Scene’s picks: May 2021 Back to our Roots
This month, the Scene PH team goes back to their roots – the books, movies, songs, and activities that made us what we are today; the things that continue to inspire us and keep us going. What about you, dear reader? What are your roots?
With Netflix having dedicated LGBTQIA categories and with the recent rise of BLs, it’s difficult to imagine that us millennials didn’t have a lot of queer representation on TV growing up. This is why in my adolescent years, I would watch the hell out of a series when there were gay characters, even minor ones, on the show.
At 13 years old, the first gay couple I saw on TV were Chip and Reichen on the fourth season of “The Amazing Race”. I probably didn’t even entirely know why I was rooting for them to win. I remember always rushing home to tune in to Studio 23 whenever the reality show competition was on and I was extremely ecstatic when they ultimately won their season.
Other memorable shows with main gay characters were “Greek”, “Six Feet Under” (available on HBO Go), and of course, “Queer as Folk”. Because I wasn’t out of the closet yet, I would download them illegally, burn them in CDs, and watch them privately. These shows had a huge impact on my sexual awakening for sure.
LGBTQIA representation in these shows weren’t perfect. I’m sure I’ll be cringing a lot when I rewatch them. But they were all we had back then. Seeing fully realized gay characters on screen helped me accept my sexuality. It helped normalize queer people and queer relationships for me. Just goes to show how representation truly matters.
Ever since I can remember, I have been such a huge theatre nerd. Some may think my obsession with theatre started because of a workshop I took, or a musical I watched, but it’s all because of the compilation album, “The Premiere Collection: The Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber”. Also, if you’ve been wondering, this definitely makes me a Webber kid.
Back when you couldn’t connect your phone to your car’s sound system, my family and I relied on listening to a bunch of CDs to mix things up. I was probably in the third or fourth grade when my mom first played the album in the car. I remember instantly falling in love with the whole album, playing “Magical Mister Mistoffelees” over and over, singing, imagining what the choreography and blocking would look like onstage.
I’ve met so many incredible people, heard so many inspiring stories, and have been given so many amazing opportunities because of how passionate I am for theatre. Whenever I hold a playbill in my hands, or whenever I meet one of my idols in the industry, or even when I watch the curtains rise before a show starts, I think of the nine year old kid stuck in traffic, singing and dancing her heart out to “Take That Look Off Your Face”, and how proud she’d be with how far we have come.
If there’s one author that defined my childhood, it would have to be Roald Dahl. The memory is still so clear to me. I was in Grade 2 when I picked up “Esio Trot,” my first “big book” with “no pictures” (although some pages are illustrated). It was lunchtime at school, and I decided to try reading just for a bit — only to find the bell ringing, telling me that I’d completely skipped out on eating my baon! That was the first time I understood what it was like to be so drawn in by a book — even without the drawings.
What began was a love affair with Roald Dahl’s wicked wit and storytelling, which came hand-in-hand with a growing fondness for the perfectly imperfect illustrations of Quentin Blake. Together, these two minds created the stories and characters that fortified me as I grew up, and unconsciously taught me to just have fun with things and embrace imperfection.
Throughout my elementary years, books like “Matilda,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and “The Twits” became fast favorites because they always spoke about finding the good within, and allowing that to become your superpower — even if you’re just a quiet little girl, which is what I was. Of course, there was always a naughtly side to the plots, with sneaky-but-well-meaning plans to defeat the bad guys, which I must admit felt incredibly empowering as a child “who still had to wait until they got older to do anything.”
But among the books I read, I have an extra, extra soft spot for “Danny the Champion of the World.” Unlike the other books, this one was not set in a fictional or pseudo-magic realist world. It was just a story about a boy and his father, but the beauty was in the storytelling and how clever Danny’s father was in trying to always create adventures for his son amid life’s realities, and I clearly remember that when I grew up, I wanted to be like that. At the end of the book, Roald Dahl, himself, put out a message which has since become a guiding light in my life:
“A message to the children who have read this book. When you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important. A stodgy parent is no fun at all! What a child wants — and DESERVES — is a parent who is SPARKY!”
Growing up, my parents filled my summers with a thousand and one things to do, whether it was to support my newest interest, to keep me busy, or to help me figure out what I wanted to do.
I took Creative Writing at a very early age. I did a theater summer workshop for Repertory (which sadly, was my last). I enrolled in music lessons: violin, which I took until I was 10, piano – maybe just a summer or half a year (I only finished Suzuki Book 1); and then eventually guitar from 2nd-3rd year high school, and voice lessons, which I had on and off, more frequently when I was not in a play, less frequently (ironically) when I was. One summer I even took painting lessons, but like piano this was short-lived and a skill I never really learned.
Today, I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert in any of them. Aside from writing, I didn’t pursue any of them as a profession either. But, I do believe that all those summers, weekends and even schooldays that were spent taking lessons, learning a new craft or honing a skill are really the foundation for the person I am today – a person with too many interests and not enough time. Jokes aside, I would never trade those summers and lessons for the world.
One of my mom’s aspirations for my brother and me was for us to enjoy reading, regardless of genre or topic. What she wanted was for us to appreciate the wealth of knowledge found in books. I think my overflowing bookshelf is a testament to how much this influenced me as a young girl, and how much it continues to shape me as a woman. For this month’s theme – going back to our roots – I couldn’t help but revisit a collection of novels that I spent my elementary years hunting down in bookstores and book sales.
“The Royal Diaries” (not to be confused with “The Princess Diaries”) are fictional journals of great or famous women in history. Some of my favorites volumes: Anastasia, The Last Grand Duchess; Catherine, the Great Journey; Cleopatra VII, Daughter of the Nile; and Kazunomiya, Prisoner of Heaven. Looking back, the themes found in those books are ones that continue to be present in my life – history, art, culture, and, most importantly, strong women. I didn’t realize it until later, but my mom was already teaching me how to navigate being a woman from a young age. And I can say with full confidence that it’s served me greatly.
This is going to be the nerdiest entry. (*And that’s why we saved it for last!)
I have the full collection of WITCH comics. Yes, all 139 issues plus the special issues. My mom and I love collecting books especially when we love the stories. I now own her collection of Archie comics spanning back to when she was a child. I have every Harry Potter book, Rick Riordan novels, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, William Shakespeares. I now plan to collect every Little Penguins Book in existence.
To hold collections is a family hobby, as my dad has his own titles of books and comics he likes. I own a Spider-man toy collection, along with a handful of Marvel and DC comics — some that belonged to my dad when he was a kid. There are countless treasures in my room of items that were passed on to me, to not only keep but to enjoy them.
I was always told that keeping these treasures means that someone else, much younger than I, or the next few generations, may be able to enjoy these things too. It’s sharing memories and stories with others. I am late in understanding that these were shared to me because they wanted me to know about the things they used to love because maybe I’d love it too.