Human Interest, Post Its

What If I Raise a Serial Killer? A Mother’s Fear of Raising a White Son.

To say I was shocked when the ultrasound technician said I was having a boy would be an understatement; I was scared shitless. In an instant, gone were the dreams of my Lorelai/Rory adventures and instead replaced were images of serial killers and scenes from We Need to Talk about Kevin. It wasn’t the dirt and reptiles that scared me. I have a younger brother who proudly peed his name on the side of our house while getting kicks out of throwing lizards down my shirt. Boys will be boys — as they should be…to a certain extent. Before finding out the gender of my unborn child, I would joke that if I ever had a boy, I’d leave him out in the woods for the White Walkers to eat. Jokes on me, because after 9 ½ months of pregnancy and a C-section, I’ve sacrificed too much to ditch this amazing work in progress who I’m utterly in love and obsessed with.

No, what terrified both my husband and I, who sat, motionless, as the technician blurted out “I see pee pee, no girl for you!” was the fact we were now responsible for bringing up a white male in a time where it’s “okay” for the President of the United States to demean women and for college boys to rape unconscious women. Every time I’ve ever come across a dickhead of a so-called “man,” I think “If I was your mother, I’d slap you right across the face and put you in your place.” And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t believe in spanking my child.

I cannot fathom living with the fear black and Latino mothers deal with every day as they send their sons out into the world, praying they will not be victimized by a power structure pre-disposed to benefiting my son.  My fear is that, despite my attempts to raise him with a sense of empathy and compassion for others, he will become another victimizer.

Sure, girls have their own drawbacks. I can’t tell you how many mothers I’ve spoken to who’ve said their sons were easier than their daughters. Yes, girls and puberty is a rough mix. But I went through it and can relate. If she ever became too much, I’d just grab a bottle of wine and tell my husband “she’s your daughter, you speak to her,” (why are we meaner to our moms than our dads?)! Plus, if my daughter ever became a teen mom and ended up working the pole, I always planned on just blaming it on my husband. I mean, she had unprotected sex at an early age and shakes her ass for crusty-old men because daddy didn’t show her love, right? But with a son, the blame gets put on me. I remember watching a Lifetime movie based a true story. This serial killer had tortured and murdered numerous women and there was one common theme: they all looked like his mom. His mom, (even once his balls had dropped and he was declared an adult), had degraded him his entire life. So, what does he do? He goes out, rapes and murder women because of his mom! What if I’m that nagging mom that forces her son to become a serial rapist and killer? If my son were to ever mistreat or abuse a woman, I would blame myself. I mean, take Don Draper from Mad Men for example. He wasn’t a rapist or killer; just a playboy who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. And you know why? Because he had mommy issues. Even though Roger Sterling had his share of problems, he didn’t scream “mommy issues” like Don Draper did.

I love my son more than anything. He’s my life, a part of me that will always and forever remain a piece of me. I believe I was blessed with a son because our country (hell, our world) needs more good men. Men who stand up for what’s right and respect others with the same amount of decency (if not more) than they wish to be served. I’m grateful in that my husband, partner, and baby-daddy is the epitome of what a man is. I’ve never doubted his support and respect for me. We were meant to have a son so my husband can show him what a man is and I can show him how you treat a woman. Women are not objects but rather human beings just like him, deserving the same amount of respect (AND PAY) as he.  My son has watched me work a full-time job from the time he was latched onto my boob until yesterday when he threw a piece of cheese at my head while I was struggling to meet an editing deadline. Mommy will always be your mommy but she is also a professional career woman who is doing it all. Working, taking care of my family and fighting with the endless struggle we call “balance.” Mothers play a different role in this world than fathers and it’s my responsibility to show my son that whereas my husband and I may act out different roles, we’re equally important and crucial to this society.

Of course I want him to thrive and be successful in his future career of choice. If he’s fortunate, it’ll be his passion and not just a job. But more importantly, I want him to be compassionate; empathetic to those he can’t relate to yet still choose to stand up and fight for. Just as we need strong women to be examples for today’s youth, we need strong men to show what a real man is. I want to raise a man, not a scared little boy who resorts to hatred and ignorance.

My job as my son’s mother is to love and protect him; feed and educate his body and soul; and teach him what’s right from wrong, yet give him the space and opportunity to make his own decisions. I can only practice what I preach and pray he’ll be a man who helps, not hinders, our world.

Over two years later as I’m battling the terrible-twos, I’m still scared of raising a son but grateful for the opportunity. I was meant to be his mom and he was meant to be my son – forever and always.

Entertainment & Media

Girls: The End of an Era

Originally published on CultralWeekly.com

For the past five years, I’ve come to connect with and adore this group of obnoxiously self-absorbed and oblivious group of “friends” that has given new life to HBO. Girls made its introduction back in March of 2012, with critics wanting to claim it as Sex and the City for millennials and the voice of today’s generation. Whereas I squawk at the term ‘millennials’ and separate myself from the often negative adjectives aligned with this label, it’s true – I’m a millennial.

Girls captures the innocent yet ignorant dreams so many of us grew up believing. You go to college, immediately obtain a successful job, get married and start having kids before you’ve even started planning your 30th birthday party. Our parents did it, so why wouldn’t we? Spike in professional competition and economic downfall, that’s why.

I sympathize with Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvath, constantly struggling with the frustration of just wanting to be a full-time (and famous) writer but never quite making it. To live out wild adventures that others fawn over while being in such high demand that you can’t keep up with the pile of publisher and movie script deals would be ideal. Must be nice, right Carrie Bradshaw? But that’s not reality. Reality is building up your dreams and diluted fantasies only to realize that, yes, they can come true, but it’s going to take a lot work, your success will look different than previously imagined, and if it does happen, it won’t be within your expected time frame.

To the naked eye, Girls may seem like four self-entitled white girls who expect to have everything handed to them. And to some extent, it’s true – okay, it’s pretty spot on. And they don’t hide it. Throughout the six seasons, Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna are consistently being reprimanded by passing characters for their lack of responsibility, sympathy and common sense. Masked by this inflatable bubble that takes them around New York, they only see what affects them and nothing more. They’re not characters viewers obsess over and idolize. They don’t look like they stepped off a runway. Their sex is awkward and gross. And their careers (for those that have them) aren’t perfectly packaged in a box with a pretty bow.

Girls is not nor was ever meant to be the new Sex and the City. It was meant to capture the raw and often ugly yet beautifully woven moments of life. Coming to grips with who we are now and not what we once envisioned ourselves to be. Realizing some relationships were only meant to last a chapter or two and not the entire book. Understanding that we can be our own road blocks, and making the decision to face our weaknesses instead of laugh them off.

In season six, episode eight, “What Will We Do This Time About Adam?” guest star Aidy Bryant’s character Abigail asks Shoshanna and Ray, “Would you rather live in an ugly building with a view of a beautiful building or a beautiful building with a view of an ugly building?” To me, Sex and the City is the beautiful building we pretend to be and Girls is the ugly building we try (yet fail) to hide from others. We’d like to think of ourselves as flawless and elegant, but underneath it all, we’re constantly trying to figure out what the next step is and coming to terms with the fact that with each passing birthday, we’re reminded of just how much we really don’t know and how far we actually have to go.

Image courtesy HBO.

Nonfiction

That Time I Learned the ‘F’ Word at Sunday School

142005745Growing up, Church was a Sunday morning ritual at my house except on the occasions I managed to successful fake sick and relish in the confines of my comfy bed. While most kids’ memories consisted of Zacchaeus and reciting countless verses before they can spell out C-A-T, mine merged together in one glossy blur, except for the morning when I learned the ‘F’ word at Sunday school.

Churches are full of cliques, and mine was no exception. Thrown together by gender and age, Ashley, Krissy, and I spent countless Sundays drooling over pubescent Hollywood heartthrobs and planning the grand escape we could never muster the courage to play out. Krissy wasn’t like Ashley nor myself, she was different. Krissy was homeschooled, still believed Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny entered her house in the dark of night to drop off presents, and had no idea that her younger siblings were the product of mom and dad having sex and not random gifts from angels. What’s worse, the poor girl didn’t even have access to cable, a horror I couldn’t believe her parents subjected her to. Yes, Krissy was as blissful and innocent as an 8-year-old could be.

Standing outside the classroom one Sunday morning, the three of us exchanged curse words. Both Ashley and I knew all the good ones, except the ‘F’ word. After countless guesses and suggestions (Fart? Fudge?), nothing seemed to stick. Posed as angelically as could be, Krissy untucked her arms and spoke, “I know what the ‘F’ word is.” Bullshit. She’d never even seen a PG-13 movie, she couldn’t know.

“Prove it,” Ashely dared her.

“I’m not just going to tell you,” Krissy snapped.

“Please,” Ashley and I begged in unison.  We were dying to know. It was the last of our innocence and we were done with being kids.

“I’ll tell you the ‘F’ word if…” she looked around, “…if, you tell me what the ‘D’ and ‘S’ word are.”

“‘S’ word?” I asked.

“You mean ‘suck’?” Ashely added.

“I thought it was that. Okay, what’s the “D” word and then I’ll tell you.” Someone was turning out to be a hardass gangster.

Ashley and I both looked at her. “It’s ‘damn,” I told her.  “Now, tell us!” Bitch was getting on our nerves.

Krissy looked at us, pondering her unspoken thoughts.

“You don’t know what it is, do you?” Ashley huffed.

“I do too! Okay,” she started before looking around and making sure no one else was in earshot, “it rhymes with the ‘s’ word.”

“You mean ‘fuck?'” Ashley blurted out?

Krissy nodded her head, “yes.”

The three of us remained on the sidewalk while kids inside learned of Moses floating down the river. That was the day I learned my new favorite curse word, one I would go on to use on many occasions and in different contexts, time and time again. And all thanks to the girl whose parents believed their isolated and censored life was protecting their little angel from situations like this.

Human Interest

Fighting for Another Day: The Kristyn Fletcher Story

K.Fletcher

By Amanda Stewart

She awoke that Saturday morning with a nagging stomach ache on the side. Having put on the Mother’s Day Fashion Show at school the day before and with three students home with the flu, Kristyn Fletcher assumed it was either a bad cold or the aftermath of a busy week. Refusing to give into what she believed to be a bug, Kristyn continued her Saturday plans by planting in the garden with her husband, Scott. “It wasn’t until I went to Walmart that it really started bothering me,” she recalls, “I thought, maybe I should pick up tums instead of flowers.” Upon returning home, she decided to make a trip to urgent care, letting Scott know that she would meet up with him at their son’s soccer game afterwards. But, Kristyn never made it to the soccer game.

After urgent care suspected she may have appendicitis, Kristyn was sent to the hospital for x-rays, where they found “activity in [her] colon that looked suspicious.” It was the day before Mother’s Day and instead of celebrating with her husband and four kids at home, she was strapped to a hospital bed, undergoing test after test, waiting for doctors to locate the source of the issues. “We see tumors,” the doctor relayed to her and Scott. “That night when we were sitting there, I knew he was talking about me, but it felt as if he was talking about somebody else.” What started off as a quick trip to urgent care, ended up being a 13-day stay at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. It began with removing two tumors from Kristyn’s colon, including two feet of her colon. Maybe it’s colon cancer they thought. But, when they went to remove her appendix, they found another tumor hidden away. It seemed like it was never ending. While removing one tumor, there was always a new one awaiting to be discovered. By the time Kristyn was leaving her 13-day stay, 8 of her lymph nodes had been removed and doctors had a clear idea of what they were dealing with: Stage IV Metastatic Signet Ring Cell Carcinoma. In simpler terms, Kristyn had a rare form of appendix cancer. A cancer that was possibly treatable for a time, but ultimately incurable.

Growing up with a mom as a Preschool Director, Kristyn and her siblings inherited a passion for teaching. “I just always loved being around kids,” she remembers, “I was always eager to go with my mom and help her at the preschool whenever there was an opportunity.” What began as a summer job when she was twelve at her mom’s preschool, slowly progressed into a career. After going to school and working full-time, Kristyn earned her teaching credential and was offered a position as a Kindergarten teacher at Cordillera Elementary School in Mission Viejo in the fall of 1994. “I love the kids, I love the age,” she exclaims when talking about her kindergarten students. “They come in wide-eyed, not knowing what to expect and then ten months later, they’re completely different – confident and ready to take on the world!” With four kids of her own ranging from 13 to 26, teaching has never been just a job for Kristyn, but rather a commitment she takes seriously to both her students and their parents. “I treat every child in my class as if they’re my own. What kind of teacher would I want for my kids? I want my kids to be silly and have fun, but most of all, learn.” After teaching all these years, it’s rare Kristyn doesn’t know a parent or kid at Cordillera Elementary. “I don’t know if it’s unique but we have great families at our school. For some of them, I’ve had three or four of their kids in my class. You really get a chance to build relationships and genuine friendships with these parents.” Unbeknownst to Kristyn, after teaching in the same classroom for twenty years, May 9th, 2014 would be her last official day at Cordillera Elementary.

“I was devastated enough when I thought I’d have to miss two weeks because of my appendix” she recalls. Starting chemo in June, there wasn’t a likely chance Kristyn would be heading back into the classroom till end of December of 2014, which was delayed again when they found a tumor had grown on her left side. “If my blood count was fine, I was able to go into the classroom and help my substitute teacher. It was quite therapeutic for me. I got to spend time with the kids, catch up with my friends at the school, and even visit with the parents. A little sense of normalcy in this chaotic world I was suddenly thrown into.”

It was a call she received on January 15th, 2015 that would flip Kristyn’s already chaotic world into a nightmare. “I need to get you in here next week, we made a mistake. We thought your differential pay was over on March 3rd, but it’s actually ending on February 6th,” a representative from the school district said to Kristyn over the phone. That next Wednesday, Kristyn made a visit to the school district. “She wasn’t even seated, just rifling through papers on her desk while telling me ‘I just need to make sure that you know March 3, 2015 will mark your termination with the school district. You’re out of sick time and deferential pay,’” Kristyn recalls. As the representative told her she could either go on unpaid leave or disability retirement, both options void of health insurance, Kristyn sat in disbelief, unable to move. “I had to go to San Diego the next morning for surgery and all I could keep hearing was ‘no benefits, no benefits, no benefits.’” Unaware this situation could even occur, especially when she had purchased disability insurance with the understanding that it would cover her in this type of situation, Kristyn inquired about asking her colleagues to donate days from their vacation and sick time. With Kristyn having donated her sick and vacation time on multiple occasions, she knew it was a plausible option. With the district’s approval, Kristyn reached out to her teachers in the school district and within two days, she had accumulated 60 days, allowing her to keep her benefits and buy her time while she worked out what she was going to do next.

Kristyn reached out to the Union to discuss her options. “I thought if I retired, I could keep my benefits, which is all I really wanted. However, I was told there were no provisions in the contract for disabled retirees and to retire, I had to at least be 50. It just felt like they were saying, ‘thanks for your 20 years of service, but we’re taking away your health insurance. Sorry, that’s the way it is.’” Whereas Kristyn had the option of going on Cobra, the $2,000 monthly bill was no option for her family’s budget. “My doctors were outraged. They said they’d never had a patient where their employer terminated their benefits, especially during medical treatments.”

Letters of love and support surrounding Kristyn's home
Letters of love and support surrounding Kristyn’s home

With outcries coming from family, friends, co-workers, parents, and even the media, Kristyn’s brother Ryan, a Principal for Violet Elementary in Garden Grove, approached the School District, urging them to revisit the wording in the teacher’s contract about “disability retirement,” and implement revisions regarding medical coverage for individuals who are truly unable to work. Since a current contract had not been signed, it was believed to be the perfect opportunity to take a closer look and make some changes. After much deliberation, the district refused to revise the contract but instead allowed teachers the opportunity of donating 124 more sick days to Kristyn. “This is a good starting point, but it shouldn’t be up to the teachers to sacrifice their sick and vacation time,” Kristyn states. “I’m forever grateful for my fellow teachers, more than they will ever know, but it’s not their responsibility. I hate that this falls back on them, especially since they’ve already done so much for me. The union and the school district need to take a look at the situation and ask themselves, ‘what if this was my wife, mom, or daughter?’”

Kristyn with her husband Scott, daughter Alyssa (22), and sons Brandon and Bryson. Not pictured: eldest son Anthony (26)
Kristyn with her husband Scott, daughter Alyssa (22), and sons Brandon (16) and Bryson (13). Not pictured: eldest son Anthony (26)

A journey she never wanted to be on, Kristyn is taking one day at a time, focusing on her family and striving to make a change so that no other teacher has to experience what she’s been going through. “I don’t want any special treatment. I just would like the retirement benefits I’ve been paying into for the past twenty years.” With an army comprised of family, friends, co-workers, parents, and former students, Kristyn is urging the school board to reexamine teacher’s contracts with focus on disability retirement. “No one should have to figure out how they’re going to take care of themselves while they’re sick.” Regardless of Kristyn’s diagnoses, she’s determined not to let anyone put a time stamp on her life. Instead, she’s focused on her husband and kids, working to create as many memories with them as possible. “It’s hard when you have kids. Will I ever see my youngest two graduate from high school? Probably not. Probably won’t see my four children get married either.” Despite being in-between surgeries and in the midst of chemo, Kristyn’s witty humor and charming personality have yet to disappear. With a new teacher’s contract waiting to be approved, Kristyn’s termination date currently stands as May 12th, 2015 unless the contract is signed and the 124 days are donated by the teachers. “This has been a hard year for me and my family. Whereas I always believe things happen for a reason, I’m still figuring this one out. For some reason, I was the chosen one.”

Visit Kristyn Fletcher’s YouCaring Page to learn how you can help support Kristyn and her family

Update 5.5.2015 – Whereas the school board signed the new teacher’s contract, they neglected to revisit the wording “disability retirement” in the contract, as pleaded to them back in March. With 41 more school days (out of the allowed 124 days) donated to Kristyn by her fellow teachers, she’s hoping she’ll receive enough days to take her into late fall when her next surgery is scheduled. “I’m not sure that’s going to happen,” Kristyn states, “and like I’ve said a hundred times, it’s not the teachers’ responsibility to take care of me.  It is however, crucial I have my insurance benefits at that time.” The fight is not over yet.

Update 8.29.2015 – It is with great sadness to share that Kristyn lost her battle with cancer on August 29, 2015 leaving behind her husband, four kids, and a community full of friends and family who loved her more than a words can accurately capture. Kristyn you may not be here with us on earth anymore but you will never be forgotten. May your selflessness, humor, and determination to keep moving forward live on through those you’ve inspired.

Entertainment & Media

Mr. Grey Will See You Now

Originally published on CulturalWeekly.com

Grey

With the theater crowded to capacity, business women and rich housewives alike occupy each seat, anxiously awaiting their fantasies, once written in ink, soon to be played out in front of them on the big screen. Men had their Die Hard and Stars Wars while the teens had their Twilight, and now, women across the globe can finally hear those sweet words, “Mr. Grey will see you now.”

Since making its print debut in 2011, Fifty Shades of Grey has been multiplying its way into the hands of women across the globe. Granted, E.L. James will likely never be up for a Pulitzer, but damn can she make a damaged soul and bondage look more attractive than your typical Prince Charming. Fifty Shades has become a widespread topic of conversation between women, whether they’re salivating over its sensual and erotic scenes or debating how it’s a humiliating and abusive piece of cheap porn. Regardless, when news spread that Fifty Shades of Grey would be adapted to film every avid Grey reader began imagining their ideal actor of choice to fill Christian Grey’s shoes.

The power of the books was the freedom they gave each reader to imagine their own ideal Christian Grey. While the books deliver heavily passionate chemistry between its two main characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, the same can’t be said with its film adaptation. Dakota Johnson fulfills the image Steele to a tee, body language and all. From her plain but subtly attractive appearance to the way she bites down on her lip when she’s nervous, Johnson is Ms. Steele. However, the same can’t be said for Johnson’s counterpart, Northern Irish actor, Jamie Dornan. As a former Calvin Klein underwear model, one might assume his physical assets deemed him worthy of the title Christian Grey, but there’s more to the character than his sultry looks. Dornan fails in presenting Grey as a powerful force whose presence stops women in their tracks. His delivery, stiff and forgettable, Dornan’s quick casting into the film is more noticeable than his character’s overwhelming heightened sex appeal. As the film progresses and Dornan’s performance remains unaffected, the audience’s desire for the original choice for Christian Grey, Charlie Hunnam, increases, one monotone delivered sentence at a time.

Where Dornan’s performance as Grey and chemistry with Johnson lacked, director Sam Taylor-Johnson makes up with the film’s visually appealing and quality shots, amplifying the audience’s interest through a mood-enticing soundtrack. Due to the trilogy’s poor writing and often obnoxious dialogue, its controversial sex scenes are what paved its way onto countless best-selling novel lists. The film took the opportunity to translate the book’s brainless dialogue and create an attractive piece of art that captivates its audience’s attention. Taylor-Johnson had stated pre-filming that her take on Fifty Shades would consist of more than just soft porn and would be approach the S&M scenes with care. Beyonce’s sensual remix of “Crazy in Love” slowly increasing in the background as Dornan and Johnson play out scenes in the infamous playroom exemplifies how you can expand a bondage scene into a safe and alluring act. True to the book, the film accurately captures the intense and highly erotic sex scenes without going into NC-17 rating and resembling porn. Let’s be honest–no one is going to see Fifty Shades of Grey for its unique creativity and thought-provoking storyline. They’re going for the romance and sex.

Fifty Shades of Grey won’t be gracing its way through acclaimed awards shows nor will it be on AMC’s Top 100 Movies list. It’s entertainment, pure and simple. For those who were sucked into its trilogy, you’ll likely find it fun and for those who are stewing over the fact this ill-written piece of literature has become so wide-spread, be happy that there will only be three movies as opposed to Twilight’s five.

Click here to read on Cultural Weekly.

Entertainment & Media

Gained in Translation: The Power of Film Adaptation

Originally published on CulturalWeekly.com

ImitationThe translation of nonfiction literature into film is a daunting task. Difficulties range from adapting sensitive subject matter to condensing complex stories into a cinematic framework. Literature allows both writer and reader to experience the subject on a more intimate level and requires a much greater commitment on the reader’s part rather than just watching the film adaptation. It relies on the readers’ imagination while film utilizes multiple sources and techniques to not only create that same effect, but intensify it to a higher degree. Movies combine imagery, score, dialogue, and performance to evoke emotion and access a wider audience that is not so easily done with literature. Furthermore, books are read over a period of time with multiple interruptions occurring in the readers’ lives between chapters, while film has the advantage of capturing their audience’s attention for two straight hours, allowing viewers to escape their own reality and into that that of the film’s protagonist. Two of this year’s Oscar contenders illustrate how movies can translate nonfiction literature and contextualize it for a modern audience, thus bringing to life significant and unknown characters to audiences across the world.

British mathematician Alan Turing’s legacy was brought to life in Andrew Hodges 1983 biography, Alan Turing: the Engima. A mathematician himself, Hodges’ critically acclaimed biography explores Turing’s life in depth, describing in great detail the brilliant mind that went on to crack the Nazi Enigma code and laid the foundations for modern computing. Hodges also detailed Turing’s homosexuality, for which he was legally prosecuted and forced to undergo chemical castration. Hodges’ biography was published during the early days of the AIDS epidemic when gay rights in the UK were limited-to-non-existent and Turing wouldn’t receive his posthumous royal pardon for another 30 years. The 2014 film adaptation, The Imitation Game, was able to show Turing’s place in history, while at the same time contextualizing his struggles within the modern climate of gay rights. While Turing’s persecution may have been viewed as unfortunate in the 1980s, in today’s culture it is considered appalling and unimaginable. The father of modern computer science has now taken on the added dimension of gay icon.

It is through flashbacks of Turing as a young student at boarding school that audiences see how Turing has always been an outcast amongst his peers. Bullied and misunderstood, Turing showed signs similar to that of autism with his OCD tendencies and inability to socially connect with his fellow students. Turing’s relationship with his one and only friend, Christopher Morcom, gently alludes to his homosexuality, while displaying his fascination with codes. Flash forward from his school days to WWII, the film captures the significance of his relationship with Christopher when Turing names his code-breaking machine Christopher, and confirming the audience’s suspicions of his homosexuality when he relays to a colleague that he doesn’t have feelings for fiancé Joan Clark, but rather prefers men. Despite the film’s alterations from actual events,The Imitation Game excels at grasping the audience’s sympathy and admiration for Turing and showing what crippled Turing socially helped him excel professionally, saving millions of lives during WWII and paving the way for computer science.

Wild_film

Fellow Oscar contender Wild is the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s story of loss, infidelity and drug use, Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The book creates an intimate relationship with the reader through first-person narrative and the author’s exposed, uncensored thoughts. While some of this intimacy is lost in the film, her smallness and isolation are intensified on the big screen through cinematography that shows the ruggedness of the terrain and physical isolation Strayed experienced. The film opens with Strayed (played by Oscar winner and 2015 nominee Reese Witherspoon) resting atop a steep rock, surrounded by silence and solitude, sweaty and exhausted from what appears a long day’s hike. Immediately upon discarding her hiking boot, it trickles down and into oblivion, leaving Strayed stranded with one boot in the middle of a 1,100-mile hike. The audience holds their breath as the boot disappears, quickly developing fear and concern for Strayed. Immediately, Strayed throws the other boot off the rock, releasing her building frustration by screaming “fuck” into the open wilderness, while a series of flashbacks strummed together conclude the scene. Both the novel and film’s openings are identical, but the film’s vivid scenery mixed with Witherspoon’s raw performance give the audience an intense visual of Strayed’s emotional and physical state that was not as dramatically depicted in the book.

One significant aspect of Strayed’s life that is intertwined throughout Wild is Strayed’s difficulty in dealing with the loss of her mother. In the book, we hear and learn about Strayed’s close relationship with her mother through Strayed’s own memories, while in the film, the audience sees this relationship play out through highly emotional flashbacks and gain a better understanding of the hardships with which Strayed’s mother struggled. From escaping an abusive husband to keeping her family financially afloat as a single mother, the audience develops their own relationship with Strayed’s mother, provoking emotions brought on by their own experiences.

There are always sacrifices made in the translation from literature to film since the film adaptation requires a simplification in the narrative and character motivation. However, the power film holds can outweigh its damage in the translation by appealing to a wider audience and bringing to life a story that may otherwise go unnoticed. Despite altering facts and characters for cinematic purposes, these individuals’ stories are being presented to the mass audience, gaining wider notoriety, and encouraging audiences to discover the source material. When asked what made her want to take the hike, Strayed replied, “That’s a long answer. You’ll have to read the book.”

Click here to read  on Cultural Weekly.