‘Red Sparrow’ falls short of thrilling as Jennifer Lawrence fails to carry the show

  Internet  Photo   Jennifer Lawrence plays a former ballet dancer turned Russian agent in “Red Sparrow.”

Internet  Photo

Jennifer Lawrence plays a former ballet dancer turned Russian agent in “Red Sparrow.”

By Andrew Cripe, Movie Critic

‘Red Sparrow’ is an interesting cinematic failure. It should be admired for trying to show audiences the dark, soulless, gruesome side of espionage, but it shoots itself in the foot by being a star-vehicle for a shockingly disinterested Jennifer Lawrence. 

Her performance is disappointingly blank and lifeless, dragging what’s good about the rest of the film into crippling mediocrity. The failure of her performance hurts the film in ways it never recovers from, but it undeniably has moments of intensity that rescue it from being totally forgettable.

It is about a ballet dancer in Russia, Dominika (Lawrence), who shatters her leg during a show and can no longer financially support her ill mother. 

Having no other choice, she accepts an offer she can’t refuse from her politically powerful uncle, played by an empty Matthias Schoenaerts (usually a genius in films like ‘Bullhead’ and ‘Rust and Bone’) that ends up embroiling her in a silent war between Russian Intelligence and the CIA. She is trained to become a ‘Sparrow,’ a codename for women who have been trained to use their bodies to seduce enemies of the state and extract sensitive information from them. 

Director Francis Lawrence, who previously collaborated with J-Law on three ‘Hunger Games’ films, depends on her to carry this dense, incredibly lengthy thriller (140 minutes), but for reasons we may never understand, she is completely tuned out. 

The most effort she puts into becoming Dominika is delivering a quiet Russian accent; after that, she’s in Blank City. 

But when the film focuses on scenes involving the other, much more interesting characters, like the heartless, chilling Sparrow teacher played by Charlotte Rampling, or the CIA agent Nate Nash played by Joel Edgerton (an actor you couldn’t pay to give a bad performance), Francis Lawrence’s directorial skill shines. 

He creates a truly sinister atmosphere, supported by Jo Willems’ bleak cinematography, draping the film in a suffocating, depressing grey color. At its best, the film’s layers of paranoia and backstabbing break the viewer down, leaving them vulnerable for the film’s extreme scenes of bloodshed.

The most striking thing about ‘Red Sparrow’ is its violence. This is one of the bloodiest big-budget films in years. It has what is easily the nastiest knife-fight since David Cronenberg’s ‘Eastern Promises’ (2006), and there are other set-pieces that would make Quentin Tarantino shudder. 

It is sadistic, but it is ironically during these scenes of death that the film has the most life. While difficult to watch, director Lawrence finds an interesting line between showing too much gore and implying the worst of it. 

He focuses on characters fighting for their very existence rather than trying to just gross the audience out. 

All this said, the movie orbits around a leading performance that is broken. Any avid film goer knows Jennifer Lawrence’s power. 

She gained major attention in 2010 for her breakout performance in Debra Granik’s ‘Winter’s Bone,’ earning herself an Oscar nomination at just 19. She quickly became a household name and won an Oscar two years later for ‘Silver Linings Playbook.’ 

Today, she is beloved by millions and respected by many critics, and deservedly so. Her previous performance in Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Mother!’ was one of the most underappreciated of last year. That role demanded everything of her, and she gave it her all. ‘Red Sparrow’ is the farthest of cries from that sort of effort. 

‘Red Sparrow,’ as a whole, had the potential to be excellent, and at points the viewer can see flashes of brilliance. The atmosphere is thick and involving, and the violence is sure to leave many viewers shaken. 

It attempts to take an intimate, frightening look at what espionage and state-sanctioned violence does to the human soul, like a cross between the TV series ‘The Americans’ and Alan Pakula’s ‘The Parallax View’ (1974), but it put too much of its trust in an actress that didn’t care enough to help the film become an instant classic. 

As it stands, this is a ‘Curiosity-Watch,’ which is code for rental. 

FAST FORWARD: Things to do til our next issue- 3/13

Compiled by Christina Matthias, Press Play Reporter
Follow her @sleepiestpisces

  Internet Photo

Internet Photo

Family Day: Scavenger Hunt

Enjoy a spring break Saturday at the Elmhurst Art Museum, whether your actual family is present or just your campus one. The museum is planning a scavenger hunt that will be navigated through transformed art pieces and hidden messages within different exhibits. Upon finishing the quest, participants will also have the opportunity to create their own art by assembling various salvaged materials.

March, 1 - 4 p.m., Elmhurst Art Museum, free with museum admission


  Internet Photo

Internet Photo

St. Patrick’s Day Parade/River Dyeing

Patty’s Day isn’t complete without watching the Chicago River change from dark turquoise to bright green. Start the day downtown to witness the over 50-year-old tradition with thousands of the holiday’s enthusiasts, and stay for the lively parade of bagpipers, step dancers, and stunning floats.

March 17, 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Columbus Dr. from Balbo St. to Monroe St., free


  Internet Photo

Internet Photo

Wild N’ On Campus

While it’s unfortunate Wild N’ Out isn’t performing on Elmhurst College’s campus (yet), that doesn’t mean we can’t experience their college appearances for an hour road trip over break. Cast members B Daht, Darren Brand, Nate Jackson, and RIP Michaels will be leading the MTV show’s improvisational games and acclaimed WildStyle rap battles with Northern Illinois University students.

March 22, 7 p.m., NIU Convocation Center, $20


  Internet Photo

Internet Photo

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous

Emmy award-winning writer and comedian, John Mulaney, returns to his home turf of Chicagoland on the Ides of March for the third leg of his Kid Gorgeous tour. For those who missed his standup at The Chicago Theatre in February, this is the perfect opportunity for a night of hilarity that may not be seen again until released as a Netflix special.

March 15, 8 p.m., Genesee Theatre, $39-$49

Press Rewind: March 13 2018

Compiled by Alexa Ash, Press Play Reporter


This year’s bachaelor pisses off the world

Another season of ‘The Bachelor’ has ended and another trail of broken hearts have been left behind. This year’s bachelor, Arie Luyendyk Jr., has reached new maximums of making this show that much more repulsive. After choosing his new fiance, Becca Kufrin, at the final rose ceremony, which aired on March 5, Arie then proceeded to dump her just weeks after initially proposing. Now, people break up all the time, what is the big deal about this? Other than being a 36-year-old man who needs a reality TV show to find a wife, Arie’s justification for ending the engagement was in reaction to his fear on missing out on a chance of a life with the other final contestant, Lauren Burnam. Let’s get a round of applause for (not) our friend Arie for now becoming the most hated ‘The Bachelor’ member ever, and wish him and Becca, I mean Lauren, a wonderful life together.



Wade Davis drops knowledge on homophobia in the NFL

Former NFL player, Wade Davis, is making headlines this week as talks of opening an anti-homophobia clinic dominates the media. As an openly gay man, Davis has contacted the NFL in reaction to hearing of the interrogation of prospect, Derrius Guice. In this “mock” interrogation, Guice was asked a series of questions deemed “uncomfortable” to be better prepared for the press. The question, which sparked this long-overdue movement, was if he does or does not “like men.” As a very personal, and non-football related question, there was much criticism from gay rights advocates and, you know, people with a basic understanding of human nature and morals. Davis, as the director of Professional Sports Outreach for the You Can Play Project, has personally offered his services to be a sounding board for gay athletes and provide guidance to both coaches and administrative staff of the NFL to combat homophobia. Congrats to the NFL for finally entering the rest of 2018 progressive America, we’ve been waiting for you. 

Press Rewind: February 27 2018

Press Rewind: Pop culture from the week 

By Alexa Ash, Press Play Reporter


Recap of New York and London Fashion Week

It’s the tail end of New York Fashion Week (NYFW) and London Fashion Week (LFW) and the Queen of fashion herself, Anna Wintour, is back at it again with the indoor-sunglasses and killer heels. As the editor-in-chief, Wintour has seen her fair share of exotic fashion trends from shoulderpads to fishnets, but nothing was more exotic than the company she kept at this year’s most anticipated shows. At the Richard Quinn show during LFW, Wintour was seated front row with none other than HRH Queen Elizabeth II. As the first Queen of England to ever attend a London Fashion Week show, this momentous occasion was overshadowed by talk of Anna Wintour’s previous front row buddy, rapper and Queen of her own world, Cardi B. At Alexander Wang’s final show, the two unlikely fashion icons were brought together under their common love of couture (Wintour) and publicity (Ms. B). NYFW and LFW was the epitome of “too many queens in the kingdom” and honestly, we couldn’t be more thrilled.


Fergie drops the ball on the national anthem performance

At this year’s NBA All Star Game, the crowd was assaulted with a not so ‘Glamorous’ rendition of the National Anthem from former Black Eyed Pea, Fergie. After being ridiculed for her off-key vocals, Fergie took to social media to publicly apologize for her performance. Upon getting in touch with celebrity gossip platform TMZ, the ‘Fergalicious’ singer states that, “I love this country and honestly tried my best." It’s okay Fergie-Ferg, we still love you. If Mariah Carey can bounce back from her New Year's Eve debacle, I’m sure everyone will forget about this, you know, in about five years or so. Keep doing your thing Fergie, and remember, even in the darkest of times, Big Girls Don’t Cry.

LEADER REVIEW: Logic shows flashes of greatness once more with new single ‘44 More'

 Maryland rapper Logic performs on stage for his Under Pressure Tour.  Internet Photo

Maryland rapper Logic performs on stage for his Under Pressure Tour. Internet Photo

By Kenneth Edison, Editor-in-Chief

Follow him at @krazo1

Since his debut, Maryland rapper Logic has always shown a remarkable level of potential that he sometimes struggles to live up to. But songs like his newest release ‘44 More’ prove he is still capable of greatness.  

‘44 More’ basically came out of nowhere with a sudden Instagram post on Thursday Feb. 22 signifying the tracks release at midnight that very same night.

Though Logic’s last full length album “Everybody” received widespread commercial success, it was unquestionably his least inspiring project yet.

The entire album has turned Logic into a bit of a meme as it made him seem like a one trick pony that only has interest in talking about the fact that he is biracial, so many were were wondering if Logic would successfully rebound from the first critical mistep of his career.

And rebound he certainly did.

‘44 More’ highlights the side of Logic that his supporters point to as a sign of his excellence when the more cynical crowd in hip hop label him as corny. It is the side of him that is braggadocious, free from worry and technically solid.

And is Logic corny at times? Sure, and it’s okay to admit that. Even on this track Logic resorts to corny onomatopoeia like imitating his phone ringing over and over again eliciting an eye roll from those of us who just want hear him spitting bars, because when he is, he sounds pretty damn great.

Nonetheless, this track just oozes confidence. Logic drops several quotable bars here about his recent successes both financially and in the music world.

The line towards the track’s conclusion where Logic says, “Sold more albums my first week than Harry Styles and Katy Perry. If that ain't a sign of the times then I don't know what is, man this shit is scary,” stands out as one of his funniest and most memorable in a long time.

It may be too soon to expect a new project from Logic considering his last album only just dropped last year. But if he is set on revisiting any particular sound for his next album or mixtape, it should be one that resembles the style on “44 More.”


LEADER REVIEW: ‘Black Panther’ lives up to the hype with one of the MCU’s best entries yet

 Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa, the newly anointed young king of the fictional nation of Wakanda in “‘Black Panther."  Internet Photo

Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa, the newly anointed young king of the fictional nation of Wakanda in “‘Black Panther." Internet Photo

By Andrew Cripe, Movie Critic

Savor this moment. This is not a Marvel film advertising other Marvel films. This is not a superhero film cluttered with an abundance of other superheros. This is not a generically performed, relentlessly computer-animated, nauseously filmed blockbuster. This is the real deal. “Black Panther” is the film you should be watching right now.

Ryan Coogler, director of the powerful ‘Fruitvale Station’ (2013) and the phenomenal ‘Creed’ (2015), brings ‘Black Panther’ to the big screen with endless excitement, gorgeous cinematography, and triumphant power. Instead of depending on other Avengers, ‘Black Panther’ assembles its own group of badass, thrilling heroes, moving so far away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that it stands as refreshingly, wonderfully independent.

Chadwick Boseman, who got his breakout role in ‘42’ (2013) playing baseball legend Jackie Robinson, brings exceptional control and might to King T’Challa, ruler of Wakanda, a fictional, futuristic land hidden away in Africa. Wakanda is joyously, intricately brought to life by Rachel Morrison’s cinematography, who recently made history by becoming the first woman to be nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar for ‘Mudbound’ (2017).

Simply watching Wakanda exist is to indulge in an almost therapeutic visual poetry. Never before has a Marvel film cared so much about an environment. But when Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), a figure from the previous King’s shameful past, reappears looking for retribution, Wakanda is thrown into disarray.

You won’t realize until you start watching ‘Black Panther’ how starved you have been for a superhero movie that isn’t counting on you to have watched a dozen other superhero movies. Right from jump street ‘Black Panther’ goes its own way, carving out a story riddled with intrigue, heartbreak, tradition, culture, and probably the best action scenes Marvel Studios have yet produced.

Uniformly, every performance is unique and original. Boseman first appeared as Black Panther in 2016’s ‘Captain America: Civil War,’ and his second outing doesn’t disappoint, bringing a much desired vulnerability and compassion to the MCU’s roster of usually stern, naive heroes who just want to punch stuff until it explodes.

As his little sister, Princess Shuri, Letitia Wright supplies the film with genuinely funny moments and exposition into how Wakanda functions as such a clandestine megapower in technology.

Everyone else is also at the top of their game, as Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, and Martin Freeman all nail their roles. But possibly the standout of the film is Michael B. Jordan, who proved in Coogler’s last two films that he is one of the most promising young actors currently in Hollywood, and here only cements that as an undeniable fact. Killmonger is, unquestionably, the most sympathetic and deftly developed villain in the MCU. He is mind-blowingly good, and dominates the film whenever he’s on screen.

Of all the Marvel films this critic has seen, “Black Panther” is the only one that seems to have an uninterrupted directorial vision. Coogler’s artistry has a flow that isn’t disturbed by studios constantly reminding him to advertise the next cycle of films. Everything about this film is bursting with creative, emotional, and purely cinematic freedom.

This is the first movie since 1998’s “Blade” to have a black superhero as its main character, and one of the first Blockbusters to have a principally black cast, period. That is has taken so long for audiences to get a film like this is shameful, and the exhilarating success of Coogler’s film is bound to remind Hollywood how much talent and potential they have been smothering for decades. “Black Panther” is a freight-train reminder that Hollywood’s devotion to the old-way of filmmaking won’t cut it any longer. Audiences want diversity. They want to see the talent that, for so many generations, has been neglected by a studio system which desperately clings to the belief that only familiar white faces will sell tickets.

“Black Panther” is the sort of sledgehammer success that has potential to change Hollywood as we know it. It isn’t just recommended, it is necessary.

Do your partner dirty this Valentine’s Day: The Leader explores the sexier side of gift giving

 Victoria Weinell explains harnesses and the future of "pegging" at Studio 21 ltd in Addison.

Victoria Weinell explains harnesses and the future of "pegging" at Studio 21 ltd in Addison.

By Roxanne Timan, Managing Editor

Follow her at @Roxlobster

Valentine’s day- a day for sweethearts, hot dates, but most importantly, gifts. Roses, chocolates, and cards galore are the top of the list for most typical college couples. However, you could win over your lover with a six-inch rod or a vibrating tube of lipstick, too.

“These are probably the best for students, they are discreet, rechargeable, and budget-friendly,” says Victoria Weinell, clerk at a local sex shop, holding a tiny colorful box with a bunny-eared toy. At $22.99 in store, they are also available online for those who entertain the idea of dildo-to-door shipping.

“{Vibrator parts} come in all shapes and sizes, they do rabbit, dolphin, butterfly, it’s all primarily the kind of stimulation that you get with the clit. If you’re new to the game, we usually suggest starting with the rabbit ears, you want to figure out what you like first”, Weinell explains at Studio 21, a sex shop in Addison.

 Victoria Weinell, clerk at Studio 21, shows off the functions of a toy offering clitoral suction. Photo by Abby Robb

Victoria Weinell, clerk at Studio 21, shows off the functions of a toy offering clitoral suction. Photo by Abby Robb

The store offers sex toys and accessories for all sexualities and fantasy play. Dildos and vibrators line the store in a spectrum of skin tones and neon colors to catch anyone’s eye. The different types of toys are vast- including some of the latest technology.

“They have so much technology poured into them, whether its from the multitude of vibration settings, some of them have that nice “come hither” movement in penetration, some of them have apps.” Weinell lists while showing off towering glass cases of luxurious tech-savvy sex toys.

Women aren’t the only ones who can be spoiled with some titillating toys this Valentine’s day, Studio 21 carries a variety of male masturbators and enhancement equipment for men of all sexualities. A large shelf completely dedicated to strap on harnesses and dildos indicates the constant growth in the culture of “pegging.”

“Pegging in particular has become much more popular as the population becomes more aware of the fluidity of sexuality,” Weinell says, sliding a silicone dildo out of a box to show the skinlike texture of the toy.

Even if you have never experienced a sex shop or feel intimidated by the lifelike toys, the sex toy industry has blossomed to accommodate. From a playful tube of lipstick to a male stroker disguised like a sleek speaker, sex toys are becoming easier to hide and more accessible, especially for the frustrated, embarassed college student.

LEADER REVIEW: “50 Shades Freed” at long last frees audiences from ever having to watch this series again

  Internet photo   Dakota Johnson reprises her role as the newly wed Anastasia Grey in the third film in the “Fifty Shades” series.

Internet photo

Dakota Johnson reprises her role as the newly wed Anastasia Grey in the third film in the “Fifty Shades” series.

By Andrew Cripe, Movie Critic

Altogether, the “Fifty Shades” film trilogy is 348 minutes of insufferable people getting everything they want. 

It’s impossible to understand why these films are so successful. Is it because of the sex? It can’t possibly be, as readers of the novels probably conjured up more exciting imagery in their heads than any of these films cinematically did. 

Could the appeal, then, be the chemistry between leads Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan? That’s even less likely, as the two of them have chemistry so stilted and a connection so distant that you’d feel more comfortable watching two scarecrows make friction. 

Of all the films, “Fifty Shades Freed” gives the fewest shits about personality, consistency, and anything resembling a plot. 

The film starts with Christian (Dornan) and Ana (Johnson) finally getting married, and the viewer quickly finds out that this was the only notable thing the film had up its sleeve. 

Most movies are driven by suspense, tension, and complex motivations that leave the viewer anxiously wondering what will happen next. But “Fifty Shades Freed” isn’t most movies. 

“Freed” will instead entice you with scenes of characters parallel parking spotless, expensive cars, buying clothes, and travelling. Not your thing? Don’t worry, you also get scenes where they drive over the speed limit (for all you action junkies out there). 

 The most agonizing thing about “Fifty Shades Freed” is that it won’t devote itself to a conflict. It has multiple subplots to choose from that had potential to spice up the non-humping scenes: Christian’s dark past, Anastasia’s rocky adjustment to married life with a sadist, the creepy boss from the last movie who’s out for revenge. 

The film picks none of these to make any kind of big deal out of. Midway through this film, a genuinely interesting development arrives, one that could threaten the union between the Greys. It shows up gift-wrapped and begging director James Foley to make something of it, but neither he nor screenwriter Niall Leonard acknowledge the opportunity.

Instead, the film is more concerned with showing you endless scenes of the bottomlessly rich frollicking and serenading each other. Christian can pretty much buy the planet if he wanted to, so much of the film’s runtime is him giving Ana gifts, taking her on vacations, and coercing her into having the most pathetic, cringe-inducing, milktoast sex ever put on film. 

A disturbing but compelling movie exists somewhere in this lifeless trilogy. The film could have told the story of the real Christian Grey: a twisted, rich sadist who can only perform sex after spending millions of dollars. 

A man who, unless he spends five minutes tying up and spanking a woman whom he demands call him “master” will be pushing rope till doomsday. 

That isn’t a pleasant movie, but it isn’t “Freed,” which tries to make you believe Christian is a nice, desirable, ideal husband and eventual father. The film is so thick-skulled and inattentive it doesn’t seem to realize how disgusting the messages it conveys about love and relationships are. “Fifty Shades Freed” shouldn’t exist.

FAST FORWARD: Things to do til our next issue- 2/13

By Christina Matthias, Press Play Reporter
Follow her @sleepiestpisces


AWOLNATION and Nothing But Thieves

Spend Valentine’s Day evening with AWOLNATION as they headline their Here Come The Runts Tour at the Aragon Ballroom with Nothing But Thieves. The band debuted a catchy single, “Passion,” in October 2017 and released a record this month to generate new material for tour. 

Feb. 14 Aragon Ballroom

Tickets available on Ticketmaster

MLK lecture.jpg

MLK Jr. Intercultural Lecture

As a member of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Board of International Preachers of Morehouse College, Rev. Dr. Bernard Jakes will be speaking on Feb. 21 in the Frick Center about the relevancy of King’s work in the 21st century. 


Feb. 21 - 4 p.m. Founder’s Lounge, Frick Center


$1 PBR Fridays


Late Bar in Chicago continues its weekly tradition of offering a $1 happy hour of everyone’s favorite crappy beer, PBR. From 8pm-10pm patrons can enjoy a nice foamy Pabst Blue Ribbon for just $1 at the Late Bar in Wicker Park. Afterwards, patrons can still enjoy cocktails and dancing until 4am.

Every Friday, Late Bar

8 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Valentine's Day sale.jpg

Post-Valentine’s Sales

Obviously it’s a no brainer to hit up your local Jewel, Target, or Walgreens for those college-kid-friendly candy prices on Feb. 15. However, the end of the Valentine’s season provides fantastic instore and online deals alike! Keep an eye out for discounts on flowers, stuffed animals, jewelry, interior decor, and everything heart-shaped.

Feb. 15

PRESS REWIND: Pop culture from the past week - 2/13


By Alexa Ash, Press Play Reporter

Kylie Jenner gives birth to a baby girl

Kylie Jenner released some surprising (not so surprising) news of the birth of her baby girl, after keeping quiet about her pregnancy for nine months. The video of her long journey, posted to YouTube on Feb. 4, had even the biggest Kardashian-haters feeling a little emotion (definitely NOT me). This emotion, however, was dulled over about the exact moment the world found out about the newest edition to the Kardashian/Jenner dynasty would be named, Stormi. Yes, Stormi. Following suit to her other vastly talented sisters, Kylie Jenner’s choice of baby name will be joining the fight against names Reign, North, and Chicago in the race for the most unique (absurd) names. Let’s all travel back to the year 2004 when we thought Gwenyth Paltrow was certifiably insane for naming her daughter Apple. Seems pretty normal at this point. Kardashian fitness guru, Khloe “KoKo” Kardashian will be welcoming  a new baby later this spring. The name? I’ve got my money on Cyclone. 



North and South Korea compete as one in the Winter Olympics

The 2018 Winter Olympics have everyone abuzzin’. Whether it be the anticipation of some more American victories, or the pure anxiety with, questionably coined, “little rocket-man’s” sudden show of togetherness, everyone (me) is sitting at the edge of their seats. The Olympics are a time that, in the name of true competitiveness and sheer skill, the world comes together. Given how the past year has gone, this world needs a little TLC from one end to the other. This Olympic Opening Ceremony was unlike anything seen before between the unity of South and North Korea, the Russian Olympists walking without the Russian flag, and everyone’s favorite annoying song “Gangnam Style” by Korean superstar Psy blasting through the arena. But most importantly, will there be another Tonya Harding-esque drama? Or another Ryan Lochte fake robbery? Or will it be, like, just sports and stuff? Either way, let’s grab our popcorn and ready our USA foam fingers.  

PRESS REWIND: Logan Paul faux pas and Kimye baby debut


Logan Paul Learns Suicide is Bad

New Years started with a bang of controversy when Youtuber, Logan Paul, uploaded a vlog of him visiting the Japanese Suicide Forest to his 16 million subscribers. The dead body of a man who recently hung himself was on full display with only the face blurred out as Paul proceeded to crack jokes with his friends and vlog at an intimate distance from the corpse. After a day’s worth of resounding backlash from non-Logan Paul diehards, the video was taken offline and supplemented with two apologies (because the first one containing an emoji and hashtag somehow wasn’t sincere enough). Three weeks later, Paul came back with a video speaking to a suicide survivor and lifeline runner to demonstrate his growth as a person, even pledging one million dollars to suicide prevention organizations. Yet, even though he has the money to pay off his mistakes, it may take a while to truly know if Paul understands why you shouldn’t expose dead bodies for Youtube clout.



Kimye’s Newborn Hits Close to Home

Long live unconventional celeb baby names! Of course, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West aren’t strangers to this phenomenon, sin

ce their first two children are called North and Saint. The couple continued their naming trend on Jan. 15 by welcoming their third child into the world via surrogate: Chicago West. The name was announced from a post on Kardashian’s app, and it’s also been reported by TMZ that North and Saint are referring to their little sister as Chi (pronounced “shy”) for short. In response to this news, social media accounts for the Bears, Choose Chicago, and Chicago Fire have sent their well wishes to the newborn; even the Portillo’s twitter offered Chi free Portillo’s for life. Sure, offer a baby that will most likely grow up in a Portillo’s-less Los Angeles free food, but none for any of us! Oh well, perhaps we’ll get to experience the live taping of another Kardashian spinoff: Chicago Takes Chicago.

LEADER REVIEW: Proud Mary leaves viewers not proud they bought a ticket

By Andrew Cripe, Movie Critic

January is the cinematic dumping-ground month for movies that have no business being in theaters. “Proud Mary” is the sort of film you wouldn’t even watch on Netflix as background noise while you do other things.

It may catch a viewer’s attention for a split second, as it stars the great Taraji P. Henson (“Hidden Figures”) and the wonderful Danny Glover (“Lethal Weapon”), but the film does not capitalize on the power of these performers. It flounders, wastes away, and stings anyone who held out a little hope that it could be a tucked-away gem in a month of forgettable, lazy movies.

 Taraji P. Henson stars as a master assassin in “Proud Mary”, in theaters now. Internet Photo

Taraji P. Henson stars as a master assassin in “Proud Mary”, in theaters now. Internet Photo

The only thing “Proud Mary” succeeds in being is embarrassing. It possesses the uncanny ability of making the viewer regret every minute spent watching it. It isn’t egregiously, aggressively awful, but it barely feels like a film.

Worse, it barely feels like entertainment. What’s most frustrating is that shreds of potential exist, but they’re buried under dialogue so stilted and camerawork so shoddy it makes the actors look like they’re performing under duress. The movie doesn’t have a flow.

The editing is so terrible that some scenes look unintentionally sped up, momentarily startling the viewer into thinking they’ve sat on the fast forward button in a big-screen theater. Nothing seems to work.

The film opens with Mary (Henson), a paid assassin, killing a man who is in deep debt with the mob she works for. She soon realizes that the man she’s killed has a son who is now orphaned because of her, and her conscience kicks in. She takes the troubled youth, Danny (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) into her care.

By protecting and caring for Danny, she puts both of them in trouble with her boss, Benny (Danny Glover). By confronting her boss, she is also forced to face the trappings of her violent career. If any of that sounded interesting in concept, it unfortunately isn’t in execution.

Lots of little things nag at the viewer like how Mary is notorious for being a cold blooded, prolific contract killer, yet it only occurs to her with Danny that most of the people she kills have families. Cheesy, bothersome inconsistencies like this bubble up every few scenes and they’re problematic in the first place because the film isn’t entertaining enough to distract the viewer.

A movie like this prays that audiences are mindless and won’t notice all of its faults, but they’re not, they’re just open to suspending their disbelief so they can enjoy a cool story and some good action. “Proud Mary” has neither, so the viewer is left instead noticing everything that’s glaringly wrong with the whole mess.

A desperate sense of generosity kicks in as the viewer searches for something, anything, redeeming about the film, like the appearance of legendary actor Danny Glover as a mob boss, or the talent of child actor Jahi Di’Allo Winston that’s only noticeable when the film manages to be coherent.

The film sabotages all these little graces, though, and what “Proud Mary” is left with is its biggest disappointment: the underutilization of Taraji P. Henson. She isn’t bad in the film because her performance is lacking, but because director Babak Najafi (“London Has Fallen”) has no faith in her abilities.

The movie doesn’t give her performance or character time to breathe and develop a personality beyond cliches. The whole film depends on her being gripping, but everything from the direction to the writing sabotages the effort.

That lack of faith is emblematic of the whole film. If the film has no faith in its leading star, why should the viewer? If the film has no faith in its story, why should the viewer? “Why’s” like these are littered throughout the film, and by the time the credits role the viewer is left with the biggest, most damning one of them all: “why did I even watch this?”

LEADER REVIEW: Drake’s “Scary Hours” single exemplifies the hit or miss nature of his entire career

 Aubrey Drake Graham’s new single “Scary Hours” offers a hit or miss experience despite commercial success.  Internet Photo

Aubrey Drake Graham’s new single “Scary Hours” offers a hit or miss experience despite commercial success.  Internet Photo

By Kenneth Edison, Editor-in-Chief

Follow him at @krazo1

Aubrey “Drake” Graham might just be the most successful music artist in any genre right now, making it all the more confusing when he constantly struggles to actually make quality music.

Drake’s “Scary Hours” single dropped on January 20, amidst a swell of buzz around the artist after snippets from the single leaked. Many of his fans were understandably eager to hear from the chart dominating rapper after his last project “More Life” dropped last year to the disapproval of many, including Graham who didn’t even submit it for consideration in the Grammys.

“Scary Hours” in many ways is a microcosm of Drake’s entire career, as he is once again batting .500 when it comes to the quality of his music.

The first track “God’s Plan” fails to impress with its sleepy production and a flow that is literally identical to that of Drake’s flow on Gucci Mane’s “Both.” Given the lack of any new energy or witty writing the entire track comes across just as uninspired as the cover art which, it turns out, was actually stolen from another artist.

The second track “Diplomatic Immunity” fares far better with an interesting and regal beat backed with some biting bars. In it Drake openly takes shots at his critics who ignore his accomplishments and instead nitpick his career.

Many have interpreted these lyrics as a not-so-subtle diss to former MC Joe Budden who has been critical of Drake in the past.

Recycled flows and sneak disses aside, the most eyebrow raising thing about this release is its unprecedented commercial success. According to Spotontrack.com, “God’s Plan” has 4.7 million streams in the U.S. and 8.5 million streams globally, making it the most streamed single in its opening week and the week isn’t even over at the time of this review.

This is yet another example of “Scary Hours” essentially being Drake’s entire career in a nutshell. Despite the release of a less than stellar single, he continues to reap the benefits from eager fans that do not care to ask him to perform up to the standard that he has shown he is capable of in the past.

Perhaps in 2018 that is too much to ask of an artist like Drake. Sure, his last two full length projects have faltered in the eyes of critics and the fans that care enough to listen closely, but if they still continue to top charts why should he change?


FAST FORWARD: Things to do 'til our next issue

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Lincoln Park Zoo comes to life with a wonderful light show to accompany the animals in their exhibits. Open almost every night until the beginning of January, the zoo turns into a new atmosphere for the holidays. The first 1,000 patrons each night receive trippy glasses to experience the lights in full effect.

Dec. 8–23, 26–31; Jan. 1–7, 2018

Lincoln Park Zoo

Free Admission


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The Buttcracker: A Nutcracker burlesque

Take your nutcracker ballet and shove it this year - Tom Boi Theatricals are putting on a special show for the outlandish Chicago crowd. The burlesque features sword balancers, fire spinning, drag, and magic. The show sounds like a perverted playground sure to make the most prudish crowd bust a nut.

Wednesday Dec. 13, Dec. 20, 8 p.m. 

Uptown Underground

$25 General Admission,$30 at door



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No pants subway ride

The city of Chicago is in for a treat on Jan. 7 of next year - citizens traveling the CTA system, without pants. Improv Everywhere puts on the event each January, urging people worldwide to participate in riding their local subway systems in gloves, hats, and scarves, but missing the vital piece of clothing. This is usually done on the Red Line of the CTA, as passengers who arrive are urged not to take notice of one another and act natural.

All day Jan. 7 - Chicago CTA

Free Admission


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Lana Del Rey 

With a long history of choking on SNL and being a “daddy-issues” artist, Lana Del Rey is making her rounds on the Lust for Life tour. Her stop at the United Center in Chicago on Jan. 11 will be filled with floral crowns, eyeliner wings, and puff-puff pass sessions. 

Jan. 11 8:00 p.m. United Center, Chicago

Tickets starting at $46 on Stubhub

The Leader’s top 10 must see films of 2017

By Andrew Cripe, Movie Critic

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The Florida Project

If you see one film from 2017, make it Sean Baker’s extraordinary “The Florida Project.” Featuring unforgettable performances from Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite, this movie will make you experience every emotion that a film can possibly conjure up. Don’t miss it.


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Blade Runner 2049

Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to “Blade Runner” would make Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky proud. This is easily one of the most visually stunning films ever created. Poetic, slow-burning, and utterly captivating. 


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Christopher Nolan’s most impressive film to date, “Dunkirk” is an experiment in sustained tension, harrowing filmmaking, and epic scope. This is one of the most impressive war films of this generation. 


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Darren Aronofsky’s disturbing, shocking, unforgiving film brought art-house psychological horror to a mainstream audience. Millions of viewers were confounded by it, but one thing is for certain; if you watch “mother!”, you will not walk away unfazed. 


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The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos takes the freezing-cold bluntness of his previous films (“The Lobster,” “Dogtooth,” “Alps”) and runs wild with it in this distressing yet oddly wonderful film. It’s a surreal cinematic experience, and it will draw your attention to its marvelous, confident filmmaking as often as it shakes you to your core.


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Get Out

The cinematic success story of 2017, Jordan Peele’s relevant, unpredictable horror film interrogates viewers as much as it entertains. This isn’t a film that settles for cheap shock-violence and mindless twists, but aims for what makes audiences most uncomfortable about their own nature. 


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Arguably the saddest superhero film ever made, James Mangold’s “Logan” is 100% daring. It is a bleak, violent futuristic western that takes everything we know about Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and subverts it into something equally devastating and poignant. 


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War for the Planet of the Apes

The strangest summer blockbuster in years, and that couldn’t be a bigger compliment. Artistic, quiet, and beautifully acted, Matt Reeve’s conclusion to the most recent “Apes” trilogy is a swan-song, packed with an overwhelming sense of finality and touches of tear-jerking compassion. 


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Logan Lucky

Maybe the year’s most entertaining and unexpectedly funny film, Steven Soderbergh’s return to feature filmmaking is a more than welcome return. He hasn’t lost a step, and the cast is uniformly exceptional.


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One of the year’s most important films, Kathryn Bigelow’s examination of the 1967 Detroit riots is borderline traumatic. A hard-hitting, ruthless exploration of corruption and racism.


Honorable Mentions:

Come Swim (dir. Kristen Stewart); Song to Song (dir. Terrence Malick); American Made (dir. Doug Liman); It (dir. Andy Muschietti); John Wick: Chapter 2 (dir. Chad Stahelski); Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins); The Lost City of Z (dir. James Gray)


Worst Film of the Year: “The Snowman”

Tomas Alfredson’s “The Snowman” is an obscene, sickening waste of time, talent, and resources. This is not a finished film, and the fact it was released to audiences is an insult. It’s barely even a proof-of-concept. This is an incomprehensible, nauseating, relentlessly boring dumpster-fire of a film. It’s not even bad enough to warrant a curiosity-watch. Avoid at all costs.



Press Rewind : Pop culture from the week

By Alexa Ash, Press Play Reporter


Prince Harry gets an American fiancée

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“God save the Princess from America!” Wait, will she be a princess? After news of American actress, Meghan Markle’s engagement to the drool-worthy Prince Harry, both the kingdom and the colonies have voiced their excitement on the upcoming nuptials. Amidst all the talks of crumpets and wedding dresses, a valid point was made: she’s American, not British, so, like, can she receive an English royal title? Gaining citizenship to the mainland will take five years and from what it looks like, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle aren’t too fond of waiting. At this point, it is all in the hands of Queen Elizabeth II. If she were to change the rules for her new American granddaughter, Meghan Markle will be the first non-brit to receive a royal title.The date is set for May 26, or what we American rebels refer to as Memorial Day weekend, and needless to say, it’s going to be brilliant. For all those out there who are absolutely gutted by the news of losing the chance of being a royal (me), I heard that Prince Sébastien of Luxembourg is single. 

Matt Lauer gets busted for sexual harassment


Move over Harvey Weinstein there’s another new creep on the prowl and it’s none other than NBC’s “Today” show host, Matt Lauer. Three women have been identified in coming forward to officials at NBC but rumors have sprouted saying that there could be as many as eight. After being fired from NBC on Wednesday, Nov. 29, stories of Matt Lauer’s Mr. Grey-like behavior has flooded the internet grossing out everyone from east to west. There have been allegations for years, specifically during the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, that are only surfacing now. If a bag of sex toys and a hidden button under his desk with the ability to lock his door wasn’t enough of a hint to his predator ways, he has even been noted to leer at his coworker Meredith Vieira. Someone get this man a leash, a collar, a muzzle - anything to stop his dog-like ways. Then again, he probably already has his own.

Eve the comfort dog lends a helping paw to EC’s stressed out student body

  Photos by Roxanne Timan & Cheyenne Roper   EC students rally around Eve, the temporary campus LCC K-9 comfort dog, for emotional support and stress relief.

Photos by Roxanne Timan & Cheyenne Roper

EC students rally around Eve, the temporary campus LCC K-9 comfort dog, for emotional support and stress relief.

By Cheyenne Roper, News Writer

Eve the Comfort Dog likes people, maybe all dogs like people, but for Eve, it’s kind of her job.

“People tend to open up and share their stories,” says Lombard Pastor Peter Imlah, Eve’s human. “We know she is accomplishing her mission by the smiles we see.”

Eve is a trained LCC K-9 comfort dog that trots over to campus twice a month to make new friends and lend an ear (and once in awhile, a cold nose) to old ones.

“She’s kind of like my dog away from my dog,” says student Chris Wallace, ‘19, explaining that Eve makes up for not seeing his dog from summer until winter.

Eve and Imlah come to campus every first and third Thursday in the Founder’s Lounge.  

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Besides being a four-legged non-traditional student, Eve sits and listens without looking at her phone. “Eve provides a soft, safe, confidential, and nonjudgmental presence to express emotions,” says Imlah. 

Eve’s affection is infectious, but it all comes down to science.“In humans, petting a dog can trigger the release of the bonding hormone Oxytocin. Feeling that fur can also lower a person’s heart rate and blood pressure,” Imlah explains about her impact on EC students. 

Not only does she visit our Elmhurst campus, she also interacts with people at churches, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, events, and even disaster response situations.

 After the deadly Las Vegas shooting in October, Eve traveled to visit with and comfort patients who had been affected at the Sunrise Hospital of Las Vegas. 

Her comfort can be seen across the U.S., and when Eve stops by our campus, there is often a crowd gathered around her to enjoy her sweet company. 

EC Sophomore Molly Medlock , mentions, “I look forward to her laying in my lap because every time I see her she lays down.”

The Leader looks back at the best albums of 2017

By Kenneth Edison, Editor-in-Chief

Follow him at @krazo1

1.) Flower Boy - Tyler, The Creator:

A few years ago, it would have been inconceivable that one of the most heartfelt and emotional hip hop albums of the year would be Tyler, The Creator of all people. The former Odd Future member took a huge deviation from his usual harsh, and often grotesque, style on his latest project with dreamy production that is just as sweet as the floral themes that dominate the album. 

Even more impressive is the fact that Tyler produced every single track on the project himself. Complementing Tyler’s production and greatly improved rap skills are a list of flawless features that include Kali Uchis, Frank Ocean, Lil Wayne and Estelle.  Tyler has truly outdone himself with this album, producing not just the best music of his career by a country mile, but also the most complete and compelling rap album of the year. 

Best Tracks: Garden Shed, I Ain’t Got Time!, See You Again



2.) 4:44 - Jay Z:

13 studio albums into his career and the rap legend Jay Z may have just reached yet another new peak. “4:44” dives deep into the personal life of Jay Z in the most vulnerable and honest project he’s ever produced. Though he still finds time for the usual braggadocious flaunting of his wealth, songs like “Smile” and “4:44” show Jay throwing his ego to the side for once to offer sincere and meaningful peeks behind the curtain of Sean Carter’s life. In a time when Jay’s relevancy in the genre was being questioned after his disappointing 2013 album Magna Carta, “4:44” crushes any doubt with a compelling and genuine story where the line between Jay Z and Sean Carter is permanently blurred. This album undoubtedly marks as one of Jay’s best in a discography riddled with hip hop classics such as as: 

Best Tracks: Smile, Caught in Their Eyes, Bam


3.) DAMN.- Kendrick Lamar:

The best rapper alive is back with his most mainstream album yet. After his last album “To Pimp a Butterfly” offered a dense and profoundly experimental experience, many fans wondered where Kendrick could possibly go from there. The answer was to come back with his catchiest and most radio friendly set of tracks culminating every single track on the album making it onto the Billboard Top 100. And that’s not a bad thing in the least bit. The album was initially previewed with the song “HUMBLE” that was an out of character radio hit proving that even Kendrick, the conscious king, can do just about anything in the booth. The album itself mostly followed suit with crowd pleasing tracks like “LOYALTY” and “LUST” which still showcase Kendrick’s second-to-none natural rapping abilities alongside solid Top Dawg production over more contemporary rap beats. Despite the move in a more mainstream direction, Kendrick still manages to produce a hard hitting, poignant and deeply personal project as is expected from an emerging icon at the height of his powers. 

Best Tracks: DNA, ELEMENT, XXX


4.) Melodrama - Lorde:

It’s been four years since the New Zealand prodigy dropped her debut album “Pure Heroine,” and it seems she’s used that time to just get even better. 

The level of maturity that Lorde shows on this latest album make it sort of unbelievable that she’s still only 21 years old, and that’s something that was nowhere near as present on her debut album. “Melodrama” is Lorde’s masterstroke in songwriting, she manages to pen an entire 11 track project chalk full of heartfelt, emotional, and sometimes genuinely sorrowful lyrics. Lorde’s abilities as a singer, songwriter, and pop star are only continually to rapidly increase, which is a promising aspect for one of the best and most naturally talented artists in the industry.

Best Tracks: Supercut, Liability, Writer in the Dark


5.) 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time - Big Krit:

Prolific Mississippi rapper Justin Scott, aka Big Krit, finally made his masterpiece. “4eva Is a Mighty Long Time” is an epic 22 track double album where Krit highlights the duality both in his personality and in his music. The first disc of the album focuses on the grimy, southern style bangers while the second disc is a more experimental and softer dive into different genres. 

Throughout the album, Krit effectively blends the boastful, self-confident rap anthems with introspective tracks that often hit close to home making even the most hardened of listeners relate to Krit’s inner struggle. 

This blend of spirituality, entertainment, self-realization, and reconciliation makes Krit’s latest project one of the most resonant and effective albums in recent memory.

Best Tracks: Big K.R.I.T, Subenstein (My Sub IV), Bury Me in Gold


6.) Take Me Apart - Kelela:

Experimental R&B artist Kelela sure knows how to make a debut. Her debut studio album flaunts some of the best production of any album on this list, and with her stellar vocal performances to back it up, Kelela has truly crafted something special. 

Though there are dull moments from time to time on the album, the high points soar far higher than any anyone could have expected for her. 

Best Tracks: Front Line, Take Me Apart, Altadena


7.)Saturation2- BROCKHAMPTON:

There are very few groups that can produce quality projects at the rate of BROCKHAMPTON, the new Texas rap collective that seems to have popped up overnight. Their excellent debut studio “Saturation” dropped in June and before long they released the follow up, “Saturation 2”, in August. 

While both albums are worthy of being on this list, “Saturation 2” is the far superior of the two. It does sacrifice some of “Saturation’s” extreme experimentation, but the synergy between each member of the band is so much more solid in “Saturation 2.” Couple that with the punchy and confident lyrics and delivery and you’ve got one of the most satisfying rap projects you’re likely to get. 



8.) Ctrl- SZA:

 The second TDE performer on this list, SZA had a huge year in 2017. Her debut studio album “Ctrl” captured the hearts of avid R&B listeners with SZA’s brutally honest lyrics putting the microscope both on the men in her life as well as herself. 

Many of the best tracks on the album such as “Love Galore” and “The Weekend” received huge radio play, introducing SZA’s best hits to a wide audience and garnering her a decent following. 

As a debuting artist, she currently holds the most grammy nominations for the 2017 awards, a pretty exciting prospect for one of R&B’s brightest young stars. 

Best Tracks: Love Galore, The Weekend, Drew Barrymore


9.) All Amerikkkan Bada$$ - Joey Badass:

It can be hard for any rapper to release a conscious hip hop album in the same year as Kendrick Lamar, but Joey did it and he did it well. 

While his lyrics might lack in subtlety, you can’t really fault the guy for being sincere, and he is nothing if not sincere on this album. 

This is essentially a 12 track essay on every social issue going on in America with Joey pulling no punches when it comes talking Trump, race, or the socio-economic divide. 

Best Tracks: Temptation, Devastated, Legendary


10.) (Self Titled) - Cigarettes After Sex:

Yet another debut album rounds out this list, with the  slow, dreamy melodies of Texas pop band Cigarettes After Sex. While the chill and dreary tones of the album can get to be a little repetitive, the style certainly has an abundance of charm to offer throughout. The best of this band still yet to come, but this debut shows a fair amount of potential for the up and coming band especially with front man Greg Gonzalez giving one of the best vocal performances of the year. 

Best Tracks: K, Apocalypse, Each Time You Fall in Love


COLUMN: Deciphering parody and prejudice

  Michael Shutack   Theater Columnist

Michael Shutack

Theater Columnist


There came to old Fort Henderson

Young Princess Kickapoo!


Who kept her wigwam warm at night

With every Sioux she knew.

Her tribal dance is worth a glance,

Her hips go pow-wow-wow!

When this papoose says:

“Let’s vamoose!”

The soldiers cry:

“And how!”


These highly offensive lyrics are brought to you by the musical “Curtains” - which was recently performed at Elmhurst College. Written long ago, in 2006, “Curtains” is a parody of musicals from the 1950s. However, the problem with this production is that it fails to deliver true parody.

Parody is the imitation of a particular style or genre with exaggeration for comedic effect. For example, “Space Balls” is a parody of “Star Wars.” ”Austin Powers” is a parody of James Bond. “The Lego Batman Movie” is a parody of all Batman movies. Make sense?

Although musicals from the 1950s were often racist and misogynistic, these particular lyrics and this particular scene in “Curtains” does not exaggerate the 1950s genre; it merely imitates. True parody occurs when the style or genre is inflated to the extreme. In other words, the parody must be larger than life and over the top. Several tap dancing Mormons are funny. One fetishized Native American woman is not funny. “Pow-wow-yikes!”

So how did Elmhurst College’s recent production of the musical handle this horribly racist scene? Not well. Rather than add dialogue to make it true parody or cut the scene to avoid the issue entirely, Elmhurst College Theatre performed the script as written - risque Native American costume and all.

In the theatre lobby, a pathetic excuse about the scene was displayed for the incoming audience to see. In short, the statement expressed that, although the scene “raises all the right questions,” it should not be considered offensive because the show is a parody.

When parody is not written or executed well, it should not be used as an excuse to ignore an offensive performance. Elmhurst College had an obligation to properly address this issue and failed.

While I recognize the importance of preserving theatre, the art must change with the times. This scene might have worked when it was originally performed during the Bush administration, but society has progressed since then and we have a better understanding of what is parody and what is prejudice.