Tag Archives: inspiration

[Series] Strong Female Leads to Follow on Streaming Giants: Self Made, Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker

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IMBD Score: 7.6

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%

Self Made (2020) is a limited web series that recently premiered on Netflix in March 2020. It is made of 4 episodes that overpass the life of Madam C.J. Walker. The premise of the series is very straight forward: search of identity. Before she is Madam Walker, our protagonist is an abandoned widow who washes laundry to keep the stove running in the house. The hardships of life return her… hair loss. Shortly after, a mulatto saleswoman shows her a product that makes her hair grow. It works magic because then Madam “C.J. Walker” has a boost of self-confidence and she meets her second husband (C.J. Walker) that gives her the iconic name. The rest of the story illustrates her struggle to start her own hair business and exist with this new independent identity between the 1880s and 1890s. Spoiler alert—Madam becomes America’s first Black, self made female millionaire; she also has had a mansion next to John D. Rockefeller’s! (Thank you OprahMag.)

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While a limited web series makes an extraordinary story like Madam Walker’s accessible globally, there are surely stylistic comments to be made. Self Made aims to be a genre binding series between a historical drama, and documentary series. However, the combination is not smooth, and it makes awkward storytelling at times. The audience wants to feel for the characters and the series does not let such a connection happen. This may also be due to the great impression of x (as Madam C.J. Walker), as the character increasingly distances herself as the story progresses. I would have preferred to observe the darker side of it all from episode 3 and onwards; Instead, episodes 3-4 show the audience truly begins to see Madam shine. The storytelling is so focused on the greatness of her success (as Madam also was at the time), that the audience cannot take a step back and feel for her.

While there is more than one production company involved, the show definitely carries the heaviness of Warner Bros Television most. If you watch a number of WB films, you’ll know what I mean. The set décor and gloomy cinematography beg to differ but sadly gives a fictional Harry Potter World vibe upon the opening of episode 1.

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Self Made has many contemporary details—from the soundtrack (great selection), to inner circle struggles (as illustrated between the Madam and the mulatto saleswoman Addie), as well as a topic I want to focus on specifically, the queer identity in the late 1800s. Madam C.J. Walker’s daughter, A’Lelia Walker,  was shown to be queer in the series. While diversity in TV is happening more today, as it should be, I have a hard time believing A’Lelia’s portrayal to be true. According to Harlem renaissance dancer Mabel Hampton, “There was men and women, women and women, and men and men, and everyone did whatever they wanted to do” when A’Lelia took over her mother’s business in Harlem. In the series, A’lelia’s coming out is so smooth that it seems to undermine her experience not to take the attention away from the line of action that the show requires. However, I must note that Tiffany Haddish (A’lelia) steals the show in the last two episodes, and she makes a great figure alongside the ever strong Octavia Spencer (Madam C.J. Walker).

Self Made is a mini informative series that has many problems to undermines the true power of its story. It is inspiring yet disappointing as it fails to meet expectations.

On Writing: A Letter About Socks and Finding Inspiration

A couple of housekeeping notes before we start,

  1. If you like the content on this blog or simply want to buy me coffee and you are too far to do that in person, visit my Ko-Fi page.
  2. Take this 1-minute survey for my curiosity. I am working on a new article on streaming services for this blog. It will be a little different because it is research-based. I want to write about what you think about the fathers of the streaming services like Netflix, and the newcomers like Disney+. Please note that if you leave a comment, they may be published on this website. Feel free to leave your name in there if you’d like a shout. The survey link is here.
  3. Here’s is an additional 30-second survey on Disney Plus. If you’ve already purchased a membership (or not) let me know your thoughts.
  4. It seems like the blog will be quiet until the end of December. Please bear with me until I go through this transitional season of life. Read more about it below.
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A painting we had in our old house. Dancers in Blue, c.1895 by Edgar Degas.

 

 

Dear Universe and its lovely people,

You might have noticed that Hazal’s Camera has been quiet lately… not because I stopped filtering life, but because I didn’t have time to personally deliver what’s been going on in my head to you. This morning something was off. I put on a pair of sparkly teal-colored socks that my grandma gave me during a time of holidays that I was surprisingly home. I named them the Tinker Bell socks, just this morning, and promised myself that I’d make some magic. So, here we are forcing the sparkles of inspiration to enter the room and break the blocks. 

Some may call this the writer’s block but I will call it the last thirty days before graduation, mercury’s millionth retrograde, juggling to keep a home happy, and neglecting my only meditation. A good friend once told me I was a good writer because I kept writing. I kept doing what seemed so hard for her. Then, I realized I quit this very paragraph to watch a film with my significant other and check a list of errands for tomorrow.  

On this particular day or in this particular time of my life words don’t flow freely on the water. They are collected by the seaweeds, accumulated for what seems like an eternity. Things haven’t been always this way. Hence, I don’t have a clear head nor a clear physical space. It might explain the metaphors that I tried to hide behind.

The moral of the story is simple. In a month, I will have a degree. I will also be unemployed. I will wait a little for my Tinker Bell then. But, who knows? The teal-colored socks might make some magic on their own.

See you in a month, friend.

-H

[Photoblog] 2018 in Review: I did all this?

2018 was my ride or die. It was full of moments that left me in awe, put my capabilities in a trial, overwhelmed me with joy and with its last bit, challenged me with deep sadness as well.

I love the photoblogs because it has always been hard for me to see the small successes. As I looked through these moments, I said to myself, “I did all this?“. Believe me, there were a lot of question marks, not just one.

As always, thanks to the many friends I made along the way.

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As told by a 4-year-old: How to find your own imagination

I would like to introduce you to my cousin Masal (“tale” or “fairytale”), she happens to be a 4-year-old and she successfully taught me a class on “Imagination 101”. I’ll go in depth about the syllabus in a bit. As you can imagine, it’s not written on paper, ha! You will likely be accepted into the classes if you are willing to spend a minimum of 5 minutes (with lots of toilet breaks) and only voice your opinions through being the voice for one of her baby dolls. I assure you if you go back to using your own voice, that’s crossing the line in a 4-year-old’s world. And finally, everyone gets an A+.

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I spent a wonderful weekend with her cute little energetic personality, and here’s what she taught me:

1. You can be any colour you choose to be.

This, I learnt during one of our drawing and colouring sessions. Masal first asked me to draw a girl, and I did. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl with red lips. Then, she asked me to draw two ghosts next to her, one using the blue and one using a pink crayon. I really don’t know if she is ever impressed with my drawing skills, but her face surely lights up whenever I agree to draw with her. She later drew a girl herself, with pink hair, a pink outfit, followed by a pink ghost which shaped nothing like a ghost. It shaped more like a long scarf, or a blanket, but she believed it was a ghost.

When we finished drawing, we started colouring pictures of her favourite baby doll from a booklet that she held dearly. She happily shared it with me and started painting a doll. The poor doll had a green face, nude-coloured hair, body, eyes (this is her second favourite colour after dark purple) and legs that are half purple and half blue. Her sister Misra (“verse”) and I, told Masal that the girl she painted looked like she was about to puke. I jokingly asked “did she get car sick, honey?”, she answered: “No, that’s her face, there’s nothing wrong with her”. That was the first lesson learnt. As we age, we often stick to the norms, we don’t ever paint beyond the lines, and we do what we are taught that is right. Let me tell you what that all means. We lose our imagination. I hung Masal’s drawings up on our fridge as a reminder for myself that I can choose any colour I want, and look at things sideways, twist, turn and burn them.

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2. You determine your own boundaries and your own time.

My cousin is determined when she wants a playmate although most of the time she likes to play alone. During those times, if I am around (and her sister is not), I am the number-one-hot target. She finds me and does not leave me until I sit down and play for at least 5 minutes. My excuses include: “Honey, I need to take a shower”, “I need to dry my hair”, “But, I got this thing on my computer that I have to do”, “Can we do it after we eat dinner?”. Masal literally waits until I finish my shower, gets into the bathroom to show me where the drier is and puts me under internment until I sit down and play with her.

I say “Just 5 minutes”, and she agrees. Surprisingly, Masal actually has a good understanding of time (I do not know how), she will allow me to leave exactly when I complete the 5 minutes on the dot. I determine my own boundaries and she has hers. I have to make 2 dolls and a rabbit speak at a time and make sure they all get pretty good hairstyles for the doll-party and realize they have a magic rabbit who can speak human language.

3. Sometimes you let the other person win the race.

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I have been suffering from a knee injury for the past six months and oh boy, I complain a lot. During the whole weekend, Masal asked me to race her at the mall, in the parking lot, the house, the hallways, everywhere. I said I wouldn’t be able to win and said no. Guess I forgot, “No” does not exist in the kids’ world. The night before I was leaving to go back home, she said she injured her leg and it hurt. It was a lie but then we sat down together and complained a lot (together).

Right before I was going to bed, she said she wanted to race me. It was fair now because her leg hurt, too. So, we raised a 30-meter distance between the living room and her room. It was much like this: I walked, and she ran screaming. I was like “Oh my, you won twice! I am old!”, she said it was okay and now, it was my time to win. So, we raced again, I walked, she ran, she finished first. Then, she told me that I won. I asked, “But, how?”, she said I did good and it was fair. After I sat down, finishing it strong with effortless two wins, she kept running and raced herself? With the air in the house perhaps? I don’t know.

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God, I love this kid. Maybe, we all need a 4-year-old to tell us what to do. And just maybe, that’s how we all can find our imagination.