Category Archives: Interest

Top 5 Musicals

Now, I am a huge musicals fan and I’m always listening to show tunes or going to the theatre. I thought as I’m such a musicals nerd, I would attempt what I feel is almost impossible. Deciding which 5 musicals are my favourite…

  1. Les Misérables
    As you are probably aware, either if you know me personally, or if you’ve read my other posts – you will know that I love Les Mis and it is my all time favourite musical. It is the only musical that I can actually place as my “favourite” whereas ordering the rest I think is an impossible task!! I love the show so much that I’ve just been to see it for a fifth time.
    Les Misérables follows one man’s emotional struggle from wrongful imprisonment to becoming a respected member of French society. The story revolves around Jean Valjean’s attempt at starting a new life, however one man, Inspector Javert, is determined to seek him out and send him back to prison. The story also sees the students’ revolt against authority, a love triangle and a blackmailing couple out to make the most out of any situation.
    I love the show because it is more of a serious musical, which makes a bit of a change from the typical show, and it is just so powerful and moving. Although I was cynical at first, I’m really looking forward to the movie adapatation coming out this Christmas.
    Favourite song: I can’t pick one so… One Day More and On My Own.
  2. Wicked
    The untold story of the witches of Oz, Wicked is based on Gregory Macguire’s book, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. It sees the unlikely friendship between Elphaba and Glinda, two very different girls who meet at Shiz University and tells their story in parallel to the events of The Wizard of Oz.
    As someone who is not a great fan of the 1939 film musical, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy of the musical. It wasn’t until I saw a perfomance from the show on television that I thought the show was worth giving a go. Luckily, a college trip to London included a visit to the show and I absolutely loved it. I have now seen the show twice and I am always listening to the soundtrack.
    Favourite song: Again, it’s really heard to pick one!!! Defying Gravity, Popular and For Good.
  3. The Lion King
    Based on the animation, The Lion King is a stunning stage adaptation of Disney’s classic movie, telling Simba’s story about life after his father is killed and his journey to become the rightful King of the Pride Lands. As a massive Disney fan, I had always wanted to see The Lion King but it wasn’t until about 8 or 9 years after it opened in the West End that I finally managed to see it and it was fantastic. Although I know the film backwards, I enjoyed the stage production as if it was something entirely different and new. The costume, make up, masks and puppetry for the who show is amazing and I would say that it helps the stage show differentiate itself from the Disney animation.
    Favourite song: Oh and two again… Circle of Life and He Lives in You (Reprise).
  4. Hairspray
    I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I first saw Hairsprayon Broadway. I had seen the movie musical adaptation a few months earlier and loved it, so when we managed to get tickets to see the show in New York, I was so pleased!
    The musical tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, an overweight girl who loves to dance. When a chance to become a dancer on her favourite show (The Corny Collins Show) arises, Tracy auditions and becomes a big star overnight. But it’s 1962 Baltimore and the white kids and the black kids of the show are not allowed to dance together on the same show, with the black kids having a dedicated “Negro Day” once a month. Along with her new friends and her family, Tracy goes on a mission to integrate the kids of the show and allow everyone to dance together. Along the way, Tracy falls for star and hunk of The Corny Collins Show, Link Larkin… but can their romance blossom?
    I’ve since seen the show a second time whilst it was touring in Bristol, with Michael Ball playing Tracy’s mother, Edna. (The role of Edna is always played by a male following the original Edna Turnblad being played by transvestite, Divine in the 1988 film with John Travolta portraying Edna in the 2007 movie musical role.)
    Favourite song: Without Love (I’ve gone for the movie version here due to the lack of Broadway/West End performances on YouTube.)

     
  5. Legally Blonde
    This last spot was a struggle to fill, there were too many choices and I finally went for Legally Blonde as I found it a surprise enjoyment.
    Based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie, the musical is about Elle Woods, a blonde sorority queen whose boyfriend breaks up with her before he goes to college. Elle decides that she will do whatever she can do win back Warner, so she follows him to Harvard Law School.
    The show was had just opened on Broadway when I was in New York in 2007 and I thought the idea of the show was ridiculous. I loved the film, in fact it is one of my favourites, but I never thought that she show would be any good as a musical – I couldn’t understand what they would be singing about?! About 18 months later, I heard that the show would be coming to the West End and ended up giving the soundtrack a chance… And found it quite enjoyable! When I heard that Sheridan Smith would be playing the role of Elle in the London production, I became a bit more interested…  I hadn’t heard her sing before and early reviews said she was fantastic. My Mum & I ended up seeing the show a few months after it opened and I thought it was brilliant. I think the best way to sum up the show is in three words. Silly, fun and girly. The songs are catchy, the characters likable and I found it a really surprising adaptation that actually worked quite well as a musical. I’ve seen the show twice now and would happily see it again!!
    Favourite song: So Much Better

Honourable mentions:
Matilda I managed to see Matilda on my 22nd birthday with my parents and we all thought it was brilliant. The kids in production are fantastic and Tim Minchin has done a fantastic job at making the a stage version of the lovable Roald Dahl book.
Billy Elliot the Musical Opening in 2005, Billy Elliot the Musical is based on the British film about a young boy who discovers ballet. I left the theatre unsure whether to laugh or cry… in a good way. Throughout the musical there are many funny, happy moments as well as many sad and touching moments too.
Footloose Another musical I have seen twice because I found it very fun and entertaining. I loved the 1984 movie so when the touring production came to Bristol and I had the chance to go see the show with my school, I was looking forward to how the show would compare to the movie. Featuring many of the same 80s songs, Let’s Here it for the Boy, Holding out for a Hero and of course, Footloose, the show is fun and filled with some really brilliant dance numbers. I even saw Dancing with the Stars pro, Derek Hough play the role of Ren when I first saw the production.

So, there are mt Top 5 musicals and a couple of honourable mentions thrown in there too. It was quite hard to determine what are my favourites and even now I’ve finished the list, I’ve remembered more musicals I wish I could add!!
Let me know what you think of my Top 5 and what would be in your Top 5 list! Any suggestions of what to see next would be more than welcome too!! :D

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My Life in Books

One day I came across the BBC programme, My Life in Bookswhich invites celebrities to discuss their favourite books and why they have been important or particularly enjoyable at different times in their lives.

I thought this was a great idea and I instantly started to think about the books that I have enjoyed throughout my life.

Dogger by Shirley Hughes
As a young child (and admittedly even now as a university graduate!!) I had lots and lots of cuddly toys and I would go to bed squashed up against the wall with the rest of the bed filled with endless teddies (although I’m not quite so squashed up against the wall now…) I was particularly attached to a bear, named Bessie, I was given when I was born and would hate going away without her. Doggerby Shirley Hughes tells the story of a young boy and his toy dog, Dogger and what happens when Dogger goes missing. I remember getting this book out of the library so many times when I was little as it was my favourite and I loved both the story and the illustrations. The book was such a big part of my childhood that my parents even bought me a copy for my 18th birthday.

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards
Another of my favourite books as a young child was the My Naughty Little Sisterseries by Dorothy Edwards. The series tells lots of short stories about the mischievious antics of a little girl and all of the naughty things she used to do. I think the reason I enjoyed these books so much was because I was the youngest of two girls, and I liked to compare myself to the “Naughty Little Sister”  and realise that my behaviour was nothing like the antics that the little girl in the stories used to get up to (at least I hoped). I used to love having my Mum put me to bed and reading me one of the mischieious stories.

My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards

The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
As an early teen, I began to read the The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot. The series follows Mia Thermopolis as she discovers her true identity as a Princess to the fictional country Genovia. The series is made up of ten books, each detailing Mia’s life as a high schooler – featuring friends, love, heartache and her Mother dating her teacher, as well as showing Mia learn from her Grandmother the ways of Princess life and expectation. Every one of the books is both hilarious and heartfelt and as a reader, you are taken on a fantastic journey with Mia through her teenage years.

“There are four million people in Manhattan, right? That makes about two million of them guys. So out of TWO MILLION guys, she has to go out with Mr Gianini. She can’t go out with some guy I don’t know. She can’t go out with some guy she met at D’Agostino’s or wherever. Oh, no. She has to go out with my Algebra teacher. Thanks, Mom. Thanks a whole lot.”

I think I enjoyed The Princess Diaries series so much because the character of Mia is so relatable. Yes, she may discover that she is a Princess and that definitely hasn’t happened to me, but her characteristics, her thoughts and the way she reacts to certain events is so true to that of a teenage girl’s that, after ten books, you truly feel as though you have grown up with this character.

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
Whilst possibly a book series on everyone’s ‘read’ list, the Harry Potterstories are one of my all time favourites. For anyone who might not be familiar (if there is anyone out there who has managed to stay away from the franchise?!), the seven books outline the story of Harry Potter – a boy who discovers he is a wizard and becomes a pupil at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with each book following one school year at Hogwarts. I think the books have been so successful for a great number of reasons; the imagination of JK Rowling, the fact that it’s a story about a wizards and witches AND school children, the long running good vs evil plot and the pure edge of your seat reading that the reader has throughout the entire series. For me, there are so many things I love about the story of Harry Potter. I love every one of the characters; the good ones who I route for and the bad ones, who were just so evil that I loved to hate them, and I loved reading about this fictional world that, at so many times, felt as though it could just be real (I still maintain my Hogwarts letter got lost in the post!).

“A breeze ruffled the neat hedges of Privet Drive, which lay silent and tidy under the inky sky, the very last place you would expect astonishing things to happen. Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours’ time by Mrs. Dursley’s scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousing Dudley… He couldn’t know what at this very moment, people meeting in secret over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices:
” To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!””

The explosion of the Harry Potter series has been extraordinary and, as a huge fan, I still find it shocking when I hear people who haven’t read the books or seen the movies. If you are reading this and you haven’t read the books yet, then I do strongly recommend reading them! The hype is true and deserved; they are fantastic, escapist reading and the storyline and characters are so interesting and so enthralling that I find it impossible to put them down.

Harry Potter Series

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Following the end of the Harry Potter series, I was looking for something the fill the void… and The Hunger Gamesdid just that. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing similar about the two stories, but The Hunger Games has, like Harry Potter, become one of my favourite stories, filled with characters and excitement that just leaves you wanting more and more as you get further through the trilogy. The series tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a young girl who lives in Disctrict 12 of Panem, what once was North America. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl (between the ages of 12-18) from each of the twelve districts must compete against one another in an arena and fight to the death. The last person alive at the end of the Games wins. The purpose of the Games is punishment for the twelve districts for the uprising against the Capitol (Panem’s biggest city and the home of Panem’s government). When Katniss’s little sister, Prim, is called to compete in The Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to go in in place of her…

“”Prim!” The strangled cry comes out of my throat, and my muscles begin to move again. “Prim!” I don’t need to shove through the crowd. The other kids make way immediately, allowing me a straight path to the stage. I reach her just as she is about to mount the steps. With one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me.
“I volunteer!” I gasp. “I volunteer as tribute!””

I’d heard about The Hunger Games a while ago, but it wasn’t until I saw the teaser trailer for the film that I decided I needed to read the books. As I said before, the trilogy was a story that I became completely hooked on and again, I could sit here for ages listing the many things I enjoy about this story but I think my enjoyment mostly lies in how addictive and compelling I found the story. There would be times where I would be sat reading one of the books on the train and we’d be getting near to my stop and I would be so annoyed that I would have to stop reading (although this often happens, I would find it so much more difficult to put THG down!). Whilst billed as a teen book, in a similar way to Harry Potter, I would say The Hunger Games is suitable for people of all ages and would highly recommend it as your next read.

The Hunger Games trilogy

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Admittedly, I read The Help after I watched the film based upon the Kathryn Stockett novel. I absolutely loved the film so I started the book as soon as possible. The story is about African American maids who work for white families in 1960s America. Written in various viewpoints, from two of the maids and one white woman, the book explores the lives of the maids and the racial issues they face whilst working for white families. Aibileen and Minny, both maids, and white Skeeter form an unlikely alliance  in order to tell a story that needs to be told.

“”But the guest bathroom’s where the help goes,” Miss Hilly say. Nobody says anything for a second. Then Miss Walter nod, like she explaining it all. “She’s upset cause the Nigra uses the inside bathroom and so do we.” Law, not this mess again. They all look over at me straightening the silver drawer in the sideboard and I know it’s time for me to leave. But before I can get the last spoon in there, Miss Leefolt give me the look, say, “Go get some more tea, Aibileen.””

As I had seen the movie prior to reading the book, I knew what happened within the story, but it did not stop the book from being so powerful and moving. I think I most enjoy books that I find difficult to put down and this was certainly one of them. The book switches from viewpoint throughout the novel and often a character’s section would finish on a small cliffhanger, making you want to read on until you returned to that character’s narration to find out what happened next. I completely fell in love with the characters that when I finished the book, I felt so sad to be leaving them behind and I wanted the book to continue so that I could find out more about their lives. The Help is one of my most recommended books now and I urge everyone to read it.

The Help

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Whilst definitely up there as one of my new favourite books, The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been added to this list mainly because it is the last book that I finished. A coming of age story, Charlie is a freshman in high school – shy and unpopular, he is a “wallflower” and writes letters to an unknown recipient telling the stories of his day to day life. (It is difficult to describe what happens within the story without spoiling some major plot points.) Similarly to The Hunger Games, I saw the trailer for the The Perks of Being a Wallflower film and decided I needed to read the book before the film’s release.

“And I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times with those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean. I think it would be great to have written one of those songs. I bet if I wrote one of them, I would be very proud. I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope that they feel it’s enough. I really do because they’ve made me happy. And I’m only one person.”

I read the novel in a matter of days (which even as much as I love a book, doesn’t happen very often as I’m a very slow reader!) and fell completely in love with it. I find it difficult to pinpoint what it is that I loved so much about it, but I think it’s simply the way it is written. I found it so beautiful and so heartwrenching. As a 21 year old reading the novel, I couldn’t help but wish I had read Perks as a teenager but it did not stop my enjoyment of the story. I think one great thing about the book is the anonymity of the person Charlie is writing to, it’s a clever writing tool by Chbosky to make you feel even more a part of Charlie’s life.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Honourable Mentions
This list would NOT be complete without some honourable mentions… I wanted to add them in to my list but this post would have been a lot longer and I found it difficult enough to choose anyway. I will keep it short and sweet as I could write about how much I love them for ages!

Roald Dahl: My favourites being The BFG, Matilda, The Witches and The Twits.
Jacqueline Wilson: A big fan of all of her books, I held on to them for years, but I’ve finally parted ways with them and given them to my young cousins. Again, favourites are: Double Act, The Lottie Project, Bad Girls, Dustin Baby, the Girls series and of course, The Story of Tracy Beaker.

So, that’s my Life in Books. What books would make up your list? Post yours and any suggestions for future reading in the comments.

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Compare the opening episode of Doctor Who in 1963 to a recent episode (post-2005) of your own choice. How has it changed? How has it remained the same? What does this tell us about the changing make-up of the audience?

Since it began in 1963, Doctor Who has delighted audiences with its fun and exciting storylines. The series follows a time travelling alien journeying through space and time with his human companions. Throughout its original run and again in its re-launch, the series has seen a number of changes to its format and casting, most notably with the Doctor himself. Doctor Who was a massive success when it originally aired and since its revival in 2005 it has brought in huge audience numbers. Whilst Doctor Who (post-2005) is a continuation of the original series and not a remake of what had already been done, it is important that we distinguish between the two series as separate entities as well as one series as a whole. I will be discussing Doctor Who from its 1963-1989 run as well as the series from 2005 to the present day. As I examine the similarities and differences between the two series, I will see how these changes have affected the audience of the programme.  I am going to compare the opening episode from 1963 with the opening episode of the re-launch in 2005 along with various other episodes, exploring their social and cultural context.

On November 23rd 1963 the first episode of Doctor Who, ‘An Unearthly Child’, aired on the BBC. The programme begins in a similar fashion to that of Dixon of Dock Green (1955), with a policeman walking towards the camera and searching around the outside of an old junk yard. Inside the junk yard we see an old police box outside of its familiar locations on the main streets. Despite its resemblance to a popular crime drama of the time, the programme soon shifts to a school setting, establishing a ‘normal’ environment with children and teachers walking around the familiar school setting. As an audience we can assume that this ‘normality’ is soon going to be disturbed. This is soon confirmed when two of the schools teachers are discussing one particular pupil, Susan Foreman, who appears to “know more science that I’ll ever know” according to one of the teachers, Ian Chesterton. With the teachers unable to explain Susan’s odd behaviour and their concern and interest over her personal life, they go to her registered home address only to come across the junk yard seen within the opening sequence of the episode. This leads to their discovery of Susan and her grandfather and soon become involved with the duo. During ‘An Unearthly Child’ it takes almost twelve minutes before the lead character of the Doctor is first introduced to the audience. By doing so, the audience is able to build up the excitement and suspense surrounding the Doctor and the mysteries involving the previously seen police box and Susan.

Doctor Who - An Unearthly Child (1963)

Before the 1960s, space travel seemed like a distant dream and something that belonged simply to science fiction. However, in the 1960s space travel soon became possible with the ‘Space Race’, occurring between America and the Soviet Union, with both parties attempting to explore space on a faster and bigger level than the other. Two years previous to the start of Doctor Who, the Soviet Union were the first to achieve sending a man in to space in 1961. The US President, John F. Kennedy stated that America would be the first to send a team in to space and land on the moon before the decade was over. Although America would later achieve this in 1969, President Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November 1963, the day before Doctor Who first aired in the United Kingdom.  It was during this time the 1960s that science fiction became less than just fiction and became real life and possible. Science fiction novels, television programmes and films were increasing in popularity with films such as The Time Machine (1960) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) being released as well as the start of the hugely successful sci-fi television series Star Trek (1966).

The early episodes of Doctor Who heavily referenced the popular culture of the 1960s. The Doctor’s grand-daughter, Susan, “resembles one of the teenage ‘pop’ star products of that culture, Helen Shapiro” (Tulluch & Alvarado, 1983. P25) By heavily incorporating popular and youth culture, the writers have tried to include a larger audience. Doctor Who could be compared to the other popular British fictional hero of the time, James Bond. James Bond was first adapted to film, Dr No (1962), a year before Doctor Who first aired, therefore giving similarities between the two franchises and their nods to the 1960s culture.

Having been off screen for sixteen years, in 2005 the BBC felt that it was time to bring back Doctor Who. The revival would see British actor Christopher Eccleston take on the role of the infamous Doctor in his ninth incarnation. The ‘new’ series would not simply be a continuation from the ‘old’ series but almost a different programme altogether. Chapman believes that “the series was able to reinvent itself for the vastly different cultural conditions of the early twenty-first century” and was able to do so because it “was produced, and promoted, as a new series in its own right” (Chapman, 2006. P184) It is with this in mind that we can make comparisons between the old and new series, seeing how the revival may have been influenced and inspired by the original series.

Doctor Who revival (2005) - Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose.

Similarly to ‘An Unearthly Child’, the opening episode to the 2005 revival of Doctor Who, ‘Rose’ opens with a sequence setting up the introduction of the Doctor’s soon to be assistant, Rose Tyler.  The sequence follows Rose as she leads her life; going to work, spending time with her boyfriend and living with her mother. Once again the sequence showing how ‘normal’, and ultimately boring, Rose’s life is emphasises and foreshadows that something out-of-the-ordinary is going to happen. This is soon established when Rose is targeted by the ‘living plastic’, or the mannequins from the department store where she works. As if out of nowhere, the Doctor comes to Rose’s rescue and orders her to leave the building, then outside Rose sees the department store blow up. The Doctor is introduced much earlier than he was in ‘An Unearthly Child’, appearing on screen after just five minutes. This could be due to the fact that audiences are aware of the Doctor – both in terms of his character, as known by old fans of the series, as well as who he was being portrayed by due to the media attention surrounding the new series. The following day Rose once again comes across the Doctor and orders him to tell her who he is and why the mannequins attacked her the night before. Unlike ‘An Unearthly Child’, the Doctor’s main assistant is unrelated to him and is more similar to the several other companions that Doctor had over the course of the original run of the series.

In the modern day, there is a much darker view of mankind than there has been previously. The world today is engrossed with fears of ‘Carbon Footprints’ and damaging the earth that we live on. There are concerns that mankind itself is damaging the earth by using cars, too much electricity and generally polluting the planet. This has led to people questioning whether this will damage the earth enough to destroy it. Several films and television programme episodes have been made to outline these worries such as WALL-E (2008), Children of Men (2006) and I Am Legend (2007). These films all show worlds in which there are not many human survivors and suggest that this has happened due to mankind. In Doctor Who these concerns are outlined by Donna (Catherine Tate) in ‘Planet of the Ood’. When she learns that she and the Doctor have travelled to the year 4126, Donna exclaims; “4126? It’s 4126? I’m in 4126? What’s the earth like now?” to which the Doctor (here in his tenth incarnation, portrayed by David Tennant) simply replies, “A bit full… but you see the empire stretches out across four galaxies.” Donna then says, “It’s weird, I mean it’s brilliant, but, back home, the papers and the tele, they keep saying that we haven’t got long to live. Global warming, flooding, all the bees disappearing, but look at us. We’re everywhere!” Here Doctor Who is suggesting that the planet and the universe will still exist in more than 2000 years time, it will just be ‘a bit full’. The writers and programme are almost suggesting that there is no need to be concerned with how we are living our lives on earth and perhaps attempting to calm the audience and the public from such fears.

The growing advances in genetic modification and cloning have also become real life fears for the world today. Similarly to dystopia themes, the theme of cloning has been explored in recent literature as well as in Doctor Who. Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro tells the story of three students who have been cloned in order to provide their organs for transplants, however they are not aware of the reason behind their existence. In ‘Planet of the Ood’, the Doctor and Donna visit the Ood-Sphere and explore the company Ood Operations as they are selling the Ood for slavery. It comes to their attention that the Ood are turning against their creators to stop doing what they were created for, serving. This is also explored in My Sister’s Keeper (2009) in which the lead character, Anna is seeking medical emancipation from her parents for the rights to her own body. Anna’s parents discovered that their elder daughter, Kate had leukaemia so they conceived Anna through in vitro fertilisation in order to become a donor for her sister. The film (and original novel by Jodi Picoult) explores Anna’s determination to defy her parents to stop her being used as a donor for Kate. Likewise, in Doctor Who thousands of Oods are created to obey and serve humans. The Oods begin to defy the humans they are serving with their instinct to kill the humans. Throughout the episode we learn that the Ood have not simply been created in order to serve but they have been modified by removing their brains.

Whilst there are huge differences between Doctor Who’s original run and the new episodes of the last six years, it is clear that the recent episodes have paid homage to the previous series. There are several factors that have been kept very similar to the original. Most notably, the theme music of the series has remained relatively the same, although it has been slightly modified and updated. The theme is just as iconic as the title character, being instantly recognisable to both existing fans and to those who may not have even seen the programme. By keeping the theme music almost the same, it adds familiarity to a programme that has been off air for a number of years. Tulloch and Avarado suggest that theme music “pronounces that the programme remains stable and the same” (p. 18) By keeping a small, yet important, factor the same in the revival of the series, Doctor Who is not only paying homage to what has come before it by allowing a sense of connection to the previous work despite the numerous changes that have been made. It is factors like this that have helped maintained the show’s popularity throughout the years it has been on.

The 11 incarnations of The Doctor (from 1963-2011)

One consistent change throughout both the original series and the new series is the changing appearance of the Doctor. The Doctor allegedly has thirteen lives and in the present day, he is in his eleventh incarnation. With each new Doctor there have been several distinct differences between each personality. The original Doctor, portrayed by William Hartnell, was almost rude, arrogant and a bit of a know-it-all character in the opening episode. When we compare this to the Doctor in the opening episode of the revival series, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston, he is more sarcastic and funny and often needs assistance from Rose, his new companion, for example when she realises that the London Eye is the transmitter needed to stop the ‘living plastic’. Eccleston “brings a greater emotional intensity to the role than any of his predecessors” (Chapman, 2006. P190) making him a much more likable Doctor to the one seen in ‘An Unearthly Child’. In both episodes we are not told who the Doctor is right away, although in ‘Rose’ the audience has a more cultural understanding of the character through the media coverage surrounding the series. In both episodes, the question “Doctor Who/Doctor What?” is asked when trying to discover who the Doctor is. Although there is some explanation in both episodes as to who the Doctor is, his story is not told right away, it is something that is to be discovered throughout the remainder of the series.

On April 23rd 2011, Doctor Who’s sixth series since its return began on BBC One. Starring Matt Smith as the Doctor in his eleventh incarnation, the series opener, ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ was seen by a staggering 8.86 million viewers. The viewing figures achieved by Doctor Who emphasises the importance and relevance of the programme in modern day Britain but also the gives us opportunity to think about the varying ways in which technology has improved and altered audiences viewing habits. Speaking about the large number of viewers, Dan McGolpin who is Head of Planning and Scheduling for BBC One says, “Once you take in to account catch-up viewing, the total audience for episode one is around 9 million… BBC iPlayer figures will take this even higher- last year’s opening episode was the most watched show on its platform, being streamed over 2.2 million times.”  Doctor Who is much more accessible today than it was when it had its original run. Due to technology, the television record and online catch-up services available allow people to view television whenever they wish. This kind of viewing makes the series available to a wider audience and therefore can increase its popularity. When Doctor Who began in 1963 there were simply only two television channels to choose from, whereas today there are hundreds of channels, some dedicated to specific themes and topics meaning that gaining a large audience for one programme, albeit on one of the main television channels available, is a huge accomplishment.

The outstanding audience figures are likely to stem from its wide ranging audience members as both children and adults alike watch and enjoy the series. “The series boasts a wide following, with audience members aging from young children to adults. Doctor Who enjoys a fairly unique audience demographic, boasting as it does a core audience of 30–45-year-old fans who watched the original series when they were young, as well as a large number of children who have discovered the programme during the 2005 re-launch.” (Perryman, 2008. P36) Due to its nature, Doctor Who is able to target audiences of a variety of age ranges with each taking something different from the programme. However, recent reports suggest that the latest episodes of the sixth series have come under criticism for being too scary and too complex for the children in the audience. A recent blog post on The Guardian website has one contributor suggesting that “the writers seem too intent on proving how clever they are through too much complexity and too many cheap shocks”. Despite this, a second contributor argues that “if it’s too scary, a child can leave the room, or turn off the TV, or hide behind the sofa, like an older generation did when the Daleks rolled on to the screen.” This suggests that Doctor Who has always been about installing fear into its audience. It could be argued that perhaps the latest episodes are deemed more frightening as minor shocks are not enough to scare modern day children.

The Impossible Astronaut (2011) - Too scary for children?

It is through the recent advances in technology which, since its revival in 2005, allows fans of the show to now share their experiences of the programme together all across the world. We can argue that the show may not be simply watched today, it is instead lived. Today avid fans and audience members eat, sleep and breathe Doctor Who and will spend endless hours discussing recent plotlines and theories on dedicated website forums and message boards. It is this kind of interaction that allows the show to grow in popularity, giving fans to opportunity to marvel in the shows stories, giving their opinions and hopes on what will happen next.

The series, since it was brought back in 2005, has become more than just a television programme and has spawned two spin-off series, Torchwood (2006) and The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007) as well as the behind the scenes documentary, Doctor Who Confidential (2005). Once again, these spin-off series allow for fans to enjoy the programme on a deeper level, finding out how the episodes are made and seeing their favourite secondary characters on their own adventures. The Sarah Jane Adventures was “designed to appeal exclusively to children” (Perryman, 2008. P36) on the children’s BBC channel CBBC and allowed for children to become even more involved with the series, added to that the endless amount of merchandise available for children such as magazines, stationery and toys. Torchwood, however, was “aimed squarely at adults” and was aired on BBC3 at night. However, Torchwood came under fire as it followed one of the series favourite supporting characters, Captain Jack Harkness but was not appropriate for children to watch. The series is much scarier than Doctor Who and features sex and swearing. The programme has come under criticism due to the fact that the series is “publicised via a Radio Times cover, large-scale advertisements on public transport and, more importantly, pre-watershed trailers.” (Perryman, 2008. P36)

The development in technology has also allowed for an improvement in the special effects in more recent Doctor Who episodes. During its original run the Doctor Who sets, costumes and stunts were extraordinary but in comparison to its later episodes, these factors often look cheap and sometimes humorous. With these technological advances, it could be argued that the programme has been able to go much further in terms of storylines due to the advances in technology. It could also be suggested that the technological advances between the first series’ end in 1989 and the revival in 2005, such as internet and mobile phones,  has led to an advance in what could be used for modern day advances in technology as well as advances in the distant future. For example, in ‘Rose’ the use of mobile phones and the internet is the ‘norm’ much like it is to the audience members watching, but there are also huge advances in the technology used by the Doctor. In comparison we could look at Blade Runner (1982) which takes place in Los Angeles 2019. Not only has technology advanced enough to create human clones known as ‘replicants’ but the film also features flying cars. Today we are eight years away from the year in which Blade Runner is set however we have not seen such a huge wave in technological advances to allow us to create human clones or flying cars.

Spin offs - Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures

By comparing the first episode of Doctor Who, ‘An Unearthly Child’ with numerous post 2005 episodes of the series, it is clear that while several factors may remain the same, for example the regeneration of the Doctor, the theme music and the format of the programme, the revival series is very different from the original. Since 2005 the programme has established itself as a separate television series, gaining new fans and followers thanks to the changes in television viewing and to technological advances. In gaining such mass audience figures the new series of Doctor Who is arguably much more successful that the original series, given to the fact that audiences have a much larger range of choice given to them in the modern day. Having been such a major part of television from 1963 – 1989, the recent series Doctor Who has ensured that this is still the case in modern day Britain.

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Discuss the importance of paganism and death in the Harry Potter series.

The Harry Potter series of novels has become one of the biggest selling series of books of all time. The series follows the title character Harry Potter learning how to become a wizard, and on his adventures and quests to defeat Harry’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort. Throughout the series, several themes are explored such as love, good vs. evil and the importance of friendship. However, one theme that features predominantly is the theme of death. I will explore the importance of this theme; how the deaths of those closest to Harry affect him and how death will ultimately end the long battle between Harry and Voldemort.  The series obviously follows Harry and his friends learning the arts of witchcraft and wizardry at their school, Hogwarts. Whilst the series is clearly fictional, there have been several complaints about J.K. Rowling’s novels, arguing that the books glamorise pagan beliefs and the occult. These views come mainly from Christian groups who feel that the all magic is the work of the devil and that by having Harry and his friends use magic, the young readers of the novels will want to explore the use of magic themselves. I will look at the content that many feel is inappropriate for young audiences and examine the arguments of those who deem Harry Potter inappropriate for their children.

Harry Potter Series

At the beginning of the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we become aware that a wizard named Voldemort, whom several other wizards and witches were afraid of, has mysteriously vanished after killing a couple, Lily and James Potter, but leaving their son, Harry alive. Harry is then left to be brought up as a Muggle (a non-wizard) with his Aunt, Uncle and cousin, unaware that he is one of the most famous wizards in the world. The fact that Harry’s parents died before the start of the novel is a hugely important factor to the rest of the series. As Harry has been brought up in the Muggle world as an orphan, he has come to know very little about his past and the world in which he lives. By attending Hogwarts, Harry soon learns more about his past and what happened the night that his parents were killed. In their first battle against one another, Lord Voldemort tells Harry that his parents died “begging for mercy” (Rowling, The Philosopher’s Stone; page 213) and that his mother, especially, died trying to save Harry. The fact that Harry has to deal with the loss of his parents from an early age, and then to later learn that they died in order to protect him, is an important sense of characterisation from Rowling. The early death of his parents has meant that Harry has learned that death is an inevitable part of life and not necessarily something to be afraid of. “To the well organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.” (Rowling, The Philosopher’s Stone; page 215) Here, Dumbledore is emphasising to Harry that whilst people may be afraid of death, it is something that is unavoidable and that must be treated in a realistic manner. By addressing death in such a casual, yet adult manner, Rowling is almost preparing her readers for their future, where dealing with death and loss is such an inevitable part of life.

On the night that Lily and James Potter died, Voldemort was unable to kill Harry, for reasons unknown to the wizarding community and to Voldemort himself. Whilst Harry survived, he was left with a lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead. This scar is a symbol of Voldemort’s attack on Harry and a constant reminder that, while he defeated one of the darkest wizards in history, it symbolises the night that Harry should have died. The fact that Harry’s scar is a bolt of lightning could perhaps be a literal picture symbolising the flash of green light associated with the ‘Avada Kedavra’ curse that was intended to kill Harry. “There was a flash of blinding green light and rushing sound,” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire: page 191) Similarly, Harry’s scar could be symbolic of the emotional scars that people face when dealing with death and loss. As Harry has to see his scar every day, he is constantly reminded of the night that he should have died, and the night that his parents died trying to protect him.

Harry's scar - a constant reminder of the night he should have died.

One of the main elements to the plot in Harry Potter is the prophecy involving Harry and Voldemort. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, we come to learn about said prophecy, which ultimately changes the course in which Harry is leading his life. The prophecy reads, “Either must die at the hands of the other for neither can live while the other survives” (Order of the Phoenix, Rowling; page 741).  The use of this prophecy as the main story behind the epic battle between Harry and Voldemort emphasises the importance of death in the Harry Potter novels. The prophecy tells us that either Harry or Voldemort must die in order for the other to live, in this sense it tells us that death is inevitable for one, or potentially both of the duo. From then on, Harry’s life changes yet again as he realises that it is he who needs to kill Voldemort in order to stop him from taking over both the Wizard and Muggle worlds.

Throughout the Harry Potter series, several of the important characters around Harry die. The father figure of Sirius Black, Harry’s Godfather and strong link to Harry’s parents, is killed by Bellatrix Lastrange in Order of the Phoenix. After his untimely death, Harry becomes extremely angry and volatile around his friends and mentors. Harry feels that Sirius’s death was his fault and that it could have been prevented had he not fallen for Voldemort’s trick. When talking to Dumbledore after the events at the Ministry for Magic, Harry becomes irrational and aggressive when Dumbledore offers his condolences and advice for Harry. “Harry felt the white-hot anger lick his insides, blazing in the terrible emptiness, filling him with the desire to hurt Dumbledore for his calmness and empty words.” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire; page 726) Here, Rowling uses Harry’s feelings towards Sirius’s death to allow the reader to acknowledge the varying emotions that people go through when they are dealing with the death of a loved one. Rowling is allowing Harry to let his emotions go so that the reader can fully empathise with him and to allow Harry to go through dealing with Sirius’s death in the same way. In terms of writing for her audience and for her fans, it could be suggested that Rowling portrayed Harry at being angry with those around him following Sirius’s death because the readers may have been angry at Rowling to killing off a character that played such a vital role in Harry’s life.

Another of Harry’s closest friends and mentors is killed later on in the series. When Dumbledore is murdered by Professor Snape in The Half-Blood Prince, Harry immediately seeks for revenge against Snape, wanting to punish him for murdering his mentor and friend. Harry even attempts to use the Unforgivable Curses, which deliver torture or even death, on Snape in order to seek revenge. “‘Cruc-’ yelled Harry for the second time, aiming for the figure ahead illuminated in the dancing firelight, but Snape blocked the spell again; Harry could see him sneering. ‘No Unforgivable Curses from you, Potter!’ he shouted over the rushing of flames… ‘You haven’t got the nerve or the ability-’” (Rowling, Half-Blood Prince; page 562) By having Harry react in this uncharacteristic manner, though notably fighting against his long-term rival, Snape, is also another way in which Rowling explores the emotions in Harry faces each time a person close to him dies. This once again echoes the real-life issues that people face when coping with a sudden death. Harry is acting largely out of character at this point, although Harry can often be hot-tempered and angry, he is not one to use the Dark Magic. By making Harry react in this way, Rowling is telling her readers that when events happen unexpectedly, a change in character is a likely occurrence.

Michael Gambon and Daniel Radcliffe as Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter

One notable death is the death of Harry’s schoolmate Cedric Diggory during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Whilst taking part in the schools Triwizard Tournament, Harry and Cedric are completing the final task when they reach the Triwizard Cup; signalling the end and the winner of the competition. Deciding that they shall both come out as winners, they reach for the Cup simultaneously, which transports them to a small graveyard.  Upon getting there, Harry’s scar burns with pain and with a flash of green light, Cedric is killed. “Before Harry’s mind had accepted what he was seeing, before he could feel anything but numb disbelief” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire; page 554). Although not one of Harry’s closest friends, the death of Cedric is extremely important and significant to Harry as it is in his hands that Cedric is killed. Not only does Harry feel responsible for Cedric’s death, as it is Voldemort who wanted only Harry to enter the graveyard, so dismissively ordered for Cedric to be killed, but he feels that it is his responsibility to take Cedric’s body back to his parents.  Harry has to then return to Hogwarts with Cedric’s body and tell everyone how and why he died. This death stays with Harry, and it is in Order of the Phoenix that Harry first sees the Thestrals; strange, horse-like creatures with wings and “dragonish” (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix; page 178) heads. Harry can only see the Thestrals in Order of the Phoenix following Cedric’s death as “the only people who can see Thestrals are people who have seen death.” (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix; page 394)

During the time at the graveyard, Voldemort is brought back to human life, using Harry’s blood as a way to regain a body. It is during this chapter that Harry sees “a thick grey ghost of Cedric Diggory” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire; page 577) appear from the end of Lord Voldemort’s wand.  This leads us to question whether Cedric has really died and whether the characters in the Harry Potter series ever truly die; Hogwarts itself is laden with Hogwarts ghosts that regularly interact with the students. This is not the only incident where Harry encounters those close to him who have previously died. When Cedric appears in the graveyard having just been murdered by Voldemort’s servant Wormtail, Harry’s parents, Lily and James, also appear. Whilst Harry and Voldemort are duelling and their wands connected; Lily, James and Cedric all offer Harry words of encouragement and advice on how to battle Voldemort, “we will give you time… you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts…” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire; page 579). The same happens once again in The Deathly Hallows, however this time Harry’s mother and father, Godfather Sirius Black and friend, Professor Lupin appear, yet again to offer Harry guidance through a battle with Voldemort. Whilst the images of the deceased are merely ghost-like, Harry to an extent believes that they are real and communicates with them as if they are truly there in human form, once again forcing us to question whether the characters in Harry Potter truly die. Despite this, Dumbledore tells us that, “No spell can reawaken the dead,” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire; page 605)

Perhaps the most notable, and most prominent, feature of death is in the final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The name itself almost warns us that the book will feature a profound tone of death and darkness throughout. The book features a heavy bloodbath; seeing yet more of Harry’s friends and loved ones die at the hands of Lord Voldemort. The deaths encountered at the end of the novel, once again, force Harry to feel guilty for the deaths of those close to him. Harry knows that it is he that needs to kill Voldemort and feels that the more people close to him who die, to the more responsibility he has to succeed in his mission. “Dumbledore knew, as Voldemort knew, that Harry would not let anyone else die for him now that he had discovered it was in his power to stop it. The images of Fred, Lupin and Tonks lying dead in the Great Hall forced their way back into his mind’s eye, and for a moment he could hardly breathe: Death was impatient…” (Rowling, Deathly Hallows; page 555)

During the novel; Harry, Ron and Hermione come across the Wizarding fairy tale, The Tale of the Three Brothers. The tale tells the story of three brothers who, by using their magic, attempt to cheat Death. The story mentions a Cloak of Invisibility, an item which Harry owns. There are several elements to the fairy tale that are important factors to the events of the final novel, but to an extent, the story resembles Harry’s life up until now. With his previous six years at Hogwarts, Harry has managed to escape death on numerous occasions. On five occasions, Harry has managed to defeat, or escape, from Voldemort who has always had the intention to kill him. The fairy tale outlines a simple viewpoint on death, “he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals they departed this life.” (Rowling, Deathly Hallows; page 332) It is as though this is foreshadowing what Harry later faces in the chapter; The Forest Again where Harry goes to Voldemort in order to die. “I must die. It must end.” (Rowling, Deathly Hallows; page 556) Harry is acting like a martyr in order to protect those around him, to face the inevitable and to fulfil the prophecy.

The Tale of the Three Brothers - as seen in Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows pt 1

Once Voldemort has regained power, his band of followers, the Death Eaters help him on his quest to kill Harry Potter and take over both the Wizard and Muggle worlds. Once again, the term ‘Death Eater’ simply reinforces the theme of death found throughout the Harry Potter novels. The Death Eaters are perhaps so called as death is the one thing that Voldemort fears the most, the one thing that he will do anything to avoid. Voldemort is obsessed with becoming immortal that he has split his soul in to eight pieces, placing six of the pieces in to magical objects, known as Horcruxes. It is these six Horcruxes that Harry must destroy in order to be able to kill Voldemort, therefore fulfilling the prophecy. Voldemort is so intent with being immortal, even whilst he is a teenager that he will do anything. “‘But how do you do it?’ ‘By an act of evil – the supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart. The wizard intent upon creating a Horcrux would use the damage to his advantage…’” (Rowling, Half-Blood Prince; page 465)

Although Harry Potter has become a hugely successful phenomenon all over the world, there have been several groups who feel that the content of Harry Potter is extremely unsuitable for the children it is aimed towards. These attitudes have come mainly from religious groups, particularly those of Christian faith. Michael O’Brien states in Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Culture that the Harry Potter series has the potential to “lower the natural and spiritual guard in a child’s mind” (O’Brien; page 8) and that this will inevitably lead to the said child joining the occult. He questions that if this is to happen, then “what other kinds of disordered interests and activities will follow as he makes his choices in later life?” (O’Brien; page 8) O’Brien is not the only one to feel this way about the novels. In Why Heather Can Write, Henry Jenkins speaks of the evangelist, Berit Kjos who feels that the merchandise surrounding the series is just as damaging at the content in the novels. “In God’s eyes, such paraphernalia become little more than lures and doorways to deeper involvement with the occult.” (Jenkins; page 194) Many Christian groups feel that all forms of witchcraft are pagan and are associated with the devil, therefore they feel that by writing a novel about a group of children at a school for witches and wizards, J.K. Rowling is “glamorizing witchcraft” (Deavel and Deavel; page 1) and leading children in to wanting to explore the world of magic further.

The Harry Potter novels are not the first series of books to feature a heavy use of magic, but previous series have not been criticised in the same way. O’Brien discusses that many novels feature characters using witchcraft, but that these characters are usually the villains of the series, not the heroes as seen in Harry Potter. He suggests that “for many Christian parents, the problem is not the presence of magic in a book, but how magic is represented.” (O’Brien; page 9) and compares Harry Potter to the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. He argues that the characters found in Narnia, particularly the White Witch, who use magic are portrayed in “classic terms”, meaning that they are “manipulative” and “deceiving” (O’Brien; page 9). O’Brien continues to say that “Supernatural powers, Lewis repeatedly underlines, belong in God alone, and in human hands they are highly deceptive and can lead to destruction.” (O’Brien; page 9) During this article, O’Brien stresses that the use of magic portrayed in the world of Harry Potter is corrupt and that it “will darken the mind” (O’Brien; page 10) and criticises the fact that Rowling’s characters explore the world but do not suffer any consequences or side effects for their actions. It is interesting that O’Brien draws this comparison as it is clear that Rowling has been heavily influenced by the work of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as well. All three of the authors have created fantasy worlds in which their child (or child-like) characters explore their surroundings and have to battle evil. However, as previously suggested, the evil characters portrayed in these series are the only characters to use magic; whereas in Harry Potter there are forms of both good and bad magic, which is what leads many to feel that the series is inappropriate for the target audience.

Harry Potter series - Glamorizing witchcraft?

One Christian website (Christian Answers for the New Age) features an article outlining the themes and events which feature in the final novel of Harry Potter; The Deathly Hallows. The article discusses the events that occur in Harry Potter from a Christian perspective. They suggest that the series may not be suitable enough for Christian readers, leading on to suggest that although the hero of the books, Harry Potter is not a good role model. They suggest that Harry “has no remorse and few consequences from lying and cheating; he seeks revenge in many cases; he hates; and he can be cruel” (Page 3/3) The article argues that Harry is consistently lying and breaking rules, but suffers no consequences, the ends justify the means and therefore Harry does not show suitable behaviour to the children reading. However, we could argue that while Harry may not be perfect, he has suffered from a poor childhood and that, perhaps, Rowling wanted to portray a more realistic, modern day role model. By creating such a character, Rowling is reaching out to those readers who feel they are different from the others around them- something that Harry feels on numerous occasions, both before and after joining Hogwarts. She is also creating a more realistic character for the audience to get behind and follow on his journey.

Whilst the views portrayed by these religious groups are understandable, we must remember that the Harry Potter novels are a fictional series, simply exploring the world of magic. The books are purely there for children to explore their imagination and, perhaps, to get them more excited about reading in a world that has so quickly become obsessed with computer gaming. Jenkins relays the story of Heather Lawver in his article; a girl who claims that she “read a book that changed her life”. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone gave her the inspiration to set up a website where fans could join together to write “a school newspaper for a school that existed only in their imaginations.” (page 172) The children participating are using the things that they have learned from Rowling’s stories and have combined them with their own imaginations to create something new, something that many teachers and parents are constantly trying to teach children to do.

It is clear that the theme of death is heavily prominent throughout the series and plays a vital role in Harry’s life and journey through his seven years at Hogwarts. By experience death on so many occasions and in so many different ways, the loss he has suffered has shaped him in many ways. Without the theme of death running throughout Harry Potter, the reader may not have grasped the important notion that death will end the battle between Harry and Voldemort. The entire story is based upon the magic arts contained within the fantasy world and it is understandable that protective parents and group leaders may feel that the content is inappropriate for young audiences; but we must argue whether the Harry Potter series remained a children’s book throughout its run. The series is fictional and that must be understood when reading the novels. Whilst some may deem it unsuitable, it cannot be argued that the Harry Potter phenomenon hasn’t encouraged children to read and expand their imaginations when entering such an exciting fantasy world.

The final battle between Harry and Voldemort

Bibliography

Deavel, C.J. and Deavel, D.P., 2002. Character, Choice and Harry Potter. Logos 5:4. Available from:
https://www.stthomas.edu/cathstudies/logos/archives/volumes/5-4/5-4%20Article%20Sample.pdf [Accessed 5 March 2010]

Jenkins, H., 2006. Why Heather Can Write: Media Literacy and the Harry Potter Wars. Convergence Culture: Where Old Media and New Media Collide. P169- 205. London: New York University

Montenegro, M., 2007. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Is Death Still the Next Great Adventure? Christian Answers for the New Age. Available from: http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_HarryPotterDeathlyHallows1.html [Accessed 5 March 2010]

O’Brien, M., 2003. Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Culture. Catholic World Report magazine. Available from: http://www.leannepayne.com/harrypotter/HarryPotter-PaganizationOfChildren.pdf [Accessed 5 March 2010]

Rowling, J.K., 1997. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury.

Rowling, J.K., 2000. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury.

Rowling. J.K., 2003. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury

Rowling. J.K., 2005. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury

Rowling. J.K., 2007. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. London: Bloomsbury

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Top 5 Disney Pixar Movie Moments

A huge Disney fan, I absolutely adore the Disney Pixar movies. Over the past 25 years the company has been creating CGI short and feature films, including Toy Story, Monsters Inc., CarsWALL-E and Up.

Following BBC3’s recent documentary discussing Pixar’s ’25 Magic Moments’, I thought I’d let you know my Top 5 favourite moments from the Pixar movies.

1. Carl & Ellie’s Married Life.

Although completely heartbreaking, this is one of my favourite moments as it’s like a mini movie. It could have easily been one of Pixar’s famous short films and it easily stands alone from the rest of the film. It is a completely beautiful montage of Carl & Ellie’s life together, which I think is made by the music.

2. Buzz switches to Spanish mode.
Taken from Toy Story 3, Buzz has had his memory reset so he doesn’t remember any of the toys. Woody and the gang try to get him back to his normal self… but end up switching him to Spanish mode instead. The whole scene had me crying with laughter, it’s a really funny moment which stands out as one of the funniest scenes for me in Pixar history.

3.  Outtakes
The outtakes of any Pixar movie are always brilliant but I particularly like the Monsters Inc. outtakes. I think each one is hilarious & I absolutely love the mini-musical.

4. Meet Dug
Another Up moment. I love the entire film, it’s definitely one of my favourite Pixar films. I love moment that we first meet Dug in the film. Carl and Russell believe that they have found a normal dog wondering around when suddenly the dog starts talking, immediately Russell wants to keep him.

5. Crush from Finding Nemo
Having just met a lot of jellyfish, Marlin wakes up to discover that he is riding the East Australian Current. I think Crush (along with Dory and Dug) are Pixar’s best characters & I just love this scene as Crush provides real humour for Marlin & Dory’s journey and comes up with some brilliant one-liners.

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Vampires Suck?

It would appear that we are living in a world that has become obsessed with vampires.

Vampire literature has been around for over 100 years, however in recent years vampire stories have seen an increase in popularity due to several successful television series and movies.

Dracula, an 1897 novel by Bram Stoker tells the story of Jonathan Harker, a man who visits the Transylvanian Count Dracula for business but who soon becomes Dracula’s prisoner. Dracula is probably one of the most famous and most influencial stories in vampire fiction, however the lead character which Stoker described in his book is extremely different to those portrayed today.

The vampire phenomenon has particularly taken off in the last three years thanks to The Twilight Saga, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. The two television series and the movie franchise depict their vampires as young, sexy and often brooding outsiders who live amongst humans.

Suddenly, vampires have gone from being the feared mystical, gothic creature to sexy, more human-like beings that are depicted and wanted as love interests. The female lead characters in the adaptations I’m going to discuss are all human but willingly pursue relationships with male vampires. Vampire fiction is no longer associated with death, but is now associated with sex and often love.

The Twilight Saga is a series of novels which are currently being adapted in to a series of films, with the first installment of the fourth book being released this year (Breaking Dawn: Part 1) The four novels were written by Stephanie Meyer, and tells the story of Bella Swan, a young high school girl who moves to the small town of Forks, where she meets the mysterious Edward Cullen. Bella and Edward fall in love and she soon discovers that he is a vampire. The series tells of Edward and Bella’s love story, the love triangle between them and werewolf Jacob Black, the evil vampire coven who are after Bella and her desire for Edward to turn her into a vampire.

The films have been hugely successful, starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Launter as the three leads and has grossed over $1.7 billion worldwide. Fans have been dubbed “Twihards” and there are numerous pieces of merchandise on sale all over the high street.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson

 

True Blood is an American series shown on HBO, which is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series written by Charlaine Harris. The television series is set in Bon Temps, a small ficitonal town in which vampires and humans co-exist and mostly tells the story of Sookie Stackhouse, a bar waitress who is telepathic and her relationship with Bill Compton, a vampire. The humans and vampires have been able to live alongside each other due to the creation of a synthetic blood which replaces a vampires need to drink human blood.

The series stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer as Sookie and Bill, amongst a large, strong ensemble cast and has won a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer

 

The Vampire Diaries is based on the novels of the same name by L.J Smith, telling the mysterious events of the small fictional town, Mystic Falls. The series sees Elena Gilbert torn between two vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon Salvatore. After 145 years, Stefan Salvatore has returned to Mystic Falls and instantly falls in love with Elena, a young human girl who resembles his old vampire love Katherine Pierce. Stefan’s brother, Damon, who was also in love with Katherine, soon returns to the town in order to stir up trouble for Stefan and the quiet life that he is trying to lead. Throughout the series, the love triangle is explored, other mysteries of the town are uncovered and the history of the Salvatore brothers and their lover Katherine Pierce is explored.

The series stars Nina Dobrev playing both Elena Gilbert and Katherine Pierce, Paul Wesley as the “good” vampire Stefan and Ian Somerhalder as the “bad” vampire Damon. The first episode saw the highest season opener ever on The CW, the network which airs the series.

Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley

Whilst there are certainly similarities between the three popular stories, each appeals to a different demographic although some audience members may be a fan of all three. Each has a different take on the vampire legend and features different vampire “rules”; where in The Twilight Saga, the vampires sparkle in bright sunlight, it can kill the vampires in The Vampire Diaries unless they possess a magic ring that allows them to walk in daylight.

Last year also saw the release of Vampires Suck, a spoof of vampire based movies, perhaps suggesting that the creators were already bored of the vampire craze?

So why has the world become so obsessed with vampires? Certainly these adaptations have made vampire fiction popular in the last few years, but it has always been around and has seen surges in popularity before. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for six years from 1997 and saw an increase in popularity for the genre.

But has it all gone too far this time around? Fans have been reported asking the actors to bite them at premieres and conventions, surely this is taking it all a little too far?

If I’m honest, I’ve not completely ignored the vampire phenomemon, my love for The Vampire Diaries is admittedly boarderline obsession- I just love the ongoing twists and turns of the series… you never quite know what is going to happen next. However, I don’t understand the craze over The Twilight Saga; I did enjoy the novels, but find the films poorly cast and acted. True Blood has quite simply just passed me by; I did watch the pilot but it didn’t grab me enough to want to continue watching, perhaps one day I’ll get hooked.

Whether people like it or not, it seems that the vampire craze is here to stay… at least for a little while longer.

Please comment with your thoughts on vampire fiction, what vampire films or series you enjoy and whether you think the craze has gone too far.

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Favourite Christmas Film?

Elf has recently been voted the number one Christmas film, according to myvouchercodes.co.uk.
In a survery conducted on the website, the 2003 film was voted the favourite with Miracle on 34th Street coming in second and Home Alone coming in third.
So… is Elf really the best Christmas film of all time? It is definitely one of my favourites along with three others.
So here’s a run down of my four favourite Christmas films and why they are my favourite things to watch over the festive period.

Elf
Starring Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human who as a baby crawls in to Santa’s sack and is brought up as an Elf. When he discovers that he is infact human, Buddy goes to New York in search of his father, Walter Hobbs, who is on the naughty list. Walter did not know that Buddy had been born and at first rejects his son. Buddy discovers the wonders of New York City and tries to adapt to human life… with hilarious consequences. Walter and Buddy soon form a relationship but it is put to the test when Buddy inteferes with Walter’s work.
Elf is a fantastic family film, with hilarious one liners and scenes brilliantly played out by Will Ferrell and the supporting cast. My favourite scene is when Buddy first goes exploring in the City and we see him eating chewing gum from the street, jumping across the zebra crossings, spinning around in revolving doors and being knocked over by a yellow taxi.

The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppet’s give their own tale of Charles Dickens classic story, with popular Muppet characters potraying different characters. Michael Caine stars in the film as Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserable lead character who is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
I really love this adaptation as the Muppet characters provide comedy to the heartwarming tale. With Gonzo the Great acting as Charles Dickens narrating the story as it happens we have comedic relief throughout as he tries to convince Rizzo the Rat that he is the great novelist. My favourite parts of the film are the Ghost of Christmas Present and a number of the songs featured in the film.

Love Actually
The film follows numerous different storylines in the run up to Christmas. We see the new Prime Minister fall for one of his staff, two film stand-ins get to know each other in very close proximity, a married man flirting with his secretary, a young man in love with his best friend’s new wife, a woman in love with her co-worker, a 10-year-old boy in love with a girl in his class and an Englishman fall for his Portugese maid amonst other plotlines.
I love Love Actually. I like that it’s a Christmas film as well as a romantic comedy. It comes from one of my favourite writers, Richard Curtis, the man behind Vicar of Dibley and Notting Hill. I love every story told in Love Actually including the heartwrenching story of Sarah, the American editor who is in love with Karl, the creative director whom she works with, whose relationship is interrupted and consequently ended by Sarah’s mentally ill brother. I also particularly enjoy the story of Mark, Juliet and Peter. Juliet and Peter get married at the start of the film, where we see Peter’s best friend Mark videotaping the celebrations. We believe that Mark does not like Juliet very much, however we soon discover that he is in love with Juliet. A beautiful scene shows Mark tell Juliet through flashcards that he loves her but that he will keep his love a secret for the sake of his best friend.

The Holiday
Amanda is an American film trailer maker who has just broken up with her boyfriend in Los Angeles. Iris is a British editor who has just found out that the man she is seeing has just become engaged. Both wanting to escape from their lives over the Christmas period, they decide to trade homes for two weeks. Amanda moves in to Iris’s home and soon become acquainted with Iris’s older brother, Graham. Thinking that they can have a simple one night stand, the pair sleep together but soon find that a relationship has begun. Whilst Iris is living in Los Angeles in Amanda’s home, she becomes friends with Miles, a composer, and Arthur, an elderly man who used to be a screenwriter in Hollywood during the Golden Age.
Although not necessarily a Christmas film, it is set over the Christmas holiday and although I can watch it at any time of year it, to me, provides the warm, cosy feeling that is associated Christmas. I love this film because I enjoy the twists of Kate Winslet’s storyline. Iris has travelled to LA in order to get over a man that she loves, but instead of instantly meeting and falling in love with another man (like Amanda’s storyline) we see her befriend an elderly man instead, with a love story progressing later with Miles. I really enjoy the scene where Arthur’s work is celebrated as it provides a warm, heartfelt feeling where the audience can feel proud of Arthur’s achievements. Another part I really like is where we discover that Graham has two daughters. The scene is completely heartwrenching and heartwarming at the same time. Throughout the film we believe that Graham might be a bit of a ‘player’ but he is infact a loving single father/widower. Once again, the scene is so warm and loving that, for me, it echoes exactly what Christmas is all about.

So, what is your favourite Christmas film? Is it the same as one of mine? Or something entirely different? Please take the poll to cast your vote and leave comments about your favourite Christmas film!

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