Author: Ashley Ostrowski

Hi! I'm Ashley Ostrowski. In this blog, I analyze what media tells us about living a meaningful life. I talk about my favorite books, movies, shows, and more.
Hobbies

Here is a List of the Top 5 Wii Games that had an impact on my Childhood, Because Wii is the Best Game System

This is a response to P.A. Wilson’s list of video games that impacted her childhood. I too, gamed a few times as a young person, I wasn’t a huge gamer–I don’t play much anymore–and my favorite system as a child was probably the Wii. I think it still is. Throughout my life, certain video games I played as a kid have stuck with me, and I wanted to share them with you. I have laughed and cried over them, and I have wanted to chuck a Wii remote into the abyss. Have I? No, but I was tempted. So here it is, the list of games that have formed my childhood–for better or for worse.

1. Just Dance

Release date: November 17, 2009

Just Dance is a game that I hope will stay in the memories of our generation. I’m surprised and disappointed that Just Dance is kind of dying out. Just Dance is a great game for anyone who likes to dance to popular music for fun and to be silly. It is also good exercise. You can definitely work up a sweat. I don’t know why people don’t talk about it more. The songs they choose are always culturally relevant bops. I’m not sure what’s not to like.

It is incredibly underrated and it is probably one of the best games to come out of Wii. Who can forget dancing to Katy Perry or Justin Bieber songs, or choosing a giraffe avatar for a group song? So iconic. But of course, I don’t just enjoy feeling connected to pop culture. The game had other benefits as well.

Playing Just Dance was a time in my day where I could be silly and have fun and not feel embarrassed or awkward about anything. After a long, stressful day of school, I had a time to be myself and felt comfortable. They say to dance like no one in watching. On the flip side, I can’t romanticize the past too much.

While I enjoyed letting loose and dancing to songs I loved, playing Just Dance is still an odd experience. I start dancing and I’d feel like there was this other person watching and judging me. Regardless of my score, I would wonder, am I doing this right? These moves just feel odd, what would people think of me if they saw me move that way. I’m not coordinated. But I still played this game, because it was fun. I learned to live with self-judgement and this pressure that I had imposed on myself. I sometimes felt like someone was watching, but sometimes I could fully let go, it depended. Sometimes I felt both at the same time.

When I played with friends, those insecurities weren’t as there. I had my doubts. Sometimes it seemed like my friends were better, but I mostly didn’t care. We were having fun together. My friend even made a playlist for us with all of the songs.

Overall, this game is just fun and encourages you to be yourself, to be goofy, and to play alone or with friends. I love pop music, so this was a fun time to dance along. Creating my own moves myself was unthinkable at the time, so it worked out. Overall, it was a 10/10 experience, and I’m not sure I can say how much I love this game.

2. Animal Crossing

Release Date: November 16, 2008

I didn’t play Animal Crossing very much. I only had the Wii version as a kid, but I have had my share of fun and frustration with Tom Nook, therefore I want talk about it.

Tom Nook annoyed the heck out of me. I remember starting my first city and basically being forced to work for him. Does Tom Nook have a monopoly in this town? Is he the only one hiring? Is this town a weird cult where you have to be initiated by Tom Nook until you can move in? I guess everyone needs a first job, and he offers a start. Doesn’t mean I liked him though.

Tom required me to run around town doing his errands. Why doesn’t he ever train you to help run the shop or sell stuff? I’m not sure why collecting butterflies is such a necessary skill or why people pay for them. I was so happy when I was no longer under his chain of command.

But, other than that–and a few annoying neighbors–I liked this game. The world of Animal Crossing is a peaceful, agrarian society. You as the player are fairly self-sufficient. You can decorate a house of your own however you like and live off the land, catching fish and picking fruit from trees to survive. Thoreau would have liked this game.

I loved visiting the tailor shop and picking fabrics for my clothes. I wish I’d worked there; Sable and Mable are so sweet.

Your life in Animal Crossing quite awesome. You are also surrounded by friends, and you can just walk over to their houses and chat. Sure, some of your neighbors were annoying–Avery, cough, cough–and complained randomly, but many of them were nice as well–Bella was my best friend in this game.

With animal crossing, there is little competition, and there isn’t an ultimate goal for your character. You don’t have to defeat Bowser, compete to win a race, or get through a maze. In Animal Crossing, you’re just living your best life. You get to decide what your goals are, how to spend your time, and who you befriend. You can give back to the community by catching fish and bugs for the museum. You can go into town and take a shopping trip. The game is fun. If my future were like Animal Crossing, I think I’d be quite content.

My only complaint is that this game gets kind of…boring. You mostly catch fish and hang out with people, but there aren’t any major plot obstacles to overcome from what I remember. I also didn’t know many people who played the Wii version, so I didn’t connect with other friends through this game. Maybe if I ever got the DS version, It’d be cooler.

3. New Super Mario Bros Wii

Release Date: November 12, 2009

I’m going to talk about this game more, because I’ve played it the most, and I love it. I’m not sure if there’s a list of the most number of plays for this game, but I hope that my family would be pretty high on it. We got Super Mario Bros when we first got a Wii, when I was around 9 years old. If you haven’t played, basically, Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach at her birthday party of all places, and then keeps hiding her in different castles. Bowser has many friends just like him. They keep hiding in a castle and hiding until Mario and his friends travel through each world, reach the castle, and defeat him.

The bowsers keep castle hopping, and they get increasingly annoying. I remember playing through the first time with my family took forever. We spent so long trying to get to the end of each world the first time we played through, and I think it took years. Countless hours were put into the final battle between Mario and Bowser and that battle took ages. World Seven was the place we barely ventured to and hardly spoke of. We called it the cloud world.

I love this game, still do. The rounds are extremely repayable and are still challenging after years of playing. My family decided to collect all the Star Coins after we defeated the world. The weird thing is that they don’t give you anything for getting all the Star Coins. A message pops up on the screen and that’s it. Boring.

Mario Lingo:

Toads should be called mushrooms or mushes for short, because they looked more like mushrooms than toads. I still don’t get why they call them toads.

Yoshi should be horses because you ride them like a horse, and it just fits. Out of all the levels on Super Mario Bros, the Yoshi levels were probably my favorites. I loved flying with the Yoshis and eating fruit from the trees. I haven’t ridden a horse much in my life, but it felt powerful. I like it.

The Best Superpowers

  1. Propeller hats are the best power. I called them flying power; they helped you go everywhere and make it easiest to avoid villains and travel. Can someone create a propeller hat that works IRL? Actually nevermind. Even if this were scientifically possible, I would probably be afraid to fly with a device that is connected to my head alone.
  2. Fire power looks cool and it is easier to control, so I’d say it takes second place. The toads also look awesome with fire power.
  3. Penguin power is adorable, and sliding is fun. I’ll admit though, I lost many lives in round 3, the ice world, because I slipped into the abyss.

The other powers were just okay. Star power wears out quickly. Freeze doesn’t look as cool as the others. The shrinking power is cute, but if you die, you don’t get a second chance.

Biggest Pet Peeves/Cons

  1. The red mushroom is really annoying. The mushroom constantly cries for your help and you have to carry him through each level. Saving him gives you power houses, but still, I didn’t love him.
  2. You’re forced to play Mario. Whether you are playing as a single player or with a group, somebody has to be Mario. You can have Mario and any of the yellow and blue mushroom(s) or just Mario and Luigi, but you can’t play just as Mushrooms or as Luigi. This annoyed me a bit. Luigi is my favorite character, and he is cool enough to do a level on his own. Same with the mushrooms. But that’s just my opinion.
  3. Damsel in Distress. Super Mario Bros thrives on the damsel and distress trope. Peach is always kidnapped and needs to be saved by Mario and Luigi. She’s totally helpless and stands there while the guys save her. I like her in Mario Cart, but in this game, she doesn’t do much.

4. Mario Cart

Mario cart is a game that I didn’t play as often, but it was still fun. I liked racing against my siblings, cousins, and friends. Yoshi is my go to character, and no, I am not very talented at it. I think I’m an average Mario Cart player, if last place could count as average. Some of my favorite places to play are the place with the ski resort, the space island, and the haunted mansion. Like I said, I love Luigi.

5. Wii Sports Resort

I know Wii Sports is pretty fun, but Wii Sports Resort is where it is at. In this game, you can fence your enemies. If they fail, you can push them into the ocean. I’m not sure what’s more fun than that. I got pretty good at swordplay too, it was probably the only game I played on here regularly. Perhaps I was missing out, but pushing people into the water just took the cake.

I liked a few of the other games on WSR too. Cycling was fun and offered cool locations like the beach. How often in life you get to bike on the beach? Not enough. For some reason, 100 pin bowling was fun, and so was archery, although I wasn’t the best at either. I have played Wii Sports as well, and while it is good, the swordplay option in Sports Resort is awesome. I would be terrified of and would feel bad about pushing people into the water in real life, but it is great as a game.

Have you played the Wii? What did you think of my list? What are your favorite games? Let me know down in the comments below!

Books

Grove City College put on A Doll’s House and I Have Opinions

A Doll’s House is available to read on Project Gutenberg’s website.

Trigger Warning: This play is primarily about a toxic marriage and emotional abuse by a husband to his wife. It includes continuous yelling that comes out of nowhere and occurs for several minutes, gaslighting, and other forms of emotional abuse.

I recently saw A Doll’s House for the first time at Grove City College. This is a well-written play and I would highly recommend watching it. The actors at Grove City College were phenomenal and they really captured the drama and characters well. I am including spoilers for the play in my review, so if you don’t want to know, well, almost everything, I would stop reading after this paragraph.

Now, onto the review.

Before I went to see this play, I looked it up to see what it was about, and I was slightly surprised that Grove City College chose to cover a story about a Norwegian woman struggling in her marriage and a male-dominated society. Considering the ending, I was even more surprised that they chose to put it on.

The ending my college chose also is not the remade ending, but some details were changed. For example, there are no child actors in this play, likely because we are college students, and the couple’s children are only referenced. But other than that, the play is pretty much the same show that was and still is extremely controversial.

I read the director’s note, which was written by director and professor Dr. Betsy Craig, and I realized that my assumption was completely wrong. This play is more connected to Grove City College than I thought was possible. The author, Henrik Ibsen and A Doll’s House are drawn and written on the stained glass windows, among other famous intellectual figures, in Crawford auditorium. Ibsen is considered the father of modern drama, so it makes sense that he is included in this list.

I also learned by reading the director’s note that Ibsen did not intentionally write a feminist play. He was invited to a meeting with his wife for the Norwegian League for Women’s Rights, but he told them didn’t know what the women’s rights movement was even about. Craig says Ibsen said that the problem meant to address in A Doll’s House was: “True enough, it is desirable to solve the women problem, along with all others; but that has not been my whole purpose. My task has been the description of humanity.”

Typical of a man, I think, to reduce half of the populations lack of rights and ability to make important decisions for themselves into the phrase “the women problem.” But of course, his point proves that the troubles of women are universal and necessary for us to acknowledge, as members of the human race. Isben didn’t address the women’s suffrage movement, but his play this play broke barriers, nevertheless. Some audiences were outraged, and alternative endings and rewrites were required.

Ibsen perhaps unintentionally tells us the message that we need to hear. That women’s rights are the rights of the humanity. He sees Nora’s plight not just as a “woman’s problem”, that only concerns the “feminists”, but a problem that humanity as a core holds, and that problem too, should be addressed and put on center stage.

Nora’s feeling of entrapment is attributed to the patriarchy, and her concerns are validated. The play shows the brokenness of a system that desperately needs mending and it doesn’t end with complete brokenness. Dr. Craig even notes in the director’s note that the play ends on a hopeful note.

There is hope for the audience–for us to listen to Nora, Torvald, and the people around them and to empathize and understand them. There is hope for us to learn to listen to others and understand what they’re going through rather than assume.

I’ll say now that I can’t completely hate Torvald. His actions are inexcusable. He insults, objectifies, and treats his wife, Nora, terribly. His shift from anger and blame to begging for forgiveness is shocking. He is self-centered and doesn’t attempt to understand anyone around him. But no one has told him that he needs to understand anyone else. Torvald is a man with power and he feels like his wife should serve his every need.

He is part a product of a time where men and women lived in different spheres. He is allowed to diminish Nora and call her a “songbird” and “a child.” Such terms are romanticized and celebrated. Torvald is considered what is called a successful man. The culture was fine with reducing your spouse to a child and creature that exists to give you joy and music.

Money and forgery

Nora’s forgery is a dumb mistake that drives the plot. It is also a result of not educating women on finance. Nora’s decision to forge her father’s signature on a loan, and then accidentally dating it after he already died, is what drives the conflict in the story. But the problem goes deeper than that.

At the beginning of the story, Torvald berates her for not managing money well, but he doesn’t know she’s paying off a loan that saved his life. As a woman, she can’t even take out a loan without a man’s signature according to the law. She is also forced to keep this a secret, because her husband doesn’t want to take out loans. Dude, your life is at stake, let down your pride for a second…man…

The major obstacle is the patriarchal society that refuses to allow women to manage their own money. Nora is utterly unable to manage money herself, and if she could, none of this would have happened in the first place.

I want to talk about Mrs. Linde for a moment.

Mrs. Kristine Linde

Mrs. Linde is a fascinating character. I think without her, much of the message of this play could be lost. She too is a woman living in a world where women are treated as secondary.

She often tells Nora that she is older, that she has had life experience that Nora hasn’t had yet. She has worked her entire life. She never got to be a wife supported by her husband, who she married to pay to take care of her mother instead of love, and she has no family. Her husband ended up dying and leaving her a poor widow. When she returns to see Nora, it has been ten years since the two have stayed in touch.

Mrs. Linde isn’t the idealized working woman. Nora tells Mrs. Linde that must be so much better than Nora’s, but Kristine responds:

“No, indeed; I only feel my life unspeakably empty. No one to live for anymore.”

She has been doing manual work and hopes for an office job. She has few friends and family. I think it is important to note that we can’t exist on work alone, we need people, desperately, in our lives. Life is not filled by financial autonomy, although I’m sure Kristine appreciates that she will no longer have to worry about money.

But when we look at the ending, it is unclear whether or not Kristine will stay in touch with Nora. We don’t know if she has any friends to spend time with and survive her.

I suppose this leads me to wonder, does Mrs. Linde love Nils Krogstad? She initially talks with him to help distract him from Nora, and then she decides she wants to be with him because she’s loathes being alone. I can’t help but wonder if she really does want to be with him romantically. Does she, or is she terrified of feeling empty and he is there? I’m not sure.

As much as I question, I do hope they found a way to be happy together.

Dr. Rank

I’m not sure what else to say about Dr. Rank except that I feel sorry for him. I wonder what would have happened if he had lived or if Nora had fallen in love with him instead. It was sweet of him to admit that he would make sacrifices for her before he died. It shows she has options too, that Nora has options, that care for her isn’t reduced to Torvald. He also shows how unfair the world is and how in different circumstances it could be better. His story ends unfairly; Mr. Rank, a kind person, dies while Torvald lives.

II wonder about Nora’s ending. She decides to leave and start a new life, but she has no one. Her children are left behind, and she doesn’t have anyone who cares for her. I’m going to dive into the children in a bit, but I’m going to look at Nora’s speech first. One interesting thing I noticed was the religion and religious language in the play.

Religion and religious language in the play

A doll’s house touches on religion, Christianity, and relates to it as a moral system. The story interestingly takes place during Christmas. Nora also keeps a lie for three days, a notable number in the Bible. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not. But, while the characters decorate the tree and dance around, there are no, at least outwardly devout, Christians in this play. Torvald accuses Nora of a lack of religion when she is leaving him, saying that she has “no religion, no morality, no sense of duty.”

Nora’s father was a Christian, but she personally never claims to follow his faith. Torvald doesn’t mention his own faith, so it is unclear whether he is a practicing Christian or not. It doesn’t seem like it. Also, Torvald is betraying his duties as a husband to love his wife as himself. So, he’s not one to talk–at all.

But he does, idiotically, use her father’s Christian faith to argue for Nora’s place in the home while doing nothing to acknowledge his own failure as a husband.

“Can you not understand your place in your own home? Have you not a reliable guide in such matters as that?—have you no religion?”

Christianity is used justify the wife’s place in the home and judge Nora’s decision to leave, but little else. Nora it seems also does not know much about religion, she says she was told things by a clergyman, but she feels little to have any personal connection to his statements.

She says that she wants to think it out for herself, when she is alone. Nora’s arguments show her reasoning out how she understands the world for herself. She is also humble, she admits that she does not understand the world fully and that she plans to learn in the future. All while she processes this, Torvald insists she doesn’t know anything and is being a child. But he’s wrong. She is growing in understanding and self-awareness. She is realizing what it means to be an adult and can make moral and ethical judgements for herself. Her husband fails to recognize his own problematic behavior and goes on to invalidate her feelings.

Nora leaves because life with him is always a life under a man’s thumb. She is being suffocated under his objectification of her. This argument erupts into the truth about Nora. That she as an individual has a complex life, a spiritual, emotional, and political life that deserves to develop and grow without just extending from the men around her.

Now, if she were a married woman without children, the story might be simpler. Marital counseling also was not common at the time, and even then, I’m not sure if her husband would agree to go.

I’ll also note that this story supports marriage as an institution, Nora says that her relationship to her husband would be “real wedlock” if he changed. The part where she leaves her children is a part I do struggle with, but it is necessary for us to remember that neither of these characters are perfect. I don’t see Nora’s decision as a call for all mothers who feel like Nora to leave their kids behind in search for financial success and independence. If there is a husband who is capable of change, marriage can be made right. But this isn’t Nora’s situation.

Nora’s Decision to Leave her Husband and Children Behind

Nora made a decision to leave a toxic marriage, and she leaves knowing that the children would be in good hands. She doesn’t not care about her kids at all.

For example, in the script, which I found on Project Gutenberg, there is a scene where Nora sees her children. Nora talks to them after they have played outside:

“How fresh and well you look! Such red cheeks like apples and roses. [The children all talk at once while she speaks to them.] Have you had great fun? That’s splendid! What, you pulled both Emmy and Bob along on the sledge? —both at once?—that was good. You are a clever boy, Ivar. Let me take her for a little, Anne. My sweet little baby doll!”

Nora clearly loves her kids, and cares about them. The play I watched didn’t include the children as characters. Either way, I don’t think that Nora wanted to leave her children.

One argument that I thought of, admittedly before I actually watched the play, was that Nora could take her children with her and leave them Torvald behind. Looking at the play now, this is not an option, considering that first, Torvald would never to allow Nora to take their children from him. Second, if Nora chose to take them with her, she would be desolate and would be putting innocent kids into poverty.

Torvald has the money and resources (and nannies) to provide for the children financially at the very least.. The situation can be awful in any case. It sounds like Nora is unlikely to return to them, but we don’t know. I’m not saying that this completely justifies her decision, but it explains her reasoning.

If she were to try to make it work with Torvald, he would have to be open to really listening to her and treat her not just an object, but a human being with feelings and emotions as complex as his own. I’m not a marriage counselor, but I’m not sure if they could have worked it out on their own. Perhaps if a real marriage counselor were available at the time perhaps they could make it work or perhaps they would separate anyway. Considering the way Torvald insults to her at the end, I am leaning toward the latter.

He never appreciates her as a person or her abilities. After all, she took a huge risk to save her life.

When Nora tells Torvald that she is leaving him, she says that there will be freedom on both sides when she leaves him. Neither have any obligation to the other. She needs to cut ties because she knows he will try to rope her back the moment he even gives her an inch. She also knows that her children will be taken care of in this house.

You could say she’s being irresponsible, that she is thinking for herself alone. I’m not sure we have to agree with her choice, and we also have to remember that Nora is a victim of emotional abuse and she is escaping a this situation and intense pressure in the only way she knows how.

I also don’t think Nora will experience self-actualization and a perfect life outside of her marriage. Mrs. Linde, after all, works for herself but has no one. Nora’s decision, while perhaps preferable, is not ideal. Nora faces isolation and the same emptiness that Mrs. Linde feels by deciding to walk away. Perhaps she will find happiness and community somewhere, but that’s not the main point of the story. Nora’s decision is objectively risky, but she still feels like she cannot make any other choice.

In a society where women are objects without rights, Nora rebels. The system crushes her and she abandons responsibility to a world that belittles and refuses her dignity as a person. In all honesty, the ending is uncomfortable, but I’m not just uncomfortable with a mother, who has been shown to love her children, leaving them indefinitely.

I’m uncomfortable with her husband’s objectification of her, and his dismissal of her individuality, growth, and personhood. I’m uncomfortable with a patriarchal society that reduces women to their physical appearance, and their purpose to serving men and their needs. I’m uncomfortable with a world that only offers men the ability to grow as individuals, provide financially for themselves, and understand the world and their place in it. I’m uncomfortable with a society that only expects them to be mothers and wives and expects them to always comply without receiving any respect.

This is an amazing play. The dialogue is great and it is full of emotional depth. Henrik Ibsen is the father of modern drama for a reason, and I’m glad I saw his work in person.

Today, the message is still relevant and it is important to remember. A Doll’s House inspires empathy, for Nora, Dr. Rank, Mrs. Kristie, and Torvald. It reminds us of the necessity understanding each other and realizing that our view of the world is not universal and that just because we are happy with the way things are doesn’t mean they are right. We understand Torvald’s position without defending him. Maybe we even see ourselves in his viewpoint, in his complacency, in his unwillingness to listen.

Perhaps most importantly, Nora express that she is not happy with the male-dominated society, her expected role in it, and the man that she’s supposed to love. I don’t expect Nora to be perfect, and I appreciate her watching the play and really listening to what she says, we give her the same right that everyone deserves, the right that her husband and society deny her. The right to make choices, to think for herself, to share a different perspective, and ultimately, the right to be human.

I think, that is why I’m glad to have seen this play and to see A Doll’s House and Henrik Ibsen on the Crawford windows.

Have you seen or read A Doll’s House? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below!

Books

Mediations on a Play Where Nothing Happens: Waiting for Godot Review

Mediations on a Play Where Nothing Happens: Waiting for Godot Review

Important Note: This play talks about suicide and death and includes representations of slavery.

What makes it good?

  • Wit and dialogue
  • Friendship between two people who are reluctant to say they care about each other
  • Questions about the nature of truth

Reasons I struggled to get into this play

  • It is long
  • The two acts are basically the same
  • No key drama moves the plot forward
  • I’m not sure I got it the first time I read it

I’m going to talk about a play where almost nothing happens. Waiting for Godot consists of two acts and the two protagonists do almost nothing in the first act and do the same thing in the second. This long story of stasis includes theological questionings about Jesus’ crucifixion, a speech from a quiet character given for reasons unknown, slow witticisms, questions about epistemology, and reluctant friendship.

In the midst of a desert-dry plot, our attention reading or watching falls on any molecule of meaning that the dialogue offers. But going into full analysis mode misses much of the point. The action, the dialogue, the set and props also tell the story.

Remember that this is a play, and it is a long play. I remember looking over it for hours in my British Literature class and then for a second time when I wrote this review. It still baffles me to this day, so I’ll go into some parts the best I can, but there is certainly more that can be talked about.

We all go to plays because we are bored. You could also say we go to plays to be entertained or because we like to see something that makes meaning out of experience.

So, whether you are bored, want to be entertained, or are looking for a way to understand the meaning of your life, you should read and watch Waiting for Godot. You get to see people on stage who are in the same boat as you. They are waiting for something, for anything to happen.

Waiting for Godot is primarily a dialogue between the two major characters Estragon and Vladimir. I would say that the story is one of uncertain friendship. They don’t always love each other, in fact, they aren’t quite certain if they even want to spend time together. Perhaps they would do better off alone.

Vladimir and Esgragon don’t really fight, because they have the same goal. They’re waiting for Godot, they’re searching for purpose, for a task to fulfill. They are asking questions and waiting for an answer. These are universal questions and based on my reading, Waiting for Godot doesn’t answer any of them.

That doesn’t mean, that the characters are utterly inactive, though. The characters do do some fascinating things. They pick up a carrot and want a turnip. They chat about life, they walk around, and they quarrel.

Inactivity

Estragon and Vladimir spend the play waiting for Godot to arrive and tell them what to do. Godot is their purpose, the one that they should be waiting for, and the one they respect. They won’t leave until he arrives. They don’t appear ambitious or excited for Godot’s arrival. They mostly want him to come because they are bored and feel like they cannot leave without him.

But, oddly enough, they don’t question Godot himself. They don’t question this meeting that they’re having with this man. They don’t question Godot’s character or reasons for meeting. They’re just blindly obedient and trust him because he is the only available authority. Neither character decides to take the matter into their own hands.

I want to note that Godot is not to represent God. Some have interpreted Godot as God and thought that they are waiting for a God that will not come. But this isn’t a correct interpretation by the author’s own words. Beckett said, “If I meant to write God, I would write God.”

Beckett himself is agnostic, but his questions are ones that everyone asks at least a few times in their life. What do we do with our lives? What are we supposed to be doing here? How do we live in a world that seems so repetitive?

These are valid questions, but these characters aren’t great at answering them or even grappling with them well. They just expect someone else, who they barely know anything about to give them purpose in life. When I look at this play, I wonder if taking Godot out of the equation would make their lives better. Why not make a decision and take a risk to find a purpose outside of a vague authority. He hasn’t shown up in days, what is Godot going to do if they leave?

If you’re still not convinced that Godot is not God or a metaphor for God, I’d like to offer a few other points. First, Godot isn’t treated like a God, no one prays to or worships him. Godot doesn’t provide Estragon and Vladimir a way to live or even show that he cares for them or anyone else at all. Godot never reveals anything about himself to them either, he just remains a complete mystery. We don’t even know if he really exists and ultimately, Estragon and Vladimir don’t really care about him.

When a messenger boy comes and tells them Godot isn’t coming, they don’t ask much about Godot. Instead, they are concerned about the boy’s well being. They ask if the boy if Godot feeds him enough, if he’s good to the boy, if Godot beats him, and if he’s happy. Godot sounds pretty bad. He beats the boy’s brother but isn’t exactly kind to the boy.

When Vladimir asks if the boy is happy, the boy responds:

"You're not unhappy." The boy hesitates. "Do you hear me?

Yes Sir.

Well? 

I don't know, Sir

You don't know if you're unhappy or not?

No sir.

"You're as bad as myself (Silence). Where do you sleep?"

This scene is pretty bad, but it shows that above all, Vladimir cares more about another person’s well being over a vague authority figure. The play doesn’t ever hit you over the head with how great it is to love other people and be nice and everything. This scene is sweet, if rare, moment. That leads us to the question of friendship.

Friendship

Estragon and Vladimir are somewhat reluctant friends. They are joined in this goal of waiting for Godot and they seem to like each other enough to stay together. They also wonder if they should part a few times. They contrast with Pozzo and Lucky, who are in an abusive power dynamic. It is one of servant/master or slave/master, because it is unclear whether or not Lucky is able to leave the abusive Pozzo. The contrast between the respectful friendship of people figuring out life and the abusive relationship between Pozzo and Lucky is a big part of the story.

I liked how Beckett portrayed Vladimir and Estragon’s relationship. They both have different perspectives on the world. Vladimir thinks more about philosophical and theological issues, while Estragon is more concerned with the physical world. Estragon also forgets things pretty often. They balance each other out well, even if they don’t understand each other fully. I like how they both seem to like each other, but they don’t completely get why they keep coming back to each other.

Lucky’s Speech

I’m still not sure I understand this speech because it is nonsense. Lucky gives a speech that doesn’t make much sense. It says “for reasons unknown” several times and despite the rest of the words, it suggests that we don’t know why anything happens the way it does. According to Lucky, any attempt at meaning becomes nonsensical in the world we live in.

Theological Questioning

If you are looking for the part in the play where Beckett questions religion, this is it. Vladimir reflects on the story of Jesus the three thieves on the cross. He remembers how one story says that both thieves taunted Jesus, and another says there is a good thief who is saved and a mean one. The question is a bit theological. It is questioning the truth of the Bible, but it is also asking us about truth as a whole. How do we know what truth is? How can we tell the truth if two different stories are different? How can we tell what the truth is when we have different interpretations of the truth.

Sometimes we only hear one version of the truth, like some people only hear one story of the thieves on the cross and assume there is one good thief and one bad thief. I think a lot of us prefer this story to the one where both thieves are mean, so we remember it that way. In this play though, I’m not sure if people remember things according to preference or choice. It seems to be random for these guys.

Vladimir and Estragon often remember things differently and quarrel about which rendition of events is true. They cannot even remember how many days they have been waiting for Godot. They can’t tell which boy is which, even, and they remember differently than Pozzo.

Life seems more like a series of events over a long, endless span. It is our actions that confirm our existence, and that even while we wait, we cannot live without acting. I think of writing that way. I think I’d like to do something to give the impression that I exist and that I’m engaging with these stories and the world. I think that’s something we’re all looking for.

“We always find something, eh Didi, to give the impression that we exist.”

Estragon

Passing Time vs. Living

If you are a person, I’m not sure if you’ll relate completely to this story. The people in this story appear to live in an anarchic society or one run by Godot. They do not live under a capitalist society, and if they do, they at least are committing tax evasion. The life Estragon and Vladimir live is only possible because they somehow manage to drink and feed themselves in the wilderness without a job. Godot is their employer of sorts, but he doesn’t make them do anything else. They only have to wait and not work, and we don’t even know if they are being paid. He does appear to employ the boys who work for him, but that is all we know.

Therefore, the world the characters inhabit is quite unlike our own. They are able to sit and wander and do essentially nothing. There are few worries about how they will be able to afford to stay alive. They also seem decently content living in the wilderness, at least, they do not worry greatly about their ability to stay alive.

Therefore, they are allowed to be idle, and can spend much of their time just passing time, rather than trying to make a living.

The Purposeless of Waiting

Estragon and Vladimir are waiting for meaning, instruction, to be told what to do. Pozzo is not waiting for Godot, and he is a terrible, tyrannical, abusive person. He is the only one that we don’t see living under someone else’s orders.

I asked before if Estragon and Vladimir would be happier if they ignored Godot and did what they wanted. They are missing out and don’t accept all the freedom that they have. Time is being wasted as they wait for him to come. He dictates what space they stay in, how long they stay together, and their patience. The world they live in is also unjust, there are unhealthy dynamics between boss and employee, and between Pozzo and Lucky, but these relationships continue in a cycle. Life is all a cycle in this story.

Pozzo: I don’t seem to be able to . . . (long hesitation). . . to depart

Estragon: Such is life.

Estragon has a point here. This is also maybe the only point where I can empathize with Pozzo.

Vladimir: That passed the time.

Estragon: It would have passed anyway. 

Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly.

Pause

Estragon: What do we do now?
That's the odd message of this story, that we fill our lives with random events that we might forget. In Waiting for Godot, there is no exciting moment. I'm not sure I still understand this play after all these years. Is the problem that they are waiting for a purpose instead of seeking it ourselves or looking for a better purpose, or does life is has little meaning or direction whether or not Godot was there? 

I’d like to think that perhaps they could do better if they just left Godot behind, but they don’t do that. So, we’ll never know. It frustrated me, especially while reading a play where almost nothing happens. In an odd way, I liked how this play ended without answers, because it feels like real life. Although Vladimir and Estragon have few responsibilities, I could relate to them.

Even without things to do, life without a goal or plan can feel like we’re Waiting for Godot. Sometimes life isn’t as romantic as other plays seem. Our connections with others aren’t always perfect and as humans we know that other people don’t understand and remember events the same way that we do. Our consciousness are different. This is captured through the characters of Estragon and Vladimir.

On one hand, this play makes me pessimistic. Taking action seems to be an answer to their problems. I wonder why Estragon and Vladimir keep coming back to each other. Listening to another person and hearing their perspective helps us, even if we don’t find the truth. I like Waiting For Godot for that reason.

When it comes to questions, rather than ignoring or trying to solve everything, it gives us space to ask questions and lets us question the answers and sit in uncertainty for a bit.

Have you ever read Waiting for Godot? What did you think? Did you like reading it or get annoyed with the characters? Let me know in the comments below.

Important Note: This play talks about suicide and death and includes representations of slavery.

What makes it good?

  • Wit and dialogue
  • Friendship between two people who are reluctant to say they care about each other
  • Questions about the nature of truth

Reasons I struggled to get into this play

  • It is long
  • The two acts are basically the same
  • No key drama moves the plot forward
  • I’m not sure I got it the first time I read it

I’m going to talk about a play where almost nothing happens. Waiting for Godot consists of two acts and the two protagonists do almost nothing in the first act and do the same thing in the second. This long story of stasis includes theological questionings about Jesus’ crucifixion, a speech from a quiet character given for reasons unknown, slow witticisms, questions about epistemology, and reluctant friendship.

In the midst of a desert-dry plot, our attention reading or watching falls on any molecule of meaning that the dialogue offers. But going into full analysis mode misses much of the point. The action, the dialogue, the set and props also tell the story.

Remember that this is a play, and it is a long play. I remember looking over it for hours in my British Literature class and then for a second time when I wrote this review. It still baffles me to this day, so I’ll go into some parts the best I can, but there is certainly more that can be talked about.

We all go to plays because we are bored. You could also say we go to plays to be entertained or because we like to see something that makes meaning out of experience.

So, whether you are bored, want to be entertained, or are looking for a way to understand the meaning of your life, you should read and watch Waiting for Godot. You get to see people on stage who are in the same boat as you. They are waiting for something, for anything to happen.

Waiting for Godot is primarily a dialogue between the two major characters Estragon and Vladimir. I would say that the story is one of uncertain friendship. They don’t always love each other, in fact, they aren’t quite certain if they even want to spend time together. Perhaps they would do better off alone.

Vladimir and Esgragon don’t really fight, because they have the same goal. They’re waiting for Godot, they’re searching for purpose, for a task to fulfill. They are asking questions and waiting for an answer. These are universal questions and based on my reading, Waiting for Godot doesn’t answer any of them.

That doesn’t mean, that the characters are utterly inactive, though. The characters do do some fascinating things. They pick up a carrot and want a turnip. They chat about life, they walk around, and they quarrel.

Inactivity

Estragon and Vladimir spend the play waiting for Godot to arrive and tell them what to do. Godot is their purpose, the one that they should be waiting for, and the one they respect. They won’t leave until he arrives. They don’t appear ambitious or excited for Godot’s arrival. They mostly want him to come because they are bored and feel like they cannot leave without him.

But, oddly enough, they don’t question Godot himself. They don’t question this meeting that they’re having with this man. They don’t question Godot’s character or reasons for meeting. They’re just blindly obedient and trust him because he is the only available authority. Neither character decides to take the matter into their own hands.

I want to note that Godot is not to represent God. Some have interpreted Godot as God and thought that they are waiting for a God that will not come. But this isn’t a correct interpretation by the author’s own words. Beckett said, “If I meant to write God, I would write God.”

Beckett himself is agnostic, but his questions are ones that everyone asks at least a few times in their life. What do we do with our lives? What are we supposed to be doing here? How do we live in a world that seems so repetitive?

These are valid questions, but these characters aren’t great at answering them or even grappling with them well. They just expect someone else, who they barely know anything about to give them purpose in life. When I look at this play, I wonder if taking Godot out of the equation would make their lives better. Why not make a decision and take a risk to find a purpose outside of a vague authority. He hasn’t shown up in days, what is Godot going to do if they leave?

If you’re still not convinced that Godot is not God or a metaphor for God, I’d like to offer a few other points. First, Godot isn’t treated like a God, no one prays to or worships him. Godot doesn’t provide Estragon and Vladimir a way to live or even show that he cares for them or anyone else at all. Godot never reveals anything about himself to them either, he just remains a complete mystery. We don’t even know if he really exists and ultimately, Estragon and Vladimir don’t really care about him.

When a messenger boy comes and tells them Godot isn’t coming, they don’t ask much about Godot. Instead, they are concerned about the boy’s well being. They ask if the boy if Godot feeds him enough, if he’s good to the boy, if Godot beats him, and if he’s happy. Godot sounds pretty bad. He beats the boy’s brother but isn’t exactly kind to the boy.

When Vladimir asks if the boy is happy, the boy responds:

"You're not unhappy." The boy hesitates. "Do you hear me?

Yes Sir.

Well? 

I don't know, Sir

You don't know if you're unhappy or not?

No sir.

"You're as bad as myself (Silence). Where do you sleep?"

This scene is pretty bad, but it shows that above all, Vladimir cares more about another person’s well being over a vague authority figure. The play doesn’t ever hit you over the head with how great it is to love other people and be nice and everything. This scene is sweet, if rare, moment. That leads us to the question of friendship.

Friendship

Estragon and Vladimir are somewhat reluctant friends. They are joined in this goal of waiting for Godot and they seem to like each other enough to stay together. They also wonder if they should part a few times. They contrast with Pozzo and Lucky, who are in an abusive power dynamic. It is one of servant/master or slave/master, because it is unclear whether or not Lucky is able to leave the abusive Pozzo. The contrast between the respectful friendship of people figuring out life and the abusive relationship between Pozzo and Lucky is a big part of the story.

I liked how Beckett portrayed Vladimir and Estragon’s relationship. They both have different perspectives on the world. Vladimir thinks more about philosophical and theological issues, while Estragon is more concerned with the physical world. Estragon also forgets things pretty often. They balance each other out well, even if they don’t understand each other fully. I like how they both seem to like each other, but they don’t completely get why they keep coming back to each other.

Lucky’s Speech

I’m still not sure I understand this speech because it is nonsense. Lucky gives a speech that doesn’t make much sense. It says “for reasons unknown” several times and despite the rest of the words, it suggests that we don’t know why anything happens the way it does. According to Lucky, any attempt at meaning becomes nonsensical in the world we live in.

Theological Questioning

If you are looking for the part in the play where Beckett questions religion, this is it. Vladimir reflects on the story of Jesus the three thieves on the cross. He remembers how one story says that both thieves taunted Jesus, and another says there is a good thief who is saved and a mean one. The question is a bit theological. It is questioning the truth of the Bible, but it is also asking us about truth as a whole. How do we know what truth is? How can we tell the truth if two different stories are different? How can we tell what the truth is when we have different interpretations of the truth.

Sometimes we only hear one version of the truth, like some people only hear one story of the thieves on the cross and assume there is one good thief and one bad thief. I think a lot of us prefer this story to the one where both thieves are mean, so we remember it that way. In this play though, I’m not sure if people remember things according to preference or choice. It seems to be random for these guys.

Vladimir and Estragon often remember things differently and quarrel about which rendition of events is true. They cannot even remember how many days they have been waiting for Godot. They can’t tell which boy is which, even, and they remember differently than Pozzo.

Life seems more like a series of events over a long, endless span. It is our actions that confirm our existence, and that even while we wait, we cannot live without acting. I think of writing that way. I think I’d like to do something to give the impression that I exist and that I’m engaging with these stories and the world. I think that’s something we’re all looking for.

“We always find something, eh Didi, to give the impression that we exist.”

Estragon

Passing Time vs. Living

If you are a person, I’m not sure if you’ll relate completely to this story. The people in this story appear to live in an anarchic society or one run by Godot. They do not live under a capitalist society, and if they do, they at least are committing tax evasion. The life Estragon and Vladimir live is only possible because they somehow manage to drink and feed themselves in the wilderness without a job. Godot is their employer of sorts, but he doesn’t make them do anything else. They only have to wait and not work, and we don’t even know if they are being paid. He does appear to employ the boys who work for him, but that is all we know.

Therefore, the world the characters inhabit is quite unlike our own. They are able to sit and wander and do essentially nothing. There are few worries about how they will be able to afford to stay alive. They also seem decently content living in the wilderness, at least, they do not worry greatly about their ability to stay alive.

Therefore, they are allowed to be idle, and can spend much of their time just passing time, rather than trying to make a living.

The Purposeless of Waiting

Estragon and Vladimir are waiting for meaning, instruction, to be told what to do. Pozzo is not waiting for Godot, and he is a terrible, tyrannical, abusive person. He is the only one that we don’t see living under someone else’s orders.

I asked before if Estragon and Vladimir would be happier if they ignored Godot and did what they wanted. They are missing out and don’t accept all the freedom that they have. Time is being wasted as they wait for him to come. He dictates what space they stay in, how long they stay together, and their patience. The world they live in is also unjust, there are unhealthy dynamics between boss and employee, and between Pozzo and Lucky, but these relationships continue in a cycle. Life is all a cycle in this story.

Pozzo: I don’t seem to be able to . . . (long hesitation). . . to depart

Estragon: Such is life.

Estragon has a point here. This is also maybe the only point where I can empathize with Pozzo.

Vladimir: That passed the time.

Estragon: It would have passed anyway. 

Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly.

Pause

Estragon: What do we do now?

That’s the odd message of this story, that we fill our lives with random events that we might forget. In Waiting for Godot, there is no exciting moment. I’m not sure I still understand this play after all these years. Is the problem that they are waiting for a purpose instead of seeking it ourselves or looking for a better purpose, or does life is has little meaning or direction whether or not Godot was there?

I’d like to think that perhaps they could do better if they just left Godot behind, but they don’t do that. So, we’ll never know. It frustrated me, especially while reading a play where almost nothing happens. In an odd way, I liked how this play ended without answers, because it feels like real life. Although Vladimir and Estragon have few responsibilities, I could relate to them.

Even without things to do, life without a goal or plan can feel like we’re Waiting for Godot. Sometimes life isn’t as romantic as other plays seem. Our connections with others aren’t always perfect and as humans we know that other people don’t understand and remember events the same way that we do. Our consciousness are different. This is captured through the characters of Estragon and Vladimir.

On one hand, this play makes me pessimistic. Taking action seems to be an answer to their problems. I wonder why Estragon and Vladimir keep coming back to each other. Listening to another person and hearing their perspective helps us, even if we don’t find the truth. I like Waiting For Godot for that reason.

When it comes to questions, rather than ignoring or trying to solve everything, it gives us space to ask questions and lets us question the answers and sit in uncertainty for a bit.

Have you ever read Waiting for Godot? What did you think? Did you like reading it or get annoyed with the characters? Let me know in the comments below.

Books

How to Write a Novel Based on Fanfiction The Right Way: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Pros

  • Witty banter, especially between Adam and Olive
  • Sweet friendships and found family
  • Likable side characters and relationships
  • Fascinating insight into life in STEM and academia
  • Well described tension and chemistry

Cons

  • Characters could have been developed better
  • The plot felt slightly convoluted at times
  • Slow at times
  • Plot is driven by communication issues
  • Her friend, Ahn, was kind of pushy about getting them together

It was a cool February day when I decided to venture to a local library to check out The Love Hypothesis. Bookstagram raved and sung in the streets about this romance. I was a little bit skeptical at first. How good could it really be? The amount of times I’ve seen this online is insane. If this book was advertised in person, it would be as widespread one of those “Where is Peter Parker” posters. But I don’t blame them. I binge read this book in a few days over break and I get it.

Summary

Olive is a brilliant PhD student who wants to be a great scientist. She has loved science since she was a kid, and that love and desire to help others keeps her going through the hours of analyzing samples and writing her findings, all for a low pay that affords her Ramen noodle dinners. There is also another reason she keeps going, a super important one, but I can’t say what it is or I’d be spoiling. Where would be the fun in that?

So, she’s a pretty typical twenty-something, figuring out her life and hanging out with her friends. She works and also partakes in pretty normal hobbies, like watching American Ninja Warrior with her roommate Malcolm and her friend Ahn when she’s got a free moment.

What Olive hasn’t done much of is dating, which is fine. She is not attracted to people very often anyway. She went out with Jeremy a few times, but she didn’t feel anything romantically. But now her friend Ahn likes him, crap. But Ahn is worried that Olive still likes Jeremy. Oh crap. Well, of course the answer to this predicament is to impulsively kiss the first man she sees. This poor man ends up being the absurdly tall, sexy-as-can-be, obnoxious Dr. Adam Carlsen.

Does this sound convoluted to you–like it could be created from fanfiction? Well, if you thought that way, you’re absolutely right. The Love Hypothesis was actually originally written as fanfiction about Rey and Kylo Ren. In this alternate universe, Kylo is a college professor and Rey is a grad student; but it was so good, that the author decided to turn it into a novel with different characters. If you’re surprised, I feel the same way. I didn’t find this out until I was halfway through.

I never noticed that Adam looks like Kylo Ren (Adam Driver and the character even have the same first name) until a friend pointed it out. Maybe I don’t get it. I never fantasized about confessing my love to Kylo Ren or of kissing him on the beach, at least, not yet. I was a mild shipper of Kylo and Rey, but I never finished the new Star Wars or cared that much. Maybe that’s why I can’t picture him in this story.

When I picture a rude dark haired professor, I would think of Severus Snape before I consider Kylo Ren. I didn’t picture Snape as I was reading though; I imagined a tall muscly runner guy. I don’t get Kylo Ren, he’s attractive I suppose, but he’s not Adam. Adam has fluffy hair and he’s tall. That feels different. But maybe Adam Driver is tall? Okay, Google says he’s 6’3. Cool.

Anyway, so back to the story. Olive has to explain the sudden kiss to Ahn, and if Adam becomes her boyfriend–problem solved. Thus, fake dating begins.

The arrangement works out for Adam because he’ll convince the college that he has no plans of leaving for another university. Apparently, he’s a brilliant hotshot science and every college wants him.

Olive is brilliant, of course. Her friends are wicked smart and kind. But don’t worry, this story includes condescending pig-heads too.

Adam and Olive’s story uses many tropes from fanfiction and romance novels, but Hazelwood makes them unique and fun. The lengths that her characters go to show that they are a couple are slightly, but also believably ridiculous, laughable, and full of piping hot sexual tension. Everyone in this story is a shipper, especially Anh. But then fake dating gets complicated when real feelings begin that they can’t ignore.

In addition to their great romance, these two are likable characters that I enjoyed getting to know better. Olive is witty and fun and Adam is grumpy and kind. Their situations are also very realistic. They don’t have a ton of time on their hands working in academia. Neither has hours to spend at coffee shops, on campus meals, and hanging on the quad. But they also attend the same functions and frequent the lab building. So, don’t worry, they aren’t too busy to fall in love.

Structure

The book is broken into chapters and each chapter has a “hypothesis” heading where Olive gives a hypothesis about her fake-dating situation. I enjoyed reading these headings. Each hypothesis is witty and silly, and it gives us a hint as to what will happen in each chapter. The chapters are not too long, and I got through them pretty quickly. The story also includes a few text messages and emails from characters, and they fit into the grad-school life. Hazelwood uses email and texting when appropriate, and it thankfully isn’t overused.

The Love Hypothesis is definitely made up of more dialogue than description. The plot moves forward through each social interaction between friends, colleges, and fake-dating partners. I wish Hazelwood had been more descriptive of the scenery, but it didn’t harm my enjoyment of the book. She is good at writing dialogue, describing body language, and writing Olive’s internal monologue.

I enjoyed the third person limited perspective that Hazelwood uses. I generally prefer first person, and I prefer write in it myself, but with this story, third person just works. We still learn about Olive’s thoughts and worries about life. Hazelwood does this by italicizing Olive’s thoughts as she reacts in the moment. I saw a few complaints that this was in third person, but I liked it that way. She often gets nervous about Adam and their relationship, so we get to hear her say funny thing like this:

“Because.” Because my throat will dry up and my brain will shut down and I will be so bad that someone from the audience will take out a crossbow and shoot me in the kneecap.

Olive at page 198

It was a bit odd that Hazelwood sometimes italicized Olive’s thoughts and sometimes she didn’t. The only reason I can guess is that she wanted emphasis for certain thoughts, but if she is a good writer (which she is) those points will stick out regardless.

Olive’s internal monologue is witty and quick. She felt pretty relatable when she describes the feeling of awkwardness and uncertainty that comes with social situations like especially dating and public speaking.

I found it fascinating how Hazelwood writes about the STEM grad school experience. All Olive’s feelings felt real, and I often felt bad for her. I’ve never been there, but when I was reading I felt like I got it. Hazelwood herself has a P.H.D. in neuroscience and you can tell. She describes both the intricacies, the insecurities, and the isolation that comes from grad school. Hazelwood also shows us the bad parts of academia: the cutthroat environment and harsh professors, the sexism, the obnoxious scientists, and the lack of funding for studies or quality equipment.

Reviewing the Romance and Rationships

Like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, this story is about two lonely people finding each other and growing in a community and understanding themselves. The story is one of found family–one of my favorite tropes. Olive’s friends Malcolm and Anh were amazing and it is fun to watch them together.

Their interactions and relationships felt realistic and silly. Her friends also had their own lives and interests that were separate from Olive. I feel like sometimes characters in these stories don’t have their own lives. I really liked Ahn, even if she was kind of annoying about pushing Olive and Adam together.

Olive and Adam were adorable. They have funny banter you’d expect to read in a coffee shop themed fanfiction. I’m telling you, this ship is the definition of the grumpy-sunshine trope. Olive is much more fun-loving, while Adam has a serious demeanor. Their interactions are filled with mutual pining and total awe of the other person’s bizarre actions. Opposites attract as they say, and these two are obviously very attracted to each other. For instance:

“You ooze moodiness”

“I do not.” He sounded indignant, which struck her as oddly endearing.

This story is definitely more of a slow-burn. While Olive and Adam do move forward in their relationship, it takes a while for them to realize what they want from each other and how the other person feels. If you’re looking for a book about characters who are all over each other right away and then have a ton of sex the entire book–you might end up a little disappointed. I personally like when there is an emotional connection and buildup before they get together. But I will admit, slow-burn romances can feel annoying, especially when they are super oblivious. In this case, I really liked how the romance was slower, especially from what we know about Olive’s character.

Demisexuality Representation

Olive isn’t very experienced in romance at the start of the story, and she hasn’t developed crushes on very many people and she didn’t date or want to date much before this story. Hazelwood shows that that is the way Olive experiences attraction, and it is normal. Olive never labels herself, but she does say she only becomes attracted to a potential partner when she trusts them and develops an emotional bond. Olive talks about this with Adam. Although Olive never names her orientation, it sounds like she is demisexual.

I relate to Olive a lot, except for the part where she develops feelings for Adam. I’m not sure I’ve gotten there yet. I think that Olive is demiromantic too. Romantic and sexual attraction are sometimes linked, but not always. From what I interpreted, she doesn’t romantically like anyone before Adam. I liked how this was a slow-burn story and they grow to appreciate each other more over time.

As for representation, I would say The Love Hypothesis is a mixed bag. On one hand, some demisexual reviewers saw themselves in Olive. But others found the representation vague and wished Olive called herself demisexual. If Hazelwood wanted to take the demisexuality and or demiromantic route with Olive, she could have been more validating.

And the representation it isn’t super positive either, Olive also wonders if there is something wrong with her and she never fully realizes that it is valid and normal to experience sexual and/or romantic attraction differently than how society and the media tells us–or to not experience sexual and romantic attraction at all. Those moments felt a bit odd and underdeveloped when I was reading them. I’m not sure Hazelwood handled demisexuality the best, but she does give it more awareness. Olive’s feelings could also be relatable to someone who didn’t date until later in life regardless of their sexuality. This story also has LGBTQ+ representation with other characters, but I can’t say anything specific without giving spoilers.

Thoughts on the Ship as a Whole

Overall, the romance was well written. A few reviewers have said that the characters are somewhat bland. I wish I’d gotten more development from them in general. They felt a bit cliché at times, but it didn’t bother me that much. The story is supposed to be fun and a lighthearted read.

The witty banter is great and the coffee shop dates were freaking adorable. Olive likes Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Adam gets black coffee, which was pretty amusing. They have so many silly moments together, and they’re just fun and you can unapologetically enjoy them. I liked how Adam got out of his shell after spending time with Olive. They’re so happy and goofy and they can be themselves together and grow together. I love them.

I also enjoyed how we got to see Olive’s career and her growing as a scientist and person. She struggles with public speaking and feels insecure, for instance, and we see her grow more confident. Hazelwood balances Olive’s science journey and romance–of course, since this is a romance novel, the romance part is given the most words, but the parts with her in grad school were given plenty of time and care. You can tell that Hazelwood has been there.

Plot/Communication Issues

So many of the problems in these characters’ lives occurred because they don’t talk to each other about anything. Olive did say that she doesn’t get close to many people because of her past and everything, but her reasoning still felt like lazy writing. People deal with things emotionally in different ways, but it is still annoys me. Communication issues are probably my least favorite trope in any romance story. Also, since we knew they liked each other, it was irritating to see either of them even considering that the other seriously had feelings for anyone else instead. The story’s pacing also felt a little slow.

How to Publish a Fanfiction-Based Novel Right

The Love Hypothesis uses and plays with many conventions that exist in fanfiction, there is the coffee shop, the “there is only one bed” trope, the grumpy-sunshine trope, etc. All of these tropes and fanfic themes could have been cringe-worthy and badly-written, but they are not. Hazelwood has a sense of humor that makes their fake-dating interactions both awkward and filled with real tension.

We obviously see that Adam cares about Olive and vice versa and they are kind to each other from the start. Olive is her own person, she doesn’t feel like an Ali Hazelwood stand-in or a complete blank slate. She is the one to begin the fake-dating relationship and she doesn’t let things just happen to her. She is a pretty active character; Adam isn’t inactive or boring either and he’s a total sweetheart. We do get to understand why both of them act the way they do.

Unlike Fifty Shades and Twilight, the couple are pretty honest with each other, as long as the conversation topic isn’t whether or not if one has a crush on the other. While Adam has a reputation for being harsh with undergraduates, he is always sweet to Olive. The two ask for consent at every turn and take the other’s feelings into account. When we see them get together, it is deeply satisfying. But then the drama heats up, so we don’t get the happily ever after for too long.

Overall Thoughts and the Ending

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun read, and it is one that kept me turning pages. The writing is witty and fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously—but all the serious issues are treated with respect and care. I loved how Hazelwood writes stories within the STEM genre. Hazelwood creates a love story from a familiar setting and it works wonderfully. I had never read a book about grad school before, and this one was funny, sweet, and well-written. I’m not sure if I’d say this book is one that you need to read before you die, but I’m personally glad that I did.

As to the ending, I personally liked it. I thought it was good, maybe they could have added more story, but I didn’t mind leaving things a bit open. I loved Malcolm’s ending and Ahn’s. Although I expected to see her interact with Jeremy more. He was just there.

Observations:

-This book contains sexual scenes/content. If you want to skip those parts, they occur on Chapter 16 and a bit of 17.

-I liked how Olive and Adam are marathon runners. That’s a cool hobby to include, even if it wasn’t necessarily part of the plot.

-People might find it unrealistic. The fake-dating trope can feel fake. If you’re looking for a more serious/plot driven story, this might not be for you. The Love Hypothesis is very relationship and romance driven and the premise isn’t supposed to be taken too seriously.

Have you read The Love Hypothesis? What did you think? Let me know down in the comments below!

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Fitness

Why Running Isn’t Terrible: My Experiences Throughout The Years

Why Running Isn’t Terrible: My Experiences Throughout The Years

The other day was a beautiful day. The air was cool, the sky was a brilliant blue, and it was a great day to go on a run. I’ve been trying to get back into running regularly–especially since it has been so gorgeous outside–so I decided to write a bit about my experiences with running. It has been a strange but wonderful journey.

Early Cross Country Experience

I was in sixth grade when I learned that I loved to run. It began when I tried soccer. I liked getting outside and running around the field. I had a red ball with black stripes, which I thought was pretty cool. But, I was never great at it.

Remember that song, the one that goes “be aggressive, AGRESSIVE” or something like that? I wasn’t aggressive, not in the slightest. I was a timid child, and sports did not help me get out of my shell. If anything, they pushed me more inward. When other players came after me, I wanted to back away. When the ball flew high in the air, I flinched.

I tried basketball too and my kind coach wanted me to score once. I almost made it, but I was still terrified of getting hit. People asked throughout high school–and still do–if I’ve ever played basketball. I played in third, fourth and sixth grade, and I’m still terrified of getting hit in the face.

Cross Country

But, when I was in middle school, I had a math teacher that encouraged me and my sister to sign up for Cross Country. I don’t remember my thought process behind this. I knew I liked to run for soccer, but Cross Country? I hadn’t a clue what that was about, but I’m sure my parents encouraged me to sign up so I could be a part of some sport. I also remember I wanted the letterman jacket that my small Catholic school gave all the athletes in seventh grade. It was maroon and had a tiger on it. I think I still have it to this day actually.

The cross country team started training over the summer. Practices were a few days a week at a local park. The park has a mile-long walking trail loop, and there is also a more hilly area to run. The area was close to a nearby lake, and there were also big, gorgeous trees everywhere. There wasn’t a house or a sign of cars in sight.

We would spend our practices by warming up as a group and then we would take off on the trail. I absolutely loved it. It was the one time during my day where I could get away from it all. Unlike soccer or basketball, there was nothing in danger of hitting me. I got away from stiff brick school building and all the surrounding townhouses. When I ran, I got look around and could just be in nature. The trees weren’t in competition with myself–they were were just peacefully coexisting in the world. They were also still. In those moments, I could think about life or process events that happened to me or I could not think about anything at all and look out at the trees.

Cross Country challenged me in ways I hadn’t been ever before. The hot summers and endless hills tested my limits, but I kept going to practice every day. Running up hills felt like drudgery; I practically had to drag myself up at first. I still haven’t found a way to love running hills, but I’ve learned to get used to it. When I ran down a hill, I was filled with momentum and speed. It was exciting and thrilling at first, but I had to learn to stay in control. Otherwise, I could injure myself or just completely spiral out of control.

I loved how with each run I got better. At the beginning, a single mile would wear me out for the day, but by the end of the season, I could breeze through three miles. I wanted to do well and succeed, but there wasn’t tons of pressure to be the best and beat everyone else. My coach, our laid back math and science teacher with clear glasses, was pretty chill. My team also was pretty big. It was a small school, but the team included everyone from fifth to eighth grade so I didn’t stand out in a crowd.

When I was a part of the team, I often didn’t see my sister until after practice. Sometimes we would pair up by grades. I remember making a few friends just by walking and talking after practice. I’m currently reading Wordsworth for a Romantic Literature class. His poetry talks about going into nature and experiencing it with others. Beauty should be shared with others. I feel like I had that–walking with a friend and talking as we explored a new trail.

The parents of cross country were cool people, I remember a friend’s parents telling us that as long as were putting in our best effort it didn’t matter what place we came in. Finishing a race and crossing the finish line is worthy of celebration, no matter how you get there. My middle school cross country team was a great time, and I’ll always look back fondly on those days.

In my eighth grade year, I moved to a public school and I ran long distance in track in eighth grade. From what I remember I wasn’t too big on the competition element, so I took a year off. But during my sophomore year, I had the cross country coach teach my math class. He said the team was looking for more students to join and I had done track before. So, despite my dislike of competition, I decided to give it a try. I’m not sure I can express in words how glad I am that I took the leap.

That year, I ran cross country, track, and indoor track. I got a letterman jacket for that and band, and I even got a plaque that said “three sport athlete.” My mom still jokes about it sometimes, since I scorned all other sports. Unfortunately, my high school athleticism only lasted a year.

I enjoyed running with other people and going to different parks to run in, but I wasn’t a fan of the track itself. Long Distance was a ton of fun, but for track, I ran the two mile. If you’ve never run two miles on a—smaller than standard, or really any– high school track, I will tell you it is awful. To me, running in many circles while a crowd watched me was one of the worst things ever. Unlike the mile or 800 meter race, the two mile took an infinite amount of time.

When I ran cross country at a park, I didn’t think about ending at all or the crowd watching me. It also was boring. I got to forget that everyone was watching in cross country, but on a physical track I could never forget. I also didn’t like the gunshots or the competition aspect. Rather than a way to relax and go into nature, track was a time where it seemed like everyone was watching you.

Cyber Gym?

I decided not to do track or cross country my junior year of high school, and looking back–I regret quitting both cross country and track. Junior year was the most stressful year of high school, and I no longer had that an outlet for the stress. I didn’t stop running completely, but I didn’t feel as motivated without cross country and track practice a few times a week. It wasn’t until my senior year when I took a cyber gym that I unintentionally fell in love with running again.

What in the world is cyber gym? I asked this too. I was one of those kids who hated gym class. I wasn’t a fan of group sports or changing rooms so I put off my second gym class requirement as long as possible–but I could never escape it–despite trying everything. So for my senior year, I signed up for what looked like the only tolerable option–cyber gym.

I remember meeting with two gym coaches and all my fellow sufferers in the library. They explained to us that we were to do workouts– any kind we wanted–and take pictures and write a description of our activities as proof. We then put those into a PowerPoint presentation. Each workout had to be at least an hour. If I remember correctly, we submitted 10 workouts to our teachers every half a nine weeks.

On the bright side, I knew that I liked running, so I decided to run for a majority of my workouts. I also figured that running would be the easiest workout to record. I would run outside or on the treadmill and then take a picture of the dashboard. I also got the Nike Run Club app on my phone. The Nike Run Club is an app that tracks a runner’s mileage and times, and I just took a screenshot of each day’s workout.

When I started running regularly again, I had an outlet. I felt less stressed during the day and looked forward to going for a run after school. This time, there was no competition. I didn’t have to run on a particular track or at a place. I got to decide where I ran–except, of course, the days where the bitter cold kept me inside on the treadmill. The class actually wasn’t too bad, and I never had to enter a gym locker room or miss out on class time. It was awesome.

Mandatory College Gym Class Was Kinda Fun?

Of course, it didn’t end there. When I got to college, I found out I needed to take gym and health class freshman year. Just when I thought I had escaped gym it had creeped up on me again.

But it wasn’t horrible. Freshman classes at Grove City no longer have a gym requirement; they called it Fitwell instead of gym. Fitwell sounds a little less intimidating and sweaty. Some of my classmates complained about required gym, but I actually enjoyed it after a while. The first semester was a series of lectures about health, which were pretty boring, but the next three semesters that were actual gym were pretty fun. We got to choose three fitness classes to take on campus. There was walk/jog/run, free weights, mechanical weights, and swimming. So, in my first year of college, I ran on the indoor track, learned to use mechanical weights, and tried to swim.

I say try because I still struggle with the butterfly. I’m still a bit afraid of putting my head underwater for a long time–but I got a little better at swimming. I also met new friends and became closer with other friends in an environment that I wouldn’t have been in otherwise. Since everyone had to take it, I got to take a class with friends from different majors. With each class, I felt more confident about working out in college. The gym also was no longer an overwhelming heap of machines, and I started to understand how to lift seriously. (I lifted a little in track in high school, but I still wasn’t fully comfortable with figuring out how to work out on my own.) I also felt less stressed during an overwhelming freshman year.

I’ve found that I always feel better when exercise is a part of my life. The stress pours off of me, and I feel accomplished every time. Running has been a part of my routine on and off for a long time. When I realized that it was something I could continue in college, it was amazing. I had an outlet for stress in this fun hobby where I got to challenge myself. My college also has plenty of trails, neighborhood, and space to run outdoors. There are so many possibilities to go every day. I enjoy seeing new places and testing my limits. I love listening to my favorite songs and exploring new music during a run too.

The Nike Run Club App

From the neighboring streets and park trails to the outdoor track by the football field, I never run out of places to run. Every run is an adventure, a path that I carve, and a total blast. Of course, they aren’t always great. I get tired, and wish I’d done more sometimes, but overall, the benefits outweigh the bad days.

I really enjoy using the Nike Run App. It helped me get started running again during my sophomore year of college. Not only does the app count your mileage and track your distance, it also includes guided runs where you can run a specific distance or time with a coach’s guidance. I get to go on runs I haven’t done since track practice like the Fartlek run and a 5k. Your guide tells you what pace to run at–which you decide–the speeds usually range from a 5k pace to a celebratory sprint.

The Nike Run coaches that talk during the guided runs are encouraging and kind. They address the runner directly. It feels like you’re listening to a podcast where the speaker is talking to you and building you up the whole time. I’ve heard the headspace app is kind of like that, but I haven’t tried it enough to know for sure. As weird as it seems at first, it helps to hear someone on the other end.

Listening to a coach helps me to keep running when I feel like giving up. I don’t always do guided runs, but I find it helps a lot when I’m not sure where to start or want more motivation. For speed runs, your pace often changes, so it is nice to have a guide telling you when to stop and go.

The mentality of Nike Run Club matches some of the values I follow while running. With the app, it is always about doing the best, not comparing yourself to others, and becoming a better runner than you were yesterday. Their advice also applies to life. Finishing every run strong is just how we should do our work. The coaches also don’t just focus on the run itself and instead talks about heath as a whole.

They remind you to pause the video and warm up and tell runners to do static stretches and hydrate after a run and make sure to eat something afterwards. I was pretty wary of virtual coaching at first, but I realized I like it. It keeps me focused and I feel less tempted to give up when I have a guide. They tell you to keep going and not give up and they give countdowns at the end. Running through a countdown feels great. It was Nike Run Club that helped me get more serious about running in college.

Future Running Goals

Of course, Running can suck sometimes. Whether the weather is extremely hot or frigid–like this month–going on a run might not sound amazing. I feel tired, my playlist doesn’t match perfectly, and I’m not always sure which turn to make. When I feel discouraged, I usually remind myself how much better I feel afterward and that–if I’m out on the trail–that I am doing my best and trying.

Doing one thing is better than nothing. I’m in no way saying it is easy. It is way easier though, when you have a routine. I sometimes struggle with a lack of motivation, especially when I’m on a break from school. I’ve learned that feeling down or forcing myself isn’t what helps. I remind myself why I love it and remind myself that it is never too late to get started again. I can make it part of my routine again. I feel cliché quoting Nike, but I really need to just do it.

I just need to make time and start a run those days at the same time. I do my best when exercise–or any good habit really–becomes so automatic that I don’t have to think about getting started. Instead, I feel excited to start and appreciate the differences this day has from others. Running is a something I plan to keep with me as I keep making new goals and thinking about the future. It feels like a beautiful thing that I should keep up.

I’d love to run a marathon or half-marathon or run a 5K at some point. I also want to try trail running at some point, since I’ve never gone before.

Do you have anything that’s stuck with you for a long time? What type of exercises do you like best? Also, are you interested in more of this type of content? I figured I’d talk a little more about me, and I just figured I’d give telling personal stories a try. Let me know what you think down in the comments below!

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.