Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Legally Blonde!

Hello! Happy Thursday to everyone. For those of us in the UK, the weather has taken a steep and swift turn towards the autumnal, despite it being August, with our last Bank Holiday weekend approaching. Sigh.

Due to summer busy-ness, we’ve skipped a fair few Thursdays, but I can’t think of a better way to restart than with the gloriousness that is Legally Blonde.

Legally Blonde is often pigeon-holed and dismissed as a chick flick, which infuriates me. Am I a girl? Yes. Do I like girly, overtly feminine things? Yes. Do I like watching films about romance and love and puppies and shit? Dear God, YES. Do I like the term ‘Chick Flick’? Hell no. ‘Chick Flick’ is patronising on all sorts of levels. Clearly, it donates a film that is apparently for women, but more specifically than that, a ‘chick’. I feel like I get dumber by association any time someone refers to me as a chick, y’know? Added to which, ‘chick flick’ doesn’t even get the honour of being called a film, it’s a ‘flick’ – a throwaway, silly thing.

On the surface, I suppose Legally Blonde does seem throwaway and silly. Blonde, pink obsessed, California sorority girl goes to Harvard Law School with the sole intention of convincing her ex-boyfriend to marry her. Simple, right? Except that it is so much more than that and totally blows away any nonsense terms like ‘chick flick’.

(Please note: the discussion below presumes you’ve seen Legally Blonde. Which of course you have. RIGHT?)

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Back to the Future

I should open by saying that Back to the Future* is one of my all-time favourites movies. It has been one of my favourites since I was about 7 years old and the only copy we had was one my parents had videotaped off the TV. As is often the case with our revisits, there are mild spoilers below.

There are many, many reasons why I love Back to the Future so dearly. It has humour, heart, action, adventure and some cracking music. I have always loved time travel stories (except, strangely enough, Dr Who. Too many aliens for me) and was absolutely fascinated as a child with the idea that we could travel to a different age or time period. The 50s seemed forever ago when I was a kid and so suitably far back for Marty to travel to. Now, I see that it works because it is a wildly different time to the 1980s and yet still within a generation’s reach.

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Continuum!

This week poses a few problems. On the one hand, John Mayer’s first three albums, most especially Continuum, the subject of this week’s throwback, mean a great deal to me and are representative of different stages of my life. On the other hand, John Mayer is a prick. You see my dilemma. So, I’m going to attempt to write about the album and why it’s meaningful, without having to go into too much detail about Mayer himself. Here goes!

I first started listening to John Mayer at 15, lured in by the absurd, Notebook-levels of romance that is ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’. Like Jason Mraz, John Mayer was advocated by a cool, older girl whose blog I read and at 15, this was reason enough for me. I remember hearing tracks from Room for Squares on the Paul Gambaccini show on Radio 2 and finally getting hold of the album and lying on the floor of my bedroom, listening to songs about starting new lives in cities, first dates and escape and wondering when that would be me.

Mayer’s second effort, Heavier Things, appeared on the scene while I was studying for my A-Levels and I remembering listening to Mayer croon about loss and longing and adjusting to being a grown up as I made the biggest decisions of my life so far.

When Continuum was released, I was in my second year at university. I pre-ordered the album through HMV and wandered down to the store to collect my CD the day it was released (everything about that sentence now sounds ancient).

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…The Worst Witch!

This week I’m looking back at a book series I absolutely adored as a child: Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch.

I was given a bumper edition as a gift at about 8 or 9 and from then on became totally enamoured of Mildred Hubble (our eponymous worst witch). Even now I can remember the book clearly; hardcover, with a blue sleeve and a picture taken from the book’s illustrations in a circle on the centre. The picture was of a wobbly looking Mildred astride her broom, with Tabby her cat perched precariously on the end, tucked inside Mildred’s school bag. Like Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables, L M Montgomery) and Sophie (Sophie books, Dick King Smith), Mildred was a scatter-brained mess of a heroine, who meant well and tried hard but was always getting herself into scrapes and letting her mind run ahead of what was possible – or sensible. While these qualities often caused her trouble, they were what made me love Mildred. As a child who meant well and tried hard, but was often awkward, shy and prone to speaking without thinking, I both understood Mildred and sympathised with her totally.

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits… Musicology!

Good day all; apologies for the missing TBT article last week – hectic life stuff got in the way and I forgot to post it!

This week I talk about my favourite of all things: Prince. Specifically, the first Prince album I ever owned that  truly made me realise his greatness. The album that’s this week’s throwback is Musicology.

You guys, I listened and I fell in love. It was like a revelation to me. I vaguely knew of the Prince big hitters, ‘Kiss’, ‘1999’ and ‘When Doves Cry’, primarily, but this album sparked a whole new feeling. I initially wanted to impress a boy  (look, I know that’s terrible, but I was 15, ok?). Said cute boy got me to listen to ‘A Sign of the Times’ and I was hooked. Here was an artist creating songs that were both musically interesting and powerful. Musicology came out not long after and I grabbed and listened to it over and over, like my life depended on it. This was Prince’s most successful album for many years and it’s easy to see why. It’s just so damn funky.

See, Prince is excited too!

Musicology was released in 2004, when I was a teenager. In the same way that other albums were helping figure out my place in the world and what being an adult meant, Prince was helping me figure how much FUN life is. The whole album is like one big party. I played it at every actual party I held for about a year – resisting protests from my less discerning friends to play something else – hoping that somehow the cool vibes from Prince would convince everyone.

My all-time favourite track from the album is still ‘Life o’ the Party’. It makes me feel cool and fun and like I could hang with Prince. Maybe. There’s also the plea to not have to sleep ‘On the Couch’, the politically themed ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and the love song to music that is ‘Musicology’ – a mere selection of treasures from the album.

If you want a collection of great R&B songs, with a definite leaning towards the fun in life, then Musicology is a safe bet. I listen to it now and I’m back in my room, leaping around and singing along, getting ready to go out and see my friends.

I think it would be remiss to close this post and not link to Kerry at Welcome to Ladyville, who is as big a Prince fan as I am.Go and read her, friends!

Also, I really wanted to use this gif. You’re welcome.


Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Stand By Me!

Can you believe it’s June already? The sun was shining in London today and it felt like summer was fast approaching. In honour of the summery weather, this week’s throwback is to a film about summer, friendship, growing up, death and life and…I think I may already be tearing up. This week folks, we revisit the classic that is Stand By Me.

Based on a Stephen King novella, The Body, Stand By Me is a film by Rob Reiner, starring four young actors (River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman) and one epic quest. Gordie (Wheaton) is recovering from the death of his older brother, Denny, the only member of his family that seemed to understand Gordie. His best friends are Chris Chambers (Phoenix), who comes from a family of criminals and delinquents and suffers the consequences of his family’s reputation; Teddy Duchamp whose war veteran and unstable father has made him both violent and jumpy, permanently scarred after his father burned his ear and Vern (O’Connell), who seems younger than the others in attitude and is timid, easily scared and often bullied.

Vern overhears his brother talking about a local boy, Ray, who was struck by a train. There has been difficulty locating the body and these four friends decide to embark on a walking and camping trip along the rail tracks to find Ray’s body and become heroes. They set off together, lying to their parents about where they are headed and encounter various adventures, truths and fears on the way and coming back a little sadder, a little wiser and a little older, a part of their childhood gone.

Stand By Me is one of my all time favourite films and never fails to make me cry. There is something about the friendship between those four boys; their sad tales and distant families (except for maybe Vern, he seems to be doing ok) and, as the closing lines spoken by ‘The Writer’ say: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” Those friendships you have at that age, somewhere between a little kid and a teenager, are special. They help you make that leap from one state of being to the other, you have unquestioning loyalty and you’re too young to care about what’s cool. Kids are often instinctively protective and these boys are all hiding away from something, seeking refuge in others who understand implicitly why they need to hide.

I’m lucky; my best friend when I was 12 is still my best friend. However, you do get the sense watching Stand By Me that this friendship is fragile and therefore even more precious. These are four very different boys, brought together by circumstance and sensibility, but always somehow destined to go different ways in life. Every time I watch it I’m reminded of how much kids notice and understand and of how important true friends are. A truly great friend looms large in your life, whether they remain an active part of it or not.

Much gets said about Phoenix’s performance in the film but all four boys do an amazing job, particularly Wheaton who is the emotional centre of the story. Some of my favourite moments are when it’s just the four of them sitting around talking about the sort of nonsense kids talk about.

For me, one of the best things about Stand By Me is that is grows with me. The older I get, the more it means, the more bitter sweet the story and the better I understand it. If you haven’t seen it yet, treat yourself and watch it. I swear you won’t regret it.

Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Ballet Shoes

This week’s TBT is about the children’s classic, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, one of my all time favourites. To clear confusion now: We won’t be talking about actual ballet shoes (sorry!), Noel was a lady and no, I didn’t misspell Streatfeild, that’s just how she spelt it. We good? Good.

My mother was an avid Noel Streatfeild reader as a child and bought the books for me when I was a child. I fell in love with Ballet Shoes from the first time I read it. It tells the story of three sisters: Pauline, Petrova and Posy. All three are adopted by explorer and palaeontologist Matthew Brown, who to them becomes Great Uncle Matthew or Gum for short. Gum has already raised his orphaned niece, Sylvia and as she grows older, decides to fill his house with babies for her to mind, reasoning that ‘women like babies’. Sylvia and her nanny, Nana (governesses and nannies feature heavily in all Streatfeild novels; always reliable, redoubtable women who sort everything out) take on the task of raising all three girls themselves, giving them the unifying surname Fossil, after Gum’s usual presents from his trips. However, when Gum heads off on another adventure after dropping off baby Posy, they don’t see or hear from him again for another 12 years or so. This unusual set up means that with no Gum, they have no real source of income. They turn Gum’s big house at the end of Cromwell Road in London into a boarding house to earn money. The arrival of their lovely boarders: dance teacher Theo, Mr & Mrs Simpson, fresh from Kuala Lumpur and scholars Dr Jakes and Dr Smith change the Fossil girls’ lives forever.

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits – Dawson’s Creek!

Drumroll please…yes, that’s right! It’s another new feature! So many exclamation points!

Guys, I have figured out two things: 1) I need structure and 2) reviewing stuff is fun but it means I don’t get to talk about past stuff I love. I have therefore come up with an ingenious plan, using a common internet trend, piggybacking on it shamelessly and introducing Pop Arts Revisits. Every Thursday I will be talking about something that I loved back in the day. To start us off, we have crown jewel of late 90s TV – Dawson’s Creek (If you’re not already singing ‘do do do do do doooo, I don’t wanna wait…’ then why are you here?)

[NB: I will be discussing major events and plot points from throughout the show, so look away now if you don’t want to be ‘spoiled’ although, it stopped airing over a decade ago dude, can you still have ‘spoilers’ that old?]

I was a very big Dawson’s Creek fan. I mean, how could you not be? Baggy cargo trousers, plaid, rowboats, overly-intellectual teenagers, Pacey…the list of enticements goes on and on. I was about 12 when T4 (hello UK Millenials!) started showing Dawson’s Creek on Sunday mornings. I was immediately hooked. To my 12 year old brain, the fancy way they talked made them the coolest people in the world and I was obsessed with being as smart and awesome as they were by the time I reached the grand old age of 15 (spoiler alert: I wasn’t). I – naturally – wanted to be Joey and nursed an ever growing crush on Pacey (who else?) for many a year. Pictures of Joshua Jackson still elicit a teen-like sigh from me, even now.

I can still recall so many key moments from the show and my – sometimes alarmingly – visceral reaction to them. I remember crying my eyes out as Jen sat with her dead grandfather, crying as Pacey helped Andie’s poor crazy Mum in the supermarket, crying yet again as Joey had to betray her no-good, drug smuggling father; wincing whenever Gail and Mitch were on screen (I mean, really, they were the worst), gasping as Abby fell off that pier? Dock? Whatever, her character was awful. Cheering Jack when he came out to his Dad, crying again as he moved in with Jen because his Dad was horrible. A lot of crying actually, now that I think about it.

And then, then there was the great love story of my – or any – generation: Dawson and Joey. IF THIS WAS OPPOSITE WORLD. Did anyone root for D & J? Really? Obviously the only pairing anyone should really care about was Pacey and Joey (though Pacey and Andie come a close second. I loved that little blonde nutball; she totally spoke to me). I lived on tenterhooks for virtually the whole of season three, waiting for Joey to realise that Pacey was perfect. I had to suffer through so much AJ you guys, to get to where we needed to be. Who was AJ? Why, exactly, were we supposed to care? And don’t get me started on that ridiculous storyline with his roller-skating friend. Ugh.

But still, so many glory moments for us to relive. I squee’d when Pacey bought Joey the wall, shrieked when they kissed for the first time, shrieked some more when they kissed again. I rolled my eyes at all the drama when Dawson found out (while secretly loving it), cried some more when they danced at the (anti)prom and cheered when they ran off on True Love (it was a boat). Ahh, bliss.

I remember most of season four, but season five is where it all started to get away from me a bit. I liked Busy Philips and her character Audrey, but it always stretches credulity when all your central characters wind up at the same college (this is currently a major concern for me regarding Pretty Little Liars – what will they do when school ends?). Plus, season five forced me to endure multiple episodes of Chad Michael Murray and Pacey’s goatee. So, when the news came that Channel 5* would be airing season six, the Creek and I reluctantly but inevitably, broke up.

It was hard for me to stop watching something that had been such a part of my teen years. I was 12 when it started and 16 when it ended, which is a pretty formative period. It taught me so much, you guys. I learnt that bitching about a cooler, prettier girl didn’t make you feel any better (Joey), that singing in a beauty pageant about your secret love for a boy is embarrassing (Joey), that being perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (Andie), that choosing your own path is best (Pacey), that parents are people and sometimes they mess up (everyone) and that sometimes, the supposed main character is actually just the worst (Dawson, obviously).

I returned for a short lived fling when I watched the two hour season finale, which somehow managed to be one of the best and worst season finales ever. I will never be able to forgive the decision to bump off poor Jen – what the fuck was that? – though my anger was tempered by confirmation that Pacey and Joey would end up together, Dawson wouldn’t be a bitch about it and all was (mostly) well. Oh! And I loved Jack and Deputy Doug getting together. Genius.

I feel that a shout out must go to my preferred supporting characters that appeared throughout the show: Gamma, Bess and Bodie, Gretchen, Henry, Deputy Doug and that crazy old film-maker guy Dawson liked. He was cool. But not Mitch and Gail. Never Mitch and Gail. There was also a whole host of recognisable guest actors appearing. As well as the aforementioned Chad Michael Murray, there was also the ageless Bianca Lawson, Jason Behr, Rachael Leigh Cook, Jensen Ackles, Scott Foley, Ken Marino…the list goes on. I still recognise people from DC first – just yesterday we watched the Mentalist and I shouted ‘That’s Joey’s no good drug-dealing father!’ at no one in particular.

Sometimes, I like to think that Dawson’s Creek started it all. That we wouldn’t have had The OC, One Tree Hill, The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars etc without it. It showed that a TV show about teenagers talking about nothing and being dramatic could be commercially successful and that people would fucking love it, to the extent that they’d still be talking and writing about it 15 years later. I really did love it and honestly, I doubt my taste in TV (or men) would be the same without it.

For more Dawson’s Creek nostalgia, check out Erin Mallory Long‘s article on the 5 Ways Dawson’s Creek Ruined Her Life and Melbourne on My Mind‘s amazing run down of all six seasons.

*In the UK, unless you had cable (which we didn’t) you had only four TV channels, plus channel 5, which in our house always had a snowy picture, and bad static-y reception. You had to REALLY want to watch something to view it on channel 5 back then.  And sometimes now.