Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Goodbye, Lizzie Bennet. It Has Been... So Good to See You.


"Everything's got to end sometime. Otherwise, nothing would ever get started." -- Doctor Who


In case you are just tuning into this blog and don’t know me very well, let me introduce myself: I am Jenn. I am a writer. And I am very bad at saying goodbye. I talked about this quite extensively in my post “Endings And Beginnings (Why We Hate Them, But Why They’re Necessary),” in response to some fans’ reactions about Megan Ganz’s departure from Community (this blog is primarily dedicated to reviewing that show, so check more of it out if that interests you!). What I said in that post, I stand by wholeheartedly. I am VERY bad at saying goodbye to things and people that I love. I’m trying to get better – to reconcile myself to the idea of change, of newness, etc. – but it’s a process and I’m still finding my footing. Nevertheless, as someone who is quite comfort-zoned by nature, this isn’t easy or fun for me. But I’m learning. And nothing removes you from your comfort zone quite like bidding farewell to something or someone. If you couldn’t tell by the title of this post, today I’m saying goodbye to something that’s been rather near and dear to my heart over the past few months: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

But rather than write an essay-length post about what the show has meant to me (trust me, I’ll delve into that quite a bit in the coming paragraphs anyway), I thought I would speak to YOU all. To the people who created the show, starred in the show, and – yes – to you all, the loyal fans and viewers of the show. Because as much as we praise and celebrate the amazingly talented people who have made The Lizzie Bennet Diaries what it is, we too are a part of the experience. And each one of us contributed something to its existence.

So if you’re ready, grab some tissues (and maybe some Snickerdoodles or tea), and bid farewell to some of the most genuinely talented and immensely humble people I have had the pleasure of watching grow over the past year.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

4x07 "Economics of Marine Biology" (And The Verdict Is: Guilty Or Not?)


"Economics of Marine Biology"
Original Airdate: March 21, 2013

I’ve never really been a firm believer in the notion that first impressions make or break a relationship. To be quite frank, I don’t remember the moment I met most of the people I call my closest friends. It’s not that first impressions don’t have a significant impact on how you view someone short-term – they do, honestly. But I subscribe to the belief that how you treat someone long-term, how your relationship develops, and the memories you have after that are what you remember, more than that first encounter (unless you’re Lizzie Bennet or something, but that’s a whole other subject). The problem that even Lizzie Bennet has, and that we have as well, is reconciling the memory of our impressions of an individual with the current reality of who that person is. “Economics of Marine Biology” was actually about this topic, especially in our Pierce/Jeff storyline. Pierce, I am fairly certain, is about as beloved by fans as he is the actual study group. No one, really, tests Jeff’s nerves quite like the eldest member of the study group. But there’s a word that I came to associate with Pierce throughout the course of this episode that I usually do not: empathy. And this desire, this notion, to not only feel bad for Pierce but to want to HELP him is something that I – and Jeff Winger alike – was not used to, but something beautiful and tragic no less. Elsewhere this week, Troy and Shirley learn that the way they see themselves and one another needs a bit of refining. Troy’s always believed he can be the best at everything (to a fault), while Shirley always believes that she would choose the moral high road, no matter what. Dean Pelton and Annie also learn that their drives and desires can often lead them to compromise their character. The pair learns that their impressions of the value and worth of certain students and individuals (including Archie) greatly color their actions… for better or for worse. There’s, then, the focus on guilt – what happens when your actions harm you or those around you? And what, moreover, happens when you refuse to acknowledge the destruction you are causing?


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

4x06 "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking" (On Rebuilding Yourself)


"Advanced Documentary Filmmaking"
Original Airdate: March 14, 2013


Hey guys!  Obviously, I am not Jenn.  But I am her best friend, so that’s about the same thing.  I’m Jaime (@elspunko), known for my excessive use of capslock on Twitter and my occasional posts at Stories in the End.  Jenn’s a bit swamped this week, with a huge test for work and, like, staring at Jake Johnson’s face, so she asked me to fill in for her on this week’s Community review.  But enough about me, guys.  It’s time to learn about Changnesia.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Explorations of Romantic Chemistry (A Nick/Jess vs. Jeff/Annie Post)



I don’t know exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the line, I really fell in love with New Girl. Before the show even aired, I had a feeling that I’d be attached to the quirky comedy. I was, after all, a fan of Zooey Deschanel. And then the pilot aired, and I was pleased and I went through the entire first season falling pretty hard for the little sitcom and for its characters and also – a lot – for the Nick/Jess angle of the series. To be truthful, Nick Miller and Jessica Day are the only couple on television recently that I have “shipped” from the pilot. I don’t know exactly what it was, and neither do the creators, but something seemed to click at the bar when Nick and Jess were talking to one another. There was some sort of chemistry between Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel, but the writers and producers – as they admitted recently at Paleyfest – were adamently against putting the two together, romantically. Deschanel insisted: “I mean, really really hard you guys [the producers] fought against the chemistry.” Both Johnson and Deschanel then cracked jokes about how they were forbidden to touch or even look at one another during scenes because of their chemistry.

If you flash forward a season, you’ll realize that the same writers and producers who were so hesitant to even place Nick and Jess in the same scene together are running full-speed ahead with the couple. So what changed? What fundamentally changed the mind of these creators, to the point where they are now more than willing to explore the chemistry and tension between these two characters? I don’t think that anything monumental has changed, really. But there was something very noteworthy that Liz Meriwether recently said at Paleyfest when asked why she chose to put Nick and Jess together now – why she chose to have the couple kiss in “Cooler” rather than drag the wait out until the season finale or (perhaps) even LATER.

“If we’d waited any longer,” Meriwether said, “it was going to start to feel, like, not true - like not what would really happen. I feel like they would have attacked each other a year ago, probably.”

So what Nick and Jess boil down to – what ALL couples who have unresolved tension or chemistry boil down to – is the element of timing. Meriwether and her team admit to not exactly writing their characters or show the “right” way. They admit to flying by the seat of their pants for a lot of things. They don’t KNOW where their couples or characters might end up. They’re certain of a few things, but don’t let those few things necessarily dictate the episodes they write now. They kind of let the relationships and characters and stories form organically, rather than forcing them into a preconceived box of ideas and plans. They fought hard against Nick and Jess for a while before realizing that… well, that isn’t how thse characters would behave. Something had to give, and that something was the idea that the writers could control or contain characters and actors that had intense chemistry.

That’s when Meriwether and her team just let them be and watched what happened.

Friday, March 8, 2013

4x05 "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations" (Beauty in the Breakdown)


"Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"
Original Airdate: March 7, 2013

So, let go, let go. Jump in. Oh well, what you waiting for? It's all right, 'cause there's beauty in the breakdown.

The funny thing about breakdowns is that they don’t happen in and of themselves. Something always causes a breakdown to occur. For example, I will admit that I have cried – on a few occasions – at my desk and in the work bathroom because of something related to my job. But the irony is that a snarky instant message from a guy in IT or e-mail, or a high-stress afternoon didn’t cause that to occur. Not really, at least. See what happened was pretty simple: I had buried a lot of my anxieties, fears, frustrations, and disappointments deep within me. And the trigger (a snarky instant message or a high-stress afternoon or a sharp word from my boss) ignited all of those feelings and caused them to resurface at the same time. That’s the crazy thing about emotional breakdowns – they build upon events and grow from snowballs and turn into avalanches very quickly. 

But the reason that they grow is because the prisons we lock them in – the prideful and stubborn parts of ourselves, the ones that are in denial, that refuse to acknowledge or contemplate these emotions – cannot contain the weight of these snowballs. The emotions, therefore, break loose, they tumble out of us, and they (sometimes) injure the people around us. And really, that’s what happened with Jeff Winger throughout this episode, because everything he’s buried inside of him regarding his past, his estranged father, and the brokenness that resulted from those things comes tumbling out when he least expects it to. Even our B-story for the week focuses on this idea that we can somehow estrange ourselves from our families – we can lock ourselves away from events and people and situations that make us uncomfortable. We can run away. We can break out of those uncomfortable prisons. Right? And what Abed, Troy, and Annie realize during this episode is that everyone is a prisoner in some way. We all have hang-ups and hurts that we don’t always allow others to see. While we’re trying to free ourselves, we don’t realize that the people around us are still trapped. People, even, that we care about. That, I think, is what hurts most of all.

Friday, March 1, 2013

4x04 "Alternative History of the German Invasion" (The Victors and the Vanquished)


"Alternative History of the German Invasion"
Original Airdate: February 28, 2013

Have you ever listened to someone play the victim? (Or maybe, if you are willing to admit it freely, YOU have played the victim at some point.) Here’s the thing about people who do this: they’re usually pretty powerful. There are people who are legitimately victimized in various ways, shapes, and forms. And I’m not talking about that – not those deep, dark issues. I’m talking about people who have a “woe is me” attitude. The ones who believe that the world is out to get them because they have a bad hair day. The ones who are privileged, who are winners (who have iPhones and comfortable lives and drive nice cars), but who consistently think they’re losing and aren’t afraid to broadcast it to the world at large. Have you ever thought of the Greendale Seven this way? I hadn’t, really, until watching “Alternative History of the German Invasion.” This episode’s title is interesting and telling enough when you deconstruct it, prior to even watching the episode. When you think of alternatives, you are forced to reconcile the idea that what you know and what you believe isn’t all that is out there. Because what happens, when Professor Cornwallis appears is this: he forces the Greendale Seven to think about war. More importantly, he challenges them to think about war not just from the common perspective of the victor, but from the vanquished. How would the story look, say, if those who had lost told it rather than those who had conquered? And truly, the study group spends the entire episode believing that THEY are the victims – they’re consistently the vanquished. We, the audience, always think about the group this way, don’t we? We see Greendale through their lens. We watch them suffer unjustly and groan when they have to retake Biology over the summer. And when they get expelled from school, we lament that too. They’re our story. They’re OUR underdogs. They’re the consistently vanquished.

But… what if we are forced to think about the idea that the study group is not actually a victim but a victor? Moreover, what if the Greendale Seven are actually the villains? What if they are the ones we should be rooting AGAINST? What if the Vickis and Garretts and Todds and Leonards are the actual underdogs? How does that change the way we see their story – or, importantly, DOES it change the way we see the story of the Greendale Seven?