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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Culture Corner

The Arts Desk’s weekly picks for television, movies, books and music

By CLARA FISCHER — arts@theaggie.org

Music: “Don’t Shut Me Down” by ABBA (2021)

ABBA has been a global pop sensation ever since their debut at Eurovision 1974. Personally, I can proudly say that I grew up with ABBA — if my life were made into a movie, the soundtrack to the childhood scenes would be exclusively oldies. Fans of the legendary group were ecstatic when they announced new music coming out in 2021, and they were not disappointed. ABBA dropped two new songs in September, one being “I Still Have Faith in You,” a more grandiose ballad that features a swelling orchestral backing, but the standout to me is “Don’t Shut Me Down.” This song could have been released on ABBA’s debut album and I wouldn’t have questioned it. It’s so true to the group’s iconic style and combined with the slightly deeper, more mature voices of the group members, this song feels like catching up with an old friend after being apart for many years. 

Book: “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath (1963)

Written by Sylvia Plath in 1963, the underlying message of this novel holds just as much relevance today as it did 50 years ago. The book is a semi-autobiographical journey into the human psyche and discusses issues of mental health with a refreshingly dark frankness. At the time that Plath wrote the book, mental health issues were still widely stigmatized and writing a book centered around a young woman’s mental breakdown was a bold choice for the time. Many critics compare “The Bell Jar” to J. D. Salinger’s 1951 classic “The Catcher in the Rye,” and while both Plath and Salinger touch upon the same ideas, the two novels differ greatly in their delivery. “The Catcher in the Rye” has a very masculine tone, tinged with an overwhelming sense of anger. “The Bell Jar” comes across much more depressed and almost subdued. Esther Greenwood, the protagonist, does partake in manic acts, but it’s almost still rational. Everything is described poetically, and some lines need a double take for the reader to realize that something out of the ordinary has occurred. It’s astounding that a piece published almost half a century ago is still so relatable, especially to adolescent women. 

TV Show: “The Great British Baking Show”

This British-born series is the epitome of a comfort show. Personally, I use TV and movies as a way to destress and escape into a less complicated world, if only for 30 minutes at a time. While American TV does have a variety of cooking and baking competitions, they aren’t relaxing like “The Great British Baking Show”. Contestants on American cooking competition shows are often racing against the clock, stressed down to the last second and challenged by a plethora of intensely difficult twists. On “The Great British Baking Show,” however, contestants are often seen helping each other out, cracking jokes and lifting each other’s spirits, all while whipping up delightfully obscure baked goods. The show’s friendly nature sets it apart from others and is a big reason for its global success and cult following. There’s truly nothing more stress-relieving during fall quarter midterms than turning on an episode of “The Great British Baking Show” and relaxing on the couch. 

Movie: “Corpse Bride” dir. by Tim Burton (2005)

Halloween movies hold a special spot in my heart. They’re comparable to Christmas movies in the sense that they both evoke holiday spirit in their audiences, but Halloween films are special because there are far less of them. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of cheesy Hallmark movies and could probably recite every word of “Elf” by memory, but the limited selection of Halloween movies gives each one their own spooky flair. “Corpse Bride” is, in classic Tim Burton style, hauntingly beautiful. The colorscape of the movie feels almost physically chilling, with everything appearing in muted shades of gray and blue. I found that the soundtrack and character design, along with the simple love story at its core, gave the film an eerily romantic tone. Because of this, viewers can’t help but empathize with the characters, no matter how great their faults may be. “Corpse Bride” never fails to send a chill down my spine, and perfectly sets the mood for the cooler autumn nights to come. 

Written by: Clara Fischer — arts@theaggie.org

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