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Monday, June 24, 2024

Culture Corner

The Art Desk’s weekly picks for movies, music and more 


By LORENA ALVAREZ — arts@theaggie.org


Song: “Matilda” by Harry Styles (2022)

While Harry Styles’ traditional pop-rock songs explore love, his ballad “Matilda” emphasizes themes of trauma, belonging and guilt. This song strays from many of the others on the album, creating a more tender atmosphere for the listener. The somber melody works in tandem with the meaning behind the verses. The song tells the story of an individual’s rough upbringing and the guilt they experience for choosing peace over loved ones who caused more harm than good. Many fans connect to the lyrics, feeling comforted by Styles’ reassurance. Living our lives and putting ourselves first does not make us bad people. This song is a personal favorite of mine as it reminds me of the experience many of us first-generation college students feel when leaving our homes and family to enjoy our college experiences. Styles reminds us that there is no shame in protecting your peace. 


TV show: “Once Upon a Time” by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (2011-2018)

This show is often overlooked because of its association with children’s fairy tale movies and its cringe-worthy plot. But once you get past the pilot, the plot questions those traditional fairy tales, blurring the line between who is capable of evil and who is not. My favorite episode is season one episode 15, titled “Red-Handed.” The episode follows a new depiction of the well-known story, “Little Red Riding Hood.” In this retelling, Ruby struggles to regain agency over her life in a world ruled by fear. Until she discovers her real identity, a wolf, and realizes that she is far from being the weak, frail girl her grandmother made her out to be, she fails to gain control of her future. This take on “Little Red Riding Hood” challenges oppressive gender roles that insist on women’s fragility — far too innocent to be protectors, nonetheless predators. 


Essay: “Venus in Two Acts” by Saidiya Hartman (2008)

“Venus in Two Acts” is my all-time favorite essay. While I recently discovered this article in one of my classes, I will never forget its message. In this piece, Hartman mourns over the struggle of restraint she and many other writers face when writing about their injustices. The essay highlights the importance of producing accurate pieces and refraining from speculating when the information is unclear — something many writers do to develop the plot or make the piece more relatable. However, it acknowledges that while truth should be prioritized, there are scenarios in which an over-emphasization of facts takes up space that could be used for discussion, as well as critique, oppressive social structures like racism and slavery.


Movie: “Sound of Freedom” by Rod Barr and Alejandro Gómez Monteverde (2023)

“Sound of Freedom” gained attention on social media because of rumors that movie theaters were sabotaging showings of this heart-wrenching movie. The film was shot in 2018, but did not hit box offices until 2023 because of its controversial depiction of human trafficking. Based on a true story, the film follows Tim Ballard, a former Homeland Security agent who started Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), an anti-sex trafficking organization. The movie serves as a call to action against human and child trafficking as it depicts the pain and trauma victims experience, largely due to instances of modern-day slavery. Gaining even more controversy, Ballard is now being sued for sexually abusing O.U.R. volunteers. I encourage you to see this movie, not for Ballard, but because it brings awareness to the severity of sex trafficking — something that is still happening behind closed doors to this day. 


Written by: Lorena Alvarez — arts@theaggie.org