I Might Have a Theory About Who Carina Smyth Is…

Yes, it’s another Pirates post. Yes, I’m sorry, but only somewhat. Please bear with me for another month, then I SWEAR I’ll shut up.

We’re a little over a month out from the movie I have been waiting four years for; the fifth (and with any luck, final) Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Men Tell No Tales. The film has opened to some pretty stellar reviews out of CinemaCon last month, and it seems with every passing day, Disney gives diehard fans like myself a little sliver of more information to properly tease us before the big release; Brenton Thwaites’s new character who was once simply known as, “Henry” has been confirmed as Will and Elizabeth’s son. Just yesterday, an international trailer 100% confirmed Keira Knightley’s return to the franchise as Elizabeth Swann (AND I’M STILL SCREAMING!). But last night, as I was talking with a friend and fellow Pirates fan about these new revelations, I had a revelation of my own with a crazy direction this movie might take.

Call me a sentimental fool still all choked up over Loganbut I love father/daughter relationships in movies and TV. They are some of the most complicated, strong and loving bonds to portray, and they never cease to make me a blithering mess.

Well I got pretty intrigued upon reading Michael Singer’s new book, Disney Pirates: The Definitive Collector’s Anthology. In the chapter regarding DMTNT, Singer writes that the series has always been about “parents and their children” (109). Be it Elizabeth and Governor Swann, Will and Bootstrap Bill, Jack and Captain Teague, or Angelica and Blackbeard, the series has always had a strong focus on parentage, particularly fatherhood. Jerry Bruckheimer elaborated upon these parent-child dynamics as they appear in DMTNT as follows:

In the fifth [movie] both Henry Turner and Carina Smyth are either trying to liberate or searching for their fathers.

We know that Henry is clearly trying to “liberate” his father, Will, from his cursed, slimy state upon The Flying Dutchman, so that means that Carina is the one Bruckheimer suggests is searching for her father.

So now the question becomes, who is Carina’s father? Recreating a virtual version of The Maury Show is becoming a rather popular pasttime in nerd media nowadays, what with debate still going on about Rey’s parentage in the Star Wars universe and Peter Quill’s upcoming Daddy issues being a prevalent part of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 due in a few weeks, so we may as well keep it going in the Pirates universe as well!

So without further ado, Carina Smyth? Who’s your pops?

Jack Sparrow

Okay, this was my first thought, and was actually what prompted me to write this post. Let’s break down all the reasons why Jack COULD be her dad.

  • AYE AYE! The last name.

In one of his very first scenes in Curse of the Black Pearl, Jack Sparrow encounters two Naval officers and reports that his name is “Smith.” Her last name is “Smyth.” COINCIDENCE? Perhaps…

  • AYE AYE! She resembles him.

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Carina and Jack share dark eyes, dark hair, and pronounced cheekbones. This could be a coincidence in casting, but it’s interesting to note nonetheless.

  • AYE AYE!  Her mother could literally be anyone.

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Jack’s a promiscuous guy. He has had a ton of liasons…it was bound to happen eventually!

  • AYE AYE! She’s the proper age.

Carina appears to be a love interest for Henry, who we can assume is 17 – 20 years old in this film. She could be anywhere around that age. While Jack’s age is never explicitly stated, it can be assumed that he’s either the same age or slightly younger than Johnny Depp, who is going on 54.

  • AYE AYE! She’s the exact opposite of him.

Scodelario has stated that Carina is, “an astronomer and an academic.” That is not Jack in the slightest. From the trailers so far, she appears to be very headstrong, intelligent, and no-nonsense. She tells Jack that she’s “Not looking for trouble,” to which he replies, “What a horrible way to live!” All of these render her the direct opposite of Jack, and could make for an interesting complement.

  • BELAY THAT! …ew. Jack’s totally checking her out.

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There are some pretty convincing arguments here, but overall, I’m not sure that the filmmakers would give such a irresponsible, wacky character the responsibility of a daughter. Overall, I’d have to say:

Jack Sparrow, you are…NOT the father! 

 

Will Turner

Could Henry have a sister? Short answer? No.

  • BELAY THAT! Henry too is checking her out.

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SORRY, GEORGE LUCAS. NOT TODAY!

  • BELAY THAT! Pretty sure that given his home life, Henry would know if he had a sister.

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Elizabeth and Will only see each other once every ten years because of the curse. As Carina and Henry are roughly the same age, they would have to be twins to be brother and sister, and if so, where the hell was Carina in the post-credits teaser of At World’s End, locked in a closet? So no, she’s not a secret Turner… at least not mothered by Elizabeth.

  • BELAY THAT! That would mean Will Turner was unfaithful and NO. IT’S TRUE LOVE. HE’S PERFECT, SHUT UP.

Will Turner, you are…NOT the father! 

 

Joshamee Gibbs

Could Carina be the daughter of Jack’s most trusted ally? It’s not impossible…but not likely.

  • BELAY THAT! Not enough emotional impact.

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Sorry, Gibbs. I love ya, but the initial responses to Carina’s character were too positive for her character to have anything less than an impactful presence. The most impact would be a relationship with an established, prominent character, and you’re not it.

Joshamee Gibbs you are…NOT the father! 

 

Captain Teague

Could Jack have a sister? …it’s not too far fetched.

  • BELAY THAT! Too large of an age gap between Carina and Jack

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It’s not impossible, but I just don’t find it super believable.

  • BELAY THAT! Keith Richards will most likely not make an appearance.

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Unless the film has killed Teague offscreen or has a surprise cameo from Richards planned, what would the payoff of having it revealed that Teague is Carina’s father if Teague isn’t even around to react to this revelation?

  • AYE AYE! However, a young Captain Teague HAS been cast…

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…and I really don’t see a reason why that would be unless he’s going to be used in the young Jack Sparrow/Captain Salazar flashback scenes. Hmm…

  • BELAY THAT! Jack is still checking her out in that scene, and even if he has no idea, that’s still mighty unsettling.

Once again, not today, George Lucas!

Captain Teague…prolly not! 

 

Some Rando We Haven’t Met

Carina could very well be the daughter of a new character we haven’t met yet. Maybe we’ll never meet him over the course of the narrative, and the search for him is merely a part of Carina’s character.

  • AYE AYE! This might make for a less cliche plot.

What are the odds of all these various relationships getting more and more interwoven with each other in the same place in the Caribbean? I know I’m talking about fictional pirates in a Disney movie, but Carina’s interconnectedness might strike people as a bit cliche.

  • AYE AYE! A character written independent from the previous films would be far easier to write.

By making Carina and her parentage entirely original, it becomes far easier to write a fresh-feeling story that doesn’t need to take precedence from previously established character story lines.

  • BELAY THAT! Once again, no emotional connection.

Yeah. Who cares if Joe-Blow is Carina’s dad? We need something to connect to, and I think that overrides believability here.

Rando, you are…NOT the father! 

 

…let’s bring out the big guns, now.

 

Barbossa:

Hector Barbossa has had quite the journey throughout these movies, going from primary villain, to twist ending, to antihero, to tragic hero. He has been Jack’s nemises and ally, and he has changed dramatically in each film. Could fatherhood be his new role in DMTNT? 

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  • AYE AYE! Carina is of proper age.

We don’t exactly know how old Barbossa is, but the dude’s been around. He could have grandkids and I’d believe it.

  • AYE AYE! She has a strong, fiesty personality.

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Just like her dad! Her sharp quips and biting sarcasm (“Are all pirates this stupid?”) could make her a deadringer for Barbossa’s daughter. She’s a sass bucket in the making, and I think that is absolutely genetic!

  • AYE AYE! She seems to have a knack for sailing.

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The newest international trailer shows Carina taking the wheel like a pro…something her dad is also very fond of.

  • AYE AYE! She’s the exact opposite of Jack.

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Just as I said before as a reason why perhaps Jack could be her father could make her a better candidate as Barbossa’s daughter. Barbossa generally loathes Jack and finds him to be an inept nuisance. What if Carina felt the same?

  • AYE AYE! It was in the original draft of the script.

YUP. THAT FEELS LIKE A BIG INDICATOR.

  • BELAY THAT! …exactly.

You know what else was in the original draft of the script? James Norrington. But that’s okay, I’m not bitter or anything. The fact that this has been made common knowledge might be a clue that the production has moved on from this concept, as also Carina was intended to be older and a love interest for Jack, yet Scodelario’s age and character seem to be jiving more with Thwaites’ Henry.

  • AYE AYE! The book!

Okay, here’s the hook: Disney has released a children’s book about Carina’s past written by Meredith Rusu called, The Brightest Star in the North: The Adventures of Carina Smyth. The story opens with Carina being left at an island orphanage as a baby with a notebook and a note that reads, “Her mother died. Her name is Carina Smyth.” But it is the description of the man who delivers her there that alerted me that this might be Barbossa; The man is described as having a large feathered hatand a hobbling gait. Who likes big hats and has a peg leg?

That’s right! Good ole’ Barbie!

So….

Hector Barbossa, you…ARE the father!  Barbossa, how do you feel?

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We have a winner ladies and gents! I think that Barbossa is going to be Carina’s father after all, and my, what an interesting dynamic this will make! I cannot wait to see how this all unfolds!

Until next month, my friends!

All gifs from giphy.

 

Reading Too Much Into Trailers #3: Pirates of the Caribbean; Dead Men Tell No Tales

Post originally appeared on Chapman Club 55’s Blog.

Hello. My name is Jessica Johnson. And within maybe an hour, MAYBE an hour of meeting me, you’ll always discover that I am a psychopath: my nerdom for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, franchise, even nautical history is…a lot. A lot to even handle, sometimes. It’s a wonder I still have friends, honestly. 

Well, this is a big year for Pirates fans…the few of us who remain. The fifth installment of the franchise that was definitely supposed to end in 2007…then again in 2011…and now maybe 2017 (we’ll see? I guess?) will grace our lives on May 26th of this year. Minutes ago, the first full length trailer was dropped during the Super Bowl. This production has been shrouded in mystery from the start, so I’m going to go ahead and break down what is probably going to go down with the plot, and what direction I need this film to go. DO NOT DENY ME THIS, DISNEY. 

  • The Cast:

What Disney Says: In early 2014, POTC 5‘s IMDb page postulated the return of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa, Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs, Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, and Martin Klebba as Marty. These returns were all confirmed at the 2015 D23 Expo. However, three more cast members were on the rumored list, but disappeared only a few months later: Mackenzie Crook as Ragetti, Lee Arenberg as Pintel, and my personal favorite (because I’m a sucker for a good villain-turned-misunderstood-good guy) Jack Davenport as James Norrington. The page’s Trivia even had a rumored plot line which made my heart so happy: 

“This will be the first Pirates of the Caribbean film to have Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow), Geoffrey Rush (Captain Barbossa), & Jack Davenport (James Norrington) teaming up together.”

That fact is now long gone off the page, but not before I preserved it because how flipping cool would that be!? Those three despised each other! And even though Norrington died at the end of POTC 3; At World’s End, he died at sea, which allowed the caveat that perhaps his soul joined the crew of The Flying Dutchman. Just imagine him serving under Will Turner’s command! Talk about conflict!

Alas, these rumors of were dispelled with one fell Tweet from Lee Arenberg- he and Mackenzie would definitely not be coming back: 

Lee Arenberg Not Returning

However, new characters joined the scene. Confirmed in the cast was Javier Bardem as our new villain, Captain Salazar, Brenton Thwaites playing a character simply known as “Henry,” and Kaya Scodelario playing a young scientist named Carina Smyth

What I Say: Keira Knightley, who played the damsel-turned-Pirate King Elizabeth Swann, ruled out ever returning to the franchise back in 2008. HOWEVER…

That’s right! Knightley was seen shooting very secret scenes in a sound stage in London! The original gang (almost) is most-assuredly all back! 

  • The Plot:

What Disney Says: Here’s the official plot synopsis released by Disney

“Johnny Depp returns to the big screen as the iconic, swashbuckling anti-hero Jack Sparrow in the all-new Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. The rip-roaring adventure finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill-fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazer (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea – notably Jack. Jack’s only hope of survival lies in the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it he must forge an uneasy alliance with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a brilliant and beautiful astronomer, and Henry (Brenton Thwaites), a headstrong young sailor in the Royal Navy. At the helm of the Dying Gull, his pitifull small and shabby ship, Captain Jack seeks not only to reverse his recent spate of ill fortune, but to save his very life from the most formidable and malicious foe he has never faced.”

…nuh uh. There’s more. 

What I Say: Well, there’s a few things to consider here, fam. 

New cast member Brenton Thwaites began the Rumor Train with a simple slip of the tongue: 

“It’s about a young man who wants to reconnect with his father, Davy Jones. There’s a curse that prevents him from doing that. I think it’s about how he goes around that and tries to fix it and he has to save his dad. I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a lot of fun!”

HA!! You know who Davy Jones is now, Brenton? WILL TURNER. Plus the odd way that his character only has a first name…yeah. He’s most definitely Will and Elizabeth’s son. 

Now let’s take a look at the trailer that just dropped this afternoon: 

…now besides screaming at the top of my lungs, there’s a few things I noticed and want to point out to inform what is my plot synopsis. 

One…oh no.

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Poor Will! Get some ointment for that, dude!

Will Turner has barnacles on his face, and that’s not good at all. POTC 3 clearly lined out the conditions of Calypso’s curse upon the original Davy Jones and the crew of The Flying Dutchman: If you don’t do the job (ferrying souls lost at sea to the other side), you get all tentacly. So this means that Will stopped doing his duty and is getting punished for it. Orrrrrr….there could be another reason Orlando’s beautiful face has been compromised. Here it is, MY prediction for how this will all go down. 

My Plot Prediction: 

Captain Salazar has escaped from the Devil’s Triangle to wreak havoc upon pirate-kind. This includes the three most powerful pirates on the seas: Captain Hector Barbossa, Captain Will Turner, and most of all, Captain Jack Sparrow. Henry Turner, son of Will and Pirate King Elizabeth Swann, has grown up seeing his father only once every ten years and is tired of it. Just like his father before him, he bravely ventures off to find a means by which he can free his father from his cursed state; a mystical artifact known to be the Trident of Poseidon. Astronomer Carina Smyth seeks the trident for her own means, and Jack seeks it in order to free The Black Pearl from its constricting bottle. This common goal brings these three together. Meanwhile, Salazar reaches Barbossa (…I have a bad feeling about his fate, I’m sorry to say…Sorry, Barbossa fans.) and Will. Seeing as Will is immortal, the only thing Salazar can do is make him and his crew gradually decompose back into barnacles and sea creatures. The clock is ticking for our heroes…THEN NORRINGTON SAVES THE DAY! 

okay, I may have projected my own dreams there at the end, but that’s overall what I think is going to happen, plus an amazing Elizabeth Swann reappearance! Meanwhile, we all must wait for what will hopefully make a great (and final) installment of this billion-dollar franchise! It’s killing me slowly, but hey, all good things to those who wait, I suppose!

For an awesome, nerdy, fun blog related to all things Disney, please visit www.chapmanclub55.com for more reading from some talented Chapman students!

All the Times I Wept #1: Cinderella (2015)

I cry. A lot. Something sad? Tears. Something touching? Tears. Something scary? Tears. Something even remotely pretty or poignant? All the tears. Because of this, I’m starting a new blog series I like to call, “All the Times I Wept,” where I break down all of the times I lost my mind during a movie or TV show. Spoiler alerts, before I continue. Please proceed only if you have seen this film. 

It’s currently raining buckets outside, and I’ve spent the day watching the storm from my couch, curled up in a blanket, drinking tea. Now I am currently enjoying a warm meal and for no reason at all decided to put on one of the first of many, many, many many live-action adaptations of classic Disney animated movies, and one of my favorites, Cinderella (Branagh, 2015).

When this movie came out, I could not have cared less. Growing up, Cinderella was never a favorite of mine and, looking back on the movie, only 20% of it actually has to do with Cinderella. The rest is an elaborate Tom and Jerry cartoon of sorts featuring the mice and Lucifer the villanous cat. In contemporary times, the movie has gained criticism from feminists for portraying Cinderella as only a victim whose victories come from either her mice friends or her fairy godmother and who falls in love instantly for a man she met in a single evening.

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So while I was intrigued by what director Kenneth Branagh would bring to the table with this film, my expectations remained low. What I saw blew me away. While the movie isn’t perfect, it tugged at my heart-strings in a way I couldn’t describe, and I wept profusely throughout the majority of it. I have seen it upwards of ten times since then, and it still makes me tear up in all the same places.

So without further ado, lessgo.

  • When literally ALL THE PARENTS DIE. 

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In keeping with Disney custom, Branagh and writer Chris Weitz did not shy away from killing literally every parent. Ella’s mother? Dead within the first ten minutes. Ella’s father? Twenty. The Prince’s mother is already dead once we meet him, and even the King, who played a rather large role in the animated version, gets ill and quickly expires!! It makes for some great drama, and it certainly worked on me!

  • When this heartbreaking line happens: 

Cinderella. Names have power, like magic spells. And all of a sudden, it seemed to her that her stepmother and step sisters had indeed transformed her into merely a creature of ash and toil.”

– Narrator/Fairy Godmother

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To their credit, the filmmakers made the impossible happen: They succeeded in making Cinderella a character that is more relatable and inspiring to girls of a modern age while still remaining true to the source material. She does so much more than cook, clean, and be pretty: She reads, she’s kind to everyone she meets, she has flaws, she grows, she learns, and she meets the Prince long before the ball and develops a bond with him before ever knowing about his status.

Another amazing element that gets me every time is an added factor of insecurity to Cinderella’s character. Once her nickname is adopted by her malicious family, it tears down her confidence and she looks at her reflection in a copper pot. Distorted, she believes herself to be unworthy and unattractive. I feel personally connected to these feelings, as this insecurity follows her through to the end of the film, which we’ll return to later.

  • THE DRESS.

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Good lord am I obsessed with this dress. It’s glorious, and so much better than I could have ever imagined for Cinderella even though it technically should be silver, as that’s what the animators originally designed. I don’t know why all subsequent versions of Cinderella depict her ball gown as blue, but I digress.  And the animation makes this moment of transformation just as magical as it was in 1950.

  • When she leaves for and arrives at the ball

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Okay…yes, feminism, but personally, it’s my dream to have that fairy tale ball moment. This entire sequence was expertly done, and Lily James looked so beautiful.

  • The dance. 

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ROBB STARK FROM Game of Thrones AND LADY ROSE FROM Downton Abbey ARE DANCING. IT’S MY NERDOM UNITING.

And speaking of which…

  • All of Lily James and Richard Madden’s scenes together. 

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From their meet-cute in the woods to their reunion at the ball, Kit’s initial infatuation with Ella to his opening up her and showing her his secret garden, it was such a pure romance. I adore them.

And let’s not forget the most important scene in the entire film, and the moment that leaves me a blithering moron…

  • This scene.

The score by Patrick Doyle beneath this scene is crushingly beautiful, and underscores such an important moment with a beautiful message. Here we return to the added element to this version of Cinderella that I referenced earlier; Ella’s insecurities.

“Would who she was really be enough? There was no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take—to be seen as we truly are.”

– Narrator/Fairy Godmother

Here, Ella is nothing more than a girl in love with a boy. She has nothing to offer him but her love, and he accepts that wholeheartedly. I find it poignant and touching.

  • The lyrics to the credits song, “Strong.”

In a perfect storybook the world is brave and good

A hero takes your hand, a sweet love will follow

But life’s a different game, the sorrow and the pain

Only you can change your world tomorrow

Let your smile light up the sky

Keep your spirit soaring high

Trust in your heart and your soul shines forever and ever

Hold fast to kindness, your light shines forever and ever

I believe in you and in me

We are strong

When once upon a time in stories and in rhyme

A moment you can shine and wear your own crown

Be the one that rescues you

Through the clouds you’ll see the blue.”

-Sonna Rele, “Strong”

I have talked about this song before, but its message is just as pertinent two years later as it was upon its release. This song encompasses the entire message that this new version of Cinderella was trying to convey: You are the one who rescues you, and your life will not play out like fairy tales do. It is up to you to use your kind heart and strength to make your ending a happy one.

And finally…

  • The overall message of courage and kindness.

#havecourageandbekind

A post shared by @ashleyschacher on

Once again, I have talked about this before, but I have tried to adopt the film’s constant moral of “Have courage and be kind” into my life in every respect. If everyone was like that, the world would be a much more accepting, gentle place.

This film’s production even started the Cinderella Words of Kindness Project, where you can share words of kindness via social media. It was an important campaign, and I encourage you to visit the site and see what other Cinderella fans contributed.

 

 

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And that’s all. …yes, I know. That’s pretty much the entire film, but hey, it’s nostalgic, and beautiful, and really hit home for me.

Rest assured, folks, I will be bringing eight boxes of tissues to this year’s Disney live action remake, Beauty and the Beast, which remains my favorite Disney animated movie! I will be a hot mess, and you can most definitely expect another one of these blogs come March!

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…and who knows, maybe my Dan Stevens-Downton Abbey-related angst will temporarily subside! …no guarantees.
Cover photo by author. All gifs from giphy.

 

Another Day of Sun: A Tribute to 2016

Well, that’s a wrap on a pretty insane year all told. I want to look back at 2016, warts and all, the good and the bad.

I’m gonna do so in the only way I know how: through a movie reference. My favorite film of 2016 was undoubtedly La La Land (Chazelle, 2016), and my favorite song from the film was the exuberant, remarkably choreographed song “Another Day of Sun,” which serves as the opening number that takes place in gridlocked traffic (an experience LA inhabitants know all too well).

The song is the main supporting element to the title, “La La Land.” It depicts the stories of thousands of people who still come to Los Angeles based on a dream that began with the advent of Hollywood; to chase their dreams of fame and fortune in the Mecca of the entertainment industry. I’m one of these dreamers living in “La La Land.” The dream persists, despite an excess of competition, uncertainty, and adversity. I feel like this translates to what we all just went through in 2016:


Behind these hills, I’m reaching for the heights…

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“2016 is going to be SO much better than 2015!” we all said. Ah, what a simpler time December 31st, 2015 was!

2016 began with its typical new year’s surge of confidence, hope, and resolutions. 2015 in my mind at the time,  was a horrible year. The latter half of it included the death of a grandparent, the death of the family dog, three consecutive illnesses, a sprained ankle, and a smashed pinkie finger JUST as the year wrapped up.

2015 could burn in hell for all I cared. I was ignoring the good things, however: I got to see my favorite actor in person twice. I worked at an amazing production company. I went to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon AND The Late Late Show with James Cordan. I survived 24 Hour Night at Disneyland and attended two red carpets. But it’s so easy to forget the good and focus on the bad, and that’s exactly what I did. 2015 was the worst, and 2016 would be full of new possibilities and new beginnings.

…And chasing all the lights that shine.

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This was the spring that I studied abroad for a semester in New Zealand. Things were going so incredibly well. I made a new group of international friends, learned my way around a new country and culture, and did things that, now looking back, I cannot believe I had the courage to do!

I went to Fiji and Australia entirely by myself! I completed the foremost item on my Bucket List; jumping off the Auckland Sky Tower-on LEAP DAY no less! I directed an original play in a theatre group I was entirely unfamiliar with. I learned the native Maori language. I threw all caution to the wind and chased experiences I never otherwise would have chased!

I even chased a deeply personal change. I told someone I had feelings for them that I had been repressing for years. Even though, unfortunately, nothing came of it or will ever come of it, for the first half of the year, this was just another bout of hope that was putting wind in my sails as I returned to back home and to Los Angeles to finish out the year.

When they let you down…

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Auckland Sky Tower illuminated in solidary with Belgium. Photo by author.

I’d like to say that upon returning, that’s when everything changed for the worse, but that would be a lie. Despite being surrounded by new and exciting experiences while abroad, the entire world was rattled by countless terrorist attacks. Throughout the year and especially within the past week, celebrity deaths seemed to follow one another endlessly.

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Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, and most recently Debbie Reynolds hit me particularly hard. There was a beautiful quote from Tiia Ohmen, one of the co-creators of the website Fangirl Quest, a photography and travel advise website that maps movie and television shooting locations. This quote offers a perspective about why celebrity deaths affect us so:

Could it be because they’ve given us something to laugh about? To cry about? Because they’ve inspired us to pursue some career ourselves, in acting or music or in whatever it is they did well? Or because they used their publicity to support those who are suffering, inspired us to do good, or told us fight for our rights? Or maybe because they just told us “it gets better”, or “always keep fighting”, and helped us through a rough patch in our lives?

Could it be that they made us feel, and by making us feel they actually made us feel more alive?

The mourning seemed without end: David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Carrie Fischer… And then I lost another grandparent in the blink of an eye.

Loss led into heartbreak, heartbreak led into frustration, frustration led into fear. This fear was also felt universally. I was in a country under the British crown when the United Kingdom left the EU, and I was in the U.S. when voting in my first election; the election that will forever be known as the most divisive since the days of the Civil War. Fear is rampant right now and will continue to be if we let it get to us. But the responses to the adversity that have emerged gives me so much hope.

Get up off the ground…

Kind actions followed every tragedy. Hopeful words lifted everyone’s spirits. Charitable deeds restored hope in humanity.

It is human nature to seek constant improvement and to have hope for the future. I too tried to improve bad situations. Unfortunately, good intentions did not go unpunished, for all attempts to better myself were thwarted by more nonsense: A repeated attempt to join an important group fell short. A career changing competition resulted in disqualification beyond my team’s control. Fitness progress was halted by a contagious disease and then a sprained knee. Before I knew it, 2015 seemed like a blessed memory compared to the things 2016 was dishing out.

Morning rolls around…

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But, once again, we are at the end of another year and the start of another, and already there is much buzz about how much better 2017 will be than 2016:

As I stated before, the need for self-improvement seems wired in humans. That’s the reason why New Years resolutions exist in the first place: It’s a chance to start again and use a finite amount of time to spark a better change for oneself and one’s community.

…And it’s another day of sun.

But the fear remains in my mind: What if 2017 doesn’t deliver upon the promises we wanted 2016 to deliver? What if it’s just as full of grief, disappointment, and uncertainty…or worse?

But a best friend put it well when I voiced these concerns:

I think all we can really do is stay positive and keep sending out good vibes into the universe, and hope that others are doing the same.

And so morning will roll around tomorrow, and it shall be another day of sun in a new year. At the end of the day, 2015 didn’t do anything to us. Neither did 2016. In order to make sense of our situation, we as a people have characterized these years as having their own identities and wills to make our lives better or worse. When it comes down to it, we are the ones who control our fates. Terrible things happen, but so do the good.

2016 was the year I actually committed to increasing the quality and number of posts featured in this blog, which has been in existence since 2013. This was the year I made friends who live in over a dozen countries around the world. 2016 was the year I was brave. 2016 was the year I was one step closer to figuring out who I am.

So here’s to a better 2017 for everyone. I hope that every resolution is met (c’mon, self. The gym is not a punishment) and that problems that arise can be met with level-headedness and an easy resolution.

It’s another day of sun. 

Header image from StockSnap. All photos by author. All gifs from giphy.

Reading Too Much Into Trailers #2; Beauty and the Beast (2017) Edition

UPDATE: So weirdest thing ever, Nerdist News and I published the SAME THEORY at relatively the same time, so it might be canon, folks! Nerdist is never wrong! Wow, sorry…I just still can’t believe my theory was so on point! Read on, mes amis!

ORIGINAL POST: So a little over a month ago, the first teaser trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean; Dead Men Tell No Tales dropped, and I spent way too much time over-analyzing what little visuals and audio they gave. But heck, it’s really fun, so Ima do it again.

This morning, I woke up, opened up my phone, and was greeted to the sight of literally everyone freaking out and sharing the first official trailer, which left me so chill-ridden that I was nearly levitating out of my bed.

I was a tad skeptical at the recent first look Entertainment Weekly gave at the sudden reveal of the Beast, the final design of the enchanted objects (particularly Lumiere and Plumette), and Belle’s very yellow dress. But once I was able to see all of these elements systematically coming together in motion, it all seemed to fit together far better than I ever expected, and now I am back to anticipating this newest Disney live action adaptation, before the whole conceit becomes very old very quickly.

BUTTTTTTT….it’s now time for intense speculation! One frame of the trailer caught my eye early on, and now that I’ve had a chance to watch it a few times, I have come up with a new theory, and I am now wondering if it will ultimately come to fruition in the final film.

One of the 1991 animated film’s very few plot holes is a relatively big one: In “Be Our Guest,” Lumiere sings the line, “Ten years we’ve been rusting, needing so much more than dusting.” The narrator at the very start of the film, however, explains the conditions of the castle’s curse thusly:

The rose [the Enchantress] had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his twenty-first year. If he could learn to love another, and earn their love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.

That would make the Prince (WHOSE NAME IS NOT ADAM, I WILL FIGHT YOU ON THAT! COME AT ME!) eleven years old at the time of his curse. This inevitably leads to the reasoning that of course he was rude to the Enchantress disguised as an old lady – 1) He was just a punk kid, 2) Stranger Danger! Finally, this plot hole becomes even bigger when Belle finds a torn portrait of the Prince looking rather…adultish, don’t you think?

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…no way he’s eleven.

Early on, when I first saw on IMDb that the 2017 film’s crew had cast a King and Queen, I knew at once that we were going to get some more Prince back story, which will hopefully explain this rather large plot hole.

Well, let’s take a look at the torn portrait in this new film.

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It’s a new take on the classic moment from the animated movie, and we can clearly see that a depiction of an itty bitty Dan Stevens was used to create this image, and also features his mother and father standing behind him.

What interests me, however, is that while the Prince’s visage retains the expected scratches from a rather enraged Beast later on, the King’s face is almost completely scratched out, while his mother remains untouched.

This clues me in to four things:

  1. The film will explain the origin of the curse in great detail. 
  2. The King and Queen’s absence will most likely be explained. My guess? They were either killed by the Enchantress or have subsequently died as a result of the curse (they themselves couldn’t break the curse before a certain amount of time and paid for it with their lives).
  3. The Prince/Beast loved his mother dearly and views her as an innocent, seeing as her image is free from his claws.
  4. The King is most likely to blame for the curse. I don’t anticipate that the film will deviate very much from the original story, and most likely the Prince will still be a child from the onset of the curse, living out ten years before the last petal falls, sealing his fate forever. Therefore, my prediction is that it was the King’s rudeness, and perhaps similar unkind traits exhibited in the Prince, that landed the entire castle into their cursed state.

So, in sum, here’s my prediction for how the origin of the curse came about and will ultimately unfold in the film, or at least, how I would do it:

  • An old beggar woman arrives to the castle on a stormy night, offering the King a rose.
  • She is either refused at the door, or is shown in but treated incredibly rudely by the household staff and the King himself.
  • The King pays her great insult, and the Prince remains at his side, further taunting her.
  • The woman gives the King a final chance to repent for his cruelty. When he fails to cease, she reveals herself to be the Enchantress.
  • In punishment, she kills the King and Queen (a little harsh, might have to be revised, I’ll admit), and sets the curse on the castle staff and the Prince. She still sees the capacity for love in him, perhaps love exhibited by his mother. It is with this hope in mind that she transforms him into a beast and bestows the rose upon him, telling him that he has ten years to learn how to love and earn love in return before his curse becomes permanent.

…I mean, wouldn’t that be cool? I think it solves all of the plot hole problems as well! What do you think? Am I way off track? Right on the money? Can you think of anything else I’m not thinking of? WHY ISN’T IT MARCH ALREADY?!

That’s all folks! Thanks for joining me on what is sure to become a series of, “Reading Too Much Into Trailers.”

All gifs from giphy.

Pre-Pirates Teaser Drop: A Fan Freaks Out Part 1

I had a very clear idea of what my Sunday was going to be like upon awakening. Little did I know that it would soon become solely about fangirling over what else, Pirates of the Caribbean. 

The original plan was to finish watching the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven, go shopping, do some busy work, then head out for a double feature of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the remake of The Magnificent Seven. That’s when my roommate, eating breakfast beside me on our couch, let out a low, guttural guffaw as though she had been punched in the stomach by a MMA fighter. Just as big of a Pirates fan as I am (if you need reference to my fandom, please see previous blogs found here and here…and here), she shoved her phone in my face, which was playing the following message:

…which prompted us to do this…

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That’s right, m’lords and ladies, the moment I have been waiting years for is here at last, and we’re getting a first look at Pirates of the Caribbean 5; Dead Men Tell No Tales! 

As I write this post, I am about three hours from…whatever Disney has in store for us during one of the commercial breaks of Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 2 finale on AMC. So while the basic structure of my day remains unchanged, it has undoubtedly gotten far more interesting.

I have mentioned this in other posts, but whereas I might claim having a fandom for any variety of nerdtastic shows and films (The Walking Dead, Sherlock, Bates Motel, The Marvel Cinematic Universe, and all things Disney, to name a few), since I was eight years old, Pirates of the Caribbean has captured my imagination, and was the first series of films to make me truly love cinema. As I have stated before, they are not without their flaws, but overall, they hold a special place in my heart.

It has been nearly ten years since my favorite installment, At Worlds End, was released, and five since On Stranger Tides came out. I was at the first announcement that Orlando Bloom would be reappearing in this film, and have eagerly been searching for any shred of evidence about what the next film will be about (…still hoping for a Norrington cameo…please Disney…please…). Until the teaser can (hopefully) give us some more clues about the narrative, let’s take a look at the poster, which was formally released this morning:

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This logo is a little interesting. First of all, it looks very similar to the logo of At Worlds End, which featured the classic Jack-like skull atop two crossed bones. This design was meant to mimic a skull and crossbones flag, a common object seen in the third film. This design also varied from Curse of the Black Pearl (skull atop crossed swords), Dead Man’s Chest (skull atop crossed torches), and On Stranger Tides (same logo as Curse of the Black Pearl, only completely silver). This design is silver AND gold, but is additionally jewel-encrusted and has carvings that are illegible to my eye as of now. Here’s what I was able to decipher/speculate wildly about:

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  • The Hunt for the Trident of Poseidon is all but confirmed. 

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For months, the Disney Company has claimed that the storyline would be about Jack and his respective villain (initially Christoph Waltz as Captain Brand, now Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar) hunting for the Trident of Poseidon. The new logo seems to be sporting a symbol that looks an awful lot like a trident running right down the center of the skull’s forehead.

  • …as well as the Bermuda Triangle…

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Other early rumors discussed a plotline regarding the Bermuda Triangle. Upon closer examination, this appears to be the very thing that the poster is trying to suggest as well. Could we be travelling into that seafaring folklore in this film?

  • Navigation will be a major part of the plot.

Unless it is merely an aesthetic choice, this poster art is the most chart-like of the previous four films, with a subtle map background beneath the main logo, as well as very specific placement of jewels on the skull’s forehead, which gives me the impression of a star chart. Will navigation by star patterns play into the narrative of Dead Man’s Chest? 

  • We can’t ignore the inscriptions on the bones…

To me at this time, the inscriptions are rather unclear from what I have been able to see online, but I can only make out one full word from the carving on the bone on the bottom left hand corner of the poster: “Isla.” The phrase is clearly in Spanish, but I can’t and won’t be able to make out any other words until I can either access the poster physically or in a higher definition.

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Until then, I must wait for three more hours to get answers to my many questions about the plot of Dead Men Tell No Tales. I know how incredibly sad I must appear, but don’t blame a fangirl for fangirling!

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I’ll see you all in Part 2, once I have emerged from the other side of this exciting nerdtastic Sunday afternoon!

All images from Instagram. All gifs from giphy.

Appreciate This as Much as I Do #1: James Norrington

Allow me to take you back to the summer of 2006.

Pirates of the Caribbean; Dead Man’s Chest, had just been released, opening to record breaking box office numbers for its time.  It was all anyone was talking about, especially where my family was concerned. We were all Disney fans, and there were three children in the family the proper age to fully appreciate the tone of the film. A typical childhood game amongst me and my two male cousins was one we lovingly called, “Whoever You Want To Be,” wherein we did exactly that; behave as any character from any medium, thus, “whoever you wanted to be.” Inevitably, however, one of us would gain control of the game, somehow dictating to the others what movie, TV show, or video game we were reenacting (true, going against the spirit of the game, but making it no less fun when all was said and done!).

I had a trampoline in my backyard. The three of us decided to play “Whoever You Want To Be” atop it, but my elder cousin quickly made the decision that the subject of our game was to be Pirates, and why wouldn’t it be? They were hilarious, swashbuckling adventurers that grabbed our imaginations! However, I knew how this game was going to ultimately play out: I was the only girl out of the three of us. I was fed up always been stuck playing Padme, Leia, or any assortment of various princesses. These roles were boring! I did nothing but get saved by whichever boy was playing my hero!

So as soon as the roles of Will Turner and Jack Sparrow were instantly swooped up by my cousins, I put my foot down…or, up, I suppose, as we were on a trampoline… Elizabeth Swann, although getting a few neat action scenes in the second installment, was just another girl role I was to be saddled with.

That was when took control of the game. “Fine,” I remember saying. “You can be Will and Jack, but we’re doing the Wheel Scene, and I’m going to be Norrington.”

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And that’s how a ten year-old girl became obsessed with the secondary villain of the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.

Now, exactly a decade later, James Norrington remains my favorite character of the Pirates franchise, as well as one of my favorite movie characters of all time. In this post, I wish to outline how and why my interactions with this character went from just a means by which I could break from stereotypical damsel roles as a pre-teen to a solid appreciation of an antihero whose story arc is relatable, complicated, and heartbreaking.

(Lieutenant/Commodore/Mr./Admiral) James Norrington…

  • Undergoes the most dramatic story arc above all other characters in the franchise. 

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The characters of all four films have unique and diverse qualities which make them each individually stand out. All good characters have an intriguing arc to their storylines, usually ending with them learning a lesson or changing their ways. In the case of the Pirates films, if a character remains flat, with little to no discernable changes, they are either villains, minor characters, or Jack Sparrow.

Think about it: Although he’s morally ambiguous, Jack performs enough lovable, hilarious, and relatable actions that leave fans rooting for him.  However, he doesn’t undergo any real change as the story progresses. This is not the case for the characters of Will and Elizabeth. The original trilogy provides a coming-of-age narrative for them both as they each discover their indivdual strengths, as well as their love for one another.

James, however, undergoes the most dramatic changes in his characterization. He serves several purposes in the first film, Curse of the Black Pearl (2003): He’s the secondary villain to Captain Barbossa, an obstacle between the love of Will and Elizabeth, and an antagonist who’s main motivation is to see the demise of our hero, Jack. In Dead Man’s Chest (2006), audiences only discover in the film’s second act what ultimately befell the former Commodore; he has dwindled into obscurity, just another scruffy, dishelved pirate who is devoid of hope and is oddly accepting of his disgraced state. This is the case until we start to see that familiar fire of ambition ignite once again as soon as he becomes aware of a means by which he can get his former title and reputation back. He then immediately leaps into action (or, in this case, casually sword fights atop a rogue mill wheel and rolls into action), deceiving and betraying Will, Jack, and Elizabeth by stealing the heart of Davy Jones for himself and pledging allegiance to the villainous side. In the third film, At World’s End (2007), we see far less of James, learning that he has been promoted as an Admiral, but yet is not the same sassy, straightlaced nobleman from the first film. His time living with the other half has changed him, and this becomes increasingly apparent as he is forced into carrying out Lord Beckett’s plans in the War Against Piracy. He has a chilly reunion with Elizabeth, and finally comes to the realization that he has picked the wrong side. He frees Elizabeth and her crew, and his fate is sealed with one final kiss with his unrequited love as he sacrifices his life to save her. Even in his final breaths, he attempts to kill Davy Jones, yet is futile. Despite being a supporting character, audiences see James rapidly progress from a secondary villain to a tragic hero over the course of the first three installments.

  • Has six deleted scenes over the course of the three movies, one in Curse of the Black Pearl, five in Dead Man’s Chest (including an alternate ending), and one in At World’s End, all of which reveal hidden secrets about his character.

The deleted scene in the first film shows James as having a merciful side and a strong sense of duty. He even offers Elizabeth a chance to call off their engagement altogether free from judgement, as can be seen in the clip below:

In an audio commentary on Curse of the Black Pearl between Keira Knightley (who plays Elizabeth Swann) and Jack Davenport (who plays Norrington), Knightley stated that the scene was cut because it made Norrington appear “too nice.” I can only imagine that this is a similar reason why the majority of the scenes in Dead Man’s Chest were cut as well. The clip below is one of the five deleted scenes that were cut featuring Norrington, where Jack shows a shocking amount of mean-spiritedness:

Another of the four deleted scenes piggybacks off of this one, where James finds the hanging skeleton of the priest Elizabeth describes hanging in the church tower. Yet another cut scene occurs right at the onset of the sword fight between Jack, Will and James that leads to the aforementioned mill wheel fight. The three men’s blades are locked together. In this position, Jack tries to team up with Will against James, saying, “We cannot let him get the chest, mate, trust me on this. You can mistrust me less than you can mistrust him, trust me!” The final deleted scene, described with screen shots via Pirates of the Caribbean Wiki, depicts a scene called, “Manual Labor,” where Jack nearly stands on James’s hands as he does menial work swabbing The Pearl’s deck, stating, “A bit of manual labor is good for you, former Commodore. Builds character.” He refuses to move until James shines his boots.

These deleted scenes depict Norrington in his recently disgraced state, even going so far as to reveal to Elizabeth (and therefore, the audience) through the allegory of the mad priest just how isolated he feels. This character is at his lowest, and yet the common theme in all of the scenes is that Jack is constantly belittling and demeaning the already emotionally broken James. If these scenes were to remain in the final film, what message would that send to younger viewers? If Jack is supposed to be our hero, would that then make it alright for those who looked up to him to follow in his footsteps and tear down those we perceive to be weaker than us? Jack then becomes less of a hero and more of a bully, and although Norrington’s screen time is greatly diminished by these cuts, I am so grateful that they ultimately happened.

  • Quickly (and rather unexpectedly) became a fan-favorite.

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Norrington was meant to only ever appear in Curse of the Black Pearl, but according to an interview with producer Jerry Bruckheimer (which I sadly couldn’t find, and that annoys me greatly), fan reactions were too positive to keep him from joining the sequels.

I actually can attest to witnessing the Norrington love firsthand. One of my most vivid memories from watching both Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End in theaters were audible gasps from the audience in two key moments; in Dead Man’s Chest, when Davenport’s iconic voice growls into the first scene indicating his unexpected return to the franchise, and in At World’s End, when the character is killed. His death sparked outrage among many fans, inspiring an online support group (now defunct, as it’s nearly ten years old), and a petition for Disney to reverse his death (also currently defunct).

Many fans were wise, however: they knew that because James had died at sea, there was a chance that Will Turner, now the new Davy Jones, could find and recover his soul in the Locker. There was a chance everyone’s favorite bewigged anti-hero could return as an immortal being, this time placed in the interesting dynamic having to serve beneath Will’s leadership, the man he largely considered inferior to him during his living days. So overwhelming was this response, several rumors circulated about what precisely what the fifth installment of the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean; Dead Men Tell No Tales would be about, and IMDB.com perpetuated rumors by stating the following in a Trivia Fact that remains on their page as of the time this blog was posted:

“This will be the first Pirates of the Caribbean film to have Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow), Geoffrey Rush (Captain Barbossa), & Jack Davenport (James Norrington) teaming up together.”

Sadly, however, this storyline does not appear to be the most recent draft of the script that Disney Studios ended up with. No evidence exists to suggest that Davenport was anywhere near the filming locations of Dead Men Tell No Tales,  and from what little plot details have been released up to this point, the storyline sounds as though it has moved on from this initial concept. If Norrington will appear in the film, the only hope fans have is that he perhaps makes a cameo onboard The Flying Dutchman.

But why would a secondary character warrant such passionate admiration from fans?

  • Empathy. We’ve been there, bud. We’ve had our hearts ripped out by an unrequited love. We’ve lost sight of our dreams. Sometimes, we’ve even associated ourselves with the wrong people to get what we want. Although some might think he’s found “the dark side of ambition,” Norrington makes it clear that he prefers “to see it as the promise of redemption.” #Same.
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Watch as a man’s heart shatters into a million pieces.
  • High levels of sass mixed with a teaspoon of dry British wit: Ugh, Norrington’s sassiness is off the charts! One of his key attributes is that he serves as a foil to Jack Sparrow, having to remain stoic and unwavering in the face of the infamous pirate’s bizarre antics. Davenport spoke in an interview for the release of Curse of the Black Pearl about his character’s purpose, stating:

    “I’m trying to not keep it all on one note. It’s easy to fall into that trap with this kind of thing because by definition, especially in my stuff with Johnny [Depp], I’m kind of the straight man in those scenes. It’s very easy to find yourself doing the same thing all the time, but the story allows me not to do that. […] It remains to be seen whether or not I’ll suddenly become England’s next sneering villain. I hope not!”

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“So you never wondered how your latest fiance ended up on The Flying Dutchman in the first place?”

Little did Davenport know at the time that his character would go on to have many more dynamic shifts, thereby increasing opportunities to show how opposite he is to some of the more outrageous characters and using a plethora of sassy zingers to regain power in every scene.

  • Once we grow to like his character, we want to see him win: Going on this journey of seeing him at his very best and very worst makes us root for his redemption – a redemption that he never receives. We want to see him escape the East India Trading Company. We want to see him ditch that wig, become a pirate again, fight against Beckett, and ultimatly find his long-awaited happiness. The tragedy that befalls him is bewildering and upsetting to us because we know that this character we have grown to respect will never get a happy ending.
  • He’s played by Jack Davenport, folks! The man is one heck of a guy, and deserves far more promient roles than he’s getting. I’m talking to you, Kingsman: The Secret Service According to Michael Singer in his book Bring Me That Horizon: The Making of Pirates of the Caribbean (a book which I loved so much at the age of twelve that it currently has pages falling out of it), Davenport was always known to consistently be in good spirits and keep morale up on set. He is one of my nine favorite actors, and I will go into specifics on why he’s so awesome in a later blog post (…I can feel your unfettered enthusiam already!!).

In final thought, I think I’ve made it pretty clear from previous blog posts (found here and here, namely) that if there’s one fandom that I would call my foremost love, it would undoubtedly go to Pirates of the Caribbean. I only decided to write this love letter to my favorite character in the series upon completing a marathon of the first four films, wherein I examined why I held so much appreciation for this character, and it all began as a ten year-old girl playing make-believe on a trampoline.

Thanks for joining me on my first in what will most likely become a long series of posts imploring you to “Appreciate This as Much as I Do!”

Your point is invalid, because I Disney Bounded as Norrington from Pirates today. So take that. #potc #disneybound

A post shared by Jessica Johnson (@jjj_jess_i_can) on

 

Header image from freeimages.com, gifs from Giphy

My Thoughts on Johnny Depp’s Domestic Abuse Allegations

It’s been a few days, and finally enough information has come out that I feel like I can give an assessment of the drama unfolding between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard that can at least be supported with some evidence.

Let’s break down what happened in chronological order, as it gets pretty convoluted: Johnny Depp and french pop star Vanessa Paradis were in a relationship from 1998 to 2012. In that time, they had two children, Lily-Rose and Jack. Johnny Depp met actress Amber Heard on the set of The Rum Diary in 2009, and the pair began dating in 2012. They married in 2015, and controversy quickly followed when Heard falsified quarantine documents and smuggled the couple’s two dogs into Australia while Depp filmed Pirates of the Caribbean; Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017). However, just as this controversy was wrapping up (with albeit a strangely robotic court-appointed public apology from both of them), a far more serious one erupted.

It begins on Friday, May 20th, when Depp’s mother, Betty Sue Palmer, died after battling a long illness. The following night, police responded to a domestic dispute report at Depp and Heard’s Los Angeles home. On May 25th, reports surfaced that Heard had filed for divorce from Depp after only 15 months of marriage, citing “irreconcilable differences,” as the reason for their split. Then, chaos ensued. First, Heard demanded $50,000 a month in spousal support from Depp, which was denied by the judge. Then, she asked for a restraining order from Depp and protection for her dog Pistol. The judge denied the order for Pistol, but granted a 100 yard order for Heard herself. Her demand that Depp be mandated to attend a year-long anger management course was also denied. Then came word of Heard’s elaborate testimony about ongoing abuse from Depp, but particularly regarding the night after his mother’s death. In her court papers, Heard submitted a photo of herself with a black eye she claims was caused by Depp throwing an iPhone at her face, is supported by testimony from neighbor Raquel Pennington, and goes into graphic detail about the events that unfolded that night:

“I immediately covered my face and was crying because of the pain resulting from the phone hitting me. Johnny charged at me, insisting on seeing my face. He taunted me, challenged whether or not the cell phone actually hit me. He then forceably pulled back my hair as I attempted to stand up from the sofa. I then yelled out “Call 911″ – hoping it would be heard by [mutual friend iO Tillet Wright] who was still on the phone. Johnny continued screaming at me, pulling my hair, striking me and violently grabbing my face.”

Depp himself has not personally responded to these allegations, and will be out of the country until June 7th. The court case is scheduled for June 17th.

Many people have many different views about what happened, who is at fault, and who is telling the truth, be it journalist, celebrity, or fan. At the end of the day, none of us were there. A great majority of us do not know nor ever will know Depp or Heard personally. When all is said and done, none of us get a say in what happened. Anyone claiming otherwise, either calling Heard a liar or Depp a monster, is flat out wrong for doing so. Fan culture, on its way to entering the mainstream, has developed this massive sense of entitlement, as though we have any sort of insight or say into the inner workings of these people’s deeply personal issues. We don’t. 

So I will not claim that I know anything beyond what I have read from different perspectives on this upcoming case. While we cannot say for certain who is right or wrong, lying or telling the truth, that does not mean we can’t lend support to one side over another. I have reached a decision on this matter as to who I support, and it was not as easy as one might assume.

I take abuse allegations very seriously. I am a woman, but moreso I am human, and as such I feel massive fury burning inside me when I hear of any sort of abuse in any form. Be it the ongoing Bill Cosby assault charges, Ashley Judd recently coming forward about sexual assault from a producer many years ago, or even tragedies befalling countless victims every day that we hear about on local or national news, I feel a rage and sadness that fills me up. Victim shaming and blaming is abhorrent. So what was I left with when my favorite actor was accused of domestic abuse?

I became a Johnny Depp fan in 2009 upon watching Secret Window (2004), an incredibly tense psychological thriller that demonstrated to me just how skilled of a performer Depp is. This fandom came at an important time in my life. While most of my middle-school aged friends at that time were head over heels for relative newcomer Justin Bieber, or imagining themselves as the “Future Mrs. Taylor Lautner,” I took my fandom in another direction entirely: this man wasn’t just mere eye candy, but a masterful artist on screen and a good, funny, giving person off screen. It was following Johnny Depp throughout his filmography that first taught me to look at film critically. Through Johnny Depp, I found Tim Burton, David Koepp, Gore Verbinski, Terry Gilliam, and many more directors who therein introduced me to more artists, styles, and films. This caused a massive web of cinema that continues to grow to this day. I owe everything I am today in my career to Johnny Depp.

Maybe that’s why I burst into tears of joy and exhaustion after waiting in line for twelve hours overnight to see if he would make an appearance at the Live Action Panel of the 2015 D23 Expo. Not only did that appearance happen, it happened in the form of Depp advertising the upcoming Pirates film AS Captain Jack Sparrow. It had been six long years of several failed attempts to see my favorite actor in person, so my emotional bubbling-over was understandable. Little did I know that only two months later, I would come within three feet of Depp at the Dolby Theatre amongst a mob of eager fans. He and I would make eye contact there and grin at each other when I couldn’t think of anything else to do. It was brief moment, but a great one that I’ll always treasure. I had one chance to not screw up, and I managed to pull it off casualty-free!

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My photo of Depp at the Dolby Theatre last October. Photo by author.

All of these memories and feelings of nostalgia welled up inside me as I stared at Amber Heard’s black eye. Could my childhood hero be capable of such cruelty? I wasn’t too keen on Heard from the onset of their relationship: Her youth compared to Depp made me nervous that she was just after his fame and money. I was frustrated with Depp for separating from Paradis, who I absolutely adore, in favor of Heard. But despite my prejudice, abuse would render my favorite actor utterly despicable in my heart if the allegations were proved to be truthful.

But in the past few days, testimony from important sources surfaced that changed my mindset. First, Lorrie Anne Allison, Depp’s first wife, said that he was soft-spoken and never once shouted at her during their marriage. Depp and Paradis’s daughter, actress and model Lily-Rose, has used her very popular Instagram account to advocate for her father’s innocence, including posting this picture of the two of them along with a impassioned message of his kindheartedness:

Vanessa Paradis is perhaps the most important voice in this group, as she is Depp’s longest romantic partner. She stated the following in a letter obtained by TMZ:

“To whom it may concern, Johnny Depp is the father of my two children, he is a sensitive, loving and loved person, and i believe with all my heart, that these allegations being made are outrageous, in all the years i have known Johnny, he has never been physically abusive with me and this looks nothing like the man i lived with for 14 wonderful years – Sincerely, Vanessa Paradis, May 27th, 2016, Los Angeles.”

Further support was lended in a letter penned for The Wrap by Doug Stanhope, a friend of Depp’s. Stanhope claims that Heard is blackmailing Depp, and that he has been watching Heard manipulate Depp since before they were married. He goes on to say that he and his girlfriend were with Depp at his house the day after his mother’s death, and told them their honest opinion of Heard after Depp confessed that “Amber was now going to leave him, threatening to lie about him publicly in any and every possible duplicitous way if he didn’t agree to her terms.” Stanhope and his girlfriend left Depp’s house, and only found out later that that was the night the domestic dispute occurred. Further complicating matters is the fact that the LAPD has stated that there was no apparent evidence of the injuries Heard describes when they responded to the domestic dispute.

I will not ignore the fact that Depp has run into trouble in the past. He was arrested in 1994 for trashing a hotel room with then-girlfriend Kate Moss while drunk, and then again in 1999 in a scuffle with intrusive papparazzi. In 2012, he settled in a court case with a UC Irvine professor who sought punitive damages after being roughed up by his bodyguards at a concert. Despite these occassions, however, I cannot see how someone with so much support from his friends, family, and partners of the past could be capable of the domestic abuse that Heard describes.

It was only after all of the above evidence that I arrived at my decision to support Depp. Once again, I will state that it is not my place to call Heard a liar, and so is that the case for anyone who isn’t directly involved in this matter. At the end of the day, I don’t know Johnny Depp, nor will I ever know the full truth. If I am going to lend my support in one way, it has to go to the man who made me love movies, who formed my appreciation for actors and artists, and who I have watched go out of his way to be kind, patient, and generous to friends and strangers alike again and again.

I was told that I was an “anti-feminist” for not supporting Heard, and that makes my blood boil. I am no less of a woman, no less of a feminist, and have no altered moral code because I support the ‘man’s side’ in this argument, or as the person in question referred to it as, “another instance of support being thrown to the white man,” looping a race argument into a totally non-race related argument. I believe Depp more than I do Heard because of the evidence that has been provided. If you support Heard, that is your right and I will not judge you for it. The moment that you begin attacking me for my beliefs, however, is the moment you may kindly take your opinions elsewhere.

I will be watching as this case unfolds with bated breath. With whatever further evidence comes forward in the upcoming weeks, at the end of the day, I hope that justice is served, no matter what that means. If future evidence shows that this alleged violence did in fact occur, I hope that Depp is punished fairly. If more support is thrown to Depp, I hope that he can escape this disastrous marriage relatively unscathed. But for now, my heart remains with my favorite actor.

I Believe in Disneyland

I made a mistake tonight, and it has resulted in me sitting here in front of my laptop finding rogue tears on my keyboard I neglected to wipe up before as I type away at this blog post. Tonight, I got a little homesick from abroad and caught a recorded version of the “Disneyland Forever” fireworks on YouTube, but not just a recording from any night: this recording was from the premiere performance, kicking off Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary Celebration on May 22nd, 2015, the premiere that myself, a best friend, and our families waited nine hours for and got to experience together. I cried for several reasons: 1) The show makes me weep like an infant even on a good day. Once “I See the Light,” from Tangled begins, I’m a goner, but mostly it’s because 2) I’m over 6,000 miles (or, for my new metric system-using friends, nearly 10,000 kilometers) away from a place that I’m insanely lucky enough to call a home; Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth. I miss it along with all the things and people I love back home, as is natural when one makes a significant life change. But memories of Disneyland seem to encompass all of these wonderful things into 85 acres of expertly constructed land because of what emotions it stirs up in me.

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A view of the Sleeping Beauty Castle post-“Disneyland Forever” fireworks debut! Photo by author.

My Disney obsession began at age three thanks in no small part to my parents, who initially were more obsessed than I ever had the capacity to be as a toddler. But soon, Disney fever took hold in full force. Of course, the films, both animated and live-action, were a factor in my adoration for the company, but above all else, it was the parks that captured my imagination because they encapsulated all things Disney in a single setting that could be felt, experienced, and lived.

While Walt Disney World was the first park I ever visited, something about Disneyland, its older Californian cousin, felt special to me in a way I couldn’t quite describe. The fact that it was so much smaller than the Florida park started to feel less constraining and more quaint and homey. What I ultimately discovered was the biggest reason for my love of Disneyland was Walt himself. While Mr. Disney had passed away long before I was born, one can still very much feel his personal touch in the park. Though wishing to spread his parks across the world, a dream which was ultimately completed by his company in the decades following his death, Disneyland was the only park he ever got to see opened to the public. He walked Main Street, strolled through the castle, rode the carousel. Whenever I pass the  lamp that remains illuminated in his memory in the Main Street firehouse window, I almost can feel Walt inside, looking down and watching all park patrons with a wide grin.

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The Partner’s Statue. Photo by author.

Now, I know that the Disney Company itself is full of controversy and has been practically since its inception, especially with the recent announcement of the increase in park ticket prices which only seem to grow and grow every year. There are many opposing viewpoints about these and many other aspects of the company, some of which I defend and some of which I oppose, but that is a topic for another time. Today, I simply wish to tell you why this place means so much to me.

I want you to see Disneyland through my eyes; the eyes of a child who dreamed of staying in the happiest, most magical place on Earth, who turned into the woman whose dream came true:

You enter the esplanade and are immediately surrounded by joyful music and thousands of names of Disney fans engraved on bricks beneath your feet. You enter the gates with a cheery chime when your ticket permits your entrance, then pass beneath the train tracks into a promised world of “Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy.” The music shifts, signaling that you’re now on Main Street USA, straight out of the turn of the century. Is that a churro you smell? No…popcorn. No! Better still…that delicious corn dog stand on the corner. Mickey just passed you. Inside, you know it’s just someone in a suit, but a part of you feels that childlike glee at seeing an icon from your youth pass right by you. You’ve hit the castle, and now you have options: Do you want to go race over to Tomorrowland, where excitement runs high around every corner? How about Adventureland? The Tiki Room is always a surefire way to get cooled off…with the added benefit of those decadent Dole Whips. Plus you can catch a whiff of that musky, sweet chlorine scent of Pirates of the Caribbean. In the distance, you can hear the whistle of the steamboat, the horn of the train, and distant screams off of Splash Mountain’s 50 foot descent. Perhaps Fantasyland, where the most attractions are located, all crammed together, being equal parts intimidating and great fun. The sun’s going down soon, and it won’t be long before the parade and fireworks show begins. No matter what, the joy of hearing those chords from “When You Wish Upon a Star” that somehow seems to work itself into every performance inevitably sends chills up your arms. Before you know it, Bill Roger’s voice rings out throughout the park: “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Disneyland has just ended its normal operating hours.” It’s been a full day from start to finish, and your feet hurt so badly you’re fairly certain you won’t be able to stand tomorrow. Your eyelids droop, but still a sleepy smile illuminates your face in the dark. You make your final purchases for the night as you leave, although you’ve already spent far too much on all the wonderful food and merchandise in the park, and you head home, wherever “home” may be for the night.

…and it may not have been a perfect day. A screaming child may have annoyed you. A ride may have broken down. It may have been too hot, or too busy. A line may have taken far longer than you anticipated…but you won’t remember that in the end. You’ll remember the smiles, the wild laughter, the feeling of childhood nostalgia that filled you up inside. You’ll remember the happy tears, and maybe shed a few sad ones at the notion of leaving this beautiful place.

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A best friend, a plush friend, and a Mouse friend! Photo by author.

So tonight, when I watched memories from the night I stayed up for 24 hours in “The Happiest Place on Earth,” of course I cried. I miss my home. I miss the place that I have learned to love even when I didn’t have anyone to go with, the place where sometimes I will take homework, the place where my best friend works, and where I too someday may proudly wear a badge. I miss the place that made my childhood (and continues to make my adulthood) a magical place. Despite all the controversy, Disney taught me to find a prince inside a Beast, to wish upon a star, to believe you can fly, to fight for what you believe in, to endure, and above all else, to dream.

I will live in Disneyland. Magic Kingdom, Disneyland.

Where the child inside, gets to laugh and gets to ride until it’s all okay.

I believe in Disneyland. Come with me to Disneyland.

And when we get to Disneyland…let’s stay.

-Kerry Butler’s version of the song, “Disneyland,” written by lyricist Howard Ashman, for his musical Smile

Let’s Talk About My Love Life and “Disney Princess Syndrome!”

I’m sitting here on my floor, typing this blog post while listening to my vinyl record of Adele’s 25 (because I actually am the most stereotypical person alive), and am in the proper mood to blab about deeply personal things! In coinciding with the upcoming Valentine’s holiday, the purpose of today’s blog post is to reveal a part of me that I often times keep hidden in order to protect myself from the often terrifying beast that is….emotions! If you are here reading this, I genuinely hope that what I have to share is at least relatable in some way.

Let’s begin with some math: I have been on this mortal coil for 7,739 days as of today, February 10th, 2016. Of those days, I have been single 99.91% of them (I actually did do the math on this, how sad is that?). I figure that about now you might be looking back at the title of this post and thinking to yourself, “What love life?” To answer your doubts, I will say upfront that I have been in one relationship. It lasted a grand total of seven days and was a complete disaster in nearly every respect. However, I’ve been boy-crazy since the age of five and I have discovered that the source of this mania comes down to one factor that I call, the “Disney Princess Syndrome.”

[Doctor Jessica enters the room, placing on her oversized glasses and peering down at her clipboard] “Disney Princess Sydrome” affects mostly millenial and pre-millenial girls who grew up surrounded by media with female characters that psychologically impacted them over the course of their childhood, primarily of the cartoon variety. These characters, such as your typical Cinderella or Ariel, pine away for male companionship and are seen as being successful at the end of their story as they marry their respective princes. This extends into even the more modern adaptations of the “princess” genre, when more independant characters like Pocahontas and Mulan, while generally being awesome on their own, end up with a love story. Disney Princess Syndrome, or DPS for short, can even be felt outside of the animated medium, often in the romantic comedy genre. The symptoms of DPS include feeling incomplete without a significant other, going completely nutty over anyone who gives you a second glance, and doubting everything you are if you stay single for too long. If left untreated by a good smack in the head, these symtoms can follow a young girl long into her adulthood. Ask your doctor if a good smack in the head is right for you! [End of commercial]

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I am afflicted by DPS, and have been since I was old enough to understand what a boyfriend was. I honestly can’t remember a time in which I wasn’t hardcore crushing over somebody, which always ended up in heartbreak. I’ve fallen for guys of every variety: too athletic, to pathetic, too fawned-over, too egotistical, too little too late, too old, and too young. To add insult to injury, I have been cursed with transparency disease: it is painfully obvious when I like someone. If you are currently reading this and wondering if you might be one of these fellows, I can pretty much guarantee that yes, you are.

On top of these Achilles’ heels of mine, I have a terrible quality in which I can’t stand when someone else possesses something that I perceive as being something I cannot also have; love, in particular. Perhaps this is why high school was such a mess: I recall having to politely ask a lip-smacking couple to move their intwined bodies off of my locker so that I might make it to geometry class on time. Couples were EVERYWHERE, and no matter what I tried or who I tried to pursue, I was being met with roadblocks at every turn.

Jokes aside, the biggest mistake was trying to change into something I thought that men would like. I tried dressing differently, wore makeup long before I probably should, tried to make my voice higher, pretended that I was less intelligent than I actually was, tried to play the damsel… All were terrible choices that made me feel like an imposter inside my own body, and hate what I saw of my body on the outside. Feeling unwanted lowered my self-esteem and created dark voices that I am still battling to this day. These are the voices that will wake you up in the middle of the night, screeching depricating, negative thoughts that will haunt you in everything you do or say.

However, when I entered college, a wonderful thing happened! Someone actually pursued me! This wasn’t a complete novelty: a few guys had been interested in me in past, but the voices always shrugged them off as most likely being a mistake. But this guy was different: he seemed so interested, so kind. He asked me to be his girlfriend in the most beautiful way that I will always hold in my heart. But in a week, he had fully revealed who he actually was; a very insecure person himself who felt the need to date anyone just to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. He ignored my request to take it slow, behaving in such a way that I greatly regret not breaking it off immediately. I shoved my head further into the sand, convincing myself that I was better off with, in the bluntest terms, a hurtful, ignorant person than being alone again. So far in the sand was my head that when he broke up with me after just seven days, I was blindsided and broken. This caused a panic attack, and that therein caused some heavy introspection.

Okay, enough with the doom-and-gloom! I immediately checked myself in to “You Don’t Need a Man” University and went on a now one-year journey in figuring out who am without anyone else. I have taken myself on some amazing me-dates. In even just a week of dating someone, I lost all of my free time, which is now something I relish! I now know what makes me excited about living, I know what it is I want to accomplish with very few things keeping me held back. Before I can surrender myself to loving someone completely, I need one of three factors:

  1. I need to accomplish most of my crazy dreams.
  2. I need to find someone just as crazy as I am with just as much ambition as I have who will ride this crazy wave along with me.
  3. I need someone who will not hold me back.

I am now okay with being unwanted…for now! Even if I never find the right person, I’ll be okay with it. I’m fine with being the Liz Lemon (even though in 30 Rock, she ultimately ended up with James Marsden, further solidifying her place in my life as #lifegoals). I have the wise words of Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary echoing in my head:

“I’d rather be alone than with the wrong man.”

I envy children of today, who will grow up with awesome childhood role models like Elsa from Frozen or Merida from Brave, who truly have little to no interest in finding a significant other and are fiercely independent. And while I’m at, Disney, you can have this idea free of charge: Let’s see your next female protagonist begin her story having been horribly heartbroken. We got halfway there with Anna in Frozen, but I’m talking real, deep heartbreak! Let’s see her progress through her own journey of self-discovery!

However, this is not to say that I cannot stand less-independant characters: my current favorite is the live-action version of Cinderella (2015). Kenneth Branaugh’s adaptation gave Cinderella far more depth to her character, and she dreamed of a better life as a whole, not just a better life by means of earning a man’s affection.  She still pined for her prince, but his love felt far more authentically won, and had a strong moral emphasized further by the song “Strong,” which played in the credits.

In a perfect storybook, the world is brave and good,

A hero takes your hand, a sweet love will follow,

But life’s a different game, the sorrow and the pain,

Only you can change your world tomorrow,

Let your smile light up the sky,

Keep your spirit soaring high

Sonna Rele

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I ran into Lily James, who played the titular character in 2015’s Cinderella at Disneyland last year. I’m not really sure why I like her so much…maybe simply #DowntonAbbeyFam, but also perhaps because she brought a lot of personality to the role, and carried the job of the first Disney live action-remake Princess gracefully! Photo by author.

In summation, yes, I still want to be loved. I would ultimately like to spend the rest of my life with someone who truly loves me back. This isn’t bashing anyone in a committed relationship, or a harsh criticism of romantic media (believe me, I will be watching the hell out of Me Before You [2016] when it comes out!). Nor is it an anti-Valentine’s post, but I am full of love for someone awesome this year; and her name is Jessica Johnson. She’s insane, nerdy, passionate, and really freaking cool. She pities the guy crazy enough to give her his heart, but also can’t wait to see where his road will take her. And if she never finds him, that’s okay too: Her road is so vast that she feels capable journeying it on her own now.

So if you are suffering from DPS, have faith: you are enough on your own. You always have been and always will be. So turn off “Someday My Prince Will Come” and turn on some “Single Ladies,” my people!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

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[Photos from StockSnap]