Shonda Rhimes – Year of Yes
Despite achieving greatness in her career while managing to raise three children as a single mother, Shonda Rhimes (award winning creator and show-runner for Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder) was miserable. After receiving some tough love from one of her siblings, she took on a life-changing challenge: for one year she would say yes to everything that scared her. Year of Yes is a memoir documenting the incredible changes and personal development that Shonda experienced as a result of her challenge (which wound up lasting more than one year). Here are some of the things that she finally said yes to:
- Having difficult conversations
- Public speaking
- Saying no
- Playing with her children
- Breaking the cycle of emotional eating
I greatly admire what Shonda accomplished during this period of transformation. She seems to have made over her life in a way that is extraordinarily positive and, as a result, seems to have become a much happier person. I think that there is a lot that I can learn from Year of Yes and I will be revisiting it in the future, because I am definitely the type of person who says no too often and can sometimes create barriers to my own development. The one downside to Year of Yes is that I think it is a little too long. Some of the chapters dragged for me at times and I found them to be repetitive.
If you’re unhappy and looking for some inspiration to start turning things around, I would greatly recommend this book. It’s an easy read and will probably make you laugh out loud at least once. It may also allow you to give yourself permission to actively seek out more happiness in your life. Shonda points out, very wisely, that sometimes we get bogged down in the social pressure to always be humble and grateful for what we have, which can stop us for striving for more.
The Story of Saiunkoku (Saiunkoku Monogatari)
Saiunkoku Monogatari is an anime series that takes place in a fictionalized Imperial China. Its main character is a young noblewoman named Shuurei Hong, whose family is well-respected, but quite poor. Shuurei’s dream is to become a government official; however, at the beginning of the series, women are unable to work as government officials. Instead, she takes on various odd jobs to help her family make ends meet and is a prominent member of her local community. Through various circumstances, she develops a relationship with the young emperor, who becomes determined to ensure that Shuurei is able to contribute what she can to the government of Saiunkoku.
When I first watched Saiunkoku Monogatari a few years ago, I fell in love with it, warts and all. It has incredible charm that I just couldn’t, and still can’t, resist. Shuurei is a wonderful shoujo protagonist — smart, determined and kind-hearted. Her supporting cast of attractive male suitors is also impressive — they are all well-rounded characters, each with interesting traits that make them unique. Shuurei’s journey and the overall story of the series are quite interesting, though I do think that it can be a bit slow at times and there are a few arcs that I find a little boring.
While I do love Saiunkoku Monogatari, I think it has its share of weaknesses. As a reverse harem series (a series format where one female protagonist is surrounded by numerous attractive male suitors), there aren’t many female characters in the world of Saiunkoku; however, the few prominent female side characters are excellent and well-developed. As I said above, I enjoy Shuurei as a protagonist; however, in my opinion the series creators rely a little too heavily on common shoujo tropes for her development: she is unequivocally the smart girl that is blind to love and romance (see Haruhi in Ouran High School Host Club, and many others).
The negative points I have mentioned above were aspects that I noticed on both my first and second views of the series. What’s been unique this time around are my perspective and my expectations. I will be writing at least one full blog post about this, because I have a lot more to say on the issue, but I will discuss this briefly here. As I mentioned in my essay about my development as a feminist, years ago I was not ready to let feminism and politics get in the way of my fun. This allowed me to dismiss many of the more pernicious aspects of the media I was consuming; particularly Japanese media, where there are significant cultural differences in the area of romance, particularly regarding consent. Ryuuki Shi, the emperor of Saiunkoku and Shuurei’s primary suitor, kisses her without her consent on multiple occasions. Within the shoujo manga/anime culture, this is often considered to be wildly romantic and when I first watched the series several years ago, those scenes didn’t bother me at all. While they don’t completely ruin Saiunkoku Monogatari for me now, because I think you can still enjoy a show or a book while still being aware of its more problematic themes or aspects, it does detract from my enjoyment of the series now.
While I do still love Saiunkoku Monogatari, I don’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t a fan of shoujo manga and anime, particularly because, as I mentioned above, the pacing is so slow and plodding. If you happen to be reading this and you do enjoy reverse harem shoujo and you haven’t already seen this show, what on earth are you waiting for?