Shows

Tuca and Bertie Season 3: Episode 3: The One Where Bertie Gets Eaten by a Snake Review

In this episode, we pick up where we left off where Tuca and Bertie adjusting to the events of the previous episode. Tuca talks to Bertie about how she and Figgy have made some rules about his drinking. No home-brewing–it is gross apparently. Figgy follows up with one rule of his own–don’t tell him to stop drinking. Tuca is concerned, but she is excited about their next date.

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Shows

A Defense of Johnathan Byers in Stranger Things Season 4

Note: I will only be talking about his actions in Season 4. I still think it was gross for him to take pictures of Nancy in Season 1, and it

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Shows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Face of Depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toxic Positivity in Real Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toxic Patterns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

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

Hobbies

Ranking My Favorite Teas

A Ranking of all the Teas I’ve Tried

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

Lipton Black Tea

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

Caffeinated: Yes

Recommended for: iced tea fans and fans of classic beverages

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

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

Chamomile

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

Caffeinated: No

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

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

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

Matcha

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

Caffeinated: Yes

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

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

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

Peppermint Tea

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

Caffeine: No

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

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

Fruit Tea

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

Caffeinated: No

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

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

Chai

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

Caffeinated: Yes

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

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

Final Thoughts on Tea

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

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

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

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

Movies

Netflix’s If Anything Happens I Love You Review

Netflix’s If Anything Happens I Love You Review

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

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

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

The film begins with two adults sitting across a table from one another. They are silent, but their shadows are on top of the table in an argument with the other person. Meanwhile, they sit in silence.

The woman picks at her spaghetti, and the man sips a soda. He glances at her, and he looks like he wants to reach out to her, to say something. You can see the lines on his face. But he’s too filled with hurt.

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

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

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

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

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

The light isn’t there like it used to be. The daughter is hopeful, confident, and happy. They cannot get over her death. Their grief stays with them for a lifetime. The writers interviewed parents who had lost their children to school shootings for this movie. I haven’t seen any film like this, and it feels bold to talk about their pain. School shootings are so tragic that we try to shy away from them.

At the end, there is a ray of light of the sunshine. The sun is bigger than the parents and watches over them as they stand on the hill. I’m not sure what the film was trying to say about life after death, but I like that there is hope. There is hope that there is more than this life. Hope that she is okay, and that she is at peace. There is hope for the parents to go on in their daughter’s memory and their love for each other. Grief doesn’t exist in a timeline, and it doesn’t go away even if you know they’re not truly gone.

I would recommend watching this one, even if you read through my review and saw all these spoilers.

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

Shows

The Dragon and the Tiger Play Cupid

Warning! Spoilers ahead!

Overview

Pros

  • Unique characters
  • Fun character dynamic
  • Even the animals have quirky personalities
  • Well written slow-burn romance
  • Attractive animation and design

Cons

  • Taiga’s violent nature is abusive
  • Occasionally uncomfortably bizarre
  • Drags at times
  • The ending could have been better

Observations

  • One of the most awkward friend groups ever

Review

This blog article was co-written by Ashley Ostrowski and P. A. Wilson. We decided to watch Toradora! after we went through a list of romantic comedy anime. P.A. Wilson had already watched it a few months before, and said it was pretty good. We’re both fans of romantic comedies, and gave it a try.

Toradora! was created in 2008 by Yuyuko Takemiya. It is currently available to watch on Netflix, Funimation, and Crunchyroll.

Ryuji Takasu, a kind high schooler who is often mistaken for a delinquent, runs into the notorious Palm-top Tiger, a vertically challenged and short-tempered girl. They discover that they both have crushes on each other’s best friend and make a pact to help each other out with their crushes.

What ensues is completely awkward and entertaining. Ryuji’s crush, Minori Kushieda, is a quirky and athletic teenager who is always full of optimism and spunk. The Palm-top Tiger, whose actual name is Taiga Aisaka, has a crush on Yusaku Kitamura, a talented member of the school council. They meet Kitamura’s childhood friend Ami Kawashima, a self-centered model who plays the part of the perfect girl but has her own deep-seated flaws.

Ryuji, Taiga, and Ami are typically referred to by their first names in the anime, while Kushieda and Kitamura are referred to by their last names. We intend to do the same for this article.

Ryuji is a clean freak and germaphobe who takes delight in keeping things clean. This is one of the first things we learn about him. It’s quirky and makes him an interesting character, and also pretty likeable. His habit of taking so much work upon himself is one of the first indicators that he is used to being his own guardian, in a way. He cooks for himself and his mother, and his father left him a long time ago.

He seems to almost raising himself because his single mother works a lot, and when she is home she is incredibly immature. Her childlike behavior goes to extremes, and Ryuji has almost become the head of the household.

Ryuji looks like his father, and is constantly told stories about how his father put magazines under his shirt to protect himself from being stabbed. It is obvious that his mother still loves his father, even though he is gone. Because of Ryuji’s appearance, he is often mistaken for a delinquent. People give him their wallets sometimes because they think he is trying to rob them. He always turns wallets into the lost and found, which looks really suspicious.

To us, Ryuji does not really look like a delinquent, except maybe when he is angry. We think the other characters may think he is sketchy because he has tiny eyes, which look like just pupils. Everyone else has big, colorful, innocent-looking eyes.

Ryuji meets Taiga when he runs into her. He did not notice her because she was so short. (P. A. Wilson understands how she must feel.) She is nicknamed the Palmtop Tiger because of her ferocious attitude, and she quickly lives up to her name by knocking him to the floor.

It is funny because they both have reputations for violence and danger, but only Taiga’s reputation is merited. Ryuji is such a sweet guy, and is only ever aggressive toward germs and mold. Taiga is aggressive toward anyone who annoys her in the slightest.

When Taiga tries to put a love letter for Ryuji’s best friend Kitamura in his bag, she accidentally puts it with Ryuji’s stuff instead. He takes it home and is amused to discover that she had forgotten to include the letter and it is actually just an empty envelope. Taiga breaks in with a weapon and tries to kill him–hopefully not for real–until he assuages her. Taiga discovers that Ryuji is in love with her best friend Kushieda, and they decide to help each other out with their love lives.

Now, a quick side note. In this episode we learn that Ryuji has a bird named Inko who is hilariously ugly and freaky. Ryuji and his mother are always trying to get Inko to say its own name. Unlike most pets, Inko has real character, and the show just wouldn’t be the same without it. We wouldn’t want to have Inko as a pet personally, but he is a permanent fixture in Ryuji’s small family.

What kind of surprised us is that Taiga confessed her love to Kitamura so early in the season. It seemed like she would pine away in silence, but she had guts. If it had ended out better for her, the pact between her and Ryuji might have ended almost before it had begun. But Kitamura basically friend-zones Taiga. He used to have feelings for her, but after she rejected him, those feelings faded.

Taiga lives directly across from Ryuji in a fancy apartment while he lives in a run-down house. Taiga lives alone due to a difficult family situation and starts eating meals with Ryuji and his mom. She becomes like a member of their family, and Ryuji even makes Taiga lunch for school days to make sure she has something to eat.

We liked how the creators included little details about the characters. For example, Ryuji has a habit of tugging at his own hair.

The two bond pretty quickly despite their differing personalities. Within one scene, Ryuji and Taiga are so frustrated that they start kicking a pole. While they do this, they rant about the rumors that they are dating and that Ryuji is a delinquent.

Taiga repeatedly calls Ryuji her dog, but he insists that he is a dragon, because that is the only animal that stands on equal footing with a tiger. Even if it seems like Taiga is the one bossing Ryuji around, they treat each other like equals. Taiga appreciates Ryuji, and she keeps coming over to hang out with him.

There are times where Taiga goes too far with her violence and she makes their relationship seem abusive. For example, she attacks Ryuji’s eyes at one point. That’s a pretty awful way to attack someone. The eyes are sensitive. Taiga also kicks Ryuji at different points. That wouldn’t go over the same way in real life, because it would be viewed as a toxic relationship. Even though her violence is animated, it does make it harder to sympathize with Taiga. She does tone it down later in the series.

The series gets more complicated when a new character, Ami, is introduced. She is a teenage model and Kitamura’s childhood friend. Ami is spoiled and self-centered. She puts on a nice girl/airhead act, but she can be very selfish and causes a lot of drama. She changes the entire dynamic of the friend group, making it an even more awkward friend group. She grows as a person as she learns to deal with stalkers and comes to terms with herself.

The show gets more awkward as it goes on. Ryuji made fake boobs for Taiga because she is flat-chested. Taiga panics when Ryuji nearly drowns. Kitamura dresses up as a shirtless Santa. Taiga dreams that she marries Ryuji and gives birth to puppies. Kitamura dyes his hair blonde. The show likes its metaphors, whether it is talking about ghosts, aliens, or stars.

Taiga’s dad is terrible, pretending he wants to be a part of her life and then not showing up when it matters. She is never his first priority. Ryuji convinces Taiga to give her dad another chance because Ryuji will never get another chance with his own dad. So he kind of guilts her into it and then it blows up in her face.

One of the reasons Ryuji and Taiga connect so well is because they both do not come from stable, consistent households. They take care of each other and help each other become better people.

The ending left some people satisfied while others were just disappointed. Some people believe Kushieda should have ended up with Ryuji. We did not ship Ryuji and Kushieda as much because they did not have as much chemistry, and Kushieda is really confusing sometimes. The whole anime was building up the relationship between Taiga and Ryuji, so if it had ended differently it would have been odd.

At the end, Taiga and Ryuji elope, but end up separating while Taiga tries to get on better terms with her family. They end up together again after that separation, but it was weird considering Taiga did not care what her family thought of her very much before that.

The show kind of got boring in the middle because it dragged out the drama but it was not super entertaining. The show picked up again later on.

The intros and outros are fun but not especially notable. They fit the characters well without spoiling anything, so that’s good.

We wish that Taiga had been nicer to Ryuji because a lot of times she seems abusive. Their relationship is okay, but they have a ways to go before they have a healthy relationship. They are cute together, but it would have been better without so much violence. Overall, the show was fun, and we would tentatively recommend it to anyone who enjoys rom-coms.

Links

Shows

The Epic Love Story Between the Perpetually Single and the Soulless Newsie: Looking at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Ten Years Later

Pros

  • Witty Dialogue
  • Creative, modernized retelling of Pride and Prejudice
  • Likable and captivating characters
  • Lydia Bennet becomes a complex, lovable, and sympathetic character

Cons

  • Casual slut-shaming

Ten years ago, Bernie Stu and John Green decided to write a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Thus, the Lizzie Bennet diaries were born, a vlog series where communications grad student Lizzie Bennet posts chronicles her adventures in work, love, and life.

So, where did I even hear of such a series? It all started when I read Pride and Prejudice back in high school. I simply fell in love with the story and wanted more Lizzie and Darcy. I love a good slow burn and stories about people who have preconceived notions about the other person at first but then fall in love with them. I did what any good Austen fan does and googled “Pride and Prejudice adaptations.” At first I thought there were only two, the one with Colin Firth and the 2005 movie with Kierra Knightley. Turns out there are many adaptations of Pride and Prejudice–fifteen in fact–and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries was one of them. And no, I still haven’t seen them all. But this one is pretty good.

Modern day Lizzie Bennet is the average millennial/older member of Gen Z. She interns and joins the job hunt, carries debt, and lives with her parents. She is also quirky and awkward and painfully relatable and she needs a job as badly as Austen’s Lizzie needs a husband to provide for her financially. Since the ten years that the show premiered, not much has changed for us twenty-somethings.

It has been more than ten years. I can’t believe it. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries aired on YouTube on April 9, 2012 and contains 100 episodes in its vast and interconnected universe. I’ll say now that I didn’t watch the show until about four years after it aired, but I still watched the entire thing in full. Lizzie isn’t the only character with a vlog either–Lydia Bennet, Charlotte’s sister Maria Lu, and Georgiana Darcy all post videos at some point. You can skip most of them if you’d like, they add to the story but don’t detract from the plot, but I would highly recommend watching Lydia’s videos.

This series expands Lydia’s storyline and develops her character far better than Austen did. I wasn’t a big fan of her videos at first. But you should still watch them, even the early ones. Lydia’s spirited personality and ending song “nannanananayea” might seem slightly tiring and elementary, but her vlogs tell a far darker, and frankly, more balanced story than Lizzie’s diaries tell us.

But before we dive into Lydia. You might wonder how this vlog series works. Essentially, Lizzie posts videos after events occur and then gives her opinion on them. Lizzie also does what she calls costume theater. She dramatizes people and events and uses exaggerated expressions to describe them. Her mother and William Darcy are the most exaggerated–and humorous–of the bunch. The episodes last 3-5 minutes each and a new episode was usually released every few days.

So, what are the The Lizzie Bennet Diaries about exactly? The story begins with 24-year-old Lizzie Bennet, who lives at home with her two sisters, Jane and Lydia. Her first video introduces herself and she says that this video series is her thesis project for a graduate degree in communications. She tells us that her mother, Mrs. Bennet, has begun to concoct a scheme after she discovers that wealthy newcomer Bing Lee is moving in next door with his best friend William Darcy. Bing Lee is the character Mr. Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, and he is studying to be a doctor. Mrs. Bennet insists that her husband introduce himself to them.

Such a wealthy man must be looking for a future wife and to Mrs. Bennet, there is nothing more logical than to set him up with her daughters. She even gives them these t-shirts.

This is an actual shirt

In this story, the idea women should get married and settle down for material and financial comfort is only held by Mrs. Bennet and for everyone else, romantic relationships are a choice based on compatibility, falling in love, and affection rather than financial necessity. Most of the characters are more focused on their careers or having fun instead of finding their soulmate. This seems pretty refreshing. Lizzie wanted to marry for love in the books, and it wouldn’t make any sense for her to feel otherwise.

Overall, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries follow the plot of Pride and Prejudice with a few deviations. To seem more typical of 21st century birth rates–and to reduce the amount of required actors–there are only 3 Bennet sisters. Mary Bennet is their cousin, and Kitty Bennet is a literal cat. So, unfortunately, we don’t get to see a recreation of the scene where Kitty coughs and her mother scolds her for coughing for her own amusement.

The series itself is rooted in Lizzie’s desire to build a career in media. The diaries themselves are Lizzie’s graduate school thesis project. A life vlog sounds like a heavy project to handle. Thankfully, she also has the help of Charlotte Lu, a fellow grad student, to help her edit and offer moral support and sometimes tough love.

Lizzie’s decision to film her personal life for a school project and include friends and family in her videos raises some interesting questions about media ethics.

Bing Lee, for example, appears on camera in several episodes but is never told that videos of him are on the internet. He never consents to having himself put on YouTube, and Lizzie films him in his own house without his knowledge. Lizzie also talks about several characters behind their backs that do not know about the videos like Bing and Darcy. Lizzie talks badly of Darcy and Bing on video and posts several times. Bing finds out about the videos near the end of the show, but we never see his reaction. As a communications student, Lizzie studied media ethics, but she hardly hesitates to blur the ethical line in her videos. All I can say is that the series requires us to suspend our disbelief. Darcy is worth it.

But I have to say, I started the series for Lizzie and Darcy, but I stayed for Lydia. Well, I did stay for Darcy too. But I honestly didn’t expect to like Lydia as much as I did. In this rendering, almost all the characters remain the same except Lydia Bennet.

In the original Pride and Prejudice, Lydia loves parties, guys–particularly the officers–and socializing. She is very excited and young and bold. In this series, however, Lydia is excited, young, and a bold too, but we get to see so much of her. Lydia isn’t a favorite Bennet, and she knows it. While Jane is her mother’s favorite and Lizzie is her father’s, Lydia is the pesky younger sibling. Lizzie just finds Lydia annoying. But she, and the writers, refuse to let her story be sidelined.

Lydia says in an interview episode:

“You’re only a secondary character if you let yourself be one.”

Lydia Bennet

Lydia is determined. She refuses to be reduced to Lizzie’s characterization of her and her story captures the hearts of the viewers. I would argue that she stole the show.

I wonder if Lydia became interested in parties and is more outgoing to have an identity that is different than her sisters. She feels like she cannot measure up to the perfect Jane and studious Lizzie and her parents compare her to them pretty often. Why can’t you be more like Jane or Lizzie, her mother once asked.

But out of the three sisters, Lydia feels the most human. She puts on a face even when she is unhappy and left out. She hides her insecurities and tries to be a better person and sister. And although she likes to party with people, she has few real friends. She has people to party with, but when they don’t want her around, they drop her. Lydia seeks Lizzie’s approval and tries to hang out with her, but Lizzie is very judgmental of Lydia and her life choices.

Lizzie’s prejudice towards others is clearly at the forefront of this novel. Lizzie mentions multiple times in her video diaries that they are based on her perspective on true events, and that she “remembers everything”. Lizzie a bit of a type 1 on the enneagram, a moralist who takes the high ground and holds people to high standards. This can be a good thing, like when she stops talking to George Wickham. It becomes a problem when she acts self-righteous. She never says it is my way or the high way, but she certainly implies it.

It isn’t that Lizzie’s POV is uncontested, in fact, it constantly is questioned and occasionally debunked. Multiple characters point out that Lizzie isn’t always right–Charlotte and Jane even hijack Lizzie’s videos to tell the audience about times where Lizzie’s is portraying other people and situations inaccurately.

And with the show’s characterization of Lydia Bennet, Lizzie has to recognize her opinions about others are not only incorrect, like her opinion on William Darcy, but downright harmful to the people she claims to care about. In Pride and Prejudice, Austen justifies Lizzie’s view of Lydia being an irresponsible and boy-crazy when Lydia ends up in a marriage to an officer and could care less that she almost ruined her family’s reputation. Nevermind that Lydia in the book was only fifteen-years-old and fell for a man who manipulated her and only pretended to care for her. Now she’s doomed to what will probably be an unhappy marriage. Luckily, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries ages its characters up. Lydia is a community college student. Lizzie is 24, and Jane is 26. Lydia gets a better ending and in this modern retelling, Lizzie is dead wrong about her sister.

I’m in a similar life stage to Lizzie. We’re both trying to figure out what the future looks like and feel anxiety about what comes next, but despite this, I can’t help but sympathize more with Lydia.

Lizzie seems harder to like. She is so certain about the people around her. I understand her position. The world she lives in is full of uncertainty. She holds onto judgements about people because it they paint a picture of the world that is stable and predictable. Her mother is always marriage-obsessed and outlandish, and Lydia is always energetic and happy, Charlotte is her best friend who never edits anything out of videos; Jane sweet, thoughtful, and never struggles; and Darcy is awkward and obnoxious.

Charlotte and Lizzie

Perhaps the issue is that Lizzie sees the world as full of characters rather than other humans with lives as complex as hers, her friends and family are archetypes that follow a particular path and never stray. That is why Lizzie is so shocked when Charlotte takes a job at Collins and Collins. Lizzie begs and uses her audience to convince Charlotte to stay, while Charlotte asks her to let her go. Charlotte explains to Lizzie why she took the job.

“Yes I do. Like you, my family’s in debt. Like you, I’m in debt, just more debilitating than yours.”

“No, you’re not.”

“We live in an apartment. We used to live in a house. My sister is going to college. There is no house to sell.”

Lizzie focuses so much on her passion and misses that Not everyone has the same financial opportunities, and while Lizzie’s family is struggling, they have a privlidge that not everyone does. She doesn’t try to understand Charlotte’s position until later.

In addition to finances, Charlotte’s decision also raises the question of practicality. She and Lizzie are good foils for each other in this way. It isn’t everyday that your old neighbor begs you to take a job with their company, and Mr. Collins made a good offer. Charlotte isn’t making the videos of her dreams, but she gets to be creative and edit and ends up leading an entire branch. Lizzie wants to do her own thing, but taking a job that sets her up for the future doesn’t sound too bad. Mr. Collins is talkative, but he is also nice and knows his work. I personally have to go with Charlotte on this one. But this is Lizzie’s house of cards, and she tells us where they stand.

Everyone has a role to play in the narrative of Lizzie’s life, but the tower starts shake when her expectations don’t come true. When Jane falls for Bing, and then Bing takes off. Charlotte moves away. Life doesn’t turn out how she wants it to. If other people just stayed the same and were comfortable, then maybe one day she too will settle someplace comfortable, instead of wandering into what feels like open emptiness.

It is also worth noting that though many of the characters value their careers, Lizzie’s series–and Pride and Prejudice as a whole–centers on romantic drama, particularly Jane’s relationship with Bing. The diaries are for a research project, yet whenever Lizzie tries to bring up her work or classes, she is shot down by those around her.

The show’s presentation of singleness isn’t simple, especially since the show is centered on romance. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries by nature follows the romance plot, but it is also pretty self-aware. Lizzie knows that she talks about Jane’s relationship with Bing all the time. She knows that she’s in a place in life where everything is uncertain. Romantic relationships offer a form of stability and validation that Lizzie doesn’t have.

Her graduate studies, while impressive, have yet to offer her anything substantive in terms of career options. The other option of success the series presents is a romantic relationship, and Lizzie isn’t too successful in that area. She doesn’t actively pursue guys and only begins seeing George Wickham when he shows interest in her. I’m not sure if the writers meant to echo the original Lizzie Bennet, who wanted marriage for love rather than for convenience. Maybe this Lizzie is waiting for her romantic happy ending, and in her mind, it just hasn’t happened yet. But it doesn’t matter what her perspective is, because society still judges her for not having found a relationship yet. Her sister Lydia has a list of “Reasons Lizzie Bennet is Perpetually Single.”

Not perpetually awkward, not nerdy, not unemployed, but single. Singleness is a status to change in this story. Obviously, Lizzie’s mother’s opinions affect her, much like the pressure and expectations of family, friends, and society put on women and people in general, to marry. Lizzie rarely personally complains about her lack of a relationship, but her mom and sister do. While some of their attitudes come from Pride and Prejudice, other attitudes come from American 21st century values that encourage those in their mid-twenties to move out of their parents house and move on. Relationships mean moving somewhere, they indicate that kids are moving forward with their lives and toward life with partner. When, Jane eventually moves out of her parents house to follow Bing, Lizzie is left alone.

She’s afraid of when Charlotte leaves for work and of being lost and aimless. Lizzie and Lydia are strange mirrors of each other in that way. Lizzie ends up getting her happy ending with Darcy, but they both face similar fears. Neither is entering a future with any certainty and it is notable that Lydia, the one who doesn’t do relationships, enters a relationship with George Wickham. But while the show praises and shows us cute moments between Jane and Bing and Lizzie and Darcy, we see the dark side of clinging to a romantic partner for happiness.

Lydia allows Wickham to convince her that she doesn’t need her family and that he will always be there for her. The idea of moving on with a partner means the total exclusion of the family unit. Wickham presents a dichotomy, choose your family or your partner. He takes her away from everyone. He isolates her and brings out her deepest insecurities. His words are cold and twisted and we see Lydia’s clothing getting more and more grey as he sucks the light out of her.

I’m not going to talk too much about the Wickham plotline. Wickham initially charms Lizzie, and I get why Lydia liked him at first. As a swim coach, he has a habit of showing up and disappearing everywhere. He is one of the most vile creatures in literature, and this series dives right in to his story. He is a master manipulator, and you can see signs of abuse in his videos with Lydia. I don’t know much about the subject, but I’m glad that the show raised awareness of abusive relationships. The topic isn’t talked about often, and it is painful to watch, but it is important. Their relationship continues to get worse as Lydia spirals and Wickham messes with her self esteem.

Wickham ends up manipulating her into filming a sex-tape and then almost releases it onto the internet. It never airs, thanks to William Darcy, but Lydia still faces judgement for the video being up in the first place. Lizzie assumes she was in on it and starts to blame Lydia. If there’s anything to criticize in this show, it is the slut-shaming and it gets worse than this part too.

Slut Shaming and The Writers’ Response

Attitudes about slut-shaming have changed over the past ten years, but that doesn’t mean slut-shaming was completely accepted during the run of LBD. I saw a few people in the comment section on YouTube complaining about Lizzie slut-shaming Lydia in 2012, so I did some more research into what the writers John Green and Bernie Stu were thinking.

On the Pemberley Digital Website, I found a form where fans can ask questions to the writers. In one Q&A, one viewer, who described herself as a “somewhat strong feminist” said that she expected Lizzie to hold similar feminist attitudes. The writers responded to this message while episodes of the show were airing. Bernie Stu said,

“The slut shaming critique is definitely something we’re aware of and honestly one of the few disappointments we have with the reception of the series. I’d like to clarify that we are not defending it. The critique is a fair one. It really is something we simply missed on.

Lizzie’s line early in episode 2 when she casually refers to Lydia as a “wh***y – s***t”  is especially one I really really wish I had caught and taken back. :/”

The later episodes don’t repeat these comments as often, but overall, they make it harder to like and sympathize with Lizzie,. But it also makes the ending more impactful. When Lydia throws Lizzie’s words back at her, “because I was being a stupid, wh***y s**t again?” She asks her sister honestly. It hurts to watch Lizzie realize that she doesn’t know Lydia, but she realizes the harm in her words. She apologizes and wants to get to know her sister better and be there for her. It is a heartbreaking redemption arc for Lizzie. Lizzie and Lydia make up only after Lydia has been hurt, but we do see Lizzie making effort to do better and you can tell she’s hurt and wants to do better. I like how the sisters make up. The series focuses on the relationships between the Bennet family just as much, if not more than they focus on romantic relationships. Family is first, and extremely important.

On a second watch, I found it harder to care about Darcy and Lizzie’s romance. During my first watch, I was so excited to see Darcy for the first time and to watch him and Lizzie fall in love. I analyzed and rewatched every interaction and read the comment sections. I looked up Lizzie and Darcy quotes on Pinterest (yes, I’m that much of a fangirl). I got excited with them. I was thrilled when they got together. I still love both of them, and Darcy is still adorably awkward, but on a second watch, my attention went to Lydia. I noticed how Lizzie treated her, and how she left Lydia out. Lizzie struck me as cold and superior. It is hard to feel excited about her and Darcy as I watch Lydia fall apart again.

Lydia ends the show single and slowly rebuilding, closer to her sisters than ever. It is a beautiful ending, and I feel horrible that Lydia had to go through all this pain to get there. There is a book on Lydia Bennet’s adventures in the aftermath, just like there is for Lizzie. I’m not sure if I’ll read either of them or not.

Additional Thoughts

In lighter news, I do have a few other observations on the show.

One question I can’t help going back to in this series is perhaps an unimportant one. When did Lizzie start to have feelings for Darcy? From the beginning, she never hesitates to talk about him, usually to call him out on his rudeness. We learn later that Darcy had a crush on Lizzie early on, when he told Caroline that Lizzie had fine eyes and then abruptly started fake texting about something “super important” to avoid Lizzie all night.

Of course, Lizzie doubts that Darcy likes her because he doesn’t like people, except maybe Bing and his sister Georgiana. Darcy has an entire list of qualities that make up the accomplished woman and, frankly, it feels like he is reaching for someone unattainable. I’m theorizing that she did like him, and that is why she felt so annoyed with him all the time.

We also can’t blame Darcy here completely. Part of his behavior is pride, which he works on later, but he is also just socially awkward. That makes him relatable. I get not wanting to smile all the time. And being told to smile when you’re not actually happy is pretty annoying. Darcy has a point. He doesn’t like parties or big gatherings, and that is fine. If you’ve ever had a crush or just spent time with someone you want to impress, you’ll relate, who hasn’t been awkward? I’m already a fan of these two, and honestly their awkwardness makes me like them together more.

The platonic relationships are pretty great in this series too. I loved Mary Bennet and her friendship with Lydia. They are polar opposites, and I always liked watching them interact. Charlotte and Lizzie’s friendship is pretty sweet too, even if Lizzie doesn’t quite get her friend at first.

My favorite relationship was probably Darcy and Lizzie. They are adorable. Darcy doesn’t appear on screen for a while, but once he does, he and Lizzie have great chemistry. He is awkward and oddly formal in the modern retelling, and he is just perfect. He and Lizzie play off of each other really well, and we get some hilarious lines. Which brings me to quotes.

Memorable Quotes

There are many quotable lines in the diaries, but these are some of my favorites. I found some of them on TV Tropes.

“This party is preposterous. I hate dancing. It’s a waste of time, like saying nice things to people. Many of these people seem to be enjoying popular music un-ironically.”

Lizzie dressed as Darcy

“Are you fake texting?”

“It’s super important”

Caroline and Darcy

“The guy doesn’t always make the best first impression, and he’s got the social skills of an anthropomorphic lobster”

Fitzwilliam about Darcy

And my favorite:

“Everyone deserves tea.”

Jane Bennet

Have you read the Lizzie Bennet Diaries? Let me know what you think down in the comments below!

Books

Why You Should Read New Kid, A John Newbery Award-Winning Graphic Novel

Why You Should Read New Kid, A John Newbery Award-Winning Graphic Novel

Pros

  • Interesting main character
  • Cool art style
  • Good message
  • Handles serious topics well for middle schoolers
  • Well developed cast

Cons

  • Pace could be slow at times
  • It isn’t overly dramatic
  • Somewhat anticlimactic

Have you ever been the new kid? I have been a few times. It can be good and bad, but it isn’t easy at first. I remember meeting a bunch of people and having trouble keeping track of names. I switched schools twice in my life. I transfered from a public high school to a Catholic school when I was in fifth grade, and I started attending a public school in eighth grade. Both of these were my middle school years. Eighth grade was the hardest to transition to, so I can empathize with Jordan there. It takes a while to figure out where you fit in. Even after the first few months, it doesn’t always get easier. Right away, I can empathize with the protagonist, Jordan Banks who is a new seventh grader student at a prestigious private school called Riverdale Day Academy. New Kid was written by Jerry Craft.

I grew up loving to read, and I especially loved graphic novels and comic books. I heard about this book and decided to check it out and write a review. I haven’t read many of the Newbery Award Winners to be honest, I’ve probably read too few, but this one was a great choice. New Kid won the 2020 Newbery Award for the Most Distinguished Contribution of Literature for Children.

A I checked out Craft’s website and to learn more about him. Craft grew up reading comic books and wants to help other kids to experience the same thing.

“One of the most transformative things a child can cultivate is a love of reading.”

Jerry Craft

I also watched Craft’s interviews on his website; I would recommend checking them out. He talks more about his experiences with books and about the story as a whole.

I remember how I felt that way when I was younger. I loved reading as a kid–grabbing a book and jumping into a character’s life. The storytelling for New Kid was good, and I don’t read graphic novels or middle-grade fiction very often anymore, but I’m glad I checked this one out.

New Kid begins when Jordan Banks, a Black seventh-grader from Washington Heights, starts attending Riverdale Academy Day School, a prestigious private school.

This wasn’t his initial dream. Jordan loves drawing comics and wants to be an artist when he grows up. This book is semi-autobiographical, and Jerry Craft wrote New Kid partially based on his experiences growing up in Washington Heights. He wanted to be an artist ever since he was a kid, but his parents thought he couldn’t make a living from it, so they sent him to The Fieldston School. Craft went on to the School of Visual Arts for college and got a BA in Fine Arts. His story isn’t exactly the same as Jordan’s, and he was also inspired his sons, who also attend a mostly white private school.

Jordan, like Craft, dreamed of attending art school. Technically, Jordan can’t start until 9th grade, so that puts his art studies on the back burner for a bit. For now, his mother wants him to go to Riverdale because of its great reputation. Jordan isn’t too happy to start a new middle school; he’s also disappointed that, as his father points out, Riverdale Day Academy also isn’t racially diverse.

Riverdale Academy Day School is a pretty typical middle school, Many of them are also pretty wealthy, they go on ski trips and stuff like that and the students wear pink most of the time. Other than that, Jordan’s middle school is pretty typical. I’m not sure if there is a middle school that is not like middle school, at least in the US. No matter where you go, I’m not sure anyone can escape the petty social dynamics, messy cafeterias, and annoying homework assignments.

Jordan is in the middle of all this, and New Kid is primarily a story of a kid finding his place in a new school and learning more about himself and his relationship with the world around him. Jordan is wondering about who he is compared to his peers and how he can be himself in a school where he feels a pressure to conform. At Riverdale Academy, he meets students with eccentric personalities. There is Alexandra, a girl who carries a puppet around, Maury, a geeky band kid, and an obnoxious bully named Andy. Jordan also meets a couple of guys that seem pretty cool–Liam and Drew.

Although he finds friends to hang out with, life at Riverdale Day Academy is difficult. While Jordan is navigating middle school and figuring life out, he also has to deal with a series of racial microaggressions from the students and teachers around him.

For example, his friend Drew is also Black, and a White teacher frequently calls Drew the wrong name, Deandre, after another black student that was in his class before. This teacher has Drew in her class all year, but she still never makes an effort to correct and remember his name. We see Deandre later and the two kids just don’t look alike. Teachers also call Jordan by the wrong name sometimes.

They mix up his name with a boy named Maury, who plays in the band. No one tries to change, even when students outright correct them. This isn’t just a problem with students. One teacher that has been at Riverdale for fourteen years and he still called “coach Rick” by another teacher. He doesn’t coach anything and the teacher didn’t bother to notice.

Jordan also navigates relationships with friends at the predominately white Riverdale with his friendships in his Black neighborhood. In one section, Jordan describes his experiences taking the bus in Washington Heights compared to the bus on the way to Riverdale Day Academy. He is expected to look tougher on the Washington Heights bus. But on the way to Riverdale, he needs to look laid back and chill.

The story talks about issues that occur in Jordan’s day-to-day life in a way that is easy for middle schoolers to understand. It can open up conversations about race between kids, between kids and parents, and honestly with anyone. It could be a good book to read in a classroom. I wish it was something we read at that age. It is a fun read that touches on important issues that not everyone is aware of–I know I wasn’t.

The art style is also cool. The comics are funny, and Craft doesn’t use color for a few of the side scenes where Jordan explains a certain rule or idea like “A Dude Pyramid: A Guide To The Cafeteria Hierarchy” or “Jordan’s Tips For Taking the Bus.” The drawings are in the same art style overall, but they look like they came right out of Jordan’s notebook.

The relationships between Jordan and his friends were sweet and fun to watch. Jordan, Drew, and Liam, a white student, end up all becoming friends. Jordan’s parents are also very supportive. They also have conflicts and disagreements like any other parents. For example, Jordan’s parents don’t initially agree on whether or not Jordan should go to Riverdale. His father wasn’t quite sure at first, but Jordan’s mom wanted him to go.

Both of their concerns are valid. We see how Jordan’s mom thinks it is a great opportunity that he should take advantage of–Jordan got into a prestigious school and his mom wishes she’d had that opportunity at his age–while his father is worried about Jordan leaving behind his old school and friends and moving to a school where most students are White.

I also liked Jordan’s relationship with his grandfather. They go out for Chinese and talk about Jordan opens up to him about how difficult school can be sometimes, and his grandfather comforts him and tells him that it is okay to be himself.

One of the core messages is to be kind to other kids regardless of differences. Jordan ends up befriending the girl who carries a puppet around at the end. She isn’t made fun of or mocked and we learn why she carries a puppet around. Middle school is a time when lots of students are awkward and just have different interests. She could have easily been the butt of the joke the entire time, but she’s not. She’s a pretty cool kid and super nice.

Middle school is difficult and it is nice to see kids bonding regardless of popularity. I feel like this is a message we need to see more often. Especially with kids at that age. That’s not to say that the bullies all apologize and all is perfect, but Jordan and his friends treat other kids with kindness and respect.

If there are any cons for this book, I would say that the pace is a bit slow. Jordan is going through normal middle school stuff, and there isn’t a ton of drama or a high point of tension. Graphic novels usually have that moment, and it can be cool to see a big dramatic scene in ink. Since it wasn’t too long, it didn’t bother me that much that it wasn’t as dramatic. Reading this book felt like watching Jordan go through life. After all, a lot can happen in one day. His interactions with family, friends, and classmates felt real and their relationships were layered and complex and I wanted to learn more.

I think that is why, while this book is written for a middle-school audience, anyone can enjoy Jordan’s story. This book isn’t too long of a read either, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a good way to get back into reading after a slump. I know I read this during the semester and it was refreshing to see pictures and graphics after a day of classes. It is also a comic book that I feel like adults would enjoy reading. The message is good, and the book tackles issues well. I’m glad I was able to read this one, even though I’m not within the target demographic. I loved comic strips and books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, and Big Nate back in the early 2010s, but I’m not sure I would reread any of them or recommend them to most people.

New Kid was written to tell a story that Craft didn’t see growing up. Jordan and his friends go to the middle school book fair and see few stories with Black protagonists. He especially can’t find any comedies science fiction, fantasy, or just fun stories with a protagonist that looks like him. Jerry Craft had the same experience as Jordan, so he decided to write New Kid. Craft also wrote a published a sequel in 2020 called Class Act, starring Jordan’s friend Drew.

Links:

To learn more about Jerry Craft and his books, check out his website.

Have you read New Kid? If so, what did you think? Did you read many graphic novels growing up? Let me know down in the comments below.

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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