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January 2020 Book, TV, and Film Roundup

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It’s been a minute since the last time I did one of these roundups. So, I decided to welcome February with one! Now that I am a person who has the occasional free time, I get to write a little more. I still have an academic project I am aiming to finish within the next month so, I will juggle between that and the blog.

The Shelf

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The Disney Fetish (2014) by Seán Harrington

How do I dare critique this book when there’s such deep research put into the psyche of Walt Disney the man, Disney the company, and conclusively, the influence on the society he (or it) aimed to effect? Let me first give you a back story. I ordered this book online in August for the sake of exploring a study similar to my scholarly project (analysis of several films made by a franchise in a way that challenges the hegemonic view). The premise of the book is interesting however, shortly after I started reading it, I pushed it as far away as possible.

I came back to this book in January, hoping that I can observe how the author structured the selected topics and introduced them in his book. This may be personal—I felt that the author, Seán Harrington, solely based his arguments on the Oedipus complex, aka the psychoanalysis that I think, has no connection to the feminist theory whatsoever. According to Freud’s Oedipal view, the mother does not have a phallus which denies her the adoration of self-image. I do not understand the logic, nor do I think arguing solely through this one deficient theory is enough for this book. I like the never heard of insights about the formation of the Disney company as well as Walt Disney’s potential psychologically damaging family experiences (which mostly entails Chapter 2 to 3). However, I think the author could have made his point in 40 pages easily.

Putting aside my disagreement with the author’s findings here is what I think: Overall, there is some good research and interesting facts about Walt Disney himself. However, the book is repetitive and seems to go back and forth between targeting academics versus average pop-culture geeks; there is some confusion about the audience. Sadly, I pushed through The Disney Fetish but, I do not recommend this book.

The Small Screen

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The Goop Lab (2020)

Dear women everywhere, watch The Goop Lab! Rumor (or the paparazzi) has it, Gwyneth Paltrow ended her acting career recently, and is focusing her energy on her lifestyle brand “Goop”. Paltrow started the brand back in 2008, which connected with women through weekly email newsletters. I say women because I do think it initially started with the idea of targeting and helping women about their psychical and mental wellness. However, Goop also has a small men’s section on their website that talks about stress-release, helpful recipes and much more. Alright, now that I am done with what seems like brand promotion, I’ll get to the gist of it (I promise I recently discovered about this lifestyle brand just like many of you and I do not have enough readers to promote a brand).

In The Goop Lab series, Paltrow and a powerful set of women try mushrooms, different and potentially risky diets as well as cosmetic applications. They also talk about the uncomfortable like female pleasure. There have been several criticisms about the show– specifically ones claiming it gives “bad health advice”. As the beginning of the show indicates, there is information that needs to be taken with caution in The Goop Lab. The way I viewed the show was similar to the way I watch vloggers. I watched women trying things and sharing their experience with us ladies who are curious. The content is a little different than your typical YouTube video though. The Goop team stayed vulnerable and shared relatable experience. Not every episode was great, but I found the series worthwhile for us ladies who may not spend much-needed time on their wellness. The Goop Lab is a great treadmill companion or a sleepover watch with good friends.

The Big Screen

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Jojo Rabbit (2019)

The very first time I watched Jojo Rabbit I thought it is an excellent film because it shows Nazi Germany from a satiric point of view. Taika Waititi most definitely tackles a topic that has been done many times before and considering the fact that Hitler ruled 70 years ago or so makes the film a risky choice. While the racist practices are engraved within the minds of many, identifying with the struggles that had happened during the Third Reich’s rule could still have been problematic for younger viewers. Taken these into consideration, Waititi accomplishes a hard task making Jojo Rabbit a hit.

I hardly have negative things to say for this production, but I also struggle to praise it too much. I think the brutal realities that the Jews had to go through are not reflected enough in this film. However, at the same time, this is okay because the premise of the movie is about the Nazi Germans, how the youth idolize and even adore Hitler and the adults who fight for peace while existing inside the system. To recap Jojo Rabbit quickly, Jojo is a Nazi German boy who is a member of Hitler’s young army. Quite frankly the story isn’t limited to that; Hitler is Jojo’s best friend (or imaginary friend). All Jojo wants is to work for Hitler until he finds out his beautiful mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Jojo Rabbit is truly about the power of propaganda. The film provides an insider’s view about how the redneck, uneducated, or naïve youth view the war, which is something we are not necessarily used to seeing on screen besides the heart-wrenching dramas.

In terms of the acting, there isn’t much to say—Jojo Rabbit has a talented cast. However, Scarlett Johansson truly shines and even steals the show during her limited appearances in the movie. If I say so myself, 2019 was the year of Johansson (See my review for Marriage Story (2019) which Johansson shares the spotlight with a thought-provoking performance alongside Adam Driver). Since Johansson ditched the pretty girl stereotype, her acting skills are at the forefronts. Rosie (Johansson) is a beautiful woman whom the men watch out for on the streets. However, her portrayal is complex—she is a mother who wants her son Jojo to turn around with his own will as she tries to support his young army involvement while showing him that peace is the solution.

You might like Jojo Rabbit because it has a different angle, or you might hate it for the same reason. I’d suggest you see the film and decide for yourself. While my criticism is limited and I cannot find much fault in Jojo Rabbit, it may not be one of those compelling films simply because it trades the dramatic effect with satire.

Comment below what you think or suggest a movie, tv-show, or a book you’d like for me to review! If you like reading posts like this one, consider getting me a Ko-Fi here. Thank you for reading and see you next time.

Szczecin: Beautiful and Forgotten

Author: Simon Roman
Editor: Hazal Senkoyuncu
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For those who do not know that a city called Szczecin even exists–, We will jump into a little history lesson along with helpful geographical facts to get you up to speed. Szczecin is a city located in Northern Poland with access to the Baltic Sea.* To its West, Berlin stands 138 km away from Szczecin, and to its East, a port city called Gdansk is located 333 km apart. With a population of over half a million citizens, Szczecin is the capital of the West Pomeranian voivodeship (or region). It is ranked to be the third city that occupies the largest land area (in square meters) in Poland.
The city was founded in 1243, thanks to Prince Barnim I. However, there is information about various tribes settling in the once-abandoned area, dating back to the early middle ages, approx. around 700 A.C. From the middle ages to the modern-day, Szczecin belonged to the Pomeranian Princedom. It was the capital that housed the ruling dynasty, an independent army, and the fleet. The Pomeranian Griffith dynasty ruled for 500 years. The ruling families had children, who later became kings of neighboring countries like Denmark and Sweden.
Indeed, Szczecin did not belong to Poland for a long while. It has been a Polish city only for 74 years now. Before the Second World War, the city called Stettin was a part of the Third Reich. After Germany capitulated its Allies, they decided to transfer several German cities inside the new borders of Poland. Thus, Stettin took a Polish name, Szczecin. It only took a few days after this settlement, and the lives of the once-residents were forever changed. Several hundred thousands of Germans were interned by the Russians off of the city. The whole community was replaced by Polish citizens.

 

The Paris of the North
The current shape of the town comes to our day from the XIX century. Most of the housing units are richly encrusted tenement houses built before the First World War. When the city belonged to Germany, it was referred to as the “Paris of the North”. One must admit, there is truth to this statement. The historical frontages are blessed with wide streets, allowing for astonishingly well-organized traffic (Hat tip to the XIX century German urbanists!)**. With every hundred meters, you can find a park, accompanied by great coffee shops in each corner.
Let’s not forget to mention the places you must visit:
White Eagle Square showcasing its baroque fountain, Globus Palace where the Russian Tzar Pawel I’s wife was born; Jasne Blonia Park with its astonishing alleys of old trees. You ought to spend hours in the Central Cemetery or the biggest city necropolis in Europe; in fact, it is bigger than Père-Lachaise in Paris. Then, there is the Breakthrough Museum, a building disguised as a public square that holds a collection of changes in the 20th century Poland. Let’s not forget Szczecin’s infamous port and shipyard… with a bloody history. The dock saw the unarmed workers strike against the communist party until the police shot many, and killed them in the 70s. Lastly, the Karłowicz Philharmonic, a.k.a. my favorite place in this town (Jump to “Szczecin in the Current Day” for detailed information).
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Szczecin at night

Fingerprints of the Communist Party remain
 The city of Szczecin is as beautiful as it is forgotten. During their stay in Szczecin, anyone can notice that the place is underfunded; not because of bad governing, but due to the decade long history of communism. The Communist Party was afraid that Germany would not be staying silent upon its loss in WWII– That sooner or later, Germany would want Szczecin back. The solution was simple! They would spend only a small amount of money for the town. And, they did for the next 60 years. Funds were sent to the shipyard and port maintenance, only some worker housing in the new suburbs and other essential expenses to keep a large city functioning. The era of poverty ended with the collapse of the Iron Curtain as well as the end of Communism in the 90s.
Fingerprints of this era remain on the face of Szczecin– Tenement houses have not been renovated since the war. Some of them were deconstructed to their bricks in 1946. The bricks were then sent to Warsaw for the rebuilding of the town, while the deconstructed houses were left undone. Oddly enough, Szczecin maintained better communication with Berlin than it did with Warsaw to this day. Hence, Berlin is more accessible via transportation; you can find a way to get to Berlin any minute! ***

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