Lego Friends: Dolphin Cruise

LegoEnemiesGirlyFriendsLegosIntheNewsBlogDolphin Cruise is the final episode of the Lego Friends series, but also the best. Throughout the series the focus has been the girls forming friendships, planning birthday parties, and taking care of animals. But now we get to do some actual science. Kind of.

The episode starts out at the high school. The girls burst into a classroom and discuss how excited they are to be there. It’s science class, both Mia and Olivia’s favorite subject. Although, based on their past exploits with surprise parties and animal training, who could tell?

Anyway, Andrea, who doesn’t seem that interested in science, reminds the girls that it’s also their last class of the day. She adds that afterward, they can all go to the beach. Stephanie checks her day planner and notes that she has two free hours for beach time. Emma is interested as well.

The teacher enters and muses to the girls if only there was a place for all of them to sit while she teaches. Emma helpfully suggests their desks. There teacher agree that that’s a wonderful idea. The girls sit down and the lesson starts.

Ms. Stevens, the teacher, tells the class that that day, they’re talking about dolphins. Andrea, however, is so set on going to the beach that she immediately connects the subject matter to the girls’ after-school plans and says that she can just feel the sand between her toes. Olivia tells her to shush.

The teacher then does something that so many shows have failed to ever actually show. She teaches. Ms. Stevens explains dolphin bycatch. It takes place when fishermen drag their nets across the bottom of the ocean in order to capture fish and the dolphins get caught in the nets. The caught dolphins can then drown. The girls are all horrified.

Imagine that. Something as simple as an explanation for something that occurs in the world and this is the first time it’s actually been a part of a plot before. Even series like Monster High and Ever After High, two shows that focus on high school, never manage to show any real lessons or instruction. Nothing even on the odd worlds that both of those shows inhabit.

After Ms. Stevens tells them what dolphin bycatch is, she announces a contest. She tells the class that the student who can create the best idea to prevent dolphin bycatch will win a dolphin sightseeing trip. The teacher announces that the ideas will be presented the next day in class. Perky Olivia announces, “Win or not, we all want to help.”

At the end of class, Stephanie tells the other girls that they have this. Emma talks about how she can’t stand to think about the innocent dolphins getting caught in the nets. Olivia, who is already brainstorming, suggests that maybe if the nets were made out of different materials, then the dolphins could slip through. Although, any net with a hole in it large enough for a dolphin, wouldn’t be able to catch any fish. It’s a good first thought, nevertheless.

Mia offers the knowledge that dolphins use echo location in order to navigate. Which they do, which is excellent information for her to pass on to the viewers. Anyway, school is out, but the girls want to stay and work on their project. Andrea is concerned with her beach trip, but Stephanie suggests that they should go to the beach for inspiration. The girls high five in excitement.

But first, Mia suggests stopping by the vet to check up on her animals, some of which are recovering from injuries. At the vet, Mia is talking to a dog named Molly, who has a broken leg. As the other girls all help care for the various animals, Mia is being very picky about how they are handled and taken care of.

Aunt Sophie, Olivia’s aunt and the town’s veterinarian, tells Mia that she will be out of town for the next few days. Mia assures her that she will be there to take care of all of the animals in her absence. Mia tells the girls that they should sweep up and then go to the beach.

The girls arrive at the beach in 4-wheelers. No mention of where they got those. They disembark and set up a picnic table. Emma tells the girls that she’s going to go get some snacks and walks off to the snack bar. The four remaining girls sit down at the table to discuss the project. Mia suggests that they figure out a way to keep the dolphins completely away from the boats. Emma heads back to the table, carrying a drink container of smoothies.

Just then, Jacob drives up in a 4-wheeler and has completely lost control of the vehicle. He honks the horn at the girls and they scramble to get out of the way as he drives straight through the picnic table. He crashes into the sand.legoturtle

The girls recover quickly and ask Jacob if he’s okay. Jacob explains that he had to serve in order to avoid hitting a turtle. The turtle is then shown and the turtle is obviously female as it has long, sexy eyelashes.

Turtles are reptiles and as such, don’t even have hair follicles. So why put big sexy eyelashes on a turtle? Why do animals need to be gendered and sexualized? Why?

Anyway, Mia observes the teenagers and while everyone is okay, the smoothies have been knocked over. Jacob says that he owes the girls a snack. Olivia thanks him for honking his horn at the girls as a warning. Then the girls get an idea, all at the same time!

An underwater warning system to keep the dolphins away from the nets. Stephanie announces, “We could call it dolphin alert!” Olivia thanks Jacob for the idea, even though he’s a little unsure of how he helped exactly.

Back at school, the girls are testing out their dolphin alert project. They put a speaker into some water and it emits orca whale sounds. Meanwhile, Emma and Stephanie are painting a poster to explain the workings of the system and Emma is being a bit of a perfectionist about it.

Stephanie insists, “It’s good enough.” Emma counters, “No, good enough isn’t good enough. I want to it be perfect.” Then the warning bell goes off.

The next scene starts in science class where a boy named Ben is presenting his head to prevent dolphin bycatch. It’s a traffic light system that works underwater that is supposed to let the dolphins know when it’s safe to move to that part of the ocean.

Ms. Stevens asks him how the fish are supposed to know to follow the traffic light system. Ben nervously suggests traffic school. The classes laughs. I wish there would have been a more intelligent example given for this project. Not only to show that there are different ways of looking at a problem, but also to make it look like the girls weren’t going to win by default because their idea is the only one that actually makes sense.

Anyway, the girls are up next. They explain that underwater speaks will be hung under the boats and the fishermen will play the sounds of orca whales, the dolphin’s natural enemy. The dolphins will swim away from the sound of the ocras in order to avoid them and, as a result, avoid being caught in the nets.

The girls’ idea is well received and they go back to their seats. Andrea tells the girls that now they will have to wait. Although, from Ben’s presentation, it doesn’t look like there’s much competition.

Back in Andrea’s bedroom, the only girl of color complains about having to wait an entire day to see who won the contest. Stephanie suggests that they all do something to take their minds off of the waiting. Andrea says that she could write on her music blog.

Stephanie suggests organizing Andrea’s closet. Something that all teenage girls no doubt want to do. Olivia then turns on the theme song to the show; Best Friends Forever. All of the girls dance and that’s the end of the scene.

Personally, I wanted to hear more about Andrea’s music blog. No one had ever mentioned it before. What does she write about? Is it about her own singing, about current pop acts, about both? Does she do Tumblr image posts or actual text? So few mediums really talk about teenage girls writing. They need to be encouraged to put words on a screen. This would have been an excellent time to show it, but instead, it was a throw-away comment.

At any rate, the episode picks up the next day at school. Mia and Olivia race to the bulletin board in the hallway to see if the winner has been posted. There’s no word though. Stephanie approaches and asks if the winner is posted. Then Emma does the same. Then Andrea does too. Finally, Stephanie tells them to breathe deeply.

Just after that, Ms. Stevens arrives and posts their project as the winner! They’ve done it! They’ve won the contest! Ms. Stevens tells the excited girls that their idea was outstanding and several fishing companies are willing to take a look at their Dolphin Alert System.

The teacher tells the girls that she will meet them at the dock tomorrow for the boat trip. Ms. Stevens adds that they will be gone all day. After she walks away, Mia pauses and asks who will look after all of the animals. Emma tells her friend not to worry and there will be someone at the clinic to help the pets. Stephanie tells the girls that they have some important business to attend to and they have to come with her.

At the vet, Sasha, one of the vet techs, presumably, is working and Mia is upset. She states that Sasha is nice and everything, but she’s not on top of her game. To illustrate her point, Sasha tries to put a cat into a dog’s kennel and the animals freak out. She says a dispassionate whoops and removes the cat.

Emma tells Mia that Sophie trusts her, so she should too. Mia begrudgingly says that she’ll give her a chance. Meanwhile, Stephanie, Andrea, and Olivia are outside of the bakery. They enter the building and start looking at all of the cakes and pastries. The woman behind the counter asks the girls if they need any help.

The girls start picking out cakes and soon realize that they’ve selected too many. Olivia suggests that they get cupcakes instead of a full-sized cake. As for what the point of this scene is, I have no idea. Perhaps to show the bakery, as part of the Lego Friends set? To make sure that little girls know that they can own the place their heroines shopped in? I’m really not sure. But this scene has no baring on the plot.

Next the girls talk about what to pack for the trip. Stephanie says that they’ll need rubber boots. Andrea informs her friends that she doesn’t “do” practical, but for this trip, she’ll make an exception.

Back at the vet, Sasha is helping Molly, the puppy with the broken leg. Mia is hovering over her and nitpicking about how she wraps the bandage on the puppy. Emma pulls Mia away and tells her that she’s probably making Sasha nervous. She points out that the vet tech has her own way of doing things.

Mia is thinking about skipping the dolphin watching trip in order to help take care of the animals when she turns and sees that Molly is bandaged and happy. Mia immediately backs down and tells Emma that she was right. The teenager tells Sasha that she did a great job.

I’m not entirely sure what this scene has to do with anything either. Sasha, if she is indeed a vet tech, has had training and education that Mia hasn’t had. If so, why is Mia being so picky when she’s just a teenager and Sasha is a trained and educated professional? Additionally, why is Mia so controlling that she has to demand that Sasha does everything her way?

At any rate, the episode picks up the next day at the dock. The girls all arrive wearing yellow rain coats and rubber boots. As they get onto the dock they see Ms. Stevens. She is wearing a one-piece bathing suit and a sarong. The girls see a dinky, old, gray fishing boat and think that that’s the boat they will be taking on their trip.

Emma jokes that Ms. Stevens will be the best dressed on the their boat. But the teacher informs the girls that the decrepit fishing boat isn’t their vehicle, a glimmering white 3-story yacht is their boat. And this is where the episode falls apart.130731a-lego-friends-41015-dophin-cruiser

This boat, known as the Dolphin Cruiser, isn’t just a part of the story, it’s an actual toy that children can buy. This takes the story of science and discovery and turns it into yet another attempt to sell toys to children. The story stops being about invention and becomes a way for a company to make money.

For me, the revelation that the plot’s focus was just about selling a piece of plastic cheapens the science and education that they were trying to put into the episode. The Dolphin Cruiser is just another toy. It has nothing to do with education or dolphin bycatch.

At any rate, Andrea tells her instructor that, “We can’t take a yacht looking like this!” The girls ask to go home and change. At this point, so far, the girls have been very unconcerned with their appearance and clothing. But Lego Friends wants to make sure that you know that these characters are girls and as such, they have to be fashion conscious.

The girls return quickly, this time wearing bathing suit tops, shorts and sunglasses. The other girls come aboard and Emma notes that she forgot her camera. She goes back to get it.

The four teenagers start to look around the yacht. Giving the future owner of the Dolphin Cruiser a tour of what features they can expect when they convince their parents to buy it for them. Here’s the commercial for the Dolphin Cruiser, just in case you’re curious.

The girls all lay out on the top of the yacht and catch some sun. Stephanie comments, “I could spend some serious time here. It’s official. This yacht is spankin’.” Mia then mentions that Emma is very quiet. Then her phone rings. It’s Emma. Mia picks it up and discovers that they’ve left Emma on the dock.

Somehow, through their excitement the girls had completely forgotten about their friend. The teens go to Ms. Stevens and inform her that they’ve left Emma. The teacher, who failed to do a head count, asks the girls what they should do. Stephanie suggests turning around since they aren’t that far out. Just then, Andrea sees a jet ski (which can also be yours upon the purchase of the Dolphin Cruiser!).

The girls start to argue over who gets to pick up Emma, but Olivia goes down a water slide and gets onto the jet ski before anyone else can get to it. She gets Emma and the girls ride back in life vests, which seem to have materialized out of nowhere. The two girls jet ski back to the boat.

Call me cynical, but this entire sequence seems to be another way to showcase a feature of the toy. A teacher really left a child behind and had no idea when she only had to keep track of 5 teenage girls? None of Emma’s friends noticed that the dark-haired young woman wasn’t aboard as they toured the yacht? Accidents can happen, but on a trip like this, it just seems a convenient way for the episode to show up another feature of the toy that they’re trying to sell.

As they continue their tour, the girls spot some dolphins. Then they see fishing boats… and their nets are out! Thankfully, Andrea brought the Dolphin Alert System with her. She suggests trying it out. The girls lower it into the water and activate it. Andrea announces, “Dolphin alert, do your thing!”

The orca sounds start and upon hearing the sounds of their predators, the dolphins turn around. The girls celebrate and the fishermen across the water congratulate them too. Mia looks down into the water and sees a baby dolphin that has gotten separated from the pod. Olivia finds the group of dolphins and Emma gently talks to the young animal.

The dolphin baby starts to follow the boat. Stephanie yells for the captain to stop the engine so that the dolphin doesn’t get hit. Andrea dives into the water to guide the dolphin back to its family. The dolphin, which apparently has no fear of humans whatsoever, eagerly follows Andrea.

legodolphinAnd yes, just in case you were wondering, the dolphin also has big, sexy eyelashes too. In case you were wondering about whether or not real dolphins have actual eyelashes, no, no they don’t.

Andrea reunites the baby dolphin with its pod and a helpful adult dolphin gives Andrea a ride back to the yacht. Stephanie observes, “I don’t speak dolphin, but that looks like he’s thanking us.” Back on the yacht, Mia wants to call and check on her animals, but they’re so far out to sea that they don’t have cell service.

The girls say goodbye to the dolphin pod and continue on their journey. Just then, the GPS goes out. Olivia offers to help. She accesses the laptop and starts to troubleshoot. But she can’t figure out how to fix it. Once again, it’s refreshing to see one of these main characters doing something proactive and not only proactive, but something not typically feminine.

Ms. Stevens as the girls what they should do. Andrea suggests sending a May Day out to the Coast Guard. Stephanie figures that the traveled South West to get out to where they are, so they need to go North East to get back. Mia tells them that they can use the sun as a compass point. Since the sun sets in the West, they then figure out where South West is. It just happens to be where the dolphin pod is.

The girls decide that the dolphins are pointing the way home. Andrea tells the other girls, “It’s their ocean, they would know.” Andrew, the boat captain, drives off towards the dolphins. Just then, the GPS restarts. Shortly after that, their cell service is back. Mia gets a photo from the vet of the happy and well taken care of animals.

Andrea turns on some music for the girls to listen to and the girls eat their cupcakes. Stephanie then, for some reason, feeds a cupcake to a dolphin. As if that’s healthy or normal or advisable. The girls dance to the music and the dolphins mimic them.

The dolphin pod swims around the boat and form patterns on the GPS as they swim. The girls dance on the boat and that’s the end of the episode. While it’s the best episode of the trio, it’s still highly problematic.

The episode shows the girls being creative and inventive, but then it uses that plot line to showcase a toy that has nothing to do with either attribute. The girls learn about dolphins and dolphin bycatch, but then they feed the humanized dolphins a cupcake and dance with them as if they’re not wild animals at all.

Also, the sexy eyelashes have to go. They just do. No animal without hair follicles needs huge, sexy eyelashes on their heads. It’s just weird and strangely sexual.

I wanted to like this series, but it offers so little to girls and young women. Instead of focusing on the entire point of Legos, which is building and invention, the show feminized the plot lines and characters to the point where the focus is on relationships and female-centered hobbies.

With this final episode, the creators can say that they tried. They tried to integrate some of the awesome attributes of Legos into this female-centered show. But for as much progress as they made from Bratz or Barbie, it’s not enough. Girls and young women still deserve better.

Want to read all of the articles in the Lego Friends series? Naturally. Click here.

Bratz Super Babyz: A Novelization, Chapter 6

Bratz super baby - jasminNB: This is a novelization of the film, Bratz Super Babyz. The dialogue is taken verbatim from the movie. The rest are things that I added in, in an attempt to explain some of the stranger parts of the film. To read all parts of this novelization, click here.

Chapter 6

Sasha raced through the sleeping quarters and made her way back to the front of the ship. She saw the Bratz hovering outside, unsure how to gain entry to the interior. Sasha noted the complex control panel on the wall and bypassed the security measures that Tuber had put in place. Within seconds she had opened the door.

The girls flew in and surrounded the Potatoes, who had just caught up with Sasha. What happened next was such a painfully cheesy, inept and embarrassing fight scene that the Bratz tried to eliminate it from their minds.

The four Bratz whacked the Potatoes with chairs, Jade glued Tot and Yam and swung them around. Cloe yelled in Tuber’s face. Yasmin finally tied up all of the Potatoes using the same roots that had been used to capture them and suspended the four creatures from the ceiling.

Sasha looked over at Tuber, who was still in his baby form. “What’s that?” Sasha asked, wrinkling her nose at the strange-looking child.

“The baby from the ride,” Yasmin said. “He’s really a little monster,” she added in disgust. Tuber glowered at her. If only she knew the true extent of what he had done in his short life. Being called a monster was a niceity.

“I’m really like them,” Tuber said, trying to sound convincingly sweet. “But I wanted a better life. And I couldn’t wait, so I took the Matter Exchanger and changed myself into a baby.”

“We forgive you, Tuber!” Tot said, naturally blaming the Potatoe leader for everything that had happened to them. “Just don’t let them mash us!” He pleaded.

“All we want is our Matter Exchanger,” Tuber lied. “So I can turn myself back into my original form and then we can go back home.”

“Oh yes,” Yam added, catching on to exactly what Tuber was doing. “Just please return our properly and we will leave your planet promptly.”

“We don’t have anything of yours,” Cloe said.

“What are you talking about?” Yasmin demanded.

“Our Matter Exchanger,” Tuber innocently told them. “Your Gran gave it to you.”

Sasha thought for a second. “You mean the Zultra Zapper toy?” She asked.

“Yes, yes!” Tot shouted in delight.

“So that’s how we got super powers!” Sasha said, mostly to herself. Her brain was working out exactly what had happened and she wanted to share with her friends, but being that she was so much more intelligent than all of them, she wasn’t sure if she should.

Sasha remembered the events of the past few days. “Gran pushed a wrong remote. That’s why you captured me?” She asked the Potatoes. “What’s all you want?”

“Uh yes,” Yam lied. “We’re, ahem, sorry. We won’t cause any more trouble,” he said, hanging his head in fake contrition.

“But we don’t have it,” Cloe pointed out. “It’s at home.”

“At your palace?” Spud asked.

“Palace?” Jade balked. “At Gran’s house.”

“Where would that be?” Yam asked, carefully.

“2039 Maple,” Sasha recited. “Wow, I could never memorize it before.”

“Oh,” Spud said, exchanging glances with the other Potatoes.

“Why did you come here?” Jade asked, shifting her weight and crossing her arms over her tiny chest.

“To be worshiped and taken care of. Like you,” Tot told them. The other Potatoes looked at him in horror. He was saying too much.

“Like us? Sasha asked. “What are you talking about?” Even with her superior intelligence, she wasn’t sure what they were getting at.

“We want to be babies like you and not work anymore,” Tot said. Tuber cringed. Now the Super Babyz would know that they had no intention of leaving the planet.

“So do we,” Sasha turned. She stopped hovering in the air and slumped her shoulders in exhaustion.

“It’s hard work,” Cloe added.

“We’re tired of being superheroes,” Jade affirmed.

“Yeah, we wanna be back like we were,” Yasmin sighed.

Tuber couldn’t believe their luck. These Babyz were so vain that they hadn’t even noticed that Tot had revealed their plan. They were all too obsessed with themselves to see what the Potatoes were up to. Even the smartest one didn’t care.

*

Across town, Gran was channel surfing, trying to find any information about new drug crazes and what toddlers were doing these days. She fumbled for a remote, trying to keep her popcorn bowl balanced on her lap as she did. But the bowl was too slippery against her bulbous thighs. She dropped the popcorn and leaned over to retrieve the bowl, swearing violently as she did.

Gran’s hand gripped the remote as she moved and she accidentally pressed the button on the Matter Exchanger. Green lightening issued from the object again. The lightening left the house and made its way back to the Bratz Babyz, all the way in Adventure Universe.

The girls saw the lightening a split second before they felt a drain on their psyche. When they looked around at each other, a second later, they saw that each of the Babyz now had their hair up in a pony tail or pig tails, instead of down as it had been before.

Yasmin, who had been hovering before the lightening hit them, fell to the ground. “Uh oh,” Sasha said, searching her mind for any explanation of what had just happened and finding none.

None of the Potatoes truly understood how the Matter Exchanger worked. Tuber had no idea why the Babyz had been transformed in the way they wanted and why no one else in the town had been. Also, why had it changed their hair? Tuber shook off the thoughts. They were powerless.

“Look!” Spud said.

“Their powers are gone,” Tuber told the others, in satisfaction. He looked over at his comrades and saw that the Potatoes had been changed into babies themselves. Each of them looked like he did. Strange, pock-marked, dark-skinned, and had strange dreadlocks that resembled roots.

“We all got our desired form,” Spud said, happily. Stepping out of the roots that had burst around them when they had grown in size.

“Who activated the Matter Exchanger?” Yam questioned.

“Gran?” Cloe asked, rubbing her hand over her arm. She missed her powers of flight already.

“Who’s Gran?” Yam asked, cluelessly.

“The servant class creature assigned to their care,” Tuber reminded him. “It is wonderful. Devoted, attentive,” he described. The Potatoe baby sighed in happiness. Their plan was going better than any of them had expected.

“Let’s have the Gran serve us!” Yam declared.

“Wait!” Cloe wailed. “You can’t!”

“Oh yes, we can!” Yam shouted. “Get them!” He ordered.

The Potatoes easily tackled the Bratz Babyz. Without their powers the girls’ helplessness became a self-fulfilling prophecy. They felt helpless, so they acted helpless. They were tied up within seconds.

“Tot!” Yam barked.

“Yes, sir!” Tot responded, overjoyed at their progress in the last minute.

“Program the ship to take off. Set it on cruise control,” he ordered. “Straight back to the home planet where they’ll be made to serve our former masters!”

Tot leapt onto the console chair and started programming the ship as fast as he could with his new fingers. He arranged everything, just as Yam had ordered, glowing with delight. “At sunrise, this ship will have built up enough power to lift off,” He informed his fellow Potatoes.

“To Gran’s house!” Yam shouted in delight.

Tuber let the other Potatoes run ahead of him. Once they were gone, he turned back to the girls and smiled, evilly. He pressed the stun button on his gun and the laser weapon shot a green ball of light in front of the girls. It rendered them unconscious.

The leader walked off whistling to himself. The last time he had used that button, he had rendered his date unconscious. It felt nice to use it on someone again. Tuber headed out into the park with his compatriots, feeling the weight of leadership and obligation lifted off of his tiny shoulders.

*

It was morning when the Bratz finally awoke. Light was streaming through the small windows alerted them to the fact that it was at least twelve hours after they had been knocked out. The girls looked at each other in horror.

“Where?” Sasha asked, observing her surroundings. “Oh no, we fell asleep!” She declared.

“Oh,” Cloe moaned softly, wrinkling her nose. “It wasn’t a bad dream.”

“Yep!” Yasmin declared in frustration. “We’re really locked in an alien spaceship, set to blast off at sunrise!”

The girls looked at each other. The situation was bad enough without Yasmin summing it up. Sasha looked out of the window and saw that the sun had already risen. She furrowed her brow. How could the sun already be up if the ship was supposed to take off at sunrise? She shook it off, figuring that maybe that Tot had miscalculated.

“With no superpowers to get us out,” Sasha reminded everyone.

“And I really need to go to the bathroom,” Jade added. Cloe motioned over to a corner. Jade looked at her friend, then at the corner, then back at her friend. She decided that she would have to do worse things in her life. So she went.

Sasha ran over to the control panel and stared at all of the blinking lights and symbols written above the buttons. “I can’t figure it out, anymore,” Sasha said, trying to remember how she had controlled the instruments before. There was nothing.

“Girls,” Yasmin started, “We’re going to get shot into space and end up on some potato planet!” The latina girl pointed at one of the many clocks. It read that it was already 7am in Stilesville. She wasn’t sure what pointing at the clock was supposed to do, but she felt as if she had to point to it at that second.

“Not to mention poor Gran!” Cloe added.

“Huh?” Yasmin asked, unsure of why Cloe was talking about Gran when they were the ones who would have to make friends with, date and eventually marry Potatoes.

“Guys, there’s an alien invasion happening right now, at Gran’s house,” Cloe said, her voice climbing several octaves. “Potatoes, evil potatoes, alien potatoes are attacking! And we have to stop them!”

“How can we do that?” Jade questioned. “We’re just, like, regular babies again.”

The girls sighed deeply. “We gotta get back there,” Cloe said, even though she had no idea how. “I mean, who knows what they’ll do once they get the remote-control-whatchamacallit back?”

Yasmin’s hand flew to her mouth. “Gosh, I didn’t even think about that! I hope they don’t turn Gran into something weird.” The image of Gran as a Potatoe immediately came to mind. She shook her head in fear.

“I think the matter changer thing only turns you into something you want to be,” Sasha pointed out. She might not have been super intelligent anymore, but she had noticed a pattern.

“Uh oh,” Cloe said, loudly. “I hope Gran doesn’t sing that “I Wish I Were a Weiner” song.”

“Yes, that would be a trad-egy,” Jade said, now picturing Gran as a hot dog.

“Tragedy,” Sasha corrected, her mind searching for ways to get out of the space ship.

“I guess you still know everything,” Jade accused, sarcastically.

“Guys, don’t fight,” Yasmin interjected. “Let’s figure out how to get out of here. We’ve got to save Gran.”

“Wow, Yas,” Sasha said, in admiration. “Way to focus,” she congratulated the little girl.

“She’s right, guys,” Cloe interjected. “Let’s stop acting like babies and work this out.”

The children all put their hands in the middle, now unafraid of Jade and her goo. “Go babyz!” They shouted, happily.

But for all of the positivity, the ship was much more difficult to figure out than they had originally been anticipating. Yasmin got a hold of one of the laser guns and messed with the settings until she accidentally fired the weapon and a bolt of red light ricocheted through the ship.

Cloe couldn’t even manage to figure out how to sit in the control chair correctly and got caught, causing Jade and Sasha to have to rescue her. Sasha had taken to the controls like a hyperactive typist. She pushed every button, in order, and when they didn’t do anything, she tried it in reserve order.

Jade flopped down into one of the co-pilots chairs and activated the ship’s force feed function. It shot green goo into her face in a suggestive way. Cloe and Yasmin eventually walked over to the ship’s door and shouted at it while pounding away with their tiny fists.

Feeling the frustration and panic and now annoyed at the sounds of her friends beating on the metal door, Sasha pounded her fist into the console. But as she did, she pressed the two buttons that activated the override and the door opened.

The girls didn’t even have time to congratulate themselves as they rushed out of the ship. They slid down the saucer’s ramp and crashed into Ralph and Earl, who had been told by their bosses that the saucer was absolutely not a part of the park and had to move.

Ralph looked at the little girls in surprise. “How’d you get in there?” He asked.

“Through the door,” Yasmin snapped back. They didn’t have time for this.

“Where did you come from?” Earl questioned.

“Mommy says the stork brought me,” Cloe said, sweetly.

The girls didn’t stop to tell the two men about the ship or what was happening. They were so focused on getting to Gran that they ran past the park employees. Confused, the two boarded the ship. Just as they cleared the walkway, the door slammed shut, the ramp lifted and an alarm sounded.

The ship powered up and within seconds, took off into the sky. Earl and Ralph, scared and terrified, held onto each other as they felt themselves being lifted past Earth’s atmosphere. The two watched in horror out of the window as the sky turned from blue to white to inky black. Although neither grasped it at the time, they were trapped and they would never return to their home planet.

*

The Bratz Babyz walked down one of Stilesville’s busy streets. They had already past the mall, the only landmark that they all knew and now they were completely unsure of where they were.

“We’re never going to get back to Gran’s,” Yasmin whined.

Sasha glared at her friend. What a Negative Nancy. “I can’t even remember the address now,” she lamented. She wished that she could have been more helpful, but she felt so lost and scared.

“I can!” Cloe offered. “2039 Maple,” She recited perfectly.

“I knew you could do it,” Jade said, excitedly. “Yay, Cloe!” She looked around at her friends. They knew the address. “Now what?” She asked the girls.

“Just keep walking,” Sasha said, impatiently. They had so much ground to cover, they didn’t have time to stand around and talk.

“Wait, I have an idea,” Yasmin said.

“No, let’s keep going,” Sasha said. She was the smartest person there, after all. Her idea had to be best.

“Stop being so bossy, Sasha,” Jade ordered. “I wanna hear Yas’s idea.”

Sasha cringed. She had gotten used to be extraordinarily smart. Now she was just regular smart and it stung. “You’re right. I’m sorry, Pretty Princess,” she said, softly. “What was your idea?”

Yasmin pointed to the store that they were standing in front of. It was the pizza parlor that Gran liked to order from. She then pointed to the pay phone. Sasha nodded. The plan had already come together in her mind.

The girls stood on top of one another to form a stack large enough to get to the pay phone. Jade on the bottom, then Cloe, then Sasha. Adults walked past the four toddlers and just looked at them. No one seemed to notice that they were all alone and in need of assistance.

“Okay, dial these numbers,” Yasmin said, reading the store’s delivery number off of the building’s awning.

Inside of the building, Ted, the same clerk who had been abducted by the Potatoes had just started his shift. “Pizza. How can I make your day?” he asked, blinking his blood shot eyes. After his abduction, he had been dealing with his stress and fear the only way he knew how; one bong hit after another.

A few minutes later, Ted exited the shop carrying two boxes of pizza in a warmer sleeve. He got into his beat up Ford Focus and set the pizza in the passenger seat. As he fiddled with his radio settings and tried to get the temperamental AC to work, the Bratz Babyz climbed into his back seat and hid on the floor boards, beneath his vision.

Of course, by that time, Ted was so baked the four small children could have held a parade in his backseat and he wouldn’t have noticed or cared. Ted found a song that he liked and sat back, enjoying the music. He plugged in his phone to charge and then took off for his delivery location.

*

The Focus pulled up at Gran’s house about ten minutes later. Ted had almost sideswiped a biker, run a red light and sped through the neighborhood, but the only punishment he had received was a middle finger from the motorcycle rider and an angry horn honk from a car that had stopped short to avoid plowing into him.

Ted grabbed the pizzas from the passenger’s seat and approached the large house. He recognized it after having delivered to it several times before and was relieved that he wasn’t in for anymore stressful insanity in his life. He knocked. “Pizza delivery,” he called.

Gran came to the door out of curiosity. She looked through the peep hole and, seeing that it was her regular pizza delivery boy, opened it. “You must have the wrong house, young man,” she informed him. “I didn’t order any pizza.”

The clerk looked at her, stupidly. It took a few seconds for her words to register with him. “Ah, great,” he muttered. “This is not turning out to be my week,” he explained to Gran, even though she hadn’t asked. “First, I’m tied up by aliens, then I get yelled at by my boss cause I’m late to work, and now you –”

“Oh you poor dear,” Gran said, cutting him off before he mentioned that his girlfriend had broken up with him after finding a strange pair of panties in his laundry. “I’ll pay for the pizzas, if it’s like that. Come on in. You can put them in the kitchen.”

Ted followed Gran into his house, thanking the world for easily-manipulated old ladies. The store clerk/pizza delivery boy walked into the kitchen and diligently held the pizza boxes while he waited for Gran to go through her purse. She rooted around, trying to remember where she had put her wallet.

The young man looked around the kitchen and suddenly saw Tuber sitting in the highchair at the kitchen table. He gasped. “It’s you!” Ted said, recognizing the baby through his haze of weed.

“Yes. It is I,” Tuber confirmed in his low voice. “Greatest baby of them all. Have you returned to apologize? Here I sit, in my throne at last. Worship me, you disagreeable lowlife!”

Ted screamed. The terror and desperation of his abduction came flooding back to him. He threw the pizza boxes up in his terror and ran out of the house. Gran jumped, looking over at the young man in surprise. She trailed after him, holding a 20 dollar bill in her hand.

“I said I’d pay,” Gran called after him.

But it was too late. Ted got into his car and took off, going about four times the speed limit when he blew past a stop sign and plowed into the wrong lane across the intersection.

“Poor demented soul,” Gran commented, lowering her hand. “Teens are so troubled these days,” she said to herself. She wondered if he was on whatever was affecting her little girls. She bit her lip. Maybe Gran should have tried to talk to him and see if he was also inordinately sleepy all the time.

“Gran!” Tuber called from the kitchen. “More pudding, please!”

“Coming, Jade dearest,” Gran responded, closing the front door and instantly forgetting about the pizza boy and his problems.

Slower cooker high-protein pizza dip

IMG_1597Looking for a delicious, easy to make pizza dip? Only have a few ingredients and like to just throw things in a pot and walk away? I have the perfect recipe for you! Read on and find out how to make yourself this delicious dip with high-protein ingredients.

I got the recipe from here and added my own twist on it.

Ingredients:

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
12 oz pizza sauce
1/2 cup chopped hamIMG_1599
1 container of cherry tomatoes (chopped in half)

Directions:

Combine ingredients in slow cooker and set to high for one hour. Stir occasionally to make sure that everything is evenly mixed. Turn to low once melted.

Set on keep warm until you are ready to refrigerate. Serve with veggies and enjoy.

Last Dance for Grace, Part XI

crystal_mangum2010-med-wideCase Closed

Crystal Mangum is determined. “I refuse to let this [the scandal] hang around my neck like a stone.” She adds, “The only way for any event in your life to become a defining moment is for you to let it be one.” (Mangum, page 185) As cute as that sounds, these events did define her life and she doesn’t get to say that they didn’t. Even if someone wants to argue that the Duke lacrosse rape scandal isn’t the biggest event in her life, there is one other event that happened later that definitely would take the place.

“Things happened and I want everyone to stop using this as a reason to support their own case.” (Mangum, page 185) Is she addressing Vincent Clark and Myra Shird in this statement? If she’s not, she should be.

But Crystal has already moved on to talking about the media storm again. “There was one occasion that really frightened me. While going to pick my kids up from school, I noticed several cars following me… I eventually pulled onto a side street and into a cul-de-sac and started blowing my car horn to attract attention. When the people in their houses started coming out, the would-be paparazzi backed off.” (Mangum, page 186)

Crystal moves onto something else and it makes me wonder just why she’s including so little about what was going on with the case during this time. She acts completely oblivious to the politics and It seems strange that Crystal, the woman at the eye of the storm, acts like she had no idea what was going on in the world. She writes that she just cooperated with the investigation and remained completely ignorant. It seems that the only thing she really knows for sure is that there are wicked right-wing bloggers don’t like her.

But despite admitting that she doesn’t know what’s going on; she’s ready to comment on the DA, the defense lawyers, and the media. Meanwhile, Crystal doesn’t even mention anything about what happened to the Duke lacrosse players. When the case first broke, no one doubted her story at all. Everyone was ready to toss the lacrosse players in jail without a second thought. People weren’t walking around outside of 610 North Buchanan with signs that read “Castrate” because they were being critical of Crystal.

Here are some quotes from professors at Duke and media commentators to illustrate the point:

Huston Baker (Prof of English and African-American studies at Duke):

“[The lacrosse players are] White, violent, drunken men… veritably given license to rape, maraud, deploy hate speech-”
(Taylor & Johnson, page 106)

“46 white guys on the Lacrosse Team at Duke… may well have raped more than one woman.”
(Taylor & Johnson, page 106)

“LIES! You [a lacrosse player's mother who wrote him a letter] are just a provocateur [sic] on a happy New Years Eve trying to get credit for a scummy bunch of whine males! And forgive me if your [sic] really are, quite sadly, the mother of a “farm animal.” ”
(Baydoun & Good, page 100)

“[The lacrosse players are] white slave masters [who] were the perpetrators of sexual assault on black women… White men [who] portrayed black women as especially erotic, more driven to sexual pleasure and expressiveness than white women.”
(Taylor & Johnson, page 108)

Wahnnema Luciano (Prof of English and African American studies at Duke):

“As part of this dynamic, the young woman, black and non-wealthy, made even more vulnerable by virtue of being employed by the perfect offenders and outnumbered, approaches the state of the perfect victim.”
(Yeager & Pressler, page 120)

Mark Anthony Neal (Prof of African-American Studies at Duke):

“When a young black woman was allegedly raped, sodomized, robbed and beaten by members of the Duke University Lacrosse team of March 13 of this year, it was initially treated as little more than another case of “(privileged) boys gone wild.” This in all likelihood, regardless of what happened inside of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd, the young men were hoping to consume something that they felt that a black woman uniquely possessed. If these young men did in fact rape, sodomize, rob and beat this young woman, it wasn’t simply because she was a woman, but because she was a black woman.”
(Yeager & Pressler, page 123-124)

Karla Holloway (Prof African-American Studies at Duke):

“At Duke University this past spring, the bodies left to the trauma of a campus brought to its knees by members of the Duke University’s Lacrosse team were African Americans and women. It was precisely this demeanor toward women and girls that mattered here. The Lacrosse team’s notion of who was in services of whom and the presumption of privilege that their elite sports’ performance had earned seemed their entitlement as well to behaving badly and without concern for consequence.”
(Baydoun & Good, page 106)

“White innocence means black guilt. Men’s innocence means women’s guilt. These capacious categories, which were in absolutely play the night of the team’s drunken debacle, continue their hold on the campus and the Durham community.”
(Baydoun & Good, page 108)

Amanda Marcotte (blogger):

“I had to listen to how the poor dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and f**ked her against her will – not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out. Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman without anymore people getting all wound up about it? So unfair.”
(Taylor & Johnson, page 334)

“-the young men on the lacrosse team are being very nicely shaped to take the mantle as the next generation of white masters of America-to demonstrate what others have been saying all along about this Duke case, which is that rape is a result of social inequities and that it’s a reenactment of male entitlement to women’s bodies, particularly those of women in the social classes beneath them.”
(Pandagon, May 17, 2006)

And then there was Wendy Murphy and Nancy Grace, among others. Seriously, there were lots of people who were and some that still are, against the Duke lacrosse players. Even after Crystal’s wild stories were proven to be false, the young men that she accused still have people out there believing that they raped a woman even though it’s pretty clear that they didn’t. So who is the victim here?

“People can criticize how Mike Nifong conducted himself in the case. I would have preferred that he never made any statements because everything he was saying about the case was essentially in support of me.” (Mangum, page 186) What? She doesn’t want Nifong talking about her when he was supporting her, but she doesn’t want anyone saying anything negative about her her either?

You just can’t win with Crystal. She claims not to want publicity, but she publishes this book. She claims not to want people to talk about her, but she gives media interviews. She doesn’t like it when people say nice things about her, she doesn’t like it when people say mean things about her.

But now, after claiming ignorance about the entire case, “Throughout the summer and fall of 2006 I would occasionally explore what was going on with the case.” (Mangurn, page 187) Did she just look up blogs and articles that fell perfectly in line with her persecution complex? And how can she be the victim in a case, the person who supposed to be at the very center, and have to look up information on CNN.com like a bystander?

One thing Crystal did notice, “I experienced the same treatment as Mr. Nifong, but tried to ignore untrue comments.” Mangum, page 187) It’s statements like this that remind the reader that Crystal really does believe that she was attacked and as such, makes everything she claims actually true. So everyone saying that she lied is actually, in her mind, lying. It’s sometimes difficult to remember this once you know the background to events and see how the truth doesn’t line up with her stories.

And now another statement that doesn’t make sense, “So, despite the offers to appear on major talk shows and proposals to buy rights to my story, I turned them all down. I had to remind myself that this was not about money.” Mangum, page 187) So now, more than two years later, after the media frenzy has died down and people are trying to get on with their lives, Crystal suddenly decides that she needs to publish a book about herself. Which she’s selling… for money…

Nevertheless, Crystal finds her way back to religion, “Remember, I felt deeply that the Lord had let me down once before, and it was a struggle to give church another chance.” This doesn’t even make sense. God keeps letting her down, so she’s going to give him yet another try to disappoint her? “I had no choice this time.” (Mangum, page 188) Yes, because Crystal is the ultimate victim with no agency or abilities of her own to work through her own problems.

Eventually, the rape charges were dropped from the case. There simply wasn’t enough evidence to try the young men for that crime. But there remained charges of kidnapping and sexual assault. Crystal remained hopeful that she would get her day in court. “I felt that if we could at least be given a chance to get to court and I got on the stand, people would be able to see that this was not a witch hunt against “innocent college boys.” ” Mangum, page 188)

“The critics had been calling on Mike Nifong to do something.” Like drop the case. “Now that he had by reducing the charges, it still wasn’t enough.” Because all of the charges should have been dismissed. “When were we going to out everything on the table?” Mangum, page 188) Things got put on the table. That’s why the charges were dropped.

Moving on, “I felt then that the case really had not been investigated on account of all of the other things going around it, such as conflicting and confusing interviews with people like Kim/Nikki Roberts who was trying to get 15 minutes of fame at my expense.” Mangum, page 189) It’s astounding that Crystal criticizes Kim for “conflicting” and confusing interviews, given her own track record.

But Crystal has a good point about the illustrious Ms. Roberts. After the scandal broke, Kim was able to appear on TV and be interviewed for articles regarding the case. But that wasn’t enough Kim decided to milk her experience for all that it was worth. So she sent the following e-mail to 5W Public Relations:

Hi!
My name is Kim and I am involved in the Duke Lacrosse scandal. Although I am no celebrity and just an average citizen, I’ve found myself in the center of one of the biggest stories in the country. I’m worried about letting this opportunity pass me by without making the best of it and was wondering if you had any advice as to how to spin this to my advantage.

I am determined not to let any negative publicity about me overtake me. I’m so confused as to who to talk to for relevant advice and I hope that you can return my e-mail.

If you cannot help, do you know of any names and numbers I can call?

Thanks for your time,

The 2nd Dancer…

Yes, Kim turned into yet another person who was looking to use the scandal for her own ends. It’s incredibly sad that she would ask a PR company how she could “spin” a rape charge. Also, signing her name as “The 2nd Dancer”? Is that her identity now? Not to mention that she viewed the entire thing as an “opportunity” that she didn’t want to pass her by. But what was she expecting? Her own reality show?

Meanwhile, back in Crystal Land, the case went from Mike Nifong’s hands to a special prosecutor and Crystal met with two of his employees, Mary Winstead and Jim Coman. When they begin to talk to Crystal about how they can move the case forward, Crystal comes up with some interesting statements.

I’m not even going to comment on these. “I had always tried to say what I remembered and not guess when I had talked to everyone… However, I was always encouraged to provide some sort of answer even wheel was not completely certain about something. I did not know a lot of things for sure just due to the way things happened. I wanted to make sure I could answer everything asked truthfully and to the best of my ability.” (Mangum, page 190)

The meeting continues with the attorney general’s employees and now three men from the Special Investigations Bureau. “I was given a long pointing stick and asked to go over the events of the night of March 13 while the people in the room stared at me… I struggled with my words and felt confused at times because I could not stand the looks I was getting.” (Mangum, page 190) Was she confused because she couldn’t remember which version of the story she was supposed to be giving?

Crystal describes the meeting as “excruciating and humiliating.” She writes “Instead it felt like I was on the witness stand trying to defend myself.” This is the position she would have been put into anyway, should the case go to trial. Later she considers that “Maybe he was getting me ready for being on the stand, but it was still painful.” Mangum, page 190)

But Crystal soon descends into frustration at the direction the meeting is taking. She thinks, “Why was not someone on my side in this?” Mangum, page 192) When no one comes to her rescue from the rapid fire questions set to her by Jim Coman, yet no one outright accuses her of lying, she becomes unsure of whose side the prosecutors are really on.

She writes “At least if they said that I would have been clear on where they were coming from. I would have understood this meeting for what it was, a way to tell the world that I was crazy and delusional.” (Mangum, page 192)

Crystal finally gives into her frustration and blurts out, “They are going to get away with it because Duke has paid everyone to be silent.” (Mangum, page 192) And the conspiracy theory continues. Do the prosecutors believe her? “I thought that maybe the special prosecutors were convinced thats was deranged because of what they had been hearing in the media.” Mangum, page 192) It’s hard to tell beyond her paranoia.

However, according to more reliable sources, during this meeting Crystal was “significantly impaired.” This would explain her confusion, frustration, crying and general emotional outbursts. She even admitted that she took the medications Ambien, methadone, Paxil and amitriptyline prior to the meeting. (Taylor & Johnson, page 350) I can’t imagine how she was even conscious after all of that medication. And once again, how can Crystal claim to accurately remember anything that happened during this meeting?

Crystal continues “How many times would I have to recount my story before I could just make it to court and get on the witness stand?” (Mangum, page 192) Why does Crystal think that all she needs to do in order to lock people away for rape is answer some questions on the witness stand? Does she really think that she’s so convincing they’ll declare the lacrosse players guilty without any evidence, shoddy police work, no matching witness statements and plenty of proof that the events didn’t happen? Where is her confidence coming from exactly?

But there isn’t going to be a trial and Crystal doesn’t understand why. She writes “As I read through the report, I thought, “Is this what I waited so long for? What about my rights?” ” Mangum, page 192-193) What about them? Imprisoning innocent people because you can’t take responsibility for your own mental health issues is not a right.

Grasping for straws Crystal wonders “If nothing else, there should have been enough evidence to prove that racial slurs where [sic] used during the assault.” Mangum, page 193) There isn’t evidence to prove it, because there was no evidence to prove that there was an assault in the first place.

Not to mention that the racial slurs, both Kim’s and the lacrosse player’s, happened outside of the house. If the Duke boys were supposed to be prosecuted because of the slurs, then wouldn’t Kim “little-dick white boy” Roberts be prosecuted too? It’s not nice to call someone names, but there’s this tiny thing call the First Amendment and it wasn’t created in order to protect anyone’s feelings.

Back to Nifong, Crystal writes that since the boys had been deemed innocent, Nifong lost his law license and now he was open to lawsuits, stating “It did not seem fair and I believe the majority of people who think rationally low what the North Carolina Bar did was well beyond what was necessary or had ever been done in the past.” Mangum, page 193) It’s funny how Crystal wants to appeal to people who think rationally.

Besides, Nifong wasn’t disbarred because people didn’t like his tie. He used Crystal, mishandled the case, suppressed evidence and turned a blind eye to the dishonest police work that had taken place. He faced the consequences for what he did and that is only fair.

Back to Crystal, she is once again the victim of the unfair media “I would have to listen to more talk about me being some crazy, drug-crazed hooker for another entire year.” (Mangum, page 193) At this point, post-innocent declaration, it’s fair to say that the media turned on her. Because they most certainly did. The media doesn’t like a liar. Particularly not one who had fooled them into feeling bad for her.

And now a disclaimer that was randomly thrown in: “If North Carolina said the case was closed, then it was closed. If the individuals who had been charged were said to be innocent, then they were innocent.” And now some backpedaling: “I did not have the time or resources to prove otherwise.” Mangum, page 193) And a subtle dig at the classic-ism issues present in the case. Crystal alludes to the fact that she could have won her case if she had the money and connections that the rich, white boys did.

And after stating “It was time to forgive and forget.” (Mangum, page 193) Crystal writes “I am left with hating the way it felt to be accused of being something I was not. So, of course I felt badly if any of the people charged were not held responsible for making my life a living hell.” (Mangum, page 194)

And thus the chapter ends.

MiST 102 – The Fallen

untitledyM finds out the guys’ deep dark secret… They’re bronies! The boys hardly have any time to hug their Twilight Sparkle plushies and grab their pony ear headbands when M makes them MiST. The material this time is a love story between Jaylyn, a lonely emo girl, and Brian, the very first guy who was ever nice to her. Will their love linger on through the ages? Find out in MiST 102.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lego Friends: Stephanie’s Surprise Party

LEGO-FRIENDSEpisode two of Lego Friends, Stephanie’s Surprise Party, starts off with an introduction to the five main characters. They all perform hobbies, some of which you never see in the show, and say their names. For example, Olivia is holding two beakers of green liquid and she pours one into the other and there is a small explosion. None of the three episodes show Olivia ever doing anything in connection with beakers and there’s only a weak connection with science in general, and it has nothing to do with chemistry.

But moving on. The show starts off at school, where the girls are just getting out of class. They talk about how excited they are about the summer, even though Heartlake City seems to be in a perpetual summer. Andrea declares, “No school, no rules, so cool!” She is gushing about all of the things that she’s going to do with no parental supervision when the girls all cringe and point behind her. She turns to see Mr. Arkham, their history teacher, standing behind her.

Andrea straightens and tells him that she can’t wait for Monday’s history test. He just shakes his head and walks away. As if what she had said when she didn’t know that he was listening was in anyway even mildly questionable. Andrea says that she just knows that he’s going to call on her on Monday.

Stephanie then asks her girlfriends what the group wants to do for the weekend. She suggests hang gliding, pet sitting, art exhibit, rock concert and rock climbing. If only the girls were this active and adventurous. Seriously.

But Emma demurs and says that she has karate class and has to work on her side kick. Andrea claims to have voice training. Mia has to train horses. Olivia has to help Sophie at the vet. Stephanie brushes it off and says that she’s busy herself and has to pick out a home for the bunny that she rescued. The girls say goodbye and go their separate ways.

Or do they? Outside of the school, the girls, minus Stephanie, regroup and say that they’re glad that they got away from the blonde character. Now they can plan her surprise birthday party!

Sometime later, Stephanie goes to the pet store with her white rabbit, Daisy, to look for a per house for her. But she can’t decide on which house to get. She looks across the street and sees Emma’s karate class. She decides that Emma would be the prefect person to help her pick out the exact house for her rabbit.

She enters the Dojo and asks the instructor if he’s seen Emma. He says that her class isn’t until next Wednesday and when Stephanie mentions that she said that she needed to work on her side kick, the instructor looks confused and says that Emma is the best student he has. Implying that she doesn’t need to work on her karate at all. Feeling strange, Stephanie says goodbye and leaves.

At this point, it should be said that you should never lie to your friends. Even if it’s something innocent and fun like planning a surprise party. Lying is still lying and it can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication like this. No one should go through all of this drama in order to schedule a party.

Outside of the Dojo, Stephanie runs into Lacy. She tells her that she was looking for Emma and Lacy remarks, “And I thought you two were friends.” Stephanie tells her that there has to be some kind of explanation. Lacy casually says, “Of course,” and walks off.

Meanwhile, at the club house, the girls are planning Stephanie’s surprise party. They decide that it’s going to be a pool party at the community pool. As they talk about what they need to plan, Mia is practicing a magic trick that she wants to do at the party. She attempts to pull a rabbit from a hat, but instead pulls a squirrel who snuck in while she was setting up the trick. Olivia picks up the squirrel as if it’s not a wild animal that’s possibly carrying diseases.

Andrea then suggests that they work on their dance for the party. The girls all excitedly get down from the tree house and start practicing the dance. Which, of course, is to the song Best Friends Forever, which is also the theme song of the song. The animation on the dancing actually looks well done, all things considered.

Just as Andrea continues to lead practice, Stephanie walks past and sees the girls dancing. She wonders why they haven’t invited her and quickly decides that they must have texted her. She checks her phone only to find a text from her mother about chores. She is crestfallen. Stephanie ducks out of the way, so the girls don’t see her and runs off.

A few minutes later, Jacob skates by the foursome and calls to them, “Looking good, girls!” Even though, at this point, they’re just standing around. He says that he got the text about Stephanie’s surprise party and he wants to help. The girls put him in order of lights and hand him a huge box of outdoor lights.

Before the scene ends, Mia tries her magic trick once more but this time somehow manages to pull her flip flopout of the hat. Being that it went from her foot to the magic hat without anyone noticing, I think is pretty damn impressive. But everyone just laughs.

Back at the pet store, Mia and Olivia are looking for a present for Stephanie. The sales clerk shows them the pet houses that are suitable for a rabbit, which are the exact same ones that Stephanie looked at earlier that day. The girls pick out the one with pink and purple accents. They ask the clerk if the house is wired for sound, comes with a bed, pillow and has lights.

I didn’t understand this. Are the girls planning on living in there? I’ve never owned a rabbit, but I’m pretty sure that they don’t need a bed, lights to read the Rabbit Times by and Pandora streaming classical music the entire time. But what do I know?

The girls decide that they can customize the house themselves. But, of course, the episode never shows that. Mia and Olivia leave the pet shop carrying a large box and then they see Stephanie, who calls out to them. Not walking to have to explain the box to her, they duck around the corner and pretend that they didn’t hear her.

Sometime later, Stephanie is sitting on a dock, looking over over the water, with a rather forlorn expression on her face. Lacy rides by on her horse. As you do. Lacy asks Stephanie if she’s all alone. Stephanie explains that her friends lied to her about having plans and were dancing at the tree house.

Lacy, ever the helpful girl, suggests that maybe it’s Stephanie’s dancing. In order to prove her wrong, Stephanie busts a move and shows that there is simply nothing wrong with her dancing at all. Lacy tells her that sometimes friends don’t always give reasons for moving on. Sometimes they just do.

And then, seeing that Stephanie has no competition for her attention, Lacy asks her if she wants to go for a ride. Stephanie declines and tells Lacy that she is going to figure out her problems. She leaves, mentioning that tomorrow is her birthday.

The next morning, Olivia leaves for the pool and Stephanie slides on a pair of sunglasses and stalks her friend. Apparently her method of figuring all of this out doesn’t involve talking to her friends or being direct with them. No, her plan involves following them around like a creeper and spying on them.

Without any suspicion that the birthday girl is actually tailing her, Olivia meets with Mia, Emma and Andrea and they take photos in a photo booth together. I have to say, I liked the animation on this section. The girls’ expressions and silliness were really well done.

Next, Emma goes to pick up the birthday cake and Stephanie is hot on her trail. Emma, at one point, becomes suspicious and looks behind her only for Stephanie to duck into a store and pretend to be a mannequin in a window. Emma enters the store and looks at a cute sweater. But she leaves again as Stephanie has an awkward moment where a child notices that she’s actually a real girl.

Emma picks up the cake from the bakery and as she’s walking out, she finds herself face-to-face with Stephanie. The black-haired girl asks her friend what’s up. Emma explains that she just got a little snack. Adding on that she’s skipped breakfast.

Stephanie asks her where she’s going and Emma says that she’s going to the library. Stephanie, trying to jog her memory, says that that day is special. Emma doesn’t miss a beat and agrees that that’s today was the day that she agreed to volunteer at the art exhibit and Stephanie just reminded her of that. She walks off with the cake. Stephanie asks herself if she just got ditched on her birthday.

 

Cut to Jacob, just a block down on his skateboard. He trips and the board continues down the street. Emma, who can’t see where she is going on account of the huge box, accidentally steps onto the skateboard and the cake somehow flies up onto the air instead of crashing onto the ground like it would in the real world. Emma then performs a perfect side kick and the cake box lands squarely on her foot. She lands, on the other foot, and takes the cake off of her still perfectly balanced foot.

Just then, her karate instructor approaches her and tells her that it looks liker her lessons are paying off. He doesn’t mention who taught her to defy the laws of physics. But Emma humble tells him that she has a great teacher. When he asks her what’s in the large box she tells him that it’s a birthday cake and invites him to the party. Although the instructor looks young, if he’s a paid instructor at a Dojo, he’s probably too old to be going to a party with teenagers.

At any rate, back at the pool, the teens are still setting up for the party. Andrea tells Jacob to start putting up the lights by the jacuzzi. The next shot shows the girls, who are all innocent looking in shorts and bikini tops that are rather modest.

effcf2861e5886383c2e0746f98df40ecf5528bb Emma confesses that she feels terrible for lying to Stephanie. Olivia assures her that it will be worth it when they surprise her with the party. Because lying to your friends is okay as long as there’s cake involved.

Meanwhile, Mia is still working on her magic hat trick. She still can’t get it right though. This time, instead of pulling out a rabbit, a bubble floats out. Andrea is working on setting up the sound system. Olivia goes to help her when some feedback come out of the system. As she walks over, she tells Jacob that the lights go on a different wall.

In the next scene, Stephanie goes to Lacy’s ballet class where she is practicing on a bar. Lacy gives the blonde girl a baking kit and tells her happy birthday. Stephanie asks her if she wants to bake a cake today, as it seems appropriate. Neither of the girls have other plans, so they agree to do that later.

Back at the pool, Mia is still practicing her hat trick. You’d think that basic magic tricks would be easier than this, but apparently not. Mia finally manages to get the trick right and tosses the stuffed rabbit into the hair only to have a bird swoop down and fly off with it. This made me ask all kinds of interesting questions about the airspeed velocity of a bird carrying a toy twice its size. But anyway.

Mia asks herself where she’s going to get another rabbit. Then she sees Jacob and tells him that he’s hanging the lights in the wrong place. Again. Meanwhile, the other girls try out the stereo system and success! It plays the Best Friends Forever theme song from the show.

The girls are excited that they’re almost ready for the party to start. Then, Emma informs Jacob that he’s putting up the lights in the wrong place. Then each girl starts arguing about where the lights are supposed to go, as if it’s that big of a deal.

But Jacob, who has already moved the lights several times, informs the girls that the lights are staying where they are. The girls scoff and say, “Fine” in annoyed tones. Jacob exclaims, “Girls! Girl! I simply don’t get them!” As if this situation only happened because most of the participants have vaginae.

Someone says that the guests will be arriving soon. Jacob then claims that he has an idea and he runs off. Emma tells the girls that she just can’t wait to yell “Surprise!” when Stephanie comes. Just then, Olivia realizes that no one has invited Stephanie. The guests start streaming into the pool as the girls start trying to figure out how to get the guest of honor to the party.

Emma suggests that they tell Stephanie that it’s her birthday. But another girl points out that she knows when everyone’s birthdays are. Andrea says that they should tell Stephanie that there’s a dolphin drowning in the pool. But Mia points out how insane that is.

While the girls are still talking, Stephanie and Lacy ride up on the back of Lacy’s horse. I guess Lacy doesn’t have a car, so she just takes her horse everywhere, like in the olden days. Stephanie sees all of her friends at the pool and decides to go confront them for being such terrible friends.

As one of the girls says, “We don’t want this party to be a total bust,” Stephanie interjects, “Like our friendship?” The girls turn to see the guest of honor at the party, standing just a few feet from them, highly pissed off. Stephanie starts ranting about what friends don’t do to each other and right before she’s ready to scream, “I hate you!” and run off, she looks over to see a banner with her name on it.

Realization dawns. The girls tell her surprise and happy birthday. Andrea asks Stephanie if she thought that the group was trying to unfriend her. Stephanie at first denies it, but then admits that she did. She tells her friends not to do it again.

Lacy sees that the girls have apparently made up and starts to leave the pool. Stephanie sees her going and stops her, asking her to to stay and party with them. Lacy nonchalantly says, “I guess so.” Even though you can tell that inside she is doing a happy dance that someone actually wants to spend time with her.

Olivia encourages Stephanie to open her presents. The girls have given her one of the photographs that the girls took that morning in the photo booth, with a nice frame. They also give her the rabbit house and some flowers. Stephanie comments that she wishes that she would have brought Daisy.

Just then, Mia gets up onto on table and asks for everyone’s attention. She does her hat trick and despite only managing to successfully pull off the trick one time, she brilliantly does her magic trick, pulling Daisy from the hat. Everyone cheers and the rabbit hops into Stephanie’s arms.

After that, Jacob turns up the lights and illuminates the entire pool area. Olivia shyly tells her crush that she likes what he did. Their passionate exchange is interrupted by Stephanie telling her friends that they are simply the best.

After a group hug, Andrea starts up the boom box and all 5 girls dance to the Best Friends Forever song that they were practicing at the beginning of the episode. For some reason, Stephanie, who wasn’t at the practice or taught the choreography, knows the dances moves. I guess she’s such a good dancer that she can keep up with a dance that she doesn’t even know? I’m not sure. It’s never explained.

The episode ends with the song playing and everyone bobbing to the music, including a squirrel. Presumably the one that Mia pulled from the hat earlier. And that’s it. That’s the entire second episode.

Over all, the episode, just like the first one, is bland, unimaginative, and revolves around teenage girl drama. The cause of all the problems is a misunderstanding as the characters are entirely too innocent to actually do something wrong.

As for anything active or inventive, this episode is pretty devoid of it. The girls plan a party. But is that really challenging them and causing them to use their brains? No. No, it’s not.

For a toy that was originally based around building and adventure, this show seems to lack all of the elements that made it so interesting. Girls don’t need to be protected from things like basic engineering and creativity. Why aren’t the characters building something or being productive? Why is their storyline revolving around birthday parties and friendship like that’s all that girls should ever concern themselves with?

One more episode to go and one more chance for Lego: Friends to redeem themselves. Tune in next time to see if they sink or swim. That was a hint.

Want to read all of the articles in the Lego Friends series? Naturally. Click here.

Bratz Super Babyz: A Novelization, Chapter 5

944083_20071120_screen001NB: This is a novelization of the film, Bratz Super Babyz. The dialogue is taken verbatim from the movie. The rest are things that I added in, in an attempt to explain some of the stranger parts of the film. To read all parts of this novelization, click here.

Chapter 5

After the Super Babyz had saved various people and inflicted untold physical and psychological damage onto the grounds and people of Stilesville, they flew through the air, enjoying the afternoon. “What was great!” Sasha announced.

Yasmin yawned. “We’re awesome,” she affirmed.

“I don’t see any trouble,” Jade observed, half-heartedly looking down onto the park that they were flying over. She observed a cop being beaten by a group of homeless men, but quickly looked away. “Maybe we better go home before Gran wakes up,” she suggested.

“I never thought I’d say this, but a nap sounds really good right about now,” Cloe admitted, dipping down in the sky and quickly straightening herself out.

“Official Super Babyz don’t need naps,” Sasha said, indigently. Although she felt rather tired herself.

“Maybe Stilesville could do without the Super Babyz,” Jade said, “For an hour anyway.”

“Please,” Cloe begged. “Come on, Sasha, give us a break. My throat hurts from all that yelling.”

Sasha, who was now even more in charge than ever before and loving every second of it, sighed deeply. “Okay, okay. Maybe a nap is a good idea,” she reasoned. “I mean, we might have to do something important today. Like save the world from an alien invasion of something.”

The girls wearily sighed. They couldn’t imagine having to do anymore world saving after what they had just been through. Cloe wondered if she could pretend to be in a coma if they awoke her to go fight aliens.

“As if,” Yasmin counted. “I just wanna go home and have some of Gran’s spaghetti for lunch.”

“And ice cream for dessert,” Cloe added, thinking about Gran’s mint chocolate homemade ice cream.

“And a bubble bath,” Jade added, picturing herself in the bath, surrounded by pink bubbles and soft music.

“And a story,” Sasha finished.

The girls reached the house in a few minutes and flew through their open bedroom window. They landed softly on the floor and looked over at their beds.

“That was fun,” Yasmin said, stretching and yawning.

“Maybe we can do it again tomorrow,” Jade offered.

“But tomorrow we’re going to the park,” Sasha reminded her friends.

“Oh yeah,” Jade remembered. “I’d rather do that.”

The girls got into bed and snuggled down with their animals. The hallucinations held them tightly as they rested. But they had only settled down for a few seconds when Gran opened the door and stepped in. The girls, even though they were partly asleep, pictured the pets jumping out of bed and running for cover in their usual hiding spaces, where Gran couldn’t see them.

“Little girls,” Gran called, opening the door a little wider. “Time to get up. Oh, what good naps you took,” she commented. “Not a peep out of you.”

The girls rubbed their eyes and looked up. It felt like it had only been nanoseconds since they had closed them.

“You’ve been such good girls, I think we’ll do the park this afternoon,” Gran said.

The girls exchanged glances. None of them wanted to go to the park. They just wanted to sleep.

*

Back at Adventure Universe, the Potatoes were skulking around the rides. The park was closing in an hour, so they had to move quickly. They had a plan on how to lure the flying babies to the park and capture them. But while Tuber was convinced the plan would solve all of their problems, the others were anxious.

“Are you sure this is going to work?” Tot asked, nervously.

“I will bet my blackazoid on it,” Yam affirmed.

Tuber rolled his eyes and wondered who would be interested in betting on the Potatoe’s sex organ. He ignored the comment and focused on the task at hand. The group made their way to the Rockin’ Rocket ride.

Tot, doing his part to distract the park goers, got behind a man in line and kicked his foot. The man looked down, surprised from small sharp pain in his ankle. He saw Tot and the Potatoe laughed manically. Roots sprouted from his head and the man screamed in horror at the sight of the sentient Potatoe.

Satisfied that the diversion was working, the others walked around to the ride. “Go ahead, big hero,” Yam told Tuber. The Potatoe looked around, nervously. He approached a park employee and took a deep breath. He was ready.

*

The Bratz Super Babyz were sitting in their high chairs around the dining room table. Jade was fast asleep, face down in her food. The girls, who had noticed her snoozing for several minutes, realized that Gran was finishing cleaning the kitchen and coming to check on the girls.

“Kool Kat!” Sasha hissed. “Wake up!”

Jade lifted her head at the sound of her nickname. She groggily looked up and wiped some of the food from her face, making her hand sticky with the pudding substance.

“Butter my parsnips,” Gran remarked. “Yasmin, honey, use your napkin.”

Sasha rolled her eyes. Why had she bothered telling Jade to wake up? Gran wouldn’t have noticed if Jade was dead and decomposing.

“I’m Jade,” the little girl insisted.

“Oh yes, of course,” Gran said, not even hearing her adopted daughter. Gran wiped off Jade’s face with a wet towel.

“Gran, may we go to bed early?” Yasmin asked, yawning.

“Oh, you’re pulling Gran’s leg,” Gran laughed. She couldn’t imagine her rambunctious little girls wanting to go to bed early.

“Please, Gran?” Sasha asked. Her over-sized eyes were burning. She couldn’t wait to go to bed.

Gran looked at the girls skeptically. “The park couldn’t have worn you out,” She said, thinking out loud. “All you girls wanted to do was sit on the swings.” Gran quietly wondered if the girls were on drugs. She heaved a heavy sigh. She knew this day would come, but she never thought it would come so soon.

“We want to get a good night’s sleep,” Jade insisted.

“Well, if you really mean it,” Gran said, cautiously. “But you need to pick up your books and crayons in the den first,” she informed them.

The girls nodded, sleepily. Gran helped them down from their high chairs. The girls diligently trooped into the living room and started picking up their crayons and coloring books. Gran watched the girls, suspiciously. Were they hiding the marijuana in their crayons?

She watched them as she took one of the remotes and turned on the TV to the evening news. Maybe it would have a story about a new drug craze for toddlers and she could learn what was going on with her little darlings. Gran sat down in her recliner as a commercial was interrupted and a news anchor appeared on screen.

“A child is stuck on a ride gone wild at Adventure Universe,” he announced. The screen showed an image of the Rockin’ Rocket, zooming out of control, a child’s head just visible above the top of the car. “They’ve closed down the park and are bringing in the fire department,” he added, in a concerned tone.

Gran looked at the girls as they finished putting their coloring books away. “Get in bed, girls,” Gran said, gently. “Gran will be in to read you stories,” she assured them.

The girls all nodded and walked upstairs, their feet dragging. Once they got into the bedroom, Jade quickly looked down the hall for Gran and when she didn’t see her, she closed the door. Jade turned to the other girls in concern.

“You heard the news. The fire department can handle it,” she said.

“Yeah,” Cloe agreed. “They don’t need us.”

“But what if they do?” Yasmin asked, softly.

“Yeah,” Sasha confirmed. “I don’t know why we have these superpowers, but we do! So it seems like if we can help…”

“We should,” Jade said, finishing the other girl’s sentence.

“But what good are we if we’re sleepy,” Cloe asked. She had recently seen a story on TV about people who drove when they were tired and got into accidents. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to fight crime when exhausted either.

“We just have to buck up!” Sasha argued. “What kind of superheros would we be, if we fell asleep on the job?”

The girls wanted to fight for their nap time, but they knew that Sasha was too intelligent for them to argue with. “Hmmm… Okay. Let’s go,” Cloe said. She cringed inwardly. She just wanted to sleep.

The Bratz formed a circle and all put their hands in the center. Jade was the last to put her hand in and when she did, the other girls yanked their hands back. They didn’t forget about how Jade’s goo would get all of their hands and make all of them sticky.

Just then, they heard Gran’s footfalls on the steps. The girls scrambled into their beds and by the time Gran arrived in the room, they were all snuggled down, pretending to be fast asleep. Gran looked around in surprise. Were the drugs causing them to sleep so much?

“My goodness!” She remarked, mostly to herself. She decided that she better let the girls sleep it off. Gran quietly closed the door and walked back to the den, determined to figure out just what kind of drugs the girls were taking and where they had gotten them.

As soon as they heard the door close and Gran’s footsteps fade down the hallway, the girls jumped out of bed, ready to fight crime. In order to cover for them, the girls hallucinated their pets hiding in their beds and forming toddler-looking lumps under the blankets. The Bratz Super Babyz climbed out of the windows and flew off into the evening sky.

*

The girls flew straight to Adventure Universe. Right before they got to the park they saw the four Super Buds walking towards their cars in the parking lot. The four had planned to go out for a drink after going home to change. They had had enough of pretending to be super heroes. They now just wanted to be drunk.

“Look!” Cloe shouted, pointing at the heroes. “What luck!”

The girls all looked down and gasped when they saw the entire team walking past.

“Maybe they can take care of this one,” Cloe figured. They had engineered a similar rescue dozens of times on their TV show. What was one more?

“And we can go home,” Jade offered.

The girls didn’t even need to discuss how wonderful that would be.

“Yeah!” They declared, swooping down to where the four adults were walking to their cars. The girls flew down just in time to hear the last bit of what Smartessa was saying.

“I wish rides broke down more often,” the leader of the Super Buds declared. “I love it! We get the rest of the night off. They better pay us though,” she added in a dangerously low voice.

“Haven’t you heard?” Sasha demanded. “There’s an emergency!” She informed them, as if the Super Buds weren’t well aware of why they were being senf home.

“Oh…” Smartessa said, softly. She technically wasn’t on duty. Did she have to be nice to these kids? She was still in uniform. But she had already been sent home. Smartessa tried to think back to the training manual, but couldn’t remember what the exact rules were.

“We’d love to,” Smartessa started. “But, uh, there’s as lunar eclipse tonight and we lose our powers.”

Sasha cocked her head to the side. “The last lunar eclipse was in June,” she informed her.

Smartessa was done. It was bad enough she had to put up with stupid kids all day, now one was telling her about lunar eclipses? “Oh yeah, sure thing,” she said dismissively. The super hero walked to her 2000 Passat and slid behind the driver’s seat.

“I thought she was supposed to be super smart,” Yasmin whispered to her friends.

“Mr. Strechtastic!” Jade implored. “You’ll help us, right?”

The person portraying Mr. Strechtastic was a former body builder who had been banned from competition for using steroids. He was over trying to be a super hero. “Uh, sorry,” he said, walking away. He wasn’t sorry. He just wanted to go out and flex his muscles for whomever was willing to pay attention to him.

“Explodo Girl?” Cloe asked, her huge blue eyes filling with tears.

Explodo Girl, the least jaded of all of the super heroes, sighed deeply. Her heart yearned to help these little girls and make them see that there were super heroes and people who would always help those less fortunate than them. But she had just failed a calculus test and with that grade on the books, her GPA was dipping into academic probation territory.

She hated herself for doing it, but she turned away and said, “Not tonight. I’m off-duty.”

The Super Babyz looked at the last remaining hero, Johnny Speedometer. He looked at each of the girls and ran. He had had enough interaction with children and anymore would be entirely over his limit.

“J-Johnny?” Yasmin asked, her lower lip quivering. “What wimps!” She declared, her voice breaking.

“They don’t have the right to call themselves Super Buds!” Cloe said, tears streaming down her face.

“Don’t waste your tears over those fakes, Angel,” Jade said, wrapping her arm around her friend.

“Yeah, stop crying, Cloe,” Sasha said, a little sharper than she had intended. “Come on, someone has to help that baby.”

“We can do it,” Jade offered.

“That’s right,” Yasmin confirmed.

The girls turned to each other in excitement. “Let’s rock!” They all shouted.

The girls took off and flew over to the Rockin’ Rocket. They hovered next to the ride, everyone unsure of how to go about rescuing the child.

“You guys save the baby, I’ll work on the controls,” Sasha said. She flew down to the control panel that was already open. The lights were blinking red and gauge was showing that the ride was operating at three times normal speed.

Meanwhile, the Bratz arranged themselves around the ride and Jade used her goo to stick onto the car and hold the ride still. The huge machine creaked as inertia wanted to pull it forward but Jade held it back.

Cloe flew over to the car. “Hey kid!” She called. “Little kid! It’s okay. The Super Babyz are here!”

Yasmin flew over as well to help retrieve the child. “Come on out! We’ve got you,” she promised.

Just then, Corporal Tuber popped his head out of the ride. “That’s where you’re wrong, Babyz. We’ve got you.” Tuber reached into the car and pulled out a laser gun. He set it to capture and large roots whipped out of the barrel and wrapped Yasmin in the dirty vines.

Sasha was too busy trying to figure out the controls to see anything that was going on above her. She had quickly deduced that this was no accident. The controls had been sabotaged. “Someone’s been messing around,” she said, out loud.

“And they’re not done yet.”

Sasha turned to see who had said that and by the time she turned around Spud and Yam had shot her with the same gun that Tuber had. They had finished incapacitating Sasha when Tuber hopped down from the ride carrying Yasmin.

Just then, Cloe swooped down in furry. “Come back here, you evil baby!” She shrieked.

“Give us back our friends!” Jade added, releasing the car with her goo. The Rockin’ Rocket continued pummeling the air at three times normal speed.

Sasha looked over at her friends in terror. “Help!” She called.

Cloe looked over and realized that the Potatoes now had two out of four of the Super Babyz. “Oh my gosh, Sasha!” She exclaimed.

Jade planted her feet on top of Tuber’s head and flew upwards, pulling him along with her goo. She swung both him and the captured Yasmin around. After a few seconds, Tuber managed to grab a railing and hold on. But he dropped his captive and Yasmin fell to the ground.

Cloe and Jade flew as fast as they could, catching their friend before she hit the ground. Tuber jumped down from the ride and scampered back to his friends.

“Come on,” Cloe said, not wasting a second. “We have to save Sasha!”

As the three girls looked around, they spotted their friend being carried into the space ship. The two Potatoes, Yam and Spud, who didn’t even weigh more than a pound each, had managed to carry the girl several times their size.

Before they could fly over, Tuber raced into the ship, closing the door behind the Potatoes and the captured girl. He quickly locked the complicated anti-gravity door. Satisfied with themselves, the Potatoes carried the Bratz girl into the ship’s bridge. They set her down and Sasha quickly surveyed her surroundings.

“Oh my gosh!” She exclaimed, looking at the far wall. “Someone left your thermo-nuclear generator in the overdrive switch!”

The Potatoes, none of whom were even completely sure how to care for the ship they had stolen, screamed and raced to the instrument panel. As they scrambled to check all of the ship’s levels and backups, Sasha untied herself from the vines and slipped into a tunnel that lead to the sleeping quarters.

Tot looked at the readouts on the instrument panel and realized that absolutely nothing was wrong with their thermo-nuclear generator. He looked over at Sasha in annoyance and saw the empty vines laying on the ground. “It tricked us!” Tot screamed.

“It can’t get out!” Yam bellowed. The Potatoes ran off after Sasha.

Last Dance for Grace, Part X

1kR87F.AuSt.156March 13, 2006 – Part 2 — Continued

Crystal Mangum continues to claim that the press started to hound her. Camping out on her lawn, following her around, etc. She bitterly adds, “While the Duke boys and their attorneys brought and brought as much media attention as they could, I wanted no part of it.” (Mangum, page 175) However, Mike Nifong, the DA, was busy telling everyone about the virtuous black woman that had been brutally abused by evil, privileged white boys.

Until Proven Innocent states, “He [Nifong] spent over 40 hours that week giving at least 70 media interviews and press conferences.” (Taylor & Johnson, page 85) It wasn’t the accused’s lawyers that went into media overload. It was the very person that was supposed to be championing Crystal. If Crystal is so tired of the press, then why is she releasing a book while using the same media that she condemned to promote it? Two and a half years after the actual events, it’s now Crystal who is drawing attention to herself and the case.

Crystal writes that she moves to a safe house after the story broke. But then moves out suddenly, claiming that, “I felt too poorly to help out with chores around the house, which was a condition of staying.” (Mangum, page 175) And then, Crystal finds out that she’s pregnant with her third child. Who’s the father? Not any of the Duke lacrosse players as was proven by a DNA test after the child was born.

At one point, Cousin Jackie went on Fox News to discuss Crystal’s pregnancy. Even though she didn’t have a lot of information and she didn’t know who the father was. Crystal herself doesn’t say who the father is in her memoirs, although, from her version of events (where has has been in a monogamous relationship with her boyfriend) the father, should be Matthew.

And now, the illustrious video tape. Crystal states, “More than a few people from the Platinum Pleasure Club were produced to say that I danced at the club later in March 2006. Those allegations are not true.” (Mangum, page 175) They were produced? Is she trying to say that someone coached them to say this?

Crystal continues by saying, “The alleged videotape of me dancing at the club was from several months before the incident at 610 N. Buchanan. There is evidence that the tape was analyzed and verified something other than what some other people wanted to believe.” (Mangum, page 175)

Where do I start? First of all, the video that she was referring to is the one that was alleged to have been shot only a few days after March 13. There was a video clip on YouTube that allegedly showed Crystal dancing at the club. The username of the person who posted it was “trinifats” and the information underneath reads, “FOR ENTIRE VIDEO PLEASE CONTACT FATS AT BLACKVIEWTUBE.COM”.

Fats is the nickname for a former security manager at the Platinum Pleasure Club, who spoke with Yeager and Pressler in their book, It’s Not About the Truth. Is this clip part of the video of Crystal dancing shortly after her alleged attack, after which she claims that, “I did continue to bleed profusely for a few weeks after. It took nearly week before I was able to walk with my normal gait.” (Mangum, page 172) Also, who analyzed the video tape and decided that it was shot previous to March 13? Who was informed about this revelation and why didn’t this come up before? The Platinum Pleasure Club’s work records show Crystal, “Signing in for work on March 18 and 21-” (Taylor & Johnson, page 348)

This contradicts Crystal’s claim, “I never danced again at the club.” (Mangum, page 176) Crystal does admit that, “I did attend a CD release party for a local act during that time frame. But I was only there briefly.” (Mangum, page 176) However, this is exactly when the video was allegedly shot. Fats stated that cameras had been allowed into the club especially for the party. Then, “A camera man was supposed to tape the stage where the rappers were performing. But he misunderstood Victor’s (the owner) instructions and set up his camera in front of the dancer’s stage.” (Yeager & Pressler, page 87)

The videotape supposedly showed Crystal, “Grabbing a floor-to-ceiling pole and lowering herself into a squatting position, buttocks almost to the floor, stretching her right leg towards the ceiling and waving it to either side of the pole.” (Taylor & Johnson, page 73) Is this another case of Crystal vs. The truth?

Now the bouncer, presumably Fats, is under fire from Crystal, “Moreover, the bouncer was facing drug charges and was being represented by one of the attorneys on the lacrosse player’s defense team.” (Mangum, page 176) And Cousin Jackie was born a man!

Now, Crystal admits that she didn’t actually talk to Mike Nifong until nine months after the party (December 2006). But this just goes to show that the case was not about Crystal or the Duke lacrosse boys for Mike Nifong. It was about securing votes. Nifong didn’t even bother to interview the person he was painting as his victim of a terrible sexual assault. He just went with what was happening and was determined to ride Crystal’s victimhood home for supper.

And now, “I do need to say something about the DNA evidence in the case.” No prizes for guessing what she writes next. “I have seen reports implying that I had multiple sex partners in the days or maybe hours before the incident. This was not proven in the DNA samples that were taken at the hospital. There have been wild reports that semen was found in various orifices of my body. The forensics test done by the State Bureau of Investigations and the DNA lab did not show any semen.” (Mangum, page 177)

But Crystal concedes that, “It would be irresponsible for me to try and explain DNA reports that I have not seen and could have no real way of interpreting.” Yes, it would be. However, “-What I can say is that others have exaggerated their unscientific assessments of the DNA reports.” (Mangum, page 177)

Here Crystal is most likely referring to Brad Bannon, a defense lawyer for the Duke players, who taught himself about DNA and countered the director and founder of the private DNA lab that Nifong used to process the evidence. Using his own research, Bannon was able to prove that the tests were done irresponsibly and incorrectly. (Taylor & Johnson, page 308-309)

But Crystal is now back on the attack. “It is clear to me that the people who have defamed me by suggesting that I was covered in semen all over my body knew what they were doing. It was and still is a part of the attempt to call me a prostitute.” (Mangum, page 177) For all of her claims that she wouldn’t attempt to talk about the DNA evidence that she neither saw nor would be able to understand, Crystal sure does seem to be willing to argue with it.

But wait! “If the DNA confirms that none of the people charged left DNA on me, then the test performed their function. I cannot and will not argue with that.” (Mangum, page 177) This doesn’t even make sense though. Is she saying that the people who were charged are not the people who raped her? Is she saying that they cleaned her up so well with that towel that there was no DNA left? Is she saying that there shouldn’t be DNA evidence left from a brutal gang rape? I’m really not sure what she’s getting at here.

And now, she delves into sheer paranoia, “-I believe there are DNA tests in the case file that may tell a different story… I am calling for Attorney General Roy Cooper to release all of the records to the public. Perhaps once and for all it would clear up any misconceptions about what DNA really exists.” (Mangum, page 178)

It seems strange that Crystal believes there are people hiding evidence and trying to make her look bad when the reality of the matter is that she had the District Attorney, Mike Nifong, doing everything in his power to keep her case going. At one point Nifong claimed that the DNA evidence was the key to the entire case, then he proceeded to sit on negative DNA results. He then claimed that the DNA didn’t matter after all.

Crystal continues her triad, “Unfortunately, I do not believe there will be any clarity in the case unless everything is finally exposed.” (Mangum, page 178) For someone who just claimed that she wanted privacy and did everything possible to avoid to avoid the media spotlight, she sure wants a lot more information available to the public. But if she demands to have all of these tests and information public, is she going to release her medical records and past mental health treatment all in the name of getting the truth out there?

And then, a chilling accusation. Kind of. Crystal writes, “I am willing to take that risk. Can everyone at the party on March 13, 2006 say the same thing?” (Mangum, page 178) But the answer to this question is yes. The Duke lacrosse players never had anything to hide to begin with and they were completely compliant with Durham police during the entire investigation. Right from the beginning, their stories were consistent, not only with each other, but with logic.

But Crystal’s not done yet. She insists that, “Little, if any, real information about what was said and done at the party has ever been made public. Instead the discussion have always been about what did not happen.” (Mangum, page 178)

Perhaps because a rape didn’t happen. But really, there was no shortage of information available about that night. From eyewitness accounts to photographic evidence. It’s been made very clear what happened in that house and it was not a sexual assault.

Crystal wonders, “Would people feel different about things if they realized that a hate crime was committed against me?” Once again, Kim Roberts and the party goers both attest to the fact that there were racial slurs used against the two strippers, but only after Kim admitted to provoking it by using a racial slur against the young men. The real hate crime here is what happened in Crystal’s imagination.

“If nothing else, there is ample enough evidence to prove that racial slurs were used during my time in that house.” (Mangum, page 178) No, actually, there isn’t. The racial slurs that were used where spoken outside of the house, not in it. Not to mention that using racist language isn’t exactly on the same level as a brutal gang rape. It’s not like Crystal can say, even if they didn’t rape me, they used foul language. Which is just as bad.

Crystal then writes, “The only thing I stand to gain now is some dignity.” (Mangum, page 178) Uh, really? By continuing to lie and obscure facts and paint herself as a helpless victim? I don’t see how this is going to help her recover any of her lost dignity.

Crystal once against casts herself as the ultimate victim, “I will be forever labeled “the accuser.” I cry sometimes and cannot sleep because I think about how others have profited from my pain and suffering.” All she had to do was not falsely accuse three people of rape and all of this could have been avoided.

But she goes on, “I am now being abused by people who don’t even know me. A good number of people have even been able to profit from the case by writing books, selling movie scripts, and having advertisements on their website.” (Mangum, page 179) Clearly tired of other people profiting off of her story, Crystal has made sure that she’ll be the one cashing the checks from her wild tales.

Crystal continues to complain about the media, which again makes me wonder why she is releasing this book to even more media scrutiny if she just wants to be left alone. But anyway, Crystal starts to entertain her conspiracy theories again. She writes that the police didn’t go to the house to collect evidence until two days after the party. She states, “People would have plenty of time to clean the house of evidence.” (Mangum, page 180)

The reason why the police weren’t immediately dispatched to the house after she cried rape was because her stories were so wildly inconsistent that some were convinced that she had made up the entire thing in an intoxicated haze. Also, the police aren’t stupid. They know when there’s been a clean up and they can tell if someone had used bleach or other cleaning agents to try to destroy evidence. Either there was no evidence to be found or the three indicted players did such an amazing cleanup job that there was no evidence from the rape and no evidence of a cleanup.

And now, more DNA. Semen was found on the floor of the bathroom, near the sink. This is the area that Crystal claimed she spat seminal fluid after she was forced to perform oral sex on one of the rapists. There was DNA found on the floor, however, it was Matt Zash’s and he was never indicted for the crime (Taylor & Johnson, page 314).

Also, Matt Zash lived in the house, so there’s nothing suspicious about his DNA being found in the bathroom. Crystal goes on to state, “Again, we will never know unless the case file is made public.” (Mangum, page 180) If this is true, then this is one incredibly well-orchestrated conspiracy. But it’s not a conspiracy at all. The facts just don’t line up with Crystal’s version of the truth.

And now, for all of the protesters who demonstrated on her behalf, along with her advocates and defenders, you get one paragraph worth of mention. That’s right, out of a 210 page book, you get a slight nod from Vincent Clark and 10 sentences from Crystal. Sadly, it’s not even a good paragraph.

-I was amazed as what I saw – a slew of people protesting on my behalf. They were marching on campus at Duke and carrying signs. In the days ahead, people would be banging pots and pans on the lawn of the house at 610 North Buchanan. Who were these people and why were they there? I did not know a single person who had organized the protest. I just stood in stunned silence. (Mangum, page 180)

Stunned silence is all that she can muster for the group of people who were willing to believe her story despite all of its flaws? She continues, “Besides being stunned, I was also embarrassed. If protesting was going on, it meant people knew that something had happened to me at that house. My story had gotten out and grew larger than anything I could have ever imagined.” (Mangum, page 180)

Next she writes, “I really started to worry when none of them [the protesters] actually came to my house to talk to me and offer assistance. If they were so concerned, why had I never met any of them? Everyone had something to say about me, even my so-called supporters, but all of the support was from a distance.” (Mangum, page 181)

And that’s it. That’s all she has to say about the people who protested on her behalf and supported her story even though it made no sense. The protesters stunned and embarrassed her. They worried her and made her suspicious. You’re welcome!

But one has to wonder what the protesters were supposed to have done. If they had showed up at her house, asking to take out her garbage and wash her car, I’m sure she would have found them as creepy and invasive as the media. But when they kept a distance from the young mother, in an effort to probably give her some space and privacy, she becomes suspicious of their motives. There’s no winning with Crystal.

As she continues her writing, she veers off into self-pity again. “All of the media attention felt as traumatizing as being raped. To see people speculate about your credibility, talk about your private medical records, and openly accuse you of lying was incredibly difficult.” (Mangum, page 181) A lot of rape victims face these same problems when trying to get justice. But the big difference there is most women who face these issues were actually raped.

Crystal wants to talk about the media intrusion some more now. She writes, “There were people openly arguing the case in public without the one person who could answer most of the questions. That was me!” (Mangum, page 182) But she just said that she wanted no part of the media. So why would she complain that she wasn’t included in media interviews and discussions about the case?

Crystal finishes off this chapter by complaining about the media using her family. She’s particularly upset with her father and states, “What my father did say only helped to perpetuate the story that I was somehow so mentally disturbed that I was making all of this up to gain attention.” (Mangum, page 182) I can’t imagine why.

That’s all for this chapter. In the next installment, Crystal discusses how the case was closed without going to trial and how she suffered so much that no one will ever understand the depths of her victimhood. Don’t miss it.

To read all of the articles in the Last Dance for Grace series, click here. Blogs are in reverse chronological order.

Fairy Tales aren’t for Kidz: Rapunzel

bratc-puteshestvie-v-volshebnoj-strane-bratz-kidz-fairy-tales1This is a six-part series on the movie Bratz Kidz: Fairy Tales. Click here to read the other parts of this series.

The Bratz movie, Fairy Tales, picks up with Cloe in the tower. Her hair is now incredibly long and tied in a braid and wrapped around a mobile reel. She is standing at the window of the tower, screaming for help. As much as she wanted to mock the real Rapunzel for being helpless, her first instinct isn’t to solve her problems for herself.

Anyway, Chadwick is quick to taunt Cloe’s futile attempts. “Why don’t you try screaming for help for another 15 minutes? I’m sure it will work this time,” he quips. Chadwick, so far, has presented himself as far more likable and interesting than any of the other characters. Cloe asks Chadwick why no on is coming to her rescue.

The frog points out that she’s trapped in a witch’s tower and most rational people tend to avoid witch’s towers. I won’t touch on the irony of a character talking about rational people in a Bratz movie. Anyway, Cloe announces that she’s not waiting around for a prince to ask her to let down her hair.

The blonde girl then looks down and realizes that her hair has grown considerably in length. Chadwick asks her why she just realized this. But Cloe says that she knows an easier way to get out of the tower rather than waiting for her prince. She exits the tower door and finds that the building is set up as a complicated maze.

Cloe runs around and finds herself hopelessly lost. While a pop song plays, she runs and runs until she finds herself back in the main tower that she had just escaped from. When she’s about to give up, she looks outside and sees a hook hanging above the tower. Cloe tells Chadwick that she can latch her hair to the hook and climb down the tower.

Chadwick doesn’t tell her not to, so she goes head. Cloe somehow wraps the end of her hair around the hook and just by wrapping it several times, it holds. No knot, no glue. It just sticks there. Cloe then throws the rest of her hair over and starts repelling down the side of the tower.

But as she climbs, the hook buckles and it sets off a rather complicated chain of events that causes a shot to be fired and smoke to rise from the tower. Then a raven flies into the woods. Meanwhile, in the woods, the Wicked Witch, who is supposed to have Rapunzel trapped in the tower is chastising Goldilocks for stealing from her. The Witch says, “Eye of wombat, camel’s hump, this thieving girl is now a stump!” Goldilocks, who is somewhat of a kelpto, is transformed into a tree stump. But because she’s a girl, she’s a sexy stump with her blonde pigtails and pink bows.

The raven, who is named Stevie, alerts the Witch that Rapunzel is trying to escape, which is apparently a regular occurrence. The Witch gets on her broom and zooms off towards the direction of the tower. Stump Goldilocks remains there.

While all this has happened, Cloe has repelled to the bottom of the tower. She steps back onto terra firma and starts walking off only to discover that her hair is still mysteriously attached to the hook. Cloe now has no idea how to detach herself. Chadwick offers, “Got scissors, genius?”

Cloe tries to reason with Chadwick and informs him that she’s not the REAL Rapunzel but the frog tells her that it doesn’t matter, to everyone she appears to be Rapunzel. Before they can continue their fascinating conversation, the Witch lands. She demands to know what Cloe’s doing and she blonde girl innocently explains that she was just going for a walk.

The Witch orders her back to the tower but Cloe refuses. The Witch then asks her if she wants to be a tree stump or a toad stood, because those are her options if she doesn’t get back into the tower. Cloe asks for a ride on the Witch’s broom, but the old woman is allegedly too smart to allow her captive to ride off on her broom.

Cloe sighs and starts trudging back up the side of the tower. She gets to the top and jumps back through the window, into the room that she just left. Then, like in the fairy tale, the Witch tells her to throw down her hair so that she can climb up.

Back in the woods, the other three Bratz Kidz are wandering around. They come to a tree with all kinds of signs posted on it. But they are contradictory and confusing and they’re not sure how to read them. Lost, Yasmin announces that she’s tired and sits down.

But she sits down on sexy stump, Goldilocks. Jade, at first, is worried that it’s Cloe, but Goldilocks shares her name with the girls and assures them that she had it coming. She lists off her fairy tale crimes and adds that she’s the one who TPed the old woman that lived in the show and stole mittens from the three little kittens.

Goldilocks asks her new friends why they were talking about the tower and the three kidz tell her about Cloe/Rapunzel being trapped there. Goldilocks tries to point out the location of the tower, but since stumps can’t point, she just tells them where it is. As the girls run off, she comments that it’s bad half bad to be a stump.

Back at the tower, the Witch tells Cloe that she shouldn’t have spared her father’s life after he stole lettuce from her garden as Cloe is not a fair trade for her lettuce. Although it probably wasn’t intended, calling Cloe an unfair trade for lettuce is a really harsh insult. And not undeserved.BratzKidzFairyTales2008DVDRipXvi-2

But anyway, the Witch informs Cloe that this is Rapunzel’s 33rd escape attempt. She remarks that the girl has tried to tunnel out and build a glider among her many attempts. Cloe then realizes that Rapunzel isn’t totally lame if she’s building gliders and shit.

The Witch remarks, “33 strikes and you must face the punishment.” Cloe pleads with the Witch, but the withered old woman refuses to bend. The Enchantress turns the two rats that had been milling around on the floor into a table and chair across from where Cloe is sitting. She then shares that the punishment is checkers.

Cloe is confused, but the Witch is quick to inform her that Cloe is her only form of entertainment. While it seems sad that the Witch had to kidnap a girl in order to have someone to play checkers with, the show doesn’t explore the character’s newly-found humanity any more than that. Cloe starts to play the game.

Seeing that the Witch left her magic wand on the table, Cloe quickly devises a plan that is not readily apparent to the viewer. She stands and announces that she has to go to the bathroom. The witch points her to a bucket that sits next to the wall. Cloe looks ill.

It seems strange that the time she’s living in has such egregious human rights violations that a human being can be exchanged for lettuce and the writers go for the revelation that there were no flush toilets back in the day. At any rate, Cloe starts walking over to the bucket, taking her hair with her, but then stops and turns. The Witch’s back to her, she starts to sneak up on the old woman.

Chadwick sees her and informs Cloe that her plan is never going to work. He offers to create a diversion. So Chadwick bites the Witch on her ankle. Afterward he spits in disgust and announces that it burns.

Cloe manages to grab the wand, but she can’t use it. After a few futile attempts, Stevie snatches it from her and he also grabs Chadwick. Cloe pleads for Chadwick’s life. But the next scene shows both Cloe and Chadwick hanging upside down over a bubbling cauldron.

BratzKidzFairyTalesPartOneMost of her blonde hair has been bound around her and Stevie holds the tail end of Cloe’s hair, keeping the two suspended over the bubbling pot. Granted, it’s Fairy Tale Land and clearly, there are no rules. But how can a bird that weighs a few ounces manage to hold a child in the air by her hair when she weighs significantly more than he does?

Anyway, the Witch walks off, saying that she needs an onion. Cloe asks Chadwick to zap them out of the situation, but Chadwick tells her that he can’t. The Keeper was the one doing all of the zapping. She has to figure a way out of the situation. Cloe laments that happy endings are more difficult than she thought. Chadwick is quick to chastise her for judging others.

Back in the words, Yasmin, Sasha and Jade see the stone tower ahead and finally exit the woods to the sound of Cloe’s whining. Sasha comments, “I’d recognize that Drama Mama voice anywhere.” They run over and sees that their friend is trapped.

Just then, the Witch returns with Rumpelstiltskin. The Witch has turned him into an onion for her stew and he is not very pleased about it. Stevie drops Cloe a few feet closer to the bubbling cauldron.

The Witch spots the other Kidz and informs them that they are going to be vegetables. She says a quick spell and points her wand at them, missing all of the girls. The enchantress turns the cauldron itself into a head of lettuce so that Cloe is now suspended over flames. The Witch fires again and again at the girls but misses every time as she girls duck and dodge.

Sasha spots the discarded broom and jumps on it. She flies up to the top of the tower and then back down where she bangs into Cloe. Sasha retrieves a pair of scissors from her Red Riding Hood basket and grabs Cloe, cutting her hair and freeing her from the flames.

The Witch has managed to corner Yasmin and Jade, but Sasha flies past with Cloe behind her and takes the Witch’s wand. The girls fly back to the flames and Cloe tosses the magic wand in while Sasha throws the broomstick in. The Witch falls to her knees, screaming that she’s powerless without those two articles.

Something that you probably shouldn’t be letting your enemies know. But Stevie, who is still a raven, drags the Witch off by her cloak. He reveals that he can talk and is very upset about being ordered around for so long.

Cloe’s fairy tale is then at an end. Even though there’s no prince. But we’ll get to that.Illustration_for_the_Brothers_Grimm_fairy_tale_Rapunzel.

The original story of Rapunzel is a German folktale that was first published by the Grimm Brothers in 1812. The exact origins are unknown, although the story is similar to the fate of Saint Barbara and a story in Persia poetry. For this review, I will be using the book Household Tales (available for free on Amazon).

In the story, there is a childless couple who want to reproduce but are unsuccessful. Out of their back window the couple can see an amazing garden that’s owned by an Enchantress. The wife starts to crave rampion. Rampion is a bellflower often used on salads. It’s also known as commonly known as Rapunzel. So Cloe, who was wondering about her name, this is where it comes from.

Anyway, the wife starts craving the rampion more and more until she becomes sick and the husband, worried that she will die without it, decides to steal into the garden to get some of the plant for her. He does so and gets away without anyone seeing him. His wife is overjoyed and makes a salad. But the next night her desire for the rampion has only increased.

Thinking that he can repeat the feat, the husband steals from the garden again and this time is caught. The Enchantress tells him, “How canst thou dare to descent into my garden and steal my rampion like a thief? Thou shalt suffer for it!” The man pleads for his life and explains to the Enchantress (she’s never called a witch) that his wife need some.

The sorcerer says that she will let him go in exchange for his first-born child. She explains that she will love and care for the child as her own and be a mother to it. The man agrees, for some reason.

When the wife girls birth the Enchantress appears and takes the child away with her, naming her Rapunzel. The girl grows into a beautiful child, of course, (all fairy tale heroines are uncommonly beautiful) and when the girl reaches 12, the enchantress, also called Gothel, locks her away in a tower. There’s no reason given for this, but at the age of 12, girls are approaching puberty.

Anyway, the only way to gain access to the tower that Rapunzel is trapped in, is to call to the girl and have her let down her golden hair. Which is described as “fine as spun gold”. A year or two after her imprisonment, so Rapunzel is 13 or 14, a prince goes riding by and hears Rapunzel singing. He is so enraptured with her voice that he comes to the forest again and again just to listen to it. One day he sees the enchantress tell the girl to throw down her hair and watches her climb into the tower.

The prince, who doesn’t have a name, tricks Rapunzel into doing the same for him. The story describes their first meeting, “At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man such as her eyes had never yet beheld, came to her; but the King’s son began to talk to her quite like a friend, and told her that his heart had been so stirred that it had let him have no rest, and he had been forced to see her.”

Rapunzel immediately falls in love with this man, whose age is never discussed. But he is always referred to as a man, not a young man, a youth, an adolescent or a boy. So presumably, he’s much older than the heroine of the story.

Rapunzel admits to the prince that she has no idea how to get out of the tower. She tells him to bring her a skein of silk every times he comes to visit her and she will weave it into a cloth rope that she will use to escape the building. She continues to see Gothel and the Enchantress is none the wiser. But then, Rapunzel blows it all when she asks her caretaker why she’s so much heavier than the prince. Gothel, who apparently raised an idiot, jumps on her and cuts off her hair so that she won’t be able to let the prince come up anymore.

Gothel takes Rapunzel into the desert in punishment for her crime. Meanwhile, she lies in wait for the prince to come to the tower. When he does, she throws down the severed braid and the prince climbs up to only find the enchantress, instead of his beloved. Gothel tells him, “Rapunzel is lost to thee; thou wilt never see her more.” The man is so upset that he leaps down from the tower and barely survives the fall.

He ends up in a pile of thorns which pierce his eyes and he becomes blind. The prince then wanders the forest eating wild berries and nuts, lamenting the fate of his wife. After some years, he comes across the desert where Rapunzel has been banished too. During her banishment, she has given birth to twins, a boy and a girl, presumably from one of their first couplings.

The prince hears Rapunzel’s voice and recognizes it. Rapunzel embraces him and weeps bitterly. Her tears heal his eyes and with his sight restored, the prince and Rapunzel life happily ever after.

Sound a little different than the story presented in Disney’s Tangled? It is. This story is also not very closely related to the one presented in the Bratz’s movie. Rapunzel makes no escape attempts, the enchantress doesn’t force her to play checkers, her captor isn’t even a witch with a wand and a broomstick.

It makes one wonder why the moral of the story is not to judge other people when the source material that they’re using is so bastardized that it loses all of the original elements. In Cloe’s story, the prince wasn’t even mentioned, let alone how the Rapunzel was a teenage mother. Their attempt to cast Rapunzel as a resourceful girl who tried to free herself falls flat when, in the original, she makes no attempts to escape either the tower or the desert she’s trapped in, even when she has children to think about.

When it really comes down to it, why even use fairy tales at all if the tales themselves are just going to be so heavily rewritten that only the most basic elements of plot are duplicated? But this is just the first of the four tales. How will Sasha, Jade and Yasmin stack up? Will their fairy tales be closer to the real story or just as bizarrely changed as Rapunzel’s?

Want to read all Bratz movie reviews? Of course you do. Click here.

MiST 101 – God Left Me, Part 3

agonyTimb and Dominick battle each other in a bad pun competition. Who will walk away victorious? Meanwhile, M makes her MiSTers take care of another section in the God Took Me Series. Will the storyline start to make any sense at all? Will Lincoln be able to make friends and stop whining about how she’s such a victim? How many times can I put the word “twerk” in this MiST? Read on to find out!

Read the rest of this entry »

Lego Friends: New Girl in Town

Lego-Friends-MinifiuresThe first episode of the Lego Friends series is called New Girl in Town (also currently streaming on Netflix). This episode starts out with a shot of the sign for Heartlake City, the setting for the series. Heartlake City, as evidenced by the show and the toys that the show is based off of, is a feminine mecca where only stereotypical female hobbies and occupations exist. Like the Feminist Frequency video points out, there’s no fire station, but there’s restaurants. The things you have to exchange for having a completely gendered town…

Anyway, the episode starts out by showing men working on setting up several edifices and stands for what looks like a fair. Men, and only men, are working everywhere. The camera follows a butterfly that passes by the workmen and introduces the first character and the primary protagonist, Olivia. She is watching a bunch of butterflies with her binoculars. She watches them fly away and laments, “Aw, you have friends. Must be nice.”

Just then, her Aunt Sophie calls her over. Her aunt is the town’s veterinarian and is wearing her work uniform. Aunt Sophie tells Olivia that she needs help setting up for the pet adoptions as part of the town’s World Petacular, a fair that is coming up the next day. Sophie is hopeful that they will find homes for lots of the animals that the clinic is currently caring for.

Just then, a woman with short red hair enters carrying a puppy. She gives the puppy to Olivia and announces that she can’t keep the animal. She proclaims that the dog chews on everything and won’t behave. Olivia tells her that the dog just needs to be trained, but the woman insists that she goes to a “more suitable” home. The woman tells Olivia that the dog’s name is Scarlet and leaves without saying goodbye to the dog and telling Olivia, “good luck”.

Olivia says that Scarlet will be the first pet to be placed for adopted tomorrow. Sophie tells Olivia that she should take Scarlet on a walk and suggests that she goes over to the Equestrian area of the grounds where she can meet Mia, a champion horse rider. Sophie tells Olivia that since she’s been in Heartlake City for two weeks, she’s probably dying to make friends. Olivia agrees but mumbles to herself that she doesn’t want to make arranged friends.

Sophie instructs her niece to keep a firm hold on Scarlet’s leash and just as she finishes her statement, Scarlet sees a butterfly and runs off after it. Olivia pursues the little puppy. She runs full force through the veterinarian’s grounds and sees a boy up ahead, playing with a toy airplane.

Although Olivia clearly sees him, she runs into him, possibly because of a lack of depth perception. I have a theory that one of her eyes is glass. She apologizes to the boy that she knocked over and hands him back his airplane. The boy, who we later find out is named Jacob, tells her not to worry; he wasn’t able to get the plane to fly long before she crashed into him. She tells him, “Close the needle vale half a turn, then restart.”

While it seems like this is a moment of female empowerment and a girl stepping outside of the boundaries of girliness and into the role of a mechanic, this type of once-off genius is something quite familiar to children’s shows. A character will show a particular aptitude out of no where, with no indication of how she knows this or where she learned it from. Olivia never mentions flying, mechanics, toy airplanes or anything of that nature in the rest of this episode or in the rest of the series.

But getting back to the story, although Jacob is at first skeptical, he does as Olivia had suggested and the plane works. Olivia takes off in hot pursuit of the runaway dog. The scene then changes to a stage where a man that we learn later is the Mayor, is addressing a crowd.

He stays that the World Petacular will have an equestrian competition, a dog show, pet adoptions, grooming, pet care and more. He vows that this event will put their small town on the map. Just then, Scarlet bursts through the World Petacular sign and leaves more chaos in her wake. Olivia continues to run after her.

Meanwhile, Emma is sitting on the ground working on a banner that she’s been painting for the Petacular. She stops to admire it, just then, Scarlet runs across it, knocking over a can of paint and ruining the entire banner. Olivia apologizes to Emma as she runs by.

Cut to the blonde character, Stephanie who has just finished baking some cupcakes for the Petacular. She remarks that she is only half a cake behind schedule. Just then, Scarlet runs past, knocking the fresh pan of cupcakes out of her hands. They all fall to the ground. Olivia runs by, apologizing again.

Scarlet, who seems has an endless amount of puppy energy, runs past a stage that several workers have just finished building and knocks out a support beam, causing the arch that they just finished to crumble. The scene then cuts to the diner where Andrea is working. Kind of.

Right now, she’s singing into a broom handle. The lyrics contain the phrases, “We can do it/share the fun today/it’s all about the good of creation.” Although, so far, there’s very little creation going on. After she finishes, the diners clap and Andrea announces that she’ll be singing at the World Petacular.

But before she can soak up anymore glory, the owner of the diner reminds her that her order has been up for five minutes now. Andrea picks up a plate of hamburgers and a tray of water glasses and wonders if Beyonce got her start like this. Just then, a woman exiting the diner unwittingly lets Scarlet in and the dog runs past Andrea, interrupting her balance and causing her to drop both trays. A hamburger lands on a customer’s head.

At the horse track, Mia, a redhead with freckles, is practicing with her horse, Bella. I have to give the series credit here; they are actually showing a main character practicing at a hobby that doesn’t involve shopping or clothes. It sounds very mundane, but this is an accomplishment for a children’s TV show. So often the storylines are so heavily focused on gossip and shopping that girls’ hobbies that they allegedly have are never featured beyond an offhanded mention.

Just as Mia finishes a difficult jump, another rider, Lacy, comes over on her horse, Gingersnap, and attempts to psych Mia out. The two will be riding against each other in the World Petacular. Mia, not buying into Lacy’s intimation states, “May the best horse and rider win.” Lacy responds, “Thanks, we will.”

Just then, Scarlet runs over and spooks Bella. Considering that Scarlet runs right under Bella’s hooves, it’s very lucky that she wasn’t crushed. Bella, scared of the little dog, bucks Mia into a tree. Olivia runs over to try to catch Scarlet and Mia falls out of the tree and onto her just as both Bella and Scarlet run off.

The introductions of all of these characters how just how limited the scope for female hobbies and abilities has truly become. Painting a banner is feminine enough, so that’s okay for Emma. Baking cupcakes is a feminine hobby and something that Barbie and her sisters like to do, so that’s alright for Stephanie. Andrea both sings and waits tables as a diner, both perfectly natural occupations for young women. Mia rides horses, which is definitely girly enough to be a suitable hobby for her.

Why couldn’t one of the girls be building something out of Legos, like the entire fucking point of these toys is supposed to be? Why couldn’t one of the girls be playing a video game or doing a science experiment or racing a dirt bike? Why are options for girls limited to such roles as singer, baker, or waitress?Lego-Friends-New-Girl-In-Town

Back in the story, Olivia and Mia introduce themselves, Olivia realizing that she just alienated the girl that she was supposed to be making friends with, when the other girls approach. Emma tells the girls, “I worked for three hours on that banner and that puppy wrecked it in three minutes.” It was more like three seconds, but let’s not get too technical.

Mia is worried about finding her horse and continuing her practice for the competition tomorrow. Meanwhile, Andrea is stressed out over having to work at the cafe and rehearse her music while trying to mitigate the disaster-causing puppy. Stephanie whistles to get all of the girls’ attention and tells them to give Olivia a chance to explain.

Not interested, Mia says that she has to find her horse. Stephanie offers to drive her around the grounds to find Bella and tells her, “People first, then animals.” The girls all introduce themselves to each other. Although Olivia is new to the town, all of the other girls seem to have seen each other around Heartlake City before. Olivia admits to the other girls that Scarlet’s rampage is partly for fault for not listening to her aunt and keeping a tight hold on the leash.

Just then, the Heartlake City Mayor runs up to the group. He agonizes to Stephanie, who is on the World Petacular committee, that everything is going wrong in the aftermath of Scarlet’s destructive tear. Why he goes to a teenage girl to fix all of his problems is not explained. He asks who is responsible for Scarlet and Stephanie steps in before Olivia can answer and assures him that it doesn’t matter.

She tells the Mayor that everything is under control. She says that she’s going to assemble a team to fix everything, reasoning that she’s handled worse situations. Emma starts to ask her who this brilliant team is when Stephanie tells her to shush. The Mayor says that he’s counting on her, then walks off.

As soon as he’s out of earshot, Andrea asks who is going to fix everything and Stephanie informs her that it’s them! In one day, they have to fix everything that Scarlet destroyed and keep the World Petacular running on schedule. Everyone is in to help, except Mia. She asks if they can go look for her horse and walks away.

In the next scene, Stephanie is driving Mia in a vehicle that looks a lot like a Jeep. Mia calls Bella’s name and it echoes like they’re in a cave and not out in the open for some reason. Just after Mia ponders where Bella could be, Bella whinnies and look over to see the horse standing among some shrubs. She is limping, holding up one of her front legs.

In another part of area, Olivia, Emma and Andrea are searching for Scarlet. In an exactly identical scene as before, Olivia wanders around calling Scarlet’s name and it sounds like she’s in a cave. Just as she wonders where could she be, the groups here whimpering and they find Scarlet under a shrub, whining. Olivia picks her up and tells the puppy that they’re not mad at her.

Back where Stephanie and Mia found Bella, Sophie, the vet, has been called out to look at Bella’s leg. After Sophie examines her, she determines that she has to have an x-ray. Mia realizes that this means she might not be able to compete the next day at the World Petacular. Lacy rides up and asks what’s going on. When Mia tells her that Bella is injured, Lacy fakes being sympathetic and rides off. Olivia apologizes sincerely for Bella’s injury.

The next scene shows Emma and Olivia walking to a clubhouse that’s been build into a tree. Emma is carrying a rolled up sign to paint as Olivia tells her about the tree house and how she inspected its structure herself and she knows that it’s sound. She doesn’t mention how she knows that or what qualifies her to determine whether or not the clubhouse is safe.

The two girls climb up into the tree house and take Scarlet with them. This time, though she’s on a leash. Olivia is sad that Mia doesn’t want to be her friend, but barely has time to discuss it with Emma when Scarlet sees a cat that was playing in the tree house and barks at it. The cat runs off and the girls laugh at Scarlet.

Back at the vet, Sophie examines the x-ray and declares that Bella’s leg isn’t broken but she won’t know if Bella can compete until the next morning. When Sophie asks Mia about Olivia, Mia doesn’t want to talk about her. She adds that she’s not getting the “friendship vibe” from the young woman. Sophie tells her gently that everyone deserves a second chance.

Meanwhile, at the cafe, Stephanie and Andrea are remaking the cupcakes. Stephanie is acting like a hyperactive coke addict and asking Andrea questions, then ignoring her when she tries to answer. After a few seconds of this, Andrea shoves what looks like a stick of butter into Stephanie’s mouth and informs the blonde girl that she works there, not Stephanie, so she’s in charge.

Stephanie comments that she always thought that Andrea was more of a singer than a baker. Andrea indignantly informs her that she has more than one talent. Even though both of them are suitably feminine. Andrea asks Stephanie if she’s going to let her take the lead and Stephanie agrees.

Outside of the clubhouse, Emma is gone and Olivia has just finished giving Scarlet a bath. She talks to the puppy, asking her, “What girl doesn’t love bubbles?” After Scarlet is all dry from her bath, Olivia decides that it’s training time. She then does some of the worst dog training I’ve ever seen a cartoon character do.

She first instructs Scarlet to sit and seems to think that repeating the word at her and making a downward motion with her hand is going to get through to her hyperactive brain that she needs to sit. After attempting to teach her that command for a few seconds, she switches to roll over and heel with no progress. Olivia gets frustrated with the puppy and tells her that if she doesn’t start behaving that no one is going to want to adopt her.

For some reason, her dog shaming comes across as pointless. The dog doesn’t understand her and just giving her commands isn’t going to change that. Scarlet doesn’t speak English. While Olivia is chastising the puppy for all of the trouble that she caused today, Mia walks up behind her and watches her with the dog. Olivia is upset that Mia might not be able to compete due to Bella’s injury. Then, Scarlet gets it into her furry head that she needs to behave, and this time when Olivia tells her to sit she does it. She also rolls over and heels like a pro.

The training is complete! It took less than a full minute to train the puppy. Mia comes over and tells Olivia that Scarlet is doing well. Olivia informs her that her Aunt Sophie taught her how to train dogs. There is no explanation for how hyper intelligent Scarlet is that she understands English and does commands after hearing the appropriate word a few times. Mia asks if the group needs anymore help.

At the cafe, there’s a short scene where Stephanie and Andrea are victorious at making their cupcakes. They high five and that’s pretty much the entire scene. Back at the park, sometime later, all of the girls are assembled around Scarlet and inform the puppy that they are going to give her a makeover.

They brush her, trim her fur, clip her nails, so on, so forth. Then they dress her up with little accessories that she just seems to love instead of want to eat. Finally, the girls put her in a pink collar with a pink bow on one of her ears and announce, “Scarlet, this is so you!” Do I even need to say anything?

Back at Olivia’s house, later that night, Olivia is showing Emma her bedroom. Although she has moved here two weeks previously, Emma is horrified to find that most of her room is covered in unpacked boxes. Olivia says that she’ll get around to unpacking eventually and doesn’t seem to be very worried about it, but Emma simply cannot let this go. She tells Olivia, “Honey, I cannot let you live like this.”

Olivia, who still doesn’t seem to care, goes to bed with Scarlet curled up next to her. When she wakes up the next morning, it would seem that Emma has unpacked and arranged her entire bedroom and let herself out. A little creepy? I think so. There’s no mention of whether or not Emma went through her underwear though, so let’s not leap to too many conclusions.

In the next scene, Mia goes to the vet to check on Bella. But when she looks around in the horse area, she can’t find her. Scared, she starts calling her name, which, again, sounds like she’s standing in a fucking cave. Just then, Sophie walks up with Bella on a lead.

Bella is all better and ready to compete! Olivia enters and is happy to see Mia’s horse up and around. Mia tells her new friend that she’s ready to take home the gold.

At the World Petacular, things are about to start and Emma announces that everything is working out perfectly. The girls take Scarlet to the pet adoption stage as Stephanie tells them, “Don’t look now girls, but I think we just saved the World Petacular.” Suddenly, there is a crash.

The girls look over and see that a stage has completely collapsed. They ask one of the construction workers what happened and he isn’t sure, but says that one of the support beams must have given out. Stephanie asks if he can rebuild the set before the show and he admits that he doesn’t have a full crew. This causes Olivia to volunteer herself and her new friends!

Then a brief scene follows with the girls actually building something. Which is, you know, the entire fucking point of Legos. I really wish that there would have been more building in this episode and less about friendship. There are so many girls’ shows about friendship, why not have one about building really cool shit out of Legos?

But anyway, after the construction is finished, the Mayor comes over to congratulate Stephanie and she humbly tells him that she had a little help from her friends. After he leaves, the girls turn to each other and Olivia says, “If we save the World Petacular, I wonder what else we can do.” What indeed. The world should be open to girls, but right now the world they’ve been presented with is pastel-colored Heartlake City.

Anyway, the Mayor announces that it’s time to start and Stephanie mentions a surprise and walks off. The World Petacular begins with the Mayor welcoming everyone to Heartlake City. As he talks, a plane flies overhead carrying Emma’s banner. Jacob is flying it with Stephanie in the co-pilot’s seat.

Cut to the equestrian competition where Mia is doing very well. She advances to the medal around and Lacy walks past on Gingersnap and tells her that she’ll see her in the finals. Like I said before, it’s refreshing to see a girl actually performing a hobby. Not just talking about it, not just mentioning it offhandedly, then talking about clothes, but actually doing it.

Meanwhile, over at the pet adoptions, Olivia tells Scarlet that it’s show time and she better behave. Scarlet, for whatever reason, suddenly forgets that she’s a dog and struts down the runway like a goddamn model. At the end of the runway, Scarlet performs all of the tricks that Olivia taught her in under a minute.0

The next pet introduced is Oscar (pictured), who is some kind of porcupine or hedgehog. It doesn’t say, but the design in this creature is unbelievably cute. I was really sad when we didn’t get to see more of him.

Anyway, at the medal round of the equestrian competition, the girls are cheering Mia on as she competes. Olivia briefly talks to Stephanie about flying and she tells her that she’s still learning, but enjoys it. Then she tells Olivia that Jacob is the boy who was with her and his dad owns the aviation school. You can already tell that young love is about to blossom between the two, but this plot line never really goes anywhere.

Back on the track, Mia goes for the last jump, but doesn’t quite make it. Bella’s back hooves knock the jump off of its stand. The announcer states that this keeps Bella from the gold medal position. So Lacy gets the gold medal and Mia gets the silver.

After getting off her horse, Mia congratulates Lacy on winning the competition. Lacy asks her if she’s mad that she didn’t win, but Mia isn’t. She tells her competitor that she won something else; new friends. Her new friends wave to her and then come to congratulate her on her second place victory. Lacy, who doesn’t seem to have any friends of her own, walks off. Just to make sure that Lacy knows; she might have won, but she’s still a loser.

Later, the girls are walking around the fair. They are about to go see something when Olivia sees Scarlet’s previous owner standing at the pet adoption table with Sophie, petting the little puppy. Olivia walks over to hear the owner talk about how she can’t believe the difference Olivia’s minute of training has done for the dog.

She asks to readopt her. Olivia is hesitant as she’s already bonded with Scarlet. However, Sophie picks up the dog and says that she’s already been adopted. The previous owner says that that’s a pity and walks off. But it wouldn’t be out of Sophie’s hands to refuse to adopt the dog to the woman to begin with. A good pet owner doesn’t give up an animal at the first sign of trouble and want them back after someone else has trained and cared for them.

Regardless, Olivia asks her aunt who adopted the dog and Sophie tells her that she did. Olivia asks about what her parents might think, which by this point in my children’s entertainment career sounds like a joke, but Sophie assures her that she will work something out. So Scarlet is now Olivia’s dog.

Scarlet doesn’t appear in any subsequent episodes and is never mentioned again. It would have been nicer to check in with her and she how she’s grown and how she becomes a part of Olivia’s family and a close friend to her. But we sadly don’t see her anymore. Which is also rather common for children’s TV shows.

It’s now the end of the night and it’s time for Andrea to perform. She starts out playing the piano and singing. Soon, she’s standing holding a microphone. The song itself is pretty uninspired. Just like Andrea’s singing voice.

At the end of the episode, everyone is dancing along in one of those happily-ever-after type wrap ups that shows all of the various characters and animals that we’ve met throughout the last 22 minutes. At the end of Andrea’s song, there’s fireworks and the girls jump on stage to congratulate her. And that’s the end.

This show didn’t have a promising start, given the medium that it’s taken from, but it soon teeters into pure banality. The episode manages to be so middle of the road and simplistic that it’s just not intriguing, challenging or daring enough to be enjoyable. It’s not bad per say, but it’s not really that good either. Let’s see if the next episode manages to be any better than the first.

Want to read all of the articles in the Lego Friends series? Naturally. Click here.

Last Dance for Grace, Part IX

mangumf72bbe8b-84e2-4842-a75d-14ba10280660*Trigger warning: Rape*

March 13, 2006 – Part Two

This chapter is about the second part of the Duke lacrosse party and the events which led up to Crystal believing that she was raped. Crystal writes that she had been working as an exotic dancer for about two months when she finds herself, “-At this party at 610 Buchanan Boulevard with a room full of obnoxious young guys.” (Mangum, page 167) She recaps the events of the party up to a certain point, stating that she and her fellow stripper, Kim, fled to their car after a lacrosse player made a comment that they were going to shove a broomstick up their asses.

However, in Part I, Crystal writes that the comment coupled with the aggressive nature of the boys made both her and Kim cry and fear for their safety. Then, inexplicably, Kim and Crystal decide to stay at the party. She continues, “Emotionally upset, I felt dizzy and out of sorts when we returned to the house.” (Mangum, page 167) She doesn’t say why they returned when she has already written that they were intimidated and she didn’t even feel well.

Crystal tries to combat some of the people who doubted her testimony and states, “My account of what happened next is the same as I have described all along. It has been said that I gave varying accounts but that just isn’t true.” (Mangum, page 167) No seriously, that’s exactly what she wrote.

This is a flat out lie. Not a different point of view, not true but only if you look at it a certain way, not a time to use the word “alleged”. This is just a lie. I can’t even link to the myriad sources that state that Crystal’s story was not consistent and in fact changed multiple times in tons of different ways.

But Crystal doesn’t seem to be concerned with this at all. She continues, “People have written reports who did not interview me directly. Why are they more credible than I am?” (Mangum, page 167) They’re more credible because they’re not proven liars? But still, Crystal seems to have this idea that if someone does not speak to her directly, nothing that they say will be true. People wrote reports based off of police statements and other eye witness accounts that did not match what she was saying. No one has to talk to Crystal directly to know that she’s not telling the truth.

Not pausing for a second, Crystal is quick to deduce why people didn’t believe her. “Because defending sexual assault cases is calling into question the accuser’s account.” She continues, “It comes down to the two sides fighting as hard as they can to win their freedom. Yes, the accuser in the case is looking for freedom, too. Carrying the weight of a sexual assault on a person is a devastating burden.” (Mangum, page 167-168)

It pains me to think that this delusional liar is putting herself in the same position as women who really have been raped. It has been shown in a court of law that not only was she not raped by the three accused players, but that she was not raped at all. Real victims have serious problems getting their cases heard and handled and Crystal Mangum comes waltzing into the picture, high as a kite, completely unaware of what’s going on and shits all over it.

But Crystal realizes that she has to refrain from mentioning the names of the men that she accused of assaulting her because, “The criminal case is over!” (Mangum, page 168) But with that said, she writes that she still believes that she was assaulted and the dismissal of the charges only means that she can’t find her “justice” or her “freedom”.

And now, Crystal mentions Kim. She writes, “Kim/Nikki and I got separated.” (Mangum, page 168) Of course, Kim, at first, didn’t agree with Crystal’s version of events. Kim went as far as to call her allegations of rape “a crock“. She only changed her mind about that after DA Nifong helped her out with her previous criminal charges of violating her probation after she was convicted of embezzling thousands of dollars from her former employer.

Now her story stated that Crystal might have been slipped the date rape drug. She added that Crystal’s impairment only began at the party and she was not under the influence of anything when she arrived (Taylor & Johnson, page 193). Crystal herself wrote in Part 1 that, “We will never be sure what was in the drinks that Dan gave us. I don’t know who made them or what they contained.” (Mangum, page 42)

However, on March 22, 2006, Kim filled out a statement which varied considerably from Crystal’s original story. She mentions nothing about being separated from Crystal, let alone account for the half hour that the rape was supposed to have taken place in. She also states that Crystal reentered the house after telling her that she wanted to make more money (Baydoun & Good, page 13)

Nevertheless, in Crystal’s version of events, she got separated from Kim and  dragged into the bathroom. She writes that two men were in front of her while one was behind. Crystal began to scream for help, but no one could hear her. And that’s when it begins.

“Then I felt as though I was being penetrated, first in my vagina, then in my anus.” (Mangum, page 168) I question her phrasing here. She “felt as though” she was being raped? She wasn’t sure? I’m pretty sure that if someone sticks something into one of your orifices, you’re aware of it.

According to Crystal, her attackers then threaten to kill her and Crystal is now certain that, “He penetrated my vagina.” Then there is the infamous fiance statement. Crystal writes that the third rapist states, “I don’t want to. I love my fiancee and we are going to get married.” (Mangum, page 168) However, none of the lacrosse players, let alone the three that she accused, were engaged.

But in Crystal’s story the other two rapists convince the engaged one to assault her and, “When he finally did, each thrust hurt and it felt like my insiders [sic] were being ripped out.” She adds, “I also believe I may have been penetrated with a foreign object.” (Mangum, page 169) This refers to the aforementioned broomstick. When no DNA could from the Duke players turned up in any of the many DNA tests that were done, the conclusion was reached that maybe Crystal hadn’t been penetrated with a male sex organ at all. Instead, maybe the players made good on their broomstick joke.

But Crystal herself contradicts this when she writes, “The second attacker decided to penetrate me again. This time anally and painfully. He removed himself just before he had an orgasm and ejaculated on the floor.” (Mangum, page 169) If she was bodily penetrated, then why wasn’t any of the player’s DNA on her body? No skin cells, no hair follicles, no semen were found on her. Also, why wasn’t there any of the indicted player’s DNA on the floor of the bathroom where the alleged rape occurred?

But after the alleged rape, Crystal details that, “The guys wiped me off quickly and attempted to straighten my clothes.” (Mangum, page 169) A towel was recovered from the house which was tested for DNA. It contained Dave Evan’s DNA and no one else’s. So if Mangum was cleaned off with a towel, what happened to it? Why is there no evidence to corroborate Crystal’s story and so much evidence that contradicts it?

Next, “Kim entered the bathroom and helped them finish fixing my clothes.” (Mangum, page 169) Kim already refuted these claims. However, it makes no sense that Kim was dragged into another room, then suddenly appears to help Crystal’s rapist dress her and bundle her into Kim’s car. But after Crystal claims that several people dragged her from the house and deposited her in the passenger’s seat of Kim’s car, she writes that she pretended to be asleep.

Meanwhile, Kim got into a verbal confrontation with the lacrosse players and after the war of words, the two strippers leave. Crystal writes that she told Kim that she had been sexually assaulted but this doesn’t seem to impact the dancer at all. At this point Kim, and the report filed by a police officer later, asserted that Crystal pretended to pass out in the car and refused to tell Kim where she lived, where to drop her off, or even her real name.

Crystal writes, “She had no idea where I lived, and I could not tell her where to take me because I was not exactly sure where I was.” (Mangum, page 170) In Crystal’s version of events, she’s still conscious but confused and unsure. She doesn’t explain why she needs to know where she is in order to tell Kim where she lives.

Anyway, according to reports, Kim goes into a Kroger’s and alerts the security guard that Crystal refuses to get out of her car. According to Crystal, Kim says that she doesn’t know what to do and so she then calls the cops to remove a battered and recently raped woman from her vehicle. Crystal’s version makes less and less sense.

So the police are called and then Crystal’s story skips ahead to when Crystal enters the Duke Medical Center. What Crystal leaves out is that when Sergeant John Shelton arrives in response to Kim’s 911 call, he states that Crystal is in the car pretending to be unconscious. He notes that people who are passed out will come to after being exposed to ammonia capsules.

However, Crystal simply starts breathing through her mouth when Shelton uses the capsules on her. When Shelton attempts to physically remove Crystal from the car, he stated that she grabbed the parking break and held on. Finally, the officer removes her from Kim’s vehicle and she continues to act unconscious.

Since Crystal doesn’t have an ID on her and refuses to talk, Shelton and Willie Barfield, the second responding officer, decide to take her to a mental health and substance abuse facility. Before they leave the Kroger’s parking lot, Barfield calls in to the dispatchers and informs them that Crystal was breathing fine and, “She’s just passed out drunk.” (Yeager & Pressler, page 17) And that was how she ended up at the hospital.

According to Crystal, after she arrived at the hospital she was give a sedative and fell asleep. When she awoke, “There was a nurse in the room asking questions and writing down my answers quickly on a note pad.” (Mangum, page 170) After this she writes that a rape crisis counselor came to visit her. Then she had a pelvic exam which she describes as “excruciating.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the world has a different version of these events. While at the Duke Medical Center, a nurse, Tara Levicy, notices that Crystal is acting strangely and asks her if she had been raped. Crystal, who at this point was potentially facing an involuntary confinement in a mental institution and possibly losing her children, now has the idea of rape introduced into her thinking. And so her storytelling begins.

The first version of events that Crystal told Officer Gwendolen Sutton was that she had been raped by five men. A little later there is a second version of events; some of the lacrosse players had pulled her out of Kim’s car and groped her, but she wasn’t raped. And then a third; another officer wrote in a report that the number of Crystal’s attackers had gone up to 20.

After the rape claim, a physical exam was done. But the medical staff didn’t find any evidence of the trauma that Crystal was complaining about. The only injuries they found on her were small cuts on her legs. Nothing that would confirm a brutal gang rape (Taylor & Johnson, page 31-32).

Back to Crystal’s story. She philosophizes, “After all of this time, I still have difficultly believing that I was the person being examined. Not because I do not believe I was there but because so many people speak with so much certainty about my physical and mental state as if they were there.” (Mangum, page 171) Crystal still seems to be harboring the false notion that no one can say anything about her unless they heard it from her first hand.

Crystal continues, “Obviously, I am not an expert on the mental health of sexual assault victims. I only know how I felt before, during, and after I was raped prior to the North Buchanan incident. I do vividly remember my attackers from my teenage years… I had no choice because I was in love with one of the men who brutalized me repeatedly.” (Mangum, page 171)

After a brief moment of claiming responsibility for her own actions, Crystal is back to being the helpless victim. She had no choice but to be Fred’s rape victim because she was in love with him. She had no agency or ability to do anything about the abusive relationship. Of course, no one ever proved the Fred actually raped her to begin with.

But now Crystal has to explain her faulty memory of the night in question. “I had all of 10 minutes to know everything about everyone who may or may not have come in and out of that house, particular the bathroom.” (Mangum, page 171) It has been proven, conclusively, that Crystal was at the house for more than 10 minutes. So it seems strange that she tries to state that her entire time there amounted to no more than 10 minutes.

She exclaims, “Realistically, what should a victim be able to remember?” (Mangum, page 171) But it’s not as if people didn’t believe her story because there were a few details missing or she couldn’t remember people’s names or face. Her version of the events contradicted photos, documentation and eyewitness statements from almost everyone else in connection with the case. She also changed her story so many times that it was impossible to tell what she really thought had happened.

Crystal continues by explaining the physical injuries that she suffered. “I have not spoken to any of them [the hospital employees who examined her] since that night, but I assure you they were not manufacturing the injuries they reported finding on me.” (Mangum, page 172) But the staff didn’t report injuries on her that were in agreement with her story. The injuries that were reported were non-bleeding scratches on her legs. That’s it.

The rape accuser attests that she had trouble walking after her assault and bled profusely. In addition to this, she claimed, that “I required several X-Rays and MRI exams that showed bruising to my neck and knee that were not present before the attack.” (Mangum, page 172) But how could she have known this? Did she have X-rays and an MRI before the attack that showed no bruising? Crystal states that she has to take pain medication and wear a knee brace.

Meanwhile, her mental health isn’t faring too well either. She writes that she constantly replays the incident in her mind and writes, “I was deeply troubled by the fact that they had used racial epithets before, during and after the attack.” (Mangum, page 172)

And now we go to the photo identification. Crystal admits that, “I am told they [the lineups] were in violation of standard practice for conducting such procedures.” (Mangum, page 173) However, the violation was actually in her favor.

For every one suspect present in the lineup, where are supposed to be seven “filler” photos of people who are not involved in the case at all. Some might be dead. Others could be cops. Others could be people who live on the opposite side of the country. “Instead, I was told that more than likely the people in the pictures were people at the party.” (Mangum, page 173) In reality, she had been shown pictures of all of the players on the Duke lacrosse men’s team and told to pick out the ones who had raped her.

While Crystal admits that her identifications didn’t yield anything useful, she insists that, “My experience in trying to make an identification should not be looked at as anything other than one individual case.” But of course, she has an explanation. She writes, “I saw a room full of strangers for maybe 30 minutes that night.” (Mangum, page 173) What happened to the previously mentioned 10 minutes?

A Rush to Injustice states that on April 4, 2006, Mangum was asked to do another photo ID, this time from a PowerPoint presentation. During this identification she picked out David Evans (one of the indicted players) and said that she was 90% certain that she was one of her attackers. But this was contingent on him having a mustache. He never had a mustache at any time before, during or after the case.

She identifies some other party goers. However, she fingers a player who wasn’t present at the party at all, another who had left before she and Kim had arrived, a second who wasn’t at the party, and she misidentifies the person who made the “broomstick” comment (Bayboun & Good, page 55).

But then she talks about the media storm; “In less than a month, the entire episode had blown up into national news. You can best believe I was not in favor of making any of this public… It did not help that the attorneys for the lacrosse players called press conferences and appeared on cable talk shows more than anyone else.” She continues, “In their zeal to serve their clients, it seems as though they were calling as much attention to the case as possible.” (Mangum, page 174)

Does she really think that the lawyers were ultra eager to make sure everyone in the country knew that their clients were accused of rape? But as Crystal goes on to prove, she had no idea what going on in the case or the media circus. Or really, anything else in her entire life.

To read all of the articles in the Last Dance for Grace series, click here. Blogs are in reverse chronological order.

Fairy Tales aren’t for Kidz: Intro

vTbQkPc7ZiaQHjrlnJDwx4NsXrjThis is a six-part series on the movie Bratz Kidz: Fairy Tales. Click here to read the other parts of this series.

Fairy Tales are problematic. Bratz movies are problematic. Now combine the two. That’s the level of problems we’re dealing with here. There are two movies in the Bratz Kidz series, the series between Bratz Babyz and regular Bratz. The first film in this series was Sleep-Over Adventure. The second was Fairy Tales.

The premise of this movie is that the Bratz girls have to go through four fairy stories as if they were the main character of the tale. During this endeavor they realize that the story heroines that they mocked earlier have it harder than they believed. And as an effect, learn not to judge people when they don’t know about their lives.

The loosely-applied moral aside, the stories that they investigate are in no way even remotely close to the original fairy tales that were told hundreds of years previously. In the end, the movie reinforces the allure of fairy tales, without recognizing that the stories are outdated and not applicable to modern-day life. Also, the Bratz learn very little.

In this series of reviews, I will be breaking down the movie into sections based on the story that is being played out. Then I will first review the Bratz’s interpreting of the fairy tale before discussing what actually happens in the story. So these reviews will not only be reviews of the Bratz Kidz movie, it will be reviews of the fairy tales themselves.

Fairy tales are a slippery thing that originated in oral history. By the time a lot of the stories were written down, they had changed so much that there is no one single authoritative version of a tale. Many of the modern fairy tales differ greatly based on location and time period. Because of this, the moral of the story, the setting, and many of the details vary.

But even the oldest, first published, versions of fairy stories are not what most people would find appropriate for children these days. Fairy tales are bloody, brutal and often result in fatalities along with the happy endings. But Bratz Kidz are here to prove that fairy tales are wonderful and need to be passed on to younger generations.

The movie starts out with the Kidz, who are around 10-12 years old, in the hallway of the high school, practicing for their play on fairy tales. Yasmin is playing Cinderella, in a belly-shirt and a long skirt. Sasha is Little Red Riding Hood, Jade is Snow White and Cloe is Rapunzel. Why no one thought to have the ethnic characters play fairy tale heroines from their own cultures is never addressed.

Sasha is going over her dialogue from a script. She repeats her famous line, “Oh grandmother, what big teeth you have!” In frustration, she announces to her friends that her heroine is an idiot. She tells them, “Her grandmother’s got fur, sharp teeth and whiskers. Duh! Run, you little goof!”

Jade meanwhile, is less than impressed with her heroine, Snow White. She complains that the young girl cooked and clean with 7 men with no paycheck. Jade announces that Snow White is a loser. While it’s probably unintentionally, this observation makes women, who still perform the majority of household tasks, sound like losers. Particularly housewives. When the reality is that no one gets paid to clean their own living quarters.

But Cloe announces that her heroine is the lamest of them all. Rapunzel is so annoying that even her name needs to be changed. Yasmin notes that she always liked the name Rapunzel. But she insists that her heroine is terrible as well. All Cinderella had to do was sneak out to a ball. How difficult was that?

Cloe, true to form, freaks out, believing that the kids they’re performing for will be bored with the show and boo the girls off stage and her acting career will be over. Jade informs her friend that they have to pull it together. After all, they promised Principal Grimm (get it?) that they would perform the show.

Ever helpful, Yasmin points out that the show is for kindergartners and as such, they should be easily pleased. She reminds everyone how they used to love fairy tales at that age. That age. Five whole years ago.

Sasha, ever the smarty pants, reckons that they are simply too smart for fairy tales now. Yasmin adds that if the Bratz would have been in the heroine’s positions, they would have handled things much better. All of the girls concur.

Then they hear an ahem. They make a big production about figuring out who made the sound, then they look over and notice a frog with glasses sitting on the water fountain. Cloe reacts with disgust and notes that frogs give you warts. The frog then talks to them.

He informs the girls that, “The Keeper of Fairy Tale Lore has heard your scornful words and frankly, is quite saddened. He worries that if too many become cynical and lose their appreciation for fairy tales, then the tradition of passing them on from generation to generation will die out forever. The tales themselves will cease to exist.”

It could be argued that there are thousands of fairy tales not passed on and not made into Disney movies, but they are recorded in books and doing just fine, but let’s not. Sasha is skeptical and says that this reeks of a hidden camera show set up. She grabs Chadwick, telling the other girls that the frog is mechanical and she will show them his batteries.

Of course, Chadwick is a real frog. He introduces himself to the girls as a handsome prince. Sasha still doesn’t believe him, but he doesn’t seem very bothered. Jade asks the frog what they’re supposed to do about the fairy tales and the Keeper of the Lore.

Chadwick suddenly disappears, then the girls follow suit. The book of fairy tales that Cloe was holding crashes to the floor and the pages turn. The story picks up in Fairy Tale Land with the girls falling through the air, screaming. Chadwick then tries to explain his back story to the girls who are in mid-peril.

The frog informs the Kidz that he had been boasting that he could do so much better than fairy tale heroines and the Keeper of the Lore heard him and took away his crown. But no one is listening to him. The girls are expressing their affections to one another and saying that they’ve been great BFFs.

When they finally land, the girls bounce off of trees and shrubs and land without a scratch from a fall that should probably have liquefied them. Chadwick is doing just fine after the fall too. Sasha asks the former prince who is doing all of this to them and Chadwick informs them that the Keeper is.

The frog then informs the girls that they have from right then, sunrise, until midnight in order to bring each of their fairy tales to a happy ending. He asks them, “You dig it?” Jade asks what that even means.

Chadwick tells the girls that their bragging about how they were smarter and more well-adjusted to life than the heroines means that they now have to prove it. He shares that if the girls bring all of the stories to happy endings that they will return home and Chadwick will become a prince again. But if they fail, he will be stuck without his crown and they will be stuck in the Fairy Tale land.

Chadwick then leaps onto Cloe’s head and disappears with her. The first story has begun. The other girls decide that they should go find their friend and help her, even though the original heroines didn’t get help from their three meddling BFFs. They head off into the woods where Jade thinks she saw a tower.

Tune in next time for the first story; Rapunzel. Until then, wonder why the Bratz girls are forced to go through all of these stories and Chadwick only has to guide them through when they both committed the same crime of talking smack about fairy tales. Also, wonder why talking smack about fairy tales is supposedly so dangerous.

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Bratz Super Babyz: A Novelization, Chapter 4

hqdefault (14)NB: This is a novelization of the film, Bratz Super Babyz. The dialogue is taken verbatim from the movie. The rest are things that I added in, in an attempt to explain some of the stranger parts of the film. To read all parts of this novelization, click here.

Chapter 4

Jade directed herself upstairs with her new-found power of flight. Still shaky as to how it worked, she entered the bedroom going entirely too fast and crashed into Cloe, who was floating herself. The two girls tumbled in midair and Cloe screamed. Her shriek was so piercing that it shattered a drinking glass that Yasmin had on her nightstand. Sasha slammed the door closed in order to keep Gran from hearing them.

“Cloe!” Sasha scolded, in annoyance. “Your voice breaks things.”

Cloe, still hovering about the ground, looked at her friends in confusion. “Guys, why are we flying?” She asked.

Yasmin and Sasha just then started to float above the floor as well. The four girls looked at each other in shock. “Sasha, we can fly too!” Yasmin declared.

“I’m super sticky,” Jade offered.

“Sasha is super smart,” Yasmin informed her friends.

“But she’s always been that way,” Cloe pointed out, hovering just a few feet off of the floor.

“No, I mean, now she really knows everything,” Yasmin emphasized.

“Yasmin’s super speedy,” Sasha told the other Bratz.

“And I’m a super cry baby?” Cloe asked. “Not fair,” she sighed. She was never going to shake her Drama Mama title at this rate.

“Wow, this is real,” Jade said, realizing that she wasn’t actually asleep at all. “Are we like… like, Super Babyz?” She asked her friends.

Before anyone can answer, they heard Gran calling them from downstairs. “Girls, what are you up to?”

The girls quickly stopped their flying and sat down on the floor in a circle. When Gran opened the door, they were all sitting, looking like they were just innocently chatting. “Hello Gran,” the girls chorused.

“Girls, you left your crayons and coloring books all over the floor,” Gran scolded. “Didn’t we talk about picking up after ourselves?”

“We’ll get right on it, Gran,” Sasha promised.

Gran nodded at her adopted children and left. The Bratz all sighed as Gran closed the door.

“Don’t tell,” Sasha told her friends. “It’s our secret.”

The girls nodded, solemnly. They knew that they couldn’t trust an adult with their secret. After all, adults were mostly useless. They couldn’t know about the Bratz Super Babyz. Toddlers were much more prepared to handle the effects of their super powers.

All of the girls put their hands in. “We are all real Super Babyz!” They shouted in unison. They started to pull away, but found that they were all bound by Jade’s orange goo.

“Yuck, Jade! You’re sticky,” Cloe stated the obvious.

“Sorry,” Jade said, sheepishly.

*

In the living room, the girls were laying on the floor, watching the newest episode of Super Buds. None of the girls wanted to admit that the show was less exciting after meeting their heroes. Every time they saw one of them on TV, they couldn’t help but think of their less than enthusiastic greeting from the team.

Gran entered and observed the girls for a second. There seemed to be something different about them. Their hair was down now, instead of up in their regular ponytails and pig tails, but that was the only notable change that she could point out. She told herself that her girls were find and shook off her thoughts.

On the television, the Super Buds were working to save a town from being washed away by a burst dam. “Help, Explodo Girl! I need you sto start an avalanche to repair the dam!” Mr. Stretchtastic ordered his subordinate.

“I’m on it, Mr. Stretchtastic,” the young woman responded.

Gran walked over to her chair and looked around at her knitting bag. “Where in the world of knitting is my green yarn?” She asked herself. Gran bit her lower lip. She shouldn’t have said that out loud. The girls had enough to worry about with their grief and the loss of their parents, they didn’t need to know that their guardian was becoming senile.

Yasmin spied the green yard underneath the dresser, across the room. She raced over to grab it and flew back to Gran’s chair, depositing the yarn while Gran was rooting through her yarn bag. Gran looked up, feeling a rush of air against her face that shifted her fly-away hairs.

She spied the yarn. “Oh, there it is,” she said. Not wanting to worry the girls by letting them know that she hadn’t seen something that was on her chair the entire time. Gran walked back to her knitting drawer to find her thinnest needles.

The girls giggled to themselves that they had helped their adopted mother without her realizing it. Just then, Sasha looked up and realized that Jade was floating above the floor. “Kool Kat!” Sasha hissed at the toddler.

“What?” Jade asked, wondering why her friends suddenly seemed so far away.

“Back to earth, pronto!” She whispered.

“Oh! Whoops!” Jade said, flying back down to the floor. She was still getting a handle on this entire flying thing.

Gran retrieved her needles and sat back down on her chair, oblivious that one of her charges had just been floating above the floor.

The Super Bud’s announcer declared, “Tune in tomorrow and find out how Johnny Speedomter saves the day when giant pterodactyls try and take over Jolly Town!”

The girls looked at each other in excitement. “Cool, I love dinosaurs,” Jade said.

“Pterodactyls are not dinosaurs,” Sasha corrected. “They’re pterosaurs. A common misconception.”

“Ah, good to know,” Jade said, not bothering to point out to Sasha how annoying she had become after she had gained all of this knowledge. Which was even more annoying than usual.

“I bet we could help Johnny save Jolly Town now that we have-” Yasmin started.

Sasha quickly shushed her.

The girls looked up at Gran, trying to see if she knew that Yasmin had almost said. They waved their their guardian. Gran cluelessly waved back.

Yasmin turned to her friends and completed her sentence, whispering, “Super powers.”

“Why don’t we?” Cloe suggested.

“Why don’t we what?” Sasha asked.

“Help,” Cloe said. “We should act like real Super Babyz.”

Before the girls could tell her not to talk so loudly, Cloe yawned. Gran didn’t look up from her knitting. Cloe yawned again, louder this time. Gran still didn’t make any indication that she had heard her adopted daughter.

Cloe hopped onto Gran’s chair. “Gran, can we take our nap early?” She asked, sweetly.

Gran looked up from her knitting and saw the girls were all laying on the floor, in sweet repose. “Why, butter my parsnips,” she remarked. The girls had never been so tired at this time before. Gran figured that their day at Adventure Universe had simply been too much for them to handle and agreed to take the girls upstairs to bed.

The gray-haired guardian took her charges upstairs and opened the bedroom door for the sleepy girls. They obediently toddled into the room and got into bed. They settled down and snuggled into the blankets. Gran gently closed the door behind her as she left, looking forward to a nap for herself.

As soon as they heard the door close and Gran’s footsteps fade into silence, the four Bratz jumped out of bed and ran to the door. They cracked it open and looked out, seeing Gran settle into her recliner and lean her head back; the international napping position.

The girls exchanged glances. They were free to try out their new powers!

*

The girls flew through the sky. Although they were still shaky and learning about their new-found abilities, they floated effortlessly over the earth.

“Oh my god, this is totally fun!” Yasmin declared, dipping down a few feet.

“Too low, too low. Pull up!” Jade said, adjusting her height to avoid a patch of tall trees.

“Going up,” Sasha said, as the four girls leveled out their height.

“Do I look a little crooked to you?” Cloe asked. Sasha rolled her eyes. At least she wasn’t asking if her butt looked big in her leotard. Cloe didn’t even understand what the phrase meant, she had just heard it on TV before and was constantly repeating it.

“I’m feeling a little wobbly,” Yasmin offered.

The girls all laughed and continued to fly. As they got braved they started to tumble and play and see the limits of their flight.

“Woo hoo!” Cloe enthused. “Higher!” She called as the girls flew through a low-hanging cloud. “What should we do?” She asked her friends.

“Save the community, of course,” Sasha told her.

“What else would Super Babyz do?” Jade questioned.

“Yeah!” All of the girls declared in unison. The Bratz Super Babyz flew off into the sky. It wasn’t long before the spotted the first problem that they could fix.

Yasmin saw a cat stuck in a tree. She swooped down and picked up the small animal, depositing it on the ground. The cat walked away without a thank you. But that was cats for you.

Next, Sasha infiltrated a group of male scientists who were looking for a way to make trees grow stronger and faster than before in order to bare more fruit and help feed people. Sasha worked carefully on an equation for a new chemical mixture that would promote growth, with an added flair of cuteness.

She finally poured the blue chemical compound into a petri dish with a seed in it. The mixture caused the seed to sprout immediately. The tree grew into a bonsai-sized tree that exploded with hearts. The scientists were amazed. It was so efficient and so adorable at the same time!

Meanwhile, at a playground, Jade witnessed a bully stealing a ball from two children playing. She used her sticky abilities to grab the bully and hold him upside down from his shoes. He dropped the ball and the young body and girl retrieved it. The children waved happily to the toddler.

Jade released the bully and he crashed to the ground. He watched in awe as the little girl flew away. The bully, who was named Marcus, would never forget his humiliation that day, though. Marcus would later graduate from petty bullying to actual crimes and eventually murder. At night, the vision of his childhood shame at being bested by a toddler would enter into his dreams and slowly drive him to end another human being’s life.

Cloe, meanwhile, was having trouble finding an outlet for her ability. Her super scream didn’t seem especially helpful or useful for solving problems or fighting crime. But just when she thought that she wouldn’t be able to help anyone, like all of her friends, saw a family out for a picnic at the edge of the woods and a bear headed straight for them.

The tiny blonde girl swooped down and used her scream against the bear. The creature, who was endangered in that area, was so stunned by the shriek that it shattered both of his eardrums. He ran back into the woods in terror. His hearing didn’t return that night or the next day. When hunters came looking for illegal game, the bear didn’t hear either of them. He never awoke from his nap.

But Cloe didn’t know any of this. The family that she had just saved thanked her by offering her a cookie. Cloe graciously accepted and had lunch with her new friends.

Later that afternoon, the girls regrouped. They excitedly told each other about what they had done and their various adventures in town. But just then, they spotted a school bus teetering off of a cliff. The school bus driver, drunk at the wheel, had driven the bus off of the road and over the guardrail after she had miscalculated the turn.

The girls quickly leapt into action. “Pop the tires, Angel!” Sasha instructed.

“Smart thinking, Smartasha,” Cloe said. She flew from one side of the bus to the other, screaming at the tires until they popped.

“Yas, run back and forth behind the bus,” Sasha continued.

“Why?” Yasmin asked, wrinkling her nose.

“Just do it!” Sasha snapped. “Cloe, call for help. Kool Kat, use your glue.”

Diligently, the girls did as Sasha told them. Jade attached her glue to the bus and started to pull it back towards the road. The kids inside of the bus screamed in terror as they were jerked back and forth.

Yasmin continued to race back and forth until she carved an oval-shaped hole into the pavement. The fact that they were creating thousands of dollars worth of damage to the road didn’t occur to the four toddlers. What did they know of highway infrastructure anyway?

Jade’s goo sprung out too much and she lost her grip on the bus. The tiny girl continued to pull against the weight of the bus. Just when it looked like the school bus was about to go over the cliff and take Jade with it, she managed to wrangle it back towards the road and set the rear axles into the crater that Yasmin had created.

As the girls flew back to Sasha, the rescue teams and firefighters, who had been completely useless in this entire sequence of events, ran up to the bus and cheered on the four toddlers. The four Super Babyz smiled at each other, satisfied at their job well done.

“All in a day’s work for Glue Girl!” Jade announced.

“A breeze for Smartasha, Sirena and Speedy Princess!” Cloe declared. The girls had come up with their own nicknames. As was evident by the quality of the monikers.

“Go, go, go, Super Babyz!” The four Bratz shouted as they flew off into the sky. Their fists raised in the air in triumph as they went.

*

“You’ve got to stand up for your rights!” Tot insisted. “You may be small, you may have thin skins, but that doesn’t mean you should hide under the ground. Come into the light and fight!” He enthused. “Come on! Wake up and smell the warm fertilizer.”

Tot looked out into his audience, waiting for a cheer of agreement. But there was nothing. Not even a nod. He looked over the silent Earth potatoes in annoyance. Not a single one had said anything to him since he had liberated them from the park’s fast food stand earlier that day. Not even a thank you.

“Any luck?” Yam asked, popping his head into the room.

“Forget it!” Tot declared. “These glorb slugs are never gonna rise up and conquer their planet.” He surveyed the potatoes in disappointment.

“We should’ve never liberated them from the deep-fry torture emporium,” Spud commented.

Tot turned his attention back to the potatoes in disgust. “Alright, go ahead, just lie there. You’ll never amount to anything, you lazy–” He ask about to finish with the most foul swear word in their language when the news anchor of the local news cut him off.

“This just in,” he started, professionally. “Four toddlers rescued a bus full of children in distress this afternoon.”

The screen switched to footage of the Bratz Super Babyz and their daring actions earlier that afternoon. Tuber watched in horror.

“Hey look! It’s them!” He shouted, pointing at the screen.

“Who?” Tot asked, abandoning his potato compatriots.

“The babies who took the Matter Exchanger. Look!” He insisted.

“But who taught them to fly?” Spud asked, cluelessly.

“Don’t you see, you dim-witted starch?” Yam demanded. “They’ve used the Matter Exchanger to turn themselves into flying babies.”

Tuber looked around the room. No one was blaming him for losing the stupid piece of technology anymore. Good. Now they were united again, he had to get the rest of his team focused on regaining the Matter Exchanger.

“We’ve got to get the Matter Exchanger back!” Tot insisted.

“But we don’t know where they are,” Yam pointed out. “Do we?” He asked Tuber.

“No, we don’t,” Yam said, before Tuber could answer. “But where there’s a will, there’s a way.” He had just learned that phrase from the human’s daytime TV and greatly enjoyed saying it. Even if the shows featured a staggering lack of potatoes in leading roles.

“Yeah,” Yam confirmed. “And there’s a will.”

The four Potatoes turned back to the TV to continue watching the news broadcast.

“That’s right, Jim,” the anchor in the studio said. “Looks like we’ve got some amazing flying babies in our community.” He said it as if flying babies were something that lots of people had all over the world and not the result of a freak miscommunication with alien technology.

Tuber looked at the anchor as he struggled to move to the next story, still bewildered by the appearance of flying toddlers. His mind was already working into overdrive. “So we’ll just have to make them come to us,” he said, slowly.

The other Potatoes looked at him in curiosity. Tuber smiled at them. He had a plan.

*

Back in the living room of Gran’s house, the homeowner was snoring loudly with her mouth open. A fly that had been trapped in the house for several hours flew near her mouth and decided to investigate. It landed on her tongue. Gran coughed and unknowingly ate the creature.

On the television, Gran was watching the same news program that the Potatoes had just seen. “Four toddlers rescued a bus full of children in distress this afternoon,” the reporter said as Gran continued to snore.

“That’s right, Jim,” the anchor responded.”Looks like we’ve got some amazing flying babies in our community. Never heard of super babies!” He declared.

Gran awoke with a start. “Where in the wide world?” She asked herself. She looked at her watch. She had been asleep for two hours.

“We’ve got at least 10 calls reporting a UFO sighting,” the anchor continued, shakily.

“What’s it?” Gran muttered as she searched for the remote in order to change the channel to something else.

“That’s right, Bob,” the reporter confirmed. “It’s like some kind of mass hysteria. What about the call we got last night, Jim? Young kid in town claimed he was abducted by a group of large potatoes and a very unattractive baby.” A mugshot of Ted from one of his various, drug-related arrests, flashed onto the screen. “I tell you, Bob, the wacky things people come up with,” the reporter laughed.

Gran realized that she had probably better go check on the girls after leaving them alone for two hours straight. She stood and realized that her massive panties and her sweat pants had wedged themselves into her ass crack. She pulled both away from her skin, inelegantly.

The gray-haired widow walked up the stairs and arrived at the Bratz’s bedroom. She opened the door quietly and saw that their beds appeared occupied. The girls had left their “pets” in their beds. At least, that’s what they told themselves.

In reality, they had stuffed the extra pillows from the linen closet into their beds and covered them with blankets. Gran smiled at her sweet, sleeping darlings. She softly closed the door and decided to let the girls sleep a little while longer before their afternoon trip to the park.

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Lego Friends: Intro

LEGO-Friends-2013-new-sets-ibrickcity-1If I could describe this series in one word, it would be “innocent”. The Lego Friends series is so pure that even the most difficult censor would be hard struck to find anything even slightly verging on objectionable. But just as the Lego Friends is lacking in the age-inappropriate sexualization and makeup-heavy teenage girls that are so prevalent in Bratz, the series does little to advance the options and portrayals of girls and young women.

Netflix had suggested this series to me for quite a while and I hadn’t gotten around to watching it yet. But then I was watching some Feminist Frequency videos and found one on Legos and gendering toys, specifically about the Lego Friends series. As soon as I saw the commercials for the toys and saw how Lego had turned their inventive and creative product into the same bullshit that girls are being sold by everyone else, I knew I had to watch the series.

True to form, the show is limiting for girls and revolves around interpersonal relationships instead of anything else in the world. The three episodes, New Girl In Town, Stephanie’s Surprise Party, and Dolphin Cruise, manage to give girls slightly more options than Bratz or My Scene, but better than terrible is still not good. Over all, the show isn’t that interesting, creative or well-written. The episodes are all so nicey-nice and completely bland that it’s no surprise that there were only 3 episodes made total.

The show takes place in a town called Heartlake City and centers around five girls; Mia, Emma, Andrea, Olivia and Stephanie. Their characterization is just as weak as regular children’s TV shows aimed at little girls. Each of them have vague interests and hobbies that rarely are key to the plot. The focus of most episodes are the girls’ friendship and interpersonal relationships.

While friendship is definitely important to young women, and indeed all young people, the message that this sends seems to overwhelmingly be that friendship is so integral to young womanhood that no one can be a woman or survive if they are a loner or don’t rely on their girlfriends for everything in their lives. Teenagers will start to believe that their friends’ opinions are more important than parents’ guidance or the wisdom of any other adult, so do we really need to hammer home that friends are infinitely more important than anything else in a girls’ world?

Speaking of parents; none of the girls seem to have any. They mention having parents, but Olivia lives with her Aunt Sophie and none of the other girls’ parents are ever seen or heard on screen. It still baffles me that shows aimed at young people are willing to replace a family support system with a friendship support system to further inform the viewers that friends are the be all, end all of your existence. To her credit, Aunt Sophie is a concerned and helpful character who assists the girls in their various adventures and problems.

The girls’ appearance is less worrying than other shows. The girls are not hyper sexualized with makeup, skimpy clothes, high heels, and suggestive dance moves whenever the moment calls for it. However, the girls all have the same body type. Andrea is the only person of color in the main cast. All of the girls dress in tank tops and short skirts or shorts, all in a pastel color pallet. They all also have long hair.

What would it take for a main character on a show for girls to have short hair? Would the planets need to align? Would it be the first sign of the rapture? Seriously.

When it comes down to it, I would say that Lego Friends tries a little harder than other series aimed at young girls, but the end result is still static and one-dimensional representations of femininity that present girls with a limited view of themselves and the world. With all of the awesome potential that Lego Friends had, it’s sad to see that the company went for more of the same and simply duplicated the toys and movies that currently saturated the market, instead of branching out and trying something new and innovative.

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