Brie Larson’s debut film celebrates unique opinions

Erika Purdy

Contributing Writer

“Unicorn Store,” Brie Larson’s directorial debut, tells a story that might be painfully relatable to many of us in the coming years — the story of a recent college graduate searching for meaning in a grown-up world that she doesn’t quite feel a part of. Our protagonist Kit, played by Larson, joins a temp agency after graduation from art school.  She lives a life of mundanity until she is invited to The Store, a magical institution run by The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson in a parade of vibrantly patterned suits). The Salesman promises her the gift of a real-life unicorn … so long as she proves herself worthy of it.

While “Unicorn Store” purports itself as a story about the importance of embracing the child within each of us, its own internal logic does not support this claim. It has a serious case of protagonist tunnel vision: our main character is the only person in the story who goes through a meaningful character arc. Of course, it’s not necessary for each character to stand up and give an impassioned speech at the movie’s close, but none of them seem capable of garnering enough material to deliver such a speech. Kit’s coworkers are feeble sketches of stereotypes — the meek assistant, the jealous secretary, the sexist ad man — none of whom contribute anything meaningful to the plot other than set decoration for Kit’s journey.

It’s not as if the actors don’t have the range to portray more complex characters. Kit’s parents are played by Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford, both award-winning actors and seasoned performers. Samuel L. Jackson needs no introduction. Even the less experienced or less well-known actors, such as Karan Soni (most widely known for his portrayal of the incompetent but endearing cab driver Dopinder in “Deadpool” and its sequel) or Martha MacIsaac (tennis superstar Jane “Peaches” Barkowitz in “Battle of the Sexes”) clearly have the comedic chops to effectively capture the audience’s interest. Mamoudou Athie, who plays a hardware store salesman enlisted by Kit to help in the construction of her unicorn stable, is charming but grounded, bringing an element of realism to the plot without ever being stifling. Unfortunately, he’s not given much to do, which is a pity considering his charisma.

If the message of the film is a celebration of the unique perspective that each person brings to the world, the focus on Kit as our only point of reference reverses the theme of communal support. At one point, The Salesman admonishes Kit for her selfishness and asks her if she’s ever considered that the people who run The Store have their own reasons for doing so. However, this point is never followed through, and The Salesman does not exist beyond a mystical figure. This also unfortunately plays into stereotypes of the “Magical Negro” trope, a Black character who possesses magical powers (often built upon racist misconceptions of African spiritual leaders) and whose only role is to empower the white protagonist.

Another fault lies in the construction of the film’s world. Early scenes seem to indicate an overdramatized, artificial world — or at least one that reflects Kit’s perception of it. (The temp agency that she joins is called “Temporary Happiness,” a pun that, although obvious, works to the film’s advantage.) But the rest of the film fails to embrace this slightly off-kilter setting. Like the film’s message, its setting does not have much substance behind it. Whatever comments the film attempts to make are swallowed up by either their obviousness or their obscurity. The topics of depression, elitism and sexism, especially in regards to sexualization in advertising and workplace harassment, are all brought up, but the film offers no real conclusions on how to best deal with them. 

Despite its flaws, “Unicorn Store” is an earnest movie. Most of its comedic moments pay off, and the script never feels ingenuine, just underdeveloped. Larson’s directing style is simple but effective. Her chemistry with her co-stars is invigorating. The arguments between Kit and her parents over her future plans feel very real, particularly for a viewer who attends a liberal arts college and who is constantly asked (in a way that feels kind but patronizing) what I’m going to do with that major. Larson brings an infectious cheer to Kit at the same time as she utilizes a quiet, internal strength and struggle, which is seen in roles such as her Academy Award-winning performance in “Room.” 

All of the movie’s weaknesses work to make the viewer more dissatisfied with the final product. Its potential makes me excited to see Larson’s future work, but this film falls flat. There’s a genuinely compelling story in there, buried under all the glitter, but it’s obscured by confusing logic and a meandering plot.

The Scene: “Guava Island” emphasizes the power of music

Art is a poignant expression of identity and culture that brings a sense of freedom from the wretchedness of the world. Music is one of the forms that holds a precious piece for all people. The sound, instruments, energy and connection we make with one another breed an atmosphere of unity that cannot be broken.  

“Guava Island” embodies these elements of art and the power of music. Donald Glover’s musical film was released on April 13 on Amazon Prime Video, co-starring pop star Rihanna. It is the story of Deni Maroon, played by Glover, who is a musician on Guava island who wants to throw a festival for its townspeople. Rihanna plays Kofi, a seamstress and an inspiration for Maroon’s music and his unrelenting desire to leave the island with her. 

The island is run by “Red,” who capitalizes off the island’s magical blue silkworms and changes the island from a paradise galore to an industrial machine. When news is heard about Maroon’s festival, Red tries to prevent it to not disrupt productivity in the factories and ultimately, his stronghold on the island. 

A battle of class, capitalism and the silence of expression takes hold on the island. Red’s army wears red and the working class wears blue,while Deni and Kofi wear red and blue as they live on the fringes of both classes. Deni is a singer who uses the radio to help bring encouragement even while the town feels trapped and exploited for their resources. 

Deni’s last name, Maroon, is derived from the name given to runaway slaves in the Caribbean and Latin America who would also go back to their plantations to free their family members and friends — a symbolic explanation to Deni’s own reluctance to cancel his festival. The music he plays brings hope when the town does not see it in front of them. His music is a threat to Red’s power as it liberates the Guava people and creates their own sense of strength.  

While Deni wants to leave with Kofi, he still holds the island dear to his heart. He knows the festival is a double-edged sword because it will be the light that keeps the people moving forward, a time to forget about their problems for a moment and bask in the glory of their beautiful country, while also causing friction between the Guava people and Red as they grow agitated with their current conditions. 

Guava Island was a paradise of culture and love that was overtaken and exploited for its resources and simultaneously stripped of its identity. Deni is the hero, the martyr and the resurrection of a voice for people who had been silenced.  He uses his music to free the people of Guava Island from the chains of oppression and allows them to become agents of their own freedom and gatekeepers of their culture and land. 

Kamal Morgan, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at KMorgan20@wooster.edu.

We must be conscious consumers

It is hard to deny just how delicious Chick-fil-A is. Whether it is the 12-piece nuggets dipped in the eponymous sauce or a spicy chicken deluxe sandwich washed down with a sweet and tangy lemonade, it is a great place to get a fast-food meal that is a step above McDonald’s or Wendy’s. On top of all that, the customer service is always impeccable, and the staff never fails to respond to any request with “my pleasure.” Chick-fil-A was always one of my favorite restaurants to go to as a kid all the way up until I came to college. Unfortunately for the Georgia-based restaurant, they have lost my business because of their ties to anti-LGBTQIA+ groups.

Some may remember the beginning of this controversy when Chick-fil-A Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy stated his displeasure with same-sex marriage, stating “those who have the audacity to define what marriage is about were inviting God’s judgement on our nation,” according to the Los Angeles Times. In a responding statement, Chick-fil-A did not change its stance and only said that the restaurant would be focused on food and hospitality while same-sex marriage will be handled by policy-makers.

After some initial backlash from politicians, celebrities and the LGBTQIA+ community, the national debate seemed to die down and a lot of people continued to eat regularly at the restaurant. However, Chick-fil-A has not stopped donating to these Christian groups, despite claiming it has no political affiliation. According to a Vox article from last month, The Chick-fil-A Foundation gave more than $1.8 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Salvation Army and Paul Anderson Youth Home — all groups with a history of anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination. So even though the backlash has garnered less national media attention, the restaurant has not changed their stance despite some changes in law since Cathy’s original statement.

Upon reflection of these facts and reading the viewpoints of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ and those who do not, I have recently made the decision to stop eating at Chick-fil-A. This is not some saintly, courageous decision because it is something I should have done a long time ago. Instead, it is one of many perspectives that I have altered since coming to Wooster almost two school years ago. As a white cisgender man, I have not experienced anything close to the struggles that others face, but before coming to college, I even lacked the awareness of what was happening to groups that I did not identify with. I grew up in an area that was homogeneous in terms of ethnicity and gender-identification. In high school, we did not introduce our pronouns in class or discuss the discrimination that minority groups were facing locally, nationally or internationally. Therefore, my friends (and moreover, my family) and I would go to Chick-fil-A without thinking twice. I am now aware of how wrong this is.

The point of this article is not necessarily about Chick-fil-A, however, it may duly serve this purpose. Instead, it is my personal journey to becoming more aware as both a human being and member of groups that are in the majority. Additionally, it should also serve as a reminder that people cannot and should not be ignorant of the decisions they are making. It is well-reported that Chick-fil-A is linked to anti-LGBTQIA+ groups and even if one isn’t aware, they must be after reading this article. I cannot stop people from going to Chick-fil-A or any other restaurant with similar circumstances, but people cannot ignore what going to the restaurant represents nor can they get upset if other people automatically have a judgement due to their actions. It is important to be constantly aware of our position and what bigger issues are forwarded by our actions.

Samuel Casey, a News Editor for the Voice, can be reached for comment at SCasey21@wooster.edu.

Scotlight: Suzanne Bates

Suzanne Bates, Registrar at The College of Wooster, shares her professional journey and her post-retirement plans, as well as her advice for current students

Please introduce yourself.

I’m Suzanne Bates, Registrar at The College of Wooster.

In a few words, what has your career looked like? What made you choose to work with college students?

Well, it evolved through the years. I started teaching middle school back in the early ’70s when I graduated from Indiana University at Bloomington and then we kept moving so it just didn’t work out to teach. So I finished my Master’s degree and we lived in Greencastle, Ind. at the time and I acquired a position at DePauw University, there in Greencastle, another GLCA school. I worked there for five years until I had children and then took some time off, and then from 1989 until now, it’s been a straight shot — 30 years of this right now.

In the years of experience working with College students, what would you mark as a highlight event or moment thus far?

Not one specific moment, I just like working with college students. It sounds a little crazy, but most of the time it’s a rewarding experience; I feel like I am able to help them. I enjoy hearing about their plans, what they want to do, what their goals and aspirations are, and through the 35 years that, hasn’t changed that much.

Can you talk about some of your main responsibilities here at the College?

Well, those too have evolved. This is a busy, busy office; it’s kind of the nucleus of the College, if you will, because there are so many things that we have to do in this office in order for everything to work campus wide. We do registration of course, the schedule of classes, transcripts, diplomas, commencement plans, the College catalogue — we have just rolled out the new student planning module, Self-Service for Colleague, so that’s evolved recently. We are working on a new curriculum that will begin next fall, The Liberal Arts Core curriculum for the incoming class. It’s been a busy year.

Are you willing to share anything else about yourself that is interesting or unique?

I love to travel. I am retiring this year, after 35 years in higher education. I plan to travel quite a bit. I already have a trip planned next month to Cuba with my daughter, and then in June and July I will be in Ireland with a colleague from DePauw. Then I have a whole bucket list of places I want to go, so there are a lot of places back in Europe that I want to go revisit — especially Italy — and I want to go to Costa Rica. I have always wanted to go there, I just haven’t gone there yet. I also love to garden, I like to cross-stitch, love to read and watch movies. I am looking forward to just some downtime where I can do whatever I want. It’ll be strange after all these years; I hope to have a routine, not a schedule, but I think I need to establish a routine just because that is what I’ve always done.

If you could leave the students of Wooster one piece of advice, what would it be?

That is a tough one. I think you have to be open-minded and flexible. I have always tried to have a plan for what I was going to do, and I think students should, too. I mean you have plans, you have goals, and so forth, but if things don’t work out quite like you think they should, or would, you need to be flexible and maybe step back and reflect a little bit and think ‘okay, so this didn’t work out, or doesn’t appear to be working out, so what can I do? What do I want to do?’

 

Interview by Larissa Lamarca, a  Contributing Writer for the Voice

Artist Jack Stauber’s eclectic work reaches new depths

Jacob Cannon

Contributing Writer

My music taste is eclectic — even nonsensical at times — but I was recently introduced to an artist I consistently enjoy, no matter the time of day. For about a year, I’ve been listening to the work of one Jack Stauber, an indie artist whose style is as unpredictable as my mood at any given time. Stauber’s work is bizarre and unique, and in spite of its inconsistencies, I have a deep appreciation for his music.

To give some background, Jack Stauber has released four independent albums as of April 23, 2019: “Finite Form,” “Viator,” “Pop Food” and “HiLo,” in order. Though the genre of his music is hard to define, some might call it indie rock or indie pop. That said, his style is anything but consistent; his art (as both a musician and animator) can range from quirky and amusing to surreal and unsettling. Personally, I think this is where his work truly shines.

His avant-garde approach to music and animation is difficult to define. Many of his songs and animations make little to no sense, and it’s hard to tell if there is even a message — of course, his viewers do often try to explain the hidden meaning of his lyrics and the odd bits of animation on his YouTube channel. 

Some of his videos seem to exist only to make viewers uncomfortable, but they’re impressive nonetheless. He uses simple animated drawings, digital models and even claymation to create his distinct brand of visual media. Further, as strange as some of them may be, other gems like “Rain” and “Love Bug” show his skill with both visual and auditory media in small doses.

As for the albums, Stauber does an excellent job of creating variety while sticking to his unique style. In “Pop Food,” he jumps between calm, flowing tracks such as “Koi Boy” and “Lynn” and the energetic, fun beats featured in “Buttercup” and “I Understand.” Further, “HiLo” features more experimental tracks in which Stauber shows his musical ability, both through his voice and composition. The fourth track, “Leopard,” jumps between various styles, featuring fitting lyrics about change. While some parts fit better than others, it succinctly demonstrates his flexibility — something the album arguably does on a larger scale. 

Personally, I’ve found his two most recent albums to be my favorite; “Pop Food” is the most musically beautiful of the two, but Stauber really stretches his legs and explores in “HiLo.” Regardless, there are four albums and several singles (released under the label “Jack Stauber’s Micropop”) for listeners to enjoy. 

Stauber’s music (and other work, for that matter) isn’t for everyone. Much of the appeal comes from the peculiarity that surrounds his art. Nevertheless, strangeness isn’t what defines Stauber nor his music. His freedom as an independent artist simply allows him to express himself artistically however he pleases. Whatever he does moving forward, it’s clear that Stauber will keep being himself — a nostalgic, perplexing artist. He takes his work’s bizarre qualities to the extreme at times, but his passion gives his even more amusing or indescribable work a special charm.

Jack Stauber’s music is available on Bandcamp and Spotify. His self-named YouTube channel also features his animations and projects, some of which have been expanded into full-length songs. 

Softball team remains unstoppable against Allegheny

Ben Blotner

Senior Sports Writer

The Fighting Scots softball team swept the Allegheny College Gators in a doubleheader on Wednesday, April 17 at Galpin Park. Wooster took the first game 4-2 behind a strong pitching performance from Olivia Johnson ’21 before Marina Roski ’20’s walk-off single gave the team a 5-4 comeback victory in the following contest.

“Our team is spunky,” Kendall Lloyd ’20 said of the Scots, who have won 14 of their last 15 games. “We have a passion that will drive us and always seems to surprise our opponents.”

Molly Likins ’22 got the scoring started in the opener with a solo blast to left field, putting Wooster on top 1-0 in the second. The Scots scored another run in the fourth in unusual fashion on a double play. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Roski hit what would have been a sacrifice fly to center, but Likins was thrown out at third on the play. Grace Randall ’22, who had led off with a single, nonetheless scored to make it 2-0 Wooster.

Allegheny, however, did not go down without a fight. Joplin Osgood ’22 drew a walk with one out in the fifth. After advancing to third on two groundouts, Osgood scored on an RBI double by Kelly Lafferty ’21. Lafferty then came home on Samantha Valera ’20’s single to knot the score at 2-2.

After allowing the tying runs, Johnson responded at the plate, immediately untying the score with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the fifth. Later in the inning, Likins picked up her second RBI of the day on a bases-loaded groundout, giving Wooster its two-run lead right back. That would be the final margin, as the Scots came out on top 4-2. Johnson came within an out of going the distance on the mound, working six and 2/3 solid innings for her 12th win. Marissa Norgrove ’21 came on in relief and recorded the final out for her first save of the year.

The second game was an even more closely contested battle, as the teams went back and forth with their scoring late. Wooster once again took the early lead, this time on Lloyd’s RBI single in the first inning. The hit scored Emmalee Cooke ’21, who had singled and stolen second. Cooke was involved in the Scots’ following two runs as well, scoring on Likins’ single in the third and driving in Brooke Swain ’22 with her third hit of the day in the fourth. Behind Norgrove’s pitching, Wooster led 3-0 heading into the fifth. 

Once again, the Gators fought back. Lafferty came through with a run-scoring single in the fifth before Jessica Valerino ’19’s single cut the lead to one going into the final frame. Valera drew a one-out walk, and with Allegheny down to its final out, Kyleigh Cason ’21 delivered an RBI double to even the score at three. Hayley Behr ’21 then gave Allegheny its first lead of the day with another double. The Gators led 4-3 with three outs remaining.

The Scots would not go away. Cooke continued to spark the offense, this time with a leadoff walk. Lloyd then sacrificed her to second, later expressing the confidence she felt in that moment. “I had total faith, when I moved her over to second base, that someone else could easily get her in, and that’s exactly what happened,” Lloyd said. “We all have great abilities and are able to pick each other up when someone may be down.” The next batter, Randall, came up with a clutch RBI double to retie the game at four. 

After an infield single by Likins off the pitcher’s glove put a second runner aboard, Roski stepped to the plate with a chance to deliver a walk-off victory. She did exactly that, singling to right-center and bringing home Randall with the winning run. The pair of wins continued Wooster’s hot streak and brought the team’s record to 22-10 on the season.

The Fighting Scots softball team will soon be in action on Saturday, April 27, playing a doubleheader at Ohio Wesleyan University.