Not a Damsel: Female Agency in Today’s Horror

The horror genre has, of course, evolved since the days of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (friendly reminder that the genre itself was, indeed, established by a woman–consider, though, that she wrote from a man’s perspective which surely contributed to the novel’s success). But I would argue there’s still progress to be made. Even some of the timeless classic films hinge on the idea that the “token blonde” dies first, or is the only one to die at all, or has to be saved by a man, or serves no purpose other than to be viewed as a sexual object (see Creature of the Black Lagoon or My Bloody Valentine for reference). Supernatural, which has aired on the CW for over a decade, doesn’t usually feature female characters for more than one or two seasons, and it’s almost always the three principal men who save the world from destruction.

But I digress. Instead of listening who’s done it wrong, I’m going to take some time to tell you what to watch and listen to for good, scary fun that does women right. Don’t cover your eyes for these–you won’t want to miss them.

Continue reading “Not a Damsel: Female Agency in Today’s Horror”


Star Trek: Discovery is More “Trek” Than You Think

Set phasers to do your research.

Nine episodes of the newest addition to the Roddenberry franchise, Star Trek: Discovery, have been released on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on Netflix around the world. I’ve watched them all, and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience so far. Of course, new characters, new CGI, and an expansion of the lore I know and love are all aspects I’m still getting used to.

But the extreme hate from many Trekkies is something I definitely wasn’t expecting––and something I don’t really want to have to adjust to at all. Discovery has already been renewed for a second season (Yay!), but that hasn’t stopped the hate––in fact, it’s increased it tenfold.

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I write this not to invalidate such opinions, but to nudge along a gentle reminder––Star Trek, in all its television incarnations, has always had political and social undertones. It has always aimed to understand and pick apart humanity and all its flaws. The best thing about the franchise, at least for me, is that it’s not just about flashy interplanetary battles––it’s about the best and worst of our species; it’s about what we are and what we could be.

I will start by saying, to be fair, that a lot of the anger stems from CBS’ “money-making” technique of forcing U.S. viewers to by CBS All-Access in order to see Discovery. Historically, Trek has been available to viewers for on primetime cable, and this seems like a step backwards for a lot of viewers who grew up with the shows and have stuck to traditional cable. However, CBS is attempting, as many major networks are, to create revenue through streaming services in light of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon’s successes. Introducing a show in a major franchise for a streaming service was probably the best idea CBS could’ve had. After all, CBS All Access sales have doubled since Discovery began.

All that said, there are those who will always resist progress. Resist new perspectives. And that’s perhaps the most anti-Trek mentality you could have.

Discovery departs from its predecessors in many ways, but it never loses where it came from. Here’s why.

Continue reading “Star Trek: Discovery is More “Trek” Than You Think”

“Belief” (Short Story)

Wrote this in a Target Starbucks recently to get my creative juices flowing. Based on the following prompt from Writing Prompts That Don’t Suck:

All this stuff needs to go in your story. Do it now: a high school ring, a diary, a crashed UFO

An Unidentified Flying Object spiraled into the ground, leaving mounds of dirt and chaos in its wake.

Julie pointed at the television and announced, “That’s not real.”

Her brother, Max, lifted his feet up on the living room coffee table, crossing one on top of the other. “Yes it is, stupid. Don’t you know The X-Files is based on the Roswell government conspiracy? We’re being lied to and nobody gives a shit.”

“Aliens aren’t real. Aaron at school says so and his mom does science.”

“Shut up, Julie.”

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8 Female TV Characters that Changed Sci-Fi

I heard recently that considering all the madness happening in the world right now, investing so much time and energy in television and movies seems fruitless. I disagree. I think art mirrors society and vice-versa, and the response to the rise of women in sci-fi and fantasy is a testament to just how much more social progress must be made.

This past Sunday, the BBC announced that Doctor Who‘s Thirteenth iteration of the classic time-traveling alien would be played by a woman, Jodie Whittaker.

Cue the outrage––from men and women alike.

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These are the nicer comments.

But it’s funny that these same die-hard fans seem to conveniently forget about all the women in their favorite franchises that helped shape the success of those franchises. And they seem to ignore that just as men love to see themselves reflected onscreen, perhaps women might too (shocker!).

For reference, here are just a few women who contributed positively to the genre nerds hold so dear. Some are main protagonists, like Thirteen will be, and some are not. The point is that they are dynamic, influential, and prove that making a character male doesn’t deem it more relevant or special to the sci-fi/fantasy canon.

Continue reading “8 Female TV Characters that Changed Sci-Fi”

Sense8 and the Power of Representation in Television

Today, June 1 — the first day of Pride Month — Netflix announced its decision to cancel its original series, Sense8, after two seasons. The announcement has been met with outrage, multiple petitions (including one that has reached over 100,000 signatures), and open opposition over social media.

I thought it was a joke at first. The show, which received critical acclaim for its unadulterated display of diversity in race, culture, gender, and sexual orientation, had its ratings increase significantly between the first and second season (79% in Season 1 to 86% in Season 2 on RottenTomatoes, for example — both seasons considered a significant “fresh” tomato). The choice to end it abruptly leaves me reeling and begging the question: When will television outlets — primetime, digital, or otherwise — recognize the importance of diversity in the 21st century?

Continue reading “Sense8 and the Power of Representation in Television”

What ’13 Reasons Why’ Got Wrong

You’ve likely heard the hype surrounding 13 Reasons Why, the new Netflix teen drama based on the novel of the same name that’s trending for its “gritty” and “real” depictions of assault, bullying, and suicide. Set at the fictional Liberty High School, we follow student Clay Jensen as he listens through thirteen cassette tapes that his dead friend Hannah Baker left behind. Thirteen reasons why she chose to end her own life. Thirteen people’s contributions to her death––including Clay’s own hand in the matter from Hannah’s perspective. There are graphic depictions of sexual assault and, in the final episode, of the suicide itself.

The show has been met with equal praise and disgust, and I can honestly say that overall, I’m in the middle. The acting was decent for a bunch of newcomer kids. The writing was solid (for a teen drama). The cinematography was surprisingly good, too. The biggest standout of the show to me, actually, was Kate Walsh as Hannah’s mother. Her subtle performance was the most “real” thing about the show to me––I loved every minute she was onscreen. I also related to Hannah. I related to a lot of the main characters for various reasons, and I felt for them. A good show does that effectively and effortlessly, and it uses those characters and their stories to effectively showcase the show’s main message.

13 Reasons Why almost achieved that. Until the very last episode. For me, everything the show attempted to stand for fell apart after that.

It’s not really a secret at this point that I need some daily help to get by in the form of medicine. Most people do. In fact as of last year, 1 in 6 Americans take antidepressants and other medicines for psychological disorders to get by. Life is stressful and wonderful and sad and fantastic, and if you need help being okay through all of it, that is not your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s a literal chemical imbalance in the brain. No strict talking-to or desire to “get over it” will change the science.

Clinical depression is not something to be ashamed of. It is something to try and work through as best you can, and it’s all you can do.

I had not read the book version of 13 Reasons Why before diving into this show, so I had no previous investment in the story. I was simply drawn in by the hype. But while I started the show relatively complacent, I finished it angry.

I’m not writing this to make you feel uncomfortable. I’m not even writing this as an overall review of 13 Reasons Why, which is much more on-brand for this blog.

I’m writing it because it is, as the show calls it, “my truth.”

And I refuse to let it align with the message 13 Reasons Why sends about suicide and its aftermath.

*There are major spoilers and disturbing/triggering topics discussed ahead. You’ve been warned.

Continue reading “What ’13 Reasons Why’ Got Wrong”

How ‘Buffy’ Ruined TV for Me Forever

In honor of its 20th anniversary, I feel I need to pay tribute to one of the most iconic shows ever to grace television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On March 10, 1997, Buffy premiered on the WB (remember when that was a network?!) and began to change the lives of millions of viewers around the world.

I’ll start with a confession: I was one of those high schoolers in 2009. Y’know, one who carried a copy of Twilight around between classes and owned a “Team Edward” shirt.

Yeah. It was a dark time.

I remember walking around the school grounds as one of my best friends, Graham, pestered me at least once a week: “Watch Buffy. It’s way better. I promise. You’re gonna thank me.” (Not to provide another opportunity for ego-stroking, Graham, but damn you were right. And you know it, too.)

He lent me the DVDs, and, nearly a decade after the show had originally aired, a love affair began between me and Buffy that has never ended. My heart still beats only for BtVS. On any given day, you can find me interjecting a conversation about a TV show currently airing with, “Yeah, but Buffy did that way better.”

If you’ve never seen Buffy, I hope that at the very least this inspires you to watch an episode or two. I’ll try to keep this piece as spoiler-free as possible just for you newbies! And if you have seen the show…you’re lucky. So am I. We are all lucky to have experienced Buffy in our lifetime. I’m going to list a few reasons why.

Continue reading “How ‘Buffy’ Ruined TV for Me Forever”

6 Forgotten TV Shows That Shaped My Childhood

A lot of people look fondly on their early years by reminiscing about their first memory of riding a bike or making a friend in kindergarten.

I often look back on my first memories of television. (Shocker!)

There are loads of late ’90s – early 2000s TV shows that blared in the background of my youth––BracefaceThe Winx Club, Inspector Gadget, Boy Meets World…but there were very few that held my attention for 30 to 60 minutes once a week. I was busy in my own world of Barbie dolls and Sailor Moon fanfiction written in 2nd-grade English.

But occasionally, I hear a song on the radio that takes me back to sitting on reddish carpeted ground in the basement and enjoying an evening with my family after school and homework and dinner. Some on this list are more well-known than others, but some of my earliest memories in my family’s first house involve watching these with my sister or with the whole family.

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It’s Not Okay: Normalized Emotional and Physical Abuse in BBC’s ‘Sherlock’

Your favorite Sherlock critic is back!


You can read my thoughts on last year’s Sherlock Christmas special, “The Abominable Bride,” here. I had lot of strong feelings about Moffat’s usual misogyny, and since the disaster that was Series 3, I’d kind of just shut my mind off to Sherlock by the time Series 4 rolled around this month. For a little while, anyway.

As much as I’d like to, we aren’t going to cover the blatant mistreatment of Mary Watson’s character, the lazy case-writing, or the deus ex machina deductive characteristics Sherlock Holmes has miraculously developed, though it’s important to note that they all contribute to my main subject. (Those are posts for another time.)

We are going to talk about the principal reason I fell in love with the show––why and so many people have invested so much of their time and energy into it over the course of 6 years: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson’s relationship. Where it started, and the awful place the writers have taken it now.

Continue reading “It’s Not Okay: Normalized Emotional and Physical Abuse in BBC’s ‘Sherlock’”

Brain Yoga: An Ode to ASMR

Think of the sensation you feel when someone scratches your back or plays with your hair.

Now think of it occurring when you hear something as mundane as turning a book page, or experience something as simple as a friend applying your makeup or brushing something off your face. Weird, right?

That’s what I thought up until about an hour ago when I finally Googled the right words at the right time. And it’s actually not so weird at all. (Mostly.)

I first noticed it when I was really young. The “brain-tingling,” that is. That’s the only way I can describe it, and upon doing some research today, I’ve found that’s how most people describe it. It was triggered by anything from a classmate turning a textbook page at her desk next to me, to a family friend’s specific Rhode Island dropped rs, to the silence at Sunday Mass punctuated by microphoned syllables. I can only describe the visceral response this way: a kind of tingling beginning from what feels like the center of my brain, down, down, down the back of my head and neck, sometimes down my spine. Kind of like a shudder, but not the cold or scared kind. Just…a nice, calming feeling. Like being at the beach hearing the waves.

It didn’t happen all the time, but it happened often enough that I thought it something specific to me, some odd perpetual sensory overload that I should just keep quiet about. Nobody else ever described experiencing this type of thing, so it must be me. Right?

Wrong. Today, in trying to describe the sensation to my sister for the umpteenth time, I found myself typing “tingling sensation in response to certain sounds” into my phone’s browser. And, lo and behold, there it was. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. ASMR.

Before you ask, there isn’t much science behind the subject, largely due to the fact that the term itself wasn’t coined until 2010. The Reddit ASMR board defines the experience as “a physical sensation characterised by a pleasurable tingling that typically begins in the head and scalp. It is commonly triggered by soft or accented voices, personal attention, ambient sounds or watching people work silently, among others.”

The weirdness sets in with how ASMR has been appropriated. If you look up ASMR on YouTube, you’ll find a bunch of videos – sometimes even ASMR-specific channels – that feature 20-odd minutes of the camera subject blowing into the lens, making vague whispering sounds, etc. YouTube culture has added a kind of sexual component to it which, arguably for some people, is a factor. An entire culture, featuring YouTubers “roleplaying” characters that give the viewer specific “personal attention,” has emerged and given the ASMR community an association with sensuality that I don’t think is necessarily a requirement. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s certainly not the exclusive ASMR experience. In fact, I find a lot of the videos to be quite uncomfortable to watch.

For me, it’s pretty much brain yoga. It chills me out like a cup of tea. Sometimes it happens in a group of my closest friends at a coffee shop as someone at the next table types on a computer; sometimes it happens when I’m entirely alone listening to Sigur Rós.

Unsure if you experience this phenomenon? Watch (or, rather, listen to) this video. On the outset it’s completely random (just a bit of styrofoam being crushed by a machine). But if it gives you the brain-tingles, then you’ll know.

If anything, understanding and honing your ASMR can help you relax in general. Once you find the kinds of sounds that relax you, you can even create ASMR playlists that help you go to sleep. But, be careful – as with most things, too much of it isn’t good. You might even become desensitized to it altogether.

Long story short: Yes, you could probably call ASMR a “braingasm” if the sensations for you are strong enough. Mostly, though, it’s just a way to chill out that some people don’t even know they can tap into.

I, on the other hand, have my childhood church’s crappy microphones to thank for my knowledge.

And thank you, ASMR, for existing, and validating that at least in this respect, I’m not crazy.