On A Tangent

The ultimate site for a generation sidetracked by the fandom life


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Tapping on the Fourth Wall: Do They Know They’re Singing?

Musical theater is a divisive medium. For some, it produces endless delight and fanatical devotion; for others, bafflement and fierce avoidance.

For me, musicals have always been a source of enjoyment. I grew up watching The Sound of Music once a year, every year. I spent most of the last academic year reviewing Broadway tour productions for my college newspaper (best gig ever – great seats for the low, low price of 500 words). I’ve even been in a musical or two myself.

But not everybody is musical fan, and understandably so. Musicals can be just plain baffling. Why is everyone singing? Why does everyone just accept this? Real life isn’t actually like this! (As a person who sings throughout my day, I beg to differ, but the point stands.) Musicals aren’t exactly a 1:1 reflection of everyday life.

But some musicals do try to tackle the question of “why are we singing?”. Some musicals seem to take place in a world where everyone sings and spontaneous extravagant musical numbers go unquestioned. But some musicals have a group of people consistently baffled by the theatrical antics of the main characters, a mirror for the audience who are less than spellbound by this perfectly choreographed and harmonized world.

I’ve been thinking about these questions recently and the worlds that musicals create. Specifically, because I recently binge-watched the first season of the CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (a musical comedy), I’ve been thinking about how these questions are addressed in musical television, both in shows that regularly feature musical numbers and ones for which musical numbers are a rarity.

Today, I’ll break down four of my favorite examples of musical TV and attempt to answer one question: do they know they’re singing?

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How Do You Solve A Problem Like Emily Gilmore?

Only The Dowager Countess Grantham could rival Emily Gilmore's tongue.

Only The Dowager Countess Grantham could rival Emily Gilmore’s putdowns. (Leah’s comment: I want to see THAT Friday night dinner.)

To say that Lorelei (Lauren Graham) and Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop) have one of the most turbulent cinematic mother-daughter relationships would likely be an understatement. The dysfunction present throughout all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls between these two strongly willed ladies could likely fill years of psychological journals.

But for the purpose of this very brief, 1,000-word blog post, I want to focus on the ways that Emily Gilmore works, both as a character and a reflection of the strong-willed lady in all of us. (You too, gentleman readers!)

First of all, with only a few exceptions, Emily Gilmore, like so many ideologues and family matriarchs, never errs from her firm opinion that her actions are not only in the right, but are what is best for those around her. This habit is regularly exemplified in her dialogues with Lorelei, in which Lorelei says one thing and Emily steamrolls right over her.What I love about the beginning of the show is that it launches us immediately into the timeframe in which Lorelei has begun (with mixed success) to improve that relationship and force her mother to hear what she is saying.

I have often thought this is very reflective of real life, where we only allow those who have torn us down to see us when we have started the assent back up. Rory is thriving despite a rocky start to life. Lorelei is successfully managing a big business with dozens of employees. To some extent and despite all her attempts to rebel from their way of life, Lorelei is still craving her parents to say that she has done well. It’s a praise she never fully receives. But that’s a digression for another day.

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Howard Stark: Genius, Billionaire, Playboy… Narcissist?

Welcome back to Marvel Mondays, where Leah gushes about all things Peggy Carter and contemplates cutting her hair so as to better cosplay our favorite leading lady.

This week on Agent Carter was less action and more exposition, giving us a little breather after the shocker that came at the end of last episode.  Tuesday’s episode also saw the return of Howard Stark, genius, billionaire, and everyone’s favorite scoundrel.

“”And what does it say now?” asked Arthur. “Mostly harmless,” admitted Ford with a slightly embarrassed cough.” – Douglas Adams, HHGTTG

…well, perhaps not everyone’s favorite.  Howard Stark is a pretty polarizing character, even in the fictional Marvel world.  Today’s review is going to dissect what we saw of Howard, look at Peggy’s fantastic upbraiding of him, and take a guess at why it is that many viewers — and Peggy herself — just can’t bring themselves to dislike Howard, despite all his faults.
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Gifted in Reel Life: The Change and Growth of Claudia Donovan

GHF_JanuaryToday, we have a special feature article for our readers.  This week, Laney and I were graciously asked to participate in a blog hop titled “Gifted in Reel Life” as a part of the Gifted Homeschoolers’ Forum.

This event focuses on portrayals of gifted individuals in media, a topic which is near and dear to both my sisters and me.  All three of us were tested for gifted programs at an early age, and spent countless hours in gifted programs in elementary school that gradually petered out as we advanced through middle and high school. (Laney’s note: my and our oldest sister’s middle school “gifted” program consisted of advanced science and advance English class, and in high school, despite being at a advance program chock-full of G&T kids, consisted of a designated counselor who gave us worksheets once a month. Leah’s was even less.)  As such, many a discussion of media in our household has been peppered with critiques of gifted characters and the way they are portrayed, particularly in television and film.

It is sad to say that even in the diversity of today’s programming, the majority of gifted individuals on the big or small screen tend to fit a certain mold.  They are generally white, predominantly male, employed in math or science fields, and often find themselves ostracized from their communities as a result of their intellect.  However, when Laney first broached the topic of “Gifted in Reel Life” with me, this was not the image that sprang to my mind.  In the sadly small smattering of gifted individuals that appear in modern media, I knew exactly who I wanted to write about – a character who I believe to be one of the best and most well-rounded portrayals of giftedness on television in recent years. Without further ado, I present: Claudia Donovan. Continue reading


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Fandom Friday: A Problem Universally Acknowledged

Agent_Carter_New_Logo“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single female protagonist in possession of her own show must be in want of a husband.”

… or something like that.  This is what I’ve come to think of as the “Agent Carter problem”, as our fabulous heroine is the most recent in a long line of heroines to be drawn into this argument.

The participants? On one side, we have those already engaged in speculation about who could be the “man saved by Captain America” with whom Peggy Carter has her future son and daughter. See the article that has caused the most uproar here.  On the other side, an outraged Peggy fanbase who derides the former group for reducing a powerful, dynamic woman to a romantic interest. Seems like a simple enough binary, right? Continue reading