One Netflix Marathon at a Time

I really like Netflix original series.

Sense8, Fuller House, the multiple Marvel’s Defenders shows, Marco Polo, The Crown– I could go on but you get the picture. I like these shows because they go places shows on TV don’t typically go, whether that means being honest about some of the things women experience (such as the way the line “smile” was used in Jessica Jones) or having complicated plots that wouldn’t be fully fleshed out in a usual television show’s allotted 45 minutes (looking at you, Sense8).

That being said, there is one Netflix show that stood out to me as the most honest, entertaining, and true-to-life.

Netflix’s One Day at a Time is based on the sitcom of the same name that aired in the 1970s and 80s. However, the Netflix update has added a whole lot more diversity and current event issues to the show (spoilers ahead).

One Day at a Time follows the lives of Cuban single-mother nurse and ex-military medic Penelope Alvarez, her mother Lydia, and two children Elena and Alex. While the show currently only has thirteen episodes, within the first season they deal with issues of PTSD, alcoholism, sexism in the workplace, divorce, religion, coming-out, sex, immigration, generational divides, and the lack of support many military veterans receive when returning home. Despite these all being pretty hot-button topics, the show never feels pushy and never uses any of those issues in ways that are disrespectful or purely as the butt of a joke.

Along with the fantastic amount of issues dealt with, the characters are amazing. Penelope is a strong woman who not only cares emotionally for her family but is their sole provider AND is allowed to show her emotion without ever being viewed as less of a strong person as a result of it. She has PTSD and physical issues after being deployed in Afghanistan and is shown dealing with those problems and working to get through them. In one episode she attends a women veterans’ support group and in another she is shown having to deal with the apathy and bureaucracy of a veteran affairs department. She is also shown struggling with the beginnings of her divorce from her husband, who refuses to seek help for his own combat-related PTSD. Despite everything against her, she manages to stay upbeat and is the life of the family.

Elena, her daughter, is a fourteen year old feminist and social justice warrior. She is outspoken and unwilling to compromise herself or her beliefs. She is one of my favorite characters on the show, mostly due to how easily I was able to relate to her character arc. Part way through the season she begins questioning her sexuality, and by the end of the season she has come out as a lesbian. I have never seen a show or movie show a coming-out story that felt as real and similar to my own experience as Elena’s on One Day at a Time. The episode in which Elena comes out to Penelope had me in tears from how closely it resembled the same conversation I had with my own mother. It was almost as if the writers of the show had been in the room with my mom and I, taking notes on everything from words to facial expressions.

Lydia, Penelope’s mother, is a deeply religious woman who immigrated from Cuba when she was in her mid-teens. She is also one of my favorite characters in the show due to her dramatic flair and how she manages to hold onto her beliefs and culture while still adjusting to the world around her. Her love for her family is incredibly obvious in every episode, particularly the episodes following Elena’s coming out. Despite the usual expectations of how religious people will act after having someone come out as not straight to them, Lydia was accepting of Elena, even mentioning Pope Francis’ 2013 statement that he could not judge those who loved others of the same sex and using it as a reason why she could not judge. She also supports Elena in expressing herself in whatever way makes her most comfortable, going so far as to make a suit for Elena to wear at her Quinceañera rather than the traditional dress.

Alex, Penelope’s son, is a surprisingly sweet pre-teen boy. In the first season his main issue is peer pressure from his friends, something that is relatable no matter how many times it is used as a plot device in sitcoms. He also served as wonderful support for his family members. He was the first person to find out Elena was a lesbian and he comforted his mom after a failed first attempt at dating again after her divorce. While he doesn’t have much of a story arc of his own in the first season, I am curious to see how his character will develop

Another main character is the Alvarez’s landlord, Schneider. I wasn’t sure about his character at first, but over the season he grew on me. While he is a white, straight male who owns the apartment building, he does try to be educated on issues of discrimination, feminism, and racism and over the course of the season checks himself and the privilege he was exhibiting multiple times. It was refreshing to see that type of character working to be better, especially when considering how rare it is to see someone working to check their privilege in media, let alone the real world.

One Day at a Time left me feeling uplifted and happy as the credits rolled on the last episode of the season. No, none of the characters were guaranteed to have perfect lives, but they all felt like they were having real lives with real issues that we all have experienced. I felt validated in my experiences and like someone understood some of the things I have been through or seen my friends go through.

Netflix shows have always been enjoyable to me, but they just raised the bar a lot higher with One Day at a Time. I can’t wait to see what they come out with next!

 

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How to Survive Your First Same-Sex Breakup

I came out publicly a few months prior to my twenty-second birthday. I was sitting in the parking lot of a hospital with my partner at the time, coffee for her bedridden mother in the cup holder, and we were avidly discussing our new relationship.

“I don’t know, I like, I really want to make it Facebook official? I just don’t know what my dad’s gonna say,” I said. “But I already told my mum. And she was really cool with it.”

Which was true. I’d told my mother maybe a week before that I’d started seeing someone, and when she asked me for “his” name, I hesitated before saying “Vanessa*.” And she didn’t react. Instead, she asked me where we met. Like she always expected her daughter to be into girls someday.

My adoration, my young and shiny-brand-new love for Vanessa, was so big on that day that I wanted the world to know about my first girlfriend. And with her encouragement, I took my chances with the more conservative half of my family. With shaking, clumsy fingers, I used the crummy hospital Wi-Fi to set my Facebook relationship status to the obviously gay relationship I had. I kissed her in her car in the parking lot. My lipstick probably smudged all over her face. I wanted everyone to know that her red mouth was because of me.

So I wanted to die when she broke up with me a few months later. Because no matter how full I felt of feelings, no matter what kind of future I dreamed of when I held her in my bed at night, she didn’t want those things anymore. She didn’t want them from me. And I wanted to die.

When you spend so much time in the closet, I think your first relationship that you actually want is the hardest to leave behind. When you spend years dating boys, kissing boys, bringing boys home to meet your family over the holidays, I think maybe you want to love that first different person more than the rest, you want to love them loud and hard. I couldn’t help but go into a million romantic clichés for Vanessa. When you spend twenty-two years being someone else, showing everyone who you really are eases a heavy, drowning weight in your lungs. When I brought my first girlfriend home to my father, I felt at home in his presence for the first time since I knew I wasn’t straight. Finally being yourself is the coldest, cleanest air you’ve ever breathed.

I think my attachment to my first gay relationship was inevitable.

With that in mind, for once, the hardest part isn’t being alone. I didn’t crumble after losing a best friend. What has made being single so stressful is how open and honest I have become—with Vanessa, with my family, and with myself. Changing my relationship status for all my peers to see felt like magic when I first made the switch, but the afterglow faded with our romance. For a while, coming out seemed like such a waste. The gesture wasn’t nearly as symbolic as I’d initially thought.

In my post-breakup state, in my post-Vanessa world, I am constantly reminding myself that my feelings were okay. That they are okay. The ending wasn’t what I wanted. We didn’t go to grad school together or fill a shared apartment with plants. We didn’t even make it to a spring break road trip. We never shared a Christmas together. But dating Vanessa changed my life for the better. I used to long to make the same jokes about my sexuality in front of my parents as I did my friends. When I visited my mother a few weeks ago, she was cooking breakfast, and I mentioned preferring sausage to bacon. Then I said, “Well, actually, I don’t prefer a good sausage at all. I hate men.” I tipped my head back and laughed and was comfortable with being a lesbian. I was comfortable with my parents knowing that I’m a lesbian.

I loved Vanessa. I was in love, and now I am not, and I will live through this. I will keep going even on the worst days, even on the days when I need to journal for an hour before I make it out of my bedroom and into the sunlight. I will be sad for my first gay breakup and for the end of my beginning as an out-of-the-closet lesbian. But this relationship was just that—my beginning.

I am surviving my first gay breakup. My new life is just starting.

 


*Name has been changed.

cover art by Mike Shaw

 

Mira likes cats, pop music, and internet memes. You can find her on Twitter making snarky commentary and having meltdowns over Weezer songs at @coffee_lesbian.

To the Woman Who Posted a Picture Laced with Subtle Racism, and Was Upset by the Backlash

 

To the woman who posted a picture laced with subtle racism, and was upset by the backlash:

You posted a picture of yourself beside a figure of Donald Trump, added a cute comment in support of it and threw it out there like bait on a hook, as if wishing to further fuel the fires of the anger at the injustices many of us are currently facing. You knew people would see that photo when you posted it to your thousands of followers. And you must have known that what to you may have been a harmless photo, to others was a blaring reminder, a threat even, that we are still not safe.

So when people shot their anger at you through the keyboards in front of them, slipping past the defenses you had built to keep them out, and into your Twitter notifications you must understand that it was, a reminder that there will always be people to stand against bigotry and a question as to whether or not bigotry will be a timeless monstrosity.

And while it was unkind that they did say things that have hurt your feelings, I do not feel sorry for you, not in the slightest. In fact, I’m very happy for you because if you feel that way I can only assume you must have been born in a position of so much privilege, that you were able to feel okay making light of what for others is a terrifying reality.

But instead of using your privilege to help others who weren’t so fortunate, after receiving those reminders you chose to further comment on how much lesser than you they were, letting your loyal fans know how these terrible monsters hurt your feelings, inviting in a barrage of kind replies from strangers miles away. Replies that mocked the legitimate fears of real people. Replies that you were none too quick to favorite, because you were so quick to play the victim you forgot to ask who the real villain truly is.

Because while you spent your day making comments about how you felt people should just comply with what’s going on, there were many so similar to you, but who were able to acknowledge the power they had, and so many who maybe weren’t exactly like you with your privileged life, who peacefully protested, who marched through the streets, building bridges  and not walls, on all 7 continents as a gesture of solidarity for those who are marginalized and whose rights and concerns have often been thrown out like yesterday’s trash.

So while you posted what you felt was a harmless picture, what you really posted was an implication of acceptance of his ideologies. What you really posted was a gesture of your support of someone who wishes to take away not only the rights of so many others, but a few of yours as well. Our reaction to this is the reaction I’d hope you’d have had you seen someone else posing fondly with  other white supremacists/ all around bigots for that matter.

For many, the Woman’s March was a reminder that there is still hope to be had, and that there are still millions of people willing to stand for what’s right, that there are still people willing to stand up for people like them.

Because, while you may be lucky enough to never feel the side effects of voting for a callous, volatile, egotist, bigot, there are people who will wake up tomorrow who will. There will be people who will wake up tomorrow who will still be queer, who will still be black, who will still be Muslim, who will still be a part of a marginalized group.

And sadly, unlike you, they will have to face worse threats than some mean words typed from a keyboard miles  away.

 


 

Kai is a  mixed race writer from Vancouver. When Kai isn’t writing  she spends her time singing loudly, dancing badly and being an all around nuisance.

The Millennial Gospel Project

 

 

 

 

GIVING TO THE POOR AND WALKING WITH THE OUTCASTS IS PUNK ROCK. If Jesus were a millennial he would be a punk socialist and nothing anyone will ever say with convince me otherwise. Mary Magdalene with artfully placed runs in her black stockings leading down to her studded Doc Martens, are you with me?

When I first read this enthusiastic response to a Tumblr post I had made, I had no idea it was the seed of a 1,600 follower-strong virtual faith family and brew-house of creativity. I just knew it excited me.

The enthusiast in question was Alice, who would become co-moderator of the Millennial Gospel Project, but at the time she was just an internet friend in Alabama with a literature degree and a complicated relationship to her Catholic upbringing. I was eighteen, tentatively shaking off the trappings of mainline Christian evangelism, and trying to assemble a faith walk that fit the fraught Thing I had with God.

DID SOMEBODY SAY PUNK GOSPEL AU? I typed with a grin, and added my own embellishments.

Peter as that Marxist kid with patches on his jacket who usually gets arrested at protests, Mary as a sassy Gen X mom: “I didn’t get slut-shamed by all of Georgia for having you at sixteen so you could grow up to wise-ass me, Jesus Emmanuel.” Jesus is a total introvert (please forward all unexpected social events to Peter or Mary, and don’t do the whole kiss-the-hem-of-his-jeans-in-prostration thing, it makes him uncomfortable) but super fun when you get him to loosen up (Remember that wedding? Water into wine? Best party ever). And his message? Life changing.

When Alice shot back with Gabriel with a lip piercing and a twitter account (@Gabe’sHorn), tweeting all of the prophets with #ispeakuntothee I was hooked. So, it turned out, were plenty of other people.

Alice and I kept the game going, eventually typing up long form pieces of Bible fanfiction and making photosets to illustrate the way we were trying to fit the gospel into a modern, millennial frame. When people starting requesting new art pieces and asked if they could submit their own, we launched a separate blog to accommodate the virtual traffic. We had struck onto something accidentally, something that I felt taking root in my own life as well as in the lives of others. Re-claiming the Jesus story from the privatization and commodification of the mainstream American church felt good, really good.

Moreover, re-framing these familiar stories allowed us to open up to what Jesus might have been trying to teach us all those years ago about equality, moral responsibility, charity, and social justice.

So many people think they don’t get a say in what the church looks like, and that the stories in the Bible don’t belong to them and aren’t theirs to explore or question or re-invigorate with creativity. Alice and I wanted to push back against these boundaries, and create a space in which young people could come and get their hands messy playing in the Biblical sandbox. That was it. No agenda. No mission statement. No hidden evangelical motive. Just an opportunity to start a conversation with some long-dead folk heroes and have fun with it, for God’s sake.

As the MG, as it is affectionately referred to, took off, Alice and I started fielding requests for LGBTQ affirming congregations and Bible verses that supported women’s ordination. We uploaded articles about Arab Christians protecting Muslims at prayer, nuns battling church corruption, and rabbis standing with water protectors in North Dakota. I shared songs that expressed messy feelings about God, and Alice quoted liberation theologians unafraid to lean into the social and political demands of the gospel. Young people of increasingly diverse backgrounds submitted their secret struggles, their poetry, their anger with the church, their drawings, their happiest moments with God, their essays.

Currently our patchwork online family consists of atheists, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, pagans, Muslims, agnostics, and no shortage of seekers, those unlabeled multitudes who wish to draw nearer to the Divine but are disillusioned with religious institutions.

With a body of creatives so large and diverse, there have been tense moments along the way (plenty of which were caused by my own insensitivities or blind spots) but mostly there has been love, the deep, compassionate, abiding kind that makes me believe in a Good and Involved God on my own doubting days. I try to stay open to criticism and change, and have been so humbled by the way the Millennial Gospel mob routinely reminds me to listen more than I talk and let go of any illusion I have of control over this world or the people in it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned working on this blog, it’s that if you just give people a safe place to honest and then get out of the way, the Spirit will work amazing healing in the lives you have been entrusted with.

As a Millennial, I think the MG represents the exciting access people in my generation have to unlimited information and numerous platforms from which to participate in the production and dissemination of that information. With a phone camera, anyone can be a journalist, with a Netflix subscription, anyone can be a film critic, and with a Tumblr url and access to biblegateway.com, anyone can be a theologian.

There are obvious downsides to this culture (the abandonment of much-needed guidelines on what counts as reliable journalism, people claiming to be experts in subjects on which they are honestly uninformed, a temptation to throw scriptural fact-checking out the window) but it still excites me, and I want to be a part of it. It’s worth the risk, and it’s worth learning how to do well. As a person of faith, I think this co-creative way of doing religion is essential in a world where churches vie for political authority, Americans are fractured down a stark liberal/conservative divide, and so many congregations are ravaged by abuse, anti-intellectualism, and an unwillingness to talk about difficult topics.

It’s been four years since the Millennial Gospel first started. Alice earned her Masters in literature at NYU and communicates with me from a cozy Brooklyn apartment, and I joined the Episcopal church, enrolled in the Masters of Divinity program at Princeton Theological Seminary, and spend my days trying not to start theological arguments (well, not too many) with my professors. I would never have applied to the program if it weren’t for the encouragement I received from all my beloved Millennial Gospel members, and I would never have realized that I’m at my most self-actualized when I’m helping others maintain their individual faith lives if countless young people hadn’t trusted me with their hearts through the project. For those two things, I will never cease being grateful.

It’s always hard to end a story you’re still living in, so I suppose I’ll take my leave with an invitation. This is formal permission for you to Come and See, a very honest welcome into the ramshackle DIY household Alice and I have built with hundreds of other people.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a person of faith or not, if you’re a millennial or not, if you’re straight or cis or rich or poor or conservative or liberal or a messy mishmash or too many modifiers to count. We want to hear your story. We want to know your pain and raise you up in your joy. And we’re pretty sure that God, however He/She/They decide to manifest in your life, wants to as well. So wear something you don’t mind getting messy in and show up whenever. The door’s always open.

 


Sarah Gibson is a graduate student of theology, writer of poetry and prose, and village wise woman in training. She spends her days blowing her paycheck on tea lattes and putting too much faith in humanity. You can find more of her writing at sarahtaylorgibson.tumblr.com or start a conversation with her on twitter @s_t_gibson.

 

I’m Watching It Burn

source: Jennifer Lee

 

On my eighth birthday one of my classmates gave me a Hello Kitty diary. Determined not to waste the present, I began to write in it. Little did I know that Hello Kitty diary would start me on what would become a major part of my life for the next thirteen years.

Keeping a journal became habit. I would write every evening about my day, no matter how dull. The pages would be filled with my thoughts, feelings, and concerns. In that first Hello Kitty diary I filled page after page of worrying over how I’d look with braces and wondering if Paul J in my fourth grade class had a crush on me. One particularly memorable page was covered completely in the words “I ❤ Paul.”

By middle school I was taking my journals to class with me. Anytime there was a quiet moment in class I would open the journal and write. Soon I became known as the girl who always had a notebook with her.

 

A selection of the journals I filled

 

In high school I went over the deep end with journaling. I carried the journal-of-the-moment with me everywhere, always ready to take an opportunity to stop and write. Rather than try to make friends during the lunch hour, I would find the emptiest table in the cafeteria and spend the time surrounded by my own thoughts. I challenged myself to see how much I could write each day, a challenge which culminated in my filling a journal in a week.

Journaling got me through some really rough times and provided me a safe place to try to work through depression, crushes, hurt over losing friends, confusion about sexuality, and the other typical concerns of growing up. It was a large part of who I was, and journals filled a huge plastic tub I kept in the closet.

Please note the past tense.

I stopped journaling religiously during my final semester of college. Between working part time at a women’s shelter, volunteering at an animal shelter, and finishing up my degree it was difficult to find the time or energy to journal. I tried to keep up with it, but I kept finding other things I’d rather do.

This fall I took a hard look at my life and the changes that had occurred over the past year. One of the most obvious differences was that I had stopped journaling completely. Rather than focusing on recording my life, I was focused on living it and staying in present moments as much as possible. As a result I felt happier, less anxious, and I wasn’t ruminating on negative events nearly as much.

I had hauled my dozens of journals in their plastic tub over one thousand miles with me when I moved after college, and then they once again sat quietly in the closet at my new apartment. After some serious thought, I decided the time had come. I was finally ready to say goodbye to my journals.

Before getting rid of the diaries, I went through them one last time to see if there were any memories or creative works I wanted to save. Rather than a stroll down memory lane, I ended up wandering down embarrassment boulevard. Remember the entire page where I declared my love for Paul over and over? It turns out that wasn’t even the worst part. I also found a detailed plan to overthrow the fifth grade social structure involving the choice of who gets to write the assignments for the day on the class whiteboard, the phrase “brace face” used in reference to how I feared I would look once getting braces, and a vow to someday marry James Maslow of Big Time Rush fame.

Of course, there were more serious entries. The diaries surrounding my sixteenth year were especially difficult to go through. I ran across things that I had completely forgotten, and realized I was glad to have forgotten them. That was the final deciding factor as to whether I would keep the diaries. I don’t need to remember everything about my past- if I’ve forgotten something, there’s probably a good reason. Most of the journals were then tossed into trash bags and then placed in the dumpster the next morning. A few lucky journals would receive a different fate.

My parents live about an hour away from me, and have a beautiful backyard complete with fire ring. The weekend following the Great Journal Cleanse I drove out to visit them, the remaining journals traveling with me in my purse. My parents and I went out to the fire ring and I tore out all the pages of the remaining diaries. Dad got the fire started; Mom and I stayed out to watch as the pages burned and to tend to the fire.

 

The burning remains of 13 years of writing

 

I felt like an enormous weight had been removed from my shoulders as I watched the pages curl in on themselves and blacken. Now, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t go back and relive my past successes and despairs. All I have left are my faded and time-warped memories, which I honestly don’t think should be taken as a true measure of how things happened.

Now that the journals are gone, I am more focused than ever on living in the moment and enjoying it rather than just recording it. I find myself more frequently pushing myself out of my comfort zone and interacting with the world in ways I never would have before. For example, I’ve started sharing my writing whereas I used to hoard it like a dragon of words. I now have a poetry blog on tumblr that is dedicated to my sharing my pieces, and I attend a monthly open mic night to perform and get to know other poets in my city.

The journals were a huge part of my identity for thirteen years. That urge to record life and try to make sense of it will probably never go away, but the urge to keep all those reflections and realizations to myself has faded. I’m using the energy I put into containing myself and my feelings in notebooks and putting it towards expanding out of myself instead. So far I like the changes.

Here’s a question and a challenge for you: What are you still holding onto that is keeping you from expanding and living in the moment? Are you ready to watch it burn?

On The Edge of Seventeen and Something Bigger: The Reclaiming of the Female Film Protagonist

 

Nadine Franklin is having a rough year.

 

Though 2016 has been a difficult one, arguably for much of the general population, Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen reminds us that every year is a rough one, when you’re in high school. Beyond the agony of pimples, romance troubles, and friend drama, however, The Edge of Seventeen paints (or splashes, really) a bigger picture- one of the recent twenty-tens trend of the female director-screenwriter combo breaking their female protagonists and their costars out of the boxes that a century of cinema has placed them in. Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen joins the ranks of Lake Bell’s 2013 film In a World… and Gillian Robespierre’s 2014 indie hit Obvious Child, making a (somehow still) bold statement that perhaps the people who can best write and direct female characters and actors, are in fact, women themselves.

The protagonists of these films swear, and not in a huge outburst kind of way, but a slip-into-multiple-conversations-daily type of way. They go to the bathroom, and not just in a drunken haze or to take a pregnancy test. They have dislikable moments, and make you want to sink into your theater seat as if it were quicksand. They are far from perfect, and the filmmakers make damn sure by the end of the film that the audience knows it, too.

In a drizzly Oregon town of Craig’s creation, seventeen-year-old Nadine is struggling when her best friend from childhood starts dating her twin brother- the Gallant to Nadine’s Goofus. Sound familiar? Sound like similar plots have been seen before in the oft-dreaded “coming of age” comedy? I thought so too (and especially as a twin myself, I’m often wary of the good twin/bad twin trope). But the trailer is misleading in capturing the true tone of the film- it’s a coming of age film in a world where coming of age (especially for teenage girls) is harder than ever. The film has humor, absolutely, and Woody Harrelson as Nadine’s dry, deprecating teacher brings many laughs with and at Nadine’s expense.

But The Edge of Seventeen has a rawness that so many of teenage-targeted films fail to capture, Craig’s script captures these emotions with unflinching honesty; this is the mastery of Hailee Steinfeld’s acting at work. Oscar nominee and teen pop star hybrid, Steinfeld plays Nadine as awkward, but not in the “cute” way- she’s full of biting comments and social anxiety, is quick to blame, and at times, is quite cruel. Craig doesn’t shy away from the anger of the teenager girl, she instead embraces it as one who has lived through it- teenage girls do, after all, have a lot to be understandably angry about.

On the other side of the country, mid-twenties NYC stand-up comedian Donna (Jenny Slate) gets dumped, makes jokes on stage about it about it, hooks up with a guy “so Christian, he’s like, a Christmas tree” and then gets pregnant and decides to have an abortion. This is Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child. There is no question, in the film, if Donna will have the procedure, the plot revolves around whether or not she will tell the nice guy she “played Russian roulette with [her] vagina” with, as her best friend and closest confidante Nellie, puts it.

Back on the West Coast, and not too far from Nadine, but a dozen years older, In a World’s Carol (Lake Bell as director and actor) is the daughter of a famous voice actor and struggling to make her own name in the business in LA, though, as her father puts it, “let’s face it- the industry does not crave a female sound… I’m not being sexist, that’s just the truth”.

In some ways, all three women tell one story, and show the growth, through the ages, of how young women can accurately be portrayed in cinema, when given the right actresses and filmmakers. All three films easily pass the Bechdel test, despite all three having romantic comedy subplots and more than one romantic interest. Craig is blunt about Nadine’s misdirection in falling for Nick, a just-out-of-juvie senior who takes Nadine out for a ride in his car. She comments on the nice waterfront view, and then the script has him park the car in front of a waste disposal container instead.

The jokes are subtle digs at the contradictions and ultimate mystery of being a teenager in the modern day, yet never is offensive to the “elusive” creature of the teenage girl. Nadine has a negative view of the world, and is angry at it for letting her father die and at Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) for falling for Darien (Blake Jenner) – unwilling to believe that Krista could have both siblings, and selfishly insisting she pick only one. Nadine is smart, and that’s what makes her cruelty pack a punch- she knows where to hurt the people who’ve hurt her, and she’s not going anywhere until she gets her chance to swing at them- even if it isn’t entirely justified. In a painful poolside scene, she asks her friend Erwin if he “wants to have sex” and then pauses for effect, followed by laughter and declaration of the joke. (So often female characters are punished horrifically for their cruelty, while reckless teenage males can go unpunished. Nadine grows greatly in the course of the film, she learns to apologize and to fix her wrongdoings, but is not humiliated and directly punished for her actions. What happens to her in the latter half of the film is a result of her actions, not a “punishment”- and the film also distinguishes that she’s not the only one to blame. Her issues with Erwin meanwhile, are worked out in a healthy manner- through art and apology, discussion and addressing the issue head on).

Robespierre’s Donna, meanwhile, may be a self-admitted “menorah on the top of the tree, that burns it down”, with bitter feelings towards and even moments of stalking her ex-boyfriend. Yet like Nadine turning to her cynical but surprisingly supportive history teacher, in her darkest moments Donna turns to her parents (creating a new relationship with her mother in the process), and closest friends for support.

Similarly, Carol turns to her sister for support (they even have a phrase for it- #sistercode), even after she inadvertently and unintentionally almost sabotages her sister’s marriage.

Bell, Robespierre, and Craig feature strong and genuine female relationships with their protagonists- Nadine to Krista, Donna to Nellie and her mom, Carol to her sister Dani. And these relationships defy the male gaze, dare to go where films by male directors worry about and avoid going, using physicality, blunt honesty, and still taboo topics of how a woman can or should act on film.

The first three minutes of Obvious Child mention buttholes and vaginal discharge, and include fart noises by Slate on stage. She swaps shirts in a dressing room in a very not sexy scene with her friend, though there’s a lot of skin shown on both of them. Slate is seen shirtless at least three times, yet every time she has armpit hair lingering, and is wearing a plain and practical nude bra. Like Nadine and Krista early in the film, Nellie and Donna are very physically affectionate, crawling into each other’s laps during dark times and blatantly telling each other without fear of judgement who they want to have sex with in brighter ones. In a World… dares to have two male character be so misogynistic in every conversation they have with one another, that they become false caricatures of their gender- something so many female characters and actors are faced with daily. Almost every male figure in the film is portrayed as ridiculous, in some way, yet the women are too. The characters of Bell’s film aren’t afraid to live real life on screen- their conversations are drowned out a bit by kitchen noises, they verbally acknowledge painfully awkward silences filled with tension, they call their sibling while sitting on the toilet.

The scripts of these female talent whirlwind films feature realistic dialogue and aren’t afraid to go beyond the sphere of their approximately two hours. There are references to vague stories about bell peppers and grandmothers, and jokes you never quite understand, purely because they’re inside jokes of the characters, and you haven’t known them their whole lives. They live separate from you, you don’t exist to them, you’re only given a short window of insight into their world and then you must leave. These films make you feel like even after you walk out of the theater, the characters still live on.

A problem with so many female-audience focused films is the relatability factor. And sure, Steinfeld is hardly an ugly duckling, and the harping on her odd clothing choices seems a bit repetitive, reminding us of how quirky she is. But she gets pimples, Donna farts endlessly, and Carol’s hair is more often than not a complete mess. Above all, Nadine is a teenage girl, Donna a twenty-something, Carol a genuine thirty-year old, and they’re all real ones at that. Nadine vomits in a toilet after getting drunk, and falls asleep on the bathroom floor, in an incredibly unglamorous way. (Krista takes care of her throughout the ordeal). Halfway through the film, she enters a tiny TCBY bathroom, sits down on the toilet, and pees, as she has a mock-conversation with god. With the actual noise of her urinating in the background, in this scene no more than sixty seconds long, Nadine asks him why he’s always let her down- followed with a shot of her realizing there’s no toilet paper left on the roll.

These filmmakers do not shy away from the grittier, sadder, grosser parts of life either. There are mentions of Carol and Dani’s mom overdosing on purpose. We see, in a flashback, Nadine’s father die and her casually, comfortably mention taking pills to battle her depression, and Nellie announces to Donna that she’s going to drop a “dookie” while they spend the two minutes awaiting the pregnancy test results, in again, a closet-sized bathroom. (I find it amusing but also not surprising that all three of these films feature many a bathroom scene- showing a real part of real women’s lives- something that you never see, despite all the male peeing in the wilderness and discussions over urinals we get in Hollywood). Whispering to herself “Don’t be awkward, socialize” in a bathroom at a party she has no desire to be at, Nadine’s heartbreaking vulnerability is a trait in all of us, male or female, that Steinfeld nails better than any teenage actor in recent memory. Yet at the same time, we feel for her brother Darian and for Krista, for Nadine’s unfairness and way she pins the blame on anyone but herself. By the end of the film, I was pleasantly surprised to see Darian fully fleshed out, and found myself sympathizing with him as well as his sister. Robespierre and Bell’s films too- regardless of how small a role, the script puts in a great effort to make the audience feel as if we really know a little about themselves and how they see the world by the end credits.

The Edge of Seventeen may very well join the ranks of relatable, well-acted teenage anthem films, like Juno, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and even earlier, the creations of John Hughes (whom Craig cites as an influence). But more importantly, the film crosses genres, like Obvious Child and In a World…, and isn’t afraid to show the darker sides of coming of age, romance, stand-up comedy, family and friend relationships. These filmmaker’s films are relatable because they too were or are the age of their protagonists, and can fight against the male gaze and describe what it’s really like to be a woman in America like no one else.

Yet if relatability and the genuine nature of the character’s experiences are what drive this type of film, there is something to be said in the valid concern that these films, made by white women and featuring mostly white actors, are not as inclusive as they should be. (The Edge of Seventeen’s Erwin, played by excellent newcomer Hayden Szeto, is Chinese Canadian, however, a huge step in the classic role of a love-interest). There’s still a long way to go in accurate, intersectional female representation, but In a World…, Obvious Child, and The Edge of Seventeen prove that not only can female directors and screenwriters inspire movie-goers (myself included), but that they can inspire each other- these films were, after all, only made in the last four years.

I can’t wait to see the bathroom scenes, best-friend relationships, realistic romance, and fart jokes still to come.

 


Lauren is a cinema studies student in her final year of university (and is more than a little stunned at that fact). Based in Boston, she spends her time drinking earl grey tea, pretending she knows how to take photographs, and over-analyzing every movie she sees (with a few impassioned arguments in defense of her favorite fictional characters, here and there). Sunbeams, falling leaves, watching old movies, and Harry Potter make her happy (and she hopes you have beautiful things that make you happy too). You can find her on twitter (@labackus) and instagram.

 


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The World Through My Eyes

I

She is five and she has only dipped her toes in the ocean. She wants to join her parents in the water but she is too afraid to go any further.

He is twenty and he has written since he learned how to do it. His friends encourage him to get published but he is too afraid of rejection.

They are thirty and they are still letting people misgendering them. They think it is too late anyway, even though it makes them uncomfortable.

All these people moved on with their life and try not to regret anything but do you think is it better to put yourself out there and risking getting hurt or wondering forever what would have happened?

II

The world, my dear, is not what you see outside your window. Not everyone has the skin the color of the moon
and lives in a cozy house. Some people have to fight for their human rights, others are pulled over by the police or worst killed simply because they are different from you. And what did they do to deserve it? What did you do to earn your privileges? People never ask to be different but if being the same means being full of hate, then fuck you, I’d rather be different.

Life is a lottery and just because you are lucky, it doesn’t mean that everyone is like you.

III

I wrote you a book but you only read the first page and thought you had me figured out. I undressed my soul for you and you laughed at it, like it was some kind of funny joke. And I’m still praying that you kept your heart to yourself, that you are still willing to give it to me. Love makes you happy until it makes you a fool.

IV

Imagine living in a world where the world ‘straight’ was an insult and used as a synonym for stupid. A world where a girl can’t kiss her boyfriend without having all the eyes pointed at her and being called names. A world where it isn’t considered natural for a girl to love a boy and she needs to say that she does because otherwise people will assume that she’s in love with girls. A world where straight people kill themselves because they don’t feel accepted by the society and they considers themselves monsters. I’m assuming that you wouldn’t like to live in a world like that. So why do you let this happen in a our world?

 


Giulia Colma is completing the third year of the three-year Bachelor’s degree in Modern Foreign Languages.

She is currently living in a small city in the north of Italy, where she spends her life binge-watching all her favorite shows on Netflix, drinking too much coffee and eating too many donuts.

You can find more of her poetry and prose at giulswrites.tumblr.com and you can contact her via e-mail at giulia.colma@gmail.com

Art by Nik Helbig.

Expectations Before the Inauguration

I Have Heard What the Talkers Were Talking, the Talk of the Beginning and the End (But I Do Not Talk of the Beginning or the End)

 

It just hit me that I’m really, truly scared of what’s coming up ahead.

The inauguration is in less than a week. In four days, we will have a president whose word we cannot trust, whose hatred for people unlike him is undisguised, whose entire strategy has been to play on the anger and fear of hardworking, undereducated citizens. And I’m writing this article because I haven’t seen anything like it since about a week after the election. We have become complacent, supportive even, not fighting what lies ahead.

I believe we need to fight. And I am a hypocrite for that belief, because I too have stopped fighting. I am living in a world surrounded by people who talk to me in the patient voice of a suicide hotline, pleading with me to understand and admit to my mistakes in voting for someone like Hillary Clinton to represent the highest office of our people. And for the first few weeks, I fought. I fought bitterly, embarrassing my sister because it was three cousins and two of their friends on one me for over an hour, and at the end of the night, each side assumed they were victorious. I begged for our weekly family dinners to be politics-free, because I couldn’t deal with the praise being thrown in the direction of someone who hasn’t earned it, and received eye rolls and “grow up”s in return. My class WhatsApp group remains one-sided, because I and the one other confirmed Democrat are both miraculously keeping our mouths shut on this one, because we know we will never get our point across.

I am too tired to fight, and I hate that I even have the luxury. That I even have the choice. I hate that I am writing this on my phone, in bed, near suffocating and paralyzed from a sudden rush of anxiety. All because the Washington post reported that construction for the wall between the US and Mexico could begin as early as April, funded by the dollars of taxpayers who didn’t ask for this. Who didn’t ask for him.

And it’s even more frightening, considering Obama is still in office. That plans are being contrived and finalized and he isn’t even our president yet. That this whole world is going crazy, and it’s people who have gotten it this way.

Despite being a woman, I otherwise live in tremendous privilege. The president-elect doesn’t hate people like me, people with my skin color and my religion and my socioeconomic status. So when people wonder aloud, why do you even care?, I offer one of two possible responses, based on which one I feel will speak to them more.

The first: he doesn’t hate me today. But that doesn’t mean he won’t hate me tomorrow. This has proven wildly ineffective, for the most part; I mostly get rolled eyes and exasperated comebacks bemoaning my melodramatic tendencies. I don’t care. This isn’t drama. This is the tragic reality.

The second I haven’t really had a chance to use. Nobody in my vicinity wants to hear it, because it’s the real answer, and the truth is a loaded thing. I care because it isn’t right. No person is inherently greater than another. We all have skills. We all have talents. We all have rights, and it’s about time everyone recognized that, and gave the people on lower ground a stepstool, to get us all on equal footing.

The New York Times Book Review has a weekly interview with a different author, and they will often ask, “If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?” A book seems a bit ambitious, because I expect the president will be quite busy, come the 20th of January, so I would like to offer a poem instead. A long poem, but even just the first few lines will suffice:


I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

 

Walt Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass in 1891, and like most Transcendentalist writings, he imbued within it the themes of unity, of a universal divinity within all people that makes us simultaneously equal and great. We are all equal. We are all divine, and we all have the capability for greatness.

I was on the subway when a black teenager began to recite a poem he had written himself. One sentiment stuck with me; he said that black is a combination of every color, so that when he says black lives matter, it means all lives matter. And he is so right. Because it’s easy to say that all lives matter when all is subject to your definition of alive. It is only when all is truly all, when you can quantify each of its components and prove that every variation of humanity is included, that we will achieve that transcendentalist ideal of community, of acceptance. Of peace.

It may look like there is peace. The rallies are dead. The protests are a distant memory. I no longer see commuters with safety pins affixed to their shirts. But my words are still alive, and I intend to use them until the very last breath leaves my body. I am not done, and hopefully, neither are you.

I am fighting in my own way, and I’m begging you to fight alongside me in yours.

(note: title is also from Leaves of Grass)

 


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Love Languages

 

 

This article starts a couple years ago, when my teacher was out of the country and the administration couldn’t find a sub for my class. So instead of reasonably leaving us to have a free period, we got combined with one of the other classes happening concurrently with ours.

I just… have you ever had a teacher who’s sweet and devoted and doing everything right, but you just can’t stand them? Picture me raising my hand a la Hermione Granger when Snape refuses to call on her. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t take her seriously. So when she decided to forego her intended lesson plan because of the 25 kids unceremoniously dumped into her custody for 50 minutes, and told us she would speak about her latest passion, love languages, instead, I was completely unimpressed.

And I probably would have stayed that way if I weren’t such a sucker for what I like to call “pop psychology”. You know, those things that everyone knows about in a superficial sense, like Myers-Briggs personality types. And I had a friend who, in addition to actually being a psych major, was really into this stuff as well, so that only exacerbated my relatively tame fascination with the field. After plying me with online quizzes to help determine my enneagram type (“of course you’re a tri-type,” she groaned, “you never could fit into a box, could you?”) she moved on to love languages.

Our friendship was fraying at that point anyways, so I ignored love languages, again. And even though the concept flitted around my brain for the next two years, I never really did much research on it. All I knew is that there are five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, quality time, and receiving gifts, and apparently understanding your partner’s language is key to a strong relationship.

And then it was my birthday. I got a 12:01 text from my best friend and fell asleep smiling. And more messages through the day from friends all over, both casual and close. E-cards from my baby cousins and my dad (well, my sister on his behalf. He still thinks that there’s a tiny someone in his computer telling him that ‘you’ve got mail!’). I got hundreds of words that day, and I have never felt so loved in my life. And that’s when it hit me. Words of affirmation. Caroline, time to do some research.

The idea of five love languages was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman. In 1995 he published his book The Five Love Languages – the Secret to Love That Lasts, and it became a New York Times bestseller in 2009. The basic premise behind love languages is that while everyone appreciates love in each of its forms, each person has one love language that’s most dominant. So you can love your partner to death and spoil them with a gift a day, but if their love language is physical touch, just they won’t feel loved.

It’s a simple concept, really. But I feel like there’s more, and I want to share my personal thoughts on the topic. Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book. I haven’t taken the quiz either; my assessment is purely from a self-knowledge perspective, as well as some casual analysis of and discussion with my friends. With this in mind, I would like to propose my theory: every person encapsulates all five love languages.

Because thinking back to that same birthday, I recalled my friend sitting next to me in calc and telling me that she had a present for me, she just couldn’t bring it to school that day. I also remember inwardly cringing, because I get so awkward about receiving gifts, and honestly, if I want something, I’ll save up for it myself. It feels better that way. So here are two love languages- my love language, and what I’ll call my un-love language, the language that makes me feel uncomfortable.

And then I was talking to my sister, who told me that she found love languages so funny, because what she likes getting is different from how she actually shows affection. And I realized I’m like that, too; compliments and words keep me going, but I rarely dole out any of my own. Instead, I am all about acts of service. And the flip side to that is the love language I have the hardest time giving, which for me is physical touch. And the final love language is your neutral one.

So what does this mean?

It means love languages are a little more complex than they appear. Because it’s no longer simply about identifying your and your partner’s love languages; all the types have to be somewhat compatible. Because if the one language I can’t stomach is quality time and my partner craves it, then it takes extra effort on my part to fix myself and my aversion to quality time to make sure my partner feels love.

Because at the end of the day, I believe that the point of love languages is to become comfortable giving and receiving each and every one of them. Obviously, you will always have an innate preference, and that’s perfectly okay! But I would be knocking out a good 2/5, maybe 3/5 of the world if I only stuck to people whose preferences for showing and accepting love were exactly compatible with mine.

And one final thought; I think love languages are for more than relationships. I think every friendship, every encounter with a parent or child or sibling can only be strengthened when you know their love language and engage them with it. Loving isn’t exclusive to a romantic relationship.

2016 Summarized by Music

2016. What a year!

It was definitely a memorable year and a year that will be hard to forget. So much happened in all aspects of life including politics, music, art, lifestyle, science, technology and general news.

It was a hard year for many people, including myself. Events throughout the world shook me to my core. Since 2016 was such a defining year to me, I figured it had to be monumental to other people as well.

I channeled 2016 into something creative, which is why this article will not be the usual content I write for Loud and Alive. I created a playlist of music that summarizes, defines and illuminates the past year. It’s creative, different, and something we can all connect to.

Below you will find songs I picked out that I associate 2016 with, which means they are of all different genres, time periods and by different people.

However, while I have tried to use world events and achievements, most of the song choices have been influenced by events in my world which could be very different from yours.

And with that, enjoy!

 

 

Where Is The Love? – The Black Eyed Peas

This song first came out in 2003 but the band redid it in September of 2016. I associate so many events with this song. Many of the instances of police brutality in the United States reminded me of this song. The PULSE club shooting in Orlando. Syria’s civil war and the humanitarian crisis. Attacks in Belgium, Nice, Turkey. And everything the song talks about. 2016 was a year where I found hate and fear dominated the world and this song speaks to that.

 

 

 

 

Sorry or Formation – Beyoncé

2016 may have not been the most inspiring year for women, but to me I think it had a lot of amazing instances of women power, especially women of color. Beyoncé’s songs convey that strength and power we have seen from women and women of color. A few instances include Simone Biles, Simone Manuel, and Almaz Ayana at the Olympics. Michelle Obama and her speeches throughout the US elections. Hillary Clinton and her historic run for president. Angela Merkel and her time as Chancellor of Germany.  2016 was full of instances where women were unapologetic and powerful.

 

 

 

Freedom – Beyonce ft. Kendrick Lamar

This song is described as an anthem for black girl power and that is exactly what it is. The song talks about racism throughout the United States and women’s issues, both of which were major focuses in the US. Black Lives Matter took the country by storm and continues to fight in a highly publicized way. Women’s rights came under attack during the US elections and protests around the issues have been organized. In my mind, this highly energized track is the anthem for protests.

 

 

 

Controversy – Prince

2016 was a year we lost so many beautiful voices and artistic minds including Prince. So I had to include at least one of his songs in this playlist. I chose this specific song because I think it speaks to the division of people in 2016 and the labels that were used to define people. Immigrant. Black. White. Latino. Asian. Gay. Transgender. “We are all just the same.”

 

 

 

Heroes – David Bowie

Another musical voice we lost in 2016. He was so influential, especially in rock music, so of course I had to include him. If we need to be reminded of love, inspiration and aspirations at the end of any year, it has to be 2016. I know Bowie is desperate to have his love and be a hero just for a day, but so much can happen in a day. Hero for a day sounds pretty good.

 

 

 

Make it Happen – Mariah Carey

Are you confused by this song choice? I wasn’t planning on putting it in this playlist if I’m being honest. But 2016 was a year where people made stuff happen. South Korea impeached their president. The construction of the DAPL was halted due to protests. Civil protests throughout the world have brought publicity to certain issues that affect communities. Those people are making change happen.

 

 

Light the Sky – Grace Vanderwaal

If you’ve seen Google’s year in review video, you’ll know that this song was used. 2016 emphasized being yourself even when the entire world is yelling at you to be someone else or to go somewhere else. LGBT citizens refused to cower after the PULSE shooting. Women continue to fight for their rights even after Trump was elected. Black Lives Matter protestors are not backing down from the important issues they fight for. Minority communities have been told this year to shut up and sit down, yet they refuse. They will continue to shine bright.

 

 

 

Alright – Kendrick Lamar

This song is one of the best rap/hip hop songs I know. Lamar perpetuates the idea that even through suffering and pain (mainly the black community in the United States) we will be alright. The song was used as an anthem for Black Lives Matter and since the movement only grew in 2016, it is fitting to include this song in this playlist. People continue to fight discrimination and this song acknowledges it.

 

 

 

Stand by me  – Ben E. King

I know that division was a recurring theme in 2016. I felt it through Trump’s victory, the vote for Brexit, the divide between natural citizens and immigrants, the divide between different faiths. However, I also saw unity and support from so many communities. When people lined up to donate blood to victims of the Orlando shooting. When people joined together to protest the bathroom laws in North Carolina. When people of all different races joined together to stand up to the DAPL. When support for “Emily Doe” in the Stanford rape case poured in. When people of all different backgrounds joined to reject the bigotry the Trump presidency perpetuated. 2016 showcased the humanity in so many people.

 

 

 

Imagine – John Lennon

The song is a plea for unity and peace. Something everyone should be hoping for after this year. Let’s imagine a place where we all can be together.

 

 

The Currents – Bastille

This song was inspired by the bigotry that was so prevalent in 2016. It talks about how your words can hurt and how opinions can be hurtful. It’s something I’m sure so many felt throughout the year. Words define who we are and we cannot let the words of the world be filled with hate and fear. The song does an amazing job about talking about the power of ‘just words.’

 

 

 

Faith – George Michael

I think this song is the perfect song to close out this playlist. We lost George Michael this year as well and he was such a monumental figure not only in music, but in civil rights as well.

 

2016 was hurtful, divisive, disheartening, and just plain horrible. But it was also filled with hope, unity, power, and beauty. We have to have faith in our ability to be humane, to be sympathetic and to be good people. We have to have faith in hope and the prospect that life will be alright in the future.