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Loco for “Coco”!

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Recently, I saw Disney/Pixar’s latest blockbuster, Coco, and I am absolutely in love with it. The animation is simply stunning and bursting with vivid colors. The movie centers around an adorable little boy named Miguel who desperately wants to be a musician, but his relatives, all of whom are shoemakers, disapprove of Miguel’s dreams. So, Miguel, along with his canine sidekick, Dante, set out on an adventure to find out why Miguel can’t play music. If I go into more detail about the plot, I would spoil the movie for you, so just see it for yourselves!

I would be wary of taking young children to this movie because there are some elements of the movie that are rather disturbing. Common Sense Media, an organization that reviews the child-appropriateness of movies, says that Coco is appropriate for ages 7 and older. However, I would probably say that 9 and older is probably better because I’m not sure how well a 1st-grader or 2nd-grader would handle some of the themes in Coco.
If you are looking for something to do on a rainy or particularly cold afternoon, head to your local movie theatre and see Coco. It is a beautiful, deeply moving film that older children, teens, and adults alike will all fall in love with.

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Conflicting feelings on the movie “Wonder”

This past weekend, I saw the movie Wonder. I read the book a few years ago, and it is on my list of all-time favorites, so I was ecstatic when I found out they were making a movie out of it. Wonder is the story of a boy, August “Auggie” Pullman, who has Treacher Collins syndrome, which causes facial deformities. Auggie has been home-schooled for his whole life, but his mom decides to send him to school for the first time when he enters 5th grade. Inevitably, Auggie’s 5th-grade year turns out to be a wild adventure with many twists and turns for both him and the other members of his family. The movie was relatively true to the book, especially because the formats of both the book and the movie both involved perspective-switches. In the book, different chapters were told from different points of view, while the movie was split up into segments that each had a different narrator. Some of the characters in the book had a more minor role in the movie, and a few major characters in the movie were not nearly as integral to the plot of the book. Overall, the movie was a great adaptation of a fantastic novel.

My big beef with the movie was that the kid who played Auggie did not have Treacher Collins in real life. The people who made the movie decided to take a kid with a more conventional-looking face and put special-effects makeup on him to make him look like a kid with Treacher Collins. That infuriated me because it sends a message to people living with Treacher Collins loud and clear: Hollywood does not deem them worthy enough to tell their own stories. Another reason why I found the casting choice infuriating was because people didn’t seem all that upset about it. Even though there are still some dumbos that think that blackface and yellowface are okay, most people with brains in their heads know that blackface and yellowface are horribly offensive and racist. Why shouldn’t characters with disabilities be held to the same standard? Furthermore, even though the kid who played Auggie did a great job with what he was given, a kid who is actually living with Treacher Collins would have been able to bring a deeper level of emotion and authenticity to the role of Auggie than a kid with a typical-looking face. So, Hollywood, the next time you have an idea for a blockbuster film about someone with a disability, please cast someone who is actually living with that disability.

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Left: A still from Wonder. Right: A kid who is actually living with Treacher Collins syndrome.
All in all, despite my major problems with it, Wonder is certainly worth seeing. While I was disappointed with the ableist casting of the movie, I enjoyed the rest of it. If Wonder interests you, I would definitely recommend seeing it.


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Push-up bras for teenagers?!?!?

Last Sunday, I went to Target with my mom to shop for clothes. Because I’m a teenage girl, I wanted to look for some new bras, but I was appalled by the options in the lingerie department. Out of all of the bras, I was only able to find one bra that wasn’t lacy, sexy, overly padded or push-up. It frustrated the heck out of my mom and me. If an adult wants to buy a lacy, sexy, push-up bra with lots of padding, that’s fine. However, tweens and teens are not supposed to be sexy. All a tween or teen needs in a bra is functionality and comfort. Adults should also have the option of buying a purely functional bra because not everyone wants to be sexy. It is perfectly reasonable for women of all ages to choose not to wear a push-up bra. The only ones who believe that push-up bras should be the only options for women are the patriarchy, or, to be more specific, lingerie companies like Victoria’s Secret. And, perhaps more chillingly, Victoria’s Secret has convinced legions of tweens and teens that their undergarments must be sexy.

Victoria’s Secret runs Pink, a clothing and lingerie company they claim to be targeted toward college-age students. While I personally don’t choose to wear sexy lingerie, college students are generally 18 or older, so if that’s what they decide to wear, they have the right to decide that. However, back in 2013, the Chief Financial Officer of Limited Brands (the company that owns Victoria’s Secret and Pink) Stuart Burgdoerfer made this statement: “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink.”

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Bras being marketed to tweens and teens at Pink.

I’m just going to let that sink in for a moment. A grown adult man suggesting that teenagers should wear adult lingerie. Consider that for a bit.

As I continued to research this issue, I came across a great company called Yellowberry. It was started by a high school student like me who went bra shopping with her younger sister and was appalled to find that the only choices for young girls were padded push-up bras. So, she decided to create her own line of modest, age-appropriate bras for tweens and teens. They are brilliant! They come in several fun colors, but they are completely appropriate for young girls. The bras are pricey, though. Each one costs about $30-$40. However, as consumers, we have the power to dictate which products succeed and which ones don’t. When purchasing bras for young girls, do we want to buy cheaply-made push-up bras from a multibillion-dollar retailer, or do we want to buy age-appropriate bras from a small, family-owned company in the US? I know that not every family has the luxury of choosing to spend more money on bras, but if you have the option, support Yellowberry.

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Age-appropriate bras for tweens and teens from Yellowberry.


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My Top Picks for The Voice USA Season 13!

Want to watch NBC’s hit reality singing competition show The Voice, but don’t have time to watch the whole episodes? Have no fear, MaisieTheWriter’s top picks playlist is here! I know I didn’t do one for Season 12, but I have done one for almost every other season. It’s one of my favorite (and my only!) semi-annual blogging traditions. So, without further ado, my Top Picks for The Voice Season 13!


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Statement on Charlottesville and other current events

Ever since the horrific tragedies that happened last week in Charlottesville and our “president” claiming that the violence had “many sides,” I have been so afraid for our country. The fact that our leadership does not acknowledge the terrorism going on in our own backyard is frightening and, frankly, pathetic. As a Jewish person, this situation looks all too familiar to me. I know what happens when a leader supports white supremacy and anti-Semitism, and those sorts of events have no place in our world. The fact that there are people out there who do not want people of color or Jewish people to exist is scary. People who support white supremacy are people who want families like mine to perish, but they will not get to us. Time and time again, people of color and Jewish people have risen up and shown that we deserve to be here just as much as white non-Jews. When we were slaves, we escaped to freedom. When people wanted to obliterate the Jewish people, although many were killed, our culture, religion, and traditions prevailed.

 

I want to take a moment to thank all of the Gentiles who have stood up in support of Jewish people. Your bravery and courage saves lives and makes sure that we can practice our religion and celebrate our culture without fear. You are the reason that we are still here today. I am so indescribably grateful for every single Gentile who realizes how dangerous this situation could be and is taking steps to counteract what 45 wants to do.

 

I also want to reassure that my fellow Americans of color and anyone else who is scared of the impact of the toleration of white supremacy that I stand with you and I will do everything I can to make sure your rights and lives are protected. As I have said before, history has taught us that if we do not stand up for others, terrible things will happen.

 

Finally, I firmly believe that what makes this country strong is its diversity. Every single day, people of all races, abilities, religions, ethnicities, genders, ages, and sexualities come together to make a positive impact on the world. In the end, love will always trump hate, no matter what.


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My vendetta against Snapchat

Anyone who knows me well enough in real life knows that I absolutely cannot stand Snapchat. It bothers me on so many levels, but I promise that there is a legitimate and concrete explanation for my opposition to it.

During sophomore year of high school, some dinguses in my class would take videos and photos of my friend and me during class WITHOUT OUR PERMISSION and Snapchat them to the whole world. At first, I didn’t notice it, but my friend told me about it, and I got really upset because I am a really private person when it comes to sharing my life on the Internet. I like having complete control over what information of mine is public and what information is private. The only photos and videos of me online are photos and videos taken by my parents on our family vacations. I have no problem with my parents posting photos and videos of me on Facebook because I don’t mind my parents’ Facebook friends seeing them. I know most of the people my parents are friends with on Facebook, and my parents’ Facebook friends whom I do not know would probably not send a picture or a video of a random teenage girl around to their friends to laugh at. Also, the photos and videos that my parents post aren’t *that* humiliating. Most of them are either of my performances or of brother and me swimming or doing other typical vacation-y stuff. Beyond posed family vacation photos, I really don’t feel the need to have any other pictures of me on the Internet.

Another reason why I was upset by having unsolicited photos and videos of me floating around on Snapchat was that the photos and videos that were posted painted a very goody-two-shoes image of me. The photos and videos were often taken while I was speaking in class, and in the particular class that the photos and videos were taken in, my friend and I were the only consistent participants. Everyone else Snapchatted pictures of us explaining our answers or taking notes to the whole school for their own amusement. I obviously do not want to be seen as the teacher’s pet or goody-two-shoes. Yes, I take notes and turn in my homework on time and get good grades, but I only try hard because it makes me feel good about myself and that I did something right. However, I don’t want to rub my success in other people’s faces because I don’t want to come off as boastful or like I feel that I am superior to everyone else.

I kind of went off on a tangent there because I really was upset by having unsolicited photos of me floating around the Web. Back to the main focus of this article, which was my unadulterated loathing of Snapchat. The basic premise of Snapchat is that one can take a photo or video and send it to one’s friends, and when one’s friend receives the photo or video, it “disappears” a number of seconds after one’s friend views it (of course, nothing on the Internet ever *really* disappears. It is definitely possible to hack into Snapchat and access a particular person’s Snapchats). The illusion of a photo or video “disappearing” gave my peers the freedom to take photos of my friend and me, without our consent, to entertain themselves.

If a platform allows people to easily hurt others, I will not support it in any way, shape, or form. Many of my friends do have Snapchat, and I do not hold that against them. If they ever want to post a picture of me online, they always ask me first because they know that privacy is important to me. My friends also find ways of keeping in touch with me other than Snapchat. In fact, most of them are even willing to revert back to the archaic communication method of texting. Imagine that!


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My time at the National Yiddish Book Center

This past week, I participated in a program for high school students at the National Yiddish Book Center. Together with other Jewish teenagers from all around the country, I read some of the great masterworks of modern Jewish literature, such as “The Story of My Dovecote,” by Isaac Babel; The Hill of Evil Counsel, by Amos Oz; “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy,” by Isaac Bashevis Singer; “The Loudest Voice,” by Grace Paley; and The Dybbuk, by S. Ansky, among others. This program changed my life because I didn’t really know that there was an entire canon of writing by Jewish authors on issues that pertain directly to the lives of Jewish people all over the world. We even read some work by Palestinian and Arab authors that centered around life in Israel.

One issue we debated time and time again during the program was the question of what constitutes Jewish literature. Does a piece have to be written by a Jewish author in order to qualify as a piece of Jewish literature? Is a piece written by a Jewish author automatically considered Jewish literature? What issues and themes must be present in a piece of literature in order for it to be a piece of Jewish literature? I personally feel that in order for a piece to be considered Jewish literature, it must be written by an author who identifies as Jewish. However, many of my peers in the program tried to argue the contrary, and it was fascinating to hear their perspectives. It made me look at what Jewish literature is in a new light.

Another question we pondered throughout the week was what Jewishness is. Is it a culture, a religion, or both? Can it be an ethnicity? Is it disrespectful to Jews By Choice to say that being Jewish is an ethnicity or a culture? Is the word “Jew” a bad word? When did it become a bad word and why? How can other aspects of identity, such as national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity, affect one’s Jewish identity? Can someone identify with Jewish culture and not with the Jewish religion or vice versa? Walking into the program, I believed that Jewish was a cultural or ethnic identity, but one person argued that Jews By Choice are not any less Jewish because they were not born into a Jewish family, and that made me rethink that aspect of Jewish identity.

I also learned about all kinds of Jewish people from all over the world. We read work by and about Soviet Jews, Israeli Jews, Yemeni Jews, and so many other cultures. We also learned about the lives of Mizrahi Jews (Jewish people who come from majority Muslim countries) and Palestinians in Israel and the challenges that the people in those groups face. We also acknowledged that despite the challenges faced by Palestinians and Mizrahi Jews on a daily basis, the existence of the State of Israel is vital to the existence of the Jewish people. Without the State of Israel, so many Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from around the world would not have a place where they could safely practice their religion and learn about and embrace their culture.

One of my favorite books we read was The Hill of Evil Counsel, by Amos Oz. The book centers around a nine-year-old Jewish boy named Hillel and the challenges he faces while growing up in the British Mandate of Palestine (the name for the geographic area where the State of Israel is today before it became an independent state). Hillel’s life changes when he is sexually assaulted by two of his neighbors, but he eventually grows into a strong, capable young man. During our discussion, one of the teachers asked us why Oz decided to write about a little boy getting raped. The teacher’s theory was that it was an allegory for the creation of the State of Israel: Hillel getting assaulted represented the Holocaust, but his subsequent growing into a confident young man represented the creation of the State of Israel and our people’s newfound freedom therein. Although the Holocaust was one of the most horrific events in world history and never, ever should have happened, the Jewish people may have never gotten to have an independent nation of their own. The same goes for Hillel: although no human being should ever be raped, Hillel grew into the man he became because of the strength he had to develop to live as a person who has experienced sexual assault.

On the last day of the program, one of our teachers told us to keep reading because literature can save the world, especially in today’s political climate. If young people begin to educate themselves on the world around them, maybe less bad things would happen. We can only change the future if we know our past, and the best way to learn about our past is to read about other people’s experiences. The insights of those who came before us can shed a light on how to navigate the world today.