Best of 2016: Relationships

In my list of my favorite characters of 2016, I talk a little about the fact that strong, well-written characters will always take priority for me over plot on TV shows. If a character arc makes sense, I’m happy. But characters can’t stand on their own. It is their relationships with others that help define them and give them what they need in order to grow. In the words of Cory Matthews, “people change people”.

These people have all been permanently impacted by the people they have chosen to let into their lives. For better or worse, they have played a significant role in the way they interact with the world. Those are the kinds of stories I will never have enough of, in all their possible forms. Whether they are familial, platonic, romantic, or exist somewhere in the intersection of two of those forms, these are the relationships that I will remember from this year.

1. Dad!Kane and his children (The 100) In the course of building a new way of life on the ground, Marcus Kane inadvertently adopted several of the delinquents. It wasn’t intentional and it’s in no way official, as most of the kids are young adults and have been on their own for far too long. But he took them under his wing and mentored them and they developed a respect and love for him that no one could have anticipated. When the adults landed on the ground, Marcus was the authoritarian who still saw these kids as the rule-breakers he helped imprison on the Ark. But as he grew and learned that things couldn’t be so black-and-white on the ground, he saw the drive and skill it took for them to survive. He saw children who grew up under harsh conditions who have found their way but still suffer from the long-lasting effects of their culture. So he helped guide them. He was supportive of their emotional needs and made sure that they knew they could come to him. He tried to steer them back on the right path when they got lost in fear and anger and told them the things they needed to hear, even if they weren’t ready to hear it. There was never a doubt that he cared and it was the bond they had formed that helped Bellamy realize that the road Pike was leading them down was dangerous and to take the first steps toward making amends. As they all work together to save the world in the upcoming season, I can’t wait to see these relationships continue to grow. 

2. Riley and Maya (Girl Meets World) No matter who else comes into their lives, what these two girls share is extraordinary. This is the relationship at the heart of this show and these two are better because they have each other. Maya helps to ground Riley while Riley shows Maya that sometimes it’s OK to fly. These friends love all the parts of each other that others might consider flaws and want only the best for each other. They may not always know what the best is, as Riley ended up sending Maya into a bit of an identity crisis this year, but her heart was in the right place and she didn’t want to see Maya lose the parts of herself that were uniquely hers. When Riley gets to be too much for everyone else around her, Maya is there by her side. When someone implies that Riley’s made Maya weak, she’ll literally chase them away because Maya knows it’s Riley’s influence that has made her strong. When Maya gets scared of Shawn finding out that she and her mom can be kind of a mess, it’s Riley who gives her the confidence and trust that he loves them because what seemed like a mess was borne of a deep love. She gives up her traditional Christmas with her best friend because she knows that she needs to spend this one with her new family. It’s Riley who laughs at her boyfriend when he says that her relationship with him was more important than her relationship with Maya. These two are it for each other. No one else will ever hold such a special place in their hearts and that bond will keep them together no matter what comes. It’s friendship at its purest and it is a beautiful thing to see.

3. Donna and Cameron (Halt and Catch Fire) Give me more relationships like this on television. I want positive relationships between women on TV but I also want messy ones that don’t fit into easy descriptions. This season was complicated and so very painful for these two but I loved every moment of it. These two have been the highlight of Halt and Catch Fire since it realized what it had in them in season 2. Their friendship is strong and built on trust and respect for what the other has to bring to the table. They balance each other out and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But it’s not enough and it breaks, seemingly irreparably, because despite all that, there is an omnipresent part in both of them who think they are the person with the best vision and will forge ahead without any discussion. It’s fine when they are fighting for the same goal, but when they are on opposing sides, it’s brutal. They know each other well so they know exactly where to strike to hit each other’s insecurities. They had a tentative truce in the finale but I should have known it was too good to last. Cameron’s admission that she enjoyed working with Donna again but couldn’t ever trust her with another project was heartbreaking but fitting for these characters and their history.

4. Maya and Lucas (Girl Meets World) I seem to need a new pairing to fall incredibly hard for each year and in 2016, Maya Hart and Lucas Friar were that pairing. In them, I see the promise and potential of a deep, lasting relationship based on recognition and love for everything that makes these characters who they are. I see something that is too big for them right now and too overwhelming to really wrap their minds around. It lacks the ease of love at first sight, at least in their young minds. Maya keeps her feelings close to her, it’s only when she can no longer hold them back that they slip out at all. But Lucas has seen them. He knows the heart that lies underneath that tough exterior. He sees the girl who would do anything for her best friend, who will put everyone else in the world first because that’s how she believes it should be. He’s always been among the first to fight for the person that Maya is. That beautiful girl who scares bullies away by running at them with hammers. As someone who loves Maya, that is all I want for her. Lucas doesn’t have the same level of development as Maya. We haven’t gotten to see him work though the fact that the person he was in Texas is still a part of him today. It doesn’t seem that he’s allowed himself the same complexity he allows Maya. But with everything we know about Maya and how she loves, she would be the same supportive presence that he was while she doubted herself. Maya was right to end the triangle the way she did. Neither of them are ready for what the other has to offer right now. They have some growing up to do first but what they shared was real. It wouldn’t take much for them to discover it again when they’re ready.

Continue reading Best of 2016: Relationships

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Best of 2016: Characters

On television as in life, it does not do to stagnate. We must continue to change and if we are to become the best versions of ourselves. We won’t always change in positive ways, sometimes we end up in places we later realize we don’t want to be. But we must always believe that growth is possible and above all else, that hope can be found. Hope for a better life. Hope for peace. Hope for the chance to be a part of something.

I have always been a person who is more drawn to the characters on a TV show than the plot itself. My engagement rests on the ability of a show to create compelling arcs and believable characters and motivations. Whether it has been a striking change over the course of a season or the retrospective observation of a character’s full journey, these stories were the ones that most grabbed my attention and my love.

1. Maya Hart (Girl Meets World) I started watching Girl Meets World this year and Maya quickly became one of my favorite characters of all time. This year was one of great uncertainty for her. She and her best friend were caught in a love triangle with their first crushes. She temporarily lost her way and had to rediscover who she is and who she wants to be. She finally had something good happen that she had hoped for and she was so scared that it was going to go away that she tried to push it away so it couldn’t hurt her in the future. Compared to her growth and slow embrace of hope in season two, she backslid a little and it only increased my feelings of protectiveness over her. She’s a young teenager, of course she doesn’t have it all figured out yet. But that urge to run, to avoid hoping for things because it hurts that much more when they disappear, that’s something that can resonate with people of all ages. She’d rather hurt herself than let someone else hurt her but she’s growing. She’s trying and learning that it is OK to have hope and that good things can happen to her. It’s not a linear process and sometimes she needs a reminder but it doesn’t make the journey any less valuable or compelling to watch.

2. Kelly Severide (Chicago Fire) Kelly’s been my favorite male on the show since episode one and I could not have asked for more from him this year. Since Shay’s death (and even before, but at least he had her to call him out on his nonsense), most of his stories have involved him impulsively sleeping with someone in an attempt to run away from any deeper examination of his feelings. He doesn’t believe that he’s capable of forming any real romantic connections and is so concerned with losing someone else important to him so for years he’s pretended that he isn’t interested. Some of the fault lies with the show for not giving him more to do until this year but that self-doubt has been a prominent feature in his character arc from the beginning. This year, he decided he could do more. He deepened his friendship with Casey back to what I imagine they were before they lost Andy. He’s become one of Gabby’s sounding board as well when she has doubts. He made connections with people that had nothing to do with sex. And finally, in the 100th episode, he decided to become a bone marrow donor and save the life of a young woman with leukemia. He wants to be a part of something bigger than himself and is craving those connections with others. He cares so much, whether he will admit it to himself or not. He’s often self-destructive, but he’s a good man and it’s time for him to recognize that and move forward.

3. Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful) No matter how strong a person is, they need people by their side to love them and hold them up when they need help remembering who they are. Vanessa started the season alone and depressed. Her love had turned himself in for the crimes he committed in his home country of America, her surrogate father went on a voyage to Africa to bury their friend, and the comfort she once found in God’s presence was gone. It had been broken by the events of the previous season and she thought there could be nothing left for her. But even without those things, she was determined to press on. She found new friends and allies and remembered someone who showed her incredible kindness in the face of the brutality of the asylum. She was once again hunted by the forces of evil, by the twin forces of Lucifer and Dracula. She managed to be seduced by one of them, convinced that darkness was her destiny and fighting would only lead to more suffering. It was heartbreaking to see her give in to the force she’d spent so long fighting against. It was equally heartbreaking to see her summon the strength to fight it one final time, in the form of her own sacrificial death to rid the world of the evil contained inside her. I wanted a life for her, with Ethan and the children she longed for. I still wish there had been another way to end the series. But she chose the faith that defined her in her last moments. She knew Ethan loved her deeply and that she was not lost to God. She was at peace for once in her adult life. It was a bittersweet ending for a character who has touched me so deeply but I wouldn’t have traded the time I spent with the character or the lessons she taught me for anything.

Continue reading Best of 2016: Characters

Best of 2016: Actors

This is my favorite time of year as a writer. It is the only one that I make sure to, even if my writing output for the rest of the year has been less than desirable. I love it for a couple of reasons. First, I love recommending television to people. The sheer amount of television available is overwhelming and if I can help someone find a TV show they would have otherwise never heard of or if I can sell a show in a different way that resonates with them, I’m happy. I want to share the things I love. Second, these lists are a chance for me to be introspective. They allow me to look at what I loved and why this year. I get to see whether the broad genres of comedy or dramas are more engaging to me. I get to think about where the shows I love have aired and be excited about the way their distribution affects the story they are telling. Most of all, I get to think about what resonated with me. Whose emotional journeys touched my heart the most? What kinds of stories did I want to see? How are those stories being told?

To start out this year’s celebration of the things I loved in television, I decided to try something new. I added a list this year to my traditional line-up of characters, relationships, moments, episodes, and shows. There is some incredible talent on TV right now and I wanted to be able to recognize some of it. In other changes this year, I am trying my hand at ranking my choices for further introspection on my part. I hope you all enjoy reading my picks as much as I enjoyed writing about them and share your own in the comments below. In the upcoming weeks, keep an eye on Nerdy Girl Notes and MGCircles Media for even more year-end fun!

1. Adan Young (Rectify) Any member of the Rectify cast could have been on this list as each one has been incredible in the final season. But this show would not exist in this form without Adan Young’s Daniel. His performance is achingly raw and honest, to an extent that is both beautiful and painful to watch. Young has put his soul into this performance for the past four years and created something extraordinary. I can’t think of anything else on television like it and I feel fortunate to have seen it.

2. Eva Green (Penny Dreadful) I’m incredibly sad that this is the last time Eva Green will be eligible for this list (at least for her performance as Vanessa Ives) because since Penny Dreadful came on the air, she has been one of the best performers on TV. Her performance is uninhibited and no matter what has been asked of her, she has imbued her acting with a physicality that few others can rival. She brought this character to life in a truly extraordinary way and I am so grateful to her for that.

3. Keri Russell (The Americans) Elizabeth has always been the less approachable of the two Jennings adults. Her devotion to Mother Russia was (mostly) unwavering and her emotional distance a necessity of the job asked of her. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel things deeply and Keri Russell has never let us forget that. We see the hurt and the heartbreak this job can cause, her fierce love for her children and her desire to share herself with them more fully. Then we see her put her spy mask back on and transform into someone who can’t be allowed those feelings because they interfere with her duty. It’s only when she’s back home again with Philip that she’s allowed to be vulnerable and we feel all of those nuances and shifts with Russell’s extraordinary performance.

4. Sarah Paulson (People vs. OJ Simpson)Her performance of Marcia Clark was nothing short of extraordinary. Since the trial, Clark has had so much ridicule and scorn directed her way and Sarah Paulson showed America just how wrong they were to do so. She gave some dignity and respect to a woman who fought so hard for justice for two families and who never lost sight of the victims in the media circus. The empathy and depth she brought to the role and the respect she had for the real Marcia Clark was so evident, both onscreen and off. In a cast full of incredible performances, she was one of the highlights.

5. Sterling K. Brown (People vs. OJ Simpson, This Is Us) This has been a stellar year for Sterling K. Brown. Not only did he give us a layered and complex portrayal of Chris Darden in but he’s also the best part of This Is Us. In both roles, he brings a quiet intensity to his performances that is absolutely riveting. You can’t help but believe in his sincerity and his emotions, whether the scene is sharing a sweet dance with a coworker or in the face of heartbreaking betrayal.

Continue reading Best of 2016: Actors

A Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow

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It seems almost cliche to say this, but Disney World is a place full of magic. Whether it was the feeling of flying through Agrabah on a magic carpet in Mickey’s Philharmagic, watching Elsa cover Cinderella’s Castle in ice and snow, or the sight of snow falling over Main Street during the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, you can’t help but be enchanted by everything around you. But in addition to the magic, it is a place of hope and awe.

If I am remembering correctly, the Carousel of Progress was the 3rd attraction we went on in Disney World and since then, There’s a Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow has been stuck in my head. My friends and I left for Disney World the day after the election. It did not feel like there was any sort of good tomorrow in our future. People were hurting and scared and everything felt very uncertain. But despite all that, I couldn’t help but be moved by the wonder and optimism found in both the song and the attraction. Our technological progress over the years is undeniable (though we’re still not talking to our ovens, thankfully) and it has shaped and changed our lives in countless ways.

Continue reading A Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow

100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Four

At its core, sense8 is a show about relationships and the connections we make with other people. So it seems only fitting that it would be a show full of special romantic relationships. Throughout the course of the first season, we are able to watch some of these relationships grow as the bonds between the sensates deepen and turn romantic in a few cases. With others, however, we drop in on already established relationships and are able to watch them adapt to lives that were very different than what they imagined. While each of the four main romances on the show offer something special (and I will be writing about at least one more before this feature is done), today I want to talk about the one that first grabbed my heart. It was these two and the unshakable bond they share that initially drew me into the show and that I hope will continue to play a prominent role in the upcoming season.

Nomi and Amanita are the definition of #relationshipgoals. Their relationship is full of love, support, unwavering trust, a fierce protectiveness, laugher, and great sex. There is a warmth and intimacy that pervades every scene between them that you simply cannot help but love. It’s not always easy to make established couples every bit as compelling as couples that develop over the course of a show, but sense8 manages it with these two.

Our first introduction to these two is a sex scene and it conveys so much more than just their physical attraction and sexual connection. There is a playfulness and a tenderness that is present in the scene and in its aftermath that reveals a lot about who these people are to each other. It’s the sex you have with a partner you’ve been with for a while and who you care a great deal about. It’s wildly different in tone than the initial sex scene between Jimmy and Gretchen, for example, and not just because the tone of sense8 and You’re the Worst are very different. It is clear from the very beginning that these two adore each other. Their playfulness and comfort with each other continue to be seen throughout the pilot episode, with little touches that speak to a deeper intimacy and long-lived relationship. While sharing a burrito on a bench before Pride isn’t an inherently romantic act, there is joy on each of their faces that comes from sharing time with the person you love and it is this casual connection that instantly warms your heart.

As Nomi recalls their first Pride together, we get a glimpse into the early days of their relationship and their dynamic as partners. Amanita is excited to introduce Nomi to her friends, only to have one of them disagree with Nomi’s stance on the term “LGBT” and invalidate her womanhood in response. Amanita’s response is to instantly leap to her girlfriend’s defense before running after her. It’s clear that this isn’t the first time Nomi has experienced transphobic remarks by people who disagree with her blogging but it was the first time she’s had someone there to defend her. She’s touched that Amanita would do that for her and you can see the heartbreak on Amanita’s face when Nomi admits to her that no one had done that before. Her eyes are filled with love as she pulls Nomi closer and you can feel the implicit promise that she’ll never have to go through that alone again. Nomi calls it the moment she knew she would love Amanita forever and I can understand why because I fell in love with her in that moment too.

That scene sets up Amanita’s protective nature and it comes back in full force after Nomi passes out while taking part in Pride festivities, is held in a medical facility against her will by her mother (who repeatedly misgenders her), and made to believe that there is something wrong with her brain. She’s scared and alone but when she talks to Amanita, she promises to “burn down the hospital before anyone touches [her] beautiful brain” and she was not exaggerating because she actually does set a fire in the building in order to mount a rescue. Amanita sees everything that makes Nomi special and makes her who she is and she is unwilling to let anyone or anything take that away. This is a couple that will go to hell and back for each other because at the end of the day, all they want is for the other to be safe, happy, and whole.

In many shows, being a part of a group of people across the world who are mentally connected and can appear and switch bodies with you as needed would be something to keep a secret. It would be a source of drama and tension in the relationship because heaven forbid a couple is happy and stable. Fortunately, sense8 chose to go another direction with these two. Nomi tells Amanita what’s going on and Amanita’s immediate reaction is to trust that her girlfriend is telling her the truth as she knows it and offer to help and listen however she can. There’s never any questions about her sanity or if the doctors could have done something to cause this. She’s ready to believe the impossible because she believes in Nomi. It’s a level of unconditional trust that we don’t often see displayed, on TV or in life, but it is beautiful to witness. It is clear that they are team and no matter what life throws at them, they would rather face it together than apart.

I dearly love the strength and solidness of their relationship but they aren’t the only things that set this relationship apart. This relationship, the strongest on this show, is between a trans woman (played by Jamie Clayton, who is also trans) and a woman of color. It’s not a pairing often represented on TV and seeing this couple portrayed so lovingly matters. They get to have a happy life together, be a team, help save the day, and enjoy each other’s love. They are a fully developed couple and that’s exciting and still too rare.

With such a large cast and only one season aired to date, we haven’t spent a lot of time with Nomi and Amanita. But when you have actresses as talented as Clayton and Freema Agyeman, who have infused such depth and history into these characters and their bond and who care about this relationship as much as we have come to as viewers, that small amount of time is all it has taken for these two to win a permanent spot in my heart.

100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Three

After a several month absence, I return with to 100 Days of Fan Favorites with one of my earliest ships and one that taught me a lot about what fandom could be. 

As a young fangirl, I was fortunate enough to start out liking canon ships (or ones that would eventually become canon after several seasons of waiting). It was easy. There was a lot of material to analyze and appreciate and my patience was eventually rewarded with cute first kisses and proposals in beekeeping suits. Then I found Heroes and its fandom. This was not a show that was very good at creating compelling canon relationships. The writing for them was never very good and the characters in them often had more chemistry with characters outside the relationship than their partners. It was in this fandom that I first fell in love with a ship that was never going to be canon but presented me with a compelling relationship dynamic that I could not get enough of. It’s the fandom that gave me a deep love for non-canon ships and the possibilities they provide us as fangirls. It’s the one that brought me to my first fandom friend and one that I continue to hold close to this day.

There is not a version of Heroes in which Tim Kring meant to create a compelling relationship arc between Mohinder Suresh and Gabriel Gray (aka Sylar).They seemed intended to be simple foils, one looking to harm others and one looking to save them. Their pasts were some of the more entangled on the show, as Sylar killed Papa Suresh, but over the course of the show, their history together was all but forgotten. Which is unfortunate, not just for me as a shipper, but because there was a lot of interesting character development that could have been combined by placing these two in each others’ paths more frequently.

Regardless of what Kring had imagined for these two, I found two men who were both on a searching for acceptance. Mohinder lived his life feeling like he could never do enough to gain the approval of his father. He always fell short, despite his best efforts. Gabriel, on the other hand, struggled with the idea of being enough as he was. His mother, who loved him and saw a world of potential in him, wasn’t satisfied with his ambition to take over his father’s watch repair business. Chandra, who saw him as a test subject first and a person second, was ready to discard him when he failed to be useful in proving his theories.

If they had met at this point, they would have been two people who probably could have found a great deal of comfort in each other. Both had been rejected by Chandra for not living up to an ideal in his head. Both were searching for a place where they could be accepted and valued. But they didn’t meet at this point. Instead, Sylar killed Chandra and in doing so, unknowingly set Mohinder on a quest to complete his father’s research and avenge his death. At the same time, Sylar went off to become a serial killer and collect the powers of others for his own use. Their lives were now on very different paths, ones that seemed almost destined to intersect at some point.

And that is exactly what happened though in a very different way than Mohinder might have imagined and hoped for. Instead of merely finding Sylar and avenging his father, Mohinder accidentally befriended him. In his defense, Sylar was impersonating Zane Taylor at the time. In their first meeting, both men found something that they needed in each other. Mohinder found his first real proof that his father’s theories and everything both Suresh men had worked for in life was correct. There really were evolved humans and one of them actually wanted his help. After being dismissed by the others he tried to contact for so long, finding someone who not only believed him but was also grateful to him was refreshing and gave him the necessary hope to continue moving forward. And after his dismissal by Chandra for not being special or important enough, to have his son look at him with absolute awe and amazement gave him the validation and acceptance he craved from Chandra. And in that moment, despite his ultimate intention to either con or kill Mohinder in order to get the list, I think there was a part of him that wanted to hold on to that feeling as long as possible.

Continue reading 100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Three

Life Lessons and Friendship: A Reflection on the Legacies of Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World

Sometimes we look back on the pieces of media we loved in our youth and wonder what we ever saw in it. Others become even richer when revisited as adults. I tried Girl Meets World when it first debuted in 2014 because I loved its predecessor, Boy Meets World. The first episode was clearly geared toward a younger audience so I accepted that it wasn’t for me and moved on. I enjoyed seeing clips of familiar characters when they visited this new world, but I had little intention of watching until two of my friends shared their feelings on the series. One is my age and like me, watched the reruns of the original series growing up. The other is a bit older and watches the series with her daughter, who is a few years younger than Riley and Maya. Despite their different experiences, both have found something to enjoy about the series and it prompted me to give it a second chance. I’ve spent the past month catching up on the series and though I may not be in the target audience, I’ve now joined the group of people eagerly awaiting new episodes.

Watching Girl Meets World has made me think back to my time spent watching Boy Meets World and the way I learned from Mr. Feeny just as much as I learned from my actual teachers at school. He didn’t just want his students to pass their tests and graduate. He wanted to give them a strong foundation that would carry them through the rest of their lives, not just academically but morally as well. He guided them and showed them that the most important thing was to be a good person who cared for others and who made a difference. I would imagine there are few fans of the original series who can look back on his final lesson of “Dream. Try. Do good” and not get a little teary-eyed.

It was a show that wanted to teach you something, even if the impact on you wouldn’t be understood until much later. Katie and I came across an episode of Boy Meets World a couple summers ago when I visited her. It was a very early episode that I must have seen several times before but this is the first time I’d seen it as an adult. Mr. Feeny was trying to teach the students about prejudice by assigning them the Diary of Anne Frank. Cory originally found the topic outdated, as surely the same hatred couldn’t exist now. Partway through the episode, he learned he was wrong. Eric’s girlfriend came to the house in tears because someone had called her a racial slur. It opened Cory’s eyes to a world he had never known because he had never been subjected to it. He admitted he was wrong and implored his fellow classmates to be aware and to do better. He encouraged them all to stand up and say something when they witnessed prejudicial behavior.

I don’t think I gave it much thought on my earlier viewings. I probably thought it was a nice message but that was it. From an analytical perspective, the message was probably a little heavy-handed. But this was never a series that intended to be subtle about the messages it portrayed. But on that day a few summers ago, I was stunned. I had forgotten this particular episode existed and I think for the first time, I really appreciated what this show was trying to do.

With this new perspective, I could look back and see other specific episodes or stories that looked at big ideas that I may have recognized at the time but didn’t think much about. “Chick Like Me” tackled sexism and the ways women are treated than men don’t notice. There was the role of faith and family in “Cult Fiction”, one of the best episodes the show produced. There was Tommy’s adoption arc, which looked at what it meant to love someone enough to let them go when necessary. In what may be one of the more memorable episodes of the series, “Seven the Hard Way” looks at the importance of friendship and how the people in your life shape who you are and the life you lead. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, this show was opening my eyes to things and presenting a set of principles that was being incorporated into my own worldview.

Continue reading Life Lessons and Friendship: A Reflection on the Legacies of Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World

Let Yourself Be Seen: Vulnerability and Fandom

Navigating fandom is a vulnerable experience, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. We become attached to characters, relationships, and shows because they resonate with us in someway. Sometimes it’s a theme that speaks strongly to us. Other times, a character or relationship provides an example we wish to follow. More often still, at least in my experience, we find a character with whom we are able to relate on some level.

I love this quality of fiction. I love that each person brings their own set of experiences and biases to a work and interprets it in their own unique way. There are certainly overlaps in the way we see things, but no two people will ever see every aspect of fiction in exactly the same way. And that’s exciting! But this quality of fiction that I love so much is also the quality that seems to cause the most hurt.

There are very few people who are naturally comfortable with being vulnerable. It’s an important component to connection but it’s not without risks. Vulnerability opens us up to hurt and that is especially true when we aren’t aware we’re doing it. So when someone views a favorite character in a way that is contrary to our own thoughts, it can make us mad. It can make us want to jump to defend them. I spent a lot of energy in high school arguing with a classmate about Sara Sidle from CSI because I related to her so strongly but wasn’t able to identify or articulate those feelings.

When we jump to anger first instead of introspection, we put up a barrier between ourselves and others to prevent any potential hurt. It’s not inherently a bad reflex. There will always be people who aren’t willing to listen and accept our vulnerability and we never have any obligation to be vulnerable around such people. We don’t have to open ourselves up to people who only intend to criticize or dismiss our emotions. But using that same anger as a weapon to strike out against others neither serves our own personal growth nor contributes to the fandom experience, for ourselves or others. It creates a cycle of attack and defense that quickly leads to a fractured and negative fandom environment. It creates a culture where the act of loving something is seen as an attempt to undermine the feelings of others who disagree at best or an act of hate toward others.

But when we use our emotional reactions as an opportunity to look more closely at ourselves and learn what’s driving that reaction, we are then better equipped to share our insights and a piece of ourselves with positive results. This planned and intentional vulnerability is given the opportunity to lead to something truly beautiful. It is through this shared vulnerability that we are able to form connections that go far deeper than a mutual appreciation for a show or character and lead to profound and long-lasting friendships. Through the filter of our favorite things, we share details about ourselves that we might be hesitant to bring up on our own. We may not talk about the walls we put up to protect ourselves when talking solely about ourselves, but we feel more free to bring it up when talking about the ways Kate Beckett or Emma Swan or Maya Hart inspire us. We don’t always talk about the self-doubt that plagues us despite our best masks, but we can talk about what it meant to us when Raven confided her worries of being broken to Sinclair. Continue reading Let Yourself Be Seen: Vulnerability and Fandom

Dream Emmy Nominees 2016

In a few weeks, the nominees for the 2016 Emmy awards will be announced and as is almost inevitable with the amount of good television right now (and the somewhat repetitive nature of Emmy nominations), there will be a good number of worthy actors and shows that are once again overlooked. I may not have any control over the eventual nominees, but I can take this opportunity to celebrate some of the outstanding work I’ve seen over the past year and share the shows I watch that I would love to see recognized.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Catastrophe
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Jane the Virgin
Master of None
Mom
Transparent
You’re the Worst

Wow. What an incredible year it’s been for comedy. There were seven other shows that could have easily been on my own personal list and that’s not counting presumed nominees Veep and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. From the absurdity of Broad City to the diversity of perspective added by Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat to the resurgence of the Norman Lear-style multicam in The Carmichael Show, it’s time for comedy’s moment to shine.

Outstanding Drama Series

The Americans
Hannibal
Outlander
Penny Dreadful
Rectify
Sense8
UnREAL

I have a type when it comes to acclaimed dramas. I want them to focus on emotion and connection more than I do drama or darkness. I want them to have a specific look and feel that distinguishes them from everything else. And apparently, I want them to be watched by about 10 other people (not including all the critics who loudly love them) because none of these shows have high viewing numbers. If we get very lucky, this may be the year The Americans finally breaks into the nominees, but otherwise, I recognize that this list is just a dream (and a nice set of recommendations for anyone looking for a new show).

Continue reading Dream Emmy Nominees 2016

What to Watch (and Read): Summer Recommendations 2016

Another season of television has come to a close and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m breathing a sigh of relief and looking forward to new possibilities. To say that this season was trying would likely be an understatement.  While I found a few new shows to enjoy, many fell flat with me and even returning favorites tested my patience and love for them. Then of course, there was the spring doldrums, where each week seemed to bring a new show making inexplicable choices to kill (or not re-sign) vital characters who made a tremendous impact and a general state of misery that befell too many shows. Now that the season is largely behind us, it’s time to look forward and hope for a brighter season next fall.

Summers can be a great time to catch up on new shows that you missed or fell behind on or try out an older show that you hear great things about but missed on its first run. My last summer was spent largely with Grey’s Anatomy and LOST but I was also able to try out shows like You’re the Worst, which quickly became a favorite and a highlight of the fall season. This summer, I’m continuing on my multi-year journey with The X-Files, finishing up Avatar the Last Airbender, watching Freaks and Geeks for the first time, starting Happy Endings, hopefully watching Grace and Frankie, and likely becoming obsessed with Shadowhunters, though I’m sure I’ll find time to squeeze a few more things in there. In case you’re looking for some ideas for your own summer watching, I’ve listed a few shows below that I think would be a fantastic way to spend this hiatus.

Sense8 To understand this show is to understand me and that has nothing to do with these characters (who I love dearly) or the plot (which is fine) but everything to do with its central theme of connection and the beauty that results from it. My love for this show is all about the way it makes me feel. I love shows that understand the value in simple moments between two people, allowing them to share themselves with each other, and this show loves those moments. Its strongest moments are often when two sensates are doing nothing more than talking to each other and lending each other emotional support. The fun action sequences and the excellent romances make it even better but its core principles are what move me and what has made it stay with me.

The Americans This show is in its 4th season and it just keeps getting better, which most TV fans know is a truly remarkable accomplishment. Rather than being a fast-paced spy drama, this show is about a family struggling for connection and facing the consequences of their actions. That family just happens to be headed by two Russian spies. It’s a look at identity and loyalty to one’s country and family and how those things can change over time. It is incredibly well-made television that is comfortable in quiet moments and gives them the proper space to truly resonate. It can be nearly unbearably tense at times but only after it’s asked you to care about these people on an emotional level. It’s dangerous being a spy and external threats will always be a part of the show but the most compelling work is done on a smaller more personal level. The emphasis on the people behind the actions and the talent at all levels of this production make it one of the best shows on television at the moment.

Gilmore Girls With the revival nearly wrapped, what better time could there be to travel to Stars Hollow and fall in love with this special show? The lighter tone of the show is perfect for lazy summer days and the fast-paced, witty dialogue will leave you quoting the show long after it ends. No matter with Gilmore girl most resonates with you, there is inspiration to be gained and laughter and tears to be had. For all of the disagreements about boyfriends on the show, the heart of the show exists in Lorelai and Rory’s relationship with each other and it is something that should be cherished all these years later. If you’re not already a fan of this show, check it out and see what makes it special to so many.

Jane the Virgin I am continuously amazed at this show. It juggles so many different tones and stories and while it doesn’t handle them all equally well, it comes together to form an incredible whole. No matter what it is trying to do, it has three reliable strengths to fall back on. The first is Gina Rodriguez’s talent and love for this role. She puts everything she can into whatever this show throws at her and her natural warmth and light shine through it all. The second is the relationship between the Villanueva women. This will always be the best love story on the show. The dynamic between these ladies is always feels beautiful and real. This is the grounding point in the show, amidst all the telenovela styling and crime boss plots.  Finally, it’s the coherency that the Narrator brings to the show. It adds a lightness and awareness to everything the show is doing and gives it that fantastical edge that sets it apart from other shows. This is such a special show and there is truly nothing else on television like it.

Continue reading What to Watch (and Read): Summer Recommendations 2016