To continue the trend of me not getting into games until they’ve been out for a year or so, I’ve been playing Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games’s adventure for the PS4 that follows Aloy, a young woman tasked with discovering why the dangerous machines near her home are going crazy and murdering people. When I looked into what this game was about, I felt sold immediately. It has everything I like: a strong female protagonist, robot animals, beautiful settings, and lots and lots of sidequests. The A.V. Club’s Clayton Purdom calls Horizon Zero Dawn a “map game,” which isn’t completely fair. Yes, it’s a game where the player is invited to explore a map and complete quests in different areas of the map, but it also does a good job of building a complex world full of robots and intricate social hierarchies.
On February 15th, Marvel released the highly anticipated Black Panther movie, directed by Creed's Ryan Coogler and featuring a star-studded cast including Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o . . . the list goes on. Did the movie live up to the hype? Mary and Emily are here to provide their spoiler-filled opinions.
Emily: Let me turn on the Black Panther soundtrack for this. I advise our readers do the same.
Mary: So, like the rest of the world, Black Panther has been on our radar for a while now. The new Marvel film features an all star cast, high budget special effects, and a look at something we haven’t seen before from Marvel: world building (on earth).
The movie follows Prince T’Challa, the successor to the throne of Wakanda, as he takes his place as the Black Panther, the mystical, powerful protector of the nation. However, as he journeys to take down the noted thief and all around crazy person Ulysses Klaue, T’Challa discovers that there’s an even bigger threat to Wakanda’s way of life. Michael B. Jordan.
Of all the sexual misconduct stories that have come out of Hollywood since the Weinstein debacle, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I was most disappointed to read about Aziz Ansari. It’s not just because I think he’s funny and I like his work — it’s because he is a person who has consistently presented himself as an ally to women. He has repeatedly self-identified as a feminist, and he doesn’t just talk the talk; with his success, he’s certainly done his part to boost the careers and voices of the women around him.
Ansari’s willingness to help women tell their stories is a huge part of what makes his alleged behavior so surprising and frustrating. It feels like a personal betrayal to so many of us who have loved his work, who’ve been following and rooting for him all along the way because he’s one of the few male voices we felt we could trust to tell our stories as well as his own. If we can’t trust someone like Aziz to understand consent in its complexity, the road ahead of us is even more difficult than we thought.
In processing my reaction to the story, I’ve been thinking about how to reconsider Ansari’s work with this new context: in particular, Master of None, a show I’ve enjoyed immensely (and one I’m not so sure will ever get that third season after all). When Season 2 first dropped on Netflix, it was met with a flood of praise, but in the weeks following its release, people had some questions: specifically about the viability and likability of Dev’s love interest, Francesca. People were starting to realize that Francesca, as a character, was poorly drawn. Think pieces were written, and ultimately, the general consensus seemed to be that Francesca’s lack of depth was most likely intentional.
At the time, I believed this too. There was no way a writer as intelligent as Ansari would have written such a flat character without an underlying motivation for doing so. Now, of course, I’m not so sure. With what’s come to light, I thought it might be interesting to reexamine Francesca and her romance with Dev — not as a clever statement about modern romance, but as a failure on Ansari’s part to convey (or even grasp) the complexity and nuance of romantic relationships with women.
Before knowing how this whole show would shake out, I decided I wanted to write a blog post about the 2018 Golden Globes...
There are general assumptions I make about this first major ceremony of the awards season. Mainly, that most celebs will be super drunk by the end of it. Also, the winners are usually a bit less predictable than the awards shows that follow because, first of all, it's the first show of the season so we're not sure how movies are going to trend just yet, and secondly, it's the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and they're just a little more edgy than the Academy, which from what I can tell is still just a bunch of boring old white people.
But here's something I should have expected for this particular show. I would have prepared myself for it had I been paying more attention. Clearly I'm an irresponsible amateur blogger, however, so I wasn't fully prepared for how hardcore everyone was going to be about trying to out-feminist one another last night. I haven't been living under a rock, so I did know that everyone was going to be wearing all black to protest all of the terrible dudes in Hollywood. I also knew that #MeToo was a thing. So give me some credit here.
Nonetheless, last night, overall, was just super weird. Most of it felt disingenuous, or if you're a Bachelor fan, disingenuine (no, that will never get old for me). But I don't want to sit here and point fingers at what celebs were true feminists and which were just wannabe poseurs. What I do want to do is give out some awards of my own for the best/worst/weirdest shit that went down last night. So here it goes.
Mary: So The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is a young adult novel by Mackenzi Lee that has swept the young adult world by storm a bit. The novel is a piece of historical fiction, following young Monty and his best friend and traveling companion Percy as they embark on their Grand Tour around Europe. The boys are to take in the sights and sounds of Europe, escorted by a guide hired by Monty's father and Monty's younger sister Felicity. BUT things go awry when the group is ambushed by highwaymen. And it's just all hijinks from there. This book has a little bit of everything, which I really enjoyed--historical notes, adventure, romance, pirates (!), alchemy, and mysteryyyyyy!
Emily: Yeah so like... read on for spoilers I guess? Cause there will probably be some?
Mary: Yes, major spoilers.
Can I be totally honest with y’all and tell you the reason why I’m not an animal person? They’re too easily won. I know you’re gonna say I’m wrong, animals are really smart, they’re intuitive about people’s intent, they will guard your house, et cetera. I think it stands to reason, though, that they guard your house because you’ve trained them to do it. That if, let’s say, a gangster drug dealer trained his pitbull to attack you, they’d guard his house and him, too.
I point this out to say that if the family in The Witch hadn’t trusted their many animals, all that shit might not have gone down the way that it did.
I just need to make myriad worldview statements first before I get to my points about The Witch, because I want y’all to consider perspective when contemplating the genius of this movie, and it’s important to me that you know where I’m coming from so you can see this one perspective, which I haven’t seen addressed yet.
Here are two important things that I want to say about the nature of evil and my Christian upbringing:
[**Here’s where the spoilers start. If you haven’t seen The Witch yet, go stream it on Amazon Prime —you get a free year trial with an .edu address!—but do it in the light of day, with a friend who you know and trust. It is seriously SO GOOD. Truly beautiful and compelling. I really can’t oversell it.]
I first heard of the CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend when I saw an advertisement for it at the subway station nearest my apartment. The poster featured a woman in a pink dress holding a heart-shaped balloon, the show’s title beside her in the boldest typeface possible: CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND. Beneath that, a rogue feminist had pasted a sticker, one I’ve seen plastered to many different subway displays — usually plastic surgery ads with language implying that if you have boobs, they probably aren’t big enough. The sticker says: This insults women.
I looked at the ad for a few moments more, thought, ‘huh, I guess that’s true,’ and continued on my way.
It wasn’t until a few months later that I listened to an episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour — one of my most trusted sources for recommendations — and learned, to my surprise, that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is not an insult to women at all. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite.
It’s been more than a year since then, and with its third season premiering later this month, Rachel Bloom’s absurdist musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has wormed its way into the hearts of many, myself (and Emmy voters) included. However, despite the show’s critical acclaim, there are still quite a few people who haven’t watched it and don’t plan to anytime soon, either because they have preconceived notions about it based on the title (like I used to), or because there is, quite frankly, a shitload of good television to catch up on, and the CW doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to “peak TV.”
So, if you’re one of those people who has yet to give Crazy Ex-Girlfriend a chance, I am writing this for YOU — to convince you that if you aren’t watching it yet, you really, really should be. You can find my top five reasons after the cut.
Perhaps the best thing about this season of American Horror Story was the two-minute trailer for mother!, Oscar-winning filmmaker Darren Aronofsky’s newest project. The preview promises a psychological thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple who live in a beautiful, secluded mansion, which—to the dismay of Lawrence (the eponymous Mother) and the delight of Bardem (known only as Him)—is soon invaded by two strangers played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfieffer (credited as Man and Woman, respectively).
Friday afternoon we went into the theater knowing little more than this basic premise and that the movie was meant to be an artful, fatalistic meditation on the destructive and irredeemable nature of mankind. Mother! picks up on themes of religious failure and climatic disaster introduced in Aronofsky’s previous film, the remarkably unremarkable Biblical epic Noah. In his latest project, Aronofsky returns to Judeo-Christian mythology for inspiration, this time with a heavy-handed Biblical allegory about humanity’s destruction of the earth. Even so, with a title like mother!, one might reasonably expect to see a film more obviously concerned with women. In a recent interview, Lawrence describes the movie as “incredibly feminist,” but suggests it’s “much bigger,” echoing Aronofsky’s insistence that the film engages with universal allegories that are “not male or female, it’s all of us.” But what we actually get is a (probably not very self-aware) film about how men use women.
Beyond the cut are many, many spoilers. You have been warned.
Ten minutes and forty seconds into the first episode of the Homecoming podcast, David Schwimmer deadpans: “Heidi, I’m gonna stop you right there.” It’s a situation that many women have found themselves in countless times -- their expert opinions being overridden by mansplainers. In Homecoming, the role of women — in particular, Heidi Bergman — is pivotal, deeply frustrating, and also true to life. In this way, Homecoming is a show that makes the point of view of women a dynamic and realistic one.
About the Blog
The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.