Month: February 2022

Chronicles of the Muse, Movies

Encanto is the Best Disney Movie: An Analysis

We watched Encanto together over Scener this January. Disney movies lately haven’t been great, but this one had great reviews, so we decided to check it out. This was a good decision. Encanto has stunning animation, a great soundtrack, well developed and likable characters, and portrays Columbian culture with accuracy. The writers also weren’t afraid to dive into serious issues like the effect of generational trauma. Encanto is available to watch on Disney+.

The story of the Madrigal family began when Abuela Alma and Abuelo Pedro were forced to leave their homes due to violence in their area. The conflict depicted in the film is likely based on the Thousand Days War in Columbia. Pedro sacrifices his life to save Alma and their triplets. A miracle manifested in a magical candle that builds them a gorgeous house and all her children and grandchildren–except Mirabel–are given magical powers. Their powers provide for the town around them and Alma puts pressure on the kids to use their powers to take care of everyone.

Generational Trauma

Abuela lost her husband to violence, and then this magic candle granted her family magical powers. They don’t know how the candle became magic, but they do know their powers can provide for the entire town. The town flourishes with Luisa’s strength, Pepa’s weather controlling abilities, Julieta’s healing, Dolores’ hearing, and Isabela’s beautiful flowers that decorate the town. Their powers provide safety and security to their community. Alma believes that through hard work and determination, they can keep this town flourishing. Because the children’s abilities help everyone survive, Alma values her children’s and grandchildren’s powers more than the kids. She holds high expectations because she is afraid of losing everything. The miracle is unknown and she desperately wants to keep the miracle going. Alma insists on perfection and is hard on Mirabel in particular, who didn’t receive magical powers. Alma repeats that her children and grandchildren must “Make your family proud,” but treats their efforts as unsatisfactory no matter how hard they try–especially with Mirabel.

Music

The music from Encanto is fantastic and it is topping the charts. The movie’s songs were composed by Germaine Franco and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Franco said that she read Columbian history, music, and literature to prepare to get inspiration. Both writers are of Latin American descent, and so are all the actors playing the characters. In addition, the songs “Colombia, Mi Encanto” and “Dos Oroguitas” were sung by two of Colombia’s current biggest artists, Carlos Vives and Sebastian Yatra.

We Don’t Talk about Bruno

We Don’t Talk About Bruno was #1 on the music charts, and it is the first Disney movie since Aladdin to do so. Remember when Let it Go was all the rage and felt super popular? Encanto‘s music tops Frozen, and for a good reason. The song begins with Pepa and Felix singing and then the song flashes to Dolores and then Camilo. The story of Bruno’s disappearance is told through the perspective of the Madrigal family and also the townspeople. People are also talking about Bruno when they say they don’t talk about him. The irony! Then the family gets ready for Mariano to come.

Dolores’ part makes Bruno sound mysterious, and we learn that she does hear Bruno. She says, “I always hear him muttering and mumbling, I associate him with the sound of falling sand.” Dolores clearly knows where Bruno is and can hear him, but the family doesn’t listen. It is also worth noting that sounds like footsteps are louder in Dolores’ part, emphasizing her hearing power.

Bruno is seen through the eyes of the family, and he’s basically a myth to the kids. “Seven foot frame, rats along his back, when he calls your name it all fades to black. Yeah he sees your dreams and feasts on your screams” is obviously exaggeration. The song is a hit, it makes you want to listen again. It also builds mystery about Bruno. The more we hear about Bruno, the more the myth builds and the suspense grows as Mirabel starts to regret bringing him up in the first place.

Surface Pressure

This song is relatable for many people, especially older siblings and those who feel like they are under a lot of pressure from their family. I love how the donkeys Luisa was carrying are incorporated into the scenes as spectators, dancers, or as part of the weight she has to carry. There are references to Hercules, who fought Cerberus, as well as Atlas, who held the weight of the world on his shoulders. Another familiar reference is one to the Titanic, as she imagines her family not swerving from danger even when they “heard how big the iceberg is.” This sense of impending doom weighs on her a lot. “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless, if I can’t be of service” is a line that hits so hard. People often measure themselves by how much they have accomplished for others, but for Luisa, this amount of service is never enough even if it is constant. I wonder if the donkeys are included because Luisa’s family treats her like some sort of beast of burden–or at least Abuela Alma does. This may not be at the top of the charts like We Don’t Talk About Bruno, but it is still remarkable as an anthem of the stressed.

What Else Can I Do?

Isabela is supposed to be the perfect sibling. Abuela adores her and she has a power to grow gorgeous flowers. One youtuber noted that Abuela actually smiles in the portrait of her and Isabela. She is the golden child, so she has to be perfect. Isabela previously thought that she could only create pretty, perfect flowers. But she lives under her grandmother’s expectations and any deviation from that plan is a failure. She’s also suppressing her emotions other than total joy, “I’m so sick of pretty, I want something true, don’t you?” Isabela creates a cactus and carnivorous plants. She isn’t allowed to be angry, but here she can finally express herself. The line “I wonder how far these roots go down” seems to hint at the family trauma. How far do the roots of their problems lie? But just as Isabella talks about roots, she grows a giant palm tree over the roof of the house. It shows her potential, and Mirabel is amazed at first. She is jealous of her sister because her grandmother favors her the most, but really, she feels trapped under the weight of her expectations. She realizes that imperfect things are even more beautiful. Her powers are also fun when she doesn’t have to be perfect. Isabela discovers the joy of creating, of using her powers for her and for the first time, she can escape those expectations and truly live in the moment. With her powers growing so much, perhaps she could change the world.

Animation

The animation in this film is colorful. Everything is incredibly detailed and just gorgeous. It brings you into the magical world of the Madrigal family and the audience shares Mirabel’s excitement and wonder.

Clothing Details

There are representations of the character’s powers on each of their clothes.

Bruno has an hourglass pattern that represents his ability to see the future.

Camilo has chameleons on his clothes that represent his ability to shapeshift.

There are sound waves for Dolores, representing her ability to hear well.

Louisa has barbells representing her strength.

Mirabel has representations of all her family members embroidered on her dress. A chameleon for Camilo, animals for Antonio, flowers for Isabela, weights for Luisa, a sun for Pepa, etc. Butterflies on her dress connect her to the candle and Abuela Alma also has them on her dress.

Observations

The line “Coffee is for grownups” isn’t accurate. Colombian coffee is super popular, and it is pretty common for kids to drink coffee there. Although the coffee the children drink is weaker, they still frequently drink coffee.

The film was partially inspired by Gabriel García Márquez’s book One Hundred Years of Solitude. In that book, a village is secluded from the rest of the world and gradually gets more contact with the outside. The family home sometimes behaves in mysterious ways. The book is about the downfall of a family. These are all aspects that One Hundred Years of Solitude has in common with Encanto.

Every time Pepa had storm clouds above her on numerous occasions. Abuela Alma was always telling her that they were there, as if she didn’t know. It’s frustrating, kind of like when someone just says to relax to someone who is chronically stressed–not only is it annoying, it is also ignorant. The first time Pepa had a storm cloud above her head and Abuela did not scold her was at the end.

Pepa and her husband Félix are really cute together. Their relationship is sweet, and this was especially evident during the song We Don’t Talk About Bruno, where Félix played a supporting role to Pepa’s part. Their son Camilo is really nice to Pepa–he brought her a drink and tried to comfort her.

One parallel in the film is how Mirabel holds Antonio’s hand as he approaches his door in the beginning, and Antonio holds her hand to approach her door at the end.

Movies

About Time: Learning How To Cultivate Our Time from the Ordinary Time Traveler

Pros

  • Intriguing, unique time travel story
  • Sweet father-son relationship
  • Honest, beautiful message about time itself
  • Cute and realistic romance
  • Beautiful scenery
  • References to Dickens

Cons

  • I couldn’t think of any

Note: About Time is rated R and contains swearing and sexual content/partial nudity.

On the day after Valentine’s Day, I figured I’d write about a love story that I watched recently, but not necessarily a traditional romance. It could be called a love story between a man and Charles Dickens novels, and I’m only exaggerating a little bit.

Have you ever wanted to time travel? I wish for time travel several times a week. I wish I could go back and undo some moments and particularly the socially awkward moments. I’m not sure I would undo anything major, after all, I wouldn’t want to mess with the space-time continuum or anything. Stories like this always seem to contain a major error on someone’s part.

Out of all the time travel stories I’ve heard, they usually consist of a character who messes up and undoes everything because time travel is bad. Time travel once and you will mess up the entire universe. Saving your friend from an early death will wage war with Russia. Blowing on one extra dandelion turns the world on its head. We get it, we get it, it’s a huge risk. You can’t undo that time you told the waiter to enjoy their meal too, or the time you slipped on ice and bruised your knee.

I’m currently undecided whether or not I agree that small events can change the world in such big ways–such a decision might require me to read more time-travel stores–but it is nice to see a story that isn’t so dramatic. About Time, compared to Stephen King’s 1776 for example, was a refreshing and beautiful story of a young man who learns he can travel back in time. This movie wasn’t exactly what I expected in a good way, and I was pleasantly surprised with this one.

About Time begins with the protagonist, twenty-one-year-old Tim (Domnhall Gleeson), who is awkwardly hanging out at his family’s New Year’s Eve party. Like all awkward introverted people, this party isn’t as romantic as he hopes–he fails to kiss a girl at midnight and bumps her head while everyone else seals a smooch with someone. Sounds painful for a few reasons. Luckily for Tim, he doesn’t have to live with that moment ingrained in his mind forever.

That’s right. We’re about to time travel. The next day, Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) tells him that all the men in his family have the ability to travel back–but not forward–in time. He has no idea why they can do this, but he does know that this is amazing. To time travel, all Tim has to do is stand in a dark room and make two fists. He doesn’t have to worry about being stuck in the past either; Tim can also easily travel back to real time afterward by doing the same thing.

So, what do all these men do with time travel? Well, his father says that he reads every single book he can. He is a huge Dickens fan and he reads and rereads Charles Dickens novels during his free time. Not a bad way to spend your time. I just want to say that I love his father. Having all the time in the world to read and reread books sounds like a dream; it is a pretty harmless way to use time travel yet it is brilliant. His father also has an impressive bookshelf, and he’s just a cool dude overall. I’m not sure if he is a professor or anything–but if he was, that skill would be super useful.

There are so many possibilities and I wonder if Tim even realizes how much potential time travel has for like simple stuff. He could spend the day relaxing and then go back in time and work all day. We learn later that Tim becomes a lawyer. Time Travel would be fantastic help while studying law law school. He could practically memorize all the laws and wouldn’t even miss any time studying. He could spend infinite hours growing familiarity with the material. In real time, he could hang out with friends at a pub or something. We don’t hear anything about Tim’s time in law school, but showing this could be pretty cool. I wouldn’t say it is a missed opportunity though given Tim’s goals and the story’s message. When he hears about time travel, Tim is super excited and a little overwhelmed, and he asks for his dad’s advice.

Tim’s father tells him that he should use his powers to do what he finds most important. And what Tim wants most of all is to meet the woman of his dreams and fall in love. This takes about five seconds, well, actually it happens more like six months later. We go through a time jump.

When his sister’s friend Charlotte (Margot Robbie) comes to stay with his family for two months of the summer, Tim instantly falls for her. He is too shy to reveal his feelings until the last day. She tells him that he should have said something earlier. Of course, he realizes that he doesn’t have to miss his chance. Tim can go back in time, do things right, have a great summer romance–if Charlotte has feelings for him too. Of course, life doesn’t always work out how we like.

Tim leaves the roaring hills and outdoors for the city. He wants to go into corporate life, he becomes a lawyer, and he lives with a family friend who wants to be an actor. He also meets another girl, Mary. Tim really likes Mary and he wants to do everything right–which of course might require a little time travel. The movie starts to get dramatic. It gets even more interesting when he sees Charlotte in the city and she is interested in him.

If you look at the movie cover, About Time looks like a typical love story, and it is a love story. But it doesn’t waste time with a ton of will-they-won’t-they drama. The creators let time pass and they don’t keep the protagonist stuck in his singlehood. Even though he can time travel, Tim doesn’t stay twenty-one forever. Aging is a natural part of life. This makes the story feels realistic and grounded, even with the supernatural parts. It feels like an ordinary supernaturalism.

About Time is also isn’t great because it’s a story about a couple falling in love. It is a story of the love between a father and son. His relationship with his father stuck out the most, the way they cared for each other, the way they made time for each other. Tim doesn’t ever go away and not think of home. He cares about his sister, Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson) a ton. He also loves his grandparents and his best friend.

The scenery is also very beautiful. Tim’s family lives by the lake and it is absolutely stunning. We get scenes of him and his father walking on the beach and we also get scenes of Tim with his love interest in a city apartment. We get the best of both worlds.

I liked how this story presented choices. Even a world with time travel requires Tim to make choices, and each choice has consequences. Some choices don’t have major consequences or have an exact direct correlation, but sometimes they do. One little decision can make everything different, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, we end up in the same place either way.

The story also shows how we can’t make decisions for others or choose their story. Our actions can affect them, but we are ultimately responsible for our own decisions. We can only control the choices that we make. We can help others. We can support them and spend time with them. We can’t really fix their mistakes for them. We can’t, and aren’t supposed to, save other people from their decisions or change everything for them. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t help or provide a voice of reason when someone needs to hear it. But sometimes the best way to help in hard times is just to be there for someone. We see this with Tim’s family. Tim has a big heart and wants to help them, but it doesn’t always go the way he imagines.

I liked how the story felt so ordinary. This isn’t a tale of super-talented celebrities with powers, it is about a normal guy who finds out he and his dad have an ability no one else does. He just wants to enjoy life, find love, spend time with people he cares about, and learns that with great power comes great responsibility. The movie is also pretty funny. Tim is pretty socially awkward and time travel just makes things even more awkward.

Tim’s love story was very sweet. He and his love interest had great chemistry and they just fit together. I won’t say too much about the romance to avoid spoilers, but it was really sweet and genuine. The life the build together is beautiful to watch. All of the characters just had great chemistry with each other. It felt like they were really family, friends, and couples. The the music and filming of this movie make it so beautiful. The scenes were stunning and I was just blown away how much the directors, producers, and actors put into this film. The storytelling is just amazing.

It is lovely, tragic, and memorable. Even with time travel, we cannot escape time. We have to make and accept our choices and realize that to spend our time on one thing is to disregard another. In college, I’ve heard a lot about this. The story begins with Tim at twenty-one, and the world feels full of choice and hope for the future, but after that, the choices start to narrow and also open as he grows up. Each part of adulthood provides more certainty and beauty. Tim falls in love with the life that he created, and it is truly beautiful. But of course, the story deals with real life on this earth.

We don’t live forever either. Our lives are short, and we have to decide, like Tim’s father says, what is most important to us. While we have limited time, we should appreciate the time we do have and the people in it. It is a movie that makes you want to spend as much time as possible with the most important people in your life.

This movie might make you cry– it made me tear up a bit. I liked how About Time focused a little, but not too much on decision-making and Tim’s time traveling to change things. We change what we can and accept the decisions that we’ve made. Then we make the best of them and find the beauty in the little moments, in the everyday. We also never should give up, even when we mess up. With or without time travel, it is also never too late to move forward and make better decisions.

But this isn’t a huge focus of the story. After all, making choices and preventing mistakes isn’t the whole of life. Life is living with our choices, with where we are in time. For instance, we see Tim working at the law firm, which feels pretty normal. We see him working with partners in meetings and he doesn’t do any of the romanticized court stuff we usually see on TV. Work is a way to provide for himself and his family and be happy. It is great to find a job that gives you meaning, but work is in no way everything. Tim enjoys being a lawyer, but it is a very small part of the movie because there is more to life. Perhaps the film was a little romanticized. Tim’s life is pretty perfect and amazing. He does have hard times, but his day-to-day life is mostly great.

But, it is still a great movie, and it shows perhaps, humanity at our best. There is a lot we can learn from that; we can learn to hope for a great life for ourselves and for others. Time travel or not, life can be pretty great, especially with great people. I liked how this movie, above all, stressed the necessity of caring for those around us.

About Time is full of people, family and friends, who care about each other and look after each other. Their story–not romance, not time travel itself–is what makes this movie so awesome and beautiful.

Have you seen About Time or other time travel movies? Do you like them? What would you do if you could time travel? Let me know down in the comments below.

Shows

My Reflections On The Tear-Jerking Family Drama This Is Us Before The Series Finale

I am going to talk about a show that I have been watching for quite a while. I watch the show with my mom and my grandma also watches it. If you’re reading this: hi Mom! I’m going to review this show that has been a part of my life for nearly six years.

So what is This is Us about? Well, I wouldn’t say this story has a beginning exactly, but to sum it up would be to sum up the whole of human history, and to ask the meaning of time itself. That sounds like a lot, so I’ll narrow the scope a bit. To sum it up, every episode of This is Us is part of an ongoing story of the Pearson family, and when we think of how we talk about our families and our family stories it is difficult to find a true beginning. I could begin like this: Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) saw Rebecca Malone (Mandy Moore) when she was singing at a local bar and he realized that he had to get to know her. After a while, he asks her out on a date to the amusement park. This all sounds great, but he is also nearly broke and the date goes horribly.

Or it could begin when a young, widowed father leaves his son at the fire station because he doesn’t know what else to do. A white couple, who just lost their newborn son, one of triplets, decide to adopt the boy.

This is Us is a mixture of flashbacks and memories and blasts from the past. Their timeline matches up with real time, starting in 2016, and begins when the Pearson triplets turn thirty. The Pearson family story spans multiple generations from Jack’s childhood to the adulthood of the triplets’ children and–presumably–the death of Rebecca Pearson.

Each episode contains has 1-2 flashbacks and a few storylines that take place in the present. There are a few episodes that focus mostly on the backstory of a certain person connected to the Pearson family. I say connected because spouses, friends, and often strangers get a story of their own. Usually, the strangers’ arcs last an episode, unless they turn out to be connected to someone in the family. For example, we see the man who delivered the triplets several times throughout the series. Life is in interconnected web in this show, and every person’s life is a unique story with happiness and tragedy.

To sum it up, This is Us is a story about multiple generations navigating life. We see them at the grocery store, making dinner, tucking their kids to bed. All the scenes are rather significant moments in the Pearsons’ lives for one reason or another. Both small and big moments are significant and make a difference. Whether or not everyone there remembers the experience, it has shaped them into the person that they are today. Experiences makes up the fabric of the world around them and connect the family together. The family is so close, and often has so many difficulties, because they have been through so much together. We see each of the Pearson triplets navigating adulthood differently. But it isn’t easy for any of them. The family bonds are a huge part of this show. Each relationship is unique and complicated in its own way. We see Jack spending time with Kate as a kid and we learn more about the both of them. Life felt like smooth sailing with them, Kate and Rebecca are another story.

Overall, memory in the show is a good thing, but there is some unreliable narration. Memories are often flawed because of a character’s failure to consider the perspective of another. Failure to communicate or understand another’s perspective is a major source of conflict within the show. Many times, seemingly good intentions rot. Randall is a good example of a man with the best intentions.

Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown)

Randall was adopted by Jack and Rebecca Pearson when his biological father left him at the fire station. He never got to know his birth father as a child, so much of his life has been wondering “what if.” Randall also often felt like an outsider as a Black man in a white family and community. The Pearsons were loving parents, but they were obviously flawed. Randall is the golden child, we learn he works as a weather commodities trader, and does well. He is marries Beth and they have wonderful daughters. He is a perfectionist and struggles with anxiety. His anxiety is realistically depicted on the show, and was formed during his childhood. Randall also has a bit of a savior complex. He is a incredibly compassionate and kind person, but the harsh reality of life sometimes doesn’t mesh with his desire to do good.

Kate (Chrissy Metz)

Kate feels like a middle child. She hasn’t succeeded financially like her brothers and she wants to be a singer. She is talented, but she feels like she is in her mother’s shadow. Her father’s death was the hardest on her, and she struggles with body image, eating habits, and self-esteem.

Kevin (Justin Hartley)

Kevin is the popular older brother. He played football in high school, but was unable to continue in college because he sprained his ankle. He married his high school sweetheart, but that didn’t quite work out. He becomes an actor, but life isn’t perfect for him. Kevin also has issues with self-worth, is an alcoholic, and falls into unhealthy cycles.

They all can be selfish, refuse to listen to each other, and just plain annoying sometimes. The triplets are also funny, caring, and love each other deep down. I love how the This is Us writers are not afraid to make their cast flawed. We also learn that everyone acts the way they do based on past experience. For example, since Kevin felt like his parents favored his siblings growing up, so he became an actor to receive validation and praise.

This is Us also shows that family life–even in the closest families–is not perfect. Not even Jack, the triplets’ perfect father, is without flaws. He and Rebecca get into huge fights, but they stick through. No one fights quite the same way either. Each relationship is unique and comes with its own challenges. but we, usually, understand where everyone is coming form. Seeing the family fight with each other can be heartbreaking, but it also feels real. There is enough backstory to explain every hurt, and the plotlines rarely feel contrived.

I’m going to talk here about a few points that stuck out to me that make This Is Us a wonderful story. I have three things I love. Spoilers below!

1. This is Us Rejects self-actualization and the happily ever after

Characters in This Is Us get their dream jobs, marry the love of their lives, and settle down, but they are never 100% happy and life doesn’t stop changing from there. There are times when families fight and forgive each other and reunite. People die, they lie to each other. No one ever becomes amazing at fixing all their deep-seated flaws. Randall still wants to help the man who robbed him, and maintains his idealism. Kate is figuring out her career and finds a job she likes, but her and Toby are struggling to communicate again. Kevin still isn’t sure what he thinks of himself or what he wants in life.

2. Beautiful Cinematography <eets Excellent Storytelling

The cinematography is gorgeous. One of my favorite episodes is about Randall’s birth mother, Laurel. We see Randall in the lake and it just feels refreshing. The stories also connect so well. Sometimes I wonder why they included a random stranger, but they always tie their story back to the major themes of the episode. The episodes also make you feel warm. The writing, dialogue, and pacing just feels right.

3. Honest look at the Experience of Black Americans

This Is Us has an interesting premise. The show hired 3 Black writers and Sterling talks to the creators about how he wants his character to be portrayed. Randall grew up raised by white parents, and his life experience was different than his siblings. The show has 3 Black writers (out of 10) and Sterling K. Brown often consults the writers about his character. The experiences of Randall’s family and his adopted daughter also are a major part of the show.

Reflections

This Is Us is full of great love stories, marriages, and babies. Romance in This is Us is generally really well done. Jack and Rebecca and Randall and Beth are two of my favorite love stories on the show. Relationships, all kinds, are hard. They all enconter different challenges based over the years, and after hurdles are jumped over (for instance, Rebecca’s father doesn’t like Jack) more challenges come. There is no happily ever after, there are good times and bad times. Romantic love is portrayed as a wonderful and beautiful experience. We see the couples at their best, at their worst, and we want them to stay together because of all they’ve conquered together.

Randall and Beth are my favorite couple on the show. Both are ambitious and intelligent, and they balance each other out. Beth is calm while Randall deals with anxiety. Beth can be too strict sometimes, and Randall is very altruistic. They are hilarious, dorky, and just love each other so much years after marriage, and I love them. They feel realisticly married. Jack and Rebecca have a great love story too.

Out of the other characters, their stories are good too. My third favorite couple is probably Kate and Toby, but it seems like they get divorced and Kate marries her music teacher. He is kinda mean to her, so I’m not sure if if it’ll be an enemies to lovers type thing or he’ll just be a character we love to hate. I don’t mind enemies to lovers if it is done well, but I’m not sure if it will be with the limited time the show has left.

I’ve come to care for all the Pearson family and I want them the be happy. Even if their endings aren’t perfect, I have just become so attatched. Kate was in an abusive relationship in the past, after her father died, so she could enter one again. I can see her falling into a bad cycle, but I hope it doesn’t happen to her. The fact that they divorce makes me sad, especially since I love Toby, but it is realistic. Whenever shows end with a bunch of happy married couples, it feels to simplistic, like everyone is paired off.

So, that brings us to Kevin. Kevin has had a complicated relationship with love. He married his high school sweetheart, Sophie, but they got a divorce soon after. His marriage to Sophie seemed impulsive, a desire for security in the midst of the unknown. His father died, and Kevin wanted one person to be in his life forever. That I get.

I also noticed that the show refuses to make love a solution to someone’s problems or a clutch. Characters rarely fall in love with the idea of a person and then magically have everything work out.

That brings me to singleness. Kevin is most enjoyable as a character when he is with the people he loves like family, rather than romantically. The relationship between Kevin and Randall, Kevin and Kate, and Kevin and Randall’s daughters are more compelling and sweet than his romantic relationships. As to Madison, I’m not sure how I feel about them as a couple. Another love story could be nice, but it could also be nice to see Kevin happily single and happily co-parenting with Madison.

I can see this happening. After all, the show notes and uses other lifestyle options adoption and IVF and Zoe–who didn’t want kids– why not include parents who aren’t romantically involved?

Especially after we learn that Edie and Nicky fall in love, is there really room for another love story? And does Kevin need a partner to be happy– of course not.

As much as I love the couples in this show, This is Us clearly shows that other forms of love, between parent and child, between friends, and between sibilings is just as beautiful. The show can take this point a step further, not everyone needs to end up in a romance to be happy. It would be nice to see Kevin, Kate, or someone else end up single and enjoy a single lifestyle. Even if they are romantic, romance does not have to be their story. There are plenty of them that aren’t told.

It is worth noting that This is Us includes not just heterosexual, but LGBT characters as well. Romance between men and women dominates the Pearson family story, but it is not the entire story. The triplets see Jack and Rebecca as part of a great love story and they expect their children to fall into the same. Randall is a bit shocked when he hears that his birth father William, is bisexual and had a long-term boyfriend named Jessie. His teenage daughter, Tess, later comes out to her family as gay and she starts dating non-binary classmate. This is Us mostly shows sexuality as a part of life, which felt refreshing.

I also like how the show really rejects the happily ever after and shows the intense beauty and pain of life. I feel uplifted when I watch the show. The relationship between the family is honest, caring, and just plain heartwarming, but they aren’t living in a perfect world. Like, the Pearsons have been though hell after their father died. The kids were only eighteen. His death impacted them all years in the future, and they are all grappling with tragedy to this day.

We see death not as an end, but a part of a circle of life. Just because we die does not mean we are forgotten. It is no wonder that Rebecca appears to be dying in the finale and we see her memory fading. But her family will remember her, and they will tell her stories to their children as they create their own. I’m including the scene because it sums up the show pretty well. Kevin shows Tess and Annie a picture:

“What is we’re all in the painting everywhere. What if we’re in the painting before we’re born. What if we’re in it after we die. And what if these colors we keep adding on top of each other until they’re not colors anymore? Wer’re just one thing. One painting.”

“And this wild, sloppy, magical thing, this right here. I think it’s us.”

This is Us shows our lives, our memories, or relationships as part of an interconnected web. The show doesn’t answer any or ask questions about what happens to the person after death. But it doesn’t feel sad to lose someone and no longer see them. Still, we realize death doesn’t define us. In life we part of something greater than ourselves, a history and we lose ourselves in the painting. Kevin notes this. The view of history in the show isn’t quite linear, it doesn’t necessarily achieve perfection or fall apart…it just is. It is not quite a circle either. New experiences and choices change the painting. The triplets children, for example, have not followed the paths of their parents completely. But they don’t have to. All of our experiences are wonderful and unique, but they come together in a great painting. The who picture and image reminds me of the cosmos. Take a look at the stars and how large they are and you realize that we’re part of a greater world and story than ourselves. But our story is there, it doesn’t go away like some stars.

Kevin realizes he has to talk about death in his painting. He initially apologizes, but then realizes as he tells the story that death is part of life. But dying doesn’t mean we’re gone and we disappear. The people we lose are still part of the painting. No matter what we do, no matter what lives we live or where we come from, we are all part of it.

When I listened to Kevin’s speech, I felt wonder and awe. The painting also feels full of unknowns, and there is no pressure to figure it all out. We are all interconnected, through the fact that we exist. Life can be messy, and sad and imperfect, but the connections we have with others, family, friends, and people we’ve never met or will never remember are still present in this web. The picture isn’t one one person can make and it is a web that just can’t be untangled, In this painting, we are more than just ourselves. The past, present, and future, mistakes and errors make the painting, rather than ruin it. But we can choose to care about the people around us, because doing that makes those beautiful pictures. From grandparents to grandchildren, we are all part of this together and that is what makes life so wonderful.

Have you seen This Is Us? I can’t wait for the finale. How do you feel about the show ending? Let me know down in the comments below!

Movies

Netflix’s Moxie Could Have Been A Great Movie: But It Disappoints

“I mean, when I was sixteen, all I cared about was smashing the patriarchy, and burning it all down”

Amy Poehler, Moxie

*Most of this review is spoiler-free. After that, I included a few extra critiques and parts I liked that include spoilers*

On New Year’s Day, all I wanted to do was watch Netflix movies and relax. I chose this movie for the same reason I chose to watch Don’t Look Up. I watched the trailer Moxie that Amy Poehler was in it and that it was a fun feminist movie and decided to give it a try.

Moxie is a movie about a girl named Vivian who decides to start a feminist club at her high school.

Netflix's 'Moxie': Why Amy Poehler directed a YA film about activism

Moxie is more than just a high schoolers’ club invented by Hollywood; the group Moxie takes inspiration from the Riott Grrrl movement of the 1990s and early 2000s. The movement started in Olympia, Washington, and the Pacific Northwest to address sexism in the punk industry. I had never heard of the Riott Grrrl movement before and I thought it was cool the movie talked about a historical feminist movement. Supporters hosted undercover concerts, printed out zines (self-published text and images that resembled a magazine), and hung up copies to spread the word.

Though the movement has fallen in popularity since the early 2000s, it inspired writer Jennifer Mathieu’s enough to make a movie out of it. Rebel Grrrl also took place during Amy Poulmer’s teen years. The movie uses the aesthetics and music from the Rebel Grrrl movement. That’s pretty cool. The group Bikini Kill was prominent in the movement, and their song “Rebel Girl” is a battle cry in Moxie.

So, how does one start a feminist group in high school? Well, it takes a few experiences with sexism to encourage the girls to start and that’s where our should-be protagonist comes in. First, Lucy, the new girl (Alycia Pascal-Peña), gets bullied by school quarterback Mitchell (Patrick Schwartzenegger). Lucy and Alycia is Afro-Latina (African American and Latin American). Mitchell is a terrible person from his first moments; he spits in Lucy’s drink and tries to intimidate her. When she tells Vivian, she says Lucy should just tolerate Mitchell’s behavior and let him be a jerk, but Lucy won’t let his behavior slide.

Note that Mitchell never talks to or approaches Vivian, so she gives advice for a problem she doesn’t have. Throughout the movie, Vivian doesn’t experience sexism like her peers do. Meanwhile, Mitchell targets Lucy on her first day. From a new student’s perspective, Lucy notes that the guys’ behavior and the school’s complacency are deeply concerning.

The second big problematic thing Lucy notices is the list. Her first day of school is the day that the guys post a list that ranks girls based on their physical attractiveness. The list is crude and the guys talk about it openly, but the girls usually go along with it because that is just the way things are at this school.

Lucy refuses to accept everyone else’s excuses for the boys’ behavior. She stands up for herself and others, and she doesn’t just shrug it off. Vivian is the one to start Moxie, but without Lucy’s influence–I can’t see the group succeeding the way it does. It isn’t until Lucy calls Vivian out and the guys put out this year’s list that Vivian snaps.

Lucy Actor From Moxie On Her Afro Latina Character
Lucy standing up for herself

Vivian goes through her mom’s old high school zines and discovers that Amy Poehler was once part of a feminist group at her school and handed out cool flyers. Vivian then decides to start a club at school by creating and printing out own her zines at the local print shop. She puts the flyers in the girls’ bathroom to spread awareness about a club she calls Moxie.

When we look back in history, it is notable that Riot Grrrl movements also had some problems. For starters, Riott Grrrl was a group of primarily white middle-class, cisgender women. Some Rebel Grrrl groups participated at Michigan’s Womyn’s Music Festival, which explicitly banned trans women from attending. Vivian’s mother admits that the group was not very intersectional; it seems like white women made up a majority. The new Moxie group is more diverse.

The writers do acknowledge that the Riot Grrrl group was not as inclusive as it could have been via Vivian’s mom and she says it has its flaws. Moxie attempts to fix the problems with the Rebel Grrrl movement by including People of Color. Several of the girls are black, and Vivian’s best friend Claudia is Chinese American. Josie Totah, a transgender actor, plays a minor character CJ, a trans girl.

Vivian has a love interest, a fellow feminist boy named Seth (Nico Hagaria), who supports her and Moxie. Seth is a kind skateboarder who Vivian has a crush on. It was nice seeing a guy feminist, and the movie doesn’t exclude men or hate on all men. Seth is a pretty great guy. Both are awkward around each other at the beginning like typical teen protagonists are, and their development is sweet to watch. They are a gem in this movie.

Moxie" Star Nico Hiraga Thought a White Dude Would Play Seth | Teen Vogue
Seth and Vivian

The movie is also fun, filled with a punk soundtrack, including the iconic hit “Bikini Kill.” Moxie occasionally made me laugh. It is upbeat and tackles serious issues at the same time. I also enjoyed the banter between Amy Poehler and Vivian; they made me chuckle and felt like a real mother and daughter. They poke fun of each other and also made me ask deep questions like is milk “bad” for you? As a milk fan, I’m on Amy’s side, it is not bad.

The side characters were so great; Lucy, who everyone thinks started the group, is confident and brave. Claudia’s story was compelling too. She and Vivian have been best friends forever, but the group causes a rift between the two. It isn’t realistic that every girl would be into Moxie or have the family support to join. The movie doesn’t divide the characters into completely black and white categories. They are sensitive to Claudia’s situation and their friendship. I wish there was more of Claudia though.

Honestly, the side characters were so much better than the main character.

I have to agree with critics on this one. Moxie could have done more. Vivian watches her friends face sexism, but she never has to deal with it personally. Quiet people can certainly start revolutions, but she seemed reluctant at first. A story where Lucy starts Moxie and leads would have been so much more compelling.

Overall, it was a decent movie. I enjoyed watching it. It is a fun movie, but it is also a piece of feminist media that intends to teach and inspire teens. It doesn’t tell a story we haven’t heard before. If the writers want to do homage to the Rebel Grrrl movement and also become more inclusive everyone’s stories, this film could have done more. Why not make Lucy the main character?

The movie was an opportunity to correct feminist media’s promotion of white, upper-middle-class narratives over women of color and LGBTQ+ people. Moxie could have been an opportunity for us to listen to the voice of an LGBTQ+ Afro-Latina character. Lucy could have been a great main character, and it is a shame she was reduced to the background when she clearly outshone the lead.

A Way to Improve Moxie

I would make Lucy the main character and Vivian her friend. Seth could still be Vivian’s love interest and a Moxie supporter. Maybe he could get guys to join as well. I would also give Lucy a love interest, maybe Amaya, and develop their love story.

Amy Poehmer would replace the English teacher guy. Maybe she could be the club’s advisor and a teacher that the girls went to for guidance. She could still have run her own group in high school. Maybe she tells the girls about the group she created as a teen.

I was also thinking if she was the English teacher, maybe she has the class read The Great Gatsby every year and the girls encourage her to put more diverse books on the forefront of her curriculum. Books have great power and reading perspectives other than one’s own is helpful in starting conversations about race and gender.

With Lucy as a main character, the movie could have thrived. Everyone thought she started the group, after all. We could have learned about her experiences, her old school, her home life. Has she always been so confident? Did she always stand up for herself and her friends or did she quiet before and have a moment when she realized something had to be done? Does she have a cool feminist parent? I’d watch another movie about her or any one of the girls.

Too many movies aimed at teens portray adults as stuck in their ways and unable to understand them, listen to their experiences, and learn from them. So, if Amy was a teacher, rather than the guy who somewhat supported them could have been better. Also, Having the teacher realize the problems of the group and listening to the girls suggestions would have been cool to see.

If you haven’t seen the movie and want no spoilers, that’s the end of my review. From now on, this review includes spoilers.

Literary References

The Great Gatsby - Is The Great Gatsby on Netflix - FlixList

As a fan of The Great Gatsby, I couldn’t resist talking about the reference in the movie. It seems like everyone reads The Great Gatsby in high school, and the characters of Moxie are no exception. I’m going to give my opinion because why not. Lucy complains that TGG is not that great because it tells the story of a rich, white guy. Are we supposed to feel bad for him? Mitchell defends TGG and says that since it was studied and beloved for more than a hundred years…it must have something worth saying. Mitchell is the scum of the earth, but I agree with both points. As someone who has read The Great Gatsby in high school and college, I agree that The Great Gatsby is worth reading and studying. The book is about how the American Dream is a lie even for those it appears to benefit. There are also so many other stories that need to be studied and heard.

We need stories by people who are not just rich and white, and Lucy is right here. Schools should promote these stories and give them our attention and time just as much as Gatsby. Perhaps that is the problem with Moxie. The key message isn’t a bad one. It is good–so is reading it in a classroom and watching a movie about intersectional feminism. However, more good stories by people of color, lgbtq+ people, and people of different social backgrounds aren’t being shared and appreciated to the level of TGG. The school puts Gatsby on a pedestal, and it is a problem, and Lucy rightfully calls the professor out.

Mediocre LGBTQ+ Represention

 The big romance in the movie is between Vivian and Seth. None of the other girls get a love story–at least it isn’t shown. Lucy and Amaya kiss at the pep rally, but after that–nothing. We never see them interact or start to like each other. We don’t see them acknowledge the kiss or become a couple afterward. The movie seemed to want to include an LGBTQ+ couple, but they do so half-heartedly. Viewers could easily miss the kiss since it is so short. 

Seth and Vivian and even Amy Poehler and her boyfriend get screentime. They could have easily included scenes showing Lucy and Amaya starting to like each other and getting to know each other better.

CJ is also a pretty minor character. She says a few things about the transphobia that she faces from her peers, but she doesn’t get many more lines.

Lackluster Disability Representation

There was a girl in a wheelchair, and she isn’t ever a part of Moxie, but she is interested in joining. That was disappointing, especially since the group is supposed to include anyone who wants to join.

Unfortunate Realistic Tropes

The way they showed the teachers felt realistic. Along with Mitchell, the principal is the most sexist character. She has no sympathy for the girls or the movement. Unfortunately, this is true of real life. Their male English teacher also tries to “keep his hands clean” and subtly supports the girls, but he seldom takes action to help when Mitchell bullies Lucy.

The football team gets more recognition than everyone else. The teachers, administration, and popular kids worship the quarterback. The school assumes that he is the only one who wants a sports scholarship and they do not care about their other students. Football players are terrible people here, and not one of them is good. That’s kind of an annoying cliché.

Vivian’s Anger

Vivian gets into an argument with her mom not because she stole her mom’s ice cream, but over her mon’s new boyfriend. Her mom brings a guy home for dinner, one that flirted with her at the grocery store, and Vivian thinks she’s settling. Despite calling herself a feminist, her mom makes a salad for dinner and dresses up when she usually eats pizza and chills in pajamas or sweats. Vivian is also annoyed the guy asked her boyfriend about physics and not her. Vivian has a point, but she also assumes the worst and runs with it.

Is there anything wrong with making a salad to impress a new person you’re dating? No. Lots of people do. You could also argue that she’s right. Her mom is acting differently to impress a guy. Vivian is unapologetically herself, and Seth loves her for it. One should be kind to and respect others, but serving pizza dinner is not evil if her mom likes pizza. So, I get that. Why pretend to be someone you’re not? If he became her boyfriend, he would learn these things soon enough. 

But on the other hand, I mostly side with her mother. It is nice that she considers what her date likes to eat. Vivian really knows nothing of their situation. Her mom’s date could have had dietary restrictions and been unable to eat pizza. Vivian assumes why her mom acts that way, and goes off. Of course, Vivian is a teen and figuring herself out, and will just have to learn.

Anger isn’t always the answer to suspected internalized misogyny. Don’t take your anger out on others who mean well and are not doing harmful things. 

Claudia

Moxie Ending, Explained | Netflix Plot Synopsis | Khatrimaza

Claudia’s storyline was nice to see. Not everyone has a feminist mom or feels like feminism is accessible to them. Claudia’s Chinese American immigrant mother tells her that she needs to keep her head down so that she can succeed in life. Claudia isn’t just a bratty teen who feels like her friend is neglecting her. She grew up in an environment different than Vivian; she deserved better treatment than her friend gave her. Claudia risks her mother finding out about Moxie and then takes the blame and gets suspended when the group is under fire. She rightfully calls Vivian out for her privilege. Vivian has it easy. Her mom supports her and so do all her friends. She doesn’t experience or understand her friends who don’t have it as easy as her.

So yeah, much of this review has me noting the flaws of making Vivian the main character. I genuinely liked her, but the side characters are just more compelling.

I could have called out the evil characters, but I don’t see much of a point. Mitchell is literal trash. He isn’t just annoying, and the show shows that he’s awful. I haven’t met a Mitchell, and I wouldn’t want to. He did feel realistic, unfortunately. On the bright side, most characters are good. None of the girls hate each other for no reason. They all work together for a common goal.

But Lucy should have been the main character. We never got to know anything about her backstory, old school, or home life. Amy Poehler, I loved you in Parks and Rec and have not seen the film you also directed (Wine Country), but Moxie had promise and cool characters that I wish had been given more screen time.

Have you seen Moxie? If you have, what do you think? If not, do you plan to watch it? Let me know down in the comments below.

Movies

What can we learn from The Social Network in 2022? And what could it have done better?

Pros

  • dialogue cuts back and forth well
  • Honest, memorable message about social media and loneliness
  • Realistic legal scenes
  • Quick, witty dialogue and cuts
  • overall, this movie is about the importance of friendship and not just on social media

Cons

  • Female characters are poorly developed: they are either crazy, objectified, or just there to call men out for their bad behavior

“You betrayed me and I know that you’ll never feel sorry for the way I hurt.” Olivia Rodrigo sings in her song Traitor. Our culture is fascinated by betrayal. From Judas to Brutus to Benedict Arnold, betrayal sticks out as one of the worst things that a person can do to another. That’s because we never betray our enemies. It’s always our friends, the people we are supposed to love and care about us. Friends are supposed to be on our side, and we need to be there for them.

Even if we’re not always in contact, friendship is a bond, a statement of connection and promise of loyalty, an idea that we will look out for each other and each other’s best interests even if we’re not physically present. Betrayal fascinates us because it feels so horrible. It is used and discussed in fiction so often, and whether it is written well or poorly. It is no wonder that the top 10 anime betrayals have become a meme.

The words of hurt and betrayal are what captivates so many of us when we watch The Social Network. The movie contains one of the biggest betrayals of all movie history. When we think of betrayal, it is usually between two people: the betrayer and the victim. Betrayal often isn’t thought of as a group, or by a corporation. Even Ceasar addresses Brutus with “et tu Brute” and doesn’t even talk about the rest of the Romans who joined him.

I wanted to watch The Social Network because it talks about Facebook; I have a like-hate relationship with Facebook and social media in general. I have an account, and it helps me stay in touch with family and friends who live far away, but it is also involved in politics, data collection controversies, and more. When this movie came out, no one was fully aware of what Facebook was fully capable of, and impact it has on our mental health, our relationships with others, and about our view of facts and information. It seems like Facebook users are a victim more Eduardo the billionaire. Even though it missed quite a few critiques of Facebook, The Social Network is regarded as a good movie in 2022. I would agree. It has a fantastic beginning.

It all begins with a conversation between Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg, and his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) about final clubs. He is obsessed with joining a college group associated with college elites. When she asks why he wants to join, he says:

“Because they’re exclusive, and fun and lead to a better life”

So, what exactly is this “better life” that Mark wants so badly? Well, we see a Phoenix club meeting occur shortly after. The film shows a group of women getting out of a bus to go to this party. The party gets started, and we see women dancing on tables in underwear, 2 girls kissing, and playing poker with guys. I wonder if these women enjoy this. Personally, this scene makes me uncomfortable. The Phoenix club is all about men’s desires and it gives them a sense of power, of enjoying the pleasure that would not be possible without their wealth. The whole scene feels over the top.

Throughout the movie, students are in the background and most people are drinking and stuff. Women are there. It seems that a “better life” is being part of a group that only the rich can join. He also wants fun, at least, he says he does, he only has one friend and doesn’t get out much. Fair enough. But overall, Mark’s life at the Phoenix club is status-based and the status is determined by wealth and privilege. He also isn’t concerned with building relationships within the group. He just wants to be on the inside and not standing alone.

But Mark doesn’t realize what he has already. He has a best friend that cares about him and a girlfriend who wanted to get dinner with him—until he lets desire for these clubs take over his life.

Overall, Mark’s desires feel shallow. His angry blog post about Erica talks about her looks because all he cares about is appearances. He might prefer a Harvard girlfriend to a girl who goes to BU, simply because Harvard sounds better. He demands her attention because, to him, he is more important because he is a Harvard student. Mark also never really cares for Erica as an individual, and she can’t take it anymore. I can’t blame her. Mark sucks, almost as much as the guys on the bus.

After Erica dumps him, Mark doesn’t admit to doing anything wrong in the relationship, gets drunk, and impulsively creates a site ranking women based on their school profile pictures. I just want to say that school profile pictures are some of the most awkward photos ever. They take a picture of their day 1 bewildered freshman self, and the guys take less than five seconds to decide who is “hotter.” So, right away, Mark’s first project refuses to dive below the surface, creates a judgmental atmosphere, violates the privacy of others, and encourages people to compare each other to their peers. Sounds familiar.

So, what about these networks are actually good? Throughout the film, the movie questions his ideals of a “better life” based on status. Zuckerberg hangs out with Sean and has people over to drink, but these things never seem to make Mark happy. He barely ever pays attention either, he’s always on his laptop. Still, he ends up choosing all this over the one friend that truly cares about him.

Mark also gives up on the Phoenix Clubs when he realizes that he can control the social system and create his own network. He loves feeling control, which he lost when his girlfriend dumped him. If he can’t get what he wants through groups in real life, he will create a digital one.

The network is meant to connect college students together, and it gives people who aren’t outgoing and aren’t in the loop an opportunity to join. Zuckerberg in particular talks about how Facebook’s relationship status feature can tell a guy if a girl is single. This social network allows us to have knowledge of others without ever talking to them or building a relationship.

By giving away our relationship status, we are giving up privacy, of allowing strangers to reach us that we may or may not want to hear from. We can talk to people and send requests to those we’re too scared to reach out to in real life. We are given a false notion that we know someone; it feels like a breach of privacy, even if we willingly tell them our personal information. Yet, today, we do it all the time. I do it. But looking on the outside, it is scary. The movie shows it all started with someone who felt like an outsider and wanted to get in.

Zuckerberg, with his technical talent and ruthless business sense, is determined he can make his own success. He can do it, and he can do it himself, well . . . almost. Zuckerberg can’t afford to pay for everything, so he asks his friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) to be his chief financial officer. He is Eduardo’s best friend. They say this several times. He seems like he cares for Eduardo, even if he doesn’t always show it.

Out of the two, Eduardo is emotionally supportive and kind. He doesn’t see his friendship with Zuckerberg as a purely business arrangement. He wants to make sure he’s doing okay too.

“If there’s something wrong, you can tell me. I’m here for you.”

I would argue that Mark’s relationship with Eduardo is the most heartbreaking part of this movie. Despite his desire to fit in with the Phoenix Club, Mark is quiet and introverted. Even when Sean has people over while they work on Facebook, Mark is on his computer rather than socializing. The Winklevoss brothers see him as a means to an end, and Sean only talks about business and parties with Mark. His parents and family aren’t even mentioned, and we don’t know anything about his home life. Eduardo is one friend who truly cares for him and his well-being. Erica might have cared for him in the past, but he lost her.

Mark is naturally disconnected from others, and when he does interact with others he rarely sees his friendships as options for emotional support. I think that he ignores Eduardo’s “I’m here for you” because he doesn’t realize that he has emotional needs that can’t be solved with money, power, and material success. In Mark’s mind, the way to fix his insecurities and difficulties connecting with other people is to be in the Phoenix Club. The club is later replaced by Facebook, which he can control better. He doesn’t need to rely on anyone for validation with Facebook.

Mark seems to be chasing the American Dream. He believes that with enough work, he can achieve his dreams. He doesn’t just want to join a club in Harvard, he wants to join the best one. He doesn’t fit into a group-fine–he’ll create his own. He just needs to prove himself, and all will be good.

The environment he lives in provides little opportunity to grow. The Social Network looks at a certain group the Harvard elites. These people only care about partying and money. He rarely, if ever, gets a outside perspective Even Eduardo mostly goes along with Harvard culture.

When he is talking to Erica earlier, it is clear he thinks the world works through these social power dynamics. He tells Erica she can meet people she wouldn’t normally meet through the Phoenix clubs. He genuinely thinks he’s doing her a favor. When he accuses her of sleeping with the doorman Bubby, it seems like he honestly believes that she did, and that’s why they’re allowed at the club. His comments are incredibly sexist, and Mark seems to genuinely believe them. The movie seems to say that that’s just the way he and the people who started Facebook were. The screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, defended claims that the movie was misogynistic.

“I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren’t the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the 80’s. They’re very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren’t women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them.)”

Aaron Sorkin

Mark never considers that Erica could meet elites on her own merit. If a woman does have any power in this movie, it is presumed that it is because of her sexual appeal to men. So, they are left out of the business. Throughout the movie, women are either background characters or characters who exist to call out the men’s behavior. Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) appears intelligent and witty, but Mark doesn’t seem to care about her. He doesn’t listen. Even after she argues with him, he never apologizes.

The writers achieve what they’re trying to do. We, the audiance, rarely escape the Harvard perspective, except with Erica. She calls him out in one of the most iconic movie openings of all time. Mara is a fantastic actress and her acting carries this scene and Eisenberg is great at playing a self-centered and clearly oblivious Mark. One of my favorite lines is:

“Dating you is like dating a Stairmaster”

It sure seems like it. Although I’m not getting any endorphins from this guy. He is painful to watch.

Mark genuinely believes these false notions of success, and they are almost his downfall, but they’re actually not. While he loses his best friend and the only one who cared about him, Mark is making billions of dollars from Facebook. He is the youngest billionaire in the world. But is he happy?

Erica Albright

The final scene of The Social Network shows Mark requesting Erica Albright as his Facebook friend and waiting for the results. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I wondered why Mark wants to reach out to Erica. She is his ex-girlfriend and he seems to still have feelings for her. The creators intentionally never show Mark approach any other girls. Even in the scene where he and Eduardo meet Chrissy and her friend in the bathroom, we only see Eduardo and Chrissy together.

I have a few theories why. While much of the movie relies on male relationships to drive the plot forward, it is the female characters, rather than the female characters that call Mark for his selfishness. He comes to appreciate them a little, in the end. He likes Erica because she “had a nice face.” Still, of course, his feelings for him are focused on himself. She is a presence that makes him feel good and perhaps makes him feel like a better person than he is. But he never actually tries to ask for forgiveness or tries to be better himself. The same with Rashida Jones’ Marylin Delpy. She calls him out and rejects him when he asks her out, but she also has pity for him.

But, I’m not sure it is fair to say that Mark likes women who call him out on his bad behavior. I’m not sure he possesses enough self-awareness, but he does care for her. Erica is perhaps the only person left in his life, and he wants to hold onto someone familiar. He also puts a desire for self-improvement onto a woman. At least, the movie shows that it is not Erica’s job to make him better, as she never responds to his request. The ending also sums up Facebook. It is a program where people can send messages to people they recognize. A familiar face makes us feel less alone.

Is The Social Network a good criticism for Facebook?

I would argue that The Social Network isn’t a great criticism of Facebook. The loneliness that the app creates is accurate, but I would argue that it is more harmful to its users than to Zuckerberg. While Mark is staring at his computer alone, he is also alone and a billionaire.

Does it matter if he’s happy right now? He is rich. He could maybe date or interact with “women who don’t really challenge him”, like the writers say. I also feel like that statement is a bit sexist. He is still in power. He isn’t a powerless guy begging for his ex. I feel like the movie missed something here. They seem to ignore the consequences of Mark’s power on the general public.

He can start over. Mark can get a new girlfriend, and make other friends. I’ve always found it a weak argument when movie says “all the billionaires and rich people are secretly miserable and lonely inside because they have no true friends.” Plenty of millionaires and billionaires have friends, marry and have kids, and do not spend their nights alone.

And even if perhaps Zuckerberg is missing out, he still likes the power of owning his own company and creating a program that millions of people use. I also do wonder why the film ends with Zuckerberg himself alone. He is the only one who appears to suffer from Facebook. Erica Albright, it seems, is doing fine. The movie ignores the problems that Facebook creates for anyone else.

I looked at the screenplay for this scene, and I found a few lines that drew my attention:

“Mark smiles. She’s on Facebook”

“Mark is settling into his chair. He’ll wait all night if he has to.”

Mark’s actions don’t make sense; Erica clearly doesn’t want to talk to him. She has told him in real life, but he doesn’t listen. He thinks somehow she will be more attainable online, perhaps because she joined his app, but he is not the center of her universe. Facebook is a vast network and just because you can reach out to someone doesn’t mean you should.

If we want to criticize the real Mark Zuckerberg, it is difficult to do so in this movie, because the last scene portrays him as a sad, friendless, victim of his own creation. The story is beautiful in that way. It fits as a villain origin story, but what about everyone else? The movie ignores that Zuckerberg still wields a great amount of power. He owns this company– he makes everyone else see the world the way he does–as a social club. He also holds that he deserves what he has, the company rights, Erica’s attention, and the most shares in his company.

The Social Network‘s betrayal isn’t just about Eduardo. The company of Facebook betrayed its users when they gave away their data. It also leaves us with “co-comparison” to quote Olivia Rodrigo again.

Gender and The Social Network

Women are usually decorations. They exist at parties and drink. Sean lets girls into his and Mark’s house to drink alcohol and women are constantly just hanging around. The first scene of the Phoenix Club–the club Mark desperately wants to join–objectifies and sexualizes women for the men around them. Mark, however, doesn’t have a ton of women he knows in real life.

Erica is the first woman to criticize Mark (that we know of) but after that, she only appears when Mark chases after her. Her lack of development makes sense to the storyline– Erica is living her own life– and Mark is no longer a part of it. Neither Mark nor the audience know much about her. We at least, recognize that fact.

Another character is Brenda Song’s Chrissy, Eduardo’s girlfriend for some of the movie. She is the one to set a scarf Eduardo gave her on fire. I don’t particularly like scarves, but it is still a nice gift. It’s not necessarily a reason to be angry, it is not a bad gift. She is portrayed as the crazy girlfriend. She does whatever she wants, and she gets jealous easily. But Eduardo also deserves the blame for their relationship.

Should he have changed his status to-in-a-relationship on Facebook? Probably. I feel like this is a case of bad communication. If Facebook relationship status was important to her, perhaps they could’ve talked about it before. If he really didn’t know, he could have asked Mark of all things. And if Eduardo doesn’t like the relationship, why does he stay?

He tells Mark Chrissy is a “psycho” but stays with her, but never tries to work on the relationship. He almost detaches himself from the relationship, and he ignores her like she’s a problem rather than a person. I also found an article from The Business Insider that talks about women in The Social Network. The movie’s treatment of women feels disappointing, to say in the least.

I wasn’t that surprised that Sorkin defended the movie’s sexism years later. The men are meant to be misogynists, and we see it from their point of view, it isn’t nice to see, but it is what it is under their logic. Christy herself also seems like an exaggerated character. If women are more sexual, they are judged in this movie, but women who “know better” and break up with these guys like Erica are seen as wise and witty. Both of them are pawns in these men’s power plays. Eduardo just has better social skills than Mark. It doesn’t make Eduardo a better person or mean he respects women or cares about them more.

And the thing is, in a real-life story Zuckerberg didn’t go about setting the pieces for a revenge fantasy ploy. He was dating Priscilla Chan, who is now his wife. What about problematic men who are married and in power. Is their power only worthy of critique if they are overtly and obviously misogynistic.

Sexist nerds in media aren’t anything new. I just wonder how the movie would have gone if they ventured to explore Zuckerberg’s relationship with Chan. How does one balance a girlfriend and working long hours for what the movie showed as a primarily male-dominated industry? And why did the movie portray the industry all men? Women worked for the founding of Facebook. Why not include them as well? How did his friendship with Eduardo play out when he had his wife by his side? I’m not sure how the movie could have conveyed this, but it is important to remember that powerful men get married. Women are a part of these stories, and it feels lazy, and frankly, offensive not to not include them.

To reduce Mark to a revengeful, sexist nerd is to diminish real-life men in power. To reduce them to unlikable nerds is to pity them. And by focusing on pity, we miss how much power they hold, and thus avoid valid critiques of their actions. I’m not sure the movie goes that far. It clearly shows Mark is in the wrong not just because of his sexism, but because he is a betrayer. To harm your friend while working with them is one of the worst parts.

Mark betrays Eduardo not because of anger or a desire to get even. Eduardo asks Mark:

“Is it because I got into the Phoenix?”

Though Eduardo was kind to Mark and a good friend, Mark just feels jealous of him. The biggest tragedy of the movie is Mark’s misunderstanding of human relationships. He isn’t open to connecting emotionally with others, to him it is all business. But as we see at the end with the friend request to Erica–connection is something Mark desperately craves–even if he doesn’t know how.

He thinks that these groups will bring him a better life than he has, but it is there–right in front of him. If you watch the scene, you hear Eduardo’s voice as he says he dressed for both a business meeting and a party. Eduardo cared about Mark. There is an idea in life that if we earn things, if we work hard for what we want we’ll finally get somewhere better, but there are people right in front of us.

Social media creates a fake-closeness. If you have someone on social media, you might see them in a group and feel unhappy that you’re are not part of the in-crowd. Social possibilities seem to extend, but instead, they bend inward. Mark sticks with us at the end, because he represents all of us, reaching for connection. I just wish Mark had realized he had two people that cared about him.

Overall, The Social Network is still iconic and hits hard more than ten years later. The messages of social media and isolation felt too real. I also read that the law stuff was pretty accurate to real life. A current critique of Facebook would no doubt look differently, but the way the movie showed the harms of status and power stay with us. Also, it holds a message is helpful for all time: don’t stab your friends in the back–if that wasn’t obvious.

Other than that though, this movie played out like a lawsuit between people with far more money than most of us can imagine. In the end, Eduardo turned out okay. But Facebook? I’m not so sure.

Iconic Lines

The entire last scene is so iconic, and I could include it all, but I’ll add a few favorite lines.

“Sorry, my Prada’s at the cleaners along with my hoodie and my ******* flip flops you pretentious douchebag…”

Apparently, Zuckerberg did dress like movie Mark in college: in gap hoodies and flip flops.

“I was drunk, angry, and stupid.”

“And blogging”

“And blogging”

Mark and Marilyn

Life tip: Never blog drunk or else you may eventually become a lonely billionaire who accuses their best friend of animal cruelty for keeping a chicken in their room for a week to get into a club that rejected you.

Have you seen The Social Network? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.