Plain Good Telly Rec: Hotel Beau Séjour

Kato

My weekends are a sacred time. I use them to sleep-in and unwind from the week before. If I’m feeling cheeky, I’ll hit up a local bunch spot with my friends (bottomless peach Bellinis anyone?). But usually, I spend them catching up on the shows I missed and maybe discovering a few hidden gems on Netflix. Last weekend, I hit the jackpot. I decided to watch the Belgian series Hotel Beau Séjour on a complete whim and I was hooked before the end of the first episode.

The premise of Hotel Beau Séjour is this: after a night out at her small town’s shooting festival, Kato wakes up on a hotel bed dazed and covered in blood. After taking a few moments to reorient herself, she gets up and walks into the bathroom where she sees her own corpse tossed into the bathtub.  She has no recollection of the night before or of who murdered her.

Only five people can see her while she roams around as the living dead. In addition to finding out who killed Kato, another central mystery of the series becomes discovering why they possess this ability. These “seers” include Kato's father, step-sister, an attractive stranger, the local police chief, and one of her childhood friends.

Generally, when I choose to watch a crime show, I prefer instant gratification. I have made it through eleven seasons of Criminal Minds, but I find it nearly impossible to sit through more drawn-out shows like Broadchurch, Happy Valley, and The Fall. I like to see the crime happen and then “catch” the killer all within a 50-60 minute sitting.

Full disclosure, Hotel Beau Séjour is nothing like that.

The pacing is a slow burn. The setting is drab, creepy, and foreboding. And as we know from Twin Peaks and Riverdale, there is always something ominous about a small town murder.

The ten episodes in this series are filled with frustrating coverups by those in power, exposed secrets, and tragic plot twists. These elements are all mindfully sprinkled in to make sure your scent is completely thrown off by the end.  After a marathon of suspense and build-up, once the killer is finally revealed, it is the most bittersweet release.

Once I finished on Sunday, I could not stop thinking about it. I tried to find articles about it and maybe  a few gif-sets to reblog on my tumblr. But the fandom landscape is bleak, y'all. So do us both a favor and go watch this show as soon as you can (...preferably while sending me a livestream of your thoughts while doing so).

Spring Resolutions

spring Well pals, we’ve made it. Today is the first official day of spring. If I stand in the sun, avoid the still-frozen patches of snow and ice, and have my jacket firmly zipped up to my neck, it even feels like it.

While we’re still a few more weeks away from constant sunshine, my ride to work felt hopeful in a way I always associate with the springtime. For me, spring feels more like a rebirth and renewal than January and New Year’s ever has. Which is why, this morning I decided to do something a little different. I’ve made a list of my spring "resolutions", if you will. I’ve come up with five small things that will hopefully make me more productive in both my professional and personal lives. Here goes:

  • Write more. Pitch more.  I have a terrible habit: I avoid and pass up too many writing opportunities because I don’t feel confident enough in my ability. I constantly and consistently second guess myself. I plan to spend this season making an active attempt to stop this self-sabotage and take more professional risks. 
  • Cook more meals at home. It’s obviously both cheaper and healthier. But more importantly, I find the act of cooking extremely soothing and it works wonders at quelling my anxiety.
  • Watch more films on Netflix. Not to sound like the pretentious dude at the back of your Dramatic Writing uni lecture but, indie films are awesome. When I go on a Netflix-bender, I tend to watch or re-watch the more obvious stuff. Parks and Rec, The Office, It’s Always Sunny….etc. I always forget that Netflix is kind of a landmine for the more quirky and off-beat stuff.
  • Visit my family more. Okay it’s massively cliche, but I honestly don’t think you appreciate stuff like this until you’re older. One of my favorite warm-weather activities is sitting out on my grandma’s deck, drinking rum cocktails, and gossiping with my aunts and cousins while my dad insists on blasting dancehall through his Bluetooth speakers. I am absolutely itching for a night like that.
  • Save money more aggressively. It always easier to do this when I have in a specific goal in mind. London is my favorite place on the planet, and while I was able to make a trip in October 2016, I’m already getting that ball of longing at the pit of my stomach whenever I think about it. I’m hoping to return sooner rather later.

Dancehall As Self-Care

dancehall-2 As both an August baby and a second generation Caribbean, I find myself operating at prime levels during the spring and summer months. My ideal weather is 75-80 degrees and sunny. Part of the reason I enjoy warm weather so much is because it reminds me of the family parties of my youth. I come from a very colorful Jamaican family who loves any reason to eat, drink, and party together. And the most important aspect of any Jamaican party, of course, is the music. Some of my earliest memories include little-Shanicka getting lulled to sleep by muffled bass-lines as the bashment continued in another part of the house.

During the cold and bleak winter months, I've relized that the easiest way to capture the spirit and energy of the summertime is to fill my Spotify playlists with dancehall and soca music. As soon as the riddim comes thundering through my speakers I can almost see my dad and uncles sitting around the domino table while their icy Heineken bottles get cloudy and wet with condensation.  And my aunt with an apron tied around her dress so that the curry goat and brown stew chicken don't stain her outfit. And my cousins with their paper plates piled high even though none of them helped with the cooking. And my grandma on the make-shift dancefloor, because at these parties age is no excuse for not dancing.

We're still a few more weeks away from the first day of spring and consistent warm weather. Until then I'll keep both the heat and volume on full blast while I whine up mi waist to the following tunes (and I encourage you to go the same):

  1. "Fever" by Vybz Kartel
  2. "So Mi Like It" by Spice
  3. "Calling in Sick" by King Bubba
  4. "Dip & Ride" by Destra Garcia
  5. "All Day In" by Konshens
  6. "Whine & Kotch" by Charly Black and J Capri
  7. "Remedy (Refix)" by Machel Montana and Shaggy
  8. "Only U" by PARTYNEXTDOOR
  9.  "Love Yuh Bad" by Popcaan
  10. "I Know There's Gonna Be Good Times (Dre Skull Remix)" by Jamie xx, Popcaan, Assassin, Konshens, and Kranium

 

 

Plain Good Telly Rec: Shadowhunters

139982_Circle_1291Winter is usually super difficult for me. I hate the cold. I hate the snow. And I hate how dark the evenings get. From the January to March I turn into a sentient blanket burrito. This year hasn’t been that bad for me and I know I have to give thanks, in part, to the unseasonably warm temperatures in New York (that pesky global warming strikes again). But I’ve also found solace in a cozy new fandom space. In honor of its winter break finale, I felt it only right to discuss my fairly recent television obsession: Shadowhunters. Though Shadowhunters is a Freeform network series clearly aimed for a teen audience, what it lacks in steamy makeout scenes, it makes up for in campy, supernatural adventure.

When I first decided to started watching after the recommendation of friend, I won’t lie, I was ready to tap out after the pilot. The acting somehow felt both stilted and over the top. The wardrobe and makeup was terrible (if I ever get a hold of Kat McNamara’s wig, I’d like to be the one responsible for setting fire to it). And above all, they kept trying to convince me, the viewer and native New Yorker, that the show takes place in Brooklyn. Even with the artfully injected stock footage, I found it very difficult and distracting at times to suspend my disbelief.

But every show has growing pains! I stuck by Clary and the Lightwoods. With season two came a bigger budget and the cast members themselves grew more confident and secure. As a direct result the characters felt more well-rounded and easy to connect with and love.

Queer representation within the media is always tricky thing. The ultimate goal is to have fully-fleshed and realistic characters who have healthy platonic and romantic relationships. I crave romantic relationships that are tender and compassionate without being watered down to it more palatable to the heterosexual but not explicit and over-sexualized to the point of fetishism.

I say all of that to say this: the relationship between Magnus and Alec (or "Malec" as they are affectionately referred to within the SH fandom) is one of my favorite queer couples on television currently. From day one the relationship always been about open and clear communication. They are allowed to argue and disagree, but more importantly they are given a change to talk and listen and move forward. Together. Stronger.

Shadowhunters isn’t perfect. Can any show ever truly be? But every week I find myself genuinely looking forward to new episodes and for now that’s more than enough.

show me your teeth.

 

The concept of the male gaze as explained in Laura Mulvey’s 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” situates the male as the spectator and the woman as the spectacle. The man is the one who lusts and is placed in a position of dominance, while the woman is lusted after and is rendered submissive.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the male gaze and distortions of the male gaze in conjunction with “prettiness” and what it means for a female to be “pretty” within Western society. Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, two relevant figures within popular music culture always come to mind. I think both women, in similar ways, take the male gaze and disrupt it.

In many of their videos and performances both women (whether consciously or not) make themselves look grotesque or unattractive as possible. For Lady Gaga I always immediately think of her 2009 VMA performance of the song Paparazzi. She goes from being dressed in all white and donning and blond and baby pink wig to covering her face and body in blood until she is completely terrifying by the end of the song.

In the years after this performance Gaga has continued to manipulative the male gaze. From her dress made of raw meat to the horned prosthetics she donned during her Born this Way promotions, she has always made it extremely difficult for anyone to solely categorize her as a “sex symbol.” And while I have other issues (a laundry list of issues, in fact) with Lady Gaga, this is an aspect of her persona that I admire.

Nicki Minaj, as a black woman, is already hypersexualized and objectified on a regular basis. Her “ugliness” is perhaps even more important and even more transgressive than Lady Gaga’s, her white counterpart. You can watch any live performance or music video of Nicki’s (preferably her bit in “Monster,” a verse that is considered one of the greatest within the last five years) and I can guarantee that she will be making strange voices and twisting and/or contorting her face in every scene.

Hip hop music, in particular, gets a bad rap (no pun intended) for its sexist and vulgar content. But Minaj is always in control of the male gaze. She can be sultry and sensual in one scene but she can (and often does) pull back and ruin the male fantasy with a quirk of her lips and baring of her teeth in the next few seconds.

Before I close, I’d like to be explicit in stating there is nothing wrong with women who choose to own and embrace their sexualities and statuses as sex symbols. That’s great. There’s nothing “un-feminist” about it.

However, it is interesting and refreshing to watch two individuals choose to do the opposite. Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj are not afraid to look grotesque and unattractive. Being ugly without fear of consequence is not something to which women have been conditioned. For two prominent figures to own their ugliness and display it frequently and unapologetically, is something worth noting.

– s.

defend teen girls (or 'how one direction saved my life').

I love One Direction.

After a quick browse through any of my social media accounts one will find that in between my angry feminists posts are just as many (or more, depending on who you ask) posts about how much I want to bang Harry Styles.

In January of 2012 I was going through my lowest low to date. I was in the middle of my year abroad in London and it was everything I had wanted for as long as I can remember. But, depression is a crafty beast. Even if your life is going swimmingly, your brain has way of making you feel like it is not. For over a month I was too sad to leave my room. Too sad to sleep. Too sad to eat. And far too sad to talk to anyone about it.

But then I discovered One Direction…and instead of pondering the state of my miserable existence at four in the morning, I was awake watching their old X-Factor performances on youtube. And instead of spending hours talking to my manipulative ex-boyfriend, I spent hours talking to my new 20-something fandom friends about the ever-changing state of Zayn Malik’s quiff.

Those boys and all their pop glory pulled me out of my hole and for that I am eternally grateful.

The thing with One Direction, besides the fact that they are all gorgeous and talented(this isn’t up for debate) is, their existence alone challenges the rigid structure of hegemonic masculinity. Their open unguarded affection for one another is primarily what attracted me. They dole out hugs, kisses, and cheeky nipple tweaks like chocolate chip cookies at a bake sale. Seeing such unapologetic behavior between heterosexual-presenting males (without a need to affirm “no homo” every moment) was refreshing.

But on an even larger scale, boy bands are generally important because they provide teen girls with a safe outlet to explore their sexualities. And for young girls who are just growing into themselves and their bodies, healthy exploration is better than being shamed and silenced.

Teen girls get a bad rap.

Not only are they bombarded with images that implore them to strive for unattainable perfection, but any piece of media they actively enjoy is automatically deemed “less than” and loses credibility (i.e. One Direction).

Many (ahem…douchey, male, music elitists) conveniently forget that if it weren’t for a passionate group of teen girls, The Beatles wouldn’t have achieved even half of their success. And in the present day, teen girls have managed to propel one direction into the realm of super stardom. Teen girls have made them into the first billion dollar boy band (and yes, if you’re keeping track, even bigger than The Beatles).

So the next time you want to scoff and turn your nose up at One Direction (or the next IT pop star of the moment) remember this: Teen girls are beautiful, strong, and ultimately, they are a goddamn force to be reckoned with.

in defense of lorde.

One of my fave albums of the year has been Lorde’s Pure Heroine.

It felt like once I “discovered” her on a tumblr audio post, she was suddenly everywhere. She was all over the radio (both on the urban and top 40 stations), all over youtube, and all over the music television channels. Initially, I was excited for her. She was so young and so talented. I wanted everyone to love her as much as I quickly starting to.

But along with her popularity, came a lot of bad press.

Magazine and blog headlines labelled her a “hater.” And even after reading her quotes in interviews, I couldn’t understand why everyone was so eager to aim their targets at her for simply for speaking her mind.

When I was 17, I was awkward, miserable, and completely uncomfortable in my body. I didn’t talk to many people and I could count my circle of friends on one hand. Back at age 17, I had no knowledge of social justice and “feminism” was still a dirty word to me. If my present day self met my teenage self, I would have been horrified and offended by my own moral compass (or lack thereof)

This is why when Lorde claims her feminist title proudly and I watch people (especially older women) roll their eyes and brush her off, I get extremely angry.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why it’s more important for an artist like Rihanna to get her feminist credit where it’s due, or why it’s more important for Zendaya (who is also 17 but an artist of color) to get the support, time, and attention she deserves.

But, I also desperately long for people to acknowledge the good in Lorde and why her existence in the media is notable.

She is incredibly self-possessed and isn’t afraid to speak her mind (though, it is important to note that some might say that this is because of her white privilege. [She is able to speak more freely without fear of consequence]). But, this does not erase the fact that she is still being placed unnecessarily on a frenzied media chopping block.

When I brought Lorde up over drinks with a few friends, they told me they didn’t like her because she was “trying too hard to sound intelligent. ” This frustrated me because I am sick of witnessing teen girls being brushed off and silenced. They are dismissed too quickly and too often. Even if she isn’t the most eloquent (and is this even a valid criticism? How eloquent were you at 17?), at least she is thinking critically.

Thinking critically about pop culture and finding confidence within her own thought process and conclusions, is a revolutionary act for a teenage girl within our society. For me, that alone is 100% more important than every misquote and biased interview that I have read about Lorde.

– s.

seventeen magazine and teenie bop feminism.

I’ve always been addicted to pop culture. Even before I started analyzing it critically, I was always an active participant. When I was younger I begged my mom for magazine subscriptions; I had them all. M, J-14, Word Up!, Popstar…. you name it and it probably arrived in my mailbox monthly.

The subscription that lasted the longest and made the most impact on me was forSeventeen. Seventeen magazine was a cut above all the rest. It gave you the inside scoop on your fave celebs, and it showed you how to style your hair, how to dress, and how to talk to boys.

It taught you how to be a teen girl.

The problem with that is, not all teen girls are the same. Some teen girls reading through were bound to feel ostracized and left seeking visibility.

I remember being one of those young girls. All of the models they used were white (or white-passing), thin, and had straight hair. None of them looked like ME. And that was a huge problem.

Fast foward a few years and here I am again. This time in my twenties and with aSeventeen subscription that I didn’t need (but came as a free prize for an online contest).Seventeen has come a long way. A couple issues back I was pleasantly surprised to see a relaxed hair care segment, plus-size (and actual plus-size, not just tall girls with “curvy” figures) fashion tips, a makeup guide for dark skin tones, and a multi-page article for quinceañera-planning. Us brown girls are finally being represented and it feels great!

I was more than willing to take these developments as progress. I didn’t think the writers and editors could impress me anymore. And then I received the April 2014 issue.

Beyond all of the hair and clothing articles was one entitled “So…are you a feminist”? That alone was enough to get me perked up and interested. Granted, I was fully expecting to leave the magazine annoyed and offended.

I’ve never been more glad to be wrong.

The article lays out the feminism debate in a great way.

It highlights the celebs who claim their feminist titles and wear them as a “bad-ass badge of honor,” and it shows a few naysayers (Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, and Carrie Underwood). But mostly, the article attempts to break down “feminism” that is accessible to most young girls. And that is so important. With subheadings within the piece like “You do you,” which affirms that all girls are not the same, “Forget the haters,” which urges girls to exercise their autonomy, and lastly “Be a girl superfan,” in which the author encourages readers to do away with girl hate.

Seventeen magazine isn’t perfect (there are still pages dedicated to booty-sculpting workouts, diets, and tips to get “that guy to notice you”). And some may argue that another cutesy brand of non-intersectional girl power feminism is the last thing we need. While, I agree to a certain extent (intersectionality will always be the most important aspect of my feminism) this is better than nothing. When I was growing up there was no brown girl visibility between the covers of pop magazines and there definitely was no feminist visibility. Seeing both within pages of this month’s issue was refreshing and a long time coming.