Is It Time To Stop Reading Shakespeare?

I never really liked Shakespeare.

Never hated the guy, mind you- downright enjoyed a few of his plays (The Tempest, Coriolanus, Hamlet). Still, I never really could bring myself to relish the bard’s works with the same zealous enthusiasm of the drama geeks and English majors.

With that in mind, you might spare me perhaps a little of the horrified gasping when I ask:

Is it time to stop reading Shakespeare?

And I ask that with all sincerity. I’ve made no secret about my general dislike of the theater and the culture surrounding it, but I’m not here to talk about those guys.

You know the type. Melodramatic airheads who’ll actually only refer to this as “the Scottish play”…

I’m talking about the actual works of William Shakespeare here.

Why still read ’em?

After all, with every passing year, we drift further and further away from those stories. In spite the film industry churning out one or two adaptations or modernizations of Shakespeare’s plays, there’s only so many ways to re-imagine Romeo and Juliet.

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Unbelievable Dong Nguyen

dongSo after four months of dragging my feet I finally got around to watching
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a Netflix exclusive show I had been meaning to check out if only to join in the conversation that Em Liu over at Fiction Diversity started surrounding the character of Dong Nguyen, played by Ki Hong Lee. Before I really get into things it has come to my attention that I can be negative, so allow me to preface this post with a list [CAUTION: spoilers from here onwards]:

1. I liked [and continue to like] Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It not only succeeds, but soars on the merits of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s comedy as well as Ellie Kemper’s unbridled performance.

2.  I’m grateful a character like Dong Nguyen exists. Asian characters are rare enough on TV, let alone as romantic leads [something we desperately need].

3. I wish nothing but the best for Ki Hong Lee and have absolutely nothing against the guy. Similar to how I feel about Austin Falk on 2 Broke Girls my criticisms of a character do not affect my opinions about the actor portraying them. I think it’s great that he made #4 on People‘s 2014 Sexiest Man Alive list and hope it’s the first milestone of many.

I also want to mention that Em, whose article I linked to up above, has primarily approached Dong Nguyen as a character who subverts, instead of embodies, stereotypes. That’s ultimately not something I’m going to be delving into. Instead what I’d like to address is how Dong holds up as a believable Asian character, specifically as a Vietnamese person, and how this reflects on the show’s creators. Continue reading

3 Reasons Why I Will Be Watching Ronda Rousey Fight Bethe Correia

I enjoy fighting. I’ve even taken a couple classes in a few different martial arts (although never for long enough to learn anything more than the basics). Occasionally, I enjoy watching a match of MMA or boxing. Watching these matches always makes me feel conflicted. On the one hand, I enjoy the skill and level of physicality involved in fighting; on the other hand, as a Special Ed Aide, I feel terrible supporting sports that could cause long term brain damage. Despite this internal conflict, and despite the fact that I’m not an avid sports watcher, I know I will be watching Ronda Rousey fight Bethe Correia on August 1st. Below, I’ve explained a few reasons why.

1) Rousey is a bad-ass chick

This post went up late because I made myself go to kickboxing last night and then crashed when I got home. The main reason I convinced myself to go (trust me, I love finding an excuse when I can), is because of all the Rousey clips I’ve been watching. When I thought about skipping, I couldn’t help but remind myself, “what would Ronda Do?”

She would do a bad-ass ninja flip and then get herself to kickboxing practice, that’s what.

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Why We Don’t Need Fat Acceptance

I swear I am not trying to contradict Kat’s every post.

Yes, we’ve had have our differences.

We locked horns over femininity and warrior-princesses. Clashed over government regulation. Faced off on the subject of pride parades.

Again, I am not- not– trying to be combative.

That said, today’s post is all about why I think Kat is wrong on the subject of Body Positivism and the concept of “Fat Acceptance”

Now yours truly and our glorious editor have both weighed in on the subject of fitness and obesity more than once, and in her defense, I certainly don’t believe that Kat is offering her blessing to obesity or anything like that.

Still, things need to be said here.

First, I want to make it clear that I agree with Kat on pretty much each and every one of the issues that she brought up. Factors of mental health, poor self-image, unrealistic cultural demands- you won’t hear me dispute these for a second. And these are, absolutely, universal problems. While largely centering on women, there’s an undeniable presence of all this among men as well.

(Granted, that might have more impact if it wasn’t being said by Brad Pitt, but the point still stands.)

My problem isn’t with any of the things that Kat brought up, but rather with the conclusions she drew (or seemed to draw) from ’em. Allow me to kick the conversation off with the following statement:

Self-Esteem Without Quality Is Meaningless

Now granted, this isn’t so much a problem with what Kat said as it is with what much of the movement seems based on: just feeling good about yourself.

There is nothing- nothing– wrong with have good self-esteem, but only so long as that esteem is tethered to something of substance. Your efforts, your accomplishments, your principles- even your noble failures. These are all worth celebrating and taking pride in. However, if you’re telling yourself to like yourself simply to feel warm and fuzzy on the inside…

…then you’re going to run into some problems. Continue reading

Houghton Students and Early Marriage [An Observation, Not a Defence] – Redux and Reflection

evan20122Three years ago I graduated from Houghton College, a Christian liberal arts college in the hamlet of Houghton, New York. A few months before I left, however, I wrote my first and only op-ed for the Houghton Star, the student newspaper, the title of which is pretty self-explanatory.

Due to recent events [three engagements within a few days of each other] marriage has very understandably been on my mind, and I thought it would be worth digging up the article and comparing where I was then to where I am now. Due to extensive revamping it’s no longer hosted on the paper’s website, so I’ve included it in its entirety below. There are also pictures from my high school and college graduations, respectively, for your enjoyment.


Houghton Students and Early Marriage
An Observation, Not a Defence


evan20082Four years ago I graduated from Grace International School, a Christian school in Chiang Mai, Thailand. With the internet and, of course, Facebook I was never really far away from my former classmates in spite of us scattering to the far corners of the globe. Since that final year of wearing matching polo shirts and eating lunch by the pool 
seven members of the class of ’08 have gotten married, two of them to each other; three others are currently engaged. Out of a class of 45 or so students that’s almost a quarter of us tying the knot before the age of 23.

A few years later I was musing about the flood of marriages [four happened at least a year after graduation] out loud to my cousin one day, and he asked why all of my classmates were getting married at such a young age. He then quickly answered his own question with a question, asking “Oh, it’s because you can’t have sex until you’re married, right?” This wasn’t a factor for him, and I vaguely recall half-heartedly muttering something to the affirmative. I knew that couldn’t be all there was to it, but it made enough sense at the time.

Now here I am, a senior with less than two months left before I hit the real world. At least four of my college friends have gotten married since my freshman year and “Save the Date” cards continue to materialize in PO boxes left and right. Proposals have lost any kind of surprise they once had for me. Not too long ago two people in one of my classes were engaged over the weekend and I [not that I wasn’t happy for them] didn’t give it a second thought. My first semester here I had never heard of “ring by spring” or the more clever “getting my MRS.” I didn’t understand at the time how quickly dating relationships could metamorphose into marriage or how prevalent engagements would be in my college life. Continue reading

Body Positivity and “Healthy” Double Standards, or Why I Need Fat Acceptance Even Though I’m (Relatively) Thin

The moment you mention “fat” and anything positive in the same sentence you get a response that’s meant to put you in your place. It will usually go something like, “I don’t believe in encouraging unhealthy behaviour” or “I’m all for self-acceptance, but…”.

I certainly do understand this sentiment. I think social stigma can be a powerful way to discourage bad behaviour. Just look at MADD’s entire campaign against drunk driving, for example.

However, I do think there is an unnecessarily strong reaction against Fat Positivity. Below I’ve outlined 3 reasons why I think that reaction is unfair.

1) We overlook healthy individuals with large bodies because they don’t fit our cultural beauty standards 

The number one criticism of fat acceptance is that it encourages unhealthy behaviour. However, there are more and more examples that prove body size doesn’t always dictate health. Olympic hammer-thrower Amanda Bingson encountered this type of assumption when she was kicked off her high school volleyball team for not losing weight. Years later and she has been able to prove that a large body is just as capable of amazing things as a small body. It’s been encouraging to see her featured in this year’s ESPN Body Issue, the magazine’s “annual celebration of athletes’ amazing bodies”.

Another large and healthy individual who has come to my attention is yogi Jessamyn Stanley. I try (emphasis on try) to practice yoga every week, and yoga is, for me, one of the few physical activities I’m actually kind of okay at. That’s why I was stunned to see Stanley doing moves I am still far away from accomplishing. It’s clear to me that Stanley has the kind of core strength that most of the slender yogis in my classes still haven’t managed to build.

I cannot do this pose without assistance. I can maybe do a headstand on a good day, but just on my arms like this? No way.

Examples like Bingson and Stanley aren’t meant to prove that all large people are healthy. Instead, they offer a great reminder that size doesn’t necessarily dictate health. While large individuals are sometimes much more healthy than they look, some slim individuals can be much less healthy than they appear. Continue reading

When Life Gives You Don Lemon II: The Lemoning

Don Lemon.

Our more dedicated readers will remember we wrote about the CNN news anchor back in November, and by “wrote about him”, I of course mean “launched into a detailed tirade about what an spineless, amoral sleazebag the guy is“.

Yeah, we weren’t gentle with that one…

Now as we’ve said before, there’s plenty of folks out in the news who lack integrity. Those folks- your Piers Morgans, your Glenn Becks, your Keith Olbermanns- are plenty nasty, don’t get me wrong, but they’re at least motivated by some agenda. You can generally count on ’em to focus their bile in a precise direction or at specific targets.

No such luxury with Don Lemon.

Don Lemon- as he himself would tell you- isn’t tied down to any one perspective or set of politics. One day, he’s speculating to whether or not a black hole was the cause of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Or one day, he’s asking one of Cosby’s alleged rape victims why she didn’t just bite the guy’s penis. Or he’s endorsing the patently racist and unconstitutional practice of “stop-and-frisk”, and telling folks they have to choose between dignity and security. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it. The dude’s got the earnestness of Walter Cronkite and the journalistic ethics of the Daily Mirror.

You stay classy, Great Britain…

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