Monday, 23 April 2018

Bisexuality in Fandom

I cannot believe I’m actually about to say this. I can’t believe I even have to… but here goes:


Ah, there, I said it, like ripping off a band-aid.

Before you immediately jump on the offensive and say something to the effect of “Not all men!” I would like to make it clear that I know it’s not all of us. I know plenty of people who aren’t. But unfortunately, it is a trend I have noticed recently, and I just wanted to open a dialogue on it. I understand that this disclaimer will not stop people from cursing my name and getting angry in comments, but I just thought I’d explain a bit first. So! Onwards!

Look, I get it – we’re finally in a place where we feel we have a voice. We can stand up and say, “NEVER AGAIN” and that is amazing.

But that never gives us the right to suddenly turn around and start doing to them what some of them still do to us, especially as most of them aren’t doing anything wrong, and many of them are our ALLIES. We still have a long way to go, but we’re at an objectively fabulous time in Queer History: Pride and pride parades are massive all over the world, more countries are legalising gay marriage, RuPaul’s Drag Race is huge, Trans rights are being championed, and there are more gay relationships and queer characters on screen than ever before. It’s actually the reaction to two TV shows that made me want to write this: Supergirl and The 100.

So I’m going to break this down into sections. SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SUPERGIRL, THE 100, GOOD WIFE AND X-FILES.

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I love Supergirl. It’s cheesy, bright, powerful, emotional, and fun, and for someone like me, it’s amazing to have a near constant source of positivity to latch onto. I also love “Karamel” the ship of Supergirl (Kara) and Mon-El. Aside from just being gorgeous human specimens, the characters just seem genuinely in love and have a fairly well-written romance.
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There are people in the fanbase who support other romances for Kara – for example those who ship her with James Olsen, or Winn Schott, or notably Lena Luthor, and I get it. While I don’t personally want them together, I get the appeal, and as a bisexual woman, I love the idea of more lesbian couples on screen.

However, what I do not love, is the people who have taken an aggressive stance against Mon-El. I’m talking about the people who are calling their relationship abusive.

As someone who grew up in a household with an abusive, emotionally manipulative father, who grew up watching him serial date and screw up every relationship he entered, I find the idea of Mon-El’s behaviour coming even close to abusive to be viscerally upsetting. Because I know what an abusive relationship looks like – I’ve lived it – and Karamel is NOT one.

I could list off every single criteria for an abusive relationship and refute each and every one, then compare it to something like Twilight (which ticks every single box) but this blog does that pretty well:

No, see, I need to talk about how harmful it is for us to be doing this: to be labelling any relationship that you don’t support as being abusive, simply as a way to write it off. This behaviour is displayed most aggressively by people in the LGBT sides of fandoms, and in this example, those people who ship SuperCorp – Kara and Lena. And this isn’t to spite those fans – I also love the idea of their pairing, and I don’t think there are enough gay couples on TV, but I know that realistically it won’t happen, and I’m perfectly content with that. Hell, even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t sneer at other people’s opinions simply to make myself feel better.

I understand – people get very affronted by differing opinions, especially if the show doesn’t write a storyline that follows what you wish it to; I personally was beyond furious that John Watson emotionally cheated on Mary, but I am not the showrunner, and so I had to fume quietly about that in my bedroom until 3am.Of course, this isn’t just happening in the Supergirl fandom – it has also shone through in Once Upon A Time, where people publicly shun the CaptainSwan (Captain Hook and Emma Swan) relationship as a way to make their own coupling seem more legitimate, as well as shows like Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars, Vampire Diaries, Doctor Who, Sherlock, and pretty much any fandom with a rabid fanbase.

As someone who’s lived through emotional manipulation and aggressive behaviour, I find it incredibly difficult to open up to anyone, and I often find emotional solace in TV relationships. When written well, they become a beacon of hope; if Captain Hook can find a happy ending with Emma Swan, maybe I can find my own? It might seem silly to those of you who grew up surrounded by healthy, emotionally satisfying relationships, but I, and many others, didn’t.

Mon-El is introduced as a selfish, arrogant prince of a cruel monarchy, and when he arrives on Earth, he behaves as such – because he’s never known anything different. When he meets Kara and Winn and Alex and J’onn, he eventually comes to realise that he can be something different: he can be better.  Mon-El and Kara grow together and become more tolerant of each other’s backgrounds and beliefs, and eventually fall in love, and that is not something to scoff at, no matter how much you wish Kara was in lesbians with Lena.
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The 100 is one of my favourite shows, largely because it’s a really well-written apocalyptic drama with compelling characters and fantastic storylines. At least a tiny part of my love for the show, however, comes from the portrayal of Clarke: an openly bisexual woman in my age bracket. The best part is, it’s not discussed. She never had to sit anyone down and say,

“I like both… what do you mean I have to pick?! It’s not selfish, it’s my sexuality… of course we exist!”

Until Clarke, every character I’d seen who realised they liked girls, from that point forward, was just labelled a lesbian. Which is perfectly fine! It’s fantastic that lesbians became more and more accepted in novels and TV. But it just confirmed to my adolescent brain that even among queer representation, I was still a misfit: an outcast. Now I don’t think I have to tell you how INCREDIBLE it is to look at a screen and finally see yourself looking back, after a lifetime of feeling underrepresented. And from Clarke’s first kiss with Lexa, I finally watched a character who made me feel understood on every level.  

I came to the show at the start of season 4, which means I watched the other 3 all in one go. It also means I wasn’t in the fandom when Lexa first died. I remember the uproar – I have a tumblr account. So, I knew about her death before I started watching, and maybe that plays a factor in my mixed feelings, I don’t know… I don’t like season 3, but it’s not because of Lexa’s death, it’s because the whole season feels a little out of step with the rest of the show. Lexa was killed off because Alycia got another job – it happens. I remember fuming in my seat when the same thing happened to Will Gardner on The Good Wife because the actor wanted to try new things.

I shipped Clexa, but Lexa died, and now we move on.

That being said, I’ve shipped Bellarke (Bellamy and Clarke) from almost the second the series started. So, when so many people rage-quit the show after Lexa’s death, I was understanding, but still a little upset. It’s unfortunate and unfair that it fell under the “bury your gays” trope, and even worse that it felt like a carbon copy of Tara’s death in Buffy, and of course it was also frustratingly underwhelming: she should have gone out FIGHTING like the warrior she was!
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 But why was the show so abruptly tossed aside by the LGBT community when it still perfectly represents a bisexual woman?

When the season 5 trailer dropped recently, there was a huge group of people that immediately rose up against it, still citing Lexa as a reason to hate the show, despite Alycia leaving more than TWO YEARS AGO. Fighting a show that they actively haven’t watched in over two years, for something that happened that long ago, for the sake of a death that was never intended to be a social decision, and only happened because Alycia was leaving (her words: is insane to me.

Just because Clarke is in love with a man again doesn’t make her sexuality automatically invalid. The fan reaction reminds me of this interview with Anna Paquin from four years ago:

Larry King: "Are you a non-practicing bisexual?"

Anna Paquin: "Well, I am married to my husband and we are happily monogamously married."

King: "But you were bisexual?"

Paquin: "Well, I don’t think it’s a past-tense thing."

Now I’m not throwing everyone under the bus – that would be hypocritical of me – but can you see why the fan behaviour after Lexa’s departure might look a little like Larry King in this interview?

CLEXA FANS WHO LEFT: “You’re with a man now, so it doesn’t count anymore.”

CLARKE: “I beg your pardon, but could you kindly fuck off please?”
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3.       BI vs. LESBIAN
One of the first moments I remember realised I liked both girls and boys was watching The Mummy movies. I was sitting there, watching the opening scene, thinking,

“Holy shit, Brendan Fraser is so attractive!”
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Then I did a double-take when I found myself looking at Rachel Weisz and also thinking,

“Holy shit, Rachel Weisz is so attractive!”
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That doesn’t mean I need that character to be canonically bi, or lesbian, although I do love reading fanfictions and scrolling through fanart. I’m not suddenly going to put two middle fingers up at Rick, just because I think that Evie and Anck-Su-Namun would make a fabulous power couple.
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I love lesbians. I’m gonna be honest, I love women in general. And men. And transgender and non-binary people. *cough* Im bi! *cough* Just in case I hadn’t made that clear…

However, sometimes I don’t like how possessively some lesbians on the internet cling to things – I’d like to marry the (bisexual!) Gillian Anderson as much as the next girl, but that doesn’t mean I suddenly want Scully to be gay or even Bi. She’s a CHARACTER. Who was created over 20 years ago! We don’t have the right to repossess her any more than straight people can claim Kurt Hummel. It’s easy to forget that Mulder and Scully are what truly kicked off the fandom/shipping revolution in the age of the internet, but we’d do well not to forget how important they are.

There are people actually pissed off that Mulder and Scully look like they might get some semblance of a happy ending this season… ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!


(***The ending is actually kinda terrible, now that I've seen it, but that has more to do with crappy writing than it does with Mulder and Scully.)

Additional PSA: You should watch X-Files, it’s great! There are a couple of shaky seasons and 1 particularly mediocre movie, but it’s well-worth your time.

I’m NOT talking about people harmlessly imagining or wanting Scully to be gay: I think that’s great. I’m talking about people who are doing it TOXICALLY, belittling anyone who wants Scully to end up in a (straight) relationship with Mulder, just as those in the SuperCorp belittle the very idea of Kara in a straight relationship, by any means.

I know this probably all seems very petty and small to someone who doesn’t see where I’m coming from, but when you’re finally in a place where you understand yourself, and you feel the tiniest bit represented, and both halves of your identity seem to be rejecting you, it just reminds you how far from the norm you feel. As if I needed any more reasons to feel confused and alone.

And look, I know it’s not a problem for just me, or even for just my letter of the acronym; Trans people are having a hard time getting their voices heard and acknowledged in the Queer community as well, and so are a variety of people in the extended acronym (LGBTQIA+). This is just something that I’ve been noticing more acutely since the 100 Season 5 trailer dropped – people rising up in opposition to a show they abandoned OVER TWO YEARS AGO, just for the sake of being hateful.

The whole point of Pride is to stop spreading hate and start spreading love and acceptance and togetherness. So, can we please put down the pitchforks? Straight people aren’t villains simply because they’re straight, just like we were never abominations just because we’re not.

I can be a bisexual woman and marry a man. That’s not forsaking my queer identity, it’s embracing who I am. The queer uprising is built on a foundation of love – I can no more pick and choose who I fall in love with than Clarke can. So please,

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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Panophobia Chapter 4: Thoughts about Anxiety

So in the past year of not updating this blog, working, and trying to figure out what's going on in my head, I've had a lot of time to think. Think about who I am, what I want, how to get it, and why I am the way I am. I also spent a lot of time coping with my innermost struggles, and this obviously involves my anxiety, because what else am I going to use this blog for, if not discussing my mental health?

Anyway, during the year, I've taken to writing down the most common thoughts that spring to mind during panic attacks, or stressful moments, or even when everything's fine but I can still feel the anxiety hiding around the corner. So, here are some extracts from the list of thoughts:

  • Is my vision getting worse, or am I just anxious?
  • Stress headache, again. Fun.
  • Stop thinking about it.
  • Just breathe. Count your heartbeats.
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  • Am I actually as terrible as I think I am?
  • Wow, I really dislike myself.
  • I have to stop making jokes about suicide, it makes people uncomfortable.
  • And while I'm at it, why don't I just stop talking altogether. Because honestly, I can never just keep my mouth shut, can I? No, of course not. Why are you still talking? You're still talking Talis.
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  • Am I pretty?
  • Uh-oh, self confidence! That means something bad is imminent...
  • Just breathe. Count your heartbeats.
  • Music, music, music... sing, maybe. Or listen to your headphones. It doesn't matter what song, just get a melody in your head.
  • I wonder if I can actually sing as well as I think I can.
  • I have no discernible worth.
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  • Stop thinking about it.
  • I don't know what song I want to listen to.
  • Just breathe. Count your heartbeats.
  • Who am I? Honestly? Because I genuinely have no idea.
  • What's the point?
  • Stop thinking about it.
  • What's the point. 
  • Tunnel vision: imminent panic attack. Shit. Get some air.
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  • Just breathe. Count your heartbeats.
  • God this makes me incredibly self-involved, doesn't it? I hate that.
  • I'm not coping, and I don't know why.
  • I do know why. Stop thinking about it. 
  • I feel weird.
  • Stop thinking. 
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  • I woke up feeling weird, and I don't know what to do with that.
  • I wish it was raining. That always makes me feel better. 
  • Dodie is perfect for anxiety brain - I need an anxiety playlist.
  • Just breathe. Count your heartbeats. 
  • Why does he still have all the power?
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  • Stop thinking.
  • Listen to music, fill up your brain, remember the lyrics, practice the melodies. 
  • Why do I feel so alone?
  • I'm so alone.
  • Stop thinking.
  • I'm so lost.
  • Stop thinking.
  • Focus on something else. Write something, draw, sing... anything. Please?
  • Stop thinking.
  • FOCUS.
  • Just breathe. Count your heartbeats. Stop thinking.

That phrase came up more times that anything else in the entire year. Breathe. Count your heartbeats. Stop thinking. Breathe. Count your heartbeats. Stop thinking. Breathe. I think those three phrases have calmed me down and helped me refocus more times than I can count. It helps to have some kind of mantra, and I wasn't even aiming for that one - it just sort of happened organically. Little things helped, so I wrote about those too - music, writing, rainy days. There's a lyric from Secret For The Mad, by Dodie:

"Little things, all the stereotypes
They're gonna help you get through this one night
And there will be a day when you can say you're okay and mean it

I promise you it'll all make sense again..."

Those little things, in those tiny, enormous moments, become the most important things in the world. That melody, or idea, or the sound of rain against the windows, or a happy memory, or a good movie - those experiences become a lifeline to cling to when you are at your worst. And I was at my worst A LOT last year. So if you're going through something similar, or even if you're not, my suggestion is to write down exactly your thoughts. Because anxiety and depression are emotions, they're feelings; they aren't you, they don't have their own words. 

Your words, the way you respond to those sensations - that is who you are. The personality, the resilience, that is all you. You are amazing for even getting out of bed, and you are amazing for continuing to breathe when every impulse in your body tells you to stop. I didn't realise how brave I was being, or how much I was truly struggling, until I read a years worth of thoughts back, and noticed repeat phrases. You are important. YOU have to come first in your own life. Selfishness is taught as a negative trait, but if you're so focussed on being unselfish that you neglect the foundation of who you are, you'll collapse. I promise. So pay attention to the way you react to your own feelings, and to the way you interact with others. Write it down, along with all the other quotes that remind you just how human you are. It might save your life. 

Here is my list of things that ease my stresses, in the hopes that it might help someone else.

  • Music - here are some of my favourite ANXIETY reducers:
    • DODIE - because she writes songs about mental health that also happen to be beautiful.
    • REGINA SPEKTOR - because she's a literal goddess. Beyonce who?
    • INGRID MICHAELSON - similar reasons, she's just so calming.
    • JAMIE T - he's incredible, versatile, and each of his four albums has a totally different tone: suitable for any mood.
    • ELBOW - perfect music for trying to relax to.
    • BALL PARK MUSIC - Australian band with the most uplifting, nostalgic feel. 
  • Singing - like to your favourite artists, or writing your own songs.
  • Movies - whether that be fun action or cheesy rom-com, or balls-to-the-wall horror, whatever makes you the most relaxed or makes you feel the most grounded.
  • TV Shows (see above)
  • Books - "Best weapons in the world!" (Doctor Who)
  • Long walks with headphones in.
  • The sound of rain on the window pane. (or a rain app)
  • Quotes. I keep a collection of quotes that remind me that everything will be okay. I have listed some of them below. 
  • Lyrics (see above)
  • Drawing/Painting/Something Creative
  • Have a shower. Seriously. It helps. 

Quotes that remind me to breathe:
"Decide to be fine until the end of the week. Make yourself smile because you're alive and that's your job. Then do it again the next week. Do it right, with a smile, or don't do it." Supernatural

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"Flying is learning to throw yourself at the ground and miss." Douglas Adams

Image result for harry potter quotes Harry Potter (I found this lovely image a long time ago on Tumblr)

"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things; the good things don't always soften the bad things but vice versa the bad things don't always spoil the good things or make them unimportant." Doctor Who

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"It's like walking around with a stone for a heart, people swimming in honey while your life falls apart." Dodie

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Top 5 Most Romantic Moments in Movies

I am not a romantic person. I never have been, and I almost certainly never will be, and that honestly doesn't bother me in the slightest. I am perfectly content with being blasé about love. Of course, I don't like anything to do with over-the-top romance, which means that I don't like Rom-Coms. I don't like unrealistic stories, and chick flicks are almost always too contrived for me to enjoy them.

However, there are a few that I have seen and actually loved, because they are believable and honest and well-written and actually romantic, as opposed to what Hollywood deems to be so. Usually, these relationships are in TV shows, because they spend time fleshing them out, which ends up with me adoring them. But every now and then a movie comes along that I genuinely enjoy for the cheesy romantic nonsense that it is.

Personally, I can't stand grand romantic gestures. I think they're sappy and cloying, and they put pressure on the person receiving them, especially if they happen in public. I don't like flash mob proposals, or big fancy gifts; for me, the most romantic thing someone could do would be something small and intimate. Something personal. And if there's one thing that the grand romantic gesture ISN'T, it's personal. It's a display - the opposite gender posturing over their mate - something to prove to the whole world that they love the other person, which completely misses the point. The only person you should ever need to prove your love to is the person you love.

I do have some sense of romance, however. It's just more low-key. I notice the small moments: the sweet, kind, loving instants. I love those moments that when you watch them, you can't decide if it was written into the script, or if it was an acting choice.

Firstly, some movies that aren't quite in my top 5, but that I find myself loving all the same - RUNNERS UP:

Say Anything  -  The scene where Lloyd stands outside her window playing"In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel. I know it's a grand romantic gesture, but c'mon! There's a reason why this moment is so famous, and it's because it's amazing.
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Penelope -  "You lied to me, I guessed piano!" When Max/Johnny figures out that it's Penelope and decides to admit his feelings, despite knowing that he can't help her, and then she reveals that she saved herself. It's so cute and perfect, and happens to be the movie where I first fell in love with James McAvoy, so it has to be on the list.
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Easy A -  "If I promise not to tell anyone, can I kiss you?" This is such a genuinely sweet moment, where both the audience and Olive realise that Todd has liked her all along. Also, this movie is hilarious.
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Finally, in no particular order, here are

5. The Princess Bride - "As You Wish":
Let's start off with a cliche!
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But seriously, this is one of the best movies ever made. It's endlessly quotable, heartwarming, romantic and funny. I love this movie. And I love the love story - because I believe in it. I believe that he became a pirate to get back to her, and that she died inside when she thought he died. I believe in it, and I love it, and that is down to three little words that are oft repeated in the film, and frequently nodded to in everything from Once Upon A Time to my actual life, all the time, constantly. I'm not sure if I can pick a particular uttering of the phrase that I like more than any other. Romantic cliche tells me it should be when he's falling down the hill, but I prefer the ones before that, when they're slowly falling in love at the farm. So I choose one of those. Any one.
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4. Stranger Than Fiction - "I brought you flowers."
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This isn't really something I would class as a chick flick, or a rom-com: it's a drama on the importance of life and how you live it, with an incredible cast and a wonderfully intricate story.
However, this movie has exactly the kind of personal gesture I was talking about earlier. It's not grand, or even very romantic, and it's very, very awkward, but it's lovely. It's sweet and earnest and heartfelt and really grounds the relationship between these two people as the heart of the narrative; where otherwise this movie would be horribly depressing, the growing romantic connection between Harold and Ana really elevates it to something beyond that. Harold wants to do something to show this abrasive woman how he feels about her, so he buys her flowers. Except he buys them his way, personalised to her. She works in a bakery, so he buys her FLOURS. It's dorky and amazing and I fucking love it!
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3. Dirty Dancing Havana Nights - "Okay. I can be the girl..."
I have SO MANY THOUGHTS about this movie. As a part of the Dirty Dancing universe, it fucking sucks, but as a romantic movie on it's own merit, it's actually pretty great. In order to enjoy this movie, all you have to do is skip over all the scenes with Patrick Swayze, and it becomes a story about a privileged American girl, Katey, in 1958 Cuba meeting a sweet, poor local, Javier, working as a waiter, and then shenanigans happen and something, something dancing. It tells the very believable story of a woman falling in love with Diego Luna. Hey, I'm not here to tell you the entire plots of movie.
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BUT, during this movie, Katey begins by going out with a guy from similar social circles - you know the type: gross, frat-boy guy who believes he's entitled to everything. Including Katey. One night while they're out on a date, they bump into Javier and she dances with him, so this dipshit gets jealous, and when they leave the bar he tries to sexually assault her in his car. She runs back into the bar, scared and alone, and Javier makes sure she's okay. I could have picked that scene, but there's a scene later, when they're training for the dance competition, that's even more amazing. Latin dancing, by it's very definition, is quite... saucy. So while they're rehearsing their dance, Javier adds something slightly sexual, and she immediately freaks out. Instead of getting annoyed, Javier realises that her anger has come from a place of fear, due to what that other douchebag did, so he diffuses the situation. He shrugs, says, "Okay, I'll be the girl!" and starts dancing like an idiot. It's so silly and adorable and gosh do I love it.
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2. The Breakfast Club - Claire gives Bender her earring.
This is one of my favourite movies OF ALL TIME, so of course it was going to make an appearance. It's not flawless: the scene where Allison changes her clothes and hair is particularly frustrating, considering the same effect could have been made by just fixing her makeup. It does have a really interesting relationship, however, between Bender and Claire. He clearly dislikes her privilege, and she noticeably dislikes his attitude, but they're both attracted to each other all the same.
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He pisses her off on purpose, because he's frustrated by the fact that she's so far removed from his life, and she snaps back because she actually feels like she can, unlike with her friends or her parents. It's an interesting dynamic, and their interactions make for a very cool collection of quotes, like the one above, which I use on the daily. So they fall in... love? The highschool equivalent of love, and then when they leave, they know how unlikely it is that they will ever get to spend time together like that again, so Claire gives Bender her earring as a reminder of that day, and when they kiss, it's not super aggressive, like you'd expect him to be. He even tried to press his forehead to hers for a moment before she left. This moment is, of course, followed by his famous fist pump and one of the greatest songs of all time. Fight me.

1. Pride and Prejudice -  Everything.
I could write entire books on my love of this book. It is, hands down, my favourite book in the world. My favourite book series are Harry Potter, and Skulduggery Pleasant, and I love The Book Thief and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Murder on the Orient Express, but none of them hold a place in my heart as special as Pride and Prejudice. I love this book. I love the language, I love the characters, I love the romance. It was the first time I ever read anything that spoke to me so personally, and the first time I ever read a romance I enjoyed. I think that is largely because it isn't overstated: the bond between them takes its time to grow, and evolve, and they don't even like each other for a big chunk of it. I also LOVE the 1995 BBC mini-series, and utterly DESPISE the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen, through not too much fault of theirs, but largely fault in writing. I said at the beginning of this post that I cannot stand bad writing, and when you butcher almost perfect lines like this:
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Into this:
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Urgh. I am extremely vexed. It makes me so CROSS. That movie took one of the most romantic lines in all of history and butchered it to death. I am genuinely upset by the film, and I'm sure I will write a blog post on it in the future, so if you'd like that, do let me know!

Let's get back on topic! I'm not saying that the 1995 version is perfect, especially when it includes glorious scenes like this, that are not in the book, and would never have happened:
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It's still glorious though.

Anyway, it's not perfect, but it's pretty damn close, so this mini-series is standing in as a movie for the 2005 version, which should be burned. Including the line I mentioned above, which if anyone ever said to me, I think I would actually die, pretty much everything in this mini-series is romantic as fuck. The looks between them, the proposal where she rejects him, the proposal where she accepts, the verbal sparring, the tortured Darcy faces. It's all INCREDIBLE. There is more sexual tension in this thing than in anything else I've ever seen, and for most of the movie they don't even touch hands.
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Pride and Prejudice is the most romantic thing ever, and I will fight anyone and everyone who challenges me. It has nothing to do with Colin Firth's dreaminess, or Jennifer Ehle's bone structure, and everything to do with the characters and the writing and the acting and all the tiny, inconsequential moments that led to them falling in love. In the words of Mr Darcy, when Elizabeth asked him when he knew he was in love with her,

"I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun."

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Thursday, 11 January 2018

Panophobia Chapter 3: What Anxiety Feels Like

Hey guys! I know I haven't posted in an unforgivably long time, so for those of you who actually follow this blog, I am very sorry. There's been a lot of personal stuff going on in the last year and I really haven't had the mental or even physical resolve to sit down and write about my innermost feelings: largely because I have no idea what I am feeling. With the exception of fear. I have been more anxious this year than almost any other year in my life, and maybe one day I'll be comfortable with talking about it on the internet with a bunch of faceless strangers, but today is not that day. So instead, I want to talk about how my anxiety has made me feel this past year.

I was trying to think of a way to explain my anxiety the other day and I have come to the staunch conclusion that there is no ONE way to describe it. I have to jumble my analogies, or "get all my ducks on the same page".

See, it's funny because I mixed metaphors, and- *ahem* You know what, let's just forget it.

Here's what my regular, everyday anxiety feels like:

That moment when you miss a step going down the stairs, but for eternity.

That moment when you're watching a horror movie, and you know a jump scare is coming, but it still hasn't happened.

That moment when you've been watching serial killer documentaries and that walk to your car in the dark feels a lot longer than it should.

That moment when you've being ringing a family member for a long time and they haven't answered, and no-one else has heard from them in a while.

That moment when, as a parent, you turn around to find your child has vanished from view and your heart drops to your shoes. *but they were just on the other side*

And this is what a panic attack feels like:

That moment when you miss a step going down the stairs, but those stairs are in a creepy house in the moors, and no-one but you was supposed to be in the house, but you can hear footsteps behind you and your phone is still in the car, which has a flat, and you know there is no escape from the crushing loneliness of death in this terrible situation that you could have avoided if only you hadn't taken that left turn.

That moment when someone close to you has been in hospital and you've been worried for a while but then when you finally become hopeful that they might recover, you step through the doors only to find a nurse looking at you with pity in her eyes and she doesn't even need to say the words because you already know, and that half second before she says anything makes your heart leap into your throat, because there's still a dying ember of hope fighting to survive.

That moment when you're all alone in the dark, and the dark is so black that it starts to feel like a wall, surrounding you, bearing down on you, with no hope for escape. 

It feels like being all alone, completely lost and afraid in the world, with no way to turn and no-one to talk to, and it feels like it's never going to end. It's like a form of tunnel vision, blurring everything more than a foot from your person, making the world spin further and further away the harder you reach for it. It's like a swirling vortex of loneliness and worry. 

It's like a rollercoaster ride with an important piece of track missing, but the coaster isn't slowing down. 

It's like a heart attack, or a migraine.

It's a weird, painful, upsetting experience, and if you've ever had even one, I want you to know that you're not alone - there's someone else out there, even if you've never met, who knows how you feel. 


Sunday, 16 July 2017

Doctor Who?!?!?

Four hours ago, the announcement was made - the 13th Doctor, Peter Capaldi's successor, the next in a long line of incredible Doctors would be........................

Jodie Whittaker?

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I like Jodie Whittaker. I liked her in "Broadchurch". I liked her in "St Trinian's". I liked "Tess of the D'Urbervilles".

I am not sure I like her for this part.

I know, I know, if I DO like her for the part, I am a feminazi who deserves to be flogged, and if I DON'T my feminist instincts tell me I am being a regressive arsehole. Unfortunately, I can't help it.

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I need to get something straight first. I LOVE DOCTOR WHO.

No, see, I don't think you get it - I LOVE Doctor Who. If I hadn't had Doctor Who when I was growing up, I don't think I'd be alive right now to write this - it stopped me from killing myself more than once. It got me through some of my lowest points, and made some of my highest points even better. When in doubt, I use a Tennant quote or recite Eleven's speeches. Whenever I see Jelly Babys my brain fizzles at me, and whenever I see a recorder I want to burn it because it reminds me of primary school playing "Mary Had a Little Lamb", but I am stopped from setting them on fire by the image of Patrick Troughton's cheeky smile. Eccleston reminds me of my Dad, and Peter Davidson was a GREAT follow up to Tom Baker, fight me! Alas, Peter Capaldi was not my favourite Doctor, and I do not blame that on him in any way. I believe the show didn't know how to walk the line between the hayday of the old Doctors, which Capaldi harkened back to, and the new Who, which they usually placated terribly with things like Sonic Sunglasses and having machines speak in... EMOJI? Did I really sit through that? Yes. Yes I did. Because I love this show, and I'll probably watch even if it gets to "Lost" levels of clusterfuck.

So, I'm apprehensive; I'm worried, because I have a hunch that Jodie Whittaker wasn't hired at the right time, or for the right reasons. Because NOW, even if she's the best Doctor we've ever had, it won't matter - because she's a woman.

Let me explain: the very first thing that happened when it was announced:

Jodie Whittaker

If you have to immediately tell people not to worry just because you're a woman, there is a problem. There is a problem with our society as a whole, a systemic problem, a far-reaching problem. It is slowly getting better, but is still not there yet. Watch the comment sections of the announcements and you'll find it divided evenly between people decrying her because she is a woman, and praising her because she's a woman.

THAT IS NOT THE BLOODY POINT. It shouldn't MATTER that's she's a woman, just like it didn't matter that Matt Smith was "too young" or that Peter Capaldi was "too old" - the ONLY thing that matters is whether she is good enough or not. And we cannot know that yet, because we haven't seen her.

People thought Heath Ledger was terrible casting for the Joker and he turned out one of the best performances by any actor in recent memory, not just of a Batman villain, but any villain.

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This is the face of a serial killer. 

People thought Johnny Depp would be a good Willy Wonka until we watched it and realised he was a perpetually high, semi-adolescent, terrifying psychopath.

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This is the face of a serial killer.

So she could be amazing, and she could be terrible, but either way it doesn't matter, because all anyone will be talking about is her gender:
"She was fine, for a woman." 
"She was terrible, it's because she's a woman." 
"She was great, but she has a vagina, so it's automatically filed under a different category."

That's not how it should be - the casting of the Doctor shouldn't be reduced to tokenism. Of course, even if that's not what they intended, even if they auditioned everyone possible for the part and Jodie was the best possible option, that is all it is going to be seen as, and that is a shame. Because it detracts from what could potentially be great (or terrible) on its own merit, by turning it into a discussion on progressiveness - the same would have happened if they'd hired a black person - the discussion wouldn't be about the performance, it would be about the colour of their skin. 

But here's the thing. I'm running under the assumption that she was hired because she was the best person for the job, and she's going to blow us all away with her awesomeness and lack of a sonic handbag *cough* sunglasses *cough*. But even if I run under the assumption that she was a token hire (again, I don't believe she was, just roll with it) maybe we needed a token  hire to get there in the first place? It's still a step forward in the 21st century mentality as a whole; we shouldn't have to celebrate gay people being able to get married because it should have happened a long time ago, but that's where we are and that's a step we have to go through. And if Doctor Who keeps going forever and ever then it will become the new normal to includes all types of people in the casting, and no-one will care whether or not someone has a penis, or is slightly darker than the previous incarnation, because it's just part of the natural makeup of the show.

I mean look at politicians- some places have a compulsory female quota, and some people argue that you're not always getting the "best person for the job" because sometimes there will be more males than females that will be good at that job. However, if you don't have compulsory quotas and ensure there are women in those jobs then men will always by default end up in those roles because "society". Then women don't get represented properly, so even if the female is a "less good" option in some way (less experience, etc) she still needs to be given that role for political correctness for the good of society as a whole. So female doctor = societal improvement, regardless of how good she is.

But I personally think she was hired because she's going to be great.

She's immediately at a distinct disadvantage, because if she's not as good as or better than Peter Capaldi, people will rip her to shreds, just for having a vagina.

It's not fair. 

It's not right.

I am apprehensive.

As an aside, I am also mildly irritated by the fact that Jodie was invited to audition by Chris Chibnall, who worked with her on Broadchurch, and is now writing Doctor Who. Because AGAIN, even if she was the best possible hire, it now at least LOOKS like he hired her because he'd worked with her before.

Please bear in mind, NONE of this is written to slight Jodie, or Chris or Doctor Who, but just to get some of my concerns out in the air. 

Who knows - the next season of Doctor Who could blow the previous out of the water. Of course, if it doesn't, I'm still going to watch it, until there's a Flash Sideways Timeline where the plane never crashed on the island and there's a weird church scene at the end where they are now dead and all of them deem their time on the island in the OG timeline to be the most important time of theirs lives so that they may move on and... no... hang on... that's "Lost". 

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I love Doctor Who. I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I could breathe, but I've wanted to write specifically for TV ever since I started watching Doctor Who. It is my raison d'ĂȘtre. It is ingrained in my soul. Please, please, please don't ruin it guys. Don't ruin it with your "sexism" or your "progressive PC attitudes" or with bad writing. Please? 

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No, I'll... write a strongly worded letter of complaint.

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Urgh, fine, all I'll really do is cry, alone in my room, and drink a lot of alcohol. 

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Saturday, 3 June 2017

Never Forget

Okay, so let me tell you about today. This morning, I can't really remember why, or what triggered it, I decided I wanted to know more about 9/11. Sadly, because it happened just at the point where I don't really remember it, I've always been aware of its existence but never really known the full scope of it.

 So today, I spent the morning googling the whole thing - I read up on the planes, the rescue operations and President Bush. I watched news coverage of the whole day. I watched the movie United 93, about the fourth plane that went down in a field in Pennsylvania when the passengers tried to take it back from the hijackers. I watched a documentary called Voices From Inside the Towers all about the victims who called 911, called their loved ones, called their friends and families in the moments before they died.

 In total, the four attacks killed 2,996 people and injured 6,000 more, and caused billions of dollars of damage, as well as causing immense terror across not only America but the world. It was so upsetting to read about something that had always been in my subconscious, something I had always been aware of but never fully understood.

 Up until today, the most prevalent idea of 9/11, to me, had always come in the form of conspiracy theories, "Bush did 9/11" being the line that immediately comes to mind. The other major theory is that he did not order the attack, but that he let it happen. The other notable phrase that I recall is, "Jet fuel can't melt steel beams" which later became a meme. While I do not believe any of these conspiracy theories to hold any credibility, they are the main recollection of the attacks that I have. Of being in school, quite young, and hearing those phrases. There was never any doubt in my mind that the stories weren't true, but I also had no real knowledge of what was.

So today I researched it, and tried to grapple with the idea of seeing something so horrific unfold in front of you.

I came away with something that horrified me more that I thought possible, considering the subject matter.

Everyone old enough to remember the September 11 attacks remembers exactly where they were. They can tell you exactly what they were doing when they found out. When I spoke to my mum, she told me she was pregnant with my sister, and I was two and a half, and we had been out to the shop and walked home. When I asked my Grandma, she said she had been in Australia with my Aunt, and that she'd flown home to England barely a day later. She also mentioned that something of a similar reaction was had in her lifetime to the assassination of JFK. She vividly remembers being in class and everyone was talking about it.

 Anyway, all of this got me thinking, and something nasty struck me - what if, heaven forbid, something equally terrible happens in the future, in my lifetime. Something of that magnitude, that immense horror. Will it be burned into our collective consciousness forever, constantly reminding us all of our own mortality, OR, due to the uprise of media coverage worldwide in recent years, and the constant reminders of our own mortality in the form of other terrorist attacks and mass shootings, will it simply be another attack that will rise up fleetingly, then fade away.

9/11 was so terrifying because it was so unprecedented, so unexpected. Nowadays, even if a particular attack seemingly comes out of nowhere, within minutes, news outlets have weeks of back information about the perpetrators and the incident itself. And even then, it seems as though no attack comes completely unexpected anymore - we are always on high alert for the latest threat - be it North Korea, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Right Wing Nut-Jobs, Left-Wing-Nut-Jobs, or anything in between, there is always something the news reminds us could be right around the corner.

 Was it 9/11 that paved the way for this constant barrage of fear, or was it just an intensified version of a news system that was already giving out so much information we latched on to one particularly horrible event as the focal point, the attack that shook us all to our cores.

 Because the Paris Attacks were awful. The Manchester Arena Attack was terrible. Aleppo was heart-wrenchingly devastating. The attack on London Parliament was horrid. The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack was immensely upsetting. The multiple ancient villages across the Middle East razed to the ground in an attempt by ISIS to stamp out history and culture is a travesty.

 But none of these things is covered as much, or for as long, or as reverently, as 9/11 - and that is perfectly understandable from a western perspective; it was such a shock for something to go so wrong, so fast, on such a huge scale, in somewhere like New York - somewhere that was supposed to be a stronghold of American life, and therefore modern Western civilization. What I want to know is, are we becoming dessensetised to such terrible things? Or are they just so frequently broadcasted now that if we did spend enough time on each one, it would consume our lives completely?

What if we had spent an entire day watching coverage of Aleppo on every channel, unable to turn on a screen or pick up a paper without it staring us directly in the face? Would we feel as strongly? Would we make more of an effort to help? We know that people of these cultures are humans, just as we are, but we also notice the fact that their languages, religions, culture and even skin colour is different, and I wonder how much impact that has on our ability to empathise with them. How much of their differences we pay attention to when the news arrive on our screens...What percentage of the Western population would write off the destruction, simply because of the colour of the victims skin, or the fact that they are Muslims? What percentage of us would rush in to help if only they were aware of exactly what was going on? What percentage of us are biased by the media?

This led me to a slightly alarming conclusion, one that holds no answer and only opens up avenues for more questions:

“The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creatures that cannot.”

 That's a quote by Mark Twain on the curse of our human intellect: a tiger, despite killing and eating its prey, is not committing an evil act, because it does not know the difference between right and wrong. What makes an action evil at its core, is that it is known to be bad, and is done anyway, just like these attacks. So is it more human to rush to the aid of those that are hurt, as any pack of animals would do? Or is it more human, more distinct in nature, to act in a course of evil? 

I don't know. All I know is, today I learned about something incredibly important, and terrible, and I highly recommend that everyone do the same; really read up on it, truly try to understand the scope and scale of the events, and learn about the victims. It will remind you not only of what we are capable of bouncing back from, but also of your own humanity. 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

We Will Not Be Broken

It has not been a great few weeks.

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  • Actor Powers Boothe, musician Chris Cornell, and Jame Bond even to the last, Roger Moore have died.

  • Zack Snyder has taken a step back from directing to grieve the suicide of his daughter which occurred in March.

  • Bodyguards for the Turkish president attacked protesters in Washington DC.

  • A man mocked and punched a guy with cerebral palsy in the face for no reason, completely unprompted, just because he could. 

  • Karl Oliver used the term "lynched" when describing the removal of racist monuments, apparently having never heard of the concept of irony:

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  • A man was only given 240 days in prison for drugging and raping his sister. Yes, that actually happened this week, because we apparently live in caveman times.

  • Dani Mathers, who you may remember a year ago took a picture of a naked 71-year-old woman in a locker room with the caption "If I can't unsee this, you can't either", went to court to plead her case. Because what she did is actually a crime. Because the woman was naked, and unaware. However, she only received 30 days of community service and 3 years probation, as well as $60 paid to the victim. 

  • Men got excessively outraged at a cinema which screened a one-night-only ALL WOMEN showing of the new Wonder Woman movie... I bet those are the same men who call lefty liberals like me "snowflakes" and "cucks" because I don't like racism and homophobia.

  • Donald Trump is still the president of the United States.

  • And of course, the horrific bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 22 people and injuring many more. 

The outlying extremists of the world want to divide us - they want us to fear them, and each other. They want us to turn on each other, and spread fear wherever they go. They want us to fall down and lose any will to fight back.

Here's the thing - Manchester stands for EVERYTHING that ISIS is against: Music, art, culture, history, community and variety are all integral to the Mancunian identity. Manchester is famed for its spirit, for its poetry and talent.

Manchester, in the days, hell, in the hours following the attack, fought back. And they didn't fight back with guns and pitchforks and violence - they fought back by doing the one thing that ISIS did not want them to do. They picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started to help.

A homeless man sleeping near the venue ran over to check on people and take care of them.

First responders and police did an incredible job organising the chaos and attending to injured people.

A doctor who had by happenstance been at the concert helped on scene and then continued to work a full shift through the night, without telling anyone that he was also part of the crowd.

The mayor, Andy Burnham, gave a rousing speech the next morning thanking everyone who lent a hand, everyone who came together, condemning the actions of those who sought to kill people with that bomb, and called for everyone to remain vigilant in their compassion.

Tattoo parlours in Manchester and across the UK started offering cheaper Worker Bee tattoos with the proceeds going to the Manchester Arena Victim Fund. Worker bees are the symbol of Mancunian work ethic, particularly in the industrial revolution, but they have since come to represent the strength of community as hundreds of people flock to tattoo parlours all over the country to get the little symbol permanently etched to their skin.
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We will not be broken. Manchester will not be broken. We will continue forward, striving for a better tomorrow. During WWII, during the Blitz, Londoners continued to eat family meals and behave mostly as normal. A few months ago when someone attacked politicians outside parliament, Londoners didn't blink - they even became more likely to approach people. I was on the tube a day after the incident, and a muslim man hopped on the train, piled up to his chin with bags and plant trays. It was clearly too much for him to handle, and rather than throwing hatred or vomiting racist bile, four people on the train went and offered to help. On a day when The Daily Mail told us to be terrified, when it decided that less tolerance was the answer, I watched real people defy that ideal, and it lifted my spirits.

We will not be broken. There is an election coming up and I do not want to vote conservative. But Jeremy Corbyn isn't really who I want in power either, although Labour seems the safest vote, and the most likely (although not terribly likely) party to beat the Tories. However my heart wants me to vote Greens, and even the Lib-Dems are looking better than a showdown between Tories and Labour. So despite the political divide in my country, despite my fear of extremist patriotism in the wake of all these attacks, and despite my resignation at Brexit's inevitability, I will not be broken. I will not let my hope dissapate, even if Theresa May gets in for the next five years, although it will be a little disheartening.
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Good news can be found among the bad. The UK's reaction to the Manchester attack, everyone's outpouring of love, as well as the bringing together of people all over the world in unison against Trump. TIMELESS WAS RENEWED, BECAUSE PEOPLE BROUGHT IT BACK WITH THEIR SUPPORT.

It's hard. But we can continue. we will not be broken.

Movie of the Week: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
This movie is the BUSINESS.

Book of the Week: As You Wish - Cary Elwes
A book about the making of The Princess Bride written by Wesley. How are you not already on board?

Photo of the Week:
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Positivity Goal of the Week: Try not to engage in political debate with people who are fundamentally opposed and immovable.
It will only seek to stress you out, and you will neither change their opinion nor will they affect yours. Just hope against hope that the future is bright.