Tag Archives: media

Representation count: What “Rough Night” and “Girls Trip” mean for you

Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures

The upcoming film Rough Night is being marketed as the next feel-good comedy for raunchy feminist women looking for a film that portrays women as “women.” Starring Scarlett Johansson (who is currently taking an L for Ghost in the Shell), Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Demi Moore, Colton Haynes, Jillian Bell, Ty Burrell, Dean Winters, Ilana Glazer, and Karan Soni, the film follows a group of best friends who meet in Miami Beach to celebrate one of their own’s wedding, only to somehow kill a male stripper. The film will be in theaters June 16.

Here’s the red band trailer for you see the film for yourself:

Are you on the fence about seeing this movie? If you need help getting your mind together, here are some things we can glean from the trailer and Twitter chatter that might help.

The racial representation is low: Kravitz and Soni are the only people of color in the main cast (I guess, if you want to be technical about, you can include Ty Burrell since he did find out he has black ancestry…but he’s as black as I am East Asian. We’ll still welcome him in the Racial Draft, though.) It’s a shame that, as much as Kravitz has talked openly about racism in the casting office, she’s still relegated to being “the black friend” in a movie. There’s no telling what Soni’s character “Raviv” does. But one can assume he’s not a major character.

Not mentioned in this rundown is Enrique Murciano. He could very well be a part of the main cast, but as of this post, his character hasn’t been named on IMDB, which points in the direction of him being a minor character. However, we’ll have to see once the film is released to theaters.

The fat jokes are many, just in the trailer: So, the trailer spoils for us that Jillian Bell’s character Alice is the one who kills the stripper by basically jumping on his lap, but actually landing on his neck, with the brute force propelling the poor guy on his back, where his head hits the hard tile floor, causing a fatal brain (and possibly neck) injury. Quite gruesome. But what’s also gruesome is that the death is played as the punchline to the age-old joke of the plus-size woman being somehow grotesque, foolish, and less-than the other skinnier women she’s surrounded by. It’s no mistake that the one getting married is Johansson, not Bell.

You can tell who’s the lead woman in charge, can’t you? Everyone else has some minor or major “difference” with them.

Minor gay representation in the cast, no word on their characters’ sexualities: We do have out actors Haynes and McKinnon as a part of this film, but their characters are probably straight, if we go by Hollywood history.

The fact that the film’s jokey premise rests on a male stripper being brutally killed while doing his job: The real victim of this story aren’t the women at the bachelorette party; it’s the dude who was doing his job that night. I know the film is trying to pull a Weekend at Bernie’s thing, but I don’t think storylines like that are going to fly nowadays, especially since the guy at the center of this story is an innocent guy just trying to make a living. At least Bernie was in with the mob! He knew the risks! (Not that his being a criminal precludes he should die, but you get what I’m saying.)

Look, strippers have lives too, and his life should be given some sort of acknowledgement instead of just using him as a prop to advance the story.

Twitter isn’t really feeling this film for that reason:

https://twitter.com/etherealbabyy/status/840008636600524802

Refinery 29 has more on why folks are upset.

“First thing’s first: Strippers are people, and sex workers unfortunately have to tirelessly remind people of this over and over. ‘Sex workers are very marginalized groups of people who don’t have the same workplace safety and rights as other workers—and we get murdered a lot,’” says Arabelle Raphael, a porn performer and sex worker in Los Angeles. ‘Our lives are seen as disposable.’ A long-term mortality study on sex workers found that active sex workers have a mortality rate of 459 per 100,000 people—to put that in perspective, the general public mortality rate is around 1.9 per every 100,000 people.”

In short, this film just might become another L Johansson will have to live with. She certainly is getting red on her film ledger, indeed.

As if to act as a counter, Girls Trip will be hitting theaters July 21. The film, starring Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Kofi Siriboe and Larenz Tate, features a group of girlfriends who go on a road trip to the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans. Along the way, they rediscover their friendship while getting into all kinds of romantic and wild misadventures. Also: no male strippers get killed.

Here’s the red band trailer for Girls Trip:

So what’s in this film for you?

An all-black main cast: We don’t have to worry about diversity counts in this cast. Us black people are covered. And, if you’re an ally looking to support a black cast, you can’t find a better one. Not only do you have OGs like Queen Latifah, Pinkett Smith, Hall, and Tate in the cast, but you also have relatively new faces like Haddish (who has been around for a while, but is still in the up-and-coming set) and Siriboe, who has made waves on the OWN hit show, Queen Sugar. Also, as the trailer shows, Morris Chestnut is also in the mix. There’s plenty for everyone!

No word on LGBT representation: We’ll have to see when the movie comes out.

The film is co-written by Kenya Barris: We love his writing on black-ish, and his funny writing is all over this film. Which means:

The trailer is laugh-out-loud funny: If just the trailer can make me laugh, then I’m sold. I didn’t laugh once in Rough Night’s trailer, and that’s not just because I was already side-eyeing the film. If there were some actually funny moments, I would have laughed; if something’s funny, I can’t not laugh. But I didn’t So, here we are.

It actually feels like a good time: This feels like a movie you want to go with your good girlfriends to see and make a night of it. This is definitely one of those films you go watch, go to dinner afterwards, then possibly go back to one of your friends’ house and drink wine and gossip (I write as if I drink wine…I’m just going off of what the Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder commercials tell me). In any event, it looks like great fun for the adult set, whether you take your friends, your significant other, or your adult siblings.

This looks they’re genuinely having a good time, right? I want to be a part of this friend group. (More than likely, I’d be Jada Pinkett Smith’s character.)

What do you think about Rough Night? Give your opinions below!

It’s Day 2 and Cosmopolitan Magazine still hasn’t apologized for that racist “most beautiful women according to science” article

Twitter

So, Cosmopolitan Magazine really thought they’d be able to post a near-Eugenics-style post and get away with it. They also think that they’ll be able to get away without an apology, either. It’s now Day 2 and we have yet to hear anything from Cosmopolitan.

Earlier Sunday morning, Cosmopolitan posted “The 10 Most Beautiful Women in the World, According to Science.” Just so happens, all of the women save for three happen to be white.

Clearly, the article is racist. But, science, right? Here’s what the article states when it comes to what makes people genetically pleasing:

“It all comes down to an ancient Greek philosophy called the Phi ratio, which Julian De Silva, MD, of the Centre for Advanced Facial Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery used along with computer facial mapping to determine which famous women have the ideal face ratio and symmetry.”

Riiiiggghhhttt.

So, here’s the list of the most beautiful people in the world:

Amber Heard

Kim Kardashian

Kate Moss

Emily Ratajkowski

Kendall Jenner

Helen Mirren

Scarlett Johansson

Selena Gomez

Marilyn Monroe

Jennifer Lawrence

Notice what’s found to be aesthetically pleasing across the board with these women: white or light skin, straight hair, Eurocentric features, and slim bodies (of course, we can argue over Kim K’s body, which is both surgically enhanced beyond belief and looks to be around a size 14 or 16 despite her penchant for fitting into ill-fitting, smaller clothes).

Notice what’s not considered aesthetically pleasing: darker skin, curly or kinky hair, more ethnically diverse features (such as broader noses, bigger lips, bigger butts—not counting Kim K’s fake butt), diversity in body type/shape. Basically, 2/3 of the planet are considered not-pretty, while folks who fall in line with the actresses or models listed above are. Fascinating.

Of course, Twitter took Cosmopolitan to task for this:

Check out more Twitter responses at Bossip.

Ultimately, Cosmopolitan deleted their post from Twitter and from their site, but never gave an apology.

Furthermore, they moved the article to their overseas properties; for instance, I was able to read the article from Cosmopolitan Middle East, which is just as cruel, since once again, the article is being marketed towards a readership that includes non-white readers (especially in a majority non-white population like the UAE). Hopefully, those in the UAE are as opposed to this article as we in the States are.

How much did you hate Cosmo’s article? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Riverdale” react: Veronica and Jughead get dramatic

This photo is kinda misleading, since the rest of the Pussycats don’t really factor into this episode. Good composition though. (Katie Yu/The CW)

Riverdale, Episode 7 | “In a Lonely Place” | Aired March 9, 2017

I’ll give Episode 7, “In a Lonely Place,” this: there were some real moments of touching sentimentality. Some genuine moments of feeling and disappointment were palpable among Veronica and Jughead, and finally, some parents were held up to some consequences, even if it was only for a little while.

First, though, before we get into the sentimentality, let’s talk about the elephant in the room once again: Jughead and Betty’s relationship. The more I see it flaunted in my face, the more uncomfortable and upset I get. Jughead has never been a character that desired romantic relationships. Even when Archie Comics tried to put him in his own triangle (in a misguided effort to keep people from thinking the rumors of the character being gay were true) it didn’t work out; the fans wanted Jughead to remain Jughead and not become some Lothario like Archie. Was Jughead and Betty as an item floated by several Archie Comics writers/artists? Yes. If you go back to the ‘40s, you’ll find Archie covers with Betty flirting with Jughead (with Jughead not falling for it) and throughout the years, you’ll find Jughead show a little warmth towards Betty, not just because he pitied her for always pining for Archie (who was always chasing Veronica instead of her), but because she was his friend and he knew she deserved someone nice and caring in her life. He was the only person to recognize Betty’s worth even when Betty herself didn’t recognize it. (He certainly knew she deserved better than someone like Archie, and he’s Archie’s best friend!) In one comic, Jughead even went as far as to say that if he did like girls like that, he’d definitely consider Betty over anyone else.

But, keep in mind, he said “IF” he liked girls like that. Despite all of the behind-the-scenes shipping the Archie writers and artists had when they took over their own strips or stories, Jughead has remained girlless. Instead, he’s always been a good, close friend to Betty, an enemy to Veronica, and scared of Ethel (who loved him despite the horrible treatment he’d put her through to escape her). Being above the fray of relationships has been Jughead’s distinct hallmark as a character. That was definitely understood when Chip Zdarsky made Jughead canonically asexual. It fits Jughead’s personality and characterization to a T.

But to make Jughead not asexual, or at the very least averse to being in relationships regardless of his sexuality, shows  distinct misunderstanding of Jughead’s character. There’s a lack of understanding of what makes Jughead great. The fact that Riverdale is written in part by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who is a self-professed Archie mega-fan, should mean that Aguirre-Sacasa understands what makes the characters tick. He should know what makes the characters who they are. Making Jughead part of the muck of relationships shows a lack of understand about who the character is and where the character is now in terms of our current discourse about sexuality, representation, and diversity. Making Jughead just like everyone else makes him a completely different guy who just so happens to be wearing the classic whoopee cap. (Well, it’s a knit version of the classic whoopee cap, but same difference.)

Also, in the dream sequence scene, in which everyone is done up in classic Archie drag, Jughead dreamed of Betty wearing a wedding band. Again, we’re taking Jughead further and further away from what makes him him. STOP IT, SHOW.

Okay, back to the touching moments of the show.

Overall, this seemed like a half-filler, half-substantive episode, but what stood out to me were Veronica and Jughead’s problems with their parents. First, Veronica’s mom Hermione wrongly forged her name to the contract allowing Fred to get the construction job at the old drive-in. Why a mother would do something like that, I’ll never know. Why it needed to be done with this particular thing, especially since Hermione already has Mayor McCoy in her back pocket, is kinda weird to me. Couldn’t the both of them just collude to forge an entirely new document or something? I don’t know. But Veronica has every reason to be angry with Hermione, and while I’m not sure how clubbing works with getting back at your mom, Veronica’s monologue about how Hermione took the last thing that belonged to her—her name—was a deep moment for this character in particular.

CW/Screengrab

The other moment of the night was Jughead dealing with his dad F.P. F.P. is going through it and has been since Fred fired him. But F.P. was already doing some shady dealings anyway—maybe with the Serpents, perhaps?—but now F.P. is a drunken mess and his wife left with Jellybean, leaving Jughead behind to fend for himself. We find out in this episode that ever since the drive-in closed, Jughead’s been living in a school supply closet.

Finally, Archie got out of his own issues long enough to find out that Jughead’s not at home, and ultimately, he and Fred give Jughead a place to stay so he won’t have to stay with his dad. But until we get to that point (which involves Jughead getting pulled into the sheriff’s office for having the sheriff’s murder board), Jughead actually does go back home long enough to talk F.P. into working for Fred again. Archie does what he needs to do to get his dad to give F.P. another chance, and for the most part, things are as smooth as they can be between two Fred and F.P., two former best friends.

When we get to the part of the episode where Jughead gets pulled out of the sheriff’s office thanks to Fred covering for him by saying Jughead was working for him (which means Fred’s now technically a criminal too, since he’ll have to forge timecards for Jughead), we finally get to some ACTING. Not to say folks haven’t been acting before, but if we’re going to be a melodrama, let’s actually get to the DRAMA, not the shenanigans and antics. Jughead wants to trust his dad, who has broken his promises to get his act together over and over again, but F.P. looks so sorrowful and pitiful that Jughead, who is clearly angry with his father, still decides to give him another chance. I thought that was a great moment for a character who naturally leans towards the more soulful mindset anyway.

CW/Screengrab

I know I’ve skipped all around Polly and the baby and the Blossoms and the Coopers–frankly, I’m caring less and less about this baby and Polly. If Polly ends up being the killer, then I’ll end up being intrigued in her life once again. #Sorryaboutit.

(And yes, I’m planning on recapping/reacting to this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. As a superfan, it’s a show I should have recapped/reacted to long before now.)

Other things of note: We had our first sighting of Ginger Lopez!

CW/Screengrab

Will we see more of her? I hope so.

Also, we’ve seen some more of Reggie!

CW/Screengrab

I can’t wait for his storyline to open up. Since the show has the Season 2 greenlight, they’d better give us more Reggie (and possibly Josie/Reggie).

Lastly, I really did like the dream sequence. I know it’d be a sexist storyline, but if the show was literally a hyper-realistic version of the old-school comic book, I’d watch the heck out that. The dream sequence art direction was really nice. Check it out:

What did you think of that episode? Are you sick and tired of Betty and Jughead? And why are fans calling Lili Reinhart “Daddy”? (I legitimately want to know that question.) Leave your comments and answers in the comments section below!

This fanart gives us the Sherlock Holmes and John Watson we’ve been looking for

Sherlock left a sour taste in many mouths. From where I’m sitting, the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies aren’t that spectacular either. However, there’s one fan art that went viral, giving us Sherlock Holmes fans a salve for aching minds. It poses the question: What if Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were played by Dev Patel and Riz Ahmed?

Beka Duke

Beka Duke drew this after being inspired by the Oscars appearances of Patel and Ahmed, and the idea definitely has merit. Wouldn’t it be cool to see Victorian England represented as it was—which was certainly more diverse than popular culture would lead you to believe—and gave us a Sherlock and Watson that represented Britain’s colonialist reach through India and the Middle East?

Judging from the response the fan art got, there are tons of people who would love to see a brown Sherlock-John Watson duo. The response has been so overwhelming that fan art has been made of the fan art.

I would hope that if a film was made based on this fan art, that they would also follow Duke’s dissection of Sherlock’s personality, since it lines up with Sherlock’s actual personality shown in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, not pop culture’s “brooding, misanthropic” personality that has been grafted onto the character.

To quote her in part:

Ok, so this I feel is a pretty big one that people get wrong! Sherlock Holmes possesses an enormous confidence in his brain and in his work–and it is described as “bordering on arrogance” but not actual arrogance itself (at least most of the time, he does get on Watson’s nerves if he presumes too much, hah). When Holmes’ confidence is misplaced, he is quick to criticize himself, apologize to whomever, and move the heck on, so that he can fix things…which…the more arrogant portrayals of Holmes struggle to do. Also, Holmes is “eager” (probably the most used description in all the books) not because he is compensating, but because he just loves his job. Thusly, he isn’t as concerned with “getting his man” as he is with solving the crime/protecting innocents. You’d be surprised how many villains get away at the end of these books (Holmes believes they get their just desserts eventually).

  • “‘No, it is not selfishness or conceit,’ said he, answering, as was his won’t, my thoughts rather than my words. ‘If I claim full justice for my art, it is because it is an impersonal thing–a thing beyond myself. Crime is common. Logic is rare.’” (Mystery of the Copper Beeches)

You really need to read her whole post on Sherlock’s personality, because it’s pretty on-point.

What do you think of this fan art? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Beauty and the Beast”: Let’s talk about LeFou – positive representation or token gay stereotype?

Is LeFou breaking new ground or is he just more of the same? (Disney/screengrab)

The big news coming out about Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast is that the Gaston’s sidekick character is gay. Not “coded as gay“–he’s actually, up and down, openly gay. We’re finally in the future, everyone!

Or are we? The character being officially out is something we have been hoping a mainstream family project would actually do. Also, it seems like Disney is also going to give us, as director Bill Condon has been saying, “an exclusively gay moment” at the end of LeFou’s journey in the film, which I can only assume that he ends up with a loving guy to call his own (if Gaston actually still dies in this live-action version, which I’m assuming he will). According to Attitude Magazine, Condon says:

“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

Attitude’s Editor-in-Chief Matt Cain praised the film’s scene, calling it a “landmark moment for LGBT representation”:

“It may have been a long time coming but this is a watershed moment for Disney. By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural – and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay. It’s only a first step towards creating a cinematic world that reflects the one in which many of us are now proud to live. But it’s a step in the right direction and I applaud Disney for being brave enough to make it – and in doing so hopefully helping to change attitudes and bring about real social progress.”

HOWEVER, the clip from the film featuring LeFou singing the classic Beauty and the Beast song “Gaston,” seems a little…stereotypical? Check it out for yourself.

Josh Gad, who portrays LeFou, plays the role a little too stereotypically “fabulous,” at least from my point of view. He could have toned it down a little bit–I mean, it’s a broad role, to be sure, but come on! It doesn’t have to be that broad. But I could be wrong; LeFou might be less stereotypical than I’m thinking it is.

Marissa Martinelli seems to share my sentiment about the stereotypical aspects of LeFou in the live-action film in her Slate article “The ‘Exclusively Gay’ Character in the Beauty and the Beast Remake Is Not As Revolutionary As Disney Thinks It Is.” Martinelli discusses Disney’s huge queer-coding past with its villain (because remember: LeFou is still a villain) and how LeFou is still not a shining light of gay positivity:

But since the film has chosen to do that by including a character who is literally gay, it’s worth examining their choice. LeFou is a sidekick and a relatively minor character who spends most of the original film groveling at the feet of Gaston, a living embodiment of toxic masculinity if ever there was one, and receiving only abuse in return. That “falling for a straight boy” narrative is not exactly a shining example of LGBT positivity—though it’s possible, of course, that in Condon’s version, LeFou will finally stand up for himself. (Is that the “payoff” Condon is referring to?)

As Martinelli said, LeFou as openly gay is a milestone, but it’s still not as if Disney is bringing us the first gay Disney princess or even the Star Wars Finn/Poe relationship folks have been clamoring for. Also, Josh Gad is pulling the same basic BS others have done when discussing LeFou’s sexuality, which, from a cynical point of view, could be taken to mean Disney’s trying to backtrack from the small Alabama town (that I’ve never heard of and I’m from Alabama) that decided they didn’t want to show the movie, as well as Russia debating as to whether they’ll ban the film or not.

As he said to ABC during the film’s premiere:

“Is he the first gay Disney character? I’ll leave that audiences to decide.”

Now, someone could read this statement as him baiting Disney about their own checkered history with using gay themes and tropes in their characters (such as The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula the Sea Witch, who’s based on drag queen legend Divine, or Pocahontas‘ Governor Ratcliffe and Wiggins, who are not only voiced by David Ogden Stiers, who came out in 2009, but are also clearly in some kind of relationship, whether that be a surprisingly loving one, given Ratcliffe’s self-centeredness, or some kind of kinky 50 Shades of Grey thing). But that’s being optimistic. He’s using the same tactic Paul Feig used for Ghostbusters when discussing Kate McKinnon’s Ghostbusters character Holtmann. SIGH.

So…there we have it. Everything’s changed, but everything’s still the same.

What do you think about LeFou? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

 

“Riverdale” react: Let’s talk about Jughead’s sexuality

How do we feel about Jughead and Betty as an item? (CW)

Riverdale Episode 6 | “Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” | Aired March 2, 2017

As I wrote before, love was in the air on the latest episode of Riverdale, Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” and maybe it’s just me, but one of my early criticisms of the show thus far is that it is trying wildly hard to impress as the new pulpy, soapy teen show on TV, so much so that it overshoots its mark on several occasions. The first two were involving Chuck and Ms. Grundy, the third being how ridiculously evil the parents of Riverdale are towards their kids (as explained by Black Girl Nerds’ Chelsea A. Hensley). The fourth mark against the show is how Jughead’s sexuality has been treated.

For those of us in the know (which includes a lot more kids and teens than I gave Archie Comics credit for despite being a fan of the comic when I myself was a preteen, which means its rebranding as a fresh new comic book franchise has paid off in dividends), Jughead has been officially canonized as asexual. We don’t have to speculate over his sexuality anymore (although, I have to admit that creating your own headcanon for Jughead was kinda fun–there was one point early in my Archie Comics fandom that I would swear that Jughead and Betty would hook up, then I felt like Jughead and Veronica could make a good opposites attract pairing that clearly wouldn’t last long but would have huge fireworks, then when Kevin came along, I would swear that Jughead and Kevin would be together through their shared love of burgers and competitive eating.)

In any event, Jughead being clearly defined as asexual (and maybe, in an unspoken fashion, also canonized as aromantic seeing how he hates the idea of relationships outside the realm of close friendship) put a lot of Jughead’s behavior and preferences into focus. It all made sense. Why wouldn’t Jughead be asexual? In fact, he’s always been asexual, even though the 1940s didn’t have a name for it yet. What’s even better about the current run of “Jughead” though–aside from the sharp wit and seriously laugh-out-loud moments, is that Jughead is portrayed as a confident, imaginative, semi self-absorbed teenager whose priorities include loafing, playing video games, eating, and hanging out with his best friend Archie. Everything and everyone else can kick rocks, especially Reggie, Jughead’s historic nemesis-now-turned-frenemy. In short, Jughead has become even more Jughead-like, and part of that is due to cementing his sexuality.

Now, though, that positive step towards representation and sexual diversity has been shortchanged by “Riverdale” making Jughead kiss Betty, thereby starting a romantic, sexually-implied relationship. Now, of course, there are various types of asexuality, which does include kissing, but as a character, Jughead has never shown an inkling towards liking kissing, let alone willingly engage in it. This TV characterization of Jughead goes too far—it has begun erasing the core of what made Jughead great.

I wrote a little bit about my feelings about Jughead and Betty’s moment as a Twitter moment:

Of course, as I say in my Twitter thread, I am not asexual so while what I have to say may be well-intentioned, it certainly isn’t the end-all-be-all of opinions. Enter Jordan Crucchiola, who wrote “An Asexual’s Defense of Jughead Kissing Betty on Riverdale” for Vulture. She writes that Jughead is allowed to be a character who is still discovering his own sexuality.

An important thing to consider is that Jughead’s preferences are being reduced to whether or not he is asexual, which takes away from the nuance of the asexual spectrum, which is wide and varied. Some of the better articles discussing Jughead’s orientation point out that he might not necessarily be aromantic, even if he is asexual. I, for example, identify as a pan-romantic gray asexual. That means I’m capable of having nonsexual crushes on anyone, regardless of gender or sex, and that my asexuality isn’t written in stone. There’s that “gray” area where I’m philosophically flexible. I am not motivated by sexual desire, and have never had any sexual partners, but I do experience deep love through my friendships and have experienced many instances of “crushing” on people I take a strong liking to.

I am also a very affectionate person, and many asexual individuals appreciate, enjoy, and seek out physical feedback from others, just like gay, straight, or bi individuals do. The ultimate end game just looks different than we’ve been taught to expect in health class, on TV, and in the movies. It’s about setting the correct boundaries with people in your life who are comfortable sharing such closeness without it leading to a sexual relationship. It takes some searching for the right people, but it can be done.

Again, I’m not asexual and I highly respect Jordan’s view on this subject. With that said, though, let me just say this: Jordan states at the end of her article that she hopes that the writers are going in the direction of eventually making Jughead understand and realize his sexual orientation, and I certainly hope so as well. But the one thing that irks me the most is that while Jughead might be given the “let him find his way” scenario, Kevin, who is also in a similar boat as far as sexual representation goes, is never portrayed in that way. Kevin, on the other hand, gets the straight-up (no pun intended) confident gay teen storyline, a storyline that would have been the “let him find his way” storyline just 10 years ago or less. The fact that Kevin being gay is played as passe while Jughead’s canonical sexuality seems, at least on the surface, is ignored, is a sticking point.

Some of this is addressed in a thread by Twitter user TheShrinkette, who states in her Twitter profile that she identifies as gray aromantic asexual.

Cole Sprouse, who portrays Jughead in the series, gave his his opinion on the controversy, showing his in-depth Jughead knowledge in the process. First, according to Bleeding Cool:

I think, first and foremost, this conversation deserves more time than something that we can quickly do here. There are two forms of representation Jughead has received over time. In [Chip] Zdarsky’s Jughead, he’s asexual. That’s the only Jughead where he is asexual. He’s aromantic in the digests, which is a different thing but deserves attention as well.

But what I found when I was really diving in — because once we started putting Jughead and Betty together, I started doing research to see if that was a narrative that even existed in the digests, and it turns out it is. It’s a narrative that’s existed for a long time. There are a handful of digests in which Jughead would say things like, ‘Oh, Betty, if I did like women, I guarantee you would be the one I would marry outright. You are the best person around.’ He would say these things that are really romantic and cute with an appreciation for Betty and I think it’s become clear to me now that Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] has taken off with that trend.

While I think that representation is needed, this Jughead is not that Jughead. This Jughead is not Zdarsky’s Jughead and this Jughead is not the aromantic Jughead,” he said. “This Jughead is a person who is looking for a kind of deeper companionship with a person like Betty and Betty ends up being this super nurturing, caring, care-taking person that with Jughead’s screwed-up past they end up diving into each other and it ends up being a beautiful thing.

How are people going to respond? Truthfully, they’re probably going to be quite incendiary about it at first. Do I think that’s ill-placed? No. Do I think they should give it a shot? Yeah, I do, because I think now — after filming thirteen episodes — it makes sense to me and, if it makes sense to me as the person who’s dumping so much time and especially so much argumentation into trying to represent Jughead correctly, if it makes sense to me, it will make sense to other people as well.

Also, here’s what he said to Glamour before the show in February:

So, the day I was cast was actually the same day he was announced as canonically asexual. It wasn’t in the digest—it was in Zadarsky’s universe, so it was in one of the newer comics that was written. But Jughead’s always been a romantic in a way that he, in the earlier comics, stayed away from girls and put his attention toward his food fetishism. So he’s always kind of had this narrative, but when I started doing my research into Jughead’s sexuality specifically there’s always been little areas where he got close enough to potentially suggest that he might like either Betty or Ethel, or even some comics where he gets kissed by Veronica. I don’t think it was really cemented in the digest too much what stance Jughead took.

I think, in this show, he’s not a romantic and not asexual. I argued in the beginning, creatively, that he should be both, but in this show, he’s kind of a tortured youth that ends up finding a comfort and a resonance with another person who’s going through a lot of trauma. They end up forming this kind of beautiful, honest union, and I think that, to me, is a narrative that works with this universe of Jughead. But I think that kind of asexual and a-romantic representation is really important. If it ends up finding a place in Riverdale and in future seasons, then hopefully we’ll do it with tact and in a way that respects what it is and how it resonates.

It should also be noted that Sprouse did fight for Jughead to be asexual and, as far as I believe—and from what his quotes suggest—is still fighting for Jughead to be asexual.

With all of this said, what do you think? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

What’s in the cards for Riverdale’s Reggie, Josie and The Pussycats?

(From left) Ross Butler, Ashleigh Murray as Josie. (Ross Butler Twitter, CW)

If there are a couple of characters I’m super intrigued about (aside from my fav Jughead), it’s Reggie, Josie and her band The Pussycats. I feel there’s a lot of potential with these characters; the only question is if that potential will be mined to its fullest extent.

You might be asking, in the words of 1970s-era Violet Beauregarde, “What’s so fab about it?” What’s so great about Reggie and the Pussycats? A lot of stuff is great about them! Let’s look at the characters separately.

Reggie

Reggie and the crew (including Chuck Clayton) are chillaxing while being douches. Except for Veronica. (Screencap/Ross Butler Twitter)

Reggie, played by Ross Butler, is one of the game-changing characters on the show, or, potentially game-changing characters on the show if Reggie ever gets fleshed out.

What makes him so game-changing is that he’s been cast as an actor with Asian heritage. In one of the few times in television, there’s been an active instance of going against the Asian male stereotype.

Butler talked a lot about his groundbreaking role in Riverdale and several other roles on his resume that have defied stereotypes in an interview with Refinery 29. Some key points of the interview:

There’s a lack of Asian representation on TV, which is slowly changing. As an Asian-American actor, have you faced any particular challenges?

“This is something that has been a core [part] of me as an actor, ever since I [became one]. We’re a very underrepresented population in Hollywood, but we are the majority population of the world. It’s a weird dichotomy that we have here. It’s starting to get better and we are starting to see more Asians in roles, but we’re not seeing a lot of Asians playing roles [that are] not specifically written for Asians. So when I first started out, I was being sent on auditions for “the geek,” “the techie.” Let’s be honest guys, I don’t look like a techie [laughs].

“I told my agents, ‘Don’t send me out for [roles written for Asian actors].’ For a while, I didn’t get any auditions, or I’d get very few… But then I started to pick up momentum and started booking roles that weren’t [necessarily written for] Asian actors. For K.C. Undercover, my role wasn’t written for an Asian actor, and I was the only Asian in the audition room. That’s a trend I see today, when I go out for non-Asian roles: I’ll be one of the only Asian people in the room, if not the only one.”

Now you play a football player!
“When I was a kid, there wasn’t an Asian-American Ryan Gosling, or an Asian-American Robert Downey Jr. that you would look up to… Now, [on Riverdale] I play kind of a jerky football player, and on Thirteen Reasons Why I play a nice basketball player who does a bad thing, and on Teen Wolf I played a lacrosse player. Asians can be athletic, we don’t have to fit into this image that [the media] has for [us]. Booking these roles that aren’t necessarily [for Asian actors] is something I’m proud of and, hopefully, will keep doing.”

Can you tease a little bit about your character in Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why?
“I play Zach Dempsey, who is a basketball player, one of the jocks… He’s a guy’s guy, he fits in with all the guys, he’s one of the bros. What I’ll say about him is that he isn’t what you expect him to be. He is a jock, but he has a depth to him that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a jock that hangs out in the popular group. He isn’t as smart as the other kids, but he has a sensitive side to him. How that ties in… you guys will have to see.”

In short, Reggie is very much needed on TV. However, when will Reggie be fleshed out from just being what he is now, which is a cardboard cutout of a jock? Coming back to this later.

Josie and The Pussycats

Ashleigh Murray as Josie in the pilot episode of “Riverdale.” (Katie Yu/The CW)

Again, Josie and the Pussycats represent a conscious effort to diversify the world of Riverdale. In the show, Josie and the Pussycats are a group made up of three black girls instead of the original version, which only features Valerie as the only person of color in the group.

The decision to make Josie and the Pussycats all black wasn’t just to give the cast more diversity for diversity’s sake; racial privilege (or lack thereof) is addressed in the third episode of Riverdale, when Josie schools Archie on how her and her Pussycats have to “claw their way” to the top of the charts while Archie could waltz into any recording studio and get catered to (being forced to work twice as hard and “claw” their own path to the top is why they’ve called themselves “Pussycats,” after all).

Actress Ashleigh Murray has complete faith in the show’s creative team when it comes to Josie’s storyline as she told ComicBook.com:

“I’m a huge admirer of them,” Murray said of the current creative team on the comics. “I read their interviews about the launch of the comic and it really put me at ease. Everything that they believe and see Josie to be is exactly what I’ve been saying about her myself. It gives me peace of mind that how I view her and how I believe her to be and the role model that I think she is and can continue to be for a lot of young people is represented right on the money.”

And she sees a lot of herself in Josie, as she told Yahoo.com:

I have a lot of similarities to Josie, which is why I enjoy playing her. She’s who I wish I was in high school. I was perseverant and headstrong, but I didn’t think I was quite as brave as Josie is. I have this image of her in my mind, and it’s adjectives about who she is rather than who she sounds like. It’s about who she wants to be and how she wants people to see her.

Also, even though she told Yahoo.com that a “duet” is in the future for Archie and Josie, she’s not keen on Josie becoming romantically interested in Archie. Instead, she’s got another person in mind.

[On if she’d want the writers to hook Josie and Archie up] Oh my god, no! [Laughs] I would be so shocked. People ask me if it’s going to be Archie and Josie together, and I go, “Ewww.” But just watch, by the fifth episode of Season 2, Archie’s going to be flirting with Josie, she’s going to be about it, and I’m going to be like, “What the hell is going on?”

Could she be talking about Reggie? Murray’s tweet seems to suggest that she’d like for her character and Butler’s character to hook up.

If so, that would be killer. It’d be yet another great moment for diversity; we rarely see black women/Asian men pairings on television, and if Josie and Reggie get together, then it’ll be something fantastic to see.

 

Worries

Now for my worries. All of which can be condensed to one sentence:

Will Reggie and Josie and her girls be fleshed out???

Look, I know we’re just in the beginning stages of this season, but I’d like to know if these characters are going to become actual characters instead of background. For instance, will Josie and the Pussycats become less of a Greek Chorus-type situation and become more integrated characters? In the Yahoo interview above, Murray revealed that Josie won’t be involved in the mystery surrounding Jason, but she’s still got to be involved in some of the other storylines, right? And by “involved,” I mean in a much more well-rounded way than just in relation to her music. And as I said in my Chuck Clayton article, there are more black girls in Riverdale, right?

Also, I’m well aware that Butler s currently filming another show, Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why, so he probably didn’t have a lot of time to be on set, much less become fully integrated as a character until filming Thirteen Reasons Why is over. However, if he was promised to have a bigger role towards the end of Season 1 and/or Season 2 (if we get a second season, that is), then will he finally become part of the mystery? I’m just anxious to see more of Reggie since Reggie actually is part of the main cast.

What do you think about Reggie and Josie and the Pussycats? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

5 things Sherlock forgot about itself (and suffered for it)

How much do we miss Anthea?? I know I do. (BBC Sherlock Fan Forum)

As I was relaxing this past weekend, I was re-reading one of my favorite Sherlock fanfiction stories, and, since this particular story was written in between Seasons 1 and 2, I was reminded of all the cool stuff that made Sherlock such a great show to begin with. That made me sad.

The Daily Mail review of the last episode of Season 4 (and maybe the last episode period) of Sherlock encapsulated everything I felt about the episode and, frankly, the entirety of Season 3:

“To call the show self-satisfied barely begins to convey how delighted it is with its own puerile posturing, its superficial cleverness, its tedious campery. Never have two writers been more intoxicated on the fumes of their own shallow talent than Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss.

The plot was incompetent. The dialogue was dreadful. The scenes were disjointed, the premise absurd, the ending made me want to reach for a plastic bucket and, most heinous of all, a classic creation was ruined.

Gatiss and Moffat may have just done what Moriarty never could, and finished off the marvellous character of Sherlock Holmes.”

Now, keep in mind that none of my feelings about this actually stem solely from the active and passive queerbaiting that makes up this show. That’s an even bigger issue (I’ve discussed it more in these articles). I’ll also say that unlike The Daily Mail‘s Christopher Stevens, I don’t think Moffatt and Gatiss are shallowly talented. I think their immensely talented when they aren’t, as Stevens said, “intoxicated on the fumes” of said talent. I think the first ever Sherlock episode showed us just how talented they are when they have a concrete direction for the character and the world he lives in.

Again, to quote Stevens, when Sherlock first premiered, it was “furiously watchable.” I can tell you myself that I was obsessed with Sherlock and was the hugest fans of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (not like I hate them now–I’m stI think where things got both lazy and self-indulgent is because they might have stopped seeing Sherlock as a loving homage to an enduring, popular character and more as their own playground to create their own detective show. Sherlock might be a creative spin on a legendary character, but it’s certainly not a show that can take its characters forgetting the core of who they are. Otherwise, why call it Sherlock?

There are five key things that the show forgot as it forged a path from “loving tribute” to “WTF!” and these five things are what defined what made the show great, fun, and new. If only

Sherlock‘s hyperfocus on 21st century technology: I read somewhere on Tumblr that Sherlock‘s claim to fame was its insistence on making technology a character. Indeed, that is what made Sherlock so cool. Sherlock Holmes was no longer a character relegated to the musty tombs of someone’s bookshelf. He was a hip, slinky dude in a cool overcoat with a ton of gigabytes on his cell phone.

Sherlock could solve entire cases, keep track of his homeless network of informants, and fabricate new identities on his phone, and we could see everything he typed on screen. And he wasn’t the only person on his phone; everyone was on their phones. And it was glorious, in a very 2012 “We’re in the future!” kind of way. Speaking of being hooked on technology:

Anthea:love Anthea! I can’t believe she didn’t make it through to other seasons. I’m sure some might say, “What was the point of her? She was an irrelevant character!” Was she though?

Anthea was like the more relatable side to Mycroft, even though they were both mysterious. Even though you didn’t know what Anthea did outside of being Mycroft’s assistant, she was definitely an enigma you loved seeing on screen. Did it matter that we didn’t know what she did at the end of the day? The fun of the character was piecing together her life from the bits of info we did get and our own fandom imaginations. Anthea could be anything wanted her to be, from a spy (perhaps a more believable one than Mary) to Mycroft’s love interest (???) to just Mycroft’s assistant/secretary Mycroft hired because of his own adherence to the Mad Men days of British Intelligence. Whoever she was and whatever she was, she had a very important role in the show: to give John, as our straightman in this show of wayward characters, someone semi-normal to bounce off of. John’s first girlfriend served that purpose as well, and dare I say, I’d argue she was a more fully realized character than Mary because she wasn’t forced into an “I’m a weird person” archetype. She just was a nurse who lived life like a regular person. I did like her a lot and wished she could find someone who wasn’t tied down to a (wrongly) self-described sociopath.

The trio of Lestrade, Sally Donovan, and Philip Anderson: Lestrade is the only person to like out of this trio, but the trio itself had a purpose. Lestrade was an unwilling disciple of Sherlock’s almost always vouching for his methods and allowing him to do what he needed to do mostly unencumbered. But Donovan and Anderson made up the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of the police outfit. They both derided Sherlock and showcased their own ineptitude, making us more on Sherlock’s side when he decided to read them for filth about their infidelity and lack of smarts. In short, if the show wanted to be a dramedy, these two certainly helped the show fill that mold without the show twisting itself into a pretzel to be such. Were Donovan and Anderson characters you hated? Absolutely. But they were also characters you probably loved hating, in spite of yourself. They only made Sherlock seem that much more glorious of a character.

No mind palaces: I think this is pretty self-explanatory. The mind-palaces looked terrible and was the beginning of the self-indulgence.

John and Sherlock are at the center of the show and Sherlock’s uniqueness is celebrated, not erased: I think this is pretty self-explanatory too. Even when John had girlfriends, John and Sherlock stayed at the center of the show. It was all about Sherlock and John solving cases and growing their friendship. But the later season became more about…making Sherlock not who he was in the first season? That’s the best way I can describe it. I think the thing that resonates for me is that it seems like they were trying to make Sherlock into a type of person Sherlock clearly isn’t. Like is he supposed to be a drug addict? I’d say no one’s supposed to be a drug addict. But the question the show never really got into is why is he self-medicating? If the answer is “his brain is running too fast,” then why is his brain running so fast? And, should his fast-running brain be seen as a bad thing?

In other words, if Sherlock is not “neurotypical,” then why is Sherlock being himself a bad thing? Why should his character completely change?

Now, learning about friendship and such is one thing—I’m not saying Sherlock has to remain afraid of getting close to people. But couldn’t he have learned about true friendship without completely turning into Benedict Cumberbatch doing a Sherlock impression in later seasons? Like, just because Sherlock doesn’t like having tons of friends or even likes socializing doesn’t mean he’s a broken thing that needs fixing. John himself didn’t try to fix Sherlock; all he did was befriend him where he was. To Lestrade’s credit, Lestrade also didn’t try fixing Sherlock, even though he knew Sherlock could be an even greater man than he already was with the proper nudging. But in any event, becoming “great” doesn’t mean learning how to act neurotypical, which is what the seasons seemed like they were suggesting.

Instead, what could have been great is if the show explored the beauty John found in Sherlock’s way of thinking, something that was actively explored throughout the first season. If there was anything close to a romantic love, it was John seeing the world through the eyes of Sherlock, and he realized he liked the excitement that Sherlock’s way of doing things presented to him. If all of the seasons had been exclusively about John, a neurotypical person, accepting and reveling in Sherlock’s wonderful mind, then I think this show would be well on its way to a fifth season. Instead, the show got high off its own success instead of sticking to character. And lo, the writers forgot what made Sherlock special; his uniqueness and his special bond with John, whether that’s just deep friendship, romantic, or whatever else.

BONUS— Sherlock’s purple shirt (or as the fandom lovingly described it, “The Purple Shirt of Sex”): Come on, y’all. That purple shirt was THE BUSINESS. Must I remind you:

COME ON! I’m telling you I used to be a Cumberbatch fangirl! The purple shirt deserves its own Twitter account and the stylist for that season should be given an award for their color wheel skills. Purple is definitely a color Cumberbatch should wear more often, but only if he’s dyed his hair brunette/black. Maybe I’m more of a Sherlock fangirl than a Cumberbatch one…I don’t know.

In any case, what do you miss about early Sherlock? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses Blerd Chat with Monique and Ramp Your Voice’s Vilissa Thompson

BBC

A couple of weeks ago, PBS aired The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, and while there were great moments in the miniseries, there were some not so great moments, chief of which being Benedict Cumberbatch’s Richard III.

I recently held a Google Hangout chat with Ramp Your Voice! founder Vilissa Thompson about the miniseries. As you’ll read below, we discuss the problematic portrayal of Richard, including how his outward appearance (due to a kpyhosis) became linked to villainy, and how King Henry’s (Tom Sturridge) exhibition of Highly Sensitive traits go unrecognized or looked down upon by other characters. We also talk about how Sophie Okonedo stole the show.

Vilissa Thompson (VT):  Richard III is truly something else. I finished the rewatch of Part 3 today, and I wrote down some of the ableist things he said about himself, & what others said/referred to him as.

Monique Jones (MJ): Where do you want to start? I suppose we could start with his big speech at the end of Part 2. His first monologue was the beginning of the end for me.

VT: It was. To hear him call himself cursed, and describe the occurrences of his birth was troubling for me.

MJ: I found it fascinating in a macabre way how the same ableist sentiments he said about himself—about how no one loved him because of his appearance is why he’s evil, for instance—are the same tropes repeated today. I don’t know why I thought things would have been different back in the day, but I was shocked at how 21st century Richard’s speech still sounded, esp. when you compare it to movies like Split and Don’t Breathe.

VT: The ableism didn’t surprise me, but the fact that he became the evil he was seen as was like a self-fulfilling prophesy. And his fascination to acquire the crown was his means of obtaining “heaven,” which meant that people had to respect him, and he goes beyond the disdain reputation he has and internalized. The ableism of viewing oneself and disabled body as curses/inconveniences are real. That kind of internalization is so common in our community, and even harder to unlearn. It makes you wonder how many times Richard heard about the circumstances of his birth, and how that transformed him into the “monster” he was, in both body and brutality of violence.

MJ: Yeah. I did feel sympathy for him because his internal dialogue seemed like something that was internalized from what he’s heard from everyone else. He was actually a sad, broken soul who just decided to become what he felt everyone else viewed him as. His ambition is understandable—he wants the respect he’s never gotten from people, including his family–but I just wish there was 1) a character who actually wanted to get to know him 2) if Shakespeare had delved more into Richard’s character with more sympathy. What I hated was that there was no serious investigation into Richard as a person. He was just a plot device.

VT:  I agree with you. I think the myths/superstitions surrounding the disabled prevented that closeness to occur. I think having a genuine and meaningful human relationship, even if platonic, would’ve changed things tremendously for him. He was. He was the misshapen being who was blood and power thirsty. There was no depth to his character besides what he desired.

MJ: I don’t know how you feel about Tyler Perry, but to me, Shakespeare is the Tyler Perry of the 1600s. He’s almost always comically broad with his characterizations. Benedict Cumberbatch’s broad acting didn’t help matters.

VT: I can see that comparison. The depiction does nothing to expand understanding of how complicated people are, or dispel stereotypes about people who are underrepresented on the stage (or big or small screen, in Perry’s art).
And the cripping up of the role by allowing Benedict to play Richard definitely doesn’t help at all.

MJ: Yeah. That reminds me: I really didn’t like how in an early part in Part 3 portrayed Richard as body horror. Like, how the camera was revolving around his naked torso in near darkness. Didn’t like that at all.

VT: That was a gross display of his body. That scene was solely to shock at his form; to pair with how you feel about his schemes for power. That scene was hard to look at – it made the disabled body look grotesque, when it’s not.
There is nothing sensational or horrifying about the disabled body.

MJ: Right. I was really turned off by the whole thing; I wish the director hadn’t gone that route. But the whole thing made me feel more sympathy for Richard; that’s the gaze the world has probably had on him his whole life.

VT: It does make you sympathize with him. I did feel for him; you can tell he hated himself and how that kind of hate manifested to hating people who had what he wanted – power, respect, love, a family – things that seemed unattainable to him.

MJ: Yep. What was the nail in the coffin for me was when everyone started calling him “The Dog.” It was much more about his appearance than his actual evil deeds as to why they were calling him that, and at that point, I was just like, “OKAY, SHOW, I GET IT.”

VT: They also called him a bunchbacked toad, a beast – all of these names stripped him of his mere humanness. The dehumanization of Richard with the name-calling was more disturbing than his actual plots.
All of the names we didn’t need to see how they saw him as a “thing” and not as a person.

MJ: Yep. What’s so aggravating is that everyone in the entire story are awful people (save for the kids), but he’s the only one put on a sub-human level. If he didn’t have his condition, he’d be accepted just like everyone else, despite the fact that he’s a killer. Case in point is how Margaret becomes allies with the new queen and the Queen Mother, even though Margaret killed the Queen Mother’s son and husband. But the past gripes go out the window just to get rid of “The Dog.”

VT: I agree. Focusing on Richard’s disability allowed them to separate their evil actions & doings from his – he’s evil because his body is deformed, & I’m better than him… though I’m not. The hypocrisy of all the characters was stark.
Honestly, that mentality about thinking you’re better than a disabled person, regardless of whether they’re a good person or not, is real. The “I may be this, but at least I’m not crippled/disfigured” thinking is common.
I think that Shakespeare perfectly illustrated ableism before the term existed.

MJ: Yep. I know we talked a little bit about Cumberbatch’s acting, but what did you think of his performance overall? I was a little let down, honestly. He’s much better in “Sherlock.”

VT: I wasn’t impressed at all. I think he was as evil in the role as he needed to be, but the cripping up factor made it more offensive and underwhelming for me. The fact that there is no true substance for Richard, & all you feel is pity/sympathy for him instead, makes the character very bad for disability representation. I’m not against disabled characters being evil or vicious, but I am against characters not having depth and relying solely on stereotypes/misconceptions about what having a disability is.

MJ: Yeah. The whole “putting on a disability as a costume” was bad, and Cumberbatch’s acting as a whole was Snidely Whiplash. I had expected him to at least add another layer of depth to the character, which is what a lot of actors do when they get 1D characters. But no, not him. He was just evil. The glimmers of another aspect to Richard weren’t explored nearly enough. And again, the “Creature Feature” aspect of the direction was gross.

VT: It was profoundly gross. To see that driven home by almost every character was hard to watch. Shakespeare’s embodied exactly why non-disabled writers/playwrights shouldn’t write disabled actors – their inability to add depth, humanness, and realism are deep. These depictions end up doing more harm to better seeing disabled people as equal and not curses or sub-human.

MJ: Indeed. The fact that this is supposed to be one of Shakespeare’s “greatest plays” makes me even more suspect of Shakespeare’s supposed mastery of the art of writing than I was before. I already side-eyed Shakespeare just because we are always taught literature from a Eurocentric point of view, but now I’m even more secure in my belief that Shakespeare isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. I do like Othello and Hamlet, but that’s about it.

VT: I feel the same. I think if we were to analyze his plays, we’d see a lot of problematic depictions, themes, and lack of masterful writing. Those are the two plays I like as well.

MJ: Is there anything we haven’t covered? I guess I do want to touch on King Henry a little bit; Henry’s arc was a lot more subtle than Richard’s, but it seemed like Henry was Richard’s foil in many ways–in temperament, but also in disability or perceived disability. Henry’s delicate mental state was often showcased as a detriment to his ability to rule, which could be some kind of commentary on mental disability or just a difference in thinking. Like, I read Henry as being Highly Sensitive (like me), which some people might perceive as a type of disability. I don’t think so, but a study is trying to place it on the autism spectrum [a 2011 theory on introversion also links it to the autism spectrum]. In any case, a big deal was made about the fact that he took things to heart more deeply than other people.

VT: Henry’s mental state and the criticism of how sensitive he was stood out to me too. I think his sensitivity made him more human than the rest of the characters – he held up a moral mirror of sorts to the evils they wanted to enact and justify. I think depicting him as weak because of his sensitive nature allowed for ableism to exist regarding his capabilities to lead. I think his attachment to religion compounded the ableism with his sensitive nature. Henry wasn’t perfect, but he did have a heart, moreso than the others.

MJ: Right. And also, women like Joan of Arc, who are in the same mental ballpark as Henry (Joan’s a little extreme, though) were seen as villains because of ableism and just because they were women.

VT: Exactly. Joan represented resistance to male power, & her religiosity was used against her to declare her mental state unstable. Sexism in Shakespeare’s plays are prevalent, and the status of women and those who are considered too strong or weak are well seen.

MJ: Yep. In a way, France comes out looking good because they actually allowed themselves to be led by Joan. But I wonder if that’s also some sly propagandized statement about what England thought about France—as weak-willed, frilly people.

VT: I think that’s an accurate guess. France, like women, got in their way of things, & needed to know their place.

MJ: To go back to Henry a bit, it’s unfortunate that Henry’s mindset is viewed as a detriment, esp. since that Henry’s way of thinking is still ridiculed today—Highly Sensitive People (HSP) are often told by Western societies specifically that they’re too weak, when our way of being is actually hardwired into us–our nervous systems that take in information a completely different way than non-HSPs. To write HSPs off in that way is completely erasing an entire population of people just because they feel things more intently. And often, folks who are sensitive make great leaders, so Henry had all the tools to be a terrific king.

VT: As someone who is sensitive, I think I had more sympathy for Henry than I did for Richard. I know for me, I try to hide how sensitive I can be to matters because of the fear of being misperceived incorrectly. To have the ability to see beyond yourself and to empathize with the world you live in is a powerful ability. My sensitivity makes me more conscious of suffering, pain, and how to support people who need it. I think Henry’s sensitivity was a gift that he wasn’t given the safe space to nurture in his role as King, and was chastised severely.

MJ: Yep. In many ways, he was a man ahead of his time. He existed in the wrong time period, to me. I mean, 2017 isn’t that equal for sensitive folks, either, but at least there’s more knowledge about sensitivity out there and more of a community and scientific study.

VT: I agree. Our society still isn’t safe to care for sensitive people, but is way better than the times Henry lived in, for sure. I think the hesitation to value sensitivity rests on the idea that if we’re in touch with our feelings, that relinquishes power and makes us vulnerable. I find that a lot of people who are anti-sensitivity are the main ones not comfortable with expressing themselves and allowing vulnerability to be seen by others.

MJ: Yeah. And in turn, that can make sensitive people internalize anti-vulnerability attitudes since (at least with some of my experiences) you feel like you’re going to get shunned anyway. I guess it goes back to Richard, too–if the world sees you in a certain way, then you’re going to start believing it’s true until someone else tells you otherwise or you yourself start realizing the world is full of BS.

VT: Preach it. I know that the fear of being shunned if I display my sensitivity is something I’m working on (esp when it comes opposite sex interactions). The internalization, whether due to disability, sensitivity, or both, can be detrimental to us in so many ways. Richard represented what that looked like regarding disability, & Henry represented what external forces look like for sensitive individuals.

MJ: Yeah, definitely. I can identify with Henry’s wish to just be left alone and study the Bible; I’ve actually thought “Maybe I should just become a nun” several times. At least my solitude would be seen as a noble thing and not a weird/hermit thing.The world gets too overwhelming sometimes, especially if you’re a sensitive person. But the world doesn’t respect the sensitive person’s boundaries or the fact that they’re just as capable of the loud extrovert.
Not that all extroverts are loud, but you get what I’m saying—it’s those qualities that are lauded more than contemplation.

VT: I agree. I go back and forth with being introverted and extroverted, but I do crave my alone time, especially when I’m feeling down. I need the space to vent feelings/emotions, but working it out in my head alone is how I cope with things. For me, because I’m a social person, it’s sometimes hard to tell people to back off & let me be. Being an only child, I’m used to being alone and it doesn’t bother me. There are times when I need a lot of noise & people, but when I need quiet & solitude, I have to have it or I can’t function.

MJ: I’ve always been introverted, some of it by my environment, but most of it is my personality. I’d rather be alone, writing or drawing, only choosing to be around people when I feel like it. People really drain me a lot. Henry looked pretty weary through most of the show, and I understand why—dealing with the demands of society is tough.

VT: It is. I could relate to that draining feeling he displayed. Though I love people, the older I’ve gotten, the more I can see myself drained. For someone who is a social worker, that’s part of the reason I’m not a traditional one – having to deal with people with such intensity would be too much emotionally (this is why I could never work with kids or the elderly, their needs are so great and I’d fear not saving them all). With Henry, he didn’t have the support he needed to be King effectively to his liking, or to his country. That added extra strain to an already stressful predicament.

MJ: And the one person who was there to help him, who seemed to realize he needed an extra arm, so to speak, to deal with the world was his uncle, who those scheming factions had killed. That left Henry even more defenseless.

VT: Exactly. Who knew that the Hollow Crown would have so many problematic layers?

MJ: Yep. It was even more problematic than I realized at first!

VT: I know!

MJ: I think we’ve about covered everything. Is there anything you think we left out of the conversation?

VT: I think we covered it all.

MJ: The reason it caught my interest was for the actress playing Queen Margaret, a Black woman in that role intrigued me greatly. She played her role well.

VT: I know it may sound scandalous, but I’m sure Somerset was the father of her son.

MJ: I totally think Somerset is the father, too!

VT: I don’t see her willingly engaging with Henry to give him a heir

MJ: Yeah, me neither!

VT: I wished something about the paternity of the son would’ve came up… Henry couldn’t have been that naive.

MJ: Right. There should have been a non-canonical thing thrown in there just to let us know that Henry knew. He had to have known.

VT: I think we got that inkling when Somerset was beheaded that he knew she wouldn’t have grieved for him as she did for Somerset… but that could’ve been easily missed if you weren’t paying attention. But I think not allowing that knowledge to be made public goes back to Henry being perceived as weak and not catching on to things. But Henry had to know, as we both indicated.

MJ: Yeah. I wish that line or Margaret’s reaction to that line were amplified in some way. Something just wasn’t explored like it needed to be. But I do have to say that Sophie Okonedo was the GOAT in that role. She really put her foot in it.

VT: She really did. You loved her, you hated her… perfect portrayal. But I agree—that scene should’ve been explored further, that could’ve given us that hint.

MJ: It seemed like she was the only one who got the right tone for Shakespearean play. She was broad/campy enough without going overboard, and she was just serious enough to make Margaret believable.

VT: And near the end, the haunting of Margaret as the prophetess was perfect.

MJ: Yeah, that was so good. Such a good role. I’d say Hugh Bonneville was great too. He’s always kinda Shakespearean in his acting. He really knows how to chew scenery.

VT: I agree. If it wasn’t for Queen Margaret/Sophie O playing that role, I don’t think the series would’ve held my attention as well as it did.

MJ: Yep. That was the only reason I kept tuning in, to see what she was going to do.

VT: Lol… me too girl. Glad it wasn’t just me!

MJ: Nope, definitely not! I could have just tuned out after the first episode once Hugh Bonneville died. But I remembered Sophie was going to be in all three parts, so I stuck with it.

VT: Thank god for Margaret, the real MVP of the Hollow Crown

MJ: When she killed Plantagenet, she was so amazingly cruel. Loved it.

VT: The villainess we needed. So unapologetic about it, too

MJ: The villainess who would have had all of England on lock if she had a chance to rule.

VT: Oh yes, Queen Margaret would’ve been legendary. Imagine her rule… goodness.

MJ: There needs to be a show like this! Someone needs to make a Queen Margaret show. I’d watch that every day.

VT: YAS!!!

MJ: I’ll have to put a pin in that–another idea I need to utilize my screenwriting abilities for.

VT: DO IT!!!! I need this in my life.

MJ: Maybe that’ll be my claim to fame! I’m totally getting some ideas now. WGA, here I come!

VT: Girl, go get that fame, & write!

MJ: YES! Well, with that, I think we’ve covered every inch of The Hollow Crown. Thanks so much for agreeing to do this! It was a lot of fun!

VT: It was! I had a true blast!