Why Star Wars Fans Need to Give Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo a Fighting Chance

Source: IMDb

Now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, it’s safe to assume that the saga will continue for years (and years and years) to come. Thus, as the brand works to expand the existing universe, fans are nervous that those who take on their favorite characters will butcher the memory of what once was. And now, with the standalone Young Han Solo film on the horizon, film buffs are becoming more anxious than ever.

During the Super Bowl, Disney debuted the first teaser for “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” By the next day, the full trailer was online, available for all to criticize and complain. Because the film explores Han Solo’s adventures prior to the original Star Wars trilogy, the casting directors had to reach beyond Harrison Ford’s iconic performance to find someone who could bring Solo to life for the next generation. While the process drew much doubt and speculation from hardcore fans, the filmmakers chose Alden Ehrenreich, a relative newcomer to the entertainment industry.

Of course, while the up-and-coming actor was likely excited to earn a role that could launch his career to A-list status, he also has the thankless job of following in Ford’s footsteps. From the moment he was revealed to the world, Ehrenreich has been exposed to the harsh condemnation of the internet. Fans of Ford can be rather rude, especially considering the cowardly anonymity that comes along with social media. Now that these diehards have finally seen Ehrenreich in action, their hate hasn’t subsided. Yet, while some fans were hoping for an exact replica of the character’s original vessel, Ehrenreich opted to embrace Solo on his own terms—and rightfully so.

“I think the main thing that’s different is that the Han we meet in this film is more of an idealist, he has certain dreams that he follows, and we watch how it affects him as those dreams meet new realities, realities that are harder and more challenging than he’d expected,” Ehrenreich told Entertainment Weekly.

Ehrenreich also did his homework in order to ensure that his portrayal does both Ford and Solo proud. Lucasfilm president and “Solo” producer Kathleen Kennedy told EW that, while Ford kept a respectful distance from the project, he did have lunch with Ehrenreich to offer insight into the rebellious hero he originated in 1977.

“What [Ford] did so beautifully for Alden was he talked a lot about what he remembered when he first read ‘Star Wars,’ and what George had done with Han. Who the character was and the conversations he had for so many years with George about how that character developed,” Kennedy said. “He gave Alden that kind of insight which was invaluable. There were several times in the course of making the movie where Alden would actually recount some of the things that Harrison had pointed out. I think that was really, really helpful to him.”

When assuming an established character, it’s often hard for the new actor to find his footing. While some believe they should emulate their predecessor’s every move, others are motivated to disregard history entirely and find their own approach. Although no one can accurately judge Ehrenreich’s performance as of yet, it’s safe to say that the actor has done all he can to honor both sides of the debate.

Han Solo will always be one of those legendary characters that transcends time and, in this case, space, but there isn’t anything fans can do to stop those who’re in control from reinventing the story in the future. To compare Ehrenreich with Ford would be like comparing every incarnation of Superman with Christopher Reeve, who’s arguably the greatest actor to ever don those tights — it’s futile, and doing so robs Ehrenreich of the opportunity to make his mark on the franchise. He’s got big shoes to fill. Even if he trips up now and then along the way, he still deserves the chance to learn how to stand on his own two feet. Ford will always be the first (and probably the best) Han Solo no matter how much time passes, but Ehrenreich certainly deserves a fighting chance.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)


Will #MeToo Mark the End of Victim Blaming?

Source: Slate

Outsiders always criticize women who’ve been sexually abused. They wonder why victims don’t speak up sooner. They often chastise them for not fighting back. They accuse them of “asking for it” because their clothing or behavior might’ve been misleading. Regardless of the situation, society instinctively puts the onus on the abused because women are frequently forced to bear the blame for men’s faults.

But if there’s anything the public has learned from the case against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, it’s the fact that victim blaming silences even the brave few who try to expose such abuse in the moment.

From a distance, it’s easy for spectators to posit the obvious questions: Why was this abuse allowed to continue for decades? Why didn’t the victims tell their parents? Why wasn’t Nassar held accountable for his actions after the first accusations arose? But as his more than 150 victims have revealed, words often become lost in translation when those in power refuse to listen.

“When survivors came forward, adult after adult, many in positions of authority, protected you, telling each survivor it was OK, that you weren’t abusing them,” Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman said to Nassar, who she says began abusing her when she was 15, while reading her impact statement in court. “In fact, many adults had you convince the survivors that they were being dramatic or were mistaken. This is like being violated all over again.”

ESPN’s Sarah Spain reiterated the sentiment, noting that many of Nassar’s victims could’ve been saved from his abuse had the people they trusted chosen to put their safety and well-being first. “If parents had believed their daughters, if coaches and administrators had taken seriously the complaints of their student-athletes, and if Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics had prioritized people over public reputation, humanity over a bottom line, morality over medals,” she wrote.

Extreme, but true, Nassar’s countless victims were led to believe something was wrong with them—that they were in the wrong for questioning his behavior— because the adults they trusted failed them in the worst way. They internalized the blame, effectively muzzling the aspiring athletes until the silence became deafening. Now, however, as these women and girls come together, all connected by an unspeakable, yet unbreakable, bond, their collective voice echoes well beyond the ears that refused to listen long ago.

While it might be too late to prevent the pain these survivors must live with for the rest of their lives, their words—especially at the height of the #MeToo Movement—will undoubtedly produce true change. These survivors now hold the power the adults once abused, and they won’t let go until they’ve righted the wrongs perpetrated by those they were told to trust. It’s unfortunate that these athletes had to suffer at the hands of someone as despicable and virulent as Nassar, but it’s their subsequent strength that will make all the difference for those who’ll follow in their footsteps.

Society has an undeniably daunting amount of work left to tackle, but each woman who speaks up against her attacker—each survivor who stands before the court to describe Nassar’s crimes—moves us one step closer to a world in which no sexual assault victim goes unheard. #MeToo has amplified those voices, which were once eclipsed by the status quo. In essence, it’s now “cool” to listen when women share their stories, so to speak.

But we can’t take this moment for granted. Predators will still attack the innocent. Victims will still shoulder the blame. Critics will still judge these situations from the outside looking in. Visibility doesn’t mean women no longer have to fear for their safety, but it does mean that these voices have a platform. These stories are no longer written off as fiction—they’re now treated as fact.

We can’t assume that this willingness to listen will become universal, as there are plenty of people who believe #MeToo is nothing more than some witch hunt. But we do know this—there’s hope. Hope that lasting change will come to pass. Hope that there will always be someone there to listen. Hope that, one day, women’s bodies will gain the respect they so obviously deserve. Until then, we’ll just have to keep speaking out against these cultural norms by repeating what so many have been saying all along: Me, too.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Why Saturday Night Live’s ‘Welcome to Hell’ Should Be the #MeToo Movement’s Anthem

Some might say “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen sounds the like the ideal anthem to accompany the #MeToo movement, as another powerful, prominent man seems to fall from his pedestal every day, made to pay the price for his previous indiscretions.

Saturday Night Live, however, debuted the perfect anti-harassment song, chock full of comical references to the disgusting behaviors we women must rebuke regularly. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Hell.

“Hey there, boys. We know the last couple months have been frickin’ insane,” cast member Cecily Strong states at the beginning of the music video, referencing the onslaught of sexual harassment and assault allegations that continue to dominate the daily news.

“All these big, cool, powerful guys are turning out to be, what’s the word? Habitual predators?” cast member Aidy Bryant says. “And it’s, like, dang, is this the world now?” At which point Strong responds: “Oh, this been the damn world.”

“This ain’t a girl group, we just travel in a pack for safety,” Bryant adds as she, Strong, cast member Kate McKinnon, and host Saoirse Ronan — clad in pastels, surrounded by rainbows and lollipops that create stark contrast with the dark subject matter at hand — innocently explain the issues women have faced throughout history under the guise of some saccharine pop song.

“Now House of Cards is ruined, and that really sucks,” sings Ronan’s platinum blonde pop princess persona. “Well here’s a list of stuff that’s ruined for us: parking, and walking, and Uber, and ponytails, and bathrobes, and nighttime, and drinking, and hotels, and vans.”

But, beyond the comedic approach to these undeniable truths, the ladies of SNL — more specifically, Leslie Jones — briefly tapped into one harsh reality that deserves far more attention than it’s received: the impact sexual misconduct has on women of color.

Jones soon appears to inform the women that “it’s, like, a million times worse for women of color,” with which all the ladies were in agreement. After all, despite the fact that a woman of color, Tarana Burke, founded the “Me Too” movement long before hashtags existed, this marginalized demographic continues to be ignored.

In an Op-Ed published by the Washington Post last month, Burke explained that women of color have been “screaming about famous predators like R&B singer R. Kelly, who allegedly preys on black girls, for well over a decade to no avail.”

Burke also quoted actress Jane Fonda who, in reaction to Hollywood’s outpouring allegations against Harvey Weinstein, highlighted the fact that the skin color of his accusers helped the story earn national attention.

“It feels like something has shifted. It’s too bad that it’s probably because so many of the women that were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein are famous and white and everybody knows them. This has been going on a long time to black women and other women of color and it doesn’t get out quite the same,” Fonda said.

While SNL’s passing reference was a much needed nod to those who continue to suffer silently, as Burke wrote, “history has shown us time and again is that if marginalized voices — those of people of color, queer people, disabled people, poor people — aren’t centered in our movements then they tend to become no more than a footnote.”

“I often say that sexual violence knows no race, class or gender, but the response to it does,” she added. “’Me too’ is a response to the spectrum of gender-based sexual violence that comes directly from survivors — all survivors. We can’t afford a racialized, gendered or classist response. Ending sexual violence will require every voice from every corner of the world and it will require those whose voices are most often heard to find ways to amplify those voices that often go unheard.”

We’re all singing the same tune, but we need to give the voices in the back of the choir some time at the microphone. We have always had the power to lift up those who need help, but this time, by working together, we have the opportunity to command and direct the national dialogue regarding women’s health and safety. We must continue to speak out while others are willing to listen because, as history has proven time and time again, there’s no telling when society will opt to change the station.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

MTV Presses the Rewind Button, Brings ‘TRL’ Out of Retirement—but Why?

Source: ABC News

For television executives, future success seems to lie in the past. From sequel series, such as “Raven’s Home”, to reunion reboots, such as “Will & Grace”, many TV networks are turning to old favorites to attract new audiences. Yet, while nostalgia certainly seems to sell these days, MTV’s upcoming “Total Request Live” revival fails to take the passage of time into account.

When “TRL” began its initial run in 1998, life was much different than we’re used to now. YouTube was still about seven years away from its debut, internet connections were primarily of the dial-up variety, and cell phones were bulky, analog devices that belonged to businessmen and… well, Zack Morris. Texting wasn’t possible, but beepers were still popular, and killing time on the “World Wide Web” meant monopolizing your family’s landline. Without music television, video never would’ve killed the radio star.

By the time “TRL” called it quits in 2008, the world had transformed dramatically. Smartphones existed, even if they weren’t yet widespread, social media was on the rise, though it didn’t retain the same level of influence it does today, and nearly every video you could imagine was accessible on-demand thanks to Wi-Fi networks.

Now, nearly 10 years later, MTV’s already fighting an uphill battle before “TRL” even premieres.

First and foremost, the team must tackle the elephant in the studio: social media. For those of us who grew up during Carson Daly’s “TRL” days—the days before DVR and live-streaming—our idea of “sharing” was talking about the latest Britney Spears video the next morning before the first middle school bell rang.

Source: Scott Gries/ImageDirect

Today’s teens and tweens, however, will likely spend more time staring down at their smartphone screen than their TV. Perhaps that’s why the network plans to split hosting duties among five VJs during this go ’round—they need to satisfy this generation’s self-induced ADHD. How they’ll integrate social media remains to be seen, of course, but it’ll likely distract the viewers from the true premise of the show.

MTV will also have to pad the show’s latest incarnation with plenty of appearances and performances by today’s top artists if the network hopes to gain and retain the interest of these fickle viewers. Anyone can watch the hottest music videos of the day via YouTube now—a luxury unavailable to its original audience—so even the countdown alone won’t draw people in, no matter how interested they might be. Plus, anyone who’s ever watched “TRL” knows that they only play videos in their entirety when they premiere and when they retire, so if they stay true to the nature of the show, they’ll need to find a way to alleviate the subsequent disappointment.

While “TRL” was our reason to rush home back in the day, it doesn’t hold much allure for modern audiences, at least not in its original form.

MTV lost its way for years as executives focused on developing reality programming that disregarded the “M” in “music television” entirely—think “Jersey Shore” in all its spray tan glory—but the current leadership hopes to return the network to its lyrical roots. If executives can channel today’s young music lovers’ fascination with social interaction and use these behaviors to enhance the “TRL” experience, they might just attract the audience they seek.

As for us oldies? We will probably take the Carson Daly route and leave well enough alone. If you need us, we’ll be off in the corner relearning the dance moves to “Bye, Bye, Bye” for old times’ sake.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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.


(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Deck Your Screens with Christmas Adverts: 5 Holiday Commercials That Stole the Show This Season

15317943_10100501619163156_4721658093138191009_nDivisive rhetoric and unrelenting fear have come to define the year in an unforeseen fashion. Our election alone has set the tone for the tumultuous times ahead. But even in this era of unpredictability, advertisers throughout the world refuse to keep quiet.

While companies, such as Marks & Spencer, have invested vast amounts of time, talent, and money into creating memorable Christmas commercials—in hopes of going viral, no doubt—many have accomplished this feat by putting social issues at the heart of their holiday messages. By tapping into themes that foster love and togetherness, brands have the platform to promote unity through universal truths.

But which advertisements have left an indelible impression on the general public this season? Those that devote airtime to emphasizing what ties us to one another instead of what tears us apart, of course.

  1. Sainsbury’s


Based in the United Kingdom, Sainsbury’s 2016 advert combines the charm of stop motion animation and the appeal of James Corden in an effort to convey one simple message: spending time with those you love is the greatest gift of all. Dave, our protagonist, realizes that, despite his best efforts to make the holiday special for his family, he was missing out on the activities that matter most. In response, he concocts crazy ways to avoid his everyday responsibilities so he may fully envelope himself in the joys of the season.

Best part? He’s one half of an interracial couple! I know. This shouldn’t be groundbreaking anymore. But, ever since that one Cheerios commercial sent people into an unnecessary uproar, one cannot help but smile at the subtle, yet strong, message behind such creative choices. As long as there’s love, nothing else matters.


  1. Allegro


For many, the holidays exacerbate their constant, nagging loneliness. Elderly people often find themselves forgotten, especially, as many remain holed up in nursing homes, forced to spend the rest of their days in some sort of living purgatory.

In the case of Allegro’s viral holiday ad, an elderly gentleman lives alone, far from his immediate family. In preparation for his inevitable trip, the man purchases an English learning kit from the Polish online auction website so he may greet and speak to his granddaughter upon his arrival. It just goes to show that, once again, being with the ones you love will always be the best part of the season. We must make every effort to cherish our time with those who mean the most.


  1. Apple


Brad Garrett has taken on many varied roles during his admirable career, but none are more lovable than his turn as Frankenstein’s monster in Apple’s holiday commercial. Here, we see Frankie, as he’s called, in the preparation stages of his Christmas debut. Once he joins the crowd around the town’s Christmas tree, he replaces his bolts with festive bulbs and begins his rendition of ‘Home for the Holidays’.

While some greet his advances with disdain and hate, one child starts to sing along instead, inspiring the group to set aside their differences and come together in the spirit of the season. Considering the rampant hatred our society now displays for those who don’t quite meet their conformity quota, this commercial promotes acceptance and understanding in ways many have yet to comprehend.


  1. Elgiganten


Despite being surrounded by family members, those who are considered different may still feel alone this season. But as Elgiganten, the Scandinavian electronics retailer, depicts in its latest advertisement, actions can truly speak louder than words.

While the transgender teen at the heart of this commercial appears to be uncomfortable in the presence of her family, her father walks over and silently hands her his gift. She rips the paper back to reveal her very own hair straightener. Though no words are exchanged, his gesture and her smile say it all. No one has the right to dictate how another should live his or her life. Instead, we must learn to accept people for who they are and empower them to blossom into who they want to be.


  1. Amazon Prime


Religious intolerance has become the cornerstone policy of the impending Republican administration. But Amazon Prime’s latest advertisement clearly indicates that the company has no tolerance for bigotry. This ad focuses on what happens when two old friends—a priest and an Imam—meet for tea. These two men bond over their aches and pains, ultimately sending each other the same knee braces in response. There’s no tension, no hatred—only laughter.

Here, the creatives behind this concept made sure to highlight the parallels between the two religious leaders to demonstrate that, while many tend to fixate on the differences between Christians and their Muslim counterparts, all are connected by their devotion to a higher power. Just because two people observe different faiths doesn’t mean they cannot come together in friendship. Ultimately, we’re all humans, and it’s this shared experience that should encourage compassion instead of engendering conflict.

Life is Like a Box of Jellybeans

slow-time-passing-300x300Time may be infinite, but our lives are not. Yet, when you consider how much time we spend doing the things we “have” to do, it becomes rather hard to gauge how much time we have left to do the things we enjoy. We spend our youth learning and striving to obtain the grades necessary to secure future success. We spend early adulthood scrounging and scraping to put together the life society tells us we were meant to lead. We spend middle age raising children and caring for ailing parents as we work to maintain financial security for all our loved ones. By the time we reach a point in life where we might be able to slow down and breathe for just one moment, we are too old, and potentially too ill, to enjoy the freedom we’ve so desperately earned.


Life has become nothing but self-imposed obligations that must be cared for and controlled. Generations before us established guideposts that, for some reason, everyone has adopted as gospel. We assume our lives must all follow the same trajectory, yet while we are all traveling the beaten path, we neglect to see that there are opportunities and excitement lurking in the brush. Luckily, as more people become frustrated with what’s expected, our collective focus has begun to take detours, spreading out in myriad directions to embrace what’s been lingering alongside us throughout the journey.

Many are beginning to recognize the fact that we are wasting away our most precious, youthful years, forcing generation after generation to succumb to the same expectations. We lock ourselves away in classrooms and cubicles only to emerge as carbon copies of one another—zombies destined to repeat the same day over and over until our days are up. We need to gain perspective and grasp the concept of time as it truly stands, for it’s not just measured by the ticking of a clock, but also by the memories made and dreams fulfilled. Most may say such thinking is merely hopeful, and that the “real world” will inevitably squash any sort of optimism. But what is the “real world” except a construct we created to impose control on something we cannot fully comprehend? We have formed these mundane, miserable scenarios for ourselves, and we can use that very power to change how we proceed. Just take a look at your life and time spent as portrayed by this box full of jellybeans (above). Understand your impermanence and do what you must to savor the sweetness of each passing day.