Cinderella.

The transformation via Tumblr.

I grew up watching Disney movies from Jungle Book to Toy Story to every one of the princess movies. I’m sure that somewhere in my garage I have dusty stacks of VHS tapes of all the Disney classics.

It’s fair to say that in the last few years Disney has been trying to reinvent itself by putting out movies (and remakes) that display their female characters in more heroine like positions. Disney princesses are famously known for playing into the damsel in distress character, needing a charming prince to swoop in and save them from their troubles.

I commend Disney for trying to change that and modernize their movies with pieces like Frozen, where the main relationship focuses on sisters rather than romance. Films such as Brave don’t even have a romance element to it, purely diving into the relationship between mother and daughter.

Their latest film remake of Cinderella is a different story. The original tale of Cinderella, first made in the 50s, in no way really allows for her to be a powerful female character. She is in the end waiting for her prince charming to come with her glass slipper and be whisked away to the kingdom.

This time around, Disney tries to twist the story by giving not only the prince a backstory but also putting more value into Cinderella. It repeatedly brings out the theme “Have courage, and be kind” over and over, trying to pull the audience to feel almost pity for Cinderella.

Though I understand the movie was trying to have Cinderella seem more proactive, her actions displayed the opposite. There is a fine line between being nice and allowing yourself to be a complete doormat. Certain moments in the film were cringe worthy due to the complete lack of respect Cinderella had for herself.

In addition to the problematic characteristics that the characters brought up in the movie, there was the issue of body image. The scene where Cinderella receives her magical makeover, the dress she wore (with a corset) made her waist look absolutely non-existent. In fact, I think the cartoon version may seem more realistic.

The Cinderella cast and crew have to deal with this backlash and they’ve come up with some pretty good comebacks. Things have been said like “Corsets were of the time period”, “the actresses were just naturally very small people” and “the dress itself is proportioned to make the waist look even tinier”

The most compelling reason I’ve heard so far is that the movie is not about the waist size; it’s about the character. Basically, it is what’s on the inside that counts.

But is it?

There are three flaws I see with this way of thinking. If it’s what’s on the inside that counts then why couldn’t Cinderella still be more proportioned? Yes, I understand the corset and the time period, but you are presenting this film to modern day girls.

And in comes the second flaw I see. You cannot simply say that girls do not care about appearance. As a small child, my favorite princess was Sleeping Beauty. She had long flowing blonde hair, a thin stature and a beautiful dress. I wanted nothing but to be her. Yet, I was a chubby Asian girl with short black hair and it seemed like the only princess I could aspire to be was Snow White because we had similar hair.

Young girls see these princesses and want nothing but to be all of them. They want to be kind and brave, but they also want to be beautiful. They want to wear the pretty dress and have their own happily ever after (with or without a prince). So, yes the size of Cinderella’s waist does matter to a certain extent.

The final flaw I see in this is that Cinderella’s character just isn’t strong enough for you to justify ignoring the possible negative body image Disney is creating for young girls. Sure she’s kind and courageous, but is she really?

Throughout the movie you see her barely fight her evil stepmother. Even at the very end, she doesn’t even attempt to escape the attic she’s been locked into. Instead she sits singing with only her mouse friends to swoop in and save the day.

I’m not sure exactly what message this sends to kids. If Disney wanted to reinvent Cinderella, presenting it with a modern day look, then they should have had her character be more strong willed and less so a doormat.

This all may sound very cynical, but at the core of it, I do enjoy Disney. While watching Cinderella, I couldn’t help but feel giddy about the moments between prince charming and Cinderella. Just like four year old me, I love a happily ever after even now as an adult. This time around I just want a happily ever after without a damsel in distress.

Bloody hell and best wishes,

Robin

History.

Taken at the East Side Gallery in Berlin.

Taken at the East Side Gallery in Berlin.

The first time I realized I loved history was when I was in the fourth grade and went into the woods to pan for gold during a school field trip. The stream rushed by as we waddled in slowly with our borrowed rain boots. The old man teaching us the ropes of gold mining wore a bucket hat, sleeves rolled up and shouted over the rush of the water. As much as I was afraid of falling into the stream, I was thrilled because I was recreating history.

After that, I think my love affair with history continued when I realized that it was all just one big never ending story. It was a bunch of stories weaved in and out with other ones, and the best part was that I too would be a story. Plus, I was really horrible at math and science, so I stuck to English and history. As I grew up, I learned that history is written by the victors. It wasn’t that the losers didn’t have a story to tell as well, it was just that many thought that they didn’t deserve to tell it.

But, they do.

A couple weekends ago I visited Berlin, Germany for the first time. For years I had studied about World War II, the Holocaust and the terrifying reign of Adolf Hitler. From seeing it in textbooks in class to fictional books to television and onwards, I’ve learned about it from every point but the Germans. I’ve met Holocaust survivors and been taught how about how the United States played a role in winning. Last semester, I even learned how World War II was seen from a journalist’s perspective.

However, being in Berlin was something completely different. The city itself gives off a different vibe than most other modern day cities do. You can feel that something terrible happened there, but it’s also a place that’s rebuilt itself over and over again. It’s a city that wholeheartedly embraces all of their history, the good and the bad. Now that is something that you don’t see everyday.

I’ve visited other places where this isn’t the case. Even in the United States where I live, I’m not often exposed to how we’ve terrorized our people. History that doesn’t portray us in a good light is swept under the rug, erased. In Berlin, I did not see that. Instead, I saw people who acknowledged their history, choosing to accept it and move forward.

My tour guide in Berlin said something that I will never forget as we walked towards where the first of the book burnings occurred. She said that many people forget that Germany is more than just the 13 years that Hitler ruled for. In my opinion, she’s right. Germany has produced some of the brightest minds and creative thinkers, from scientists to writers to philosophers, but they will forever be overshadowed by a man who ruled with force and fear.

This is not to say that we should forget about the suffering caused by the Third Reich. It is a constant reminder that we should never allow fear and ignorance and power and greed create a genocide that would wipe out millions of people. How Germany has embraced this horrible history is a lesson to us all about how we should approach our own.

History is not always a grand story because it has heroes and victories. History is a grand story because it tells us the truth, the whole truth of human beings. Most times this truth will be ugly and there will always be losers who will never tell their side of the story. I can only hope one day that will change. To me history is about learning all sides of the story. To me history is about accepting both the brutal and beautiful ways humans operate. To me history is about how we endure these triumphs and hardships as a society, pushing forwards, understanding the force that moves us along.

Bloody hell and best wishes,

Robin

Quiet.

A shot I took while at the Natural History museum on an empty Tuesday afternoon.

I’ve always been pretty good at being alone. Growing up as an only child, I was great at finding independent activities to keep myself busy. Reading, drawing, watching television were all things I excelled at as a kid (two of those three still apply).

Over the years I’ve been spoiled by good company, whether it be family or friends. Especially in the past couple years, I’ve been constantly surrounded, and alone time was precious. I loved the late night drives home and the days where I could live on the couch, with nothing but a book for company.

Then, I came to London and experienced a whole new feeling of being alone. I made the treacherous journey (which took over 24 hours due to plane delays) by myself. I moved in by myself and for the first time in a long time, I was somewhere where I really didn’t know anyone.

It was terrifying.

I think in the first two weeks here, I spent more time by myself than I had in the past six months. When I realized that I didn’t absolutely hate that fact, I began to wonder whether something was wrong with me. Had I become some sort of weird loner?

The thing is that I think I was really enjoying being alone because it was quiet. Well quiet in a way that I have never experienced before. I wasn’t exactly lonely, I was just alone. I spent a lot of my first week wandering around museums by myself, either for class or just for leisure. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve actually never done this before and now that I have, I’m angry that I didn’t do it sooner.

I walked through every exhibit at my own pace and for once, I decided to go headphone free. No music, just the sounds around me. Also, I still hadn’t be able to unlock my phone that week yet, so no cell reception, only spotty museum wifi that never quite worked. It was simply just wonderful.

I heard snippets of foreign conversations. I watched videos on how artifacts were found. I sat and stared at the paintings of Raphael for twenty minutes, distraction free. I felt like I was in another world.

It was new kind of quiet I had never found before. In the past year, I spent most of my alone time being stressed out, overthinking and often being upset. This sort of alone time brought peace and the museums I were in made me feel wondrous to be such a small part of a large world.

Of course, since the first week I’ve began to make some friends (so not totally a weird loner all the time) and I spend less time in museums by myself and more so with other people. Regardless, I’m sure in the next couple months I’ll find more quiet time, hopefully next to some Van Gogh.

Bloody hell and best wishes,

Robin

Love.

Oh Hermione, how you’ve always been right.

Once again it’s come the time for another year to end and a new one to begin. My oh my how things have changed since last December. I ended 2013 feeling a bit bitter and upset with what I had gotten out of the past 365 days. I cannot say that 2014 has been the same. In fact, if anything 2014 was the exact opposite.

This was the year where I embraced being a little braver, being more open and most of all being much happier than the year before. This year I discovered how much love I have to give and how much love I receive on a day to day basis. Love came from every direction of my life, from family to friends to work. It sprang from hidden corners and at times it felt like my heart would burst from the overdose.

Love fueled a lot of things this year, and most of it went into journalism. I fell passionately in love with trying my best to tell great stories in order to be the journalist I want to be. So much of that went into learning new techniques, failing horribly and learning that caffeine can really be your best friend. I became a columnist and wrote about what I love (and believe in). I took classes where I felt engaged (suddenly tuition seemed more worth it) and curious. My work felt important and real and in turn, I never wanted to stop doing it.

With a lot of my drive focused towards journalism, all the attention I had left was given to friends and family. They’re there to make me laugh until my stomach aches, comfort me when I fall (figuratively and literally) and listen (and support) to my insane dreams of making it as a writer. I am so lucky to feel such sadness every time I have to leave, whether it be San Francisco or Boston. Every place I’ve gone to or left, I know I’m either coming back to or leaving people that I love. Not everyone can say that and because I can, I am eternally grateful for the people in my life.

2014 has brought me more happiness than I could have ever imagined and 2015 isn’t looking so bad. As per usual my goal for the upcoming year is to be happier, but I think I’ll add one more thing. I want to love more in 2015, whether it be loving new books, people or places. I find that this year has taught me that there are two things in life that we can always take large doses of; happiness and love.

Bloody hell and best wishes,

Robin

Ambiguity.

How I feel about work right now. (via Tumblr)

Right now, I really should be writing my term paper or one of the many papers I have lined up for the rest of the semester. Instead, I’ve become fully invested in finishing Scandal and skimming the internet for further distractions (I really should be diving more into Margaret Fuller’s life). While researching distractions, I discovered that John Green has a Tumblr blog for every book he’s written.

On these blogs, he answers commonly asked questions by readers and gives the best response he can. There has been an a word that has stuck with me for the past couple days and I can’t seem to get it out of my head in the minutes before I sleep, in the moments when I’m walking home.

Ambiguity. It’s as simple and complicated as that. Green writes that “Finding a way to live with that ambiguity matters” and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that thought. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with being organized. Not organized in a way where my clothes are all put away and the dishes are all done. There’s a black planner that I’ve been using to try and plan out my days, keep track of when things are due and what I need to do.

Every week, I make a list of “things I need to do this week” and I follow it. I’m trying to lay out the steps to ensure that I have things together for the next week, next month, next summer. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life where I’ve worked so hard towards something. What is this something you may ask, well I’m still figuring that out.

That’s where the ambiguity seems to lay. There are only so many plans one can layout and even with that, things go wrong and plans change. The other thing is that the past is scattered with ambiguity. Sometimes, I think about what would have happened if I made different choices, if I had done the right thing (does anyone really ever do the right thing?). I don’t think anyone really enjoys living with ambiguity. I certainly don’t.

Yet, here I am, clearly living with ambiguity. So, I’ve been thinking about how the hell do I get around this? I want to say that the way to get around it is to plan things out. But, deep down I know that’s not how it works.

Maybe the best way to get around this is to accept that it happens, that ambiguity exists. It is unavoidable. I believe that every person wants to think they are a good person. We inherently want to make the right decisions, the good decisions. Whether that is true or if it really happens is a different story.

I’ve made plenty of bad decisions in my life, some that I regret more than others. There are questions I still have that I know cannot and will not be answered. It’s unfair, but to who? It’s unfair to me because I know I deserve answers, but I think it’s more unfair that I’m allowing myself to be swallowed by ambiguity. Ambiguity exists to prove that answers will not always be given just because you want them, or even if you need them.

I will not always make good decisions or get all the answers I want or have life planned out. I shouldn’t. We need ambiguity to remind ourselves that answers are not always the key to happiness.

Bloody Hell and Best Wishes,

Robin

Uncomfortable.

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I am convinced that there is no place prettier in the fall than New England. Last weekend, I took a solo trip to New York City and though I fell asleep for most of the bus ride, I woke up in time to catch a glimpse of the leaves changing color. The colors came in flashes and the trees seem endless along the highway.

This wasn’t a trip I took because I had pressing business in New York, it was a trip I took because I felt like I needed it. As much as I love being in Boston, after knowing it for so long, it seems small and too familiar. I began to realize that I miss going to new places, where I felt uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable, like wearing an itchy turtleneck. Uncomfortable, like trying a new place to eat without reading all the Yelp reviews.

I felt trapped by comfort, going to the same restaurants and walking down the same roads. I’ve gotten into this routine of bouncing back and forth between places I know without really branching off into anything new. Going to New York by myself was a little taste of new. Its not like I’ve never been before or didn’t know anyone there, it’s just a city I haven’t known for long enough to be at ease navigating the streets by myself without Google maps.

Next semester, I’ll be diving into a place that is completely different. A place that I’ve never been before, I know no one at and have only seen through the internet. Living in London will be more than just something I can cross off my bucket list or tell my future kids about. I’ve realized that I’m the sort of person that wants to go to a new place, become at ease with life and than yanked out to go somewhere new. I often find myself wanting to be uncomfortable, but not being brave enough to put myself in the situation.

Well, I’ve put myself in that situation now. Part of me fears leaving behind a life that I’ve known so well. I know that when I come back, things will not be the same. Unlike other groups of friends, me and my friends have all decided to study abroad during different semesters (as you can see, we like challenges). I know that this will probably be the last semester that I get with all the people I care about. The last time we can be semi-carefree before our diplomas are given and we’re stuck at a nine to five job (that is if we’re lucky enough to find one).

That’s the scary thing about being in your twenties. Everything is changing so quickly and sometimes it always feels like you’re a step behind. Yet, when you’re trying to catch up, you simply miss out on the things in front of you. Has anyone ever won this war?

Well, I guess those who survived to their 30s must of figured it out.

Bloody hell and best wishes,

Robin

Stories.

Basically me trying write decent publishable articles.

Stories are the backbone of my world. I hear them, I tell them, I write them. This summer I had my first big girl, real world job aka an unpaid internship (does a transportation stipend count?). Despite what I had seen in movies, there were no coffee runs or hours spent sitting by the copy machine. Instead, I dove into research and reporting with a fierceness I had never known could exist within me.

I would be lying if I told you that every minute was exciting. In reality, it was just a lot of waiting, leaving voicemails and learning how to type the right string of words into the Google search bar. The place I worked at had a small staff and the publisher brought in the most delicious cookies I had ever tasted on a weekly basis. Soon enough, I felt like I was part of a weird little family, which most people would find comforting. However, because I’m a worrier, I began to panic that I wasn’t producing material that was nearly as good as it should be. I was afraid I wasn’t telling the right story.

I think that a journalist’s worst fear is that they aren’t presenting their stories in the best light (and also an empty coffee pot) possible. People trust us to write the truth and more. Anyone can tell facts, but not everyone can spell them out with sincerity and motivate an audience to take action. Journalists want to write stories that capture the world, that change minds, that not only gives answers but asks questions (at least I would like to). The stories I had written before were read at most by my professors and friends and maybe the occasional college student. Never before had I really had a platform to write big stories read by hundreds if not thousands of people. And these weren’t just people who read my article by accident, these were people who wanted to read my story on purpose.

This audience put a whole new weight to my stories and changed the way I saw myself as a storyteller. I wasn’t producing pieces in a 48 hour time period, instead I was taking weeks to craft a near to perfect piece. Information trickled in drop by drop and my stories evolved with every bit of new information, making me both frustrated and overjoyed as I learned how to be patient and persistence with my work.

If there was one lesson that I took out of this summer, it was said best by one of my coworkers. Not everyone is going to  (or wants to) write for the New York Times, but no matter what, if you have passion for what you write, a good story will come about and everyone loves a good story. This stuck with me because as a student, you hear all these big company names thrown around and in reality the chances are slim to land those positions. In the end, the most important thing is that I write stories that are honest, passionate and inspiring to my audience whether it be 10 people or a million.

 

Bloody hell and best wishes,

Robin