The Situation’s a Lot More Nuanced Than That: My Top 10 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Songs

Tonight, the extraordinary first season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend wraps up. It could have been a disaster. It had originally been designed as a half-hour comedy for Showtime before being re-tooled as an hour-long comedy for the CW. It was easy for many people to write it off because of the title, but it would be a mistake to do so. Yes, Rebecca moved across the country after running into a former boyfriend, but as the theme song delightfully points out, the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that. It’s a show full of rich, three-dimensional characters, a very flawed protagonist, and a lot of amazing music. In honor of the finale tonight, I’ve chosen ten of my favorites to spotlight.

1. Feeling Kinda Naughty (1×02, “Josh’s Girlfriend is Really Cool!)

First of all, this song is ridiculously catchy. Second, it’s a nice bit of commentary. By the title and the styling, you would expect something similar to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” and you get exactly the opposite. It rejects the idea that a “girl crush” (or obsession, in this case) is sexual in nature and takes a much darker turn. It takes this performative view of women’s sexuality that too often gets fetishized and in its place, offers up a scenario in which Rebecca’s obsession with everything about Valencia is creepy and destructive.

2. Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes (1×03 “I Hope Josh Comes to My Party!”)

This song couldn’t be any more made for me if it tried. It is the perfect boyband parody and it’s about psychology. Though I don’t think it’s too likely that anyone specializing in CBT would also be Freudian in their views. But nitpicking aside, I like that right at the beginning, the show didn’t shy away from Rebecca’s mental health struggles. Josh’s love was never going to fix her problems, but it makes sense at this point in time that she could believe it might.

3. Settle for Me (1×04 “I’m Going on a Date with Josh’s Friend!”)

The styling on this is just gorgeous. It’s a homage to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers that suits Santino Fontana’s voice perfectly. The ballroom dancing and tap break and the outfits are beautiful all while the song is incredibly depressing. Greg knows he’s not Rebecca’s choice but he doesn’t care because he thinks so little of himself. They share their self-loathing tendencies and makes them understand each other well and gives them an easy rapport but it also makes you want more for both of them, individually and together.

Continue reading The Situation’s a Lot More Nuanced Than That: My Top 10 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Songs

The 100 3×11: We Survive Together

In the immortal words of Octavia Blake, we’re back, bitches! This episode marks the first time the 100 has been together on-screen since the season one finale. Yes, off-screen, they shared the walk back to Camp Jaha from Mount Weather but I don’t think any of them were up for much talking at that time. After a half-season that tested my love for this show with it’s poor writing and increased violence, this episode gave me back the hope that I once found in this series.

Things are still terrible. Abby is now in the City of Light, a pawn in ALIE’s game. Octavia is grieving over the loss of Lincoln. Clarke is grieving over the loss of Lexa. Jasper hasn’t healed from the loss of Maya. Monty killed his mom, shortly before learning that people who have taken the City of Light chip can be saved. Bellamy finally realizes that he made the wrong decision and now can be more full of guilt and self-loathing. But they are no longer suffering alone. They are a family once more and they’ll get through their challenges, both internal and external, together.

Before I talk about what made this episode work so well for me, I have to single out Lindsay Morgan for her exceptional performance. Everyone did a wonderful job this week but Morgan stood out by throwing everything she had into her portrayal of Raven. The physicality and emotion she put into her reactions and taunts this week was some of her best work on the series.

While not the underlying problem with the season, the separation of this core team has made it a difficult season to watch. Not only has Clarke been physically separated from them and her mother, but the rest of them have been separated by their own mental and emotional struggles. Friendships and bonds that once provided strength and comfort have been tested and broken. The result has been the isolation of these characters, with only small moments of overlap. It’s left each of them with little support system at a time when they could all use it. Yet despite their own problems and the tension between many of them, when one of their own needed help, they all risked everything to help.

Continue reading The 100 3×11: We Survive Together

I Will Remember You: A Look Back on American Idol

As soon as the final season of American Idol was announced, I knew I wanted to write something about the show. This show had an enormous impact on pop culture and gave FOX several years of incredible ratings. It gave them a platform to launch new shows, it inspired several similar competition shows, and while it didn’t make as strong of an impact on the music industry as it may have liked, it did launch the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, and many more. From that perspective alone, the fact that the show is ending is a big deal, even if it doesn’t draw the same attention it used to. But while I love it from a TV history perspective, that not why I needed to write about the show. In fact, the reason I needed to write about it has little to do with the show itself. Instead, in honor of its finale, I want to talk about what one season in particular brought to me as an individual.

It seems that most American Idol fans have one season they love just a little more than the rest. Maybe it was the first they watched. Maybe it was the one in which their favorite won. Maybe it was the one that had the best vocalists. Maybe it was the only one they watched. For me, that season is season 8. It’s not the first I watched (that would be the first season) and honestly, I didn’t even watch all of season 8. But it was the one that will forever be a part of my heart and an important part of my personal history.

As has been the case of most of the media I hold close to my heart, season 8 of American Idol came to me at the start of a transitional time in my life. I was getting ready to start the process of applying to graduate school and deciding whether I wanted to pursue psychology or pop culture studies. I was in the process of defining my own identity and beliefs distinct from the one that had been taught to me through 13 years of religious schooling. I was still struggling with the loss of a few old friendships and was very hesitant to let new people into my life. Then in blazed Adam Lambert.

My mom has been a fan of the show for as long as it has been airing so I would often hear pieces of songs when I went to get a drink of water or ask her a question. If I’m remembering correctly, I wandered through during Adam’s performance of “Ring of Fire” and I was intrigued by him. Then I happened to be back next week for “Mad World” and I was hooked. If I didn’t see an episode, I asked her how he did. There were other contestants I liked but he was my favorite. While both Kris and Adam had strong final performance nights (except for “No Boundaries”, congratulations AI, you found a song that fit neither of their strengths), my prior love for Adam won out and I voted for a performer for the first time since season one. He didn’t win, but I wasn’t concerned. I’d been aware enough of the show and the success (or lack thereof) of the winners to know that the top 3-4 was usually guaranteed to release at least one album. For any other season and any other time, my interest probably would have stopped there. I might have enjoyed a song on the radio by a contestant and that would be it.

But once again, it was Adam that kept me invested. His Rolling Stone cover got so much press, both the fact that it was the runner-up on the cover and not the winner as well as the admission of his crush on Kris. At some point that summer, I stumbled across a Livejournal post celebrating Adam and Kris’s friendship, which led to a fan community, which led to a year I won’t ever forget. 

Continue reading I Will Remember You: A Look Back on American Idol

100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Two

It’s time for Day Two of my 100 Days of Fan Favorites challenge. Once again, I’m back to talk about a romantic relationship that is very close to my heart, that of Jimmy and Gretchen from You’re the Worst. 

Jimmy and Gretchen don’t have a conventional love story and would be horrified at the suggestion that they did. When the show started, neither of them particularly believed in the idea of love or commitment. But somehow, what started as a one-night stand grew into a quiet and deeply affecting love story.  

The show wastes little time establishing that these two people are in fact, kind of the worst. When we meet Jimmy, he’s taking pictures of his penis with the disposable cameras at his ex-girlfriend’s wedding before being thrown out of said wedding for getting in a loud fight with the bride. Which is where he meets Gretchen, outside for a smoke after stealing a wedding gift. They end up in bed together and in between rounds, spend some time discussion the terrible things they’ve done in their past. It’s not your average pillow talk, but they both recognize that they are able to be honest about their awfulness because they have no intention of seeing each other again. This becomes the base of their relationship.

The next day, after returning to Jimmy’s house to retrieve her purse, Gretchen returns a little bit of that honesty Jimmy is so fond of before stealing his car to visit her occasional boyfriend/sex partner. She attempts to open up to him about terrible things she’s done and he is understandably appalled and confused. So she calls Jimmy. He may be the worst, as she pointed out earlier, but he understood her. He is more impressed at her audacity than upset that she actually stole his car and they proceed to have a conversation about his foot fetish as she provides him with helpful fantasy material. Before long, they realize that they’ve unintentionally started enjoying each other’s company and that they’d like to see each other again.

The problem is one of them (Gretchen) is scared of anything slightly resembling commitment. Which turns out to be perfectly fine because after his relationship with Becca (the bride in the beginning of the episode), Jimmy doesn’t believe in love. So because they both know any chance of an actual relationship is doomed, they agree to continue seeing and talking to each other.

I loved the first episode of this show nearly instantly the first time around but it wasn’t until I did a rewatch a few days ago that I really saw why Gretchen and Jimmy work so well together. With each other, there is an understanding that is lacking in most of their other relationships. These people see so clearly everything that makes the person kind of terrible but they don’t want to run away. They recognize the worst parts of themselves in the other person and therefore have someone to share that with. Relationships should absolutely encourage us to be our best selves but I also think the best ones should understand us at our worst. Our worst may be a little less extreme than Jimmy and Gretchen’s, but it’s always there.

Continue reading 100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Two

Thoughts on The 100’s Character Death and The Reaction To It

Over the past year, I’ve not hid my love for The 100. I sung its praises and encouraged others to watch, it was one of the most featured shows in my Best of 2015 series, and I was excited enough to want to try my hand at weekly reviewing for the first time. As you may have noticing, that hasn’t worked out so well. There were some other, real life factors, that went into my decision to stop but even more than those, it was because I no longer knew what to say. Unlike the first two seasons, which had the characters moving the plot forward with logical development, this season has taken the opposite approach. Pacing issues and pivotal moments happening off-screen has led to a show that moves characters around to suit the plot, with much less thought to their overall development.  It has left me with much less desire to talk about the show as a whole but given the events of last Thursday’s episode, there are a few things I’d like to say.

The way Lexa’s death was handled was a disgrace. I can understand the need to work with Alycia Debnam-Carey’s schedule on Fear the Walking Dead. I can even almost understand the need to kill Lexa at all, though I can think of ways that could have eliminated the need and kept her character off-screen in a believable way, as it did give us a significant piece of information that should have a large impact on the show moving forward. However, what I won’t accept is the way they chose to kill her.

Lexa, the Commander of the entire Grounder nation and proven warrior, deserved more than a stray bullet. Had she died protecting Clarke from Titus or at the hand of one of her people who was unhappy with her rule, I could have accepted that. That would have allowed her to go out on her own terms or at the very least, in a way that recognized the cost of her leadership position. If the show is considered entirely on its own, it was a bad decision and just another one of many missteps this season.

I was spoiled for the ending of this episode. Being the fangirl that I am and knowing what a character death does to fans, I took a look at the Clexa tag on Tumblr to see how fans were doing. I expected sadness and anger at the specifics on how the death happened. I didn’t expect the personal heartbreak. I didn’t expect the resignation and the loss of hope that I found there.

I love TV. I’ve seen a lot of it and I’m continually striving to see more. I also know the importance of representation and it’s something I feel passionately about. I’ve written an entire post about the importance of media literacy. And I failed at it. I was thinking about The 100 in a vacuum and the loss of Lexa as just another character and I was wrong. I had the luxury of overlooking the history of killing lesbian women on television, often right after happy moments. It wasn’t ignorance, I’ve seen more than one show do it and have known of more. But they weren’t the first things that popped into my head. They didn’t have to be because I’m not a lesbian. I haven’t seen characters like myself die with alarming frequency.

Continue reading Thoughts on The 100’s Character Death and The Reaction To It

I’m An Optimist, Not an Idiot: A Letter to Savannah Monroe

Nine months ago, Katie launched The Fan Mail Project. In honor of today’s deadline for letters, I thought I’d share another one of mine. Today is all about my love for Hellcats’ Savannah and how she reminded me of two influential people in my own life. 

Dear Savannah,

My final two years of cheerleading was bittersweet. Our captain graduated and her loss took much of the energy out of the program. I was still getting to do what I loved but not nearly at the same level or with the same number of people. It dampened a lot of my love for the sport but it’s impossible to be fully rid of something that meant so much to you. It’s been nearly 10 years since I last picked up my pom poms and I’m happy to say that thanks to you, a fuller version of my love of cheerleading has returned.

Thank you for being proud to be a cheerleader. It’s hard for people who aren’t involved in it to truly understand what goes into the competitive side of cheerleading. It’s seen an activity that is performed for the benefit of other people rather than something that pushes you and is personally fulfilling. But you never let that stop you. When others were dismissive, you shined brighter. Cheerleading wasn’t a popular thing to do at my high school. We won the first state championship in my school’s history and no one cared. It’s hard to remain positive about something when the general response is that of apathy or disregard. But we did it anyway. You would have loved my captain, she shared your passion and even came from a similar background as you. It was her who initially sparked my love for the sport by showing me everything it could be and instilling a level of confidence in myself and my abilities I didn’t know I had. It was you who made me reconnect with that girl.

Continue reading I’m An Optimist, Not an Idiot: A Letter to Savannah Monroe

Be a Force of Nature: A Letter to Cristina Yang

For those of you who don’t know, my friend Katie (creator of Nerdy Girl Notes) is writing a book! She believes, as I do, in the power of the media to shape us and positively impact our lives. So she created The Fan Mail Project as a way for us as fans to say thank you so some of the fictional characters who have meant the most to our personal development and to highlight all of the good that comes from having diverse, positive examples of female representation in the media. The submission deadline for letters is 3 weeks away, so there is plenty of time to contribute yourself or spread the word. If you need somewhere to start, here’s a few suggestions of characters who aren’t yet represented in the book but are often cited as making a difference. Or if you’d like to see more examples of letters, Katie’s can all be found online as can the contributions of other fans

Dear Cristina,

I’ve always believed that there are some people who come into our lives exactly when we need them. These are the people who fill a piece of your heart and never really leave us. This is who you are to me. I met you a year ago. I was nicely settled in at work, doing a job I enjoy, but am not particularly passionate about. You were a first year resident and already sure you were taking the right path. You were a little off-putting at first, with your confidence and lack of interest in sugarcoating your thoughts. But you quickly revealed a deeper inner life and drive and in you, I found myself.

I didn’t find myself in all of your many positive attributes. I admire your unwavering sense of purpose and your dedication to all things related to cardiothoracic surgery. I cheered at your many successes in the operating room and with your research. But I don’t share that soul-deep certainty that I have found what I want to do with my life. You give me hope that one day I will and that I can approach it with the same tenacity and devotion so thank you for pursuing your dreams without hesitation.

Instead, it’s been in your weaknesses that I am most drawn to you. When you had your ectopic pregnancy and tried to push through like everything was fine, I recognized that impulse. I recognized the need to be strong and not show that you were hurting because in your mind, there was no reason to be. You didn’t want the pregnancy, so you weren’t grieving over a child in the same way you could have been. So life and work continued on and you probably even thought you were fine for a while. But as you and I both know, emotions aren’t that convenient and logical, as much as we wish for them to be at times. When we finally give in and allow ourselves to breakdown, we do it in a big way. Thank you for being so much like me in that moment. Thank you for making me feel less alone in my somewhat ineffective way at handling events and feelings that are beyond my control.

Continue reading Be a Force of Nature: A Letter to Cristina Yang

The 100 Episode Discussion: Ye Who Enter Here

I’m always a little amazed at the amount of plot The 100 packs into each episode while also maintaining a strong focus on the characters affected by that plot. This week was no exception, with the addition of Skaikru to Lexa’s coalition of Grounders, the destruction of Mount Weather, and what looked to the breaking of that same coalition. All while giving us a better look at Polis, a glimpse into Raven’s vulnerabilities, and a promise between Lexa and Clarke.

Before I get to the many things I enjoyed about the episode, there is one storyline that I’m having problems with that I would like to address. I don’t like that Gina was killed in Mount Weather. One of the most frequent ways in which I praise this show is its commitment to its characters and their growth and development. Killing Gina went against all of that. Her character could have been so much more than she was able to be. We saw a few brief moments between her and Bellamy though we missed any sort of development there that would have gotten us truly invested in her as a character. We saw that she and Raven clearly had a history together that could have deepened each of their backstories. But ultimately, she existed to be killed. She was killed for shock value and to propel the stories of other characters forward. Yes, other love interests in the show have been killed. But we were given the opportunity to care about Maya and understand Finn’s journey. Their deaths meant something to us as viewers, not just to the characters onscreen. Gina’s death means relatively little to viewers, other than the loss of potential storylines and relationships. It was an lazy, contrived plot choice and I have come to expect better from this show.

Continue reading The 100 Episode Discussion: Ye Who Enter Here

The 100 Episode Discussion: Wanheda, Parts One and Two

Welcome to a new season of The 100! The format of these posts will likely change as the season demands but I am excited to have a space to discuss this show with other fans. 

Where We Left Off: Everything was terrible. Lexa broke the Grounder’s alliance with the Sky People. Clarke, Bellamy, and Monty murdered all of the Mountain Men. Raven was hurt, again. Clarke couldn’t live with what she had done and left Camp Jaha.

Where We Came Back: Things are a little better. The Sky People and Grounders have come to a tenuous truce and Lincoln is working with Abby and Kane in an attempt to bring about a more lasting peace. Bellamy and Monty have developed a good partnership and look like they are becoming integral members of Arkadia (the new name for Camp Jaha). Monty was reunited with his mom. Both Nyko and Indra seem to be on friendly terms with the Sky People. On the bad side of things, the Ice Nation Queen wants to kill Clarke (though she’s now reasonably safe under Lexa’s protection). Jasper is struggling to deal with losing Maya at Mount Weather. Abby is having a hard time balancing her multiple, often conflicting, responsibilities. Octavia doesn’t like being with the Sky People or Lincoln’s increased role in their society. Pike, a newly-found member of Farm Station, hates all Grounders and is largely unwilling to budge on that issue. Finally, in a plot nearly entirely to himself, Jaha has undertaken ALIE’s plan to save everyone by bringing them to the City of Light and Murphy is having no part of it.

Where We’re Going: There are three major conflicts that look like they are going to define this season. For the Sky People, Pike and his refusal to cooperate with the Grounders doesn’t mesh with the peace that has formed. To him, they are all evil killers and nothing seems likely to change his mind. That sort of rigid thinking may have worked on the Ark but as we’ve seen time and time again, it doesn’t work on the ground. In order for the remaining people on the ground, both Sky Person and Grounder, to find some sort of lasting peace and cooperation, each side has to put aside their preconceived notions of the other group as a whole and begin treating them as individuals. It’s a lot easier to demonize groups of people when they are an abstract concept and Pike seems content to do just that. If he can gain a following, just keeping their own people in line will be an uphill battle for Abby and Kane.

For the Grounders, a war is brewing between the 11 tribes under Lexa’s command and Azgeda (Ice Nation), who refuse to bow to her. In order to do that, the Azgeda queen is searching for Wanheda (the Commander of Death) to kill for her power. That is clearly opposed to Lexa’s goals. Politically, she needs the unification of the tribes to maintain her power. If one opposes her, how long will it before others follow suit? As Heda, she’s performed something unheard of by bringing all of the tribes under her leadership and in doing so, has created a relative peace between them that she is now desperately trying to hold on to.

To complicate issues, she genuinely cares for Clarke and doesn’t want to lose someone else to her enemies. For as much as I may personally disagree with the statement, Lexa wasn’t wrong when she told Clarke that love was a weakness. Love gives your enemies a place to strike. It makes you vulnerable. And while personally, that is a good thing and allows that love to change you and enrich your life, it’s a dangerous position for a leader to be in. Love makes you make bad strategic decisions because your priorities are split between making the safest decision for the people you command and the safest decision for the person you love. As Heda, Lexa simply can’t afford that. She needs Clarke to be both a person and a symbol and the conflict between those two needs is going to be fascinating to watch this season.

Then there is Jaha and the City of Light. This is not a hugely popular storyline. It’s currently occupying a very different space than the other two stories and it looks and feels like it’s coming out of an entirely different show. Jaha’s vision of the City of Light makes me feel like I’m standing in Gaius Baltar’s house waiting for the destruction of everything. Now, I love Battlestar Galactica and I’m more than a little intrigued by the similarities between Jaha’s visions and the AI world Daniel Greystone created in Caprica. But at the moment, this feels like the weakest storyline. I’m holding off judgement until we see how it will eventually interest with the other two stories but after two episodes, I’m more interested in uncovering ALIE’s goal and why she’s manipulating Jaha and the others and less interested in more of Jaha’s savior complex.

Continue reading The 100 Episode Discussion: Wanheda, Parts One and Two

100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day One

There is joy in talking about the things we love deeply, as I found when I did my Month of Love in July 2014. The ladies at MGcircles wanted to do something similar so they started 100 Days of Fan Favorites as a challenge to bloggers, artists, and anyone in fandom who would like to participate to celebrate the things we love instead of focusing on the things we don’t. This will be an ongoing project for me with things posted sporadically but I am thrilled to be taking part.

I didn’t see Clarke and Bellamy coming. I knew people loved the idea of them together and so was primed for it but I was so invested in the non-romantic aspects of the show that it wasn’t something I thought a lot about. Then this scene happened and I was done.

Clarke and Bellamy started the series as opponents, each advocating for a fundamentally different approach to leading. At the beginning of the series, Bellamy thought of Clarke as a spoiled princess. As one of the two members of the Ark’s ruling class on the ground, Clarke represented everything about the Ark that Bellamy hated. She was the rule that led to his mother’s death. The rule that led to Octavia’s imprisonment. And the rule that led to him attempting to kill a man for the chance to look out for his sister again. Bellamy was the person making Clarke’s life incredibly difficult. He was the one standing in the way of every decision she was trying to make to keep The 100 alive when they were more interested in partying than finding food. He was the one encouraging the “whatever the hell we want” philosophy that would lead to the death of everyone on the Ark. Neither thought much of the other. Neither was willing to back down.

Then Atom was caught in the acid fog and Bellamy had to make some hard realizations about both himself and Clarke. She was able to do what he couldn’t and in doing so, forced him to see her as more than the spoiled princess he wanted to believe she was. While he still doesn’t like her, he begins to respect her. This moment also marks the first time that Clarke realizes that Bellamy’s attitude is nothing more than a facade. It may be an irritating facade but Clarke sees that there is a good person (or at least someone not quite as comfortable with violence as he led people to believe) underneath. In this moment, things change. That change starts as subtle but by the end of the next episode, they are the official co-leaders of the camp. They still don’t really like each other but there is a respect and an understanding present between them that wasn’t there before.

Continue reading 100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day One