ByEmily L. Stephens

Emily L. Stephens is a freelance writer, archaeology student, and caterer from Portland, Maine. She writes for The A.V. Club, blogs at macbebekin, tweets as @emilyorelse, and is a founding contributor to The VideoReport.

  1. Making friends is hard, especially if you’ve never had them. Most of us learn the intricacies of friendship and romance as we grow up, giving us years to navigate that complicated social, sexual, and emotional landscape… and just as importantly, giving us years to heal what pain and heartache come with the territory.

  2. On the surface, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes sounds like a delivery system for the tritest sexist jibes of midcentury movies: diamond-enthusiast Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and her man-hungry best friend Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) take their cabaret act overseas, setting sail for Europe to teach a lesson to Lorelei’s fiancé. At sea, they’re surrounded by Olympic athletes and rich older men, temptations that could easily sink the women’s reputations and ambitions. Even the title suggests rivalry…

  3. Emily L. Stephens' previous work for The Toast can be found here.

    “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” - Casaubon, narrator of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum

    It’s a common trope: the father as a teller of tall tales, spinner of stories, a larger-than-life figure who molds our…

  4. “What fabrications they are, mothers. Scarecrows, wax dolls for us to stick pins into, crude diagrams. We deny them an existence of their own, we make them up to suit ourselves — our own hungers, our own wishes, our own deficiencies.” 
- Iris Chase in Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin 

    Movies about mothers – mothers’ relationship with their children, children’s relationship with their mothers – can trade in easy sentiment or melodrama.

  5. Superficially, Dial M for Murder (1954) looks unambitious, a simple stage-to-set recreation of Frederick Knott’s hit play. Even Hitchcock, perhaps disingenuously, described it as a phoned-in effort knocked off between the location shooting of I, Confess and the elaborate staging of Rear Window. But the tightly-staged thriller bristles with symbols of objectification and possession, reducing Margot Wendice to a property passed from hand to hand, from man to man, as readily as the key around…

  6. Emily L. Stephens previously improved your Christmas movie choices and told you how to do a The Shining viewing party right. St. Valentine’s Day is an excuse to express our most intense or obscure passions. But words can be a frail tool to capture the complications and complexities of this thing we call love: the sweet blush of infatuation, the kinship and kindness of true companions, the frenzy of unfettered lust, the torments…

  7. Emily L. Stephens last graced The Toast with Alternative Christmas Movies. It’s February. The winter holidays are long over, the lights are coming down, and the dark is creeping in. It’s time to invite some friends over for a night of bright, lighthearted fun – quick, before the metaphorical winter closes in around you and snows you into the labyrinthian hotel of your heart. Enter The Shining, Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick’s notorious tale…

  8. Christmas movies tend to be sweet little bonbons, rich with easy sentiment and warmth. But nestled among the sugarplums lie a few delicious poison apples, stories that shrug off cozy comfort and evoke all the winter bleakness lurking in our brightly-lit celebrations.

    There’s nothing like The Lion in Winter (1968) to make your own family gatherings look harmonious. It’s Christmas of 1183 when Henry II (Peter O’Toole) calls the Plantagenets to Chinon. With his heir…