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One Nation Under Gaga: Our Need for a Political Pop Star By: Joshua Grant


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olitics and Pop music. Two aspects of our culture often depicted as being vastly different; and therefore, to find any relationship or link between the concepts is dismissed as frivolous thinking. However, upon a second glance, there are many commonalities surrounding pop and politics: both manipulate language through repetition, double entendre, and careful word selection to produce sometimes subtle and not so subtle messages that encapsulate themselves in our brain; both use a charismatic man or woman who is comfortable with lies, crave attention, and can deliver a calculated message without a bump or a hitch; and given the prior two factors are successful, both pop music and politics have the potential to catalyze a profound change within a society. This is not to say that we should demand Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, or the Jonas Brothers run for office, but pop stars do have a set of qualities that perhaps politicians should consider adding to their toolbox. Let's consider the biggest pop star of them all, Lady Gaga. Despite either your disdain or fondness for Lady Gaga, the impact of her influence cannot be refuted. She has, in an unprecedented amount of time, created a movement against the status-quo. Lady Gaga's message of self-love and acceptance has extended beyond the halls of

high school popularity contests and has become an anthem touted in the streets by adults from 18 to 80. Every lesbian, gay, transsexual, transgender, or just plain “weirdo” is proudly declaring they were “Born This Way”. One could argue this four and a half minute pop song was more influential in bringing attention to gay bullying, overturning Don't Ask Don't Tell, and marriage equality than any political speech has ever done.

“In the 2008 presidential elections, Obama was the Gaga of the political world.”

Critics of Gaga would argue it is simply her eccentric nature that has garnered her the attention she receives, not her music. Perhaps, but that is assuming that eccentricity or staying true to oneself is not respectable. To find a so-called “freak” (sexual connotation excluded) in Washington would be a Sisyphean task. Politicians move within the halls of Con-

gress and the White House in their black and navy suits arguing and sticking heavily to party lines while our country slowly becomes an international afterthought. Pundits and party leaders are aggressive in their haste to tell you how their party differs from the other or how quickly America will return to its former greatness if “Republicans” or “Democrats” are given the power. Yet, on the House and Senate floor and even with a change of presidential and congressional leadership over the last four years, many of the policies and problems remain intact: tax cuts for the rich, the Patriot Act, the war in Afghanistan, bombings in Pakistan and Yemen, Middle Eastern oil dependency, declining educational systems, poor infrastructure, and the list goes on. In the 2008 presidential elections, Obama was the Gaga of the political world. His congressional history of far left voting and his rhetoric of “change” on the campaign trail was the type of outstanding discourse much of the American population was looking for. It led him all the way to the White House with massive support from the millenials. We finally had our political pop star. There were Obama towels, t-shirts, bed sheets, and even underwear. Citizens were proudly declaring their love for Obama on television, in magazines, and over the Internet. Justin Bieber fans be damned, from late 2008 to early 2009, there was no bigger


star on the planet than Barack Obama. But like we all know, you're only as big as your last hit and Obama's recent track record hasn't been that great. Clearly, this is not entirely President Obama's fault. Since his inauguration, there has been a constant attempt to de-

legitimize his presidency fueled either by racism, greed, intellectual envy, or ignorance. In contrast, it is also unfair to assume all of those who disagree with President Obama fall into the above categories. Like an aversion to a pop artist, sometimes you just don't enjoy the music.

Americans, if nothing else, are forgiving. We are the nation of the second chance. As it goes in the pop world, the most feared and destabilizing moment in a young popstar's career is the sophomore album. The presidential campaign of 2012 is Barack Obama's sophomore album, and we're all a bit nervous about the outcome.


Why is the sophomore album such a dreaded moment? Two factors stand out clearly: first, it establishes your growing or shrinking popularity. Sophomore album sales are the determining factor in how loyal your fans are to your music. One might buy a first album out of sheer curiosity, as many of us did with Lady Gaga, but returning to the store to purchase a follow-up is a commitment to the work. Factor two is the expectation. If we enjoyed the debut, then our expectations are raised for the second. The presupposition is that initial popularity increased interest and financial value, meaning that the production quality of the follow-up should be higher, tighter, and overshadow the debut. President Obama, without a doubt, has lost momentum since his rise to power in 2009. Much of his following – including far left liberals, the LGBT community, and twenty-somethings – have lost faith in him. We've watched him move from far left to slightly left of center. The rhetoric of “change” has become either a distant memory or mocking point to his fans and critics alike. The perceived passivity in which he has allowed partisanship to derail his ideas for this nation is viewed with heartbreak and disappointment. It may have been that expectations were too high in the beginning, but with a damaged America look-

ing for direction, this is not an acceptable excuse. All is not lost. In fact, quite the contrary. This is President Obama's moment. Currently, his competition seems weak and a second-term in office is not by any means a stretch of the imagination. However, President Obama must remember three important things, three things Lady Gaga always remembers; don’t give up on the vision, stay true to who you are, and never disappoint your fans.

“The presidential campaign of 2012 is Barack Obama’s sophomore album, and we’re all a bit nervous about the outcome”


Coming

from a politically active family, it was no surprise when

for office in her native

The

Czech Republic.

surprise came with her campaign strategy.

in swimsuits to encourage

MP Andrysova brains.

I

Lenka Andrysova

Czech

citizens to

MP Andrysova and get out and vote.

decided to run

other female candidates posed

is fighting corruption while encouraging women to be proud of their beauty and

came across your name after reading an article about some controversial election ads you were a part of last year. Where did the idea come from? Why the controversy? Firstly, it is necessary to say that before the last elections, Czech people were fed up with oldstyle politics and with established political parties. People wanted a change and were searching for new political entities; therefore, our small party called Public Affairs, which at that time was just a local party, decided to run in

the elections. We sent out daily press releases with various political opinions, but never gained that much attention from the mass media. When you are a new party and don’t have that much money for your campaign, it forces you to come up with creative ways to attract attention. These half-crazy ideas emerged at a campaign team meeting. We were sitting around the table brainstorming when one of our male colleagues noticed that a comparative advantage we had

was our amount of young women – Kateřina, Karolína, Kristýna, and I. We thought for a moment, when one of us, out of the blue, came up with the idea that we, the females, should do a billboard dressed in swimming suits, which would become a nice parody to our competitor ODS (another political party). On their summer billboard, they had male politicians ready for the beach, declaring, “Let the politics be.” We made a replica of their statement saying, “Let the guys go. Vote for our women.” With only two billboards in the


entire country, we made frontpage news. We raised an interest in our party and people were actively looking for what these four women thought about politics in the CR. We tried the similar strategy in April when we made a calendar with six of our females where we again focused on the fact that femininity should be a part of politics as well. Women should be included in the decision making process and need not feel bad about their female features while doing it. How did you get started in politics? I was always interested in politics. When I was living in the countryside in our village, I was always criticizing the amount of rubbish near the streets or at our sports’ grounds. When my father became the mayor, I convinced him to place some trashcans in our village. This became my first civic engagement activity in public life, I guess. Then, when I came back from the U.S., I perceived other problems, mostly disorder in our public finance. This time my interest rose to the state level. I called for higher transparency in politics and I wanted to decrease corruption and stop growing state debt. These issues brought me into politics. My interest in politics was clear in my activities at school. I chose several political courses at my university. I also started a PhD program in political science. I participated in simulations of

“Women should be included in the decision making process and need not feel bad about their female features while doing it.” American presidential debates or simulated negotiations of Council of the European Union and so on. I did my internship in our Senate

and then went for another internship to Washington, DC, where I worked for a political action committee called Citizens for Global Solutions. Upon my return, I found, by chance, the Public Affairs party and started to get

involved. I grew quickly in our party organization because at the beginning, we did not have that many members. Honestly, now it would take much longer for a young woman to succeed. Why do you think there are so few younger women running for office? Young people are usually fed up with politics and when yet another corruption comes to light, they lose another part of their interest in public affairs. They have already lost their dreams and enthusiasm to solve political issues we face. They have stopped believing it is possible to push our country forward. Moreover, in established political parties, it is very uncommon that young people can rise to the top of the candidate list quickly. They need to go through the whole structure of the party. This means first they should be active in local politics, then regional, and after that, in state politics. Not all of us were this case. Often when we see a very powerful woman in politics, like Angela Merkel or Hilary Clinton, they appear to be masculinized. Do you think there is a double standard? No, I think all the people have the same chances. I don’t think that women should be ashamed of their female characteristics. On the contrary, they should be proud of them. On the other hand, I am also happy to have men in


our government and parliament. Still, the female approach plays an important role and women should be present there. When our Foreign Affairs Committee welcomed a visit from the Slovenian parliament, I met their ex-Minister of Culture (Magda Sirca). We had an informal discussion during our lunch and I said that I am 26 and would like to have kids once I finish my term

wanted change and they probably believed women are more trust-

in the parliament. She said that I should not feel limited by my office. She said that this should not be the reason why I postpone kids or why I should stop politics for a while. That was very inspiring for me. She gave me examples of some ministers having kids while being in office. In the Czech government, women won a record 44 of 200 seats. What do you think contributed to this victory? A few months ago, one woman left so we are at 43. Still, this is an amazing number. We have no quotas in the Czech Republic. People who voted in the last elections

posed for was excellent. There were some who said the photos betrayed the feminist cause. Is that a fair judgment? I don’t think so. Even if I am a politician, I should not feel bad about the fact that I am also a woman. I am proud to be a woman and to be a bit different than the political stereotype. Our calendar shows that women in politics are still women. If you were to give advice to a young woman who wanted to get active in politics, which issues should she start with?

I would a young man. She should get to know what she wants to change in her country and then she should find out how to pursue it. She should study up on her most passionate of issues and always remember that eventually, she will have to deal with the media so she should get comfortable being interviewed or being on camera.

“To be honest, I am searching for inspiration in American politics.” worthy. In the history of the Czech Republic, I don’t know any corruption or affair where the main actor was a woman. The 2011 charity calendar you

I would advise her the same way

Young people, men or women,

also need to remember to be patient and should not give up before they try several times. Don’t let yourself get discouraged by the first opposite arguments you hear or negative e-mails you get. Every politician should be prepared that their ideas will find their opponents. That is natural. Are Czech youth active in politics? It is a great pity, but normally the young generation is not that active. They prefer to criticize without trying to improve the issue. Moreover, they are often afraid of connecting their name with a political party. When I spoke


with a few Vatican nuncios (a diplomatic representative of the Catholic Church) we concluded young people are afraid of being a part of a team or a club or, generally speaking, a group. This probably stems from our historical experiences with totalitarian regimes where people were forced to participate in some groups or associations, like the Communist Party. People feel free if they do not have to be anywhere. I wish they could see that without large support for an issue, perhaps one they care about, a good thought can hardly win and be realized. What are some of the issues you are hoping to change in your country? I am trying to help decrease our public debt and corruption, to increase transparency and improve communication with our citizens. I am taking steps to change the website of our lower chamber of Parliament (called Chamber of Deputies). I want to write a code of conduct for politicians so that people understand more what politicians are obliged to do and what are their rights. I am in the Committee on Foreign Affairs where we focus on improving our international issues, such as our economic diplomacy and support of export. I have to ask. What is your impression of American politics? Sarah Palin? To be honest, I am searching for inspiration in American politics. I really like how your politicians, namely Barack Obama, use the internet to talk to their citizens. As to women in politics, I was very much inspired by Madeleine Albright, who comes from the Czech Republic. I read her autobiography. Or Hillary Clinton – I have heard so many speeches by her when I was working on my thesis about primary elections. Sarah Palin is also fantastic that

she could combine her family life with her political engagement. It is good for people like me to see these women in politics. Nowadays, I am reading a book by your last president George W. Bush. I am not informed enough about American politics to judge which political programs are right or which party would be better for me. I’d rather let it to you. I am looking for experience which I definitely get by reading these books summarizing important decisions of your politicians. Out of curiosity tell us what is the last.. Album you listened to: Well, I listen to songs randomly. Currently I really like these: “Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls, “Love The Way You Lie” by Rihanna, “Touch the Sun” by Debbi, “Who Knew” by Pink, “Colorblind” by Counting Crows or “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas. Book you read: Decision Points – George W. Bush Film you saw: Dark Matter   Lenka Andrýsová Poslankyně Parlamentu České republiky www.lenkaandrysova.cz


Extreme Makeover: Congressional Edition by: Stephen Saia

F

or most people, they find out the things they love at a young age. For me, it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college. I had just won the presidential position for my fraternity and we were just coming off of being the best chapter in America. Much like our country, greatness was expected because it was all we had ever known. At the age of 19, I was in charge of leading a group of 100 men, of which 80 of them were well older than me. At the beginning of all of this I was scared, and I admit a lot of it had to do with my youth and inexperience. Looking back, it’s tough to decide

whether these characteristics were really shortcomings or if it was beneficial to have a certain sense of greenness. This experience opened my eyes to the world that is Politics. For me, Congress has been the most interesting part of our government ever since I started following politics. What do you think of when you hear the word “Congress”? These are among the things that come to my mind; Laws – First and foremost, Congress’ job is to propose, make, and pass bills. For the common person like you and me, it seems as though it takes

forever. This is true in some cases depending on the lobby behind the bill, but after all the amendments and riders that are put on them, some Congressman can’t even get around to reading them through. The process of creating and getting a bill passed is quite lengthy. It usually starts with individual members of Congress introducing a bill and then it gets passed off onto a specific committee, meant to handle the topic that the bill is about. Once a bill is approved by the committee it is sent on to the House for amendments to be added or parts removed


from it. The bill is then either passed or sent back to the committee. The Senate differs a little in the fact that each Senator is given five minutes to speak on the bill. However, a Senator has the power to “filibuster” and never yield the floor, possibly even teaming up with other Senators to shoot down a proposed bill. After everything is discussed, the Senate then votes to pass the bill onward. The next step in the process is a conference between the House and the Senate. If there is any part of the two bills that are different, it must be reconciled. After everything is sorted out, the bill is then passed onto the President to sign. The President has 10-days to sign the bill. If it is not signed within the 10-day win-

dow, the bill becomes law. By signing to veto the bill, it is sent back to Congress who can revote immediately or table it for later discussion. However, if a vote it taken to override the President’s ruling and it fails, the bill is dead.

largest disparity since 1982. Young Republicans like Aaron Shock (at 30, the youngest member of Congress) are able to get conservative ideas across to not-so conservative people much more eloquently than the older generation.

Age – The current 112th Congress’ average age is 56.7 for The House and 62.2 for The Senate. There is a disparity between the Republicans and Democrats right now that is one of the greatest in history. Where normally you would insert the Democratic Party as the young, fresh ideas group, it is actually the Republican Party that is almost six years younger on average in the House and almost three in the Senate. There has never been more than a 2.8 year difference in the House and the current Senate lays claim to the

Standing Ovations – Let’s be real. If you have ever watched a State of the Union address, which if you are reading this site I would like to think you have, you have noticed that this tends to add about 15 minutes every time. In the most recent State of the Union, President Obama received 25 standing ovations. The most interesting part about this is when they pan out into the crowd and you get to see who is standing and who is not. Since most people don’t normally watch C-SPAN, this is probably one of the few times you see


everyone meet and it is a good indicator about how particular people feel about certain policies.

who think differently than the ones who have put us in our current state.

The thing that stands out to me the most when I am thinking about Congress is the age. Why do some voters insist on thinking your age bestows upon you experience and knowledge? People need to realize that it isn’t about someone’s youth, but about their state of mind. During our last election, the American voters were torn on this issue moreso than any other time since the Bill Clinton and Bob Dole Presidential race in ‘96. The average age difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates has been roughly 9 years since they started facing off in 1856. With Obama and McCain’s age difference being 24 years led the voters to think McCain was too old and Obama was too young. Even though our current Congress’ age is younger than the 111th, it is among the highest that it has ever been.

The good news is that change is on the horizon. The average age of a new Congressman is dropping every year, which is to say that we are trending towards a more balanced outlook on ideals in each party. With social media, politics have been tossed into the forefront now more than ever. A new age of young adults are looking to make a difference and be involved with their local and national government. In our current Congress, the freshman class is taking initiative and looking to get things done while the more senior members are probably thinking to themselves, “How long will they keep this fire?” This question isn’t nearly as important as the fact that the energy is there. A level of vitality has sparked within our political world that is making it important – now more than ever – to bring in fresh ideas, get bills passed, and keep the ball rolling.

Once the Members were announced, I was excited to see that the President was going to be working with a Congress with an average age older than himself. There needs to be a mixture of young and old concerned people with their different trains of thought about how our country needs to be run. After all, sixty year olds do not hold the market on all good ideas. If our country is to move forward with change, then we need people in Congress

Democratic Congressman Jared Polis (age 36) from Colorado launched his “Fearless” campaign in the beginning of this year which encourages politicians to vote fearlessly on the issues of today regardless of the political risk involved. Currently, this campaign is taking on the issues of LGBT equality, drug policy, education reform, immigration reform, net neutrality, and food policy. Another Congressman making changes on the hill is Republcan Senator Mike Lee (age 40) from

Utah. He and two other members of Congress are working on reforming Social Security. Their plan would not increases taxes at all, but would instead increase the retirement age to 70 by the year 2032 and slightly reduce the benefits paid out to upper-income recipients. While these are just two examples, the most promising thing about the present state of our country is that it seems to be less about the past and more about our future.

“Why do some voters insist on thinking your age bestows upon you experience and knowledge?”


THE BILL OF RIGHTS How Many Do You Know? The first ten amendments give us the right to... 1 – the freedom of religion, speech, the press, and to assemble and protest 2 – bear arms 3 – prohibit the forced quartering of soldiers out of war time 4 – prohibit unreasonable search and seizures 5 – due process and prohibits self-incrimination and double jeopardy 6 – a fair and speedy trial 7 – a trial by jury 8 – prohibit excessive fines, as well as cruel and unusual punishment 9 – assert our unenumerated rights 10 – limit the powers of the federal government to those delegated by the Constitution


Have You Seen? by:Jonathon Saia

Disclaimer: The purpose of this column is to get our generation in touch with a time before their own. The films presented here are not necessarily titles deemed to be the Greatest Films of All Time. They will focus on topics Mercutio will be discussing in the latest issue, directly or indirectly. The goal is to cover a broad scope of films, old, new, and yes, even foreign, to explore what is felt to be the central tenet of the beauty of film: to serve as a living document to chronicle the history of man’s thoughts, opinions, desires, secrets, successes, and blunders.

Reality Bites (1994) Directed by Ben Stiller

R

eality Bites examines the trials of post college life, most importantly the choices between selling out or fighting for your dreams at all costs and the gap between reality and ideology. “I know this sounds cornball, but I’d somehow like to make a difference in people’s lives,” Lelaina (Winona Ryder) confesses to her own camera. She is a budding documentarian, chronicling her

and her friends’ adventures. Her roommate Vickie’s (Janeane Garofalo) plans are clear: dodging her student loan officer for the rest of her life. Sammy (Steve Zahn) wants “like, a career, or something.” And Troy (Ethan Hawke) desires to be a musician. In reality, Lelaina works as a Production Assistant on a cheesy morning talk show under a misanthropic phony, Vickie works at the Gap, Sammy presumably lives off unemployment or his parents (we never see him at work), and Troy has just been fired from his twelfth job for stealing a candy

bar from the newsstand he was manning. Vickie promises Troy he can crash on Lelaina’s and her couch until he gets back on his feet. Lelaina, who almost shared a drunken sexual encounter years ago with Troy, is reticent to say the least. “All you do is eat, and couch, and fondle the remote control. What good are you?” she cries. Troy responds with his typically confident laissez-faire, “I am under no orders to make the world a better place.” According to Troy, all you need in life to be happy are cigarettes, coffee, and “a little bit of conversation.” Lelaina gives in and allows him to stay.


Lelaina and Troy’s dynamic serves as the metaphor for the film. They both have dreams of artistic success, but very different ideas on how to achieve them. Troy still holds on to the college mantra that talking about doing something is akin to doing it. Lelaina has evolved to the action stage, busting her ass in a crummy job in order to work her way up the ladder, while still holding on to her artistic integrity. But there is another angle to this triangle. Michael (Ben Stiller, pulling double duty in his directorial debut) works as an Associate Vice President at a TV network like MTV only “with an edge.” He and Lelaina meet after getting in a car accident. The scene prior is Stiller’s best example of visual storytelling in the film. Lelaina and Vickie are headed home from work, jamming out to ‘80s tunes from their youth in her retro car with the omnipresent gas station air freshener shaped like a Christmas tree dangling from the rearview mirror. Cut to Michael in a dress shirt and tie, listening to rap, struggling with a map while trying to talk with his boss on the car phone. The irony here is that Michael, complete with good job, nice car, and the seemingly perfect life has no idea where he is going; whereas the girls, full of nothing but dreams, cruise down the road free of worry. Lelaina pulls up next to Michael at the stoplight, laughs at his anxiety, and flips her cigarette into his car, causing him to swerve and crash into her bumper. From this meet-cute (one of the more unique and least contrived

in modern film), Michael decides instead of suing her (“Lawyer? I don’t even have a dentist”) to take her out on a date. Sitting in the back seat of his car, they share their love affair – and frustration – with astronomy: “I got into class and it was like everything was three squared times

Pi equals the root of Pi. And I just wanted to look at the stars,” Michael says. “I remember being so happy on the roof of our old house .... I want to do that again. I want to look up at the stars and take time to smell the – everything.” Helen Childress’ prescient dialogue is once again at play, reminding Michael – and us – of a time before disappointment when everything was simple. Stiller’s delivery of this monologue gives just the right level of angst and nostalgia. Stiller’s direction – and the camera work of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki who went on to work with Terrence Malick – also shines in this long take (one of many) by shooting the scene without cuts, slowly dollying in for emphasis. Sadly, many filmmakers

don’t employ this style, perhaps thinking it too theatrical, but it really allows Stiller and Ryder to shine, seeing every moment of what their characters are feeling, leading up to their first kiss. After a practical joke goes awry, Lelaina is left without a job. She returns home to her roommates to announce the news and Vickie quickly offers her a job at the Gap. Lelaina, still holding onto a bit of her integrity, refuses to lower herself to retail and instead sets off on a path to rectify her mistake. She goes on a series of interviews (applying for radio, newspaper, and even porn gigs) that she can justify because they are in her field, even though they aren’t things she really wants to do. Her mother (Swoozie Kurtz, playing a step away from white trash) gives her a dose of reality: “You’re going to have to swallow your pride, sugar booger. Why don’t you get a job at Burgerama? They’ll hire you. I saw on TV, they had this little retarded boy working the cash register.” “Because I’m not retarded. I was valedictorian of my class.” “Well, you don’t have to put that on your application.” Childress humorously capitalizes on the phenomenon that at some point in most twenty-somethings’ lives, they will have to work a job way beneath their abilities. When Lelaina begrudgingly applies to be a fast food cashier, the manager (played to perfection by a pre-fame David Spade – “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean”) talks up the position as a “juggling act” before quizzing her on quick math (as if


everything isn’t done by the cash register), to which in her flustered state she doesn’t know the answer. There is hope though. Michael, unbeknownst to Lelaina, showed her documentary footage to his network and they want to buy it. Finally she has the dream, the guy, and the potential for a wonderful future. Of course, life is not that simple. First there is Troy. He seems to genuinely “get” what she is about. And they both act like jealous partners whenever the other mentions someone else. But she is fed up with his laziness: “If you want to be in a goddamn band then be in a goddamn band. Rehearse every day. Play three times a night. Don’t just dick around the same coffeehouse for five years...try at something for once in your life. Do something about it. But you know what? You better do it now and you better do it fast because the world doesn’t owe you any favors. And whether you know it or not you’re on the inside track to Loserville, USA.” Hawke’s reaction to this slander is amazing as we watch all of the righteousness drain from his face because he knows she is right. If the film has a message, this is it. Michael is focused, professional, and sweet. And promises her success. But he sells her out. Her footage is turned into commercialized garbage by his network. He claims not to have had any input or knowledge that her vision was so drastically altered, but she doesn’t truly believe him. And neither do we. Lelaina returns home to share her frustrations with the one person who will truly get it: “I just don’t understand why things can’t go back to normal at

the end of the half hour like The Brady Bunch or something.” “Things don’t work out like that.” “I was really gonna be something by the age of 23.” “Honey, the only thing you have to be by the age of 23 is yourself.” Troy finally admits that he loves her and they have sex.Troy’s postcoital awkwardness sends her back to the arms of Michael, partly out of default, partly out of spite. But can she shake Troy forever? Will she metaphorically abandon her noble, yet somewhat naïve beliefs of integrity, to pursue a life of selling out and stay with Michael? Or will she live the life of the artist on her own terms, challenges and all, and return to Troy? Reality Bites introduced America to a host of young, rising talents. Prior to the film, Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo had worked together on his titular television show, but it was cancelled after only twelve episodes. Steve Zahn had only had a small part in one prior film. Ethan Hawke started to gain attention after co-starring in Dead Poets Society (1989), but Reality Bites was his first adult role of importance. Winona Ryder, of course, rose to prominence after Heathers (1988 – “What’s your damage?!”) and playing Tim Burton’s favorite outspoken teen in Beetlejuice (1988) and Edward Scissorhands (1990). Although she received Academy Award nominations for The Age of Innocence (1993) and Little Women (1994), it was Reality Bites that made her a sex symbol for the thinking man in the same way Diane Keaton had done fifteen year earlier with Annie Hall (1977). Riding the laurels of this film, Stiller has gone onto a very successful (and lucrative) comedy career, occasionally turning in directorial efforts like Zoolander (2001) and Tropic

Thunder (2008); Garofalo has Emmy nominations under her belt co-starring on The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998) and a career as a political commentator; Zahn continues supporting actor roles in films like National Security (2003) and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010); and Winona Ryder’s career has seen its fair share of well reported ups and downs, thankfully returning to the screen with a chilling turn in Black Swan (2010). The film is based on the true and fictional exploits of writer Helen Childress and her friends. Lelaina closely mirrors Childress’ professional life, starting as an intern at All My Children and working in the mailroom on The Young and the Restless. Childress started writing the script when she was a film student at University of Southern California and it went into production when she was only 23. (Sadly this is her only film to date) Writing about her own demographic gives the movie its urgency and lived in feel. This is why the film stands up almost twenty years later. Despite being dated with late ‘80s/ early ‘90s references (Big Gulps, the emergence of AIDS, Bill Clinton quotes), Reality Bites is the quintessential post-college film because it touches on everything that makes this age group unique: promiscuity, lava lamps, make shift bongs, buying your groceries at the mini mart, using toilet paper for coffee filters, driving around with your friends, living by principles, and feeling the right to procrastinate your dreams because time is on your side.

Mercutio Magazine Issue 001 (Part 2)  

Introducing The Big Bang Generation

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