Rex Manning Day, Mean Girls Day and More: Essential Pop Culture Holidays

In The Great Gatsby, Daisy always watched for the longest day of the year and then missed it. In the age of tumblr, I always watch for Saturday Detention Day, AKA Breakfast Club Day, and then miss it. I kind of understand how Daisy must feel. In the interest of never missing another movie or TV holiday, we’re compiling them here. Did we miss any? Let us know before we’re late to yet another Aaron Samuels Day.

Galentines Day

Date: February 13
TV Show: Parks and Recreation (2009 – 2015)
Reasoning:

Leap Day

Date: February 29, every 4 years
TV Show: 30 Rock
Reasoning: 30 Rock didn’t invent Leap Day, but it did invent Leap Day William, the heart and soul of the holiday

The Day Of The Dude

Date: March 8
Movie: The Big Lebowski (1998)
Reasoning: Anniversary of the Big Lebowski’s Release

Breakfast Club Day AKA Saturday Detention Day

Date: March 24
Movie: The Breakfast Club (1984)
Reasoning:

Winston Smith Day AKA 1984 Day

Date: April 4
Book: 1984, by George Orwell (1949)
Reasoning: The day Winston Smith began his diary.

Rex Manning Day

Date: April 8
Movie: Empire Records (1995)
Reasoning:

The Perfect Date

Date: April 25th
Movie: Miss Congeniality
Reasoning:

N Sync Day

Date: April 30
Song: It’s Gonna Be Me
Reasoning:

The Battle of Hogwarts

Date: May 2
Book and Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Reasoning: Confirmed by J.K. Rowling, who said that Victoire Weasley was born on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, May 2. The year was 1998:

Star Wars Day

Date: May 4
Movies: Many
Reasoning:

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Date: June 5
Movie: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
 Reasoning: It’s iffy. That’s the day the audio from the Chicago Bears game they attended came from, but there may have been a few months left in the schoolyear. Also, that parade would have been in the fall. Let’s say that any day you play hooky can be Ferris Bueller Day in your heart.

Best Friends Day

Date: June 8
TV Show: Spongebob Squarepants
Reasoning: There’s no date given for Best Friends Day in the episode where Spongebob and Patrick celebrate it, so it’s usually celebrated on the Facebook-ish holiday of Best Friends Day, June 8

Bloomsday

Date: June 16
Book: Ulysses, by James Joyce (1922)
Reasoning: The events of Ulysses (main character Leopold Bloom) take place on June 16, 1904

Harry Potter’s Birthday

Date: July 31
Books/Movies: The Harry Potter series
Reasoning: Not only is this the date Harry was born in 1980, it’s when JK Rowling was born in 1965. And of course, Neville Longbottom was born the day before Harry if you want to turn it into a two-day event.

Roald Dahl Day

Date: September 13
Books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and many, many more
Reasoning: Roald Dahl was born on this day in 1916. Last year we celebrated with a whole week dedicated to Matilda.

Mean Girls Day AKA Aaron Samuels Day

Date: October 3
Movie: Mean Girls (2004)
Reasoning:

Treat Yo Self Day

Date: October 13
TV Show: Parks and Recreation (2009 – 2015)
Reasoning: The ‘treat yo self’ episode aired on this date in 2011

Abed’s Rudolph Day

Date: December 9
TV Show: Community (2009 – 2015)
Reasoning: In the classic 2010 claymation episode Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas, this is the day Abed always watches Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer with his mom. 

Refrigerator Day

Date: December 11
TV Show: Dinosaurs (1991)
Reasoning: The date this classic episode about Refrigerator Day aired:

 

Festivus

Date: December 23
TV Show: Seinfeld  (1989 – 1998)
Reasoning: The day the holiday ‘for the rest of us’ is celebrated with the feats of strength, airing of grievances and Festivus pole.

 

The Witches Is Our Aesthetic

New month, new aesthetic… same author? Last month we explained why the 1996 film Matilda is our aesthetic. This month, I have another Roald Dahl adaptation on the brain: the 1990 classic The Witches. It has all the best of Halloween spookiness, Scandinavian middle class life and early ’90s British coziness.

The cobblestone-y Norwegian streets

The first part of The Witches was filmed on location in beautiful Bergen, Norway, with quaint winding streets and Scandinavian houses that look like something out of a Jan Brett book or Colonial Williamsburg.

Helga’s hygge-ified kitchen

Helga has the perfect cozy grandmother’s kitchen to hear a story about witches in.

Flashback Erica’s knit woolens

Very Kirsten Larson, if you know what I mean (and I’m sure you do).

Helga’s tiny bed

It seems so simple and old-school European to sleep on a minimalist, space saving bed but also I’m a greedy American and I need a queen bed so I can sleep diagonally across it.

This hotel

Look. If I drove by this hotel in real life and I needed a place to stay, I wouldn’t even stop. I’d just assume that it was already fully booked for a witch convention and keep going.

This witch’s super conspicuously witchy outfit

Very motorcycle meets Audrey Hepburn meets mean rich lady.

Convalescing by the sea

Just in general, it is 100% my aesthetic to be sent to convalesce at the sea-side when you’re sick. I don’t want to be sick ever, it’s just that WHEN I am I wish the treatment plan involved “sea air” and not, you know, amoxicillin. I imagine I’d have a lap blanket and go on strolls that weren’t too strenuous. What I think I’m saying is that I’d only do a sitting-down type vacation if I had a disease.

This Married With Children-looking witch

On the right. Imagine her trying to act like a normal human at either a New Jersey deli or a Steel Magnolias-style southern beauty parlor.

This whole Mary Kay General Meeting-style convention

Don’t even try to tell me somebody isn’t about to get awarded a pink Cadillac.

PS, my favorite witch is mustard yellow, front left.

This nice pram

This scene is seared into my memory from childhood and that’s not great, but goodness, what a beautiful baby carriage.

Cute rat children

Riddle me this: I don’t find rats cute, but somehow I find children even cuter when they’re morphing into them.

Luke as a rat muppet

An actual rat would have lost me, but this Jim Henson’s Workshop version of a rat is my aesthetic.

The topsy turvy dinner scene

…because it fixed what otherwise was an incredibly boring dinner. It gets better after this but you’ll just have to watch the move.

Also my aesthetic: cress soup.

This grand high witch outfit

Feat. the BEST hat.

Luke’s room when he’s a rat

It’s probably rough being a rat-boy, but a Rube Goldberg-y setup with THIS FREAKING TRAIN and conveyer belt and toy Ghostbusters firehouse softens the blow and sort of makes a human want to get turned into a rodent by a witch.

Keeping the grand high witches’ names in a black filofax

Both for how early ’90s it is, and how ordinary and practical.

 

 

Matilda Is Our Aesthetic

It’s always difficult turning a beloved book into a big screen movie. Not only do you have to do justice to the original author and their work, but it’s equally important to not completely screw up a story that millions of readers have come to love. The very magic of books is that you get to use your imagination to create your own version of the world that the author presents to you, and not everyone will have the same exact vision in their heads (see: Hermione). So when it comes to adapting novels into movies, there’s a fine line between disaster and huge success.

Luckily, we think the film version of Matilda falls into the latter category, and presented us with a magical world that was still grounded in reality, and appealed to us both as 10 years olds and 30 year olds rewatching the film in present day (PS: it’s Molly’s 30th birthday TODAY!). Here are some of our favorite aesthetics from the outstanding adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic that lived up to the images in our head, and in some cases, even surpassed them.

TBH, the entire pancake scene is our aesthetic, but I love this little touch Matilda adds when she sits down to eat breakfast by herself. I’ve never even done this and I am an “adult”.

Despite Wormwood Motors being a complete sham, I love how many colors the production designer and director Danny DeVito incorporated into this look. It actually seems like a reputable business, which is exactly what Mr. Wormwood wants you to think.

I was never one to make headbands out of satin ribbon, but I always admired those who did. This tells us a couple things about Matilda: she learned how to do this herself, because her mom certainly wasn’t going to teach her. And second, she’s the type of kid who takes pleasure in taking her time. A lot of people wouldn’t spend the extra minute to perfect their hair accessory, but Matilda appreciates even the smallest things in life, something we can all aspire to do.

Because who doesn’t love a good solo dance party? This is why you have superpowers. For this alone.

Just kidding. Also use superpowers to have desserts come directly to your person.

I know the phrase iconic gets tossed around a lot but the blue peter pan collar dress with the red ribbon was iconic, no? A moment of appreciation for the costume designers: although some of the kids’ outfits look 90s in a GOOD way, they mostly stuck to a classic template that makes Matilda fresh and watchable 20 years later. I’d still dress a kid like this.

JENNIFER. HONEY. We talked a bit about her aesthetic here but the main thing is, again, the wardrobe department’s choice of classic designs. Also these glasses. All day long, these glasses.

The end of the movie where Matilda lives with Miss Honey and they both have a family and they’re all dressed down in their straw hats and overalls? And Send Me On My Way plays? And everything is going to be light and happy for them from now on? Is also our aesthetic. When I watch the movie as an adult, the last scenes always make me think of how Matilda’s life would be after moving in with Miss Honey – how awesome her high school years would be with a supportive parent to help her explore learning, and Matilda going back home during college breaks and having talks with Miss Honey as adults, and now-30-year-old Matilda doing whatever amazing things she’s doing, but always going home to catch up and opening her mail to find just-because cards from Miss Honey with, like, $5 in them.

Two reasons to have Matilda carry her books home in a wagon: (1) She had a LOT of books; (2) Children pulling wagons behind them is ADORABLE.

PS, Matilda has cute shoes.

Lavender (Kiami Davael) might be one of the cutest children ever but let’s take a moment to appreciate her very on-trend-for-2016 braided hairdo and also how darling children in glasses are. If I have children I hope they can’t see very well, because this is precious (JK if I have children I hope they can see well).

The tiny, tidy cottage with the wildflowers actually looks more appealing than the Trunchbull Mansion they move into at the end.

Some of the timeless appeal of Matilda’s set design is actually because it’s dated: this isn’t a 90s living room, it’s a pastiche of 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s middle-class garishness. Those people who replace the siding on their porch with shiny stone and their wooden banisters with elaborate wrought iron? That’s the Wormwoods.

We are nerds who truly enjoyed the beginning of school because that meant new school supplies. Matilda had a composition notebook ready to go before her dad even told her she was going to school for the first time. This is our kind of gal.

Lit’rally me:

 

 

Matilda: The Book For Book Lovers

Roald Dahl was born 100 years ago today. He delighted so much in absolutes and extremes, I think he would have loved reaching such a nice, round, very-old age. Or maybe he just knew how delightful children find absolutes and extremes: so many of his characters are the worst (like Miss Trunchbull) or the best (Miss Honey) or otherwise the tallest or luckiest or poorest or … I don’t know, adrift in a giant peach, for example. Point is, nobody is ordinary or middling in the world of Roald Dahl. One of Dahl’s most extraordinary creations is Matilda Wormwood, the mischievous, telekinetic child genius of Matilda.

It’s funny: Matilda is unlike any child or adult I’ve encountered, but among my closest friends and favorite people I count a disproportionate number who once felt that they were just like her. I longed to be acknowledged as a kindergarten super-genius like Matilda, but something about her character made me feel seen.  If you identified with Matilda too, then you can already guess what I loved about her: not the mischief or the magic, but the transformative power of reading. Matilda is about belonging and overcoming, but it is above all a book for book lovers.

Matilda was the only character I remember putting voice to that frustration most child bookworms have: not being allowed to read enough. Matilda’s parents don’t think reading is important, but they also don’t think that Matilda is important; Matilda’s trips to the library are the largesse of their negligence. Mrs. Phelps, an elderly librarian who is just trying her best, directs Matilda to the children’s books then is astonished when Matilda makes her way through all of them in weeks.

When I was 7, I saw this as evidence that I was just as special as Matilda. I despaired during every second grade library trip. We were only supposed to get books from the picture book area, yet outside of school I had already blown through the Baby-Sitters Club and Nancy Drew and was on to Charles Dickens and Shakespeare. Now I realize that Matilda’s frustration is common to a certain type of kid. Almost every child who loves to read feels dismissed by teachers or parents who confine them to the “baby” books that are appropriate to their grade. I still remember my grandmother telling me that she used to check out so many books from the library that the librarian confronted her mother, insisting no child that small could be reading that much. This was in the early 1930s. Matilda was singular, but there sure are a lot of Matildas.

If you identified with Matilda as a young book lover, you probably related to her take on material that was a little out of her grasp. Look at her opinion of Hemingway:

Mr. Hemingway says a lot of things I don’t understand, especially about men and women. But I loved it all the same. The way he tells it I feel I am right there on the spot watching it all happen.

When I was re-reading Matilda I had to stop and go back over that sentence, because that was it. That was exactly how it was reading adult books as a small child. Sure, I followed the basic plot of Emma and Jane Eyre in fourth grade, but sometimes the adult’s motives and experiences were beyond my reach. I was good at reading, but I still hadn’t lived more than nine years. Still, isn’t that also how LIFE was when you were a small child? You couldn’t make sense of adults’ actions all of the time, but you still observed them.  It was so validating to read about another kid who could comprehend all of the words on a page, but not really get the subtext – yet still love what she was reading.  Plenty of A Midsummer Night’s Dream didn’t make sense when I was very young, but I knew enough to know that it was beautiful. It’s why Matilda whispered “it’s like music” after Miss Honey recited Dylan Thomas.

In the film adaptation of Matilda, the narrator says that authors cast out their books “like ships onto the sea.” I love that simile – authors work and dream and agonize, but they have little say over the fate of their books once they’re published. But like Matilda – and THROUGH Matilda – sometimes the right one drifts to you and takes you along:

The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.

Miss Honey Is Wonderful

We want to welcome you all to Matilda Week, and nobody is more welcoming than Miss Jennifer Honey. As children we adored this kind-hearted teacher who recognized each child as a full, complex and important person. As adults, we are even more touched by Miss Honey as a survivor of a traumatic childhood who keeps her soft heart after years of abuse. She is a lesson in tenacity, warmth and loveliness. Miss Honey is wonderful.

Miss Honey Is Kind And Soft
Miss Honey: so softspoken, she sits to speak to the class.

Miss Honey: so softspoken, she sits to speak to the class.

 

Fact: I adored my third grade teacher Ms. Cuthbert so much that when she invited her students to go to her wedding ceremony, I actually showed up. I sat near the back of the church with my parents and saw my teacher become Mrs. Hibbard. I watched in awe as one of my favorite teachers walked down the aisle in a gorgeous, puffy, 1993 gown, and wasn’t embarrassed at all to be there. Mrs. Hibbard was delightful, fun, and kind, but strict when she needed to be, and that’s exactly what you want in a teacher, and a teacher who will impact your life forever.

That’s what Miss Honey is. She truly cares about her kids as if they were her own, when she definitely doesn’t have to, especially given the environment of Crunchem Hall. She is so invested in her students and makes sure they are actually learning not only what was in their textbooks but about life itself. And she does it in a way that makes you feel like she’s more of an older sister, rather than an authoritative figure, making you more prone to listen and heed her instructions. She’s the kind of person that gave so much of herself to her class that she, too, would invite you to her wedding, and would give you a wink as she passed you while walking down the aisle.

Miss Honey Is Lovely

One day this summer I woke up from a dead sleep, thought “Miss Honey is my summer style inspiration,” wrote it down and went back to bed. I was right to think that. Miss Honey wears classic pastel dresses, understated makeup and has a non-dated hairstyle. Miss Honey is the teacher who keeps a tissue under her watch and that is so wonderfully specific. At one point in the movie she wears the best tortoiseshell glasses, although Book Miss Honey wears them all the time. Dahl never gets detailed about Miss Honey’s wardrobe, but I think the movie nailed it: she’s the kind of person who looks lovely first because it makes her happy to look nice, and second so that the children see that coming to school and teaching them matters to her.  Miss Honey has a “lovely pale oval madonna face with blue eyes and her hair was light brown.” It’s not so much important that she’s objectively pretty, but that the kids think she is — don’t you remember being 5 or 6 and thinking your favorite teacher was just the prettiest person in the world?

During the blog meeting where we discussed Matilda Week, we watched a clip of toddler Matilda making her own breakfast and pouring a glass of juice. Then they got to the moment when Matilda places a tiny flower in a vase and I think a scientist could have pinpointed the exact moment when both of our hearts broke (that’s what scientists do, right?). There was something so poignant about this little forgotten child not just surviving without help, but also making space for the little things that make life beautiful. I feel the same way when you learn about Miss Honey’s cottage: she has less than she deserves, but the lengths she goes to to make it neat and pleasant tell you a lot about her character.

Miss Honey’s house is “like an illustration in Grimm or Hans Anderson.” It is incredibly tiny and the water comes from a well outside. There are overturned boxes for chairs and a little camping stove to cook on. I used to imagine it would be like living in a child’s play fort. The cottage is less bleak in the movie, but both versions show that Miss Honey knows how important it is to find bits of loveliness in an ugly world. She also decorates her classroom with students’ artwork and bright colors, even though she has to hide it when the Trunchbull comes into the room – it’s that important for her class to be surrounded by loveliness.

More about Miss Honey's cottage here.

More about Miss Honey’s cottage here.

Miss Honey Treats People Like They’re Important

When I was 8 years old, I read Matilda and wanted to be the main character. Not so much levitating objects, I just felt positive that I was special and there was simply no Miss Honey to notice it. I devoured adult classics like Matilda did, but in hindsight I was, admittedly, ordinary. Except, of course, no child, no person, is ordinary. Miss Honey knew that intuitively and it influenced the way she treated every child in her classroom. If you look back and think of your very best teachers as a child (or your favorite babysitter or aunt or librarian), that is probably a quality they had: they looked you in the eye and saw a light that might not have been brighter or more beautiful than anybody else’s, but it was yours. Miss Honey notices that Matilda is unusually intelligent almost instantly. But she isn’t that teacher who only cares about the smartest or the most challenging pupils. Miss Honey writes easy words on the board for the more “average” kids and warns the whole class about the upcoming weekly test with Trunchbull. As they say in the movie, she “appreciates each child for who he or she is.” Miss Honey recognizes Matilda’s strengths not just as supernatural abilities, but as character traits that will help her throughout life: “It’s wonderful you feel so powerful. Many people don’t feel powerful at all.”

 

Miss Honey Is Stronger Than Her Past

Miss Honey is a survivor of trauma and lifelong abuse, and against the odds, she is much bigger than the worst things that have happened to her. After the deaths of her parents, Miss Honey lives under the control of her cruel aunt – the Trunchbull. It’s chilling how perfectly Dahl describes the invisible chains of an abusive relationship: “I became so scared of her I used to start shaking when she came into the room.” “Over the years I became so cowed and dominated by this monster of an aunt that when she gave an order, no matter what it was, I obeyed it instantly.” “I was by then so dominated by my aunt to such an extent that I wouldn’t have dared [leave.]. You can’t imagine what it’s like to be completely controlled like that by a very strong personality.”

Here’s where I get amazed. Miss Honey wanted to go to university and was only allowed to go on the condition that she come home early every day to work for her aunt. When she graduated, Trunchbill docked her pay because Miss Honey “owed” her for the expenses of her childhood. Miss Honey finds a house and rents it on 10p a week and leaves, while still working in her aunt’s school because she loves to teach. Her past makes Miss Honey’s smaller moments of bravery, like confronting Trunchbull about Matilda’s grade level or approaching Matilda’s parents, nothing less than astonishing. It frames all of her qualities – kindness, appreciation of beauty, empathy for her students – not as traits, but as CHOICES that she has made and worked for and cultivated. Most of us aren’t born with extraordinary gifts like Matilda, but the idea that anybody can live a life of kindness and beauty after surviving such darkness — that is the real magic in Matilda.

 

Matilda Week!

matilda

Two theme weeks back to back? When it’s the week of Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, we can’t see why not! His books taught us to dream, imagine, adventure, and above all, to doubt adult authority – which is why we love them as much now as we did when we were 8. It’s hard to pick just one favorite, but Matilda was a life-changing book and movie for both of us as kids and we could EASILY spend a whole week talking about it. We’ll touch on the movie, the book and maybe the musical this week, so grab a great big chocolate cake and a tall glass of newt-water and get ready to read!