As I said in my review of Tim Burton’s Dumbo on Tuesday, I mentioned that it’s been a while since I last watched the animated version. It was definitely when I was a child because I didn’t feel weird about the crows. Something I didn’t bring up in my review. Not because I don’t think it’s problematic: I do. But because I didn’t see what more I could say on the issue that hasn’t already been said. Yes, there is a Jim Crow reference in the middle of the film. Yes, it’s clearly bad. But it happened over 40 years before I was born. Of course, it’s going to make me uncomfortable. We should just be grateful that there was no attempt to make that scene fit into the live action remake. There was already a lot about Tim Burton’s film that stressed me out without coming face-to-face with his interpretation of Disney’s racist past.
As I mentioned in one of my 30 Books for my 30th posts, I was incredibly excited about the release of this new Tracy Beaker book. I’ve loved Jacqueline Wilson since I was a young girl and would say that she definitely inspired me when I was growing up. The Story of Tracy Beaker was one of the first of her books that I read so the idea of revisiting the character now she was also an adult was exciting. This was going to be one of those literary events that bring together readers young and old. It would appeal to readers of the target age of Wilson’s books and the now grown-up readers who enjoyed her books as children. And it was a literary event that I knew that I couldn’t miss. I genuinely couldn’t wait to get started on this book. Although, kickoff was delayed somewhat thanks to Matt fucking Haig. But as soon as I opened that first page it was like going back in time. Back to a time when reading was constantly magical. When I only ever read books that were fun and I never felt guilty about how quickly I was getting through them. My Mum Tracy Beaker was a book I was only reading for myself. It didn’t matter how literary or worthwhile it was. It didn’t matter how great it was going to be. It was all about getting back to that childish love of reading that Jacqueline Wilson first helped to instil in me. It was a celebration of who I was, who I am now, and who I could be afterwards. It was a celebration of everything that Wilson did for me as a child. Basically, this book was kind of a big deal.
There’s something quite scary about nostalgia. When you revisit something that you loved as a child there is always the danger it won’t be the same. Which is why I’ve tended to avoid most of the reboots of my most loved childhood TV and films. It’s the reason I only got round to watching the two new Paddington films recently instead of when the first one came out. I just didn’t think it would the same. I didn’t think there was any chance that the CGI bear would give me the same feelings as the cartoon one did in my youth. As we now know, I loved both of the films and feel like an idiot for not believing that I would. So, when Christopher Robin was announced I treated it with less suspicion. I knew that it was possible to make a really good live action version of one of my childhood favourite animated classics. Plus, you know, Ewan McGregor’s face is always a reason to get excited. Continue reading
Anyone out there who is a fan of Harry Potter, so most of the reading population of planet Earth, will know that today marks the fictional anniversary of the fictional Battle of Hogwarts. On this day of fictional commemoration the real author J K Rowling takes to Twitter to apologise to her fans for killing one of their favourite characters. This year she said sorry to her social media followers for the death of fan favourite Dobby, Harry Potter’s faithful House Elf friend. In the past she has made similar public apologies for killing characters such as Severus Snape, Remus Lupin, and Fred Weasley. And, as I sit here desperately wanting to go to bed but needing to write something for today’s post, I can’t but wonder why the fuck she bothers. I mean if it bothers her that much why kill them in the first place? It’s just more of her pathetic pandering to her fans to ensure that the Harry Potter gravy train she’s riding for the rest of her life never stops. And, really, every year I lose a little more respect for her as a writer.
Within my TBT film jar there are a couple of films that I’ve been desperate to watch again. Films that I’ve loved for years but, for one reason or another, I just haven’t seen for a while. This is one of those films. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to definitively answer the question “what is your favourite movie?” because it changes on an almost daily basis. They are so many films out there that it’s impossible to pick just one. It all comes down to mood, time of the day, time of the year, what I’m wearing, who I’m with… you know how it is. Still, if, at gunpoint, I was forced to make a list of my top 10 films I would, after a long time thinking about it, be able to make a list of films I love in no particular order. If that horrific situation (and I’m referring to the list making not the gun by the way) ever did arise then I’m pretty sure that this film would definitely be part of it. It’s one of those films that manages to bridge the gap between silly, nostalgic film and genuinely well-made film. The kind of film you love to watch and aren’t embarrassed to love. You know, like I am with Space Jam. Although, that film has been criminally under-looked critically.
Dear Jacqueline Wilson,
This letter should be one full of joy and celebrating the news that you’re writing a new Tracy Beaker story. Narrated by Tracy’s 9-year-old daughter. I remember reading The Story of Tracy Beaker as a child. It inspired me in so many ways. I wanted to write. I started keeping a diary. I watched the TV show even when I was far too old to be doing so. I can’t wait to read the newest adventure and see how Tracy grew up. I’m sure I’m not alone. There will be an entire generation of women who grew up with your stories who will have experienced that same wave of nostalgia that I did. It’s the kind of impact you have as a writer.
So why is it not a letter full of joy? In the last few hours I’ve read a lot of negative comments from mothers who have decided your books aren’t appropriate for their daughters. Apparently they are too dark and mature for their precious flowers. Apparently your realistic representation of the hardships experienced by a wide-range of youths might damage them. Well, as someone who couldn’t stop reading your books when I was younger, they didn’t do me any harm.
Quite the opposite in fact. Your stories for younger children entertained me and got me excited about reading. I pestered my poor mother every time your released a new book. I needed everything you wrote. The Illustrated Mum made me desperate for a tattoo. The Lottie Project made me want to learn more about history. The Bed and Breakfast Star made me want to be funny. The Suitcase Kid made me appreciate my family all the more. Most of all I adored Double Act because it was the first significant book I’d read about being a twin. I saw myself and my sister in the characters of Ruby and Garnet. It helped to read about twins who were so different and drifting apart. It helped to read about characters that I understood. You knew you audience and created novels that would guide them.
As well as teaching them about things they would normally never have seen. Thanks to you I was introduced to children living genuinely difficult lives. You forced me to confront the notion that people in this world have harder lives than I do and to appreciate what I had. Things could always be worse. You made me think about other people before myself. I didn’t necessarily know it at the time but you were already helping me grow into the socially and politically minded woman I am now.
The thing that makes your novels so fantastic is your unwillingness to speak down to your audience. You didn’t try to pussy-foot around them. You didn’t present the world through rose-tinted glasses. You wrote about real problems and real people. You write about the kind of children that might usually be overlooked in children’s stories. You gave a voice to the voiceless and let them know everything could and would be okay. That somebody understood them.
You understood me. One of the most powerful reading experiences I’ve ever had was reading your novel Girls Under Pressure. I’ve never felt so strongly that a novel knew me before. I, like nearly every young person, have always struggled with body image. I’ve never been comfortable with the way I look or, more specifically, with my size. Never more so than the time I was reading your books. Girls Under Pressure could have been written about me. I don’t want to get melodramatic but you quite probably saved me. The amount of time I spent focusing on how fat I was could easily have led to some horrible decisions. Reading a novel about the consequences of eating disorders was enough to force me to see that it wasn’t the easy answer. Refusing to eat or throwing up wouldn’t magically make life okay. I’m still not happy with the way I look but I can say that I’ve never, even during my lowest points, been tempted to walk that line.
You helped me in so many ways. To hear people say they don’t want their children reading your stories is absurd. You taught me more about who I was as a person than anything else I read when I was younger. I appreciate that books like Harry Potter have a lot to teach people but I never saw myself in them. You did. You seemed to know what I was feeling and were able to tell me it would get better. You changed my life. I normally try to end these letters with an appropriate quotation but that doesn’t seem right here. Instead…
Thank you for everything
Dear The Complete Sophie Stories,
I have so many fond memories of you. I adored your books when I was a child. My mother bought me your first hardback collection Sophie’s Adventures when I was about 7 years old. Or at least that’s what I’d assume by looking at the publication date. I don’t really remember much about getting you but I do remember that she wrote something to me inside the book. Not a huge essay but I’ll never forget that inscription. I’m not saying the connection with my mother caused me to love your books more but I’ve always linked the two in my mind.
Thinking about you has always been comforting. You’re tied up with nostalgic feelings about my youth and the warm, safe feeling of being home. You basically feel like part of the family to me. You’re the books I remember most fondly from my childhood. There was a period of time when you were my go to book for feeling better. If I woke up from a nightmare then I’d read you. I’d flip through your pages if I couldn’t get to sleep. Every time I was having a rough time I would turn to you. Even when I was far too old to do it.
Looking back I associate myself with Sophie because she’s a stubborn young girl and I’ve always been fairly stubborn. I can’t say I made those links when I first read you but I can definitely see similarities. At the time, we both shared a love of animals and, particularly, horses. I understood why you wanted a dog and why you would love to live on a farm. I understood being the youngest member of your family and being overshadowed by your siblings. It’s inevitable. I don’t think I appreciated how much you taught me when I first read you. But you did. You taught me a lot about being independent and head-strong. About doing what I believed in and sticking to my guns. You’ve probably influenced my life in more way’s than I’d imagine.
But, most importantly, you’ve always been a source of love for me. I always remember you. I always remember how reading you made me feel. I have so much to thank you for but especially for the hours of entertainment you’ve given me. You were the perfect first bookish obsession.