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Characters New and Old Make Stranger Things 2 a Success

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Courtesy of Lowtrucks/ Wikipedia

By now, you have probably completed your binge of “Stranger Things 2”. It felt like forever, but finally, the characters we know and love are back, along with some new friends we are sure to be dressing up as in the next Halloween celebration.

WARNING: SPOILERS ahead for “Stranger Things 2”. If you haven’t watched it yet, go watch the show! And then come back and read the article, of course.

“Stranger Things” follows a group of pre-teens and their families as they deal with unexplainable phenomena in their small town of Hawkins, Indiana.

“Stranger Things 2” picks up a year later as the residents face new obstacles while still recovering from their ordeal the year before. The Duffer Brothers do quite a bit brilliantly throughout the series, but the most impressive aspect of season two is character development.

Our favorites returned, all having learned something and grown in the year since the Upside Down first crept into Hawkins, Indiana.

Take Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) for example. A bully and an all-around creep, Steve was not a likeable character. But when Billy (Dacre Montgomery) rolls into town and roughly dethrones Steve as king of the school, Steve has a change of heart. He befriends Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and assists him in the hunt for D’Artagnan, Dustin’s new mysterious pet.

While Steve’s change is the most dramatic of the bunch, all the characters demonstrate growth throughout the season. Rather than functioning as a group like they did in season one, the “kids” – Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Will (Noah Schnapp), and Dustin – all have their own storylines. They are forced to mature and make decisions without the help of their lifelong friends, some with more success than others. They also add a member to their party, Mad Max (Sadie Sink), fiery redhead and voice of reason. She is the only person to query, “why are we running to the sound?!” when the group hears ominous roars in the forest.

We also meet Dr. Owens (Paul Resier), a head scientist who runs Hawkins Laboratory and genuinely seems to want to help Will recover from his ordeal the year before. And Bob (Sean Astin), manager of Radio Shack and more-than-friend to Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), who stays calm in the face of monsters from another dimension. Meanwhile, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) hasn’t given up on Justice for Barb. She and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) seek out conspiracy theorist, Mr. Clark (Randy Havens), to expose the shady happenings at Hawkins Lab.

Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has the best individual storyline. We quickly learn that Eleven escaped the Upside Down and has been living in a secret cabin in the woods with Police Chief, Jim Hopper (David Harbour). Telekinetic or not, Eleven proves to be a typical teenager and a rebel, running away to find her mother in Chicago. Her mother isn’t the only person from her past she finds in Chicago, and Eleven’s story takes a dark turn.

By the penultimate episode, all the storylines come together, and the whole cast meets in the Byer house to use their combined intelligence to defeat the creatures from the Upside Down for good.

The Duffer Brothers beautifully balance the fantasy world of the Upside Down with real people dealing with relatable problems.

Does “Stranger Things 2” have moments that test the audience’s ability to suspend disbelief? Sure. But these moments are outweighed by the audience’s investment in the characters and our desperate need for everything to work out.

The season ends with just enough unanswered questions to leave us wanting more. Will our beloved characters finally be able to lead normal lives? Or will Hawkins, Indiana and its residents be forever plagued by the creatures from the Upside Down?

By: Kateri Swavely

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Elementary School Boy Pays off School Lunch Debt for Entire School

Erin Albus

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As a solution to the school lunch debt problem one elementary school once had, an elementary school boy pays off the entire school's lunch debt to help other students get some lunch money
Source: Courtesy: April Ching

One young boy in Vancouver, Washington found a solution to his school’s lunch debt issue. 

Keoni Ching, just 8 years old, decided to make and sell keychains in order to pay back the debt. 

He wanted to do something special for his school’s Kindness Week, and so he sought to follow in many celebrities’ footsteps in paying off school lunch debt. 

In 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) mandated that school districts crack down on student’s unpaid meals, better known as school lunch debt. They did not state how, only that the already financially struggling schools had to make up for the ever growing lunch debt. 

While groups like the School Nutrition Association (SNA) advocate for universal free school lunches, schools cannot afford to do that and pay back their debts. 

And so schools resorted to Lunch Shaming.

This can take the form of giving kids with debts different lunches, often times denying them hot meals. A school in Rhode Island decided to give students with school lunch debt peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, while all other students receive hot lunches. 

An extreme example of Lunch Shaming occurred in Pennsylvania when a local school district sent hundreds of letters telling parents who owed lunch money for their children to pay up or else their kids could go into foster care. 

“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without breakfast and/or lunch.” the letter said, adding that failure to provide children with food could result in parents being sent to Dependency Court.

“If you are taken to Dependency court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care,” the letter read.

But paying off the school lunch debt is not as easy as it sounds. For many families, they cannot afford to pay back the owed lunch money—so they have to let their child be shamed. 

Hearing about the efforts of Keoni Ching, people all over the country ordered keychains. To help his cause, people would pay well above the asking price of the keychains just to give extra money to the young boy. They sold keychains to people in Rhode Island, Minnesota, and even Alaska. It was truly a country-wide effort to help Keoni. 

In total, Keoni raised over $4,000 dollars. He delivered the check to his elementary school, and the money will pay off the current debt and $500 worth of future school lunch debt students may incur. Some of the money will also go to nearby schools to help pay off their debt. 

The issue of school lunch debt and Lunch Shaming is one that will not go away without effort put in by communities. But people like Keoni show that a little bit of kindness and ingenuity can go a long way in alleviating the pressure put on struggling families by school lunch debt.

All we have to do is be kind to one another. 

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How Parasite and Bong Joong-Ho’s Wins at the Academy Awards Represents a Triumph for South Korean Culture

Sydney Murphy

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At the Academy Awards, Bong-Joon-ho promotes South Korean Culture by winning best picture for his movie, Parasite.
Source: Commons.Wikimedia.org

The film “Parasite” blew the nation away with its Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best International Feature. The film, directed by Bong Joo Ho, is a combination of drama, horror and dark comedy.

“Parasite” is the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

“South Korea did it,” and “History made,” tweeted Chinese American filmmaker Jon Chu.

The impressive accomplishment trended on social media mainly from South Koreans and Asian Americans. The win was celebrated all over the world and has been an empowering and enlightening experience for the Asian community.

Many leaders in the film industry have commented on the US finally embracing a film presented in a language other than English and produced outside of Hollywood.

“Does this mean Hollywood is ready for a change? If Parasite’s big win makes some curious moviegoers venture out and check out some more Korean or other international movies, I think the change is coming,” said Wonsuk Chin, a South Korean film director.

Blowing the country away with his support of the film, South Korean President Moon Jae-in commented on the Oscars win, saying that he was “proud of director Bong Joon Ho, the actors and crew.”

“When I was young and studying cinema, there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart, which is, ‘the most personal in the most creative,’” said director Bong Joon Ho in his Oscars acceptance speech for Best Director. 

The film “Parasite” is advocating for South Korean culture and has gained traction and prominence in the West.

However, this is not the first time a Korean film has been recognized in the West. The 2016 South Korean film “Train to Busan” rose to fame debuting at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

The film was a zombie apocalypse and was a favorite among international markets.

These recent recognitions of the South Korean culture are growing to represent demographic change at the Oscars.

Many describe the change as the American film industry finally recognizing stories that had been left in the shadows in the past. These stories include those of different races, sexualities, genders, and class experiences.

“This is a remarkable chapter in Korean culture. Something I’m still pinching my cheek about,” said Chin.

The power of subtitles has been brought up in comments about the film industry as well. In the past, Hollywood has negated subtitles because they were not yet seen as an expression of identity, as they are now.

The incorporation of other languages in the film industry opens the door to many more stories that would otherwise be overlooked or misinterpreted. 

“Tonight I heard the language of my family on the Oscars stage. I can’t wait to hear many, many more,” tweeted Korean-American online creator Eugene Lee Yang.

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2020 Oscars Nominations Continue to Lack Diversity

Erin Albus

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the 2020 Oscar nominations are once again startlingly straight, white, and male.
Source: Raffael Dickreuter

In 2016, the Oscar vowed to make a push for more diversity in its voters and its nominations. It has now reached the year they said we should be seeing the results of this change, however, the 2020 Oscar nominations are once again startlingly straight, white, and male. 

Cynthia Erivo is the only non-white nominee in this year, only one female led movie was nominated for Best Picture (Little Woman), and no women directors were nominated for Best Director.

The biggest achievement for diversity this award season is the recognition of the film Parasite, marking the first time a Korean film has seen any nominations at the Oscars. 

The biggest achievement for diversity this award season is the recognition of the film Parasite, marking the first time a Korean film has seen any nominations at the Oscars.
Source: Cast of Parasite | Wiki Commons

While a record number of women were nominated for Oscars (sitting at 62 nominations), this does not take into account the female only categories such as Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. The point still stands that women are constantly shut out of categories that are not gender specific. 

Only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won Best Director (and only five have ever been nominated). Most people in the Entertainment blame the lack of diversity in the 2020 Oscar nomination on the lack of women directors in general.

2019, however, was an incredible year for women in Hollywood. 

Movies such as the aforementioned Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig), as well as Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Céline Sciamma) and The Farewell (dir. LuLu Wang) all received critical acclaim during their run—and were consistently ranked among the top movies of 2019. The number of women directors in the Top 100 films of the year jumped up to 10.6% in 2019. 

And yet they were all snubbed for Best Director. 

There is no clear answer as to why this lack has continued besides the fact that the people who vote on these films are mostly white males. After the Oscar’s promise for diversity in 2016, 2,000 more voters were added to the Academy.

Even with this influx of new voters, only 28% of all Oscar voters are female and only 13% are minorities. The Academy is still mostly straight white males, so the films and people nominated will reflect that. 

Amazing women directors like Greta Gerwig and Céline Sciamma will continue to fall by the wayside of Oscar recognition unless people continue to call out the blatant favoritism towards white males. The directors themselves most likely cannot call this out for fear of future snubs in all categories—not just best director. 

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