Netflix’s new film Enola Holmes is a feminist piece that uses certain tropes to enlighten its target audience on the potential of females. While doing so, it also features words of wisdom applicable to college students around the world.
Starring Millie Bobby Brown, this film is a new addition to the Victorian-era detective universe created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Released on September 23, 2020, it focuses on Enola Holmes, the famous Sherlock Holmes’ younger and more ambitious sixteen-year-old sister. The film’s narrative allows Enola to put her detective work to the test in pursuit of finding her missing mother.
The movie contains a multitude of themes — namely that of family, identity, independence, and feminism in the Victorian era. However, some have questioned how loyal the film’s feminist themes are to the current gender movement, and whether the film contains any nuggets of advice that may be applicable to today’s youth.
“You’ll do very well on your own, Enola.”
Analyzing the film’s use of feminist tropes reveals a connection between the Victorian era and today. As a child, Enola is homeschooled by her mother Eudoria Holmes, who Enola narrates was “not an ordinary mother.” Enola was not taught to “string seashells or practice my embroidery,” instead, focusing on science, reading, athletics, and critical thinking.
This is an inaccurate portrayal of women in the Victorian era; in the 19th century, girls were encouraged to develop graceful artistic and housekeeping skills with the goal of supporting a husband. The film goes against this grain by depicting Enola and her mother as vibrant, vigilant women who favored independence.
All the skills taught by Eudoria come into play later as Enola encounters various obstacles in pursuit of finding her mother. Enola’s name, spelt “alone” backwards, is also a testament to the independent streak Eudoria engrained in her daughter.
The decision to display Enola as a character deserving of attention as a protagonist, however, somehow downplays the realism of the narrative. Both her brothers are portrayed as accomplished and erudite, and yet Enola takes upon the arduous task of finding their mother, despite previously never having left the safety of her home.
“The more I have spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” admitted Emma Watson at the UN General Assembly in 2014.
While it is excusable to shave off some realism in favor of iconizing a female protagonist, perhaps giving them more time to interact with each other would have been more pleasing instead of simply isolating her experience from theirs. This would show that the film not only aims to empower young women, but also to teach them about equality. That being said, idealist fantasies can be argued to do more good than harm in the context of this film.
Another crucial observation to be made is that Enola is part of the Holmes family, which provides her with a certain leverage. In addition to having a progressive mother, she also hails from a considerably wealthy and respectable background thanks to her famous brothers. As a result of this, she has the freedom to pursue certain schools of thought, which may not be the case for other demographics. In comparison, Enola’s jiu-jitsu teacher Edith is forced to hold her classes in a hidden dojo above a café.
“There are two paths you can take, Enola. Yours, or the path others choose for you.”
Despite being a film set in Victorian England and concerning women in the Victorian era, the female characters of influence in Enola Holmes offer nuggets of advice that can be of use to students of a variety of demographics.
One piece of advice Eudoria Holmes gives Enola concerns her autonomy in her life decisions. “There are two paths you can take, Enola. Yours or the path others choose for you,” she says early on in the film. Such advice from a woman in the 19th century is not only commendable, but also relevant to many today. Millions of adolescents are forced into social or career paths that go against their goals, interests and desires, leading to a variety of problems as they grow older.
A survey conducted by Target Jobs reported that more than half of participating students had their choice of career influenced by their parents. Additionally, almost 70 percent of the parents had attempted to influence their choice of university. Eudoria makes a firm point about exploring the nooks and crannies of control that let you steer your life in the direction you want it to.
“Paint your own picture, Enola. Don’t be thrown off-course by other people.”
While most students may agree with decisions made by their parents, some are forced down paths not compatible with their own interests or goals. “Other people” in the context of this quote can also be referring to male influences, which have the power to hinder and redirect worldly issues brought to light by women.
“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent,” said Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The association of phrases such as “feminine”, “ladylike” and “warm” primarily with females can be brought up here. What Eudoria Holmes considers independence and autonomy, her other son Mycroft sees as “wild” and “dangerous”.
“Perhaps she wants to change the world.”
Sherlock says this to Enola when discussing their mother’s absence, to which Enola responds, “Perhaps it’s a world that needs changing.”
From Nobel Prize laureates like Malala Yousafzai and environmental activists like Greta Thunberg, women’s roles in global issues have been a major concern of the feminist movement, even as a result of other areas of concern.
For instance, with the increasing awareness of the gender dichotomy and the pay gap between men and women, mothers like Pushka in India are paid the equivalent of less than a dollar for the production of goods sold for hundreds of dollars.
A report for the UN Development Program pointed out that while the number of women being paid for work has increased, the work is limited to the informal sector. This does not take into account the hours put into domestic work, in addition to addressing personal issues and goals.
Minor victories have made their way into the narrative, however. In Europe, women were able to achieve paid maternity leave; while in America, some ambitious women have been able to independently make their way up the financial ladder. Awareness of the polarizing effects of gender dichotomy is also being made more aware through the advent of social media.
“There’ll come a time when you have to make a hard choice. And in that moment, you’ll discover what mettle you truly have — and what you’re prepared to risk for what matters.”
Eudoria Holmes’ words of wisdom to her daughter contain several grains of truth. The beauty of this wisdom, however, is that it can be applied anywhere — to one’s social life, career paths, on self-improvement, and even in relationships. Every college student is faced with difficult decisions that have the power to make a lasting impact on their lives.
More often than not, however, most students are unaware of the potential within them in tackling their desired life paths. It is also important to remember that one is allowed to feel sad when making the right decision.
A feeling of cognitive dissonance is not unusual to someone choosing to tread down the path less taken. Just as Enola was confident that her desire to see her mother would guide her towards her, so should you be aware of the rewards waiting to be reaped with that first step.
Netflix’s Enola Holmes uses feminist tropes that draw clear parallels to today’s struggles. Its illustration of the rebellious women in the Victorian era is vibrant with facts and emotion that strikes an audience of today’s generation. Despite being set in the 19th century, the film offers valuable advice on self-autonomy and the power of making one’s own decisions.
A New Home for Asian American Representation in Film
After the onslaught of negative reactions to Mulan (2020), Disney’s recent film announcements offer new hope for Asian representation in the entertainment industry. From Raya and the Last Dragon to Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings, Disney has opened up a larger space for Asian Americans to shine, but can they do it right this time? Here are a few movies that offer a new home for Asian American representation in film.
Mulan in Crisis
Over quarantine, Disney+ users dreamed about the promise of greater authenticity and Chinese representation in the live-action of Mulan. The film had an aggressive campaign of staying true to the original ballad of Mulan, and established a more serious approach than its animated companion.
Soon after its release, however, audiences were sorely met with lackluster characterization and collapsing themes of Asian female empowerment. In addition to the outrage concerning main actress Yifei Liu’s support of Hong Kong police, Mulan (2020) suffered from its generalization of Chinese history and glorification of outdated values.
As Disney enters a new era in the streaming industry, however, there has been some hope for growth in its relationship with Asian representation.
Raya the First
Though some have pointed out its stylistic similarity to Avatar: The Last Airbender, many others have applauded Raya and the Last Dragon for its introduction of Southeast Asian representation into the animated sphere. The new film portrays Raya, a fictional Southeast Asian warrior princess, who must search for the last dragon in order to save her world.
Throughout its trailer, Raya and the Last Dragon hints at a variety of Southeast Asian cultures. Producers have claimed inspiration from countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and others, but many viewers have recognized the film’s direct representation of Filipino design and culture.
While the ability to openly point out such specific cultural moments paves an optimistic path, another question arises in Disney’s choice for a film that works to “blend Southeast Asian cultures” rather a distinct country. This particularly speaks to the ways in which Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander communities are too often consolidated as one culture. Whereas films like Mulan enjoy the cultural specificity of being Chinese, Moana and now Raya and the Last Dragon must settle for a more generic representation of being “Southeast Asian” or “Pacific Islander”, as opposed to Filipino or Tongan.
This also comes with the replacement of half-Filipina Cassie Steele with Vietnamese Kelly Marie Tran. While Raya and the Last Dragon has been largely recognized for its distinctive Filipino references, the film continues to largely err on the side of mixing (and potentially confusing) a variety of Southeast Asian creatives.
In the midst of such a struggle, however, Raya and the Last Dragon nevertheless represents the beginning of Southeast Asian involvement in the film industry, with hopes for more to come.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of Yellow Peril
Marvel’s latest Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings also provides a new avenue for Asian representation, especially in the superhero realm.
Simu Liu, set to play Shang-Chi, has been a longtime favorite in the Asian American film industry. From acting in short films with Wong Fu Productions to playing the sweet but arrogant Jung on Kim’s Convenience, Liu is a familiar face in the Asian American community and reflects their desire for diversity on camera.
However, there is hesitation about rehashing the damaging Asian stereotypes from the original Shang-Chi comics. Inspired by the age of martial arts films, Shang-Chi echoes the era of Fu Manchu and Yellow Peril, when Asians were essentially characterized as purely evil.
Fu Manchu represented the culmination of America’s anti-Asian, anti-immigrant anxieties and fears. In the comics, Shang-Chi is the son of Fu Manchu and equips his martial arts to destroy his father. Such a relationship spoke to the utilization of the “best” parts of Asian culture (a.k.a martial arts) to take down the “worst” parts (acting or looking “too Asian”). This divisiveness ultimately denounces an Asian identity, uplifting only that which is “best” in the eyes of others.
Knowing this history, Shang-Chi holds the potential to backslide in the same ways that Mulan (2020) did, by focusing too much on a presumed perspective of “authenticity”. In the making of Shang-Chi, Disney must pull from contemporary Asian America, rather than its past.
As Simu Liu has pointed out, however, there is hope! Both Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings and Raya and the Last Dragon have released their massive inclusion of a largely Asian and Asian American cast and creative team. This means that, in contrast to Mulan’s implementation of solely Asian actors, these two new films will be written and creatively produced by the same people it seeks to represent. In this way, Disney is truly learning from its failure with the live-action Mulan (2020). Though there has been some early criticism for the next two films, a positive anticipation flourishes in Disney’s changes for greater Asian representation in film and media.
Grammy Nominations for 2020 Miss the Mark For Rap Album of the Year
Rap has recently become the most populars genre of music in America, but despite this, the Grammys continue to nominate rap albums that are not representative of the genre as a whole. The Grammy nominations for 2020’s Rap Album of The Year were swept under the rug by the ongoing pandemic, but nevertheless, hip-hop fans across the country were taken aback by the albums that the Academy chose to nominate, as well as leave out. In a year where trap music swept hip-hop, with artists like Lil Baby and Lil Uzi Vert dominating the charts, not one nominated album falls into this subgenre. Hip-hop fans across the country simply want to know: why?
The Grammy’s controversy with Rap Music
To answer this question we must first look at the history of the Grammys, an organization that has been making faux pas in their rap nominations since the inception of the category. In 1996, the year the Grammy’s created the Rap Album of The Year Award, 2-Pac’s Me Against The World, lost to Naughty By Nature’s Poverty’s Paradise, which was, to put it bluntly, a horrible decision. Many believe 2-Pac, who died later the same year, was one of the GOAT’s (Greatest of All Time) in Hip-Hop, and to lose in this manner, with debatably his strongest work, is emblematic of the way the Grammy’s make their decisions.
Don’t just take my word for it, though; in 2008, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included Me Against the World in the Definitive 200 Albums of All Time list, and Pac’s first #1 single Dear Mama, which appeared on the album, went platinum, just five months after its release.
Naughty By Nature, which was extremely popular in the early 90’s, were by no means a bad rap group, but their Grammy win in 1996 set a precedent for the Academy that showed how out of touch they were with the hip-hop community.
To give a more recent example, Kendrick Lamar(another rapper understood as one of the GOAT’s), was nominated in 2014 for his album Good Kid Maad City, which is universally respected as one of the best rap albums of this decade. Nevertheless, Macklemore, whose hit song Thrift Shop went viral that same year, won the award with his debut album The Heist. This name was ironically fitting for the album, with Macklemore himself texting Kendrick after his win, stating, “You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you.”
With rappers themselves feeling like their wins were unwarranted, and albums of the highest tier getting snubbed for the award, we start to get a picture of where the Grammys have gone awry in the past. This year, we see a similar phenomenon, with a list of nominees that ranges from Freddie Gibbs “Alfredo”, which critics ranked as one of the top albums of the year, top Royce Da 5’9’s “The Allegory” which was described by as “(featuring) as many showy passages as clunky stumbling blocks.”
This Years Nominations
Two of the five albums nominated this year were, in my opinion, deserving of this honor. As I mentioned previously Alfredo, a collaborative project between rapper Freddie Gibbs, and producer The Alchemist, is a dynamic piece of music. The alchemist’s style complements Gibbs’ rough but melodic flow perfectly, and “on Alfredo, that style is vintage luxury, bathed in elegant piano with faded textures colored by time that sound even more beautiful now than when they were new.” Additionally, Jay Electronica’s long-awaited A Written Testimony is a mystical, distinctive work that nearly lives up to all the lore surrounding the rapper.”
Also described as “a prayerful offering that expresses the many spiritual and communal virtues he has internalized”, A Written Testimony, is one of those rap albums that you may not listen to in the club, but you have to respect for its intricate lyricism and complex themes throughout.
Both Alfredo and A Written Testimony received rave reviews from critics, with an 8/10 and 8.5/10 respectively, and were some of the best lyrical rap albums of the year. The issue with this year’s nominations arises with the rest of the nominees. All three were poorer versions of the lyrical subgenre in rap, showing a lack of variety or holistic taste from the Academy, while also taking up the space of more deserving albums. D Smoke’s Black Habits was definitely the best of the three, as it “(weaved) soulful, jazz, gospel, spoken word with a dose of Spanish, acoustic vibes, and a touch of synth to explore the central theme.”
This album simply didn’t deserve a Grammy nod because of D Smokes’ lack of experience in the rap game. The Winner of the hip-hop reality TV competition Rhythm and Flow in 2019, Smoke absolutely deserves his nomination in the Best New Artist category. Unfortunately, other rappers with equally good, if not better, albums, a solid fanbase, and extensive history in the genre are more deserving of the Album of The Year nomination.
The other two nominees are where it starts to get worse, with Nas’ Kings Disease getting a Grammy nod despite its description as (marking) a retreat into a nostalgia-act comfort zone, one that suits him even as it yields diminishing returns.” Nas’ has the inverse problem of D Smoke with this album; he is too far towards the end of his career, as opposed to too close to the beginning. With a rating of 6.3/10, this is one of Nas’ least exciting albums, and it just feels like a strange nomination, with no clear justification by the Academy. The final Album of the Year nominee is Royce Da 5’9’s The Allegory. With a 5.8/10, The Allegory does not live up to the weaker competition in this list by the critics’ standards and was not impressively popular on the charts. Unlike the wise knowledge dropped by Jay Electronica on A Written Testimony, this album“features as many showy passages as clunky stumbling blocks”, as Royce conveys “a heavy-handed attempt at converting his listeners to woke enlightenment.”
The 3 Albums the Grammys Missed…Badly
- Lil Baby’s My Turn was one of the most popular albums of the year with 197K first week sales/streams, making up for its less than phenomenal 6.6/10 critic rating. Despite criticism, the album still features some of the year’s biggest songs including Woah and Grace Ft.42 Dugg, and in a year so big for Baby, the album definitely deserved recognition over some of the others that were chosen.
- Polo G’s The Goat was a great follow up to his debut, being extremely popular and well-reviewed by critics. One article stated “The Chicago rapper’s follow-up to his riveting debut LP argues for him as an adaptable and unmissable talent, an unlikely star in a new major-label system…Polo G raps with a sing-song lilt, but his songs are shaded with murders, heartbreak, and incredible pain.” With a 7.7/10 rating and 99,00 first week sales/streams, The Goat has both the popularity and respect to deserve a nomination, in a year where Polo G cemented himself as one one of the largest up and coming faces in Hip Hop
- Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake was one of the biggest rap albums of 2020, and with 288,00 first week sales/streams, it is a shock that it was left off the nominee listing. Matching Jay Electronica’s critical review of 8.4/10, and with incredible sales, Eternal Atake has an even better argument than The Goat for having both critical acclaim and chart-topping numbers. In the album, “The Philly rapper has evolved into an untouchable pop artist in sound and style. With deliriously good rapping and immaculate production, Uzi makes an event album live up to its name.”
Different Ways to celebrate Christmas-Comparing Christmas Traditions Across the Globe
Christmas caroling, gingerbread houses, eggnog and candy canes are an indication that the holiday season is upon us. In the U.S. and certain other countries, we have traditions like setting out milk and cookies for Santa, lining our mantels with stockings, and hanging wreaths and bright lights outside. But many other countries around the world have their own unique traditions to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year. Let’s take a look at some of the different ways other cultures embrace the magic of Christmas.
Region of Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico, Christmas is an extravagant, go-all-out type of holiday. Christmas celebrations start the day after Thanksgiving and last until the beginning of January. An important holiday tradition is caroling, referred to as a parranda, meaning the gift of music. The parranda isn’t your average Christmas caroling excursion; there are maracas, guitars and tamboras involved, making it all the more festive. In many cities, fireworks are set off each night in celebration. Some special holiday foods in Puerto Rico include lechón asado (a pork dish), tembleque (coconut pudding), and coquito (a coconut-rum drink).
Christmas is a holiday that is typically associated with winter. But in Australia, Christmas takes place in the summer season, swapping snowmen for sandmen. The beach is a very popular destination on Christmas day, filled with live music, barbeques, and decorated trees in the sand. If you’re lucky, you may even see Santa Claus, better known as Father Christmas in Australia, surfing the waves. Australians also celebrate the holiday season by gathering in large groups to sing Christmas carols with candles in hand. This tradition is known as ‘Carols by Candlelight.’
Rovaniemi, located in Lapland, Finland, is a city noted for its holiday spirit. In fact, Rovaniemi is the official hometown of Santa Claus. Santa’s post office (it’s a real post office) is open year-round, collecting letters from thousands of children. The subpolar climate of Rovaniemi makes the city a winter wonderland for several months. Christmas theme parks filled with reindeer sleigh rides and Santa and his elves make for a wonderful holiday experience.
In Mexico, the Las Posadas celebration begins on December 16th and ends on Christmas Eve. Communities dress up and reenact Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem in search of shelter. There’s music, parties, and holiday foods such as buñuelos, a dessert made of fried dough and topped with cinnamon sugar or syrup. On Christmas Eve, the party culminates with the breaking of piñatas.
Germany has a rich history of Christmas traditions, some more terrifying than others. In Germany and some other European countries, the Krampus, an evil demon-goat creature, is rumored to be Santa’s evil relative. Krampus punishes children who misbehave, and if you’re in Germany, you may see people dressed up as Krampus wandering through the streets and scaring bystanders. On a happier note, Christmas markets and holiday shopping are all the rage in Germany. In the city of Nuremberg, Christkindlesmarkt is a famously large Christmas market, attracting millions of visitors each year. Famous holiday foods at this market include gingerbread, bratwursts, and fruitcake.
Although only a small fraction of the population of Japan is Christian, the spirit of Christmas is still in the air. In Japan, millions of families celebrate Christmas with a special tradition: a chicken dinner, typically from KFC. Santa Claus has been traded in for Colonel Sanders. In some ways, Christmas in Japan is celebrated in the same way that we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Rather than spending Christmas day with family, couples go out for romantic dinners.
In Amsterdam, Santa Claus is not the only one to deliver presents — Sinterklaas, a Santa-like Nordic figure, also distributes gifts to children. Sinterklass sails from Spain over to the Netherlands to deliver presents on December 5. Santa then arrives on Christmas day to fill childrens’ shoes with gifts. Another important Christmas tradition in the Netherlands is gourmetten, a big dinner where meats and vegetables are grilled at the table, and underneath the grill or hot plate, tiny pans filled with sauces and cheeses are broiled. These dinners somewhat resemble an indoor barbeque.
In Iceland, the Yule Lads, 13 mischievous troll-like figures, deliver gifts to children or give them potatoes if they have been naughty that year. Starting on December 12th, a different lad visits each night leading up to Christmas. Children leave their shoes out on windowsills in anticipation of the Yule Lads’ visits. Grýla, the mother of the Yule Lads, is a scary troll rumored to eat misbehaving children.
While many Christmas celebrations and family traditions are on hold due to Covid, it’s always nice to reminisce on the pre-Covid holiday seasons, as we hope to resume the celebrations next year.
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