Tag Archives: romance

The 2016 Evan Yeong Literary Awards

As I say at the beginning of every year, you can look back at the first-ever Evan Yeong Literary Awards in 2014 for a fuller description of my relationship with reading, which in turn led to their inception.

evanyeongliteraryawards2016While eventually I’ll run out of ways to write this, the purpose of the third installment of the Evan Yeong Literary Awards is to shine a spotlight on an artistic medium that has taken a bit of a back seat as screen media becomes increasingly more prevalent, calling attention to a select handful of books I read these past 12 months. In 2015 every pick was objectively a winner, but given the rocky year following it’s no surprise that these awards have their ups and downs.

In 2016 my resolution was, just as it will likely be every year moving forward until it becomes unfeasible, to read more than the year before. That said I was devastated to do the final count to see that I read exactly the same number as I did in 2015. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.


waywardbus

wokest novel, PRE-2000’s

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
Published 1947

Although it’s fallen out of fashion since the time of its coinage in 2015, “woke” is still the most concise way to say “aware of racism and social in justice”. Throughout a novel that could serve merely as a cautionary tale of public transportation Steinbeck communicates time and time again that even though he lived as a person of great privilege, during an era where those privileges were even greater than they are now, he wasn’t afraid to pen several scathing indictments against the very class he was a part of.

eleanorpark

most disappointing, though by no means awful

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published 2012

The fault with this YA novel can be laid at the feet of those who framed it as a solid example of an interracial relationship in the genre. Although the titular Park is half-Korean the fact is that this is not something he personally relates to as a character, and certainly isn’t a factor that others take into consideration when viewing him [save for Eleanor, who gushes over his features in a way that borders on the fetishistic]. Apart from that this book very competently portrays the familial issues that can plague teenagers, as well as the most authentic depiction of how intense young love can be that I’ve ever read. Continue reading

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What the Modern Sitcom Says about Millennials, Our Fears, and Our Obsession with Love

The Mindy Project, New Girl, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Man Seeking Woman, and How I Met Your Mother.

What do all those shows have in common?

Well, for one, they all feature a millennial as their main protagonist. This protagonist is also single. In fact, most of them even kick off their pilot with a break-up of some sort.

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This introductory break-up signals that love is going to be the end goal of the series. Of course there will be other ambitions and goals to meet along the way- especially for female protagonists (apparently women still have to prove that marriage isn’t our only goal in life)- but each of these comedies revolves around a quirky protagonist’s struggle to find a partner.

The “searching for love” trope has become even more common in contemporary sitcoms than the “quirky but loveable family” trope that was so common when we were kids.

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Even just by comparing hit TV shows, I think it’s safe to say that we Millennials tend to struggle with different issues than our parents did at our age.  After all, what is a sitcom for but to mock our deepest fears and help us laugh at ourselves?

Having binge watched most of The Mindy Project, New Girl, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Man Seeking Woman, and How I Met Your Mother, I’ve noticed a couple of common themes running through these shows.  

1. Women worry that they’ve been too successful, while men worry that they haven’t been successful enough

Mindy (The Mindy Project) is a OB/GYN, Jess (New Girl) is a school principal, Rebecca (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) is a lawyer, and even Liz (sister of main character Josh in Man Seeking Woman) is a lawyer. When all of these women find themselves unexpectedly single, they are introduced to a kind of panic none of the male protagonists are forced to face: will I be too old to have kids by the time I find someone?

In contrast, Nick (New Girl) and Greg (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) are bartenders, Josh (Man Seeking Woman) is a temp, Josh (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) works at a “laid-back” tech store, and even Mindy has dated the occasional DJ.

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This is a bit of a red herring, since Ted did eventually become a pretty successful architect.

Continue reading

The 2015 Evan Yeong Literary Awards

You can read a better introduction at the beginning of last year’s awards, but I can quickly fill in for any new readers out there that I began reading at a fairly young age and continued on to study literature in college. That being said reading and literature have been a part of my life for about as far back as I can remember.

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This second installment of the Evan Yeong Literary Awards seeks to once again call attention to the artistic medium that I love most, taking note of the books I read in the past year and [at least this time around, solely] praising the standouts. A lot of pages were put away in 2015, and it was actually a challenge this year to keep the number of winners to just under a dozen.

In 2015 I once again resolved to read 52 books and this time met my goal; sweet success. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.


anansiboys

book that most helps “the cause/mission”

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Published 2005

The former as used by the hosts of the podcast Black Men Can’t Jump and the latter being the name of Joseph Philip Illidge’s column on Comic Book Resources, both terms are ultimately defined as work that progresses diversity. To that effect, White British author Gaiman is one of its truest champions, crafting a fantastical novel that lets its characters fall under the default race of reader’s assumptions only to have that torn away, much to even [or especially] my chagrin, in later pages. Fantasy as a genre is not often populated by men and women of colour, at least in Western fiction, and to have this novel exist, as well as be supported by such an unshakable talent, is a wonderful thing.

catcherintherye

novel that doesn’t, and then does, live up to the hype

The Catcher in the Rye in J. D. Salinger
Published in 1951

The only thing I knew about this [in]famous work of fiction prior to reading it is that the murderer of one of The Beatles was obsessed with it and that it has been a frequently banned book, so I was not at all expecting the tale of a teenager who just wanted to drink some drinks and go on some dates and figure out what adolescence is really about. On that same note, I also didn’t think I would be exposed to some of the most raw and honest writing about what it’s like to be a dumb, lost kid. I still don’t fully understand what all the hubbub was about, but I also see why so many dating profiles have it featured as their favourite book.  Continue reading

Jane Austen vs. Nicholas Sparks (How Romance Literature can be Empowering or Enslaving)

When I first attempted to write this post, several months ago, I titled it “the real reason Nicholas Sparks is the worst”. I was planning to discuss the lawsuit against Nicholas Sparks that has accused him of being racist, antisemitic, and homophobic in the workplace. I then planned to use that as a lead-in to discuss how romance novels are just awful in general.

Something about that original post just never feel right. Maybe it’s because I have no way of knowing if Sparks is really guilty of what he has been accused, or maybe it’s because any time I start to attack the Romance genre I find myself haunted by the memory of Jane Austen.

This is what you find when you search for “Jane Austen” and “ghost”.

Continue reading

Shame Day: Hollywood and Older Leading Ladies

Take some time, maybe ten seconds or so, to come up with as many older actresses as you can. I’m even going to give you a head start with the picture on the right. Okay, are you done? In spite of the fact that I’ve had this intro in my head for the past few days I could still really only come up with two: Meryl Streep, obviously, and Dame Judy Dench.

Now take the same amount of time and do the same with male actors [I use the qualifier because the term is in fact gender neutral]. Off the top of my head I already have a handful: Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, and the list goes on. That, in general, should set the stage to what I’m going to be discussing here. Continue reading

A Kiss With A Fist Is Better When Dealing With Giant Monsters

Turning the clock back to this past Tuesday, days before I fell down with this cold and what feels like years ago, I saw Pacific Rim with a friend and then got steak. When it comes down to pure quality alone I may shock you by saying that the steak was much, much better than the film. I wanted to hold every bite of that steak in my mouth for an eternity.

My love for food aside, there was something that I really, really enjoyed about Pacific Rim, and to set aside the obvious it was not robots and giant monsters throwing down.

I’m not gonna lie, I did enjoy that immensely.

Reading on will spoil parts of this movie, which I actually think you should go out and see. It also spoils parts of Man of Steel, which you know my opinion of. Continue reading

Bad Influence

Last night, I watched Brideshead Revisited, and let me tell you, it is one festering pile of garbage.

Seriously, **** this movie…

Now before anyone launches into a tirade- yes, I am aware that Brideshead was originally a novel and, from what a lot of critics have said, one that was infinitely better than the movie, the later of which reduced all of the author’s points on culture, religion, and relationships to a couple hours of pretty set design and not much else. Simple fact of the matter is Everyone Poops could have been adapted for the big screen and still have been better than this confusing mess.

Michael Bay was going to, but the book was too cerebral for him…

Look- I can’t speak to either the novel or the author. People who have read the book say it was better than the film, and while I have difficulty believing that, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m not hear to address that- I’m here to address the fact that someone at some point did actually think that what they presented in the movie was somehow not only worth watching, but worth paying for.

It aint- in case you haven’t gotten that message yet…

I’m not a fan of British period-pieces; if I wanted to see eloquent people with miserable lives, I’d talk to English majors.

What we have in this movie is a group of extremely rich youngsters lounging about an elegant mansion, downing enough alcohol to make newyears in Vegas look like a Baptist ice-cream social, and whine and wail for over half an hour about how miserable their lives are. Not in any existentialist sense, mind you- these characters aren’t disillusioned with luxury, they’re just frustrated that they can’t have everything that they want when they want it the way they want it. This is essentially Walden without any redeeming qualities- just pasty, entitled brats with delusions of insight, giving trailing speeches about their long “suffering”.

And I’m not bringing this up just because one movie sucked- this seems to be part of a greater problem in our culture. I’ve seen the same kind of problem in the film I Love You, Man.

Back in college, my housemates loved this movie. Suggested it every movie night just to see me shiver with horror and disgust. In case you’re not familiar with the plot line, let me break it down for you:

Peter’s getting married. Peter simply doesn’t have any guy friends outside of his brother (played by Andy Samberg, who was the only good part of the movie), and he one night overhears his fiancee’s vile, harpy collection of friends gossiping that it’s weird Peter’s not going to have a best man at his wedding. Peter, who apparently bases his self-esteem on the idle chatter of obnoxious strangers is filled with self-doubt and embarks on a quest to get himself a male friend- because, you know, what will his future wife’s evil friends think of him if he doesn’t?

If you’re trying to jump through the screen, grab this guy, and slap him across the face while screaming quotes from Nietzsche- don’t worry, that was my first reaction too. How we’re supposed to sympathize with this self-pitying sadsack is beyond me- the guy makes Ted from Scrubs look like Teddy Roosevelt by comparison.

I’m not trying to say that every character in a movie- or even every main character- has to be someone admirable. Just look at American Psycho. I’m not saying that these characters have to be ultimately successful. Just look at Goodfellas or The Godfather trilogy. I’m not saying that the characters have fit a classic/stereotypical form of “manliness” (in the case of male characters, anyways)- just look at Zombieland, Superbad, Napoleon Dynamite, or Scott Pilgrim vs the World.

Between movies like Brideshead Revisited, I Love You, Man, and pretty much every romance movie that ever has or ever will be made, there’s this common attitude of entitlement, self-pity, and melodrama.

Ok, you could kill yourself or- OR– spend some time working at a homeless shelter, petition on behalf of political prisoners, overthrow corrupt dictatorships since you are, y’know, immortal…
Just say’n…

Now I know you must all be saying “But Gordon, you charming devil- what’s the big deal? So what if a section of film is dominated by this lousy message of egocentricity, ignorance, and impotence?”

Let me show what the big deal is.

See this guy here? This is goth shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. If you’re not a fan, chances are you’ve still heard of him- in the days that followed the Columbine Shootings, Manson was argued by many conservative and religious critics as having been responsible for influencing the shooters. And obviously, that’s just a single example- whether it’s true or not, we’re all familiar with the outcry against violence in the media- be it anything from video games (see any GTA game) to music (Wu-Tang Clan aint nothin’ to fornicate with) to movies (just take your pick).

Let’s assume, just for a minute, that this is all true. I’m going to discuss the whole “does-violence-in-media-cause-more-violence?” question later in the week, but for now, let’s just say that the answer is “yes”. If these things have a serious negative effect on the views- especially young viewers- and deserve to be censored or even banned on that logic, surely the same can be said for the equally detrimental attitudes and actions (or lack thereof) found in movies like Brideshead Revisited and the like. What do these things teach us?

I was going to say “Stalking and manipulative relationships are romantic”, but I really didn’t have the stomach to slog through countless Twilight posters looking for Edward crouched in the window- enjoy this picture instead…

Again- the problem isn’t with romance as a concept or a plot device or anything like that. I’m not a sensitive guy in even the loosest use of the word, but despite my callousness, I really don’t have a problem with romance- it’s just that romance, as a genre, tends to produce these awful, reprehensibly selfish attitudes, and at the same time make the actual relationships pretty dumb as well. Though no one is ever going to admit it, couples like House and Cuddy or Scully and Mulder are both more believable, moving, and inspiring at their worst moments than any Romance film couple at their best.

Obligatory “Still a Better Love Story Than Twilight”…

What else can I say? Romance movies, and indeed, all media that promotes this whiny, entitled message seems to be just as harmful- if not more- than the bloodiest action flick or the most violent rap or rock. I’d be just as worried about the effects of such media on young minds as I am about the most car-stealing-liest-prostitute-beating-iest video game ever made. Allow me to leave you with this brilliant tweet from comedian Dave Chapelle to drive my point home.