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, to focus 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 Hollywood
After the onslaught of negative reactions to Mulan (2020), Disney’s recent film announcements offer new hope for Asian representation in the entertainment industry.
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.
An overwhelming backlash, in this case, was inevitable. The Asian American community responded with a plethora of media criticizing Disney’s failures with Mulan.
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.
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.
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.
Hanukkah: 8 Things You Might Not Know About the Eight Nights
It’s finally the holiday season here in the US, and all the signs are upon us. Christmas music is playing in most public spaces on the rare occasions we leave our homes, decorations and Christmas trees are going up in private and public spaces, and anticipation of that one magical night is high. Or, it is if you’re Christian.
Jewish people living in the United States, while the world around them gears up for Christmas, celebrate Hanukkah while simultaneously weathering the yearly bombardment of questions and assumptions about what the holiday is like.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what Hanukkah is actually like from people outside the Jewish community, so to help with that confusion, here’s a list of common mistakes people make about how to celebrate Hanukkah, and some general fun facts about a common Jewish holiday.
1. It’s Not “Jewish Christmas”
This is likely self-explanatory, but it’s important to cover. Because of its closeness to Christmas during the year, Hanukkah has become perceived as the “Jewish Christmas”, a holiday with equivalent importance to Christmas, which is not true at all. Christmas is one of the most important holidays in the Christian tradition, commemorating the birth of Jesus. Hanukkah is not on par with that importance.
2. It’s Actually a Minor Holiday
This is the big one that trips non-Jewish people up a lot: Hanukkah is not a big deal at all for Jewish people. For Jews, all the important holidays are tied directly to holy or important days, like Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates the Jewish New Year; and Yom Kippur, which is a day of mourning and remembrance. Hanukkah has no associated holiness to it, making it a very minor event in the Jewish Calendar.
3. Hanukkah is About a Rebellion and a Miracle
Part of the reason why Hanukkah is actually not very important is that the story it commemorates is not part of important Jewish traditions like The Torah. Hanukkah celebrates the rebellion and reclamation of Jewish land and temples by a band of rebels known as the Maccabees. Once the rebellion succeeded and the temple was reclaimed, the Jewish people wanted to relight the menorah (that branching candle holder that’s associated with Hanukkah) inside to reconsecrate the temple, but all the special oil they burned in the menorah was destroyed. They only found a tiny jar which held barely enough oil to last a night. Amazingly though, the small amount of oil burned for eight days and eight nights, giving the Jewish people time to make more oil. This is the miracle of Hanukkah, and why Jews celebrate by lighting Hanukkiah for eight nights. Pretty interesting, huh?
4. There Aren’t Christmas Levels of Gifts
This isn’t true for all families, but for the most part, Hanukkah is a more low-key affair than Christmas. Most Jewish people give smaller gifts across the whole of the eight nights, with maybe a few larger items in there, but not an overflow of gifts every night.
5. Shockingly Enough, Gift Giving Isn’t Even Traditional
This might be surprising even to Jewish-Americans, but gift giving during Hanukkah is not actually traditional! There is no significance to gift giving like there is to other parts of the Hanukkah tradition, and in fact, it’s almost entirely a Jewish-American behavior. Why? Because of Christmas. Sometime around the 1920s, American Jews began buying gifts for their children to celebrate Hanukkah so they wouldn’t feel left out when all their peers got Christmas gifts, so it’s largely an American invention.
6. But Eating Fried Food is Traditional
Everyone always focuses on gifts and lighting candles, but it’s interesting to note that another tradition in Hanukkah is eating fried food. “Latkes”, a kind of fried potato pancake, are associated closely with the holiday, but they’re actually important because they’re fried. The tradition relates back to the story of Hanukkah and the oil that burned for eight nights. To honor this, Jews eat fried food like latkes and “sufganiyot”, fried donuts that are often jelly-filled. That’s one thing Christmas and Hanukkah do have in common: they’re both incredibly healthy holidays.
7. Blue and White Decorations Aren’t, Though
If you’ve ever seen any decorations for Hanukkah you’ve likely seen strings of blue and white lights or decorations, as opposed to the normal red and green of Christmas. Surprisingly, though, there’s actually no association between Hanukkah and blue and white. Blue and white are important colors for Jews, as the traditional prayer shawl called a “tallit” is usually white with stripes of blue on the ends. Hanukkah decorations in blue and white are another tradition that started in America because of Christmas. To not feel left out of the Christmas spirit, some Jews began decorating with blue and white, but outside the US, this isn’t a common behavior at all.
8. Hanukkah is “The Festival of Lights,” but ‘Hanukkah’ Means Something Different
Finally, it’s important to think about the most important part of Hanukkah. The lighting of the menorah is the most crucial tradition of Hanukkah and the main way Jewish people the world over celebrate the holiday, which is why the holiday is affectionately called The Festival of Lights. The word ‘Hanukkah’, however, actually means ‘rededication’ or ‘consecration’, to commemorate the consecration of the temple by the lighting of the menorah in the Hanukkah story.
In 2020, Hanukkah runs from December 10th to 18th, so if you know anyone Jewish who observes the holiday, wish them a happy holiday and a good new year to come. Hopefully, you understand at least one Jewish tradition a little bit better now.