Taboo Topics: Prejudice Against the Opposite Gender(s)

Humans are judgmental creatures. It’s part of the way we’re wired biologically, for society and survival. With these judgments come preconceived notions, sometimes even acts of discrimination. To discriminate is to treat a person/group differently based on your (usually unfounded upon) judgments, consciously or unconsciously. You can’t do this without a bias or a prejudice, which is an opinion or belief you make about a person/group again based on your predetermined judgments or assumptions.

As far as we’ve come in the world—a statement that should really make you stop and think “And far is that really?”—I think prejudices exist in people more than we’d like to admit, more than we’d like to be aware of. But when you’re as painfully self-aware as I am, as an artistic person living with depression, anxiety, OCD and BPD, the prejudices pop up like blades of grass, quickly filling the landscape of your already-muddled mind. I mow them down only to have them rise again. I pour positivity on them and they convert it into Miracle-Gro. It’s a constant process and maybe if I were Hank Hill, it’d be under control by now, I tell you what (lol).

But I’m not. What I am is a young lady with prejudices, many of which I intellectually know are stupid and ridiculous and even *whispers * untrue but emotionally have a real grip on my heart. Prejudices that hurt me and can make me hurt others. The most extreme prejudices I have are against the male gender. (I know I should probably talk about gender bias more broadly, but I feel I should speak more pointedly on this topic because my judging men is one of the running themes of my life and this blog is my life, so… But this is not to say that I don’t acknowledge that plenty of men hold prejudices against women and that plenty of men and women are prejudiced against gender-fluid, non-binary and transgendered people. Those stories need voices too. It’s just…this is the story my voice in particular is going to tell.)

Yes, fellow feminists, I know this admittance looks bad. This is what 95% of the world thinks we feminists are anyway, right? Angry, bitter, man-haters? Well, it’s not because I believe in equal opportunities and treatment for all genders that I sometimes feel I hate men. I don’t want to see men cheated out of jobs or time with their kids because of a corrupt court system. I don’t want to see them treated as inferior (I didn’t even like The Wicker Man remake, y’all).  I don’t want to see them injured or broken-hearted. I don’t like seeing them risk their lives all the time in a society that places such general value on the lives of those perceived as “the stronger sex” just because they’re supposedly the stronger sex. I don’t hate them…really. I only feel like I hate them, albeit a lot and often, and my feelings can as strong as the gravitational pull, I swear. And they always pull me back to the anger and the (false but searing) hate. *sigh* Why?

Because so many men have hurt me (or other people I love), and because they can’t seem to love me.

My parents divorced when I was five. The marriage had been an unhappy union that started only God knows how and ended only after my grandmother urged my mother to leave my father after they’d hit one another in the face. (That’s one of my earliest memories, that fight. My mother had a bruise on her lip. She has always been petite, but she never seemed smaller than on that night.) My parents had joint custody of me, but my father didn’t care to enforce the court schedule, so I went to visit him in the city whenever he decided he wanted to see me; in the meantime I lived with my mom out in the country, where it was quiet and earthy and simpler and still. Whenever he would call, it would break the stillness within. Whenever my mom would tell me, “Britney, you have to go see your dad this weekend,” a bolt of fear would strike through my heart and stick right into the pit of my belly. Why? Because my father was not a good father.

Despite having had a stroke, he drank. He smoked. He was on diabetes medication no one regulated for him. He cooked for me only once in the eight years I had to see him; I lived off Pop-Tarts, Wonder Bread and fast food the rest of the time. I’d cry when my mother dropped me off at his house, cried every single time, begged her not to leave me with him, and he’d lash out, the anger fierce, the possessiveness well presented. Mom would tell me he had threatened to enforce the court mandate of visitation every other weekend and two weeks in the summer, so she had to leave me there. She hated to, I know, but she did. What else could she do? I’d stand at the screen door and watch her car pull away, then turn around and cower like one of those beaten dogs in those heart-wrenching ASPCA commercials because I was afraid I may be beaten too.

I remember he spanked me with a flyswatter once. Not so bad, right? But one time he spanked me with his belt so hard, I couldn’t sit down in class the next day. I was in first grade. My best friend, Miranda, asked me what was wrong. I felt so helpless, so pitiful, that all I could do was cry, and she cried with me. For the most part, though, the abuse was verbal—emotional, mental. He’d tell me I was “crazy” or “stupid,” tell me I didn’t “know nothin’.” When I was 11, he forced me to go to family therapy because I didn’t love him, tried to brainwash me into believing I did. He would always tell me I was his “property” and shove the Bible in my face as if it were a collection of my slavery papers. He demanded that I love him because he was my father, because God wanted me to, so I HAD to. He drove the car erratically to frighten me when I didn’t want to sit up front with him and would always parade me around to everyone in town, puffing, “This is my daughta, my daughta.” How I hated that. Hated that he treated me like a zoo animal on display, like a pet to own and order around. Almost every single time I was there, he’d scream at me for crying. Rage around. When I recall his face—and I don’t try to do it often, I loathe it so much—I see an angry bulldog of a man, eyes wild, mustachioed lips frothing. It all mattered what he did, but I wonder now if it was even what he did so much as it was what he could have done. He was intimidating, always towering over me in his cloud of fury and righteousness. The fear was born in the pauses between his blow-ups, in the thickness of the air, amid the tears, sweat and spit. He was all theatrics and it was scary, but nothing was scarier than the anticipation of his next meltdown and what it might mean for me. Yes, I was sad and lonely at my father’s house, but mostly I was terrified. From ages five to thirteen, I was terrified and utterly powerless.

Then it stopped one day. Suddenly I was fourteen and too much of a woman in my father’s eyes to sleep over at his house. I was free…or so I thought.

That same year, I developed a crush on my friend from band and track, B.W. I had other male friends—best friends even—but B.W. was the only boy who ever paid careful attention to me. Plus he was weird like me, with his funny voices and dark sense of humor. Smart, athletic. I wanted him to be my first boyfriend. Finally I wrote him a note and had one of my friends pass it to him in the back of the band storage room. She later relayed to me that he’d said he just wanted to be friends. I tried again roughly a year later and actually called him on the phone (a HUGE accomplishment for anyone with social anxiety, mind you) to ask him to escort me to Snowfest, our winter dance. He said yes. When I hung up, I whooped and cheered, jumping and hollering. Miranda, my mom and I went shopping for a blouse and a skirt, so I could feel my prettiest for my date. Miranda and I arrived in the cafeteria and waited. Sat down and waited. Took some pictures and waited. Ate and drank and waited. B.W. never came. Later, after my mom talked to his mom about how disappointed I was, he apologized, throwing out the excuse that the music they played at school dances gave him headaches. Funny. Seems his mom told my mom he skipped out because he had the ACT the next day. Which excuse was it, B.W.? And why did you say yes in the first place? Because you wanted to know what sound my heart made as it broke? *sigh* Because we were friends—because I still liked him, as the only guy to give me extra attention—I forgave him. But I did not forget.

The pattern of hanging around with guys who made it a game to treat me like shit continued as I entered junior college and university. Why? Because it was the only attention I could get from males. I know. Pathetic, isn’t it? J.R. and A.K. declared me to be their friends but openly mocked my opinions at every turn, inside and outside of class. Shat on my earnestness, fed on my self-deprecating vulnerability. I even found out A.K. wanted to have sex with me, wanted to be my first. After telling me that everything I was and said was wrong, after teasing me for every word or concept I didn’t know, after playing off every argument like I was the only aggressor, he wanted the gift of my virginity? HELL NO.

It’s been three years since I graduated college. Are you surprised I’m still a virgin? Well, I’m still a virgin because I’m asexual, so there, surprise, lol. But really, even if I were interested in sex, is it even feasible that I would trust a guy enough to very literally bare my all in front of him? Allow him inside the very core of where I live? To love me, really?

It’s not feasible because it’s not feasible to me that a man can love me. Honestly. I don’t believe men are capable of loving me—at least in that way, romantically or sexually. Wholly. Why? Because none of them have ever wanted me. No one asked me out until I was 19 years old; the other date I had when I was 25. That’s two dates in my entire lifetime and neither time did the guy want to try and fall in love with me. One just wanted “a girlfriend” who was going to the same college he planned on attending and the other wanted a fuck buddy. That’s wanting something from me, not me.

I know good men. Amazing men…all of whom are happily married/betrothed/dating, gay or dead. I would have happily gone on a serious date with any of my best male friends but…they don’t want me. They didn’t even want to try. The speakers at this self-help Christian seminar I went to said that was probably because they didn’t want to break down all those barriers I have enclosing my heart. Yeah, well, now I know I’m not even worth a try, don’t I?

I don’t know why men can’t or won’t love me. Two of my best and oldest male friends, A.B. and T.C., have told me several times over how much they love me, but I’m nothing more than a satellite to them. T.C. didn’t even invite me to his wedding. I’m just another person orbiting a vague path around them—they never tell me why they love me or what they love about me. So how do I know it’s real? How do I know they’re not lying to me to make me feel better because they’re aware of how sensitive I am? It’s like I can’t let myself believe it’s real because it doesn’t feel true. It can’t be true…

The only men I ever thought loved me were my Papa—my mom’s dad—and a few of my high school teachers. Papa died the summer before my junior year, so I was really looking for male role models to hold on to by the time school was back in session. I found Mr. B, my favorite English teacher ever (which is saying a lot because I was an English major), signed up for one more class with Mr. F, another year of track with Mr. D and continued strengthening my strongest bond, which was with Mr. R, my hilarious and supportive band teacher, whom I’d had since I was in fifth grade. When I say I loved these men and felt that they loved me, I mean it in an entirely healthy, platonic way. I know some girls who grow up without a stable father figure tend to look for male attention based on sensuality, but I never wanted that. I just wanted a dad, or the next-best thing: a surrogate father to teach me, to hold my hand, to steady me. I wanted to feel valued and protected, two things my stoic mother, as loving as she is, could never fully provide. I got that feeling from all of these men and most of the other male teachers at my high school.

Graduation just about broke me into pieces. I had to leave them. Leave them to be scared and alone and among all those other boys and men who didn’t know me or respect me or care about me as a person the way these teachers and coaches did. But it happened. I graduated high school and went away, and they went away, as good men always do, so I slipped back into bad habits and let myself be verbally abused, supposing the care I experienced in high school must have been but another dream. Over time I’ve developed this schizophrenic feeling, questioning as to whether I was deluding myself or if others have gotten the best of me at the expense of my comfort…and my own psyche.

The 2016 presidential election exacerbated my self-doubt (why, yes, I am watching American Horror Story: Cult, the irony here is not lost on me). I found out just how many of my friends disagree with me at a core level about our political and social systems. I had no idea that behind boldly beating, kind hearts could be such cold conservatives. It was a rude awakening, but never ruder than when Mr. B posted a certain comment on Facebook. It wasn’t to me—he probably wasn’t even thinking of me or former students like me when he said it—but nothing, not one other thing, hurt me as much as what he said, and he said, “I’m proud not to fight for social justice.” Those words took my breath away in the worst way. It was like looking at my dad—one of them anyway, one who’d fostered my love for literature and nurtured my writing talent and hugged me to comfort me and celebrated at my open house—and having him look me straight in the eye and say, “I don’t love you anymore.” Because if he doesn’t care about social justice, he doesn’t care about me. I am the result of social justice, our relationship was the result of social justice, of the civil rights movement. I am a multiracial woman who looks predominantly black. If it weren’t for social justice, I would have never have been in his school or any other school. I’d have no job or degree. My white mother probably would have been attacked at best and killed at worst for being in a relationship with a black man, and I would have been miles away, picking cotton somewhere or being beaten or being raped or being lynched. That’s what people fight for—so that people who don’t look like the status quo can live and hopefully live well. Social justice is everything I personally stand for. Empowering women and minorities. Empowering abuse victims. Representing people of color in the media. Advocating for the LGBTQI and A communities. If you don’t care about any of that, you don’t care about any of me.

I can’t believe he said that. I don’t want to believe it. All I can hear is Christina Grimmie’s song, “Deception,” echo through my head:

“You didn’t ever care for me, you didn’t ever care for me, oh…”

Oh, but he did…didn’t he? But how could he if he doesn’t even care about the essence of who I am as a woman? And if he doesn’t care, do the others? Did they? Could they?

I can’t deal with it anymore, can’t do this again. I can’t endure my soul shriveling up any more because men have decided they can’t love what is me. Therefore, I am prejudiced.

I don’t believe I will ever marry because I don’t believe a man can fall in love with me.

I don’t believe there is a man out there who won’t hurt or betray me.

And as a whole, I do not trust men.

I hate that I hate, I hate that I hurt, and I hate that it all makes me so willfully stupid.

But I’d rather be stupid than a slave to love I won’t ever be able to hold on to.

Do you have prejudice against men? Against women? Against the gender-fluid? This is a safe space to share, if you would like. I’d love for some concrete confirmation that I’m not the only one in the world with this dirty but oh-so human foible. Please…leave a comment. I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

-Britney

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Millennial Nostalgia: Yeah, It’s That Bad Podcast

Yeah, It’s That Bad was a quiet but successful film-review podcast that ran from 2011 to 2013. Though there were a few off-topic conversations, the majority of  episodes centered around the three hosts, Joel, Martin and Kevin, analyzing alleged bad movies, walking listeners through the film’s events and their impressions of them to determine if the work deserved to have a “rotten” score on Rotten Tomatoes. While the show is for listeners of all ages, I head it under the banner of “Millennial Nostalgia” because all of the hosts are Millennials and because they sometimes reviewed films kids born in the ’80s and ’90s will likely remember, like Richie Rich, Return to Oz, Batman Forever and of course, Batman & Robin, which often leads to references I think only Millennial-aged people would truly appreciate.

By the by, my definition of a Millennial is someone born between the years 1980 and 2000. I know the age range varies source by source, but I personally don’t consider anyone who born after 2000 a Millennial—you’re the current Generation Z, darlings, now run along and play before you have too many adult responsibilities.

And I know, I know, all the other generations think we suck—we’re lazy, entitled, too loud, too liberal, obsessed with caffeine and technology—and most of that’s true (and some of that also reflects on who raised us *cough, cough*), but occasionally young representatives of hard work and honest talent rise up, and that’s what these guys did just by talking.

I discovered Yeah, It’s That Bad on iTunes while looking up reviews for The Human Centipede. Not only did their 93rd episode lead me to my 24th favorite movie of all time, it led me to the comfort of having a genuine, intelligent and hilarious dynamic between three friends nestled right in my ear! I went on to devour hours of laughs and jabs, tearing through all 143 episodes, even going to sleep to them at night. The first few episodes are admittedly a little rough, but by the eighth episode, in which they respectfully reviewed Twilight (dear God, how I wish they’d been even harsher), they introduced the format they would follow for the rest of the show by explaining their “history” with the movie and discussing the actors’ performances.

The show was a hit with more than just me, as I was late to the party. Ever-evolving, the series included the indoctrination (and eventual dismantling) of listener voicemails, emails, “Question of the Week” segments and “After Dark” specials (in which the guys would chat and tell anecdotes from their lives). The podcast even had a Facebook page, a page on Bandcamp and a website. They also did the occasional “Yeah, It’s That Good” episode to determine if they felt a movie deserved its “fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes.

If you’re in the market for a consistently entertaining movie review podcast, the complete archive of episodes has been uploaded to iTunes by an ardent fan, John F. The show was much adored by its loyal fanbase, and I don’t believe any of them escaped the feeling of a genuine loss when the hosts pulled the plug. I know I didn’t when I was done with the series. Exactly why was it disbanded? The easy answer is “Nobody knows for sure.” If you’re interested, however, and would like to explore the theories as to why, Google “yeah it’s that bad eulogy” for an in-depth and poignant memoriam on the show written by a one Señor Spielbergo. As for a rundown on what made Yeah, It’s That Bad a truly special show, please see my reasons below!

1. The Hosts: Joel, Martin and Kevin. Our trio of critics. The triumvirate of venerable judgment. Three dudes who had the impeccable chemistry of three real-life, long-time friends. Gosh. I could gush about them for hours, I have so much love for them all. Each had a distinctive voice (Martin had the lowest tone, Joel the middle and Kevin the highest) and with them came distinctive personalities. Joel was often the earnest jokester, Martin the master of sarcasm and Kevin came across as the most grounded. Altogether, they sounded like an easy-going group, though. Equally intelligent, equally articulate. Fit and gelled together like peanut butter, jelly and bread.

Joel, as the owner of the recording equipment, helmed every episode, and the show began with just him and Martin with Kevin being utilized as a substitute when Martin could not record. There were even a couple of guest hosts: Carissa in episodes 4 and 5 and Ryan in episode 72, both of whom were also fair replacements. Eventually, though, the duo made room for Kevin and the final piece was laid in place. And not only did they play off each other well, they were funny to boot. I even recall them saying in an After Dark that all they were trying to do—besides review films—is make each other laugh, and because their intentions were earnest, so was their charm.

I do have a couple of criticisms about them as hosts, as I do about anyone in the entertainment industry, famous or not. They, like many others, could come off a bit flippant about the subject of rape, which showed up in the movies they reviewed more than you’d think. To be clear, I never got the impression they approved of it or honestly thought it was funny or anything like that—they just brought it up more nonchalantly than I liked. I expect people to be as outraged about abuse as I am, and when they’re not, I’m put off. It’s more of a personal thing, I think, because these are good guys, guys who were always the first to point the finger at themselves when anything that could be considered sexist slipped out, which happened rarely and was usually done to call one another out purposely. Despite this, my other complaint revolves around the fact that they talked too much about how hot the actresses were. They talked about attractive actors too, labeling them “beefcakes”—one of their many running jokes in the series. But it got annoying. I’m sorry. It did. I have eyes, I can see how attractive someone is. That says nothing about their level of talent, as audiences assuredly go on to find out. I just want to hear about the acting prowess in a review, not how smoking hot they are. There, I said it. I’ve aired my grievances as a sensitive, bleeding-heart, feminist liberal.

But truth be told, these are just seeds in a watermelon—little irritants to be noticed and then spat out so you can continue to revel in the lushness and sweetness of all there is to enjoy, and enjoy Joel, Martin and Kevin, I did. I do.

2. Their reviews make you open your artist eyes. Yes, I just referenced the title of my blog. Forgive me, I have a point. What I mean is that listening to the guys review movies makes the listener use his or her imagination to envision images he or she is not privy to. They make you, as the boys themselves said, “Open your third eye, your mind’s eye.” I’ve seen a few of the movies they reviewed and even watched some after listening to a review, but most I’ve only watched in my head based on what was said in the review, and honest to God, for me, what I come up in my head, with their narration and description, is better than what I eventually see play out on screen. Isn’t it almost always like that, though? It’s like the principle of the book being better than the movie. Your rendering is going to be more detailed, more fanciful, and in the fulfillment of fancy and fantasy, more real. It’s not just a challenge to use your imagination—it’s another full experience of a storyline. As an aspiring writer, I naturally see scenes come to fruition in my head as movies anyway—“mind movies” so to speak—so having a podcast draw the sketch for me and then filling in the colors myself is right up my alley as an aesthetically pleasing experience.

3. Constant Inside and Running Jokes. This podcast is rife with running jokes, jokes that stretched episode to episode, all of which made listeners feel closer to the hosts, knowing they were bringing something up that only they would get as part of this wacky community of everyday people who get their kicks out of poking fun at bad movies. This community—and it was a community—was like its own social generation, just like Gen X-ers or Millennials or Baby Boomers, because it shared (and re-shared) experiences only a certain number of people knew. In my opinion, the inside jokes, are a staple of Yeah, It’s That Bad, one of the reasons it was unique and so well liked, but I also think they were a big reason of why it was so sad when the guys had to end the show. I’m serious—you felt a loss, a jarring sense of displacement, like you’d lost something you didn’t know you’d miss until it was gone. At least I did, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling. But, to cheer myself up and for anyone who’s curious, here is a “short”-list of the many running gags referenced in the show:

  • “Here, at Yeah, It’s That Bad headquarters…”
  • Alliteration (“This was a piss-poor performance perpetrated primarily by…”)
  • Hyperbolic measurements of time and/or distance (“Ten thousand years ago”)
  • Dragon Ball Z references (one of my personal favorites, of course)
  • Homoeroticism
  • Professing their love and excitement over the wooden and crazy performances of Dennis Quaid and Nicolas Cage, respectively, whom they’ve described as the show’s “patron saints”
  • Professing their love for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
  • The presence of a “rag-tag team”
  • Recording in the haze of a “fartcloud”
  • The term “bio-digital jazz,” originating from Tron: Legacy
  • The term “Darwinian capitalism” originating from In Time
  • The moniker “Dr. Laser” and phrase “100% medically accurate” from The Human Centipede
  • The phrase “I’m God now!” paraphrased from Hollow Man
  • The phrase “Jumby wants to be born now” from The Unborn
  • The moniker “Topsy Crets” from The Number 23
  • The word “Fidelio!” referenced from the film Eyes Wide Shut
  • The phrase “Catch ’em, kill ’em”
  • The phrase “Pin me, pay me”
  • The phrase “Follow the money”
  • The term “Gumby mouth”
  • The phrase “Pre-natal fetus”
  • The phrase “Don’t tread on me”
  • The term “Double-cross!”
  • The term “Gin mill”
  • The phrase “Psycho sick lunatic”
  • The description of “piss-yellow beards” originating from The Perfect Storm
  • Describing attractive actresses as “pretty hot and tempting”
  • Describing attractive actors as “beefcakes”
  • Bell ringing, literally, first beginning in the Batman Forever episode
  • Referencing “How to Save a Life” by The Fray originating in the Stealth episode
  • Referencing “Stan” by Eminem
  • Referencing Seinfeld
  • Classifying every firearm as a Taurus Judge
  • Calling out many instances of “gender-bending”
  • Describing someone as having a “sick fascination with the macabre”
  • Determining an IMDb synopsis was a “Claudio classic” (written by an IMDb user from Brazil named Claudio whose English was a bit stilted and whose synopses always run on)
  • References to “The Cowboy-hatted Man”…who he was, we never got to find out…
  • References to the Philly Fanatic—the full story of Kevin’s encounter with this mascot comes at the end of the Anaconda episode
  • Referencing Joel’s “hobby” of shaving
  • Describing themselves as having a “dark, checkered past” with a movie
  • Describing repeat actors as having “triumphant returns” to the show
  • Describing someone to be “wallowing in his own chaotic, insecure delusions”
  • “Only a weak, weak man/woman cries over their dead child/children” originating in the Saw episode
  • “Oh, look, the mummy showed up” originating in The Mummy episode, used to reference the fact that in so many of these movies, the action only begins an hour in, which is when the mummy showed up in The Mummy
  • Joel telling the guys, “I choose my words very carefully”
  • “I was movin’, I was groovin’, my teeth were like Chiclets…”

Also, for those interested…

Recommended episodes for Millennial Nostalgia: Gothic, Richie Rich, Return to Oz, The A Team, Hook, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Willow, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Bicentennial Man, Donnie Darko, Jingle All the Way, Wild, Wild West, Jumanji, Lost in Space, The Faculty, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Polar Express, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie, Catwoman, Underworld, Constantine, Fantastic Four (2005), The Twilight “Saga,” The Transformers series, I Saw the Devil, Legion, Watchmen, Cube, Battleship

Recommended episodes for the biggest laughs: The Human Centipede, The Pirate Movie (marveling over this PG-rated movie’s surprisingly adult-themed jokes makes for an interesting time), The Unborn – Again, Hollow Man, Twister (lots of fart jokes and a little-known piece of trivia about my second-favorite actor, the monumental, late Philip Seymour Hoffman), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (one of the best “Yeah, It’s That Good” features), The Wicker Man, Legion (a review both atheists and religious people with a sense of humor would enjoy), Showgirls, Van Helsing, House of the Dead, Anaconda, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, House of Wax

Recommended episodes for the best analyses and reviews: Donnie Darko, Pandorum, The Cell, Constantine, Twilight, In Time, House of Wax, Jumper, The Box, Killers, The Butterfly Effect, Skyline, The Darkest Hour, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Equilibrium, Man on Fire, Watchmen, Art School Confidential, Cube, V for Vendetta, The Island, I Saw the Devil, Oldboy, Sucker Punch, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Episodes featuring the show’s “patron saints” and other actors the guys have placed in the “Yeah, It’s That Bad School of Acting”: Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point, Legion, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, The Day After Tomorrow, Pandorum); Nicolas Cage (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, Knowing, The Wicker Man, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, National Treasure); Emily Browning (The Uninvited, Sucker Punch); Cameron Bright (Ultraviolet, The Butterfly Effect, all movies in the Twilight series except the first); Kate Beckinsale (Whiteout, Van Helsing, Underworld); Shia LaBeouf (The Transformers movies, Constantine); Jessica Biel (Valentine’s Day, Stealth, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The A Team); Val Kilmer (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Top Gun, Batman Forever, Willow, Deja Vu, Mindhunters)

Repeat directors include Michael Bay (The Transformers series, The Island, Armageddon); Stephen Sommers (G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing); Tony Scott (Top Gun, Man on Fire, The Last Boy Scout, Déjà Vu); Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Pandorum, Event Horizon, Mortal Kombat); Zack Snyder (Sucker Punch, Watchmen, Man of Steel – in a mini-review in the final episode)

Yeah, It’s That Bad is silly and sarcastic and just a really good movie review podcast. For all my blustering and praising, it’s just as simple as that.

I don’t pretend to hope for a “triumphant return” from the guys, but for what it’s worth, I am indescribably grateful Joel, Martin and Kevin took the time to do the show and that John F. thought to re-upload it so others could enjoy it too, because I listen to it all the time. I turn to entertainment to combat my depression, and recordings of Yeah, It’s That Bad consistently make me feel better. Because of them, I have another tool to boost my mood. That’s a big deal. In fact, to me, it’s huge. It’s life-changing and because it’s life-changing, I love it and I love them—for being so candid and bright and for being themselves.

Yeah, it really was and still is, that good.

Have you found any good podcasts for Millennial listeners? If you have or if you think this one sounds interesting, drop a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

-BP

Guilty Pleasure: My Birthday Bravado

Were you one of those kids who, in the words of comedian Kevin Hart, got “HYPE” as the pages of the calendar were flipped over and the days passed, heralding the oncoming anniversary of the most important day of your life, the day of your birth?

I think most kids were one of those kids. I know I was. As June passed, then July, I would get butterflies in my stomach as I imagined the kind of presents I’d get, what my cake would look like and how my family would dote upon me all day for one special day of the year—my day.

And as my day rolled closer and closer this year, I found that the sentiments I hold have not changed—I still get excited for my birthday for the very same reasons, and though I find pleasure in the prospect of having a day revolve around me, I feel quite guilty about it too.

Why?

Because this kind of anticipation, the butterflies blitzing through your belly and the imaginings of bright decorations and declarations of love, should belong to the youth. Or at least I feel we associate it with children, not young women who have just crossed over to the shady side of 20.

It’s another reminder (as if I need any more—I don’t) that I am but a woman-child, a person who mentally arrested development between the ages of 8 and 17 but appears to the world as a grown woman and, in appearing as such, is expected to tackle and succeed at all the tasks and challenges that society would use to deem someone a mature adult.

I’ve done the therapy and the self-reflection—I can think of countless reasons I’ve emotionally trapped myself as an adolescent: It was easier. It was more fun. I was actually happy on a consistent basis. Safe, to a degree. Protected, kind of. Valued absolutely. Taken care of and cheered on. And because I’m so uncomfortable being uncomfortable, I won’t let myself move to the next stage. I’m afraid I’m going to fail at “adulting,” so I choose ways not to make the transition. I work but not full time. I pay for gas but not for bills. I lived alone at college but moved back in with my mom after graduating. I try to compensate for all of the pain and trauma I have experienced in my childhood by trying to go back and nurture that part of myself by playing it safe, and in doing so, I stunt the young adult who’s waiting to become a woman.

I don’t know how to stop, and I am duly, truthfully, terribly, irrevocably ashamed.

So where’s the pleasure part in the guilty pleasure of still getting giddy about my birthday? Hell if I know. *Sigh* I guess it’s because I like the innocence of the joy I experience celebrating myself for just one day. I miss celebrating myself. I miss it so much. So I’m happy to get presents. I’m happy to eat cake multiple times a day for days. I’m happy to have people I love fawn over me because I was raised in a very emotionally inarticulate family and I’m over here like an emotional volcano waiting to go off, a living personification of sentiment, a husk made specifically for empathy and feelings, so when my birthday comes and they love on me, it’s like, “Finally!” It’s like, “I belong with them, even if just for now, just in this moment!” It’s everything I want that deep down I feel I shouldn’t want if I were truly a smart, savvy adult, and therein lies the guilt.

No one else I know cares about his or her own birthday—not anymore. Because they’re adults. They’re mature. They’re better…than I am.

I turned 26 on August 25th, but that age? It’s just a number. I’ll never grow into it. My shell ages, withers, and I stick to myself on the inside, smothering myself by trying preserve myself.

Every year I live is a year I die.

This is trauma. This is un-health. This is reckless guilt and broken pleasure.

This is masochism.

Happy birthday to me.

-BP

My Favorites: Doctor Who a.k.a. “Nu Who”

*Includes series spoilers, so if you’re not caught up, proceed at your own risk.*

Firstly let me, as a fan, comment on Nu Who’s biggest news, the casting of a woman in the role of the incoming 13th Doctor. My comment is, “Holy shit, I can’t believe they actually did it.” Yes, there were many hints dropped in series 10 and calls for a female Doctor, but I was one of those people who never thought the producers would actually allow the Lord to become a Lady, despite the Master becoming Missy and the character himself alluding several times that he’d be okay with it, and to tell you the truth, that’s what made me okay with it. Although I identify a feminist, prior to series 10, I was one of those fans who didn’t think the Doctor should be a woman—not because I thought a woman couldn’t play the part as well but because the Doctor has been well-established as a male character. But changing him from male to female doesn’t rewrite or retcon what our hero has been through, whom he’s loved or what she can still do. Plus 12 being super pro-female (“We can only hope [the future is “all-girl”]) tickled me to pieces.

I don’t care that people think the move is “PC” (politically correct)—I am fascinated and excited about the casting of Jodie Whittaker, and in truth it is her casting that has solidified my continuing on to series 11 (which I briefly considered not doing because losing Peter Capaldi  is going to hurt so frickin’ much) because I really want to see what a woman brings to a role that has been so historically male. Also, based on that one-minute clip of her reveal, I believe she can do it. When she lowered her hood and the camera panned in on her blossoming smile as she gazed upon the TARDIS, the joy and titillation in her face was simply beautiful. It was evocative. It was wholly the Doctor, and if she can convey that in one minute, I look forward to finding out who 13 is and how she’s going to add to the mythos of the Doctor’s storyline.

Besides, if I want to get petty for a moment (and I do), I now get to laugh at all the close-minded fanboys and fangirls who never thought a female Doctor would come about and who are too stubborn to even give her a try. I mean, really, July 16, the day they announced Jodie Whittaker’s casting, was the “day Doctor Who died”? A woman can’t bring to the part what all these men can? Boys have lost a role model? What is this bullshit? Boys can’t look up to a woman? Why not? Girls look up to male figures all the time—why can’t it be the same the other way around?

Because we’ve been conditioned to believe it’s not the same when it comes to boys idolizing women, that’s why. Some of it has to do with sexualization, I guarantee, and because they’re too busy being hot,  women can’t possibly embody the same type of strength, ingenuity and proactiveness a male role model can. *rolls eyes*

We all need opposite-sex role models; that’s part of how we learn that we can admire and respect people who are different genders than we are. If girls and boys had more access to female role models in power in general, media would be a better medium and the world would be a better place! And while I don’t think a person is outright sexist for not wanting a woman to play the part, to judge that a woman can’t do as well in the part as a man can is an attitude of prejudice and the mark of a narrow mind. If worst comes to worst and the ratings bomb during her run, they’ll obviously just give the part back to a man (like they won’t do that anyway after having a female Doctor), so why shouldn’t she at least have a go? It’s not a big deal if she bombs because so many fans expect her to, but it will be a HUGE deal if she’s amazing because maybe some minds will change. Change. Change is at the core of what a Time Lord is, has been in the nature of the Doctor for the 50+ years the show’s been in existence, and if a fan can’t handle the simple change from a male lead to a female lead for a while, then maybe he or she wasn’t much of a fan to begin with.

Okay, enough about that. This post is meant to center on why I love Doctor Who and why others may love it too, not its divisive decision-making. So allow me to begin…

Twenty-first century Doctor Who, much like another show I love (The Walking Dead), goes down in my TV-watching history as one of the most equally heartbreaking and heartwarming programs I have ever been so highly blessed to come across. I’ve been watching the continuation of the 1963-1989 British sci-fi/drama on and off for 10 years now, but not for the main reasons most Whovians tune in. It’s not for the time-travel plots (which I admit I rarely understand fully because that’s just not how my brain works) or the special effects or makeup or monsters or even just the Doctor himself—it’s for the Doctor’s relationships with his companions and the actors who portray their bonds so authentically and beautifully. Plus Murray Gold’s scores are pretty terrific too.

  1. The Cast. At the moment I’m writing this, I don’t recall having seen a bad performance on Doctor Who, barring those from child actors because I find most child actors to be quite bad. (Sorry, kids.) But the adults are A+. I’d be here forever if I was going to gush about the complete cast of 10 series, so let me make a blanket statement and say that everyone who stars regularly in this drama runs the gambit of emotions, and they all successfully make you feel every inch of every emotion their characters are going through. It’s hard not sympathize with them, even if you don’t like them or disagree with their actions or opinions in the moment. In fact, four of my favorite actors, people whose careers I now follow, come from this show: Peter Capaldi, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman. I believe that Peter Capaldi (12) is the best overall actor to helm the main role, though I believe David Tennant (10) was best suited as the embodiment of all things that encompass the Doctor, which I say in spite of the fact that Matt Smith (11) was my favorite Doctor. Clear as mud? I promise it makes sense, at least in my head. I don’t think any actor has captured the Doctor’s alien quality, his naked vulnerability or his ferocity better than Peter Capaldi. I found David Tennant’s talents to be best conveyed through the pathos, confident charm and depth of darkness he gave his Doctor. His eyes, his eyes! What he said with his eyes… And Matt Smith was a wonderful successor to fan favorite Tennant (no, I’m not mentioning Tom Baker except to say I’m not mentioning Tom Baker! I’m not talking about Classic Who here!), capturing a similar tone but adding a special touch of whimsical warmth, optimism and understanding, as I believe 11 to be the Doctor most accepting of change so far. As for Jenna Coleman, by virtue of playing the companion who impresses me the most, she was the actress who impressed me the most. She gave Clara enough strength and bite and heart that I admired the character regardless of all her faults and the hate she gets. As the reigning Queen of Unpopular Opinions, yes, I am a Clara fan. Absolutely. And you can’t be a Clara fan without being a Jenna Coleman fan.
  2. The Characters. I have love for all of the main companions: Rose Tyler (specifically series 1 Rose because I didn’t care for her during her romance with 10 nor did I like their romance as a plot point period), Martha Jones, Donna Noble, Amy Pond, Clara Oswald and Bill Potts. I do love Clara, Martha and Bill in particular. However, I love the Doctor the most. I love all my Doctors (and respect all the others who paved the way for the show and the character to continue).
  • The 9th Doctor: I haven’t made it through the whole of series 1, but I’ve always been fond of 9. I can relate to someone forlorn and eccentric, sad but strong.
  • The 10th Doctor: 10 was my first Doctor, the one who introduced me to the Who-niverse, rife with fantasy, fears and wonder. Because I suffer from major depression, I always felt very close to him because of the deep sorrow and regret he carried around (in the aftermath of the Time War, like 9), but at the same time, I didn’t give a crap that he was mourning the loss of Rose because I so disliked their being together. Otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed 10—he was funny, fierce, energetic and smooth, and I credit him with being the first character ever to present to me the concept of reacting to things that are different with awe rather than immediate hostility or fear.
  • The 11th Doctor: This was the Doctor who helped me get through college, which was the worst time of my life and when my depression and suicidal ideations were at their peaks. He gave me so much hope that things could change for the better, that there was still good amidst all the bad, all with his zaniness and tenacity and affection for his companions; he inspired me to keep pushing in spite of all the hellish pain, just as he did, and because he kept pushing, he was able to formulate a plan to reverse the worst decision of his life and save Gallifrey. Eleven got me home, even if we had to go the “long way ’round…”
  • The 12th Doctor: Because of his newly adverse reaction to affection and general grumpiness, when 12 started, I didn’t feel as close to him as I did to 10 and 11, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love him from day one. My love for him grew as he grew and I came to appreciate him over his tenure as an emblem of strength and didactic compassion. He’s strange, surly, articulate, old-school in both his subtlety and grandiosity, operatic even, and it was a pleasure watching him grow from someone who asked in his second episode “Am I good man?” to someone who’s (currently) adamant against changing his persona for fear that he would have to start the journey to discover he is good all over again. Oh, Doctor. You were good then and you are good now, though you will soon no longer be a good man. Instead you will be a good woman. I just hope she can find the kind of peace that comes from embracing yourself and find it swiftly the way so many of her predecessors never could.

The Doctor confuses me, shocks me and ticks me off occasionally, but he also makes me laugh, makes me think and helps me hope, for which, as a young adult with deep depression, I look up to and appreciate him. I love his genius, his quirkiness, his epic oratory skills (oh gosh, I could listen to Peter Capaldi especially make speeches all day). But the thing I love about the Doctor the most, the one thing that sets him apart from so many other characters even though he’s an alien, is that he loves—loves in so many different ways yet always so dearly, so ardently, and he doesn’t let inevitable loss stop him from loving again or loving still, and I love that.

  • Clara Oswald: I love Clara. She is my favorite companion because I found her to be realistic and relatable in that she had a lot of good points that managed to eclipse her many flaws. I know a ton of people hate Clara—my own boss told me she disliked Clara because she was “demanding and selfish,” which was certainly true sometimes, and that she “had no heart.” Pfft, WHAT? She overrode Earth’s choice to blow up the moon and saved a defenseless creature. She challenged 11 to reclaim his name and purpose when he planned on using the Moment to destroy Gallifrey once again. She appealed to the stony Time Lords to give 11 another regeneration cycle. She tore herself into pieces and scattered herself about the Doctor’s timeline so she could always be there to help him. Finally, she died for Rigsy, an average character, and she did it with dignity, concerning herself only with making sure the Doctor would continue to “be a Doctor” in her absence and how to die bravely like her late boyfriend, Danny Pink, did. Clara has a huge heart; she’s smart, resourceful, affectionate, good with kids. She’s also bossy, smart-mouthed, vain and reckless. She is a full person to me, far from a Mary Sue or a helpless hottie or a fawning love interest (although the argument could certainly be made that she and 12 harbored romantic feelings for each other, but I don’t really subscribe to that interpretation), and I admire her and love her and hope she comes back at Christmas. Again, I’ll be laughing at all the fans who hate her if she is there because I’m an adult like that.
  • Martha Jones: So underrated. So underappreciated! Though she spent a good chunk of her season pining for the man who loved her only as a friend (which generally irritates me as a viewer, I don’t know about you), I still came to love and appreciate this kind, cheeky, bright young woman, this resilient leader who walked the earth to proclaim hope in the name of the Doctor, to save him when no one else could. He could always count on her, his greatest (platonic) support. She was a doer more than a thinker like Donna and Bill, and I think of her as an overall more “independent” companion, if that makes any sense, since she had to cope without the Doctor when he was stuck in the persona of John Smith and when she had to support him financially as he was leaving instructions to Sally Sparrow on how to handle the malevolent Weeping Angels. She was strong enough, independent enough and secure enough in herself to know when to walk away from the Doctor and when to come back to help him. Unlike the way I thought of Rose or Amy or Bill, Martha is a woman, not a girl, and deserves to be heralded as one of the Doctor’s most steadfast companions.
  • Bill Potts: I personally relate to Bill probably better than any of the other companions, even though I briefly studied to be an English teacher like Clara was. She’s played by Pearl Mackie, a biracial actress, and I too am biracial, having a white parent and a black parent, and while I don’t have the afro, I have those eyebrows…in fact mine are bigger. Bill is an LGBTQIA+ character and I’m the “A” on that spectrum. She’s an academic, as I once was, and genre-savvy so she’s kind of a geek; she’s emotional and vulnerable and loves her mum. She even listens to Little Mix! Again, I’m like, “Ooh, me! Pick me! I can relate! Representation is awesome!” But besides all these things, what makes her especially special to me, actually, is her mental fortitude, a trait that’s hardly ever focused on but a poignant point to make given that some of us in the audience wage a mental war every day against illnesses of the mind. It was an image of love conjured up and maintained by her imagination that defeated the Monks and her incredibly strong sense of self and pride in who she was that staved off the complete Cyber-conversion. Bill is an optimist and strong in a way that is not usually identified or praised, and the fact that series 10 took the time to celebrate her for this type of strength pleases and inspires me. She also loves the Doctor, as it was stated explicitly in “The Pyramid at the End of the World”—not romantically (obviously, lol) but as her “foster tutor,” as a man who values each sentient life, who hopes when there seems to be no stars left in the sky, who wanted to spend his time teaching her because he believed in her and because he knew she made the ordinary extraordinary…who chose her for a friend because he saw that she was the type of person who, when she didn’t know something, smiled instead of frowned. Not only do I love the Doctor for the same reasons, I had very close relationships with the majority of my teachers in high school and loved them for what they gave me and how they believed in me as well. Bill reminds me of the best of me: she is youth, she is strength and she is love, and I hope to see her at Christmas as well. (I NEED her and Clara to meet! But if they don’t, I guess there’s always fan fiction for that…)

One more note regarding Bill: It makes me positively livid when people have the nerve to say Bill is strictly the product of “the politically correct/feminist/liberal bullshit agenda” or that she isn’t “hot” enough to be the main companion. I guess all that female characters are there to do is be hot and be white, right? Well, how dare you. How dare you say that 10% of the entire world shouldn’t be represented in this girl’s sexual orientation. How dare you say that close to half the world shouldn’t be represented in this girl’s skin color. How dare you try to undermine, minimize and deny this character’s worth, her unique beauty, the merits of Pearl Mackie, and me and women like me by writing off this non-white character as an avatar of the “politically correct agenda.” You’d best check your white privilege. The world is not 100% white people, so why should TV shows portray it that way? It’s so important for me and women and girls like me to see parts of ourselves reflected in an international televised sensation like Doctor Who, to know that we can be present and pertinent in sci-fi too. Shame on those making these butthurt, bullshit comments. How they infuriate me. I swear I’ve stepped in mud puddles deeper than 90% of the people on the Internet. And again, to take my mind off my righteous anger, I go back to cackling in triumph at the casting of a female 13.

  1. The Doctor-Companion Relationship. The bonds between our brilliant oddball lead and those who connect him with their humanity as well as his own are the heart of the series, in my opinion. With the exception of 10/Rose and 11/12/River Song, I see the Doctor’s relationships with all of his companions as beautiful, fiery friendships and emotionally intelligent platonic love stories. Donna and Martha were his best friends. Amy and Rory became his family, his in-laws. He had a traditional mentor-student relationship with Bill, and whereas Clara also became one of his best friends, she became his equal in every sense, emerging from her timeline as her own type of Doctor, complete with her own TARDIS and companion (Ashildr/Me). I thought that was interesting and befitting of Clara’s character, and it is the friendship between 12 and Clara that’s my favorite. What he did for her in “Heaven Sent,” what he did to get to Gallifrey just to have the chance to save her, takes my breath away, touches me beyond what any romance story has stirred within my heart. When it’s revealed in “Hell Bent” that he died every day (just like that line in that song by Christina Perri, “A Thousand Years”! Seriously, when I’m in an emotional Doctor Who mood, I listen to that song and switch between gifs and pictures of the various Doctors hugging their companions and it makes me want to weep nearly every time) for 4.5 billion years to try and save her, I am a crying fangirl mess. No, as I stated before, I do not ship them. I’ve never been in love and romance rarely interests me, but I know what it is to love your friends. To really love your friends. Twelve loved Clara so much and she him and I them because the way 12 expresses his love is different than his predecessors—much more inward but not a degree less powerful. But love can manifest itself as a destructive force as well, as the Doctor came to find out when he shot a fellow Time Lord to escape Gallifrey with Clara and reached the literal end of the universe, leaving him and Clara with no choice but to part ways to rediscover themselves as individuals and allow the universe to heal itself in the wake of their break. Clara omitted herself from the Doctor’s mind, leaving nothing but echoes of her essence behind. But he remembered her theme, that lovely tinkling, flowing melody of curiosity and warmth, and after several references to her in series 10, his mind (possibly jumpstarted by the oncoming regeneration) booted up an image of her, along with all of his other mainstay companions, saying his name. You’d best believe I about died of emotions when he remembered her because if that were possible, I would have. Now I just need her to be there when 12 regenerates—I want Clara, Bill, and the First Doctor to usher him into the change—and then he can die happy and I can die happy, lol.

Whew! I had a lot to say about this one! Makes sense—I’ve ranked Nu Who Doctor Who as my 13th favorite TV show ever. It’s played an important role in my life so fear, giving me joy as I watched in high school, giving me hope as I soldiered through college and making me think and appreciate certain things about life as a young adult transitioning further into adulthood. It’s just…a real blessing of show and I will be forever grateful to the BBC for airing it in America so we too can share in their fanciful and felicitous phenomenon.

What do you think about Doctor Who? Are you more of a classic-era fan or do you prefer the version currently airing? Who’s your favorite Doctor? Companion? Which was your favorite series? Episode? And (of course I’m going to ask this) how do you feel about Broadchurch actress Jodie Whittaker getting a turn to pilot the TARDIS? I mean, I obviously have my opinion on it, but all comments and viewpoints are welcome so long as they are expressed with some level of decorum, please and thank you. Yes, and I thank you for reading (or perusing or skimming, for which I do not blame you, because this was a long-ass post).

-BP

Currently/Recently Awesome: NOTHING

I’m a day late in posting, which should illustrate how enthusiastic I am to address the current topic…

In my opinion, for my personal tastes, there hasn’t been anything currently or recently airing, playing or released that has inspired me enough to write a full blog post about it. No movies, no music, no video games and no, I don’t have Netflix, so I don’t know what I’m missing that’s streaming (I hear tell The Handmaid’s Tale and 13 Reasons Why are particularly good and socially relevant).

There are a few TV shows that have just ended or are on now that I’ve liked well enough, in that I believe they’re above average on an entertainment level but not exceptional: American Ninja Warrior season 9, Ink Master season 9 and MasterChef season 8, with scripted dramas Better Call Saul season 3, Gotham season 3 and Doctor Who series 10 being the best and most highly recommended in that order. I tried Humans season 2 since I loved season 1, tried Genius season 1 since the extraordinarily gifted and brilliant Geoffrey Rush—my absolute favorite actor—was cast as the titular genius, Albert Einstein, and even sat through the mess that was the latter half of Empire season 3 for the sharp and sizzling Taraji P. Henson, but alas, found all of these shows to be disappointing if not downright dull. Still, I was even ready for the best shows to be over, which signals to me that I was not as satisfied with them as I wanted to be. I would cover the one-season wonder I just discovered, the critically acclaimed, daring and delicious Sweet/Vicious, but its run was over this past winter season, so it can hardly be called “recent.”

As for the “awesome” part, when I classify something as “awesome,” I’m describing something that consistently wows me throughout the duration of its story. It has to tick the box on everything: plot/continuity, character, action, mystery, humor and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to provoke within me both a thoughtful and emotional response. I have to be thoroughly impressed, from the depths of my brain to the core of my heart, and I just haven’t been this spring/summer season. Now that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t be. Again I recommend the above shows (in fact I’m going to be covering Doctor Who, specifically “Nu Who,” in  next month’s “My Favorites” because it is a show I do very much love dearly) as they are all worth checking out, but whether they’re worth spending hours with, worth getting wholly invested in? That’s up to you.

What TV shows (or other entertainment mediums) have you been enjoying lately? What, for you, has been “currently/recently awesome”? If you care to leave a recommendation or quick review, please drop me a comment.

Thanks.

-BP

P.S. Here in the U.S., the Doctor Who series 10 finale airs at 8:30-10:00 p.m. Eastern/Standard time on BBC America. I’ll be there, sitting on the edge of my seat, no doubt trying to contain my fangirl feels—will you?

This May Interest You: My “Girl Power” Playlist

Every now and again everyone needs inspiration, something to give you a little extra pep in your step, fire to fight your fear and comfort when you’re down. Being someone with depression, I feel down quite often. Being a depressed, plus-sized, feminist woman of color, the state of the world, heck, the state of America—the politics, the race relations, the sexism, the socioeconomic gaps, etc.—has me feeling down basically all the time.

I feel like my identity doesn’t matter, which in turn means my opinion doesn’t matter because I hardly see anyone who looks or thinks like me represented in popular media, the outlet to which I turn to to escape despair. They tell us the wage gap is a myth and women need to stop complaining—it’s obviously a compliment when they praise us for our beauty and mothering or domestic skills but not our talents, intelligence or ideas. They tell us minorities are equal to the majority despite the lack of visibility/roles for Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, Indians, Native Americans and bi- and multiracial people. They tell us that just because women may have stretch marks or a double chin they’re just as valuable to society as women who don’t—oh wait, no, they don’t. And it all makes me feel like I don’t have a chance in hell of becoming a published author because no one is going to listen to a size-16, Black/White/Hispanic woman like me, and the depression deepens.

So. To where do I turn when I pull myself far enough out of the abyss to remember I need to start un-brainwashing myself from years of believing I’m inferior to men, to whites and to the physically fit and attractive? To the entertainment that does include and speak to people like me because people like me—people like usexist.  We have voices, and here are a few for every occasion, women and girls.

Some are sung by women, some by men, but the point is the same: they either apply to us or are straight-up for us and you know what? We have to be for us, too.

Fight Songs

  • “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Theme” by TV Tunesters
  • “Swing to Glory” from BtVS series finale “Chosen” by Daniel Jay Nielsen
  • “Salute” by Little Mix (the most-played song on my iPod; helps pump me up to write the most important idea for a book series I have ever had, one for minority girls, about minority girls, by a minority girl)
  • “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten (duh, lol)
  • “Stand By You” by Rachel Platten
  • “Forcefield” by Jax
  • “It’s On Again” by Alicia Keys feat. Kendrick Lamar
  • “Rise” by Katy Perry
  • “People Like Us” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige
  • “I Know Where I’ve Been” by Queen Latifah
  • “One Girl Revolution” by Superchick
  • “Freedom” by Beyoncé
  • “Good Woman Down” by Mary J. Blige (as in “You can’t keep a…”)

Inspirational Songs

  • “Something Beautiful” by Tori Kelly
  • “Call Me Beep Me” by Banaroo (originally sung by Christina Milian, this is better known to the world as the theme song to Disney’s Kim Possible)
  • “Wings” by Little Mix (I have The Voice cover by Tess Boyer)
  • “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyoncé
  • “Can’t Hold Us Down” by Christina Aguilera
  • “Little Me” by Little Mix
  • “Invincible” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato (I have The Voice cover by Brittnee Camelle)
  • “Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys
  • “Roar” by Katy Perry
  • “Just Do You” by India.Arie
  • “Brave” by Sara Bareilles
  • “Mean” by Taylor Swift (I have The Voice cover by Danielle Bradbery)
  • “Don’t Hold Me Down” by Colbie Caillat
  • “Happy” by Leona Lewis
  • “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Born To Fly” by Danielle Bradbery
  • “Beautiful Flower” by India.Arie
  • “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars
  • “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash (I have The Voice cover by Anita Antoinette and Mayra Alvarez)
  • “I Make My Own Sunshine” by Alyssa Bonagura
  • “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift
  • “Free Your Mind” by En Vogue
  • “Diamonds” by Rihanna
  • “Fly” by Nicki Minaj feat. Rihanna
  • “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus
  • “Almost There” by Anika Noni Rose (from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog)
  • “Control” by Janet Jackson
  • “Black Girl Magic” by Sierra McClain (from Empire)
  • “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
  • “Firework” by Katy Perry
  • “Unbreakable Smile” by Tori Kelly
  • “Spectrum” by Florence + The Machine
  • “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz (I have The Voice cover by Christina Grimmie)
  • “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne
  • “Stand” by Rascal Flatts (I have The Voice cover by Cassadee Pope)
  • “Irreplaceable” by Madilyn Paige
  • “Titanium” by David Guetta & Sia (I also have The Voice cover by Madilyn Paige)
  • “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys
  • “Mama” by Jussie Smollett (from Empire)
  • “The Voice Within” by Christina Aguilera
  • “Sing for Me” by Christina Aguilera
  • “Fly” by Maddie & Tae (I have The Voice cover by Brennley Brown)
  • “Think Good Thoughts” by Colbie Caillat
  • “Gold” by Britt Nicole
  • “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield
  • “Ugly” by Christina Grimmie
  • “Not Fragile” by Christina Grimmie
  • “Most Girls” by Hailee Steinfeld
  • “Wait Til You See My Smile” by Alicia Keys
  • “Indestructible” by Mary J. Blige
  • “With Love” by Christina Grimmie
  • “Rise Up” by Andra Day

Self-Acceptance Songs

  • “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara (I have The Voice cover by Wé McDonald)
  • “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
  • “One Step at a Time” by Jordin Sparks
  • “Dark Side” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Video” by India.Arie
  • “I Am Light” by India.Arie
  • “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga
  • “F**kin’ Perfect” by P!nk
  • “Wild Things” by Alessia Cara
  • “Still Crazy After All These Years” by Paul Simon (I have The Voice cover by Emily Keener)
  • “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine
  • “Try” by Colbie Caillat
  • “Who Says” by Selena Gomez (a song that asks us to question who taught us we weren’t good enough because much like other forms of hate, self-hatred is usually learned)
  • “Secrets” by Mary Lambert
  • “Body Love Parts 1&2” by Mary Lambert (a spoken-word declaration, a revelation)
  • “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson
  • “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” by James Brown (I have The Voice cover by Juliet Simms)
  • “Unconditionally” by Katy Perry

Relationship and/or Breakup Songs

  • “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore (I have The Voice cover by Darby Walker)
  • “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera
  • “King of Anything” by Sara Bareilles
  • “Gonna Get Over You” by Sara Bareilles
  • “Get Yourself Together” by Christina Grimmie
  • “Ghost” by Ella Henderson
  • “Done.” by The Band Perry
  • “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” by Beyoncé
  • “So What” by P!nk
  • “Goodbye” by Kristinia DeBarge
  • “Bartender” by Lady Antebellum
  • “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
  • “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child
  • “A Little Bit Stronger” by Sara Evans (I have The Voice cover by Danielle Bradbery)
  • “I Do Not Hook Up” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Mr. Know It All” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “A Broken Wing” by Martina McBride (I have The Voice cover by Holly Tucker)
  • “The War Is Over” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Little Black Dress” by Sara Bareilles
  • “Dollhouse” by Priscilla Renea
  • “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” by En Vogue
  • “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
  • “Part of Me” by Katy Perry
  • “Express Yourself” by Madonna (I have the Glee cover)
  • “Get It Right” by Teedra Moses
  • “Think” by Aretha Franklin (from The Blues Brothers)
  • “Independent Women Part I” by Destiny’s Child
  • “I Don’t Need a Man” by The Pussycat Dolls
  • “Miss Independent” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Miss Independent” by Ne-Yo (a great feminist love song in which Ne-Yo describes his admiration for a woman who “wants him but doesn’t need him”)
  • “Make Me Better” by Fabolous feat. Ne-Yo
  • “No Scrubs” by TLC
  • “Dip It Low” by Christina Milian feat. Fabolous
  • “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child
  • “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me” by Susan Sarandon (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the moment Janet takes control of her sexual desires)
  • “Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding (I have The Voice cover by Caroline Pennell)
  • “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right)” by 3LW (uh-oh, my age is showing…)
  • “Halo” by Beyoncé
  • “She Is Love” by Parachute
  • “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones (I have the cover by The Sundays)
  • “These Words” by Natasha Bedingfield
  • “She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones
  • “Stronger” by Britney Spears
  • “A Woman’s Worth” by Alicia Keys

(Hmm. I have a lot of songs about relationships even though I have never been in a relationship. Go figure.)

Feel-Good Songs

  • “Some Nights” by Fun. (I have The Voice cover by Christina Grimmie; the lyrics aren’t exactly feel-good but the music is, as are the dulcet but powered pipes of the lovely, late Miss Grimmie)
  • “#thatPOWER” by will.i.am feat. Justin Bieber (I have The Voice cover by Judith Hill)
  • “Keeps Gettin’ Better” by Christina Aguilera
  • “Bella Finals” by The Barden Bellas of Pitch Perfect
  • “World Championship Finale 2” by The Barden Bellas of Pitch Perfect 2
  • “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles
  • “Do What U Want” by Lady Gaga feat. R. Kelly (I have The Voice cover by Sisaundra Lewis)
  • “Catch My Breath” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Who I Am” by Jessica Andrews (I have The Voice cover by Danielle Bradbery)
  • “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack
  • “Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige
  • “Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall
  • “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge
  • “We Found Love” by Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
  • “Something Kind of Ooooh” by Girls Aloud (a good workout song off the fabulous soundtrack to an underrated romance-comedy called Run, Fatboy, Run)
  • “Queen of the Night” by Whitney Houston
  • “I’m Every Woman” by Whitney Houston
  • “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain
  • “Show Me How You Burlesque” by Christina Aguilera (from Burlesque)
  • Lady Marmalade by Patti LaBelle (I have the Moulin Rouge cover)
  • “We R Who We R” by Kesha (formerly Ke$ha)
  • “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae
  • “I’m Like a Bird” by Nelly Furtado (I have The Voice cover by Mathai; another where the lyrics aren’t particularly inspirational but the melody is calming)
  • “One” by India.Arie
  • “Selena” by Wyclef Jean feat. Melissa Jiménez (a tribute song honoring lovable, late Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez)

Honorable Mention: “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy, a pioneer song for the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s.

There we have it, my personal “Girl Power” playlist, a bevy of songs reinforcing the kind of feminism and empowerment I stand for: equal opportunities, rights and treatment to men; emotional independence; sisterhood; and varied definitions of beauty and the recognition and appreciation of inherent female resilience. Ladies, what are your favorite go-to empowerment songs? If you care to share, please leave a comment below. What you share just might make someone feel better! After all, it was lists like these that helped me and led me to form my own.

-BP

Taboo Topics: Choosing to be Childfree

Hi. I am a 25-year-old woman who has no desire to have children now or in the future. I am going to be childless or, to use the term I learned in college and rather prefer, childfree. Shocking! Or is it? In this day and age in the 21st century, is it really all that shocking for young women not to have or want kids?

I only count this as a taboo topic because it is, from what I perceive, still a relevant social expectation that women get married and have children. Oh, you can have a job now, but your real job is to raise a family—that’s what’s at the core of a woman’s worth. It’s what the Bible says after all, that women will be “preserved” through childbearing!

Well now. As both a Christian and a modern woman, I have to say I think this edict is positively medieval and, even more to the point, pardon me, bullshit.

Giving birth to a baby doesn’t make you worthy of being seen as a saint any more than being a sperm donor makes a man worthy of being seen as one either. Having children doesn’t automatically make you a good or bad person, doesn’t make you better than someone else, just like watching horror movies doesn’t make someone a bad person and going to church doesn’t make someone a good person. But then again, the Bible’s got plenty of bullshit in it. There are A LOT of things in there that I don’t believe were inspired by a loving, fair God but more by cowardly, power-hungry, fallible men, and this is one of them, but I digress.

I don’t have a grip on what this expectation is like for young men; I presume they’re asked about when they’re going to settle down and have kids just as much as we young ladies are. The only difference is, that in the past, they didn’t have to to have a fair quality of life. Women come from a background of economic oppression (unable to vote, to own or inherit property, to attend school, to work certain jobs) and sometimes even emotional repression and had to get with a man just to survive, until what, like the 1970s? Wasn’t that the height of women’s lib?

We’ve got a long way to go still—hell, look who got elected as our president—for women and other minority groups to be treated as equals to men and the majority, but we’ve come pretty dang far in 50 years. Scores of women are getting an education. Most women have jobs and dare I say careers. Girls are no longer being programmed by Disney to think they have to wait on Prince Charming to swoop in and save them. They can make a happily ever after happen on their own. Relationships are now a choice. Sex is a choice. Having children (in most cases) is a choice. We don’t have to if we don’t want to because we now have the economic and emotional means (by claiming our independence and inherent resilience) to take care of ourselves.

So why do people still care? Why do people want to control aspects of others’ lives that they have no business trying to be a part of? One of the great mysteries of humanity. I think it has to do with pinpointing what’s different and talking about it. Wondering about it. Feeling superior to it. Feeling sorry for it. Being puzzled by it. Whatever it is, it’s because of some satisfaction someone gets from marking another person as different and therefore separate. People just love putting others into categories—makes it easier to judge them. It’s like an alarm goes off in his or her brain: “Whee-ooh! Whee-ooh! Something different than my own values/beliefs/conceits! Whee-ooh! Whee-ooh! Must react! Must select judgment! Anger? Envy? Confusion? Pity? Disapproval? Select judgment!”

In my experience God likes variety, so people are diverse. We’re not meant to fit one certain category under one certain label. But some people just can’t let it go. Someone even called me an “evolutionary failure” because I’m going against what people were meant to do, which is procreate. Look, I don’t give a damn what evolutionary biology says I’m supposed to; I’m more than a body.

Here, these are my personal reasons I don’t want children:

  • Because I am mentally ill. I have OCD and anxiety and have struggled with profound depression for almost 15 years, and I know some parts of these illnesses are genetic. I do not want to pass this kind of pain and dysfunction on to an innocent child, nor would I want my children burdened with my baggage or to be burdened myself with theirs.
  • Because I’m not in a relationship. There is no man in my life with whom I would consider entering a lifetime commitment that includes children and I would not want to raise a child by myself. My mother was a single parent and I was raised as an only child—I have seen how hard the single parent must work and know the suffering of the child who feels she is neglected because of it. I’m not saying it’s not doable, of course it is, but I have assessed myself as not strong enough to be able to handle both a career and motherhood.
  • Because I identify as asexual. Yes, we asexuals exist. We even have a website (AVEN)! An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction and, therefore, has an extremely low libido or sex drive. For example, when I look at handsome men (or even beautiful women), they please me aesthetically, as in I like to look at them to appreciate their beauty, but never do I feel the desire to copulate with them. To make a baby, you have to have sex. Frankly I don’t want to have sex. Ever. Even the thought of it frightens me and repulses me. I will be content as a clam to die a virgin, and even more content that I didn’t have to experience the pain of my cervix stretching five times its natural width to squeeze out a gooey, screaming little person into the world. Yeah, no thanks.
  • Because of the world we live in. Speaking of the world, I’ve found I’m not too fond of it anymore. Lately, thoughts of suicide have become a cozy alternative to realizing I probably have another 50 years on this frosty, merciless, miserable rock we call Earth (yes, I’m in therapy). My outlook on life has become so pessimistic that the thought of bringing a child into this world actually awakens a ghost-like guilt in my chest. I think I would feel bad for having a child. I would feel like I’d never be able to protect him or her. He or she could get shot at school or at the movie theater or the mall. Fall victim to cyberbullying or date rape. Get killed in one of the wars that always seem to be raging. I’ve heard mothers say the exact opposite, that they want their children here to experience the good in life. Well, from my standpoint the means don’t justify the ends.
  • Because of overpopulation. We have over seven billion people on the planet. Plenty of other people are having children. I don’t need to add to the overcrowding we’re sure to experience in the decades to come.
  • Because I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. To give a short explanation, PCOS means your hormones are messed up, bestowing upon you the lovely gifts of irregular periods (I haven’t had one since August 2016), excess body hair and weight and a bunch of cysts on the outsides of your ovaries. Because it is a hormonal disorder, it is difficult for women with PCOS to conceive. Knowing it’d be extra hard for me to get pregnant just reinforces my desire not to have kids. I’m not going to spend my money on fertility treatments. I’m saving that shit for me!
  • Because I am a selfish, impatient person. I don’t believe I have the maternal spark—I’m compassionate and affectionate but not nurturing. I’m not keen on focusing what little energy my mental illnesses afford me on someone else, and a child should be a parent’s number one priority. Because of the type of person I am and because I have a long-term goal of being a writer, for which I would absolutely sacrifice time spent on trying to have a family, I honestly don’t feel like it’d be fair of me to have a child. Wouldn’t be fair to her or him. So the most unselfish thing a selfish person like me could do is not have any children in the first place.

There are plenty more reasons not to want children. There are also plenty of reasons to want them and many downfalls to not having them, I acknowledge that. I will grow old alone. There will be no phone calls, no visits from grandchildren. No one to help me shower or go to the bathroom when I’m old and decrepit. There will only be silence, the unspoken voices of what and who could have been. I will never know the feeling of what it’s like to be pregnant, never know the intimacies of the miracle of life growing inside me. And, for all my bluster, when I’m feeling particularly depressed and worthless, I do feel like less of a woman for not wanting kids/being virtually unable to bear them. I know it’s not true. I know I can contribute to society without giving the world another person to house, but not being a mom in a world and a generation where it feels like everybody else is makes me feel inferior to them.

So then we just have to look at the positives for not having children: I’ll save myself around $250,000 (I learned on Dr. Phil that that’s about what it takes to raise a kid from birth to age 18); I don’t have to have force myself to have sex (woo hoo!); I don’t have to worry about gaining even more weight and trying to get back in shape after delivery; I get to be in control of my schedule—I can sleep when I want and don’t have to change diapers or go to boring school talent shows; I’ll save myself the worry and grief and pain that inevitably comes with raising a teenager (pssht, I’ve got enough grief, I don’t need anyone else’s). I’ll be free, in other words, to pursue my own interests, responsible for me and only me.

And that kind of freedom is the life for me.

What about you? Do you want to be childfree to? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments below.

-BP