Earlier this week, North Korea fired a missile over Japan. Trump has still been up to his usual hijinks. Everything current event-wise is kind of terrible. In the wake of a terrible world, I’ve been catching up on a show that’s new to me--Fresh Off the Boat.
Eddie Huang, author of the memoir ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat is based on, hates the show. He says he doesn’t recognize his life in the sitcom, and blames Nahnatchka Khan for his grievances. I’ve never read Huang’s book, but I can see how the sitcom style of Fresh Off the Boat feels like a bad approximation of a life. Then again, Eddie Huang is a culinary bad boy that thrives on being part of the counter culture of the day, so I’m not sure what ABC could have done to make the show in his image. While TV Eddie (Hudson Yang) listens to rap music and uses slang, he doesn’t seem to capture the hipster-chic persona of the real life Huang.
Regardless of Huang’s feelings, the show is good. A Chinese-American family that doesn’t feel like a complete stereotype is refreshing. Yes, there are episodes focused on cultural difference—like those that feature Jessica’s sister and mother—but on the whole, the show is funny and somewhat political, much in the same vein as Black-ish, another ABC favorite.
I’m a recent fan of the show of the show, and I’ve found myself loving the show in a way I haven’t loved a show in a long time. The true joy of the show, and what really sets it apart from other sitcoms, is the dynamic between Louis and Jessica (played by Randall Park and Constance Wu, respectively), the parents of the show. They’re married, and they have three kids, but they don’t suffer the stereotypes of so many sitcom couples.
Emily: Let's just get straight into it. We're wrapping up our Summer YA Book Club Reading Series (TM) with The Sun is Also A Star, by Nicola Yoon (author of Everything, Everything, which was just turned into movie starring Rue from the Hunger Games all grown up and beautiful, but anyway, back to the book at hand). This novel follows two teenagers as they meet and fall in love over the course of a single day in NYC. Natasha is an undocumented immigrant who is about to get deported with her family back to Jamaica. Daniel is the son of South Korean immigrants who are pushing him to apply to Yale and become a doctor when all he really wants to do is daydream about love and write poetry. When Natasha and Daniel first meet, Daniel is convinced they are destined to be together, but Natasha is obviously skeptical. So Daniel vows to spend the rest of the day convincing her to fall in love with him. If the plot itself seems a bit too tried and true, the narrative style definitely adds a twist to the story. In between Daniel and Natasha's alternating POV chapters, we get chapters from many other people who pass through their story, including my favorite, the suicidal security guard. The narrative style seems like a good place to start with this novel. Mary, how did you feel about the way Yoon decided to tell this story?
Mary: Yes, I love it. Typically HATE YA romance because it's so cliche at this point, but Yoon does a fantastic job of showing how everyone's story is connected--everyone is connected! I haven't loved a love story this much since Eleanor and Park (Kelli is somewhere cringing at that I bet).
Ingrid Goes West surprised me.
I try not to have too many expectations going into movies these days, but once I saw the trailer for Matt Spicer’s feature directorial debut, I had a pretty good idea of how I would react to the film. Going in, I was expecting a reasonably funny (albeit gimmicky) Aubrey Plaza-driven romp through California — one of those quirky Sundance comedies that does its job as entertainment but fails to sustain itself after a first viewing because it doesn't say or do anything that’s not been said or done the same way before. I thought I’d probably like it — not love it — for the same reasons, and that I’d forget about it after a couple of hours and move on with my life.
Two days later, I’m still thinking about it. In fact, I imagine that I will be thinking about this film for a long time. It may have a plot summary that reads like a clickbait article, but this film is so much more than a comedy about an Instagram stalker. Grounded by a career-best performance from Aubrey Plaza and a surprisingly likable cast of supporting characters, Ingrid Goes West is a film about mental illness, grief, and the way we interact with social media when we think no one is watching us (or when we hope someone is).
Conversations with Friends seems an inappropriate title for Sally Rooney’s debut novel about two young students in Ireland getting mixed up romantically with a couple in their thirties. There aren't a whole lot of conversations between platonic friends in this book, which is an examination of romantic love more than a book about friendship. The publisher describes Rooney’s novel as “a sharply intelligent novel about friendship, lust, jealousy, and the unexpected complications of adulthood in the twenty-first century.” I think this description is getting closer to what's going on here.
The main character Frances suffers through a lot of contemporary adult problems throughout the novel, but one of the big “complications of adulthood” for her is how problematic all of her relationships are. As an artist and a student, Frances likes to present herself to the world as a feminist and a non-traditionalist, and yet her heart betrays her head. How can she have a friendship with the ex-girlfriend who dumped her? How can she have a romantic relationship with a married man? How can she have an uncomplicated friendship with that man’s wife? These are the things she wants, and yet her desires and her belief system don’t always play well together.
This Monday’s Bachelorette finale episode was not everyone’s favorite.
There are lots of reasons for this, but one of the main phrases I saw people using on Twitter was “winner by default,” implying that Bryan Abasolo only won because Peter Kraus didn’t want to propose.
It’s easy to see why people might think this way. After all, the episode focused much more closely on Rachel and Peter’s breakup than it did on Rachel and Bryan’s budding relationship. And any scenes of tension between Rachel and Peter throughout the season were centered on his readiness to propose, so the audience walked away feeling like this was the only thing standing in Peter’s way.
In reality, that’s probably not true.
Playing at Insanity and the Art of Self-Aware Fangirling: A Conversation About The Public Theater's HAMLET
In case you missed the pictures on Instagram, Kelli and Emily recently went to see The Public Theater's production of Hamlet, starring Oscar Isaac in the titular role. Without further ado (about nothing), here are their thoughts, feelings, and fangirlings about the play...
Emily: So Hamlet is this little off-Broadway play by this playwright named William Shakespeare.
Kelli: A real up-and-comer.
Emily: You might recognize him from his work on Julius Caesar earlier this summer. His work is showing a lot of promise, and I look forward to whatever he comes out with next. But okay, so like, let's be real. For like two minutes. Hamlet is Hamlet. We all know what it is. We all know what happens in it. Everyone dies (spoiler). So why did we go see this particular Hamlet production, Kelli?
Emily has already covered many of the things I loved about The National Theatre’s production of Angels in America, including Andrew Garfield’s stunning performance and questionable comments about what it means to be a gay man in America (I like RuPaul’s Drag Race, too, Andrew, and I’m not a gay man as far as I can tell). One thing Emily and I both agree on is how fantastic Harper is. As one of the few women in the play, Denise Gough shines as Harper, commanding attention each time she’s on the stage. Harper is funny, sad, and above all, strong. She also inhabits a liminal space for much of the play, a nowhere place somewhere between delusion and dream, where she meets Prior and sees visions of her husband Joe. Harper’s visions are one reason why audiences and scholars have called Angels in America magical realism, or something close to it.
I have to disagree. Magical realism, in this case, might be a way of shirking off the more painful reality of the play: Harper’s mental illness.
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The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.