Shows

This is Us Finale Reaction. Reflections on what if Kevin was Child-free?

The conclusion of This is Us was on this Tuesday. I have been watching this show since the beginning with my mom. When the show first came out, I was

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Books

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Review

One of the first things I wanted to do when I got home from college was read something again. I looked at the popular Instagram books; and, because I enjoyed

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Books

Under One Roof Book Review is full of Terrible communication, Decent Banter, Awkward Endings, and Bachelor References

Pros

  • Good banter
  • Sweet relationship between Helena
  • Friendship between Mara and her friends was
  • Good concept- EPA environmental scientist and Corporate Oil Lawyer
  • Hooked me in
  • References to The Bachelor

Cons

  • Weird prologue returns to the ending
  • Overly clueless MC
  • Plot by communication issues
  • Seriously…their inability to communicate make me want to jump off into the abyss
  • Confusing Demisexuality representation (although the idea of rep is good)

I absolutely loved The Love Hypothesis, so I was pretty excited to read Ali Hazelwood’s new novella, Under One Roof. The book was only $2.99 on the Kindle store, so I figured why not give it a try while I wait for her next book to come out. It wasn’t a bad choice.

This book was a fun read. The dialogue was entertaining and the idea worked fairly well. I think it would have been better if Hazelwood either turned this into an entire book or if she included Liam’s POV as well. The book all takes place from Mara’s perspective, which is fine, but since this was an enemies-to-lover story, I wanted to know what Liam was thinking about Mara and the house situation. I learned about his character primarily through his facial expressions and his stoic demeanor, which isn’t the best way to understand someone.

I liked his character (maybe because I like law and lawyers and his love of video games), and I liked seeing a more reserved/quiet character in a book, but by the end, I still felt like I didn’t know him that well.

The other relationships were pretty well done. Mara’s friends Sadie and Hannah were sweet, and I liked the scenes of three amazing scientist friends talking about their relationships, work, and life stuff. They like to watch Parks and Rec and make brownies together and…Same Sadie. Same.

I enjoyed Mara’s relationship with Helena and the memories that she shares about Helena’s life. Helena felt like a real person, and I could imagine her bold personality as I read. Even though she was dead, she was much more than a plot point. You can tell Helena was a good mother-figure/mentor to her. It feels heartfelt and not too sappy. I enjoyed reading the letter that Mara wrote to her; it felt funny and real.

Mara’s relationship with her mentor, Helena, and her response to Helena’s death is one of the most interesting parts of the book. Helena was a strong-willed and unpredictable woman, and I kind of aspire to be her someday. She cheats at chess, loves Mara like a daughter, sets up her nephew with her by giving her the house, and hates cheesiness and sentimentality I feel like Helena is dropped once Mara and Liam get together, and it is a damn shame. It would have been interesting exploring their grief. Mara’s letter to Helena was one of my favorite parts of the book. I’m going to share some of my favorite parts.

Mara is someone who doesn’t quite believe in an afterlife, or is at the very least unsure about it. She says:

“Truth be told, I stopped pondering eschatological matters in high school after they got me anxious and made me break out in hives”

I feel that, can’t say I don’t ponder these things, but thinking about life after death is anxiety-inducing. There is unpredictability no matter what you believe. I never got hives, though. She also says:

“You probably just sit on a cloud all day being omniscient. Eating Triscuits. Occasionally playing the harp. You lazy bum.”

I don’t get the pervading myth that people play the harp in heaven all the time. Maybe Hazelwood took this idea from Huckleberry Finn. In the beginning of the book, Huck says that going to heaven sounds boring, because people just go around and play the harp all day. I can’t picture omniscient God would make heaven boring–at least Mara’s version sounds kind of fun. I love a good Triscuit and a lazy day. I’m not sure I’d want to know everything though. That sounds overwhelming.

I liked how Helena’s house is her safe harbor, it is a place where she feels comfortable. We never get the ending to that letter she writes.

Mara’s Relationship with Her Parents

I actually liked Mara’s character development. We learn that her parents were people that didn’t want to be parents. We get little details like that her parents saw her as too energetic, and they enrolled her in sports to keep her busy and out of their hair. This is why her relationship with Helena is so important; she acted as a mentor and cared about Mara like a daughter. Apparently Mara only talks to her parents once or twice a year, and she is the one who calls.

Helena also isn’t as close to her family either. I feel like these scenes could be expanded upon more though. I feel like I liked the idea of Mara’s character development, but it didn’t show up as much as I hoped. We never really learn more about Liam’s relationship with his family either, except that he isn’t too close with them.

Other than that, I do have some complaints. This book felt very fanficy, and while that isn’t entirely a bad thing–it feels like it was thrown together or written chapter-by-chapter. The Prologue and last scene mesh together awkwardly.

He likes you, Mara–why don’t you see this?

It bugged me how Mara is completely clueless and has no idea that Liam could possibly be attracted to her. I think Ali Hazelwood likes writing main characters who are oblivious about matters of human attraction and interaction, because Olive was the same way.

But he obviously likes her! The man looks at her awkwardly and then looks away, looks distant when she says she’s moving out, cuddles with her when she’s cold, and feels left out when she’s with another guy. She assumes that he likes his friend Emma and wants to be with her, even after he plainly tells her that he and Emma are just friends and neither is interested in each other. He thinks she’s brilliant and enjoys spending time with her. And there is SO MUCH TENSION between them in these scenes. The man is flustered around her ALL THE TIME. She has feelings for him. How could Mara not consider, even for a minute, that Liam might like her too?

I understand a bit though. I can be oblivious about how people feel, especially if they’re quiet like Liam, but if I had a feelings for someone (like Mara did for Liam during at least half of the book), I would overanalyze every single interaction to find out whether or not he returned my affections. Mara never does this, she just assumes. But Mara is convinced that Liam is dating someone else and just wants to be friends with her.

I’d like to see a confident MC for once. Why wouldn’t he like her? Because he has muscles? She is fit too. Because he is annoyed with her? He doesn’t seem too annoyed when they become friends. I feel like she disliked him first. It could be awkward to admit feelings for your roommate, but still. Get it together. But enough complaining about roommate drama for now, lets talk about the height of romantic drama and tension–The Bachelor.

The Bachelor References

Liam and Mara watch The Bachelor, and I am all here for it. I enjoy watching The Bachelor and The Bachleorette sometimes, and I appreciated their comments on the show. Mara even runs a bachelor franchise blog. I approve. We don’t get real references though, because she talks about season 12, which is JoJo’s season, but they talk use another woman’s name. It is a shame; I wanted to know their thoughts on the real bachelorette. Is there a copyright issue? I’d hope not. It was still pretty fun though. I can relate to rooting for the bachelor/ette to end up with a contestant that they don’t end up with. They also could have talked about all those weird challenges that the producers put them up to; that would be great.

I feel like I would read a whole story of these two reacting to a real season of the bachelor, not because their banter regarding the subject was anything amazing, but I feel like it could be a fun story.

The “Demi Rep”

The book was marketed as “demi rep”, which basically means that one of the main characters is demisexual. According to Web MD, “Demisexual people only feel sexually attracted to someone when they have an emotional bond with that person.” The definition goes on to say,

“Demisexual people do not feel primary attraction — the attraction you feel to someone when you first meet them. They only feel secondary attraction — the type of attraction that happens after knowing someone for a while.”

I originally thought Mara might be demi, but I wasn’t sure. She has problems with guys and finding someone that she is attracted to, as many of us do demi or not, but her relationship with dating seems a bit different than other people’s.

“But even at their best, all my romantic relationships felt like work in a way Sadie and Hannah and Helena never did. In a way actual work never did. And for what? Sex? Jury’s still out on whether I even care about that?”

This paragraph doesn’t indicate whether Mara is asexual, demisexual, aromantic, demiromantic or anything else. One reading is that Mara is demisexual, but doesn’t know the label to explain herself with. She might never have felt an emotional connection to her dates, so she never experiences sexual attraction and thus feels like she’s left out for not feeling what her friends do. Maybe she felt pressured to have sex with people she didn’t feel connected to because it was what people are supposed to do in relationships. Maybe she thought if she would try it; she would like it. Maybe these relationships felt like work because she kept putting effort into people she didn’t experience attraction to, but she felt like she should be in a relationship, so she kept it going.

Or Mara could have bad experiences with dating and could have been with bad partners. An unhealthy relationship can feel like “work” sometimes. She might not be demi and just struggles to find someone she cares about and wants to date. After all, the male engineers that she works with seem like jerks. Some guys are nice, but just because someone is nice and just because you’re friends with someone of a gender you’re attracted to doesn’t mean you want to date them. But on the other hand, sometimes it is easier, for demisexual people and others, to date someone you’re friends with and have developed a connection with beforehand. Mara also talks about how being with Liam is better than others because it is not awkward. She knows him, she is comfortable.

I also can’t tell if she becomes attracted to Liam before or after they develop an emotional connection and start actually talking to each other. She notices his muscles and how tall he is right away, but I’m not sure if that counts as attraction or not. I mean, who wouldn’t be thrown off by a tall, broad shouldered guy living in your new place. Especially if you’re a pretty short woman and now you’re living with this big guy who also works for a company you disagree with. It’s a lot to take in.

Liam also seems like he could be demisexual. There is a part where Liam says “I don’t like sex.” But this is after he admits that he finds Mara attractive and that he has liked her since he first saw her. I know that the trope of “the guy falls for the girl first” is popular, so I wasn’t surprised by this scene. He was always so awkward around her; it sounded like he was attracted to her based on how he either looked or didn’t look at her. He tells Mara how long he’s liked her.

“How hard it’s been, to. . . **** to keep my hands off you. How much I’ve wanted this, almost since the very beginning.”

So, my question is, did he form an emotional connection with her early on? Maybe after they talked about Helena’s death? The whole “love at first sight” thing doesn’t happen to demisexual people as far as I know, so I am slightly confused here. He didn’t know her before.

It also seems like his friend Emma knows he doesn’t date much. There is a point where Mara asks if Liam has been STD tested and he says he goes to the doctor twice a year or so. . . indicating he doesn’t have sex often.

He could be uninterested in sex and be demi. He could dislike sex but want his partner to be happy. He could also be graysexual, which is a term for someone who almost never experiences sexual attraction. I feel like at least Liam is on the ace/demi spectrum. I also don’t get why neither character calls themselves demisexual.

These things can be complex and one is obliged to use a label, but Hazelwood marketed this book as “demi rep.” Not everyone knows what demisexual means, so if she explained and had one of her characters identify with the term.

It wouldn’t be that hard, either. Liam could say,

“I don’t really feel attracted to people often, but once we started talking about (Helena, our passions, etc.) I couldn’t stop thinking about you. Like, I like you, a lot. I like being with you… (cue romantic speech that doesn’t reference her smelling like sunscreen and doing yoga, because that’s kinda odd). I don’t feel this way for anyone. Emma’s mind was blown a little when she saw how I looked at you. I’ve never acted this way before; I never cared about sex or saw anyone that way; I didn’t know what to do with myself I’ve read about it. I’m demisexual, I only feel sexual attraction to others after you form an emotional connection. At first, you were this rando living into my house. I didn’t know what to do, but I figured I’d try to be friends. I think Helena would have liked that. But once we actually started talking Mara, I was a goner.”

That is just a guess on how it could go. I feel like the rep could have been handled better. I also didn’t like the ending. It seemed like Hazelwood decided to throw all the ending, conversation, and dialogue that needed to be had into the middle of a sex scene. it is also kind of creepy how Liam keeps saying “is this how you wanted it?” to Mara.

Liam basically starts recreating a fantasy that he overhears Mara talking on the phone to her friends about. It is so awkward… The characters barely talk to each other beforehand. There seems to be consent, but it is very confusing.

Overall though, this was a fun novella. I enjoyed reading it for the witty banter alone. If you like Ali Hazelwood’s writing style and humor–and if you are willing to suspend your disbelief–this novella is a solid choice. Just don’t put your expectations too high.

Have you read Under One Roof or The Love Hypothesis? Do you plan to? Let me know down in the comments below 🙂

Shows

This is Us Finale Reaction. Reflections on what if Kevin was Child-free?

THIS IS US — Season: 2 — Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate, Parker Bates as Kevin, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Lonnie Chavis as Randall — (Photo by: Maarten de Boer/NBC)

The conclusion of This is Us was on this Tuesday. I have been watching this show since the beginning with my mom. When the show first came out, I was sixteen-years-old. Donald Trump had not yet been sworn into presidency and a worldwide pandemic was unthinkable for most of us. Back then, my favorite tv-shows were teen dramas. They were filled soap-opera drama and unexpected twists, but despite all the tragedies the characters went through–from their partner cheating on them to a dog eating their father’s heart before the transplant–they all lived in typical suburban happiness afterwards. People get married, have kids, and live their happily ever after. Friends tried to stay close, but they also had their own lives and families. They were supposedly very happy in the end. I can name a few of these shows easily: Friends, One Tree Hill, How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, and Gossip Girl. I haven’t watched too many shows in my life, but I have noticed they tend to follow a formula.

This is Us is a great show. It is not a perfect show, but it is heartwarming and makes an honest effort at telling the stories of characters with different life experiences and priorities. Of course, it can be overdramatic sometimes. No one really gives speeches like Randall, Jack, Rebecca, Kate, and Kevin do, at least not on a weekly basis. Perhaps this was why I was so surprised why the show ended on such a quiet note.

In the last episode, a scene of the triplets are at Rebecca’s funeral is juxtaposed with a flashback of them and Jack and Rebecca on a day when everyone is at home. Randall had a math competition that day, but he says it is cancelled, so the family all decides to do something fun; The Pearsons mostly spend the day at the house, and nothing extraordinary happens. Each of the kids get upset about something that day, and either Jack or Rebecca comforts them. They watch home videos; Jack teaches Randall and Kevin to shave; and the kids play pin the tail on the donkey. Other than Rebecca’s funeral, this episode feels like a typical filler episode of This is Us.

I loved “The Train”— it had the perfect ending. I didn’t mind this episode, but I feel a bit disappointed with a few parts. My first thought is that the ending felt rushed. I’m still in denial that it is over, and I wish they’d taken more time to show everyone’s future. Even though I have had this show in my life for six years, I selfishly want more. I want to know why Randall wanted to be a senator, or how Kevin and Sophie made their relationship work, or what happened to Kate and Philip.

After all, this series was never about endings; it is about how life keeps going, making bold moves and decisions about where we want to go.

Rebecca told her kids to:

Take the risks. Make the big moves. Even if they’re small moves. Forge ahead with your lives in any and every direction that life moves you. I’m asking you to be fearless.

Rebecca Pearson

This felt a bit unexpected from her; honestly, it gave me whiplash. She loves her kids, and I can imagine that she would want them around as she’s dying. But she does not expect them to “pause” their lives for her. But despite her focus on the future, the final episodes empathize the importance of their family–of the big 3–and those small but amazing moments together. The writers could create a conflict between staying close to your family and following your dreams.

But they refuse to create a dichotomy and make the triplets choose. They make the big moves. Randall moves to Philadelphia and becomes Senator and Kate goes to grad school and runs the music school with Philip. Kevin starts a business, builds the cabin, and marries his childhood sweetheart.

They also spend time together and grow closer. Kevin takes care of Rebecca in the end, and they all help out. When Kate worries that the triples will drift apart after Rebecca’s funeral, her brothers say that they will drift with her.

Disappointing Parts of the Finale

I didn’t mind the episode as a whole, but I do have a few complaints.

1. Tess and Annie are totally ignored

In the first scene of the future, the one when we learn they’re going to see Rebecca, we see Tess and Randall together. Tess became a Social Worker. But does this come up again? No.

Tess is totally sidelined. She is Randall and Beth’s oldest biological daughter and she has been on the show since the beginning. She isn’t like Kevin’s kids. She has a character and backstory. She also came out as gay, and her and Beth’s relationship was complicated. Tess starts dating Alex, who is non-binary, and we don’t learn what happens to them. Tess is barely in the future episodes, and we aren’t told what happens to her. What is she like in the future? Does she move away or stay close to home? No one knows.

We get to know Deja better. We see how she like science and goes on to be a doctor. We see her fall in love with Malik and marry him and have a baby with him.

We don’t know if Tess ends up with anyone or has a partner. In a show that gives so much attention to straight romances, it would have been nice to see her find happiness and maybe have a partner in the end.

We also know nothing about Annie. She was ignored so much during the show. What does she do with her life? The writers give us nothing. For a show so focused on new life and different generations, they could have put a bit more effort into showing what happens to the youngest generation of Pearsons. I mean they showed us adult Tess only to ignore her. Come on!

I didn’t care as much about Kevin’s kids. They seemed like they were in the background. It would probably take more time to introduce them, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Kate’s son Jack and his wife and child or her daughter Hailey.

2. The Final Episode Ignored Kevin and sidelined Kate

In the finale episode, we don’t hear much from Kevin. The actor who plays Kevin, Justin Hartley, said he was pretty disappointed:

“So, I go up there — I had no dialogue that day, I was basically an extra.”

He is a big part of the big 3, and his arc was sidelined. I feel like Kevin’s ending in general was rushed. The writers created all this drama about who he would marry. Who is the love of Kevin Pearson’s life? They asked us. Some readers shrugged. Who cares? They said. But I am kind of invested. I’m a sucker for a good love story, and I like to know who ends up with who. The stakes are high. It is unlikely that all fans will satisfied with the ending; but if a couple is written decently well and it improves a character’s distort, fewer people won’t complain.

The writers presented a few choices: Madison, the mother of his twins; Cassidy, a war veteran and close friend; and Sophie, his on-and off again girlfriend since childhood and his ex-wife. Of course, there were other options. He could have ended up with someone he met in the last two seasons, or Sophia Bush, who he had more chemistry with in a single episode than he did with anyone. At least, that is what the internet seems to think. I personally love Sophia Bush (I was a big One Tree Hill stan back in the day), but I can’t picture him with her.

Honestly, Kevin’s love life was one of the least popular aspects of the show. Viewers have complained that the writers spent too much time on his love life.

But I like Kevin, and I feel like he deserves a good love story as much as Kate and Randall. I didn’t notice any strong chemistry between him and any of the cast. His story with Cassidy was one of my favorites. They were both adults who had been through a ton of crap, but together, they were a little less alone. I wouldn’t have minded them getting together, but I don’t mind that they ended up as good friends. There are far too few men and women on television who are good friends.

I liked the idea of him and Madison together. They have kids, and they’re close friends and parents. They could have been cute. But Kevin wasn’t in love with Madison. He loved her as a friend, for sure, but not romantically. I didn’t love her and Elijah, but she was happy with him.

So, that leaves Sophie. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t love childhood friends to lovers stories. I enjoy them when they’re done well. Not everyone ends up with their childhood sweetheart, especially after you cheat on them and then they marry someone else. I’m not sure what I would do in Sophie’s situation. Honestly, I like them together. They have chemistry. Sophie is the one who laughs at Kevin’s jokes and he never seemed to fully get over her. My main complaint is that their reunion was underdeveloped.

This is Us creates so many great love stories, and Kevin always dreamed about a love story like his parents. I wish they’d taken a season or two to develop their relationship instead of playing will-they-won’t-they for so long.

Final Thoughts

The other couples were pretty good. I wish Miguel got more screen time. His episode was rushed, but I enjoyed what we saw of his backstory, and he and Rebecca were one of my favorite parts of the last season. Philip and Kate’s relationship was rushed. The writers gave Toby more care then they did Philip. I don’t blame them, in fact, this worked well. Toby was a part of Kate’s life and always will be—Philip is still kind of an outsider.

The show is not really about the Big 3’s future. I’m not sure I would say the show is about Rebecca. It is about their family and maybe Jack; he got the most backstory. I mean, we have his brother, his father, the Vietnam storyline. The writers keep including him in all these flashbacks.

But even though Jack and Rebecca are major characters, I still wouldn’t say what this show is all about. the show is about a family, it is about life, and it is about us.

That is what they call the show. Look at how the writers use characters that aren’t even related to the Pearsons to make a statement about people. Look back at the painting scene; Kevin’s painting is all about the connection between death and life. Rebecca’s death is not truly the end, no one’s is—and the impact we have on the people around us —for better or for worse—is never truly finished.

The final episode spent so much time on Deja and Randall, because they needed a way to tell us that life keeps growing. Rebecca’s death and the void that she left in the Pearson family is not a total loss. Showing a new Pearson pregnancy is a simple way not to make this show so sad it’s a message like The Lion King, circle of life sort of stuff. I’m happy with that. I like Deja, and I’m happy that she is happy with Malik and pregnant with their child.

I do wonder if we could have balanced their story with Kate and Kevin’s. More episodes would have helped for sure. The series had to handle a difficult task. They had to manage and tell the stories of a large cast of characters, and they had to give development to characters outside the Pearsons. The writers insisted that this cannot be merely a family story.

I think the show sometimes suffered for this approach. Tess’ story, Annie’s, and Kevin and Kates kids took a backseat. I sort of wish they focused more on the generations.

One of my earliest attempts at a novel was the story of a family. It was a fun story about a bunch of crazy siblings, but I enjoyed it a lot. The decision to make a big statement about life as a whole is a difficult one, but somehow, This is Us managed.

The writers are good at developing characters, especially Randall’s family. Some of my favorite episodes were about Randall’s father, mother, and Beth.

I can’t say I entirely mind that the show ended with a focus on Randall. The writers did a good job. They also made a decent attempt at showing the lives of those who exist outside of the nuclear family structure. I don’t quite want to make the analogy, but this show reminds me of Friends, and how none of the characters have children the traditional way.

This is Us highlights surrogacy and adoption. It shows a couple who almost marry after getting pregnant, but then decide they work better as friends and co-parents. And that’s great. A lot of times, it can be better that way.

The show does not quite explore the idea that not everyone wants a sexual and/or romantic relationship.

I found it interesting that Kevin longs to be married and have children, not necessarily because the idea of changing diapers appeals to him, but because he wants to be like his father. He wants to be a good man like Jack. In Jack’s case, being a good man was being a husband and father. Jack certainly was good at both, not perfect, but pretty good. He made a huge impact on his kids lives.

But when I think of Kevin, I can’t help thinking back on Zoe, Beth’s cousin and Kevin’s love interest. Kevin and Zoe had good chemistry and they came together when both were in a somewhat broken place. But they worked together. They communicated; they moved in together.

But they didn’t work out because Zoe didn’t want kids. I have to applaud the writers for showing a woman who didn’t want kids and didn’t change her mind.

If we compare this with Friends, where everyone married and had children, and The Big Bang Theory, where Penny had gave birth after adamantly not wanting kids, this is a big step up for respecting womens’ choices. I will say that I haven’t watched the entire series of Big Bang Theory, but this does not sound great. Why does she have to change her mind?

The weird thing is that to some of the audience, it doesn’t matter what tv characters want. We have to acknowledge that a lot of TV is full of wish fulfillment; characters do not always follow the rules of character development, realism, or logic. Sometimes the writers keep a couple together or create an ending to please the audience. That is why in Pretty Little Liars, all of the characters ended up with their high school sweethearts. That is why Arthur Conan Doyle brought Sherlock Holmes back from the dead, even though Doyle himself wanted Holmes dead.

I don’t think wish-fulfillment is always a bad thing. Stories belong to readers (and viewers) in a sense (to paraphrase John Green), and sometimes the fans have better ideas than the writers.

Fans are a mixed bag—they can bring different perspectives and challenge the norm for better or worse, or they can cling to convention with a death grip. They might beg for stasis and a return to a story’s roots. Fans are like that. I feel like this is a rather complex topic, but essentially, Kevin isn’t a completely autonomous character. His development doesn’t rely on simply what he would do or want.

Disclaimer: Not everyone wants children. Not everyone wants to be childfree. Some people are in the middle. I feel like I am personally in the middle at the moment. Those people in the middle might be lukewarm about kids. They might be okay about the idea, but later realize they really want kids. Some people feel like they should have kids because “it’s what people do.” My reading of Kevin is that he grew up idealizing his family and thinks that he should do it because it is what people do.

Conceiving also isn’t easy for everyone, and not everyone has kids regardless of the strength of their desire for them. There are more child-free people than you’d think, but they are generally in represented in tv.

I think with Zoe, the show took a step outside of the nuclear family that the show centers on. So, when I think of Kevin, I can’t help but think of Zoe. They built a relationship and got to know each other as adults. Kevin chose her over kids at first. They had potential to be something great. So, when I think about Kevin’s future, I can’t help but think about Zoe. She is a what-if.

I’m not saying it would be perfect. Showing how a couple shouldn’t settle if one partner does not want kids and the other does is a good one to tell. Especially when other shows end up showing one partner to “give in” and agreeing to have kids. You rarely see the reverse.

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that reluctant parents don’t automatically turn into perfect parents. The same is to be said with someone who really wants kids—it isn’t an easy dream to give up. I don’t think their storyline was handled badly. Zoe and Kevin shows how relationships help us grow, even if the person isn’t in our lives forever.

But part of me wonders what Kevin’s life would be like if he chose to live a child-free life with Zoe. I can only imagine what the writers could do if one of the major couples of the show didn’t have kids. Imagine if Zoe and Kevin built their lives together. What if he decided that he could be happy with her without children, and that he could still be like his father, a good man, without creating a new generation. What if he realized that maybe fatherhood was something he thought he wanted, but it wasn’t what he needed?

If we look at the scenes with Kevin and his kids, they aren’t anything special or memorable. None of his scenes with them are like the scenes we get with Rebecca, Jack, and the Big 3.

I imagine if he was child-free he would still take care of Rebecca when she got older and build his mother’s house. I’d like to think that he would have been there for her just as much, if not more.

Would they have stayed together and settled down in LA eventually? What would Zoe’s career have looked like? Would she stay a photographer? That’s a cool job. I wish we’d learned more about her overall.

Kevin has been a great uncle to Tess, Annie, and Deja. We’d get to see all of them and the girls. Maybe we’d get more of a focus on their stories if they went that route. I think it could also be important for people to see how you can live a full life without kids. You can be a part of a great family and live a great life without having children.

Imagine instead of all this rush to settle down and have a family, he spent the series building something. I loved watching Kevin build his mother’s house and start a business. What else could he have done if the writers took screen time away from his love life drama and focused on his character development and relationship with someone who had been there with him for years?

I think their story could have been great, just as flawed and full of ups and downs as Randall and Beth, Jack and Rebecca, and Kate and Philip. The two of them together would put a childfree couple into the center of the Pearson story.

Zoe is a bit of a foil to Kevin’s family. She grew up with an abusive father, and she is independent. Beth describes her as a “maneater” who goes through different relationships with men. We learn later that this is because of her abuse. But she likes Kevin. She didn’t grow up with Jack and Rebecca, the super parents.

Jack and Rebecca created an amazing family and had a great life together. But not everyone’s lives will look like that. Look at Miguel and Nicky’s stories.

The writers concoct a one-night stand and then bring back his high school ex just so that he can get the marriage and babies fantasy that everyone is told is what life should look life. It is what you’re told is what happens; but it doesn’t, always, and often for the better. If Kevin and Zoe stayed together, the show would look very different. But I think it could be a good thing, a great thing for TV.

I think for future shows, it could be interesting to think about what it means for someone to have a happy ending or to live the good life. So many shows follow this path. Start with lost characters who don’t understand themselves. End their stories with them a changed person. Sometimes means they’re single, in a relationship or marriage, or with children. All of these are parts of life, and it is tiring only seeing mostly one to live a fulfilling life on tv.

My Thoughts

I wrote another article about parenthood a while back. This one is called BoJack Horseman Argues Parenthood is a Choice. This topic is one that I think about quite a bit. I am a woman in my twenties, and as I started my last year of college, I started to think about these things. When I was a student at Grove City College, I remember that marriage and children were part of a lot of people’s futures.

If we look at the US, the stereotype of married with kids in a baby carriage, isn’t the truth for a lot of twenty-somethings and millennials. I had a college professor that would mention this to us all the time, how people aren’t having kids, how sad it is, etc. It always made me feel uncomfortable. I mean, it is a very binary/hetero view of the world, but it is also useless to bewail. Some people won’t be happy with kids. And it is a terrible idea to tell those people they need to be parents to contribute to society. Those situations can leave kids miserable.

Why does it matter what decisions other people make? I also think that I’ve always felt uncomfortable with people assuming that I would have kids someday. I felt uncomfortable with people assuming that everyone should be a parent–or that life without a marriage and children is inherently tragic.

That brings me back to This is Us. So many shows want to end and tie everything up in a bow. He meets the woman of his dreams, they have kids and name the child after their grandparents. Are we scared in a way, of imagining a life where someone is happy without those things?

A feminist reading could be that people don’t think (especially) women should be happy making their own choices, and that essentially they want people to surrender to a higher force, God, or destiny. Yet, they always hope that destiny ends one way– marriage and children. The thing is, you’re not broken if you don’t want or don’t get those things.

Note: In these few weeks, I can’t talk about this without thinking about the recent Roe ruling. Not everyone one needs to be a parent, wants to be one, or should be. Not everyone has the resources: financially and emotionally. Even with resources like child support centers or even a helpful family, it isn’t all fixed after giving birth, or after the child is enough to outgrow diapers.

So, that is why I think I wonder what would have happened if Kevin could have ended up without kids. I mean, he grew up in a world where he couldn’t imagine any other life.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I think it could be nice to see life in all its forms. Say, this is a family with three daughters. This is a couple who fell in love, had kids, divorced, but still cares for each other. And this is someone who is child-free and found happiness. This is Us.

Books

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Review

One of the first things I wanted to do when I got home from college was read something again. I looked at the popular Instagram books; and, because I enjoyed The Love Hypothesis, I decided to listen to the audible audiobook of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. This book was written by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Three different people read this one: Alma Cuervo, Robin Miles, and Julia Whelan. I haven’t listened to an audiobook in full in a while, but I enjoyed listening to the narrators. Evelyn’s voice was strong. It fit her personality well. We also get the voice of the reporters who do stories on Evelyn.

So, what is this story even about? I would call it a fictional biography. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo tells the story of a life, and her life no means a simple one.

I’m going to be honest with you, when I picked this book up, I expected pure escapism. I expected to hear the tales of a wealthy, glamorous, larger-than-life actress. I imagined I’d enter a world like Gossip Girl. The picture in my head wasn’t entirely inaccurate, but it was also reductive. It was unexpectedly sad, though I wouldn’t say it was tragic. Well, it is a little tragic.

Note: I didn’t any research before reading, and I found out later that Reid is cishet and white (like myself). Some of the criticism online makes sense when you realize she’s writing outside her experience. I can’t say whether she portrayed a bisexual Cuban woman accurately, but Reid appears to have done some research.

Summary

We begin with Monique Grant, a reporter for Vivant magazine, who is selected to write a cover story on actress Evelyn Hugo. It sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime. Evelyn refuses to give an interview to almost anyone, and for some reason, she wants Monique to listen to her life story.

Monique has a story of her own. She is a thirty-five-year old reporter who has been working for Vivant, a drama magazine for quite some time. She is always writing fluff pieces and rarely gets to write anything real. I am starting out in my career, but I understand Monique. I’d like to be a writer, but I’m not sure what I want to write yet. I’d like to write something meaningful outside of this blog, but I’m not sure what yet. Monique wrote a piece about assisted suicide that she felt passionate about, but otherwise, her job just hasn’t given her the opportunity. Journalism sounds exciting, finding a story and telling it, but not all stories are going to interest you.

Celebrity gossip is something that would bore me, and I’d imagine years in the field would grow tiring. It is all so. . . fake. But I do find myself reading articles about famous people. But I have to remind myself that even if I read every article and make the right google searches, I still won’t know everything. I cannot figure out everything about a celebrity’s life.

We won’t ever find out know the intimate details of their relationships or their deepest imperfections. Even if they go on trial or host podcasts about their personal lives, we aren’t actually there. The audience feels like they are a part of their lives. They call it a parasocial relationship I believe. I am certainly guilty of feeling like I know a youtuber or famous person.

Monique falls into this a bit, she decides to watch all of Evelyn Hugo’s movies, and she falls a bit in love with her. After reading this book, I am not sure I’m in love with Evelyn, but she certainly fascinates me.

We learn soon that Evelyn wants Monique to publish a whole book about her after Evelyn dies. That’s quite the task.

I like how Reid doesn’t just push Monique to the background. She pushes against Evelyn at times, and she is inspired by her. Monique is half-black and half-white. We learn that her father died when she was a young. Her husband, David, recently moved out of her home. She keeps ignoring his calls. Talking to Hugo makes her bolder, stronger. She makes her realize that she has to fight for what she wants.
They share similarities, the two of them. Evelyn was born Evelyn Elena Herrera. She is Cuban, but she has changed her name to get parts. She dyed her hair blonde.

I was surprised, and saddened to learn that Evelyn’s first marriage was out of desperation rather than love. She was a teenager. The men she interacts with early on are pedophiles. There is no other way to say it. There was one scene where a boy at a grocery shop grooms her and gives her candy for time with him. She is convinced as a child that she should use her body to move ahead in her career and get what she wants. These scenes aren’t explicit, but they’re pretty awful to hear about. Her father also abused her as well. Those are parts of her life that she doesn’t talk about as much. She doesn’t really deal with them or have an opportunity to heal.

She ends up in an abusive second marriage with her husband, Don, as well. Don was different at first. She married him when she was 19, she loved him and he liked for who she was or at least what she was trying to be. She views sex as a transaction until she meets Don. Then it is making love. They started dating for publicity and he was the one guy she liked.

He started hitting her after the marriage. His family was famous and he wanted to be successful like them. He kind of reminds me of toxic masculinity. The writer, Reid, is a feminist, so I imagine she wrote this way on purpose. He struggled to play the tough guy and action heroes early in his career and faced criticism. So, he decided to be super tough at home. He wanted Evelyn to settle down and have children and hurt her when she said no.

I found Don to be a disappointment, and after he leaves, we dive into the pop culture world. Evelyn is always meeting celebrities to grow her image. She gets a role in Father and Daughter.

The world of celebrities is just like you’d expect. Their lives are glamorous and luxurious and fake and petty. The relationships between these people were so petty that I felt sad. Women are expected to compete with each other for roles. She goes out to meals with other women, but they do not become close. Her relationship with Ruby was a difficult one. They were so fake to each other, but they also understood each other. I wish that they’d have become good friends.

She does make one true friend, her producer at Sunset Studios, a man named Harry who says that she is “too young” and “not his type,” and Evelyn and Harry both know that means he is gay.

Celia St. James

Evelyn meets someone new after this. She finally gets to play Jo in Little Women, and she is thrilled. But she is intimidated by her co-star, Celia St. James, who plays Beth. She worries Celia will steal the show from her. They end up getting milkshakes together. Evelyn knows the game. When someone wants to meet her in a public place, they want to take photos of them together. She has no problem using people.

I liked Celia immediately. She always plays the good girl role in movies, like Beth in Little Women. She acts naïve at first, but she is way smarter than she lets on.

Celia is an idealist. She played Beth in Little Women and won an Oscar. Method actress- she became her character. She admires Evelyn’s way of rising to the top and wants to learn from her. She admires how Evelyn manipulates the system to rise to the top. She admires how she is cunning and quick. Celia is pretty quick herself. If I were to place these two in Hogwarts Houses, Evelyn would be a Slytherin. She even sports the green dress. Celia is a Gryffindor. She is an idealist. She hopes for a better, more accepting world. She has deep principles. She generally wants to get to know Evelyn.

Evelyn and Celia fall in love. It turns out that she was the love of Evelyn’s life. We actually learn this pretty early in the story. Their love story is genuine and real, sensual and beautiful. I enjoyed the scenes where they are just talking, getting to know each other. Evelyn opens up to another person like she hasn’t before. Their masks fall with each other. Their romance begins in the 1960s, and almost no one in the industry is “out.”

They disagree on what to do, on how to be together. Evelyn tries more marriages, most of them to hide her relationship with Celia. Their relationships is rocky and difficult.

We learn that Evelyn is bisexual. Celia is a lesbian.

“I’m bisexual. Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box.”

Monique mistakenly thinks that Evelyn is only attracted to women, but Evelyn calls her out. She falls in love with Don Adler and experiences attraction to men. The book touches on gay rights issues. During the Stonewall riots, they are unable to protest because doing so would distract people from the real issues. They all donate to help during the AIDS crisis, and Evelyn donates to LGBTQ+ causes her entire life.

I loved how Evelyn maintains that Celia is the love of her life. They have a soulmate energy. At one point in the book, she marries Harry, her producer, and she marries a man named John. John and Harry are in love and Celia and Evelyn are in love. They are each other’s bards. But they all develop into a family who deeply care about each other. The world that Evelyn lives in feels so fake. There are no scenes of acting, and Evelyn says that she really became an actress to prove herself. Celia is a good actress. She is a method actor, she becomes her character and seems to like the art of acting more than Evelyn.

I feel like Evelyn spent so much time trying to make it in the world that she didn’t really get to know others or herself as much as she could have. For instance, she feels out of touch with her Cuban identity. She stops speaking Spanish and dyes her hair. She does become close to a Cuban maid named Louisa, and they form a years-long bond.

Evelyn is confident in her abilities, but she still ties much of her talent to her looks and struggles a bit to see herself as a good actress.

“What good did I have other than to be beautiful.”

My favorite scenes are probably the ones between Evelyn, Celia, Harry, and John. It is the one time when she is part of a family. They are an unconventional family, and there is something beautiful about it. Harry and Evelyn end up having a baby together because they both want a child.

I wasn’t expecting a child in this story, but it works. Their daughter, Connor, is a great addition. Their relationship is entirely platonic, and it is beautiful. I loved the scenes of them together raising Connor and taking her to the park. Harry went through so much.

“But if you have to go, then go. Go if it hurts. Go if it’s time. Just go knowing you were loved, that I will never forget you, that you will live in everything Connor and I do. Go knowing I love you purely, Harry, that you were an amazing father. Go knowing I told you all my secrets. Because you were my best friend.”

You already know how many husbands she will have, so it is a bit tiring waiting until the last one comes.

I feel like the ending was a little rushed. There aren’t many scenes with her and Connor, and her daughter goes from a wild teenager to a Stanford graduate pretty quickly. I get that Blair Waldorf characters exist in real life, but it seemed like all it took was a single conversation, dinner promise, and decent father figure to set things right. I appreciate the beauty of motherhood and every scene they had together, but that plot felt incredibly rushed. I get that Evelyn would want to make her daughter look good for the story, but her plot (and her daughter dying) felt a bit cliché.

I honestly was fascinated by the idea of Evelyn’s biography. The story focused one on moments in time that Evelyn remembered and less on the everyday trials of an actress. I wish we’d seen more acting scenes, but I liked the format a lot. I liked seeing Monique’s reactions to Evelyn. I liked her subplot with David. I’m not sure about her subplot with her father though. I feel like this story didn’t need another twist.

But Evelyn was a good character. She was witty and honest; immoral and a rare example of morality in Hollywood; and she wasn’t good or necessarily bad. I found myself sympathizing with her, even after the plot twist. I liked almost all of the characters, and I disliked the men I wasn’t supposed to like. I do think she could have been written better, all the characters could have been. My biggest problem is the lack of nuance and the author’s refusal to leave the reader with any lasting questions. A reviewer on Goodreads said it better than me. On June 14th, 2020, a book reviewer and blog youtuber named Chan commented:

“she doesn’t want the reader to form their own opinions, she’s rather just hold your hand to the “point.”

I didn’t finish this book with many questions. I finished it in awe. I was captivated the entire time that I was reading. I didn’t want to stop until I knew how Evelyn’s story ended. But when I finished, I didn’t have any meaningful questions. My only one was maybe, what happens to Monique?

“she doesn’t want the reader to form their own opinions, she’s rather just hold your hand to the “point.”

I feel like some of the romantic lines were a bit dramatic, and so were Evelyn’s pieces of advice. I might have had a different experience if I read the book instead of listened to it. I didn’t remember any of the specific lines very well, but I still feel like it was good.

There was one thing I did find rather profound. Evelyn notes how she always went after what she wanted; she chased after happiness and grabbed it. Meanwhile, other people seemed to fall into happiness in life. She wonders which is better. I feel like my life has been a mix of both. I have ended up in situations and places that I didn’t choose. I was fortunate enough to know the right people at the right time. But I also go after what I want when I see it. I’m also pretty passive sometimes. I want something, but I hesitate, like Evelyn warns against. I feel like it depends on the circumstance, but I do feel like Evelyn spent so much of her life (after becoming rich and famous) trying to prove herself. In a way, it was worth it for her. She didn’t get a perfect happy ending, but she ended up with the love of her life and many joys.

I do admire how Reid takes a stance with her writing. The sexism and terrible men are called out and Evelyn wouldn’t need seven husbands if she could marry the woman she loves instead. Meanwhile, Hollywood seems to excuse anything other than being LGBTQ+. Adultery, swinging, abuse, and pretty much anything else is accepted, used for clicks, and brushed under the rug. She isn’t afraid to call out the Reagan administration and show how hard it was for LGBTQ+ people during that time. Evelyn herself reflects on what it is like to feel like a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and how she feels connected even though she is closeted and does not attend the protests.

Another thing I want to mention. Celia’s code. Celia is a sort of moral center for Evelyn, even though Evelyn fails to meet that code several times. Celia wants Evelyn to be honest with her, to remain loyal to her, and she just wants to be with the woman she loves. Evelyn’s Vegas marriage, for instance, hurt Celia. It makes you want the world to be like Celia sees it. All of Hollywood just feels so fake. It makes me never want to be famous. I wouldn’t trade lives with Evelyn Hugo for anything.

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Let me know what you think down in the comments below!

Shows

Stranger Things Season Four is Awesome! Episode 1 Review

I watched the first episode of Stranger Things Season 4, and I am so happy. The feels are intense, everyone. My heart warmed, I felt cold, I wanted to cry. The first episode was awesome. All of my favorite characters are back and (sometimes) better than ever, and I am all here for it.

I watched the first episode of Stranger Things Season 4, and I am so happy. The feels are intense, everyone. My heart warmed, I felt cold, I wanted to cry. The first episode was awesome. All of my favorite characters are back and (sometimes) better than ever, and I am all here for it. We also get to see new characters like Chrissy and Eddie and a return of old, irritating ones like Dr. Brenner. It is great. The first episode drew me back into this world that I haven’t seen in the past year.

All of my feelings inspired me to write a blog post giving my reaction, a detailed analysis, and a few of my predictions for future episodes. The show is pretty good at storytelling, and the characters are just likable people. So, why not.

As of today, I have only watched the first three seasons of the show and this episode. I have been watching Stranger Things since the release; I adore this show and all of the characters, and I am super excited for what comes next.

Let’s Get Into the Review

One of the first shots is of the spokes of a bicycle. A paper boy drives down the street on a green, spring day. Classic Stranger Things aesthetic. I am hype already.

The next shots are of a hot tea kettle and a crossword puzzle–sounds like a wonderful morning. Wow, he is timing the crossword puzzle; this is impressive. Oh this is Brenner, I know him by the tie and the hair. I have the creeps already. Oh! We’re back in the lab. I am looking forward to learning more about the other kids with powers. I see number 10! I wonder if this is a flashback, he looks younger than El.

Brenner is doing the brain scan again and drawing shapes. Brenner draws a cow that looks like a dog. He introduces a little humor here. It is kind of a sweet moment; it almost makes me sympathize with Brenner. Almost.

10 doesn’t look okay. Neither do the other kids. What happened here? This kid can’t be El. It can’t be her, can it? I can’t tell. This scene was hard to watch.

The title is the “Hellfire Club,”–which sounds dark already. El starts writing a letter. I like the background music.

El’s Letter to Mike

“Dear Mike. Today is Day 185–feels more like ten years. Joyce says time is funny like that. Emotions can make it speed up or slow down. We are all time travelers if you think about it.”

I feel like the writers are nodding to us. It feels like we have been waiting forever for the next season of Stranger Things. I’m not sure if I’d say it feels like ten years, but it has been a long time. Especially after the pandemic. Time seemed like it was going so slow then, but now I can’t believe how much time has passed. I agree with El here. I feel like time goes slower when I am bored or unhappy.

When I was in school, the school year always felt so slow before summer vacation. In college, the times when I was having fun with friends and enjoying classes, time went so quickly. The semesters felt very short. I like being busy, but I wish that time would slow down a little.

I am not sure I ever felt like a time traveler. People cannot go back in time in real life as far as I know. Although sometimes when I am with friends or family; life resumes to a sort of normal. It feels like I’m going back in time or going back to a comfortable place. People have changed and so have I, but the comfort remains. Maybe that is what El means.

Joyce is in Sales

In the next scene, we learn Joyce works in sales. She works at home. I feel like this is a nod to how so many people have worked from home during the pandemic. Working independently has its perks–Joyce says she likes the freedom. But it can be stressful for sure–especially talking to people on the phone all day. I feel like you are not as free as you think when you are answering calls. You might think you have a free moment when you get another call from a customer.

My dad works in a field where he calls people often, and it can be stressful a times. My friend, P. A. Wilson, works in customer service, and she has told me some funny stories about the calls she receives. I feel like it wouldn’t be too bad if you only had to answer calls during a window of time. With sales jobs, sometimes it is like that, but sometimes you have to be on call lot. I am guessing that Joyce does not have set hours, so she probably has to deal with calls at all times of the day. Poor Joyce.

Does Will Like Mike?

I like listening to El reading her letter in her head. She sounds slightly awkward, but she has improved quite a bit. She has become better at expressing herself in writing and verbally, and she is thinking about other people’s perspectives, but she misses some of the social cues that her peers have already picked up.

She notes that Will is painting and that he seems different. He will not show El his painting. It might be because he likes a girl. She thinks that he likes someone. El had a crush on Mike, so she recognizes how someone acts when they have a crush. Could Will like a boy? Maybe he has a crush on Mike. This is a possibility, especially since he’s hiding his feelings from El.

Will Jonathan and Nancy Stay Together?

Jonathan is smoking weed with his friends. I laughed at El’s narration. I can picture Jonathan as a stoner based on his general demeanor, so I am not entirely surprised. I guess the writers are trying to show all the high school groups. This scene is funny, but it has me worried for Jonathan. He seems nervous about the future, and he attempting to numb those feelings.

I can’t blame him for feeling anxious. I remember my senior year of high school was stressful–applying for colleges and hoping that I could get into the places I wanted to attend. Deciding on a college was stressful too. Life is kind of like that now, I’m applying for jobs and hoping for a response. It is a lot, especially when finances are involved.

I remember in the last season Jonathan was worried about whether or not he could pay for college. That is very understandable. I am a bit worried for him. He might not be my favorite character, but he seemed to be doing well in the last season. He had that job with the paper as a high schooler. We will see.

I like how El says her grammar is “getting good now also.” The phrase sounds awkward, but she is trying her best. After all El has been through, it is nice to see her living a fairly normal life.

El Faces a Bully and School Life

Will seems nervous walking through the halls. Oh poor El. It looks like her and Will are outsiders. She’s excited for Spring Break mostly because she gets to see Mike. . . awww. El is so sweet. I bet she misses him a lot and vice versa. These two are sweet.

Hellfire is the replacement for DnD club. Okay. I’m not sure I like this change.

Omg. Susie is helping Dustin change his grades. I am glad these two are still together. But no!

Next, I get to see Steve and Robin. I love these two and how we dive into a normal conversation between them. No warning, no awkwardness, just friends making fun of each other. Robin has a crush on a girl named Vickie. I love this. Steve is rambling about his dating experiences. Apparently he is working at the video store. And Robin is putting on makeup to impress a girl she likes. Watching Steve tell her to go for her crush is so sweet. Robin says asking out a girl isn’t as easy as it is for Steve. I can only imagine, especially in the 1980s.

“People who like boobies, Robin.”

Lol. I love how they bond over both liking girls.

Dustin and Mike are arguing about who has the best gf. Love this.

Lucas plays basketball and it looks like there is some tension between him and Max.

The football guy is giving a speech.

“We need something to believe in” and that is basketball? Oh, they’re talking about the kids they lost. This is sad to watch. This school has lost a lot of kids to the Upside Down.

The Hellfire Club vs the Basketball Team

Oh man, there is drama with Lucas. He wants to be popular. Honestly, I cannot blame him. The popular kids seem nice, and not being unpopular sounds nice. He likes playing basketball and seems to get along with these guys, so of course he wants to hang out with the team after the game. Lucas has been through a lot.

He is being reasonable here. He can hang out with the basketball team and go to the championship game and still be friends with Mike, Dustin, Will, and Max. I have never liked how on these shows they make it seem like you have to choose. DnD does not need to be on the same night. Switching time seems like a no-brainer.

The answer to any question that sounds amazing. . . Joyce is good at sales. I love how she’s worried about her son’s college acceptance letters.

El Presents Her Diorama and Drama Ensues

Okay, so the way this girl, Angela apparently, says “disabilities” makes me uncomfortable. She sounds patronizing. She reminds me of one of those people who look down and make fun of people with disabilities, but then say they’re “inspiring” for going through life and accomplishing things. When Jane goes up to speak, Angela looks so judgmental already. I have a feeling this isn’t going to go well. A girl plays footsie with Will in the middle of a presentation, he looks so awkward. Poor Will.

Oh El. This girl is awful. “Clarity on the rules of the assignment” that is total BS. I get that a diorama isn’t a typical school project, but can you just not? Her teacher approved the project ,and El isn’t doing a bad job speaking in front of a bunch of her high schoolers. Public speaking terrified me when I was her age, and I struggled with it in college too. I got better over time though. She’s doing fine. And she cares more about Hopper and put more effort into that diorama than you did with your PowerPoint, Angela. Ugh.

Max visits the School Therapist

I like the music that plays in the hallway. Looks like Max is struggling. She is trying to be honest with the school therapist. Her home life is slightly better without her father, but she still processing a a lot. Her therapist is asking questions, and it isn’t easy for her to just open up.

Max has a hard life. Her stepfather was abusive from what we’ve seen, and the Upside Down and her brother’s death made life a lot messier. It is harder for her to connect with her friends, especially since they seem pretty unscathed. They are able to move on easily, but they also haven’t gone through loss the way she has. I can only imagine what she is going through. I am glad that the writers decided to acknowledge that she went through is not easy; it messes with her mental health in pretty much every area of life.

I like how Lucas is trying. He wants to help her find something that she cares about like he does with basketball. Lucas knows something is up. Max isn’t herself. She broke up with him, oh. She thinks he’s trying to get back together. I feel like no matter what he says, Max isn’t up to talk to him.

Now, back to the Hellfire

The leader of the Hellfire Club is pure chaos. He is kind of charming. I am not sure if he is controlling or sympathetic or both.

“You want to postpone the Cult of Vecna.”

Um, it is a club. I would run, personally. I have no interest in joining any cults, thank you. Maybe Mike and Justin should not do this club, but I like that Mike and Dustin are in a new club with new friends. It is good to branch out and meet new people outside of your circle; I feel like we’ve been dropped into their new lives, and it feels natural. I’m happy for them.

Next, Murray, the weird dude, calls Joyce. Murray does Karate. That is so awesome. And he is pouring vodka. So many of the things he is doing I do not need to see. Watching Murray undress for a bath as he undresses the doll is so awkward. . .for the audience. Joyce doesn’t see this.

Jonathan and Nancy Appreciate Each Other’s Differences

Jonathan does not look okay. “Who the hell works over spring break, man?” His friend asks. I held a few seasonal jobs throughout high school and college. I worked during the summer and winter breaks and rarely worked during spring break, mostly because it was so short and I usually had homework and papers to work one over break anyway. Not that those always got done, but still. There isn’t much time to work over spring break.

I like how they switch back and forth between Nancy and Jonathan talking with other people about their relationship. It would be more accurate to say other people are questioning them. I like how they understand each other and appreciate each other’s passions even though they are in different places in life.

DnD Recruitment

The boys are asking everyone about DnD. I feel like Nancy would be awesome at hellfire.

“You’re just jealous that you have another older male friend”

I love Dustin and Steve. And watching Max mess with Dustin. I love this scene too.

“My mom says that game promotes Satanism and animal cruelty”

“That’s just media propaganda.”

“60 minutes begs to differ.”

Oh they’re recruiting middle schoolers. Let’s go.

The Kids Are Not Alright

Here’s Chrissy. She sees spiders come out of a clock. But they’re imaginary. Wow! Is she connected to the Upside Down or the Russian project to recreate the upside down? I hope so. That’d be dope. Poor Chrissy. She’s going to the DnD leader for drugs, and he is trying to be sweet. She’s so lost and scared.

This guy, Eddie is his name, is so charming and nice. The best drug dealer I’ve seen on TV. Chrissy is cute and sweet. She is pretty quiet, and a little shy or maybe just scared of the monsters. She laughs at him though, when he reminisces about the middle school talent show. She scared of the things she sees, but she trusts Eddie. Okay, I low-key ship this.

Quotes:

“You’re not what I thought what you’d be like”

Chrissy

“You’re not what I thought what you’d be like”

And she wants something stronger. Oh man, she’s going through a lot of deep shit.

Aww, El. That would be tough. This is her first time in school ever; she has to adjust and learn academically and socially. Oh good, her teacher realizes Angela is being a bully. Will being there for her is aww; he’s a good brother.

Why is this man still shirtless? I like Joyce’s gloves, they have cows on them. I know this isn’t entirely relevant, but they’re cute. The doll has a serial-killer letters and looks like it is from Hopper.

The Big Game TM (Hellfire and Basketball)

Why is Steve taking his date to a high school football game? Fair enough I guess. I have a feeling these two are not a match. I’m not jealous. . . well, maybe a little.

Tammy Thompson omg!! I love the look Steve and Robin give each other. Her performance was so cringe. I love Steve Harrington so much. He’s got great hair. And it looks like the girl next to Robin is her crush. She has short red hair. She is cute.

Aww, she seemed so hopeful when Robin mentioned that she used to have a crush on Tammy. But Robin switches her words immediately. I can’t blame her, but it is a bit sad to see. If her old crush was a guy, she wouldn’t have to worry about what someone would think about it.

But aww, it seems like this girl might like Robin too. I ship these two already.

It looks like Steve’s date isn’t going to work out. He needs a girl who can recognize off-key performances. Or maybe she is just being nice? Still, I get the feeling this date will be their last.

Okay, Erica wearing the American flag is so random, but it is so iconic. I love this so much. I like the juxtaposition between the Hellfire Club’s game and the basketball game; both groups experience the same amount of tension and uncertainty. Erica is hilarious. I wish I had her confidence in middle schooler, this girl isn’t messing around.

Dustin’s “Never tell me the odds” lines up so well with “just get me the ball.”

I like the camera angle on Lucas’ foot swerving and watching Erica roll the dice. I remember going to high school football games with my college band and watching basketball games. When the game is close, and it feels like everyone is in this together. It is a unique feeling. I like feeling connected to everyone like that.

Max is listening to the game on her radio, aww. She’s cleaning up after her mom, looks like her mom was drinking. Poor Max. I don’t remember her having a dog, he looks like a sweet dog.

The Final Ten Minutes

*I paused the scene and missed out on a big part. I watched it later that day and. . .oh man.*

Chrissy going into the D&D leader’s house looks so ominous. I am not sure I trust him or not. Okay, he’s being sweet. Giving her drugs, but he is sweet. I like this guy more than I thought I would. He strums his guitar and calls it beautiful; why is this adorable?

Chrissy looks so scared, on edge. I wonder if she has always been this quiet or if it is just the situation. It could be cool to have a shy cheerleader character. D&D guy is Eddie. Oh her mother has a monster face. Watching her sewing freaked me out. I wish I could sew better. Chrissy! No way should she open the door. When Eddie says gotcha it got me.

“Peaceful bliss just moments away.”

Eddie

Why is this guy so sweet and strange? Her Dad’s closed mouth is so scary. This dinner feast looks familiar, like the scene with Billy at dinner in season 3. Oh, this is all in her mind. It seems so real. I’m confused and scared for her. Geez. This monster is so dark. I have goosebumps. He looks like he is from Pirates of the Caribbean a little bit. He’s got those scars and that gushy face.

“It is time for your suffering to end.”

Monster-Thing

Oh, but not like this. No. No. Her jaw breaking makes me cringe. She is so dead. The screen goes to credits. Dang. I did not expect them to kill a character in the first episode. You’re killing me, Stranger Things. Chrissy was cool.

Final Thoughts and Theories

Well, we’re going on a trip here. But to quote Melanie Martinez’s Carnival, “You’ve already bought a ticket and there’s no turning back now.”

I am going to keep watching this show, because I adore these characters. I hope the writers don’t hurt them too much. I’ll see. I have a feeling that we won’t see Hopper anytime soon. I hope that all the kids will reunite soon, but Spring Break might not be for another episode or so.

I’m not sure how the kids will react to hearing about Chrissy’s death. They’ll definitely hear about it from Eddie, but will they suspect that it is from the Upside Down or Russia? I’m not sure. I wonder what will happen with Jonathan and Nancy. I don’t ship them that much, so I don’t care if they break up. Yep, I said that. I am looking forward to seeing the group reunite again.

I’m guessing that the writers will keep them fairly separate, and then group up in the end. I liked seeing Will and El bond in this episode. It would be nice to have another Jonathan and Will scene, or another scene with Will, Jonathan, and El and Joyce. I like Joyce’s relationship with El so far, even though she is mostly on the phone for work.

Have you seen Stranger Things? What did you think of the first episode of the new season?

I had a lot of fun writing this analysis, and I am thinking of writing more. Let me know if this was something you liked–and if so, if you’d be interested in seeing more reactions to other shows, books, or poems.

Thanks all!

Ashley

Books, Reflections

Why You Should Start a Commonplace Book

I wrote this post the week of New Year’s 2022. It was originally one of my New Year’s resolutions. But like most New Year’s resolutions, things did not work out like I planned. I have been thinking about working on a commonplace book for a while, but I have put it off. I finally started cleaning out my room this week after I got home from college. I decided that it was time to do some spring cleaning. I am living at home after college. My room is a mess, so I decided it could be a good idea to clean it out a bit. My biggest problem is that I have a ton of books and notebooks and not much space to store them.

My closet, bookshelf, and desks are so full. I am going through college papers and notebooks. I realize that I probably shouldn’t keep them all. I don’t have the room, and I probably won’t look at them as much I imagined that I would.

But it is a bit sad to throw them away. I am afraid of forgetting everything that I learned in college. I think keeping these notebooks and books is my way of remembering. And why should I throw them away? Students pay a ridiculous amount of money to attend university and to sit in a classroom and take notes. Why should I throw these notes out? They’re worth so many paychecks.

But I save too much. I don’t have room for every single worksheet or notebook in my room. Many of them I will never look at again. I mean, there is Google. I can research Finite Math and review Chemistry, but what about the humanities? I feel like by not keeping every single note that I took in class, I am missing out. What if I forget all these writers and philosophers that I read and love?

How do I hold onto my notes without keeping every English worksheet? How do I remember the specific quotes that I underlined in my textbooks. I needed an answer to these questions. So, I decided that place where you can keep all the meaningful things you learned in one place. The commonplace book, ta da. It figures that I would find a solution to my college concerns by remembering a project I did in a philosophy class.

What is a Commonplace Book?

So, if you haven’t heard of a commonplace book, you may be very confused. I first heard of a commonplace book not from the internet, but from a philosophy professor that I had at Grove City College. The book was a project for my philosophy 101 class. All we had to do was write 45 quotes from the works we read in class in a notebook. Sounds simple enough and an easy way to get points, right?

We wrote a few quotes from every reading into the notebook. It wasn’t too hard of an assignment, and I was grateful that my professor chose this project for a few reasons. Keeping one of these books is an easy way to improve your grade in Philosophy 101, and it is also an easy way to grow a little bit wiser every day.

So, how does one create a commonplace book? And why do I plan to spend my time writing quotes that I find in old books? If that sounds boring like it did to me at first, I’ll ask you this:

Have you ever read a great quote in a book that you never wanted to forget? Have you ever read a quote that you loved not for the beauty of the words but for the message? The message was so powerful, you wanted to remember it and not just keep it as a pretty wall poster. The words you write in a commonplace book can provide guidance, wisdom, and advice for a difficult time or be read as an everyday reminder. There have been many passages that I have wished to keep with me.

For years, I did not know how to save these quotes and remember them. I have collected phrases in journals, made Pinterest boards, and saved posts I’ve loved on Instagram. I remember in high school–I loved copying my favorite scenes and quotes from books into my journal. I’ve been collecting words, sharing them, and eventually losing them my entire life.

When I started college, I took notes in class and added stars to my favorite quotes. I was an English major. I marked them down because my professor told me to and because I would likely be tested on them. But I also knew I wanted to come back to them someday. Looking back, I’ve realized that after tests and papers are done, I rarely return to those passages that meant so much to me at the time.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care about what I learned or that the quotes no longer applied to my life or understanding of the world, they did. But life can be stressful and busy sometimes, and you forget to look back on the things you’ve learned.

Another problem I had with saving quotes was that I never knew how to sort them. In my philosophy class, it was pretty easy to find quotes to include in my notebook. We read many authors with words worth holding onto, looking to for guidance, and rereading over and over again. We studied the works of Plato, Dante, Aristotle, and Boethius.

Something about this guy is worth remembering, and not just his glorious beard

I can go back and read them again and learn something new every time. My professors often said that good authors are worth rereading and learning from, time and time again. My one professor mentioned that he reread Aristotle’s Ethics every year and reread Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol every Advent. I would like to try that; I haven’t yet, but I feel like you could learn quite a bit from rereading the same book every season.

And just like I plan to reread great books, I also plan on returning to these commonplace entries in the future. I do not have to reread the entire book that day with a commonplace book. I can simply look back and find quotes on the topics that I’ve been thinking about. I could Google these quotes too, but I feel like I don’t remember things as much when I Google.

I discover something magical when I look back on a quote by an amazing writer. I honestly had no idea how beautiful the writings of these authors were until I read them. They always sounded like old, boring, dead people. I kind of fell in love with the philosophers. We read about Aristotle’s definition of perfect friendship and Boethius’ words about how we can’t trust fortune or rely on external circumstances alone to make us happy. Reading them made me think of things in ways I hadn’t before.

Putting all the quotes together in a commonplace book is a great way to find those topics and return to those quotes again and again. You can flip to a page in your commonplace book and find a specific topic and author.

Commonplace books are great at helping you remember these quotes and the impact they have had on society. If we look at topics like philosophy, politics, and religion, our culture has been influenced so much by the writers of the past. We are influenced by the past more than I realized. For example, Martin Luther King Jr. included several references to philosophers of the past in his Letters from a Birmingham Jail.

I was amazed how he was able to bring together the words of other authors and connect their ideas to his. How does anyone remember so many quotes?

That is why the commonplace book is a nice shortcut. All of these quotes and phrases are kept together and organized. You don’t have to memorize every point, at least not now.

What to Include in a Commonplace Book

Commonplace books entries don’t have to be from just philosophers and academics. You can include quotes from anywhere you find inspiring, novels, poetry, the Bible, Koran, or any religious text, from a movie, tv-show, or song. Even a street sign.

You can use quotes that you’ve heard in real life too. I learn so much about the world from family, friends, professors, and acquaintances. There is something about people that makes us want to quote each other. My sorority has a group chat where we quote each other and send it to the group. Most of these quotes are super funny, random, and out of context. But they can also be wise and insightful.

In the case of the commonplace book, I always look at the context. So I do not misunderstand what the writer intended to say. Jeremiah 29:11, “for you know the plans I have for you” for example, is not meant for a 21st century reader but for the people of Israel. Shakespeare’s “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” is not nearly as deep as people think, and the term “greatness thrust upon them” is an innuendo. So be careful what you quote for inspiration.

For this book, I look for quotes that say something accurate about human nature or offer wisdom about how to live a good life.

Not all of your quotes have to be older either; they can be modern or from a song you heard last week. I would pay attention to the media you enjoy and look for things that you can learn. There are plenty of quotes that I find deep at the moment. James Arthur’s “Empty Space” has been stuck in my head for at least a month. Maybe I will put some of the lyrics in a commonplace book, or maybe not. We sometimes find genius in unexpected places.

It is good to have authors from different periods, cultures, and places. If you keep a broad scope, you will discover universal truths. You can find great wisdom from any era too. I like to keep learning about the world I live in–not just where I am.

When I read something I want to remember, it gets lost–amongst all the other ideas swimming around my brain–like all the emails I read, the things people say in real life, my homework assignments, and articles I read online. It feels like too much. I also have a million notebooks, so most of my quotes are scattered in multiple journals. Then I lose it all. So when I learned about commonplace books, I decided it was worth giving it a try.

Organization

So, how do I even organize a commonplace book?

I have heard that there are different ways to organize them, but I decided to follow the method my professor described. I find this method easier, but if you find another method that you prefer, go for it. I organize mine alphabetically by the category of a quote. I make a page or so for every letter and the first vowel of that letter.

For example, I have a page for AA and the next page is AE. I vary the number of pages for each letter depending on how many words you can make for each letter and vowel. I make up categories as I go along and put categories on the pages corresponding to the alphabet. For example, let’s say that I’m writing down a quote about humility. I would go to the page where I wrote “HU” and would add the category humility under it. All quotes that are about humility go there.

I write the quote under the category. Then I write the name of the author, the name of the work, and the page numbers under the quote. If I want to go back and read a whole section or reread the work I referenced, I can find it easily.

This is Your Commonplace book- don’t just listen to what I’m doing

You don’t have to structure your commonplace book as I did. A commonplace book is yours to write in and reference, so you should structure it a way it works for you. You could use a physical journal like I did or make a digital one on a word document. I love writing quotes down to remember them. You could even have multiple commonplace books. You could use one for quotes you like from books and another for words of wisdom. Not all quotes offer good advice, but I like them anyway and it could be fun to keep track of them.
The main reason that my professor assigned this and why I’m writing this is so that I can learn and grow in virtue and understanding. They can help me become the best version of myself. They can help me grow as a person. In our internet age, I have noticed how quickly trends fade; I want something that I can hold onto, and becoming more like people you admire isn’t the impossible task that I once imagined it was.


Patience, honor, bravery, justice, benevolence, temperance, wit (Aristotle said wit was a virtue, I approve), and other virtues improve with practice. I fall into the problem of seeing virtue as abstract rather than concrete, and sometimes I find it easy to forget my moral code or forget that these are important.


Writing them down and reading them helps me remember. I can remember what is right. I can also read sections about wealth and remember that it does not matter the most. Money is the means to an end rather than the final end. I want to learn and remember how to be a good friend and care about others around me.

You certainly don’t need a commonplace book or to study philosophy or ethics to live a moral life, but I find writing down quotes and looking at them again is a helpful tool. When I feel stuck in my thoughts or in the midst of a moral dilemma, I can look at what people say about these things. Writing in a commonplace book is a great way to remember quotes and bits of information. These people are authors who I love reading and want to keep with me.


I would highly recommend starting a commonplace book if this sounds interesting. A commonplace book is a way to cultivate wisdom, love and, appreciation for words that will last a lifetime. Making commonplacing a regular habit can be a helpful way to keep your favorite writers with you. It can motivate you to go back and reread your favorites and seek out new material. One of my worries about leaving college was forgetting how much I loved reading, especially philosophy and literature. If this sounds like something that sounds even remotely interested in, I would recommend giving it a try.


Tip: Whether you mark an entry every time as you read and discover something new, or spend seven minutes a day or three days a week commonplacing, building it into your life is the best way to ensure that it doesn’t end up under your closet. I know it has been a temptation of mine. Even if you forget about it for a while, you can always come back. There is no time limit or rules for your book.


This year, a few of my goals are to maintain a schedule to cultivate a good sleep, exercise, and eating habits; cultivate relationships and grow spiritually, and find a job after graduating in the spring. I wrote most of these goals down in January, and I’m still working on them. I also hope to grow in wisdom and learn about lives outside my own. So, commonplace book, here I go. I will not save every worksheet from Finite Math and Shakespeare, but I will keep this book with me.


I hope that I will look back and remember old entries. I wonder what I will think when I look back at the quotes I wrote down when I was younger. I’d love to write more about this in the future once I get into collecting more quotes. Have you ever heard of or tried creating a commonplace book? If you’ve started or plan to start one, I would love to hear about it and plans for this year.


What do you think about a commonplace book? Are you a fan of spring cleaning? Do you tend to hold onto everything you receive or take a minimalist approach? Let me know in the comments!

Music

An Analysis of Taylor Swift’s “Cardigan” with P. A. Wilson

Cardigan is one of three Taylor Swift songs in a series that she calls the “Teenage Love Triangle.” This story is about three teens, Betty, James, and an unnamed character who James cheats on Betty with. Each song takes place from the perspective from a different teen, and Betty is the first one to share her perspective in her song, “Cardigan.”

P. A. Wilson and I decided to analyze each song in the series and offer our thoughts and opinions. We love a good song analysis, and this was a lot of fun.

Vintage tee, brand new phone

High heels on cobblestones

When you are young, they assume you know nothing

P. A. Wilson: I automatically get modern vibes or 2010s vibes at least. It seems recent mostly because of the new phone, but vintage tees have been popular for a few years now I believe. I am not great at keeping up with what’s in style, but I see teenagers still wearing vintage tees. High heels and vintage tees are a weird combination. I kind of wonder if there are two people in this scene due to the mismatch. High heels on cobblestones mostly makes me think of how I never wear them because I am so clumsy. On cobblestones, I would probably end up tripping and falling. I wonder if high heels on cobblestones is a metaphor for the relationship between these two people. Like if they are going through a rough patch or are uncertain in their footing. The last sentence is super relatable because adults always assume that teenagers, or even younger adults, are simply too inexperienced to know anything about the world or themselves. When I came out as asexual and biromantic, and even before that when I implied I was sex-repulsed, I was told that I was too young to understand how I felt. So yeah, this hit home.

Ashley: I’m curious about the vintage tee and high heels. It is an odd combination of clothes to wear, and I’m guessing there are two people there. The brand new phone also sounds like one of the people is able to afford a new phone, maybe they’re more wealthy, but they prefer to dress in vintage tees for comfort. High heels on cobblestones sounds slippery. I would probably fall over, myself. Cobblestones maybe indicate that they’re in someone’s driveway or maybe they’re walking through town. I like that last sentence. I feel like we don’t take young people very seriously, and it’s quite annoying.

Sequin smile, black lipstick

Sensual politics

When you are young, they assume you know nothing

P. A. Wilson: “Sequin smile” is a wonderful usage of descriptive imagery. Sequins look like they are diamonds or some other gem, but they are fake in reality, mere plastic. A sequin smile is shiny and looks genuine but masks a different feeling inside. Black lipstick also suggests a somber mood. Sensual politics seems to refer to the subtle manipulation and deliberate impression made by this behavior and clothing choice–like the intentional maneuvers and diction of a politician. The final line about adults assuming young people know nothing takes on a different vibe in this section, because it seems like the adults came to this conclusion because of the smiles and makeup/clothing choices of young people. Like it is a judgement based on appearance.

Ashley: “Sequin smile” is an interesting phrase. It feels plastered on or fake, almost ornamental. This person is dressing up, maybe in sequins. I have personally never worn black lipstick, and from what I’ve heard, it sounds like it is hard to pull it off. I kind of want to try black lipstick now. But, I get the vibe here that she’s (or the person wearing lipstick) is dressing up for the other. The phrase “sensual politics” sounds like it is a younger person trying to be more mature. Politics reminds me of politicians having secret affairs with each other. Sensual makes me think that this is a liaison between two people, if not a cheating situation. I can see where the second phrase comes in. Maybe older people observing their relationship saw it as them pretending to be adults, and her dressing up for the person she’s with is seen as exaggerated and overdone. She says the phrase dismissively like they assume, but she knows the truth.

But I knew you

Dancin’ in your Levi’s

Drunk under a streetlight, I

P. A. Wilson: Knowing someone when they are in a different state from one in which they would normally like others to see them suggests a kind of intimacy. It’s a personal moment that the narrator has shared with one they love. Being drunk and dancing also suggests a kind of vulnerability and implied trust.

Ashley: They’re definitely out at night. The image here also just feels intimate. It is one of those moments that not everyone knows about a person. Although this person is drunk, they seem vulnerable. They’re carefree, dancing around. I also find it interesting that the two of them are not dancing together. One is watching while the other dances, at least that’s how I interpret it.

I knew you

Hand under my sweatshirt

Baby, kiss it better, I

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan

Under someone’s bed

You put me on and said I was your favorite

P. A. Wilson: She sounds like she feels left behind often, abandoned as unwanted, but that the lover made her feel like she was special. The old cardigan was an interesting choice, as a piece of clothes, something that you put on sometimes for comfort but that you might not wear around others as often since it is old. Almost suggesting that her lover “puts her on” when it is convenient or just as a means of comfort. “Baby, kiss it better” is kind of childish, suggesting that the singer is vulnerable and believes the lover’s affection would have a healing effect.

Ashley: She is definitely confident, telling him to kiss her, and we definitely know this is some sort of relationship now. I like the cardigan image. I don’t have any clothes under my bed myself. If anything, it would be a cardigan on the floor of my closet or hung up somewhere. It sounds like she feels like she is forgotten. Maybe she feels like no one sees her as a romantic prospect, and then he chooses her and she feels good and warm. I’m not sure if this extends into other categories of life too. Does she feel like family and her peers don’t notice her much, or does she just feel like this in a romantic context?

A friend to all is a friend to none

Chase two girls, lose the one

When you are young, they assume you know nothin’

P. A. Wilson: I understand very well that “a friend to all is a friend to none.” I try to be on good terms and build relationships with many people, including people who don’t get along with each other. Because I do not choose sides, I am often resented by everyone involved. James chased another girl, and now has lost the Betty. Losing the one could also be interpreted as losing “the one.” Like the one person who is a perfect match. I never believed in “the one,” instead believing there are many potential partners who would be great, even if you only choose one in the end. The repetition of “they assume you know nothin'” now seems like it means they assume one cannot be held responsible for such actions if one is young, due to ignorance.

Ashley: I feel like she’s pretty right here. You can’t please everyone and be everyone’s friend, but I’m not sure if you’d be a friend to no one. You’d have to have someone, right? The next phrase totally contradicts the first one. If only one girl is lost, they still get the other girl. I’m guessing Betty is the girl that was lost, because she says she knew them in past tense. Again, the refrain maybe reinstates that her lover didn’t know how to keep her, so maybe in this case, at least James really did know nothing.

But I knew you

Playing hide-and-seek and

Giving me your weekends, I

P. A. Wilson: Playing hide and seek sounds cute and sweet like the children’s game, but it could mean James is hiding something more serious, like his affair with another girl. Giving weekends makes it sound like it is a gift that James is giving her. Oddly, she does not consider that she is also giving him her weekends. The gift is mutual. It becomes increasingly clear that Betty has low self-esteem.

Ashley: I feel like this relationship is starting to show its disfunction some more. Playing hide and seek first sounds fun and a bit childish, but it maybe carries another meaning. James might not be as consistent with meeting up and hanging out with Betty. We know from Swift that James is cheating on Betty, and it sounds like he might be hiding when they are in public or isn’t very consistent with making plans. Giving me your weekends also shows how Betty sees James’ weekends as a gift. She doesn’t see herself as giving her weekends, and it sounds like she felt special to get weekends together. Their relationship could only exist on weekends, and James spends the other time with this other girl. But Betty didn’t seem to care. She just liked feeling special.

I can understand that, enjoying whenever you’re around someone. You soak up all your time together like a sponge because he makes you feel special, and it feels like you don’t get that feeling anywhere else. And that’s all you can think about. Your head is so filled with love that you forget all their flaws and the circumstances you’re in.

I knew you

Your heartbeat on the High Line

Once in 20 lifetimes, I

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan

Under someone’s bed

You put me on and said I was your favorite

P. A. Wilson: Not really sure what heartbeat on the High Line means, other than it is a straight street in New York. Maybe it refers to how Betty thought James’ heart would not deviate from her. She felt like this love was so special it would only be found once in 20 lifetimes. The repetition of the cardigan line emphasizes her low self-esteem and how he made her seem special.

Ashley: I looked up High Line. It is a straight street in New York City. I’m not exactly sure what she means with this image. I’m imagining that if she feels like his heartbeat is on a straight road, then maybe she doesn’t see him as pursuing another girl. She is the road to happiness and their love is a straight line. It feels extra special, once in 20 lifetimes. So, it doesn’t matter if she is young. She feels like with this person she has lived and has now finally experienced true love. I also feel like she’s justifying her love for him. She felt so special and she had no idea they’d break her heart.

To kiss in cars and downtown bars

Was all we needed

You drew stars around my scars

But now I’m bleedin”

P. A. Wilson: Cars and bars both seem connected to the fast life. Interesting they are kissing in places where the instinct to kiss or the alcohol could impair judgement. Is that really all she needed? What about kissing in the intimacy of a home? She is apparently emotionally or psychologically scarred, and being around him distracted her from that. Drawing stars around them does not heal her, but it does distract her from her pain and make the world seem brighter. That’s why when James leaves it is especially devastating.

Ashley: Ouch. Cars and bars are pretty secretive. They aren’t together in public but somehow it is enough for both of them. But is it? It might be all they wanted in the moment, but look at the next lines. I’m imagining James is drawing stars with a pen on Betty’s arm. I’m not sure how metaphorical and literal they are. Also, stars seem like they’re nearby forever, but then the night ends and we can no longer see them.

Scars indicate she’s been hurt in the past, either emotionally or physically or both. She seems like she’s healed, but she’s still fragile. If we’re thinking of physical scars, drawing around the scars seems like they’re creating a distraction. She isn’t being healed, but she feels better with this person who seems like a ray of light. The only problem is that she’s rested her happiness on this person and once they leave her, the pain is worse and she is alone.

Cause I knew you

Steppin’ on the last train

Marked me like a bloodstain, I

P. A. Wilson: Stepping on the last train suggests he wanted to be with her for a long time, but ultimately left her. A bloodstain leaves no positive memories and has no good associations, just the notion of pain. In addition to her scars and bleeding, she feels stained.

Ashley: He is leaving her. The last train might indicate he cares for her too, he is spending every moment that he can with her. But marking her like a bloodstain, that hurts. He still causes a harmful wound whether he means to or not. She is too in love with him.

I knew you

Tried to change the ending

Peter losing Wendy, I

I knew you

P. A. Wilson: I understood the Peter Pan and Wendy reference, because they were really close, even though I do not recall the ending. It seems like James is trying to backpedal and change this ending where he loses the girl of his dream, but he fails.

Ashley: I haven’t seen Peter Pan since I was a kid, and I can’t remember the ending. I think Wendy leaves Neverland. I picture Neverland a place where nothing ever changes–where they can stay young and carry out their romance forever. He seems like he’s trying to get back together with her after leaving. He wants to keep their romance, but he has already hurt her and they can’t go back.

Leavin’ like a father

Running like water, I

And when you are young, they assume you know nothing

P. A. Wilson: “Leavin’ like a father” is a painful line. It seems like Betty’s own father might have left her, but also like this is a commentary about how fathers sometimes leave their children. Running like water makes it sound like she thinks it was natural that he left her, if unexpected. She shows that she has experience and doesn’t really know nothing.

Ashley: The speaker seems like she’s pretty vague about her own past. I can’t tell if her father or another family member left her in the past and that is why she has these scars. I don’t get the sense that James caused her initial scars. The metaphor of running like water. Well, water runs, but it leaves an impact on the ground that it runs under. It also keeps moving forward, regardless of the feelings of the people around it.

But I knew you’d linger like a tattoo kiss

I knew you’d haunt all of my what-ifs

The smell of smoke would hang around this long

P. A. Wilson: A tattoo is long-lasting and often permanent, so his love has marked her permanently, whether that is desired or not. She is haunted by what could have been. Smoke comes after a fire and is a sign of destruction. Usually, it fades away, but this smoke is lingering, suffocating Betty.

Ashley: She says they’re lingering, and lingering means someone stays longer than intended or wanted. It seems like she doesn’t necessarily want to keep him on her mind, but she can’t let it go. A tattoo feels more permanent than a lingering stranger. A tattoo is meant to be permanent, and it is pretty painful to remove. Haunting what-ifs shows that she made decisions too. Maybe she could have gotten with James when he fought for her, but she gave up. The smell of smoke reminds me of a fire burning or a cigarette. Also, fire is quick and passionate in the moment, and you don’t expect smoke to hang around after.

‘Cause I knew everything when I was young

I knew I’d curse you for the longest time

P. A. Wilson: Young people know more than they are usually given credit for, even if they are inexperienced. They learn about life, and their experience should not be disregarded. She knows even now that she is going to hold a grudge and not be able to move on for a long time.

Ashley: She knows that she won’t forget him. She knows her feelings and that she’s in pain, and she won’t get over how he hurt her for a while. Just because she’s young doesn’t mean she doesn’t know herself or hasn’t learned from her experiences.

Chasin’ shadows in the grocery line

I knew you’d miss me once the thrill expired

And you’d be standin’ in my front porch light

P. A. Wilson: Even though Betty knows James is gone, she looks for signs of his presence in public places. She knew he would come back to her. He is no longer the person drawing stars–now he relies on the porch light instead of being a source of light himself.

Ashley: I like the image of chasing shadows. I wonder if she sees him at the store and watches as he walks away from the store. I like how she continues the metaphor of light. But instead of a shadow, he is now present in the light.

And I knew you’d come back to me

You’d come back to me

And you’d come back to me

And you’d come back

P. A. Wilson: I didn’t expect this confidence that he would return. I had hoped the end of the song would show her moving on and happy on her own or finding someone new. The repetition makes it seem more likely.

Ashley: She’s pretty confident. This ending surprises me a little. But he did care about her, so it makes sense. It sounds like maybe they’ll get a happy ending.

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan

Under someone’s bed

You put me on and said I was your favorite

P. A. Wilson: This song was a good one. I appreciated the imagery, especially the cardigan and the sequin smile. I personally hope they both move on. It’s hard to trust again after being cheated on, and I am not sure that Betty will be able to heal if she re-opens old wounds by being with James again. The positive ending makes me think that they may have a chance, though.

Ashley: I liked this song. It tells a story in the details. I feel like if these two get together, they have a bit to learn, even if she does know herself pretty well. James has to make it up to her for leaving, but I feel like coming to her doorstep is a start at least.

I feel like she’s captured the experience of being young and in love. Betty both knows herself and James more than people think she does, but she still makes mistakes and learns from them. She feels so happy about being someone’s favorite. It feels special and exciting, but she also feels comfortable with him. That isn’t something you want to let go. Cardigans are something that you keep for a long time in her case.

In real life though, I had a cardigan that, like this one, I left in my closet for years. It was grey and thin. It was comfortable enough, but it didn’t match many of my clothes. I enjoyed wearing it at the time though, but I ended up donating it. I don’t really miss it. I got a white cardigan this Christmas, partially out of my love of Taylor Swift. It is shorter and has two buttons. I hope to wear it again in the fall when it gets cooler outside.

So, that’s our analysis of “Cardigan.” Next, we’re going to analyze “Betty” next. What did you think of the song? Do you think Betty should have taken James back? Let us know in the comments below!

Shows

My list of the best couples on 10 Couples on TV

Spoilers for New Girl, Gilmore Girls + The Revival, Jane The Virgin, The Good Place, and Dickinson

I have to say: romance is a lot of fun. I love fictional couples and watching people develop feelings for each other. I feel like I live through fictional relationships sometimes. But I’m not sure I’m alone. So this week, I decided to compile a list of the TV couples that I ship the most and share them with you all.

10. Serena and Dan from Gossip Girl

I know this ship is a rather unpopular one, but I really liked these two. I never got around to finishing Gossip Girl, but Serena and Dan were a great couple in the first season. Dan is an outsider and Serena is the IT girl. They had a lot of chemistry, and I liked the drama that came with this couple. Blake Lively is also incredible. I liked her with Nate too, but these two were my first ship on this show, and I always rooted for them to get back together even after they broke up. That’s why I’m giving them a higher rating. Gossip Girl just had good ships in general. Most of them were really unhealthy, but the drama was fun to watch. It is one of those shows where almost everyone dates each other because the actors have chemistry with everyone.

Best Quote:

Serena to Dan: “I loved you and just because we broke up doesn’t mean that I could turn it off like that”

9. Morticia and Gomez from The Adams Family

It shouldn’t be surprising that I chose these two. I have seen The Adams Family as a movie and a play, and both times that I watched, one of my biggest takeaways was just how these two love each other. They are nothing like the typical sitcom couple where they don’t actually like each other. For some shows, husbands and wives hating each other or barely tolerating each other is a big punchline. Not funny, guys. If you’re looking for the perfect married couple, just look at Morticia and Gomez. These two have been married for years, and they both adore each other and are passionately in love. They both love their rather strange lifestyle, and they get to do the weird parts of life together. I feel like a lot of media shows a couple fall in love, but not the aftermath. I like seeing these two married with kids navigating family life. They fight like a normal couple, of course, but they still always come to a solution. It is no wonder that many online lists put them as one of the best romances of all time.

Swoon-Worthy Quote:

Gomez: “How long has it been since we’ve waltzed?”

Morticia: “Oh, Gomez…”

Gomez: “…Hours.”

8. April and Andy from Parks and Rec

Okay. I absolutely love these two. When I first watched this show, I thought Andy was a pretty annoying boyfriend to Ann, but luckily, he improves so much in the next season. These two are also the grumpy/sunshine trope. Andy is a goofball slacker, and April is a goth slacker. When they get together, there is absolute chaos. They start as friends and then start liking each other and date pretty early in the series.

I was most surprised that the most childish couple of the show ended up getting married so early. But I kind of love it. Their wedding is the most random thing ever. They have a party with their friends, and then they announce their house party is actually their wedding. Andy wears a football jersey to his own wedding, which is pretty awesome. April says that she never really hated him in her vows, which is so her. I love how this couple are just fun whenever they’re together. Some couples become boring after they get together on TV shows because the writers don’t know what else to do with them. All the relationship drama stops. At best, they are reduced to background characters, and at worst, one of them cheats on the other.

But when April and Andy get married, they’re anything but boring. Also they aren’t organized or good at what they call adulting, but they’re figuring it out together. I can relate to them as someone who just graduated from college. I have no idea what I’m doing; these two don’t either–but they know they want to be together–and it works out. They don’t force themselves to grow old and boring. They know how to have fun together. They make each other laugh, and their personalities play off each other really well. They’re happy and know how to make each other laugh. I would say that’s pretty awesomesauce.

Best Quote:

Andy: “Aww Babe… you had a crush on me, that’s so embarrassing.”

April: “We’re married.”

Andy: “Still”

7. Jane and Rafael from Jane the Virgin

I started watching Jane the Virgin a while ago, and I fell in love with Jane and Rafael. Basically, the plot of their story is that Jane, a virgin, accidentally gets artificially inseminated when a doctor mixes up her pap smear with another woman. That woman is Petra, and Rafael is the fiancé and the father of Jane’s child.

Jane and Rafael actually met once before. They met a coffee shop years ago and kissed. It sounds like it is almost fate, but Rafael is with Petra and Jane is engaged to a man named Michael.

I liked Michael a lot too, but Rafael was just a sweetheart. He had his issues, but so did Jane. I loved how they always encouraged each other no matter what. Rafael always encouraged her writing and was willing to make sacrifices for Jane’s happiness. Jane encouraged Rafael and showed him that he could be a better man than his father was. These two also have so much passion and chemistry. Rafael is also incredibly good looking, so that helps. But even as they go from a couple to friends, I feel like neither of them truly stopped loving each other. I also liked how Rafael didn’t get along with Jane’s family right away. It takes some time for them. Especially after Michael’s passing. By the end, he loves her family, and they love him and he has been there with her through so many different life challenges. And despite all the hurdles, they get together in the end.

I liked how they are able to be friends as well, and they care about each other and are best friends even when they’re not dating.

Swoon-worthy quote:

Jane: “It’s your dream. Go for it, be brave.”

Rafael: “Hey, that’s my line.”

Jane: “Well, it works and it’s true.”

6. Jess and Rory from Gilmore Girls

I have to say, I normally don’t like whole bad-boy romance stories, but Jess from Gilmore Girls is my exception. He is Luke’s nephew, and he moves in with his uncle during the second season. He and Rory meet pretty quickly–Lorelai and Luke are close friends after all–and instantly feel a connection. Unfortunately for Jess, Rory is in a relationship with another guy named Dean.

Jess isn’t who you’d think of as Rory’s type. He is extremely intelligent, but he thinks school is a waste of time and doesn’t trust authority figures. Rory is dedicated to studying hard and heading to Harvard. The two of them are connected by a love of books (swoon!) and they end up dating after quite a bit of drama with Dean.

One of the best things about Jess and Rory is that although their paths in life and goals are somewhat different, they’re always pushing each other to be the best versions of themselves. Rory inspires Jess to write a book, and in the revival (major spoiler), Jess tells Rory that she should write a book about her and her mom. They also grow together and are inspired by the other person’s influence.

I will say that Jess was pretty flawed. His mother basically gave him over to Luke and his father left him, and Jess has problems with authority in general. Jess does grow to be a better person with Luke and Rory and even Lorelai’s influence. He leaves in the fourth season, but he does come back to visit.

This is one ship I like that doesn’t end up together. Honestly, I’m not sure if it is for the best or not. These two are great both as friends and as a couple. I like how much they cared about each other no matter what. I think if Amy Sherman Palladino ever made a second revival, I would love to see Jess and Rory get together. But even if it doesn’t happen, I’m grateful that these two were thing.

Best Quote:

Jess: “You know, Ernest only has lovely things to say about you.”

This is from a discussion where Rory wants Jess to read The Fountainhead and Jess wants Rory to read Hemingway.

5. Eleanor and Chidi from The Good Place

I haven’t finished The Good Place yet, but I love Eleanor and Chidi together. Chidi is a philosophy professor of ethics, and Eleanor is actually not supposed to be in The Good Place because she was just a bad person. There’s really no other way to say that. But Chidi is stubborn decides to teach her how to be good so that she can stay there. They do this by studying the philosophers and talking about ethics. For Chidi, this means teaching and talking about his passion, for Eleanor, it is learning that Aristotle is not pronounced “Chipotle.”

I love these two for their wildly different personalities. Chidi is an extremely indecisive guy who desperately wants to make the most ethical decision, but he can never decide. Eleanor is the poster-child for not caring. She is snarky and honest and has no filter. Eleanor is smart, but she just doesn’t care about anything or anyone but herself, at least at first. I like seeing them interact and react to each other.

Best Quote:

Eleanor: “I was dropped into a cave. You were my flashlight.”

The Plato reference gets me. Intellectual beauty–I love it. Honestly my best romantic quote on here.

5. Petra and JR – Jane the Virgin

Petra was one of my favorite characters on Jane the Virgin. She starts the series as Rafael’s fiancé and Jane’s rival. Petra makes some . . . interesting . . . decisions throughout the show. But it is mostly because her life and past has been incredibly chaotic. Most of these characters go through so much melodrama, but Petra has been through too much that she doesn’t deserve. Petra honestly might be my favorite character on this show. She’s tough and calculated, but she had to grow up that way.

After watching her pine over Rafael for so long, I was pleasantly surprised when she develops feelings for her lawyer, Jane Ramos. Because her name is so similar to our protagonist, Jane, they call her JR.

Petra is always so confident, which drew me to her character. She also always seems to want to be in control, so it was fun watching her fall for Jane and juggle feelings for someone.

Petra hires JR as her lawyer because Petra’s sister died. This is a long story, but it is not Petra’s fault. Jane and Petra end up getting together when they think the case if closed. Of course, this is a telenovela, so when you think it is over, it never truly is. But they break up and end up realizing that they love each other.

I went into ending this show with no idea how the writers would end it, but they gave Petra a perfect match.

She and JR are both ambitious and fiercely protective of the people they love. It was so nice to see Petra happy too, after all that she has been through. I get that this show is a telenovela, but there is so much drama. From husbands coming back from the dead to crime lords, it is quite the ride. These two are amazing though, the way they love and care about each other. I love how JR fits into Petra’s life so well, with her daughters, with her past–all of it. They have their bumps in the road, but they just fit together. They’re amazing.

Best Quote:

Petra: “I love you too, which is scary because its so fast. But here’s the thing, I’ve never felt about anyone the way I feel when I’m with you. And I think I just quoted Dirty Dancing. But that’s the kind of cheesy thing you make me do.”

JR: “I happen to love . . . Dirty Dancing

4. Lorelai and Luke from Gilmore Girls

I’ve talked before about how much I love the grumpy/sunshine trope and these two fit this trope to a T. Lorelai is a single mom and a huge coffee fanatic and Luke owns a diner that she goes to every day. They have been friends for years. One of my favorite tropes is the friends who have been pining for each other forever and Luke and Lorelai are great together as friends and as a couple. They have hilarious banter and if there’s any guy for Lorelai, it is Luke.

The writers of this show threw in so much drama later in the series, but I still love them together. I like how their relationship shows different love languages. Luke for instance, shows Lorelai that he loves her by works of service. He makes her an ice rink when they’re dating. Love doesn’t have to be said all the time or showed in a certain way. This show is a good example of that.

Best Quote:

Both of them:“Will you just stand still”

3. Schmidt and Cece from New Girl

Schmidt may be my favorite New Girl character. He is very high-maintenance and interested in brands and labels. One of his quotes is “Can Somebody Get My Towel? It’s In My Bedroom Next To My Irish Walking Cape.” He has an Irish walking cape, and he owns more hair products than anyone in the loft. He is also a ladies man and a huge flirt. The group has a douchebag jar for Schmidt to put money in when he told Cece he would marry her the moment he met her. Cece wasn’t sure what to think of him at first, but after they spend some time together, she develops feelings for him. They are on-and off again and then finally end up getting married.

Best Quote:

Schmidt: “You like me? For my personality”

Cece: “I was surprised too”

2. Emily and Sue from Dickinson

I absolutely love Emily Dickinson poetry, so I was pleasantly surprised when I watched the new Apple TV adaption. In real life, Sue Gilbert is Emily’s friend and sister-in-law. Sue married her brother Austin. Literary critics have speculated that the two were in love. In the series, Emily and Sue are best friends and fall in love and carry on a passionate, secret romance.

They both have amazing chemistry, and Emily writes poetry about Sue. Falling in love with your best friend is the dream. Some of the best couples are friends who have known each other forever. These two also have amazing chemistry. The show vibes are amazing, and these two are the best part. And I’m a huge fan of Emily Dickinson and Hailee Seinfeld, so it is pretty great. Emily is outgoing and hilarious and Sue is more introverted and sweet. Their relationship is definitely messy, but their love for each other never is.

Best Quote:

Sue: Emily, I love.
Emily: Stop lying to me.
Sue: I love you, and I felt you in the library because you’re always with me. I can’t escape from you because the only true thing I will ever feel is my love for you.

1. Nick and Jess from New Girl

New Girl is a show about a woman named Jess who moves in with three guys after her ex-boyfriend cheats on her. When we first meet Jess, she is a quirky elementary school teacher. Jess is also super sweet and isn’t afraid to be childish or silly. She mixes the group dynamics in the best possible way.

Nick is about the opposite. He is also a rather unusual love interest. Nick is a bartender and a law-school drop out. He is an underachiever and he has an unfinished novel called The Pepperwood Chronicles.

He is also a great friend and, when they get together–a great boyfriend. They both care about each other so much, even when they are not dating. They’re also one of those couples who clash a bit in personality, and it keeps things interesting. Nick can be his goofiest, truest self with Jess and vice versa. They also have so much chemistry. It is crazy. Their first kiss was wow…

I haven’t seen many sitcom couples that have this much chemistry and aren’t completely toxic (Ross and Rachel cough). They have their problems of course, and the writers broke them up for no reason, but they’re just great together. As friends, as a couple, as people supporting each other. I love them so much, and they’re the kind of couple who do anything for each other. Nick will move mountains for Jess and she’d do the same for him.

Best Quotes (2 this time, because I can’t help it):

Jess: “There’s Something About Him…I See Him And My Heart Explodes.”

-Swoon… I can’t with these two. They just love each other so much. The passion, the drama, the witty banter. I love this so much.

Nick: “No! not like this!”

This is before they start dating. Nick and Jess are playing a game with the gang, (True American, which I still want to play), and they are given a dare to kiss. The two of them are locked in a room together until they kiss, but Nick just can’t kiss her over a dare. He yells “No! Not like this” and Jess is confused, so he climbs out a window to escape. He ends up kissing her later that night and says “I meant something like that.” I love this scene so much. The man is a great kisser, so much passion. It was probably the best way to start their relationship. 100/10.

So, that is my list of my favorite TV couples. What did you think? Do you like any of these shows? What couples do you ship? Why? Let me know down in the comments below!

Shows

The Absurd Worldview of Mr. Peanutbutter: Let’s talk about Toxic Positivity

As I’m about to graduate college, I’ve been thinking about BoJack Horseman again. I literally love this show so much, probably because it makes me think about people and the patterns they find themselves in.

I also find it interesting that the show includes characters of all different age groups. BoJack is in his fifties. Princess Carolyn is around 40, and Diane is a few years younger than her. Sarah Lynn and Todd are thirty. Hollyhock and Penny are a teens and then young adults. Several characters go through big life changes and experience growth. But I’m not sure that works for everyone. BoJack struggles to make lasting changes over time, but if there is anyone who fails to change over time, it is Mr. Peanutbutter.

I have been thinking lately about mental health and BoJack Horseman and about how Mr. Peanutbutter is the perfect example of toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is a term that I’ve seen everywhere. There are even toxic positivity memes out there. We have all heard the usually well-meaning advice to just stay positive and choose to be happy every day. Is that necessarily a bad thing?

And what is toxic positivity, exactly? According to Medical News Today, Toxic Positivity is “is an obsession with positive thinking. It is the belief that people should put a spin on all experiences, even those that are profoundly tragic. Toxic positivity can silence negative emotions, demean grief, and make people feel under pressure to pretend to be happy even when they are struggling.”

Don’t get me wrong, looking for things you are grateful for and appreciating the people around you are good things, but that simply isn’t the answer for every life situation, especially the painful parts of life. Ignoring life’s tragedies and pain for the sake of positivity is deeply toxic. But before we dive into toxic positivity, it is important to understand Mr. Peanutbutter as a whole.

He is one of those characters that I love to hate, or more accurately, he is one of those people who annoy me, but I can’t help loving them a little anyway. He is funny, and he is always so happy. But his happiness is a strange one. He is willingly oblivious, which seems like a quirk at first. If you think about it though, he’s actually pretty harmful—even if he isn’t causing harm on purpose.

Mr. Peanutbutter’s worldview is actually one of the most complexly thought out ones on the show. When I first saw Mr. Peanutbutter, I figured he was one of those characters who never thought of big questions about life and just enjoyed being rich and famous. After all, money is quite distracting; life is distracting. Not everyone constructs a worldview or decides to understand their place in the world. I thought maybe Mr. Peanutbutter was happier than BoJack because he never thought about the world and just enjoyed the good stuff. Boy, I was wrong. He has thought of his actions and what it means to be in this world. In one episode, he tells Diane:

 “The universe is a cruel, uncaring void. The key to being happy isn’t a search for meaning. It’s to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually, you’ll be dead.”

Wow, I can’t quite agree with you on that, bud. I understand that we can’t figure out the answer to every question or solve the world’s problems, but wow. He also uses the word unimportant nonsense, which indicates that there are important things to do with your life. He could be trying to help others and help with issues he does care about. He does care about the people close to him—Diane, for instance. And he’s not in a position where he can’t help others be happier and safer.

As an actor, he has a lot of money. He already recognizes that it won’t buy him happiness or make his life perfect, so why doesn’t he help the less fortunate? Diane, in contrast, is all about saving people. She knows that the world is full of pain and harm, and she wants to help other people. But she breaks down when she realizes she isn’t making lasting change. That’s totally understandable. The world is full of hurt, but I feel like our best efforts are worth it. I agree with Diane’s decisions at the end; she does help people in a new way. But there is an alternative worldview and way to look at things. We don’t have to give up, and we don’t have to fix everything.

So, I wonder if a middle ground between Diane’s activism and Mr. Peanutbutter’s denial would be recognizing that you can’t fix everything and that bad things will continue to happen. But do good anyway. Mr. Peanutbutter also, in deciding that there is no point in helping, ignores the privileges that he has that others do not. Few people are able to distract themselves with “unimportant nonsense” without worrying about bills, health, and other life struggles. Even if you take up the view that life is all nonsense, why not allow others to enjoy nonsense the way you do? That brings me to the next point, the episode, “The Face of Depression.”

The Face of Depression

I find it interesting how when Mr. Peanutbutter is labeled, The Face of Depression, BoJack and Diane are completely skeptical. He’s so happy all the time: how can he possibly be depressed? Diane is diagnosed with depression, and it sounds like BoJack has it as well from what we see.

But I wonder why they have to be so skeptical that their friend has depression. Even though Mr. Peanutbutter is generally a happy person, that doesn’t mean he can’t suffer from depression. Anyone can have any mental illness regardless of their personality or the face they put on in public.

But Mr. Peanutbutter doesn’t have depression. The show says he does not, and that is partially why he works as an example of toxic positivity. He is absurdist in philosophy and deep into toxic positivity. Now, when we hear the term positive, we wonder, what is wrong with that? Is there anything wrong with being happy and having a good view of life? Is it wrong to be an optimist and to see the glass is half full?

Well, frankly, it depends. Toxic positivity refers to downplaying any emotions that are not positive.

Of course, we all want our friends to be happy and we want ourselves to be happy too. We don’t want them to be going through hard times or to feel bad. When we feel good about life, we want other people to as well. That is a normal feeling and a human one. But happiness isn’t something we should expect out of other people. No one should have to pretend to be happy when they are feeling miserable. I get his ignorance, however. I personally do not have depression, and I can only imagine what it would be like for others.

I understand that it can be hard to understand why someone’s external circumstances seem so good on the outside, but they might be unhappy. Take this conversation between Mr. Peanutbutter and BoJack. Mr. Peanutbutter just asked BoJack if he is jealous of Mr, PB because he is married to Diane.

BoJack Horseman No. Of everything. Everything comes so easy for you.

Mr. Peanutbutter Oh, and it doesn’t for you? You’re a millionaire movie star with a girlfriend who loves you, acting in your dream movie. What more do you want? What else could the universe possible owe you?

BoJack Horseman I… want… to feel good about myself. The way you do. And I don’t know how. I don’t know if I can.

On Mr. Peanutbutter’s end, it sounds like BoJack has every reason to be happy. Shouldn’t these good things, love, and career success make him happy?

The two of them end up reconciling, and I’m not sure if Mr. Peanutbutter understands BoJack in the end or not. I’d say his worldview makes it hard for him to understand people. Mr. Peanutbutter, because he sees the world as meaningless, doesn’t recognize that others think differently than he does. If life is about doing silly things, why doesn’t everyone go with the flow and enjoy them? Nothing has any inherent value or meaning, and if it doesn’t matter–why not have fun?  

This is why he and Diane clash. Diane doesn’t like large parties and being in the spotlight, but Mr. Peanutbutter just assumes she’ll love it. It is fun for him, so why doesn’t everyone else want that? As an introvert, I can relate to Diane. She’s awkward at parties and doesn’t feel comfortable in a large group of strangers.

But Mr. Peanutbutter never tries to consider her perspective because it doesn’t matter. He sees almost all parts of life as things to embrace. Unlike BoJack, he is willing to take any role or follow any scheme, no matter how silly, cliché, or even downright harmful it is. Birthday Dad, a knockoff of BoJack’s show, and an app that later enables sexual harassment are never a no for Mr. Peanutbutter. He goes along with whatever comes his way. There is something to be admired in going with the flow and accepting challenges or when life doesn’t look what you expect, but Mr. Peanutbutter takes it to the extreme. He is utterly thoughtless, and his moral code is weak. Maybe that is why he is so popular while running for office. He cares about niceness and friendliness, which BoJack lacks, but he also doesn’t look beyond the surface level.

He refuses to listen and look, and see any deeper meaning in life.

Toxic Positivity in Real Life

I found this gif when I was looking for online quotes. This is extremely harmful. Being sad is a normal human emotion that we as humans feel. Ignoring your emotions will be harmful in the long run.

I don’t think that belief that the world is meaningless is the inherent cause of toxic positivity, though it certainly can lead to it. I have heard about it in various subgroups. People who are passionate about their jobs or about the opportunity to study in college can fall prey to toxic positivity. I’ve seen this mentality amongst Christians, even though Jesus showed a wide range of emotions and wasn’t exceedingly positive. He cried and got angry and was pretty human and he validated people’s emotions and didn’t pretend sadness didn’t exist.

If that’s the case, I don’t get why we all shouldn’t be like that. God has given blessings and there are good things in the world, so we should appreciate them. Every day is a gift, there is a beautiful creation and there are the joys of coffee and time with friends. I don’t disagree with that, but creation can also be terrifying and horrific. There are hurricanes and tsunamis and nature is frankly, a wild beast. While I agree being thankful and focusing on blessings is important, we don’t always feel happy even with the good things in our lives.

One instance I can think of during college was a situation with academics. In my English classes, I read fantastic books and listened to great lectures. But does that mean I’m not going to be stressed that I have to read 200 pages for one class by next Thursday in one class and 60 pages in another? No way.

If a friend is stressed about school, it is tempting to say to them, “But we have it good here. Our classes are amazing and the books we are reading are profound and beautiful. We have good friends here and our professors are helpful and kind. Classes are fun, why complain if they are hard and you feel anxious? Just enjoy them.” Now, saying that sounds incredibly dumb. College is stressful. Heck, life is stressful. Why should we pretend like it is not. Just like it is absurd to convince our friends to be miserable when they are happy, it is absurd to convince our friends to be happy when they miserable.

Instead, we should listen to people and validate their emotions. Let them let the guard down a little and don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling if you’re upset or something is bothering you. If you feel academic stress, for instance, I know that sometimes a lot of people feel the same way but are a bit afraid to say it. I like x aspects of school, but I’m struggling with x. Or it bothers me when x.

No matter how good things appear on the outside, let yourself feel your feelings. Then learn about them. Understand them. Talk to a counselor if you feel like it could help to have someone else help you understand yourself more.

Toxic Patterns

I think that one of the people that Mr. Peanutbutter hurts the most from his actions is himself. He jumps from wife to wife and doesn’t have any stable foundation. He keeps up a cycle of denial, and that can’t be the right way to live. He also has been deeply sheltered from anything “bad” in the world. His parents raised him on a farm and never taught him to be empathetic or emotionally intelligent. They stunted him.

Toxic positivity does the same thing. It stunts us. It tells us to deny, deny, deny when bad things happen to us, and when life exists outside that bubble of contentment that we’ve created for ourselves. Whenever he faces a challenge, he just moves on to the next thing. He doesn’t reflect on his experiences, and he repeats the same toxic patterns. Bad parts of life exist, and we should learn from them. We should live with them and acknowledge them. Otherwise, we might make the same mistakes. Associating a negative emotion with a certain choice can help us avoid it. For instance, Diane feels disappointed when Mr. Peanutbutter does a big gesture. Instead of recognizing that and seeing it as an opportunity to learn more about his girlfriend and be a better boyfriend, he just moves forward like nothing happened.

His constant invalidation of others’ emotions is pretty terrible. And how are we supposed to learn and love ourselves and the people around us if we do not understand them? If we sort all life’s events into the category of good, there is no opportunity to recognize wrong.

But I can’t just critique his toxic positivity without realizing how it works with his philosophy of life. Mr. Peanutbutter thinks that nothing matters, but it kind of does. His running for governor, for instance, impacts real people around him. To Mr. Peanutbutter, why not run, it sounds like fun. He’s rich, he can do whatever he wants. But Diane admits that he wouldn’t make a good governor. But she doesn’t tell him. Mr. Peanutbutter is never told no, so he keeps doing whatever he feels.

If we go back to that original quote, where he asks BoJack what more could he want, I think Mr. Peanutbutter is jealous of BoJack just like BoJack is jealous of him. Horsin’ Around was a thing before Mr. Peanutbutter’s House. There is also Diane. I feel like a part of him noticed that Diane and BoJack connected emotionally in a way that he can’t with Diane or with any of the women he dates really. But he doesn’t understand himself enough to fix it. He starts dating younger and younger women, and he is never required to understand any of his wives.

Of course, Mr. Peanutbutter is a dog. Dogs are loyal and loving but not always understanding. They like doing different things, and they don’t see any inherent meaning in their actions. At least, I’m assuming they don’t.

But none of this is to retract my points. Humans have a natural craving for meaning, and we experience emotions deeply and they hurt. It is tempting to shove our emotions down and pretend we’re fine. It is tempting to say “at least….” when someone shares bad news or says their day was bad.

But that doesn’t make the pain go away. In fact, it lets us suppress the pain and forces ourselves to put on a happy face for the person who asked us. Mr. Peanutbutter is a dog, but it is okay if he is a sad dog sometimes. A self-aware dog would be nice to see too.

Have you heard of toxic positivity or watched BoJack Horseman? What are your thoughts on the subject of Mr. Peanutbutter? Let me know down in the comments below.

Links:

https://theconversation.com/how-to-avoid-toxic-positivity-and-take-the-less-direct-route-to-happiness-170260

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/toxic-positivity

Hobbies

Ranking My Favorite Teas

A Ranking of all the Teas I’ve Tried

So, I have mentioned that I enjoy drinking tea. I put it on all of my social media bios because I drink at least a cup a day. If you’ve met me in real life, you’d know that I can’t go a day without drinking tea. And as a society, I feel like we don’t talk about tea enough. Coffee dominates our conversations about hot beverages, even though eighty percent of American households have tea in their kitchens. I was surprised, since tea isn’t talked about in the US the way we hear about tea in England. Who knew! I absolutely love tea as a college student, so I decided to talk about it. Here it is–the list of teas that I like or have shaped my life. Let’s go.

Lipton Black Tea

This is from Unsplash, but still. Quite boring, isn’t it?

Caffeinated: Yes

Recommended for: iced tea fans and fans of classic beverages

Lipton tea was the first type of tea that I tried. It is not my favorite, but I still have a cup now and then when I have a chance. Lipton is part of the reason that I thought I disliked tea for the entirety of my childhood. Lipton tea is a black tea, which though it is helpful when I’m sick, I just don’t vibe with it. Black teas have a strong, distinct flavor that I just can’t get into. When I was younger, I thought Lipton black and green tea were my only options. I know that Earl Gray and other black teas are pretty popular, but I’m not a fan.

It wasn’t until I went to college and tried other teas that I realized that it didn’t have to be that way. If I am drinking Lipton tea, I usually add some honey. It is the only tea I will drink honey with–otherwise it ends up meshing with the flavor, and I don’t like it. Honey makes black tea sweeter, which it desperately needs. I think I still put this on the list because I like the idea of it. I drink it at home with my mom when I am sick. It has grown on me, just a little.

Chamomile

They are made of flowers, but I’ve never tried to make my own.

Caffeinated: No

Recommended for: those who want to relax and sleep well after a long day

Chamomile is a chill type of drink. When I’m worried about something, I usually go for a cup of tea. I go for a cup of chamomile at night often because it contains apigenin, which can help you fall asleep. Not tired? Don’t worry, chamomile helps you sleep, but it rarely makes me feel sleepy or super tired during the day. Sometimes I’ll have a cup of chamomile in the morning.

I have been drinking chamomile lately because of my cold. I’ve also been avoiding caffeinated teas, so chamomile fits the bill. I usually get Celestial Tea for Chamomile, but I don’t have a strong brand preference. I love a good love chamomile tea with lemon too. My college gives us Numi tea as part of our meal plan, and while not all the flavors are for me, I love whenever they have chamomile lemon. The lemon adds a bit of extra flavor, and it just tastes great. Tea with lemon is also helpful when you are sick, so I’ve been drinking lemon tea every chance I get. Lemons go with this tea really well.

Matcha

Beautiful. I can’t declare my love for this drink enough.

Caffeinated: Yes

Recommended for: fans of trendy caffeinated drinks with loads of health benefits

I first heard about Matcha lattes from a fitness Instagram account that I follow called Blogicomics by Cassey Ho. I think it was a comic where she meets a new friend, and they decide to get matcha lattes together. She raved about them on her social media, so I figured I’d have to check them out. I’ve also always been drawn to green smoothie drinks. They sound nutritious, have health benefits, and I feel all fancy when I order one. I also like trying things that I’ve never heard of before. Matcha lattes and drinks are made from matcha power, which is a green tea powder made from finely dried tea leaves. Matcha originates from Japan and was brought to the US because Americans like health drinks. They’re pretty good drinks, so I’m not surprised.

I first tried a matcha latte at Dunkn Donuts, and it was good. I also got a matcha doughnut. That is a glazed donut with matcha power on top. I personally didn’t like it. Matcha powder on its own without tea tastes odd, and I like my doughnuts to be sweet. It totally messed with the purpose of a doughnut. In my opinion, doughnuts are great because of the sugar, icing, cream, and sometimes jelly. Eating “green doughnut” or vegetables on a doughnut would be terrible. I don’t get it, but if you like them–that’s cool. Matcha also contains caffeine, so I would be aware of that before having a cup at 11 PM. Matcha Tea takes a bit more preparation as well; it comes in powder rather than a bag, and you have to stir it into a hot cup of water.

Peppermint Tea

Peppermint is great for studying. It helps me focus and fits the aesthetic.

Caffeine: No

Recommended for: tea newbies, fresh breath and mint advocates (it is also said to help with digestion, cramps, and headaches, but there isn’t a ton of evidence–it feels like it helps, at least)

Peppermint tea is one of the first teas that I got into. I like the taste of peppermint leaves, and I figured it would be pretty risk-free to try first. I like peppermint tea. It is minty and I like to have a cup after a meal or at night. I like Celestial’s peppermint the most, but I also like Mint Medley with Bigelow. I like this tea for its flavor and the lack of caffeine. It is a good tea to drink as I’m working on homework or studying. I occasionally get bored of peppermint, and I have been exclusively drinking chamomile at night for the past few weeks.

Fruit Tea

I don’t make tea in a kettle. I (gasp) microwave it. I do want to buy a tea kettle at some point.

Caffeinated: No

Recommended for: fruit fans and people new to or who don’t like the taste of other tea

Fruit tea is a type of tea that I haven’t branched out much with. I sometimes buy the Celestial Fruit Tea Sampler. I love blueberry and I like the cherry, raspberry and mixed fruit. I can’t get into the peach for some reason. I love peaches in real life, but the flavor of this tea just doesn’t feel strong. I drink it anyway, but it isn’t my favorite. Fruit tea is a good alternative for fruit juice or soda. They taste like fruit and don’t have the taste of regular tea. I’ve never been a big fan of fruit juice, but fruit tea is a bit of everything.

Chai

This is a Chai Latte, which I prefer over the tea alone

Caffeinated: Yes

Recommended for: coffee shop enthusiasts and those who don’t mind a little spice in life

If you’ve ever been to a coffee shop, you’ve probably heard of chai tea. I love when I go into a coffee shop and they put a swirl on top of the chai. I’m more of a fan of the hot chai lattes than anything. It is so good. I have tried to get into iced chai lattes, but they are just okay. While I prefer to get one from a shop, I do drink it at home occasionally. I got a package of chai tea as a Christmas gift, and I quite enjoyed it. It is filled with spices, and I like adding milk. I’m pretty picky about my chai tea. I don’t like drinking it on its own, I need milk or some sort of sweetener. I’ve also drank a decent bit of chai in the past year, so I got tired of it for a bit. I will have to try a good chai tea latte again sometime, that would be nice.

Final Thoughts on Tea

So, that’s my list of teas. I’m still fairly new to the whole tea drinking lifestyle, but I absolutely love it. Tea looks beautiful with an aesthetic and loose leaf teas fascinate me, but I haven’t ventured far with them yet. I also want to try a lavender tea and more types of green tea. I have been avoiding caffeinated tea for the most part lately, so we will see.

Strangely enough, my pursuit of tea has been a fairly autonomous and independent act. My family doesn’t drink tea much, and I buy it for myself in college. I also have tried new tea and drank tea with friends. It is as good social activity and a solo one. It has been a pursuit of aesthetic, of taste, and of health. I feel like it is a journey that I am still growing in, but I’m curious to see where it goes.

That’s my list. There are a few teas I tried a few times but just don’t like. I don’ t drink sweet tea at all and I can’t stand rooibos tea no matter how many times I grab it when I’m craving a caffeine free tea at my college cafeteria. Does anyone really like rooibos tea? Other than that, I tend to stick to the basics. I hope to branch out soon.

What is your relationship with tea? What are your favorite types? Are there any teas you avoid? Let me know down in the comments below.

Movies

Netflix’s If Anything Happens I Love You Review

Netflix’s If Anything Happens I Love You Review

Trigger Warning: This short film is about the grief after losing a child to gun violence.

If Anything Happens I Love You was written by Will McCormack and Michael Govier. It is available to watch on Netflix.

I finally watched the short film If Anything Happens, I Love You. I had seen this film on my suggestions on Netflix, and I was curious. I heard nothing about the plot or characters or anything beforehand except that it was sad.

The film begins with two adults sitting across a table from one another. They are silent, but their shadows are on top of the table in an argument with the other person. Meanwhile, they sit in silence. The woman picks at her spaghetti, and the man sips a soda. He glances at her, and he looks like he wants to reach out to her, to say something. You can see the lines on his face. But he’s too filled with hurt.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this short film. All I heard before watching was that it was sad. It is difficult to tell a story in less than twelve minutes, especially with as little details as this one includes. In almost thirteen minutes there is no sound and very little color. The art style looks like sketches that someone would make in a notebook. At first, we only see the blue paint on the back of the house and a shirt. This story wrecked me. It just gets sadder the more that you watch.

The shadows are confusing at first. They sort of do their own thing and act on their own. They are clearly metaphors. It seems like they want to comfort their characters. One shadow holds a flower out to the wife. The first piece of clothing we see is a blue shirt.

The one odd part is the song 1950 by King Princess turns on. The song is an upbeat one about unrequited love, and it oddly fits. These parents long for their child, whose shadow still lives in the background. We see flashbacks of her life, her birth, of her playing soccer with her family, and on her tenth birthday. Her life was just beginning. These drawings are more detailed. A blue balloon flies up into the sky after their daughter takes a selfie of the three of them. Her time is so short.

We see her go into a school. Her shadows don’t want her to go. They chase after her and then fade into each other. Her mom sends that fateful text “if anything happens I love you.” It comes from that instinct that we all have that something awful is going to happen. She walks into the school and we don’t see her go into a classroom. We see the hallway and an American flag in the hallway. It is bright red, white, and blue. Eventually, the couple is pushed into each others arms by their daughter’s shadow.

I remember hearing about school shootings in middle school and high school. These were kids my age and kids much younger. I can’t imagine begin to imagine the grief those parents went through. But this story provided a window into their grief. In such a short film, the story is incredibly complicated while maintaining a minimalist style. The characters’ facial expressions show their sadness and joy with their daughter. The music is light piano, and it just fits. The music isn’t upbeat like it used to be, it is minimal and lacking.

The light isn’t there like it used to be. The daughter is hopeful, confident, and happy. They cannot get over her death. Their grief stays with them for a lifetime. The writers interviewed parents who had lost their children to school shootings for this movie. I haven’t seen any film like this, and it feels bold to talk about their pain. School shootings are so tragic that we try to shy away from them. At the end, there is a ray of light of the sunshine. The sun is bigger than the parents and watches over them as they stand on the hill. I’m not sure what the film was trying to say about life after death, but I like that there is hope. There is hope that there is more than this life. Hope that she is okay, and that she is at peace. There is hope for the parents to go on in their daughter’s memory and their love for each other. Grief doesn’t exist in a timeline, and it doesn’t go away even if you know they’re not truly gone. I would recommend watching this one, even if you read through my review and saw all these spoilers.

Have you seen “If Anything Happens I Love You”? What did you think? Let me know down in the comments below.