“I’ll Have What She’s Having…”

I guess it’s writer’s week here at The Fangirl’s Dilemma. I decided this because of my gushing over Aaron Sorkin, and now with Nora Ephron’s death, it seems inevitable.

First of all, I want to say how much I adored Ms. Ephron’s writing. When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorite movies of all time, I watch You’ve Got Mail everytime I find it on cable (EVERY DAMN TIME, I don’t care.) and I used to use Julie and Julia to kick me in the ass every time I thought the whole “I want to be a writer” thing was going nowhere. Which was fairly often.

I’ve also always thought that she was the kind of person who was overlooked, her talent and type of writing dismissed because of the weird and insidious sexism in entertainment.

Yes, Norah Ephron’s movies were frivolous, hopelessly bourgeois and kind of sentimental. Yes, you could dissect them bit by bit, and realize that they all sort of amount to the same thing. Of course, not all of them are as good as When Harry Met Sally.

But what I think gets overlooked, is that these movies are really, really, funny. But because Ephron was a woman, her movies were relegated to “chick flicks,” basically second class citizen in the comedy world. Ephron’s sensibility was similar to someone like Woody Allen, and while Allen is haled as a genius, her movies are dismissed as fluff.

This whole stigma is starting to change and I’m grateful for that at least. But I can’t help but think some of the truly kick ass women comedians who have been coming up decided that they could do it the first time they saw Sleepless in Seattle.

Rest in Peace Norah, we all want a little of what you were having!

I Kept The Car and The Utility Belt

I just watched The Newsroom for the second time, and back last week, Katherine posted this article from The Vulture on my facebook wall, ranking their favorite Sorkin characters.

While I passionately disagreed with some of the rankings, (Isaac is amazing but he does not outrank Sam! Sam Seaborne is the BEST!) I rather enjoyed the list.

So, I got to thinking, after deciding (on the second viewing) that my latest Sorkin-ese crush is adorable senior producer Jim Harper, I started thinking about the men or Sorkin past who I have had incurable crushes on.

When I mentioned to my friend Sam that I would probably be writing about Sorkin on this blog, he asked, “Is this going to be about how girls your age are all in love with Sam Seaborne?”

My answer was, “um some of us are in love with Josh Lyman thank you very much!”

OK, so here’s my list, From The West Wing: Sam Seaborne,  from Sports Night, Dan Rydell, and from Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip Tom Jeter. From the movies, Lieutenant Daniel Kaffe (A Few Good Men), and Eduardo (The Social Network, I know that Eduardo is a real person, but Andrew Garfield just makes him so freaking adorable…)

Anyway, when it comes to fangirling out about these things, it’s no mystery. Nerdy, straight girls swoon over these guys for the same reason the Kristin Chenoweth kept getting back together with Sorkin, words, words, words.

These guys make epic speeches about their love for the women in their lives, and the noble nature of man. They want to save the world and they want to do it with words. There is by the way, nothing sexier to someone who reads too much, talks to much, and just wants to banter and bicker with their partner.

I’m not saying that Jim Harper is on the list yet. But he’s definitely up there. It helped that when Maggie told him he was “like Batman,” he answered, “I am actually, I thought the cape was a little campy, but I decided to keep the car and the utility belt.”


I Wanna Rock

There are great movies. Movies that make you think, or feel something deep and different and change something in you. Then there are movies that take up space that should more than rightly belong to just the air.

Then there are movies like Rock of Ages.

The only word I can use is “ridiculous.” It seems like the right one.

Last night I went to go see it with my friend Kate. Just to clarify, I know I’ve only made reference to three friends on this blog, and they’re named, Kate, Katie, and Katherine, but they are 3 very different women. Even their names are different, Katherine, is Katherine, sometimes Frin. Katie’s name is Katie, that’s what it is on her birth certificate. And Kate is Kathleen, and those are the least of the differences between them. Anyway, we walked out unsure what to say.

“I didn’t think I would like it,” Kate said as we walked from the mall theater to our cars, “but it was just so funny!”

In a pop culture climate where “hate watching” is a thing, it’s no surprise that a movie like Rock of Ages would get made, and presumably, it is going to become a late night cable phenomenon, or at least do well when it inevitably is streamed on Netflix in a year and a half.

Because any movie where Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand singing a tender Journey song to one another and then making out doesn’t even rank in the top ten most ridiculous things to happen (Tom Cruise peeing on Paul Giammati’s foot while chugging 100 year old scotch however, might be number 1) definitely deserves many late night, carb and booze fueled rewatches.

Also, I’ve had this extreme urge to sing karaoke since about twenty minutes in to the movie. And I love anything where it looks like the people involved are having a lot of fun. (See, Ocean’s 11, 12, 13…) And that was the one thing that it seemed like the Rock of Ages cast was having in spades.

I have some quibbles, even from an awesomely bad standpoint. My main one is that Julianne Hough was criminally underused. You have at your disposal one of the greatest dancers in the world, (This is not an opinion, it’s a fact. She has multiple ballroom world championships and two mirrorball trophies from Dancing With The Stars!)  and she doesn’t really dance at all.

However, any and all problems with the movie can be completely justified by Tom Cruise’s brilliant performance as Stacee Jaxx, a weird love child of Jon Bon Jovi, Axl Rose and Bret Michaels (Bret’s hair, Jon’s talent and Axl’s attitude). Tom was either auto tuned beyond recognition or has been taking singing lessons since his Top Gun days, because he sounded great. He was also intensely hilarious, bizarrely sexy and seemingly in full control of his powers to command a screen. Say what you want about his crazy Scientology behavior, the man is a charismatic movie star and there is no one else like him.

Fresh faced Diego Boneta is adorable as Drew, a barback who dreams of rock stardom, but has crippling stage fright. He’s helped past it by Sherrie (Hough), a waitress at the club owned by Dennis (Baldwin) and run by Lonny (Brand). Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the newly elected Mayor’s wife (Mayor played by Brian Cranston), trying to shut down the club. Everything beyond that is just gravy, campy, campy, wonderful gravy.

Fast Talk: Sorkin, Sherman-Palladino and The Best Summer Ever

Remember when you and your friends and coworkers walked around talking really fast, consuming a ton of carbs without gaining a pound, and being better looking than everyone ever?


Right. Because no one’s life actually works that way. But if you were a TV addict from 1999-2007, you probably remembered people doing it on your TV a whole lot. Do you know why?

Because that was when The West Wing and Gilmore Girls were on the air. And the world was a much, much better place. (There was also Will And Grace, but that’s not relevant to this conversation.) The world was a mix of obscure cultural references, intense political optimism, and caffeine infused glee. (No, not Glee! That hadn’t happened yet…and life was so much simpler.)

Thankfully, that joyful and wonderful time is now creating a sequel, because both of the shows brilliant writers/creators. Aaron Sorkin and Amy Sherman-Palladino have new shows this summer!

Sherman-Palladino’s effort is the ABC Family dramedy Bunheads. I haven’t fallen in love with the show in it’s two episodes, but I am glad that more people will now recognize how wonderful Sutton Foster is. (Truth Musical Theatre Told Me: Sutton Foster is like bacon, she makes everything better. See: Shrek: The Musical) and there’s nothing else on in the summer anyway.

But the thing that has been preserved is that razor sharp banter, this time between Sutton and Kelly Bishop, instead of Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop. Also, there was actually a joke made about how “no one eats carbs anymore.” This made me laugh.

And of course, there’s The Newsroom, which hasn’t premiered yet, but I’m so excited for I can barely speak coherently. All I want is to be able to sit and listen to the gentle pitter patter of Sorkin dialog. And some days, this is what I do. I don’t know how The Newsroom is going to stack up, but I can’t wait for this team of Dan & Casey (Sports Night), Josh & Sam (The West Wing), and Matt & Danny (Studio 60).

I’ll have more to say about it on Sunday.

Hail to the historically inaccurate & totally bad ass chief

Sometimes actors develop trademarks. Like how Chris Evans is in a lot of comic book movies, or Vin Diesel blows things up, or Jason Lee makes Burt Reynolds references or Tom Cruise is always in the Navy (OK, that’s only twice, but come on Top Gun and A Few Good Men always win.)

Well, there’s a new sheriff in the random pattern town. His name is Benjamin Walker, and it looks like he’s going to make a career out of playing warped versions of our nation’s presidents.

Most people (or most nerds) know that Walker is poised to break in to the (nerdy) mainstream by playing Abraham Lincoln in the film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which come out this Friday. Most people (even nerds) don’t know or at least don’t realize that this isn’t the first time that Walker is taking a less than accurate walk through the White House.

He’s already played Andrew Jackson. But not you know, normally. He played him in the Off Broadway/Broadway musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. The show, um, played a little fast and loose with a few things. Namely, it portrayed him as an emo frontman.

Seriously. The show is brilliant and hilarious. How could it not be, with lines like, “I’m President Andrew Jackson. I am wearing some seriously tight jeans, and tonight we are going to delve in to some serious shit!” And Walker was amazing in it.

Also, this. And a lot of fake blood.

It’s also surprisingly poignant, reflecting on the way history gets colored and how we as a nation were formed in blood, and nothing is black and white.

Except for what a badass Andrew Jackson was. That’s pretty much black, or white.

Abraham Lincoln did not slay vampires, however. I mean, as far as I know.

The Fangirl’s Inheritance

I’ve talked a little about how some of my larger obsessions came from my mother. She walked me down the road to feminism, she introduced me to Patti Lupone (in utero no less!) and most importantly, she got me hooked on prime time soaps.

I’m serious here. Irene McLaughlin Nayden loves her some after dark drama. And it all started with Dallas.

My mother always, always, always, talked about Dallas and how much she loved it. She never missed an episode (she was busy having and taking care of babies throughout the 80’s, so I guess this was her form of excitement.) And she’s been chasing the prime time soap dragon ever since.

ER, Irene saw every episode. (Just this weekend we cried at a wedding with our table, talking about how sad we were when Mark Greene died.) Desperate Housewives? She stayed on the Lane through the end.  We never let her watch One Tree Hill (the horror of that may have torn our family apart!) but she’s hanging in there for, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Gossip Girl. And I’m pretty sure even Blake Lively doesn’t watch Gossip Girl anymore.

So, when TNT announced that they were going to create a sequel to her beloved Dallas, she was over the moon. I was pretty excited too. I’ve never actually seen an episode of Dallas, but I always knew I would have loved it, just based on my mother’s descriptions.

We watched the two and a half hour pilot last Wednesday and I felt crazy. I could not follow this show. People were quadruple crossing one another. And I was pretty sure that Larry Hagman was dead…but Mom was in heaven. When I said I was having trouble following she was unsympathetic.

“This is Dallas, Reenie,” she said simply. “You have to pay attention. This was how it worked in the 80’s.”

To be honest, I was mostly watching to get to see Jesse Metcalfe shirtless.

I did. I did see Jesse Metcalf with his shirt off. And it was wonderful!

Also, I kind of want John Ross to get South Fork…because that is going to be interesting, and this guy has so many issues he makes Chuck Bass look well adjusted. And really, if they’d decided to make Gossip Girl all about Chuck, I probably would still be watching it, so would a lot of people.

Besides my mom…

Goody Two Fangs

I had a job interview today!

But this post isn’t about this, except that it allowed me to finish Insatiable, which is Meg Cabot’s take on the whole “vampire craze.” I figure with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter coming out on Friday, this is as good a time as any for me to wade in to that water that is so fraught for fangirls (as it encompasses the best and worst of all of qualities) the “good vampire.”

I was devouring Insatiable, and it’s heroine Meena Harper’s (it’s funny because her name sounds like the girl from Dracula) relationship with Lucien Antenescu and I ran in to the problem that I always run in to with these stories. I didn’t want Meena to get together with Lucien, I wanted her to get together with Alaric Wulf, the sexy vampire hunter she starts hanging out with. I’m almost always rooting for the other guy…it’s kind of a pathology with me that I think goes back to singing “On My Own,” in my shower and thinking that Cosette was a tool and Marius should have ended up with Eponine. But it also got me thinking about a bunch of the other pop culture vamps that I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time with.

It would be wayward and stupid and unfair of me to start anywhere but with Angel. Angelus, Angel, Liam whatever you want to call him, is one of my all time favorite fictional characters, and absolutely my favorite of the vampires I’ll be talking about here. We first met him in the “Welcome to The Hellmouth” pilot for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon created him specifically to be Buffy’s wrong guy. What could be more awful for her, than to love a vampire, when it’s not only her job, but her divine mandate to destroy vampires and demons? He was the ultimate bad boy she had to stay away from, and couldn’t.

Thank God it didn’t just end there. Angel eventually became one of the most complicated, layered and amazing characters in the Buffyverse, which is saying something, because most of the characters are layered, complicated and amazing.  It starts in an episode entitled, “Angel,” where Buffy learns that he is a vampire, and an exceptionally famous and dangerous one at that. She (and we) learn, however, that a group of gypsies cursed Angel with a soul, so unlike most vampires, he has feelings, and more tortuously, can feel guilt and remorse. In this universe Vampires are sociopaths, they don’t feel things.  But Angel feels all kinds of things. And one of the most important things that he feels is love, and even more important than that, he feels love for Buffy.

The brilliant, Buffy Season 2 arc, in which Angel loses his soul and becomes Angelus again and all because he and Buffy had sex, and he liked it! Because the over arching theme of Buffy was that Buffy’s literal demons could also be manifestations of her figurative demons, this particular one was, “When you lose your virginity to an older guy, he becomes an asshole who no longer values your relationship.” Except in Buffy and Angel’s case it was, “you lose your virginity to an older guy and he no longer values your relationship, your sacred duty, or life in any kind of capacity and becomes a psycho killer.” Eventually, after killing a lot of people, and with some help from Spike (ohhh, Spike, he doesn’t get a place here because he’s not exactly good. If I ever get into a morally ambiguous hot blond vampire thing, I can talk about Spike, and Eric from True Blood, and Rosalie Cullen) Buffy and Co. get Angel his soul back, and send him to hell.

Yeah, this is where the “women they love,” thing comes in to play big time. Because part of what makes Angel more compelling than most of the other vampires on this list is that he’s in love with the woman is chosen by divine mandate (the powers that be) to destroy all of his kind. And even when it practically destroys her, she sends him to hell, because she has to. Because he hurt people she loved, and people she had never even heard of. And what’s even more amazing, is Angel understands this, forgives her for it, and it makes him love her even more.

Of course after twenty episodes of that, he gets fed up and runs away and gets his own show, where he solves crimes and impregnates another vampire, and does some other stupid stuff. But the over arching theme of Angel is that he is striving to become human. And why, would a super powered awesome vampire want to become human? Well, to be with the woman he loves. Which, if you believe in comic book sequels, is exactly what happens…um sort of, none of that is really easy to understand, because that’s how Joss Whedon rolls.

Beyond Angel, there are of course, other “good” vampires, and I might as well get my least favorite out of the way after my favorite. I’m talking about the sparkly, tree climbing, Volvo driving control freak that twelve year old girls all over the world swoon for, Mr. Edward Cullen.  Look, I’m not saying I hate Edward. Actually, when I read the Twilight books, I greatly enjoyed the character. I’ve been Team Jacob since minute one, but I at least saw Edward’s appeal. I absolutely understood why some girls would prefer him, and I totally understood why Bella Swann preferred him. Actually, my favorite thing about the Twilight universe is one of the most overlooked elements of Meyer’s take on vampires.

The constant complaint, from plenty of my friends, is that Twilight’s vampires aren’t vampires in the strictest sense. They go out in the day time, they can’t be killed with a stake, don’t mind garlic, or crosses, or silver or any of the other traditional vampire stuff. However, they are immortal, do subsist on blood (animal or human, depending on the clan) and don’t age. The sparkly thing, OK, most people are judging that off of the movies, who not only did a terrible job of portraying it visually, they also didn’t explain it properly.

In the Twilight universe, vampires are frozen in whatever state they were in when they became a vampire. They become a magnified eternal version of whoever they were in that moment. So Edward, who was an overly serious minded seventeen year old boy impatient to enlist in World War I, becomes forever stuck in the mindset of a serious minded seventeen year old boy preparing to go to war. He’s overly defensive and possessive for that reason. And Bella, who is an old soul no matter how you look at it, and is shy, serious minded herself, and used to taking care of people, is drawn to someone who’s main drive is to take care of her.

Another more physical result of this freezing, is that the vampires become like a sort of living rock. They sparkle but they aren’t “shimmery” it isn’t like they’re covered in glitter. They sparkle when they catch the light, like quartz or some other semi precious stone. It’s still a little stupid, but in context, it’s a lot less stupid. And if you consider the emotional consequences, which are laid out better in the books, because they’re explored through Edward’s “siblings” Rosalie and Jasper, (and kind of Emmet) it all makes a lot more sense.  And it makes Edward slightly less abhorrent and the attraction between him and Bella a little less, well, “huh?” It also helps when they’re being played by people in your head and not Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, who are basically just awful.

In the end, I’d still probably pick Jacob, but this isn’t about werewolves or my obsession with “the other guy,” it’s about vampires. Those are other posts for other days!

If we really want to go into the darkness, it would be impossible to ignore Bill Compton. Bill is, well, I’m pretty sure Bill is just meant to be a sex object. I never quite understood his character. I did understand that he was like some weird Edward/Angel mash up with a southern accent. (And before anyone jumps down my throat, I know that “The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries” which inspired True Blood predate Twilight. However, they didn’t come in to my pop culture sphere until after) Anyway, Bill’s entire existence seems to be only to protect Sookie from other vampires, and have sex with Sookie. I have never seen him be motivated by anything else. But I never enjoyed the books, and when the show decided that Sookie was a fairy, I stopped watching, so maybe things changed.

I dig his backstory though. William Compton was a Confederate soldier on his way home to rural Louisiana. Along the way he stopped at a home, looking for some food, shelter, standard wandering soldier on his way home fare. The woman living there introduced herself as Marlena, said she a widow and welcomed him in. After eating and drinking, she invited him in to her bed. A married and honorable man, Bill refused her, but not without saying that she shouldn’t sell herself short that way. He went to sleep and when he woke up, Marlena was drinking his blood.

See, Marlena was a crazy ass vampire. She decided that Bill’s refusal to sleep with her made him a worthy companion.  So she changed him in to a vampire, and revealed that this is what she does, she welcomes traveling soldiers, gets them fed, and when they take her up on the sex she kills them! Yay! Bill is disgusted and briefly tries to return to his human life. This fails miserably. Then he goes on to live with Marlena randomly killing people and being fabulous for a good fifty or so years. Then TruBlood get invented, Bill comes out of the coffin and starts dating a pretty little telepathic waitress, who’s actually a fairy.

The last vampire that I cannot get enough of, also gets the least amount of attention of any on this list. His name is Simon Lewis. He comes from a book series, The Mortal Instruments. You should read them, because they’re amazing. Simon is a terrifically over looked brother of the good vampires, mostly because unless you’re an x-core fangirl, you’re probably not terribly familiar with Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments Series. Even I overlooked them until this year. (I was suffering from Twilight/True Blood backlash, I wanted nothing to do with the Supernatural for a while.) But I’ve become a massive fan and a huge advocate of these books (and their companion series, The Infernal Devices). The main plot is an epic, tragic, ridiculous, love story between Shadowhunters (demon killers) Clary Fray and Jace Wayland. That’s far too complicated to get into here. But one of the most compelling side plots, of which there are many, concerns Clary’s best friend Simon who is turned in to a vampire in Book Two.

Simon is unique among vampires in The Mortal Instruments series for several reasons. His best friend is a Shadowhunter, as is his sort of girlfriend (Isabelle Lightwood). He’s also known as The Daylighter, because he drank Jace’s blood (Jace is part angel, yes I know) so he can go outside in the day time. Clary also drew the Mark of Cain on his forehead in order to protect him (Clary has magical drawing powers, I know, OK?  But the books actually are awesome). So he’s an invincible vampire who can go out in the day time. Oh and at the end of Book Five, he gets blessed by an angel so that he isn’t among the damned anymore.

I know I’m making him seem like the worst kind of Cullen, going out in the day, not actually being evil at all, but see that’s not what’s interesting about Simon, or about what Clare did with Simon. What’s interesting is that Simon is Jewish. As a result traditional methods of vampire harm, (aside from the day time stuff, because like I said, unique) because things like crosses, holy water etc. are Christian symbols, and Simon doesn’t believe in their power. However, the Sign of Solomon, The Star of David, these all burn his skin. For a short while in Book 3, The Shadowhunters imprison Simon, and do so by building a cell in the shape of a Star of David with a silver doorknob emblazoned with the sign of Solomon. It’s a very, very cool character quirk that makes him interesting. Because of being a Daylighter and having different weaknesses than the others, Simon doesn’t fit in with other vampires. This makes him extra broody and sarcastic.

Which, when it comes down to it, is what the whole thing is all about, right? These guys brood, snark and are slightly dangerous, and that’s what’s so very attractive about them.

Political Fangirling

I try not to spend too much time dealing with politics. I don’t really know enough about current issues to weigh in a lot of the time. But I am fascinated by the American political process and I love this country. But for the most part what I know about politics comes from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Aaron Sorkin (11 days until The Newsroom!) 

I do make certain exceptions, and one of them, is Miss Meghan McCain. She is as Katie calls it, “One of my weirder girl crushes.” (Girl Crush: a non sexual crush on a female celebrity who you think you should be best friends with) But in reality it’s not that weird.

I’m a *stage whisper* republican. I whisper it because it’s kind of a dirty word around a lot of people I know. I’m a theatre geek, with a women’s studies degree, who lives in one of the most liberal metropolitan areas in the country, in a staunchly blue state, with deep emotional ties to the gay community.

Yeah, not exactly screaming elephant with those characteristics. But that’s one of the reasons that I love Meghan. I started reading her blog The McCain Blogette while she was following her father’s presidential campaign in 2008. I’ve been a John McCain fan since I was twelve. You know those social studies projects where you have to do profiles on all of the candidates? Even at twelve, doing one of those profiles, everything about him made sense to me. His war record, the way he stuck to his guns, his big whacky cool family. (I didn’t know who Meghan was specifically, but I remember thinking that Cindy was pretty and I thought it was awesome that they adopted a baby girl.)

It didn’t hurt things that I grew up in a true red republican household. My parents despised Bill Clinton, not because he is sleaze bag number 1, although he is, but because he advocated a liberal tax policy and enacted don’t ask don’t tell (which is one of the greatest attacks on personal freedom in the history of this country!).

Anyway, back to Meghan, after reading her blog for a while and then following her twitter, I found myself stunned. After the 2008 election I was horribly disillusioned with the GOP and the republican party. I had watched a man I’d admired for most of my life run a campaign that I could barely get behind. I watched a woman who terrified me rise to super stardom saying things that I patently disagreed with. That being said, I voted for them anyway, because President Obama’s fiscal policy really scared me (still does). But even among my young republican friends, I was feeling like the moderate voice was being shut out.

Then came Meghan McCain. She was sassy and funny, and spoke her mind and had so many of the same opinions that I did, that I started spouting off about her to everyone. I read her book Dirty, Sexy Politics about six times. And when she announced what her new book was going to be, a roadtrip memoir written with Michael Ian Black about trying to find common ground given their different political opinions and backgrounds (to be fair everyone has a different political background than Meghan McCain.) I thought it sounded like the greatest thing ever.

America You Sexy Bitch, isn’t the greatest book ever. I’ve even read better road memoirs. But I was so giddy over the past twenty four hours, reading fun, cool moderate political commentary and conversation (Black is a moderate democrat and one of my favorite comedians of all time). I was grateful for every page, every awkward exchange and every minute.

People can fangirl over a lot of things. To me Meghan McCain’s sheer enthusiasm about politics in general and conservative politics in particular qualifies as fangirling. And my girl crush on her definitely qualifies. And the way I squee-ed over the book being delivered to my kindle yesterday morning, well, that speaks for itself.

“I just want to fit in:” Identity and X-Men

X-Men: First Class has been airing on the HBO’s recently. This makes me happy, since I love all things superhero, specifically, adore the X-Men, who I credit with getting me in to them to begin with (watching their animated adventures on Saturday mornings with my older brother remains one of my favorite childhood memories), and I love, love the awesome ethical conversations between Professor X and Magneto throughout film series in particular, due in no small part to the excellent performances of Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan in the original trilogy.

First Class puts those conversations in a new light, because we see Charles Xaiver and Erik Lensher’s younger selves, (played with miraculous clarity by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) and how they became the men they became. I was probably the only person in the world who walked out of the movie saying, “it was good, but am I the only person who wishes they played chess and talked about ethics more?” (the answer to that question is always yes! Also the occasional, “How big a dork are you, that the new X-Men movie wasn’t nerdy enough for you?”)

But there’s an added layer to First Class, that I missed the first time around. While I really missed my favorite character in the story (Storm has always, always been my favorite, even as a little kid), and I hate January Jones with a firey passion (I used to think the whole bored, dead behind the eyes thing was a character choice for Betty Draper, turns out it’s just the only thing she can do.) upon rewatching, I noticed the conflict between Hank McCoy (later Beast) and Raven (later Mystique) is almost as interesting as the Erik and Charles stuff.

Their side plot revolves around Hank creating a serum to normalize mutant appearance. It wouldn’t effect abilities, merely cosmetic appearance. Raven donates her blood to help, given that her shapeshifting abilities probably hold the key to any kind of control over appearance. In the end, it causes an amplification of Hank’s “beastly” visage, and Raven rejects the use of the serum, and Hank rejects her, and her acceptance of her true self.

In the original trilogy, Mystique remains a figure of mystery, probably because she was being played by a super model who was just getting her feet wet in the acting world. (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos-Romijn-O’Connell turned out to be a pretty good actress.) But in First Class, she’s given a fully flushed out character, her romantic relationship with Erik clearly stemming from the childhood crush never acted upon with Charles, (and her hurt from Hank’s rejection and cushion of Erik’s praise) is no small feet for future (current?) fangirl icon Jennifer Lawrence, (Seriously? Girl gets to be one of the X-Men and Katniss, all before her 21st birthday.) Here, Raven is wounded, damaged and above all searching for her place in the world.

Beast doesn’t even show up in the original films, until the last one, and even then he’s hardly at peace with his blue skin, furry face and unbelievable animal strength. Also he’s played by Frasier, so that probably sucks…but in First Class, he’s a tortured genius, the first of the X-Men, and trying to make it in the human world. He thinks he’s found a friend in this quest with Raven and in the end she feels very differently about it.

In the end, First Class like the pantheon of X-Men stories, from film, television and comics, is about young people trying to find their place in a world that doesn’t want them. And since most teenagers feel that way sometimes, it’s no surprise that this series is still going strong for so long.

Lies Musical Theatre Told Me Part 2: Patti Lupone Made Me Do It

Did you expect less from me on Tony night?

Sometime, when musical theatre lies, it isn’t about a grand soaring idea, it’s just about the way you see the world. This is because when you’re interested in musical theatre, chances are you don’t spend a whole lot of time around people who are interested in musical theatre and it begins to consume your life and thought process. And as a result, you see things, people, everything in ways that are different than the way the rest of the world does. Or in this case, you see certain people differently than others do. For example, I spend a whole lot of time trying to reconcile the real world with the view that:

Patti Lupone is the most powerful woman to ever live

In case you’re completely unfamiliar with musical theatre (or at least had your awakening sometime in the Rent, Chicago, High School Musical time frame) Patti Lupone is one of the grande dame musical theatre divas. After being a member of the inaugural class of Juliard’s acting school, and then a founding member of “The Acting Troupe” she went on to star in some of the most amazing roles in musical theatre history, she played Eva Peron in Evita, Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Fantine in Les Mis, Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, and of course the mother of all female Broadway roles, Mama Rose in Gypsy.

La Lupone is a polarizing figure. People love her, they hate her, they love to hater her. I’m in the first camp. I love Patti more than is probably healthy. My obsession with Patti Lupone is one of those things that my mother gave to me, however inadvertently. See, my mom saw her in Les Miserables in London in the late 80’s. She was pregnant with me. The way she says it, she was spoiled by seeing that brilliant original cast. When “I Dreamed a Dream” gets stuck in my head, it’s LuPone’s voice that I hear. “I Dreamed a Dream” was one of those songs that made me want to sing, and it was her version that did it.

When I was 16 I was smug little feminist, and there were certain songs that I absolutely refused to sing because I felt they, and the shows they went along with promoted violence and horrifying attitudes towards women (it’s another post all together, that one) but the one exception was “As Long As He Needs Me” from Oliver.  How do you ask, did my voice teach get me to compromise on this one, “You know, Reenie, Patti Lupone played Nancy.” It was over, I would compromise any and all principals if I could even touch her shadow.

Speaking of touching her shadow, my mother once almost refused to go see Sunset Boulevard on Broadway because it was starring Glen Close instead of Patti she was fired in a most controversial way), and she stated “I’m not going to pay good money to see Glen Close approximate Patti Lupone!” She ended up going, but she saw Betty Buckley (who I guess was an acceptable substitute). See, this one was given to me by my mother.

Here’s the weird part…I’ve never seen the woman perform live. Not once. I wasn’t born for Evita, Les Miserables, or Anything Goes. I was too young for a lot of her prolific work in the 90s, and was living in Pennsylvania for college during Sweeney Todd and Gypsy, and couldn’t get anyone to go see her and Mandy Patinkin together in their showcase this past winter.

And yet I’m transfixed by her. My friend Katie and I take posed pictures with “Evita Arms” anywhere we deem appropriate (hotel balconies tend to be the winner) and just tonight, I put myself in to hysterics watching her sing five lines with Neil Patrick Harris on the Tonys, and squeeed with fangirly glee as she and Mandy framed the words, “there’s nothing more we can think of to say to you.”

But as it turns out, the world at large does not care much at all about Patti Lupone. She’s a minor star, everywhere but the Great White Way.

But let’s just face it, the truth, she’ll never leave us. And that’s how we want it.