Trans Culture Meets the Modern Soap Opera

Source: Cassandra James / Instagram

Despite General Hospital’s enduring spirit — the longest-running American soap opera celebrated its 55th anniversary on April 1 — the genre continues to receive pushback from critics and viewers who believe daytime dramas are passé and out of touch. But, much like its prime time counterparts, GH frequently pulls its material from popular headlines, striking a balance between the ludicrous and the legitimate to appease both traditional and modern audiences.

In recent weeks, for instance, the writers introduced Dr. Terry Randolph (Cassandra James), the show’s first transgender character and actress. As the childhood best friend of longtime Port Charles resident Elizabeth Webber (Rebecca Herbst), Terry drops by to congratulate Elizabeth on her impending marriage after reconnecting on social media. However, when Elizabeth answers the door, the boy she’d shared her first kiss with is nowhere to be seen. It isn’t until Terry introduces herself that Elizabeth realizes time can truly change a person.

While Elizabeth was obviously confused at first, and rightfully so, she welcomes Terry with open arms, stopping only to regret that she hadn’t been there to support Terry during her transition. Franco Baldwin (Roger Howarth), Elizabeth’s fiancé, soon returns home to find the women reminiscing. While he, too, expected to be greeted by a man, Franco accepts Terry without question. The three characters spend time getting acquainted before we, the audience, learn that Terry will be transferring to General Hospital for work in the fall. Terry leaves Elizabeth’s house, but we can rest assured that the door hasn’t closed on this character.

Although James isn’t the first transgender person to grace daytime TV, her role marks a turning point for General Hospital. Overall, the soap opera remains confined to the straight, white, cisgender relationships that typically dominate mainstream media. After all, the show’s primary gay couple (which also happens to be one of its few interracial partnerships) appears rather infrequently, only emerging from the shadows when they can enhance the central storylines. In James’ case, however, writers have the opportunity to learn from past mistakes by building beyond the “token trans character” trope into which Terry could devolve if they’re not careful and consistent.

Society remains at a crossroads, you see. The transgender community continues to gain visibility, but these individuals must still fight against the discrimination that comes with being deemed “different” by those who can’t see beyond their own reflection. Thus, while General Hospital cast James, the actress, she’s adopted the role of Terry and trailblazer in one fell swoop. James has been chosen to tell Terry’s story and, by extension, the story of countless other trans individuals near and far.

Coincidentally, James’ GH debut coincided with the news that Scarlett Johansson was cast as Dante “Tex” Gill, a trans man, in the upcoming film Rub & Tug, further highlighting how pivotal and necessary trans visibility has become. (Note: After much backlash, Johansson has since declined the role.)

In response, James tweeted: “I’ve never spoken about this before but since it’s back in the news I’ll say this: while I feel cis actors have a certain social responsibility in this amazing time of #TransVisibility in the industry my real issue is with the decision makers behind the scenes.”

“It’s the directors, casting agents, writers, producers who have to do better when it comes to allowing cis actors to play trans roles. We are talented, we are here and we are ready to tell our own stories,” she added. “But as a trans actress I can tell you positive change is happening. I’m so thankful to @valentinifrank and everyone at @GeneralHospital who were committed to having a trans woman portray Terry.”

Unlike those who cast Johansson, General Hospital’s show runners specifically strived to find a trans woman to play Terry, which demonstrates an underlying understanding that has yet to permeate the entire entertainment industry. They recognized that, in order to tell Terry’s story with candor and dignity, they needed to honor the trans community by involving the trans community. After all, it’s hard to feel “represented” when someone completely removed from the experience tries to tell your story. A talented cis actress might be able to evoke emotion, but she’d never truly connect with the audience, that’s for sure.

James, on the other hand, has breathed new life into the show — and no, it’s not solely because she’s transgender. She’s has a presence, a confidence, that only those who genuinely know who they are exude. She doesn’t hesitate and she doesn’t hide. Honestly, she carries herself in a way that can inspire anyone to embrace who they are deep down.

Source: Cassandra James / Instagram

Of course, for the foreseeable future, most will probably refer to Terry as “the trans character” and, at this moment in time, that’s okay. People who don’t know much about the trans community need to see said actors and actresses on their screens, out and proud. But, one day, society will hopefully reach the point where trans individuals are hired based on their gender identity, not their history. Being a voice for the voiceless, as James has become, carries great responsibility, but she will help blaze trails for others so, in the (near) future, other trans people will be treated as just that — people.


America Owes Monica Lewinsky an Apology

Source: Mark Seliger/Vanity Fair

When the Monica Lewinsky Scandal first came to light, I’d just turned ten. Aside from the traditional “birds and the bees” overview and Judy Blume’s “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” my health education was relatively limited. (It’d be nearly two years before I fully grasped what those “relations” entailed.)

Since 1998, however, Ms. Lewinsky’s name has yet to escape the nation’s collective consciousness. As she wrote in her recent essay for Vanity Fair, “there has been at least one significant reference to that unfortunate spell in our history every day for the past 20 years.” Beyond the media’s fascination, Ms. Lewinsky’s image has also become ingrained in popular culture. One cannot watch 2008’s “Made of Honor” without being bombarded by countless beret-clad doppelgängers, after all, and the final season of “The Nanny” remains chock full of timely jabs that have retained their wit and relevance decades later.

But after 20 years of ridicule—in the midst of the #MeToo moment, no less—we must ask ourselves one seemingly simple question: Should Ms. Lewinsky still “own” the scandal?

Although Ms. Lewinsky might be the most notable, she was by no means former president Bill Clinton’s only alleged extramarital affair. Yet, because she was 27 years his junior at the time of the given sexual encounters, she was the most salacious, and therefore, the prime target during the subsequent inquiries into Mr. Clinton’s lies and infidelities. Thus, we watched as Ms. Lewinsky was dragged through the proverbial mud, her life upended indefinitely in an effort to uncover the sordid truth about the most powerful man in America.

In an earlier essay for Vanity Fair, Ms. Lewinsky emphasized that, although the relationship wasn’t abusive in the sexual sense, there was an abuse of power at play in the years following the affair.

“Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship,” Ms. Lewinsky wrote. “Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position.”

While Ms. Lewinsky explicitly addressed her detractors in her latest essay, noting that none of her recent realizations absolve her of her responsibility for what happened—“I meet Regret every day,” she wrote—#MeToo and Time’s Up helped her understand that there was much more at play, and that the subsequent bullying and slut-shaming she’s endured was unwarranted and unjust. She was forced to bear the brunt of the blame, forever changed, while Mr. Clinton emerged relatively unscathed as a result of the latent misogyny that’s only recently received widespread exposure and condemnation in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein reckoning.

Source: Associated Press

Women are all too accustomed to being held accountable for men’s actions. Ms. Lewinsky, for instance, isn’t the only one who’s had to pay for Mr. Clinton’s sins. His wife, former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, has fallen victim to this tendency repeatedly throughout her career. Most notably, shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Mrs. Clinton’s Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, invited numerous women who’ve accused Mr. Clinton of sexual misconduct in the past to speak out against Mrs. Clinton in an effort to discredit her leadership potential. Despite being accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women himself, Mr. Trump thought it smart strategy to dredge up Mr. Clinton’s past to damage Mrs. Clinton’s future.

Although many might think society has matured, when husbands stray, critics still reflexively chastise the wife for failing to fulfill her “duties.” Instead of portraying the husband as the cheater he is, outsiders attack the wife—a victim in her own right—by blaming her alleged “prudish” nature for his adulterous ways.

But women aren’t merely “stiffs” or “temptresses.”

We are more than vessels for pleasure and progeny.

We are individuals who exist separate from our relation to men.

Honestly, the dynamic between men and women over time seems inherently contradictory and hypocritical. While many lawmakers believe our gender cannot make informed decisions about medical and reproductive care, they’re the first to deem us responsible for the illicit “reproductive” activities of the men in our lives.

In her essay, Ms. Lewinsky also mentions her post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. Yes, even now, the activist—who’s made it her mission to address and prevent the very sort of bullying she experienced—still struggles with the anguish of being publicly outed and ostracized all these years later. As she wrote, Ms. Lewinsky often jokes that her tombstone will read MUTATIS MUTANDIS: “With Changes Being Made.”

Yet, if Ms. Lewinsky’s writing her own narrative now, chapter-by-chapter, then America must pen an apologetic preface. We botched the editing process the first time around, but we have the opportunity to make corrections moving forward. We can’t erase the pain caused in the past, but we can convey our remorse by making sure that no woman has to suffer such prolonged scrutiny. Let’s put an end to the #MeToo movement once and for all by ensuring no woman ever has to say “me, too” again.

Donald Trump ‘Hears’ Shooting Survivors’ Pleas—But Was He Really Listening?

Source: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Donald Trump’s cue cards were accurate: he hears you, mass shooting survivors—but his actions prove he wasn’t listening one bit. In the midst of impassioned pleas to implement stricter gun control laws from the survivors and families of mass school shootings, Trump interjected by emphasizing his desire to boost security by training and arming the teachers and administrators responsible for educating America’s youth.

“A gun-free zone to a maniac—because they are all cowards—a gun-free zone is ‘let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us,'” Trump told the crowd gathered for the White House’s 90-minute listening session about gun control on Wednesday. “If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.”

“I really believe that, if these cowards knew the school was well guarded by professionals with great training, I don’t think they’d go into the school to start off with,” he added.

However, Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, rebuffed Trump’s suggestion, arguing that his wife, Jackie, who’s a teacher, “will tell you that school teachers have more than enough responsibility than to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life.”

“Nobody wants to see a shootout in a school,” Barden said, adding that, if a “deranged sociopath” wants to commit an attack, after which many attackers then commit suicide anyway, “he’s not going to care if there’s somebody there with a gun.”

Despite the fact that the U.S. pays teachers very little to educate generation after generation, leaders now want these under-appreciated professionals to risk their lives each day. While it’s likely in their nature to do so without thought, asking them to wield the very weapon which threatens their students puts an undue burden on those who already carry more than their weight in responsibility. The government has the capacity to regulate the dissemination of deadly weapons, except leaders continue to pass the task onto others to absolve themselves of any guilt as they quietly cash those checks the NRA keeps sending.

Require more people to own or operate guns, while pretending such measures are designed to protect the people? Sounds like a win-win for the cowardly GOP.

Others have also noted that, while access to such weapons would come under the guise of safety, in the hands of the wrong teacher, they could represent a clear and present danger to unarmed troublemakers who merely require intervention and discipline. After all, there are likely many instances where a teacher could become unhinged and threaten students’ safety just as easily as a mentally disturbed kid.

Countless second amendment supporters have tried to discredit the students who are adamantly fighting for gun reform as they grieve for friends and faculty. With the old youth excuse in mind, detractors claim these kids can’t be taken seriously because they’re too young to understand what they’re saying. But, if they’re old enough to purchase an AR-15—the exact weapon that took the lives of 17 people during the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School—aren’t they old enough to speak out against gun violence, too? It’d seem the only thing they’re too young for is to be treated with respect.

Let’s face it—if Trump needs the phrase “I hear you” written on his notecards, he clearly never planned to listen to these distraught individuals in the first place. You see, hearing someone and listening to someone are entirely different, yet both are intricately linked. While you might hear what someone says, their remarks often go in one ear and out the other, as they say. Listening, however, requires active participation. It requires each party to consider one another’s perspective and understand the merits of each view, even if you ultimately disagree.

Trump’s response to this overwhelming call for reform, however, was not only ignorant; it was tone-deaf. He wants to combat the problem by throwing more guns into the mix, which runs counter to everything those directly impacted by gun violence stand for at this moment in history. Halfhearted measures won’t be able to muffle their cries, though.

The Parkland students have spoken, but they won’t go quiet until the U.S. government truly listens to what they have to say, for they are the speakers for the dead and they won’t rest until the victims can rest in peace.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

When Pro-Life Leaders Defend Fetuses, But Not Grown Children

Source: RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

Republicans currently control the House and the Senate, but that authority hardly seems to be enough for lawmakers. Our elected officials don’t want power over the law, per se — they want power over people.

Thus, when one considers the overarching Republican approach to abortion, one cannot help but assume that this pro-life stance actually comes from a position based on malice, not benevolence. These leaders claim they are dedicated to protecting the unborn, but judging by their response to the rampant gun violence in America, they’re willing to stand idly by while grown children die — a stance that runs counter to their supposed platform, as wanting to preserve life shouldn’t apply solely to fetuses in the womb.

According to GOP’s rationale, women are nothing more than vessels for future life. Despite the progress we’ve made toward achieving gender equality, we are still treated like second-class citizens in the eyes of lawmakers, who think they can control our medical decisions even though none of the lives involved are their own. Perhaps they don’t understand that being part of this governing body does not mean they have the authority to govern bodies.

But now, as those children who’ve been directly impacted by gun violence — more specifically, those who saw 17 students and faculty members at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., die — begin to speak out and protest America’s current gun laws, Republicans seem to believe that these kids no longer have the right to life because, to ensure safety, they might need to take a hit of their own, right where it hurts most: their wallets.

By grabbing the reins on abortion, Republicans demonstrate cowardice because they are merely speaking on behalf of those who have no voice. The only ones who can oppose the pro-life agenda are mothers, and leaders have already done their best to silence them. However, once those children emerge, their first cry leaves them vulnerable to the same oppression as everyone else. And we’ve seen in action, full force, this past week, in particular.

Despite the vigor and determination driving the teenagers of Parkland, the Republican officials in Congress continue to disregard their cries for change because, now that these children have minds of their own, they have the capacity to oppose the GOP agenda. They have the power to influence change — the change that Republican leaders are too stingy to embrace — and that scares those who rely on National Rifle Association donations. These kids can see where these leaders have gone wrong and they’re not afraid to highlight these flaws.

Much like how the GOP tries to undermine women by calling their credibility into question as they fight to govern their own bodies, these officials insist the children will inevitably lose steam and abandon their fight for gun reform because they’re superficial and will become distracted by the prom or some fashion trend. But this time, it’s easy to tell that these students will continue to transform their grief into action.

Democrats — and late-night talk show hosts — condemn the wrongs of the world at every turn, but only Republicans have the majority power to make change happen. However, it’s in their inaction that they reiterate what their actions have already expressed: aside from their pro-life stance with regard to reproduction, American lives are the least of their concerns.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Banning Books In Prison Perpetuates the Cycle of Crime

Source: Chris Lawton/Unsplash

From relatively minor infractions, to blatantly unjustified crimes, prison serves as punishment for breaking the law. Although the severity of each violation varies, most sentences are doled out with the underlying goal of rehabilitation and release in mind. However, many states have enacted measures that effectively curtail the possibility of redemption by depriving inmates of the one tool that’s often instrumental for success: books.

Late last year, New York State introduced Directive 4911A, which features the Secure Vendor Program. To “enhance the safety and security of correctional facilities through a more controlled inmate package program,” the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) issued strict rules limiting incoming packages for inmates to only those from “approved vendors.” However, in January, the directive drew ire as the public discovered that this measure would prevent inmates from receiving new or used books from friends, family, and non-profit organizations.

Books Through Bars, the non-profit that’s been sending books to people in prison across 40 states at no charge for more than 20 years, expressed its disdain for the directive. Incarcerated people and their families can write to Books Through Bars to request any book on any topic, and the all-volunteer organization sends 600 packages every month fulfilling those requests. However, this measure would prevent the group from providing inmates with the materials necessary to facilitate personal growth and eventual preparation for release.

“No books that help people learn to overcome addictions or learn how to improve as parents. No Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou, or other literature that helps people connect with what it means to be human. No texts that help provide skills essential to finding and maintaining work after release from prison,” Books Through Bars said in an official statement regarding the directive.

Books Through Bars member Amy Peterson told ThinkProgress that a man once wrote the group to praise the books it provided, as they helped him learn English—a skill that greatly increased his job prospects upon release. Other people in prison have asked Books Through Bars for books about business. Peterson also noted that many people in prison, as well as their families, face financial challenges, but this measure forces inmates and families to purchase books at full retail value, while Books Through Bars can and will provide them for free.

“It’s already difficult to get books as it is. It’s almost like they’re barring books without actually having to bar them,” Michael Shane Hale, an inmate at Sing Sing serving fifty years to life for a murder conviction, told the New Yorker in January. Hale, who’s enrolled in a prison education program, said he was expected to buy a textbook for 60 dollars to remain instep with his Chinese class. However, at a wage of about 25 cents an hour, and no access to the internet, it’s nearly impossible for most inmates to afford the education and enrichment they need to succeed. “When you go to the general library, you’re basically competing for books with a thousand other people,” Hale added.

Yet, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo ultimately called for the dissolution of the directive in response to this widespread outcry, many states across the nation still have similar obstacles in place. In 2016, Texas’ Department of Criminal Justice came under fire after the public discovered that officials banned 15,000 books, including works by Bob Dole, Jenna Bush Hager, Alice Walker, and John Grisham. Yet, books by David Duke and Adolf Hitler are still permitted, calling into question the words of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

As part of the Procunier v. Martinez verdict, Marshall noted that libraries and librarians serving prisoners at correctional facilities are required to prohibit material that instructs, incites, or advocates criminal action or bodily harm, or violates the law. Only literature that presents a compelling and imminent risk to safety and security should be restricted. Thus, while materials tied to negative influences, such as Duke and Hitler, would qualify under such guidelines, truly educational texts should never be prohibited.

“Participation in a democratic society requires unfettered access to current social, political, economic, cultural, scientific, and religious information. Information and ideas available outside the prison are essential to prisoners for a successful transition to freedom. Learning to be free requires access to a wide range of knowledge, and suppression of ideas does not prepare the incarcerated of any age for life in a free society,” Marshall declared.

“When free people, through judicial procedure, segregate some of their own, they incur the responsibility to provide humane treatment and essential rights. Among these is the right to read,” he added. “The right to choose what to read is deeply important, and the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. The denial of the right to read, to write, and to think—to intellectual freedom—diminishes the human spirit of those segregated from society. Those who cherish their full freedom and rights should work to guarantee that the right to intellectual freedom is extended to all incarcerated individuals.”

And that’s exactly what prisoners deserve—they deserve to be treated like humans if they’re to return to civilian life and become productive members of society. Oftentimes, offenders end up incarcerated because they feel lost. They become mixed up with the wrong crowd because they lack the social skills or education necessary to escape their less than stellar life circumstances. Prison, however, offers these individuals a second chance at life, as these institutions can serve as rehab centers, not mere cages for the convicted.

In an article by Ian Cummins and Daniel Newman published on The Conversation in 2014, the duo focused on the need to prepare prisoners for life as normal citizens. Norway’s Bastoy Island, for instance, allows even the most serious offenders to live in wooden bungalows, six men to a cottage, each with their own room, so they may get used to living as they will live when they are released. As a result, Bastoy’s reoffending rate remains astronomically low, at only 16 percent, while the average for other European prisons holds steady at 70 percent.

Cummins and Newman also highlighted Brazil’s approach to reading, as they country offers inmates four-day sentence discounts for every book read. With escalating violence in mind, Brazil believes access to books can leave prisoners “more enlightened and with an enlarged vision of the world”. Thus, inmates can gain reductions of up to 48 days off their term per year by reading the books and writing reflective essays to show that they have engaged with their themes.

By treating inmates like the humans they are, correctional facilities can truly live up to their name by aiding inmates who are determined to right the wrongs they have committed. If prisoners recognize that the justice system believes in them—that the justice system genuinely wants them to succeed—inmates might be more likely to believe in themselves and do all they can to turn their lives around. Those within the prison system may feel disillusioned because they think society has cast them aside, and while not all who enter are capable of remorse and rehabilitation, depriving inmates of books will only act as another roadblock on their path to progress. With educational tools, inmates are far less likely to reoffend, thereby halting the vicious cycle of crime. In fact, the only thing criminal here would be robbing these people of a new lease on life.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Thoughts And Prayers Mean Nothing Without Common Sense Gun Control Laws

Source: Resonant Muse/Facebook

Like archived stock footage, we’ve seen this happen time and time again.

Breaking news alerts flood social media as reporters broadcast live footage from the scene on every major TV network. It’s slow at first, but soon information begins to flow alongside images of students and teachers as they evacuate the school to escape the armed individual wreaking havoc inside. Everyone scatters as they rush to safety, their arms raised to prove they’re not the threat. Practice drills could never have prepared them for the terror and carnage they’ve just witnessed.

But well before the survivors have found refuge in the arms of loved ones, and long before the casualties have been counted, lawmakers take to Twitter and Facebook to offer their thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families when, in reality, they should be apologizing for their inaction and their greed.

Mass school shootings have become almost routine in the US. We’re so desensitized now, in fact, that these tragedies often fade from the national spotlight mere days after lives are irreparably shattered. Congress and news outlets might be able to allow the memory of the given massacre to fade, but for the residents of Parkland, Fla., in this case, the wound may never fully heal.

On February 14—Valentine’s Day—Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when he ambushed students and administrators with a semi-automatic assault rifle. Despite being a day dedicated to love, this southern town will forever remember this date as one filled with death and destruction.

Now, as residents grieve those taken too soon, survivors and supporters are calling upon Congress to turn their half-hearted thoughts and prayers into common sense gun control laws in order to prevent this sort of killing spree from happening again once and for all.

Within the first 45 days of 2018 alone, the US has seen 18 school shootings — that’s an average of one attack every 60 hours, and that’s beyond unacceptable when you pause to consider that every single death or injury could’ve been avoided if only Congress valued innocent lives more than the almighty dollar. After all, we elect these lawmakers under the assumption that they’ll always have our best interests at heart, even though their personal interests are all that inevitably come into play.

Despite the public outpouring of thoughts and prayers, many GOP representatives and Congressional leaders are beholden to the National Rifle Association (NRA) because they’ve accepted millions in donations from the controversial organization over the years. Thus, while they are doling out their condolences online, they’re only thinking about how they can spin public perceptions and praying that gun control debates calm down in the coming days so they, too, can emerge from this atrocity unscathed.

Bess Kalb, writer for “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” spent the aftermath of the Parkland shooting responding to GOP tweets with the amount they’ve accepted from the NRA to date. Donations indicate the given official’s likelihood to favor less strict gun laws, as they profit from the money made off these unstable murderers. Every dollar that crosses their palm represents the blood on their hands, for every time they avoid enacting the common sense gun laws citizens so desperately desire, they become an accomplice in the murder of another innocent victim.

As Everytown’s latest commercial states: “It’s not too soon to talk about policy change. It’s too late.” Lawmakers believe pouncing on the topic of gun control so soon after a mass shooting politicizes the tragedy, but the fact that such attacks continue to happen with such frequency because of the lax laws these officials condone makes each instance inherently political. By not acting in the heat of the moment, officials allow the outrage to simmer so other issues may consume the national conversation, enabling them to dodge the issue — until the next mass shooting occurs, of course. By ignoring the huge death toll, these supposed leaders prove that they’re, in fact, being pulled around by their purse strings.

When Donald Trump took to the podium to address the Parkland massacre Thursday, he assured: “We are here for you — whatever you need, whatever we can do, to ease your pain.” He emphasized that he would work to enhance school safety and improve mental health care in America.

However, nearly one year ago this month, Trump quietly signed a bill rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun. That’s right! One of his first orders as president was to essentially put guns in the hands of the mentally unstable because he, too, was swayed by the NRA. In the moment, he says one thing in an effort to placate the public, but like his colleagues, his words rarely lead to action.

Promises mean nothing if they’re empty. Thoughts and prayers are worthless when there are ways to prevent tragedies without the need for divine intervention. GOP members cannot claim they’ll be there for these survivors when they’ve proven that they don’t truly care in the past. If they did, they would have enacted stricter gun control laws after the 2012 killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. If the deaths of 20 small children couldn’t coax these supposed leaders into action, nothing ever will.

Source: Elizabeth Banks/Twitter

Our elected officials clearly don’t care that our nation’s children have become collateral damage in their support of the NRA. Thankfully, many of these survivors will be able to vote in the next presidential election. If Congress won’t act on their behalf to prevent future deaths, they can express their disgust at the polls, thereby dealing the blow that finally (hopefully) takes these reprehensible gun laws down for good.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Why Aren’t Women Allowed to Age On-Screen?

Source: IMDb

When Nicole Kidman accepted the SAG Award for her critically acclaimed turn in HBO’s “Big Little Lies” last January, the Oscar-winner and industry veteran praised her colleagues for instigating change, while also imploring those who run the studios to continue investing time and money in the stories of women who’ve reached middle age.

“[H]ow wonderful it is that our careers today can go beyond 40 years old because 20 years ago, we were pretty washed up by this stage in our lives. That’s not the case now,” she said. “We’ve proven — and these actresses and so many more are proving — that we are potent and powerful and viable. I just beg that the industry stays behind us because our stories are finally being told.”

“It’s only the beginning and I’m so proud to be part of a community that is instigating this change, but I implore the writers, directors, studios, and financiers to put passion and money behind our stories,” Kidman added. “We have proven we can do this. We can continue to do this, but only with the support of this industry and that money and passion.”

Yet, while prospects for women over age 40 have begun to expand, many face the same level of typecasting that’s come to define the maturing female’s career. While many are relegated to nothing more than supporting roles, others find themselves playing one-dimensional wives or mothers that contribute very little to the given film’s basic plot. Despite the fact that women — especially those with decades of life experience — are complicated, emotional, and endearing, these dynamic humans rarely star in stories of their own.

While marriage and motherhood might be part of the mature woman’s narrative, such factors often become the defining elements of the given character’s story. Judging by Hollywood’s vision, women lose their identities once they become wives and mothers. They’re devoid of any individuality and exist only to support the ambitions of their partner or child. If said woman hasn’t tied the knot or given birth, she’s portrayed as an outlier — a so-called “spinster” that’s fixated on snagging herself a husband and having a baby before her biological clock becomes a ticking time bomb that renders her undesirable by society’s standards.

Source: IMDb

Even though it’s 2018, for some reason we still assess a woman’s worth by whether or not she’s fulfilled her duty as the vessel for another life. And, if a woman has aged beyond her childbearing potential, she’s cast aside, essentially proving that society believes mature women aren’t “sexy” because the act of intercourse could never lead to new life. Thus, those women over 40 must maintain a certain aesthetic in an effort to retain this youthful appeal.

Men, of course, are allowed to age on-screen because, while actors are revered for the name they bring to the project in question, women are valued for their face, first and foremost. Only the beloved few — Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, and Judi Dench, for instance — have managed to overcome the age hurdle and find success on the other side. Even when men have lost that handsome, boyish appeal, they find new life, as male maturity often leads to more serious roles (although their love interests rarely age in unison). For men, their résumé sustains their reputation, while actresses are assessed by nothing more than their headshot.

Hollywood needs to stop fixating on sex appeal and start focusing on substance. Few films offer an intricate, complex look into the lives of mature women. For years, we’ve been forced to accept Hollywood’s caricature of the average woman, yet this trend has only hindered the way we perceive women in real life. We’ve been conditioned to expect wives and mothers to maintain a pristine exterior regardless of their actual age, which only contributes to the unrealistic beauty standards we must battle every day. Perhaps, if women on screen looked and behaved like the women we meet every day, we’d be more accepting and intrigued by those whose stories have yet to find an outlet. There’s so much untapped potential, after all, so let’s heed Kidman’s plea and put the passion where the people are.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)