The powerful narrative behind Idina Menzel’s acting choices.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name Idina Menzel (apart from Adele Dazeem)? For me it must be the certainty to embrace oneself. It’s no coincidence that the singer/actress has been carefully selecting through all these years her acting choices to match a certain type of character: the Other.

Menzel has been depicting for long a handful of individuals that can only be described as the Other: a well-thought character which is immerse in a constant state of being different from the common and very shared social identity. her representations, though, are not victims.

If there is one thing that could define Idina’s singular portrayal of Otherness over the past years is her distinctive and constant refusal to be victimized. She has singlehandedly managed to depict a wide variety of colorful characters  that always have refused to lose their unique qualities in order to be accepted. They, instead, try to do something about it.

Just think about Idina’s most iconic characters to date: Elphaba from Wicked  and Elsa from Frozen. They are both strong and powerful women searching for their true self while coping with a society that values passiveness more than authenticity and independence.

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Both Frozen and Wicked revolve around the idea of embracing oneself, of accepting who you are, of not letting anyone to define you, and of taking the Otherness as something that you own and not as something that is not in your control.

Elphaba, on one hand, is a young girl who struggles to cope with the very idea of being a powerful green witch in a place where is not common to have colored people with magic around. Elsa, on the other, is a conflicted woman living with magicals powers whilst trying to do her best as monarch on a kingdom that is not used to have only a queen as their leader.

What’s really daunting about this characters is not just their Otherness, but the way they embrace it as an essential part of who they are. Both Elsa and Elphaba are constrained to fit into a box imposed by the ones around them, but because of their difference, it’s something they don’t want to achieve. They want to be who they are, without any limitations.

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Just as Idina’s life, her characters mostly use music as a way to communicate. Songs in  her movies are often used by her characters as a performative device, where inner thoughts, and identity traits, only become real when they are sung.

If you are familiar with pop culture, you should know that ‘Let it Go‘ and ‘Defying Gravity‘ are ones of the most powerful and empowering songs to date. If you are familiarized with Idina Menzel’s work, you’ll know that they are her go-to melodies when talking about the importance of her career. Within their narratives, these songs function as their hymns to Otherness and their way to embrace it. They are Elphaba and Elsa’s ultimate statement.

Idina’s other famous character, Maureen Johnson, has plenty of ways to express her Otherness in the hit Broadway show, Rent. She is a free person that doesn’t understand life as something that could be either black or white, but something more big in between, an outcast that stands for what she believes and a woman that doesn’t like to be put in a box.

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Unlike Elsa and Elphaba, she doesn’t have to push through a long and hurtful path before embracing her Otherness. She is who she is and she doesn’t care what any other person could think about her or her actions. She is not defined by people nor does she is a victim of their actions. She even has a Tango named after her that really sums up the way people perceive her, making it her ultimate statement.

Even her brief, but stellar, appearance in Disney’s Enchanted as Nancy Tremaine could easily be described as an empowered woman sidelined by her Otherness. Her role within the narrative is to act essentialy as the Other of the Princess Giselle (Amy Adams). She is, after all, the girlfriend of the protagonist’s love interest.

Portrayed by other actress, her arc in the movie could easily fall over the antagonist place. Instead, on Idina’s hands, we got the perfect Otherness arc for a secondary character: she is a succesfull and confident woman looking for love that eventually ends up marrying a charming prince not because the story told her to, but because she decided to.

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There’s something quite exciting and admirable about Idina Menzel’s narrative based on her acting choices: in order to embrace oneself as the Other one must make Otherness visible.

The TV-obsessed-guy’s guide to enjoy Peak TV

We live on an incredible era, one era where audiences  have the opportunity to navigate through countless channels and streaming platforms for them to choose from a innumerable amount of shows that are constantly delving through important issues, like mental illness, gender, race, consent, identity and love, along a great variety of genres and situations. Yes, we are living in one era  that many people are calling ‘Peak TV’.

These days —mostly thanks to the elevated costs of movie tickets and the so called “lack of originality on Hollywood” that is been going on— people are consuming and relying much more in TV shows than in cinema.

Each new year we get a handful of new  (and interesting) shows waiting to be devoured by its audiences. Naturally,  it’s physically impossible for an actual human being to consume so many hours of  new and old TV whilst succesfully managing to maintain a job and a social life.

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There are so many TV shows and not enough time to weigh in on all the options. Every day I constantly find myself asking a lot of questions: Is this show gonna be worth of my time? Am I going to enjoy it? The premise looks fine, but, is it original enough? Does the characters look interesting?

If you ask yourself the very same questions every time you want to catch on with a TV show, then we share the same problem, but fear no more! I have some useful tips for you! Follow me through and by the end of this post you will be able to decide which show is worthy of your time and which one isn’t.

  1. Spring, summer and fall TV

The first thing you need to know before picking up the shows you are going to watch is that TV scheduling is really weird.  You either could wait for one or two, even three, years between season or you could watch two seasons of the same show on the very same year, something that happened with Shameless US this year.

Much of the time this has to do with network budgets ans the actor’s free time to wrap up a season. Benedict’s Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s busy schedules are the reason why Sherlock’s seasons have so many years of separation within each other.

But some other times this often happen due season’s scheduling. Typically, the networks distribute their shows between spring, summer and fall. The latter is always destinated for the most watched and rated shows, whilst the former and the one in the middle are more prone to be used to premiere risky shows. That way, you could only catch American Horror Story  on fall TV and Girls on spring TV.

My advice here is to never forget this scheduling, that way you could watch tons of different shows between seasons without missing the ones you are more interested about. Search for awesome new options and prioritize them between each season.

2. TV previews

If you follow any platform that is dedicated to write about pop culture, TV and movies you already should know that they usually post their TV previews before the beginning of each new season. Seize it.

What I tend to do is to look after this lists to search and select the shows that will draw on my attention. Entertainment Weekly and Filmschoolrejects are the ones that I am more prone to check and the ones that are most likely to be very helpful with their shows summaries.

3.  Helpful apps

I know, keeping up with a lot of shows could be a bit overwhelming and it could turn out to be a really difficult  task to accomplish. Notwithstanding, there’s a really useful life hack that has made my binge-watching experience a lot easier: Apps.

There’s actually a full catalogue of helpful apps made with the sole purpose of organizing and scheduling the shows you’re watching currently. My personal favorites are iTV Shows for apple users, and Next Episode for Android users. In them you can look for the synopsis of each episode, the day and time of the premiere and, in some of them, a list of the shows that are trending right now.

But the most important feature, at least for me, is the notifications. You can personalize your app to alert you when your favorite show is going to start, when it’s cancelled and even when it gets a premiere date. This will help you to follow each episode and to prevent you to miss out on a new one.

4.  The three episodes rule

Even if you already have selected a handful of shows to watch, you must prioritize the ones that you really want to keep on watching and discard the ones that you don’t. Otherwise, you will find yourself in the middle of a tricky situation between a lot of episodes to catch on and no time to do it whatsoever.

I have the theory that if a show doesn’t manage to captivate you and capture your attention in the first three episodes it will never manage to accomplish it in the near future.

Typically, the first three episodes of a show must give their audiences enough information, character-wise, story-wise and arc-wise, to really know what kind of show they’re getting into and what they can expect of it. Three episodes, in my book, are more than enough.

So, with that in mind, you either keep on watching it after episode three, because you like it, or you don’t, because you didn’t like what you saw, or you didn’t get enough information to enjoy the show by episode four.

Don’t waste your time on shows that doesn’t fulfill your needs as a viewer and stop doing senseless hate-watching. If you do this, you’ll see how easy will be for you to get rid of a show you felt obligated to watch and how rewarding will be to keep the ones you really loved on the first three episodes.

5. Enough is enough

Look, I love to watch a show from the very first season through the last  like the next person, but sometimes we have to accept, and then realize, that some shows could, and would, lost their way, and that’s fine. We don’t have to stick around until the very end of a show.

Precisely this very year I had to stop watching Pretty Little Liars because it became so tiresome and predictable that I ended up not enjoying it at all,  and I don’t even feel bad about it. I had my time loving it and I got some pretty good episodes, but that’s it.

So, if you feel like a burden to wacth  one of your favorite shows, then stop doing it. It will make you some room to enjoy a new one and you will feel much better with yourself by stopping all that hate-watching you’ve been doing lately.

6. Enjoy the experience

There’s nothing better than finding a great show to hang on to. Enjoy it and embrace it. Peak TV is really upon us and the best way to honor it is by consuming all the great things that are airing and streaming out there.

Have a great day and an awesome binge-watching season!

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