‘Captain Marvel’s’ Thematic Feminism Feels Forced

By Zoe Fanzo

“Captain Marvel” made $455 million globally in its opening weekend. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

“Captain Marvel” made $455 million globally in its opening weekend. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

When the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) launched over a decade ago with 2008’s “Iron Man,” the trajectory of the film industry was forever changed. Eleven years and twenty-one films later, the MCU is a cultural phenomenon and the highest-grossing movie franchise of all time. Many fans consider the franchise to be at its peak, with 2018’s “Black Panther” winning an unprecedented three Academy Awards, and “Avengers: Infinity War” shattering expectations with its standout antagonist, Thanos (Josh Brolin), and devastating cliffhanger. In this charged atmosphere, Marvel fans had been eagerly anticipating “Captain Marvel,” the latest installment of this ever-growing world. But since the film was released on March 8, International Women’s Day, it has become the subject of heated conversation and criticism amongst fans of the franchise. 

“Captain Marvel” tells the origin story of U.S. Air Force pilot turned cosmic Kree warrior, Carol Danvers, played by Academy Award winner Brie Larson, as she uncovers the mysteries of her past and ultimately unleashes the full extent of her Infinity Stone-inherited abilities. Set in 1995, the film seeks to impress audiences as it introduces the most powerful hero of the franchise to date. Instead, the film falls victim to frequent and obvious cinematic traps. 

Presented in a non-linear format, the plot is jumpy and disconnected. The tension felt by Carol as she uncovers the truth about her past is lost on audiences because as she connects the fragments of her origin, the viewers have already been shown these events in flashbacks. 

One of the film’s greatest pitfalls is its tendency to be too “on the nose.” “Captain Marvel” is saturated with the theme of female power, and while that is in no way an unwanted motif, the politics of the film overshadow its ability to tell a fully realized story. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been such a hit with fans because of its robust storytelling, characterization, and world-building. “Captain Marvel,” however, suffers from cliché and lacks necessary subtext. 

In one scene, a biker demeans and cat-calls Carol, who in turn steals his motorcycle. In another, Carol battles with antagonists to the sound of No Doubt’s “Just A Girl,” a painfully obvious choice. She is constantly undermined by male antagonists, but by the end of the film, she discovers that her powers have been stifled by her male mentor and she becomes virtually invincible. Moments like this ultimately feel inauthentic and blatant and her abilities, unfortunately, feel unearned. Carol Danvers feels less like a fleshed-out character, and more like a prop for easily-marketable, watered-down feminism. Fans of the MCU have waited a decade for a female hero to star as the protagonist of her own film, but “Captain Marvel” misses the mark in a huge way. 

“Black Panther,” the 18th installment of the MCU, was similarly revolutionary because it featured the MCU’s first black protagonist to star in his own film in the franchise. However, “Black Panther” avoided the pitfalls that “Captain Marvel” fell victim to. “Black Panther” focused on emotional storytelling and deeply developed characters; it was a political statement in itself without having to sacrifice the plot’s integrity. Each character has their own political agenda, and those agendas clash, ultimately making for a durable conflict and intense cinematic climax. “Captain Marvel” lacks this intensity because its thematic feminism feels more obligatory than genuine. 

“Captain Marvel” is not an unwatchable film. It has many redemptive aspects, like Samuel L. Jackson’s “de-aged” Nick Fury, Brie Larson’s charming demeanor, and a fascinating post-credit scene which hints at what is to come for the MCU. Self-awareness ultimately weakens the plot and leaves fans yearning for what could have been a solid hero’s journey.

Student Playwriting Festival Welcomes Compelling New Voices

By Brittany Aufiero

Giselley Munoz as Mabel and Steven Prescod as Bobby in James Egbuta-Bailey’s “Miracle in the Garden.” Photos by James Egbuta-Bailey.

“Miracle in the Garden” by James Egbuta-Bailey and “Numinous” by Faith D’Erasmo and Luke Iovenitti stunned audiences with their attention to detail, compelling dialogue and powerful acting. Directed by Adjunct Lecturer Stephanie Stowe, these two new student productions were showcased by Lehman’s Department of Music, Multimedia, Theatre & Dance in its fifth annual Student Playwriting Festival, which premiered from Feb. 27 to March 2.

“As a playwright with 20 years of experience producing work, it’s exciting to see young playwrights understand and learn the process of bringing a play to an audience,” said Stowe, who has been involved with the festival for three consecutive years. Stowe credits Associate Professor and theatre director Rick DesRochers and Dean of Arts and Humanities James Mahon for “their incredible support.” She said of her directing, “It was a lot of fun! Always a challenge because they’re very different pieces.”  

The festival opened with “Miracle in the Garden,” a moving one-act play that is centered on an African-American family living in 1978 Harlem, NY. Unable to afford the rising prices of city-living, Rose has decided to move her and her children Bobby, Shelley and Miracle back to Montgomery County, TN. However, the children are less than thrilled about the impending move. While Bobby considers his college options in NY, his sister Shelley is hiding a life-changing secret. As she packs, Rose must come to terms with her children’s growing independence and confront secrets of her own past that threaten to change all of their lives.

In the musical “Numinous,” a class revolution has fractured communities and led many to take refuge in the northern wilderness. The portion of the play featured in the festival is only Act I of a full-length production that will premiere in Lehman’s Multimedia Performing Arts Showcase in May. The story follows Flick, Mae, Nox, Cato, Jove and Ada, a group of travelers who meet in the woods and agree to form a “tribe” to better their chances of survival away from the rest of society. Members of the group begin to form closer ties as they bond through song, but tensions rise when Nox’s leadership comes into question following an unexpected storm.  

Steven Prescod as Bobby and Essence Walker as Shelley in James Egbuta-Bailey’s “Miracle in the Garden.”

Just as it allows new playwrights to get a feel for show business, the festival is also a fantastic opportunity for Lehman actors to gain onstage experience. “Miracle” cast member Essence Walker, a 21-year-old junior theater major and dance minor, said “Rehearsals were always fun and, because it was an original play, we really got the chance to dig into the characters and tell their stories.”

While the two plays are dramatically different in plot and production, both Rose and Nox deal with similar internal conflicts, as they try to balance their own wants with those of the people for whom they are responsible. Lehman’s student actors really fulfill their roles and perform admirably. In particular, Alaynia “Fox” La Porte shines as Rose, and one can’t help but sympathize with her character’s desire to keep her family together, even as she pushes everyone further apart.  

A junior pursuing a Media Performing Arts degree with a major in theatre, Alaynia has also held roles at Castillo Theatre, Dempsey Theater, the Baryshnikov Art Center and Lovinger Theatre.  In preparing for her latest role, she said, “Research was my best friend! As ‘Miracle in the Garden’ is a ‘70s play, I wanted to be honest to the world my character was in.”  

Kat Fornier, a 22-year-old junior art major and psychology minor, said “I really enjoyed the use of space in each of the plays.” In “Miracle,” moving boxes litter the stage and the actors are constantly interacting with them, which is enjoyable to watch. Various platforms both onstage and within the audience during “Numinous” serve as stands for the cast to speak from during various moments throughout the play.

The Student Playwriting Festival was a huge success for everyone involved in translating the plays from page-to-stage. “Opening day, my heart was beating so fast because I was so nervous,” Walker recalled. “The adrenaline was high and we had a full house. It was the best thing ever.”

Cancellation of ‘One Day at a Time’ Cuts Scarce Airtime for Taboo Topics

By Teresa Fanzo

Netflix announced the cancellation of “One Day at a Time” on March 12th. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

“One Day at a Time,” a Netflix original series that began its run in Jan. 2017, highlights the struggles of an underrepresented community. In advocating for equality by addressing serious concerns in today’s political climate, it broaches controversial topics like mental health, LGBTQ+ rights, Veterans’ rights, environmental concerns, racism, sexism, addiction and more. After airing for three seasons, these subjects combined with the show’s low ratings have resulted in its cancellation. 

The show’s namesake, Norman Lear’s 1975 “One Day at a Time,” served as the inspiration for its plot. It follows the lives of Penelope Alvarez, portrayed by Justina Machado; her two children Alex (Marcel Ruiz) and Elena (Isabella Gomez); and their grandmother Lydia, played by Rita Moreno. The landlord of their apartment complex is a supporting character and often provides comedic relief. Further humorous charm comes from many jokes and the goofy character, Schneider. 

By documenting the hardships that the Cuban-American family faces and how they overcome them together, “One Day at a Time” caters to an underrepresented audience. There are few other shows that convey concerns about these serious issues, which means it will be especially missed by its fans.

“I like that the show brings up taboo topics, but makes them relatable and sometimes funny because it makes it easier to talk about them,” said freshman and Macaulay Honors biology major, Samantha DiDonato.

In one episode, Alex goes on a date with a girl and posts inappropriate photos to his fake Instagram, also known as Finsta. Penelope, who is constantly working to provide her children with good life lessons, is outraged by the content of the photos. Subsequently, the family confronts Alex when he returns home. At first, he does not see that what he has done is wrong. Lydia, whom they refer to as Abuelita, plays devil’s advocate by maintaining that Alex has done no wrong and that “boys will be boys.”

“I like that the show brings up taboo topics, but makes them relatable and sometimes funny.” 

- Samantha DiDonato, a Macaulay Honors freshman 

In an emotionally charged scene, his older sister Elena shares the story of when she had to run home with her significant or “sydnificant” other because they were being stalked. The mother then admits that she too had been in an uncomfortable situation in a work environment. It is then that Alex understands his wrongdoings and apologizes. 

Netflix tweeted on Mar. 12, 2019, “We’ve made the very difficult decision not to renew ‘One Day at a Time’ for a fourth season … In the end simply not enough people watched to justify another season.”

Can’t Say It Ain’t Good: Florida Georgia Line’s Latest Album Hits All Marks

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

Florida Georgia Line duo, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Can’t Say I Ain’t Country” hits the ground running and maintains its momentum. Released on Feb. 15, Florida Georgia Line’s fourth album topped country music charts and sold 50,000 album units in its first week, including digital downloads, according to Nielsen Music.

Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley showcase their versatility in this album with great tracks, such as “People are Different,” “Women” and “Simple,” the first single dropped prior to the album’s release. It debuted at No. 24 on the country charts when it released on the June 1, 2018 Airplay chart and peaked at No. 1 in October. This marks the 14th No. 1 hit for the dynamic country duo.

Their latest album reflects the adaptability of this country music group. While maintaining the groups’ roots, it also features collaborations with R&B/Hip Hop singer Jason Derulo and country superstar Jason Aldean. Derulo, best known for his platinum singles “Talk Dirty,” “Wiggle,” and “In my Head,” adds flavor to the duo’s album.  

“Women” reflects the group’s ability to infuse R&B into a truly new age country ballad. The trio harmonizes to create a powerful message, “Women, ya keep the world spinning with love in our eyes.” Tracks like “Sitting Pretty” also give listeners glimpses of the group’s musical range, offering some bluegrass twang to this country album.  

“Can’t Hide Red” is a masterful collaboration between Hubbard, Kelley, and Jason Aldean. The song reminds listeners to appreciate their roots because no matter where they go or how far they get in life, they can’t hide their bloodlines. Lyrics like “don’t you know you were born this way” and “you can see it in everything” remind listeners that no matter where they go or what they do, they “can’t hide red.” “Colorado” also brings out the duo’s roots and reflects the magic that made it possible for the group to stay relevant in the very competitive country music industry.  

An excellent balance of this group’s talent and soothing collaborations, “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country” is filled with music that will easily fuel Florida Georgia Line’s tour, set to begin this May.