Childhood Classics: Should They Be Changed or Left Alone?

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After learning about the intended release of a shocking horror film, I bring my thoughts about childhood classic stories and characters and whether they should be changed or stay the way they were initially created.

I thought I was dreaming or maybe a bit hungover when I woke up at 5am and saw the news. I had dozed off and awoke to find my fairy lights still on, my moon lamp dimming, and my sea projector sending blue waves onto the ceiling. I needed to switch everything off before going back to sleep.

Out of pure habit, I decided to check TikTok, and as I scrolled through the videos, a post from ITV caught my attention. It was talking about an upcoming movie and called it ‘Winnie-the-Pooh, the horror movie.’

Naturally, I was very confused. We all know who Winnie-the-Pooh is; the ‘bear with very little brain’ who lives in the Hundred Acre Wood and adores honey. Now, all of a sudden, he was in a horror movie? I thought it was just a silly joke. Or maybe my mind was a bit fuzzy. But when I looked it up properly, I realized that I was very wrong.

The famous bear with very little brain, Winnie-the-Pooh

As it turned out, there was indeed a horror due for release called Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey. Apparently, the story goes like this: Christopher Robin leaves his childhood friends behind as he grows up and leaves for college, something that we all do in life. But this doesn’t sit well for those he leaves behind. Feeling abandoned, and without food, Pooh and Piglet revert to their animal ways; they become completely feral and unhinged, killing their friends in order to survive. When Christopher Robin does eventually return with his new wife, the unhinged Pooh and Piglet go on a murderous rampage, targeting several college girls who are staying in a rural cabin. (That old cliche is never going to die.)

The promotional poster for the new Winnie-the-Pooh horror movie.

To put it very simply, I was shocked. This is Winnie-the-Pooh – the bear with very little brain who lives in the 100 Acre Wood, plays with Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, Eeyore, Owl, Kanga and Roo! His best friend is Christopher Robin and he absolutely adores honey! I think I just outed myself as somebody who loves Winnie-the-Pooh, didn’t I?

It’s just… Winnie-the-Pooh has been a part of my life ever since I was a baby. When I was very little, my bedroom had Winnie-the-Pooh wall stickers on the wall. I had an electronic Winnie-the-Pooh bear that came with its own honey pot that he would ‘eat’ from. I had the Pooh’s Friendly Places and Honeypot playsets as toys; they were my favorite things to play with. One of my favorite Disney movies is Pooh’s Grand Adventures – The Search for Christopher Robin. In my favorite video game series Kingdom Hearts, one of the worlds that you could visit was the 100 Acre Wood where you could interact with all of the different characters. So… yes, I certainly love Winnie-the-Pooh and I am currently finding it very hard to see him reimagined as a feral bloody horror killer.

I’ve looked at a few times where classics were reimagined by authors and creators. There have been several parodies and mock-ups of different stories released over the last few years. There was a time when I visited the Chapters bookstore in Dublin, to enjoy the chance of buying books at a low price. Well, that time I was browsing the shelves and found a variety of classic parodies.

A sample of ‘reimagined’ classics on sale.

I saw these books for sale and I was disgusted.

Disgusted.

It wasn’t just the style of the covers that horrified me, it was the fact that all of the stories had been modified and made more sexual. Basically, classics such as Jane Eyre and The Great Gatsby had been turned into porn.

Many authors were trying to cash in on what I consider the black mark in the world of literacy, that God-awful Fifty Shades series. The ‘love story’ of a controlling stalker and a co-dependent gold digger inspired a lot of authors to write their own little stories that were similar in taste. That aspect, I can understand, but did they have to touch classic stories like these?

Seriously?

Authors such as Charlotte Bronte and Oscar Wilde are long since gone, so technically, nothing can be done to prevent people re-writing their stories. I can understand in a way; sometimes, I see a story that there are elements that I don’t like and I feel I could change them. But… I feel there is a limit. I wouldn’t go so far as to change the main character into a bloody killer or shape the story to revolve around sex. That’s taking a little too far, for me anyway.

The problem is that stories such as Winnie-the-Pooh now reside in the public domain, they’re no longer protected by copyright law. In the United States, copyright law is usually limited to the life of the creator, plus 70 years after their death. Or in more simple terms, copyright of created content expires 70 years after the creator’s death. And since A.A. Milne has been dead since 1956…. you get the idea.

Now that the copyright law has expired on Winnie-the-Pooh, the public can do whatever they want with the character. But I refuse to see Winnie-the-Pooh as anything other than the bear-with-very-little-brain. This is one horror movie that I will definitely not be watching!

Post Traumatic Stress, Anxiety and Being My Own Worst Enemy

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These last couple of weeks have been a time of stress, worry, self-hate, and anger. Sometimes, in life, there are things that happen that knock you down a couple of pegs, but you have to find the strength to pick yourself up and force yourself to get through the tough things. I had my first experience of post-traumatic stress, faced a final college assignment that really affected me and I had to once again, deal with my worst personal trait.

I was looking forward to getting the last hurdle of my Master’s degree finally finished. The last hurdle? A presentation defending my chosen topic and how I went about researching the dissertation. You would think that 80 pages and nearly 25,000 words of research would be enough but…. clearly not. I really did not want to do this presentation but we had no other choice. So, I had to spend one more week studying all of the work that I did for my dissertation, putting it all together into a presentation and explaining the topic that I’d studied. My presentation took place on the 9th of September and I was determined to make it the best.

A friend and I planned to work on our presentations together the week before. We arranged to meet at the Queen of Tarts cafe, somewhere I’d never been to before, but I’m always willing to try new places.

It wasn’t until I arrived that I realised that the cafe was located bang next door to a restaurant called the Piglet Wine Bar. I was horrified. This was the place where I had experience the worst allergic reaction of my entire life. It was the place where I honestly thought that I was going to die.

My hands started to shake. My breath was catching in my throat. A voice in my head was saying ‘Oh no, no, no.’ I felt worse when I entered the cafe. Its interior was exactly like the restaurant from that night, right down to the upstairs seating area.

Looking up the stairs, my mind kept thinking back to that night. I can remember stumbling to the bathroom, gasping for breath, barely able to stand. I remember looking at my reflection in the mirror and not recognising myself. My face was white, my eyes were bloodshot…I didn’t look like myself.

I looked like a monster.

I had to force myself to calm down, to bring myself back to the present. I told myself that I was being stupid, that I was overreacting. I sent a message to Mum, telling her about what happened, saying I was being silly. I expected her to agree but she actually said that what I’d experience was perfectly understandable.

I’d had my first experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had just relived the worst moment of my life. I couldn’t believe it but looking back on it, it makes sense. Until that day, I hadn’t properly gone back to that area since the night of my severe reaction. I figured I was okay, I’d gotten over it. It had been nearly three years.

But clearly, I was mistaken. It took going back to that place for me to properly understand what happened to me. I think if the pandemic hadn’t have happen, I could have gotten over it sooner. Having said that, (and this is going to sound crazy) I am relieved to have experienced this now. Mum asked me if I would go back to the cafe again and I said yes. I cannot let this one bad experience put me off returning to that area. I’ve gone through the worst, all I can do now is move on with my life.

*

My friend and I were able to finish our presentations and on Friday 9th September, I travelled to the college campus to give my presentation. I had forced myself to practice relentlessly the night before. I didn’t want to stumble or make a fool of myself, I wanted to be clear and concise with what I had to say about the work that I’d done.

I arrived in good time and managed to get a last practice thrown in before I was called into the room where the presentation took place. There were two supervisors, one physical and one virtual via Zoom. I set my gear up and began my presentation. I managed to get through my presentation smoothly enough; I explained my chosen topic, how I went about my research, the films I had studied and the final conclusions that I reached. I thought that I had explained everything to the best of my ability.

Let’s just say that when it came to feedback… things took a bad turn.

Actually no, I wouldn’t call it a bad turn. I mean, I knew that my dissertation had been quite complex, I knew it was flawed, it wasn’t perfect. I didn’t want it to be perfect, I just wanted to show that I worked on it to the very best of my ability and I could create a good dissertation. It’s just, the feedback that the two supervisors gave me, convinced me otherwise. They liked how I presented my dissertation, it was clear that I had done a lot of research but they felt that my dissertation rambled a little bit, didn’t quite reach a proper conclusion, and could have been laid out better.

Looking back on it now, the criticism that I received that day, was fair. I knew deep down that I hadn’t done a dissertation that was completely perfect. But the criticism I got really made me feel that I had failed. It made me feel that I hadn’t done enough to pass. Maybe, the dissertation I had submitted, wasn’t good enough. I felt awful, I felt low, I felt like a failure.

I left the college campus, tears streaming down my face. I was bubbling up inside with sadness, and anger. Mainly towards myself. All I could hear in my head was ‘You stupid idiot. You should have done better. Now you’re going to fail and you should not have failed. How could you be so stupid? Stupid, stupid, stupid.’ That’s all I could hear.

I had to call my mother and explain what happened. By that point, all I wanted to do was forget, so her constant questioning and forcing me to go back over and over the presentation session did nothing to help me. I was upset and angry enough with myself as it was, I didn’t want Mum forcing me to drive the knife in deeper. I know she meant well, but I was an emotional wreck at that point.

Let me be honest and say that my worst critic is me. I am the sort of person who only really sees the worst in me. I am ambitious, but sometimes admittedly, I can be too ambitious for my own good. When I get a result that means, I have passed a module, I can’t help but think, ‘I could have done better.’ I am very very hard on myself and it is something that I know I need to work on.

I had to use these last couple of weekends to recuperate and find where my head is at. I needed to find myself, to go to that old cliche. Through it all, I was able to find support in my housemate Silvia and my fellow college friend, Adina Sarah. They listened to me and comforted me when I brought myself to tears and looked after me. I really appreciate all that they did for me. I’m so grateful to them.

Dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress, Anxiety and self-hatred, was certainly a lot to deal with, but I can say that I’m feeling better now after taking some time to recover. As to what happens with my dissertation, all I can do now is wait for my results. I’m really hoping that I’ve done enough to pass, but there’s nothing I can do now except wait and see what happens.

The worst thing that could happen is I could have to repeat the whole thing, but hopefully it won’t come to that!

Open Up Opinions – The Highs, The Lows and The Unexpectedness of the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest

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I remember where I was two years ago when two hosts in Tel Aviv, Israel announced that the Netherlands had won the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. Myself and my sister were on the edge of our seats, tense, and practically screaming at the television, yelling at the hosts to ‘Just get on with it!’ In my family, there is no such thing as patience! Poor Murphy was scared of us, huddling on a chair! Still, we had nothing but high praise for Duncan Laurence and swooned over his beautiful ‘Arcade’ song. I had high hopes for the contest in 2020.

Or at least I did, until a certain event happened in 2020, called the coronavirus. I was gutted when it was announced that Eurovision was cancelled. The reasons were perfectly understandable but having been looking forward to see if Ireland would get through to the finals (we have had a very poor history of being eliminated in the semis in recent years) I was just so disappointed. 2020 was not a good year, that is for sure!

So when 2021 rolled around and it was announced that the contest would go ahead this year, everyone was thrilled. Personally I felt that Ireland had a decent chance with Lesley Roy and ‘Maps’. I’m not saying that we were going to win, but at least to get through to the finals would be great.

Semi Final 1 came around and Ireland was taking part that night. I watched Lesley Roy perform and… I was very underwhelmed. It was interesting in that she wanted to do something different but she just didn’t captivate the audience. She did the best that she could but it wasn’t strong enough for the final. When the Ukraine performed their amazing performance near the end of that night, I knew it was over for Ireland.

By the time that Semi Final 2 had completed, myself and my friends agreed that it would be a choice between Malta and Iceland. Malta’s Destiny blew us all away with her amazing performance and her beautiful voice – and she’s only 18! Of course, she had one thing that nobody else had – decent experience. Her experience comes from her win in Junior Eurovision in 2015, and being a backing vocalist for Michaela in 2019. Iceland….well, Iceland were favourites to win and had been since they were first introduced to us fans last year. When you Think About Things (pardon the pun), they were unique, captivating and had a solid fanbase.

At last, the final arrived and it was time to see who would be crowned the winner of 2021. The competition opened with a strong performance from Cyprus, marking the beginning of the whole show opening up again.

The slogan for 2021’s contest was ‘Open Up.’ After a year and a half with the entire world closed up and isolated with the pandemic taking over everybody’s lives. To have the Eurovision Song Contest held with a live audience meant a lot to everybody. The world is nowhere near back to normal, but the contest gave us a break from worrying about face masks and sanitizers and allowed us to just focus on the music.

Well mostly anyways. Panic rose when it was announced that two members of Daði og Gagnamagnið (Iceland’s unique entry) tested positive for the virus. There was fear that they would have to pull out of the competition, but it was some relief that they could perform albeit pre-recorded. And I felt really sorry for Duncan Laurence who was due to perform in the final only to be halted due to a positive test. Every winner is supposed to get a chance to relive that moment on stage, and sadly for him, the coronavirus prevented that.

There were highs, and there were lows throughout the entire show (I did not intend for that to rhyme). My friends and I had our agreements and disagreements over which acts were great and which ones were not. I remember there were mixed statements about Bulgaria’s entry where Victoria sung a tribute to her father who had been diagnosed with Motor-Neurone Disease, and nobody could understand why I wasn’t a fan Belgium’s song. There were agreements that France was brilliant and Russia was different but in a very good way, while there were disagreements about Norway’s Tix and his Fallen Angels as well as Moldova’s sexy act (I think everyone had gotten used to Moldova releasing goofy but great acts). We all had our opinions about each and every act and we all had our own predictions.

I will say one highlight that everyone loved was when Iceland were called to give their votes. The representative for Iceland, Hannes Óli Ágústsson (an actor from the controversial Fire Saga movie from last year) greeted the hosts, said it was a great song but then said ‘I personally would like you to play JaJa Ding Dong!’ Literally, I shrieked with laughter, everyone was thrilled to hear that – along with ’12 Points to Jaja Ding Dong!’ Fantastic! He looked so sad when he had to give the 12 points to Finland!

Nobody could have predicted what would happen at the public vote. With the new point system, it was less likely that a country would end up with nothing at the end of the night. Well! Nobody expected for the UK to end up with a big fat ZERO. No points from the jury, none from the public, they got ‘nul point.’ This is not the first time the UK ended up with nothing – some will remember the disaster that was Jemini in 2003. There is a lot in relation to Brexit that no doubt contributed to this result; but I have to give James Newman credit, he took the result with a smile and even opened the bottle of champagne he had!

Unbelievably, the United Kingdom was not the only act to receive no points from the public. Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR countries ended up getting zero from the public. Germany, Spain and the Netherlands could only watch as the hosts announced they got nothing publicwise. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for them, particularly Germany’s Jendrik; he certainly needs praise for keeping positive about his final score of just 3 points – a far cry from 2018, when Michael Schulte’s heartbreaking performance won them 370 and fourth place in the competition. I remember one friend, Kate saying ‘Who is on this jury?’ There was no answer to that unfortunately!

As more countries received their points, we began to tense as they came to our favourites. When it reached Malta, we all braced ourselves…only to be shocked when Malta finished in seventh place. I was gutted for Destiny but she took it like a trooper which was very impressive. France ended up with 499 points finishing in second place, their best result in 30 years! (Not counting the Junior Eurovision Song Contest last year, when young Valentina sung ‘J’imagine’ to victory.) Iceland ended up in a very respectable fourth place with 378 points…..

….but it was Italy who ended up at the top of the scoreboard, which a grand total of 524 points! Rock group, Måneskin stole the show, becoming the first rock group to win the contest since Finland’s Lordi in 2006. They put their all into their performance, with their song ‘Zitti e buoni’ described as “undeniable rock stomper with a hint of Franz Ferdinand in its slick guitar riffs” by NME. I’ll never forget the look on their faces when it was announced that they had won. Drummer Ethan Torchio was absolutely gobsmacked – I don’t think it fully sunk in for any of them at the time!

As unexpected as the result was, everyone was really pleased with the winner of this year’s contest. Måneskin certainly deserved their victory and we cannot wait to see where their careers takes off next. This was certainly an enjoyable contest to watch and it was really great to have Eurovision back after everything that happened last year.

So next year, we’ll be taking the contest over to the land of Michelangelo, da Vinci and Carlo Collodi. It hasn’t been determined which city will host yet, but they have plenty of great choices I will say that. And there is one other thing I will say that I know everyone will agree with me on…

Ireland will need to pull out all the big guns if we are to have any chance of getting through to the finals, let alone winning next year!