The First Cookie: My Review of Carrie

There is just something about a new year.

I know that the calendar is simply a human construct, and really pretty meaningless, maybe even random, if you really think about it.

But I still love the concept of a new year.

It reminds me of when I buy new art supplies, for example.  I know that I have bought most of this stuff before, and I am just recharging my already ample supply (luckily, my husband is understanding, although he would not agree that it’s not hoarding if it’s art supplies.)

But still, every time I hoard buy new art supplies, I get that feeling of new possibilities.  No limits.  And I can start anew.

And that is how I feel about 2017.

Especially after the horror movie otherwise known as 2016, that will probably be struck from the history books.

BOCA RATON, FL - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater on March 13, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Trump continues to campaign before the March 15th Florida primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Seriously, those school kids in the future will likely have some gap in their books (or whatever will pass for books in 2297) that covers 2015, 2017, 2018 and so forth.

But yet there will be a gap, in that 2016 will be skipped over.  And I am sure that the parents (or robot nannies) of the future will have fun trying to explain that one.

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In other words, 2016 was pretty scary.  I mean, who wrote 2016…Stephen King or somebody?

Oh, speaking of which…

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In case you forgot which blog you were reading…

Yes, we are starting out 2017 with a review of a Stephen King book…who knew?!

And for this month’s review, we are going back in time…

All the way back to the beginning, in fact.

Now, I know that King started off his writing career at a fairly young age, and spent years trying to get his work published.

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In other words, I am sure there are lots of early works by The Master somewhere out there, for our reading pleasure.

But, for the purposes of this humble lil ole blog, we are going to focus on The Master’s first published book (and also the first of his books to be turned into a movie, which is still a classic.)

So, we are going to be reading and dissecting the novel Carrie.

The book with the infamous shower scene.

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The book that makes you want to get a T-shirt that says “I survived my high school prom and all I got was this bloody T-shirt!”

(See what I did there?)

Carrie was the first published book by Stephen King.

It set the precedent for horror and also for book-to-screen adaptations.

It’s iconic.

Even non-King fans (gasp) can probably recite lines from the movie, and probably even know that is based on a Stephen King book.

Carrie is a huge part of popular culture.  And there is a reason for that:  it discusses themes that everyone can relate to, including puberty, bullying, parental abuse and a few others.

So, strap in, Constant Constant Reader, and get ready for the wild ride otherwise known as Carrie!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an account of stones mysteriously falling from the sky, in the proximity of a house that a woman named Margaret White lives in, along with her toddler daughter Carrietta White.  No one is ever able to explain why the stones fell from the sky, although people do not seem to be surprised that such an odd phenomena would occur in the vicinity of that particular house.

The story then jumps forward several years.  Carrie White is now a teenager attending Ewen High School in Chamberlain, Maine.  Carrie does not fit in at her high school and is bullied mercilessly by her peers.

The bullying reaches a peak one morning, when Carrie begins her first menstrual period at the age of nearly 17.  Carrie does not understand what is happening to her and thinks that she is bleeding to death in the showers of the gym at her school.

Almost at once, the other girls begin to torment Carrie, throwing tampons and menstrual pads at her, demanding that she “plug it up.”  Susan Snell, who generally does not bully other students, participates in tormenting Carrie, although Sue realizes that Carrie may not actually understand what is happening to her and that Carrie may also be genuinely terrified.

We then learn the story of Carrie’s birth.  Her mother, Margaret White, was in denial that she was pregnant, as her religion proclaims that any sexual intercourse is a sin.  Margaret gives birth to Carrie at home, with no medical assistance.  Margaret was alone, because Carrie’s father had passed away several months earlier.

Ms. Dejardin, Carrie’s physical education teacher, puts a stop to the attack.  She does not punish Sue and the other girls right away, but dismisses them so that she can help Carrie.

Ms. Desjardin then escorts Carrie to the principal’s office.  She tries to explain menstruation to Carrie, but Carrie is too upset to listen.  The principal, Mr. Morton, then dismisses Carrie for the day, after Ms. Desjardin gives him an explanation of what happened.  Ms. Desjardin also states that she will punish those responsible for the incident, and Mr. Morton allows the punishment to be her own.

Carrie walks home from school, upset about the treatment she has endured from her classmates over the years.  Carrie is also aware that she is different because she has the ability to move objects with her mind.  This was demonstrated earlier when she forced a light bulb to explode and an ash tray to fall off Mr. Morton’s desk.  Carrie is able to knock a child off his bicycle when he torments her as she as walking home, and realizes that she may be able to control this gift, with practice.

We then read the account of the incident from Carrie’s childhood when the stones fell from the sky.  The incident is told from the perspective of Carrie’s former neighbor, who is being interviewed for a publication.

Carrie arrives home that morning, and finds the sanitary napkins her mother has hidden in the house.  She is no longer frightened, as she realized that menstruation is a normal part of growing up, although she is embarrassed, as she previously thought that sanitary napkins were used to remove lipstick.  Carrie also desires to break free of her mother’s constricting religious beliefs, and to fit in with her peers.

However, Carrie is also angry, and breaks a mirror in an expression of her anger.

The story then switches to the perspective of Sue Snell.  Sue is dating a boy named Tommy Ross, who is the most popular boy in school.  The two have recently become lovers, and Sue begins to contemplate a future with Tommy and realizes that she has fallen in love with him.  That night, when the two are on a date, Sue confesses what happened that morning in the shower to Tommy, as she is upset with herself.  Tommy listens to Sue and suggests that Sue apologize to Carrie for her part in the incident.  However, Sue is unable to come up with a solution to her problem, and still feels badly for what happened.

That evening, Carrie faces the wrath of her mother, Margaret.  Margaret believes that her daughter has sinned because she is now menstruating, and forces Carrie into a small closet to pray for forgiveness.  Margaret also strikes her daughter.  However, Carrie pushes back, threatening to make the stones come again if Margaret does not stop the abuse.

The next week, Ms. Desjardin confronts the students responsible for the attack on Carrie.  Sue Snell is among these students, and accepts responsibility for her part in the incident.  However, Chris Hargensen, one of the other responsible students and a school bully, refuses to accept the punishment, and tries to convince Sue and the others to walk out in protest of Ms. Desjardin and her punishment.  Sue refuses, and Chris’ refusal results in a suspension and refusal of her prom tickets.

Chris’ father also refuses to accept his daughter’s punishment and attempts to bully the school administrators into reversing the punishment so that Chris can attend prom.  The administration, however, stands up to him, and he backs down after he learns what his daughter did to Carrie.

Sue is also forced into a confrontation with Chris, as Chris is angry that Sue did not stand with her in protest of Ms. Desjardin’s punishment.  However, Sue tells Chris that she accepts responsibility for her actions.  Chris counters, telling Sue that she is a hypocrite and only accepting the punishment so that her prom ticket will not be refused.  Sue realizes her hypocrisy, and wonders how to counter it.

Sue continues to feel remorse for her responsibility on the attack on Carrie, and finally has an idea of how to atone.  Sue convinces Tommy Ross, her boyfriend, to ask Carrie to the prom.  Sue is convinced that if Carrie attends prom, she may finally be able to fit in with her peers.  Tommy is reluctant, but finally agrees to Sue’s request.  After he agrees, he tells Sue that he loves her.

Tommy approaches Carrie one day between classes, and invites her to the prom.  Carrie is skeptical, but is finally convinced and agrees to attend the prom with Tommy.  After speaking with Carrie, Tommy realizes that she is far from repulsive.

Carrie decides to use her talent for sewing to make her own prom dress.  Carrie also develops her other talent, known as telekinesis, and is able to move larger objects using her mind.  She informs Margaret that Tommy has invited her to prom and that she has accepted the invitation.  Margaret is furious and attempts to forbid Carrie from attending.  Carrie fights back, using her newfound powers, and wins the battle.  Carrie emphasizes her desire to fit in with her peers, much to the shock of Margaret.

Word spreads that Sue will not be attending prom and that Tommy will instead be taking Carrie to the prom.  It also becomes evident that Chris Hargensen is planning something, although no one is sure what she is planning.

Billy Nolan, Chris’ boyfriend, breaks into a farm one night.  Billy and his friends kill a couple of pigs, and drain the bodies of blood, taking buckets of blood with him when he leaves the farm.

Carrie sews her dress and begins to get ready to attend her senior prom.  Margaret again fights with her, attempting to persuade Carrie not to attend, but once again, Carrie uses her powers to stand up to her mother.  Carrie also tells her mother that she loves her after the confrontation.

Tommy arrives to pick up Carrie, who is extremely nervous, and has even considered not attending the prom.  However, Carrie is pleasantly surprised even from the beginning of the evening, as her classmates and her date treat her with respect.  The girls are impressed with her dress, and surprised by her talent for sewing.  Carrie is further surprised to learn that she and Tommy have been nominated for Prom King and Queen.

While Carrie is attending the prom, her mother Margaret comes to the decision to kill her daughter when she comes home later that night.  Margaret has noticed Carrie’s talent for moving objects with her mind from the time when Carrie was baby, and believes that Carrie’s gift is a sin.  Margaret contemplated sacrificing her daughter many years ago, but did not.  This time, however, she is determined to carry out her plan.

Chris and Billy also carry out their plans to play a prank on Carrie that evening.  They sneak into the high school, where Billy has hidden buckets of the pig’s blood in the rafter.  They plan to dump the blood on Carrie if she is crowned Prom Queen.

Carrie and Tommy are then nominated as Prom Queen and King.  They are crowned onstage.  However, when Carrie and Tommy enter the stage to accept their nominations, Chris pulls the strings, and Tommy and Carrie are doused with the pig’s blood.  One of the buckets hits Tommy on the head, and he is rendered unconscious.  The impact is so severe that Tommy dies in less than an hour.

The audience is first shocked, and then begins to laugh at Carrie, who is also in shock.  Carrie escapes from the gymnasium, but uses her powers to unleash the sprinkler system.  This causes an electrical fire, and students and teachers frantically attempt to escape from the school, which is now engulfed in flames.

Carrie wanders the town, in a state of madness.  She begins to cause more destruction, using her powers to wreak havoc in the town of Chamberlain, Maine.

Eventually, while the town of Chamberlain burns to the ground, Carrie returns to her home.  She is met by her mother, Margaret, who is armed with a butcher knife.  Margaret then stabs Carrie, believing that she is committing an act mercy in ending her daughter’s life.

However, Carrie is not killed by her mother, as she envisions her mother’s heart coming to a stop.  Margaret then dies after her heart comes to a complete stop.

Word of what has happened in Chamberlain reaches Billy and Chris, and they head back into town.  However, they also run into Carrie, who takes revenge on them by using her powers to overturn their vehicle.  Carrie is hit by the vehicle, and Billy and Chris are killed almost instantly.

Sue Snell is wandering the streets of Chamberlain.  She appears to have some sort of telepathic connection with Carrie and knows that Carrie has killed her mother.  She also realizes that Tommy and most of her friends have been killed.

Finally, Sue finds Carrie and realizes that Carrie dying.  She still shares a telepathic bond with Carrie, although the bond is weakening because Carrie is dying.  Carrie is convinced that Sue tricked her and is responsible for the events that occurred that night.  However, Carrie probes Sue’s mind, and realizes that Sue bore no ill will towards her and only wanted to help her.

Carrie traps Sue in her mind as she is dying, so Sue also experiences Carrie’s death.  Finally, Sue escapes Carrie’s clutches, and realizes that she has gotten her menstrual period, which had been a week late.

At least 409 people have died due to the destruction of the high school and the surrounding town.  An autopsy of Carrie White has revealed unusual formations in her brain, and the governor appoints a committee to study the tragedy.

Sue Snell survives the devastation and writes a book about the events.

The town of Chamberlain effectively becomes a ghost town, as people begin to leave.  More bodies are discovered, and the funeral business becomes the most active business in Chamberlain.

Some years into the future, a woman writes a letter to her sister.  The letter describes an incident with the woman’s infant daughter, who apparently has the ability to move objects with her mind.  However, the woman does not fear her daughter, but reveres her instead, believing that the little girl will accomplish great things in the future.


My Thoughts

Well, you know what they say…

Big things come in small packages.

Yes, this cliche may be overused, but I cannot think of a better description of the book Carrie.

It may not be a big book, but it packs a big wallop.

Carrie is King’s first published work.  King has compared it to a cookie baked by a 6 year old:  you can tell it’s a cookie, and it has some nice flavorings, but that cookie is misshapen, burnt on the bottom, etc.

Well, that cookie is some mighty fine eating, and an appetizer for great things to come!

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There are so many great things about this little book that it is hard to know where to start our discussion.

First of all, all Carrie has some great villains.  And no, the title character is not one of them, although we will discuss her in a bit as well.

No, the villains in this story are Carrie’s mother and her classmates, which mainly include Chris Hargensen.

As I have stated before, one of King’s major strengths as a writer is his ability to write about “real life.”

Making the statement that King writes horror is a severe underestimation of King’s work, almost like making the statement that Aaron Rodgers plays football.

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In other words, there is so much more to King (as there is to Aaron Rodgers, as the Dallas Cowboys found out this weekend.)

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King writes horror stories, but when you strip away the horror, his stories are about people.

And one of the things that people do is not be nice to each other.

You know, like sheltering your kid her whole life, locking her up in a prayer closet when she does normal kid things and oh, not telling her about the “birds and the bees?”

Margaret White is one of King’s best human villains.

When one says the name Stephen King to most people, they may think of Pennywise the Clown, a girl who can start fires or maybe of the title character of the book we are discussing, who “lost” it and destroyed her high school.

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Most people are not going to think of religious fanaticism and how dangerous that fanaticism can be be to an impressionable teenager who only wants what most teenager want, i.e. to fit in with her peers somehow, and to not be the butt of EVER SINGLE horrible practical joke every bully somewhere has dreamed up.

What is great (or is it horrible?) about the character of Margaret White is that she is so plausible.

Margaret White exists in this world today.

Any time I read an article about some kid dying because the parents refused medical treatment for religious reasons, or some adult that escaped a household run by religious fanatics who insisted on homeschooling their children and not allowing their children to date before marriage, I think of Margaret White.

Granted, the outcome in Carrie may be a bit extreme, as most kids don’t kill their abusive parents and many are able to flee those conditions and eventually make better lives for themselves.

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But Margaret White still exists.  And she is dangerous, as most people do not recognize the actions of the Margaret Whites in our world for what they are:  child abuse.

Child abuse does not always mean that a parent hits his/her and leaves bruises (although Margaret was guilty of this, and this is still tragically all too common.)

Instead, child abuse can be more insidious, as when the parent controls all actions of the child, and does not allow opposing viewpoints in the child’s life.

Child abuse can also consist of a parent forcing their viewpoints on their child, and punishing the child for daring to have an opposing viewpoint (the prayer closet in action.)

The book Carrie also has another villain, besides Margaret White.

Or should I say, a set of villains?

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In case I am not being clear, I am referring to Chris Hargensen, along with the other sickening half of the dynamic duo…

Yes, Chris is some sort of demented Batman, and that would make Billy some kind of creepy, greasy Robin, I suppose.

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When I read about the bullying experienced by Carrie, and the actions (and lack of actions) by her classmates, I was reminded of one of my favorite books as a child.

This would be the book Blubber, by Judy Blume.

Judy Blume is similar to King, in that she writes “real life.”

In fact, most of my sex education was derived from her books (talking to you, Forever, and Are You There God?  Its Me, Margaret.)

Along with educating me about my anatomy, Ms. Blume also discussed bullying at length in almost all of her books.

However, Blubber was a book devoted to the subject of bullying.

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In this book, children gang up on a particular classmate, bullying her ostensibly due to her weight (the title is the cruel nickname they have come up with for this child, in fact), although the real reasons may be a little deeper.

However, Blubber is not told from the perspective of the bully.  Nor is it told from the perspective of the victim.

Rather, it is told from the perspective of a bystander, Jill.  Throughout the book, we watch Jill evolve, from a fellow bully to a victim to finally someone who becomes enlightened and a more compassionate person.

When I was reading Carrie, I was struck by the similarity between Chris Hargensen and the bullies in the book Blubber, along with the similarity between Sue Snell and the Jill character in Blubber.

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Like the bully in Blubber, Chris is charismatic.  At the beginning, Chris able to get others to do her bidding.

This includes her not very bright, but very cruel boyfriend, Billy Nolan.

In fact, unlike Chris, Billy does not care very much about Carrie White.  He just wants to dump a bucket of pig’s blood on someone, for the thrill of it.  Interestingly, Billy also seems to be the only one who understands that criminal charges would be brought against him and Chris if they were caught.

However, throughout the novel, Chris’ “friends” begin to turn away from her.

One of these friends is Sue.  Much like the Jill character in Blubber, Sue goes along with the crowd at first.

She wants to be accepted and does not want to “rock the boat.”

However, much like Jill in the book Blubber, Sue begins to evolve.

She does not want to miss her prom, but realizes the effect that the bullying has had on Carrie White.

As the events of the story unfold, Sue begins to evolve.

She realizes that there is more to life than high school, her friends and even Tommy, her boyfriend.

Sue is able to put herself into the shoes of Carrie, and realizes what a horrible time that Carrie has had throughout her life.

This prompts her to “loan” Tommy to Carrie for an evening, so that Carrie may have a few hours of happiness.

And when things go horribly wrong, Sue begins to feel a sense of responsibility.

Sue also reminds us that Carrie was a person, with real thoughts and feelings.

Carrie also seeks out Sue, as her life is ending, and realizes that Sue is not to blame for what happened.

In fact, it seems if Sue is able to offer Carrie one of the few bits of compassion that Carrie has ever received in her life, which eases Carrie’s suffering just a little as she dies.

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And last but not least, let’s talk about the title character herself, Carrie.

Now, I know that Carrie is not a terribly long book, and there is not a lot of room to get to know characters on an in-depth basis.

However, King does a good job with the character development in this book.  In fact, he does more than good, considering the length of the book.

In the past, people have indicated a dislike for Carrie as a person.  Or they simply pity her.  Even King has indicated that Carrie is not really a likable character.

However, I respectfully disagree with The Master on that (gasp.)

Maybe it’s because I was bullied as a child.  Or maybe it’s because I survived an abusive marriage.

But I find the character of Carrie White to be fascinating, and to me, she is one of King’s more interesting characters.

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Throughout much of the book, we see Carrie through the eyes of Carrie herself.  And the picture is not flattering, as it would appear that she is overweight and suffering from acne.

However, I was struck when I read the part where Tommy asks her to the prom, and notices that she was “far from repulsive” but this was “the first time he had really looked.”

So was Carrie just invisible when she was not being bullied?  I tend to believe this, because I spent most of my childhood being bullied and trying to remain invisible so I would not be bullied.  In fact, when my ex boyfriend told me that the guys at our college thought that I had the best legs on campus, I was struck speechless.  Really, I don’t think that I even knew that I had legs, much less legs that others may consider to be attractive.

But that’s how it is when you try to remain invisible:  you lose sight of yourself, and become invisible to even your own eyes, so you don’t see what others may marvel over.

Throughout the book, Carrie does begin to emerge from her shell.  And I began to like that girl on her own merits, much like Tommy Ross.

For starters, I thought Carrie to be a strong woman.

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She survived bullying and abuse (from both her peers and her mother) for years, and basically did not flinch.  In fact, she tried to take some of the bullying with good humor, even though she (understandably) lost her sense of humor pretty quickly.

To top it off, Carrie did not have a support system at home.  Most of us who are bullied have family and friends outside of school, so that we have something worth living for.  Carrie did not, although she had a mother who considered anything that may bring her daughter happiness to be a sin.

So anyone who can survive as long as Carrie did under those circumstances is somebody to be admired, not pitied.  And I like strong people, as well as admire them.  I like people who somehow find a way to push through it, even when the circumstances are not good.

“Hurt people hurt people.”

This is a quote from Laverne Cox, in regards to bullying and harassment.  And it applies so well to this book.

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Carrie was definitely one of the hurt people.

Her bullies could not even allow her a few moments of happiness, when she was invited to prom by the most popular boy in school and then crowned Prom Queen.  At that point, even some of her classmates, like Tommy, had begun to like Carrie on her own merits.

But then a horrible prank was played on her, and as they say, the rest was history.

And my question is:  why wouldn’t Carrie “snap” after enduring that kind of prank?

In fact, why wouldn’t anyone “snap” after enduring that kind of prank?

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Throughout the book, the scientific articles are focused on the telekinesis aspect.  Should something be done to prevent children from being born with this ability?  Can we isolate this gene that is responsible for “Typhoid Mary’s?”  Should we test children for “TK ability,” as we test them for tuberculosis?  And so forth.

But never once is the most important question asked:  What causes people to lash out, as Carrie did?

Personally, I was amazed that Carrie did not lash out sooner, due to the abuse that she endured.

Throughout the book, Carrie is not portrayed as someone prone to violence.

She may have fantasies in regards to revenge on her tormentors, but that would be perfectly normal, in my book.

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But constant bullying changes people.  I am living proof of that.  My childhood ought to be behind me, but it isn’t.

I spent my life being told I was not good enough.  So I married an abusive man, because I didn’t think I deserved any better.  In other words, I internalized that message.

I still have difficulty making friends.  Bullying causes major trust issues, so it is hard to open to people so that they can really get to know you.

So it is no wonder that Carrie used her powers to destroy her school and her town, along with killing her mother.

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She had nothing left to live for, as Tommy was killed by the falling buckets.  And no friends, as everyone laughed at her when she was hurt.  And her mother was the cause of this humiliation, as she failed to educate her daughter in regards to her own body.

So it seems to me that telekinesis is not the problem.

Rather, the problem is man’s inhumanity to man.

The telekinesis is a distraction.

We don’t need to worry about testing kids for TK or isolating any type of gene.

Rather, we need to test kids for bullying tendencies, along with testing parents for abuse tendencies.

Until we recognize bullying and abuse for what they are, hurt people will just continue to hurt people.

And the legacy of the Carrie Whites of the world will continue to live on, with horrific consequences.

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Well, that’s it for that tiny package known as Carrie…what a start to the new year!

Join me next month for the read and review of the greatest love story of all time between a boy and his car, aka the novel Christine!

Although we may make a slight detour into the world of Joe Hill again…I hear Christmasland is lovely at this time of year!

Tune in next month…

Same bat time, same bat channel!

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Connections

Even though Carrie is the first published Stephen King novel, it connects to his other works, just like nearly every other King novel.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-The events in Carrie are referenced by a character in the novel The Dead Zone, and mention is made of a movie based on those events.

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-Carrie’s telekinetic abilities are similar to abilities possessed by several other King characters, including Ted Brautigan in Low Men in Yellow Coats (part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis), Kira DeVore (Bag of Bones), Jake Chambers (The Dark Tower series), Danny Torrance (Doctor Sleep and The Shining), Abra Stone (Doctor Sleep), Tyler Marshall (Black House) and several others.

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-In the King universe, Breakers are people who possess psychic abilities and are recruited by the Crimson King and his Low Men (Hearts in Atlantis, Black House and The Dark Tower series) to destroy The Dark Tower, the nexus of all existence.  If Carrie had lived, it seems she most certainly would have caught the eye of The Crimson King and his Low Men.

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-Religious mania is a running theme in King’s work.  Margaret White is similar to several other religious maniacs, including Sylvia Pittson (The Gunslinger, Wizard and Glass) and Mrs. Carmody (The Mist, part of the collection Skeleton Crew.)

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-In The Dark Tower, Susannah mentions getting her first menstrual period, and her experience is similar to that of Carrie’s, as she is also abused in the same manner.

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-Margaret White is employed by Blue Ribbon Laundry.  This establishment is featured in the short story The Mangler (part of the collection Night Shift) and in the novel Roadwork, which was originally published as a Richard Bachman novel.

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11 Reasons to Love Stranger Things

So, it’s summertime.

Not only is it hot, but the offerings on television are a bit scant, so to speak.

The Green Arrow, The Flash and my man Jim Gordon are all on summer vacation, I suppose.

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Although, really, I was craving a dose of the 80’s.

But The Goldbergs are also on vacation.  And I needed something new and fresh, and none of the 80’s movies or TV shows in my collection were cutting it!

But luckily, Netflix decided to oblige me…

I heard that there was new show out.  It could satisfy that 80’s craving…check.

I’m a huge fan of horror and it was scary…check.

It paid homage to some writer guy I am obsessed with…check.

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Oh, and it was actually well-acted and directed…check.

In other words, I am referring to the Netflix show known as Stranger Things.

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Yes, I jumped on the Stranger Things bandwagon!

No I didn’t get a t-shirt, but it was one hell (or is it upside down?) of a ride!

Now, I didn’t binge.  Despite my love for this show, it still is a fine wine that needed to be savored.

So I forced myself to slow down.

In other words, I finished watching the show in about a week.  And I still felt that I rushed it a bit, since there was so much good stuff to savor!

Like the 80’s aspect of it…nostalgia rules!

The Stephen King references…The Master himself even earned a direct reference…but I know he won’t let the fame get to his head!

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And this show was scary…I had to hide my eyes and grip my poor dog really hard watching some parts…good thing dogs are tolerant of their human slaves, even when the human slaves are watching scary stuff on TV!

In other words, there are so many reasons to love Stranger Things.  The show really does have a little something for everyone, and is so well done.

So, I deemed this show worthy of a post on this little old blog.  And I narrowed down the number of reasons to love this show…

Wait for it…

Eleven!

(See what I did there?  You are welcome!)

So, here is my list of 11 reasons as to why Stranger Things is an awesome show.  It may be a bit redundant in parts, but I feel each reason earned its place on the list and is worthy of discussion.

Time to break down and discuss this show, so buckle in for the ride!

And, as always:

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It is scary

Some of you may be scratching your heads, and wondering if Captain Obvious has taken over this blog.  And I don’t begrudge you for that thought.  After all, this show is billed as being in the horror category, so of course it’s scary, right?

Well, not necessarily.  Both the big and small screen are filled with all kinds of abominations these days that call themselves horror.  And when I refer to them as abominations, that does not necessarily mean they are the good kind of abomination…

So, let’s break it down and discuss it.

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When I watched Stranger Things, I felt warm and fuzzy at times.  After all, nostalgia, right?  And I laughed.  I mean who wouldn’t laugh?  After all, Dustin’s antics, floating Eggo waffles and Steve’s hair…all of those are pretty chuckle-worthy, in my opinion.

And, as quickly as I felt the warm and fuzzy, or went into a mad fit of giggling over a Dustin one-liner, I found myself holding on to my dog for dear life (like I said, she’s tolerant) and trying not to be scared into a change of pants.  The show was that effective.

First of all, there was the concept of the Upside Down.  An alternate dimension that sucks in a little kid. forcing him to communicate using Christmas lights?  One of man’s greatest fears is the fear of the unknown.  And an alternate dimension fits that category perfectly, as that would be one of the few frontiers left.

Nancy is briefly sucked into that alternate dimension, and seeing it through her eyes was just frightening.  No wonder she needed a little company that night.  I don’t think I would ever sleep again!

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There is also The Monster.  Although the politically correct name for him (it?) is Mr. Tulip-Head.  So I shall refer to him by his proper name in this post, so no tentacles are ruffled!

And Mr. Tulip-Head is not one to be trifled with, yo!

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Not only is he an extra-dimensional monster that is a predator (you could say that the town of Hawkins was his haunt, as in haunt meaning a place where animals feed), he seems to force slug-like creatures down people’s throats, in an attempt to either kill them, or perhaps an attempt to reproduce…

I tell you, if Will has a mini Mr. Tulip-Head come busting out of him, per the infamous scene in the movie Alien…well, I won’t be surprised at all!  And you can say you heard it here first!

Did anyone else think sushi when Will puked up that tentacle, by the way?

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Ok, so that was just me then…

Well, nevermind, I guess…


It is Nerd Heaven

From the opening scene of Stranger Things, the tone is set.  The audience realizes that it will be treated to a…

Nerd fest!

I know, something nerdy making it on to this blog?  Can you imagine!?

At the beginning of the first episode, the boys are playing Dungeons and Dragons.  And using all the technical terms, like Demi-Gorgon.  And trust me folks, it only gets nerdier.

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Obviously, we have Mike, Will and the rest of the gang.  Right from the beginning, the writers of the show let us know that they are the nerds among their peer group.  This title includes the good grades, unusual hobbies (D&D and membership in the audio-visual club), and the other, not positive attributes of nerdiness, such as the empty social calendar and merciless bullying.

Not only is D&D present throughout the series (as a useful metaphor, no doubt), there are so many little details that made my nerdy heart go pitter-patter.

We have the teacher that has a hot date with a pretty girl explaining the special effects in a horror movie.  Who needs brawn and muscles when you have a guy that can give a technical break down of the special effects in a scary movie to put your mind at ease?

There is the sensory deprivation chamber.  I loved how the boys, Hop and Joyce speculated on how to create one, and then hit upon the idea of using salt water.  It added some credibility to the series, although I think I will skip making one in an attempt to visit another dimension, as this one without Mr. Tulip-head is just fine, thank you!

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I also loved it when the guys talked to the science teacher (the same expert on special effects in movies), about the existence of other dimension, and how to access those dimensions.  As a teenager, I read tons of books on physics, along with science fiction and fantasy novels covering that same topic (A Wrinkle in Time is a favorite of mine) and it is a subject of endless fascination for me, even in adulthood.  So to see it addressed on this show (the analogy with the acrobat and flea on the tightrope is an excellent) gave me goosebumps.  And goosebumps of the good variety.

If I actually had a friend group as a child, I hope that group would have contained a Dustin, a Mike, a Will and a Lucas.  After all, nerd power!


It has strong feminist leanings

If you haven’t, take the time to watch movies like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween.  If you watch carefully, these movies follow a formula.

The formula looks something like this:  a scary monster (or serial killer) is on the loose, somehow.  There are all kinds of hints, but both the teenagers and adults ignore the warning signs.  The teenagers are left to their own devices.  In other words, teenagers of the opposite sex gather together, and “own devices” turns out to mean “having sex.”  So most of the teens pair off, and conveniently find fully furnished bedrooms.  And then they have sex.  Well, except for a couple of virtuous kids, who are either uncomfortable with the idea of dating before marriage, or the nerdy guy (or girl, but usually a guy) who is rejected by the beautiful member of the opposite sex for either the jock or cheerleader.

Apparently, nothing angers a movie villain more than sexually active teenagers.  And the kinkiness of the sex involved is directly proportional to how quickly (and even how gruesomely) the teenagers get dispatched.  It is then up to the virtuous guy or girl to face the killer, and defeat the killer, who just won’t stay dead, even after being riddled with a large number of bullets that would take down any non horror movie villain.

Or something like that, at any rate.  Formulaic, in other words.

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Now, Stranger Things may be a tribute to the 80’s and all things horror, but one thing it is not is formulaic.  This includes its treatment of the teenage girl.  In fact, Stranger Things stands the formula on its head, and can be argued to make a strong feminist statement by doing so.

So a Netflix series dealing with extra-dimensional monster, with shades of The Goonies and Stand By Me has (gasp) feminist leanings?  Have this blogger lost her mind?

Well, no.  Although my friends and family may argue otherwise, but you can’t miss what you never had, right?

And yes, Stranger Things does make a strong feminist statement, and here’s why.

Nancy becomes involved with Steve, and sneaks out to a party, lying to her parents and convincing poor Barb to cover for her.  Pretty typical teen behavior, in other words.

Not surprisingly, Nancy and Steve have sex.  The other couple at the party has sex.  And poor Barb is left to her own devices.

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Standard horror fare, in other words.

But then, we veer away from the standard horror.  Nancy survives her first time, although Steve behaves in a pretty boorish manner (in other words, a teenage boy.)  Barb, however, does not survive that night, as she is attacked by Mr. Tulip-Head.  Apparently, Mr. Tulip-Head did not get the memo from Jason or Michael Myers, and does not attack the teenagers engaged in premarital sex.  Rather, he behaves like a typical predator, and attacks the isolated member of the herd, aka Barb.

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It takes a bit, but Nancy realizes that Barb is missing.  She confesses her lie to her mother and speaks to the police, naturally leaving out that she and Steve had sex that night.  I mean, it’s not like her sex life is anybody’s business but hers, right?

Furthermore, Nancy lets her mother know this, in no uncertain terms.  Yes, she had sex and Barb is now missing.  But the two are NOT related, nor should they be seen as related.  Because, you know, becoming sexually active and an extra-dimensional monster that had been unleashed due to the irresponsible actions of a shady operation in town are NOT related, so let’s focus on the important thing here:  now two children are missing, and maybe our town is in danger, so let’s do something before more people turn up missing?

BOOM!

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Who knew?!

In other words, quit punishing women for being sexual!  Being sexual should not lead to death!  And a women’s sex life is no one’s business but her own!  Yeah, go Stranger Things!

Plus, Nancy kicks ass anyway.  She threw down some serious shade against Mr. Tulip-Head, and they boys just kind of followed her lead.

In other words, I can’t give Nancy enough love.


It is 80’s heaven

And let me count the ways…

Where do I even start?  This show just has so much 80’s…

We have the decor in the houses.  Someone took some great care to make sure that the houses looked like something you would see back in 1983, from the wall paper down to the carpeting.  So there’s that.

We get 80’s music.  The Clash?  How much more 80’s can you get?

And movie references.  Don’t forget those.  Joyce surprising Will with tickets to go see Poltergeist.  And then Will disappearing, in much the same manner as Carol Anne Freeling.  It’s true that Joyce developed an obsession with all things electronic and not the TV, but the concept is still the same.

I saw elements of The Goonies and Stand by Me.  In fact, the story arc of Mike and his friends is kind of similar to these two movies:  plucky misfit kids have a crazy adventure together and test their friendship in the process.  Well, just add in extra-dimensional monsters and shady government operatives.  But still not too far off.

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The television that happened to be playing an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe…squee!

Throw in a little John Hughes as well.  The girl must choose between two guys:  one is kind of a lovable meathead, and the other is artistic and introspective, and the sworn enemy of the aforementioned meathead…

Then there is the character of Hop, who had a kind of Indiana Jones vibe…swoon…

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So much nostalgia.

I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s (I am 38, for all you nosy folk), and when I watched Stranger Things, I was (at least momentarily), transported back to my childhood, and was reminded of a time in my life when things were a little less complicated.

And no, I am not looking back with rose-colored glasses.  That’s 3 D glasses I am using, thank you very much!

Now excuse me, I have to go find some leggings that coordinate with my banana clip…battling extra-dimensional monsters will just have to wait!


The nods to different types of horror

Well, we just talked about how the show is scary.  So of course, since it is a show in the horror category, right?

Captain obvious strikes again!

Actually, this reason is more in regards to the fact of how the show paid homage to so many different types of horror.

First of all, we have the 1980’s horror aspect.  When I watched, I was reminded of all the 80’s classics:  A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and the Halloween movies.  Those movies had teenagers or young adults as their protagonists, just like Stranger Things.

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One of the main points of the show was the fear of the unknown.  Again, I was reminded of John Carpenter (The Thing.)  The premise of The Thing is a life form that is not understood, just like Mr. Tulip-Head in Stranger Things.  That creature is definitely not understood, nor would understanding be a good thing (although it may result in one being forced to ingest slugs.)

I was also reminded of the movie Alien, which (again) deals with the fear of the unknown.  And has a strong female protagonist.  Nancy and Ellen Riply…now that would be a dangerous combo!

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And I was also reminded of H.P. Lovecraft

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Yes, a show that is a mix of Stephen King’s It and The Goonies also has some nods to Lovecraft…who knew?

The fear of the unknown and creatures not of this world is a pretty common theme in most all  Lovecraft stories.  The Dunwich Horror and The Colour Out of Space are good examples of this.

The idea that Will had been touched by the unknown (after he pukes up a slug and seems to be back in the Upside-Down momentarily) and forever changed is also something that is distinctively Lovecraftian.  One of the running themes in Lovecraft’s stories is that knowledge is not necessarily always a good thing, and Will experiencing life in another dimension was not necessarily a good thing.  In fact, I think that experience will have some pretty severe repercussions, but only time (and a second season) will tell.

In fact, I found the end of this season to be pretty unsettling, as the camera shots and the shots of the stars in the sky seemed to imply that someone (or something) had its eye on Will, his friends, Nancy, Jonathan and the whole town of Hawkins, Indiana.  And that someone or something was not friendly.  Not friendly at all.


It is a HUGE homage to Stephen King

While we are on the subject of horror and scary things…

This reason may be a bit redundant.

After all, Stephen King is a horror writer.  And he is scary.  He is even tied into the 1980’s (It, Pet Sematary, Cujo and Firestarter are all 80’s books.) He even ties into the feminist part, since he is also capable of writing strong female characters.

But, he is The Master.  And The Master deserves his own entry.  Not to mention the fact that there are aspects to this show that are distinctly Stephen King.

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We do have one character specifically asking another character if she has read a Stephen King book.  Hey, if you are going to drop a bunch of King Easter eggs, you may as well admit it, right?

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The fact that Eleven’s mother was drugged in order to enhance latent PSI abilities is a direct reference to the book (and movie) Firestarter.  In Firestarter, a man and woman are drugged as part of an experiment.  The man and woman fall in love, marry and have a child.  The child is gifted (or perhaps cursed) with the ability to start fires with her mind.  This is similar to Eleven’s situation, in that her mother was drugged, and then gave birth to a child with PSI abilities (aka Eleven.)

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Plus, I am pretty sure that Hawkins Laboratory is actually an operative of The Shop

People, especially children, with extraordinary abilities, are a major theme in King’s work.  The Shining, Carrie, Everything’s Eventual, Dr. Sleep and Firestarter are just some examples.  In fact, in the Dark Tower series, people with these abilities even have a name:  Breakers.  And Eleven definitely classifies as a Breaker.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell the Low Men!

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Traveling between realities is also a huge theme in King’s work.  In fact, this also has a specific name: going Todash.  And the space in between realities is called the Todash space, and monsters lurk in the Todash space.  When Eleven was in the blackness and first encountered that monster…I would say that was a pretty good representation of Todash space!

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In King’s books, there are doors that lead to realities.  They are known as “thinnies,” and allow travel to different worlds and even different time periods.  Eleven was able to use her PSI abilities to make one of these doors.  And, as far as we know, that door still exists at Hawkins Laboratory, with the potential for more creatures (The Mist comes to mind) to cross over to the Stranger Things level of The Tower

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Yeah, I said it.  I gave Stranger Things its own level on The Dark Tower.  So if Roland and his ka-tet, or perhaps Danny Torrance, end up employing the services of a certain girl with a fondness for Eggo waffles…well, you heard it from me first, folks!


It gives an honest portrayal of small town life

I am someone who grew up in a small town, so I feel qualified to write about this topic.  And it is something that has come up in many a blog post, mainly in the Stephen King related posts, as small towns are as vital to a Stephen King novel as kids with PSI abilities, homicidal clowns and rabid St. Bernards.

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I have discovered that the only people who really understand the small town are those who have spent time in the small town (like Stephen King, obviously.)

You have one extreme that sees the environment as charming, quaint, maybe even bucolic.  Can kids really go missing in a small town?  You can leave your doors unlocked, right?  The locals are charming!

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Then, there is the other extreme:  people who see the small town populated by the likes of the Peacock family, with no access to modern technology (what plumbing?) and just a general ignorance of the outside world, period.

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The truth is that small towns are complex.  Stephen King hits on this in books like Needful Things, It, ‘Salem’s Lot and many, many others.  Stranger Things also hits on this, and in only eight episodes.  I am sure that this theme will be discussed more in (hopefully) upcoming seasons as well.

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On the the one hand, there is a sense of community in a town like Hawkins, Indiana.  People rally together to comfort Joyce and help search for Will when it is believed that he is still alive.  People are at ease with each other, because if they don’t know you, they probably went to school with one of your parents.  Or worked with your best friend at the local factory.

But small towns have a sense of ugliness about them too.  I can personally testify to this.  And Mike and his friends can as well.  The bullies hurl a racial slur at Lucas early on.  Steve is able to spread rumors and ruin Nancy’s “reputation” fairly quickly.  The lack of concern for Barb after she disappears is downright disturbing.  People quickly assume that Barb is a runaway, and no effort is made on her behalf.  And that is part of small town life:  the people in the town do not want to believe that something may be amiss, and will try to cover it up.

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So how long have the inhabitants of Hawkins Laboratory suspected, at least somewhere deep down, that something was amiss in their town?  Obviously, Dr. Brenner (who will be referred to in this blog as Dr. Pedophile, due to his disgusting nature) has been performing unethical experiments for a long time.  At the very least, these experiments produced poor Eleven, and a woman in a vegetative state (likely the mother of Eleven.)

But Eleven is the 11th.  The 11th of what?  Are there others like her?  If so, what happened to them?  And what do the people living in the town know?  What other skeletons will emerge?

The show has been renewed for a second season, so I am sure we will be finding out a lot more about Hawkins, Indiana, and its secrets.


Dustin

Now, all of the characters are fabulous.  Let me just get that out there, less I ruffle the tentacles of Mr. Tulip-Head, and any other monsters that resemble flora gone terribly wrong!

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Along with Old Tulip-Head, I have much love for the characters in this show.  Even the bad guys, like Dr. Pedophile.  They are well drawn-out and believable, even when they are behaving in ways that may make one scratch his or her head (talking to you, Sheriff Hop.)

But there is one character that deserves his own entry.

So, without any further ado…let me introduce Dustin!

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And if you don’t love Dustin, then you are definitely in the same category as people who kick puppies and listen to Nickelback!

Ok, I may be joking.  About the kicking puppies bit, anyway.

On the surface, Dustin is lovable.  Actually, everything about him is lovable, from his love of chocolate pudding, to his smile and even that speech impediment!

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But, there is much more to Dustin than his ability to track down chocolate pudding and that charming smile of his.

Dustin is the glue that holds his group of friends together.  It is true that Mike is the brains, and Lucas is a fighter.

However, if it weren’t for Dustin, the group may have fallen apart.  Mike and Lucas were constantly at odds with each other, especially when Eleven was added to the fold.  In fact, things got physical, and Lucas was thrown in the air by Eleven for his troubles.

But due to Dustin’s insightful nature (he did understand that he could not have the same place in Mike’s life, because he didn’t come into it until fourth grade), Lucas and Mike were able to come to an agreement and reconcile.  Dustin played the mediator, getting each side to compromise with each other, so that they did not compromise their mission:  saving Will from what was literally Hell.

Dustin has been compared to Vern Tessio, a character in the movie Stand By Me.  Superficially, there is something to that, as both Vern and Dustin provide comic relief and are the easy going friends who try to keep the peace.

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But as a wise man pointed out:  Dustin would never forget where he left his pennies.

BOOM!

This is Dustin.  He’s our friend and essential to keeping us from killing each other so that we don’t leave our other friend some place that is not on any map!

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The friendships

Much of Stranger Things is about friendships, and the relationships the characters have with each other.

Obviously, we have Mike, Will, Lucas and Dustin.  The OF, or Original Friendship, if you will.  When Will goes missing, Mike will stop at nothing to find Will so that his group can be whole again.

Then, there is Eleven.  Mike and Eleven seem to bond immediately, and Eleven slowly becomes something more than a human flashlight to Mike, even though he is still desperate to find his missing friend.

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In fact, it could be argued that Eleven’s presence makes all the boys better people, although this is especially true for Mike, whose relationship with Eleven opens his eyes, and causes him to grow up a little.

We also have Nancy and Barb.  Barb starts off as Nancy’s friend who is willing to do anything for her, including lying to her parents so that she can sneak out and spend time with Steven.  However, Barb disappears into the Upside-Down, a seeming victim of the Mr. Tulip-Head.  Like Will, Nancy is forced to grow up, as she searches for Barb, and encounters the callous reaction of law enforcement and even her parents, who refuse to believe that Barb is anything other than a teenage runaway.

There is the relationship between Nancy and Jonathan.  Jonathan is frantically searching for his brother, and Nancy is frantically searching for her friend.  The two bond in their mutual tragedy and work together to defeat the evil that is trying to destroy their town.  Nancy develops a respect for Jonathan, viewing him as a person, rather than the “weird kid” that her peers see him as.  Jonathan also develops a respect for Nancy, and seems to feel something more than friendship for her, even though Nancy reconciles with Steve.

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Steve also bonds with Jonathan, and seems to genuinely feel remorse for the bullying.  However, that friendship seems to be tentative at best, given that both men have feelings for Nancy.

In other words, people had “frenemies,” even back in the ancient times!


It tackles taboo topics

It is no secret that horror and “taboo” topics are linked.  Almost every horror movie features sex of some kind (Friday the 13th and its approximately 725 sequels are a great example of this.)  Candyman is another movie that deals with taboo topics, because it addresses racism.

And don’t even get me started on Stephen King, The King of Taboo Topics (pun intended.)  King books run the gamut, from domestic violence, to bullying, to substance abuse and even to the death of a child.  When “real-world” issues are included alongside the supernatural ones, the the story becomes that much more believable.

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Stranger Things is no different, in that it also deals with taboo topics.  The show begins with every parent’s worst nightmare:  the disappearance of a child.  And it only gets more taboo from there.

Early on in the series, we witness the bullying that Mike and his friends endure.  Lucas is treated to a racial epithet.  Dustin is harassed due to his speech impediment.  And it gets worse, as the bullies make some disparaging remarks about Will’s supposed death, when they are supposed to be mourning the loss of their classmate.

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Mike is not the only character who experiences bullying.  Jonathan is also harassed for being different, and this harassment is experienced at the hands of Steve.  Steve is also insensitive to the disappearance of Will, and to the disappearance of Barb, the best friend of the girl he claims to love.

We have the character of Sheriff Hopper.  Hop’s character is a walking bundle of taboos, actually.

First of all, Hop is a substance abuser.  He is an alcoholic, much like Jack Torrance in The Shining.  Not surprisingly, he is also a womanizer, using sex and alcohol to escape his demons.

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Hop has also experienced the ultimate tragedy:  he has lost a child.  Not surprisingly, this experience has shaped him into the man that he is.  The loss cost him his marriage, and his ex wife has moved on and started a new family.  Hop attempts to do this, but struggles mightily.  However, when he meets Eleven and spends time in the Upside Down so that he can rescue Will, Hop is able to begin healing.  It could even be said that Will and Eleven are surrogate children of Hop.

Often, subjects are “taboo” and therefore frightening because we choose to keep them in the dark.  But when the light is turned on, the monsters are no longer as formidable as they once were.


Now, I know that I said I had made this list with no particular order in mind.  But, like Maury Povich might say, this post has determined that to be a lie!

There is one aspect of Stranger Things that deserves her own entry, and should be in the spotlight, at least for a minute.

I mean, after all, it would be an Upside Down kind of logic if I didn’t pay her homage, right?

So, without any further ado…

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Here is my favorite thing about Stranger Things!


Eleven

Yes, in case you have not figured it out, I am talking about our favorite telekinetic, Eggo waffle loving, mouth breather hater with a cute buzz cut adolescent, aka Eleven!

Eleven is bad ass.  I can’t think of any other way to put it.

She is here to kick ass and eat Eggo waffles, and she’s almost out of waffles!

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In all seriousness, I just love Eleven.  How can you not?  People who hate Eleven are like people that listen to Nickelback!

Eleven is one tough chick.

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She started out as an experiment.  She doesn’t know her real parents.  The only parental figure that she’s ever known is a creepy scientist, known as Dr. Pedophile for the purposes of this blog.

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And to Dr. Pedophile, she is nothing but his lab experiment, to be used as how he sees fit.  And he uses her to open gateways that should never be opened, and to explore what should remain unknown.  When she escapes, his concern is not for her as a person, but as his test subject that someone else may access.

Eleven is forced to face things that would frighten people three times her age to death.  Yet, she somehow does it, in the name of helping a boy that she has never met.

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She is also fiercely loyal to her friends, although she has only known Mike, Lucas and Dustin for a short time.  She makes the bully pee his pants…that is true friendship right there!

Even though Eleven has been raised in a lab, she still manages to exhibit the most humanity of anyone on the show.  Nearly everyone on the show has an agenda:  Mike and his friends want to find Will, Hop wants to expose Hawkins Laboratory, Nancy is looking for revenge for Barb.  But not Eleven.  The only thing Eleven is looking for (besides waffles) is love and acceptance.  And she does manage to find that, if only for a short time.

However, Eleven’s happiness is tragically cut short, when she makes the ultimate sacrifice:  she battles an extra-dimensional monster, and seemingly sacrifices herself so that her friends may live.

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Often, bad ass can come in small packages.  And Eleven is a lot of bad ass in one small package.  But sometimes, small packages have the most give, just like Eleven.


So, there you have it.  Eleven reasons why I love Stranger Things.  Sure, maybe I missed a few, but I think I got most of them.  Hopefully, I don’t incur the ire of Mr. Tulip-Head and his merry band of slugs1

This is Stranger Things.  Its my show and it’s crazy…crazy awesome, that it is!

So, if you haven’t watched this show, I have given you eleven reasons to make sure that Netflix subscription is up to date…

So flop down on your couch, and prepare for one epic binge session!

Happy watching!

Every Gunslinger Needs a Companion: An Interview With Bev Vincent

In life, sometimes you take journeys.  Sometimes these are physical journeys (I have had a few myself).

Sometimes, there are other kinds of journeys as well…

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Well, I am sure most of us (me included) don’t take a journey like that often ever but that game last night sure was was ride, at any rate…whew!  And this little old blog sends you love, Ser Peyton!

Or, if you are more like me, you take literary journeys.  Oh, too nerdy for you!  Well, sorry, guess someone forgot what blog this was again!

And I have traveled alone, and I have traveled with others.  Now traveling alone is not a bad thing.  But sometimes, having a companion has its advantages.  A Sam Gamgee, maybe.  Or if you are Peyton Manning, a Von Miller (and it doesn’t hurt to perhaps throw in a Chris Harris, or maybe an Aquib Talib or two, for that matter).

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In other words, great journeys are not usually accomplished alone, whether they are to destroy a pesky ring, or to obtain a pesky second (Super Bowl) ring.  Even this guy can testify to that!

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Yes, you are definitely reading this blog and forgot to heed all the previous warnings!

Reading the Dark Tower series is a journey.  And I have taken that journey on my own.  And it was great, of course.

But I have taken it with friends, too.

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Well, I wasn’t talking about these guys, per se.  If I was relying on them for friendship, well that is a recipe for guaranteed heartbreak, and I will leave it at that.

Nor am I talking about the followers on my blog and social media account, who were with me every step of the way in my latest re-read and review of the entire series.  I do appreciate both all of you very much though, and much love to everyone!

Rather, I am talking about works such as this one:

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And this one:

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Well, they may be books, but to any Constant Reader who is also obsessed with the Dark Tower series, they are almost as invaluable as a Sam Gamgee or Vonn Miller.  They aid in the journey, so that journey becomes that much richer.  These books have also made me become a much better reader, as I have picked out some details I missed on previous re-reads, which made me feel like the kid who found the Easter Egg that everyone else missed because everyone else did not know where to look.

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Recently, I have the please of talking to one of the creators of my companions, aka Bev Vincent.  I was curious as to what goes on when creating works like these to aid in this journey that I have taken so many times.  And Mr. Vincent was gracious enough to talk to me, and given me a little more insight into his work, the Stephen King universe in general and the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.  So, read below for the complete interview.

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And, as always:

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Please, tell us a little about yourself. This can be anything, including education, background, etc. Also, when did you first become a Stephen King fan and why?

I come from eastern Canada. I grew up in a small community in northern New Brunswick, where I lived until I was eighteen. I then went to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I studied chemistry. I got a B.Sc in 1983 and finished my PhD in X-ray crystallography in the fall of 1987. I did a postdoc at the ETH in Zurich and worked as a staff crystallographer until 1989, at which time I moved to Texas, where I’ve lived ever since.

crystallography 1

I started writing seriously at the end of the previous millennium and it has been part of my daily routine ever since, although I still have a day job.

Bev Vincent 1

I discovered Stephen King when I was living in Halifax. I picked up a copy of ‘Salem’s Lot in a used bookstore and I’ve been hooked ever since. I sought out his other books (there weren’t many in 1979!) and have followed along with him for over 35 years. I read a lot, and far more than just King’s books, but he’s been one of the constants. I guess you could call me a Constant Reader.

'Salem's Lot 1


 

What is your favorite Stephen King book, and why is it your favorite?

I have a hard time picking absolute favorites — I have affinities for certain books at different times for different reasons. I have a particular fondness for ‘Salem’s Lot because it was the first, the one that got me hooked. The book has a lot going for it, for a “second” novel (of course, we know it was not his second written book), and it stands up quite well.

Salem's lot 2

Bag of Bones is one that would appear in my top five list. It was the first of his books that I read in first draft manuscript long before it was published. That was a fascinating experience, and I especially appreciated the way he subsequently rewrote the book, layering in things that weren’t present in the first draft.

bag of bones 1

I used to like to tell people about The Gunslinger for a long time, when people didn’t know much about it. It was my entry point into the Dark Tower series, but for a long time it was the only book in the series for me. I loved its mood. I had no idea where the series was headed — or even that it was headed somewhere, but I reread that one a number of times. I could list others that are high on my list. But I’d have an easier time picking my two least favorites. No trouble there at all!

Roland 2


 

Oh, what is your least favorite SK book?

I have two: Needful Things and The Tommyknockers. I didn’t like any of the characters in the former and I liked Bobbi and Gard a lot in the latter and hated that King abandoned them for a huge chunk of the book when all I wanted to do was to get back and find out how they were doing.

Needful things 3


 

I am really excited about the upcoming Hulu adaptation for 11/22/63, and I have high hopes for the series. However, I know that movie adaptations of King’s books are mixed, at best. Some work, some don’t. Out of all the King movies, which one do you feel works the best, and why? Which one do you think does not work, and why?

I’ve already seen the entire miniseries of 11.22.63 and I think people are going to like it a lot. It is significantly different from the novel in many ways, yet it captures the sense of the book perfectly. The actress who plays Sadie is wonderful and it is her more than James Franco who gives this adaptation its heart. The production values are extremely high and the cast is terrific.

card-1963

I’ve never been someone who saw the adaptation as a necessary part of the life cycle of a book. Slavish adaptations aren’t always the best. The problem with Dreamcatcher, in my opinion, is that it tried to cram too much of a very big book into the movie, which made it almost incomprehensible to people to people unfamiliar with the novel.

Quality: Original. Film Title: Dreamcatcher (2003). Pictured: (L to R) DAMIAN LEWIS, THOMAS JANE, TIMOTHY OLYPHANT and JASON LEE in Castle Rock Entertainment's and Village Roadshow Pictures' science fiction/horror film Dreamcatcher distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo Credit: Doane Gregory. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures 2002. For further information: please contact The Warner Bros. Press Office on 020 7984 5000.

On the other hand, the adaptation of Dolores Claiborne took significant liberties with the book, deleting characters, changing the emphasis on others, but it absolutely captured the novel.

Dolores C

A lot of the adaptations are forgettable or laughable. I have no use for The Mangler or Children of the Corn (I through XII) or any number of other B grade films.

Disney SK

I did like The Mist, despite the controversial change to the story–and I was thrilled to get to visit the set during production.

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I also visited (the set of) Haven for a day with my daughter, which was great fun. There’s a case of an adaptation that took a core idea and then ran off in a vastly different direction from the source. The same people did the same thing with The Dead Zone TV series.

Haven TV series starring Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant, Eric Balfour, Richard Donat, John Dunsworth, Adam Copeland, Glenn Lefchak, Nicholas Campbell, Kate Kelton, Emma Lahana, Bree Williamson, Christopher Shore and Colin Ferguson - dvdbash.com

There are some great ones — Shawshank, Stand By Me — and some surprisingly effective ones, like 1408 — and a whole lot of turkeys.

ka caw


 

I have read your book, The Dark Tower Companion, and wow! Can you tell us how this book came to be, and exactly what went in to writing it and putting it together?

DT companion 1

I previously wrote The Road to the Dark Tower around the time King was finishing up the last three books in the series. People had frequently asked me when I was going to write a book about King and his work, but I had resisted the idea because it seemed like such a huge project.

the road to the DT 1

Then when I heard that King was going to write the final three Dark Tower books all at once, I had the idea that I could explore the series and, in doing so, say something about all of King’s work in general. King gave me the manuscripts for the final books a couple of years before they were published, which allowed me to have my book ready around the same time as Book 7 was published.

never just a book

The Road to the Dark Tower was written for people who had already read the entire series and wanted to revisit it with me. I would be the tour guide, and I would point out the things I had noticed while reading and rereading and studying the series.

Dark Tower 3

Then, a number of years later, the first serious indications that there would be a film adaptation emerged, with Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman. I thought it was time to update my book with all the things that had happened in the Dark Tower Universe since my first book was published. However, my publisher suggested that I do a new book, completely different from the first. So, The Dark Tower Companion was written for people who haven’t necessarily read the series. I thought there would be people who came to the Dark Tower via the movies or the Marvel graphic novels. People who might want to know more about something — a reference book. I had to read the series several times for each book, with different things in mind on each reading. My copies are marked up with so many different colored highlighters that they look like the Bends o’ the Rainbow!

Maerlyn's rainbow

I especially enjoyed getting to interview all these great people for the book, from King himself to Ron Howard (from the set of RUSH) and Akiva Goldsman, and then all of the creative people involved in the Marvel series. That was a series of terrific experiences. I also had a great time coming up with the two maps — the one that showed the known region of Mid-World, especially when certain details came together, and the one of the Dark Tower locations in Manhattan.

DT movie 3


 

It looks like we may finally get our Dark Tower movie(s). I know that if Roland doesn’t do the finger twirl in the movie, I will not watch it…at all! (Joking, joking.) All kidding aside, what do you need to see in the movie(s) from the books (since we all know that there will be changes, which are necessary) to make sure that the movie does not stray too far from the source material?

I’m open to a complete re-imagination of the series. If you’ve read my interviews with Howard and Goldsman, you’ll see that their ideas for the first movie are quite radical, and I was fine with that. I’m also fine with possibly having Idris Elba as Roland — in fact, I think that would be terrific.

Idris Elba 1

A movie isn’t made first and foremost for the readers of the source material, I believe. They are made for a movie-going audience, so a lot of accommodations have to be made, and can be made.

Some people have suggested that the movies should feature Roland’s NEXT version of his quest, the one where he starts of with the Horn of Eld. To my mind, that means that anything could happen. Anything. If Roland is a different person (arguably a slightly better one), then maybe he needs different companions to get the job done. I’m not saying I want to see that happen, but once that suggestion is made, it shows that people are open to change.

Roland and horn 1

I don’t know if the movie can work if it is too literal an adaptation. A lot of people were upset by how the series ended on the page — can you imagine going to see a handful of movies over a span of years only to end up back at the beginning again?

DT ending

I’m perfectly content for them to do whatever they see fit with the adaptation. There are some pretty smart people in the movie business. And if they end up making a hash of it, oh well.

Roland 1


So many thanks to Bev Vincent for this interview.  And remember, if you need a companion to help guide you on the Path of the Beam, whether it be be your first journey or your 19th journey, please check out The Road to the Dark Tower, The Dark Tower Companion and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance (written by the lovely Robin Furth).  These friends  works are available wherever books are sold.

And, as always, happy reading!

RoaldDahl

Since Everyone is Entitled to my Opinion

So it happened again.

It sure did.

About two weeks ago, the internet broke.  Yep, it broke.  AGAIN.  Really, the internet can be fragile sometimes.  Although luckily, I think it responds to duck tape.  And maybe even Krazy Glue.

Urusla

Usually, anything that breaks the internet is not something I care much about.  I’m just not that much into Miley Cyrus and her twerking.  Or Kim K butt pics.  Or what color that dress really is…its just ugly, period!

ugly dress

But this time, I cared.  It may be one the few rare times during the long period I have graced this planet with my existence (37 years in June, actually) but I found myself actually caring about what broke the internet.  And I may have actually contributed to the breakage, although I think my contribution amounted to no more than a virtual greenstick fracture.

greenstick fracture

As we all know, I am obsessed with Stephen King.  I have read nearly all of his books.  In particular, I am obsessed with The Dark Tower series.

Yes, obsessed.  And I mean OBSESSED as opposed to obsessed.  I am a member of multiple Facebook fan pages for Stephen King and The Dark Tower series.  I am even an admin for two of these pages (could we really get any nerdier?  Wait, that is a rhetorical question, not a challenge!)  I have made so many new friends through these pages, and even had the opportunity to interview Mr. King’s right hand lady of The Dark Tower series.  I constantly draw and create other forms of artwork inspired by The Dark Tower series.

Robin-Furth 2

Oh, and I created this blog, which has a few entries on King and his works.

So, its safe to say I am a Constant Reader or CR for short (which I will call myself from now on, since that sounds a little nicer than COFG, which stands for Crazy Obsessed Fan Girl).

So, I am passionate about The Dark Tower series.  Very few works have touched me in the manner that this series has, and it will remain my favorite fantasy series of all time.  It is powerful, and simply inspiring.

Roland 1

And like all other fans, I can’t get enough.  I read the comics inspired by the series.  And I read books about the series, such as The Road to the Dark Tower, The Dark Tower Companion and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Complete  Concordance (both volumes!) written by Bev Vincent and Robin Furth, respectively.  And any time a new King books is released, I have my hands on it and my nose buried in it, looking for any connection, no matter how remote, to what King has called his magnum opus.

Bev Vincent 1

But there is one thing I have not had the pleasure (?) of being able to do.  Batman fans have had it.  The Lord of the Rings fans have had it too.  Even Twilight (*shudder*) fans have had it.

GoT meme

Yes, that’s right.  The Dark Tower has never been made into a movie.  Not even an animated one (we will talk more about that later, as a matter of fact).  So many King books have been adapted into films (with varying degrees of success).  But not The Dark Tower.  This short film is the closest thing we have is this adaptation, which is actually a pleasure to watch and totally worth the few minutes of your time that it will take.  But, again, that is closest thing we had for a screen adaptation of The Dark Tower series.

Until now.

Sony Pictures has announced that it has acquired the rights to The Dark Tower series, aka Stephen King’s magnum opus, which spans eight full length books so far, along with a couple of related short stories.

Cue the loud crashes and squealing right about here.  That would be the sound of the internet breaking.

And the reactions have been interesting, to say the least.  Many are excited.  For years, fans have been strung along with the promise of a movie, but that promise has never been delivered.  The last bit of news we received on a potential Dark Tower movie was in July of 2011, when it was announce that Universal Pictures had scrapped the plans for the movie, although director Ron Howard assured fans that he was still attached and this movie would be made one day.

DT 2

And of course, the naysayers.  Saying it can’t be done, despite the success of franchises such as The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings.  However, my personal favorite is the fan who says that no Dark Tower movie should ever, EVER be made, as that will ruin the books!  Apparently, I am clueless, because a bad movie adaptation (Running Man and Lawnmower Man, we are talking about you, cough, cough) somehow changes the source material, making all of us unable to ever read said source material ever again, because, well, film adaptations are just magical like that and have the ability to somehow magically re-write books, DAMMIT!

book vs movie 1

 

So, everyone has an opinion.  Including me.  And now I have this blog that I created just for the express purpose of having super nerdy discussions, so let’s have one in regards to this controversial topic that has caused so many heated discussions in internet land, perhaps being responsible for many a virtual earthquake (or perhaps a Beam-quake, in this case).

Roland 2


Can this even be done?  Can such a complex story be translated on to the screen, and make a good movie?  More importantly, should it even be done?  After all, we will always have the books!

One of my favorite fantasy series as a child (before I was lured into the world of Roland Deschain and his friends) was The Lord of the Rings trilogy, along with The Hobbit.  I read these books many times, and watched the animated version of The Hobbit more than a few times.  And I pined for live action movies, figuring they would never happen in my lifetime.

Then I hit my 20’s.  I picked up some magazine one day, and lo behold, saw an article stating that all three books in said trilogy would be movies.  Live action movies.  So I marked my calendar.  I was so excited.  And I was right to be excited.  All three movies lived up to my expectations.  I especially enjoyed Lord of the RingsThe Two Towers…I mean, Ents!  Ents fighting!  It was bad ass!  One of the most iconic scenes in the books had been given justice.  And I sighed in nerdy ecstasy…

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-two-towers5

My point is that The Dark Tower is not the only complex fantasy series in existence.  And complex fantasy series (see above paragraph) can successfully be made into good or even great motion pictures.  Our technology has advanced even more since the release of The Lord of the Rings movies, and anyone who makes movies can do astounding things in regards to special effects.  And the stigma of movies being too long (longer than 100 minutes) is slowly starting to fade…just look at the success of The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay Part I, which clocks in at well over two hours.  If it is done well (and I believe a director like Ron Howard is perfectly capable of this), people don’t care about the length, and will not be intimidated at the thought of sitting in a theater for over two hours.  Some movies are just that good.

DT movie 3

And let me reiterate:  to me, nothing will ever top a book.  If I am given the choice, I will almost always choose the book (see the paragraph above the cute kitty meme).  But I still want a Dark Tower movie.  Think of it like this:  I may like steak, and it will always be my favorite, but there is no reason why I can’t have fish or seafood for dinner some nights.  After all, I can’t just subsist on steak, and I need some variety in my diet.  In other words, I need movies every now and then, along with books.  And I want to see my favorite characters come alive, and have them move me onscreen like they do on the page.  I want to see the fantastical landscapes I have been imagining in my head all these years.  I want to see what special effects can do to a story.

Most importantly, I want to be able to share the experience of The Dark Tower.  My husband is awesome and wonderful and the best husband in the world, but he is not a reader.  I have been talking about this series from almost day one (this statement should bring any single person new hope.  If a nerd like me can find someone, there really is someone out there for everyone).  But he watches movies.  And many others are the same way.  So if this movie can turn more people on the awesomeness otherwise known as The Dark Tower series, then I fully support it.  The fact that a Dark Tower movie may make my conversations at parties more relevant and less boring is just an added bonus.


 

Who should be cast?  The only person who can play Roland is Clint Eastwood!  Even King himself has said this!

First of all, much respect to Clint Eastwood.  If I wore a hat, I would take it off to the man.  He deserves every single accolade that he has received.  The man is an icon, pure and simple.

Clint Eastwood 1

But, he is in his 70’s.  He may be an icon, but he is still an old icon.  And King did base the character of Roland and the entire setting of the series off of characters played by Eastwood, and also off of the spaghetti westerns he grew up watching as a child.  However, this does not mean that Eastwood should play Roland.  Plenty of actors would be able to bring the grittiness that is needed to pull off a character like our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.

cuthbert and alain

Likes Timothy Olyphant.  I could readily envision him as a cold blooded man who will do whatever it takes to reach his tower.  The fact that Olyphant already plays a cowboy (or a cowboy-like character) on a popular TV series is just an added bonus.

Timothy-Olyphant-Justified_300

Or Hugh Jackman.  Jackman has proven acting chops, and also seems to be able to bring that grittiness needed for Roland.  And he is also pretty easy on the eyes.  Speaking of eyes, I am aware that Roland’s are blue and neither one of the actors I have mentioned so far have blue eyes.  However, that is why contact lenses were invented.

hugh-jackman

Ok, I am done talking about Roland.  I love Roland to death, but I also love a lot of the characters that many would be considered “minor” in the series, although they all play a huge role.  So I happen to think the casting of these characters is almost as important as Roland.

Nort

Like Nort.  Nort is the best undead junkie in literature, and I would love to see him cast properly, and for someone to really put his heart and soul into this character and bring him to life on the big screen.

Someone like Kurt Sutter, possibly.  Nort is a creepy, frightening guy, and Kurt Sutter has proven experience in the creepy and frightening department via his character Otto on Sons of Anarchy.  So it is no stretch (at least for me) to imagine Sutter cast as an undead junkie.

Otto

 

Jack Mort aka The Pusher is another iconic, although relatively minor, character in this series.  And I hope that he is cast properly.  My pick for Jack Mort is Tom Arnold.  Again, I am basing this on a performance from the show Sons of Anarchy (yeah, I’m a little obsessed, I admit it).  Arnold’s character Georgie Caruso was sleazy, conniving and even pyscho at times, which makes him perfect for the role of Jack Mort, another sleazy, conniving psychopath.

Sons of Anarchy 2x02 Small Tears

And now, let’s talk again about main characters.  More specifically, the role of Susannah Dean (along with Detta Walker and Odetta Holmes, for that matter).  Susannah is a main character and plays a huge role in the series.  And she is a woman who is also African-American.  The tides are slowly turning, but the roles for women, let alone women of color, are still limited.  This is especially true in the fantasy and sci fi genre.  I love that King chose to make this character a woman of color, and it is VERY important to  me that she be cast properly.  Hollywood has a chance to help someone shatter some more glass ceilings and break some more ground.  Lupita Nyong’o is my choice for Susannah.  Her acting chops are proven, and I believe she could pull the role of Susannah, who is an extremely complex character (she suffers from mental illness and was also involved in the civil rights movement in 1960’s New York).  She is also beautiful and charismatic.  Perfect, in other words.

LupitaSusannah 1


 

What about Oy?  And Jake?  Won’t he age out?  And the flashbacks?  How can we possibly handle those?

CGI.  There, I said it…shudder.  While I believe that CGI is overused much of the time (Jupiter Ascending…cough, cough…ahem), I think it is the perfect answer for the question on how to bring Oy to life on the big screen.  And likely the only way to bring Oy to life on the big screen.  We may still need to cast a voice actor for Oy (he is a talking critter, after all) but CGI will actually provide most of the solutions and create a convincing character.

Oy 1

If you have made it this in reading this post, then congrats.  Also see the paragraph above the awesome Game of Thrones meme.  More specifically, the line about animation.

That’s right, animation.  I believe that animation could be a viable medium for bringing The Dark Tower series to life.

breaking bad

 

Ok, clean up the coffee or other beverage of your favorite choice that you may have spit all over your keyboard after reading the above paragraph, and let’s talk about why animation is in fact a viable to choice to bring Stephen King’s magnum opus to life.

Animation actually solves a couple of problems.  First of all, Jake Chambers is 11 years old when the series starts, and it seems he remains 11 years old for the remainder of the series.  The movies (as we all know there will need to be multiple movies in order for this to work) will probably take at least a couple of years to  film, even if they are filmed simultaneously in the same manner as The Lord of the Rings.  This presents a problem, as most 11 year old children grow and change rapidly (damn pesky puberty).  So it is possible that the actor who plays Jake could age out of the role.  However, if the series is animated, that problem is solved.  Animation would allow Jake to remain 11 throughout the story, keeping that particular part of the story intact.

Jake Chambers

The Dark Tower series also contains a ton of flashbacks.  Wizard and Glass is one long flashback.  Much of The Gunslinger also consists of flashbacks.  While flashbacks are awesome in books, they can be problematic in live action movies.  However, flashbacks can actually blend in very well in animated movies.  Animation may even be the preferred method of medium to tell certain back stories (such as Roland’s time in Meijis) or to possibly even bring to life the Dark Tower comics.  After all, bringing more Dark Tower related material into existence cannot possibly be a bad thing.

Roland and tet 1


My opinion.  There you have it.  Whether you wanted it or not, I have brought it to you via this blog post.  And please, keep in mind that opinions are like assholes:  we all have them.  And I am entitled to mine, just like everyone else (to theirs as well as mine).  And I am greatly looking forward to see what, if any, of my ramblings on this post come to fruition over the next several months or years.  I am hopeful that this endeavor will be successful, but to quote many a wise person before me:  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, stay tuned for more news and posts regarding this endeavor.

time_will_tell