Her By Susan McLean
The last month, most people with a Facebook account have been bombarded with dozens of different opinions on Netflix’s newest original series, “Thirteen Reasons Why.”
There’s been accounts of praise and stories of recovery, people exclaiming that the show should be shown in middle and high schools across the country.
There has been an equal amount of hate towards the show, many picking out on individual mistakes on the behalf of the creators. One claim that’s been plastered all over social media, is that the show glamorizes suicide.
For directors and script writers, creating a plot surrounding these topics is not an easy task. As we’ve countless times in pop culture (ex: Virgin Suicides, American Horror Story, Silver Linings Playbook, Skins, etc.), there’s more than one way to wrongly portray mental illness.
This could mean making a mental illness a “quirky” characteristic of the protagonist, romanticizing the struggle of a non-neurotypical character, or making it seem as though having a mental disorder makes someone more interesting, intelligent, or even cool.
This is why many automatically judged “Thirteen Reasons Why” — as a show entirely based on suicide, depression, bullying, and sexual assault, there were about a million and one ways the producers could have incorrectly represented victims of these circumstances.
This show paints a very dark, brutally graphic, and honest picture of sexual assault and suicide.
While watching this series, I never felt as though the creators wanted to make her suicide seem romantic or positive. Through these graphic depictions, it was obvious how terrifying these experiences are, and not the least bit glamorous or even comfortable to witness.
At the same time, I understand why so many people wished they had kept these scenes brief, especially when the creators were advised to steer away from such graphic content; on top of this, I sympathize with everybody who was triggered by this show.
But the trigger warnings in the beginning of each episode prove that the creators of the series filmed these scenes with only good intentions.
Watching somebody slit their wrists or be brutally raped is never, ever supposed to be a comfortable thing to watch.
In the end, nothing about watching somebody bleed to death is romantic, trendy, or remotely glamorous.
For every person who has never experienced the trauma of sexual assault or the horror of a suicide attempt, it got the message across: This is not okay. This is never okay.
Another common criticism of the series is that it doesn’t accurately portray suicidal thoughts and depression. Many articles say that the show is a bad representation of mental illness; one author even writes that because Hannah’s character isn’t shown struggling to function on a daily basis, the show misrepresents suicide.
As someone who’s experienced depression, I can agree that by not even mentioning depression in the script was a major flaw.
Glazing over mental illness in a conversation about suicide and rape did more harm than good in the end, while many articles called the writers out on this.
In the end, I think that the “Thirteen Reasons Why” series was created with entirely good intentions.
I can agree with most criticisms of the show, with the exception of claims that it’s romanticizing suicide; even with piles of articles explaining why the writer things this show is garbage, it still started a conversion.
This show became a hit in a mere few days, leaving millions of people to share their thoughts on it. Even in every negative review, each author speaks in defense of the mentally ill and survivors of sexual assault.
To me, this is a victory.
To me, this is another step into creating a world where women feel safe to go to walk alone at night; where a high school girl isn’t afraid that she might be called a slut by her peer; where people who feel like suicide is the only way to end the pain can reach out to a friend or even a guidance counselor and receive help immediately.
The more we work to start a conversation and point out the good and the bad in how people portray these issues, the better we are as a whole.
Every woman and girl in the world has witnessed, and most likely experienced, sexual harassment in many environments.
Since these acts are crimes, most people can agree that when someone harasses and assaults a co-worker, the perpetrator should lose their job instead of being promoted.
This was the opposite on Sunday night, as the world watched Casey Affleck receive the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Affleck has a long history of misogyny and violence, from making countless aggressive advances towards producer Amanda White as well as inappropriately touching her while on set for the documentary “I’m Still Here.”
Actress Magdalena Gorka testified that while staying overnight at Joaquin Phoenix’s apartment to film the documentary, Affleck came into her bed intoxicated and groped her in her sleep.
Both of these women took Affleck to court in 2010 and were eventually settled.
The response to his award win was negative,
as people spoke up online in disgust of Affleck; the the protest that became most popular was Brie Larson’s.
This is the second time she had to present Affleck an award, and both times she refused to applaud his win.
Larson is well known for her volunteer work for sexual assault victims, as well as her Oscar-winning performance in Room, a film where she played a rape victim.
Among most of those who saw Brie Larson stand up to Casey Affleck, I was awestruck by her silent resistance to an epidemic.
We live in a world where we are conditioned to accept and ignore sexual assault and harassment, as well as anyone who has been affected by these acts.
Joking about rape is just “locker room talk” and considered acceptable speech from our president; sexual harassment is “boys being boys” and something women have been taught to keep quiet in the face of; a prepubescent girl being cat called by grown men is treated like a rite of passage for girls.
If adults in our world keep raising girls who are afraid to speak up and boys who treat the female body like their property, we will continue to raise men like Casey Affleck.
In twenty years, men who have been to court for assaulting the women around them will still be awarded for their talents.
The only way to end this is to stop normalizing this kind of behavior. We need to stop tolerating rape jokes, ignoring sexual harassment, and minimizing the experiences of victims.
Now, it’s more important than ever to stand up and say that sexual assault is not normal and not okay.
The CW just introduced a new series to its Network with characters from the Archie Digest Magazine universe. Fans of the Archie comics, like me, were first blessed with a Betty & Veronica collection from MAC in 2013, and now a tv show. However, the show takes a dramatic turn from the mundane, comedic stories shared in the paper Digests.
The similarities between “Riverdale” and the Archie comics begin and end with the characters. You’ll see Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), his neighbor and best friend Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), the fiery Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), and their beloved rival Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch). With the inclusion of Josie and the Pussycats (with Ashleigh Murray as Josie, Asha Bromfield as Melody, and Irie Hayleau as Val), and other side characters like Reggie (Ross Butler), Moose (Cody Kearsley), and the sardonic Jughead (Cole Sprouse), “Riverdale” acts more as a separate entity from the comics than a visual retelling. For instance, “Riverdale” further develops and builds from the character’s pre-existing comic personalities. Betty is still smart, reserved, and studious, as she was in the Digest, but you quickly realize this is the result of her manipulative mother, Alice Cooper (Madchen Amick), who never had a strong role in the comics. Veronica and Archie are shown in a similar manner, with strong influence from their parents that was never as prevalent in the comics.
While the character manipulation was necessary to show a darker Riverdale, I welcome the small consistencies creator Robert Aguirre-Sacasa kept with the Archie universe. Betty and Archie are still neighbors, Jughead still wears his signature grey “crown” beanie, and Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe still plays a vital role as the beloved town meeting place.
In every sense of its creation, “Riverdale” is the Archie comic’s darker twin. The pilot episode begins with the death of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines) and the return of the Lodge women to Riverdale. The quality of the show reminds me of an early “Vampire Diaries,” where the plot and characters are over-sensationalized to help deliver the story. I’m not necessarily turned away from the show, because I think it still has a lot to offer, but I’m cautious of what to expect from the rest of the season.
If you’re a fan of other CW shows like “Vampire Diaries” and “Reign,” you will probably enjoy “Riverdale.” You can catch up on the first few episodes here, and be sure to tune in Thursdays at 9PM EST to watch the next installment live. If you need another reason to watch, check out the trailer below (or here).
Check out this video essay by Kristian Williams.
In Honor of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, the Ultimate Feminist Mother-Daughter Power Couple: A Feminist Look at Singin’ in the Rain By Austin Fimmano
I’m not exaggerating when I say that there may be few people in the world (at least few my age) who are bigger Singin’ in the Rain fans than I am. I was raised on old-fashioned musical films: The Music Man, The Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, West Side Story… but Singin’ in the Rain blew them all away. The costumes, the hilarity of Cosmo Brown, the impeccable dance routines of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, and of course, the presence of the wonderful Kathy Seldon.
Debbie Reynolds was young, beautiful, barely nineteen, and drawing all eyes to her even when dancing next to one (or two) of the greatest dancers of their age. Growing up, my siblings and I could pop Singin’ in the Rain in the VCR – and then later the DVD player – every weekend and not get tired of it, and that’s often exactly what we did.
But just because you love something doesn’t mean you can’t look at it critically – or rather, doesn’t mean you can’t help but look at it critically.
When I left for my freshman year of college, I no longer had those leisurely weekends with my family where we could relax together and watch movies. I don’t think I had seen Singin’ in the Rain all the way through since I graduated high school – that is, until Debbie Reynolds died and my mom called us all into the family room for a tributary family movie night.
I was excited to revisit one of my favorite movies, and that I did. But there was another part of my brain that kept piping up against the nostalgia, and just would not be silenced.
In high school, I didn’t consider myself a feminist. I’m from a tiny town in Connecticut with one high school, little to no diversity, and a conservative community.
Feminism, to me, seemed superfluous. Surely women were equal to men. After all, I wasn’t treated any differently from my male peers; if anything, the more advanced our classes were, the more women there were enrolled.
But then I entered college in New York City and I found myself no longer in a rural bubble, but instead stumbling in and out of thousands of new worlds and power dynamics and frames of minds that I had only read about in books. I was introduced to all kinds of critical thinking that I hadn’t even known existed before. The feminist in me was awoken.
And so as I watched Singin’ in the Rain and my childhood-self cheered for Don and Kathy’s secretive, tap-dancing romance and laughing at Cosmo Brown’s unappreciated antics, my feminist self was taking a second look at Lina Lamont. Slowly I began to realize: she wasn’t a villain. She wasn’t ridiculous. She wasn’t dumb. She was tragic.
It’s easy to dislike Lina Lamont from the start. Don and Cosmo establish from the beginning that she’s just one of those people that you wouldn’t come near with a stick. She’s a fair-weather friend, she’s a diva, and she’ll only like you if she can get something out of it. And that’s before we even hear her talk.
Once Lina opens her mouth, our dislikes are not only confirmed, they’re expanded: Lina is grasping, she’s annoying, she’s dumb, and she’s an elitist. Singin’ in the Rain isn’t necessarily telling us that Lina is a greedy female trope; she’s just one of those people that everyone can agree they don’t like, regardless of gender. We all have some Lina Lamonts in our lives.
But consider Singin’ in the Rain through a different, less optimistic lens. Hollywood in the 1920s was brutal place to be a woman. Women had only just gained the right to vote and were barely seen as human beings.
Even an actress as successful as Lina would come up against obstacles that a man of her talent – like Don, for instance – would never encounter. She would be paid less, she would be criticized more, her career would have an expiration date that correlated exactly with her age and weight, and she would hardly get to make any career decisions without the help of a man.
The Pre-Code era, which offered women more meaty characters and storylines rather than just the typical “virgin or whore” roles of the early 20th century, was about to be introduced and then quickly and emphatically shut down.
When you start thinking about Lina’s world in this way, suddenly her irrational tendencies or craziness don’t seem so annoying. Take Lina’s obsession with her costar, Don Lockwood, for example, Don is understandably annoyed that Lina would believe what a tabloid magazine writes about her own love life – specifically, that Lockwood and Lamont are a power couple looking towards marriage.
He’s even more annoyed that she inserts herself into his life as if they really are romantically attached, and that she won’t be dissuaded. But as we learn from the end of the movie, Lina isn’t exactly “dumb or something.”
She may not have brains in the way that her rival Kathy Seldon does, but she knows how to get what she wants.
We can agree that Lina Lamont wasn’t really convinced by a tabloid that she was dating a man she’d only kissed on set – one who openly loathes her, no less.
Lina is a smart businesswoman. She would be aware of the ticking clock that was her career, and she would know that Don didn’t have one. Therefore, the tabloid romance was better for her career than any of the movies she’d made, put together.
While she was on Don Lockwood’s arm, no one would forget her. While she was his costar who could bring the element of real-life romance to the screen, she would continue to get starring roles.
When Lina finds out about Don and Kathy’s romance, she isn’t upset because she’d really believed that she and Don had been dating up till then. She was upset because she realizes the public won’t take her as seriously without a famous man by her side.
For this same reason, Lina is an elitist. When we see her at the beginning of the movie shunning Don’s plebeian charm, and then shooing Cosmo away with a haughty “Are you anybody?!”, the reason might not be as petty as it seems. Lina’s spent enough time in Hollywood to get where she is – successful, lead actress whose name is in every big picture produced by her studio.
During that time, she must have learned that women rarely get anywhere on their own, no matter the depth of their talent. Instead, they have to piggyback off successful men, which Lina has created a habit of doing.
After all, she didn’t become a “household name,” as the reporter gleefully informs us in the beginning, until her high-profile romance with Don Lockwood. Yet she’d been the female lead in what seems like every movie made by Monumental Pictures long before Don had made a name for himself.
It’s why Lina is always sweet-talking RF Simpson, the head of the studio, and casting off poor Cosmo. Lina is too practical to waste her time on men who won’t advance her career. This is a bit cold-hearted, but Lina isn’t really much different than a 21st-century businesswoman: she puts her career over her love life. When she and Don rise to stardom together as romantic leads, the perfect situation has been created for her: her love life could actually catapult her career.
This even frees Lina to have real feelings for Don.
If you begin to look at Lina as a tragic character trapped by the patriarchy, suddenly the whole movie begins to turn on its head.
Don and Cosmo don’t become any less charming, and neither does the alluring ingénue of Kathy Seldon, whose rise to stardom necessitates Lina’s downfall. But patterns start to emerge – Zelda’s exposure of Kathy and Don to Lina isn’t diabolical, it’s a woman protecting her career and that of her friend’s in a woman-eat-woman world.
The constant mansplaining and manterrupting that Lina experiences on set (and everywhere else), despite being the biggest star at Monumental Pictures, stops being a matter of her intelligence and you start to wonder if it’s simply because she’s a woman.
If you look close enough, the women of Singin’ in the Rain – the few that there are – transform from shadows that flit on the walls behind Gene Kelly to hard-working, talented businesswomen who will only ever be given half of what their male counterparts get – and that’s only as long as they stay young and pretty.
Star Wars: Rogue One By Allison Pinski
*If you have any intention of seeing “Rogue One” in the near future, or love the “Star Wars” series more than you’ve ever loved anything and don’t want me to crush your spirits because I know almost nothing about it, do not continue reading. But if the first thing I said applies to you, come back and read this review after you watch the film.
(You can also watch the trailer here or below.)
I don’t know how else to emphasize how little I know about Star Wars. I know a basic overview of the plot and the major characters, but I am in no way an expert. Even though I genuinely enjoyed “The Force Awakens” (2015), you can imagine how surprised I was when I agreed to attend the early release of “Rogue One” in Dubrovnik. The length of the movie, two hours and 14 minutes, was enough to make me question my decision. Why should I sit in a crowded room for 2-hours pretending I have some semblance as to what is happening, when I have to do that in school anyway?
As a complete outsider entering the realm of a Star Wars movie, I was a little overwhelmed. There were a lot of references to previous movies I know I missed. But what I loved was getting engulfed in another world. I loved being on the edge of my seat, caught up in the fast-paced storyline, the witty one-liners, the unpredictability of what would happen next. I loved how easily I could delve into “Rogue One,” even as an outsider with no technical knowledge of the film series.
“Rogue One” was as good as I hoped it could be, (I heard someone say that as they left the theater, and I feel like that’s worth repeating). The main characters were complex, and formed meaningful relationships with each other. You have Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who you don’t want to end up together because that’s too cheesy, but when you witness their final embrace seconds before their untimely deaths, you realize all you ever wanted was for them to be happy together. There’s K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), a former Imperial robot, and the source of never-ending comic relief, (until he is also killed). There’s the dynamic duo, Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and Baze (Wen Jiang), who are the ultimate bromance goals (plot twist, they both die).
That’s one of the major themes in “Rogue One:” there’s a lot of death. But the deaths are meaningful; the characters risk everything they have to deliver the Death Star files to the Rebel Alliance. Their sacrifices end in tragedy, but their efforts are not forgotten. My friend explained to me that the events of “Rogue One” occur just before “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope” (1977), where Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is in possession of the Death Star file the “Rogue One” cast died to deliver.
“Rogue One” is full of nods to the original series, with appearances from Fisher’s Leia and Darth Vader (James Earl Jones). I can’t speak for diehard fans of the series, but coming from someone like me, the movie is well-done. I would definitely see this again, and it has inspired me to finally sit down and watch the full series (although that may have to wait until after Christmas).
Watch Tove Lo's short film debut, 'Fairy Dust' here below, via Vevo. The film touches on sexuality, grief, and is shot beautifully.
*Seeing as this movie was just released (and for some reason available sooner in Dubrovnik than in the U.S.), I write about some spoilers that may impact your experience watching the movie for the first time. If this upsets you, see “Doctor Strange” first, and then come back to my review.
I love Marvel movies. Nothing compares to the feeling of being sucked into the Marvel universe and following your favorite superheroes (or villains) fight for the safety of Earth (because, for the most part, that’s what happens). I entered “Doctor Strange” ready to embrace the Marvel universe yet again, and it did not disappoint.
For anyone unfamiliar with the premise of the movie, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a very successful neurosurgeon. He’s confident, rich, in love with a beautiful woman (Dr. Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams), and has a bright future ahead of him. One fateful car crash later, tremors in his hands have effectively ended his career as a medical doctor. Strange becomes obsessed with healing his body to return to a life of stardom, alienating Palmer and his other friends. After hearing of a healer in Nepal who made a paralyzed man walk again, Strange flies to Kathmandu to seek help from The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). He is soon thrust into a global race filled with magic and mayhem to stop an estranged student from opening a portal to the Dark World. (That’s a very quick overview, but IMDb has a more in-depth one for anyone interested.)
In typical Marvel fashion, “Doctor Strange” was filled with the same wit and humor evident in “The Avengers” (2012), “Captain America” (2011), “Iron Man” (2008), and every other beloved movie. “Doctor Strange” also contained references to other characters in the Marvel universe (The Avengers), mentioned the mysterious infinity stones (also seen in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”), and the final clip after the credits even included Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Everything was up to the Marvel standard of excellence; it was action-packed, filled with loveable characters (especially Strange’s new cape sidekick), and left you yearning for the very-probable sequel.
The CGI effects deserve their own mention. The Masters and Strange endure many chases through twisting buildings and changing dimensional planes, similar to the “Inception” promotional posters. These scenes turning buildings inside out and flipping cities upside down added visual interest to otherwise anti-climactic chase scenes.
Now that I’ve listed everything I liked, I feel like I should write about what I didn’t like. The casting was adequate; Cumberbatch delivered a very convincing role alongside McAdams, Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mads Mikkelsen. However, I was suspicious of Swinton’s character. Nothing against Swinton, but Marvel could have saved a lot of effort if they hired a Nepalese actress to play The Ancient One instead of styling Swinton to look like one. I’m not the first one to notice this, as Ben Child and Alyssa Sage have each dedicated articles to the whitewashing controversy.
“Doctor Strange” is definitely the movie for all Marvel fans. If you’re able to experience it on the big-screen, it’s even better.
What we're watching.