The state of streaming: June 2021

By Sammy Bovitz

If there’s anything that people all agree on when it comes to streaming services, it’s that there are simply too many. An overwhelming amount of content to choose from for ongoing monthly prices means that consumers have to pick and choose which services they deem to be worth shelling out real money for and which one will be Quibi. Each major streaming service has spent a little under a year on the market at this point, so let’s take a look at each one in terms of their outlook now and what the future holds. We’ll be taking a look at nine services, which can be easily split up into three categories:

Group One: The Powerhouses

Netflix

With over 200 million subscriptions, Netflix is still king, and it’s easy to see why. The sheer amount and variety of content is unmatched. HBO Max has since outclassed them when it comes to quality, but still, no one is topping Netflix. But it still costs a bunch of money– even an account for one person costs $8.99 a month, and that doesn’t even provide HD. Most people are probably getting the next tier up, which is $13.99. To keep people convinced, and to keep Netflix at the top, the company is going to have to fight off Disney+ and HBO Max, and they need to keep providing quality originals and variety of content. Seinfeld alone coming over is not going to save them. The Crown and Stranger Things are still coming, but that’s not enough– not to mention that we haven’t seen anything about release timing for the latter show’s fourth season. 

More than any other streaming service, Netflix is seeing their third parties leaving for other services or to start new services of their own. The Office, Friends, and Disney content alone is a huge blow, so Netflix needs to rebound and double down on originals. For now, that’s exactly what’s happening. The sheer variety that they have already is overwhelming: Bridgerton, Ozark, The Witcher, Narcos: Mexico, The Umbrella Academy, Outer Banks, Master of None, The Poltician, Space Force, Big Mouth, Love is Blind, Grace and Frankie, Cobra Kai, and Lucifer are just some of the original shows set to return right now. As for the future in both movies and shows, the Knives Out sequels, the Avatar: The Last Airbender reboot, Tick… Tick… Boom!, the star-studded Red Notice, a Cowboy Bebop reboot, a Matilda series, The Kissing Booth and The Princess Switch sequels (for people that are not me) are just the tip of the iceberg. Netflix is also going all-in on games, with Magic: the Gathering, Resident Evil, Sonic Prime, and The Cuphead Show! all slated for the next few years. If people see enough originals they like, Netflix will be just fine. But we’ll truly understand how much shows like The Office mattered as the service moves into full-on original territory within the next few years and subscription numbers are revealed. 

Disney+

Absolutely no one is shocked to see that this streaming powerhouse is still going strong, and their recent price hike to $7.99 a month didn’t seem to faze anyone. Disney+ doesn’t exactly live and die by its originals– the Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel content they already have will keep plenty around– but the remainder of their 2021 lineup looks incredibly strong. We’ve got big hitters for Disney+ coming up for every major tentpole. Marvel is going to continue to lead the way with Loki, What-If, Ms.Marvel, Hawkeye, and even Black Widow coming to its $30 Premier Access service– for my money, the first real must-have for that price. That’s only 2021 we’re getting into, and Disney+ will always have the Marvel diehards locked into a subscription as long as the shows keep coming and they keep making a splash. Star Wars spinoff The Bad Batch is going to carry on through the summer, and with The Book of Boba Fett, The Mandalorian season 3, Andor, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi coming in the next year or so, fans of the franchise will have more than their fair share. The Pixar straight-to-streaming trend is going to continue with Luca, but keep an eye on this one– it’s not getting nearly as much attention as Onward and Soul did. Luca’s performance could mean a lot for the future of Pixar in theatres. It could also mean nothing, so we’ll see. But that’s not even the end of Disney+ originals this year: Monsters at Work, Muppets Haunted Mansion, Dug Days, and The Mysterious Benedict Society are among the highlights slated for this year. 

The service hit 100 million subscribers months ago, and as long as enough people don’t get tired of Marvel and Star Wars, Disney+ will continue to rise. But it remains to be seen how rapidly this rise will continue– the service is running out of big new regions to hit and big service-selling originals. If WandaVision didn’t sell people, who’s to say that Hawkeye would change that? The only gigantic title I see next year that could finally push people over the edge is Obi-Wan Kenobi, but beyond that, this subscriber momentum probably won’t be sustained for too much longer. But the service is going to continue to break through milestones and could even gun for Netflix long-term. 

HBO Max

If there’s any service that I thought could topple Netflix down the line at the start, it was HBO Max. But the service really stumbled out of the gate. Max’s $15 price point and lack of compelling launch originals– along with the debacle of having and almost immediately removing the Harry Potter series– made for a largely unappealing service to start, as only The Flight Attendant managed to make a splash in 2020. But a couple of originals came out recently that are pushing the service in the right direction, and those are Zack Snyder’s Justice League and the Friends reunion. The amount of positive press the service is getting– and will continue to get– because of these two titles alone really boosts the first half of their year. Not only that, their decision to bring all of their theatrical releases to the service, if only for this year, is a pretty big bet on the service that could really pay off. The fact that In the Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Dune, and even The Matrix 4 are all coming to HBO Max– no Premier Access required– will drive a lot more subscriptions for sure. But as for the originals themselves, Max has a largely unremarkable lineup. Gossip Girl and the untitled Conan O’Brien series are the headliners confirmed for a 2021 release thus far, and it looks like the real year for Max originals will be 2022, when Peacemaker and Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon headline. 

Overall, the best bet for HBO Max will be gradual success in the long term. Over 40 million subscribers is nothing to sneeze at, but it looks like the service is still looking for its Netflix-level tentpole originals, and there are several projects coming up with a lot of promise. It’ll also be interesting to see what happens when it comes to the service’s new ad-supported tier. The fact that the privilege to watch HBO Max with ads comes in at $9.99 a month– $2 more than a typical Disney+ subscription– shows that HBO is still about high-quality content for a high price. Finally, the merger deal with Discovery is going to drive a lot of subscribers– especially if they dissolve Discovery+ in favor of a more robust all-in-one home. This is a direct challenge to Disney’s dominance in the second generation of streaming, and will make for a huge drive of subscribers. I still think HBO Max can beat out Netflix, it’s just going to take a clearly defined strategy– and some slip-ups from the top two. 

Group Two: The Wild Cards 

Hulu

Hulu is in a weird position right now. While The Handmaid’s Tale, Love, Victor, PEN15, the Animaniacs reboot, and MODOK is a fine original lineup, it’s not exactly a showstopping group. But there are promising originals in the future, from American Horror Stories, How I Met Your Father, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to reality shows booked with both the D’Amelio and Kardashian families. None of these originals really appeal to me, but I’ll admit it’s a good enough lineup to keep them going. But their content from partners like FOX, ABC, Sony, PBS, and DreamWorks are going to have to continue to carry them– especially with NBC and ViacomCBS content leaving for their own streaming services and one of their biggest shows in Seinfeld heading to Netflix in 2022. A price drop or straight-up merger with Disney+ could be in the cards, but for now, this is one of the weirder players in the streaming wars.

Amazon Prime Video 

This company is rich with a capital R, so continuing to invest in streaming for movies, TV, music, and video games is going to continue. Being free with Amazon Prime will allow this service to continue to survive. But whether it’s going to do anything with that remains to be seen. They’ve got The Marvelous Mrs.Maisel, The Boys, and Invincible as headlining originals, but like Hulu, their strength mostly lies in their vast back catalog. But with partners pulling out, they’re going to have to pivot to bigger series to keep people interested. Good thing is, Amazon has The Lord of The Rings, A League of Their Own, and even an adaptation of popular video game series Fallout coming. I don’t see this service going away anytime soon, but it’s not going to take the world by storm either. But they purchased MGM for $8.4 billion as I was getting ready to finish this article, so I guess they’re serious about this. 

Peacock

Peacock is yet another weird one, and haven’t quite done enough to set themselves apart from the competition. NBCUniversal doesn’t seem to be all-in on the service, but they’ll probably stick around– Peacock has The Office and Harry Potter, and that on its own might be enough for some people. Shows like the Saved by the Bell reboot, Rutherford Falls, Girls 5eva, and The Amber Ruffin Show have been modest successes if nothing else, and future titles like a Battlestar Galactica reboot have promise, but nothing is really selling me about Peacock right now. For one thing, the “free” tier they offer is not a lot more than a glorified free trial, except with no time limit, almost no original programming beyond the first couple episodes, and with ads. Peacock needs to push more people to the Premium tier, as it’s a fairly good Hulu alternative for $4.99 a month with ads, and less to the very limited “free” offerings. Peacock will stick around as long as NBCUniversal understands they’ve got a long way to go and sells their more appealing tiers more often. They have The Office, but as even Netflix learned, that’s not enough. I don’t think Peacock is going anywhere, but they need to have more standout originals and have a much clearer direction in order to stand out.

Group Three: The Unnecessary Ones

Apple TV+

Apple TV+ is another case of the gigantic company dipping their toes into streaming, and is perhaps the most confusing one we’ve seen outside of Quibi. The only original I really love from Apple is Ted Lasso, and other headliners like The Morning Show, For All Mankind, Dickinson, Central Park, and the film Cherry have a niche audience at best.  Things like a new Jon Stewart series, the Fraggle Rock reboot, Come From Away, and The Shrink Next Door have promise, but none of these sell people on Apple’s service. Their back catalog outside of originals is also pretty barren– they’ve got Charlie Brown and the Fraggles, but not a lot else. There’s not much of a reason to buy Apple TV+ right now, and as much as I love Ted Lasso, I wish he and Charlie Brown were just on Netflix. 

Paramount+

You might have known this one as CBS All Access or as that one commercial that played too much during the Super Bowl. ViacomCBS actually has a pretty big library, but they don’t quite have the movie library that NBCUniversal does. To me, this service is just a lesser Peacock right now. Their original headliners are Star Trek, a spinoff of The Good Wife (The Good Fight), and, I don’t know, the Rugrats reboot? To be fair, they’ve got reboots galore in development (iCarly, Frasier, Dora the Explorer, The Fairly Odd-Parents), and for some reason ViacomCBS thinks they can adapt the award-winning green man shoots things video game known as Halo into a television series. But unless you really like Star Trek, there’s not a lot here. Sure, they’ve got a limited amount of live sports similar to Peacock, but both of their offerings are so all over the place that it’s not worth much of a mention, especially because of the last service we need to talk about. 

ESPN+

I am a huge sports fan, but I still don’t understand ESPN+ for the life of me. I love 30 for 30 and would love if live sports pivoted to streaming– after all, when that happens, cable will be officially obsolete. But ESPN+ is pretty unclear about what it offers. They have a lot of soccer and a little bit of baseball, but even when NFL games come over, it won’t really be enough. Not only that, no one’s going to pay $5 a month for Peyton’s Places or the return of NFL Primetime (which should’ve been on cable, let’s be honest). Not only that, the weirdest streaming service in the world in ESPN3 is still active, but most of it is behind a paywall. Plus, people that want to pay a premium for more ESPN articles don’t always want to sign up for a streaming service to do so, and vice versa, so selling them separately might be a nice option. It would make a lot of sense for ESPN+ to fully merge into Hulu so both services can stay relevant. If they combine Hulu’s back catalog and originals with 30 for 30 and actual live sports, Hulu will make the case as the strongest challenger in terms of variety to Netflix, except for the fact that they don’t have the best family-friendly content, which stays on Disney+. Sure, it makes sense to have three separate streaming services so that people pay for all the Disney they can consume (each sold separately), but from the average consumer’s perspective, combining all three services for the price of an HBO Max subscription makes all the sense in the world. They’re already bundling Disney+, ESPN+, and ad-tier Hulu right now, after all! An all-in-one Disney home might be overwhelming, but to truly dethrone Netflix, it might be their best bet. 

So that’s a general recap on the state of streaming so far, but it’s going to be a while once we see the hierarchy of services actually take shape. I’ll bet that at least two of these services won’t last too long– my money’s on Paramount+ and ESPN+– but we’ll just have to see how much streaming the average consumer can take. Services like Quibi got absolutely destroyed, and there aren’t many major entertainment companies left that aren’t attempting their own streaming services. I don’t see more than 5 or 6 of these services really sticking with everyone long-term, and it’ll be fascinating to see where this weird world of watching goes next. 

AJR: The Most Confusing Three Letters in Music

By Sammy Bovitz

On March 26th, 2021, the musical trio known as AJR released OK Orchestra, a 46-minute, 13-song experience that can best be described as, well, okay. And in the years leading up to that release, my relationship with the group’s music has been very odd. As I slowly discovered that some of my friends or acquaintances enjoyed the band, I attempted to try out their music as both an attempt to be a good friend and simply to see what all the fuss was about. Their band name, album art, and overall tone is relatively unassuming, and the overall beats backing the lyrics are satisfying enough that, when stripped down to mere instrumentals, many of their tracks are fairly serviceable. But where AJR really sets themselves apart is in their lyrics, and it’s both their greatest strength and most glaring weakness.

For example, let’s take the track “Netflix Party.” When I first came across AJR in 2019, “The Office” was still fresh enough in my mind that I was purely enjoying it and not thinking critically about the show as much as I would later. I had also just finished watching season 7, the final season that’s generally seen as quality by both fans and critics. The song “Netflix Party” is about one of the band members’ journey growing up with the show. At face value, a first listen to this song is pretty enjoyable, especially for someone who is currently enjoying the show, say, through Netflix. But songs like AJR’s have lyrics that are always at the focal point. Obviously, lyrics are important to every song, but, for example, a younger version of me enjoyed the production behind “Blurred Lines” while remaining blissfully unaware of the song’s misogynistic message and copyright infringement. That song, at least in my view, isn’t really about the lyrics: it’s about delivering a fun pop song with a tune that is easily memorable and can be danced to. But “Netflix Party” is about telling a narrative through a song, and while it’s intertwined with fun beats, it’s not mainly about the beats. So on multiple listens, lines like “The one where Dwight became the head of sales/My eighth grade graduation wished me well,” don’t trigger nostalgia or relatability as much as they simply confuse.


Let’s look at a few more examples. “Sober Up” is initially about discovering that your old friends have matured and grappling with that, but on multiple listens, the line “My favorite color is you/You keep me young and that’s how I wanna be,” is so bizarre. It could be a nod to band member Ryan’s synesthesia, but that’s about associating visuals with sounds, not people with a visual concept like a color. The line “My favorite color is you,” whether isolated or given as much context as possible, makes absolutely no sense- and it’s one of the main refrains of the song. “Break My Face” is a bizarre and oddly charming song on first listen, but after that it’s just plain irritating. The pre-chorus of “What doesn’t kill you/Makes you ugly/Life gives you lemons/At least it gave you something,” is attempting to turn cliched phrases around, but it doesn’t feel genuine or interesting as much as it is frustratingly downbeat and “rebellious,” which contrasts with the fairly upbeat nature of the song’s production. “3 O’Clock Things” was one of the “good” songs on OK Orchestra in my view (more on that in a bit), but with lines like “It’s kinda funny how I paid for college/When YouTube was an option,” multiple listens just make the song worse. 

I do not think I am an expert in music production in any way. If you asked me to write a song, I would fail miserably, as I just don’t operate like that creatively. But I can speak from the experience of someone in AJR’s target audience, which is– whether intended or not– insecure millennials or teenagers. That is to say pretty much every millenial or teenager, but I digress. 

AJR’s songs seem to aim for relatable lyrics and catchy yet experimental tunes, and they seem to position their entire style as both refreshingly bizarre and very accessible. That’s something that grabs a lot of people around my age, as in a world where more people attempt to make creative projects for a living ever, it’s shown that it’s incredibly attractive to be positioned as weird while still having mainstream appeal. “Relatable content” is something that people seem to love, and AJR fits that niche perfectly while still being experimental enough to be “weird.”

Again, none of this is to say that AJR’s music is bad or that it’s simply a cookie-cutter experience. Like most songs, the lyrics are probably based on stories from the band member’s lives or of their general thoughts on the life they’re living. They struggle as both creatives and as representatives of Generations Y and Z, who, like many generations before them, feel both a sense of insecurity and a desire to move forward and create a world they want to see. And that is something that, at its core, can make for some fairly, well, relatable music. At their core, what AJR seems to be showing with their main themes have wide appeal. But it just comes down to how those themes are executed that feels off. The band feels like it’s in a constant tug-of-war between their desire to get weird and a desire to make things that they– and the thousands like them– can relate to. 

Let’s get back to OK Orchestra. Of the 13 songs on the album, four are singles from the past year or so. Those songs are all okay and fairly inoffensive, but of course, things like the chorus of “Way Less Sad” don’t make a ton of sense on multiple listens. But my least favorite song on the album has to be the hilariously titled “OK Overture.” It feels like random sounds and snippets from the album were just thrown at a wall with little attention to what would stick for the listener, and it’s a fairly good indication of the album to come. Overall, AJR’s discography follows some core themes, but the albums themselves are more a collection of songs, and thus their “best” work is probably enjoyed without the context of the full album. I went into OK Orchestra with an open mind, but quickly found myself skimming through some tracks and skipping others entirely. The album’s songs are best enjoyed standalone, but again, once the production begins to get repetitive and the only thing left to latch onto is the lyrics, the band completely falls apart for me as a listener.  

AJR at face value should be just another indie band, but the content of their lyrics and in the way they carry themselves– see the reveal for the album Neotheater— make them very appealing to younger people. And yet that’s why they frustrate me so much. Their surface-level relatability makes them have the appeal of a mainstream pop artist while still being “quirky” enough for their audience of teens and millennials to eat it up. I’m not saying that AJR is evil, I’m simply saying that their success confuses me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to Google how to successfully defend against pitchforks. 

Pinocchio and the Film’s Life Lessons

By Aylin Montoya

Disney’s Pinocchio premiered on February 23, 1940, receiving critical acclaim and today is  considered one of the greatest animated films of all time. Pinocchio is filled with music and wonderful acting, which led the film to win an award for best song (for “When You Wish Upon A Star”) and for best original score. But apart from the music and story, Pinocchio leaves the audience with important timeless life lessons, highlighted by the characters and their journey throughout the film. 

   A crucial lesson in Pinocchio is to be wary of finding the easy route in life, which is embodied in the setting of Pleasure Island. Pinocchio follows Lampwick to Pleasure Island where they can play, drink alcohol, smoke, and do everything they want without supervision. It is a place where children who do not want responsibilities get tricked into having a life without limits. The result of living a life without responsibilities? In the end, all the children get turned into donkeys by a curse that is on the island which turns naughty boys into “jackasses” with the Coachmen then taking them hostage. It is conveyed in a dark way for a children’s movie, but the lesson remains clear. The children turned into donkeys as a consequence of taking the easy route in life, Pleasure Island, then falling victim to that same mentality of living a lazy life, causing them to become donkeys. The same easy route they thought would make them free only trapped them into a life filled with limits, highlighting how bad habits and being lazy only lead to consequences and being trapped in a destructive way of life. 

     From the beginning of the film, Pinocchio refuses to listen to his conscience, who is embodied by Jiminy Cricket. Jiminy warns Pinocchio about doing so as he states, “Go ahead, make a fool of yourself then maybe you’ll listen to your conscience.” Jiminy’s warning to Pinocchio is specifically illustrated in a crucial dramatic scene of the film. Pinocchio is drinking beer and smoking a cigar while Lampwick laughs as he starts to turn into a donkey. At this point in the movie Jiminy Cricket has figured out what is going on in the island and goes to warn Pinocchio. As he goes to find Pinocchio, Lampwick is complaining about Pinocchio’s conscience as he states, “Where does he get that stuff from?”, because to Lampwick, he knows everything and conscience is just an oppressive force to not be free to live life. Pinocchio continues to drink his beer until he notices Lampwick start to transform and it stops him right in his tract because reality has hit him. By the time Lampwick notices he has turned into a donkey, his laugh becomes a bray and he gets hoofs. He kicks around the room and leaps until he stops at a mirror, but instead of seeing the reality, he breaks the mirror. Lampwick refused to see his mistake until the very end and he never listened to his conscience, which only led him to make mistakes that could have been avoided had he reflected on his actions. It is because Pinocchio finally listens to Jiminy right before he fully transforms that he is able to escape. Everybody makes mistakes and we should learn from them, but there are mistakes that can be avoided if we can reflect on what the right thing to do is. 

     Another important lesson Pinocchio teaches is that reaching goals takes time and at times hardships happen, but it is important to keep going. Once Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket get off of Pleasure Island a new hardship is confronted: a big cliff that only leads to an ocean with turbulent waves. Pinocchio’s journey towards home (and becoming a real boy as he wishes) is not over, as he is confronted with a cliff where he must dive into the unknown. It highlights that in order to get to a good place, he had to go through a worse place first. Pinocchio knows the journey home is going to be difficult, but he still leaps forward and swims with Jiminy Cricket through the turbulent sea. What follows is more hardship, but Pinocchio does not give up, and in the end he does reach home and meets up again with his father, Geppetto. His wish of becoming a real boy does happen in the end, despite the difficulties he had to go through, because he did not give up on his journey. 

     Sometimes it feels as if plans are not going well and we can feel like giving up on our goals, but it is important to keep going because journeys take time and often hardships happen. Like Pinocchio, learn from your mistakes and like Jiminy Cricket teaches Pinocchio, don’t forget to listen to your conscience. You can reach your goals so keep going!

Blue Velvet: The Unheard of Prequel to Twin Peaks

By Anya Geiling

Have you ever heard of the infamous director, writer, actor, and musician, David Lynch? He was the brains behind many cult classics, including Dune and both seasons of Twin Peaks. You might have heard of Twin Peaks, but have you ever seen Blue Velvet?

 Blue Velvet was released in 1986 as a mystery/crime drama. The main actors were: Kyle MacLachlan (later starring in Twin Peaks), Laura Dern, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, and Dean Stockwell. The movie has the song, “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton as the main theme song. 

To begin, the movie starts with college student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) coming home after finding out his father experienced a stroke. After walking in a field one day, Beaumont finds a severed ear and teams up with the detective’s daughter, Sandy Williams (Laura Dern), to solve the mystery. They suspect the beautiful singer, Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), to be connected with the case. Beaumont then finds himself drawn to Dorthy’s confusing life, leading to the encounter with psychopath Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). 

This leads into Lynch’s cinematography. From the beginning of the movie, Lynch creates a surreal picture for the audience. Most of his work has been dubbed “Lynchian”, and is characterized because of its adoring imagery. His color pallets also vary. He uses warm and cool colors to determine the mood of a scene, which makes the show more enjoyable for viewers. 

Additionally, David Lynch uses old songs throughout Blue Velvet and transforms them into psychopathic rhythms. For example, in the beginning scenes, Lynch presents the movie as a picture-perfect town, along with the song “Blue Velvet” sung in a very dream-like way. This seems to set the expectations for the film, but in reality it turned out to be very different from that picturesque fantasy. Later on in the movie when Dennis Hopper meets Dean Stockwell, Dean sings part of the song,“In Dreams” by Roy Orbison. One of the lyrics read, “In dreams I walk with you… In dreams you’re mine all the time”. These lyrics are meant to be for lovers, but Lynch twists them to correspond with his character’s lunatic actions. 

This movie is the unheard of prequel to Twin Peaks. From the beginning of the film, many parts felt familiar. To start off, the town is a logging town just like Twin Peaks was, and the characters were played by many of the same actors. I see this film as the life behind Dale Cooper. There is never any mention of his past, and this movie fills in that void. Laura Dern’s character also has significance later on when Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) came out.

I definitely recommend watching Blue Velvet and diving deep into the world David Lynch creates. You will truly be amazed!

What Jobs will We Have in the Future?

By Anya Geiling 

With technology advancing by the hour, it is hard to picture our upcoming years as a species. By 2022, 60% of all U.S. companies expect to be using AI or advanced automation to support efficiency in operations, staffing, budgeting or performance (Genesys). If the majority of work is taken over by a computer, what jobs will you and I have in the future?  

To begin, apart from realizing that technology will essentially take over the world, let’s start with the process before humans try to make ends meet. College. College is more important now than ever to even apply for a job. Nowadays, most people are actually overqualified for their job due to the shortage of job openings. Therefore, let’s now talk about even earning a college degree. 

College tuition this day and age is unbelievable. Ivy leagues range from $50-$60,000 a year, and regular public universities are anywhere from $21,000 in-state to $30,000 out of state. These costs put students in debt, and make them rely on financial aid. There are no better options for the middle class, in which there are few scholarships that can provide help to those families. With larger pools of applicants each year due to a boom in population around the world, going to one’s dream college seems to be becoming obsolete.  

But let’s just say you do go to college. What happens next? You apply to multiple corporations, schools, hospitals, etc. Resumes get tossed around and you anxiously await the decision that can change your life forever. Accordingly, 3,000 other people applied to the same position you wanted and had the exact same credentials. This is what is hurting our society today; there are too many people and not enough jobs to go around. 

Our species is creating its own downfall– we create AI to take away more jobs from people which then leads to an increase in crime. Increased crime rate equals drug use, and drug use equals the downfall of that town. Fights, riots, and corrupted rulers arise from those areas, resulting in the destruction of the whole nation. 

Education is necessary for any species to survive, from animals to creatures of the sea. Without utilizing our great gift of cognitive learning, we wouldn’t be where we are today. But now, we are using that tool meant for survival to help the rich get richer. This is because using AI means less money spent by the owner, in which only 5 staff will be hired instead of 50. Where do those 45 other people work? What will they do to support their families?

I hope this topic is looked upon more as we realize we are in for a ride when it comes to advancement in technology. Just think about what you will do in the future and how you can fulfill that goal, because there are millions of others thinking about that same exact thing. 

Are Instagram likes worthless?

An experiment by Sammy Bovitz

I really do not like Instagram. I find its addiction loop and the way it twists people towards a new and lower form of communication awful. Sure, there are apps that are worse in this way (see: Snapchat and TikTok), but Instagram succeeds on a larger scale by pulling from everywhere while seeming more inclusive than the more Gen Z-driven apps. Its Facebook-derivative posting, the “Reels” it ripped straight from TikTok, and a direct messaging system that takes cues from Snapchat provides an odd blend of features that appeals to nearly everyone. But the way I see people using Instagram goes beyond frustration– it makes me sad. 

People relentlessly ask for likes and comments and saves and follows and any form of what is ultimately empty validation. Some people that seem like the happiest, most attractive people on the app are likely to be eaten alive by their own self-doubt and lack of self-worth, because Instagram uses metrics that try to quantify how popular you are. Likes, comments, followers, likes of your comments, replies to your comments, number of direct messages, and views of your story are all tracked and available for you to see. This creates a feedback loop of small bits of dopamine traded for a massive amount of anxiety about your body or your skills as a photographer or how many friends you have. It’s why I deleted Instagram from my phone in September. And yet, I still found myself checking direct messages or posts from time to time on my computer because there was a small percentage of posts or messages out there that I actually enjoyed seeing or reading, worthwhile stuff that I couldn’t really see anywhere else buried under meaninglessness. But when I reinstalled the app in January, I took a look at how dominant the “Reels,” shop, and search pages were and deleted it after 3 minutes.  

A month later, that little return to the app was still bothering me. So, I came up with an idea for an experiment, and after about 15 minutes, decided to do it. I was going to start taking pictures of no value with some things that people just scrolling through will like and move on with their day. No overly long captions, no promotions, no need to really comment, just things people can like and move on with. That’s the thing about the app– some people just double-tap for half an hour a day as a matter of routine. I couldn’t exploit attractiveness in order to gain extra likes or comments (just ask my highly nonexistent girlfriend!), so I instead reposted the day’s post on my story with attention-grabbing emoji and hope for a secondary stream of mindless likes from that. I told myself I would post daily for 5 days and write dumb captions to have at least a little fun while doing so. From there, I’d hope to boost my comment count by relying on some friends that would hopefully realize what was happening and reply to each one, incentivizing repeat likes and comments on future posts. 

As a baseline for this experiment, I used my post promoting my Black Student Union roundtable on this paper back in June. It was probably one of the most fulfilling conversations I had in 2020 and helped me retain perspective as I tried to figure out how I could contribute to social change and how my peers at school thought those who have privilege should go about things. 52 likes, 3 comments. On February 22nd, I started my experiment.  

This first day was really telling in terms of how funny yet how sad the results were in the 24 hours after the selfie I took without turning the camera to selfie mode. By the time the next day rolled around, I had already gotten 71 likes, 130 story views, and 5 unique comments, performing a lot better than a thoughtful conversation on a timely issue. This could signal things about how people choose to portray their activism on social media, but that’s a discussion for another day. Though it was a fresh post after 8 months without one on Instagram, my theory about mindless likes looked to somewhat be there. All I had to do was make slight tweaks and take similar photographs of nothingness with short captions and I thought I would be okay. 

The next day I made sure to tag LeBron James and promise daily content with a picture I captured by throwing my phone onto a couch. I did expect slightly diminished returns and I got them, receiving 54 likes and 115 story views, though I did get 6 unique comments this time rather than 5. Still, this was a pretty large interaction, with the majority of the likes and comments coming in the first few hours. 

Day three came with a 2-second video of the floor as I walked. While 7 different people commented within the first hour, the post wasn’t as successful as the first two days– likely due to the fact that some prefer to watch the video before hitting the like button. Still, it approached and matched that original 52 likes at a healthy pace, plus got a few more that evening to hit 55. 

The fourth day came with a popular meme template without anything filling it in. It hit 50 likes a little quicker than the previous day, and finished the day with a quite solid 58 likes. 6 unique commenters also weighed in before the day was done. 

The fifth and final day was a blurry picture vaguely related to Marvel Studios’ megahit WandaVision. 7 unique commenters entered the fray in the first few hours, though that could’ve been because of my call to action to comment “lol SPOILERS” out of sheer boredom. That aside, the final post finished with 54 likes. Every single post that I sent out that week with literally zero substance was deemed better than my roundtable with the Black Student Union. Somehow, in my quest to get mindless likes, I succeeded: my posts added up to 294 likes over 5 days.

I don’t know if this is “impressive,” nor do I really care about how this performed relative to an influencer. I have a private Instagram account and I’m not necessarily popular or attractive. But why should I care? Why should you care? Social media sites can be a way where people can genuinely express themselves, find connections, or just share photos they took or works of art they created. In theory, apps like Instagram should be amazing. But with posts that the current culture encourages, that’s not happening right now.

There are exceptions, sure, with plenty of people just posting whatever they want. But every time I see the acronym for “like my recent,” I get upset. Who cares how many people like your post or comment or message you directly or follow you on TikTok or subscribe to your YouTube channel or anything? Sure, it’s possible things like YouTube subscriptions could be important in a future career, but that is years down the line, and most jobs do not rely on social media relevance.

I’m not telling you to delete every social media app you have. In this time, that might not be possible for a teen that wants to be social. But please stop using likes and comments as a barometer for how much people actually like you as a human being. The only time I’ve truly enjoyed social media is when it actually simulates real human interaction, but that’s rare. No matter how many times you get a follow back, or a comment from a person you barely know about how attractive you are, or open up your phone to ten direct messages, it won’t ever come close to having real interactions with real friends in real life. If I can get 300 likes from doing absolutely nothing but getting mindless clicks and having a few friends in on a joke, who cares how many followers you have? At the end of the day, the people that truly care about you won’t have to comment “so pretty” to let you know that you’re beautiful. 

A Real Review: It’s Bruno!

By Anya Geiling    

While scrolling through Netflix one night with my family, we came across the “Hidden Gems” section. After viewing the ad for It’s Bruno! we were immediately hooked. After watching the first episode, we were shocked as to where the series was filmed…

Released in 2019 on Netflix, as an 8 episode series, this charming, and heartwarming story made viewers go nuts. This show features a man named Malcolm, and his beloved dog, Bruno. The storyline is set in Bushwick, Brooklyn, however, they filmed many scenes in Ridgewood, Queens, where I grew up. It stars Solvan Naim, the creator, scriptwriter, director, and producer of the show. Each episode is only 15 minutes long, but this makes it easy to binge-watch and to enjoy viewing multiple times. 

Now, as a person whose family lived in Queens all our lives, seeing the show made our keen eyes come to a halt. For example, in one episode, Malcolm is standing in front of a Chinese restaurant and talking to someone. We would occasionally order take-out from there! They then filmed near the Queens Public Library in Ridgewood, and at Rosemary’s Playground beneath the M train. These are places I am familiar with, and I was elated to spot my neighborhood on screen. 

With comedy, cuteness, and mischief, this series earned 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. As of February 9, 2021, the series has not been canceled or renewed for a second season. Hopefully, they can create another great season!

Walter Tevis

By Anya Geiling    

Unacclaimed author Walter Tevis was a master writer of scientific and realistic fiction. Dying only at the age of 56, he created just some of the masterpieces out in our world today.

  Tevis was born on February 28, 1928, in San Francisco CA. From an early age, he was diagnosed with a rheumatic heart condition and had to be placed in the Stanford Children’s Convalescent Home for a year. While he stayed there, his family moved back to Kentucky; Walter traveled home to Kentucky at age 11 all alone on a train. 

Fast forward a couple of years, Tevis made friends with Toby Kavanaugh, a fellow high school student. He learned to shoot pool in the Kavanaugh mansion in Lawrenceburg. There was a library there, which is where he read science fiction for the first time. Kavanaugh and Tevis remained lifelong friends, and later Kavanaugh became the owner of a pool room in Lexington. This event would then have an impact on Tevis’ writing.

Tevis’ most popular books consisted of: The Hustler (1959), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1963), Mockingbird (1980), Far From Home (1981), The Queen’s Gambit (1983), and The Color of Money (1984). Four of his novels were converted to movies or mini-series. The Hustler was made into a movie in 1961 which earned many awards, and The Color of Money was transformed during 1986. One cult-classic, The Man Who Fell to Earth, was created in 1976. It featured David Bowie as Thomas Newton, the main character. He was an alien who came to Earth searching for water to save his home planet. 

Just recently, on October 23, 2020, the drama miniseries: The Queen’s Gambit, was released on Netflix. This was long after Tevis died (1984), so people asked, why? Well, believe it or not, there has been a film adaptation being made for this book since 1983. The main director was going to be Heath Ledger! Harmon was set to be Ellen Page, and the story related to Heath’s personal life. The project was closed due to Ledger’s tragic death in 2008. 

After watching The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Queens Gambit, I was curious to find out who created these wonderful scripts. Usually, people would know the writer right away, but in this case, I had to dig deep because I had never heard of him before. I just wanted to bring attention to a great author; be sure to check his work out!

Unmentioned Bands

By Anya Geiling

As we sit at home, music can be a way to escape. For many people, it is therapeutic. That is why I wanted to share some of my favorite underrepresented bands.

 At the top of my list is Holy Motors. They are a band from Tallinn Estonia and were formed in 2013. Singer/songwriter, as well as guitarist Lauri Raus, brought in vocalist/songwriter Eliann Tulve to the band when she was just 16 years old. She came from a musical family and sang in a choir when she was young. To complete the lineup, guitarist Gert Gutmann and drummer Caspar Salo were included. Their name, Holy Motors, came from the hallucinatory 2012 film by Leos Carax. 

This band has been around for 8 years, but they only soon started to release albums that really made fans drawn in. Along with Wharf Cat Records (where I bought their albums), in 2015 they released a debut single called Heavenly Creatures/Running Water. Another single, Sleepryder came in early 2017. In February of 2018, they reunited with Cox to record their album, Slow Sundown. This earned critical acclaim: the Debut Album of the Year at the Estonian Music Awards. 

Recently, in October 2020, the album Horse was released by Wharf Cat Records. Not too long ago this album was nominated for Alternative/Indie Album of the Year at the Estonian Music Awards! The first time my father and I heard one of their songs from this album was while driving and listening to WFMU. The song is called Life Valley (So Many Miles Away) and it sticks to us even today. It is an instrumental piece that includes reverb, a not-so-common technique used by many bands. Its individuality really differentiated it from the rest of today’s societal norms. Therefore, when we got home, I quickly researched the band and immediately became attached. With only 162 subscribers on YouTube, I was shocked to see how underrepresented the band actually was. Here is the link to a live session I absolutely love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfVIbngccrU. I definitely recommend checking them out, and you should support them!

Second, on my list is Undersea Poem. The duo, Chris Root and Juju Stulbach, had previously been part of an American-Brazilian band named Mosquitos, which they had left in 2007. With only 23 subscribers on YouTube, they have created songs since 2009. They have 2 albums: Washing Away Yesterday and Undersea Poem. My personal favorite songs from the Undersea poem album are What Makes Me Happy and You you you. These songs are dreamy and will bring you to another world. 

I really hope you tune in on these truly remarkable bands! Thank you!

Count von Count might be the oldest civilized being on Earth

By Sammy Bovitz

One day, I was surfing YouTube for random videos, as one often does when they are bored in the 21st century, and decided to rewatch the old Sesame Street WIRED “Autocomplete Interview.” 

I decided to really scrutinize what everyone’s favorite marionette monsters were saying this time, and at around the 5:00 mark, I heard the Count say something that caught my ear. It was a throwaway line, but it somehow hit me hard when the Internet asked his age. He responded by saying “I am 6,523,728 years old… next October.” 

This video was released in February of 2017. If we assume this was filmed a week or so before its release, this means that as of this writing, Count von Count from Sesame Street is 6,523,732 years old– because remember, he turned 6,523,728 years old in October 2017. 

HOW IN THE WORLD IS THAT POSSIBLE? 

The Count is a vampire, sure, but vampires as we understand them aren’t invincible. He says that he has an “unquenchable thirst for numbers,” but could a steady diet of math really sustain him for more than 6 and a half million years? If he were to eat nothing but an invisible, numerical version of alphabet soup for that period of time, 3 meals a day, would there ever be a day where life would no longer be worth living? Does he actually subsist on counting, or does he need blood like his former co-worker, Dracula? 

What makes this even more ludicrous is the fact that numbers, as he counts them today, have only been around in civilized form since the start of, well, civilization. Specifically, that’s Sumer, a Mesopotamian civilization that got really boring to learn about after a few weeks in middle school history class. According to HISTORY.com’s estimate, Sumer was first settled, if we’re being generous, around 4,500 BCE. That’s around 6,500 years ago, which is a long period of time if you’re not SIX AND A HALF MILLION YEARS OLD!

Sumer contains one of the oldest recorded instances of mathematics as we know them today, so that means the Count is either lying to us about his age or he invented counting hundreds of thousands of years before humans did. 

Earth itself is around 4.5 billion years old, which means the Count has been around for about .014% of the planet’s existence. That may seem like very little, but let’s take an example of an old dude who’s left a pretty big legacy on the world at large. Let me see, how about, uhh, Jesus Christ! That’s probably a good one. If he were still alive today, he’d be 2,025 years old, meaning Jesus would only have been around for .0000044% of Earth’s existence. By comparison, the Count might be the oldest influential creature on Earth. 

But for argument’s sake, let’s assume this Muppet vampire is not lying to us and is actually over 3,000 times older than Jesus. What might that say about what The Count has seen, and how much has he had the privilege of counting?

Let’s go by standard human metrics and assume his childhood was 18 years, meaning for the other 6,753,714 years, Count von Count has been an adult. What would he have been able to count? Well, he would have been able to count a number of members of one of the first big steps in human evolution. Around this time is when chimpanzees and humans stopped having common ancestors. There’s not exactly anything to count there, so let’s go on. 

The Count would already be around 1,500 years old by the time he would be able to count hippopotami, and would be 3,500 old by the time he could count swordfish, and yes, he is over 4,000 years older than the species Homo habilis, one of the earliest species that would eventually evolve into the very dumb Homo sapiens– the species he is around 6 million years older than. Finally, around the time that the Count could count all 5,500 years of his existence, he could celebrate by counting the first wolves. Of course, this also means that by the time Jim Henson himself was born, the Count was already over 6.7 million years old. And yet, he chooses to spend his time with a 3-year old and someone who literally lives in a trash can. He could be– and count– so much more. 

Which brings me to my next question: if I were the Count, what would I do with my boundless knowledge of all of human existence plus an additional 6 million years? Well, I would share it! If the Count has subsisted on basic counting before the concept was invented and is over 3,000 times older than possibly the most beloved dead guy on Earth, then he NEEDS to be a historian. The Count’s perspectives on the dawn of human existence and civilization, and all major world events, past and present, would be fascinating. But no, he just wants to count to 20. 

How Star Wars Impacted Cinema and Pop Culture Forever

By Aylin Montoya

The lightsaber was the weapon used by the Jedi and introduced to the world in the cultural phenomenon Star Wars. The Original Star Wars trilogy premiered on May 25th, 1977, with the episode A New Hope. A New Hope was fantastic with the viewers going on a journey as Luke Skywalker goes on a mission to save Princess Leia from captivity and is then put on a mission to help destroy the Death Star, the Empire’s greatest weapon that could blow up entire planets.

Since then, Star Wars’ popularity has only grown with a controversial sequel trilogy, that is distributed by Disney and continues the Skywalker Saga. At conventions like San Diego and New York Comic-Con as well as Star Wars Celebration, thousands of fans celebrate the story that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. People dress up as beloved characters such as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and more while playing games and attending panels with the cast of the films. It’s a huge opportunity for Star Wars fans around the world to unite and celebrate the universe and characters they care so much about. This, of course, would not have happened without A New Hope’s release in 1977. Not only did A New Hope introduce Luke Skywalkers and his journey to fight the empire, but its release changed cinema forever. 

Before A New Hope, cinema portrayed science fiction in a specific and narrow way. The plots of mainstream science fiction films often involved aliens and were set in the future. A New Hope was different in that it was set in a past universe and time, taking place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” In comparison to the perfect societies aliens lived in, the characters in Star Wars faced greater dilemmas that explored real-life issues that can occur on any planet. Luke Skywalker’s journey of wanting to leave his planet of Tatooine illustrated what it feels like to grow up and yearn for change or adventure. The Rebellion’s struggle against the Empire’s plans to rule the galaxy is a problem that people around the world face: having to fight against tyrannical rulers who want to take away freedom and rights.  

Alongside it’s themes, A New Hope also helped change the way films were made. A New Hope was so visually appealing that it inspired other filmmakers to find ways to improve film visuals. But before that happened, Star Wars creator George Lucas found ways to improve visual effects for A New Hope itself. The Dystralex was the first motion control photography camera system, created by John Dykstra, used specifically for the visuals and effects in A New Hope. The Dystraflex was different as the camera moved while the object or model stayed stationary. Each spaceship was filmed individually before combining the shots to form one shot of a space battle or chase. Although visual effects have improved immensely since then, in 1977 the Dystraflex was legendary as it helped create better illusions of moving objects. That’s why the iconic opening scene looked so real when the Imperial Star Destroyer chased the Tantive IV, which carried Princess Leia who had the Rebellion’s plans. It was that space chase that started it all, so a great innovation that improved camera technology was crucial to make Star Wars what it is today. Acknowledged for their spectacular  visual effects, Star Wars won best visual effects at the 1978 Academy Awards, leading others to follow in improving visuals for the film industry. 

In addition to affecting how films were made, the release of A New Hope revolutionized pop culture. One of the biggest impacts of Star Wars: A New Hope was how toys were seen. In 1977, when A New Hope premiered it was an instant hit. Children all over the United States and the world were lining up in front of stores to buy Star Wars merchandise, or toys. These toys and action figures became so popular that adults started lining up to buy them as well. Historian Sharon Scott discusses this in her book Toys and American Culture: An Encyclopedia where she states: “When vintage Star Wars toys in good condition became quite expensive, consumers began to realize that other toys in good condition might be valuable over time as well.” Starting in the ’80s, toys weren’t just seen as something kids played with for entertainment, but also something that could be collected for fun or be sold in the future.  

A New Hope not only marked a new era for film, but it brought people together. Millions of people waited for hours in order to see Luke Skywalker destroy the Death Star. After its release, Star Wars became a large part of many kids’ childhood. Since its premiere, the Star Wars enterprise  continues to grow with its fans who  remember the original trilogy and follow  the saga’s legacy. Star Wars isn’t just a movie franchise. To fans, Star Wars is a way of life and learning about this universe means a lot to them and me.

“The Farewell” and a Personal Story of Dual Identity

By Sanai Rashid

On the one day during PBA week when I had no tests scheduled, I leaped at the opportunity to indulge in movies at home. After scrolling endlessly through Netflix titles that did not excite me, I thought back to a movie I wanted to see over the summer, The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina. I sucked it up, paid the $3.99 fee and pressed play.

Over the summer, my mom and I were listening to a podcast on NPR, and heard from a woman (who we would later learn was director Lulu Wang) discuss with the host, Terry Gross, the events that inspired her to write and direct The Farewell. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in late January. When Wang was six she and her parents immigrated to the United States from China. They would occasionally go back and visit China but Wang grew up with America being her home and subsequently became disconnected from the rest of her relatives overseas. In 2013, Wang’s grandmother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and given three months to live. Wang had maintained quite a good relationship with her Nai Nai as they would talk regularly on the phone. So as it goes in the film when Billi’s mother (Diana Lin) and father (Tzi Ma) informed her that their family members in China had decided not to tell Nai Nai about her diagnosis, in hopes of shielding her from the anxiety of her near future, which Billi did not understand. Billi’s parents go on to inform her that everyone has decided to throw a fake wedding for her cousin merely as an excuse for everyone to come home and see Nai Nai one last time. Billi’s mom doesn’t even want her to visit with the rest of the family because she thinks Billi can’t hide her emotions and will give away their whole act.

Billi is bewildered at how calm her parents and the rest of her relatives are by this whole scenario. Take this excerpt from the film: 

AWKWAFINA: (As Billi) I don’t understand. She doesn’t have a lot of time left. She should know, right?

MA: (As Haiyan) There’s nothing they can do. So everyone decided it’s better not to tell her.

AWKWAFINA: (As Billi) Why is that better?

DIANA LIN: (As Jian) Chinese people have saying – when people get cancer, they die. It’s not the cancer that kills them. It’s the fear.

As a child whose grandma (whom I call Mimi) on my mother’s side immigrated from Guayana to America in the 1960s I knew all the jumbles of emotions Billi felt too well, but more with my great-grandma. I’ve only met my great-grandmother once when my mom, dad, younger sister, brother and I went to visit relatives in Guyana in April 2016. When I visited Guyana, I felt like I was in a bit of culture shock. Here I was in America, eating Guyanese food like roti, curry, oxtails, peas and rice, while hearing my Mimi listening to reggae while cleaning the house, thinking I knew all about Guyana that there is to know. But when I arrived I couldn’t help but realize how naive I was. Guyana was nothing like I expected. One story houses laid next to one another with the sun beaming through the open windows and vendors at the market with bags upon bags of goods on their back to sell just to have money to support their families. In a third world country where the average income is $4,725.32, I couldn’t help feeling like a spoiled first-world child. 

Throughout the movie, Billi feels lost between her American identity and her Chinese identity. Knowing that this will probably be the last time she ever sees her Nai Nai she can’t help but think about all the time that they never got to spend with each other. Towards the end of the movie she even spirals as far as saying she wants to move to China to be with Nai Nai during her last months. 

I think it is easy to be stuck between two worlds. When I first visited Guyana, I felt like an alien in my own land. However, as our stay went on, I realized that I may have not known the beuaties of this land in the early years of my life but it’s never too late to do so. I began loosening up a bit and talking to my great-grandma about her life growing up in Guyana. I wasn’t so quick to swat away flies or complain about how hot it was and instead tried to have fun. Before I knew it, the trip was over and we were back on the flight to New York. Our farewell ended in cries from everyone all around because you can truly grow close to your family in a short amount of time.

Looking back at it, although I did end up appreciating my trip, toward the beginning of it I spent so much time absorbed in my own world when I could have been spending precious time with my family. I was all too worried about why there wasn’t any WiFi and if my Snapchat “streaks” would end. Luckily, my Granny is healthy at 87 years old, but The Farewell reminded me that our days are numbered and that we must appreciate the little time we get with our family both overseas and even the ones that live 15 minutes away. 

Too often are we ashamed of our immigrant side of the family because we think that others will find our culture odd, confusing or weird. I admit sometimes I would be embarrassed by when my mom urged me to go to Carnival, a Caribbean celebration around Labor Day, and I still didn’t talk much about my trip to Guyana when I got back to the states. But as I got older, I realized my Guyanese side is not something to be ashamed of. If people cannot appreciate where I come from then they do not appreciate me. 

I do want to go back to Guyana one day now that I am older, more mature and also appreciate my background more. I still want to work on things like calling my Granny more often and all of my relatives back in Guyana. This story is common for anyone who has relatives in a different country, or state for that matter, but all in all, family is family. We only have one life to live so we should appreciate everyone who enters it no matter where they live and how different they may seem.

Glitter and Glam: MTV’s Role in Glamorizing Teen Pregnancy

By Sanai Rashid

It’s another boring Saturday night and you scroll through channels on your television. You stop once you see Teen Mom 2 playing on MTV, knowing you will be entertained for  the next hour. And indeed you are, moms screaat their “baby daddy” and deal with crying babies and the struggle of having to now support two people. “I’m glad I don’t live that way” you mutter as you click the tv off and fall asleep, completely disconnected from the world you just glimpsed into. 

Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2, Teen Mom Young and Pregnant, Teen Mom 3 and Teen Mom UK were released by MTV  with the intention of preventing teen pregnancy. As Senior Vice President of MTV series development, Lauren Dolgen, says “These documentary series tell the honest, unpleasant truth of teen pregnancy in America — the whole truth.” In 2008 Lauren Doglen looked through a magazine and saw the rampant news Jamie Lynn Spears, former star of popular Television series, Zoey 101,  had given birth to her first child at 16. She then felt compelled to do a show on other teen moms in America and make their struggles n=known to greater society. The show was supposed to show the heartbreaking challenges young teen moms face but now it has been swept up into the Hollywood media and turned the mothers on the show into celebrities. Teen pregnancy has been hyped up to be an easy job and these shows are to blame. 

America has one of the highest teen birth rates out of developed countries. According to the CDC in 2017, 194,377 babies were born to females 15-19 and among this American Indian/Alaska Nativ were at the top making up 32.9 %, Hispanics made up 28.9%, African Americans with 27.5%, and Whites made up 13.2%. All of MTV’s teen pregnancies are made up of an almost exclusively white cast and this is not representing who teen pregnancy affects the most, teens of color. If you are a teen girl of color you can’t realte at all to the stories being shown on these shows.You start to think that not even the media cares about the girls in my community who get pregnant, so it won’t matter what I do either way  

Instead, MTV shows how teen pregnancy is cool and you can make money from it. One of the shows infamous cast members, Farah Abhrams, who is always on the cover of tabloids for her outrageous plastic surgeries, has a net worth $1 million. A study done by Indiana University showed that out of 185 high school students interviewed most had an unrealistic view of teen pregnancy after watching MTVs teen pregnancy shows. The part about mothers being on welfare, the struggle of having to go to GED classes because they weren’t able to graduate on time is not broadcasted at all t.v. when that’s the true reality. I’m sure some girls think that by getting pregnant MTV will magically broadcast them and they’ll be a famous celebrity floating in cash, such a serious topic is being made a joke out of thanks to these MTV shows.

It isn’t an uncommon that young and confused teen girls have a child because they want someone to love them unconditionally. Especially if you grew up in a motherless/ fatherless home and never felt that love yourself. It’s great that MTV wants to bring awareness to these topics but the way they’re doing so isn’t helping. With 6 t.v. programs none of them get to the root of why this is all happening, which of course can be from a number of reasons such as : lack of information about sexual education, sexual violence, basic education access, the family environment, etc. Watchers seem to read between the lines while watching this show and end up having the mindset of,  “Yeah she may have a child but she still goes out with her friends and she has her mom to help her.” And that mindset leads to carelessness when it comes to sexual intercourse and other responsibilities. Even if MTV does show some struggles and grittiness of Teen Mom life teens are attracted by the wrong message, the message that you could earn a 6 figure salary, and be on the cover of tabloids for being pregnant so young. 

One of the cast members from 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom 2, Janelle Evans, three friends got pregnant very shortly as she started to gain fame on the show. The reason seemed to be like they wanted to gain fame like their friend and were labeled as “copycat moms”. Teen pregnancy seems to be a trend of sorts and when there are teen moms out there who can’t even afford baby formula every week, have a crappy minimum wage job and are nowhere near celebrities they are brushed up into the dust and merely forgotten. 

Overall, I think MTV might have started with good intentions when they started these teen pregnancies shows but the message has been corrupted and watered down completely. The glitz and glam of Hollywood has once again won over teens hearts and shadowed the true hardships of such an important topic.

Sexy Psychos: The Evolution of American Psycho

By Linus Coersmeier

The 1991 novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis follows the incredibly suave and successful Patrick Bateman through about two years of his life on Wall Street as it revels in the economic boom of the 1980s. The name may have given a bit of insight on this fact already, but the novel and its subsequent film (if you didn’t already know), released in 2000 are incredibly violent and paint a bleak picture of investment bankers like Bateman. Ellis portrays him as a man who though seemingly successful in almost every monetary and traditional measure, is deeply unhappy. He attended the best schools, always got the prettiest girls, got the best job at his Dad’s company, but even with his great intellect and abilities he can’t seem to see the faults in his own hollow values. The author spends page after page describing the psychotic thought process of the elitist murderer, from his intense daily self-care routine to his torture of innocent homeless people, colleagues, prostitutes, and other helpless victims.

The film adaptation with a budget of  $7,000,000 grossed a respectable $34,000,000. Not to downplay the economic success of this film, but the critical and popular reactions to it are more notable. Christian Bale, starring as Patrick Bateman was widely celebrated for the way he exemplified his theatrical abilities in the hour and a half long movie. He does an amazing job of showing the meticulous insanity of Bateman, rather than purely portray him as an incapable, out of touch mad-man, he does Ellis a great justice by demonstrating the character’s complexity. Complex in the duality of the lives he leads, one as a regular-seeming businessman prospering and one as a cold-blooded killer whose only solace is found in the trail of lifeless victims he leaves behind him. These two sides of the man are brought together by the consistent yearning for social approval, an approval he tells himself is merely necessary in order to maintain secrecy in his life of extreme gore and abuse. 

Furthermore, whether you believe that we are born immoral, saints or a blank slate it’s no secret that we, as humans are prone to violence. Whether it a sibling, a friend or something as conceptual as laws, there’s something in us that wants to fight, wants to challenge and wants to conquer. This is one of the primal instincts that has seemed to manifest itself throughout the millennia. Of course, there are natural incentives to fight: food, mates, territory, the list goes on, my point is that no matter how much we love to claim that we’re above the bloodshed of the animal kingdom, we remain beasts at heart. It’s clear to see in our culture, we play first-person shooters, we watch people get beaten to a pulp in the UFC, and we echo the violent sentiments of our favorite rappers. Violence is not only in our blood, but it is also glorified by the entertainment and performers we idolize. Moreover, there is something inherently powerful about fighting, the tangible and easily comprehensible dominance that is achieved when one is victorious over another. Death as well, the finality and consequence that proceeds a fight ending in the most extreme of all, the end of the very earthly essence of someone. Lastly, not only is violence eye-catching and interesting considering the potential effects, but it is also intertwined, as aforementioned with what we are drawn to, what we admire and most primitively-what we find attractive, or sexy.

Finally, when I began to read this book I was excited for the violence, I wanted Bateman to claim victims and to spread terror around New York, it’s what I expected from the book. Ellis knew exactly what I and the other readers who have bought the whopping million copies of the book in the United States alone were thinking when going into American Psycho. He gave us what we wanted, but he made sure that we didn’t get to revel in it in the same ignorant and blameless fashion that we do with so many other forms of violence, or seemingly pro-violence media. What I mean is that the author made his readers wait for the murders, he makes us wait for what we came for and then when he did write about the horrid acts of his main character, he didn’t make it enjoyable. In fact, the deeds of Bateman are so repulsive in the novel that we are forced into the retrospective mindset we seem to so adamantly fight by consuming so much bloodshed without acknowledging the repercussions and aftermath of it all. After the killings start, they never seem to end in American Psycho, pages and pages of a banker with a deep hatred for his fellow man, doing things that could only be done by someone who has never known genuine love. He is the embodiment of the critical awareness we lack in what we take in, the personification of every hideous reality that we turn a blind eye to for the excitement of watching fights and violence. Patrick Bateman is the epitome of the successful womanizer that our capitalist society loves and the fact that we embrace his violent tendencies until we are forced to acknowledge their true gore shows what a toxic culture we feed into with this mindset. All in all, instead, let us be more critical of what we accept as a society and embrace art that invokes passion without poison.

Kanye West – “Jesus Is King” Review

By Maki Nientao

Jesus Is King is the latest album from one of popular culture’s most prominent polymaths in the last two decades: Kanye West. After 2018’s ye and Kids See Ghosts, he hasn’t released any new music except for the raunchy Lil Pump collaboration, “I Love It”. However, by early 2019, Kanye had turned a complete 180–he began leading Sunday Services across the country and is now a born-again Christian. After many delays, the album Yandhi became Jesus is King and was finally released in late October. Prominently featured throughout the record is Kanye’s Sunday Service Choir as well as some guest appearances from the rap duo Clipse, saxophonist Kenny G, and singer Ant Clemons. Sonically, the album is incredibly strong, with great production and vocals many tracks. However, the downside of Jesus Is King comes with its lyricism; often, Kanye is either making insubstantial observations, callouts towards all of his “haters”, or jokes which don’t work well within the context of the record, making it an empty experience much of the time.

Jesus Is King usually sounds strong instrumentally. The opener “Every Hour” exhibits the Sunday Service Choir in its fullest form and is easily the most gospel-inspired track of the record. It’s very straightforward in that it really is just the choir and piano, but despite this simplicity it’s a pretty strong song. It’s honestly absurd how fantastic the choir sounds, and the piano blends in perfectly. The track “Selah” fuses the choir in with Kanye’s vocals on an even grander scale with these anthem-like cries of “Hallelujah” in the chorus. Kanye also delivers some of the better lyrics of the album in this song. Unfortunately, these two tracks are some of the only instances where we hear the choir on its own for an extended time, but this could be made up for on the (supposed) next album, Jesus Is Born

The middle of the album is more mediocre than the starting and closing tracks. “Follow God” features a solid, sample-based instrumental that goes pretty hard, but Kanye’s flow gets repetitive by the middle of the song. “Closed on Sunday”, one of the most well-known tracks from the album, is a stronger, sadder instrumental, but features some of the least thoughtful lyrics of the record (i.e. “closed on sunday/you’re my chick-fil-a”). The beat switch in the middle of the song is nice, but at this point, Kanye still hasn’t sounded interesting or said anything more substantial than “I’m Christian now”. The song “On God” is similar, with a more uplifting synth instrumental, but Kanye once again raps in a very jumbled way, delivering short, disjointed lines and then moving on. Also, the line: “That’s why I charge the prices that I charge/I can’t be out here dancin’ with the stars/No, I cannot let my family starve” is pretty ridiculous (I doubt the West-Kardashian family could starve in a hundred years).

The next two songs feature Ant Clemons, a singer who worked with Kanye on ye; on “Water” he is definitely the highlight of the track, singing over a muted, slower instrumental. In the verse, though, Kanye comes in with these very preachy vocals that intrude the atmosphere of the track. “God Is” is the other more sample-based track, taking from the soul song of the same name by James Cleveland. It’s solid, but definitely not one of the best tracks here. 

To finish off the record there is “Hands On”, “Use This Gospel” and the outro “Jesus Is Lord”. “Hands On” is another song with an outstanding instrumental, featuring warped vocals and this deep, cello-ish sound at the end of each bar. Like a lot of songs, unfortunately, Kanye’s vocal performance on this one is very dry, emotionless, and forgettable. Alongside “Selah”, “Use This Gospel” is probably the most all-around strong track of the album, featuring the reunion of the rap duo Clipse as well as a mellow, cheesy (but nice) solo from saxophonist Kenny G. The beat here is also pretty strong, with a metronomic rhythm and synthesized vocals, which are rich and present throughout. Pusha T comes in with a solid verse, No Malice turns up the heat a bit more, and after Kenny G’s solo, the beat returns pretty incredibly.

The picture Kanye has painted of himself throughout the years has been of a revolutionary person ahead of his time. Indeed, it is his ever-changing musical and fashion styles which have kept him so relevant over the course of two decades. His persona is that of being very outspoken and introducing new things to popular media, but with “Jesus Is King”, his message is either very unclear or not present at all. Sonically it’s generally very strong, but Kanye’s new voice as a reborn Christian isn’t very interesting or thought-provoking. 

Rating: 3/5

Gun Violence in Entertainment Media: How on the Screen Translates off the Screen

By Esme Laster

After 27 students and teachers were gunned down at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newton, CT in 2012, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America pledged to curb violence in society. “Those of us in the motion picture and television industry want to do our part to help America heal,” Christopher Dodd said.

Since Dodd spoke 7 years ago, there have been 2,173 mass shootings throughout the U.S. and a growing population of disheartened citizens have become wary of the entertainment industry as gun violence’s greatest perpetuator. Researchers, parents and even politicians blamed the MPAA for misleading America’s youth on the dangers of gun violence. 

The MPAA, the self proclaimed “voice of the film and television industry,” devises a national rating system for film and television designed to protect children.

The Parents Television Council (PTC) recently asked the government to reevaluate the rating system of all entertainment media, claiming the TV content rating system can be “outright deceptive.” The Federal Communications Commission asked a TV monitoring board to consider the accuracy of television’s content rating system.  

Researchers also complain about the entertainment industry’s flawed rating system. “Showing all the violence in a sanitized form displays the behavior in a way that makes it seem less harmful,” says Daniel Romer, research director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Romer is especially concerned about how PG-13 content is rated. Take PG-13 rated movies “Skyfall” (2012), or “Jack Reacher” (2012). In both of these blockbuster films, guns harm characters, yet, the blood and gore that would typically follow a gunshot is conspicuously concealed from viewers’ eyes. This sanitized footage “is making the use of violence seem justified,” Romer concluded in a 2018 study. 

Distorted violence can severely harm children, says Brad Bushman a communication professor at Ohio State University. In his 2019 study of 220 children aged 8-12, Bushman found that the children who played violent video games were more likely to touch and hold longer a real handgun as opposed to children who played non-violent video games. 

This misguided portrayal of gun violence can be especially harmful when targeted to a specific demographic. In 1999, the Federal Trade Commission’s review of the entertainment industry found that 80% of its 44 violent movies surveyed were targeted to children under 17. The report also uncovered that 70% of the 118 video games reviewed were targeted primarily to males aged 12-17. 

Recently, Romer and Bushman’s groundbreaking social psychological findings were brought to the national stage. Featured in the FCC’s 2019 report on the TV ratings system, the Romer and Bushman’s work called for a radical restructuring of how entertainment media is marketed to the youth. 

Now, Romer and Bushman want America to adopt the Netherland’s content rating system. Called Kijkwijzer, the system consolidates TV, movies, and videogames and assigns specific ages to various content. It also uses symbols to indicate what makes the content inappropriate for certain ages. Content would also be delegated by child development experts rather than corporate executives under Kijkwijzer.

Regulating content as strictly as Kijkwijzer entails could encroach upon the constitution. The first amendment protects citizens’ right to freedom of speech or expression and entertainment can be interpreted as a form of expression. So the government can only do so much to regulate it. The Supreme Court struck down a California law in 2011 that required violent or sexually explicit video game content to be labeled “18.” Video games were held as a “means of expression” by the court.

Danny Brown – “uknowwhatimsayin¿” Review

By Maki Nientao

uknowwhatimsayin¿ is rapper Danny Brown’s fifth full-length release, following his critically strongest to date , Atrocity Exhibition. He’s certainly proven himself to be among the most skillful, lyrically adept rap artists of the 2010s, and this latest album is undeniably another fantastic record he has under his belt. With production ranging from Q-Tip to Flying Lotus and features including Run the Jewels, JPEGMAFIA and lesser known artists like Obongjayar, uknowwhatimsayin¿ is generally a fun, light-hearted album made up of 11 well-curated songs.

The opener “Change Up” is nothing very revolutionary, but acts as a solid introduction to the record. Danny’s flow here is mediocre, staying stagnant during most of both verses. However, the instrumentals compliment his vocals well and are simple but effective. It opens with these two poignant guitar chords that ring out through the first verse, as well as a straightforward beat and bassline. During the chorus and second verse, the guitar is replaced by some airy, blanketing synths which add a great new layer to the instrumentals. Danny does reveal one of the more prevalent “themes” in his lyrics (really, it’s more of an idea that recurs a few times throughout): pushing through hard times, while also acknowledging the destructive ways of dealing with pain (i.e. drug/alcohol abuse). 

“Theme Song” is similarly strong instrumentally and Danny’s flow on this one is much more fleshed out. Lyrically, however, it gets a bit worse than the previous song. The references, wordplay, and punchlines are all here, but generally Danny doesn’t have much to say besides calling out new school hip-hop. Under another light, it sets up his newfound maturity (more on that later), but despite this, it isn’t a great lyrical outing compared to what he is capable of.

Next are two of the singles, “Dirty Laundry” and “3 Tearz”. “Dirty Laundry” is the first beat produced by Q-Tip, and it doesn’t disappoint; its most memorable characteristic is the metronomic rhythm that plays from start to finish and, despite its simplicity, it makes the song stand out. Danny’s lyrics here are more like a stand-up routine than rap verses because of how hilariously absurd and goofy they are, and it really ties the song together as a joking, light-hearted banger. “3 Tearz” features a sample from a Kanye West interview in the intro and moves pretty swiftly into the JPEGMAFIA-produced instrumental and Danny’s vocals. It’s an all around solid beat with some distorted organ and what sounds like a police siren in the background during the chorus. Like many of the previous instrumentals, it has a signature trait and is filled out with a simple but clean bassline and drum beat. On the vocal end you get another good verse from from Danny as well as a “Run The Jewels” feature. El-P is average at best, but Killer Mike delivers a great verse. Even compared to Danny, his flow and lyrics are fantastic (particularly in the second half) and by the end he leaves you wanting more. This track as a whole is probably one of the least exciting of the album, but only because of what came before it and what comes after.

            The next track, “Belly of the Beast” is more of an interlude, but this doesn’t take away from its own qualities. Danny delivers one of the funniest verses of the record here, with the help of the London-based artist Obongjayar, who provides some really strong, husky vocals in the song’s chorus. It ends with this heartbeat-like rhythm that flows perfectly into “Savage Nomad”.

The album’s climax is made up of “Savage Nomad” and “Best Life”. The instrumental on “Savage Nomad” is the most energetic of the record with this warped electric guitar riff that continues until the end and a laugh track sample that acts as the interlude and outro. Danny is top notch on this song, both with his flow and lyrics, and definitely takes a lot of inspiration from 90s New York rap such as the Wu Tang Clan. There was so much wordplay, so many references and jokes that flew right by my head during the first few listens just because of how great Danny sounds on the track and how hard the beat goes, easily making it my favorite song of the album. Not far behind, though, is “Best Life”. It’s another great instrumental from Q-Tip featuring these upbeat vocal and string samples laced throughout the song, and another great outing for Danny; he raps about his past as a drug dealer and how now he’s living his best life. This is another instance where the instrumental and the song’s message compliment each other very well; the beat has a very uplifting vibe to it and Danny’s lyrics about living your best life fits this atmosphere really well.

Up next is the title track “uknowwhatimsayin¿”. The instrumental is mediocre on this one because the beat relies heavily on the very bright synth passages which are sort of cheerful, but don’t do much beyond that. Everything else concerning the instrumental is pretty typical for this album. Lyrically the song is all about Danny’s advice and life lessons to a younger generation; while the vocals aren’t very complex (he ends every sentence with “you know what I’m sayin”), the repetition works to great effect and offers a bit of a reprise from the energetic rapping of the rest of the album.

The Flying Lotus-produced track “Negro Spiritual” is another great one; strong instrumentals, strong vocals, strong lyrics. Not much more to say but that.

“Shine”, the penultimate song, is the least in line with the tone of the rest of the album. It’s much moodier and darker, and Danny raps about losing his career, feeling alone, and using drugs to “forget it all”. It’s certainly a callback to the mood of his earlier albums, almost as if he’s peeking back from where he stands now. The instrumental reflects this shift in tone very well with a much slower tempo and some wailing synths during the intro and parts of the verses. The feature from Blood Orange in the chorus has him singing two voices at once, but you can’t really hear or catch on to either of them, making it the one downside to an overall very strong track.

“Combat”, produced entirely by Q-Tip, is a great send-off for the record. While the instrumental is very strong, the highlight of the song is Danny Brown. He delivers three verses, and they really encompass everything he wants to say on this album; the first is full of his jokes and clever one-liners, the second is his advice to face the world, and the third is the glimpse of betrayal, loss, and fear we got on “Shine”, “Change Up”, and bits of other songs. However, the outro for the song is the same as the intro: a sample from an interview about NYC gangs in the 70s where a guy is talking about “beer-can bazookas”, returning to the comedic basis of this project. 

Many reviews on this record seem to claim that uknowwhatimsayin¿ has no main motif, and that it is more a collection of songs than a thematically connected project. This may seem true when compared to some of Danny Brown’s earlier albums, where depression, anxiety, and even suicide would be the central themes of entire projects. But as he has changed (going from having a half shaved head and a gap in his teeth to the more casual look of the album cover) so has his music. uknowwhatimsayin¿ isn’t a “themeless” album, but it doesn’t take itself all too seriously. Instead, it uses the themes of his previous albums and says something new: however dark life may be, there’s always fun to be had.

The Mind Of Jordan Peele

By Henry Wheeler-Klainberg

Note: SPOILERS AHEAD!

From a comedy genius to a horror extraordinaire, Jordan Peele has risen to a prestigious state in Hollywood. With the recent release of his latest horror film Us, we see once again the talent and precision that Peele brings to his movies. With his ability to create complex and amazing ideas all from his own imagination, Jordan Peele is a bloated bottle just beginning to burst.

Jordan Peele is known for the underlying messages he subtly expresses through his movies. Peele uses his stories to reflect upon the society we live in, and the values that we hold true. While his movies Get Out and Us both represent very abstract ideas, they are quite different.

In Get Out we see a rather obvious relation to race in society and history, and how it plays into people’s lives. The overall plot of Get Out is the chilling story of a senile white family that captures black people and uses them as replacement bodies for themselves or their associates. In the movie, older white people must find younger bodies because they do not want to die. So, they take over the captured black people’s bodies and replace them with their own minds.

However, in the process, the captured people’s true personas must live in “the sunken place,” a mysterious realm where they must float and watch as the white person takes control. This cryptic story serves the purpose of mirroring the way in which slavery occurred. The rich white people got rich because their black slaves worked, just as these white people use these black people to be immortal. In both scenarios, black people are viewed as objects and . In slavery, the enslaved people must watch as their whole life is controlled by their owners, just as the captured people have absolutely no control over their own fate in “the sunken place.”

In Peele’s newest movie Us, the underlying message and story being told is not like Get Out at all. While Get Out focused on a lesson about our society, Us focuses on a more universal lesson about the our internal selves as people. Us focuses on the physiological parallels between good and evil within each one of us. In the movie a display of the horror subgenre of doppelgangers, a topic Jordan Peele himself is very fascinated by. The movie centers around two families, a middle-class family on a vacation to their beach house in Santa Cruz, and a creepy mysterious identical family out for blood. These families are total opposites, but what binds them is their identical physical features, a very creepy phenomenon. The conflict represented in this bizarre and confusing plot is one that each one of battles with ourselves: the good and the bad, the beautiful and ugly. The movie’s is “Watch Yourself,” a well done play on words that hints at the internal conflict this film portrays. To watch yourself literally means to watch yourself, because as this movie attempts to show that you are your own worst enemy. Peele conveys that the worst fears that we must face and conquer are indeed within one’s own self. Peele also draws a parallel to the emotions that each person holds inside of us. The sides of good and bad that are with us all. Our inner saboteurs are often shut out and rejected, but what Peele attempts to show us is these sides are not as different as we may think.

Throughout his work, Jordan Peele has been fascinated with the symbols and foreshadowing that he can fit into his movies. He writes his movies in such a way that their captivating and thrilling aspects never flea from sight. After rewatching the movie several times; the viewer is always at the edge of their seat. Peele himself has said in countless interviews how much he loves to put forth “easter eggs” and these subtle messages throughout his movies.

In Us, Peele has said that he puts in so many hidden messages that some can only be noticed on the 4th watching of the movie. Many of these hidden symbols have been found and broken down, symbols that greatly help with the understanding of the movie and what it stands for.

In the movie, scissors play the role of being the murder weapon for the monsters. The physicality of scissors are meant to represent the duality of people and their mind. A scissor comes from one blade pushed together, and as you go up the scissor two parts of the blades unfold. Just as one entity shares two opposites of their mind, a negative and positive side. Peele also leaves messages throughout Get Out which still make viewers think to this day. Towards the end of the movies, as the character is captured in the basement of the home, he is strapped to a chair and is hypnotized every time he hears a spoon hit a teacup. To protect himself from this hypnosis the character takes the cotton out of the chair and put it in his ears to block out the sound. He is eventually able to break free from the family. This act further illustrates the parallel to slavery in history in that the enslaved people had to pick cotton from their plantation until they were freed, just like in the movie. Of course, Peele has many more hidden things within both of his movies that are just as eye-opening, and are very much worth investigating.

The transformation from star comedian on his show Key and Peele, to a horror mastermind has put Peele in a very important spot. He has said that he plans to make 4 horror movies in total, and with his new role as the host of the recreation of the Twilight Zone; Peele doesn’t seem to be slowing his creative mind anytime soon.


Required Reading: A Review of “Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania”

By Anne Isman

Beacon students are extremely fortunate; our college counseling office offers one-on-one advising, and our counselors are essentially our personal assistants when we need a transcript sent, a reminder to a teacher to write our recommendation, or any of our questions answered.  

But with such strong advising, which starts early junior year, college admissions mania starts early as well.  However, if you’re a freshman or sophomore worried that you will not end up at your first-choice school, a stressed out junior that has already taken the SAT three times, or a senior that just received more rejections than expected, you should be reading Frank Bruni’s Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania.

Filled with anecdotes from students who went to college far from the Ivy League, to stories from college admissions counselors and consultants that have seen how irrational high schoolers become while applying, Bruni is more than convincing in his argument that where you go to college doesn’t matter, because it’s what you do when you get there that does.  

Bruni also discusses how deeply flawed and unjust the admissions process is at some of the country’s elite schools.  For instance, admissions officers may reject a student on the basis of their interests simply because a student with similar passions has already been admitted.  He also mentions that children of Harvard alumni have five times a greater chance of being admitted than students who are not legacies. The list of absurdities goes on, which further drives Bruni’s point that a college’s decision to accept or reject you is by no means a measurement of your character, but rather the culmination of factors that are well out of your control.

When I first started reading Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be, I had already received a few rejections and was concerned that I would be going to a school with less prestige than the ones I had hoped to attend.  However, many of the CEOs and politicians Bruni interviews, such as Howard Schultz and Condoleezza Rice, did not attend an Ivy League school, or even an elite college.  Instead, they took advantage of the resources at their respective universities, such as enrolling in classes of interest and maintaining close relationships with faculty, and are successful today because of the self motivation they possessed.  Whether you’re at Cornell or Indiana, your education is only as good as the effort you put in.

Bruni also addresses how the application process distorts the actual capabilities of the applicant.  At Princeton, where he taught in 2014, he noticed that the applications students turned in to land a spot in his journalism course were far better than the actual work they submitted while enrolled in his class.  This, he claims, is because students who have prepared their whole lives or high school careers to attend an elite institution are good at packaging themselves to appear as though they are Ivy League quality, while not necessarily being capable of the caliber of work professors expect.  In other words, attending a prestigious university does not inherently make you more intelligent or more likely to have a lucrative career than a student elsewhere.

The greatest aspect of Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be is the reality-check it provides; reading this book made me realize that although I had worked hard to get into schools that ultimately rejected me, that hard work was not a waste, as many of my peers feel about their admissions process upon receiving rejections.  We don’t deserve to go to our first-choice school because our SAT or ACT score is above a certain marker, or because we had the maximum number of extracurriculars on the Common App. College itself is not a trophy or a reward for having worked hard in school, but another opportunity to learn and discover more about ourselves and our interests.  This can be achieved at any school if you resolve to do it.*Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni is available in the Beacon library.

America to Me: A New Docuseries About Race in American Public Schools

By Mollie Butler

“America to Me” is a ten episode documentary series on the Starz network which takes places at Oak Park High School in the suburbs of Chicago that follows students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds at each grade level within the school. The documentary exposes the social, political, and administrative aspects of the school, and education as whole, while looking at both students, faculty and community members. Oak Park was considered an “American experiment in true diversity” because it was a place in which many members of the community had fought “white flight,” and young white liberal members prided themselves on staying in the diverse community. The hour long episodes cover certain events throughout the school year following students throughout their days at school, at extracurriculars, and at home. Steve James, the film maker, selects students whose education is far from equal and works to create an “eye opening” series, by comparing the vastly different education students are receiving within the same school and thus showing why the school is often referred to as “two schools within one.”  

The show begins with the controversy of a Black Lives Matter assembly held at the school, primarily for students of color. The discussion was meant to be an outlet for black students, but was seen by many white students and parents as exclusive. While the school took pride in their diversity, the show touched on the idea of diversity not necessarily amounting to equity, but more inequity. It was made clear how change was not something the community was used to or wanted, and they used diversity in the school as a form of “tokenism” for the white teachers and parents who failed to see the underlying issues within Oak Park. They wanted diversity but when it came to the question of equality within the classroom they turned their heads. The phrase “not in my backyard” came to mind when watching the program, when faculty members tried to discuss teaching within a diverse environment, the Board of Education told them they had to do it on their own time and refused to fund their project and instead chose to divert funds to building a new pool. The documentary does a great job of showing the small mannerisms and microaggressions that occur and go unnoticed but have such large implications and reveal the inherent racist and prejudiced tendencies of the school’s community.

The documentary showed varying experiences, asking white students and their parents different questions in which some answered “I don’t have a lot of black friends”, “there are too many cultural differences”, and “the white kids try harder in school than the black kids”. The white students are on the honors and AP track and they view the other classes with more black students as “those classes,” implying that they hold lesser value. Many of the white students discussed their tutoring experiences outside of school which help them with organizational and academic skills while these same resources are not available to the black students. The show avoided relying on stereotypes, however; and painted a 3 dimensional image of each student.

The show revealed how the school held a color blind mentality and thought of themselves as a race neutral zone when clearly each aspect was dominated by race. One episode followed an African American student and the issue of residence within the Oak Park school district. As many parents worked hard to get their kids accepted into this school it became very competitive and the school took residence very seriously. One student shared his experience on how the school had hired officers to track him and follow him after school to make sure he wasn’t lying about where he lived. There were instances where they had knocked on his door to see if he was home. The teachers spoke about how this issue only ever come up for black students in which they have to prove their residency.

Each episode was shocking in itself, especially with the ties it has to our own school in the lack of diversity we have in our faculty and student body, in the distractions we use such as spending months changing our mascot instead focusing on fundamental issues within our school, and with the coded language used within communities that supposedly advocate for inclusion.

Logic Enters New Artistic Territory with “Supermarket”

By Adrian Flynn

Bobby Hall, aka Logic, released his long-awaited debut novel, Supermarket, on Tuesday. Logic has already enjoyed an illustrious career in hip hop spanning nearly a decade, but with this new literary venture, he has expanded his horizons beyond just music. 

I pre-ordered the novel so that I would receive it on its release date. The buzz online was already popping up on my feed, so I put my phone down to isolate myself from knee-jerk reactions, and read the book from beginning to end on my fire escape that afternoon. The novel, split into two parts, is woven between different storylines and jumps back and forth in time. As Logic has explained on his Daily Show interview, his mental state shines through each of the two parts as he began in a turbulent state and then finished it out after being able to face some of his mental health struggles.

Supermarket is about the struggles of a young adult, Flynn, who has to battle an unforeseen foe when his life takes a sudden turn away from his attempt at writing a novel himself, all while holding down a job at a supermarket. The novel, while sometimes difficult to follow along its twists and turns, still threads an invigorating and out-of-the-box narrative. Logic also scattered many references to his own artistry and philosophies throughout, such as homages to his musical influences and mentions of his “do what you love” mantra. This has obviously struck a chord with his fans, who made the book Amazon’s #1 best seller within a day of its release. 

Additionally, he surprise-released a soundtrack album to accompany the novel, featuring collaboration with Mac DeMarco on a few songs. Through the album, Logic clearly departs from his normal musical habits, leaving hip hop in the background and instead crafting a centerpiece of indie rock and love ballads to illustrate the setting and characters of Supermarket as he sees them. With the novel and soundtrack together, Logic has taken a bold step into an artistic gray zone (especially for rappers) that some have strongly criticized

As his fans know, Logic has had an interesting relationship with his critics. He garnered attention in 2015 for his “I don’t f*** with nobody” interview in which he explained that he prefers to go in any musical direction he wants and then after get to “see the faces and shake the hands of these people who truly appreciate my music, not the haters… who wish they worked at Rolling Stone on Twitter because everybody’s a critic nowadays.” This mentality explains why Logic is daring enough to go in new directions: because he is not consumed by general reactions and critical responses, and feels confident in his fanbase and making art for people who will enjoy it. As he said in the same interview: “I’m just gonna chill and I’m just gonna do what I’ve always done because that’s who I make music for… there’s always gonna be somebody who’s gonna hate… so no matter what I do people will love me or hate me.” An artist who is not bogged down by what is expected of them is allowed to truly creatively flourish and explore, and Logic has fortunately been able to do just that with Supermarket.

Queens, Dick, and Lobster: A Review Of The Oscar Front-runners

By Linus Coersmeier

The films ‘Vice’ and ‘The Favourite’ are set 300 years apart, with a budget difference of 45 million dollars, one about a drunk turned Vice President and one about a peasant turned into the Queen’s lover, seemingly having no connection other than their ‘underdog’ themes. However, upon further examination, the two are similar in their historical settings and cinematic production. But their likeness in execution did not produce the same levels of public and critical acceptance.

‘The Favourite’ has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93% and an audience score of 62% while ‘Vice’ has a critics score of 66% and a fairly awful 55% audience score. Both films, while not very well regarded by their audiences, seem to have done well when it comes to industry standards. As far as the Oscars go, both films were among the best, ‘Vice’ with 8 Academy nominations and ‘The Favourite’ with 10. However, as shown by the Rotten Tomatoes scores, there seems to have been some discrepancy in critics’ opinions, so what’s the difference if both were nominated so many times?

‘Vice’ uses the dramatic prowess of Christian Bale and Steve Carell to lead the topical drama. Told from the perspective of Dick Cheney’s heart donor, which is only made known to the audience about ¾ way through the movie, it has many instances of the ‘third wall’ being broken and audience engagement in a fairly colloquial manner. Throughout the 132 minute long movie, Christian Bale follows Dick Cheney from a young, failing husband of Lynne Cheney, his motivational wife, to a manipulative millionaire Vice President. The initial themes of Lynne pulling the strings behind the scenes and helping her husband strive, reappear in Cheney as he goes on to call the shots for George Bush while posing as his sideman. He uses legal loopholes and his lack of direct public attention to make millions off of being the Vice President and pushes his nationalist and “Big Oil” agenda even if he, at times, seems to be fighting for nothing but his own power. Besides his central story, there are also a few subplots, such as his daughter’s homosexuality and his other daughter’s political campaign which was eventually foiled by Cheney’s other daughter being exposed as gay. Furthermore, these subplots are what make the film hard to follow as shown clearly by the public’s lack of appreciation for the movie. Certain aspects, such as the movie’s feel of a personal touch are fresh and fun to watch. Adding on, this includes liberty as it utilizes Shakespearean scenes in several instances, one time Mr. and Mrs. Cheyney are seen in their bed breaking into Shakespearean English and passion. Moments like these and its topicality in the current Middle Eastern conflicts and political drama make the movie fun and original but they don’t come often enough and feel forced at times.

‘The Favourite’ follows Emma Stone’s character, Abigail, a disgraced peasant in 18th century England who arrives at the bustling, dreary castle of Queen Anne, who has become weak and mentally unstable through her years of rule and is hired as a lowly servant. While she is first met with perverted men, violent co-workers, and the abuse of Queen Anne’s second hand, Lady Sarah, her luck and charm allow her to work her way up. Abigail is taken under Lady Sarah’s guiding wings, eventually becoming close to the Queen herself as well as others in the Queen’s court. The lifestyles littered with powdered wigs and the insane luxuries enjoyed by the aristocrats of England while the country is at war are portrayed in a comical and sinister tone in the true, yet exaggerated tale. The film should be even more hard to follow than ‘Vice’, with its unexpected and unlikely twists and turns, but culminates in a harmonious and humorously odd fashion – more so than in ‘Vice’, to critics’ delight.

So, do critics like the fantastical or what’s happening? Even though both films are doing well in Oscar Nominations – and even being nominated is considered an incredible honor and privilege – it is clear that ‘Vice’ has much less of a chance of actually winning than ‘The Favourite’. One could even argue that the Oscars are so arbitrary to the actual prowess of a film, which although fair, makes the quality of films too abstract to measure, yet these awards are the simplistic measure I chose. With this in my mind, ‘The Favourite’ seems to be of higher quality, at least more recognized quality. As a viewer of both films, I can say that while both are good it makes sense that ‘The Favourite’ is an Oscar favorite or favourite as the British prefer it. The director, Yorgos Lanthimos’ other most recent work is a film called ‘The Lobster’, another incredible about 2-hour long film. The basic plot is, ‘In a dystopian society, single people must find a mate within 45 days or be transformed into an animal of their choice.’ This plot summary as put by the avid IMDB user, ‘grantss’ is a perfect shortened version of the film’s convoluted story. The movie was the Greek director’s first English film and, while very well received by critics for an American debut with a Rotten Tomatoes Critics score of 88%, had only a 64% audience score. ‘The Lobster’ put Yorgos Lanthimos on the radar of American critics and the Academy with one Oscar nod at the time, and ‘The Favourite’ seems to be his chance to make good on all of those missed nominations.Critics and the Oscar Academy have always liked the more Avante-Garde films, even if their choices may appear snobbish at times, in instances such as ‘The Favourite’ show that peculiarly good films sometimes are rewarded for their unique and even absurd beauty. Perhaps ‘Vice’s’ fatal flaw was holding back too much. While you can’t blame them with awful movies such as ‘Aquaman’ garnering a Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 64% but an audience score of 78% it may be hard to be motivated to not just make something bad but consumable and gross the reported $750 million ‘Aquaman’ scored. As an artistic U.S. and global community, we as a people need to encourage art and not just more of the same. If the pursuit of the best artistry is not enough for you, keep in mind that there were quite a few nipples to be seen in ‘The Favourite’ and ‘The Lobster.’


The Moco Museum: From New York to Amsterdam, Inspiration is the Same

By Phoebe Kamber

The week of Thanksgiving I visited my sister in Amsterdam, Netherlands where she attends college. The city itself is beautiful with a maze of canals making you second-guess your direction at every turn, and Christmas lights illuminating every alley. In its beauty, the city also demonstrates a cleanliness that, as a New York native, I was foreign to. Upon arrival at the Moco Museum of Amsterdam, I was expecting something similar to the fancy museums elsewhere in the world with the same clean, untouchable feeling I felt while walking through the streets. However, walking into the four-story museum, only slightly larger than a Brooklyn brownstone, I noticed that was not the aim of this museum at all. Instead, the art in every room was welcoming and open to interpretation; its purpose being to push the viewer to think about uncomfortable topics and the importance of going against the norm. It did not have the pretentious air that museums often have, scaring away those who do not identify as intellectuals. Banksy’s work displayed themes of capitalism and violence in works such as “Bar Code.”

Banksy also depicts a classic scene of Wall Street and the chaos behind capitalism in his drawing. In this scene, the umbrellas are weapons, the briefcases shields, and the faces

are angry, illustrating the hatred that exists within a capitalist system. Banksy also uses his art as a way of protesting war, specifically the one in Vietnam, and violence overall. He often uses irony, such as his many gorilla paintings with statements such as “Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge.”

He also played with the violence in Pulp Fiction and turned an image of violence into a scene of comedy:

One of my favorite pieces was a drawing of an old, out of use military truck with a rainbow and children climbing all over it.

Many of his pieces evoked images of hope for the future in the face of the violence and war he describes. The messages Banksy conveys through his work continue further into the museum in the work of two Iranian brothers, Icy and Sot. They were driven out of Iran for their political work and many of their pieces focus on freedom and equality. The brothers were creative in their materials and they graffitied on dollar bills, blankets, books and more, giving something more to think about than just the drawings themselves.

Going to school at Beacon, and living in New York City, it is easy to take advantage of the diversity around me and the freedom I have without giving thought or appreciation for this. It is important to take advantage of the materials and creativity circling around within the walls of Beacon. Not only is there constantly new art on all the walls, but there are amazing plays, and music being created daily. Make use of the resources available and support those who are brave enough to put their art out for you to see.


The Show that Changed Comedy Forever

By Henry Wheeler-Klainberg

If you’re from New York or if you have a TV, then you have probably heard of the sensational hit show Saturday Night Live, a live comedy that’s aired every Saturday since the 1970’s. The show became popular for its excellent comedy sketches, and its stellar casts. Over the years it has become ingrained into New York City’s culture. Depending on who you ask, Saturday Night Live (or SNL) can be remembered in many different ways. When SNL premiered in the mid 70’s, it had been the first ever mainstream late-night comedy show, and made a lasting impression on its audience.

 Saturday Night Live in its early days was considered “edgy” and largely catered towards young people thanks to its jokes centering around themes like politics, drugs, sex and more contemporary subjects. As a show full of young, up and coming cast members of limitless potential, the connection to young people made sense. A local New Yorker from the Bronx told me about what SNL was like when it first came out and how it compared to other comedy shows of its time. She told me, “There had been comedians who dealt with politics before, however SNL was a mainstream showed produced by a big network, NBC.” Nowadays, comedians joke about politics all the time, but in the 70’s SNL was what made it famous. The local also explained to me that in her teenage years, when SNL came out, there were only 3 channels you could watch: NBC, CBS, and ABC. It was on NBC, and everyone watched NBC simply because they had nothing else to watch. To have a show that talked so comfortably about politics, going as far as mimicking the presidents of the United States on NBC set a standard for comedy for years to come.

When you think about all of Saturday Night Live’s different casts, there are tons of comedians that come to mind: Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Kate Mckinnon, Andy Samberg, Tracy Morgan, the list goes on. All these stars started off as unknown New York comedians, looking to make a good name for themselves. Saturday Night Live scouted for potential comedians, and swooped people into their cast, creating amazing comedy legends out of the seemly most unlikely of people. Jimmy Fallon had grown up in Brooklyn watching Saturday Night Live  every night and continued to be his favorite show as he became a comedian in Los Angeles. He then came back to New York and interviewed for his favorite show, Saturday Night Live, and used his impression of Adam Sandler to win over the producers. As for Andy Samberg, he grew up in California and while also watching SNL. As a child he would sneak past his parents at night to stay up to watch SNL and eventually grew up to become one of their biggest stars. In the latest SNL episode hosted by Matt Damon, Damon recalls staying up late with his parents to watch SNL as a kid. He then goes on to talk about how his own children are staying up to watch him host on Saturday Night Live, just as he once did. SNL has had a strong impact on so many people’s lives, many watching it as they grew up and even ending up being a part of the show. SNL is more than just an ordinary comedy show; it draws a deep and personal connection to its viewers.

Saturday Night Live will continue to be an innovative and unique show that deeply connects with its viewers, which is also thanks to a cast filled with extraordinary comedians who have become intertwined with New York culture and comedy. Every Saturday night this amazing show airs, and every Saturday night millions of people can relax and laugh at the show that changed the tides of comedy forever.


A Nice Little Twist of Fate: ‘The Other Josh Cohen’ (Review)

By Mira-Rose Kingsbury Lee

You might have seen the bright yellow signs on the way to school, if you take the unbeaten track down West 43rd. They’re certainly difficult to miss: “The Other Josh Cohen” displayed in star-studded red letters next to pictures of a cast dressed almost entirely in flannel. Intrigued, I decided to take the leap, and bought a ticket (about $80 for orchestra tickets).

“The Other Josh Cohen” is a delightfully upbeat new musical from Steve Rosen and David Rossmer, preaching the power of positivity in 90 minutes (with one intermission) at the West Side theater. It’s charming if a little unpolished, a product of the Cell Theatre Company.

Narrator Josh (David Rossmer) sketches out a portrait of himself one year ago, alone and unhappy on Valentine’s Day. The old Josh Cohen (Steve Rosen), sporting a terrible mustache, has had plenty of woes over his past Valentine’s Days, and now he comes home to find that a burglar has broken into his home, leaving him with only a Neil Diamond CD, the DVD case of a dirty movie, and a kitten-themed calendar.

At the last moment, Josh’s luck changes when he receives a giftㅡ a check bearing enough money to turn his life aroundㅡ if it actually does belong to him. The cast, featuring Neil Diamond (Kate Wetherhead), sings an encouraging soundtrack over Josh’s grapple with whether or not to cash the cheque.

“The Other Josh Cohen” is ultimately a testament to having faith in the ‘what goes

around, comes around’ principle. Even as Josh’s life hits an all-time-low, Narrator Josh is always there to remind the audience that it does get better. In a season of dismal shows (Dear Evan Hansen, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables–even Wicked can’t be relied on for a happy ending) reflecting the bitterness of the human condition, it might be exactly what Broadway needs.

“The Other Josh Cohen” runs until February 24, 6 days a week. Anyone needing a boost of positivity in the upcoming days of semester finals should put aside an evening and get this rock-Broadway mix of a soundtrack stuck in their head.

Spotlight on Beacon Artists: Sam Spiders

By Sophie Steinberg

Senior Sam Sheridan, known to most on Instagram as “Sam Spiders”, is a musician, photographer, artist, fashion lover, and avid hair-dyer. She is a multi-faceted artist, as she can play a variety of instruments, produce her own tracks, and has an photography studio in her room. As a member of the Art Honors cohort at Beacon, Sam also produces visual art, some of which will be featured in Beacon’s Winter Art show. You can find her art on the fourth floor and her recently released an EP, “Spider,” on all music platforms.

The Beacon Beat’s Editor-in-Chief Sophie Steinberg and close friend of Sam’s, sat down with her to discuss her art and music.

The Beacon Beat: What are some things or people that inspire you as an artist?

Sam Spiders: Bright colors, I like Karen Oh, Cindy Sherman, Kusama. I’m inspired by my own work, and trying to make it evolve helps me move it forward. Of course the artists around me and New York City in general inspire me as well.

The Beacon Beat: What’s your style as a musician? As a photographer?

Sam Spiders: I think I have a unique eye in the way I edit my photos. I like vibrant colors, shapes, and symbols within images. As a musician, I am trying to do more pop music, but a slightly new take on it. I want to do things that other people haven’t done before. Musically, I don’t really know if I’m inspired by anyone.

The Beacon Beat: What about Bikini Kill?

Sam: Bikini Kill? Not for my music, but definitely for my artistic expression and inspiration. Kathleen Hanna made me want to make my first rock band when I was like 8.

The Beacon Beat: Billie Eilish? (Jokingingly).

Sam: (Laughs). No, not Billie Eilish, but she’s cool.

The Beacon Beat: Can you tell me about your hair and your outfit right now?

Sam: My hair? Well, I’m wearing Air Maxs, they’re pretty basic. These jeans are UNIF, which is kind of gross. I got this belt for $4 and I’m wearing two shirts on top of my jeans. And my hair… I kind of messed it up yesterday, but I like it. It’s pretty damaged right now but I’m taking care of it.

The BB: What color is your hair right now?

Sam: It’s like a light blue teal kind of, and my roots are platinum blonde for some reason. But it’s kinda cool though.

The BB: What are you looking forward to most about second semester in your Senior Year?

Sam:In second semester, there’s just so much more free time to work on stuff, and I’m really excited. I’m gonna make a bunch more new music and I’m trying to make a video. I’m just looking forward to having more time to focus on the things that I’ve been putting off because of portfolio and college-related work.

The BB: Can you explain your stage name?

Sam: My name is Sam Spiders because it sounds better than my real name. I want to change it legally.

Check out Sam’s EP: https://open.spotify.com/album/1bAFB6qGAuOSPoNqt3Xa25?si=qJBe7FlPQOi2iH781xz6Kg

Crazy Rich Representation: A Closer Look at Asian-American Diversity in Hollywood in 2018

By Camilla Bauman

Asian-American representation in Hollywood films catapulted this past summer. The most notable of these movies was this August’s Crazy Rich Asians; the first movie to have an all Asian cast since the Joy Luck Club premiered a quarter of a century ago. Movies such as Searching, which focused on a Korean American family, and A Simple Favor, co-starring Crazy Rich Asians Henry Golding also came out this past summer.

And there was more: the book series by author Jenny Han, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was adapted into a Netflix film in August. The book-film romantic comedy adaptation centers around a Korean American teen, Lara Jean Covey Song, played by Vietnamese Lara Condor. As the film progresses, she is faced with the frightening, yet relatable reality when five of her secret love letters are revealed. The movie, although not a Hollywood blockbuster, was another example of representation of Asian Americans.

Being of half Korean descent, I loved watching these movies released this past year. I loved even more that the audiences in the theatres weren’t at all all Asian, people of all backgrounds wanted to experience these stories. These movies also brings back the conversation of how much diversity Hollywood still excludes many minorities. Growing up, I always loved watching rom-coms and chick-flicks, however I always noticed that for the most part, these roles were given to white actors. Being a young child, the lack of diversity buffudled me. But the recent influx of Asian representation and the release of these mainstream movies, brought a small happiness to my nine year old self.

Left to right, Janel Parrish, Jenny Han, Lana Condor and Anna Cathcart

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before became an instant success on Netflix, viewers raving about the relationships between Lara Jean and the film’s leading male, Peter Kavinsky, played by the extremely popular breakout star, Noah Centineo. The casting of Lara Jean, although thrilling for most, was initially not met with any enthusiasm. In an article published by Teen Vogue, author, Jenny Han discusses, “I think that one of the biggest struggles with it was to find the right partners who would agree to cast an Asian-American family, and to have Lara Jean, specifically, be Asian.” Many seemed to be excited by this book to film adaptation, however that anticipation seemed to die out when producers and representatives discovered that the lead would not be played by a white girl. Fortunately, Han was able to find executives who wanted to stay true to the novel and cast an Asian American lead. Furthermore, the director of the film, Susan Johnson says, “I am glad that Jenny was strict about staying true to the ethnicities of the girls in the book. But we didn’t want to make it about the Asian American experience. Because that is not what the book is.” This is another important distinction, it was extremely that this movie be appropriately casted, however it was almost equally important that then the movie would not become about “being Asian.” The director also noted how there was no need to acknowledge the physical presence of those who are the minorities in most settings: “I think it makes it more relatable to people. I did a Q&A last week, and most of the young people at the end were like, ‘Thank you for making a high school look like our high school. It was diversity all around. And we never see that in movies.’” Diverse castings in movies will promote a greater connection with audiences because they see what a high school really looks like, not a whitewashed version.

Jenny Han’s casting struggles, embodies the whitewashing that will be forever be present in Hollywood, no matter how diverse films become. Even though this summer may have been a time to celebrate Asian Americans in film, it is hard to forget that only three years ago Emma Stone, a white actress, was cast as an Asian-American character in the 2015 film, Aloha.

On a brighter note, the growth of representation this year has been uplifting. The exposures for these actors will hopefully bolster their careers even further and open the door for more opportunities. I believe however, and I think many do, that this is just a start. This issue isn’t as simple as, make a few movies with majority Asian American cast and all diversity issues will be fixed, it’s much more complex than that. When asked whether or not these movies would make a long lasting impact on how ethnicity and diversity in general is portrayed in Hollywood, a friend summed it up perfectly by saying, “I hope that filmmakers don’t believe they have reached a quota and stop producing movies with Asian leads… I really hope that we’ve crossed a threshold and now live in a more inclusive and representative world, but I won’t doubt Hollywood’s ability to revert back to old habits.” Sure, this summer showed immense progress, but this by no means is an end, it’s a solid base line, that Hollywood can’t backtrack on now.

Your Next Binge Watch: Shadowhunters


By Janet Hernandez

    Teenagers in black clothing chasing demons? Just another scene in the show Shadowhunters. Shadowhunters is a show based on the fantasy series written by Cassandra Clare. The show follows “shadowhunters” who are half mundane and half angelic whose mission is to protect the mundane world. During the night they go out to hunt these demons that are out for mundane blood. The Shadow world is not only made up of the Nephilim, the world of the angels, it is also made up of  downworlders that consist of vampires, werewolves, fairies and warlocks. The sad thing is that Shadowhunters is unfortunately, coming to an end after three successful seasons.

     Shadowhunters has had a great impact on many people so when news spread about the cancelling of the show many people were devastated by this. However, the fandom did not back down without a fight. They have made #SaveShadowhunters known across the world to show how much they love the show. During this years People’s Choice Awards, Shadowhunters won Favorite TV Show and Binge Worthy Show. Harry Shum Jr. who portrays Magnus Bane on the show, won Male TV Star of the Year and Katherine McNamara who plays Clary Fray, won Female TV Star of the Year. People are in love with this show.

The reason for this strong fandom is that the cast wasn’t all white. The main characters were portrayed by people of color. Not only that, the show includes problems that teens and young adults can relate to. The show features the trials and tribulations of those who come out as gay. In the show there is a character Alec Lightwood, a male shadowhunter who was raised by parents who want a “perfect” family, meaning that Alec would have to be and act straight in order to please his parents. His parents were very strict and they always wanted him to be at his best. However, he has some internal conflicts about his sexuality. Along the way, he is able to meet a warlock named Magnus who makes him question his identity. Another problem is discrimination between the races. Many downworlders are treated as trash due to the council, made up of shadowhunters, that make unfair laws. Many shadowhunters think the downworlders as inferior and an abomination to the world. Throughout the show, the viewers are able to see how these downworlders try to fight against these unfair laws. Discrimination and racism is something that is still present in this world. The show is a perfect example of the struggle that the victims of these oppressors have to face.

Another reason for fans that love the show is that the women are strong. They are not portrayed as weak but very strong, hardworking and determined. Isabelle Lightwood, one of the main characters has a scene where she is able to beat up a muscled man that was twice her size. This screams power, and it shows that what women are capable of doing. Women are not just objects, women have feelings and women are strong. The show is very heartwarming and easy to find a personal connection. Then there is the amazing cast that never fails to make the audience smile or bring tears to our eyes.

Finally, the amazing love triangles and ships that take place make many fans eager to watch the show. To be honest, when I watched the show I was eager to learn more about where these love triangles would lead to. I was also interested in the culture of Shadowhunters and their weapons. If there are two Shadowhunters who trust each other a lot they can become “Parabatai” which forms a strong, completing bond between the two individuals. I thought that was pretty cool since a Parabatai is not like your best friend but like your other half. In addition their runes are intriguing and alluring. Each rune gives them a certain type of power, whether it be invisibility, speed or strength. Then there is Malec and Clace. Malec is the ship that makes most fans happy and excited. Clace is so confusing but I can’t tell you why. If you want to know why then I suggest you go and binge watch Shadowhunters.

Gotta Get Down to It: Neil Young Gets Political Again

By Adrian Flynn

Singer-songwriter Neil Young recently broke his prolonged political silence by releasing a new live version of his song “Ohio” to advocate for gun control. He rose to fame in the 1960s and 70s as a member of the bands Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and also enjoyed a remarkable solo career. These days, aside from his annual FarmAid concerts to benefit family farmers and the occasional Veteran’s benefit, Young notably does not contribute to many political causes.

The five and a half minute video starts with a monologue from Young about his initial inspiration for recording “Ohio,” a protest song written in response to the 1970 Kent State shootings. On May 4, 1970, unarmed Kent State college students were protesting the United States Cambodia Campaign military exercises when the Ohio National Guard fired into the crowd, killing four and injuring nine. Young, then with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, rush-released the song, recording it 17 days after the massacre and releasing it the next month. It was a hit, rising to number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts and leaving a monumental mark on American counterculture in the wake of the Vietnam War.

The live video released on Wednesday featured Young playing the song solo interspersed with images from school shootings and the March for Our Lives. On Young’s website, a message accompanying the video states: “Today we see what we have become. With no real laws protecting us from guns, and with politicians supporting the NRA because the NRA supports them, we are not well represented.” He further expresses admiration for student protesters: “Today’s students are brave, demanding change in violent times. We stand with them. They are us. We are them. This has been going on for far too long… Give us common sense gun laws that protect our people, in schools, in places of worship, in the workplace and on the streets. VOTE.”

But that was before the midterms. After losing his Malibu home in the recent California wildfires, Young published an essay on his archival site criticizing President Trump for his misplaced blame and climate change denial, stating that “California is vulnerable – not because of poor forest management as DT (our so-called president) would have us think… We are vulnerable because of Climate Change; the extreme weather events and our extended drought is part of it… It really is time for a reckoning with this unfit leader.” With these powerful statements, Young evokes a past era of protest and brings the same counterculture attitude to current times. By mentioning the importance of science, representation in government, and common sense gun reform, he is molding a movement that he helped lead decades ago into the modern era. This may serve as a wake up call to other largely silent cultural leaders of days past that their input is needed if we are to involve and inspire more people to protest immoral and detrimental policies in the present and future.

A Modern Tale: Why Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” Feels More Relatable Than Ever

By Sophie Steinberg

The show opens with a couple speeding away from the authorities, with their daughter in tow. The car crashes along the side of the road, leaving the family with no choice but to run into the surrounding forrest. Questions immediately fill the viewer’s head– where are they going? Why?

Based on the 1985 book, by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, on Hulu, has just finished up its second season of exploring a totalitarian government in the former United States, in which successful childbirth and pregnancy are becoming rare. To solve this crisis, the government rounds up all the remaining fertile women and assigns them to the homes of powerful men, where they will be ritually raped until they become pregnant, they’re known as “handmaids.” The show follows one woman, Offred, as she navigates the new state of her world and her life as a Handmaiden, with a supporting cast of strong female leads. At first glance, it’s the representation women need on TV: a strong group fighting to be considered equal and human in hopes of a better world, but the story itself has other goals. The show aims to analyze the patriarchy through the lens of an extreme political government where women cannot even read, and a group of white men hold nearly all the power– sound familiar?

Originally, the shows eerily recognizable atmosphere made me scared to watch it. I was aware of its collective Emmy buzz, and the demonstrations it had inspired, such as the recent protest at the Kavanaugh hearings in which women dressed up as handmaids, but something steered me away from diving into their fictional world. Was it too real? I had no desire to be further depressed by a dystopian story, when my news cycle was growing scarier and scarier. I didn’t want another reminder of the control men like Kavanaugh had over my body when hearings for a Supreme Court nominee who has been accused of sexual assault were in full swing.

The show has been deemed “alternatively frustrating and thrilling” by a critic at The AV Club, as the story captivates its viewers while simultaneously leaving them in a stupor of fear, a sensation I wanted to avoid. The New York Times says the show’s dystopian society “controls women by elevating them, fetishizing motherhood, praising femininity, but defining it in terms of service to men and children.” My previous basic understanding of the Handmaid’s position as sex slaves to powerful men, scared the hell out of me. How could I watch women being degraded for pleasure, while many survivors coming forward were experiencing it daily?

But last month, during the 70th annual Emmy awards, I watched every category become dominated by the cast and the crew of The Handmaid’s Tale. As I saw the nomination videos for “Best Supporting Actress in a Drama,” Alexis Bledel’s reel took me by surprise. Her character, Ofglen, was wearing “normal clothes” in the clip, not a handmaid’s iconic red cloak and white bonnet. Why? What else did the show explore? I became dumbfounded, and quickly developed small spurs of FOMO. The magnitude of the show’s impact, even at a revered Hollywood event, began to sink in as I became mad at myself for avoiding it.

That night, around 11:30pm, I logged into Hulu and began to watch. I was surprised to find myself relating to the show as its story of female perseverance became a personal inspiration. The structure of Atwood’s world felt as real as it did fake as I came to love each character and the way they were portrayed. Instead of hiding from the show’s alternate reality, I ran towards it, at full speed.

I believe the show portrays the potential future of our current political climate. Atwood once referred to her work as “speculative fiction” meaning that one day, there could be policy that forces women to give their bodies and children to their oppressors. Given the public rise and promotion of men who have been accused, and are most likely guilty, of sexual assault, I would not be surprised if the rape of designated women became the norm. The show is a tale of warning, of what things could be like in 30 years if we don’t change the way our society views sex and women. As the show makes a conscious effort to create deep portraits and characterizations of its female protagonists, I realize that those traits should be naturally woven into any story or television, regardless of the message.

Offred’s incredible journey is one of survival and grit, as she struggles to have basic equal rights at the hands of predatory men, something women fighting to be heard understand. There’s a reason the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport blew up on Twitter, and there’s a reason for the Walkout that took place on September 24th, which expressed support for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, one of Kavanaugh’s accusers: women and men need a place to share their stories of assault, and The Handmaid’s Tale takes it upon itself to shove them right in your face. In a world where people like Judge Kavanaugh can be appointed as one of the most powerful positions in the country, The Handmaid’s Tale is a must-watch, not necessarily for its quality or its awards, but for yourself. Wake up.