Books and movies to watch out for in 2016

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that reading books and watching movies are two of my favourite ways to rest, relax and recharge.

I love this quote from an Iranian woman photographed by the Humans of New York project:

HONY books photo

Books and films can transport you into different lives, different worlds, different possibilities. And reading a book or watching a movie you enjoy can be a real mood-booster too. The last movie I saw was Joy (here’s my review), and I felt great when I left the cinema.

We’re a week into the new year already, and 2016 has some exciting new books and movies in store. Last year, I wrote that I was looking forward to Far from the Madding Crowd with Carey Mulligan and the adaptation of the Irène Némirovsky novel Suite Française.

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The problem with feminist characters

During the past few days, I have read at least two or three separate articles on why Katniss Everdeen is such a great female role model. Katniss is the lead protagonist of The Hunger Games series of books and films. She is a very human character with flaws and vulnerabilities. She is also determined, strong and she does things on her own terms. In her fictional dystopian universe, a futuristic imagining of the United States, inequalities between social classes are a bigger problem than inequalities between gender.

The most recent movie, adapted from the book, focuses partly on revolutions and uprisings in the twelve districts which are controlled by the totalitarian regime of the Capitol. And Katniss’s refusal to define herself by relationships with men, unlike some other mainstream franchise characters (Bella Swan, I’m looking at you), has led to her character being acclaimed as a pop culture feminist role model.

Photo credit: © 2013 - Lionsgate Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).

Photo credit: © 2013 – Lionsgate
Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).

The issue of gender discrimination in film is nothing new. The Bechdel test was developed in 1985 and it scores movies and other works of fiction based on the criteria that “it has to have at least two [named] women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man” (Bechdel Test). Recently, a few independent Swedish cinemas have started rating the movies they show and giving them a grade based on whether they pass the Bechdel test. I think there are flaws with this: a movie can still be sexist or demonstrate gender inequalities even if it contains two female characters who talk about something other than relationships. But it does highlight the fact that a lot of movies are based on models of gender bias which do not fit the feminist ideology of equality. Perhaps needless to say, The Hunger Games passes the Bechdel Test with an A grade.

However, the fact that we need to make a point out of having strong female characters demonstrates that we have a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great to have feminist characters, especially in mainstream franchises. But I think the fact that we have to make such a big deal out of it is representative of a wider problem: of inequalities which still linger. It highlights the issue, at least in my eyes, that it is necessary to define characters by feminist and non-feminist. By all means, we still need to work towards equality but I hope that it will become standard for women to be represented in all forms of media without gender discrimination. Only then will we know that true and meaningful progress has been made.

A guest post for Protect My Public Media

Image copyright Cultural Life (2013). Created using wordle.net

Image copyright Cultural Life (2013). Created using wordle.net

Today I am a guest blogger for the organization, Protect My Public Media, where I share the reasons why I love public radio and my This American Life obsession.

You can read my post by clicking here.

Weekly writing challenge: ebook or real book?

This week’s writing challenge from The Daily Post is a “Mind the Gap” challenge, inviting bloggers to share their opinion on a controversial issue.

This week:

How do you prefer to read, with an eReader like a Kindle or Nook, or with an old school paperback in hand?”

Technology
Public domain image: Science And Technology by Petr Kratochvil

I taught myself to read when I was four years old. I have always loved books. If I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I seek out the nearest book store and dive into it; being surrounded by literary tomes is very calming and I will happily spend hours browsing. When I first heard about eReaders, I was emphatically unimpressed. I am not a Luddite. I don’t have a problem with technology. But now that eReaders are ever-increasing in popularity, it is becoming a serious issue.

I would like to skirt around the topic and diplomatically say that both ways of reading have their merits. But I’m not going to sit on the fence bookshelf. I prefer paper-and-ink books: A) With ebooks it is impossible to replicate the wonderful feeling of picking up a brand new book that you have bought, running your finger down its glossy unbroken spine and becoming absorbed in its pages. B) You can’t have chatty conversations with the book store assistant about which books to purchase. C) Looking through the ebook section online is simply not the same as browsing in person. Spending hours on a computer makes my eyes feel like they have run a marathon or the optical equivalent of one. What would that be? A readathon, I presume.

The idea of a world without paper-and-ink books is frankly dystopian. You wouldn’t be able to hunt out a treasure in a preloved book store or go to the library. You wouldn’t be able to flip through the worn pages of your favorite literary treasure so you can find the best quotes. eReader buttons are not an adequate replacement. Furthermore, books have personality! Call me a geek or a nerd or whatever but I love owning different copies of my most loved books. I have around three or four copies of some of my favorite literary classics because they have different illustrations or interesting covers. Personal preference for real paper-and-ink books aside, I am curious about copyright issues related to the popularity of ebooks. Illegal sharing and misuse of files is known to be a common problem in the music and film industries. Will the ebook industry have the same issue?

Have I convinced you about the ebook versus physical book debate yet? Ebooks may be the future, as some people proclaim, but I will not succumb willingly. I will continue browsing in book stores, looking in the library and lending books to friends. Some things are just too sacred to be changed.

Having said all this, I am a hypocrite. The reason for this shocking two-facedness? I am currently thinking about jumping on the bandwagon and buying a Kindle (they are portable and great for traveling), although the mere notion of buying one feels like being unfaithful to my beloved real books.

What do you think about eReaders? Do you think ebooks will overtake paper-and-ink books in terms of popularity or do you think ebooks and physical books can comfortably co-habit? Share your thoughts in the comments section below; I’d love to hear them!