Tag Archives: best of 2019

Best of 2019: Relationships

So much of my interest in television (or really any fictional media) is due to the relationships between characters. I want the friendships that steady people and make them better, the sweet love stories, the complicated love stories, and the families (biological or chosen) that form. I want characters and the dynamics between them to matter to the story, to help drive their choices. No one does anything alone and the relationships we form with others matter. That’s the TV I’ll come back to again and again and for all its disappointments on that front, something I managed to find a lot of in the shows I watched and loved.

1. Aziraphale and Crowley (Good Omens) After a spring where two ships I completely adored went in directions that were the exact opposite of what I would have liked (and in ways that didn’t really work with the writing that came before it), Aziraphale and Crowley were a breath of fresh air. The angel and demon who fell in love with humanity and with each other in the process. They managed to combine the best elements of a slow burn romance with a comfort and ease that normally only comes with married couples thanks to the 6000 years they spent knowing each other. I love that Crowley is incapable of giving Aziraphale anything he asks for, whether that is a miracle to make Hamlet a success, a clean jacket, or stopping time so the Antichrist they misplaced can save the day. For someone who shouldn’t be capable of it, he loves Aziraphale so purely and it’s beautiful. On the flip side, you have Aziraphale who is a being of love and he’s terrified of what loving Crowley means. He does, how could he not after everything, but he’s the one who isn’t ready even after all this time. So to watch him be able to take that final step at the end is everything I needed. They got a happy ending and to finally be on their own team and brought me an incredible amount of joy. And if you haven’t seen this fanvid, the scene choices and timing are flawless and make me emotional every time I watch. 

2. Fleabag and Hot Priest (Fleabag) To be seen for everything you are is a powerful thing. To find that person who sees through all your defenses and taps into that vulnerable part of you that’s real and that you’ve kept hidden because you don’t truly believe anyone could love that piece of you is terrifying. Especially for someone like Fleabag who perpetually feels alone and like there is something fundamentally wrong with her and the way she exists in the world. And along comes Hot Priest with his slight awkwardness and fear of foxes and desire to truly know her. Their chemistry is intense and all-consuming and too much to experience alone. We know it can’t last. But wow do we want it to. In less than 3 hours, we get to see and experience every stage of this relationship from meeting to its dissolution and it is one hell of a journey. It’s painful and hopeful and beautiful and tragic all rolled into one. It gave them both something they had been searching for and they’ll both go off changed because of what they shared. It affirmed something in them and they’re better because they loved each other in a way that won’t ever really pass. Not entirely. And that’s what hope looks like. The possibility of a new future, even when it’s not a shared one. 

3. David and Patrick (Schitt’s Creek) These two are a warm hug (or an oversized black sweater). They are solidly together and in love for the whole of this season and it is beautiful. You feel the ease and comfort and casual intimacy that comes from feeling free with another person and I can’t thank Dan enough for intentionally choosing to write them this way. Being in a committed relationship didn’t take away from either character or suddenly make David boring or a different person, it enriched both their lives and hasn’t changed who they are. Patrick is still going to love baseball and hiking more than David and think tax seminars are an important thing to attend and David will have none of it but they will love those things about the other. Patrick’s proposal is absolutely perfect and for him to be in a place where he can be sure and unafraid and David able to accept and trust in that love is beautiful. They’ve both come a long way to get to that point and it has been so incredibly satisfying to watch. 

4. Nadia and Guzman (Elite) These two hit all my narrative kinks. I am a sucker for guys that are kind of terrible but fall in love with strong-minded, incredible ladies who they think are the best thing in the entire world and who want to be better for them. Both of these two were in difficult emotional places this season as Guzman grieved for Mariana (then found out one of his best friend’s killed her) and Nadia felt the increased pressure to be the perfect daughter her dad thinks she is after her brother left home and a sex tape of her made its way around the internet. Neither reacted overly well and attempted to shut out any of their own feelings and everyone else along with them but they also managed a few moments of genuine connection where Nadia was able to admit to both of them how much she wanted this and Guzman continued to be his utterly besotted self and also finally break up with Lu. And those moments were magic. Their chemistry is off-the-charts ridiculous (and it’s really a wonder all of our screens didn’t combust during Nadia’s sex dream) but we also see how good they could be for and with each other if they could find a way to get through everything internal and external holding them back. There is real care and affection between them and I need them together for good by the end of s3. 

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Best of 2019: Nonfiction Books

I love nonfiction and seem to read a little more of it each year. I love the new ideas and new perspectives it gives me and the chance to learn about something I may have been less aware of. That said, I definitely have a strong preference for feminist nonfiction as you will see below. It ties into what I loved learning about most in school and getting a variety of opinions and understandings feels critical to me in order to be more comprehensive and inclusive with my own feminism. Not all of these books are recent but many have come out in the past couple years and while some of the topics discussed overlap, there is so much to gain by reading more than one.

As always, I want to hear your thoughts! Do you enjoy nonfiction? What did you read and love this year? What books should I add to my list to read next year?

1. Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly This was so extremely right up my alley and sure enough, I loved it. This book was often rage-inducing to read as it highlights all the ways our anger has traditionally been suppressed but also affirming in its understanding of anger as a tool for change, much like Rebecca Traister’s “Good and Mad” and Brittney Cooper’s “Eloquent Rage” and I strongly recommend that you read all three. This book in particular delves into the sociological forces that influence the expression of women’s anger. There is a lot of discussion of how emotion management (both our own emotions and those of the people around us) is tied to gender roles and the role violation that occurs when women are outwardly angry that is pivotal to understanding how this suppression occurs and how those role violations intersect with other aspects of our identity to create a multifaceted societal response. But it reminds us that our anger has power. Our anger is the reclamation of voices that many would prefer to stay silent and that demands a better world. We can use it as fuel when it is turned outward to push for change and there is strength to be found there, alongside others who have fought, are fighting, and will continue to fight. 

2. Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper In a similar vein to Traister’s “Good and Mad” and Chemaly’s “Rage Becomes Her”, Dr. Cooper reminds us of the virtues of anger and the importance of not settling for what’s been given to us. She writes exclusively about Black female anger and is a much needed voice in this area. The ways in which the anger of Black women is policed differs from the anger of white women and we cannot truly proceed and move forward until we acknowledge that along with the ways white women have been accomplices to this policing. It’s a phenomenal collection of essays that blend the personal and academic to create an incisive and powerful whole that ends in a beautiful benediction that’s stayed with me since reading this early in the year. “May you have joy. May you have gut-busting belly laughter every day. May you ask more and better questions. May your curiosity be unceasing. May your rage be a force for good.”

3. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde How many books, essays, and other internet articles have included Lorde’s quote about anger (“Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being.”) in some form? This collection of essays is a classic and for good reason. Lorde’s writing is stunning and powerful as she discusses the way her particular intersections of gender, race, and sexuality have touched her life and how to build a world where we can recognize and celebrate both our similarities and our differences instead of trying to move closer to the idea of a universal experience that can never exist. It’s about sitting with ourselves and our feelings, the good and the bad and learning how to use those feelings and what we can learn from them to create something better. It’s a stunning book that I really can’t recommend enough. 

4. Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom I love books that make me feel challenged to expand my thinking and that’s exactly what this essay collection did for me. It pushed me to think deeper about socioeconomic status and how capitalism works with and exploits existing hierarchies of race and gender. It unapologetically centers black women in its analysis and asks its readers to consider all the ways we and society have failed to do the same. It is an incredibly strong collection that introduced me to a writer I had been missing out on and I’m excited to dive into her other work. 

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Best of 2019: Actors

Welcome to the kickoff of my Best of 2019 month! I have 10 posts planned for the month covering my favorites in the world of television and books and a bonus post about my favorite YouTube channel, so I hope you’ll stick around and share your own favorites with me. In addition, be sure to keep an eye on MGCircles and Nerdy Girl Notes for their own end of the year content and enjoy all the enthusiasm that comes from people sharing the things that most resonated with them.

As always, these lists are less about crafting an objective list on the best/highest quality things of the year and more about reflecting who I was in 2019 though the things I love. So let’s get started with a list of the actors and actresses who gave standout performances to me this year!

1. Michelle Williams (Fosse/Verdon) For eight episodes, Michelle Williams was Gwen Verdon. She so fully inhabited the role and brought a woman who was a powerhouse of talent to the forefront of the relationship that defined her life. You can see the passion and love that went into this role and how Williams, along with the writing team, wanted to do right by Verdon. She is complicated and feels so deeply and conveys so much by small gestures and facial expressions. She nailed the dancing and the singing despite neither being her main skill and the end result was brilliant. We understood who Gwen Verdon was and the choices she made in her life because of the time and energy that Williams put in. I knew nothing about her going into this show but I feel like I do now, not just on stage but in her personal life as well. That’s not easy to do, to make sure a real person maintains all the nuance and history and complexity without becoming a symbol of something greater. But she did and it was truly spectacular to watch. 

2. Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones) I could never have chosen a better actress to play Brienne of Tarth. The amount of love and effort that Christie put into the role gave Brienne the complexity that I suspect the scripts were lacking but that the story needed. Her ability to have full conversations with just her facial expressions alone is remarkable and all of that was on full display in the final season. From her initial defense of Jaime to Daenerys and the way we get to see her physically draw herself up and ready herself to speak to her queen on behalf of someone who had caused a lot of harm to the Targaryean family to the combination of hope and honor that blooms across her face during the knighting, all of Brienne’s emotions are right on the surface and that’s a perfect character choice. She never learned to bury her feelings and deny them to even herself. It makes her very bad at the politics of Westeros but it’s what allows her sense of goodness and honor to shine through. It’s also what made her choice to cry as Jaime left and seemed to confirm her worst fears about him so good. It was talked about and picked over so much but it rang true to me and I don’t think the woman who had to go for a walk because she was so upset about this choice for Brienne was going to do anything further that felt wrong for her. She let her guard down and was disappointed in the worst way and that needed to be written all over her face and body language. We felt it and Nikolaj felt it and it was a choice that felt like it was coming from a deep place of understanding and grief rather than one made as a reductive act for the character. Christie was consistently brilliant throughout this season and I was so thrilled to see her get the recognition she deserved, even if it didn’t come in the form of an Emmy. 

3. Aya Cash (You’re the Worst) My undying love for You’re the Worst has been discussed at length over the past few years and so much of that has to do with what Aya Cash has done with Gretchen. Gretchen is kind of the worst. She can be mean and self-destructive in a very real way and then instantly drop all of those defense mechanisms and show the very scared and damaged person underneath that is never sure in her self or that the people she loves feel the same way about her. So much of her character is a persona and if it stayed up, it probably would still be an entertaining, if more frustrating, show to watch. But Cash continually shows a deeper side to her that rips my heart out every single time and this final season was no exception. Any time Gretchen’s depression or fear or self-loathing got the best of her, you felt it and you hurt for her. Even at her worst, you love her because we’re given the chance to truly see her and that’s all due to what Cash has brought to the role. 

4. Todd Grinnell (One Day at a Time) Between finding a girlfriend, seeing his father again, and relapsing, it was a tumultuous season for Schneider and Grinnell stepped up to the challenge beautifully. He’s been a steady touchpoint of the show, simultaneously a source of humor and heart, but this season expanded on the character and gave him the opportunity to show us how much he’s capable of. Everything about the relapse arc broke my heart and I love that he was both given the opportunity to share his own history with addiction and brave enough to include so much of it in the role. I imagine it can’t be easy to get yourself back into that headspace and to occupy it with the compassion the show is known for. He’s vulnerable and hurting and that comes through even when he’s being defensive and lashing out to protect his addiction. He is terrific as a comedic actor but his dramatic skills can’t be overlooked and I hope to continue a little bit of that in s4. Also, as much as I love the idea Penelope and Schneider romantically on the show, you cannot deny how completely adorable he is with real-life wife India de Beaufort as his onscreen girlfriend. There’s a beautiful ease and lightness that he brings to all of their scenes together along with a truly excellent set of heart eyes. 

Continue reading Best of 2019: Actors