How Guy Fieri Distracted me From my Own Impermanence

As a millennial anarchist, I find a kind of antithetical pleasure in supporting corporate America. What is it about the going back and forth between Bed, Bath and Beyond to Cheesecake Factory to DSW that feels so natural in an almost addictive way? It makes me feel like I have a purpose. It’s a stupid purpose, a transitory purpose, but a purpose nonetheless. It’s a selfish purpose, a game of reverse psychology I play with myself. If I’m distracted with shitty home décor and how many calories are in Red Lobster cheddar biscuits, I can forget about the pervasive nature of death.

This is how I end up at the bar of Guy Fieri’s restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, at 5pm on a Monday. My friend and I scanned the menu full of $15 cocktails including “Lady Liberty Cosmo” and “South Beach Mojito” before ordering two shots of Jameson. We followed the shots with two glasses of coke that were diligently mixed with airplane bottles of vodka from my purse.

I prayed that a tinder date would sit at the bar. I prayed that they would turn the sound on the television in front of me airing “Guy’s Grocery Games.” But more than anything, I prayed that someone would get engaged. I think that the purest and truest expression of love would endure watching your partner drown in chili cheese fries. And I don’t mean figuratively drowning, getting chili smear on your face before a gassy drive home. I mean that if Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar flooded with chili cheese fries, you would really have to be in love to swim through the surge.

In The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker writes “modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing.” The ability to want what you already have is kind of everything. To be enraptured in your own life and human connections is to escape the necessity for fulfillment through a Lady Liberty Cosmo. But the urgency of fulfillment through Guy Fieri creates a distraction from mortality. The answer to the great question of life does not lie at Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar. I know this. And yet, because I doubt there is an “answer” to the paradox of the human condition, I go to Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar.

Cheers!

-Grace

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On Therapy and Reading

Oof. This is gonna get personal.

In the grand tradition of Stacey Pershall’s #StrangeGirlArmy (check her out here), I would like to share a story about mental illness.

Now normally, I wouldn’t talk about this on a public platform, it’s incredibly personal, and not something that I like to broadcast if I can avoid it. But, hey, we’re all artists here, and it’s time to get real about art, all of it.

Now Stacey has an incredible memoir out about her experiences with mental illness and navigating the world (get it here), and watching someone be so open and honest about their struggles with mental illness to me, felt inspiring. So, I’m thinking, if I can do that same thing for someone else, why the hell not.

I don’t want to get into the details, but basically, I’ve had depression for a MINUTE now, but I just started going to talk therapy once a week (sometimes more if I’m having a rough time, sometimes less if I’m home in NJ) for about 6 months now, and yowza, it’s changed my life in so many ways. But one way I didn’t expect; it’s made me a better reader.

I know, weird, right? Like, Maddy, why would going to talk to a therapist once a week about your crappy life make you any better at reading Russian Literature? How are those two things correlated like, at all? Well, dutiful reader, it all comes down to one thing: your life is just a big story.

That’s it. Analyzing your life, talking through the main characters and their motivations, what your objective is, how your setting and tone change the way that those parts all move together, it’s exactly what’s done in seminar classrooms all over the country, just about yourself and your own life. Therapy is basically just a Socratic seminar, but instead of looking at a text in your hands, you’re looking at your own mind, which to me, is pretty freaking cool.

I think therapy is helpful for everyone, and I don’t think that anyone needs any reason to go to therapy besides “I want to,” but if you’re looking for another reason on the infinite list of why therapy is amazing and wonderful, make sure to put “reading” on there.

Signing off,

-Maddy

The 2017 Tony Awards: Who Should Have Been Nominated

Surprise, surprise, Erica’s gonna talk about theater.

I hesitate to use the word “snub” because it has a certain negative connotation. However, here are, in my opinion, some artists who could have been (or maybe should have been) nominated for a 2016-2017 Tony Award.

Best Musical:

“Anastasia”

“Amelie”

“A Bronx Tale”

Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical:

Phillipa Soo, “Amelie” #justiceforPhillipa

Christy Altamore, “Anastasia”

Laura Osnes, “Bandstand”

Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical:

Jon Jon Briones, Miss Saigon”

Christian Borle, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

Nick Cordaro “A Bronx Tale”

Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:

Anthony Rosenthal, “Falsettos”

Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play:

Gideon Glick, “Significant Other”

Mark Ruffalo, “Arthur Miller’s The Price”

Best Book of a Musical:

Terrence McNally, “Anastasia”

Best Score of a Musical:

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, “Anastasia”

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head! Let me know if you agree, or have anything to add.

— Erica

 

In Defense of Risk Taking

I consider myself a poet. It’s what I like to write, what I like to read, and how I’ve felt comfortable identifying within the writing world for years.

When I started working at Gotham, I knew that in return for my witty tweets (which you can find here), stellar instagrams (which you can find here), and dazzling wit (which you are reading here), I would be allowed to take a 10-week class and a couple one day intensives.

Immediately I assumed I’d be taking poetry. It was what I knew, what I was comfortable with, what I had been working on for the past few years and what I thought I was good at. Poetry.

Around comes the first day of registration for one days, I would be up on a Saturday, greeting students with a smile, and then off I would go to my class. When I got the list of classes, I saw that nothing on that list was even vaguely similar to poetry. Editing, Grammar, Screenwriting, Documentary Film, Memoir, but no Poetry was to be found. Anxious, lost, and very uncertain, I decided to sign up for a Memoir writing class with Cullen Thomas (check him out here). I had never written a memoir before, and the last personal essay I wrote was my college admissions essay over a year ago, but over the past year or so, I’ve collected some stories (both sad and funny) that I know that one day, eventually, in the future, I’d like to share.

I walk into a classroom in a beautiful building in midtown, and there I am, front and center, in my Gotham t-shirt, armed with pen and paper, and no idea of what’s going to happen. We introduced ourselves, and I was the only person under 20 there, and I was incredibly nervous. All of these people were older than me, would have better stories than me, lived more life than I did, and here I was at 18 years old, in the greatest city in the world, feeling small and unimportant.

Cullen walked in, wearing a flannel shirt and loose jeans, and as he started talking, about his time as a writer, books that he liked, books that he didn’t, and just about his life, I started relaxing more and more. I would even go out as far to say as I had fun. Like, a lot of fun. I wrote in a genre that I didn’t think that I would ever really write in, I was talking to people that I likely never would have met in my small New Jersey town, and I was learning from a wildly accomplished author who I never thought would even want to learn my name.

I left with a notebook full of new ideas and notes, and even an idea for a longer work that I may one day eventually write. I left realizing that there’s a whole world of writing out there, outside of my bubble of poetry.

A few weeks later, Dana and Alex (the best humans in NYC) told me that there was extra space in a TV writing class with Jim Mendrinos (check him out here) that Friday, and a spot was mine if I wanted. Now, I love TV, Seinfeld, Gilmore Girls, Arrested Development, Master of None, I love it, but I had never written any of it. I hadn’t even thought of writing any of it. But, I thought, screw it, I get a free class and maybe one day it’ll come in handy.

I woke up that Friday, instantly regretting that I had agreed to do this. I thought about backing out and just retreating back to the office and answering phones all day. But I knew I couldn’t back down now, so, I went. And it was awesome.

It was about the farthest you could get from poetry, we were immediately writing loglines and learning the history of TV and the insider lingo, and I got home feeling like I could actually do that. I wanted to go home and immediately write a script or a movie or volunteer for the Writers’ Guild or anything, I was so inspired. 

And that never would have happened had I chosen to just stay with what I was comfortable with and not take the risk of studying something that I never ever thought that I would want to do. As of now, I just started a Fiction I class with Scott Alexander Hess (check him out here), and Fiction has been one of those things that for years I just said was not for me, I just couldn’t do it. It was what I loved to read, but I’ll never write the next great American novel. But so far, I am absolutely loving it.

So here’s to taking risks, y’all.

-Maddy

Summer Reading for the Signs

Hey friends. I’m back again.

I’ve assumed my role as the resident astrology expert here at Gotham, and I’d like to think I’ve been doing a damn good job. However, a few days ago, we came across a list of “What the Zodiac Signs Should Read this Summer” full of books we either hated, hadn’t picked up since our junior years in high school, or “classics” that felt played out. So, here it is, the best Summer book for your zodiac sign:

Aries

Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)

Middlesex is, at its core, a hero’s story. Heavily influenced by the form of the Greek epic, this book will speak to Aries’ adventurous nature and their longing for glory. Aries will really love the way that this book describes anger and rage so poetically, because being ruled by Mars (the planet of War) means that Aries feel things deeply and hard. The dual story lines of the family and of the protagonist are sure to keep a dynamic Aries entertained.

Taurus

My Struggle (Karl Ove Knausgaard)

My Struggle is a 6-volume autobiographical novel about a middle aged Norwegian man trying to write a 6-volume autobiographical novel. Strong, stable, and focusing on the everyday; the heavy, descriptive prose of My Struggle will speak to Taureans stable nature, and the sheer length of the whole series, which would scare away most of the other signs, is a positive for a commitment-loving Taurus.

Gemini

Let the Great World Spin (Colum McCann)

Geminis are known for being “two-faced,” and whether or not you think this is true, they are certainly multi-faceted. What better than a book where every chapter is written from a different character’s perspective? A moving story about the man who walked between the twin towers featuring a cast of characters, this book is perfectly suited for the short attention spanned and adrenaline seeking Gemini.

Cancer

This is How You Lose Her (Junot Diaz)

A collection of short stories about love; in all of its weird, twisted forms, is perfect for sensitive Cancer. Although it is not one cohesive narrative, the reader follows the protagonist, Yunior, through his different relationships, and the reader watches him gain a better understanding of humanity and caring for others. For an empathetic and loving Cancer, this book is the perfect summer read.

Leo

A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)

Just from the title, this book is perfect for a fiery Leo. A moving story about redemption, triumph, and love, this book hits all of the boxes that Leos look for within a story. Fast-moving and compelling, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a page-turner, and something that you will not want to put down. Plus, as Leos love to be in the spotlight, this book is a New York Times Bestseller, and has sold over 1 million copies.

Virgo

A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)

Thoughtful, literary, and utterly heart wrenching, this book is perfect for detail-oriented Virgo. Virgos love to watch plans come together, and the ending of this book wraps everything up so perfectly, a Virgo can’t help but be satisfied with the completeness that ends the story. In addition, Virgos will likely relate to the bookish narrator, John Wheelwright, navigating a friendship unlike any other.

Libra

Swing Time (Zadie Smith)

Zadie Smith’s latest work is the story of two women, searching for balance, love, and friendship in two utterly different worlds. Libras will love this book and the way that the chronology leads you through twists and turns, but winds up leading the reader to exactly the right place. Their ruling planet, Venus, comes through in this book through Smith’s artful recounting of a story of art, origin, family, and friendship.

Scorpio

Submission (Michel Houellebecq)

A story about rebellion, sex, and politics, this book will appeal to any Scorpio. The main character is a cross between a Holden Caulfield and a Humbert Humbert, whose intense emotions and cynicism are felt ever so strongly in the distinct voice of the narrator. For a passionate Scorpio, this book combines public chaos and inner turmoil, all topped off with a healthy dose of some NSFW scenes, this book will speak to any Scorpio.

Sagittarius

The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)

The Secret Life of Bees is the perfect combination of whimsy, poignancy, and lovability. The beautiful images of nature will capture the attention of fun-loving Sags, and the scenes that depict genuine, carefree, and true friendship will remind Sags of their own circles of friends. However, much like Sagittarians, this book does not lack depth, and breeches real-world topics that ground the story and keep it genuine and touching.

Capricorn

The Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri)

A touching story about identity, origin, and family, The Namesake’s protagonist will scream out to every Capricorn feeling lost in the world. Capricorns are always setting high expectations for themselves, and are constantly fighting against the preconceived notions that either they hold or their peers hold, and Gogol’s fight to break away from the mainstream and find his own path will touch any Capricorn reader. In addition to that, the literary nature of the book, with all of its references to heavy Russian authors, will capture the heart and mind of a Capricorn.

Aquarius

Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)

A coming-of-age story about breaking the norms and finding yourself, Marjane Satrapi’s breakthrough graphic memoir is a must-read for any Aquarius. Persepolis tells the personal story of a quirky and lovable narrator, along with following the turmoil of living through the Iranian Revolution. Touching and unusual (there are scenes in which Karl Marx is God), this book is ideal for Aquarians.

Pisces

My Brilliant Friend (Elena Ferrante)

A book about true friendship and true love, My Brilliant Friend is about as honest as fiction can get. The first person narration and the compelling story of a friendship in postwar Italy create a vulnerable, genuine story that talks about all parts of being a human. Ferrante’s prose is bare and lacks the flourishes that one might expect when cracking open an Italian novel, but that only adds to how honest and raw this book is. For a sign that feels as deeply as Pisces does, this book will transport you to the Italian countryside, but also make you think.

-Maddy

The 2017 Tony Awards: Who Won V. Who Should Have Won: Part 2

Hello readers,

Here is Part 2 of Erica’s opinions on the 2016-2017 Tony Awards! As they were last time, winners will be bolded, and those who I personally feel should have won will be italicized. Here we go again!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:

Rachel Bay Jones, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Kate Baldwin, “Hello, Dolly!”

Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos

Jenn Colella, “Come From Away”

Mary Beth Peil, “Anastasia” 

Explanation: A two-way tie! Man, this category was a loaded one. Every actress was just superb in her role, but I have my reasoning for picking Stephanie J. Block and Mary Beth Peil above the rest. I dare to say no two ladies have been snubbed more in recent Broadway history. You know who was Elphaba in the original out-of-town tryouts for Wicked? Stephanie J. Block, that’s who! Her Tony has been over-due since Pirate Queen, and Mary Beth Peil has dedicated her entire life to the Broadway stage. Who could forget her Anna opposite Yul Brynner? You may say, “Erica, how are you old enough to remember that?” The answer is, I’m not, but I don’t have to be to know it was legendary! Also, please note: I have nothing against Rachel Bay Jones or her performance as Heidi Hansen. She is a spectacular performer and is no stranger to being snubbed herself (*cough* 2013’s Pippin revival *cough*). She brings all she can to the role, but I honestly don’t think that her character is well-written enough; she has no arch. However, Rachel Bay Jones does all she can with it, and I commend her.

Best Scenic Design of a Play:

Nigel Hook, “The Play that Goes Wrong”

David Gallo, “August Wilson’s Jitney”

Douglas W. Schmidt, “The Front Page”

Micheal Yeargan, “Oslo”

Best Scenic Design of a Musical:

Mimi Lien, “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

Rob Howell, “Groundhog Day”

David Korins, “War Paint”

Santo Loquasto, “Hello, Dolly!”

Explanation: Thank God Mimi Lien won this award — she designed the entire theater, box office included! Those lights were going up while Les Mis was still playing!

Best Direction of a Play:

Sam Gold, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, “August Wilson’s Jitney”

Bartlett Sher, “Oslo”

David Sullivan, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”

Rebecca Taichman, “Indecent”

Best Direction of a Musical:

Christopher Ashley, “Come From Away”

Rachel Chavkin, “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

Micheal Greif, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Matthew Warchus, “Groundhog Day”

Jerry Zaks, “Hello, Dolly!”

Explanation: Yes, Christopher Ashley made Come From Away work: direct address hardly ever works in a musical, and same with ensemble-only. However, Rachel Chavkin was snubbed, in my opinion. Great Comet is Great Comet in large part because of her direction, and she thoroughly deserved this award.

Best Costume Design of a Play:

Jane Greenwood, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”

Susan Hilferty, “Present Laughter”

Toni-Leslie James, “August Wilson’s Jitney”

David Zinn, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Best Costume Design of a Musical:

Linda Cho, “Anastasia”

Santo Loquasto, “Hello, Dolly!”

Paloma Young, “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

Catherine Zuber, “War Paint”

Best Lighting Design of a Play:

Christopher Akerlind, “Indecent”

Jane Cox, “August Wilson’s Jitney”

Donald Holder, “Oslo”

Jennifer Tipton, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Best Lighting Design of a Musical:

Howell Binkley, “Come From Away”

Natasha Katz, “Hello, Dolly!”

Bradley King, “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

Japhy Weideman, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Explanation: I said it once and I’ll say it again — those lights were going up while Les Mis was still in the Imperial!

Best Choreography:

Andy Blankenbuehler, “Bandstand”

Denis Jones, “Holiday Inn”

Kelly Devine, “Come From Away”

Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, “Groundhog Day”

Sam Pinkleton, “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

Best Orchestrations:

Bill Elliot and Greg Anthony Rassen, “Bandstand”

Larry Hochman, “Hello, Dolly!”

Alex Lacamoire, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Dave Malloy, “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

Best Musical:

“Dear Evan Hansen”

“Come From Away”

“Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

“Groundhog Day”

And that’s it for the 2016-2017 Tony season. Stay tuned for: “The 2017 Tony Awards: Who Should Have Been Nominated”.

— Erica

 

The 2017 Tony Awards: Who Won v. Who Should Have Won: Part 1

If there’s one thing that blog readers should know about me this that I love plays and musicals more than most. I wait all year for the Tony Awards, and see as many shows as possible.

Before I break down the Tony’s and who won and lost, I’m going to list here the nominate-able shows, and bold the ones I’ve seen. Disclaimer: I haven’t seen every musical or play of the 2016-2017 season, so I only know what I know!

Shows Erica Has Seen of the 2016-2017 Season:

Original Musicals:

Amelie (x1)

Anastasia (x4)

Bandstand

A Bronx Tale

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Paramore: A Cirque Du Soleil Musical

Come From Away (x1)

Dear Evan Hansen (x2)

Groundhog Day

Holiday Inn (x1)

In Transit (x1)

Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 (x2)

War Paint

Revival Musicals:

Cats (x1)

Falsettos (x1)

Hello, Dolly!

Miss Saigon

Sunset Boulevard

Original Plays:

A Doll’s House, Part 2

The Encounter

Heisenberg

Indecent (x1)

Oh, Hello on Broadway

Oslo

The Play That Goes Wrong

The Present

Significant Other

Sweat (x1)

Revival Plays:

Arthur Miller’s The Price (x1)

August Wilson’s Jitney

The Cherry Orchard

The Front Page

The Glass Menagerie (x1)

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes

Present Laughter (x1)

John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation

And here are the nominees and winners for the 2016-2017 Tony Awards! Bolded are the winners, italicized are who I personally thought deserved to win. Some of them will come with an explanation.

Best Play:

“Oslo”

“A Doll’s House, Part 2”

“Indecent”

“Sweat”

Best Book of a Musical:

“Dear Evan Hansen”

“Come From Away”

“Groundhog Day”

“Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

Explanation: I don’t feel that the book for Dear Evan Hansen is particularly strong — Evan is the only character with an arch, and the others sometimes fall flat. However, The Great Comet is sung-through completely, so for me, Dear Evan Hansen wins the category of Best Book in my book only by default.

Best Original Score:

“Dear Evan Hansen”

“Come From Away”

“Groundhog Day”

“Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

Best Revival of a Play:

“August Wilson’s Jitney”

“Lillian Hellman’s Little Foxes”

“Present Laughter”

“Six Degrees of Separation”

Best Revival of a Musical:

“Hello, Dolly!”

“Falsettos”

“Miss Saigon”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play:

Kevin Kline, “Present Laughter”

Denis Arndt, “Heisenberg”

Chris Cooper, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Corey Hawkins, “Six Degrees of Separation”

Jefferson Mayes, “Oslo”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play:

Laurie Metcalf, “A Doll’s House Part 2”

Cate Blanchett, “The Present”

Jennifer Ehle, “Oslo”

Sally Field, “The Glass Menagerie”

Laura Linney, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”

Explanation: I have not seen A Doll’s House Part 2, but Laurie Metcalf’s Tony has been overdo for years. It’s high-time!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical:

Ben Platt, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Christian Borle, “Falsettos”

Josh Groban, “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

Andy Karl, “Groundhog Dog”

David Hyde Pierce, “Hello, Dolly!”

Explanation: I don’t think Dear Evan Hansen is perfect, but Ben Platt’s performance sure is. Honorable mention to Andy Karl, who literally broke his leg for his role.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical:

Bette Midler, “Hello, Dolly!”

Denee Benton, “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”

Christine Ebersole, “War Paint”

Patti LuPone, “War Paint”

Eva Noblezada, “Miss Saigon”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:

Micheal Aronov, “Oslo”

Danny DeVito, “Arthur Miller’s The Price”

Nathan Lane, “The Front Page”

Richard Thomas, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”

John Douglas Thompson, “August Wilson’s Jitney”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play:

Cynthia Nixon, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”

Johanna Day, “Sweat”

Jayne Houdyshell, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Condola Rashad, “A Doll’s House Part 2”

Michelle Wilson, “Sweat”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:

Gavin Creel, “Hello, Dolly!”

Mike Faist, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Andrew Rannells, “Falsettos”

Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

Brandon Uranowitz, “Falsettos”

Explanation: I love Gavin Creel and he has deserved a Tony long before now, but Lucas Steele owns Great Comet.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

— Erica

Two trailer park girls go ’round the outside, ’round the outside, ’round the outside…

…And so begins a story told by a young man by the name of Marshall Mathers. Notice that you’re already wanting to read on and learn more information. That’s the Mathers Magic. Where is this trailer park located? Why are there two girls? What constitutes a trailer park girl? What is the nature of the girls’ relationship? Outside of what are the girls going around? Why are they going around the outside so many times? Are they running away from something? Now there’s a threat, a tension to the narrative that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. Take some pointers from Marshall and keep your reader that way! If they aren’t overflowing with anticipation as they read your writing, you might as well throw that manuscript away. Get your recycle on! This is America–the citizens of this great nation don’t have the attention span or patience to push through a narrative that isn’t chock-full of tension and peril. Bonus points if you add some explosions and meet cutes. Or even better, a meet cute in the middle of an explosion. Get your plot on!

xoxo Gossip Girl

Stories. Everywhere.

Stories. Everywhere.

The slogan of Gotham has somehow become the mantra that I recite in my head on my daily commute, when NJTransit is yet again delayed, when the baby on the train decides to cry for the duration of the ride, when my phone dies and takes my monthly pass with it. Trying to take the adversity that I face in my daily ride to Penn Station and turn it into something other than just a random annoying occurrence caused by the incompetence of Chris Christie has been the challenge of the summer. Trying to look at my fellow passengers, not as simply bodies in my way when I try to reach for something across the aisle or preventing me from sprinting up the escalator, but carriers of stories, people who could make a cameo appearance in a memoir, novel, or a poem.

Last week, I took a TV Writing class with Jim Mendrinos, and he told us that he carries a notebook in his back pocket so he can take notes on every person he ever meets, and use them in a TV Series. He showed us pages and pages of scribblings, and told us that once we leave, he’ll likely write about us and our mannerisms and quirks. He told us that that was what makes the difference in his writing, really observing things and not just letting the little things slip by. You can find characters anywhere, you can hear great one-liners in passing when you’re getting a coffee, you can find stories everywhere.

-Maddy

The “Rocky” Movies and Hero’s Journeys

Yo, Adrian

In literature, there are archetypes of certain “heroes”. There’s the “Orphan Hero”, like Harry Potter, who solves his problems with his heart. There’s the “British Hero”, like Sherlock Holmes, who solves his problems with his mind. Then there’s the “American Hero”, like Rocky Balboa, who solves his problems with his fists.

That’s accurate — mostly.

What makes Rocky different from the archetype of a scrappy lackwit who fights and does what he has to in order to survive is not what you might think. He doesn’t adapt an attribute from the “British Hero”, and take their mind. Instead, he adapts an attribute from the “Orphan Hero” and takes their heart.

We don’t know whether or not Rocky is an actual orphan — I don’t recall his parents ever being mentioned. However, one might not have to read too far into his character to see the Italian Stallion in this light. Rocky is an outsider, even in his own field. At the start of Rocky, our titular hero has just been beaten by a lesser boxer. He’s getting older, he’s broke, and he’s constantly injured, but Rocky doesn’t really care. This isn’t because he’s dumb, it’s because he just keeps on trying — he goes the distance.

Let’s run a quick character analysis here:

What does Rocky want? To fight Apollo Creed, to get the girl, to fight the big fight.

What does Rocky need? That one’s a little harder. Let’s look at his wants again.

Why does Rocky want to fight the heavyweight champion of the world? Not for a fancy title or recognition, but because he wants to be his OWN best, not the world’s best. He wants to fight because he wants to fight, not because he wants glory.

Back to hero archetypes for a second. Remember ancient Greek heroes? They were defined by doing a heroic act that affected their nation, but they were very flawed — Odysseus was sneaky, too cunning for his own good; Achilles was proud and glory-obsessed, inadvertently leading to the death of Patroclus, his totally-not-boyfriend. Our modern-day heroes, superheroes, are less like the Greeks and more like the Christian hero, Jesus. Superheroes have no discernible flaws and work for the good of others, even at their own expanse, like Superman, Wonder Woman, and the like.

Back to Rocky Balboa. Rocky wants to fight Apollo because, well, he wants to. He wants to do what he loves — to fight, and fight well — not because of fame, glory, or pride. Rocky’s not a Greek hero, but he’s not a superhero, either. He has flaws: Rocky’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, and he starts his first movie by being totally beaten up. They are discernible flaws, but not tragic ones.

Here’s the distinction: Rocky wants to fight, but he doesn’t want to win. He wants to go the distance. Hear me out. Rocky is as down-and-out as down-and-out can be. He breaks people’s thumbs for a living. His best friends are Pauly and his turtles. But still, he doesn’t want to WIN, he wants to go the distance — to know that he can stay on his feet with the current heavyweight champ, to do his own best.

That’s what Rocky needs. He needs to accept him himself. He needs to prove to himself that he’s a good boxer, good enough to go toe-to-toe with Apollo Creed. And to get the girl in the end, of course.

By the way, Rocky doesn’t win the fight, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. He got what he wanted, and what he needed. And yesterday, I celebrated the fourth of July with my favorite American Hero during a Rocky movie marathon.

— Erica