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Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival – Food & Beverage Sampler Review

The Food & Wine Festival at Busch Gardens Williamsburg is one of my favorite times at the park (second only to the pure MAGIC that is ChristmasTown), and I was so excited to get to experiences the YUMS this year too. I give you a rundown of the new kiosks (Mediterranean and India) and my favorite dishes in the park in my latest video which you can check out below.

But I also decided to splurge for a Food & Wine Sampler Pass for the first time, and I wanted to give you my thoughts because one of the questions I’ve always had is “Is it worth it?” The short answer is, most likely.  There are two options, a 10 item sampler for $45 (plus tax which comes out to be $50) or a 15 item sampler for $60 (plus tax which comes out to be $66) but for simplicity’s sake let’s go with the pre-tax prices. This means that on the 10 item sampler, any dish or drink you purchase will be $4.50 and on the 15 item sampler it will be $4.00. Dishes and drinks range between $3.00 and $6.00 so for some of the heartier and more expensive items this is quite a good deal!

Drawbacks you do have to note though: this sampler pass doesn’t cover EVERYTHING. It includes all the entrees (yay!), specialty non-alcoholic drinks (like my favorite the Hibiscus Lemonade in Hawaii) and some samples of wine and beer. Flights of wine/beer, cocktails, or full-size alcoholic beverages available at select kiosks are not counted though and you’ll have to pay for those separately.

So how do you get the most out of a sampler pass?

  • Unless you’re just really not very hungry (but I mean, it’s a festival about food so why wouldn’t you be!), the 15 item pass is the best deal because it brings your average price per item down to $4.00.
  • This is definitely the best option for a group as you can split the 15 items between you and share all around!
  • If you’re mostly interested in sampling the beer and wine from the kiosks this is also a perfect idea. Most of the samples run at $5 so you’d be saving a $1 for every drink!
  • I also think it’s a perfect idea for a family if you’re going to be in the park all day. You can graze around the park as you take the kids on different rides and save money for lunch/dinner by getting several of these smaller items rather than something from one of the main dining areas.
  • If you’re really looking to get the bang for your buck, make sure that you purchase items that are under $4.00 separately (and if you have a season’s passholder you get a 10% discount so it’s even cheaper!)
  • If you’re looking for simplicity this is also your best option. You pay once (say, at your first kiosk) and then the rest of the time you just have the cashiers scan your pass and you’re golden! No fumbling with cash or card or trying to keep track of multiple receipts!

Reasons you might should skip out on the sampler pass?

  • You’re more interested in the cocktails or wine/scotch/beer specialty samples. These aren’t included in the sampler so save your bucks and go straight for the booze!
  • You’re there for the desserts. Most of the desserts in the kiosks run in the $3.00 to $4.00 range so you’d actually be overpaying for them in the long run.

So there you have it! I think the sampler pass is best purchased when you have at least three people eating and the 15 item one is an absolute no-brainer when comparing it with the 10 item sampler. I hope this has given you a bit of clarity on how to spend your money at the Food & Wine Festival. It’s all delicious so I can really only say go for it!

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Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life // A Non-Spoiler Review

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Are you on the fence about watching the Gilmore Girls Revival? Looking for a review that will ease your mind on which way to go without spoiling the whole experience for you?  Then you’ve come to right place!  I made a SPOILER-heavy review on my YouTube channel which you can watch at the end of this blog post, but I thought I’d create a non-spoiler-y review for those looking for such!

Winter

The first episode of the revival is a love letter to Gilmore Girls fans in my opinion. It’s got all the beautiful nostalgic moments, characters, and scenes you could ask for. You quickly get back into the witty banter and see what all your favorite characters have been doing these last few years. (And in the case of the town of Stars Hollow, it somehow seems to have stayed exactly the same besides the addition of a little more technology).  It also addresses Richard’s death pretty early on and how the three Gilmore women are processing it. And I don’t think it’s too spoiler-y to say that his absence is what propels them forward into many of the events seen in the revival.  And it’s this story arc that I found the most true to the Gilmore Girls legacy and also moving and enjoyable.

The only real detriment to this episode is that we find Lorelei in the place where she seems to have backtracked on some of the growth and maturity we saw in the original series. It works for the arc as a whole and is resolved by the end, but for me, it felt somewhat disappointing to her character. I really had expected her to be a little more grown up 8/9 years after the events of the original series.

Spring

Where Winter is mostly fun and nostalgic, Spring starts to introduce the conflicts we know are going to influence the revival’s arc as a whole. For me, Spring was made especially fun because of Paris and her high-school flashbacks and insecurities. I’ve always wondered if I was the only one who felt them! But fear not! Even the amazing and bull-headed Paris Geller isn’t immune to the pull of horrific high school memories!

Summer

Maybe I missed something or I’m just not remembering correctly, but I don’t remember there being a Stars Hollow Community Pool. Nevertheless, there is one now! So don’t let it bother you too much like it did me. This is the only episode I didn’t really like and it was mostly because there’s a GIANT musical in the middle. Not just one scene with half a song to suggest at the idea of a musical, but AN ENTIRE MUSICAL. I’m telling you this now and possibly kind of spoiling it for you, because it’s just so weird and drawn-out and I’ve seen many people complaining about it. I want you to be prepared. I do still think it’s worth watching though, and this episode ends on the classic Gilmore Girls dramatic cliffhanger so power through 15 minutes of slightly disturbing musical for ending drama!

Fall

Where I was not a big fan of Summer, I was very pleased with Fall on the whole. It’s different in many ways than the traditional Gilmore Girls episode, but I feel like by the end of the revival arc, the places that each character is at and the resulting use of setting and cinematography fit with each one.  It also ties things up in a nice happy bow, except for those last four words. But you’ll have to watch to find those out!

Other Thoughts and Issues You Might Be Wondering About

Sookie’s absence was sorely felt, but I think it worked well for the journey that Lorelei goes on. She’s missing pieces of herself in several different places and she has to find a way to put herself back together for her future success. So though I missed Sookie’s presence, I didn’t feel like it was a detriment to the story as whole.

Watch, Skip, or Wait?

If you were a long-time Gilmore Girls fan, I would definitely say watch!  It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s full of nostalgia, and does address some issues left unresolved in the original series.  If you’re only vaguely aware of the Gilmore Girls world, I will warn you that this isn’t your average Netflix release. It’s not truly meant to be accessible by anyone. You do need a decent understanding of the original storyline. I’d say that if you watched or read a recap of the original series and are interested in seeing the revival, go for it!  I can’t imagine you’ll experience the nostalgia that my mom and I did while watching, but I think it’ll still be an enjoyable experience.

And is there any reason to wait on watching it or skip it all together? If you’re super invested in the characters as you knew them in 2008, I might suggest skipping it. You have to understand that we’re revisiting the town and story several years later and there are obviously going to be changes. We are also now adding to the story and it’s possible there will be additions that you don’t like, depending on your interpretation of the characters and the world. So basically, skip it if you’re worried your world will be shattered by tiniest change in character development!  Good luck! Have fun! And let me know what you think!

And don’t forget about my video review!

A Spoiler-Heavy Review (But a Great Place for Support After You’ve Watched The Revival!)

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Behind the Scenes at Howl-O-Scream 2016: Dolls, Clowns, and My Worst Nightmares

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It’s that time of year again! I’m so excited to bring you what’s new and scary at Howl-O-Scream in Busch Gardens Williamsburg this fall!  If you have a fear of creepy dolls (thanks Chucky and Pretty Little Liars), clowns, and carnivals, you’re in for some scream-inducing mayhem!

Busch Gardens added several new features to the park this Howl-O-Scream including a haunted house “Circo Sinistro” which has a carnival/circus theme, a Terror-tory in Italy called Sideshow Square which continues the circus theme, two Escape Room experiences, and the Starfright Orchestra on Saturday evenings playing your favorite Halloween tunes.  I really loved the “Evil Encore”/Circus theme because it’s surprisingly bright and fun sounding while being thoroughly creeptastic. In fact, I wish that more of the park could have incorporated it, and perhaps even expanded upon the Mr. Karver/Georgie the Doll mythology that I glimpsed in the Escape Room.  It’s scary without being so overwhelmingly terrifying that you feel you like you can’t have any fun, which for me, made for a super great experience. So let’s break the new and interesting things down for you:

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No Escape → Escape Room Experiences

Have you been to an Escape Room yet? It’s a difficult adventure where you’re locked in a room with some friends and you have to find and solve clues to escape before the clock runs out!  I did one in New York City when I was at YouTube NextUp in the spring, and it was so fun once I got the hang of it.  Busch Gardens is catching onto the trend and put together an amazing experience.  Not only are they Halloween themed (Mr. Karver’s creepy doll workshop, and the mystery of Jack the Ripper), but they also have performers in the room with you! I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard of a Escape Room with that added element yet. It certainly ups the difficulty factor as you’re a little worried Mr. Karver is going to cut off one of your limbs at any moment!  I didn’t get to play the rooms, but I did get to tour them, and they look amazing! The Escape room experience isn’t included in the price of admission, but I think it’s well worth the price because it’s a puzzle experience and show all in one!

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Sideshow Square

Terror-tories have always been something I tried to avoid in Howl-O-Scream. I’m not a big fan of  people jumping out at me when I’m just trying to eat some funnel cake.  But sometimes you have to walk through them in order to get through the park quickly which is why I actually really like Sideshow Square. While you do have some extra creepy guys in weird clown masks walking around with chainsaws that sound like clown horns, you’ll also find fun (but still scary) “sideshow” style areas.  For example, I got tricked into pressing a button to have my fortune told and ended up with a fortuneteller jumping out of the booth at me. Ah! It makes you want to linger a little more to see everything that’s there rather than power walk through it like your grandma on steroids.

Circo Sinistro

I’m not a big haunted house fan. I’ve learned to somewhat enjoy them when I have a big group of friends, and I can hide in the middle and use them as shields. However, walking through a haunted house essentially alone because you’re wearing a GoPro harness with a light pointed at your face that is basically blinding you, makes for an entirely different experience. Parker was hanging out behind me filming from a different angle so I didn’t have any manly biceps to cling to. I was really nervous to go in! But I would say that of all my Howl-O-Scream maze experiences, this one is actually my favorite! It’s long and has several different stages. It also didn’t feel so closed in and claustrophobic which is usually my one complaint with haunted houses. I remember the Catacombs maze in France in 2014 where I kept bumping into walls and it nearly made me hyperventilate.  But man, are the dolls and clowns in this maze horrifying! It’s pretty much full of every part of carnivals, circuses, and dollhouses that you HATED as a kid (and an adult). So good luck and Godspeed!

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Starfright Orchestra

I haven’t actually gotten to hear the Starfright Orchestra at the time of writing this blog because they only play on Saturdays, but I really hope that I get to take another trip on a Saturday just so I can sit and listen! If you’re a scaredy-cat like me, and really just like going to Howl-O-Scream for the Halloween-esque atmosphere, I feel like this is the perfect place to chill out!  I love the idea of just hanging out and listening to some fun Halloween-inspired tunes from some super talented musicians!

 

If you’re looking for even more Howl-O-Scream goodness (and fright!), check out my latest video from the park! I go behind-the-scenes in all the new areas that I summarize for you here, so if you’re still skeptical, you can see for yourself!

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What Will Happen in the World of Fall 2016 TV? // Vampire Diaries, Once Upon a Time, Jane the Virgin, The Mindy Project

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It’s that time of year again! We’ve waited months to find out what happens to our favorite characters. Will they make it through whatever awful trauma the writers put them through back in the spring? Will contract renewals and/or budget cuts factor into the story that we all know should happen but fear won’t? Well, I’m super excited for some of my favorite shows to be returning to their regular weekly schedule.  All my absolute favs ended with some serious drama so I’m wondering what will happen, but there are also some new shows I’ve been seeing promotions for that seem intriguing. What better way to get into the fall TV season spirit than to do a little recapping and surmising about the season to come?  Let’s do this! (But be warned, this post will contain spoilers for those of you who haven’t caught up on the latest seasons. Pin it for later, when you’re prepared!)

The Mindy Project

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I wanted to start with something light. The drama that The Mindy Project left us with wasn’t life or death, but our loveable and crazy main character was left in a sticky situation between having just slept with her ex, Danny, in an elevator and coming home to find that her potential new suitor Jody has bought her an entire apartment. Then there’s also the extra stressor of the audience (though not Mindy yet) knowing that Danny is getting married!  All in all, it’s not looking too good for anyone in this quirky love triangle.

I’m really interested in this season because 1.) I absolutely HATED Jody at the start of the season. He was such a male chauvinist stereotype. But slowly…somehow he became my favorite character. I had always been a Mindy and Danny shipper until the first half of this latest season on Hulu. I understood Danny’s Catholic quirks and his aversion to marriage after a failed first marriage and a rough childhood after being abandoned by his father. But once Baby Leo was born, his prejudices and assumptions started revealing themselves and I stopped feeling like he was right for our wildly independent heroine Mindy.  And Jody continued to surprise me throughout the season with his investment in Mindy’s fertility practice and later his friendship with her despite having vastly different personalities. So while I know Mindy will weather whatever relationship storm started brewing at the conclusion of last season with her characteristic optimism and craziness, I feel like this light-hearted show has raised some serious questions about women and our relationships with men and their ingrained ideas of masculinity and femininity.

Once Upon a Time

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I am the biggest Captain Swan shipper, and while I have my issues with last season’s Dark Swan and Underworld arcs (or at least their executions, I felt like the ideas were wonderful but maybe misused a bit), I’m so happy that Hook and Emma are finally both back to their old selves and no longer in imminent peril (for the moment).  For season 6, all the previews have been hinting at getting back to more of their season one style with new characters (Aladdin and Jasmine, etc) and flashbacks. My hope is that rather than the one-off episodes they’ve been doing with new characters recently (e.g. Hercules and Meg? That was such a waste of amazing characters!), we’ll start to integrate some new characters into the story and have their past/stories actually influence the plot of the season rather than serve as a vehicle for the plot of individual episodes. Aladdin being a previous savior is a really interesting concept, and I like the idea of delving more into the savior mythology. (At this point, we know a fair amount about the Dark One mythology but not its opposite, the Savior).  Also, I’d really like to see a struggle for Emma where she isn’t either debilitated (like when she first became a Dark One or when she was first understanding her powers in the Frozen arc) or too headstrong to listen to anyone (like the Neverland arc).  I want to get back to the Detective Emma of season one.  I love her loyalty and her passion, but I’m also tired of seeing her wear herself down trying to save EVERYBODY. I hope that the failed Savior history of Aladdin will help Emma realize she can’t save everybody. That it’s not her job.  She can certainly try to do good in her community and help people when she can, but not to the detriment of her health or the safety of her family and friends.

Plus I want a Captain Swan wedding. I feel like they were hinting at that in the season finale with the Emma and Hook’s reunion kiss in front of bridal shop.  Although I do keep wondering about the feasibility of that hook as their romance progresses. I feel like sharp objects are not something you want to keep in your marriage bed.

There’s also the Regina/Evil Queen storyline which is exciting in it’s own right.  We can now get back to the awesome EVIL-ness of the Evil Queen without losing all of Regina’s character development. While I am still miffed about Robin being killed off (but honestly, he was just arm-candy at this point, another misuse of an amazing character), I want Regina to continue her journey of redemption to prove 1.) She doesn’t need a man/True Love to be happy/successful and 2.) She can overcome her demons.  But I’ll definitely enjoy all the destruction that the Evil Queen is going to cause in the meantime.  We need a truly evil and challenging villain for a change.

Jane the Virgin

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Is Michael alive?!?!?!  Man, Jane the Virgin is amazing at leaving a season with an extreme WTF moment.  Mateo’s kidnapping in Season 1 and now Michael being shot in season 2.  I will say that I’ve been a Rafael shipper since the beginning, but I fully supported Jane and Michael’s marriage and love for each other. I feel like Michael really “manned up” in the second season and decided that he loved Jane no matter what. In season 1, I had felt they weren’t a good match because he wasn’t ready for a child, or rather, he wasn’t interested in raising a child that wasn’t actually his and certainly not co-parenting with someone who your fiance/wife has obvious chemistry with.  But seeing Michael with Mateo this season really melted my heart. Whatever his original misgivings about the situation, you can tell that Mateo is just as much Michael’s child as he is Jane’s and Rafael’s. So even though I feel like a Jane and Rafael pairing would be wonderful, right now, Michael + Jane is obvious.

The previews seem to suggest that he didn’t die on site (which is good!) but there’s still the fear that he will die later. What if he’s stuck in a coma? What if he doesn’t wake up? What if he wakes up but has memory loss or has a completely different personality? (This is in the vein of a telenovela, you know).  Plus I just love Brett Dier (the actor who plays Michael) and I would hate the idea of him not gracing my screen every Monday night!

Then there are the other problems we were left with at the end of season 2: Petra is trapped in the hospital with a debilitating “disease” caused by her evil twin who’s now taking over her life and Xiomara has found out she’s pregnant with SOMEONE’S baby (Rogelio? Esteban?) While the question of Michael’s fate is the most pressing issue on my mind as the new season begins, I feel like Petra and Xiomara’s predicaments are far more interesting in terms of where the season will go and what impacts they’ll have on all the characters.

The Vampire Diaries

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And finally The Vampire Diaries with it’s heartbreaking final season.  We left season 7 with a return to the norm in a way (only really the core characters remain alive, Bonnie isn’t in anymore imminent danger, and the Huntress is gone for good), but with the empty space that Damon and Enzo left after having been consumed by the Evil Vault Monster in the Armory.  On the one hand, we know they’re not gone for good so no deaths to mourn.  But on the other hand, we know that we seem to be facing the ultimate Big Bad as Damon and Enzo (bad boys in their own right) have become minions of Evil Herself.  There’s not much we know about this upcoming season. It’s mostly just rumors flying about Nina Dobrev reprising her role for the finale and fears about whether they’ll really be able to bring Damon back from this final dark turn.

In terms of things I’d like to see, if Nina Dobrev is coming back, I’d really like to see Katherine Pierce be somehow connected to the Evil Vault Monster.  She was sucked off into darkness instead of crossing over to the Other Side so her character still has potential to return.  However, I would NOT be satisfied if Nina’s return only came in the form of Katherine and not with at least one happy-cry worthy Delena scene to end the show with.  I’d also like to see Matt have a happy ending. He got SO CLOSE last season, but then it all got stripped away and he turned kind of bad which I wasn’t a fan of.  The one thing about Matt Donovan–the resident human of the gang–is that he’s inherently good. He’s always changing sides to try to help as many of his friends as possible. It’s made him do some questionable things, and you can tell that weighs on him heavily, but he’s the most loyal character I’ve ever seen.  And then there’s the hinted BIG DEATH that will happen mid-season, and I’m scared for that. We’re down to so few characters, and I don’t think I could handle parting with any of them.  For someone in this very small crew to die would feel like such a waste when the series is almost over!  They almost made it through!  I’m not even taking bets on who it will be. Imagining it being any of them breaks my heart.
So there are my favorite fall shows and what I’m feeling/hoping/fearing!  I felt like there were some really intense season endings in the spring so I’ve been anticipating this season renewal for a while!  What are your favorite shows and what are you excited for when they come back on this fall? Tell me in the comments! While I honestly don’t need any more shows to watch, I’d love to know your hopes and fears for your favorite shows!

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Star Wars, George Lucas, and the Problem of the All-Powerful Auteur

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So if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, you’re missing out. Even if you’ve only been vaguely aware of the Star Wars universe, I’d recommend it because it’s a great start to a new arc of Force awesomeness. And one of the many reasons I’d recommend this new Star Wars is because of how immensely I enjoyed it. I’ve seen all six movies. I fall into the category of people who didn’t really enjoy the first three prequel episodes but definitely saw the magic of the original trilogy. However, what’s always bothered me about those first six movies is also what made them great: George Lucas.

I’ve only ever seen the re-mastered versions of the original three episodes with added CGI effects. It’s easy to tell the most obvious additions. They’re rather jarring, and I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to see those episodes without the additions. On the one hand, I feel for George Lucas as a filmmaker. He had access to so much more technology in the 2000s than in the 1970s and 80s. And by that time Star Wars was an empire of its own, and George Lucas had the power of a true auteur behind him. If he wanted to digitally enhance Chewbacca’s eyelashes he probably would have been allowed to. Which is where my problem with the prequels usually comes in. At this point in Star Wars movie-making history, the franchise was a success so like Peter Jackson and The Hobbit, more money and more effects were poured into the prequels. But that doesn’t always make the movie better. And very rarely does it actually contribute to a better story.

That’s the problem with the all-powerful auteur. George Lucas was genius in the inception of the Star Wars universe, but we can see all too easily how that power can go awry. Many people would argue the Ewoks in the Episode VI introduced primarily for merchandising purposes as an example of this. And while I think the Ewoks are adorable, when I learned that was one of their purposes in creation, I was sorely disappointed in how I’d been manipulated.

Which is why I think I liked The Force Awakens the best. George Lucas isn’t the director or writer. The movie as a whole feels like a love letter to original series while also continuing the story and setting it up for a blockbuster future. I didn’t feel manipulated by anything in the movie (except perhaps some references to the originals but that’s part of the fun!) I didn’t feel like it was a giant merchandising campaign. (Although I’ve seen some ridiculous “Limited Edition Stars Wars Mascara” advertisements that just seem silly to me. They make the wands look like lightsabers. Why?)

Part of me wants to be scolding and say, “George Lucas, you’ve lost your Star Wars privileges!” However, that doesn’t really do all that much good. I feel like the rule is more that an auteur with too much power is going to get in over his head eventually because Hollywood is ultimately about the money. If you want to make movies that really say something, you’ll have to accept the low pay, high-risk of the indie world. If you make something that truly lights a fire in the imaginations of the masses, you’ll eventually be pulled under the Hollywood, moneymaking bus. Your integrity is smashed to smithereens like nothing more than a speed bump!

I’m interested in the choice to have three different directors for this sequel trilogy. At first, I thought “But I like J.J. Abrams! Why can’t he do the rest of them?” But then, perhaps, this juggling of directors is actually a fail safe for the story. With a new director taking the helm with each movie, it might mean that they have to focus more on staying true to the themes, story, and universe they’ve been developing in this trilogy rather than inserting their own unique take on the universe. Or it could be a total disaster. Who knows? We can only hope!

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Selfish Girls Shouldn’t Be Heroes (AKA Why Elena Doesn’t Deserve Damon)

Selfish-Elena-1            In Episode 602 of “The Vampire Diaries” titled “Yellow Ledbetter,” having finally admitted to herself that her boyfriend, Damon Salvatore, is dead (but mostly not wanting to be a witch drug-addict anymore), Elena Gilbert decides to reenact “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and erase her relationship with Damon from her memory because she’s come to the conclusion that this is her best option for moving on.

If only we could all just erase our hurts from our memories with the help of an Original Vampire WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER than to erase an immature 19 year olds’ memories because they asked them nicely and seem distressed.   Wouldn’t that make our lives so much better?

NO.

While the prospect of erasing our hurtful memories after we have experienced loss does seem intriguing because no one wants to have to deal with the emotional baggage all that sorrow brings, it just isn’t realistic to exist that way. Even if we did have memory-erasing scientific equipment or vampire compulsion, would you really want to wipe away years of your life? Isn’t every life experience important? Especially the ones that cause us so much pain when they no longer work out? Didn’t we learn something from them?

Selfish-Elena-2            Essentially, I’m pretty disappointed in the character of Elena. It’s Season 6. She’s a college sophomore. She’s had two great loves and had pretty much everyone she’s cared about die at one point or another, and yet when her boyfriend (her “greatest love,” if you will) dies (although we know he’s not exactly “gone”), she resorts to erasing him from her memory because that’s the only way she can think of coping with this particular loss. And this is selfish. It is cowardly. It is immature. It is wrong. If she loves him so deeply, doesn’t he deserve to be grieved and not forgotten? Because she didn’t just wipe her memory of him, she reverted her memory back to what she initially thought of him as—a monster with no remorse. One of the highlights of “The Vampire Diaries” is the growth Damon’s character has undergone through the last five seasons, and I consider it an insult that she would rather just forget him.

Sometimes I wonder if Julie Plec’s and Ian Somerhalder’s intention for Damon Salvatore is to create a character that is so perfectly imperfect and loveable that even the characters on the show don’t deserve him and that it’s some kind of sick torture for the viewers to pine after him, convinced that you could treat him better than Elena. Perhaps…

Selfish-Elena-3            My real issue though lies in Elena. I like strong female characters. I like character growth (especially female character growth). I like to see people overcome their odds, and trust me, Elena has had the odds stacked against her. If there was ever any fictional character I DIDN’T want to be (even if it got me a sexy vampire boyfriend named Damon Salvatore), it would be Elena Gilbert because she’s pretty much the unluckiest girl on the planet with a side of Fate out to get her. But what puzzles me as a viewer is that even when she comes through all these hardships (her parents dying, her aunt dying, her teacher/pseudo-father dying, her biological parents dying, her brother dying, etc), when she faces a new struggle she reacts in the same way—run and hide—which has been proven over and over again as the WORST strategy.

I mean, she asked to have her humanity turned off after Jeremy died, and she BURNED DOWN HER OWN HOUSE. Yeah…that was definitely the best idea.

What I’d like to see is an Elena that doesn’t run and hide from her pain. First, she drugged herself so she could ignore the pain and then when she realized the drugs were a problem rather than dealing with her addiction and grief head on, she asks for her memory to be erased. This is clearly a girl who has little self-control, and she’s supposed to be our hero! I mean, every hero has his or her weaknesses, but Elena isn’t even looking too good overall.

If you want to look at a strong female character in “The Vampire Diaries,” you’ll have to look at Caroline Forbes. Over the last five seasons, she went from a prissy, envious teacher’s pet to an independent woman who never stops fighting for her loved ones. She also went from my most loathed character to my absolute favorite character on the show. She isn’t perfect, she’s still changing and growing as a character, but she’s not stuck on her original hang-ups like Elena.

I’m a disappointed in you Julie Plec, “The Vampire Diaries,” and Elena. Give us a little more character growth and female strength to work with here!

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Soul vs. Body: Thoughts on David Levithan’s “Every Day”

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I recently finished a very thought-provoking young adult novel by David Levithan called “Every Day.”  It’s about a person named “A” who has no body of his own and every day for as long as he can remember he wakes up in the body of another person, has access to their memories, and must live out the day as this new person without drawing too much attention to himself.  (NOTE: I’m going to refer to A using male pronouns because that’s how I viewed him in the book, but he is in no way either a he or a she.  He’s both and neither, and it’s a very refreshing and radical approach to gender).

A’s is a lonely existence.  He has no mother, father, grandparents, or siblings.  He can have no true friends because his existence is too difficult to explain.  And having a relationship is practically out of the question because he has no gender and no body of his own—something about which humans are surprisingly picky.  We like to say that we love the person “inside” the body, that we’d love them no matter what they looked like, but how many of us have relationships with people that change their body daily? Well, none that I know of.

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While the main plot of “Every Day” follows A as he falls in love with one girl and attempts to form a relationship with her despite his ever changing physical form and location, what struck me as most interesting about this tale is its fine attention to the nuances of the body.  We take for granted our physical form.  We know how we walk and talk and move and function without having to think about it, but if our consciousness was suddenly thrown into someone else’s physical body, and we had to pass off as them for a day, I imagine that we would become much more aware of the physical demands the body makes on us and how that affects who we are.

What fascinated me the most, though, was the portrayal of mental illness as seen through the eyes of a body jumper.  A very clearly states that mental illness is something chemically connected to the body.  However, throughout history, society has tried to convince us that mental illness is something inherent in our minds.  That it is our mind, our soul, our very being that is sick, but science has shown this just isn’t the case.  Our environment and past can create many obstacles for us mentally that therapy can help work out and teach us to cope with, but many people have a chemical imbalance in their bodies that causes the real culprit of mental illness—the depression, anxiety, OCD, and on and on.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: We all want everything to be okay. We don’t even wish so much for fantastic or marvelous or outstanding. We will happily settle for okay, because most of the time, okay is enough.”

-David Levithan, Every Day

As A jumps from body to body, one day he lands in that of a teenage girl who struggles with deep depression. He knows this from the moment he wakes up.  He can feel the weight of it.  The loss.  The utter despair and defeat.  And even though he has no mental illness, the body takes a toll on him.  In a way, the body is it’s own entity. It wants things and demands to have them (e.g. he spent a day in the body of drug addict which was utter torture for himself as he keep himself locked inside of a room all day to avoid shooting up with heroin).  And through this demanding the body can have detrimental effects on the mind.

“She is so lost in her sadness that she has no idea how visible it is.”

-David Levithan, Every Day

When you struggle with depression or other mental illnesses, it’s very likely that you don’t know what it’s like to live without depression.  You accept the defeat and the drag and the weight as a part of who you are—as a part of your mind and soul.  But in truth, it’s not!  If you could step into another body like A does every day you would realize that many of your struggles are coming from your physical being.  It’s why there are so many drugs for mental illness.  It’s why taking care of your body (i.e. eating well, exercising, etc.) is so important.  It’s why, I would suggest, suicide is such an unfortunate self-prescribed fix.  Because you want to escape that body that feels like it’s trapping you.

It’s true, in a way, when you have a mental illness your body feels like a prison.  But you’re not stuck that way forever with no escape except the unthinkable method of suicide.

Ask for help.

In A’s case, he did something he normally forbids himself from doing: making a life-altering choice for his host.  But once he found a notebook full of extremely detailed suicide plans with an execution date just six days in the future, he knew he couldn’t follow his own rules.  He questioned the ethics of asking for help since he was not in fact the owner of the body who would eventually receive it, but can you really argue with his decision?  If your friend was struggling—if ANYONE was struggling—wouldn’t you throw ethics to the wind in order to provide the appropriate and needed care.  Many times, those of us with mental illnesses don’t ask for help.  Quite frankly, some of us don’t even know how to tell that something is wrong.  We think the way we think and act and our misery is some kind of sick self-punishment that we deserve.

I’ve thought like that.

And I don’t want to ever think that’s normal again.

If you or someone you know thinks this way, ask for help.  You don’t deserve this kind of “punishment.” No one does.  And with the right medications, therapy, and support, you can overcome mental illness.  It won’t be easy by far, but you are worth trying.

“I am always amazed by people who know something is wrong but still insist on ignoring it, as if that will somehow make it go away. They spare themselves the confrontation, but end up boiling in resentment anyway.”

-David Levithan, Every Day

As a side note, A’s experience in this suicidal teen’s body is only one day, one chapter in his own story.  While he may not have to battle a mental illness every day, there is its own kind of torture in never being able to call one body home.  And so I think that no matter how unfortunate our own physical situation may seem, we have to be grateful.  Because we will always have something he doesn’t: time.

I greatly enjoyed David Leviathan’s “Every Day” and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a unique story with a though-provoking premise.