque appearance in the opening scene; low saturation gives the scene a grim atmosphere which is further chilled with the icy squawk of a lone bird as a clandestine grave is dug in secluded woodland by Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel), a central protagonist in the book and TV series. Visually, the first episode shows little inhibition in presenting the dome with visceral abruptness. A dismembered limb, a sliced cow, and some violent crashes ensue within minutes of the first episode. However, what caught my eye the most is the treatment of women in the first episode – a treatment that is more than likely to carry through to further episodes.
I’ll start with Julia Shumway (Rachel Lefevre), local journalist and editor of Chesterville’s newspaper, The Independent. Julie first appears as a feisty reporter, committed to her job and persistent. However she soon discovers that her husband, Peter, is most likely having a affair. Following this, her scenes are dominated with her making excuses and hankering for the spouse that has deceived her for what is insinuated to have been a long time. When faced with separation from Peter she immediately invites Barbie into her home despite knowing him for just a few hours, unable to face an empty, manless house.
Angie MacCallister (Britt Robertson) is a young, life-long resident of Chesterville who longs to escape the drudgery of small-town life as a waitress and local hospital candy-striper. Her flighty spirit is soon clipped and locked away by Junior Rennie (Alexander Koch), a local guy she has been casually involved with. Enraged by Angie’s rejection of his declaration of love, he kidnaps her, making her the most isolated citizen in the town. Casual sex and independence are subdued, and in their place, a hysterical woman is left hammering on the door of a nuclear shelter the last time we see her.
The enclosed Chesterville plays host to a married lesbian couple and their daughter. Carolyn Hill (Aisha Hinds), Alice Calvert (Samantha Mathis) and Norrie Calvert-Hill (Mackenzie Lintz) are just passing through when the dome drops, stranding them. We immediately learn that Alice is an insulin-dependent diabetic and Norrie succumbs to a sudden seizure, setting Carolyn up to hold the family together. As Kelly West writes, “could teeter into cliché territory. Because it wouldn’t be a trapped-somewhere scenario if there wasn’t someone in need of insulin or an asthma inhaler, right?” I also wonder if some stereotypical discrimination and social isolation looms for this family. Perhaps a closed society will shrink even further from the Calvert-Hills as the tensions of entrapment develop. With domineering and sadistic characters like James “Big Jim Rennie” (Dean Norris) and son, Junior, throwing their weight around and grasping for power it seems logical that oppression of some kind is waiting in the wings of the series.
Finally, there’s Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez)), the town deputy. She comes across, as responsible, intelligent and capable. We soon learn that the Sheriff, Duke (Jeff Fahey), has been keeping important town secrets from her, setting her up for a potentially significant part in plot development. With her Fiancé on the other side of the dome and her boss collapsed by the end of the episode, this deputy is on her own and I hope that this solitude becomes independence and perseverance in the face of emergency.
So, it seems that while Chesterville is “under the dome”, the women within are beneath the glass ceiling. However, I acknowledge that these are early observations and it is likely that these women (or some of them) may develop more agency as the series unfolds. Despite my reservations about their initial story-lines and personalities I will watch on, for, despite these grievances there are several interesting plot teasers that I look forward to pursuing.
I recently read about J.J. Abrams’ wish to purchase the rights to Stephen King’s 11/22/63 with a view to creating a miniseries or TV series. This news comes as many King fans await the premiere of the Under the Dome (CBS) series in June 2013. The notion of Abrams taking point on Kings time-travelling novel is not unattractive. Thus, there is much afoot in the realms of film and television where King’s works are concerned. In my opinion King’s works are highly conducive to television/miniseries. Haven, a series loosely based on the The Colorado Kid, is a good example of what can be done with quality writing, directing and imagination.
At the same time Ben Affleck continues to do battle with the insurmountable task of condensing The Stand into a manageable screen play. It strikes me that the three aforementioned texts are mammoth in page count and epic in content, making all three ideal for miniseries adaptations that can deliver full appreciations of them. I read of Affleck’s struggle with The Stand and cringe at the thought of the potential butchery that may be done to one of my favourites if it is condensed into one film. It was originally released as a 4-part miniseries in 1993, much too short in my opinion, and containing many plot differences and deviations from the novel. A decent 8-10 part series would just about suffice to cover all of the major plots, sub plots and overlaps.
Abrams seems well suited to 11/22/63 with his penchant for playing with time and ambiguity (Lost and Fringe). I particularly enjoyed Alcatraz which was unfortunately cancelled before the first series ended. The show focused on an alternative history of the infamous prison weaving strong elements of science fiction and suspense into the narrative. Moreover, Abrams is fond of having a strong female lead to steer his TV shows (Olivia of Fringe, Rebecca of Alcatraz, Charlie of Revolution, etc) just as King has done in several novels. If these traits and shows are to be taken as Abram’s curriculum vitae then his suitability for King’s 11/22/63 is clear. His constant allusions to King’s works in his shows have certainly not gone unnoticed! Perhaps the hints need to be taken…
Contemporary American television is gifted with a number of directors and writers, the seemingly endless possibilities of CGI, and huge audiences, making now a prime time for developing ambitious series. Abrams is one of those directors, and two others have caught my eye: Alan Ball (True Blood, Banshee) and Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead [S.1]). Ball is well-versed in the supernatural, crime noir, and southern gothic. I’m sure Ball could make something interesting out of In the Tall Grass for example, a short story that engages with southern gothic, surrealism and mystery. If Affleck wasn’t ensconced in The Stand I even wouldn’t mind seeing what Ball could bring to the table.
Moreover, Darabont’s credibility in the world of King adaptations/remakes has long been copperfastened by his success with The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist. Each film remained loyal to King’s original vision and imagination. Needless to say, he is my number 1 pick for any King-related venture. I had always hoped that he would take on The Stand, but again, it remains in Affleck’s care for now.
In all, King’s oeuvre is attracting much attention from some very capable film/television figures. While we have seen many adaptations of his works before – some good, some not – I think this is a great time for directors and writers to dig into King’s large and varied body of work. Given the quality of television that America is currently delivering, King fans would be right to have high expectations of any and all projects on the horizon.
“A decorated Marine officer unexpectedly returns home from the war and is quickly recruited to help a troubled teen prepare for boot camp, but when the true reasons for her return become known it threatens the future for both of them.
A MARINE STORY [Directed by Ned Farr] highlights the absurdity of the military ban on gays through the personal story of one courageous woman! (Official Website).
Danielle Riendeau rightly states that the film “deftly showcases the difficulties of women in the modern military, though the plot unfortunately goes AWOL toward the end.” Not only does the protagonist, Alex (played by Dreya Weber), undergo the homophobia of the U.S. military’s former Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, she also faces the sexism and ridicule often directed at female soldiers. At one point, Alex is told by a male character that “the strongest woman is equal to the weakest man” in an attempt to downplay her services to her country in the Marine Corps.
The film aptly portrays Alex’s coming out following her discharge from the military as a kind of witch hunt. She is aggressively pursued by small town/ small-minded men who feel emasculated by her physical strength. Her intimate sexual relations and innocent friendships with women are photographed, manipulated, and pasted wholesale around the town to expose her sexuality and the reasons behind her discharge.
The issue of rape is also dealt with in the film. It is a fact that many female soldiers are routinely subjected to sexual harassment and assault. In this film, it is the scorned man who photographs her that attempts to perform a corrective rape on Alex towards the end of the movie. It is also alluded that Alex was coerced into sleeping with one of her colleagues to quell the rumours about her sexuality.
Furthermore, A Marine Story sharply highlights the fact that more women than men were discharged from the military due to homosexual conduct. Alex’s husband, who we only meet briefly, turns out to be an in the closet Navy Seal; theirs is a marriage of convenience. Upon discovering the reasons for Alex’s discharge her husband tells her that he is going to have to bad-mouth her about his base in order to distance himself from her, and indeed his own, sexual orientation.
In all, A Marine Story is successful in demonstrating the complexity of women’s issues in the military. From sexuality to sexism, all difficulties are covered. Unfortunately, the plot veers off into a chaotic climax that is somewhat removed from the neatly handled story that is at the heart of the film. Thankfully, the acting is quite good and the relationships between the characters are believable. The film ends on the day that Obama signed DADT out of law in 2010, providing a bittersweet resolution to Alex’s story.