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Princess Mononoke: a Timeless Tale of Colonization and Indigenous Survival



Princess Mononoke: a Timeless Tale of Colonization and Indigenous Survival

It has been over 20 years since Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke was released. To this day Hayao Miyzaki’s bloodiest work of animation, the 1997 epic historical fantasy offers a poignant exploration of colonization, Indigenous survival, and man’s severed connection with nature. November is Indigenous People’s Month in the United States, and then and always, the film, which contains an Indigenous main character and stark depictions of industrialization, becomes more relevant than ever. 

The story is set in Japan’s late Muromachi period (approx. 1336 to 1573 CE), during a time of industrialization and expansion of the Yamato empire, what would later become the nation of Japan. The opening narration describes that in ancient times, man and nature lived in harmony with one another and forests covered the earth. However, as time went on and the earth’s great forests were destroyed by civilization, the forests that remained were left guarded by animal gods. 

The first scene sees protagonist Ashitaka (Billy Crudup), the crown prince of his tribe, defending his village from being attacked by one of these forest protectors — the boar god Nago (John DiMaggio), whose flesh is ravaged by a demonic curse. Nago’s appearance in the valley is an unexpected disruption of nature; in fact, the villagers were able to sense the danger due to the odd behavior of other animals in the valley. Their connection to the land allowed them to notice disorder.

Prince Ashitaka is of the Emishi tribe, a real life ethnicity Indigenous to Japan. Not much is known of the origin of the Emishi people — one theory is that they may have been a collection of distinct Indigenous tribes inhabiting the main island of Japan. Ashitaka’s village would have been one of the last surviving groups of Emishi resisting the spread of the empire during that period. His native identity is integral to both the plot and his value system — Ashitaka believes that humans, gods, and nature should live in harmony. 

After a short struggle, the boar god Nago succumbs to the curse before he’s able to destroy the Emishi village; but in the process, the curse is transferred to Ashitaka’s arm. The village wisewoman arrives to treat Ashitaka’s wound, pay respects to the fallen god, and perform burial rites. “Soon all of you will feel my hate,” said Nago to the humans as the curse overtook him, “and suffer as I have suffered.” 

Later, the wisewoman explains to Ashitaka that an iron ball had been lodged in the side of the boar, which was responsible for the curse that turned him into a demon, the curse now afflicting the prince. The wisewoman tells him there is “evil at work” in the west, and that it is his fate to travel there and see with eyes unclouded by hate. The curse, she admits, will likely end his life if he is unable to find a way to lift it. Worst of all, due to tribal rules, Ashitaka would have to leave his homeland and never return. The generational impact of this moment can be felt as an elder cries out: “We are the last of the Emishi. It’s been 500 years since the Emperor destroyed our tribe and drove the remnants of our people to the east…. And now our crown prince must cut his hair and leave us, never to return? Sometimes I think the gods are laughing at us.”

The film is overt that the curse afflicting Ashitaka is a “curse of hatred.” He is living through a time of rapid industrialization, where new settlements are being erected throughout the Japanese and newer, deadlier weapons are being created every day to defend them. The iron ball that killed the boar god was launched from such a weapon. As Ashitaka travels west, the curse at times compels him to violence against those he encounters, and after each instance the mark spreads farther up his arm. In this way, the curse can also be understood as a form of pestilence — which, historically, is one of the symptoms of colonization. Natural habitat destruction and unsustainable resource-extraction often lay the breeding ground for disease and dysfunction. Ashitaka’s curse is merely a consequence of man committing against nature the same sins that were committed against his people. 

Ashitaka meets several people on his journey west, including the monk and mercenary Jiko-bo (Billy Bob Thornton), who suspects that the young prince may be from the Emishi tribe. Over a campfire, he promises not to share Ashitaka’s secret, and suggests that the young prince seek out the Great Forest Spirit in the lands to the west, a shapeshifting god that takes the form of a deer by day and a nightwalker after sunset. The two muse over the changing state of the world together. “These days, there are angry ghosts all around us, dead from wars, sickness, starvation, and nobody cares.” says Jiko-bo. “So you say you’re under a curse? So what? So’s the whole damn world.”

Ashitaka sneaks away in the early morning to continue his quest.

Not long after, the exiled prince has what is perhaps his most important encounter, with San (Tara Strong), the titular Princess Mononoke (literally: princess of the vengeful spirits). San, like Ashitaka, shares a different worldview from the rest of the humans — she was abandoned in the forest as a baby and raised by wolf gods. Her sole motivation is to defend the forest, her home, from outsiders attempting to destroy it out of greed. The outsiders, Ashitaka learns, are from the nearby human settlement Iron Town, run by a woman called Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver). Their encounter is brief; he calls out to San asking if she is a spirit and she does not respond. 

Upon entering Iron Town, Ashitaka receives a tour of the settlement and an invitation to speak with Lady Eboshi, the refined woman of industry running the town. Here he learns the origin behind the boar god Nago’s fate — that the forest he was charged to protect was cleared in order to build Iron Town, a town employing outcasts and lepers to process iron and forge weapons. Nago and his tribe of boars attempted to drive the humans out of his home, but he was killed with an iron bullet mined from his own mountain, subsequently turning him into a demon. 

Lady Eboshi confesses that she did murder the boar god Nago for attempting to defend his forest. She apologizes to Ashitaka for his curse, but explains that the forest gods stand in the way of her being able to mine the mountain for its resources. For this reason, she is developing a weapon in hopes to kill the Great Forest Spirit. Despite this obvious brutality, Eboshi is a hero to her people — a confident leader who provides a safe haven for ex-sex workers and lepers, defending her people from neighboring threats. 

The people of Iron Town seem to sneer at outsiders, especially the Emperor’s envoys who seek to capitalize off the town’s iron supply. The truth is that Iron Town is not much different than the colonial entity looking to acquire their resources — they, too, are willing to steal in order to extract profit and expand their way of life. They may be benefitting from the expansion, but they are benefitting due to violence. Eboshi may not think of herself as a colonizer, but she does not understand the forest, the land, or its inhabitants, and therefore does not understand the ripple effect her actions have on the natural environment. She believes the way forward is through eradicating the past. 

The humans want to clear the forest, San wants to protect it; Ashitaka believes that harmony can be restored by bridging the gap between man and nature. It’s important to note that Ashitaka, unlike most of his fellow humans, still retains ancient Indigenous ways of knowing and caring for the earth. This knowledge was not mystically imbued, but forged through an innate relationship with the natural world. He is able to recognize spirits, sense danger, and rely on the land likely due to knowledge passed down through generations of his people. He has not only the desire but the education and skills to maintain balance between himself and his environment.

For black and Indigenous people, seeing with eyes unclouded by hate is both a burden and our birthright. There is an innate knowledge that the way things are is not the way they’re supposed to be. The same is true for the humans in the film; in truth, there is a way to use the mountain’s resources without killing, but the colonizer’s greed requires speed and excess, a struggle for total domination. And a struggle ensues. When San attempts to kill Ashitaka for being on the “human’s side,” it’s as if they recognize something in each other — perhaps it’s that shared perspective and spiritual awareness. The two are able to forge a friendship over their mutual values. Many black and Indigenous viewers will relate to the phenomenon of being in this world but not of it, having to navigate a society with values so disconnected from our ancestral ways of life. 

After a fierce battle between humans and gods, Lady Eboshi and the humans are successful in eliminating the Great Forest Spirit and taking control of the land. This victory puts the future of civilization into question. The reality of Ashitaka and San’s shared fate is palpable — neither character is a part of this new world, but there is also no other world for them to return to. The two part ways as friends, with Ashitaka taking on the task of helping Iron Town rebuild after the battle, while San stays in the forest as she refuses to live with the other humans. In this way, San, being raised by spirits, may represent the past (Indigenous ancestors and their spiritual connection to the land), while Ashitaka reflects the future; specifically, the charge to forge a new world from the knowledge of our ancestors. 

The film closes on the assumption that the industrialization of Japan continued as the age of spirits came to an end. The arrival of Iron Town on the western mountains caused decay and destruction to the natural environment, not unlike the pestilence brought about by European settlers on Turtle Island. Climate disasters continue to intensify with every misuse and abuse of the world’s resources, and Indigenous communities bear the brunt of these disasters while simultaneously protecting 80% of the world’s biodiversity (while only making up 5% of the population). Ashitaka’s dignity and bravery in the face of the erasure of his people, as well as his dedication to defending his home, are familiar to both diasporic black and Indigenous audiences. A feeling of walking a path that has been lit by your ancestors, or of longing for a life that no longer exists. 

Now more than ever it’s important to amplify the voices and concerns of Native Americans across the continent; their communities are often the first to experience the fallout of the climate crisis. As the original inhabitants of this land, Indigenous people should be the foremost authority on how to properly care for the earth and restore balance to the environment. While we may not be able to reverse the effects of colonization and rapid industrialization, we can prevent further damage and safeguard our future by reestablishing our connection with nature. One of the many ways to do that is by centering Native American voices on how best to utilize and care for the land. There are organizations such as the Indigenous Environmental Network and NDN Collective dedicated to providing information on environmental justice, land reappropriation, and Indigenous sovereignty. 

In the end, the death of the forest spirit lifts Ashitaka’s curse, allowing him to live freely and build a new life for himself apart from his homeland. It is clear that there is no turning back for anyone involved. However, this somber conclusion is given a more hopeful outlook by one thoughtful quote from earlier in the film: “Life is suffering. It is hard. The world is cursed, but still you find reasons to keep living.” The future is uncertain, but one thing is clear: it is ours to forge. 

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Ashley Benson Rocks Daisy Dukes & Orange Crop Top Amid Rumors She’s Back With G-Eazy — Photos



Ashley Benson

The ‘Pretty Little Liars’ alum showed off her style in a revealing ensemble as she was spotted solo amid rumors she reunited with her rapper ex.

Ashley Benson is certainly giving a reason for G-Eazy to get back together with her, if they haven’t reconciled already! The Pretty Little Liars alum, 32, looked simply gorgeous as she stepped out to run some errands in Los Angeles on Friday (January 21). Rocking a tiny orange crop top and skimpy daisy dukes, the actress — who split with the rapper back in February of 2021 — showed off her flawless figure for the daytime outing. She paired the casual look with a black leather motorcycle jacket, black sneakers, sunglasses and an oversized purple bag. Allowing her natural beauty to shine, she went virtually makeup free and swept her trademark sandy blonde locks up in a messy bun.

Ashley Benson is spotted running errands in Los Angeles on January 21, 2022. (SL, Terma / BACKGRID)

The outing comes after Ashley was spotted with G-Easy over a week ago in West Hollywood. The pair looked like they were getting quite cozy during the nighttime excursion. Ashley donned a stylish black overcoat with a crisscross patterned shirt underneath for the date, while G-Easy kept it cool in a grey hoodie and brown leather jacket.

The sighting comes after the pair were seen grabbing some lunch in the tony neighborhood of Los Feliz in Los Angeles the day after Christmas, according to reports. The news may come as no surprise to fans, as Ashley was also snapped in April getting into the “Lights and Camera” hitmaker’s black Ferrari in Pasadena, California, per the Daily Mail. The former couple can’t seem to keep it in the “former” category with all these public outings!

Back in February of 2021, Ashley and G-Easy reportedly called it off after being hot and heavy for almost 9 months. Eagle-eyed followers noticed at the time that the pair, who first sparked romance rumors in May 2020, unfollowed each other on Instagram. Although there was speculation the breakup came out of nowhere, a source close to Ashley told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY that there was a reasonable answer to why the pair called it quits.

“Ashley broke up with G-Eazy because their relationship got to a point where they were arguing more often than not, and the romance had just lost its spark,” the source explained. “They fell for each other quickly in the beginning.” The insider went on to say that Ashley’s friends thought their relationship was an “odd pairing” after her two-year relationship with girlfriend Cara Delevingne. It also came down to the couple having “different views of the future.” “Ashley knew that it would be very hard for him to settle down so she decided to separate,” the source added.

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Tony Bennett’s Wife: Everything To Know About Susan Crow & His 2 Previous Marriages



Tony Bennett’s Wife: Everything To Know About Susan Crow & His 2 Previous Marriages

Tony Bennett has been married to Susan Crow since 2007. Find out more about her and their relationship here.

Tony Bennett, 95, is known as one of the most legendary singers in pop and jazz and has led a very successful life in the music industry, but he’s also led a life of love over the years. The singer has been married three times, including his marriage to his current wife Susan Crow, 55, and has been in the spotlight during each of them. The marriages also resulted in four children, making Tony a doting father.

Find out more about Susan and her background with Tony as well as Tony’s two ex-wives below.

Susan Crow

Tony Bennett and Susan Crow were married in 2007. (Gregory Pace/BEI/Shutterstock)

Tony and Susan were married in 2007 after starting up a relationship in the 1980s. She has worked as a school teacher and has admitted to being a big fan of her husband for a long time. Being 40 years younger than him, Tony revealed that he once took a photo with Susan’s parents, Marion and Dayl Crow, at a show in San Francisco when her mom was pregnant with her in 1966.

“As fate would have it, Marion was pregnant at the time with … Susan! It’s a photo we all laugh about knowing the incredible turn of events that followed,” he wrote in his memoir, Just Getting Started, which was released in 2016.

He also opened up about how she went to his concert when she was just nineteen and that’s what started their romance. “When she was nineteen she had tickets to see me perform at the Masonic Temple in San Francisco and she put in a request to say hello backstage after the show, probably not expecting a response,” he explained in the book. “The request was sent to me, and it tickled me that someone of her age was so devoted to my music. I not only agreed to say hello to her backstage, but asked her to be my date for the evening, and that’s how it really all began … foreshadowed by a backstage photo taken in 1966!”

In addition to being Tony’s wife, Susan has been his caregiver ever since he was diagnosed with having Alzheimer’s disease. He announced the news in Feb. 2021 and Susan talked about the challenge in an interview with AARP. “There’s a lot about him that I miss, because he’s not the old Tony anymore,” she said in the interview. “But when he sings, he’s the old Tony.”

Sandra Grant Bennett

Sandra Bennett, Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett and his second wife Sandra Grant pose with their daughter Joanna in 1972. (Evening News/Shutterstock)

Tony’s second wife was Sandra Grant. Sandra worked as an actress in the 1965 movie The Oscar, which he also starred in, and that’s reportedly how she met the talented star. They went on to strike up a romance and live together before eventually getting married in 1971. The former lovebirds welcomed two daughters during their love story, including Joanna in 1970 and Antonia in 1974 before separating in 1979. Their divorce wasn’t finalized until 2007.

Patricia Beech

Tony married his first wife, Patricia Beech, in 1952. The duo met after one of his shows when she was an art student, according to Glamour Path. They made headlines during their wedding when thousands of Tony’s female fans stood outside the wedding venue while “mourning” and wearing all black. The former husband and wife didn’t let that stop them from starting their life together, though, and they went on to welcome two sons, including D’Andrea in 1954 and Daegel in 1955. They ended up separating in 1965 and eventually divorced in 1971.

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RHOC’s Shannon Beador Reveals Sad Update With Ex David, and Unwritten Rule of Housewives



RHOC's Shannon Beador on Relationship With Ex David, Her Apology to Terry Dubrow, and Unwritten Rule of Housewives, Plus Talks Noella Bergener's Divorce

Shannon Beador offered an update on her relationship with ex-husband David Beador while appearing on Watch What Happens Live on Wednesday night.

Nearly a decade after their marriage imploded on the heels of David’s sordid affair with another woman, the Real Housewives of Orange County cast member, who attempted to mend her marriage with her cheating spouse, shared where the two of them stand today.

“We still don’t have [a relationship],” Shannon confirmed on the January 19 episode of the WWHL: After Show. “I’ll get in trouble for this. But if he’s on the phone with my daughters and he hears my voice, he hangs up the phone. He will not return a text. It’s unbelievable.”

Although Shannon confirmed she and David aren’t on speaking terms, she noted that their divorce is “done” and that they’ve “both moved on with our lives,” she with boyfriend John Janssen and he with new wife Lesley Beador, who he welcomed a daughter with in 2021.

As for her apology to Dr. Terry Dubrow, Shannon was asked on the show if she truly felt it was necessary to say she was “sorry” to Heather Dubrow‘s husband for sharing news of Nicole James‘ lawsuit against him with Gina Kirschenheiter and Emily Simpson.

“It was my intent to do that long,” Shannon confirmed.

She then clarified that when she told Gina and Emily about the legal drama, she told them not to repeat what she said.

“When I did tell Emily and Gina, ‘If by some rare chance that this is true,’ [I said], ‘We’ll never mention it.’ Because there’s this unwritten rule you don’t go after kids or businesses,” she revealed.

Also on the WWHL: After Show, Shannon weighed in on the ongoing social media drama between Noella Bergener and her estranged husband, James Bergener.

“I think it’s a shame that her ex-husband went on social media because I feel that she did need to respond that way,” she shared. “You don’t want to fight your divorce in the public eye. But I’m telling you she’s a very strong girl that was blindsided and I can’t imagine what she’s going through on camera. I still have nothing but empathy for her because it’s just a really difficult thing to go through. She was blindsided. He left in the morning and he never came home.”

The Real Housewives of Orange County season 16 airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Bravo.

Photo Credit: Ralph Bavaro/Bravo

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