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.
Music

LoFi is Superior to Focus Music: 5 Playlists to Study, Chill, Write and, Relax To When You Can’t Focus

LoFi is Superior to Focus Music: 5 Playlists to Study, Chill, Write and, Relax To When You Can’t Focus

So, I have a confession. My Spotify Wrapped may be a tad inaccurate. Truth is, I listen to a lot of music on YouTube. For some reason, it is satisfying to switch Google Chrome from music to my writing within seconds. I also don’t have premium, so that makes it a bit challenging. It messes with my ability to focus. Nevertheless, I love listening to music while I study, and YouTube has a bunch of playlists that people make. So, here we are. Here is a list of my top 5 categories of playlists to study, write, and relax to.

  1. Dark Academia

I like dark academic music for studying because it feels classical, studious, and adventurous. Dark academia is basically classical music with dark undertones. When I listen to dark academia music, the world around me falls away and I am transported to a new place. Imagine walking down the dark towers, a deep forest, or studying at the library at night. I like to imagine that I go to college at Hogwarts and there are ghosts hidden everywhere. I’ve listened to this one several times and it just works when I want to feel serious about academics.

2. Light Academia

Light academia is an alteration from Dark Academia. Light academia is an outstretched hand for a dance in a golden ballroom, a gentle smile, a sweet symphony. Calm, regal, castle. Your Jane Austens, fairy tale, kingdoms. It is associated with royal core, and sometimes books like The Selection are included in this aesthetic. I never finished The Selection, but the light classical music is beautiful. You are transformed into another time. You are learning dance steps with royalty in the back room. You’re elegant. Light academia tiptoes in, light on her feet, she sweeps you into a beautiful dance. You’re captivated by the scene, the delicacy, the large room.

3. LoFi

If Light Academia is classical, Lofi is modern. With a pair of headphones and a laptop, skyscrapers all around, winter, summer, spring, or autumn, she’s vibing. She’s cool and you want to be like her. She’s always there, which is kind of weird, but she’s also there for you. Lofi is the offbeat of a song, so the beats do not necessarily feel normal. Somehow, it works. When my motivation to study is a little off, the Lofi helps set me back in place. LoFi isn’t my absolute favorite though. I usually enjoy the themed LoFi videos over the live ones. I like LoFi but sometimes the offbeat isn’t the vibe I want, so I switch to light academia. I chose one of my favorites, this one is for ghosts only. It has some of the dark academic vibes that I love.

4. Electric Swing

I love swing dancing, but I hadn’t ever checked electric swing music out until a friend mentioned that she studied with an electric swing playlist in the background. Swing is fast and fun, and I don’t generally listen to the ones with words while I read. It is a lot of fun to listen to while you work on work like design or writing. Out of all the music, this one puts me in the best mood. The song’s beat hit and I am energized and focused. I feel more upbeat at 3 in the afternoon than I normally would after a day of work. I chose this playlist because it is for a character from a show I like, Hazbin Hotel. The songs on here are fun and upbeat and Alastor is a bit of a trickster figure. There are plenty of electric swing playlists out there so I’d recommend checking them out. Some are older and others are more modern, but all of them are pretty good if you’re in the mood for some sweet jazz.

5. Deep Focus Music

This my dudes, is for when you’re feeling so, so serious. When you need to STUDY and it is IMPORTANT, you slap one of these things in and prepare for hours of a test. You put on the music and you’ll have the focus skills and brainpower to move mountains. I listen to these when I want to focus on studying rather than enjoy the music. It isn’t bad music, it’s just a little boring sometimes. I don’t listen to these for a long time, but they are cool when you want to hyper-focus on an assignment. It makes you feel like you’re using your brain and are great at not procrastinating for a while, so that’s a plus.

So, if you’re relaxing, these songs can be nice to chill to. If you’re studying something challenging, especially for midterms finals, remember, take breaks, get some sleep, eat regularly, stay hydrated, take a walk or exercise a little to give your mind a break, and do your best when the time comes. I was intimidated by finals my first year, but after the last test, it’s a great relief. You’re awesome. You made it through another semester, half a year, I’m proud of you all. Remember your worth isn’t in your grades, whatever it ends up, it is a test, and there is much, much more to life. And afterward, you can take relaxing seriously, take a nap, chill out. You deserve it.

Shows

5 Reasons Bojack Horseman Is Perfect for Gen Z

Sad Horses. I can not remember the last time I watched a show with anthropomorphic animals that made me so sad, maybe Charlotte’s Web? I was around eight, and I watched the 1973 version. It always cracked me up when I was having a bad day. Does anyone remember the rat paradise scene? I’d recommend checking it out if you haven’t seen it before. He walks around the fair and eats a bunch of fair food. A mood perhaps. Anyway, I the ending of Charlotte’s Web made me cry the first time I saw it, but Bojack has so much more sadness.

So, why do I keep talking about this? Why is this odd show starring anthropomorphic animals and cartoon humans so good? Look at this picture.

There were loads of pictures and great scenes I could have introduced BoJack with, but this one fits my gut reaction to the show best. BoJack Horseman forces us to see ourselves. The show serves as a mirror to ourselves. It shows the world we live in, the lines on our faces, our mistakes, our biggest regrets. Our days of Horsin Around have ended. Hard times and self-reflection have begun. The days of animal puns, a deep dive into various facets of the human psyche, and all the worst parts about ourselves are just beginning.

Raphael Bob Waksberg is incredibly talented. If you are an optimistic person and have a high view of human nature, buckle up. You will be in for a bumpy ride. Do you see that one with all the potholes? Yes, we are in the right place. We are going to fasten our seatbelts now. If you are in the camp of people who feel stuck a lot of the time and struggle to get better, prepare for more disappointment in humanity and animality. I am not saying the characters are unlikable. Many of them–like Princess Carolyn, Todd, and Diane–are fascinating and deeply imperfect. Others are awful people or random criminal masterminds, like Margo Martindale, and almost everyone is miserable.

There are also moments like this:

The fire department saves this poor cat quickly. Unfortunately, when people get stuck in a bad situation due to their personal choices, we cannot become free from what got us there. A few people, a truck, and a ladder cannot solve their unhealthy patterns. Mistakes come with long-term consequences and sometimes permanent damage to relationships. How we acknowledge and continue to live after our mistakes is a question that the show asks. And if you want more animal puns, BoJack Horseman contains many, many more of them. 

So here is a Spoiler-free list of all the reasons to watch Bojack Horseman.

So, why do you watch that weird show with the talking horse? That is a question I heard a few times this summer from family and friends when I told them I watched Bojack Horseman on Netflix. Bojack Horseman, known for sad themes, is often called the Sad Horse show. Bojack Horseman was the type of show I watched a couple of episodes at a time a few days a week. I would never binge the series in a week. Like a fine wine, Bojack works best when you take a sip and let it sit with you for a while. Perhaps I have not convinced you to watch yet, fair enough. I had not watched many adult cartoons before this one, and I was a little skeptical about a talking horse show.

Thankfully, a few scenes popped enough on my youtube recommendations. After witnessing enormous emotional depth and character development packed in a few short clips, I needed to watch BoJack Horseman. When I finished the sixth season, the tall, depressed, anthropomorphic horse actor and his friends won my heart. Despite, or even because the show focused on this fifty-something talking horse rather than some live actor. BoJack Horseman felt more human than anything I have watched in a while. Here are some reasons why you should give BoJack a try.

  1. Excellent Character Development
136 Hidden Jokes You Probably Missed On "BoJack Horseman" | Bojack  horseman, Horseman, Cartoon cat
Princess Carolyn, agent

Many of the characters are unique and have different backstories and goals for life. I recognized myself in several of the characters. BoJack is a washed-up actor trying to find out what will give him purpose.

Princess Carolyn is focused on her career and longs for a baby. Her desire to be a mother and issues conceiving feel very real. She works with BoJack, which is complicated for several reasons, one is his egoism. She often takes care of other people over herself and after all these years, she still isn’t where she wants in life.

Diane is a passionate writer and wants to help others and make a difference. She is a humanitarian and she wants to do good, but she still hasn’t figured out how her ambitions fit with the soullessness of LA. She is dating Mr. Peanutbutter, whose constant optimism clashes with her dissatisfaction with the world.

Todd is a young guy who is oddly successful with his wacky business ideas until they crash and burn. He crashes at BoJack’s and he is trying to find his place in the world. I’m going to add a minor spoiler here.

A part of Todd’s storyline is his discovery of his sexuality. Todd finds out that he is asexual in the fourth season. Asexual people do not experience sexual attraction to anyone. In a world where romance and sex are rampant, I appreciated how much the writers cared about the storyline. They took an established and lovable character, Todd is so sweet and funny, and showed him figuring out that he is ace. This storyline made me love him all the more. Todd meets other asexual people, and we learn about their asexual experiences too. Todd is a great character and represents a group of people (1% of the population) rarely seen on screen.

Overall, everyone is on a unique path to understanding themselves and the world better. Everyone in BoJack Horseman is grappling with life dissatisfaction at the beginning of the series. Everyone is shaped and drawn to certain behaviors for better or worse, but they all have to figure out how to live in this world. Every person or animal must grapple with cycles of bad habits and character flaws as they try to create meaning for their lives.

Their parents and past shows shaped their current selves. How does someone develop and find peace after leaving behind an unhealthy childhood? Most of the characters are stuck in their careers and lifestyles. But does that mean that they are successful and happy? What does it mean to be a success, anyway? And where do we go next if our choices aren’t making us happy? What does happiness mean for us? How do we get there?

Every character has a unique set of passions, goals, and personalities. The road to happiness is not a straight drive, and I root for all of them along the way.

2. Mental Health Representation, Depression, Alcoholism, and Abusive Childhoods

Bojack and Todd Vibing in Bojack’s Mansion

There is not much accurate representation on TV for any of these experiences. Recently, mental health awareness has become more popular and widespread. Representation in media helps people with these experiences feel seen and helps educate others about people who suffer from depression, anxiety, Bipolar disorder, or other mental health issues. BoJack Horseman shows the day-to-day life of a person experiencing depression. Season 4, Episode 6, “Stupid Piece of Sh*t”, is celebrated for portraying the inner monologue of someone dealing with depression and alcoholism. “The Face of Depression” and “Good Damage” give an inside look into depression from another perspective and capture the feelings some people with depression experience. Both characters struggle with depression but they both experience, process, and deal with the symptoms differently. 

Bojack Horseman shows how childhood abuse affects self-worth. Get prepared for flashbacks! And bring the tissues and the tomatoes. I disliked quite a few people in the show. I would not boo them off stage, but I want to. I also want to keep watching. The people in this show are sometimes the worst. Most come from complicated lives and have reasons for why they are the way they are. 

3. It is honest

Princess Carolyn and Bojack

Bojack Horseman shows that life is hard; Wacksberg never shies away from critiquing Hollywood, the deep flaws within our culture, and the tragedies that befall people who become famous at a young age. If you heard about the cast of Full House or the case of Britney Spears, famous people are often treated like dirt, by their audiences, by each other, and by the industry itself.

I found myself understanding and empathizing with many characters even though I never experienced fame myself. Everyone in Bojack Horseman is flawed and human. They also have moments where they are funny, kind-hearted, and creative. Shows like the Simpsons and other sitcoms are funny and sometimes heartwarming, but I can never get invested in them. No one truly changes or grows, and few acknowledge existential angst. They are comfortable, sometimes they complain about the monotony of life, sure, but they don’t question their place in the world. They never desperately long for a change but go about it in the wrong ways.

Full House is good if you want to turn your brain off for a few hours. If you are looking for another Fuller House or Friends to watch, I would not recommend watching Bojack Horseman (except maybe season 1). I love Full House, but when each episode ends, you wonder, that is it? They solved this complex issue in thirty minutes. This character never makes the same mistake again, and if they do, they solve it in another 30 minutes? Bojack realized that in real life, with real human beings, reaching such a satisfying conclusion is impossible.

It is a deep show, man. Bojack asks questions like; what type of person should I be? How do I become a better person? Why do I keep failing? Why are the things that I am doing not making me happy? They all bring me back to reality. Often, at the end of an episode, I would feel sad. There is no grand speech or gesture that makes it happy again. In a typical comedy, characters make stupid and occasionally cruel choices and act dumb, but they never really change. Nor do their mistakes have any consequences after the episode has aired. Every action follows the characters of Bojack Horseman. Just watch the opening credits. Every season and even episode changes.

In life, there is not an easy fix or an easy answer. We make decisions. Then we fall and start over. We do good and then screw it up; we have to decide if we should get up and try again.

Life is not clean-cut and easily understood. Every decision in the world of Bojack leads to repercussions and sometimes permanent damage to their relationships with others. There is no reset button with every episode. We do not just forget that our friend betrayed us. There is forgiveness, but forgiveness does not make everything right or make consequences disappear. We have to learn from our mistakes and move forward where we are. Getting better results requires us to act kinder to ourselves and others right now. Every person keeps going, living with choices they made in the episodes before.

In life, there is no easy fix or an easy answer. We make decisions, we fall and start over, we do good and screw it up and have to decide if we should get up and try again. The characters get stuck in unhealthy patterns and screw up in a world where people only care about fame, power, and individual happiness. The decision to do good is often made alone in a world that does not give a damn. The support from others certainly helps, and it does, but we can not fix other people or their unhealthy patterns. The actions one takes and the consequences are something that every character must understand and learn from themselves.

4. Witty animal puns and jokes

This show is so punny. I need to rewatch it to get all the jokes. Bojack Horseman contains countless animal puns and pop culture references; we are in Hollywood, after all. The animals act like actual animals. Mr. Peanutbutter is a happy-go-lucky golden retriever. He gets excited when guests ring the doorbell, stick his head out the window in the car, and hoards tennis balls. Princess Carolyn says she is not catty, but she keeps a scratching post in her office and always lands on her feet. Pretty much everyone gets an animal pun, so lookout. The artwork, background characters, and regulars are full of puns. Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter bring plenty of wacky hijinks that never cease to amaze me.

Like Tuca and Bertie, the humor is self-aware and witty. Though Bojack is a total jerk, Bojack has a great sense of sarcastic horse humor.

5. It provides understanding into the time we live in

When I first started watching Bojack Horseman, to put it bluntly, I saw a cynical show full of miserable people. The show gets darker after each passing episode, but there are many heartwarming moments. If you are making your way through the show right now, I will tell you it gets better. It also gets worse but in a good way.

But why is it so sad?

I would say that the show causes so much distress and sadness is because of its harsh criticism of our culture, past, and present. There is little that the characters of Bojack can hold onto for comfort. Many characters are alone and struggle to communicate with one another. The resolutions are not the happy talks we expect from Full House. I would also argue that the show refuses to sugarcoat what it believes to be true about reality. Life is not all gloom and doom, but the nature of our existence and state as beings in this world, if we really want to live well, according to the creators, requires us to accept some harsh truths.

Bojack Horseman refutes common beliefs about love, family, death, redemption, and friendship. Whether or not you agree with how the show approaches these topics and others, Bojack Horseman is consistent and seldom shallow. Cue cringy pool joke about the opening credits here.

Bojack Horseman carefully considers the characters and their decisions and what the audience takes away from the show. A question I often ask is, what do the writers think of the characters? They, after all, write every decision that the characters make and have to make them likable or redeemable enough to keep people watching. There are some fantastic meta moments later. They might make you question things, or they may not.

Overall, Bojack Horseman is correctly called the Sad Horse show. It made me laugh out loud, I fell in love with the characters, and it made me (awfully) sad sometimes. I found it to be a pretty accurate representation of our culture and (some of) our generation’s view of the past and the human condition. Life is hard and, this show never shies away from, well, anything. Bojack Horseman is layered and well written. The dialogue hits hard, and characters call each other out on their crap. I love watching people get called out. But it is also sad to watch. I would recommend the show to anyone looking for a new show to watch. If you feel in the mood for a chipper, happy-go-lucky, Disney-like comedy, I would not recommend watching the entirety of Bojack Horseman now. It can be sad. You could always watch a few of the best-rated episodes from IMDB. Time’s Arrow is my favorite episode.

One more thing, if you do give it a watch, a final reminder, DO NOT skip the intro! The intro is a total bop, and the background of the credits changes and gives some hints and Easter eggs.

Have you seen Bojack Horseman or any shows that deal with sad themes; what do you like about it? What are some of your favorite shows? Let me know what you think of this review in the comments below.

Hobbies

The Best Way to Relax During College: Why I love Yoga and the local studio on Broad Street

people exercising

A few weeks ago, I decided to check out a local yoga studio for the first time. I got into yoga when I was sent home from college during the pandemic and felt stuck. What started with a YouTube recommendation for a Yoga with Adrienne video and a bit of curiosity turned into a regular practice and skill that I wanted to continue.

In a world where life feels like it is constantly moving, yoga offered a time where I never felt like I had to rush.

I’ve never been super flexible, and it was definitely challenging at first. The virtual instructors early on said that yoga is great for everyone because you can practice at your own pace. My positions were not supposed to be exact replicas of what I saw on the screen, especially as a beginner. I went through each to the best of my ability and moved gently from pose to pose. I loved how yoga focused on the breath combined with motion and mindfulness. Mindfulness is awareness of what you are sensing and feeling at the moment. It’s so easy for me to get so caught up in all the tasks I have to do that I forget to take a breath and appreciate where I am right now.

Once I watched my first yoga video, I quickly found out that I wouldn’t have to worry about running out anytime soon. YouTube offers a yoga video for from five minutes to over an hour, any mood you’re in, and all skill levels. Yoga isn’t the best to do on the carpet, so I bought a mat pretty early.

One year later, yoga is still a good go-to whenever I want to relieve stress, get some exercise in, take a break from schoolwork, or just relax. In college, when it feels my work is never done, it is nice to start a yoga or exercise practice. I can let go of my thoughts and worries about the day and focus on my breath and the movements of each pose. Sometimes, I would take a 5-10 minute yoga break during the day and my mind feels more clear and I feel so much less tense.

Once I got back to my college dorm, it was a little more difficult to let go of thoughts of school, but even if I’m stressed starting out, I always feel better having completed practice and I get a boost of motivation to return to my assignments for the day. Yoga also helps me wind down at night or wake up in the morning.

I thought of trying out a studio at college for a while and heard they would be open in the Fall, but I kept putting it off. I wanted to go, but I wasn’t sure what it would be like in person. One weeknight, I decided to check out a Vinyasa class at 5 pm. I walked into town and checked out the local studio, Broad Street Yoga. I saw warm candlelight fill the square studio windows as I walked up to the studio from the darkening street. A woman with flowing brown curls and bubbles around her was painted on the window.

I went to check-in and then walked into the back room. The floors were long dark hardwood and candles and a small speaker rested at the ends of the room. The room was a little warm, but not hot. About halfway through the lesson, it got hotter and our instructor asked if we’d like to turn the fans on. Our yoga instructor began with stretches and we went through each phase with our breath, counting down from five each time. I had worried a little before that with other people in the room, I would feel self-conscious or it would be harder to lose track of my thoughts and focus on the movements. But with the candles, wide-open space, and the gentle voice of our instructor, I felt more mindful of my movement through each pose than I had in my (sometimes messy) college dorm and my living room at home.

Yoga also feels so nice. The stretch felt great after a long day of classes, and I was a little sore afterward, but not too sore. The class was an hour, which was longer than I usually did for online classes, and it felt like a perfect time slot. By the end of the session, I had gotten lost in the movement and gentle music playing in the back right corner. College worries were out of my mind for an hour. I walked back to my dorm feeling less stressed, peaceful, and happy. The people that were there with me were kind and understanding. We talked a little before and after the session and it was nice to have company going through a class with me.

woman in white tank top and pink leggings doing yoga

Some of the stretches required a lot of flexibility and balance, and I did drop my foot a couple of times only to stand back up again. My instructor told me that “if you’re doing your best, you’re doing it right.” It helped me feel better. Every time I tried a pose and wished that I could balance longer or in a harder pose, I knew there was an opportunity to improve through further practice. After a few months, these poses would be more familiar and I’d be able to hold them longer and with more ease, but they’d still be challenging. There are a few modified poses too that require a little less balance if you’re not comfortable with the more difficult ones. I still do modified poses when the first pose seems less doable. That’s a nice thing with yoga, all levels are welcome, and even experts can get a good workout after a long session.

I also learned that there are many different types of yoga. I took a Vinyasa class, which I had been more familiar with when I watched online videos, which focuses on breath-work and motion. Vinyasa yoga classes typically switch up the poses throughout the sequence in a continuous flow. The Vinyasa keeps life moving and I love how no sequence is exactly the same.

I think I’ll be back at the yoga studio on Broad Street and I’ll keep looking at online videos. Broad Street Yoga also records lessons to be put on Zoom if you’re unable to visit in person. Either way, yoga has been rewarding and I’d say if you get the chance, check out a local yoga studio, a yoga video on YouTube, or just look up some poses online. If you’re interested in Broad Street Yoga, check out the schedule on their website: https://www.broadstreetyoga.com/schedule

Have you ever visited Broad Street Yoga or tried yoga before? How did you like it? Do you have a favorite way to chill either on a busy day or just whenever? Let me know in the comments!

Shows

“I Am Not Okay With This” Ended and Here is Why I Will Never Be Okay With That

“I Am Not Okay With This” Ended and Here is Why I Will Never Be Okay With That

Why I Can’t Get Over “I Am Not Okay With This” Ending

As Stranger Things Season 4 rolls around, I find myself missing a good superpower-themed show. I heard about I am Not Okay with This on Netflix a while ago. I didn’t get around to watching it until this November. After watching the first season, I am not okay with this show ending. The show begins with Sydney Novak, Sophia Nills, an unpopular 17-year-old who discovers that she has telekinesis a year after her father’s death. She recently started high school in a Pennsylvania town.

Fun Fact: the show was filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the bowling alley, Baden Bowl, is near the town I grew up in. Surprisingly, there are quite a few shows that take place in Pennsylvania, but I haven’t seen many filmed near me.

Sydney recently moved to live a pretty normal life. She skips football games and hangs out with her best friend and fellow new kid Dina. Syd’s pretty chill with that, she loves spending time with Dina, and the popular kids are huge jerks. She watches her little brother after school. She is also grieving her father’s death and has a difficult relationship with her mother. Her world starts to erupt when her best friend tells her that she is dating the popular football player Brad Lewis. Sydney then starts hanging out with her neighbor Stanley “Stan” Barber.

Sydney’s story is compelling from the start. The show starts with her walking through the streets in a fancy dress covered in blood.

The show is not subtle being a teenager and having a superpower is hard.

I Am Not Okay With This deals with themes like depression and suicide. Also, there is blood. If you put on the first episode, you will see the protagonist covered in blood–that is a warning.

The story stars Sydney Novak, played by Sophia Lillis. Sydney starts the story off pretty snarkily.

Dear diary, go f*** yourself.

Just kidding, I don’t know what to write in this stupid thing.”

This sums up her character pretty well. She is sarcastic and sometimes cynical on the outside. On the inside, she feels alone and has no idea what she is doing–she is not sure how to tell people either. She puts up a bit of a front and, she’s not a jerk. Syd is a grieving teen who is figuring it out just like everyone else. 

She looked familiar, and I found out that she played Beverly Marsh in IT and was not surprised. I, unfortunately, have not seen IT yet, but from what I can tell…she fits the horror/supernatural genre well. Her character experiences a wide range of emotions, and her acting was terrific.

The supporting actors were wonderful as well. I loved Stan–the man has a killer fashion sense and is hilarious. The first awkward interaction between Stan and Sydney cracked me up. They begin as neighbors who make small talk occasionally but never hang out. He awkwardly asks if she wants to hang out and get high and, Syd watches this odd guy with shock, confusion. What is this guy? Because Dina suggested that she also find a date for the homecoming dance, she agrees.

Spoilers Ahead- Warning!

If you dislike seeing (some) spoilers before watching as much as I dislike Brad, I’d suggest reading this post after you watch.

I was into the show from the first scene; it looks awesome. The vibes are immaculate. The whole time, I kept wondering about the origin of Sydney’s powers. After all, she seems to be the only character in this story with them. Her abilities kind of come out of nowhere, and it is great. Her powers come out when she feels overwhelming emotions. Where do they come from? What will happen next? We do not get all the answers, but I felt pretty shocked by what I found out. The ending was pretty satisfying in an incomplete sort of way.

I liked how Syd’s powers were a sort of metaphor for her dealing with depression, anxiety, grief, and figuring out her sexuality. Sydney feels alone, and she’s grieving without many people to support her.

Being a teenager is rough. The show shows us all the worst parts of high school, the ones we’d rather forget, the ones that make us want to curl into a ball and cry. There are bullies, boring classes, and detentions, but friends make it a little easier. It was also nice to see actual teenagers playing high schoolers. The show feels realistic that way.

It is like Stranger Things, but a little more mature and dark. Sydney starts as a loner whose crush and only friend ditches her to hang out with her boyfriend, but by the end of the story–she has a trio and a potential girlfriend on the horizon. It was great to see Syd, Dina, and Stan hanging out. Knowing she has friends to support her as she moves forward with what she knows about herself and her family was great to see.

I loved Stan and his dynamic with Syd. There are not many shows where a guy and girl are just friends, and I liked how things were pretty chill for them. The homecoming scene reminded me of Pretty and Pink a little bit, the lights and the dance, and Molly Ringwald has a similar haircut. Stan reminded me of Ducky a little bit. He is funny, sweet, and an outcast, a perfect friend to mock football games with Syd.

The 1990s and 1980s aesthetics interweave throughout the story–like Stranger Things. Both have a similar premise, but I Am Not Okay with This is darker and more realistic. Stranger Things plays to the nostalgia and the family dynamics go smooth enough. I Am Not Okay With This also jumps straight into the drama and hard feelings about high school. I also liked how the show focuses on a small cast of characters. If the show continued, they could have developed the characters further, and it could have been something special. 

I did like the modern update too. Stan is such a good friend to Sydney. He genuinely cares about her and thinks it is freaking awesome that she has superpowers. Although she is unsure what to make of him, Sydney grows to like Stan as a person and friend. Stan is strange, but he is also unapologetically himself and pretty content with life. Sydney can learn from him in that way. I loved how their friendship continues and goes back to normal even after Sydney says she likes Dina. 

Sydney and Dina

Speaking of romance, her relationship with Dina is so wholesome. Both characters seem like they have their person. A significant other is does not complete you or make your problems go away, but they are loving and supportive and the best person for you. 

Dina helps Syd out of her shell and makes her so happy. Sydney is so closed off, sarcastic, and quiet. Energetic, sweet, and fun-loving Dina seems like a perfect match for Sydney. I like how their relationship builds slowly, but I could have seen less of Brad–the moments where the two of them are together are small but beautiful.

She keeps me laughing, even when I want to melt to the floor.”

I wish the show continued, so we could see them more as a couple and get to know Dina better. On the bright side, Brad pretty much sucked– and I am glad he is gone. He was the worst kind of jock guy on TV and treated women like tissues. He keeps using them and then picks up another one. He has plenty of lovely lines like–when he talks to Syd for the first time,

 Jesus, do you ever smile?” 

The ending was satisfying but also gross and disturbing as it should be.

I read that the writers did not want romance to be the end-all-be-all for the characters. The family relationships are well-developed and dynamic.

Family Relationships

Her mother, Maggie, for instance, has been through hell. She lost her husband and now works a full-time job as a waitress to support her family. Working long hours in customer service is rough, especially if you have coworkers who always call off and make you cover their shifts. It is still disappointing watching her ignore her children’s grief and Sydney’s anger towards her. Her children lost their father too, and they are all struggling. I understand that she is grieving and frustrated. I do. But one line she says made it hard for me to sympathize with her, at least at first. It is the one scene where the two sit on the couch and talk, the one time her mother isn’t running around or off to work. Syd tells her mother: “Sometimes, I feel like the people I love don’t love me back.”

 Syd says this to her mom after a fight with Dina, but it applies to everyone in her life. Sydney is thinking of Dina a little, but she mostly thinks of her mother in this scene. The mother always seems judgemental and seldom seems loving. Her mother criticizes her while constantly needing her support. She never gets anything in return and the fact that Maggie can’t see that hurts. She is a kid seeking reassurance from a parent, desperate to hear that people (she) love her, that she is important. Her mother hits her back with “Well, maybe you’re aiming too high, hon.”

Sometimes, I feel like the people I love don’t love me back.

Well, maybe you’re aiming too high, hon”

Maggie’s words feel like a raw knife in the back. Man, it is brutal out there.

Syd’s mom sucks here, but I don’t think she said this to spite her daughter. She and Syd end up bonding later before the dance. She helps Syd get ready and, she talks about dancing with Syd’s father at a high school dance and feeling like she knew he was the one. Her actual marriage didn’t live up to the fantasy. She mentions how Syd’s Dad wasn’t present even when he was home–he hid in the basement and kept things from his wife. After we hear about her father’s situation at the end, I can’t even imagine what must have been like for both of them. Syd maintained a loving image of her father, which was for the best. Maggie seems like she was going through this all alone and didn’t have anyone to confide in. So they all grieved his death alone.

She feels like the hope in love she felt in high school was aiming too high. Her marriage never measured up to the early parts of her relationship. There were times where she did not feel loved by her husband; I understand her cynicism. She is not completely closed off though. In that last scene with her daughter, Maggie tells Syd about when she went to a dance with Sydney’s father and felt like she just knew that he was the one. She seems hopeful that Sydney will experience a love like that too. Maggie never apologizes for her words earlier, but she is trying to be better, more present. Maggie starts to see that there is hope for her daughter, and her as well, after all.

Netflix's I Am Not Okay With This Cast & Character Guide

Sydney’s younger brother was also a great addition to the cast. He and Sydney have a pretty good relationship. They annoy each other, and he makes weird mac and cheese, but they have each other’s backs. When she hears Richard making fun of her brother, she goes off: 

“Well, let me tell you something. One day, it’s all gonna go downhill, buddy. Your life will be so pathetic, you’ll attend high school reunions because you know what? Nothing else is ever gonna happen for you in your entire life. Yeah, you won’t even have a dog!”

If that isn’t a great roast, I don’t know what is.

The aesthetic is also pretty cool. The show references to its predecessors and includes references and fashion, and I am here for it.

I really liked the last episode, the show builds one conflict the entire series, and the payoff is so satisfying. Will Syd follow the same patterns her father did? Will she break the cycle and use her powers for good? The hooded figure shocked me to the core. I expected Syd to end up alone. He seems pretty helpful, but he could be a secret villain. Both of those sound fantastic. He probably knew her father and holds similar powers and realizes that she needs someone to help her learn to control them. Sydney needs a guide to help with her powers, beyond Stan’s comic books, which are appreciated but not necessarily helpful when you just blew a guy’s head off at homecoming. At least she doesn’t have to process this alone.

Most of the show is Syd slowly realizing her powers. This is a huge event to grapple with clearly, and the stakes jump when someone shows up to help. The balance is pretty good at the beginning too. She gets angry and intense, and then we have teen drama or iconic moments.

The Show’s Portrayal of Theaphy

I have a kind of criticism. The story begins with Syd’s therapist telling her to keep a journal, and her narration is in a journal format. I was kind of surprised that therapy was not very present in Sydney’s story since it began with a therapist. Sydney sees a therapist at her school as she processes her father’s death. But she does not talk to her therapist much except to get the journal. Syd has to deal with her emotions alone so, she lashes out and boom powers. She would have to keep her powers a secret to a therapist unless she chose to tell them. A few recent shows portray characters going to a therapist and benefiting from talking to someone, and this show felt kind of regressive on the topic.

In This is Us and Never Have I Ever the therapists are characters of their own. Both Devi and Randall talk to someone to help process loss and trauma. Sydney’s therapist was pretty bad, but there are bad therapists out there. I guess it feels stereotypical. Syd has a bad therapy experience that says write your feelings down and, it will all be okay. I am going on a side rant, but it is a valid criticism of the show. Plot-wise, I get that she needed to be alone to go full telekinesis mode. Perhaps, they could have developed this more next season. Sydney could have used therapy to help process her father’s death and her emerging powers, even if she did keep them a secret.

Dina and Sydney a Complaint/Critique

I loved this story. The amount of character development and plot was paced well in such a short season. I also loved Stan, he was hilarious. I enjoyed all his scenes. I was disappointed that Sydney and Dina didn’t have more scenes together. We get to know Stanley Barber more than the girl Sydney is in love with, and I wish it could have been different. I guess I just wanted to see more of them. The scenes we saw were great, so showing her more would have made it better.

I wish Stan would have not had a crush on Sydney either. I loved his character and I wish he could have happiness at the end, whether he meets a new love interest or is happy another way– I wanted more. The cliche where the guy likes his best friend and she doesn’t like him back feels a little cliche. Haven’t we seen enough Ducky and Andies and Steve and Robins to last a lifetime? I didn’t mind this too much, and it made sense to the plot so this is a relatively minor complaint. It can be realistic, for sure. But just generally, close male and female friendships without romantic feelings would be great to see.

Overall Thoughts

 I Am Not Okay With This has a promising first season to what could have been a fantastic supernatural show. The ending has so many unanswered questions; there are so many ways this story could go next. How many other people have powers? Who was the hooded figure on the roof? Why do Sydney’s powers only come from anger and anxiety? Is getting revenge on people who do wrong ex: Brad, using her powers morally okay? There are so many ways this story could go.

I wanted to hear more about Sydney’s father and his life and how he discovered his powers. I wanted a happy ending for Sydney, Dina, and Stan, and it was, but there were so many unanswered questions. Diana and Sydney just started talking about their relationship. They had such potential to grow as a couple and Dina was hilarious. Where did her positive attitude come from, when did Sydney and her meet for the first time? Did Sydney like her right away? They could have been so good together.

I wanted to hear more Stanley Barber lines too, and maybe for him to find happiness–whether that be in a romantic relationship or whatever. So many of Sydney’s problems are left in the open. Like, how does she even process what happens next? The end was okay, I guess. I am not okay with how it just left me on a cliffhanger. I’m not okay that these characters’ lives are on a permanent hiatus and I will never know what happens to them. We’ll never know if that stranger was there to help and where Sydney goes moving forward. The portrayal of her mental health struggles was well done, and her performance felt real in a way I haven’t seen in too many shows like this. Another season where Sydney is processing through these events with the support of others could help many teens feel seen. Seeing her get out of a place of isolation and anger could have been an uplifting story.

I am disappointed yet again that Netflix canceled a great show. Although it was short, I enjoyed the first season and watched it all in one day. I recommend I Am Not Okay With This to anyone who loves the 80s and 90s aesthetic, dark comedy, family drama, and superhero stories. It’s a good show to watch on a break or in a day because it is so short. It flies by, but you will not regret watching. I am Not Okay with This takes place in the same universe as End of the F***** world, which could also be cool to check out if you are left wanting more. I’m watching it right now, and the humor is similar and dark. The review for season one might come out at some point.

Shows

Absurdity, Anxiety, and Friendship in Tuca and Bertie

Dirt: Imagineering architecture in Tuca & Bertie and My Favorite Shapes -  by Dirt - Dirt

A spoiler-free review of Tuca and Bertie Season One

If I were to describe the last 2 years, or maybe even the last 5 years in one word, I might go with surreal. Often life just doesn’t make sense. I don’t know why things happen the way they do. A worldwide pandemic is an event that only a movie like Contagion or the Simpsons could predict, and we’re still grappling with all this uncertainty.

Life can just be weird and events sometimes don’t make sense; I often wonder where I fit into it all, but nevertheless, here I am, embracing the absurd parts. Of course, other times, I get so wrapped up in habit and routine that life feels boring and predictable. I want silliness, oddness, and just to laugh again.

From snake busses, purple jaguars, careless plant teenagers, to bouncing boobs on buildings, Tuca and Bertie is a goofy show. If you’ve ever felt a craving for some more oddity, with some adult content, or if you’re just looking for a well-written animated sitcom, Netflix and Adult Swim have something for you.

Tuca and Bertie takes place in a world way more surreal than ours, it’s with a catchy theme song that juxtaposes their names. Tuca and Bertie are zany and bold as they wave their arms wildly to a catchy bop. Their theme song slaps, there, I said it. They’re both dancing around and doing their thing as they navigate the fun, stressful, and just plain absurd parts of life together.

The theme song is really fun, but to tell you the truth, the show gets dark. It’s not too sad, and it’s so good, I promise.

I discovered Tuca and Bertie partially by surprise. I had just completed the last episode of Bojack Horseman and felt completely wrecked. I’ll have more thoughts on this in other reviews, but basically, I simultaneously felt like I both never wanted to see anything that could make me feel things again and to dive into a new show to help me get over Bojack Horseman. I kind of wanted more Bojack too. Netflix kindly displayed a new program that seemed perfect. Tuca and Bertie were written and produced by Lisa Hanawalt, the animator of Bojack Horseman.

I found Tuca and Bertie more fun than Bojack, it deals with difficult topics at times, but Hanawalt’s show is nowhere near as bleak. Their world is bright and colorful and though Tuca and Bertie are so zany, their lives feel grounded and accessible. For me, it’s partially because the show is written from a female perspective. In adult cartoons and television generally, there aren’t a lot of narratives like Tuca and Bertie.

Creator Lisa Hanawalt said in an interview:

“I wasn’t consciously thinking, “How do I make this more relatable to women?” I was just writing stories from my own life, stories from my friends’ lives and things that I specifically haven’t seen in adult animation before. Like, that feeling when a plumber is in your apartment and you don’t know if he’s going to attack you or not. That’s really common for women.”

Lisa Hanawalt

Tuca and Bertie isn’t a tale of the lives of Hollywood celebrities, they’re real people, well, birds, learning about themselves and their place in the world. In comparison with characters from a lot of adult animation shows, the characters in Tuca and Bertie seem pretty put together on the surface.

Typical of TV best friends, Tuca and Bertie are classic polar opposites. Tuca, played by Tiffany Haddish is fun, free-spirited, resourceful. She’s “friend, hero, connoisseur of snacks, confident but relatable, wearer of short shorts.” She sounds like the cool girl that I’d want to be friends with but would be a bit intimidated to approach her. But once that first conversation started, by her making a snarky comment and me bursting out into uncontrollable laughter, we would know this friendship was going to be one for the long haul.

Once a Tuca is in your life, she and all her belongings become utterly intertwined with your apartment and your heart. Tuca is confident and kind, and as you get to know her, you see she’s got insecurities as well. Tuca begins the show as a recovering alcoholic and fears being alone. She’s given a lot of depth and even if you’ve never been the life of the party, you’ll feel for her as the show goes on.

Bertie, voiced by Ali Wong, is the total opposite, she’s a total introvert who admires Tuca’s ease with talking to people. She’s equally awesome. She’s introduced as a “professional amateur chef, people pleaser, fuss bucket”, which sounds like she could be a little stuffy, but early on, we learn that Bertie’s behaviors stem from her anxiety. Bertie’s kind of living the dream that many of us crave in our twenties, she’s got a nice apartment with a supportive partner, an awesome best friend, and a job as a senior operations analyst for a magazine.

Tuca e Bertie: perché è molto più di una commedia sull ...

That being said, Bertie’s anxiety often dominates her life. Television is just beginning to show characters with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and Bertie is one of the few characters that portray anxiety well. She is hardworking and passionate, but her thoughts can spiral, and she makes mistakes and feels isolated and alone at times. She’s also super kind, a total introvert, and a lover of romantic period dramas– I can totally relate to that last part, I could rewatch BBC’s Prude and Prejudice all day, and some of her experiences with anxiety as well.

I’ll say it now, Hanawalt is fantastic at writing self-aware humor. Hanawalt makes jokes in scenes portraying Bertie’s anxiety without mocking or discrediting the character’s or anyone else’s experiences. Bertie is totally hilarious, and the show mocks anxiety itself, because it makes no sense at times. Anxiety isn’t an overreaction or done for attention, in fact, these feelings are often the last way an anxious person wants to feel, but here they are right in the middle of the work, a date, or the grocery store. Luckily, she has friends to be there during the worst moments.

Tuca, Bertie, and Bertie’s lovable boyfriend Speckle (Steven Yuen), have a fun and complex dynamic together. Friendship is weird sometimes, especially as we grow up, relationships shift in some ways and stay the same in others. We put value into our relationships with others while juggling life, work, and for some, romantic relationships that also require our energy and time. Friendship isn’t always dancing and rainbows and the show digs into the complexities of our relationships with one another, the role of a friend, and all the uncertainty and stress we experience as we figure out what we mean to each other.

The background is totally wack, the jokes are unapologetically bawdy at times, but it never felt gross or offensive. The style is fun and Hanawalt uses the drawing style to show some side commentary on the characters and effects.

Needless to say, Tuca and Bertie is a great show that explores complex and dark themes with care and humor. It made me laugh and grow to care for these two silly birds. On days when things felt totally surreal, I’d watch this show and feel a little less alone.

I’d recommend Tuca and Bertie to anyone who doesn’t mind adult humor. The show also references to anxiety, sexual assault, and harassment.

If you’re curious about learning more about the show’s creator Lisa Hanawalt and her perspective writing the show, I found an interview of hers on the first season

About me

The Perusing Muse is a site where I look to culture as a means of understanding life and analyze what it says about living a meaningful one. In less overly philosophical mission terms, I analyze shows, books, movies, and comics that I like and talk about why I love them so much.