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Book Nook: The infamous and upcoming Percy Jackson adaptations

I recently watched the 2005 film “Pride and Prejudice,” based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel of the same name. It was excellent. Many movie adaptations of books struggle to convey their lengthy events in a completely different medium, but this is not the case with “Pride and Prejudice.” The writing succeeds in staying true to the book and creating an enjoyable movie. Readers of the novel will appreciate the actors’ interpretations of their respective characters. However, you could watch the film without reading the book and immensely enjoy it.

This made me think back to my days of watching the Percy Jackson film adaptations, which were terrible. They were incredibly loose adaptations, and the antithesis of everything the “Pride and Prejudice” film did well.

The novel series Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan is about a 12-year-old half-human son of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, who goes on adventures with his demigod friends and saves the world multiple times. It consists of five books covering Percy’s life over a few years at a magical camp for demigods on Long Island.

I loved the book series. It was a staple of my middle school experience. I would stay up extremely late to read about how Percy and his friends defeated monsters. I would read the series at the dinner table with my family, which was admittedly rude. But I was so absorbed in the writing, I physically could not put them down until I was finished. The characters had so much depth, the plot was fast-paced and the references to Greek mythology were incredibly interesting.

The film adaptations of the first two books in the series, “The Lightning Thief” and “Sea of Monsters,” were a disappointment. They changed key elements of the original Percy Jackson we know and love, like the characters’ personalities and the monsters they encounter. Reading the series and knowing how badly the movie portrayed the storyline was painful. But the films don’t just fail as adaptations, they fail to be good movies. Even for people who didn’t read the books, the movies were just plain unenjoyable. They could not stand on their own if they were not tied to the Percy Jackson series.

The pacing in the movies was jarring and the emotional development of the characters felt awkward and forced. Although the acting was decent, the characters felt one-dimensional at times. The focus of the films rested much more on the action and fight scenes than anything else.

Disney+ plans to release a television series adaptation of Percy Jackson. The good news is that Rick Riordan is on the writing team for the show. Hopefully, his influence will result in a series that stays true to the books, only deviating from the original plot in ways that are entertaining, improve upon the novels and translate their events for the silver screen.

The episodic format is also promising for the upcoming Percy Jackson release. TV shows typically can better adapt their source material because they have a longer runtime compared to movies. “Pride and Prejudice,” similarly, had a TV series adaptation on the BBC that was much more faithful to the original story. 

Despite this, I am still scared of how it will turn out. The Percy Jackson movies have permanently lowered my expectations.

Contact Caitlin Brannigan at cbrannig@nd.edu.

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Christmas starts now

I love looking out my window and being greeted by a winter wonderland. I love curling up in my bed with a book and a cup of hot chocolate. I love making snow angels and flailing around on the quad, hurling snowballs at my friends until our fingers are numb. 

That said, my brain is still trying to process the fact that campus is covered in snow in November. The rapid switch from 70 degree weather to freezing makes me wonder what happened to autumn. I’m from New Jersey, and I usually don’t expect this level of snow until at least January. It’s really messing with my perception of time. 

Up until the recent snowfall, I was in the camp that Christmas needs to wait its turn. Listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving was tolerable. Decorating and watching Christmas movies before the holidays was unacceptable. 

However, with this much snow on the ground, South Bend weather has kickstarted Christmas for me. My mindset has completely switched. I would not be surprised by the sight of a brightly lit Christmas tree somewhere on campus. I would not bat an eye if the dining hall decided to exclusively play Christmas music from now on. It snowed, so any reservations I have about the Christmas season starting early are out the window. 

With that out of the way, my Christmas hot take is that the stop motion puppet movies are better than the live action ones. “Elf” doesn’t do much for me, but I will always be really excited to watch Snow Miser and Heat Miser waddle around insulting each other. This discussion is, of course, excluding “The Polar Express,” which is an absolute classic and my favorite Christmas movie of all time. I didn’t like it when I first watched it, but my siblings made me watch it with them at least 20 times, which according to them is the only way to get the full “Polar Express” experience. I would not recommend watching it unless you are able to take in its complete beauty, which may or may not be by watching it over and over again. The story is great, the animation is amazing and the music is just perfect. 

Mariah Carey has defrosted. “All I Want For Christmas is You” is a masterpiece for the next month or so and should be treated as such. “O Holy Night,” specifically the cover by Jungkook of K-pop band BTS, will be listed about five times on my study playlist until January 1. With the change in the weather, I suddenly have a renewed interest in playing the piano — Farley Hall may have to tolerate an unfortunate rendition of “Jingle Bells” on the chapel piano at least a few times before the semester ends. 

I am so excited to celebrate Christmas! Thank you South Bend weather for making it start early. 

You can contact Caitlin Brannigan at cbrannig@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Book Nook: ‘Throne of Glass’

“Throne of Glass” is a young adult high fantasy novel about a teenage assassin, Celaena, who has been given a life sentence in prison and tries to win her freedom via a combat tournament. Although I enjoyed the novel, I wanted more from it.

The two best parts of the book were Celaena and her best friend Nehemia. Celaena is an intelligent, strong and witty young woman. The novel’s third-person omniscient narration, mostly through Celaena’s point of view, was a great choice. I was excited to learn more about her backstory and the clever ways in which she plotted against her opponents. Nehemia, the rebel princess from another kingdom that Celaena befriends throughout the novel, is mysterious and powerful. She’s incredibly intelligent, so seeing the way she navigates spying on her enemies is also very intriguing. I was very invested in these two and they kept me interested in the novel.

Another strong point is the plot. It’s fast-paced and engaging. Celaena is constantly coming into conflict with the people around her, whether it’s other competitors or members of the aristocracy. She occasionally unveils the kingdom’s secrets and learns more about her past. I felt very absorbed in these events.

I found the world building somewhat engaging but slightly disappointing. The book lays the groundwork for the entire series, but it can’t stand on its own. There’s rich potential that isn’t explored in-depth, and there are too many loose ends.

The novel paints a picture of a medieval fantasy kingdom that was once shaped by magic. Non-human fantasy races, like faeries, used to live alongside humans; however, magic has disappeared entirely from the land as a result of the tyrannical king’s decree. The mechanics of this disappearance aren’t really explored. There are several other kingdoms that the evil king has conquered, but most are not explored in-depth. There’s some form of religion involving high priestesses and different Gods which feels reminiscent of Roman mythology, but this isn’t expanded upon by the author. Ancient pseudo-magical marks called “wyrdmarks” play a major role in the book’s story. They keep appearing at the scene of serial murders of different competitors in the tournament. Celaena tries to learn more about the Wyrdmarks to prevent her own death at the hands of the mystery killer, but their origin and how they work still feels unclear by the end of the novel. The book’s setting is largely confined to the two castles in which the tournament takes place, and as a result, mainly explores aristocratic side characters. The world of “Throne of Glass” is interesting at face value but feels too much like it’s setting up its sequel.

I found it hard to care about the romance subplot. Neither love interests felt like they had chemistry with Celaena. Due to their ulterior motives and confusion about their feelings toward her, neither of them seemed like trustworthy or legitimate suitors. This subplot also felt like it was setting up a sequel, even though the book spent a lot of time on it.

I enjoyed reading “Throne of Glass” and I will definitely read the sequel. It’s a great book to read for fun, even if it has its faults.

Title: Throne of Glass

Author: Sarah J. Mass

Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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‘The Banshees of Inisherin’: An unexpected tragedy

To be honest, I walked out of the theater after watching the dark comedy “The Banshees of Inisherin” with mixed feelings. I didn’t like it. It made me feel uncomfortable and sad. 

However, perhaps that’s what the film does best: It intends to upset viewers to foster a discussion of mental health. “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a commentary on mental health masquerading as a comedy film.

The protagonist, Pádraic, is a young cow herder who lives with his sister, Siobhán, on Inisherin, a remote island off the coast of Ireland. He is devastated and confused upon unexpectedly learning that his best friend, Colm, doesn’t want to speak to him anymore. Why? Colm just doesn’t like him anymore. Colm asserts that Pádraic is dull and takes time away from his music career. Pádraic’s friend, Dominic, and Siobhán both try to rekindle Colm and Pádraic’s friendship in addition to Pádraic’s persistent and unrequited efforts. 

Absurdity is a focal point of the film’s early comic relief. Colm and Pádraic’s falling out seems ridiculous and is played for laughs. The hilarious dialogue between characters is masterfully written, and superb acting brings this to the forefront. Additionally, some characters are caricatures of certain stereotypes to the extent that all their actions are preposterous. For example, shopkeeper Mrs. O’Riordan serves as the local gossip. She refuses to give Pádraic his rations unless he tells her some “news” and goes through Siobhán’s mail to snoop on her life. 

However, the film takes a dark turn after Colm delivers Pádraic a disturbing and bloody ultimatum: He’ll cut off one finger each time Pádraic speaks to him. Although this scene was in the trailer, I glossed over it. I went into this movie expecting it to entirely be comedy; it’s not. It’s sad, creepy (at times) and gory. Sometimes, I found myself covering my eyes to avoid having nightmares. 

The film’s musical choices are fitting for the discomfort it intends to impose on viewers. Most scenes have no background music. The scenes that do typically feature the same eerie, monotonous track, which signifies that something bad is about to happen in the film. The most lively tune is a song Colm writes throughout the movie, “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Different parts of the song are played by Colm and his musical students as he completes different stages of the writing process. Colm gloomily remarks that he would like to play the song at Pádraic’s funeral, which begs the question: Are we expecting Pádraic to die soon? 

Colm’s song is part of the movie’s incredibly well-written symbolism, which primarily involves the film’s commentary on mental health. The alluring setting of the movie — a remote Irish isle during the Irish Civil War — draws viewers into a lonely environment, and the deliberate cinematography and music choices solidify this effect. Each character’s struggle with their “despair,” as Colm calls it, manifests in different ways. For example, Colm withdraws from his hobbies and the people around him, while Pádraic lashes out violently. 

As impactful as the film’s commentary is, I found some of its events unrealistic, especially when it wasn’t intentionally absurd for comic relief. The film’s strangeness detracted from the meaningfulness of its overall message and removed me from the immersive ambiance other elements of the film worked together so masterfully to create. The ending was also unclear. Whether a resolution is reached is left ambiguous. 

Overall, I didn’t like the movie because it was hard to watch and left me feeling terrible, which is exactly what it intends to do. I would not recommend it unless you’re prepared for that. However, it is thought-provoking, incredibly well-written and the acting is top-tier. 

Title: The Banshees of Inisherin

Directors: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Colin Farrell, Kerry Condon, Brendan Gleeson, Barry Keoghan

Shamrocks: 3 out of 5

Contact Caitlin Brannigan at cbrannig@nd.edu

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Book Nook: ‘Witchcraft’ as self-care

To set the mood for Halloween, I read Patti Wigington’s “Witchcraft for Healing: Radical Self-care for your Mind, Body, and Spirit.” I have no experience with witchcraft and didn’t know what to expect. I failed to connect well with the spookier aspects of the book, but its emphasis on self-care resonated with me. Its focus on the transformative power of self-care is applicable to all readers, regardless of the reader’s interest in witchcraft.

Wigington has been a practicing witch and pagan since 1987. In addition to writing books and columns, she reads tarot and is the founder and high priestess of a local gathering of witches called a coven. On top of this, she balances a full-time job. She has a remarkable dedication to many different interests, which aids in her ability to communicate knowledgeably about a wide range of topics.

What is Witchcraft?

The opening chapter of the book explains that the folklore image of a witch — someone hunched over a cauldron, amassing great magical power to do evil — is inaccurate.

Modern witchcraft traces back to healing magic. Wigington asserts that witchcraft developed from animism, a belief system that associates spirits with specific living things. This evolved into shamanism, which involves the spirit world and using supernatural forces to heal communities. Ancient healers used herbs to treat ailments, forming the basis of witchcraft today.

Modern magic focuses on bringing about positive change in the practitioner’s life, such as healing, protection and growth. It’s grounded in the will and intent of the practitioner. In short, performing magic is more like the TikTok “manifesting” trend than the kind of spells Harry Potter would cast for instant results.  

Self-Care

This book heavily emphasizes radical self-care — the responsibility to take care of your needs before responding to the needs of others. Each chapter focuses on different forms of self-care. For example, one chapter focuses on self-care for the body, while another discusses self-care for the mind. The end of the book speaks about using witchcraft to serve the community, but it heavily emphasizes serving yourself first and foremost.

I found Wigington’s methods of self-care transformative and insightful. She discusses toxic mindsets that affect our self-talk and self-perceptions. She offers a variety of different techniques to increase self-esteem like changing the way we think about ourselves or exercising regularly.

This book serves as an excellent introduction to different forms of radical self-care. Though it doesn’t go particularly in depth with any of the methods it introduces, they’re all superb practices for caring for the body, mind and spirit.

Magic

Many of the spells in this book blend well known forms of self-care with witchcraft tools. They combine the idea of using will and intent to do magic with common self-care practices. These spells are accessible to beginners and don’t require many resources. The few it does are readily available. Drawing from natural forces, like the phases of the moon and crystals, is also explored.

Overall, this book provides a good beginner-friendly overview of both witchcraft and self-care. This read was certainly eye-opening and changed my perspective on what witchcraft actually is. Though I don’t plan on practicing witchcraft, the self-care routines discussed are very insightful. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about self-care or get into the spirit of Halloween.

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‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’: A call for diversity and equality

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” is a Korean legal drama focusing on Woo Young-woo, an autistic law school grad beginning her career as an attorney at Hanbada, one of the most respected law firms in Seoul. Almost every episode focuses on investigating a different court case. In addition to the court drama, the show has a strong focus on emotional relationships between family and friends. The show’s greatest feat is the awareness it has raised for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in South Korea.

According to Son Da-Eun, the director of Autism Partnership Korea, the stigma surrounding disabilities like autism has created a negative environment for the disabled in South Korea. There is an association between disability and shame.

“You rarely have interactions with persons with autism on a daily basis. Historically, people with autism are kept home, hidden away from the world,” said Ms. Son

Yoo In-sik, the director of “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” said he hoped the show would foster discussion of diversity and help create a more equal society.

The show’s portrayal of ableism challenges viewers to counteract it in their daily lives. Woo faces discrimination from society — though she achieves a near perfect score from the bar exam and graduates summa cum laude from Seoul National University, one of the top schools in South Korea, she is rejected from almost every law firm. Even while she works at Hanbada, she faces repeated harassment and bullying from certain lawyers who continuously try to get her either severely reprimanded or fired. The show acknowledges that, though she is an incredible lawyer and proves time and time again she is excellent at her job, she is being discriminated against solely because she is autistic. Attorneys who initially patronize her and believe she needs their help end up recognizing that she is the “stronger” lawyer — she is excellent at what she does without needing their help.  

The show does a good job of providing general information on ASD and dismantling part of the stigma that surrounds it. For example, it drives home the point that autism is a spectrum disorder and presents differently in different people, combating the misconception that all autistic people have a common set of traits.

However, critics are concerned that its portrayal of Woo, who has savant syndrome, does not represent most autistic people. Savant syndrome is a rare condition present in about one in ten people with autism that leads to extraordinary abilities and talents. Woo can memorize and scrutinize enormous amounts of information as a result. There is concern that this will lead some viewers to place unrealistic expectations upon all autistic people. 

As serious as the show’s criticisms of ableist society are, it also has many lighthearted moments. The legal drama is entertaining and tends to pull at viewers’ heartstrings. In many cases, the viewer is led to sympathize with Woo’s client. Yet there are also cases that challenge Woo’s concept of what it means to be a lawyer, morally and ethically, and offer insight into some aspects of her personal life. The development of her relationships with her coworkers is a strong point for the show.

However, in some episodes, the drama of the court cases pales in comparison to other aspects of the show, like her relationships. This leads to pacing issues, as some episodes drag on for quite a bit before addressing the more pressing drama.

This show excels at keeping viewers emotionally invested in its legal and interpersonal drama. It also provides insight into ASD and challenges viewers to examine instances of ableism they’ve witnessed through its portrayal of ableist characters.

Title: “Extraordinary Attorney Woo”

Director: Yoo In-sik

Starring: Park Eun-bin, Kang Tae-oh

Streaming: Netflix

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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Book Nook: ‘Dune,’ two very different narratives

My summer project was reading Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”

The 1965 science fiction epic immersed me in its semi-supernatural world of complex space politics, family ties and religion. It focuses on Paul Atreides and his family who oversee a planet much like Earth but are soon forced by the interplanetary Emperor to move to the desert planet of Arrakis. They face several obstacles on this planet because of it formerly being “ruled” by their rival family, the Harkonnens. Though it has a slow start, the book soon becomes suspenseful and exciting as its protagonists navigate layers of intricate schemes devised by both their enemies and their allies.

The 2021 film adaptation of the first half of the novel is… different. It’s good, but viewers should not watch the movie expecting it to be the same as the book. The movie focuses on its cinematic elements, at which, obviously, it excels. The soundtrack, composed by Hans Zimmer, is beautiful; it creates suspense, sets the mood and captures the intensity of many scenes. The costume choices and the casting were on point, and the visuals, especially the vast landscapes, are stunning. The film completely immerses the viewer. I would recommend seeing it, especially in a theatre, because it truly is a work of art. However, unlike the book, I would never recommend it for the plot.

The film leaves out a lot of important details that make the novel a science fiction classic. Adapting “Dune” is hard for a number of reasons. After a string of bad adaptations, it was considered a novel nearly impossible to create for a long time. The 2021 adaptation is by far the best but suffers from some of the same problems as its predecessors.  

Because of the novel’s length and interweaving subplots, it’s very difficult to form a cohesive plot for a film. Splitting it into a two part movie instead of adapting it all at once is a smart choice — especially considering the first half of the novel, in both its plot and its characters, feels vastly different from the second half due to a jump in time.

The most glaring issue with the movie is that it fails to create a sense of the conflict between the Harkonnens and the Atreides. Much of this is conveyed in the novel through complex internal monologues, which are understandably difficult to adapt. Many of the tense conversations between characters that pertain to this conflict would seem tame if the reader wasn’t informed of the characters’ machinations through the omniscient narrator. Just adding this dialogue to the movie does not help viewers understand the veiled messages and hidden meanings that characters in the novel deciphered in their internal monologues from a few words of conversation.

The central conflict between the Harkonnens and the Atreides expands to include larger organizations in the second half of the novel. It is possible that the conflict was kept vague because of this shift, however, it leaves the movie feeling slow. The plot was moving at random without being driven by a central element.

The complex politics also felt glossed over. For example, the Bene Gesserit is a pseudo-religious political organization key to the novel’s plot. Its schemes have been drawn out for hundreds of years and have significant influence on every aspect of politics and Paul Atreides’ development, as he may or may not be critical to their end goal of finding a prophet-like figure. Most of what makes them important is barely mentioned in the movie. They come off as more of a shady cult than a powerful organization.

You should see “Dune” for its carefully crafted cinematic experience, however, don’t expect much from the plot.

Contact Caitlin Brannigan at cbrannig@nd.edu

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You are enough

In 2016, 15-time Grammy award-winning singer Alicia Keys gave up wearing makeup

“I realized I became addicted to it; I didn’t feel comfortable without it,” Keys said. After years of adorning a full face of makeup almost every day, she felt that the pressure to constantly look perfect took a toll on her self-esteem: “I was really starting to feel like that—that, as I am, I was not good enough for the world to see.”

Although Keys still wears makeup on occasion, she has decided to solely wear it when it empowers her — not when she feels pressured to do so. It’s a courageous stand to take in a society where tabloids are quick to criticize celebrities who don’t adhere to unrealistic beauty standards or cover up every so-called flaw. These outrageous standards have deeply affected the physical and mental well-being of not only celebrities but also many young women. Feeling pressured to wear makeup is only one facet of the many difficulties women face regarding their self-image in the age of social media and filters. 

“We put so many limitations on ourselves. We put limitations on each other. Society puts limitations on us. And in a lot of ways, I’m sick of it. I’m over it, to be honest,” Keys said. In another interview, she clarified: “I love makeup! I love my lip gloss, I love my blush, I love my eyeliner. It’s not about that. At the same time, I don’t want to feel beholden to have to do it.”

Many young women can relate to Keys’ struggle. I outright refused to put makeup on for many years because I could only see it as a way of covering up my imperfections — of rejecting who I really was — rather than a way of expressing myself. When I finally did wear it, it was stressful. I didn’t wear it because I wanted to. I wore it because I needed to “look pretty.” I felt like I wasn’t enough without makeup or a Snapchat filter. 

Many of my peers have echoed these sentiments, battling a similar struggle with their self-image. Where did this need to cover up these perceived flaws come from? All physical features are equally beautiful — who decided that certain features, like flawless skin, are essential to society’s beauty standards rather than others?  

With this in mind, I’ve recently begun reclaiming my own use of makeup. When I first started to wear it, it was out of the belief that I wasn’t enough without it. Now, on the occasion that I do wear it, it is because I’d like to highlight my own natural beauty. I used to utilize it to be someone I wasn’t, contouring my looks to exactly fit American beauty standards. Now, I style it in a way that I prefer, even if that way isn’t earning me a place on “America’s Next Top Model.” For me, makeup has become a method of self-care — an art form and a chance to express myself, rather than a chore to make myself presentable for the day. 

Although makeup and other beauty products can be empowering, it’s important to note that within both the professional world and the realm of social media, there is an unhealthy expectation for women to consistently look their best. 

According to the late Stanford law professor and author Deborah Rhode, “The more serious injustices arise when women lose jobs and self-esteem based on a failure to conform to our culture’s airbrushed ideals of female attractiveness.” 

She further cited Jesperson v. Harrah’s Casino, a court case regarding a female bartender who was fired because she did not wear makeup or style her hair per the casino’s requirements, despite her performance evaluations being “excellent without cosmetic assistance.” Her male counterparts were not subject to such strict regulations with respect to their appearance. 

Rhode asserted that “the world would be a better place if women were judged more on competence and less on appearance.” 

Wearing makeup and living up to impossible beauty standards exactly as shown in the media should not be an absolute necessity for women. It is incredibly disturbing that appearance affects perceptions of a woman’s competence. We are beautiful and strong and intelligent just the way we are, without needing to spend excessive amounts of time and money to reach an arbitrary and ever-changing standard of beauty. 

Beauty standards can be absurd and do fluctuate frequently. As a society, we should be well past the concept of glamorizing a select few features mainly for arbitrary reasons. You don’t need to change a thing about yourself to be beautiful — just by being yourself, you are, on the inside and out. You’re gorgeous with or without makeup and filters. You are beautiful as you are. You are enough.

Caitlin Brannigan is a sophomore from New Jersey studying psychology and English. She will forever defend her favorite young adult novels and is overjoyed to have a platform to rant. She can be reached for comment at cbrannig@nd.edu or @CaitlinBrannig on Twitter.

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On the banning of books

Virginia court case brought against Barnes & Noble attempted to restrict the sale of Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer” and Sarah Maas’ “A Court of Mist and Fury.” Local legislators argued based on a poorly-worded Virginia law that the books would be “obscene” for readers under the age of 18. The case was recently dismissed. This comes at a time of much political discussion centered around which books are appropriate to read in the classroom. 

Equally disturbing is the removal of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a novel famous for highlighting oppression and injustice, from a few Texas and Kansas public schools for “review.” “The Handmaid’s Tale” is an influential work that is extremely well-written. It’s relevant today and will continue to be. Removing this book is an affront to a proper education. The book is so well-known and influential that it is hard to believe school officials are unaware of its content. What is there to review that they wouldn’t already know of?  

Restricting access to books is an obstacle to a well-informed public. Having healthy debates and access to information are crucial aspects of any democracy. Reading books about difficult subjects, like racism, leads to discussion of those subjects, especially in the classroom.  

On this, the author Laurie Halse Anderson said: “’By attacking these books, by attacking the authors, by attacking the subject matter, what they are doing is removing the possibility for conversation. You are laying the groundwork for increasing bullying, disrespect, violence and attacks.’”

Historically, many books of great literary merit have been challenged in the United States, including J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” “Ulysses” was burned in serialized form in the United States. The road to getting it published in the U.S. was long and arduous due to its “obscene” content. In England, the book was mass burned before it was legally banned. Yet, it is also regarded as a literary masterpiece. “The Catcher in the Rye” was challenged and banned in multiple US classrooms, mostly for profanity, despite its status as one of the greatest works in the American literary canon. It’s difficult to argue nowadays with the sheer amount of praise and literary analysis both works have received that access to them should be restricted or banned, as people have tried in the past. 

In trying to ban books like “Gender Queer” for its “obscene” content, a similar mistake is made. Books of great literary merit, which are a joy to read and foster intellectual discussion, could be wholly removed from the classroom. This decreases the quality of literary education. Going further by restricting access to books at booksellers like Barnes & Noble is devastating and begs the question: What is worth more, quality education or censoring books certain readers may find “obscene?” 

Deborah Caldwell Stone, the American Library Association’s director of office for intellectual freedom, sums it up perfectly: “If you focus on five passages, you’ve got obscenity. If you broaden your view and read the work as a whole, you’ve got Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved.’”

It’s so important to have a diverse selection of books to read because the real world is just as diverse. Regardless of whether a book is set in a fantasy world or is pure nonfiction, there are many life lessons to be gained from books. They are a resource for people of all ages to learn more about the world, oftentimes from the point of view of characters they can relate to rather than simply learning information from a textbook. This connection draws the reader into what they’re learning about. For example, “Gender Queer,” a memoir of Kobabe’s life, explores sexuality and gender identity. “Beloved,” another book that has historically been challenged, highlights the pain and devastation of slavery. These books can educate readers about serious material. Trying to censor these books, through removing them from classrooms or otherwise, does not erase the books’ subjects from reality. Students will eventually have to confront these topics. 

Specifically in classrooms, there exists an argument that certain material isn’t age-appropriate for students. There are certainly books that would not be appropriate for elementary school students and as such aren’t taught to them; the issue is trying to remove books from high school curriculums. For example, in a campaign ad for governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin, a mother declares that she would like “Beloved” to be optional instead of part of her son’s required high school curriculum, as a result of its “explicit content.” Some content in “Beloved” is difficult for very young children to read, but this book is widely recommended for the high school-age reader and for good reason. Censoring this book does not mean that its historical content disappears — the issues the novel confronts must be addressed eventually. Teachers can help students understand the difficult topics in these books and productively learn from them. Students will become more informed and better equipped to discuss difficult issues, an important life skill.   

To ban a book from a school, a library or a bookseller is to cut off the public’s access to information and quality literature. Books are important for the development of the mind. Censoring books is not okay. We cannot ignore real world problems by trying to silence books that discuss them.

Caitlin Brannigan is a sophomore from New Jersey studying psychology and theology. She will forever defend her favorite young adult novels and is overjoyed to have a platform to rant. She can be reached for comment at cbrannig@nd.edu or @CaitlinBrannig on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Caitlin Brannigan

Contact Caitlin at cbrannig@nd.edu

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Beauty in simplicity: Children’s television

I had only once seen the 2002 Disney classic, “Lilo & Stitch,” as a child. Although I eagerly watched (and rewatched!) Disney movies as a child, all I could remember of this particular movie was thinking it was adorable. Upon rewatching it as an adult, I expected a lighthearted, feel-good film about a young girl adopting an alien.

Instead, I was greeted by the heart-wrenching story of two sisters rebuilding their lives after the tragic loss of their parents. Like many of the greatest children’s films, “Lilo & Stitch” excels at communicating heavy, adult themes to children while maintaining its entertainment value as a cartoon about a cute alien and his companions. The value of children’s television like “Lilo & Stitch” to people beyond its target audience cannot and should not be overlooked. 

Lilo, 7, and her sister Nani, 19 — struggling financially and emotionally — stumble across trouble with otherworldly authorities when they adopt an alien named Stitch. Lilo, believing Stitch to be an injured dog, buys him from the shelter as a pet. Much of the conflict throughout the movie, on the surface, centers around Lilo and Stitch’s escapades in Hawaii. 

However, many moments in the film allude to heavy emotional conflicts in a way that children would understand, but might not read too much into. For example, at one point Stitch contemplates leaving Lilo and Nani. As she watches him go, Lilo clutches a photo of her sister and parents, saying, “If you want to leave, you can. I’ll remember you, though. I remember everyone that leaves.” 

The message is simple and easy for a child to grasp: Lilo is upset about Stitch leaving, and it reminds her of her parents’ tragedy. The movie goes on, however, and the conflict between the aliens and Stitch recaptures the young audience’s attention. This kind of storytelling makes the movie’s darker themes accessible to younger audiences; scenes like this clearly convey Lilo’s sadness to children, even if they may not fully understand how Stitch represents her grief and fear of abandonment. The movie moves past its emotional conflicts to scenes of Lilo and Stitch goofing off or high stakes physical conflicts with the alien authorities — quickly enough for younger audiences to appreciate the movie for being fun and cute, while still understanding the emotional hurdles the protagonists face.

This is a huge part of what makes children’s television like “Lilo and Stitch” so great. Other major hits like “Avatar: The Last Airbender and “Steven Universe” employ similar tactics to convey real-life problems, like LGBTQ+ issues, ableism and colonialism to children using fantasy elements to metaphorically represent and mirror the problems that many people face both now and in the past.

Simple constructs can convey so much to both children and adults in a way that is entertaining and fun. For example, in “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” a character named Toph is smothered by her parents, unable to leave her home and enjoy the world because she is blind. Toph is also an “earthbender,” a superpower within the show that she uses to control and essentially terraform the ground, rocks and even sand. Unbeknownst to most people, she understands the world around her by feeling the vibrations in the earth, which she refers to as her own way of seeing. 

Her parents believe her to be “fragile” because of her disability; however, it is one of her greatest strengths. Because she has learned how to feel the vibrations in the Earth, she is one of the greatest earthbenders and fully capable of protecting herself. Despite this, many people refuse to acknowledge her talents because she is a blind young girl. Toph’s struggles are the narrative of a girl constantly confronted with ableism and sexism, always proving those who doubt her strength wrong. 

Toph’s story, like “Lilo & Stitch,” is entertaining to both children and adults. But more than that, it’s important to show narratives like this in children’s television especially, both to teach children about real life issues and to empower young members of communities that have been repeatedly discriminated against. 

At a time when LGBTQ+ representation was not prevalent in children’s television, “Steven Universe” creator Rebecca Sugar fought to feature queer and nonbinary characters in the Cartoon Network show. 

“As I’m writing about this, as I’m pitching this, I’m also getting a lot of pushback,” Sugar said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “This was not considered acceptable material for children at the time. … [But] who is speaking to a generation of children about why they deserve to exist? About how they deserve to exist? I wanted to be able to do that.” 

Sugar perfectly describes why representation is so important in children’s television. Media is an integral part of our culture; having role models like the characters in “Steven Universe” is incredibly important to support young children and make them feel accepted into a society in which there is so much conflict about people’s identities. 

Children’s television may not be considered by society to be important to a child’s development or entertaining to adults, yet many works contradict this sentiment. The genre’s ability to convey difficult topics like grief and trauma to a wide range of audiences cannot be ignored, as well as its power as a tool to teach young children about real-world problems. Works that feature underrepresented minorities can be empowering for young children in a society that discriminates against many communities. For these reasons, the value of children’s television cannot be understated.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Caitlin Brannigan

Caitlin is a sophomore from New Jersey studying psychology and English. She will forever defend her young adult novels and is overjoyed to have a platform to rant. She can be reached for comment at cbrannig@nd.edu or @CaitlinBrannig on Twitter.