Jem and the Holograms: My First Time

Like the rest of the internet, I have now seen the trailer for the new Jem and the Holograms movie. It looks like a painfully cliched made-for-TV band flick written to reassure its young audience that they’d hate being rich and famous. As to how it compares to the original cartoon, I can’t say.

I’ve never watched it.

I KNOW, RIGHT??? I love 80’s pop culture, 80’s pop music, cartoons, and over-the-top pink girly glitter, and my name is a gem, so Jem and the Holograms seems like it should be an obvious win for me. I don’t remember ever being aware of it when it was on originally. I saw commercials for the dolls, but I thought they were knockoffs of Barbie and the Rockers. I’ve known for awhile that Jem is on Netflix and that there’s a new movie in the works, but haven’t taken the time to check it out.

Well, luckily for you, dear readers, I am sick and insomniac, so I am embarking on an all-night binge watch. I’ll be writing random impressions below the cut as I watch each episode. Here goes! Continue reading “Jem and the Holograms: My First Time”

10 Books That Made An Impression On Me

You’ve probably seen this challenge on Facebook already – list 10 books that have made an impression on you. When one of my friends tagged me last weekend, I decided to narrow it down to ten by focusing on books that I feel have influenced me as a writer. Here’s what I came up with, listed roughly in the order in which I first read them. All images link to listings on Barnes & Noble’s website. Continue reading “10 Books That Made An Impression On Me”

Steven Universe, aka Amethyst And Those Other People

Let me be very up-front about this: I am reviewing Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe for the same reason I was compelled to watch it in the first place, that being the presence of a character named Amethyst.

My interest was further piqued when I found out creator Rebecca Sugar worked on Adventure Time and had written the episode “Simon & Marcy”. She’s also the first woman to create a show for Cartoon Network.

In the limited observation of a very-early-30-something with no actual kids, kids’ cartoons seem to be pretty gender-targeted. Not to say there isn’t some crossover in fandom (bronies, anyone?), but usually you can watch a cartoon for about 5 seconds and figure out whether it’s targeted at boys or girls. Steven Universe clearly and effectively targets both. Watch the opening theme here:

Nothing about it screams “Boy aisle!” or “Girl aisle!” but it doesn’t try to be devoid of gender, either. It’s at once boyish and girly. The color palette is a pleasant medium between primaries and pastels.

So, how about the show itself? Steven Universe (Universe really is his last name) has taken his late mother’s place in a group of intergalactic superheroes called the Crystal Gems. The surviving Gems – Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl – are like aunts to Steven, teaching him how to use the powers of the gemstone he inherited from his mother, Rose Quartz. He also gets help from his flakey but caring human father, former indie rocker Greg Universe.

What really makes this show fun to watch is the sense of familial affection that permeates it. Rebecca Sugar named the title character after her younger brother, who does background art for the show. I totally see my 10-year-old nephew in Steven. I see a little of myself in all of the Crystal Gems. Garnet’s decisive confidence. Pearl’s cool-headed logic. Amethyst’s unapologetic lack of damns to give. And her name. Her beautiful, fabulous, awesome name.

Most of the shows I watch on Cartoon Network are either outright made for adults (anything on Adult Swim), or ostensibly made for kids but catered to a significant teen and adult fanbase (Adventure Time). Steven Universe does feel like it’s being written primarily for kids. But it’s written well for kids. Which also makes it enjoyable for adults, if you’re the kind of adult who goes to Pixar movies unaccompanied by a child. Will I watch it? Not in its actual time slot, where it competes with Bones and How I Met Your Mother. I will, however, catch up on it online when I feel like watching a quirky, endearing cartoon featuring a superheroine named Amethyst.

Image via Steven Universe Wiki

The Santa Disillusionment: Of Innocence Lost and Christmas Ninjas

I was about 7, I think, when I figured out that what I’d always believed about Santa Claus wasn’t true. I had asked my parents for a thousand-dollar Christmas present. Naturally, they told me they couldn’t afford it. I said I’d just ask Santa, then. They told me Santa couldn’t afford it either. It didn’t take me long to put two and two together. The toys under my tree and the trinkets in my stocking were all purchased by my parents. The noises I heard on the roof were just normal nighttime noises. The blinking lights in the sky were just ordinary passenger planes. The fantastical model in my head did not exist.

What? The magic entity at the North Pole with the elves and the flying reindeer? Nah, I never believed that. I always knew it was impossible for one being to get to every house at once, and there was no way one sleigh could hold enough toys for every kid in town, let alone in the Christmas-celebrating world. And I could tell those mall Santas were never the same guy.

My theory about Santa was that, when you became a parent, you were inducted into a vast global conspiracy. Every Christmas you delivered your child’s “letter to Santa” to a regional headquarters. A highly-trained staff procured all items on the list at no cost to you (provided surveillance and reconnaissance showed your child to be Nice, of course). On Christmas Eve, every regional HQ sent out dozens of planes filled with toys. Planes small enough to safely land on the roof of a mid-sized ranch house. These planes were piloted by Christmas Ninjas dressed in red and white ninja uniforms. These Christmas Ninjas could sneak into any house, chimney or no, completely undetected. They dropped the toys off, ate the cookies, drank the milk, and disappeared into the night. Fear of what would happen if the Christmas Ninjas caught me kept me in bed whenever I heard movement and muffled voices coming from the living room on Christmas Eve. I never thought the Christmas Ninjas would hurt me, but they might do worse: leave with my presents!

Imagine my disappointment when I figured out that “Santa Claus” was just your parents buying you stuff.

However, amid my shock and disappointment, one thing I never felt was betrayal. Once I got over being upset about my fantasy not being real, I thought it was pretty cool that my parents had gone through all that trouble every Christmas just to play make-believe with me. I loved playing make-believe. I’d spend hours by myself playing with my imaginary friends who I knew perfectly well were products of my own mind. And now it turned out my parents had an imaginary friend, too! How cool was that?

So if/when I have kids, we are going to play Santa. We’ll read the stories, sing the songs, and watch the Christmas specials. They’ll hang stockings and put out milk and cookies; my co-parent and I will stock the stockings, eat the cookies, and drink the milk. But I’ll probably tell the kids from the beginning what’s going on: that their parents have an imaginary friend named Santa who visits on Christmas, a special day when everyone gets to play make-believe together.