Playing God: Marvel’s The Punisher (2017)

Author: Muammer Tuncer
Editor: Hazal Senkoyuncu

 

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Visual Credit: Karina Rehrbehn (on halfnakedbanana.tumblr.com)

 

The Punisher (season 1) opens with Frank Castle’s troubled past that haunts him in his every waking moment and quickly establishes the overarching narrative of the show: Revenge. And, of course, it comes with pain.

To recap the series: Frank Castle’s family is murdered. He seeks revenge for those who are responsible for killing his family. His mission also reveals bits of his past throughout the series. While Frank is thought to be dead, Agent Madani follows Frank after spotting him on the news, spending her screen time to find the man of mystery. It is revealed later, that the murder of Frank’s family was part of a larger conspiracy, which then changes the direction of the series. This is exactly when the unstoppable action of The Punisher begins to unravel.

There are several flashbacks that play in Frank’s head: His wife and kids’ murder in front of his eyes, excerpts of Frank and his friends inside a military plane to Afghanistan, his friend Jigsaw’s betrayal. These moments build up the alter ego of a vengeful vigilante, or in Bernthal’s (who plays Castle) words, “He ain’t got a fucking cape. He ain’t got any superpowers. He [just lives in] an unbelievable world of darkness and loss and torment”. The Punisher certainly is a band-aid story. Frank cannot cure his own pain, so he numbs it. And, his substance is the vigilante work that pulls him out of the deep sadness.

Karen (Daredevil’s strong-willed blondie journalist) fights for Frank’s good intentions and truly believes in him. Her character is already established in Daredevil and the Defenders, and she continues to be the Marvel TV’s moral compass in the Punisher. Her role as the love interest and damsel in distress reprises as Jigsaw uses her in a trap to reach Frank. The scene reveals what Karen and Frank have been on the contrary: They have an unspoken, skinny love for each another.

The series revolve around the judgment of Frank the Punisher. Perhaps, he is playing God. In a world where the bad guys walk around the block swinging their arms, Frank is the justice. It would also be fair to say; Frank portrays a superhero misunderstood. He isn’t really a superhero; he is one of us. What makes him so different is his big heart, unbelievable courage, powerful character, and endurance.

Note from the Editor: This is the first collaboration featured on Hazal’s Camera. I would like to thank Muammer for jumping into writing his first review without a doubt and letting me help him in the process. While I love talking about media, I also want this website to be a platform that can house different opinions. I am looking forward to future collaborations. You can email me at hazalscamera@gmail.com with all of your ideas (travel, news, film-tv, books, personal reflections, etc.).

May 2019 Book, TV & Film Roundup

Welcome to the first Roundup of Hazal’s Camera. I’ll try to keep this as a monthly ritual. Let’s dive in.

 

The month of May can only be described as a blessing and a curse. I finalized an intense period of summer courses, followed by an intense period of free time. The North American culture subtly rewrites your DNA and convinces you that you need to be busy all the damn time. So, my free time called for a lot of binge-watching, and it was beautiful.

Let’s start the roundup with books, shall we? I promised myself that I would be reading one book a month. The apple era took this pleasant activity away, and my thesis research gave it back to me. I started with Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type (2017). It was my every bus read from school or internship. It became my companion when I laid down on the grass. It had many stories that literally pulled you in, and some that didn’t but nonetheless, it is was a nice companion for May.

In the TV zone— I started with Defenders (2017) hoping that I could revisit my love for the series Jessica Jones but definitely loved the plot despite the fact that it mainly revolved around the Iron Fist. Next, I went through a series of emotions watching Jane the Virgin (2014-). It is definitely a cheesy romance show or “telenovela”. I regretted wasting the vast of the plot away all so quickly once I found out that the series was set to finish this year. I honestly loved this show. I guess I am a hopeless romantic, after all.

None of the film productions really wowed me this month. I watched the live action Aladdin (2019), it had a couple problematic representation patterns. In fact, they weren’t problematic, but rather, clearly wrong. I won’t get into it again in this post, but you can see my full review here. Next, much anticipated (and advertised) Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019). I watched the film on the first day of release. I am one of those young adults who watched Zac Efron in chick flick blockbusters in the past, but his portrayal of Ted Bundy really wowed me. The film did not though, and I will explain why. Finally, I watched what seems to be Jon Favreau’s passion project Chef (2014). Sadly predictable, and an okay movie. Continue reading “May 2019 Book, TV & Film Roundup”

Disney’s Live-Action Aladdin: If it wasn’t for the Genie…

Copyrights: Disney Studios.

With its agenda focused on the live-action reenactments of its all-time classic films, Disney’s Aladdin followed the recent Beauty and the Beast and Dumbo films to find its spot in the local theatres. Anyone who watched the animated Aladdin would agree that it is a risky choice for a live action adaptation. The 1992 Alaaddin was the greatest dance of colors a screen could ever house in itself. During the Disney renaissance, Aladdin was the film that made the second highest profits for Disney.

There are some things that need to stay in their initial artforms to meet up and play with our imaginations. 1992 Aladdin will always be one of those films for me. For this very reason, I had low expectations from this remake. I have more than a few comments to make. So, let’s start, shall we?

The Good
The scene in the cave that built up to Aladdin‘s iconic encounter with the Genie was spectacular. Yes, we have the green-screen technology here in 2019, but not one ever granted me a time travel with the green screen before. The particular scene was a favorite of mine. It also marked the point in which Will Smith (or “the genie”) took the reins of the film and started dominating the screen, leading us through the mystical possibilities with a sense of humor.

I have to admit, I never really liked Will Smith’s acting choices. The guy is talented, but his films never really spoke to me. Alaaddin, though, is the proof that you can put Will Smith, an animated monkey, and a carpet together, and keep a crowd entertained. He often outplayed the rest of the actors (not— Menna Massoud*) and erased them off of the screen for me. Production-wise, this is bad, but Smith surely deserves praise. It is not his fault that the casting didn’t work out the best, right?

*I have never watched Menna Massoud in any other productions. To me, he did not lead the film, but he seems to be a promising actor. While I could see many of the characters easily replaced by someone new, Massoud’s energy and visuals brought the animated Aladdin to life. If there is ever a sequel, Massoud’s portrayal holds a promise to be iconic.

The Bad
Both the accents and non-accents made me cringe. Why is it that the two lead characters have smooth accents? Why is it that the rest of the cast is speaking with unnoticeably noticeable accents that just hang in the air? I am confused. I am also not sure if this is a move by the production team to make the exotic film somewhat politically correct, or they were simply scared of criticism. What do I think? Time for a reality check. This is obviously an ethnic story re-made for profits. You can’t walk away from criticism and you obviously will offend people. So, make a choice and stand with it.

I adore the original Aladdin soundtrack. My long-time musical theatre experience often makes me give mediocre reviews for the on-screen musical adaptations. I can’t say I adore the re-make soundtrack, I can’t say I hate it. It is okay, which sounds like an insult to such great music. This is mainly because of Naomi Scott and the ensemble, that really failed to thrill me as I had hoped. Disney films, to me, are made complete by the ensemble in every way. Sadly, I did not see or hear it in Aladdin.

Let’s get to Jasmine’s solo. It finally revealed the complexity of Jasmine’s powerful character. The song was beautiful, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether Celine Dion was singing it. Seriously, close your eyes and tell me I am wrong. It did not nor will it ever fit into the classic soundtrack. It is a great attempt at girl empowerment but absolutely fails to represent the Middle Eastern roots of Aladdin.

The Ugly
There are different opinions about the origin of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp’s story, but the common knowledge is that it is from the Arabian Nights. It was painful for me to see this identity crisis throughout the film. The ruler is the sultan, there are notions to the Arabic serai (or palace) regime, and it greatly reminds me of the prime time Middle Eastern tv shows about the Ottoman Empire. And on the other hand, I could swear the costumes and cinematic angle of the happy dancing is out of Bollywood. The intention seems to be directed towards inclusivity. Sadly, my eyes I couldn’t see that. I saw a mish-mash of different cultural figures put together, and it was chaotic.

Should you see Aladdin? Absolutely. Set your expectations low, but as Aladdin says, trust him—and the genie, of course.

[A Review] How to Recover After Avengers: Endgame

The following review is spoiler-free, but my comments may get you thinking about possibilities, I suppose. Read at your own risk.

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Patiently sitting through the end credits, being handed over tissues, sobbing a little more, waiting for the post-credit scene that I know is, definitely, not happening.  I wish I hadn’t seen the movie for a while longer.

Avengers: Endgame is Russo Brothers’ best work yet. A majority of the viewers would agree that we were heartbroken, but not disappointed. Marvel Studios have given us what we asked for: The end of a hero’s journey. So gracefully representing what it means to be a hero: Selfless and brave, as mythic as it can be, but also vulnerable and honest about their fears.  There is also a touch of Disney’s magic as the movie drove the overall notion, “I will die trying if it means I am serving the ones I love”.

Endgame completes the Infinity War, yet, is a distinct, special, emotionally-charged experience. In a way, it puts more sense into the rollercoaster ride of the Infinity War. The three hours are absolutely made use of, well-transitioned, and necessary to unravel the narrative.

The film does a good job of digging deeper into character development which is so different from what we are used to within the origin stories and follow-ups. Our superheroes change, they are broken, and finding their way back doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll showcase their punches and kicks, but rather it is a journey that almost fixes their brokenness, and gives us, the viewers, some relief at the same time.

There’s so much more I would like to address in terms of cinematography and representation, however, I’ll let this experience sink in a little more until I get to it. And the question of how to recover after the Endgame? –I suggest appreciating what the franchise had given us for the past 10 years and the Endgame experience as a whole. Keep in mind, the MCU has a history of great resurrection and we could only hope for one last one.

This may be my love letter (back) to Lee, Feige, The Russo’s, Favreau and Downey. Thank you for gracefully fixing our broken parts. I cannot see the Endgame projected onto the screens any other way.

The Streaming Wars: Disney+ to dominate all

 

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Photo credits: Techcrunch.com

 

From Snow White to Iron Man, Star Wars to the Monster’s Inc., there is something for everyone in Disney’s World. The small yet iconic Mickey Mouse has been taking over the well-established characters of the film industry for a while now. Not many of us know the end goal but let me walk you through Walt’s direction that brought back an old trick: Disney+

Prior to his great success—Walt Disney was interested in TV due to its ability to increase the visual appeal of Disney products, and this was the most-influential post-war decision in the American culture, that encompassed the consumer through “total merchandising”. Later, Disney signed an agreement with ABC. The Disneyland tv show elaborated to the economic transformation of the company. In the time span of a year, Disney attracted half of ABC’s ad bills, and ABC had to operate at loss. Disney’s contract with ABC was an opportunity to capitalize on the studio’s library of films.

Disney’s textuality outset was indifferent from the traditional approach it fragmented, propelled and guided the viewer away from the TV episodes, but guided them to a more persuasive text that encouraged further consumption.

Flash forward to 2019— Disney officially owns the following studios (entirely or more than %49 ownership) ESPN, Touchstone Pictures, Marvel, Lucasfilm, A&E, The History Channel, Lifetime. The studio ownerships, film productions, and finally… the transformed TV era plans come back with the birth of online streaming. Disney+ is ready to dominate your screens.

Disney + is set to launch on November 12, 2019. The cost will be $6.99 a month, or $69.99 for a whole year. Can’t we all expect chaos in the Netflix office already? With their monthly price at a double rate, there will be competitive changes to be made. Or not? We shall see. Other streaming services owned by Disney, Hulu and ESPN Plus – will run on the same platform, will likely require separate subscriptions.

What shows are on the agenda? (Hat tip to CNN Business).

Live Action Series
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (available at launch)
The Mandalorian (available at launch)
Diary of a Female President (launching in year one)
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (launching in year one)
Loki (launching in year two)
Untitled Cassian Andor Series (launching in year two)
WandaVision (launching in year two)

Animated Series & Shorts
Forky Asks a Question (available at launch)
SparkShorts (available at launch)
Lamp Life (launching in year one)
Monsters at Work (launching in year one)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (launching in year one)
Marvel’s What If…? (launching in year one)

A Bonus: The Simpsons announced their partnership with Disney+ by saluting their corporate overlords just yesterday.

New deals, new franchises, new streaming outlet… where does it all lead?
Luckily, the end goal remains the same. Walt Disney Corporations is not taking over the world (yet). But they continue to build on the plan to make the theme parks more profitable through TV… ehem, I mean streaming services!

Disney recently made $2 billion investment to its theme parks. The Secret Life of Pets is getting a theme park ride at Universal Hollywood (expected 2020), “Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge” theme park is set to open in 2019, “Guardians of the Galaxy Blast In” comes in 2021.

Disney Corporate must be expecting new profits through its streaming service that will continuously drive fans to the theme parks. It worked in the ’50s, why not now? After all, don’t we all want to live a little magic?

Works Cited/Further Reading
Disneyland (1993) by Christopher Anderson

Lee’s Legacy and Feige’s Vision Hits the Box Offices: Captain Marvel

The following article was first published on Mars’ Hill Newspaper (Vol. 23, Issue 10) under the title of “Captain Marvel”.

Captain Marvel just dropped into the theatres of the earth from the Kree Empire. Mind you, she is from the 90s—so get ready for the nostalgia-packed soundtrack while you watch Brie Larson kick ass!

Since its opening night March 7th, Marvel’s newest release, Captain Marvel, has received a variety of criticism. Some say she is the embodiment of a male prototype in a desirable female body, others claim Carol is the superhero they never knew they needed more of on the silver screen, especially after the debut of Wonder Woman.

The mastermind Kevin Feige, whose vision built the Marvel Studios from ground up (thanks to Iron Man!), spent a budget of $152 million on Captain Marvel’s production and doubled the studio’s profit with a record-breaking $455 million worldwide in its first weekend. This is a grossing more than the totals of any three-day opening of a motion picture this year.

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There is a question worth answering: To what does Captain Marvel owe its success?

Unlike Stan Lee’s legacy of comic book inspired continuity, Captain Marvel welcomes newcomers with Carol’s origin story and doubles that with cues about Fury’s past as well. On top of the complexity of his character, the young Samuel L. Jackson is a delight to watch on screen (thanks to the blockbuster’s make-up artists!). Even though Fury is not the tough authority figure we are used to seeing as the leader of the S.H.I.E.L.D., he still plays a crucial role in stirring the storyline, and he is a living reminder that the actor has a huge role in creating a legendary character.

A common criticism and a generalization was that Carol Danvers, and the rest of the female superheroes, were created on the basis of “girl power” and while doing so, the character was still masculinized. Masculinization might be a way to empower female superheroes, but it is definitely not the only way. I see Marvel’s Carol Danvers as a success because as powerful as she is, she is also emotional. She is a woman who is confused about her past, where she stands in a fight, and what she believes is right. Through her journey of self-connection, she navigates her confusion about what she stands for, and she regains her faith in her own strength. She is a powerful embodiment of what women go through today. Brie Larson’s character certainly does not deserve the harsh criticism she received upon the opening weekend.

Captain Marvel is also the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s response to the demands of the public. We are more concerned about diversity than ever in an era that grounds itself on acceptance. Whatever the reason may be, be it for publicity or expanding their audience, the women in Captain Marvel are fully-clothed, colorful, and beautiful yet vulnerable. These are the stepping stones for a long-awaited perception change for Marvel’s cinematic audience, and we are excited and in it for the long haul.

 

Captain Marvel Doodle: Thanks to Sierra Ellis.

Relating Long Distance

Hello to my loyal readers and friends,

Thank you for your tremendous support over the course of my university journey. I can happily inform you that I am very close to graduating, and I have undertaken a valuable experience while doing so: I am conducting undergraduate research on long-distance relationships. Please take 5 minutes to answer the survey below. (Please see if you are eligible to participate)

Are you currently in a long-distance relationship? Do you communicate with your significant other via online communication methods (email, texting applications, online phone or video calls)?
If you answered “yes” for both of these questions, you might be eligible to contribute to a Communications Theory study conducted by a senior MCOM student. At the end of the survey, you will automatically be entered to a draw to win a $10 Starbucks gift card.
Please note– The answers are anonymous, and your information will not be shared with anyone other than the researcher (myself). Click below to participate:

Many thanks,

Hazal

Storytelling: On the flowing stream

What does it mean to be a storyteller? My lecturers discussed this a million times over the four years of my undergrad career. I call it a ‘career’ because I have been creating stories ever since I was eight, if not even earlier. Do you mind taking a walk with me through the memory lane? Even though I look like I’d prefer being alone while I do this, I still think I need company today.

I love bedtime stories, and I would use all of my little power to stay awake through those. Luckily, my dad had a million stories to tell. Every time he started a new story, he would reassure me saying that it is a really old tale and he is not making it up, because why would he? I would get mad at him because, after two or three years of hearing a new story every night, I think I was somehow too smart for a six-year-old, and I realized that they all told me the same thing over and over again: “You can explore, but listen to your parents when they warn you, or else you’ll get in trouble”. Oh, and no love interests, mom and dad will save you, there is no prince charming here!

But my dad was a professional. “Dad you are not making this up, right?”, “No, this was absolutely real”. The little black sheepdog always wondered what happened outside the farm. One day he decides to take a long walk, jumps across the fences and explores the endless fields. It suddenly starts getting darker, he is scared, and he hears a pack of big bad wolves howling. They get closer and form a circle around him, the little sheepdog is scared. His parents come and save him, later, getting mad at him a little bit but hugging him tight still. Dad, I miss your stories. I know you didn’t make any of them up.

If you thought my dad was an okay storyteller. Let me tell you about his mom, my grandma. Whatever she tells you, you are ought to believe her. She always had something in her voice that would make you feel like she is pulling you deep into this thought bubble that is inside her two hands. She was a magician playing with her words, and a bit of a witch, I am never sure if her hands are telling the story or casting a spell.

Oddly enough, her story never changed because she only had one. Her mother was adopted, had a very tough childhood but grew older to be a loving mother to my grandma. But this loving mother died too soon. I have seen my grandma pulling out a small photo of her mother from the very last drawer full of tablecloths, that is a part of an 80 some year-old dark brown wooden cabinet. Every time she pulled out the picture, she would blame herself for forgetting what her mother’s face looked like. She says she needs the picture to remember. I bet it hurts.

You remember the stream, dear? —  In the old town, it’s by our old home. – How can you not remember? – Well, I’ll take you there when we go. Oh, dear! – It was night time, very late. Maybe after 11 or 12. We had to sail through the river, so mom put me and my sister in a small wooden boat. And she was rowing and rowing. Oh! All of a sudden! – We saw a light from deep down. Oh, it was beautiful. It was shining and so bright that it hurt our eyes. My sister was younger, you know. And mom said to put our heads down. We put our heads down, but I peeked out on the side, mom didn’t see. Oh, it was so beautiful. A woman, she had ginger hair. It was so long. Her hair was like Leipzig silk! She was shining. She swam next to our small boat. Was it ever beautiful? – No, no. She didn’t hurt us or anything.

Then, what happened? We got off the boat and went home, but it was beautiful. I never told mom that I saw it!

But you are not lying? Right? How can you see it in the old town? Like here? Is it true?Maybe, I was dreaming, I don’t know. I was young. (She would shrug off her shoulders and move on with her life at this point, after charming me with the story. It was so cruel because I would think about it all night until I finally fell asleep).

There are things I wish I could remember better lately, and my mind won’t let me. But, can’t we all tell stories? All of the stories I heard, had a bit of those people that touched the narrator. And, no, my great grandma is not made up, but loving and gentle, just like in grandma’s story.

Dogs can talk, and mermaids are real – if only you believe.

 

Photo Credits: http://kopriyet.blogspot.com/2016/05/kirmasti-koprusu.html

Food for Thought: The Lazy Chef’s Table

Happy Sunday! I hope I am not the only one that directly associates Sunday’s with an early morning light creeping from the nonfunctional blinds, reading and herbal tea (potentially in bed). Doesn’t it sound beautiful? For that reason, I am not one for hating Mondays, weekends just do a good job with calming me down.

Vancouver was supposed to get a major snowfall this morning, but the mother nature must have decided to postpone it, as my iPhone would agree. With the possibilities of getting snow gone, my plans for the day didn’t change: I’ll be reading for an upcoming media criticism project (in various places probably), and I’ll need to take breaks.

Break numero uno, with the courtesy of a hobby of mine: Cooking (and eating). Here are a couple of recipes I have developed, learned, or read online and made my staple. For my college student friends that have no time, I hope this comes as an inspiration.

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The “I can’t believe I like salad” Salad

I was introduced to this recipe by a close family member when she came to visit us in Canada, she gets a huge thank you for making me enjoy a salad for the first time.

Ingredients

Chopped Kale/Spinach

Chopped cabbage

Shredded carrots

(OR Pre-packaged greens of choice)

Boiled or canned chickpeas

3-4 dates

3 slices of feta cheese

Walnuts

Dressing: ½ lemon, 2 tbsp olive oil

(I personally don’t use the oil as cheese does the job for me)

Instructions:

  1. If you are boiling your own chickpeas: Soak chickpeas in hot water and a dash of salt overnight. Next morning, boil them for about 15-20 minutes and drain the chickpeas. Voila, use them in wraps, salads, or on top of rice.
  2. Put chopped vegetables in a large bowl as your base, put in your chickpeas, and dressing. Mix them all.
  3. Chop 3-4 dates and feta cheese in small pieces, crush the walnuts with your hands, add them on top.
  4. Enjoy, and get ready to say, “I can’t believe I like salad”, now.

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Peas and chicken in a pot (Serving: 4)

 Ingredients

1 tsp of Powdered ginger

1 tbsp of Salt

1 tbsp of pepper

1 tbsp garlic

2 tbsp Coconut oil

Chopped (3) chicken breasts

Frozen green peas

1-2 tbsp of tomato paste

Instructions:

  1. Put chicken breasts in a pot, add enough water to cover it at the same level. Bring the chopped chicken breasts to boil for about 5 mins, drain the chicken and keep the broth.
  2. Put the chicken, frozen peas, tomato paste and desired amount of broth in the pot. Cook for about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Add coconut oil and spices to the pot. Turn off the heat and let the dish simmer for 5 more minutes.

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Moroccan Egg-Fried Couscous (Serving: 2)

Unlike all the other recipes that were subject to trial and error, this one is one that I found online recently and loved it. Give it a try!

Ingredients

1/2 package of couscous

1 cup frozen mix vegetables/or snap peas (or as desired)

1 tbsp coconut oil

4 eggs

Spices:

1 tbsp curry

1 tbsp chili

1 tbsp garlic

A dash of salt

Instructions:

  1. Boil ½ package of couscous in water for 8 minutes (as if you are making pasta). Drain the couscous.
  2. Take a pan and melt 1 tbsp of coconut oil, add all of your spices now (this is a golden trick that makes the food absorb spices better).
  3. Add the couscous and frozen veggies, fry them until veggies become soft.
  4. Form an empty hole in the middle of the pan, pour your eggs and start mixing them with the rest of the stuff in the pan slowly.
  5. Fry everything until eggs make the couscous look browner.
  6. Enjoy! I can already feel it smells great. Yum.

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Cinn-Apple-and-Oat Cake (Serving: 4-6/Small Portions)

Ingredients:

1 whole chopped apple

1 cup oats

2 tbsp whole-wheat flour

1 cup applesauce

½ cup milk

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp olive oil

4-5 tbsp coconut sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp cinnamon (or as desired)

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Put a tiny bit of olive oil to the baking dish and make sure to spread it evenly so the mixture doesn’t stick later on.
  2. Chop a whole apple and microwave it for 1 minute.
  3. Take a bowl and stir together the oats, applesauce, milk, egg, vanilla, olive oil, and coconut sugar.
  4. Add in flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir.
  5. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes. Take it out of the oven. Voila!

 

Let me know if you try the recipes, or have any suggestions for me to try. Happy Sunday!

Hazal

“The Stories of Sexual Abuse”, from the Sporting World

An ongoing default in the minds of the society we live in today promotes and accepts the image of women as victims of the untold stories. Women who work in different areas of expertise continuously face gender inequality: they are being stepped over in every possible scenario, are verbally and physically abused, and sexually assaulted. Although this is common for women working in every field, many athletes in the sports world encounter sexual assault at its highest, especially those who play in the elite level.

Here is a look at the stories you have never heard, and the ones that you did but moved on with your life:

Mike Tyson, 1991

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Visual Credit: DingeenGoethe

One of the most scandalous cases was about Mike Tyson, a former American boxer who had the title of the youngest heavyweight boxing champion 1986, raping Desiree Washington, the Miss Black America pageant contestant, in a hotel room in 1991. A day later, Washington reported she was raped by Tyson right after checking into an emergency room at the Methodist Hospital (Indianapolis Monthly, 2017).

The incident took place at a time when America was starting to become conscious about “date rape”. Right before Tyson’s attack, in 1990, America was shaken by the story of Katie Koestner, an 18-year-old college student, who was raped by her date as a freshman in college. At the time, her parents, peers, nor the police believed her, as Koestner describes how date rape was not a thing that was recognized by the society “In 1990, rape was still stranger rape. It was not about people you liked, or you were dating” (BBC, 2016).

Later Koestner’s voice was heard when the Time picked up her article and she was on the cover of the magazine in 1991. Similarly, Tyson’s attack took place right after the incident Koestner went through became publicized. This resulted in the journalistic details of Tyson’s attack becoming a “national sensation” (Indianapolis Monthly).

 

Cristiano Ronaldo, 2009

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Visual Credit: The Mirror

Ronaldo’s is a case that had shockingly tepid coverage. According to the Der Spiegel exclusive article, Kathryn Mayorga, a model who worked at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, was invited to party with Ronaldo in his suite. Later that same night in 2009, Mayorga was forced to have sexual intercourse with Ronaldo even though she repeatedly said no. Next morning, she went to get a medical examination and visited the police immediately after the examination (Spiegel, 2017).

However, she couldn’t just go and talk about what had happened to her. Mayorga was forced to sign a settlement deal, provided by Ronaldo’s agency Gestifute, ensuring she would not talk about that day, and as a result, she received a payoff to forget about her accusations. According to the Der Spiegel interview, Mayorga signed the settlement “out of impotence, [and] the inability to stand up to him” (2017).

Just recently, in September 2018, Mayorga found the courage within herself to speak up about the traumatizing incident. Since the very first article that was published on the incident, Ronaldo’s agency Gestifute continuously sought to prevent any media coverage on the case, and later released the following statement “the article is nothing but a piece of journalistic fiction” (Spiegel Online, 2018). The 2018 Spiegel Online Article also gives details on the legal process and mismatching formal investigation responses by Ronaldo both in 2009 and 2018 about the allegations. The case is yet to be resolved.

 

Larry Nassar, 2015-2018

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Visual Credit: DailyMail

A far-reaching abuse case in the history of sports, the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal, is still a topic that remains on the headlines today. As more survivors find the courage to open up about the scandal, the updates are still inherent. The perpetrator, Larry Nassar, who was a former USA Gymnastics (USAG) physician, sexually abused more than 300 victims, the majority of them being underage (Vox, 2018). The victims included Olympic medalists Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, and McKayla Maroney.

Although the USAG fired and reported Nassar after receiving a testimony of an athlete stating her concern about him in June 2015, an Indianapolis Star investigation reported that “top executives at USAG routinely dismissed sexual abuse allegations against coaches and failed to alert authorities” (IndyStar, 2016). As the Washington Post stated, “the investigation, reported by the Indianapolis Star, found that USA Gymnastics routinely brushed off sexual abuse claims as hearsay, enabling coaches to molest gymnasts as young as 7 for years” (Washington Post, 2016).

The first public statements on the Nassar case were recorded as early as September 2016, however, the incident went viral when McKayla Moraney used her Twitter account as a channel to share her own abuse story. She stated that she was molested by Nassar every time she went for a doctor’s visit since the age of 13, up until her retirement from the sport in 2016 (ESPN). The USAG had Moraney sign a confidentiality agreement to cover up the scandal. In 2017, Moraney broke her silence, filing a lawsuit against Nassar. Later in 2018, Jacob Moore, a male gymnast, filed a different lawsuit against Nassar, stating he was sexually abused and harassed.  Jacob Moore’s sister Kamerin Moore was also one of the many victims (CBC, 2018).

Larry Nassar was sentenced up to 175 years of prison when the judge said, “I have just signed your death warrant”, easing the pains of the many victimized women, (and man), for decades (CNN, January 2018).

Notes from The Guardian’s Bryan Graham

A 2017 article written by Bryan Graham, at a time when the Nassar scandal was still fresh, stated that there were numerous sports media coverage and research available to the public in this issue and yet they were still “invisible” (The Guardian). Regardless of the fact that the Nassar scandal was not the first of high-profile sex abuse scandals in the sports world, it involved so many women unlike others such as the Baylor University scandal.

In his article, Graham explored the reason for this visibility issue and discussed whether it is due to the sports media being inadequate, later, stating that this was not the reason at all. Graham claimed, “the most distressing reason of all is that the abuse of women is normalized in our society. The Nassar scandal fits into our framework of how we understand a sport like women’s gymnastics. On some level we expect women to be victimized, so it’s not surprising when they are [victimized]” (The Guardian). As Graham would agree, the problem in this particular case and many others can be seen observing the society we live in today and their faulty understanding of women in sport, the carelessness they might have towards an unpopular sport during non-Olympic years, and the acceptance of the image of women who are bound to be victims.

Upon reflecting over his many articles on the cases of female athlete abuse, I was able to have the chance to connect with The Guardian’s Sports Journalist, Bryan Graham, and do an online interview. When I asked Graham about the common challenges sports journalists face when reporting on the abuse cases, he answered, “In the case of gymnastics, the victims are often under 18 years of age and media access is tightly controlled even for uncontroversial questions or requests such as interviews with athletes” (Graham, 2018). He added that the nature of the situation makes it hard for the survivors to discuss it thoroughly because of the shame and grief associated with the crime.

Moreover, Graham stated his opinion on whether the journalistic coverage of sexual abuse involving superstar players changed the public perception, particularly the Ronaldo case, he said that it was a “yes” to some extent, and added, “Yet I’d say 1) it varies widely on a case-by-case basis and 2) that superstar athletes are far more immune to the negative aftereffects due to the male-dominated nature of the space”. His answer supported that there is often a set of lawyers and agencies that cover up the crime with contracts and money.

soccerball on wide green grass field
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Final Note

A recent Huffington Post UK article made a bold statement saying, “The voice of sport in 2018 moved beyond leaderboards, cup finals and breaking records. We saw a real watershed moment; rather than behaving as a detached and compartmentalized entity, sport offered a voice on issues that intersect at all levels of society” (Gold, 2019). I cannot possibly agree with it as society still seems to be blind towards certain news, and neither can you.

I asked Bryan Graham about the impact of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements in the sporting world, he replied, “I feel the world of sports has, unlike virtually every other major public sphere, not had its #MeToo or #TimesUp moment so far”.

There are other stories yet to be told but the change doesn’t seem so close to the sporting world.