‘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.  

The Highlight of ‘Unbreakable’ Franchise Can’t Save It from Mediocrity

By Michael Omoruan

Host Yvette Nicole-Brown leading a Comic-Con panel with the cast and crew of Glass: Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan and stars Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Sarah Paulson, and Anya Taylor-Joy. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Audiences who fell in love with the stars of the first two “Unbreakable” films will likely be nonplussed at how their talents are wasted in “Glass,” the third movie of the trilogy. An example is the role of Kevin Wendell Crumb, played by James McAvoy, who is far and away the best part of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” franchise. 

While “Unbreakable” tells the story of how David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the sole survivor of a train crash, comes to terms with gaining superpowers after meeting Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). “Split” focuses on the character Crumb, another disturbed individual, who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Crumb has over 20 programs living in his head that are referred to as “the Horde.” He also happens to be a serial killer. 

The intricate ways that McAvoy contorts his body and performs as each of Crumb’s individual personalities is mesmerizing. He was criminally underrated in “Split” and overlooked during awards season as well. “Glass,” sets 19 years after “Unbreakable.” Only weeks after the events of “Split” in 2016, his roles as Patricia, the motherly personality, and Hedwig, the infantile personality are true crowd pleasers. However, the film overall is still underwhelming.  

Released on Jan. 18, it opens with Crumb still at large abducting and murdering teenage girls. David Dunn is now the owner of a home security store he runs with his son. A chance encounter between the principle characters leads to a brief confrontation until Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) places them in the same mental health facility. When the two arrive, they meet Elijah Price whose alter ego is the eponymous Mr. Glass.

The film starts off well enough with Dunn returning to his security store after vindicating a pedestrian on the sidewalk, a move reminiscent of the character’s vigilantism in “Unbreakable.” But it begins to go downhill shortly after. In the first half, Jackson is devoid of any of the charisma and charm he originally had in his role as Mr. Glass. When he finally does have time to showcase his acting, the film starts to falter. Willis isn’t given much to do which results in anticlimactic scenes between him and Jackson or McAvoy. The scenes do little to advance the plot or develop the characters that many audiences love.

Offsetting these weaknesses, the score for the film by West Dylan Thordson is a highlight, drawing on the themes of “Superman,” “Avengers,” and many other superhero film scores as an inspiration. The lighting for the film was great as well. The purple, green, and yellow lights for Glass, Dunn, and Crumb, respectively are well executed. 

Although the ending is bittersweet, there are fun scenes that fans will enjoy. As expected, Shyamalan has a twist in the film that will take viewers by surprise, so if you’re a fan of his previous films or love the cast, you will find some enjoyment in this.

13 Years Later, ‘Kingdom Hearts III’ Proves the Wait Worth It

By Brittany Aufiero

Kingdom Hearts’ protagonist Sora. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Kingdom Hearts’ protagonist Sora. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Following a 13-year hiatus after the release of “Kingdom Hearts II” in 2005, “Kingdom Hearts III” finally made it into stores worldwide for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers on Jan. 29.

The latest installment of the single-player RPG series follows the story of keyblade-wielder Sora, as he journeys to other Disney and Pixar worlds with his companions, Donald and Goofy.  Following the loss of his magic and abilities in the spin-off game “Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance,” Sora must acquire the Power of Waking in order to fully regain his strength and, along with six other guardians of light, prevent the darkness-obsessed Master Xehanort from assembling the χ-blade, a keyblade powerful enough to open the door to Kingdom Hearts.

“Kingdom Hearts III” features stunning visuals, courtesy of Square Enix’s choice to build the game using Unreal Engine 4. Originally intended for Unreal Engine 3, game development stalled in 2014, following Director Tetsuya Nomura’s choice to recreate the game for the most up-to-date technology. Unreal Engine 4 has been successfully used in games of multiple genres, including the third-person shooter “Gears of War 4” and features real-time rendering that yields seamless action sequences in-game.

Fans of the franchise wholeheartedly agree that the game was worth the wait. Recent Lehman graduate Melissa Ruiz, a 26-year-old English Honors student said, “the worlds feel a lot more lived in than in previous installments. I think you can definitely see why it took as long as it did to make and how much time and effort was put into it.”

 Following tradition with previous installments, the game’s soundtrack features Japanese pop icon Utada Hikaru, who beautifully captures the sentimental importance of the long-awaited game. In particular, “Face My Fears” (made in collaboration with dubstep music artist Skrillex, a long-time fan of the series) evokes strong emotions in all of the young fans who grew up with the franchise and serves as the perfect audio track for the game’s cinematic opening.  

Plot-wise, the game holds up just about as well as any other in the “Kingdom Hearts” collection- which is to say, it only makes sense if you squint. Of course, this remains a quality of infinite charm, as the characters are the true heart of this series and always have been.  

Nelson Fernandez, a 29-year-old English major, has followed the games since the release of “Kingdom Hearts I” in 2002. For him, the games were a major influence on his choice to pursue English: “The convoluted storytelling actually kept me intrigued throughout the years. The lore of the series is, in fact, one of the biggest inspirations that got me into writing fiction.”

Ruiz added, “Kingdom Hearts” has a convoluted storyline but this game makes a lot of connections between all of the previous games, so it’s fun to see how everything connects.”

“Kingdom Hearts III” has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide, making it the fastest-selling installment in the franchise. It has been nominated by IGN for “Best Game of E3” 2018, “Best PlayStation 4 and Xbox One Game of E3” 2018, and “Best Action Game of E3” 2018. More nominations are sure to come in as the game continues to make waves in gaming communities everywhere.

‘DNA’ Sandwiches Same Old Sound Between Mild Update

By Allen Mena

“DNA” album cover art. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Backstreet Boys released their ninth and newest album on Jan. 25, 2019.  It’s their first album since 2013. Titled “DNA,” its 13 songs include radio favorites “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and “OK.” The songs mainly feature melodic tunes carried out by a variety of musical instruments, such as the flute and saxophone. The tunes are reminiscent of some of the group’s classic songs like “I Want It That Way,” and are simultaneously modern enough to resonate with a younger audience.

The first and last tracks of the album are the strongest pieces because their harmonizing stays true to the band’s roots and also agrees with the fast-paced beats that are commonplace in the music industry today. The stand-out song is “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” because of its fast-paced, modern style. It is comparable to Maroon 5’s recent hit featuring Cardi B, “Girls Like you,” because it has similar beats at a similar pace, along with multiple singers performing at the same time during the chorus and throughout the song.

Sadly, most of the songs in the middle of “DNA” come across as fillers and generally sound the same in their delivery. The least impressive track on the album is “Breathe.” While this song might have been a smash hit in the 90s, the acapella vocals and pace of the song do not align with what is popular today.

However, this album’s initial success adds to the group’s legacy, since it landed #1 album on the Billboard 200. This still pales in comparison to the Backstreet Boys’ most successful album, “Millennium,” which made over ten million dollars in sales and included their greatest hit song, “I Want It That Way.” The Backstreet Boys have won numerous music awards, including their most prestigious, “Album of the Year” in 1999 at the Billboard Music Awards. Given the album’s considerable replay value from radio hits, it easily earns three out of five stars.

Michelle Obama’s Inspiring ‘Becoming’ Maps Her Success

By Brittany Aufiero

Obama was photographed by Miller Mobley. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Obama was photographed by Miller Mobley. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In her poignant, eloquently crafted autobiographical memoir “Becoming,” Michelle Obama writes about how she found her voice and learned to use it effectively to enact real change.  The book has enjoyed widespread success and sold 1.4 million copies within its first week of publication on Nov. 13, 2018. According to Barnes & Noble, it is the best-selling book in the U.S. for 2018.

“Becoming” is divided into three distinct sections: “Becoming Me,” “Becoming Us,” and “Becoming More.”  Each represents different stages of growth for Obama in becoming successful. All speak to the strength, grace, and intelligence of the former First Lady of the United States.  

She traces the formative experiences of her life back in time. It begins with her upbringing in a working-class family on Chicago’s Southside, follows through her years at Princeton and Harvard Law School, to the day she met her husband, became a mother and began using her platform to advocate for children’s health at a national level. 

Any woman who aspires to balance a successful career and personal life simultaneously will find Obama’s words here truly inspiring. For women of color especially, this book sends a powerful message of hope and perseverance in the face of adverse circumstances. At one point, she recalls a time when she was forced to attend a job interview for a managerial position at a hospital with an infant Sasha in her lap. She is candid regarding the discrimination she has experienced and the ways she has managed to use it to her advantage to further her own goals.  

At its heart, “Becoming” is a reflection on the realities of what is possible with the right amount of determination. Remarkably, it manages to uplift without ever reading as condescending.  Obama emphasizes how a child’s access to education and supportive adults are necessary for his or her success.

Her optimistic appeal for the future is a refreshingly cool glass of water in the scorching desert of today’s troubling political climate. The book ends on a note of hope and satisfaction, “A glimmer of the world as it could be. This was our bid for permanence: a rising generation that understood what was possible—and that even more was possible for them.”

Morgan Library Exhibit ‘It’s Alive’ Showcases Frankenstein’s Author

By Alexis Martinez

A 1931 Carl Laemmle poster. Photo by Alexis Martinez.

Frankenreads, an international exhibit celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein,” gave Lehman students further insight into the cult classic and aspects of Shelley’s life. The exhibit opened up at the Morgan Library Museum on 225 Madison Ave. Lehman English professor, Olivia Moy, assigned a student visit on Nov. 16, 2018. Her goal was for students to become more invested in the novel and its author. Isha Serrano, a Lehman English major, said, “I managed to get up close and personal with Mary Shelley’s muse for making “Frankenstein”.

The exhibit showcased different editions of the book, as well as reinterpretations of the cult classic from spinoffs, mashups, parodies, and tributes. In addition, it entailed the history of Shelley’s life and memorabilia. Her artwork embodied elements typically conveyed in romantic literature such as life, death, vivid scenery, and intensified passion. “Nightmare” was one of the many gothic paintings on display, featuring a goblin with yellow cat eyes perched on top of a woman’s chest. The class also viewed different animated renditions of the book and artifacts of tools used to amputate limbs for the formation of Frankenstein, who is also known as “the Monster”, “the Creature”, and “the Wretch”.

Elements of Shelley’s past that influenced her novel were also on display. Shelley was born to celebrity parents Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. She lost her mother two weeks after she was born, which frayed her relationship with her father. As a result, she had an isolated and rebellious childhood. At 16, Shelley ran off with her father’s married friend Percy Shelley. Shortly after, she suffered a stillborn birth and was widowed after the death of her husband. The themes isolation, loss, lack of love, and rebellion are all conveyed throughout the novel, “Frankenstein”. 

“I thought that the ‘Frankenstein’ exhibit was great and very informative about Mary Shelley and her family and her life journey,” said Jose Miranda, a Lehman English major.  

‘Widows’ Wows Audiences with Empowering Message for Women

By Brittany Aufiero

Film poster for ‘Widows.’ Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In a long tradition of Hollywood heist thrillers dominated by male actors, “Widows” holds its own, breaking the mold with its female-led cast directed by Steve McQueen. 

“Widows” earned the box office an impressive $53.6 million worldwide, $33.5 of which were from ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada alone.  Released Nov. 16, the film was co-written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn. Flynn is best known as the writer of “Gone Girl,” a novel published in 2012, about a woman seeking revenge on her adulterous husband. Flynn’s flair for gritty, female-driven stories is exceptionally portrayed in “Widows.”

Viola Davis stars as the thick-skinned Veronica Rawlings. She plays a woman whose life is left in shambles following the death of her husband, Harry, played by Liam Neeson, after a heist that went wrong. In the midst of her grief, she is visited by Jamal Manning and Daniel Kaluuya, who play a crime lord and politician looking for the $2 million that Harry stole. 

Manning wants his money and expects Veronica to pay up. Veronica enlists the help of the widows of her dead husband’s heist team, Alice Gunner, played by Elizabeth Debicki and Linda Parelli, played by actress Michelle Rodriguez. It is an attempt to pull off one last robbery in order to pay off the debt and start a new life.

“Widows” is an emotionally compelling and violent story of survival.  Through Veronica, the audience can understand the complex role race can play in a marriage.  When their unarmed son is pulled over by police and shot, Harry grows to resent his wife for her black skin.  In the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Veronica’s story feels particularly relevant to the racial struggles that many people endure in the modern day justice system.

Meanwhile, Alice becomes an escort so that she can make ends meet following the death of her abusive husband. She enters into an exclusive sexual arrangement with a wealthy real estate executive, David, but feels uncomfortable with the power imbalance.

While Veronica and Alice easily comply with the demands of the heist, Linda struggles to find a sitter for her children. Veronica begins to doubt her commitment to the heist, but Linda stands her ground and argues that she’ll do it for her children. Ultimately, they prove that women don’t have to be amazing fighters or gun aficionados in order to belong in an action movie.  

Queens resident, Suzie Diep said, “Viola Davis’s performance was amazing.” She added that she felt that the movie did a good job dealing with classism and racism.

Lehman professor of political science, Dr. Jason Schulman, 45, said, “It’s a film with real depth. It transcends genre conventions, and refreshingly, puts female characters at the center of a drama. The men are just there to move the plot along.”

“Widows” is extremely powerful in ways that are both figurative and literal. It is insightful and explores the powerful minds of women who have reached their breaking point. This is definitely a must-see.

Smashing Pumpkins’ New Album Brings Back Classic Sound

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

“Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol 1” album cover. Photo by Jonathan Rivera.

“Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol 1” is The Smashing Pumpkins first album in over four years and takes fans back to their classic sound.  

Their latest album commemorates the return of founding guitarist, James Iha, after his two-decade hiatus from lead singer Billy Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and Jeff Schroeder on guitar and keyboard.  With Iha back, the classic balance of this alternative rock mega-group has been reestablished.

The first song “Knights of Malta” is a pseudo-emo anthem that is reminiscent of “1979” a hit song from their “Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness” album.  “You’ll just rise on forever…When doldrums age in platinum,” it croons.  

“Solara,” the album’s most memorable, offers the listener classic Pumpkins’ sound with a neoclassic twist. “Tear down the sun. Bring down the sun,” it exhorts. 

While well known for their hit albums “Siamese Dream” and “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” the band suffered a series of unsuccessful album releases over the span of the 30-year span of their music career. Their album “Adore” was one of the most anticipated albums of 1998 but fell short of fans expectations, selling only 174,000. Their previous album sold 246,500 in its first week.  

Iha’s departure from the Pumpkins created a new sound from the band, with “Machina,” their first album without Iha, ushering in a new era of Pumpkins music of further declining album sales. “Machina” sold only 583,000, making it the second lowest selling album released by the group.

Iha’s return brings back the classic sound that die-hard fans will appreciate, especially in “Silvery Sometimes,” where the steady guitar rhythm reflects Iha as a master musician and recalls “Tonight, Tonight,” one of the time-honored favorites of Smashing Pumpkins’ fans.  Lehman junior and English major Albert Gonzalez said, “I’m glad that Iha came back for this album. He is the driving force of the band’s rhythm in their songs.”   

Lehman Community Mourns the Loss of New York Native Stan Lee

By Teresa Fanzo

Stan Lee at Phoenix Comicon, pictured in 2011. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

“I will miss seeing his cameos in every Marvel movie,” said Peter Watson, a Lehman freshman.

Stan Lee, the comic book writer known for the creation of many Marvel characters such as Spider-Man and the Hulk, died at the age of 95 on November 12, 2018. His death came as a shock to the comic world and the pop culture industry.

Born Stanley Martin Lieber in Manhattan, Lee moved to the Bronx when he was a teenager. Growing up he was inspired by books and movies and admired heroic figures like Robin Hood. Stan Lee went to Clinton High School, less than a mile away from Lehman College.

According to biography.com, Lee became an assistant in the Timely Comic division of Pulp Magazine, an inexpensive nonfiction magazine, in 1939. By the 1960s, Timely evolved into Marvel Comics when the company launched the Fantastic Four. He made his debut in May of 1941 with writing filler, plots that do not actually progress the story, for “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge.” He used a pen name, Stan Lee, which he would later adopt as his legal name. 

By the end of the 1950s, he considered leaving his job. He was dissatisfied and he was not given the opportunity to write the stories he wanted. During this time, Lee was on the verge of quitting, but with his wife’s advice, he began writing the kind of stories he enjoyed.

“I mourn Stan not just as an innovator and storyteller but as a New Yorker and a Bronxite.”  

- Lehman Senior and film and television studies major Juan Vasquez

The DC comics editor, Julius Schwartz, first introduced the public to the concept of the super-team with the Justice League of America. To combat this, Lee was tasked with the assignment to create their company’s own super-team.   

Lee and his partner, Jack Kirby, created the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and arguably Marvel’s most successful character, Spider-Man. These characters were grouped into Marvel’s super-team, The Avengers.

Stan Lee created a world of relatable characters and intriguing storylines. In 2008, the comic studio ventured into the film industry, and since 2008, Lee has had a cameo feature in every single Marvel film.

Lee was an icon who revolutionized the comic industry and inspired many Lehman students. Junior and film and television studies major Julia Brennan said, “I grew up reading Marvel comics. Spider-Man is the first movie I remember seeing in theaters as a kid, so I hold a great sense of gratitude towards Stan Lee.” 

Senior and Lehman film and television studies major Juan Vasquez said, “The sorrow that was his passing transcended the comics world. I mourn Stan not just as an innovator and storyteller but as a New Yorker and a Bronxite.” 

Contemporary Art Expresses Fantastical Reality

By Teresa Fanzo

Peter Hamlin’s “Living Matrix Palace.” Photo by Teresa Fanzo.

A new exhibit at Lehman College Art Gallery, Castles in the Sky: Fantasy Architecture in Contemporary Art, features architecture with a twist, conjuring an imaginative reality.

The show, which opened on October 13, 2018, highlights the work of artists from different backgrounds and aesthetics. Lehman senior Eric Ramirez, a graphic design major, observed, “The artists are creating works that push the boundaries of architecture in ways that reflect their individual stories and life experiences”. 

Some artists chose to go to extreme lengths by making enormous sculptures while others created simple paintings drenched with symbolism. Robert Hite’s “River Tower, 2007” is an example of one these huge sculptures. The impossible-seeming sculpture droops at the top, almost like a dying flower, representing the merging of fantasy and reality by standing tall despite its sad droopy quality. 

Gustovo Acosta’s “Eclipse.” Photo by Teresa Fanzo.

Robert Hite’s “River Tower.” Photo courtesy of Marie-Claire Milius.

Robert Hite’s “River Tower.” Photo courtesy of Marie-Claire Milius.

Julie Langsam expresses this idea more directly in her painting, “Gropius Landscape (Master’s House Kandinsky / Klee), 2014,” which shows a modern house with a cloudy sky. The bottom half of the painting is abstract with three big blocks, each containing different patterns made up of smaller blocks. The colors in the bottom half are similar to the ones in the top, a movement which represents reality shifting into the abstract.

Laurent Chéhère’s painting “Cabaret, 2017” is smaller, at 90 x 90 cm. The painting shows a floating house with an elephant hanging at the bottom. The artist brings her own twist by adding things to fit the theme of a carnival, such as a doll face and a lollipop as well as the elephant, likewise showing the merging of reality and fantasy. 

The strange elements are what seem unreal here, the doll face especially, all turning out to be real things. The fantasy element comes with floating sky. This modestly sized painting also shows that within the exhibition space, not one size or type of piece overpowers another. 

All the pieces in the gallery use architecture to represent the idea of the convergence of fantasy and reality, while fostering an atmosphere of wonder. The artists featured in the exhibit created pieces that portrayed the unimaginable, impractical, and inspiring designs for architecture that tests their own boundaries and reality itself in ways that are almost shocking. 

Lehman senior and art major Jadie Meprivert said, “Each piece is able to shine.”

New Halloween Is the Goriest Yet

By Hector Bello

Promotional poster for “Halloween.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Four decades after its original release in 1978, “Halloween” leaves fans with mixed feelings.

“Halloween” tells the story of sixty-year-old serial killer Michael Myers, who murdered his sister Judith in 1963 and was locked up until his escape in 1978. Since then, Myers continuously returns to his quiet hometown in Illinois to prey on new victims.

In its 40-year run, the franchise has had tremendous success with 11 films about the infamous Michael Myers, played by actor Nick Castle. The first movie grossed a total of $70 million worldwide. The newest movie grossed a total of $77.5 million in its first week, topping the box office for the month of October.
 
Michael Myers kills the most people in the 2018 film -- a total of 17. Throughout the movie, Myers sadistically terrorizes his victims. In one scene, he steps on his psychiatrist’s head. In another, he pins one of his victims to the wall with a knife. He also destroys a man’s jaw and takes out all the teeth of another man.
 
The gruesome, bloody scenes evoked skepticism in audience members like Lisa Sheridan, a student from the CUNY Graduate Center. She commented: “Long on gore, short on plot. The movie serves its market ‘date night movies for high schoolers’. I tend to fuse ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘Halloween’ in my mind because they were so similar.”
 
Other students appreciated the film’s dark humor. Alana Johnson, a York College graduate, said, “my favorite scene was when the killer went into the house of the babysitter and the kid ran downstairs screaming that he saw the Boogeyman. That was funny.”    
 
Funny or not, the bloodshed is relentless. Michael Myers is shot and stabbed repeatedly in the movie but does not die. Spoiler alert: in the end, Myers’ sister, Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis), locks him in a gas chamber inside her basement and burns him alive. Injured, she manages to make it out of the house alive after a final fight with the serial killer. 

Her survival is an example of one way the film goes in a new direction. Most of the previous movies, with the exception of “Halloween III,” show Strode running away from her brother, who wants to kill her after he murders her immediate family. However, this time their roles have been reversed, with Strode now much stronger and ready to defend herself against her brother.
 
The alteration satisfied some fans. “The new twist did a lot of justice to the franchise,” said Jason Moreno. “It was a solid movie…[with] nothing stupid.”

Johnson agreed, “I don’t really like horror movies. However, it was a great movie and I don’t regret coming.”
 
To all the gore and horror fans, “Halloween” will not disappoint. 

Malek Shines as Mercury in Queen Biopic

By Michael Omoruan

A poster for the UK release of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Photo courtesy of Flickr.

According to a report from Deadline, the biopic on the British rock band Queen was in its development stage for almost 10 years. Now the wait is finally over. The film, called “Bohemian Rhapsody” after one of the band’s most well-known songs, features Rami Malek in the lead role of Freddie Mercury. Best known for his Emmy award-winning portrayal of Elliot Alderson, an introverted cybersecurity engineer on USA Network’s “Mr. Robot”, Malek plays one of the most charismatic and legendary performers in rock ‘n’ roll history. He plays the role almost effortlessly, from Mercury’s humble beginnings as a baggage handler to his set at the Live Aid benefit concert.

Malek is joined by Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor; Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon; and Gwilym Lee as Brian May, who were Mercury’s bandmates. A cameo appearance from Mike Myers is a golden nugget for Queen fans. In 1992, Myers starred in “Wayne’s World”, a motion picture spin-off of his “Saturday Night Live” character, Wayne Campbell. In the iconic scene, Campbell, along with his best friend Garth Algar, played by Dana Carvey, sing along to the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Garth’s AMC Pacer.  However, in the film “Rhapsody”, Myers plays EMI record executive Ray Foster.

In an interview Myers gave on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he described the character as “fictional,” based on a number of record label executives who doubted that anyone would enjoy the ambitious, revolutionary sound of Bohemian Rhapsody. In this role, Myers crushes it doing what can be best described as Shrek if he were raised in Liverpool during the 1970s.  

Ironically, this cast was not part of the original vision of the film. Instead, according to Deadline, big names like David Fincher, director of “Social Network” and “Gone Girl”, were. Eventually, 20th Century Fox settled on “X-Men: Apocalypse” director Bryan Singer to helm the film, which was plagued with production issues. After halting production due to his inability to arrive on set in London, Singer was replaced by “Eddie the Eagle” and “Rocketman” director, Dexter Fletcher for the remaining scenes.  Although Singer still holds the title of director, Fletcher was given the executive producer credit. 

Various audiences were on the edge of their seats after seeing the embodiment of timeless classics like “We Will Rock You” and the eponymous title song. The sound mixing and cinematography was impressive. The dazzling display of lights brought it all together and the Dolby theater speakers made it feel like a live performance was taking place. 

The film brilliantly conveys the dark side of fame and fortune, as well as Freddie Mercury’s promiscuity. When Malek comes to terms with his AIDS diagnosis, the audience sees his true acting ability, as the vulnerability in his eyes is palpable.  All of the band members were played exceptionally well, and one can definitely foresee Oscar nominations for Malek and costume designer Julian Day. The issues and conflicts that halted production on this film are barely noticeable. Anyone who’s a true a rock n’ roll fan or loves a great biopic will love this one.

The Charmed Ones Return to Fight New Battles

By Kimberllee Mendez

The Charmed logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Charmed logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The most powerful witches of all the magical realms, aka the Charmed Ones, are back and reimagined for 2018. A definite must-see, this reboot showcases the power of sisterhood with all the special effects a fantasy show needs.

Gracing the WB network, now the CW network, for eight seasons in the 90s, the original Charmed Ones—sisters and witches by birth -- fought demons, warlocks and everything evil using unique spells. Prue, Piper and Phoebe each had a different power: telekinesis, freezing the flow of time, and foresight, respectively. 

The new series features new names, new faces and some new magic. In episode one, biological sisters Melanie and Maggie Vera reunite with Macy, who has lived alone for most of her life, after their mother is murdered by a demon from the Underworld. These sisters have the same abilities as the original trio, but Maggie can also read people’s thoughts.

One defining moment from the original pilot episode recurs in the reboot: the night all the sisters are reunited in their home, all the lights go out. This shows the Power of Three is formed and united, allowing their powers to be awakened. This Power defines what the Charmed Ones are: their combined powers makes them unstoppable to any demon they face. 

In this version, they are also facing a social scene set in today’s age of social media. The sisters are regularly online, and a lot of women-driven movements such as #MeToo are shown making headlines. One subplot introduces a protest movement starting in the college that Mel and Maggie attend. The protestors demand that a professor who has molested a student be removed from his position and Mel is shown protesting all over campus. 

Mel is also openly gay and in a relationship with the homicide detective, Niko Hamada, who was her girlfriend before Mel knew of her own magic and the case of her mother. Their relationship becomes strained after Mel’s mother is murdered and three months later Niko leaves Mel. The new sisters also have a different ethnic background and different skin tones than other main characters, something that was not seen in the previous show. 

This updated show promises all girls that they have a little magic within them and proves that sisterhood is worth more than anything. It should certainly be on your DVR list to watch this month.

Annual Medieval Festival Brings the Met Cloisters to Life

By Brittany Aufiero

Kathleen Finnegan strums a Celtic melody on the harp. Photo by Brittany Aufiero.

Tens of thousands of medieval history enthusiasts from across the five boroughs flocked to Upper Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 30 to enjoy an afternoon of free festivities at Fort Tryon Park.  The sprawling forest was transformed into a market town straight out of a medieval fantasy world -- complete with crafts, vendors, and foods common to the Middle Ages.  Festival-goers embraced the theme, many of them choosing to dress in peasant robes or knightly armor, immersing themselves fully in the experience.  In the evening, the events concluded with a group of knights jousting on horseback on the tourney field.

Fort Tryon Park is home to The Met Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that specializes in European Gothic and medieval architecture.  The museum occupies four acres of land, and its castles and bridges are visible to all guests at the fair, adding to the authenticity of the event.

This year’s festival was jointly sponsored by the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation (WHIDC) and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.  The WHIDC is a private and publicly supported not-for-profit corporation which has successfully kept the Medieval Festival alive in Upper Manhattan for over 34 years.  According to their website, for the past five years attendance at the event has averaged 60,000 people.  

For many businesses and performers in New York, the festival is an opportunity to advertise their crafts and services, and to bring awareness to the public about different cultural expressions of art in order to enrich communities.  One such business is UrbanGlass, which used their platform at the festival to bring attention to their outreach program, The Bead Project.  According to their flyer, the free program “was created in 1997 to serve economically disadvantaged women living in the New York Area.”

At another booth, Fordham University advertized their Center for Medieval Studies program.  Displaying replicas of manuscripts and handwritten texts from the Middle Ages, the school used the theme of the festival to highlight course offerings most likely to appeal to attendees.

Anatolia Fire Goddess of the Mystical Muses performs an illusion act. Photo by Brittany Aufiero.

One of the festival performers, Purna Shakti, is a member of the Mystical Muses, a belly dance duo which performs internationally and displays different forms of traditional dance from India and Egypt.  Hosting their show right outside the entrance to the Cloisters, the Muses drew inspiration from the folk dances such as tanoura -- which is derived from a spiritual Egyptian dance in which the performer wears a colorful, weighted skirt -- as well as Indian gypsy veil dances, in creating their routine.  Following each performance, they posed for photos and provided hands-on instruction to spectators.

Shakti, describing her experience as a performer at the festival, said, “We love to perform! The crowds are great, and it’s fun to be able to introduce them to new forms of dance that they may not have witnessed before.”  The Mystical Muses have performed at the Fort Tryon Medieval Festival for three years and expressed their wishes of returning next year.

Kathleen Finnegan, a harpist, celebrated her tenth year playing at the Fort Tryon Fair this September.  Though she travels to many different states throughout the U.S. to play, most of her time is spent in Florida and New York.  When asked whether she believes the yearly event makes a difference within the community she said, “I have had patrons of the fair, who didn’t come to the neighborhood in the past, tell me that they come at other times of year now because they see the beauty of the park and how much the [Cloisters] has to offer.” She added, “Of course, they use the businesses in the area several times a year because of that.”  

Through good food, dancing, music, and the arts, Fort Tryon’s Medieval Festival strengthens communities by supporting local businesses and exposing New Yorkers to traditions and practices that are foreign to them.  It is a hub of cultural exchange that looks to continue for many years to come.

Gaga Wows Audiences in ‘A Star Is Born’ Remake

By Michael Omoruan

The promotional poster for the film. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The film, “A Star is Born” tells a great, compelling story brought to life by its extraordinary cast and outstanding soundtrack. Released on Oct. 5, the movie was co-written, directed, and produced by Bradley Cooper, who also stars in this modern remake of the 1937 film which featured Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. In his updated version, Cooper, known for his lead roles in “American Sniper” and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, plays a rock and roll superstar named Jackson Maine who stumbles upon Ally Campana (Lady Gaga), in a drag bar.  

Aside from cameo appearances in Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete Kills” and “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” this film marks Gaga’s first starring role, alongside acting legends Sam Elliott and Andrew Dice Clay. Maine and Ally develop feelings for one another as the film progresses and their chemistry builds. However, Maine has a problem with substance abuse which starts to cause conflict in their relationship. 

With little to no dialogue, Cooper is able to evoke emotion. In a scene with Rez, Campana’s agent, Maine is faced with a tough ultimatum and his internal conflict is evident. Cooper also sings well himself during the concert scenes, with his gruff, old timey rocker voice shifting to belt out vocals that shock the audience. Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Campana, whose nervous, uncertain nature seems relatable and realistic.

Cooper’s directorial debut also draws Oscar-caliber performances from the rest of his cast, which includes comedy legends Eddie Griffin and Dave Chappelle. They play old friends of Maine who show up in a crucial moment of the film. Chappelle’s character, Noodles, offers advice from his time in the spotlight to guide Maine on the right path, displaying great dramatic chops.  Sam Elliott plays Maine’s brother Bobby with just enough subtlety, sharing amazingly intimate scenes with both Cooper and Gaga. One of his lines summarizes a core theme of the film, “Music is essentially any note between twelve octaves… It’s the same story told over and over. All that the artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes.” 

In its realistic showcase of romantic relationships, while at times satirizing the entertainment industry, “A Star is Born” is comparable to 2016’s modern musical “La La Land,” which also has a great soundtrack. If you enjoy emotional, heartfelt romantic films, definitely check this one out at your local movie theater.

Fifth Lil Wayne Album Marks Artist’s Victory over Label Clout

By Matthew Mallary

Lil Wayne and Birdman perform at the 2009 BET Awards. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

New Orleans rapper and Young Money label head Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., a.k.a. Lil Wayne dropped “The Carter V” on Sept. 28, 2018. The fifth installment of the Carter series matters because it represents the end of a tumultuous legal battle between two titans of the hip-hop world, Wayne and label head Bryan Christopher Williams, or Birdman (a.k.a. Baby). The album had languished in production for four years. Now, after an incredibly fiery public beef between the two and an equally bitter legal battle, Wayne has emerged victorious, debuting at number 1 on the overall Billboard charts. 

The conflict goes back to 1991 when 9-year-old Wayne was already writing and recording verses. This intrigued Birdman, who started a record label, the now eponymous Cash Money Records, the same year. While Wayne progressed through several rap groups, eventually carving out a solo career as Cash Money’s marquee artist, Birdman was building the infrastructure. By 2008, Wayne was synonymous with hip-hop success, and crossovers with pop artists. That year, his album “Tha Carter III,” was named the top selling rap album of the year, and won a Grammy for Best Rap Album. 

This might seem like a happy ending to a tale of two people who struggled with poverty, crime, and the lure of gang culture. However, their very success led to the dissolution of their partnership and a new beginning for Lil Wayne. 

Their conflict stemmed from the fact that Wayne also founded his own label, Young Money Records, credited with discovering major artists like Drake and Nicki Minaj, two of the highest charting and selling artists of the last decade. Though he created it with Birdman’s blessing, the question of who owned the rights to both Drake and Nicki’s catalogue of high-charting songs eventually became a main point of controversy. In 2015, Wayne sued Birdman for these rights along with unpaid contract advances promised to Wayne and his Young Money artists. 

This suit delayed “Tha Carter V” which was originally slated to be released in 2014. With Birdman unwilling to release “Tha Carter V,” Wayne began to voice his displeasure with his boss in the media. Wayne told Rolling Stone magazine in 2014 that he “and his creativity were being held ‘prisoner…’” by Birdman and Cash Money Records. In 2015, Wayne took his grievances to the studio and the courtroom, suing Birdman and Cash Money Records for $51 million in damages. He also released the single, “Sorry 4 Tha Wait 2,” referring to his delayed album, both to hold over fans clamoring for more music and to send some shots Birdman’s way. 

In January of 2017, Birdman made a first push to reconcile with Wayne. He told hip-hip hop magazine XXL that “Tha Carter V” was “definitely coming out” and that “Wayne is one of the best artists ever to do the game, and I want to see him continue to do what he been doing, and I’m going to support whatever he’s doing.” 

Finally, in June of 2018, Wayne was released from his contract with Cash Money Records. According to Lil Wayne’s attorney Ron Sweeney in a statement given to Billboard, Wayne received a purported lump sum of $10 million, as well as the rights to his music. His lawyer said, “My client is happy. He is his own man, a man that owns his assets, his music and himself.”

Wayne references his dominance over the rap game on the third song, “Dedicate” where he raps, “I started this shit, they borrowed this shit/I thought of this shit, they thought it was it.” Wayne also brings along a cast of characters from the current rap game to provide guest verses on “Tha Carter V,” with heavy hitters Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, and the late XXXTentacion, who made waves in hip-hop in 2017-2018. 

Birdman and Wayne seem to have reconciled. They appeared together at Lil Wayne’s Lil Weezyana Fest in New Orleans, where Birdman gave an earnest apology.  This is victory for artists over their labels, who possess far more money and lawyers. This was also a personal victory for Wayne and his fans, who have waited 4 years an album release. Lil Wayne fans -- the drought is over, and Wheezy is going nowhere. 

First Nation Author Maps Her Path to Healing

By Mohammad T. Khan

“Heart Berries” by Teresa Marie Mailhot is a New York Times Bestseller. Photo courtesy of Symposium Books.

Canadian author Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir, “Heart Berries” explores intersecting themes of family dysfunction, mental illness, maternal and erotic love, healing, and identity. The book powerfully shows how devastating abuse is across generations.

Raised on the Sea Bird Island Indian Reservation, Mailhot says her words are “too wrong and ugly to speak,” yet she balances brutal candor with poetic detail, especially in describing her love affair and eventual marriage to Casey, a creative writing professor and father of her third child.   

Mailhot links intergenerational family dysfunction to the socially marginalized status of Indians.  At turns troubled, intimate, empowered, defiant, and poetic, Mailhot’s non-linear account uses memory as a means of coming to terms with her own trauma and her identity as a woman and writer whose life has been haunted by the foreboding sense that “Indian women die early.”

The honest and affecting memoir recounts her coming of age, marriages and recovery from trauma. Mailhot marries at a very young age as the only means of escaping a legacy of abuse and crushing poverty, having aged out of the foster care system. She has two sons with her first husband, but her eldest son is taken away from her because of her mental illness. Mailhot moves to El Paso with her younger son, gets a GED and goes to college. There she begins an affair with creative writing professor Casey, who then withdraws from her mania and what seems to him excessive demands. When they break up, Mailhot ends up in a hospital. 

In the hospital, Mailhot is told that she has post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar II, and an eating disorder. Writing is offered there as a form of therapy, and she begins writing to Casey, which becomes part of the memoir. Although Casey is not committed to Mailhot, they resume their sexual relationship and she becomes pregnant. When she eventually marries Casey, the challenges of intimacy arouse memories of being sexually assaulted by her father, a trauma Mailhot understands she must confront. 

“I inherited black eyes and a grand, regal grief that your white women won’t own or carry. I don’t think you know how I felt, and I wondered what my grief looked like to you?” 

- Teresa Marie Mailhot, “Heart Berries”

In her writing, Mailhot effectively describes intergenerational dysfunction namely her neglectful mother and abusive alcoholic and abandoning father — and its impact. “None of us attended school frequently,” she writes of herself and her siblings. “All of us had substance abuse problems, which are still welcome over the very sober pain of remembering.” Her father’s abuse leads Mailhot to mistrust her partners. 

Her mother is loving but often neglectful. Mailhot describes how her mother once “lost” her while shopping, leaving her “accidentally locked in a bathroom stall in pitch black,” after an employee cleans and locks it when the shop closes. 

Far more destabilizing, her mother leaves Mailhot and her siblings for periods of up to three weeks, causing Mailhot to be put in foster care.  The abandonment leaves her insecure, and she carries this legacy of her parents’ abusive and neglectful behavior into her own life and pays a steep price for it. 

Mailhot also never loses sight of what it means to be an Indian in a white world. Nowhere is this collision more apparent than in her relationship with Casey: “White women have always made me feel inferior, but I don’t think you know how much. All you see is me killing ladybugs, or crying, or asking you what I did. You can’t know the spite of my feelings.” Mailhot sees judgment in Casey’s eyes: she’s brutal, she’s crazy, she’s the other. She struggles with feelings of inferiority, yet she also recognizes her worth as an Indian woman:  “I inherited black eyes and a grand, regal grief that your white women won’t own or carry. I don’t think you know how I felt, and I wondered what my grief looked like to you?” This paradox is central to the memoir. Mailhot does not flinch from exposing her feelings of intense vulnerability and anger. 

The heart berries of the title refer to healing lore in Native American culture and offer crucial hope. There is much illness and pain in the book, and everyone needs a healer, most of all Mailhot. “I knew I was not well. I thought of the first healer, who was just a boy. My friend Denise told me the story. She called him Heart Berry Boy, or O’dimin.” The title reflects the themes of illness and healing that run through the whole memoir, suggesting the possibility of healing for its author, and for First Nation people.