Melissa Langsam Braunstein, a former U.S. Department of State speechwriter, is now a freelance writer in Washington, DC. Her recent writing can be found at her website.

Don’t Compartmentalize Kids

The cover of the June issue of Australian Elle magazine tells a powerful tale. We see model Nicole Trunfio nursing her young son and enjoying the special coziness that mothers regularly share with their infants. However, the backstory is even better. Unlike last year’s Glamour shots of Olivia Wilde nursing her son, the cover that … Continued


Devaluing Life on ‘Scandal’

Patients expect to be treated for their ailments without question on Grey’s Anatomy. They don’t even realize how lucky they are, because on Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal, which airs immediately afterward, those same patients would have to justify their lives before anyone saved them. If anyone decided to help at all. This raises questions for viewers: … Continued

Culture, Entertainment, Television

Death Comes for McDreamy

We are all hopeless romantics. In spite of several waves of feminism and endless assurances that American women can live our best lives solo, it seems many of us still want the guy. At least, the millions of women who are Grey’s Anatomy fans still want an ideal catch like Patrick Dempsey’s Dr. Derek Shepherd, known affectionately … Continued

Entertainment, Television

Must Humor Be Politically Correct?

Rom-Coms are my favorite kind of movies. Yet Hollywood’s releases have become increasingly formulaic, unfunny, and anything but romantic. (Is Bridesmaids really the best we can do?) So, I was thrilled to encounter Serial (Bad) Weddings at the Washington Jewish Film Festival a few weeks ago. The French film, subtitled in English, is uproariously funny. … Continued

Entertainment, Movies

Is BDSM Just Another Lifestyle Choice?

The hoopla surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey has brought BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism) out of the shadows and into mainstream conversation. Do we like what we see? We’re subtly – and not so subtly – reminded at every turn that everyone is entitled to her own sexual choices. We are expected … Continued


The Rape of Queen Mary on “Reign”

It’s killing Mary’s marriage. Poor Queen Mary, known to history as Mary Queen of Scots, has been suffering for many weeks now, as Reign blends historical fact with contemporary fiction. We have witnessed the Queen’s rape and the subsequent fallout in her (first) marriage to France’s King Francis (who was dauphin, in historical fact). Many … Continued

Entertainment, Television

J.K. Simmons Wants You to Call Your Mom

Every Oscars broadcast needs some surprises. Otherwise, why would anyone watch? This year, it was J.K. Simmons (who I will always think of as Juno’s dad) who brought the applause-worthy, relatable message. The Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner for Whiplash, Simmons offered refreshing remarks in his acceptance speech this past weekend: After thanking his wife and … Continued


Fifty Shades of Jessica Simpson

Beyoncé may have been drunk in love, but Jessica Simpson is apparently bound in love—as in BDSM. The singer-turned-fashion mogul celebrated her first Valentine’s Day married to former NFL player Eric Johnson by posting three photos of them to her Instagram account. Inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey, the #FIFTYSHADESOFJOHNSON pictures certainly offer a different … Continued


Does “Downton Abbey” Have a Jewish Problem?

Lady Rose seems to specialize in dating men who raise her family’s hackles. Men who represent the edge of polite society in some sense. Last season, it was a charming African-American jazz singer, and this week, it was Downton Abbey’s first Jewish character, Atticus Aldridge. Aldridge’s name sounds quintessentially British and not at all Jewish … Continued

Entertainment, Television

Single Motherhood on “Parenthood”

According to Twitter, I’m in the minority. Everyone else who tweeted about a recent episode of #Parenthood found it heartwarming. Viewers especially enjoyed Amber’s baby shower, which was held at a hospital, after her grandfather Zeek’s heart attack. Amber’s baby shower certainly showcased the bonds of family and warmth of motherhood, but it was hard to … Continued

Entertainment, Television