The Arts and Culture Desk’s summer breakdown

Temperatures soared, which made great conditions for air conditioned movie theaters and the comfort of the couch. Here’s what the A&C Desk watched and listened to this summer
The Arts and Culture Desks summer breakdown
Pink outfits and stereotypes: Gerwigs Barbie sparks reflection and empathy
Pink outfits and stereotypes: Gerwig’s “Barbie” sparks reflection and empathy

While there are a multitude of Barbie movies and shows that have been produced in the years since the doll’s debut in 1959, this movie would be the first live action Barbie film which had fans on their toes from the beginning.

Over the past eight years, there have been many potential Barbie movies in the making, but  according to “Time Magazine,” Mattel was reported to be having a hard time “with how to deal with Barbie’s baggage.”

Barbie was originally made with the intention of empowering young girls and showing them that they were able to do and be whatever they wanted in life. But when this idea was paired with the traditional skinny, blonde, tall, thin-waisted doll, young girls began to see the doll in a bad light. Barbie became the epitome of beauty which began to make young girls with developing minds think that they had to look a certain way to be pretty; like they had to look like her in order to be successful and happy. 

This problem became one of Mattel’s greatest issues when trying to create a live action Barbie film because either way they presented the doll, they were risking severe backlash from fans.

Finally, filmmakers at Mattel decided to make the story about the problem that they were facing, and the 2023 Barbie movie hit the big screens on July 21st, 2023. The film, directed by Greta Gerwig, starred Margot Robbie as “stereotypical Barbie” and Ryan Gosling as “beach Ken.”

Due to Barbie’s peak success and popularity during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and current status as one of the most popular dolls in the world, the “Barbie” movie was being watched and reviewed by just about anyone which only added to the movie’s overwhelming success in theaters.

Families and friends alike came to see the movie. Big and small, male and female. Viewers dressed in matching pink outfits as they watched their childhood doll come to life for the first time ever. Throughout the movie, fans experienced a wide range of emotions which at times filled the room with giggles, tears, and gasps.

“Honestly I teared up towards the end when they let Barbie become a real person and put her through all of the memories and allowed her to truly feel for the first time,” said senior Emersynn Fair. “The memories of girls growing up just kind of hit home, especially with being a senior this year and going through the last year of ‘childhood’.”

Some critics of the “Barbie” movie claim that this is not the first time these issues have been brought to the big screens and can not understand why so many people had such an eye-opening realization to something that we as people have known about for years and years, to which Fair agrees.

“The movie definitely made me realize how being a woman changes things. I was always aware of sexism in the world and knew it existed, especially being a female athlete but I never really understood how it affects the way I go about my life. I realized a lot of the things I’ve changed about myself were because it made me a better fit into society rather than because it was something I wanted to do for my own sake.”

Now, there is no “Barbie” movie without Ken and, in fact, for the first time he experienced a complete character arc for himself which fans have never seen before. 

“His role after being cast aside and then taken more seriously in the world because of a different societal pedestal was interesting to see,” said senior Jozlynn Mcnair.. “The movie basically shows how it is harmful in either direction to be seen as better than another group of people [and] people should be able to be seen as equals and allowed to explore their own interests without being forced to conform in a certain direction because of standards placed on them.” 

The movie was also unique in its ways of bringing Barbie Land to life. In the beginning of the film, Robbie was seen floating to the street from the second floor of her mansion, ‘drinking’ from cups with no liquid, taking a shower with no water, and even twirling to change clothes. Throughout the movie and as her perception of Barbie Land began to change, these iconic ‘Barbiefied’ aspects of the world around her began to change as well which added a whole new dimension to the story. 

The music that was used throughout the movie also connected with the previous idea as the main song of Barbie Land, “Pink” by Lizzo, which became more and more deranged as the film progressed; going from a happy upbeat tune about all the good things is the world to relating everything that was going wrong in Barbie’s day-to-day life. 

One of the first tells that something was off about Stereotypical Barbie was when her iconic, always arched feet fell flat. In fact, when she showed the other Barbies what was going on, utter chaos ensued and Barbie was told that she had to pay a visit to ‘weird Barbie.’

Although “Barbie” fans planned their outings and dressed themselves up in pretty, pink outfits, most were unaware and some even shocked about the actual premise of the movie.

“The movie surpassed my expectations,” said McNair. “I had come in with the idea that ‘Barbie’ was going to be a wholesome movie that provided nostalgia for people who grew up playing with Barbie dolls and while the movie did have that kind of vibe, it had a deeper message than I had expected. Greta Gerwig was iconic with the way she worked both concepts into the movie.”

Overall, the experience that any one person took away from this movie as they walked out of the theater and back into reality was undeniably tied to their experience with the doll and with society as a whole up until that point which allowed the movie to be judged from a multitude of lenses. n the end, Fair “recommends this movie to anyone who hasn’t seen it. Even if [they] can’t directly relate to the types of experiences that the movie focuses on, it is still very educational and can help further the understanding of how society expects women to live their lives.”

“Heartstopper” season two adds healthy nuance to queer representation

“Heartstopper” returned to Netflix for a second season on August 3, and everyone is raving about it.

“Heartstopper” season one came out in April 2022, and season two has been one of the most anticipated releases on Netflix of 2023. The Netflix show is widely praised by the queer community as it portrays a young, innocent love story between two high school boys. Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson, played by Joe Locke and Kit Connor, are the main characters, accompanied by supporting characters Tao, Elle, Darcy and Tara, played by William Gao, Yasmin Finney, Kizzy Edgell and Corinna Brown respectively. 

Alice Oseman, the creator of “Heartstopper,” provides positive representation for the queer and trans community through almost all of her characters. In season two there was even asexual representation with the character Isaac, played by Tobie Donovan, which is extremely scarce in current media. Additionally, the show gives representation to different body types, interracial couples, and more, which fans find extremely important. “Heartstopper” is so loved by audiences worldwide because for one of the first times in modern media, people are really able to see themselves on screen. 

Season two builds on the love story of Nick and Charlie that audiences saw in season one and follows the relationship as it matures. This season also dives deeper into other relationships, including romantic, like Elle and Tao’s and Tara and Darcy’s, and also complicated familial ones. Personally, I liked season two better for these reasons; however, some fans, like RV senior Emersynn Fair, still have a soft spot for season one.

“I liked season one better because it was more of Nick finding himself and being comfortable in his own skin, whereas season two was more his experiences as his true self,” she said. 

Not only is “Heartstopper” a positive representation for the queer community, it is a positive representation of young love and relationships. “Heartstopper” shows, regardless of being in high school, that relationships can be healthy.

In an interview with Tudum, Locke said “I’m excited for people to see that teenage relationships can be mature and open and communicative. There’s often this idea that teenage relationships aren’t those things.”

Furthermore, it doesn’t only romanticize these things, and it still has accurate portrayals of high school and teenage experiences.

“I feel like it was very accurate. It covered bullying, family problems, relationships and more, which are all high school experiences; other shows make high school seem perfect and easy when it’s not,” Fair added. 

Another often overlooked aspect of “Heartstopper” that ties the show together beautifully is the soundtrack. The show features a perfectly curated soundtrack that features popular artists such as Taylor Swift, Conan Gray, and even Wasia Project. The last song of the season is “ur so pretty” by Wasia Project, a pop duo which actually features William Gao, who plays Tao, and his sister, Olivia Hardy. This song builds the emotional and intimate ending to the show that really grasps all audience members’ attention. 

Lastly, something simple but perfect within the show is the animation which closely mirrors that of the comics that the show is originally based on. There are little animations, such as falling leaves, lighting shocks, butterflies, dark clouds, etc. that add perfectly to the ambiance and emotions of the show. They emphasize important parts of the show, often pivotal parts in relationships, that mark their “‘Heartstopper’ moment.” 

I could not recommend this show enough; “Heartstopper” is for everyone. This show gives aspects in which everyone can find a piece of themself in a character, whether it be a crucial part of their identity, or connecting to something as simple as Isaac’s love of books.

Queen Bey electrifies on tour

Showing out in her gold links and her best raw denim, Beyoncé made the world her stage with her 2023 Renaissance World Tour.  Releasing her album “RENAISSANCE,” Beyoncé gifts her fandom with her first full album since she released “Lemonade” in 2016. With the release of the new music she also decided to dip into an entirely new genre of music that speaks to her childhood: Ballroom culture music. Without this culture we would not have the Beyoncé we know and adore today.

“RENAISSANCE” stands to pay tribute to the Ballroom scene that Beyoncé grew up in.  The Ballroom Scene came alive during the Harlem Renaissance.  It was pioneered by Black, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) members as they fought for their freedom against the Black Church who tried to eradicate the LGBTQ community from Harlem. Although the Harlem Renaissance is no doubt a celebration of Black excellence through music and art, it had its hidden undertones which Beyoncé seeks to bring to light through “RENAISSANCE,” hence the title. 

Beyoncé ensured that the upbeat dance vibe that surrounds the Ballroom Scene was present in her tour. With a line of experienced dancers, Beyoncé put on a theatrical performance that covered 20 years of music from her solo career.  She is known for providing a visual show that audiences can enjoy from anywhere in the stadium, and she did not disappoint with this tour.  Her stages consist of two large screens that are split by a holographic-like tunnel that also doubles as another screen. From there was a walkway that paved out into a circle platform where die-hard fans could be in the inner circle of the stage. 

The most visually demanding aspect of her tour was the screens. At the current moment, there is no information on directly how the stage works, which I believe adds more to the theatrical aspect of the show.  The center of the stage consists of a screen like stated before which she is able to project visuals from her teased music videos, ballroom visuals, and visuals from her old music videos/concerts.  However when this screen is not being used you can see behind it revealing the band and dancers behind it which was incredible to see. 

The dancers chosen to tour with Beyoncé have also put in the work into making this show into what it is. Beyoncé is known for reusing old choreography in her shows, which she did here in songs like “Diva” and “Get Me Bodied” but also introduces a new genre of dance to her performances stemming from Ballroom Culture. We are also treated to her long time dancers Les Twins. The fan favorite twins have been dancing for Beyoncé for years.  Finally bringing the house down, and outshining Beyoncé herself with her dancing was Blue Ivy Carter.  The entire tour she has been a fan favorite and as she adjusts to being in front of millions of people everyday, she becomes more comfortable and works the stage, taking after her mother. 

My personal favorite part of the show was when Beyoncé came out on the stage.  I watched her in Philly for her only night there.  After hours of waiting for her to take the stage, the lights of the screens suddenly turned on with a picture of her, herself, and everyone knew it was time.  From under the stage through her mic she said, in a very soft tone “Philadelphia…I love you…I’m so glad to be home”. It was such an intimate moment shared with everyone in the crowd.  She then segwayed into “Flaws and All”, “1 + 1”, “Dangerously In love” and “I Care” some of her arguably most personally and intimate songs.

Ultimately it is evident that a lot of care and time has been put into making this performance as intimate and personal as it is upbeat and fun. This concert was one truly worth the wait and will arguably go down as her most iconic performance.

“The Summer I Turned Pretty”

“The Summer I Turned Pretty” (TSTIP) is a famous book trilogy, written by well known author Jenny Han, that follows 15 year old Isabel (Belly) Conklin and her summer life at Cousins beach with the Fisher family.  The show based on the book aired for the first time on Amazon Prime in the summer of 2022. This summer, on July 14th, the first three episodes of the second season aired. Season 2 of  TSTIP loosely follows the storyline of the second book in the trilogy, “It’s Not Summer Without You,” as well as picking up on the storyline left off on season one. The second has maintained the same popularity and traction it received with the first season, gaining a lot of attention on social media because of the love triangle between the Fisher brothers and Belly. The show went viral, many declaring themselves “Team Jeremiah” or “Team Conrad” for who Belly should end up dating. 

 The Fishers are close family friends whom Belly and her brother Steven have grown up with. The first season highlights the relationship between Belly and the two Fisher brothers, Conrad and Jermiah. The previous season left off on the Conklins and the Fisher brothers finding out about Susannah’s cancer as well as Belly and Conrad kissing on the beach after admitting the years of tension and angst between them. 

There was a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding the release of the second season, and I agree with the hype around the show. Overall, the show was a very interesting and bingeable watch, though it could feel melodramatic at times. However, I feel the melodramatic aspect of the show was just coming from the fact that the plot does have a soap opera feel to it at times due to the show targeting a young adult audience. The show has to be more dramatic to capture the young adult audience that it is looking for.  As someone who has read the books, I felt excited coming into the show and I was not disappointed. 

“The Summer I Turned Pretty” soundtrack adds to the ambience of the show and adds to the appeal of young audiences. Many of the episodes feature mainstream artists such as Taylor Swift and Frank Ocean. One of the fan-favorite songs from this season was “Exile” by Taylor Swift and Bon Iver; this song is featured during the motel scene in which Conrad walks out of the room because of Belly and Jeremiah’s new relationship. Not only was the soundtrack really thorough, but so was the cinematography. As a whole, the cinematography was on point in terms with what the show wanted to communicate; it never felt out of place and conveyed the more emotional scenes effectively.

At first, the show can seem very centered on the love triangle between Belly and the Fisher Brothers; but there is a lot beneath the surface. All of the characters grieved Susannah’s death in their own way, diving into how people experience grief. Conrad had pushed people away and Laurel had written a book about her memories with Susannah. This season really focuses on the impact that Susannah’s death made on the course of their lives. 

Many viewers, including myself, were not big fans of the Belly this season. While she perfectly portrays a teen girl in a dilemma, her indecisiveness and seemingly selfishness has made her an unlikeable character for some. It seems as though her and the Fisher brothers are unable to properly communicate their feelings in this season. The lack of communication is clearly the reason why there even is so much drama; it can get frustrating to watch. 

While Belly’s problems and conflicts with the Fisher brothers were the main plot of the show, many viewers found peace in the development of Steven and Taylor’s relationship.

One viewer who shares this sentiment is Karlee Thorton, a sophomore at RVRHS.

“I also hope we get to see more of Steven and Taylor’s relationship, my favorite couple this season,” Thornton said. “The build up of their relationship was heartwarming so expectations are high.”

The little moments Steven and Taylor had, my favorite being dancing at the country club, had me rooting for them the whole season. The relationship was not present in the original book and it was nice to see development surrounding the supporting characters.

Season two brought along two new characters that were not in the original book. Conrad and Jeremiah’s aunt, Julia, along with their cousin Skye appeared in the show.  Aunt Julia, an important character this season, puts the house up for sale. It is clear from the moment that Aunt Julia is introduced that neither of the Fisher brothers are fond of her because of the strained relationship she had with their mother. Skye on the other hand is a new addition to the little summer group that most of the episodes focused on. Seeing Conrad and Jeremiah connect with Skye despite the tension between their mothers and Skye helping to convince Julia was great character development. 

With Amazon Prime and Jenny Han herself confirming the third season is in the works, the media has made many predictions and theories as to what they think will happen in season three. Clearly the drama between the Fisher brothers and Belly is far from over, especially from what fans have read in the books. Not to mention there are rumors that the final season may not follow the same storyline as the books, so really we can expect anything to happen. But unfortunately, we will have to wait until the next season comes out.

If you’re looking for a binegable and interesting show for a night in, then Season two of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” is for you.

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