Oversimplifying My Movie Experience: A Narrative Review

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012) - IMDb

It seemed like I had the perfect date night planned. The local arts center was holding a Black American film festival, and the showing of “The Oversimplification of Her Beauty” was the only movie that fit my busy schedule.

As anyone does with a new movie, I googled it. What I found was not much at all. Although, the Wikipedia page said it had won some obscure award for independently produced films. Also, the film’s main dude – it’s producer, director, and primary actor – Terrance Nance, was just as obscure as his award. In fact, one could argue that the height of his career involves brief work as director of the flop Space Jam remake, where he was eventually replaced.

Still, I thought I found a hidden gem. The reviews used SAT words like quixotic and effervescent. Plus, it was reviewed in The New York Times. I was definitely under the impression that my choice to watch this film would make me seem smart, artistic, deep, and worldly.

From the title and Google images featuring black woman unapologetically rocking their natural hair, I made the assumption that the film was about American society’s objectification of colored women; thus, I was expecting this film to give my partner another taste of the black struggle. No, I did not read the synopsis, for I believed that would spoil the surprises within this quixotic masterpiece (did I use that word right?).

An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty Archives - Deadshirt
Terrance Nance (left) and the center of his obsession, Alisa Becher

When we arrived ten minutes late, as we time-conscious people do, we noticed we were the youngest patrons by at least 30 years. Hmmm… Still, we settled in excitedly to watch the movie.

The film began with a woe is me tale about a young guy in New York City who was dropped by a three-week situationship. As the man traveled from work, to school, to bed, and repeated, the situationship was painted as his solace from the stressors of his busy, low-income life. While I could not relate to the protagonists’ despair as it often came off histrionic, I was moved by the film’s narration. The narration was spoken like a poem, and the narrator would conclude would recurringly state “how would you feel.”

As the film progressed, it began to incorporate graphic art similar to the kaleidoscope style presented on adult-swim. Moreover, the added music, featuring artists like instrumental hip-hop artists like Flying Lotus, triggered my early 2010s nostalgia.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty 2012, directed by Terence Nance | Film  review

Now this was only 30 minutes in, and unfortunately, we had reached the height of this movie.

We were then pulled into the creator’s obsession with his romantic interests. We learned of the intimate details of each of his relationships, far more than we cared to. At first, what was an odd, yet mildly endearing obsession with a 3-week relationship transformed into an indulgent self-reflection that highlighted the protagonists’ narcissistic traits.

At 45 minutes, my sympathy for the protagonists was all used up, and I no longer cared to hear, over and over how sad it is for the protagonists to be unable to maintain the desire of his partners. It was also clear at this point that the situationship did not blow him away and initiate his obsessive behavior. Instead, the situation was just another item in his grocery list of obsessions. As each part was enumerated from part 1: A, to part 3: G (no this is not a hyperbole), I become more and more restless. Eventually, I had forgotten that I was on a voluntary date, and I was instead wondering when my timeout-like boredom torture would end.

Finally, the movie ended, and we both hurriedly rushed out of the theater before the discussion began. As we began to walk back home, my partner broke the ice and asked, “What did you think?” Her eyes showed a sense of carefulness, resembling a zookeeper approaching a crocodile. We are an interracial couple, so I am sure she was worried that she would offend me if she did anything but praise my date choice. Rightfully so, I am the man who made her watch 12 Years a Slave and soon plans to make Roots the subject of so many future movie-nights.

12 Years a Slave (2013) - IMDb
Scene from the film 12 Years a Slave- a story about a freedman being illegally enslaved for 12 years

However comma (yeah, I spelled it out) this movie was not about Blackness nor Afro-futurism, it was about Terrance Nance’s romance that just so happened to involve Black people, and like most romance, it is not worth a 90-minute feature film.

I answered my partner’s question with “I’m so glad it’s over.” She relaxed and we walked home hand-in-hand while ranting over the repetitive torture we experienced. No one else would take their girlfriend to see that film, and I do not recommend anyone do so in the future. For that reason, maybe it was worthwhile after all. We were now able to reminisce and bond over our own uniquely shared trauma.  

Written by Dylan Hughes – Writing Center Tutor – Class of 2023

Interrobang: Is it even real ‽ 

Image by Peggy_Marco on Pixabay
Image by Peggy_Marco on Pixabay

While everyone’s heard of a period, question mark, and interrogation point, a lot fewer people have heard of their newest member: the interrobang. The interrobang is defined as “a punctuation mark designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question” (Merriam-Webster). The interrobang is officially symbolized by ‽. However, since most keyboards do not have this specific key, it is also unofficially represented as ?! Or !?.  

The interrobang was invented by Martin K. Speckter, an advertising executive, in 1962. He thought of it as “the typographical equivalent of a grimace or a shrug of the shoulders…when a writer wished to convey incredulity” (qtd in Martin K. Speckter).  However, the meaning of this punctuation evolved over time. Rather than just a grimace or shrug, it is now used to show surprise and question. Quite literally, it became a mix of an exclamation point and a question mark. Sentences where an author may write ?! or !? can end with ‽. Some sentence examples are: 

  • You did what ‽ 
  • Are you sure ‽ 
  • Seriously ‽ 

Why did the interrobang fall out of public use?

It is not an officially recognized punctuation mark- so use at your own discretion. A big point to consider is its relationship with modern keyboards and typewriters when thinking about its history. Was it not included because it was not widely used or was it not widely used because it was not included? The world may never know. Given the limited space available, it was more economical to include the exclamation point and question mark due to their prominence and simply use both of them when the situation calls for it instead of including a third key that was not as popular. Thus, the interrobang was lost and largely forgotten by the world.

Works Cited

“Interrobang.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/interrobang

“Martin K. Speckter, 73, Creator of Interrobang.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Feb. 1988, https://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/16/obituaries/martin-k-speckter-73-creator-of-interrobang.html?searchResultPosition=1

Jyoti | 2022

What Happened to Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom and dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life. Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful nasty ways.” 

Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief 

One of my favorite book series growing up was Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I very vividly remember finding The Sea of Monsters in our mini 4th-grade library and reading the whole thing in less than a week. Upon learning that it was the second book, I immediately begged my mom to buy the first book and every book thereafter.  

I had a very different reaction when I learned of the movie. Still full of wonder from reading the book for the first time, I watched the movie and left feeling astonished… How could such a good book turn into such a bad movie? With Disney announcing they will be turning the first book into a show for Disney Plus, we will be going down memory lane and discussing what went wrong and if anything went right.  

1. Tweens to Teens

In the books, Percy and Annabeth were twelve while Grover was twelve passing. The story of twelve-year-old Percy was about a young boy struggling through childhood and wanting to find a place to belong. He was a character that the target audience could project themselves onto. After all, doesn’t everyone in middle school want something better? Percy’s youth also creates a fascinating contrast between a scrawny twelve-year-old boy and centuries-old monsters. He was a child fighting monsters that adults fear. He was forced to grow up and fight for survival. By making Percy sixteen, we lessen this impact. The audience’s view of Percy is changed from a pre-teen overcoming his fear to yet another teenage YA protagonist going on a heroic journey.   

2. Slow Burn to Whirlwind Romance 

In the books, it took Percy and Annabeth around five years to develop a romantic relationship while it took the movie around half an hour. The movie version of Percy and Annabeth had a small rivalry during their first meeting and subtle romantic nods by the middle of their quest. This quick progression erases the fact that they were enemies and best friends way before they were a couple. In the book, the entire quest showed how they overcame their parent’s rivalry. Instead of a son of Poseidon and a daughter of Athena, they progressed to simply being Percy and Annabeth.  

3. Look at Luke 

As a consequence of aging up the main trio, there was no longer an obvious age gap with Luke. In contrast to the twelve-year-old protagonists, Luke was originally portrayed as a more mature and experienced seventeen-year-old. He was portrayed as the cool older brother figure. He was one of Percy’s first friends. He looked out for Percy and was well-loved by the entire camp. This relationship was diminished in the movie because they looked the same age. Without this relationship, his betrayal, in the end, did not have the same impact and was less unexpected.  

4. Grover’s Personality Shift 

Another character that underwent a transformation was Grover. The only two similarities between the book Grover and the movie Grover were that they were friends with Percy and that they were satyrs. Everything else was drastically different. They were two characters that had opposite personalities. Book Grover was very shy and anxious while movie Grover seemed to be the embodiment of confidence. This shifted his dynamic with Percy. The book pair had Percy sticking up for Grover and trying to look out for him while the movie pair had Grover showing Percy the ropes. There’s nothing wrong with the movie Grover’s character- except that it wasn’t Grover. 

5. Was It Even the Same Quest? 

While the movie was technically called Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, it could very well have been named The Pearl Finder since that took up most of the plot. In the books, Percy was given three pearls as a gift from Poseidon. In the movie, they were created by Persephone and Percy had to go and fetch all of them. This created a whole new focus that took away from the main quest.  

Additionally, the existence of the pearls as a quick getaway for Percy, Annabeth, and Sally characterized Hades differently as well. Sally uses a pearl to leave in the movie while she was voluntarily returned by Hades in the books. The plot twist in the book was that Hades just wanted to be left alone while Ares was the problematic god attempting to stir up a war. The movies cut Ares completely and stuck with the stereotype of the god of the underworld being the villain of the story. 


Overall, if the movie did not have the words ‘Percy Jackson’ in the title it might have been better since it was almost unrecognizable from the source material. From wildly different characters and characterization to a completely different quest, this movie was a wild ride from start to finish. Still not convinced? I would say ask Rick Riordan, the author, since I know he would agree with me. However, this isn’t possible since he’s confessed to never even watching it after reading the script.  

Interested in what Rick Riordan has to say? Click here to read his letter to the producers!

Jyoti Duwady, Fall 2021 

Works Cited 

Haguenauer, Esther. “Percy Jackson: Everything That Went Wrong with the Movies.” ScreenRant, 13 July 2020, https://screenrant.com/percy-jackson-movies-problems-bad-issues/.  

Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief. Papyros, 2010. 

Using tomatoes to end procrastination

Procrastination is not laziness. It’s a tool our body uses to avoid negative feelings and discomfort. We can address our body’s instinct to evade by equipping ourselves with more tools to get the results we want (and maybe even enjoy it along the way). It’s possible and rewarding to break the avoidance cycle and create work we are able to produce and proud to share. 

Often, when we get an assignment, it can feel daunting, and the end result feels far from reach. We think of completing the end goals and not all the little goals we will get to accomplish along the way. Progress happens one keyboard punch and pencil scribble at a time, so don’t try to tackle it all once. 

Break down large or long-term projects into actionable steps. By making smaller goals, you’ll be able to appropriately plan and allocate your time, use checkpoints to gauge your progress, and create momentum with each goal you get accomplished. This is a skill that will help whether you are renovating your house, completing a project for a boss, or writing an essay for class. You can visit the Writing Center and develop the skill of breaking down big goals into ones or get started with a class project using the assignment calculator.

Each time you identify a task, try to identify a resource you can utilize, too. Included in your tuition are library research assistants, academic counselors, Student Accessibility and Support Services, STEM tutors, Writing Center tutors, deans, professors, and more, all ready to offer support. 

Chunk the time you spend working, with the pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro technique addresses many of the mishaps that sometimes throw us off track: deadlines too far away to incentivize our dedication to the assignment; working past the point of optimal productivity and not being efficient with our time; feeling overly optimistic about how much work you can do and getting defeated when it doesn’t happen. 

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo who was struggling to complete his assignments. Feeling overwhelmed, he committed to studying with full focus for just 10 minutes. He found a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian) to keep track, and so, the Pomodoro technique was created. Here’s how you can do it, too.

  1. Create a to-do list or identify a single task.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (or use this neat website equipped with work sprints and breaks) and focus on the work at hand until the timer rings.
  3. When the session is over, record what you completed.
  4. Then, enjoy a five-minute break.
  5. After three or four Pomodoros take a restorative 15-30 minute break. 

Once you have started the pomodoro, the timer must ring. Do not break the session to check emails, chats, or texts. If you have a thought not relevant to the task at hand, jot it down and come back to it later. If distractions crop up, take note of them and consider how to prevent them in future sessions. 

To optimize your pomodoro breakdowns, group together small tasks that will take less than 25 minutes to complete so you can do them in one session. Keep a note of the length of time actions end up taking you. You might not get the time break down right the first time you create your pomodoro to-do list! But, over time, you will learn how much time things take and you will be able to masterfully plan your time. For me, this has reduced a lot of stress, because it’s easier to plan pomodoro during your day than thinking of some open-ended completion of an assignment that has no bounds but a far-off due date. You can even use this for tasks you might be avoiding, not related to school, like cleaning up your room or filing taxes. After all, it’s just 25 minutes, the less enjoyable activity will end when the timer rings!

Molly Sherman | 2021

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.

The Benefits of Creative Writing


To some, creative writing is a fun hobby that has little benefit, and can in fact serve as a time sink wherein nothing is accomplished other than words being spewed onto a page. To others, creative writing is a vital way of expressing oneself. It can be difficult to say which group is correct, but there are some definitive benefits to engaging in creative writing.

One of the first benefits is that it helps to develop creative problem solving skills. Creative writing is an exercise in solving problems, either for the characters within the story or for the author themselves. Characters within stories need to be navigated through a series of difficulties, and if the problems take place in the real world, then the solutions must also be real-world solutions. If the problem is a literal dragon that needs slaying, there’s somewhat less need for it to mimic a real-world solution, since that’s not typically a problem that we have. By navigating fictional characters through difficult times in their lives, either emotionally or financially, writers can learn how to handle those problems in the real world as well, without the stress of trying to figure it out when they’re already in the middle of the situation.

Another benefit of creative writing, particularly if the writer is involved in a formal class or writing group, is that it gives the writer experience in both taking and giving constructive criticism. The first time someone hears that there’s something wrong with their writing can be difficult, but over time, it does get easier. Trust me. I’ve had my fair share of critical remarks, and I’d like to think I’ve gotten better about responding to them. I no longer cry and throw things, so that’s a definite bonus. Taking criticism well is a vital skill, especially in the workplace, because employers often have feedback for their employees that might not necessarily be what the employee wants to hear. Giving criticism that is also constructive is another incredibly valuable skill. If someone believes they are just being torn down, they will not listen to a piece of criticism that might genuinely be designed to help. For this reason, it is important to understand that there are ways to provide tips for improvement without ripping someone’s work apart. Working in a workshop or a creative writing class will help improve these skills.

Creative writing helps to build vocabulary. Do you know how many types of swords there are? I don’t either, actually, but I know many of them. Do you know how many ways there are to say mean? Well, there’s mean, of course, but there are also words like malevolent and malicious and cruel, which all help to paint a more accurate picture of whatever it is that the writer is trying to portray. Once the writer knows these words, they aren’t likely to ever be forgotten. At the very least, the next time the writer is trying to describe someone as mean, they might remember that there are two other, more impressive sounding words that start with ‘m’ that might be used to describe said person.

Creative writing helps to improve outlining skills, which are vital for any kind of large project. Without an outline, creative writers might find themselves bogged down in details they didn’t intend to get lost in, or might lose track of vital plot threads that they’ll need to remember for later in this story. This is also true for any kind of large project, whether it be academic or professional. Presentations made without an outline in place can meander and get lost in themselves, making them difficult to understand or follow. For this reason, outlining is a good skill to pursue, and can be learned or improved upon through the use of creative writing.

One of the most subjective benefits to pursuing creative writing is the way that it can benefit the writer’s emotional well-being. I was skeptical about this one for a long time, because I love writing, but found it to be more stressful than anything else when I did indulge in writing. However, I have found that as I’ve adopted a regular writing schedule and have stuck to it, my mood has begun to improve greatly. I have had friends tell me that I’m happier now, and I do genuinely feel it. But I’m definitely willing to acknowledge that the same might not be true for other people

Creative writing is incredibly beneficial to burgeoning writers, and to students of all kinds. It requires effort, yes, but the more effort someone puts into it, the more likely they are to reap the benefits of it.