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57 Things You Never Knew About Disney Princesses

But she’s only 14?!

1. The current official lineup of Disney Princesses includes Jasmine, Ariel, Rapunzel, Tiana, Belle, Merida, Cinderella, Pocahontas, Aurora, Mulan, and Snow White.

2. Snow White is supposed to be 14 years old. She remains the youngest Disney Princess.

3. Belle is the only Disney Princess to have hazel eyes.

4. Mulan’s story is based on an ancient Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, a female warrior famously described in the poem “The Ballad of Mulan.”

5. Mulan is also the first Disney Princess to not actually be a princess. All the others are either royal by birth, or marry into royalty.

6. Cinderella was originally intended by Disney to be produced as one of the Silly Symphony series.

7. Ariel is the only Disney Princess who was not born a human.

8. Pocahontas is the only princess based on a real person. (Mulan is legend, and impossible to know whether she was real or not.)

9. Tiana is the only Disney Princess with dimples.


10. Both Mulan and Tiana are left-handed.

11. Mulan and Jasmine’s singing voices are performed by the same person, Lea Salonga.

12. Snow White is the only Disney Princess to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This happened in 1987.

13. Walt Disney once told Ilene Woods (the voice of Cinderella), that Cinderella was his favorite heroine.

14. Belle is supposed to be 17.

15. Ariel translates to “lion of God” in Hebrew.

16. Rapunzel’s eyes are the biggest compared to her Disney Princess counterparts.

17. Frozen’s Anna and Elsa are expected to join the lineup as official Disney Princesses this year. 18. Many of Ariel’s quirks and mannerisms came out of improvisation from her live-action model.

57 Things You Never Knew About Disney Princesses

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19. Pocahontas actually isn’t the first Native American Disney Princess. It’s actually Princess Tiger Lily in Peter Pan (but, clearly, Tiger Lily is not an official Disney Princess).

20. Jasmine’s character is based on the princess from an Arabic folktale called One Thousand and One Nights.

21. Rapunzel and Snow White are both from Bavaria.

22. Princess Aurora is the first Disney Princess to have violet eyes.

23. Walt Disney has said that the transformation scene in Cinderella — where Cinderella’s dress goes from rags to a ball gown — was one of his favorite pieces of animation.

24. A Disney intern who was still in school ended up providing some of the inspiration for Tiana. Inspiration also came from Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Tiana.

25. Kristin Chenoweth was originally cast as the voice of Rapunzel, but she dropped out. Reese Witherspoon was then cast, who also dropped out. (Jeez.) The role eventually went to Mandy Moore.

26. Reese Witherspoon was also originally cast as the voice of Merida… In the end Kelly Macdonald did the job. (Jeez, Reese.)

27. Cinderella is supposed to be 19.


28. Princess Aurora had only 18 minutes of screen time and 18 lines of dialogue in the film, making her the most quiet Disney Princess.

29. After auditioning more than 150 girls for the voice of Snow White, the part serendipitously went to 20-year-old Adriana Caselotti, whose father, a singing coach, was helping Disney find a fit. Adriana overheard her father’s phone conversation and began talking in the background to prove she had the right voice. She got the part.

30. Belle and Ariel share the same live-action reference model, Sherri Stoner.

31. Pocahontas is the only Disney Princess with a tattoo.

32. Jasmine actually helped influence the design of Aladdin. Earlier sketches showed him seeming much younger. But once Jasmine was designed, animators thought she wouldn’t go for someone who looked like a scruffy kid.

33. When Disney first announced The Princess and the Frog, the principal character was named Madeline or Maddy for short. This upset critics, who called it a “slave name.” Disney then changed it to Tiana.

34. Merida is the only princess with brothers. WHAT?

35. In earlier drafts of the film, Cinderella has a pet turtle named Clarissa.

36. Mary Pickford and Betty Boop helped inspire Snow White’s look.

37. Disney shot the entirety of Cinderella in live-action, using it as a guide for animation.



38. One thing Belle shares in common with Sleeping Beauty: Belle’s dance with the Beast was created from the same cells as Aurora’s dance with the Prince. Apparently, the animators were running out of time.

39. Belle is the second princess to not be of royal descent. (With Cinderella being the first.)

40. Merida is the only Disney Princess with a non-American accent.

41. When Snow White’s Scary Adventures opened at Disneyland in 1955, it didn’t feature Snow White anywhere in the ride; riders were supposed to experience the ride as her. This proved confusing and she was added in an overhaul in 1983.

42. Ilene Woods, a radio singer and personality, didn’t actually know she was auditioning for the role. She recorded a couple songs for the film as demos, as a favor to the songwriters with whom she was friends. When Walt heard the recordings, he chose her over the 400 other girls who had auditioned for the role.

43. Beauty and the Beast screenwriter Linda Woolverton wrote an important character detail into the script: Belle’s “little wisp of hair that keeps falling in her face” — this showed that Belle wasn’t perfect.

44. Why is Ariel a redhead? For starters, Splash had just come out, featuring Daryl Hannah as a blonde mermaid — Disney wanted to be different from this image. Second, it was easier and more pleasing to make darker shades of red (rather than darker yellows) when Ariel was in dark or shaded places.

45. Jasmine is the second-youngest princess. She’s 15, one year older than Snow White.

46. Disney’s Pocahontas is 18 in the film. In real life, Pocahontas met John Smith at a much younger age. By aging her, Roy Disney said that it made a more dramatic telling of the story.

47. Glen Keane, the creator of Rapunzel, drew inspiration for the character from his daughter, who, as a girl, always wanted to paint her bedroom walls. By the time Keane started on Rapunzel, his daughter had become an accomplished painter and he hired her to create the look of Rapunzel’s room.

48. Belle, the first Disney Princess with more character depth, was partly inspired by Katharine Hepburn’s portrayal of Jo in the 1933 film version of Little Women.

49. Disney used Alyssa Milano’s face as part of the inspiration for Ariel’s look.

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Disney / Via Facebook: DisneyPrincess

50. In 2012 and 2013, the Disney Princesses were redesigned.

51. Mulan’s redesign caused a significant upset because she appeared to have her skin lightened. Similar claims were made for Pocahontas and Jasmine.

52. Merida’s hair is CRAZY: “Merida has more than 1,500 individually sculpted, red strands that generate about 111,700 total hairs.” Also: “If Merida’s curls were straightened, her hair would be four feet long and reach the middle of her calf.”

53. Tiana’s redesign was extremely minimal. Illustrators added two new strands of curls, and a print of reeds went onto her dress.

54. Belle’s physical appearance was inspired by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, and Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

55. Mulan and Merida are the only two Disney Princesses trained in archery.

56. Ariel makes a cameo in Peter Pan’s Flight in Disneyland. She can be seen hanging out in the mermaid lagoon.

57. Belle is the only person in her town to be seen wearing blue, symbolizing her position as an outsider. Later, you see the Beast wearing blue as well.

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35 Completely Useless Facts You Need To Know Right Now

1. The YKK on your zipper stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikigaisha.

2. A blue whale’s heart is so big that a small child can swim through its veins.

3. The combination of an exclamation point and a question mark is called an “interrobang.”

4. When you yawn and stretch at the time, you are “pandiculating.”

5. The dot over a “j” or an “i” is called a “tittle.”

6. And the metal part on a pencil is called a “ferrule.”

7. These two guys are voiced by the same person.

8. Tupac danced ballet in high school and ended up portraying the Mouse King in a production of The Nutcracker.

9. Elephants use the skin folds on their backs to crush mosquitos.

10. “Booby trap” spelled backward is “party boob.”

11. -40 Celsius and -40 Fahrenheit are the same temperature.

12. The barnacle has the largest penis in the animal kingdom when compared with its size.

13. A flamboyance is a group of flamingos.

Fernando Camino/Cover / Getty Images

14. And a group of pugs is called a grumble.

15. Barbie’s real name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.

16. And Cookie Monster’s is Sid.

17. And Donald Duck’s middle name is “Fauntleroy.”

18. The Humpty Dumpty rhyme never says he’s an egg.

19. The groove located in the middle of the place above your lips is called a “philtrum.”

20. And the sleeve on the outside of a coffee cup is called a “zarf.”

21. A strawberry is not actually a berry, but a banana is.

And this is what a wild banana looks like.

22. This is how pineapples grow.

23. And this is how cashews grow.

24. The Ottoman Empire still existed the last time the Chicago Cubs won a World Series.

25. “Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia” is the scientific term for brain freeze.

26. Armadillos give birth only to quadruplets.

27. It’s impossible to hum while holding your nose.

28. You can play Duck Hunt with two people — one to control the gun and the other to control the birds.

29. You are more likely to die from a falling coconut than a shark attack.

30. All the water in Lake Superior would cover North and South America in one foot of water.

31. Horses do not breathe through their mouths.

32. Ponies are not baby horses.

33. Adele and Lady Gaga are both younger than Carly Rae Jepsen.

34. The difference in time between when the Tyrannosaurus rex and the stegosaurus lived is greater than the difference in time between when the Tyrannosaurus rex lived and now.

35. And, probably most useless of all, the only state that doesn’t contain any of the letters in the word “mackerel” is Ohio.

Many of the facts used above were culled from these Reddit posts that asked people to provide the most useless fact they know. Read them here, here, here, here, and here.

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14 Races LGBT People Will Be Watching Closely On Tuesday

On Tuesday, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans will be focused on the presidential race like everyone else — but other elections across the country may also give LGBT people cause for celebration or frustration.

Voters in Wisconsin will be deciding whether to send the first out LGBT person to the Senate in Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s race against former Gov. Tommy Thompson. In the House, voters could be sending an unprecedented number of out LGBT people to Congress — including Richard Tisei, who would be the first LGBT Republican to have been elected as an out official from his first term. Then there are the ballot measures on marriage equality issues and more.

Here are just a few of the key races:

1. President: Obama vs. Romney

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

President Obama personally supports marriage equality, he announced in May and discussed in an MTV interview this past week. WIth the prominent place the issue has played in the debate over gay rights, the May move stood as a marker in the long-fought battle — and helped cement the support of many LGBT voters and, perhaps more importantly, big-money donors. In addition to that evolution, which took longer than many of those backers would have liked, Obama this past week formally announced he was backing this week’s marriage equality ballot measures.

Supporters, including the Human Rights Campaign and National Stonewall Democrats, also point to the September 2011 end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which followed the 2010 congressional passage and presidential bill-signing of the legislation to repeal the 1993 law. In what is likely to be seen as the most important move Obama took to advance the rights of gay couples — even more than his personal support for marriage equality — Obama also reached the conclusion in February 2011 that the federal definition of “marriage” contained in the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay couples, was unconstitutional. Since then, the Justice Department has been arguing in court against the law, and the cases are awaiting Supreme Court action.

The biggest question for LGBT voters deciding to back Obama is that it is not clear what efforts Obama has planned on LGBT rights in his second term, and — assuming continued Republican control of the House — how he intends to accomplish them.

Asked two weeks ago what Obama’s second-term plan for LGBT Americans is, campaign spokeswoman Clo Ewing pointed to Obama’s record, saying, “LGBT voters will overwhelmingly support the president’s reelection because he’s been a strong advocate for the LGBT community and because he has a concrete and specific second-term plan to continue restoring economic security to the middle class.”

Rick Wilking / Reuters

Although Log Cabin Republicans say that Romney has discussed “actual tangibles” in terms of pro-LGBT positions in announcing their endorsement of Romney and though GOProud already had endorsed the Republican earlier this year, the biggest question facing LGBT voters in deciding whether to vote for Romney is if the candidate LCR and GOProud describe will be running the country or if the candidate who the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown said “was strong the whole way through” the marriage fight in Massachusetts will be running the show.

Although Romney spent much of his grueling primary campaign convincing the right that he was one of them, he’s avoided almost all talk of marriage during the general election campaign save for a question at the Univision forum in September. The only real marriage news from his campaign came later, when a campaign adviser told BuzzFeed that Romney does still back the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which would bar states from recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages.

2. Senate — Wisconsin: Baldwin vs. Thompson

Jeffrey Phelps / AP

In one of the closest Senate races in the nation, Democratic Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin is running against Republican Tommy Thompson, the state’s former governor, to take the retiring Sen. Herb Kohl’s seat in the Senate. Baldwin and Thompson are locked in a race that is closer than many expected, following a surge from Baldwin that has since tracked back to a dead heat, according to recent polling.

Baldwin would be the first out LGBT person in the U.S. Senate, a historic role that has led to substantial attention — and resources — being spent on her race from within the LGBT community. Not everyone in the LGBT world is backing her, though, as GOProud endorsed Thompson’s run.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund backs out LGBT candidates and has been strongly behind Baldwin’s run since the day of Kohl’s retirement announcement. In explaining why Baldwin’s win would matter, the group’s head, Chuck Wolfe, told BuzzFeed on Monday, “This would be one of those glass ceiling moments. Tammy’s victory would make her one of the most powerful LGBT Americans in history, and it would demonstrate our community’s true potential. But more importantly it would be a signal to LGBT youth that they can live authentic lives and succeed.”


Connecticut: Linda McMahon ® vs. Chris Murphy (D)
Hawaii: Mazie Hirono (D) vs. Linda Lingle ®
Massachusetts: Sen. Scott Brown ® vs. Elizabeth Warren (D)
Nebraska: Deb Fischer ® vs. Bob Kerrey (D)
Nevada: Sen. Dean Heller ® vs. Shelley Berkley (D)
Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) vs. Josh Mandel ®
Virginia: George Allen ® vs. Tim Kaine (D)

3. House — Colorado: Polis vs. Lundberg

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Rep. Jared Polis (right) discussing the Student Non-Discrimination Act at a news conference with Sen. Al Franken.

Although Rep. Jared Polis doesn’t face a tough reelection fight from Republican Kevin Lundberg, he does face a daunting task: Come January, Polis — first elected to Congress just in 2008 — will be the longest-serving out LGBT member of the House. The change is coming about due not only to Baldwin’s Senate run but also because of the retirement of Rep. Barney Frank.

In his first two terms, Polis already has taken the lead on one LGBT issue: He is the lead sponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and is modeled after Title IX.

4. House — Rhode Island: Cicilline vs. Doherty

Steven Senne / AP

Rep. David Cicilline (right) faces Brendan Doherty on Tuesday.

Rep. David Cicilline, the out gay former mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, has had a tough first term in Congress, facing ongoing fallout from his time as mayor. After staving off a Democratic primary, Cicilline now faces an ever closer race from his general election challenger, Republican Brendan Doherty.

5. House — New York: Hayworth vs. Maloney

With President Bill Clinton in his corner, Sean Patrick Maloney, who is gay, is doing everything he can to defeat Rep. Nan Hayworth, who has been supportive of some LGBT issues — including saying that she “respect[s]” the decision to pass marriage equality in New York. She also has gotten the support of everyone on the gay right: GOProud, Log Cabin Republicans, and the American Unity PAC.

6. House — Arizona: Parker vs. Sinema

Ross D. Franklin, File / AP

Democratic House candidate Kyrsten Sinema, a state senator, is facing off against Republican Vernon Parker in Arizona. A Sinema win would make her the first out bi member of Congress — and the only out LGBT woman in the House in the 113th Congress.

7. House — Massachusetts: Tierney vs. Tisei

The race between Rep. John Tierney and Richard Tisei, the former minority leader in the Massachusetts Senate, has been nasty at times. Tierney’s family has been under fire, with his brother-in-law currently a fugitive and his wife having been implicated for her “willful blindness” regarding her brother’s wrongdoing. If Tisei unseats the incumbent Democrat, though, he will be the first gay Republican who has been out to his constituents from the first time he was elected to Congress. Former Reps. Steve Gunderson and Jim Kolbe, both Republicans, came out after already having been elected.

8. House — Wisconsin: Lee vs. Pocan

Mark Pocan will be taking the seat currently occupied by Rep. Tammy Baldwin so long as he defeats Chad Lee on Tuesday. Pocan is expected to win in the strongly Democratic district, and a win would make this race the first time an out member of Congress is replaced by another out member of Congress.

9. House — California: Takano vs. Tavaglione

Democrat Mark Takano, a high school teacher, is facing off against Republican John Tavaglione, a GOP official in Riverside County. Takano is slightly favored in the race, and a win would make him the first out LGBT person of color in Congress.


California: Rep. Mary Bono Mack ® vs. Raul Ruiz (D)
Illinois: Rep. Judy Biggert ® vs. Bill Foster (D)
Illinois: Rep. Joe Walsh ® vs. Tammy Duckworth (D)
Minnesota: Rep. Michele Bachmann vs. Jim Graves (D)
New Hampshire: Rep. Charles Bass ® vs. Anne McLane Kuster (D)
New York: Rep. Richard Hanna ® vs. Dan Lamb (D)
Wisconsin: Rep. Paul Ryan ® vs. Rob Zerban (D)

10. Ballot Measure: Washington Referendum

Kevin P. Casey / AP

Washington state Rep. Ed Murray, left, talks with Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin at a Catholics for Marriage Equality event in Seattle.

Washington voters will choose whether to keep the marriage equality legislation passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year. The law, in the most recent polling, is being supported 52-42.

In a memo from the campaign working to approve the law, however, campaign manager Zach Silk wrote, “It is highly probable that we will not know the outcome of Referendum 74 on Election Night. … Washington is an all vote-by-mail state and ballots are counted if they are post-marked Nov. 6th rather than received by Election Day. That means ballots will continue to arrive and be processed well after Election Day. In close elections, it is common to not know the outcome for as much as a week after the election.”

11. Ballot Measure: Maryland Referendum

Steve Ruark / AP

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, center, stands with out gay Maryland state Del. Mary Washington, right, during a Monday Night Football watching party to raise money for Marylanders for Marriage Equality in Baltimore.

Maryland voters, with Question 6, will decide whether to allow the state’s marriage equality law to go into effect. Although the National Organization for Marriage’s head, Brian Brown, said he is “confident that we’re going to win” in rejecting the law, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley has been raising money and putting his political muscle behind the effort to get voters to say yes to the law on Tuesday.

According to recent polling by The Baltimore Sun, opinion is split among likely voters on the referendum, which — judging by past ballot measures on marriage across the country — means that supporters of the law face a tough fight Tuesday.

12. Ballot Measure: Maine Initiative

Joel Page, File / AP

Question 1 in Maine is a marriage equality initiative put on the ballot by Maine voters. The move is the first time pro-marriage equality forces have gone to the ballot, and it comes just three years after Maine voters rejected a marriage equality law in a referendum election.

This time, though, the measure is polling better. Public Policy Polling released its final polls in Maine before Election Day, showing 52% for the measure and 45% opposed. PPP’s previous poll in Maine had shown similar results of 52-44 support.

13. Ballot Measure: Minnesota Amendment

Jim Mone / AP

Louise Pardee calls fellow senior citizens from a Shoreview, MN, phone bank to urge them to vote against the proposed Minnesota constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The Minnesotans United for All Families campaign is fighting to get voters there to reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex couples from marrying.

Public Policy Polling, showed 52% of Minnesotans planning to vote against the amendment and 45% planning to vote yes. A SurveyUSA poll placed the measure much closer, with 48% voting no and 47% voting yes. The campaign to pass the amendment must secure a majority of ballots case, so a person who votes in Tuesday’s election but does not vote on the amendment will, effectively, count as a vote against the amendment — a peculiarity that opponents of the amendment are closely watching.

14. Judicial Election — Iowa: Wiggins

Charlie Neibergall, File / AP

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is among those who have supported the effort in Iowa to vote Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins off the bench in a retention election. Wiggins was one of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who unanimously ruled in 2009 that the Iowa Constitution requires same-sex couples be allowed to marry in the state. Three justices from the court lost retention votes in 2010.

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The Invention That Could End Obesity

A Michigan surgeon invented an apparatus that he believes tricks the brain into thinking the stomach is full. His Full Sense Device could be a lifesaver for millions of obese Americans and raises questions about how hunger — our most basic human impulse — even works.

Bonnie Lauria was miserable. She was subsisting on liquids and a handful of foods her stomach could handle. Ever since she’d undergone gastric bypass surgery in the ’80s, foods like meat and bread that went down her throat in a lump would come right back up. “I knew where every bathroom was in every restaurant in the state,” Lauria says from her home in West Branch, Michigan. “It was horrendous.”

During gastric bypass surgery, the stomach is reduced to about the size of a walnut and attached to the middle of the small intestine. Lauria’s complications from the surgery weren’t normal, so she went under the knife a second time. Still, her condition didn’t change. She switched doctors several times, but no one could help. Eventually, someone recommended bariatric surgeon Dr. Randy Baker in Grand Rapids in 2004.

Baker ran some tests and saw that the spot where Lauria’s walnut-size pouch met her small bowel was tightening. Previous doctors had tried to widen the passage so that food could pass through, but the stricture had returned. Complicating Lauria’s condition were those multiple surgeries, which left so much scar tissue that operating again would be too difficult and too dangerous.

Dr. Randal S. Baker. Erin Kirkland / BuzzFeed News

Baker was at a loss. Then he started thinking about esophageal stents. Just like a coronary stent keeps an artery open, an esophageal stent holds the esophagus open and is often used in patients who have difficulty swallowing. What if one of those could prop open the small bowel too?

As far as Baker knew, no one had ever attempted a procedure like that before. But Lauria was out of options, so Baker told her his strategy. She agreed; he inserted the stent and hoped for the best.

“She came back to my office two weeks later and said, ‘Dr. Baker, I’m feeling great. I can eat sloppy Joes!’” Baker says. “Here’s a lady who could only do liquids, and now she can eat solids. And she’s losing weight.”

Lauria didn’t have an explanation; she told Baker she simply wasn’t hungry anymore. Baker wondered if he and other bariatric surgeons had been going at it all wrong. The stent, he theorized, was putting pressure at the top of Lauria’s pouch and sending signals to her brain saying, “I’m full.” It was doing what food does, but without actual food. Which raised some questions: What if we don’t need invasive surgeries that cut away portions of the stomach and rearrange the digestive tract and intestines? What if all we need is a device that puts pressure near the top of the stomach?

Baker set out to test his hypothesis, teaming up with a former product specialist from W.L. Gore (creators of Gore-Tex) and two surgeons at his Grand Rapids practice to create the Full Sense Device — a nitinol wire-mesh funnel coated in silicone that can be inserted through the mouth and placed in less than 10 minutes. Current plans would allow the device to remain for up to six months before removal, though in the future that time may be longer. In the company’s trials, every patient implanted with the device lost weight and continued to lose weight until the device was removed. Baker calls the phenomenon “implied satiety.” At six months, average patients lost 75% of their excess body weight — significantly more and at a faster rate than any bariatric procedure, and all, Baker says, with no “severe adverse side effects.”

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that 160 million Americans — nearly half — are overweight as indicated by their body mass index, which is calculated from a person’s height and weight. (A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight; 30-plus is obese.) Of those people, 24 million are estimated to be morbidly obese, meaning they have a BMI over 40 and are at higher risk for serious, life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, degenerative arthritis, and cancer. Bariatric surgeries can and often do lead to impressive weight loss, yet only 1% of obese Americans opts for the invasive and costly procedure — usually $20,000 to $30,000. (Rex Ryan, Roseanne Barr, Carnie Wilson, Al Roker, Chris Christie, Randy Jackson, and Star Jones are reported to be among the 1%.)

“There are a bunch of things that contribute to that,” says Randy Seeley, an obesity researcher and professor of surgery at the University of Michigan. “One is the ick factor — ‘someone is going to chop up my GI tract.’ Some of it is cost — it’s still not universally covered. Third is stigma. The implication is that it’s the easy way out — you’re cheating somehow by taking that option — which goes to our societal biases about obesity.”

Dr. Baker has come up with a nonsurgical device that he says will enable obese patients to lose substantial weight, and at a fraction of the cost of surgery — in the neighborhood of $5,000 at an outpatient center. A company claiming to have found a simple solution to drastic, easy weight loss is, of course, nothing new; in fact, it’s big business. (See: late-night infomercials.) Some surgeons and researchers are skeptical of Baker’s pressure theory, and at least one patient experienced chronic acid reflux after the device was inserted. But more than 10 years after the eureka moment, Baker is hopeful that doctors in Europe could begin using the Full Sense Device this year and in Canada and Mexico soon after. Americans will have to wait longer; Food and Drug Administration approval is unpredictable and likely still years away. Baker’s concern, though, is that the Full Sense Device might work too well. If it’s effective, easy, and cheap, what’s to stop people from abusing it?

“When this hits the market, there’s not going to be just 10,000 to 15,000 people having it,” says Fred Walburn, president and sole employee of Full Sense Device’s parent company, BFKW. “There’s going to be hundreds of thousands. Millions per year.”

BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

At Grand Health Partners, the Grand Rapids practice Randy Baker shares with other bariatric surgeons, including his business partners Dr. James Foote and Dr. Paul Kemmeter (the F and K in BFKW), the hallways are extra wide and the doors are oversize. Waiting-room chairs are huge. Even the toilets are bigger and mounted to the floor (not the wall) to better accommodate obese patients. Everything is designed for the comfort of patients who are used to being uncomfortable wherever they go.

On a fall afternoon, Baker shows me into Grand Health Partners’ endoscopy suite, where I watch him put a scope down patients’ throats to investigate postoperative acid reflux and take preoperative biopsies.

In black slacks and a striped button-down, Baker, 50, taps on his iPad while nurses sedate the patients. Despite his 6-foot-5-inch frame, he’s not an imposing figure. With tidy, graying hair and black, wire-rimmed glasses, he has the kind but serious air of a high-school chemistry teacher. When he explains that he discovered something no one else had thought of, he says it with zero dramatic flair. The most animated version of Baker shows up when he explains something, and I respond in a way that communicates an understanding of the concept. “Exactly!” he says.

Each endoscopy is quick — 10, maybe 15 minutes. Patients aren’t in a deep sleep; inserting the scope only requires sedation as opposed to the general anesthesia that is often needed for surgery. Some of these patients will see Baker again in the coming weeks for a 60- to 75-minute sleeve gastrectomy, his preferred bariatric surgery. Such procedures are most often a last resort for morbidly obese patients.

Later that night, as I’m sitting across from Baker at Kitchen 67, a chic Grand Rapids bistro with rows of pulsating screens on the ceiling and iPads in the booths, Baker prays for our meal and our families. He’s the father of nine, an elder at his church, and the board president of Zion Christian School, where he led the charge in revamping the entire curriculum. He and his family used to sing and tour in a Southern gospel group. Baker recommends the burgers, noting that I should feel free to build my own burger instead of choosing one of the restaurant’s signature varieties. “I don’t like categories,” he says.

Once I finish my cheeseburger, Baker takes out his MacBook and queues up a video of a bariatric surgery. An extreme close-up of white-and-red gut gore appears on the screen, followed by a harmonic scalpel that looks like a serrated pincer, which begins squeezing and cutting masses of surprisingly tough, glistening white fat from a pinkish mass that Baker tells me is the stomach — “the second biggest I’ve ever seen.” I glance around the restaurant and ask him if we can turn the screen a bit so as not to ruin someone else’s dinner.

Even though he’s performed thousands of bariatric surgeries, Baker hasn’t lost sight of the harsh, invasive nature of what’s happening in that video. He explains that he spends most of each surgery attempting to gain access to the stomach. Obese patients have so much fat, not to mention an enlarged stomach and liver, that the workspace is cramped. The flimsy spleen is close by, as well. Brush it ever so slightly and it’ll bleed. Plus, there are vessels hidden in the fat. If a surgeon hits a vessel that starts to bleed, it sets off a frantic search to find the source.

“I had a patient who died once from a different surgery because there was an abnormal vessel in an abnormal place, and it started bleeding,” Baker says. As surgeries go, these are relatively safe. Mortality rates for three common procedures — gastric bypass (also called Roux-en-Y), vertical sleeve gastrectomy, and gastric banding — range from 0.14% to 0.03%, which are lower than gallbladder removal or hip-replacement surgery mortality rates.

“This one started to bleed a little bit,” Baker says, pointing to a spot on the screen. “I’m guessing where the bleeding is, but I can’t tell. Can you tell where the bleeding is?” I’m clueless. He closes the computer. “This is the best we have right now,” he says. “When I’m operating on big patients, I’m thinking, This would be a piece of cake if we popped in a Full Sense Device. The biggest highway to the stomach is not through the abdomen. It’s through the mouth!”

Photograph by Erin Kirkland for BuzzFeed News

Though the concept of hunger may seem simple, it isn’t, nor is it understood entirely. Scientists haven’t pinned down exactly how the stomach communicates with the brain. The interaction between gut hormones and the nervous system is key — ghrelin and leptin, for instance, act on neural components of hunger — but there isn’t a complete set of answers for how the gut regulates appetite.

There’s also no consensus as to how or why bariatric surgery often leads to dramatic weight loss and diabetic improvements (or why sometimes it doesn’t). Most bariatric surgeons were taught that the procedures lead to weight loss through restriction and/or malabsorption, and many still hold fast to those two explanations. The restriction theory says that the surgeries lead to weight loss by limiting the amount of food the body can hold. Malabsorption — when something is bypassed to reduce absorption of calories — is also thought to play a role in gastric bypass. But research from the past few years suggests that there are, at the very least, more things going on.

What makes a gastric bypass patient eat less, Baker theorizes, is that it takes less food to put enough pressure on the stomach so that it sends neurological and hormonal signals to the brain saying, “I’m full.”

“People used to think satiety was on or off,” Baker says. “You’re hungry or you’re not hungry.” But Baker says it’s actually a continuum. When there’s nothing in the stomach you have hunger, then you progress to “not hungry,” then levels of fullness, then nausea, then vomiting. “The more pressure you put on,” he says, “the higher you get up that cycle.”

Randy Seeley, the University of Michigan researcher, has a different take. “It’s very clear that restriction and malabsorption have little to do with how surgery works,” says Seeley. His research points instead to the importance of gut bacteria — particularly the hormonal action of bile acids — after surgery.

While Seeley says he’s willing to be convinced by data, he’s no less skeptical of Baker’s pressure theory. There are stretch receptors in the stomach, and the nerves there do respond and generate a signal when you stretch those receptors. But he wonders how much that matters to body weight. “For [Baker] to say that it’s not about restriction is getting outside of a surgeon’s box,” Seeley says. “But to say that it’s pressure, for me, is not changing the box very much.”

Baker agrees that gut bacteria and hormones are important, but thinks the stomach’s upper portion is the gut’s brain, which sets other processes in motion. Still, many questions remain regarding the roles restriction, malabsorption, pressure, hormones, and nerves play in bariatric surgery, and the answers will likely determine whether the Full Sense Device is a legitimate, long-term alternative to weight-loss surgery.

“When we have all those answers, we can put surgeons out of business,” Seeley says.

DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini / Getty Images

First came the animal studies. Between 2005 and 2008, BFKW held five studies using beagles, which are less prone to ulcers than pigs and have an esophagus similar in length and width to a human’s.

“We ended up having 1% total body weight [loss] per day,” Baker says of the final six-week beagle study. “In the protocols, they said if you get to 20% weight loss, you euthanize the animals. The vets came to us and said, ‘We’re at that 20% rate. Most of the time, animals that lose this weight will become lethargic. These animals are wagging their tails. We’ve never seen anything like this. They’re starving themselves to death, and they’re happy about it.’”

The dogs were actually losing too much weight, so the device was later softened. Also, in a few of the dogs, the device fell out. “The instant they migrated, the dogs were hungry,” Walburn says. (Walburn had quit his job at Gore and moved to Grand Rapids to work full-time on the Full Sense Device.) “They ate every bit of food that was in their cage.”

BFKW’s patient trials have been overseen by Baker, Foote, and Dr. Jorge Trevino, a surgeon in Cancun. The first six-week study in November 2008 was limited to three patients who were fitted with the device and told to go on a liquid diet for one week, then eat normally. They also met with a nutritionist. All three lost significant weight.

Just as the beagles had been, the initial trial patients “were just happy,” Walburn says, explaining what they believe is going on: “Because of the pressure on the top of the stomach, the body does not think you’re dieting. It thinks you’re full. It does not reduce the metabolism like what happens when you go on a diet.” In other words, the body doesn’t think it’s being starved for nutrition.

After making some tweaks, BFKW did a randomized controlled trial, which is the gold standard for clinical trials of drugs and medical devices. The randomized controlled trial was three months long and involved a relatively small sample of 18 patients, six of whom were in the control group and received no treatment. At three months, the control group had 15% excess weight loss compared with 42% in the group that had the device. BFKW then did a “crossover trial,” taking three of the patients from the control group and fitting them with the device.

“We put the device in them, and boom — if you compare that to when they thought they had the device but they didn’t, there’s a clear, statistical difference,” says Baker, who indicates that every patient — about 110 of them at this point — in the company’s various trials has lost weight and continued to lose weight with the device in place.

In a taped interview in Mexico, 41-year-old primary-care physician Manuel Perez explains in Spanish that the stress of studying medicine caused him to gain weight and eventually develop diabetes. His weight peaked around 285 pounds. After injuring his back, he couldn’t exercise much, and going to a nutritionist didn’t help. (“Mexican food is very delicious, so I couldn’t continue with the diet adequately,” he says.) Once fitted with the Full Sense Device in Cancun, Perez says he could control his diet better and he didn’t spend as much money on food. He lost 46 pounds in six weeks, and his diabetes and high blood pressure disappeared. His back pain went away too.

“Before I wanted to fill myself,” Perez says. “Now I eat very little.”

Not everyone’s story is as rosy as Perez’s, though. When I spoke to 49-year-old Cancun patient Luz del Carmen Gabriel, who had her Full Sense Device removed in January, she complained of severe acid reflux and nausea for the four months the device was in place. “It was uncomfortable when I slept,” Gabriel says. “I had to sleep sitting almost.”

Baker says Gabriel’s reflux was directly related to her size. She’s 4 feet 8 inches tall, which means she has a shorter esophagus than the average patient, and right now there’s only one size of the Full Sense Device. In the future, Baker hopes to have several sizes customized to a person’s height.

Gabriel says she wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Full Sense to others because of the reflux she experienced. “I got it bad,” she says. “Other patients didn’t get it at all.” But she’s satisfied with her weight loss from the device, which worked better than the pills and diets she’d tried. She ate “much less,” she says. Last summer Gabriel had a BMI of 32, and now she’s down to a BMI of 24, putting her in the normal, healthy range. She lost nearly 40 pounds, which means, because of her small stature, she achieved more than 100% of her excess body weight loss.

“Of course it was worth it,” she says. “I feel more flexible. I feel more comfortable in my clothes … I feel better when I see myself. I feel good.”

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Baker and his partners are submitting the device for CE mark certification, which would grant approval for use throughout Europe, a process that is typically cheaper and more expedient than the FDA process. Also, the FDA says it requires a device to be both safe and effective, whereas the CE mark focuses only on safety. According to this model, as long as the Full Sense Device is safe, if no one loses weight with it, doctors will stop using it and patients won’t request it.

“We have six or seven centers identified and ready to go in Europe,” Baker says. “These are doctors who have a history of research — top-notch doctors.”

One of those is Shaw Somers, known in the U.K. as the bariatric surgeon on reality TV shows The Food Hospital and Fat Surgeons. Somers met Baker at a surgical conference in Istanbul in August 2013.

“There’s always a dose of skepticism when someone comes out with a claim that something works as well as a major intervention,” Somers says. “Most of the other implantable devices we use and have experience with aren’t as good.” But Somers, who doesn’t have a financial stake in the product or parent company BFKW, believes this one is different. “The Full Sense Device ticks all the right boxes,” he says. “It’s effective, easy to take in and out. There’s nothing out [there] to give it a run for its money.”

Since the U.S. doesn’t allow human trials unless it’s part of the FDA’s approval process, all of the Full Sense patient studies have been conducted in Cancun. Somers expects a call this year to head down to Mexico for training on insertion and removal of the device, and he’ll use that experience to put together a package of care at his own center. Baker and Somers say these “centers of excellence” are key to bringing the Full Sense Device to market. They will be equipped with resources similar to a practice like Baker’s Grand Health Partners, which includes dietitians, exercise physiologists, and behaviorists who specialize in bariatric psychology. The practice has its own store stocked with recommended (and GHP-branded) foods.

“It’s not, ‘Let’s just pile them high and sell them cheap,’” Somers says. “No device will work simply by implanting it without some type of instruction and modification of lifestyle. You need to manage patients in the medium term and longer term. What this industry does not need is a quick fix.”

Baker is fairly optimistic about the timeline and likelihood of FDA approval, especially after the approval in January of EnteroMedics’ Maestro System — the first medical device OK’d to treat obesity since 2007. That surgically implanted device is similar to a pacemaker, sending electrical pulses to the vagus nerve, which plays a role in the stomach’s communication with the brain. Headlines touted the “appetite-zapping implant” and even conspiracy theorist Alex Jones got in on the action, using the approval to decry the “deadly secrets of a hackable fat chip.” But there’s a question of how well the device works: Patients in a yearlong clinical trial did lose weight, but the 156 patients who received the device lost only 8.5% more of their excess weight than the 76 patients who were given a placebo implant.

This isn’t the first time a company has developed a stomach pacemaker. In 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported that “a new wave of implantable stomach devices could transform the way doctors approach obesity,” focusing particularly on the Transcend gastric stimulator, often referred to as a “gastric pacemaker” because, like the Maestro system, it sends electrical pulses to the stomach in hopes of regulating appetite. Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical-device companies, purchased Transcend’s parent company for $260 million in 2005. But trials didn’t show a significant difference in weight loss between those who had the device implanted and those who did not. Transcend is still available in Europe as a treatment for obesity, but the FDA never approved it.

Despite similar doubts over the efficacy of EnteroMedics’ Maestro system, last summer an advisory panel decided the potential benefits of the device outweighed the risks, and the FDA followed suit with its approval. The high expectations for another questionably effective gastric pacemaker — which will cost between $15,000 and $30,000, about the same price as bariatric surgery — shows just how hungry the FDA, medical-device companies, and the general public are for an obesity-fighting alternative to bariatric surgery. And more endoscopic devices — balloons, fillers, liners — are on the way. One in the pipeline is GI Dynamics’ EndoBarrier, a liner placed at the beginning of the small intestine that was approved in Europe and is undergoing clinical trials in the U.S. In a previous trial, average excess weight loss with the EndoBarrier was 19% after three months — better than Maestro or Transcend, but not as impressive as BFKW’s studies.

Dr. Baker with Fred Walburn, president of BFKW Erin Kirkland / BuzzFeed News

Fred Walburn, president of BFKW, is more cautious than Baker about FDA approval for the Full Sense Device. He estimates the company won’t even begin the FDA process for three or four years. Walburn thinks the Full Sense Device could make the FDA nervous, but for precisely the reason you’d think it shouldn’t make a regulatory agency nervous. “If you’re a regulatory person, and everything you’ve done looks great,” Walburn says, “but there’s some tiny thing we’re missing, we’re not going to miss it in 1,000 patients. There’s gonna be a million people. If we made a mistake in approving it, we’ll get hauled in front of Congress.”

“That’s the big issue,” he says. “If it wasn’t [as] effective, and it would have a smaller market potential, it would be easily approved.”

Mary McGuire Photograph by Erin Kirkland for BuzzFeed News

Around 2009, Mary McGuire was watching TV with her husband when the local news ran a segment about Baker and the Full Sense Device. “I just looked at my husband and said, ‘Oh my gosh. This could be what I’ve been looking for,’” McGuire says. McGuire is 5 feet 5 inches and 291 pounds.

When McGuire was young, her mother would make doughnuts at home. The warm dough coated in cinnamon and powdered sugar was a special treat, though — not something they did all the time. When McGuire was just 7, her mother, a dietitian, died of pancreatic cancer. “Back then, you just kind of dealt with it,” McGuire says. “I never really had anyone to talk to about it.” Her father, now a single parent, would buy himself treats for his brown-bag lunches for his workweek: “He would take a paper bag for the week and have it full of sweets, and he would hide it up in the cupboard,” McGuire remembers. “He thought he was hiding it, but we all knew where it was. I would get home from school before he did, so I would get up on the chair to get into the cupboard and eat some cookies. When I lost my mom, that was my comfort food.”

McGuire, 53, still loves sweets: chocolate, cake, cookies, doughnuts. “If I get bad news about something, I’ll go to food,” she says. “Or happy too. A lot of times it’s boredom. A lot of times it’s stress. Some people pick up a cigarette. I pick up food. It comforts me. It relaxes me.”

Everything else she had tried either didn’t work or helped only temporarily: Weight Watchers, Slim-Fast, South Beach, Overeaters Anonymous, TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly), and Adipex, an appetite suppressant. Adipex helped her get down to 230, but she slowly gained it all back. None of the diets or portion-control strategies combined with exercise left her feeling satisfied. “I don’t get that full feeling,” she says. “That’s what I’m looking for. I want that sensation.”

McGuire emailed Fred Walburn after watching the TV segment, and ever since she’s been checking the company’s website for updates on the Full Sense Device. She’s convinced it’s the best solution for her. “It’s just so promising,” she says. “It makes sense to me.”

McGuire speaks about the piece of silicone and wire like it’s her destiny and last great hope. She goes to a pain clinic for pinched nerves in both her legs and struggles with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and edema. “I told my doctor the other day I feel like a beached whale,” she says. “I don’t want to be this big again. It’s awful. I hate it.”

Despite her desperation, McGuire won’t entertain the notion of bariatric surgery even for a second. A breast cancer survivor, she’s already had to endure more than 20 surgeries. But she can feel the clock ticking. “I know what my future holds if I don’t do something,” she says. “It’s not gonna be good.”

Photograph by Erin Kirkland for BuzzFeed News

Even if the Full Sense Device is approved and becomes an alternative to bariatric surgery, the question remains as to whether it’ll be able to provide lasting weight loss. Dr. Steven Bowers, a surgeon with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, says the device is interesting, but he puts it in the same group as any other temporary, endoscopic weight-loss device. “It’s not astonishing that you can get the weight off people,” Bowers says. “The tricky part is the weight maintenance afterwards.”

Researcher Randy Seeley has similar concerns. “I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that when you take it out, people will gain the weight back,” Seeley says. “People want to think they’ll be so happy as a lean person that they’ll learn to be lean. And therefore, once they experience what it’s like to be leaner, they’re gonna stay lean. And that just doesn’t happen. There’s a reason why there’s no reunion shows for all the people who’ve been on The Biggest Loser.”

Baker acknowledges there will always be recidivism, but the ability to start over at an obese patient’s optimal weight is significant. And he maintains that no other weight-loss option currently available can match the Full Sense Device. “Nothing we have delivers 100%,” he says. “It is true — if patients want the best chance of keeping the weight off, they need to learn how to exercise and do all these other things right. But that’s true for everything. That’s true for surgery.”

Baker is less concerned about the device working than it working too well. Remember the beagles who were starving themselves to death and happy about it? What if irresponsible doctors allow overeager patients to lose unhealthy amounts of weight? What if this device becomes a new fad diet? “Somebody will abuse it, and I don’t like that,” Baker says. “But how do you deal with that?”

After Baker and his team safely removed the Full Sense Device from 10 more patients this month in Cancun, BFKW achieved “design freeze,” meaning the company is done tweaking (for now) and can move forward with the remainder of CE mark submission. Sometime this year, Shaw Somers and other surgeons from around the world will head to Mexico for training. As Walburn finishes the European approval process, he also has to keep the horse blinders on Baker, who’s already sketching out adjustable and absorbable versions of the device — ones that would potentially allow patients to keep the device in place for more than six months and could be tailored to each patient’s body type, whether morbidly obese or just overweight. “Randy is a chess player,” Walburn says. “He’s thinking two or three moves ahead. I don’t want him to stop, but I have to stay focused. I just tell him, ‘Write it down.’”

Bonnie Lauria hadn’t realized how far Baker had come in bringing his device to market until we spoke. “If it wasn’t for him, I’d still know where all the bathrooms in every restaurant are,” she says. “He saved me a lot of years of suffering.” She also needs help again. It’s been decades since her gastric bypass, and Lauria, now 73, hasn’t been able to keep the extra weight off. Back in 2004, she was allowed to keep her esophageal stent in for only six weeks. “I was happy because I’d started losing weight,” she says. “I’d like to have that stent back, I’ll tell you that. It works.”

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The Trouble With Treating Female Characters Like Meat

Liam Neeson in A Walk Among the Tombstones. Atsushi Nishijima/Universal Pictures

The new Liam Neeson movie A Walk Among the Tombstones, which opens in theaters nationwide on Sept. 19, spools out its opening credits over a montage of shots of a beautiful woman. They’re all close-ups, and coyly eroticized, providing glimpses of pale skin and blonde hair. It looks like it could be a sex scene, right until the final image of her face, where we see she has tape over her mouth and there’s a tear rolling down her cheek.

It’s a neat encapsulation of what’s to come — women die horribly in order for men to avenge them soulfully in A Walk Among the Tombstones. Not exactly a new pattern in movies or on TV, but there’s something about starkness of that divide in this new film, which is written and directed by Scott Frank (The Lookout), that’s particularly striking. And, frankly, a little gross.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by crime-writing legend Lawrence Block, A Walk Among the Tombstones is a detective story of the old school, one of a series about an alcoholic ex-cop turned unlicensed private investigator named Matthew Scudder. It’s set in a gritty, dark, and resolutely drab 1999 New York, in which characters talk about Y2K and cell phones aren’t in regular use. It’s a world that’s unrepentantly masculine, which is fine, but it also uses women, or rather their deaths, as dramatic fuel, which really isn’t. The film may be a semi-period piece, but in 2014, you should have to choose — either write women as actual characters or leave them out. To use them solely as photogenic dead or soon-to-be dead bodies is to render them less than human.

Dan Stevens Atsushi Nishijima/Universal Pictures

Your tipping point on depictions of violence against women may vary. Here’s mine: Women really do get attacked, beaten, mutilated, permanently injured, raped, and killed, and removing representations of those facts from on screen won’t change that. But when your story includes women only so much as their grisly deaths make the men in their lives mad or sad, well, then you’re just turning them into meat — literally, in this case, as Scudder is hired to track down a pair of sadistic killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) who kidnap women, extract ransom money from their loved ones, then leave their victims’ dismembered bodies in plastic-wrapped piles. The men they target are all involved in the higher echelons of the drug trade, including Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens), the Brooklyn dealer who first requests Scudder’s help to catch the guys who took and murdered his wife.

The women in A Walk Among the Tombstones, as much as they exist, are shown either in angelic remove — a bright remembered smile, a set of portraits on the wall, a particularly disturbing slow-motion walk — or screaming hopelessly for their lives. This is a movie about men, from the shrewd, hard-bitten, but good-hearted Scudder to the distraught Kenny and his addict brother Howie (Eric Nelsen), from the sadistic roomies Ray (Harbour) and Albert (Thompson) to the precocious homeless kid named TJ (Astro) to whom Scudder reluctantly warms.

They may be a rough-and-tumble crowd, but they’re all depicted as fully formed people; even the creepy graveyard worker (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) Scudder runs across during his investigation has a personality, a history, a life that’s transmitted in his few scenes. There’s no requirement that every story have strong female characters, or characters of color, or any other typically underrepresented group, though there’s a pressing need to see more of them on screen. But when your women exist only as emotional leverage for the men, well, you’re making them as disposable as your villains.

Adam David Thompson and David Harbour. Atsushi Nishijima/Universal Pictures

There are things to recommend in A Walk Among the Tombstones. Neeson is enjoyable, as always, in a quieter and more pensive tough-guy mode than the Taken films — his recent, golden run of weathered leading roles continues. It travels to corners of New York that don’t often make it to screen — rooftop pigeon coops and believably crummy Hell’s Kitchen apartments, empty Red Hook streets and Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

But those elements just couldn’t, for me, balance out the lingering unpleasantness of how A Walk Among the Tombstones was telling its story. It’s hollow pulp trying to pass off gloom as thematic weight, a story that creates monsters and takes pleasure in letting them run loose so that it can end on a note bemoaning what a terrible world it is.

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