Maryellen and the Brightest Star

Released on Youtube in 2015. Rated G.


Maryellen is thrilled to hear that a real rocket scientist, Dr. Teller, will be visiting her school. There's an essay contest, and whoever writes the best essay will get to ask him some questions in front of the whole school--and have the event broadcasted on the news!

Inspired by a comic book, Maryellen makes her own titled Astrogirl, detailing a girl's adventure from Earth to space. It's clear that she's illustrated her essay, but when she presents it in class, Mrs. Humphrey lets Wayne interrupt to declare the drawings cheating. Mrs. Humphrey won't even let Maryellen finish her first sentence, and says she'll need to discuss Maryellen's work with the principal. Due to not following directions, Maryellen's comic can't be entered in the contest. A boy from another class wins, prompting Maryellen to lament that boys win everything. Mrs. Humphrey points out how well Maryellen has been doing in science, which bodes well for excelling in physics: the first step to becoming a rocket scientist.

By the time Dr. Teller visits, the contest has changed, and now several students will each ask one question, rather than one student asking several. Naturally, Maryellen and Wayne are among the students chosen. When it's Maryellen's turn, she asks about an especially bright star she saw a few nights before. She hasn't been able to find it on any star maps. Turns out it was Mars.

The story ends on Halloween, with Maryellen going as Astrogirl...but deciding she'll put off her space flight dreams for a bit. She wants to go to space someday, but for now she wants to be near the people she loves.


Written by Maya Rudolph

This is a short film, only sixteen minutes.

Maryellen's supposed to be a good artist--the sketches on her wall aren't up to the level I was expecting.

This takes place in October 1954.

Maryellen's school is integrated; there are students of color in the same room with her.

Wayne, who is more misogynistic than just annoying like in the books, asks derisively, "Have you ever seen a girl astronaut?" No, Wayne. No one has seen an astronaut at all. This is 1954. The first person in space was Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. In 1961. The first astronaut (that is, from the US), Alan Shepard, followed a few weeks later. The first woman in space, cosmonaut Valentina Tershkova, ventured outside our atmosphere in 1963. Twenty years later, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

I understand that the contest had specific rules so Mrs. Humphrey couldn't let Maryellen enter...but couldn't she have let her finish her presentation in front of the class? You know, instead of humiliating her in public?

There's a scene with Maryellen, dressed as Astrogirl, and Wayne fighting. Mrs. Humphrey comes in out of nowhere and sternly tells the bickering students to come with her. As they leave, another student in the middle of the frame turns and mouths, "What?" I think she speaks for the audience--it's an odd scene.

Looks like Mars could have been visible in October of 1954. But I've seen Mars and even when it's in closer proximity than usual, it does not look like the object Maryellen saw. But at least she didn't see a satellite, because the first satellite to orbit Earth was Sputnik, in October 1957.

Maryellen Larkin-Harlie Galloway
Wayne-Francesco Galante
Mrs. Humphry-Rosa Pasquarella
Principal Carey-Patrick M. J. Finerty
Davy-Jordan Alveran
Dr. Teller-Tyrone van Tatenhove
Carolyn Larkin-Ashton Smiley
Beverly Larkin-Valentina Gordon
Tom Larken-Kaysen Steele
Jimmy-David Lansky
Classmate-Jeannine Briggs
Extras-Kennedy Fuselier, Azalea Carey, Nya-Jolie Walt, Malia Lehua, Camille Briggs, Baylie Hileman, Eduardo Castillo, Lucca Monti, Jo'ell Jackson, Kristian Ramirez, Michael Hill, Karina Monti, Tara Steele, Tancy Hileman, Azia Reed

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