Tuesday, May 26, 2009


The word alone conjures up many images in the American imagination. Having been raised Roman Catholic and sent to Catholic schools for junior high and highschool, I have my own disposition towards priests. I remember having to stand every time Father __________ walked into my classroom, and having to remain standing until he allowed us to sit back down.

Is it due to these experiences that I harbor a fascination with priests, or is it because of the way they are portrayed in the American imagination? There are various ways in which priests are portrayed in films- but it seems that whenever a priest is ‘good’, they cast an rather attractive actor as him. This is greatly confusing to viewers who are familiar with the vows of priesthood ( particularly, celibacy) but who cannot deny the signals their eyes are sending to their brains.

A prime example of this conundrum is the movie Quills, in which Joaquin Phoenix portrays The Abbe du Coulmier, who runs the asylum. He is overflowing with Byronic charm (both the Abbe and Phoenix) and he is undeniably attractive in the physical sense, which leads to mixed feelings when you remind yourself that he is supposed to be a priest. . .In even starker contrast is the fact that by historical account, the Abbe is described as extremely short and hunchbacked. Obviously, Phoenix is much easier on the eyes than a man fitting that description but it only further illustrates the difference between actual priests and imagined preists.

Another example of this phenomenon is the classic film “Boys Town” (isn’t there supposed to be an apostrophe after “Boys” in this sense? Oh well, I digress. . .). Spencer Tracy, the quintessential “man’s man’ depicts the saint-like Father Flannigan, who of course is the real founder of the Boys Town institute in Nebraska. Father Falannagan is the firm but sympathetic savior of runaway and homeless boys. With kind eyes and a knowing smile, he defies his charges to try and slip something past him. Yet, when anyone tries his patience or challenges his machismo, he is quick to show them that he is strong in faith, AND of will and strength. A prime example of this interplay is in the movie Boys Town when Whitey Marsh (the protagonist played by Mickey Rooney) first meets Father Falnnagan. Whitey is disinterested, to say the least, in Father’s intention to take him back to Boys Town. He is quickly put in his place when the Father sees his disrespectful attitude. After all, Whitey did not stand up when a priest entered the room. . . .

My third example is another classic movie, “The Bells of St. Mary’s”. Bing Crosby reappears as Father O’Malley (he fist appeared as this character in the film “Going My Way”). He displays the same parental authority over the pupils as Father Flannagan does. When a young girl (pters his quarters wearing make-up and a hair ‘rat’, he quickly sets about wiping off her lipstick and remving the ‘rat’ just as most fathers would do if they saw their young daughter trying to appear several years older. Although Crosby does not exude masculinity like Tracy does, he is undoubtedly attractive in his own easygoing attitude and astuteness in regard to the ways of children, not to mention, those tricky Sisters (headed by Ingrid Bergman)!

My last example of captivating clergymen is the most recent film in my ‘piece on priests’: the 2008 adaptation of “Doubt” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Brendan Flynn. Now I must admit my bias in regard to this example, I have been a fan of Mr. Hoffman for years and so my admiration for his skill greatly contributes to my perception of his attractiveness. (Plus, I am a Rochester, NY native- way to represent the Flower City, Phil!)* Anyway, his portrayal of the priest who may or may not have behaved inappropriately with a student makes him a relatable character because of his “everyman quality”. Nonetheless, Hoffman has been quoted as saying that non one describes him in attractive ways, and that no one ever says he’s cute. I wouldn’t say “cute’ is the best word to describe him, especially when he is portraying a man of the cloth, but his physicality combined with the confidence that he brings to all his characters does equal undeniable charm.

So why does Hollywood insist on casting tantalizing men as “forbidden fruit”? It is one of the many tricks of the industry, and certainly one of the oldest: fantasy.
Next up: The Iconography of Nuns

* Philip Seymour Hoffman was born in the Rochester, New York, suburb of Fairport.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

90210 Disappointment

I recently read that the cameos from old alums (Shannen Doherty, Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling namely) on the new 90210 series are going to decrease quite a bit on the show's second season.

A rep of the show says "The show needs to emerge on its own".


The show is titled 90210! There is no way to avoid the fact that it was a direct result of Beverly Hills, 90210 and so there no possible way that the show is not going to be compared to the original. The cameos from old cast members are one of the main reasons people tune into this show! Its certainly not to watch the terrible attempts of Shenae Grimes to be perceived as cute, talented, or anywhere near as cool as Brenda Walsh.

This is a mistake.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Archetypes of Teen Soap Operas: Part 4

The Tragic Friend

Scott Scanlon was a nerdy freshman and best friends with David Silver. In the first season of the show, he was a strong supporting role in all the David-related stories. However, as David became increasingly close with Kelly, Steve and the rest of the gang, the Scott-David friendship suffered. In the second season, poor Scott was no longer a full-time character and was reduced to appearing sporadically. When Scott resurfaces and asks David to attend his birthday party, he accidentally shoots himself as he is twirling a gun around.

Scott Scanlon set the precedent for the tragic friend (aka the character that was slated to be a major role and eventually gets written out due to lack of interest) and this dramatic way to reduce a cast is seen again in the land of One Tree Hill, but the story there is much more tragic- perhaps because it strikes a nerve with its audience.

Jimmy Edwards, like Scott Scanlon, is in the pilot episode of his show. He is best friends with “Mouth” Marvin McFadden and Lucas Scott. As Mouth buddies up to Rachel, Brooke, Lucas and the rest of the gang, we see less and less of Jimmy.

He leaves a dark and disturbing message in the school’s video time capsule, which gets released early so that everyone sees how troubled he is.

He eventually becomes so angry and alienated that he brings a gun to school, which results in Peyton being shot (she’s starting to step on Kelly’s toes, don’t you think?) and a hostage situation. He ends up committing suicide, and is posthumously blamed for the death of Lucas’ uncle Keith Scott.

Note to readers: this series is intended as light-hearted observations of the trends in teen television that Beverly Hills 90210 inspired. This segment is only meant to poke fun at the parallel between BH 90210 and One Tree Hill, and is not making light of any gun-related deaths.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Archetypes of Teen Soap Operas: Part 3

The Virtuous Virgin

Donna Martin stood alone in the world of BH 90210. She was the only character that did not have sex (at least through highschool and college). Was it because Aaron Spelling did not want to film sequences in which his daughter was acting out every parent’s worst nightmare, or was it because Tori Spelling could pull off playing a girl who was devout and chaste in a world of teenage sin?

We see the legacy of Donna Martin resurface in the persona of Haley James, the resident virgin in One Tree Hill. She begins dating Nathan Scott (the ex of Peyton) and is a crucial element in his personal renaissance from ‘bad boy’ to ‘good guy’. She refuses to sleep with him until they are married, which is remedied pretty quickly because they decide to wed while they are in highschool.

Also note the parallels in their appearance: both have blonde hair, deep brown eyes, and they both happen to be wearing white in these pictures (which I actually just noticed).

Archetypes of Teen Soap Operas: Part 2

The Brunette with a Beauty Mark

Is it a law of teen soap operas that the brunette vixen must come with a beauty mark on her cheek?

These characters share some other traits as well- they are often times cast as the antagonist of pretty blondes (except Summer, who is friends with the resident blonde on her show), they all have issues with their mothers, and they are bitchy in a very loveable way.

Did Valerie Malone set the standard for brunette beauty on teen soap operas?
Following in her footsteps are Gina Kincaid (BH 90210), Brooke Davis (One Tree Hill) and Summer Roberts (The OC)

Archetypes of Teen Soap Operas: Part 1

The Most Annoying one of all-

The Pretty Blonde with Lots of Baggage

Kelly Taylor. The poster girl of late 90’s California glamour. She has long blonde hair, gorgeous doe eyes, a perfect figure, and she always wears the latest fashions. She looks just like an all-American girl, but there’s much more to her and it lurks under the surface.
She’s got baggage. And not just the kind of baggage that results from a messy break-up with a boyfriend, I mean, she’s got baggage from being addicted to drugs/being shot/having a miscarriage/being raped/battling anorexia. Not to mention the long-lasting effects of her horrible, self-centered parents: an absentee father, who only returns to dramatically leave again and a mother who was addicted to cocaine and alcohol.

In the pilot episode, we find out that she has recently ended a relationship with Steve Sanders, the richer and better-than-thou guy who think he’s God’s gift to women (and the world). Although Sanders eventually develops into a loveable goofball, when we first meet him he’s pretty shallow.

She is a model(literally) but she never seems to realize how gorgeous she is, which makes her look pretty dumb since every guy she comes across wants nothing more than to be noticed by her.

I don’t begrudge Kelly her popularity or her beauty; without either one, she might not have gotten all the good storylines. Although Kelly Taylor set the standard for this archetype, it’s easily replicated in the teen soap operas that followed the example of Beverly Hills, 90210.

Another example? Easy- Marissa Cooper. (The OC)

This girl, also a poster girl for laid-back California beauty, also got some of the most dramatic storylines on her own show, The OC. When the series begins, her father, who’s not intrinsically malevolent, is in the middle of a scam that he pulled on his clients and the family’s economic future is in crisis. Her mother, who is extremely self-important and sociopathic, always seems to clash with her over every even that occurs. Marissa was dating Luke in the beginning but she dumped him quickly for the bad-boy Ryan Atwood who definitely added a lot more drama to her life. Once again, Luke eventually develops into a pretty good guy, but when we first meet him he is a spoiled rotten water polo player who can get any girl he wants (and he does, too).Although Marissa was only on the show for 3 out of the 4 seasons, she had so much baggage by the end that there was “nothing else that could have happened”. She almost died from a drug overdose in Mexico, she befriends an unstable boy named Oliver that holds her hostage, she is almost raped by Ryan’s big brother, whom she ends up shooting (but not fatally so it’s all good). She also becomes a pseudo-lesbian at one point when a punk girl named Alex falls hard for her. (by the way, Kelly Taylor also had a girl fall in love with her, and they did kiss although they never had a relationship.) Even the way she left the show was incredibly dramatic; a high speed chase by an ex-lover, a fiery crash, and her last breath of life leaving her body as Ryan holds her in the street. And this all happened right after she graduated from high-school, which makes it extra tragic.

Still not convinced? OK. I’ve got another one for you. Peyton Sawyer.( One Tree Hill)

The wide eyes. The mass of blonde ringlets. The killer figure. Even though she’s not from the sunny land of California, she still matches the description. Again- when the series starts, she’s dating a jerk named Nathan Scott (who, like Steve Sanders and Luke, evolves into a good guy). She is nearly raped at a party after a date-rape drug is put into her drink.

Kelly and Marissa battled drugs, and Peyton flirted with cocaine as well. Kelly had a lesbian kiss her, Marissa engaged in a lesbian relationship with Alex, and Peyton also joins the club when a lesbian kisses her and then she is harassed by said lesbian’s brother.

Just like Kelly and Dylan had an affair behind Brenda’s back on BH 90210, Peyton drags Lucas and Brooke into a similar love triangle. Even though Lucas and Brooke begin dating, Peyton and Lucas share stolen kisses behind Brooke’s back. Brenda got hurt, Brooke gets hurt, same story everywhere.

Why do the blondes always have more fun?????

Next Installment: The Brunette With a Beauty Mark