Does John Mayer Deserve Another Chance to Reinvent Himself?

Source: John Mayer’s Instagram

Back in the early ’00s, everyone in the Fairfield, Conn. region was eager to brag about their John Mayer connections. For instance, his father was my mother’s high school principal. Cue the “It’s a Small World” chorus. But when Mayer made mention of his racist body parts during that Playboy interview, Connecticut’s favorite export went from fame to shame in the blink of an eye.

Now, with the impending release of his new studio album, “The Search for Everything” promises to be Mayer’s remorseful reentry into the world of pop music. He regrets what he’s said and done in recent years and he’s ready to make amends. As he recently told The New York Times, his “GPS was shattered, just shattered” and he’s prepared to right his course and redeem his reputation.

However, for those in the limelight, second chances aren’t easy to come by, especially for someone who purposely went into self-induced exile to escape his own mouth.

Mayer told The Times that this attempt to reconnect with the pop scene reminds him of George Clooney. “There’s a guy who can make art house films and then just decide that he’s going to be in a blockbuster. I remember thinking to myself, O.K., I’m going to basically come out of retirement from blockbusters.”

But even blockbusters can’t become blockbusters if people aren’t willing to forgive and forget. Fans of Mayer’s music itself will be easy to win, but regaining the respect of the general public might not be quite that simple.

Does Mayer deserve this second chance? In short, yes.

While I certainly don’t condone his actions, it’d be hypocritical to shun his comeback before he comes back. You see, it seems unfair that men have ample opportunity to recover from their misdeeds—see Robert Downey, Jr. and Hugh Grant for reference—while women, such as Lindsay Lohan, have found it more difficult to break from their bad girl image. But dismissing Mayer’s seemingly earnest attempt would make me no better than those who shame women for far smaller offenses.

If Mayer truly means well, he should have no problem regaining the public’s approval. But if he screws up again, there’s no telling how vicious the media will be. He’s treading that thin line between love and hate, but since I still love his early work so much, I’d hate to see his (or anyone’s) potential go to waste.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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When Empowering Young Girls, Actions Speak Louder Than T-Shirts

“Girl Power” isn’t some new concept—just ask the Spice Girls. But it’s certainly gained new momentum since the 2016 presidential election, as Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss to Donald Trump stunned the nation. In an era where unqualified misogynists can still gain the upper hand, it’s become increasingly important to teach young girls to go high even when “the man” tries to drag them low.

Yet, while our overall efforts are commendable, we need to take things to the next level. We need to stop talking and start doing.

Source: The Children’s Place

Source: The Children’s Place

Recently, The Children’s Place made an admirable attempt to bring girl power to the elementary set with an empowering line of feminist tees and tanks. Each piece features words and images that aim to bridge the otherwise glittery gender gap. They encourage girls to pursue male-dominated professions and forge their own path to success. Much like the inspirational quotes that litter Instagram, however, reciting such mantras and living their truth are two entirely different animals.

We can dress our daughters and nieces in pantsuits from the minute they’re born, and shout daily affirmations into the void the second they learn to speak, but our behavior will mean nothing if we don’t occupy these positions of power ourselves. Like those of minority races and religions, seeing yourself in the eyes of someone else helps you envision your own potential. We need to present young girls with role models that bring these ambitions to life. We need to be the women they look up to when they seek guidance.

Shirts may boost their confidence, but they’ll only learn to lead if they have worthwhile examples to follow.

Just as Hillary Clinton emphasized during her speech last week, change will only come if we get involved now—resist, insist, persist, enlist.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

10 Actors Who’d Be Perfect for Future Disney Live-Action Remakes

Everyone’s buzzing about the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” remake. But, while critics debate whether it measures up to the original or not, many have already begun speculating which Disney classic will get the live-action treatment next. Future producers and executives, here are some names for your consideration:

Octavia Spencer as Merryweather from “Sleeping Beauty”

Merryweather’s both strong-willed and adorable, much like Spencer herself!

Jacob Tremblay as Christopher Robin from “Winnie the Pooh”

Tremblay’s got the boyish charm necessary to make Christopher Robin more nuanced than ever before.

Emma Stone as Jessie from “Toy Story 2”

From her innate sense of humor, to her expressive eyes, Stone could bring the crazy cowgirl to life without flaw.

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Find out who else made the cut here!

We All Know Why They Announced the New “Bachelorette” Early

Fans of ABC’s “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” are accustomed to the formula by now. Producers allow the current season to play out. Then, shortly after the finale—sometimes during the ‘After the Final Rose’ broadcast itself—they announce that one of the show’s most recent rejects will headline the next season.

Of course, while current “Bachelor” Nick Viall wasn’t rejected by “Bachelorette” Jojo Fletcher, his two prior appearances on the show, plus his “Bachelor in Paradise” stint, made him the prime candidate. (Or ABC knew he’d never leave them alone unless they financed his own “journey” to find love—one or the other.)

Yet, despite causing much drama during both Andi Dorfman and Kaitlyn Bristowe’s seasons, Viall’s own adventures have been rather bland by comparison. ABC was probably banking on ratings gold, but even Chris Harrison can’t claim it’s the “most dramatic season ever” at this point.

That’s probably why ABC announced Rachel Lindsay will be the next “Bachelorette” an entire month before the finale—and long before her own “Bachelor” elimination, oddly enough.

When ABC revealed its choice, critics were thrilled that producers made this diverse casting decision. (She’s the first black lead in the show’s 20+ season history.) Bachelor Nation sighed one collective “FINALLY!” into the void, and that was that. But deep down, it’s not hard to see why ABC bucked tradition and made this announcement before Viall and Lindsay’s inevitable break-up: They wanted to boost Viall’s ratings!

By announcing Lindsay’s upcoming role before her exit this season, producers were able to redirect viewers’ waning interest from this season’s lackluster lead to next season’s groundbreaking star. Even those who’d become bored with Viall’s relatively by-the-book season gained renewed interest because they wanted to learn more about Lindsay.

Producers claim this announcement came earlier than usual in an effort to cast an exceptional array of men, but it’s obvious that they wanted people to invest in Lindsay’s “journey” long before those limos pull up in front of the “Bachelor” mansion next season. Viewers witnessed her heartbreak after the overnight dates and now viewers cannot wait to see Lindsay pursue love on her own terms.

ABC will do whatever it must to keep this stale series fresh. In this case, their strategy just might work.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Why the Success of ‘Hidden Figures’ Matters for Hollywood and Society

Guest Contributor: Nick Caruso, The Littlest Winslow

When Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures was initially released, it immediately hit number one at the box office, banking a sizable $22.8 million, and surpassing Rouge One: A Star Wars Story by nearly a million dollars. Even more remarkable was that Figures, a story about the black female mathematicians and physicists who worked for NASA in the 1960s, was playing on nearly 2,000 fewer screens than the Star Wars behemoth. Not only was this impressive for a quieter then-Oscar hopeful, but it was a movie fronted by females…and better yet…black females. Its success is a coup for film-making and a bold statement about what audiences want to see and what they’ll spend their dollars on.

The biographical film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, who play women directly involved in astronaut John Glenn’s history-making orbit around Earth. All three actresses crush their respective roles, adding humor and heart to the Civil Rights-era film. All three, Henson’s Katherine Johnson, Spencer’s Dorothy Vaughn and Monáe’s Mary Jackson, were real-life women who aided in the ground-breaking mission, yet never received proper credit likely due to the color of their skin. Their stories remained largely untold until Margot Lee Shetterly’s non-fiction book of the same name was released in early 2016.

Not only is it important that these women’s stories finally be told, but the movie serves as a stark reminder of how life was for African Americans in the days of segregation. Henson’s Katherine Johnson can be seen running miles in heels just to get to a bathroom that “colored” women can use. We witness how their superiors and co-workers look down on them, not only because they are women, but also because of their race. The glass ceilings are shown to be almost impenetrable, as if Katherine, Dorothy and Mary should feel lucky to have a job at all. Watching their struggles, and later, their triumphs is quite emotional, as the movie shows what it’s like living in a world that’s constantly pushing them down. The story finishes as a feel-good tale, but the fact that we’re only just now spotlighting their accomplishments in the mainstream shows that we still have a long way to go.

Figures‘ box office tally is now almost $159 million, domestically, with a worldwide earning of nearly $195 million. How many times have we heard rhetoric spouted by (male) studio executives that no one will show up for a female-fronted movie, or that women simply don’t go to the movies. These numbers clearly shut down such misogynist Hollywood claims. In fact, according to Variety, female moviegoers comprised of 64 percent of the film’s opening weekend take. Hidden Figures has proven time and time again that (black) women can lead films and be profitable (its budget was a modest $25 million), and this is crucially important for producers and studios to realize. Success stories like this could help break down barriers in Hollywood and dictate the direction of future content that hits the big screen. The people (and critics) have spoken.

Bottom line: You should support Hidden Figures in any way possible because these ladies’ stories deserve telling. They’re inspirational. Race and gender should no longer dictate what and who we see on the big screen. While the entertainment industry is a microcosm of our society, flaws and all, we need to move away from using race and gender as indicators of what stories will get a green light for production. But alas, no system is perfect, Hollywood or otherwise. We can only strive to do better and be better given these peculiar political and societal times.

With last year’s #OscarsSoWhite movement behind us and with Moonlight’s recent win for Best Picture, hopefully Hollywood, and more importantly, our society, are on the right path. No matter what horror stories we read on the internet every day, we can only aim to maintain a path of acceptance and equality in our art and in our daily lives. Among all this kerfuffle, one thing that has made itself abundantly clear: Representation matters.

Nick Caruso is a Buffy-obsessed TV geek and music junkie who digs tacos and (regrettably) cats. He can be found writing about all things pop culture—from cult films to Oscar bait, and more—on his site, The Littlest Winslow.

The Bill Paxton Effect

Despite our presumed differences, it’s safe to say that we’re all looking for that elusive “something” that makes us feel complete. Our specific pursuits are irrelevant when we stop to consider that, deep down, we’re all desperate to find meaning in a world that seems devoid of logic, especially now.

Film and television are notorious for bringing such feelings to light, for it’s in the eyes of the actors that we can see ourselves. Bill Paxton’s body of work—his characters, in particular—personifies our innate desire to seek what’s just out of reach. But if there’s one thing we can learn from what the beloved actor and director left behind, it’s that what we want and what we need don’t always align.

Source: CraveOnline

Source: CraveOnline

Paxton’s roles often looked to the outside world for direction. His unhinged persona in Frailty believed he was destined to rid the world of demons, for instance, while his adventurous alter ego in Twister unearthed renewed purpose when chasing tornadoes. But it was his turn as Brock Lovett in 1997’s Titanic that demonstrated how tunnel vision might distract us from the critical lessons of life.

“Three years, I’ve thought of nothing except Titanic, but I never got it. I never let it in.”

Spoken by Paxton’s Lovett at the end of the film, these words emphasize the character’s epiphany. While he’d spent years searching for the Heart of the Ocean, a rare diamond once worn by the now aging Rose Calvert, he neglected to explore the rich history buried deep within the ship’s wreckage. Lovett longed to find artifacts, forgetting that each item pulled from the ocean floor carried the stories of those lost and found. As he said, he never let the immensity of the disaster sink in, so to speak.

Source: CinemaBlend

Source: CinemaBlend

But isn’t that how most of us go about our daily lives? We are selfish. We rarely stop to observe what’s all around. We are oblivious to both the beauty and the injustice right before our eyes.

Though we live in an increasingly enlightened time—an era filled with activists who wish to fix the faults of our ailing society—many people opt to look the other way. Face forward and eyes down, they trudge through life with little regard for those who are suffering. If they stop to acknowledge these issues, they run the risk of derailing their own efforts. One step off the beaten path could mark the beginning of the end for their personal success.

Nowadays, we call that privilege. Historically, we call that ignorance.

But now, more than ever, we need to open our eyes and our ears. We must extend our hand and heart to our neighbor, both near and far. Local communities may be close-knit, but we’re all global citizens now. We owe to our people and our planet to seek solutions to the problems that affect everyone worldwide. We must spread the stories and amplify the voices of those in need to educate the selfish and encourage the selfless.

Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

During an interview with “Film School Rejects” in 2014, Paxton expressed his boundless fascination with human-interest stories. “My father always read obituaries to me out loud, not because he was maudlin or morbid, but because they were mini biographies. ‘Listen to what this guy did! Look what he said. Look how he started out.’”

Human-interest stories, those that truly touch our hearts and inspire change, are born from an interest in humans from all walks of life. But to learn the lessons our friends and strangers have to teach, we must commit to walking with them, hand-in-hand, even if only for a short while.

Fans will surely quote Paxton for generations: “Game over, man!” For those blessed with life, however, the game has only just begun.

But we’ve got to be in it to win it.

Let’s allow Paxton, the director, to call the next shot. Let’s show more interest in our fellow humans, for it’s in every human’s best interest to cultivate an overarching culture of curiosity and compassion. From this core value, we can achieve anything as long as we do so together.

Source: SunStar

Source: SunStar

We Must Spread Love, Now More Than Ever

Conversation hearts cannot inspire dialogue—at least not the sort we need right now. “Text Me” and “U R Cute” will merely leave a chalky taste on your tongue. But, as Valentine’s Day continues to evolve, it’s obvious that one day dedicated to cardboard cupids and heart-shaped chocolates will not spread enough love to sustain our increasingly difficult fight against hate.

In today’s volatile political climate, it’s easy to drown underneath waves of anger. Leaders on one end of the spectrum regularly infuriate those on the opposing side, sparking outrage that results in an epic game of emotional Ping-Pong. Those wishing to instill fear go to extremes to cultivate animosity, while those working to alleviate worries aim to promote unity.

635784119583194094-511247070_interracial-love-imgopt1000x70

Source: Getty Images

But on this, the greeting card holiday dedicated to love, we must look beyond romantic pursuits in order to show our affection for those who face undue persecution. Border walls and religious bans pollute the air where all the love’s supposed to be. We must treat this day as an opportunity to realign our own thought processes so we may continue to fight the good fight under the veil of justice, not disgust. If these destructive measures remain unchecked, our resistance also runs the risk of becoming disconnected from its primary purpose.

Going forward, we must pause frequently to reflect. We must collect our thoughts and reestablish our goals so we never lose sight of the love and togetherness on which this movement was built. We must commit to small actions and gestures every day so we never abandon the vital message behind our efforts.

Defend those who face unmerited hatred because their skin tone doesn’t match the winter snow. Black, Mexican, or Muslim—show these marginalized groups that their contributions to society cannot be overshadowed by the misdeeds of an extreme few. Pop that bubble you’ve been living in your entire life and engage those who don’t look or think like you. Despite popular belief, love isn’t blind. Instead, love grows from the willingness to open our hearts and minds to new people and possibilities.

But, above all else, we must not forget to love ourselves. Much of the anxiety plaguing our nation resides in the hearts of those who are unhappy with themselves. Insecure individuals project their internal doubts onto those who seem weak, punishing the innocent merely so they may reinforce their false confidence. They assert their supposed power by oppressing those who have very little power themselves.

We have the capacity to inspire revolutionary love—love that bonds people of all races, genders, and religions—but we’ve been complacent for far too long. Now’s the time to stand up for what we believe. Now’s the time to lend our voice to the voiceless. Now’s the time to spread love, not hate. Cupid doesn’t have enough arrows to take up arms against the foolish leaders of America. But if we, the people, march forth hand-in-hand, there’s nothing we can’t achieve together.

Source: Dreamy Addictions

Source: Dreamy Addictions