It was reported that JK Rowling’s first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, was going to be very dark and include adult themes and language. I knew I was not going back to Hogwarts when I opened the book, but I was surprised about the nature of this story. This post contains plot spoilers.

Initially, it seemed like the book was about a sleepy town’s local election from the vantage point of the 40-something generation. It was not a topic that particularly excited me, but I was drawn in by Rowling’s excellent story-telling and the way she subtly ridiculed each of her characters as she introduced them. However, as the plot unfolded, the story became less about the adults’ world, and more about the teenagers and the brazen power that they unleashed upon their parents.

The main families represented included the Prices, the Walls, the Jawanadas, and the Weedons. There are excellent facets of the novel that are related to the Fairweathers, Bawdens, Mollisons, Maureen, and Gavin, but the heaviest drama is related to the four very dysfunctional families I just named. In all four cases, the teens are victimized in some way by their parents and retaliate in some brash way that has permanent consequences. The teens, with their bold confidence and righteousness, hold all the power.

The Price family is plagued by a cowardly thief of a father, who is prone to violence against his wife and children. When Simon announces his candidacy for Pagford Parish Council, he seems to become even more violent under the strain. After he is particularly abusive toward his family one night, Andrew (Arf) comes up with a plan to sabotage his campaign. After he posts the truth of his father’s business deals, there are cascading consequences of his father’s job loss, the family’s move to Reading, and his peers’ copycat posts on the council’s website.

The Wall family is led by Colin, an administrator at the school all the kids attend. Colin is plagued by an OCD-fueled paranoia that cripples him. His adopted son, Stuart (Fats), is constantly pushing his buttons and he too becomes violent against his child. This inspires Fats to publicize his paralyzing fear that he will be accused of touching a student and effectively causes Colin to be unable to work and passively withdraw from the campaign.

The Jawanda family is represented by Parminder, who is stoic and extremely critical of her daughter Sukhvinder. She overtly prefers her other two children and neglects Sukhvinder. Sukhvinder is also tormented at school by Fats and threatened by Krystal Weedon. When Sukhvinder tries to confess her issues with Krystal to her mom, and is berated once again for her shortcomings, she decides to retaliate by posting gossip about her mother’s love for the late Barry Fairbrother on the council’s website. The stress of this post and the election itself causes Parminder to snap and lose her temper at a council meeting and ultimately costs her her job as the town’s General Practitioner.

The Weedon family is essentially led by a teenager, Krystal, who is trying to keep her junkie mother and 3 year old brother together. The mother, Terri, does not do a good job of looking after either of her kids even when she is clean. Krystal has behavioral problems, but she does try to keep her brother in preschool, get herself to school, and keep track of her mother’s habits. After Krystal suffers rape in her own home by her mother’s dealer, she becomes determined to get pregnant by Fats, so she can get a teen mom subsidy and have a safe place to live with her baby and her little brother, Robbie.

When Krystal finds the drug dealer in her mother’s home again, she takes off with Robbie and makes a plan to meet Fats in the park. In her desperate quest to become impregnated there, she takes her eyes off of Robbie and he drowns in the nearby river. With his death on her hands, Krystal intentionally overdoses herself on her mother’s heroin stash.

The adults in this story were all the initial perpetrators of abuse and neglect, but the teenagers made decisions that had extreme and tragic consequences. The adults were always behaving badly while going about their day to day lives. The teens made active decisions to cause changes in their lives. They may not have realized the full consequences of their actions, but they knew they were doing something big and intentional.

Yes, this story has adult themes, but these are themes that impact real teenagers too. The language, sex, drugs, and family drama will not be foreign to most teens. The politics may bore some, but that is just the backdrop to the real story of teenagers and the power struggle with their families. I’d say this is a Young Adult novel disguised as an adult fiction.

Rachel Beard

Starz has decided that their original programming can compete with the other hot shows airing on Sunday nights.

Network CEO Chris Albrecht has told THR that they are planning on moving all of their original shows including Outlander, Ash Vs Evil Dead, and Black Sails — which currently air on Saturdays — to Sundays. The move will begin July 17 with the Starz series Power. Outlander will likely not move to Sundays until next season.

“Sundays are a prestige night and we feel our shows are definitely going to be very competitive, not just in viewership but in the attention-getting business on Sundays,” Albrecht said to THR, “So it made sense to move.”

Outlander and Starz’s other original series will be going up against tough competition, including AMC’s The Walking Dead and HBO’s Game of Thrones. Albrecht says part of the reason he wanted to move the shows was to make sure they were part of the watercooler talk on Monday mornings.

THR notes that Showtime’s original series typically get DVR’d, “growing 214 percent [in viewership] during the course of a week.” This would suggest that a lot of people aren’t sitting in front of a TV on Saturdays and want to watch the shows on a different day of the week. So, moving their programming to Sundays may not impact overall viewership numbers much.

Starz recently overtook Showtime as the second-most subscribed to cable channel. HBO still sits at number one, though all three are facing tough competition from Netflix.

Disney has set its sights on another live-action retelling of an animated classic: The Little Mermaid.

Deadline reports that the studio “recently heard a new take and are currently evaluating whether to proceed with the idea,” and “discussions have also taken place with some major producers, including some with a strong connection to the studio.”

That’s all we know for now. A “new take” makes it sound like they could be contemplating an alternate story than the one we saw in the 1989 animated classic, but I’d personally prefer a direct adaptation. I want to see live-action Ariel sing some of the Disney classics! Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book has spoiled me.

Like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid is one of Disney’s most beloved animated movies, so expectations for a live-action adaptation will immediately be set very high. With their recent adaptation of The Jungle Book hitting theaters to very positive reviews and the first trailer for their live-action Beauty and the Beast being very well received, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Disney start to look at other potential animated properties for source material. (But you would’ve expected to hear about a live-action Lion King before Little Mermaid after The Jungle Book’s success, wouldn’t you?)

The Little Mermaid is the latest in a long line of animated-to-live action projects in the works at Disney. Others include an Aladdin spinoff looking at the Genie’s origins, The Jungle Cruise starring Dwayne Johnson, Dumbo with director Tim Burton, Mary Poppins with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt, and Tinker Bell with Reese Witherspoon. And then there are sequels to the adaptations like Maleficent 2 and The Jungle Book 2.

Be sure to cross The Little Mermaid off your animated-to-live-action bingo card.

Do you think Disney can pull off a live-action ‘Little Mermaid’?

With Donald Trump’s presidency looking less and less like a joke, these high-profile authors and writers believe the time for silence is over.

Over 400 authors have signed a petition to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

The petition, titled “An open letter to the American people,” was written by Andrew Altschul and Mark Slouka. It unequivocally states that Trump must not become President of the United States, and explains why writers in particular are worried about the power of his empty words and fear-mongering rhetoric.

Signed by the likes of Stephen King, Junot Diaz, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), Cheryl Strayed, Colm Tóibín and Jennifer Egan, the open letter lays out reasons for openly opposing Trump’s candidacy, which they believe “appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society.”

The letter states:

“Because, as writers, we are particularly aware of the many ways that language can be abused in the name of power;

Because we believe that any democracy worthy of the name rests on pluralism, welcomes principled disagreement, and achieves consensus through reasoned debate;

Because American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another;

Because the history of dictatorship is the history of manipulation and division, demagoguery and lies;

Because the search for justice is predicated on a respect for the truth;

Because we believe that knowledge, experience, flexibility, and historical awareness are indispensable in a leader;

Because neither wealth nor celebrity qualifies anyone to speak for the United States, to lead its military, to maintain its alliances, or to represent its people;

Because the rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response;

For all these reasons, we, the undersigned, as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States.”

While there are plenty of arguments for why Trump should not receive as much media coverage as he gets, we have to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation when some of the country’s most respected artists take such a powerful stance as this.

The petition has been signed by over 7,000 people so far, and you can add your name to the list right here.

You can find out more about the group of writers who oppose Trump on Twitter, at @WritersOnTrump.