Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt logo

The Real Life Ariel Castro Kidnapping Inspired the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt logo

Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a refreshing comedy. It is about the undying love of a woman for life. The creators of the show have managed to make a kidnapping and a captive situation as the center of a comedy series. The plot does not seem to be entirely fictional either. It seems to be very similar to the Cleveland Kidnappings that came to light in 2013, when the kidnapped girls were rescued after a torturous decade with their abusive captor. Something does not seem to come together, right? How can such a plot ever be an inspiration for a comedy? Let’s take some stock.

For those who are not familiar, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the new sitcom on Netflix. It was earlier going to be aired on NBC, but it appears that the doubtful content of the show proved to be not worth the risk for NBC. Instead, they let Netflix create one more amazing show for its viewers. The plot of the show follows the lead character, who has been held captive in an underground bunker with other women. Their kidnapper also stays with them and has kept them there under the pretext that the rest of the world has been wiped clean in an apocalyptic event. He is a strange man with a beard and is a self-proclaimed preacher. All the elements of the show do not necessarily draw similarities to the Cleveland kidnappings, but some things do.

Ellie Kemper is Kimmy Schmidt
Ellie Kemper is Kimmy Schmidt

In 2013, the three women were recovered from a house in Cleveland after they were kept captive for 10 years. Their kidnapper was Ariel Castro, who tortured and raped the girls almost on a daily basis. After the girls were rescued, Michelle Knight, one of the victims, went her separate way. She wanted to have her independent identity and did not want to get lost in the shared victimization of the trio. She wanted to make her own identity and discover the life she had lost, while she was inside the house of her captor.

Something very similar happens to the protagonist in the show as well. Kimmy Schmidt has the ‘unbreakable’ spirit, even after living underground in a bunker for 15 years. After such a long time, she finally tastes freedom and she wants to make the most out of it. She does not want to feel like a victim and she certainly does not want people to treat her like one either. She wants them to behave normally with her and that is why she hides her past from the people she meets in her new life.

Ariel Castro Was a real kidnapper. This was terrible case that could have happened to anyone.
Ariel Castro Was a real kidnapper. This was terrible case that could have happened to anyone.

The character of Kimmy Schmidt may seem fictional because of the happiness and bubbliness she exudes every single day of her life. The touchy topic may even seem like trivialization of the matter by many and this is the very reason it is not on any of the network televisions.

However, what should be kept in mind is that this behavior of Kimmy has much deeper roots than what meets the eye. She has had a dark past, much like the survivors of the Cleveland kidnappings. This kind of past messes up the personality of a person, leading to distrust, disillusionment, and what not. Though the focus of the show is on the cheerful Kim, it also touches upon the fact that this attitude is very much a coping mechanism, a survival strategy in order to lead a regular life.

Jane Krakowski acts as Jacqueline Voorhes
Jane Krakowski acts as Jacqueline Voorhes

This is not something that has been unheard of. Many victims who have been held captives or people who have gone through any kind of trauma use such strategies to make life easier for themselves. In their memoirs, many kidnapped children and adults have told a similar story. To survive the unthinkable, they detach themselves and see the situation from a third person perspective. This feeling that something is not happening to them per se is what keeps them alive through a gruesome experience.

Then, there is humor too. It is not easy to picture humor in a life and death situation like this. However, many victims, including Mitchell, have recounted their experiences wherein they used to look at their distressing situations with a detached eye, find them ridiculous, and then laugh at them. It is indeed remarkable how a tortured soul can find laughter in herself, even in such inhuman situations. It is not imaginary; people have done it.

Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina 'Gina' DeJesus, were kidnapped by Ariel Castro in his home in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio
Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina ‘Gina’ DeJesus, were kidnapped by Ariel Castro in his home in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio

These women have been to hell and back. In the show too, Kimmy talks about a lot of things that make the viewer ruminate about the horrible past she has been through. The story talks about the scream line on Kimmy’s face, a chilling reminder of her past. Kimmy also responds to kisses by beating a boy she is dating and then apologizes, saying that she had learnt it wrong. These are all the instances that are hard to laugh at. Kimmy is goofy, but considering her past, it often feels quite wrong to laugh at her naivety. However, the desire inside Kimmy to move on and not let her past define her should be reason enough to laugh with her.

Tituss Burgess as Titus
Tituss Burgess as Titus

The character of Kimmy Schmidt may not be as easy to understand as many would have thought. The show does not seem to make fun of her, but with her. It urges people to laugh at the liveliness of the free spirit of Kimmy. It is not necessary to be so judgmental about the moral ramifications of the show, rather it is about appreciating that little fire of life that still burns inside Kimmy, despite the evils she has faced. This may not seem appropriate at times, but people should learn to appreciate the fact that it was her sense of humor in the face of the devil that kept her alive. It is also this humor that gave her the strength to face the world, despite being an alien to it and it is this humor that is helping her return to normalcy.

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billions

The TV show ‘Billions’ is Inspired by These True Events

billions

Too Big To Fail was the book that made Andrew Ross Sorkin a celebrity. It was based on the financial crisis that hit the world in 2008 and how the banks reacted to it. Sorkin gained a lot of experience about the Wall Street, and his interest in it was rising. The Wall Street was pulling him again. He wanted to write another story on the financial industry, and this time, he wanted this fiction work to be set in 2011. This idea was in the back of his head, when he came in touch with Brian Koppelman and David Levien. The successful pair of screenwriters got interested in the idea and the show, Billions, came to happen. Andrew Ross Sorkin is a former journalist and he says that he derives inspiration from his past for this story. The story is by no means an account of the true events, but a highly fictionalized version of many events. Here are some of the events that have inspired the television show.

Seeing the show, it is not difficult to guess that it is loosely based on the real case that was filed against the founder of the SAC Capital Advisors, Steven A. Cohen. In 2013, when the case was filed, the company was one of the largest and apparently, the most successful hedge fund companies in all of the United States. The company faced both criminal and civil charges. In a landmark case, the company pleaded guilty and had to pay a whopping amount of $1.8 billion towards penalties, which also forced the firm to shut shop. In fact, as recently as January, 2016, Steven Cohen reached an understanding with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, where he would not be involved in dealings with outside money for a minimum of two years. It is widely believed that Damian Lewis plays the role of the screen adaptation of real life Cohen.

Showtime's show Billions stars Bobby Axelrod
Showtime’s show Billions stars Bobby Axelrod

As far as Paul Giamatti is concerned, he is the one portraying the role of the real life U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The show does not make any particular reference to him, nor does the character tries to look anything like it. However, it was this Attorney of the Southern District of New York, who has also been dubbed as the Sheriff of Wall Street. He has brought many cases of insider trading to justice. Like Rhoades, Preet Bharara was also a well-established lawyer who was fighting insider trading cases on a regular basis. Just before his brush with Cohen, Bharara was dealing with a similar case against the Galleon Group, which spanned from 2009 to 2012. This too was a much hyped case, in which Bharara used innovative tactics and aggressive moves. He managed 85 back to back convictions in the case and only lost one. This is very much in line with the character of Rhoades, who never loses a case. Additionally, Preet Bharara was also present at the premiere of the television show in 2014 and that was considered as a confirmation by many that he is indeed an inspiration for the role.

As far as the showmakers are concerned, they do not agree with any parallels being drawn. They maintain that the show is not based on any one person or one event. There are reams of cases in the US courts today related to insider trading. According to them, the characters and the story itself are an amalgamation of these incidents and not necessarily a representation of any one of those events. Preet Bharara can be connected to many of the recent cases of insider trading that have come to the fore and therefore, it is only logical that he will be represented in some way in the show. Moreover, there have been US Attorneys like Rudy Guiliani, who was also active in putting light on the cases of insider trading in the eighties and even before that. So, Chuck Rhoades or his story may not be that of any one US Attorney.

Malin Akerman also stars in Billions
Malin Akerman also stars in Billions

As far as the personal stories of these characters go, it is difficult to ascertain whether there is any real life event in there. They seem to be highly fictionalized and there seems to be little truth to them. Coming to the sets of the show, they are pretty bang on. The everyday trading platforms and the conversations between the characters on the job are pretty realistic. The job of a trader is really a stressful one and can easily take its toll on them. Traders are known to visit therapists and also undertake coaching from performance counselors, who help them with their concentration and sharp focus. Siff is playing the role of such a performance coach in the show. She actually met Tony Robbins, who is a well-known life and performance coach in the preparation of the role of Wendy Rhoades.

Maggie Siff is Wendy Rhoades
Maggie Siff is Wendy Rhoades

Whether or not there is one person or event that inspires Billions, it is a pretty accurate depiction of how the Wall Street works. Not many television shows related to the Wall Street have been able to leave their mark on the audiences. This is mainly because the markets seem so far away from anything regular people would bother themselves with. However, after the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the following recession, markets affected the common man directly. People now seem more interested in how they work and financial scandals appeal to them. The reality of Billions has the same appeal. It shows how some financial managers swoop out money and how they are being stopped by other people.

Damian Lewis plays Chuck Rhoades
Damian Lewis plays Paul Giamatti

 

The show has received mixed reviews and is presently on air. It has the right cast and a successful crew behind it. It has been appreciated for the realism in grasping the Wall Street culture and the backdrop it has painted. Bloomberg has also helped the show with the setting up of terminals. So, that is legit. On the overall, the show surely leans towards more entertainment value than factual accuracy, just like everything else on the glamor industry.

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Vevo Is Working on a Paid Music Video Subscription Service

Vevo videos are everywhere. If you go on YouTube and search for the latest music videos, more often than not, you will see a Vevo video on the top. Vevo is a hosting service for music, which is jointly owned by the likes of Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Google, and Abu Dhabi Media. Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group are the big three record labels in the music industry. Vevo offers music owned by two of them. The advertising revenue from all the Vevo videos across the web is shared by both Vevo and Google.

As of now, the Vevo videos are freely available on multiple platforms across the internet. However, these videos are interrupted by ads. According to the CEO of Vevo LLC, Erik Huggers, the user experience is all set to be revamped. Currently, Vevo is present in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Chile, India, New Zealand, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Brazil, Spain, and Belgium. It has not been able to spread across the globe, because of the licensing problems it has been facing.

Vevo reaches millennials like no other
Vevo reaches millennials like no other

The company is working out a subscription model, which will be free of any advertisements. The service will be launched this very year. Erik Huggers gave out the news at the Code/Media conference, where he was appearing for the first time as the Vevo CEO. Three years ago, Huggers was present on the same stage announcing the new Web TV offering from Intel, OneCue. It was also a subscription service that was later sold to Verizon.

Circling back to Vevo, the subscription service is not a surprising move, given that most music streaming sites work on a subscription model. This includes the big players like Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify, and Pandora, among others. Vevo is currently supported by advertising revenue only. Since the entire industry works on the subscription-based revenue models, it also makes sense for Vevo to adopt it.

Then, there is a new trend that the music stars have started following. They launch their songs on only one streaming service first. The music video later makes its way to other services. Major stars like Eminem, Rihanna and Kanye West have done it. Eminem released his songs only on Apple Music. Kanye, on the other hand, declared that his latest album, Life of Pablo, will be available only on Tidal. He also went ahead and added that the album will never make its way to Apple. This is the kind of favoritism that the music streaming services are experiencing from the stars. So, it only makes sense for Vevo to separate themselves as an exclusive music service that not only gives away free music, but also has some control over the viewership.

The move is also seen as a way to revive Vevo as a business as well. Vevo is a hugely popular site and registers around 17 billion views every single month. Almost half of this traffic comes from mobile devices. This kind of viewership should have translated into very high advertising revenues. But, that has not happened. This is one of the main reasons the company is thinking of launching a paid service, so that they are able to capitalize directly on the viewership, while improving the user experience as well.

Vevo is equal to viral these days
Vevo is equal to viral these days

Erik Huggers has also stressed on the fact that the paid version of Vevo is definitely going to be a completely new experience for its users. Of course, there will be no advertisements, but Vevo will also transform itself into a specialty music store for all of its subscribers. The vision of the CEO behind the move seems to be upgrading the total user experience at Vevo. The new service will help the viewers appreciate the difference in quality from a homemade YouTube video to a Vevo video with a professional finesse.

The company will also look at adding original content to the website, which will be exclusive to Vevo. The idea is to create high quality and entertaining pieces like the documentary on the Amy Winehouse’s life titled ‘Amy’. This will also be a focus area for the streaming service, because it will help it create a unique selling point for itself and attract more users. However, this may not happen immediately, because the service may not necessarily have the financial muscle to support the continuous creation of original content yet.

The idea is to make a sustainable and successful business out of Vevo. The service is loved by its users, but has not been able to produce as much revenue as it was expected to. When Huggers took over from Rio Caraeff, the company was facing a lot of issues. By changing the way Vevo works or by at least adding another solid source of revenue, Huggers is making sure that they are able to capitalize on their current content, instead of adding more or creating original content of their own.

forget MTV, this is how people are watching music videos these days
forget MTV, this is how people are watching music videos these days

It is certain that Vevo will be coming out with a paid subscription service. But, it doesn’t mean that the people, who wish to use the service for free, should worry. Huggers has remarked that the free Vevo will continue to exist. Though he has commented that an ad-supported business is not sustainable as of now, there is no news that the company will be cutting out its primary revenue source at this point. So, it appears that the company will be following a very similar model to that of YouTube, which is a free website, while YouTube Red requires a $9.99 monthly subscription.

Either way, there is no indication from the company regarding the price of the subscription service. It will be interesting to see what new services the company will introduce to attract paid users and how it plans to improve the user experience.

These explain why Vevo is the perfect platform to launch a paid service for millennials
These explain why Vevo is the perfect platform to launch a paid service for millennials
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The show will keep on re-enacting the biggest acts of the time

The Revival of the Long Play Along With the Series Vinyl

The show will keep on re-enacting the biggest acts of the time

What does one of the most celebrated directors of Hollywood and newly revived youth sensation have in common? They were most celebrated during the seventies and eighties. It appeared that their era came to an end with the approaching 2000s. But, they have bounced back and are making it large in their respective field again. If you still haven’t figured out what we are talking about, let us clue you in. We are discussing Martin Scorsese and Vinyl Revival.

Vinyl logo HBO

Vinyl was the primary mode of listening to music during the mid-century, until the late eighties. Then, they began to be slowly replaced by cassettes. The digital revolution brought CDs, and they were universally hailed as the future of music, and a final nail in the coffin of Long Play records. By 2005, digital downloads took up and replaced CDs as the primary form of music consumption. When most of the people had forgotten completely about the gramophones, they began to make a comeback. Now, saying that they are making a comeback would be disrespecting the phenomenon. The Long Plays are here. Every year, millions of Vinyls are being sold and their share is growing fast towards one-tenth of the total music consumption.


This wavy up, down, and up history of Vinyl records is quite similar to that of the director Martin Scorsese. With movies like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, and many more, he was one of the busiest and a highly revered director during the 70s and 80s. The 90s and better part of 2000s weren’t kind to him. Only Gangs of New York was a notable work of his from this period, until he broke the charm in 2010, with Shutter Island. Now, he is part of the creative team working on the TV series, Vinyl (Well, you did see that coming, didn’t yeah). Vinyl takes him and the audience back to the era of Rock and Roll, which was an era of excesses, reckless abandon, and so much more. Martin was the director of the pilot episode of the show. The show debuted on HBO, and will have some episodes directed by Martin. The other directors of the show are Mick Jagger, Rich Cohen and Terence Winter.

Juno Temple is Jamie Vine
Juno Temple is Jamie Vine

The TV series has been able to capture some aspects of the 70s pretty accurately, while completely missing out on a few others. For instance, the show’s central focus, Richie Finestra, played by Bobby Cannavale, is the CEO of American Century records, who enjoys coke, a lot. Coke forms a part of every aspect of his life. From recreation to business deals, there is always coke involved in some way or the other. Then there are the performances by the New York Dolls. The showmakers have clearly made an excellent attempt to make them as lookalike as the real one from the time gone by. Even their moves on the stage matches the original band members. This is just the tip of the iceberg. For those, who are old enough to remember the roaring 70s, Vinyl is a treat. For those who are too young, this could give them a glimpse of the times, which were way naughtier/cooler than whatever they can come up now. Although it does a great job on the television, it is not the only Vinyl that has brought back the retro craze.

People are smitten by the Lop Play records for numerous reasons. Now, it is no more limited to a few nostalgic collectors or baby boomers, even the younger generation is taken by the beauty of vinyls. In the UK alone, vinyl sales have crossed 1 million mark in 2014 itself, while the US vinyl sales were 4 million for the first half of the year. These numbers are have not been seen in the industry since 1995. People are flocking to buy vinyl records of retro artists such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Madonna. But, what is amazing is that music lovers are buying vinyl records of even contemporary artists such as Adele, Arctic Monkeys, and most surprisingly, Justin Bieber.

Bobby Cannavale is Richie Finestra
Bobby Cannavale is Richie Finestra

The sudden comeback mounted by the Long Plays is a product of many reasons. Perhaps the most important of them doesn’t even have anything to do with music. The last two decades have seen everything in the living room thinned out. Be it the television, music player, computers, or something else, humans’ fascination for the sleek and sexy has ended up leaving a lot of room in the living space. With the popularity of the minimalist design, especially among the wealthy, they are looking for new ways to decorate their living rooms. For them, a gramophone or a state of the art turntable is an opportunity they cannot simply miss. They love to flaunt their refined taste to their guests by showing them their vinyl collection and the latest digital vinyl player.

Of course, just because the vinyls have made it into the 21st century, it doesn’t mean they are bringing all their old players as well. Vinyl enthusiasts can enjoy the highest quality digital music from their vinyls using many modern turntables that are being released in the market. Companies like Sony and Panasonic are releasing players that can not only produce rich and high quality digital sound, but also make the living room sophisticated with their slick appearance.

Olivia Wilde plays Devon Finestra
Olivia Wilde plays Devon Finestra

The vinyl revival has given a rebirth to an entire industry and a bevy of products. Vinyl displays are another major interior decoration item that is picking up in popularity. While men’s music and games collection used to be limited to either the bedroom or the storage room, the same is not true with vinyls. People want to show them, and hence the displays are for the living room. This has made the displays a hit among men, and they can be found these days, even in a nearby retailer like Tesco.

What seals the deal for many music lovers is that the vinyls come with sleeves that contain artwork that is of immense value for fans. Original sealed vinyl copies from the 70s and 80s sell on ebay in auctions at thousands of dollars apiece. For now, it is safe to say that vinyls are here to stay for good, at least in the near future.

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Bernie

Why Jack Black Should make more movies like Bernie

Bernie

Jack Black is one of the most famous American actors in Hollywood today. He is certainly known for his sense of humor and his comedic skills. He has appeared in many big budget and blockbuster movies including King Kong (2005) and Tropic Thunder (2008). He is best known for his signature loser roles, which always bring out his humorous side. After having produced and acted in a long list of those types of movies, fans of Jack Black want something special from him; something more serious; something that brings out his true acting skills, something beyond just humor. The 2011 movie Bernie gave his fans everything they ever wanted and some more.

Bernie featured Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey in the supporting roles, who did an excellent job in the film. But, this was Jack Black’s show entirely. He played the role of a local assistant mortician in Carthage, Texas. He was a beloved member of the community, and had the most  beloved personality in town. Yet, (Spoiler Alert!) he was at the center of a murder investigation. The character we learn to love and hate all at once was Bernie Tiede. This was the true story of an actual person by the same name, and the movie depicts the events with high accuracy seeing as though the person that produced it was in close contact with Bernie himself (they live together!!). This role was a big challenge for Jack Black, which he did with flying colors. These are some of the reasons why we would like for Black to perform these roles:

Jack Black as 'Bernie'
Jack Black as ‘Bernie’

Understanding the Character of Bernie

Anyone who has seen Jack Black make a fool out of himself in interviews on TV would see that, he is actually Nacho Libre, Dewey Finn, and Jables all combined. So, it is natural for people to assume that his movies are good because he is simply being himself. However, Bernie was a different ball game altogether. There is no comfort zone here. With Bernie, Jack  proved that he can take tough and difficult jobs that require him to go the extra mile. He visited the real Bernie Tiede in a maximum security prison to learn about him as much as he could. He learned everything from his mannerisms, to his behavior, to small hints of what made him the odd person he was. But, they also discussed (Again, Spoiler Alert!) what caused Bernie to commit the murder of the eighty year old woman. Visiting a person in a maximum security prison- especially someone who committed a murder-  takes some guts. Black has even described his experience of the visit as scary, although Bernie himself was a very soft spoken and nice man.

Members of the town have publicly spoken about Bernie's case in hopes that his sentence is reduced
Members of the town have publicly spoken about Bernie’s case in hopes that his sentence is reduced

Becoming the Character

The role of Bernie wasn’t a simple one. The murder is not a grudge story, a revenge story, or even an accident. Bernie was quite a complicated man. As Bernie explained himself to Jack in prison, he was a in a very complicated relationship with Marjorie, the eighty year old whom he murdered. Bernie was, and has always been, very nice to people because he wanted people to like him back. If they didn’t like him, out of mere impulse, he would try to win their love in any way possible. Marjorie, on the other hand, was hated by the entire community of Carthage. She was a rich widow, who was also abusive towards every living soul she met. Her attitude towards Bernie was also abusive; he simply couldn’t digest it. He had to win her affection, and went great lengths to get her to like him, trust him, and care for him. The couple then travelled to see the world. She hired him as a personal assistant, and companion permanently, so that he could quit the mortician job. He got used to the perks of the money, and therefore accepted that this was his righteous path in life.

Matthew McConaughey plays Det. Danny Buck
Matthew McConaughey plays Det. Danny Buck

Not too long after the two seemed to be in a congruent symbiotic relationship, her abuses began to get extreme. However, Bernie could not leave her as that would mean this crazy woman would stop liking him. He continued to be with her, despite her abuses, as the entire town watched and expected the two to die together.

This is the story of a highly complicated man. A man with a million internal conflicts. He knows what is happening; the consequences of his actions; how he should he should prevent it, yet he is unable to do so. Jack was able to nail this man’s predicament perfectly on screen. His expressions, dialogue delivery, body language, and even the looks (down to the moustache), have been simply impeccable. Don’t believe our opinion? Just watch a trailer.

Reception of this character

Shirley MacLaine as Majorie Nugent in 'Bernie'
Shirley MacLaine as Majorie Nugent in ‘Bernie’

Sure, the movie was not a blockbuster. But, it did premiere for 21 weeks, and ended up making $9 million. Despite not being able to gather as many viewers as Tenacious D, the movie did achieve a fan following. In fact, during a 2012 survey conducted by The New York Times, Bernie was rated “the most under-appreciated film of the year.” Gathering 31% of the votes. Reviewers felt that this movie should have deserved a lot more attention and appreciation that it did. Much of the credit for this result went to Jack Black’s performance in the movie. At least he did get something out of the film besides being recognized as one of the creepiest movie performances ever. He won a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Although he didn’t win it, the nomination itself proves that he has a lot of talent as a multi-faceted actor.

His Piece of Mind

Jack Black himself has said that he does enjoy making people laugh. But, he wants to try something other than comedy. In fact, he has specifically mentioned that he is “tired of the frat-guy comedies”. So, one thing is clear: We want Jack to try new things. Surely, we can expect Black to appear in some new roles. Everyone wants more movies like Bernie from our favorite guitar shredder, and hollywood is becoming oversaturated with bro-ish movies that end up being a waste of time. These real characters with real stories are the ones that make our hearts beat in a more unique way!

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Kesha was denied a cancellation of her contract with Sony music by a court order

The Problem with Kesha’s Manager and Sony Music

Kesha was denied a cancellation of her contract with Sony music by a court order

The controversy surrounding the legal battle between Kesha and her former mentor, Lukasz Gottwald, known better as Dr. Luke, has created storms for well past a year now. During the certainly tumultuous journey that Kesha has endured so far, her fans have certainly stuck with the star and have given their full support for her. The lengthy legal battle is not over yet, and it is not clear in which direction it is headed. While it is great to see Kesha finding immense support during these difficult times, there are other parties involved in this, who have been at the receiving end of the flak. Dr. Luke and Sony Music have been largely facing heat from the star’s fans and media in general, for holding their position and not relieving Kesha from her contractual obligations. Many observers have commented that this is a sheer case of prejudice on the part of the fans and the media, as they have no way of knowing the facts behind the case, and whether the allegations made by Kesha against Dr. Luke are even true. There is certainly more to this storm than what meets the eye. Let’s look at the facts as they are available.

Kesha Had her own show in MTV called My Crazy Beautiful Life
Kesha Had her own show in MTV called My Crazy Beautiful Life

Kesha has alleged that her manager, Dr. Luke had sexually molested her when she was only a teenager about a decade ago. She also claims that he has continually abused her since then. While the allegations are yet to be thoroughly probed by the legal authorities, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich noted that Kesha has not been able to produce any form of proofs to back up her claim. Hence, she has asked Kesha to provide something solid such as after-abuse medical reports, and something that could help investigate the matter in detail.

In January 2014, Kesha was admitted to a rehab on account of an eating disorder. Later, the star claimed that her admission into the rehab was because of the abuse that Dr. Luke used to hurl at her. It is claimed that Dr. Luke called her “fat f**king refrigerator”. Later in October the same year, Kesha and her mother went ahead and filed a sexual harassment case against Dr. Luke. This is where the whole mess began to take shape.

In the legal case, Kesha’s legal team has argued that because Dr. Luke has abuse on her, Kesha finds herself unable to work with him, his label, Kemosabe Records, and its partner, Sony Music. Therefore, they have demanded an injunction against the contract. It is to be noted that Kesha’s contract demands that she record six more albums with the two music producers. However, her team has put forth that since a music star’s career is usually a short one, irreparable damage could be inflicted on her career, if she is not allowed to record outside the two recording companies. Dr. Luke has come up front on this and has offered to not involve himself with the entire process of her recording music for his label and Sony Music. That way, she would not have to deal with him, and thus, not feel any distress of working with him.

This is quite a practical solution, when especially considered against the fact that Dr. Luke has invested over $60 million in the star’s career. Even the judge sees the logic in this, and she questioned Kesha about this offer. Ms. Kornreich observed that since she would be recording without Dr. Luke’s involvement, and also not have her career jeopardized, it would be wrong to nullify a heavily negotiated contract, on the basis of claims that do not even have any actual proof yet. Thus, the judge ordered against the injunction.

Dr Luke worked as the guitarist for SNL for 15 years. Now Sony music might drop him out of the conflict
Dr Luke worked as the guitarist for SNL for 15 years. Now Sony music might drop him out of the conflict

Dr. Luke’s lawyers have alleged that in the light of Kesha’s recent drop in fame, she has fabricated the allegations in the effort to extort money from him. Kesha also appealed to the court that Sony has set her up to fail. The judge noted that it is in the interest of Sony to make profits, and that is only possible if Kesha succeeds and no the other way around. She refused to presume that a corporation such as Sony would give up making profits on their investment.
So far, whatever has been observed in this case, it seems that Dr. Luke and Sony have been winning the legal battle. However, not all is good news for Dr. Luke. In the aftermath of Kesha’s lawsuit against him, he had filed a lawsuit of his own against the singer. In that, he alleged that Kesha and her mother, Pebe have resorted to publishing false claims and outrageous statements about him. He filed another case against Pepe and Kesha’s lawyer for sullying his name. However, a New York court judge has dropped the case. This is the first win for Kesha in the prolonged legal battle.

Apart from the allegations of harassment, Dr. Luke is facing many other claims from his former protégé. According to Kesha, Dr. Luke has fooled the public in many ways. For instance, he has on numerous occasions taken credit for songs that he did not even write, and allegedly did not produce a TV show that he has claimed to have. Further, he is supposed to have constantly berated Kesha’s work, and on one particular occasion, he got will.i.am to write a part of the song for her. Kesha makes a claim that after having suffered years of abuse and harassment from him, she is no more capable of working with Dr. Luke.

Kesha and Dr. Luke together at ASCAP
Kesha and Dr. Luke together at ASCAP

At first, she had filed the lawsuit against only him, but later also included Sony in it, saying that the music company put female artists in harm’s way by giving Dr. Luke absolute authority on the creative aspects of their music. Sony has replied to this by citing her previous statement, in which she claimed that Dr. Luke had bullied her into silence. In effect, Sony is maintaining that since she never spoke about any such event, they could not possibly have taken any action at all. So, she can’t have it both ways by claiming to be bullied into silence and yet, expect some action from Sony, who could not possibly have known about any such matters.

It is not clear where this whole controversy is going. But, one thing is for sure. The decade old friendship between Kesha and Dr. Luke has ruined, if there was any in the first place. And, both of their future as well as Sony Music’s reputation hang in suspense.

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Let Zack Galifianakis Teach You How to Be a Clown in Paris with Baskets

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Over the years, the word ‘clown’ has become synonymous with the street performers, serving tasteless jokes and balloons, with clumsy party entertainers for kids that make children cry or worse, or perhaps with terrifying psychos who run around killing people. In all of these mistaken identities, the real meaning of clown has been lost. Being a clown is an art unto itself, of creating a situation out of nothing and being able to make people laugh.

It looks like for the first time, clowns have finally found a right platform – an actual comedy show about a clown on network television. Baskets is an FX comedy that debuted on the network on January 21, 2016. The creators of the shows are Louis C.K., Jonathan Krisel, and Zack Galifianakis. Zach also stars in the show and in fact, plays a double role. He plays the central character of Chip and also the role of Dale in the show. Dale is Chip’s brother, who is successful in his business. Dale taunts Chip to no end, but then again, Chip is no better either.

Baskets shows a more real side to Zach that people can actually relate to
Baskets shows a more real side to Zach that people can actually relate to

The story of Baskets revolves around the life of Chip Baskets. He travels from his hometown in Bakersfield, California to Paris in order to study clowning. That’s right, he wants to be a French-trained clown. However, the biggest problem is that Chip does not understand a single word of French and therefore, never understands anything in the clown classes either. He is thrown out of school for non-performance, which leads to a series of failed attempts at becoming a clown. He then returns to his hometown with no degree in clowning, but with a French bride. This woman does not love him and she has made it crystal clear to Zach. So, why did she marry him? Well, for a green card.

When Chip returns to the US, he has no money and no scope of earning any either. So, he goes to a local Rodeo, where there is an opening for the position of the clown. To his relief, he does get the job, which is not exactly an achievement as his employer puts it. But, Chip does not know that the job involves him taking bulls head on. This is absolutely the bottom of the barrel for him, but he is doing it because he is desperate.

The French training of this stubborn clown may have started in a fancy French clown college, but it is now continuing in the humble backyard of Bakersfield. This guy will make you laugh at his misfortunes. There will be situations that he will create from nothing and then take you on a journey, where he may be smiling, laughing, shouting or even crying. No matter what he is doing, he will make the audiences laugh.

The story is definitely sad if you think about it. He went to pursue a dream in Paris, which never even lifted off the ground, before they are crushed by his teacher, who is not impressed by his performance. He comes back to a town, where no one understands him, nor his ambitions to become a clown. He also has a fake wife in his life. This pretty much sums up his sad life.

Louis C.K. approached Zach about the production
Louis C.K. approached Zach about the production

Chip Baskets is not kidding when he says he wants to become a clown. He says it with such conviction that at times you may even feel bad for laughing at his resolve. However, the showrunners have deliberately made the character of Chip quite irritable too. He is definitely not lovable and is not the kind of character the audiences would mind getting hurt. This gives the leeway to the audiences to laugh at the bad that is happening to him without feeling awful. The story is just constructed that way.

Christine Basket, Chip’s mother, is shown to be someone who loves him and supports him in every decision. The character has been played beautifully by Louie Anderson. Yes, the role of his mother is played by a man, who is dressed like a downplayed drag queen. Despite his mother being around all the while, Chip does nothing but ignore her or talk to her really badly. Then there is Martha, another person who is always by Chip’s side in whatever he does. She is an insurance agent and is always there to offer Chip some good advice. The nice woman also never gets any importance from the self-absorbed Chip, who tends to generally talk over her.

So, when his pretend-wife, his brother or other characters of the story take a dig at him, it does not really feel all that bad. The good thing about the series being broadcast on FX is that the channel lets Zach and his team take the characters and the story the way they want. It is not easy for an alternative comedian like him to get this chance and he is exploring its potential to the fullest. The showrunners are not dumping the show with laughter tracks, but rather introducing the audience to the oldest comedians in history, clowns. They also
know that they have presented their audiences with a sad clown and they want them to laugh at him while he just goes about being himself.

Zach Galifianakis stars in Baskets
Zach Galifianakis stars in Baskets

So, Chip is already a Parisian clown, because he checks all the right boxes. He is the sad clown, which has always been the classic and his misfortunes become a laughing stock for others. He is a narcissist, a selfengrossed fool, who cries alone. He is also too stubborn to let go, whether it is his dream or the resolve to live with his mother.

Baskets is a comedy about life. The show is not a sad story of a clown and neither do the characters crack jokes all the time. Its comedy is subtle and catches the viewer off guard. There is nothing completely serious and grave about it. The comedy can be in any task as mundane as going to the grocery store or filling gas at a gas station. The show finds comedy in everyday chores. Again, it is like a real clown, a classically trained clown from Paris, who has created comedy from the nothings of daily life and at his own cost.

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Is BoJack Horseman insane, or just dealing with depression?

BoJack Horseman is an American animated TV show that originally premiered on Netflix. The show is created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, and starts Will Arnett and Aaron Paul. The show is a satire of the nineties sitcoms and has a sad tone to it, at least in the first half of the season 1. With time, the show moves on to a much warmer feel, but the underlying comedy continues to be hilarious. The first season of the show premiered on August 22, 2014, and the show has already completed two of its seasons. The third season of the show will premiere in 2016, sometime in June or July.

Bojack used to be the biggest star of LA in the 90s, now he deals with all the stresses of post-stardom
Bojack used to be the biggest star of LA in the 90s, now he deals with all the stresses of post-stardom

The show is based in a universe, in which the city of Los Angeles is inhabited by anthropomorphized animals, which co-exist peacefully with humans. People with whale heads, cat heads, dog heads, and so on are perfectly normal. In this world, the show focuses on BoJack Horseman, a has-been in the TV industry. At the height of his fame, BoJack was the epitome of TV success. He had his own sitcom, Horsin’ Around, which was hugely successful. While a normal human would be terrified to find a horse’s face in their bed, the girls that entertain BoJack on occasions hardly feel so.

BoJack has not had a chance at fame for a long time now. He is slowly withering away. That doesn’t mean he has no fans. His agent, Princess Carolyn, who is a pink Persian cat, is one of his true believers. They had an on and off thing long ago, and are no longer involved romantically. She later went on to marry her colleague, with whom she started her own agency. Eventually, they separated and she runs the agency on her own now. However, she and BoJack have managed to remain friends through the years.

BoJack is combating depression stemming from his loss of fame, and wants to regain it in any way he can. So, he decides to commission his autobiography and chooses a ghostwriter for his job. His ghostwriter Diane Nguyen, is a human. Her husband, Mr. Peanutbutter is a Labrador Retriever, who is frenemies with BoJack. Mr. Peanutbutter was part of the sitcom, Mr. Peanutbutter’s House that was competing with Horsin’ Around, when they were both being aired. BoJack feels that the show had stolen the premise of his show and has less than warm feelings for Mr. Peanutbutter. However, Mr. Peanutbutter himself has great respect for BoJack. In a nutshell, the show deals with en animated equestrian human, who is trying in every way possible to regain back his fame, with the help of a few people, who believe in him.

Will Arnett has lent his voice to the eponymous character, BoJack Horseman. After many years of not finding any good work in Hollywood, BoJack has grown disillusioned of the glamor industry. Yet, he loves it, craves it, and wants to be a part of it. He is a good man in general – a caring individual and quite intelligent too. However, years of self-loathing and growing insecurities have destroyed a big part of him. His need for approval seems to always get the best of him. He has hurt a lot of people during his heydays, and is finally learning to make peace with it. This is slowly building him a support system of friends, who are helping him in regaining his lost stardom and making a comeback.

Todd chavez is Played by Aaron Paul
Todd chavez is Played by Aaron Paul

The closest thing that BoJack has with someone that resembles friendship is with Princess Carolyn. She is a cat, and is BoJack’s agent. Carolyn is voiced by Amy Sedaris. Carolyn and BoJack go way back together. They had an intermittent romantic relationship, which was ended long ago. Carolyn is an ambitious person, who was working as an agent at Vigor agency. She was very good at her job, and therefore, started her own agency with her then-boyfriend, who was her coworker. Eventually, they go their separate ways. She completely believes in the ability of BoJack, and has made it very clear to him.

BoJack’s ghostwriter, Diane Nguyen, is voiced by Alison Brie. Diane is a human, and married to a famous star, Mr. Peanutbutter. While she was penning down the memoir of BoJack, things become increasingly awkward between them, when BoJack begins to develop feelings for her. She takes some time off and goes to warn-torn Cordovia to make a difference. Realizing that this is not her cup of tea, she eventually returns. After making peace with her husband, she joins Carolyn’s agency as an employee.

Diane’s husband, Mr. Peanutbutter, is an eternally cheerful Labrador retriever. He is voiced by Paul F. Tompkins. Mr. Peanutbutter appeared in a TV sitcom Mr. Peanutbutter’s House, which competed directly with Horsin’ Around, starring BoJack. BoJack has less than friendly feelings towards Mr. Peanutbutter, which he eventually overcomes. However, Mr. Peanutbutter, has always had great respect for BoJack. Although BoJack is a has-been, Mr. Peanutbutter is still a thing. It is shown that Mr. Peanutbutter is not very clever when it comes to making investments, and often ends up losing a lot of his money on outlandish ideas.

Bojack is set in Los Angeles
Bojack is set in Los Angeles

Aaron Paul has lent his voice to Todd Chavez. Todd is an unemployed game addict, who came to BoJack’s house for a party and never left. Although BoJack expresses disdain towards Todd, he secretly likes to have him around and cares for him. Todd has a plethora of skills that can take him to new heights, but his laziness and game addiction make him a failure. Other characters on the show include Pinky Penguin (Patton Oswalt), Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal), Herb Kazzaz (Stanley Tucci), and many others. A number of celebrities too have made guest appearances on the show, including Beyonce, Naomi Watts, Paul McCartney, Matthew Fox, and others.

The first season of the show began with a slow start and therefore, the response to the first half was largely average to slightly negative. However, the second half of the show gained some momentum and began to receive some praises from the critics and the audiences. On the overall, the show rates as an average comedy on both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes.

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What Orange is the New Black Teaches Us about Gender Roles

The roles for women in most TV shows and movies are pretty stereotypically cut out. There is this one important male character and then there are his female colleagues, mother, sister, lover and other opposite gender supports for him. It is not easy to find a show that has strong female characters, let alone some decent level of diversity in them. It is difficult to find a show that passes the Bechdel test, the bare minimum qualification for a show or movie to qualify for not being an absolutely male dominated work. So, talking about the roles that explore various aspects of women seems far-fetched.

However, with Orange is the New Black, this longstanding dream of female viewers has come true. It is a show about a white woman with a nice body and coming from a place of privilege as the protagonist. It is perhaps a cliché, but that’s where it ends. The entire cast of the show is a one big reminder of how diverse and different women are. Viewers are lapping up this show about different women in the federal prison, who come from different parts of the society and belong to different ethnicities. The show is not about representing all women in a favorable light. You love some, you hate some and you are indifferent about others. However, Orange is the New Black (OITNB) at least gives you that choice. The interest in this subject can be gauged from the fact that OITNB had the best ratings in its opening week among any of the Netflix original series.

Orange is the new black has given a voice to many people that had never been represented in television regardless of gender, societal status, body shape, or moral convictions
Orange is the new black has given a voice to many people that had never been represented in television regardless of gender, societal status, body shape, or moral convictions

The first evidence that the show has challenged gender roles can be seen from the reactions of the critics reviewing the show. Some of the critics have described the series as graphic in nature. On investigation, it seems that it is should be termed as graphic in nature by a woman’s standard. What that essentially means is that the critics were talking about scenes where Piper, the lead character, was served with a tampon for a sandwich by Red, an inmate who is the kitchen supervisor. Mind you, Piper never gets even close to eating that sandwich. She is simply served the tampon and that’s that. Ironically, in the next few episodes, the story saw a male officer, Mendez, actually urinates in a pot of gravy. The gravy is later tasted by an inmate and no one batted an eye.

Gender non-conformity forms an innate part of the show. In one scene, the butch character played by Lea DeLaria, Big Boo, a lesbian, is shown masturbating. There is only a facial close-up of the actress and then there is the shot of a stolen screwdriver, which is information enough. In the popular media, sex has always been a thing that men want and women oblige by bestowing it upon them. Women are often represented as helpless and submissive or perhaps angels who do not need sex. In that context, a woman masturbating for just her own pleasure definitely rose some eyebrows.

Rosa's revenge was one of the most shocking moments of the entire show
Rosa’s revenge was one of the most shocking moments of the entire show. This allowed people dealing with fatal illnesses to relate as well.

Women do not conform to any gender roles in this show. These inmates represent a diversity and have a unique backstory that defines them. The best part is that there is no blanket adjective that defines these women. They are certainly not the stereotypical demure women. The role of Stella Carlin is completely unwomanly. She does not identify as any one gender. She does not necessarily like women, but would not want to be a man either. She is not at one end of the gender spectrum and is gender fluid.

There is so much strength in some characters that it is laudable. Strength is not a characteristic that is generally attached to women. Men are supposed to be the ones that are powerful. Maria is a pregnant inmate who loses her child, some of these women’s entire childhoods were destroyed because they were trafficked into the country, and numerous other backstories. There is so much pain in many of the characters and so much resilience to endure it.

Piper will be back for a 4th season.
Piper will be back for a 4th season.

Women in the show do not adorn themselves with jewelry or makeup to define themselves. They are personalities in their own right. Many of them also like makeup, but then again, they do it because it makes them feel nice, for their own sake.

The women are resourceful and get creative when they need something. They are not waiting around for any help but using their resources and indulging in barter to get the Christmas gifts they need to give away while playing Secret Santa. The ingenuity, the smartness, and the bond of friendship that these women share in the face of nothing, have never been depicted in a feminine background before.

Laverne Cox became the first transgender woman to get wax figure at Madame Tussauds
Laverne Cox became the first transgender woman to get wax figure at Madame Tussauds

You will not find stereotypical or one dimensional characters in this story. Like men in most of the prime time shows, each of the woman has an interesting past which makes her what she is today. Laverne Cox, who plays the role of the transgender Sophia, is a delight to watch. The show depicts her struggles from a time when she was a firefighter and indulged in credit card frauds to fund her surgeries. Her transformation is delightful and puts a wedge in the discussion of gender roles. She was a man and is now a woman, but she is the same person, and gender has no effect on who she is whatsoever.

All in all, Orange in the New Black is a delightful series, which has put forth a discussion that has never happened. It has showcased a whole spectrum, not exhaustive but very detailed, of women, each with their own personality, story, and goal. Prison inmates are by no means role models for young girls and boys. But, seen in the right light, the show does feel like the much needed exploration of womanhood. They fight, cook, have sex, masturbate, and love. There is not one thing that they do not do or cannot do and there is not one special mold they all can be fitted into. So, as far as gender roles are concerned, this series puts a big question mark on it. It quietly but firmly makes it a point that there is no one task that is designed for one particular gender. Like each man, each woman is different.

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Eddie The Eagle, The Sports Monopolies, and The Sponsorships or The Lack Thereof

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Eddie The Eagle is the name of the upcoming British-American film, based on the real life events from the life of Michael Edwards, who is best known as Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. The movie showcases the hardships endured by Eddie in his unwavering resolve to participate in Olympic ski jumping. In fact, he did become the first competitor to ever represent Great Britain at Olympics in the ski jumping category.

Eddie garnered worldwide fame by competing in the Olympics, not for winning, but for spectacularly losing at it. He was an amateur, and had no delusions of winning gold. He participated in the competition for the competition’s sake, which is the true spirit of the Olympics. When he made his jump, he wasn’t smooth like other competitors. In fact, when he landed, the commentators screamed “The Eagle has landed!” This underdog and his perseverance caught the imagination of the masses and stole the show.

An entire nation was counting him out of qualifying into the Olympics
An entire nation was counting him out of qualifying into the Olympics

Back home, he was loved, hated, laughed at, ridiculed, and even admired. But, a large part of what made The Eagle what he is, is largely forgotten, or perhaps never given much attention to in the first place.

The movie Eddie The Eagle sheds some light on how sports is losing its competitive spirit and is becoming a monopolistic playground, fueled by sponsorships. Eddie’s story begins as a son of a plasterer. His father, his grandfather, and his grandfather’s father, were all plasterers. Eddie was only 13 year old, when he took shine to skiing. He was really good at it, and even before he turned 18, he was already competing with the national teams in Great Britain. His first attempt at the qualifying rounds of the Olympics was in 1984. Although he was a good skier, he did not qualify for the games.

Hugh Jackman is Eddies trainer- A drunken snow groomer named Bronson Peary
Hugh Jackman is Eddies trainer- A drunken snow groomer named Bronson Peary

He had no money to hire a professional trainer. To improve his chances of making it into the next Olympic, he went to USA. Here, he trained and participated in the races that were more challenging than the ones in Britain. He could not even afford the prices for the lift tickets at this point. If he had to realize his Olympic dream, he had to try something new. His solution was to drop skiing, and instead participate in the ski jumping competition at the Olympics, in which Britain had no representation at all. Without any competition in Great Britain, he stood a better chance of making it into the Olympics.

With no money to buy the required equipment, he borrowed them from a friend, who was helping him with his training. The boots did not fit, and he had to wear six pairs of shoes to make them fit. This was the phase when he did not have the backing of anyone financially. Not his country’s government; not a business sponsor. While Olympic participants and aspirants in countries like the United States are granted huge sponsorships and funding to pursue their dreams, Eddie had no such luxuries. Even when there are some sponsors, they are only limited to aspirants of a few high profile athletic events, which are guaranteed to garner immense attention. Other aspirants are hardly offered any support.

Inspired by true events, Eddie the Eagle is a feel-good story about Michael “Eddie” Edwards
Inspired by true events, Eddie the Eagle is a feel-good story about Michael “Eddie” Edwards

While his ski jumping practices continued, Eddie’s job as a plasterer continued. In fact, when he finally won the qualification for participating in the 1988 Winter Olympics ski jumping competition, he was living in a Finnish mental hospital, due to his inability to make arrangements for alternative accommodation. This was the state of the Great Britain’s first competitor ever in the ski jumping competition. In fact, even that year, he was the sole competitor from Great Britain. When he had to commit more hours to training, he quit plastering, and tried other odd jobs to make ends meet. He shoveled snow, scrubbed floors, and did everything he could to support himself. While his practice continued, his jumping distances improved. Eventually, he broke the unofficial British record of 70 meters in ski jumping.

He had already gained some popularity by now as an amateur who made the ski jumping look difficult. In fact, when he visited Calgary for the 1988 Winter Olympics, the Italian team gave him a new helmet, while the Austrians provided him his skis. Eddie once shared that he did not have money to buy a new helmet. During his training, he used to tie his old helmet using a string. During one of those practice sessions, his string broke and it flew farther than him. Naturally, the assistance from Italian and Austrian teams was received by Eddie with deep gratitude. At the event, he came last in both 70 meter and 90 meter jumps. This is the story of how Eddie had his moment of success. His success was not winning the competition, but participating in it.

Taron Egerton is an unlikely- but courageous- British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself
Taron Egerton is an unlikely- but courageous- British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself

While many praised his spirit of participation, considering that he was an amateur, not everyone shared the same views. Some felt that he made of a mockery of the sports and other competitors. In response, immediately after the 1988 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the participation into Olympics tougher by making a rule. This rule requires the Olympic aspirants to participate in international events and rank at least in the top 30 percent or top 50 places, whichever is less. This rule essentially kept the amateurs out of the games.

The movie, Eddie the Eagle, sheds light on how sponsorship can play a significant role in the success or failure of a sports aspirant. Not everyone has the tenacity to live off of meager means and yet chase their dream with a singular focus. This is one of the reasons why economies, in which sponsorships for sports aspirants is popular, fare far better in the international championships, such as the Olympics. These economies have a kind of monopoly on sports in which they participate, thanks to the immense sponsorship they enjoy. Yet, some would argue that the true spirit of the Olympics is lost in the intensity of these cut-throat competitions.

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