My Road Not Taken

29 Jul

One year ago today, to celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary, Husband and I embarked on our first European vacation. Throughout our trip, we spent time in Rome, Pompeii, Athens, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, Santorini, and Heraklion. As someone whose undergraduate degree is in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, the phrase “trip of a lifetime” doesn’t even begin to cover what this vacation meant to me.


I’ve wanted to write about our trip for the entirety of this past year, but I wasn’t sure how. How could I possibly put into words the magnitude of the significance of what I experienced? There weren’t enough words; there weren’t the right words. A year has gone by. They still might not be the right words, and Lord knows there won’t be enough. (I apologize now, at the start, for the length of this entry.) But I have to try.

There’s a scene in The Jane Austen Book Club where Prudie, a French teacher who had never been to France, is expressing her frustration about devoting her entire life to teaching youth about a culture that she herself had never experienced. It’s a scene that until last year hit all too close to home for me.

Though it may have seemed like it to my family at the time, my archaeology degree was not one that I stumbled into haphazardly. I have an “All About Me” book from my elementary school years proudly declaring that I wanted to be an archaeologist “when I grow up” to prove it. The time spent in my undergraduate courses did not feel like work to me. I could have read about amphoras and friezes and ionic columns and themes in Greek tragedies forever and been perfectly content. I had every intention of continuing my studies in graduate school, and then going to do field work somewhere. I had dreams of getting published and goals of teaching at a University myself someday. To this day I know I could have done, would have done it.

Except for I got engaged in April of my freshman year of college, and got married 15 months later. Husband and I started to talk about our future together and a life with a house and kids and before I knew it, my dreams and goals had changed entirely.

This is the part in my story when I need to be abundantly clear so there is no misinterpretation. It was my choice, made without the input of Husband, not to pursue a career in archaeology. Husband would have supported to me the moon if that’s the path I said I wanted. (He was always, and still is, steadfast in support of my dreams like that.) I wanted the life with the house and kids more than I wanted the life with my pottery shards, and yes, there probably would have been some way to have both. It would have been a way that likely meant extreme financial strain and unplanted roots, and it would not have been a way that led to my happiness. It should also be noted that I love and adore my chosen career path, and am perfectly content to continue teaching for as long as I am able.

Still, though, archaeology has always been my life unlived. There were moments where my friends sent me postcards from the sites that I spent hours studying where I thought I would literally turn green with envy. It got to the point where every time Husband and I talked about another choice in our life (another kid, a bigger house, another family vacation) where I thought I might burst if I had to wait through another life decision before I finally got my turn to at least see with my own eyes what could have been my alternate reality. This trip was no longer the trip I wanted to take someday. It was the trip I needed to take for my own sanity.

As luck would have it, December of 2014 found Husband surfing the internet and stumbling across the cheapest flight to Rome we’d ever seen, just in time for our wedding anniversary. We meticulously planned every detail of our vacation from there, making sure that I would see as much of my archaeological world as we could humanly fit into our 12-night adventure.

Obvious life events aside, those were the best 13 days of my life. To see the details of Trajan’s column up close, to walk through the original streets of Pompeii, to climb the stairs of the Propylaia… Gazing out at the view from Delphi with the stillness of summer and hearing no sound except for the never-ending chorus of cicadas made it so easy to understand why the Greeks believed it to be a mystical place. Hell, if an oracle had appeared predicting my future, I sure would have believed her. That feeling is something no number of textbooks could have ever taught me. To imagine the ancient Greeks traveling all that distance and climbing those same mountains… Like I said before, there just are no words. All of a sudden the people I had spent years studying were not an abstract concept. They were real, and I could feel them, everywhere. I’m not an overly emotional person, but there wasn’t a day of our trip that I didn’t well up thinking about the gift it was to be there. It meant, and still means, everything.


History nerdiness aside, I was also just so grateful for the cultural experience. I am not well-traveled, and my knowledge of culture outside of my own is embarrassingly limited. I relished every moment of my time in Europe. Every bite taken of a new food, every sentence I heard spoken in a foreign tongue, and every piece of life away from home I saw just made me want to taste more, hear more, see more.

Then there were the people. Professor Camp who took time out of his day off to give us a behind-the-scenes tour of his excavation of the Agora in Athens. Gracious Louanna, whose husband Albert chauffeured us around Santorini. One of our sunset cruise boat crew members who talked to me about dreams of college and made me instantly realize how often I take my own education for granted. The military man and his wife we spent hours laughing with, promising to look each other up on Facebook later except there was all-you-can-drink wine and I’ll probably never be able to recall their names. Our trip wouldn’t have been what it was without people like these. They were, and are, essentially strangers, but now they’re also treasured memories.


Of course, I can’t talk about the joy of my trip without talking about Husband himself. For someone who sweats basically upon contact with the sun, he was such a trooper. He spent hours in sweltering humidity and 90 degree temperatures watching me read every plaque and examine every toppled column, and he didn’t utter one word of complaint. Husband enjoys history as much as the next person, but I know that every step (and there were many, many steps) of our trip was for me.

This vacation opened up new worlds for me, both literally and figuratively. When I think about our time spent in Rome and Greece, my heart literally aches with love for what I’ve seen and done, and longing to see and do it all over again. I may have taken this trip thinking it was going to satiate my desire to experience the world outside my own, but really all I’ve done was increase my hunger. I’m not sure how and in what capacity, but I know now that travel is something I need to have more of in my life, and hopefully in the lives of my children as well. There is just so much out there to experience, and I want to do it all.



Over/Underrated 2015 – Honorable Mentions

22 Apr

This is it, folks! I’ve finally made it to the top of my Everest and am posting my last over/underrated entry for the year 2015. It only took me three months longer than it should have, so thanks to those of you who have loyally kept up with my sporadic thoughts on the best/worst that 2015 pop culture had to offer.

Like I mentioned at the start of this series, 2015 was a good year. For that reason, I leave you with a few On Pointe honorable mentions. 2015 wouldn’t have been such a banner year without them.

On Pointe

Jon Snow

WARNING: This entry contains major spoilers about season five of Game of Thrones.

It wouldn’t seem right to discuss all that was right (and yet so wrong!) in 2015 pop culture without talking about the “death” of Jon Snow on the HBO series Game of Thrones. I say “death” and not death because I’m still in denial about it.

What’s most surprising about Snow’s death is that viewers (like me) were still surprised. Considering the source material, George R. R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, was published all the way back in 2011, it’s shocking that flashing neon spoilers weren’t all over the internet in the days leading up to his murder on the show. Similar to the way they guarded the Red Wedding back in 2013 (see our entry on that here), it’s clear that fans of the GoT books are not about ruining the television experience.

Even if there hadn’t been spoilers only a novel away, you’d still think I’d have seen it coming, considering GoT had already killed off such notable characters as Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon. Still, somehow in my mind, Snow was the one character that somehow would survive all the violence and be standing even after Winter had come and gone. Apparently, like him, I knew nothing.

Whether or not Snow’s character is actually dead dead remains to be seen. No amount of money I’ve set aside for therapy would be enough if he actually is. After all, the night is dark and full of terrors, and I’m not ready to face it without him.

Jon Snow

Better Call Saul

There was never a doubt in my mind that Better Call Saul was going to be amazing. How could it not be? After all, Breaking Bad was deemed Absolute Best Drama by my fair Bestie only a couple years ago. A spinoff show helmed by the same geniuses (Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould), and centered on one of the most beloved characters seemed almost too good to be true. Well it’s not too good, and it’s true.

The first season* of BCS brought us an intimate glimpse into Saul Goodman’s past, showing us the conflicted double life of Jimmy McGill (Saul’s birth name). McGill is striving to be a straight-laced lawyer, but unable to turn off his love of the con game. Bob Odenkirk is perfection as Jimmy McGill, bringing a much appreciated sense of humor and flair to the Breaking Bad universe. The show has not become as dark as Breaking Bad, yet, but the presence of the Mexican cartel (Tuco!) and everyone’s favorite gun-for-hire, Mike Ehrmantraut, are indicators that McGill is just one wrong client away from more than he can bargain for.

For viewers, the anticipation of waiting for McGill to truly embrace his Slippin’ Jimmy side and become the Saul we all know and love is almost a more delicious burn than watching Walter White become the one who knocks. There are some (*cough* my husband *cough*) who might argue that knowing the end result makes the journey there less intriguing. I couldn’t disagree more. Seeing where McGill begins makes him a more sympathetic character, and makes his ultimate undoing in Breaking Bad even more heartbreaking.

All plot aside, BCS would still be what the critics mean when they talk about good television. Once again the team of Gilligan and Gould have shown us that the magic is in the details, and that no single frame of a show should be without purpose. If that’s not reason enough to give BCS a try, then I don’t know what is.    

*This post was supposed to have been written way back in January, so for the purposes of this blog entry I am choosing to pretend that I haven’t already watched season two of BCS. After all, I need to save something for my 2016 lists.


Mad Men Finale

WARNING: This entry contains spoilers about the final episode of Mad Men.

Don Draper’s personal journey on Mad Men was a long one, and he played about every role you can think of along the way. War deserter to advertising genius. Philandering husband to doting father. Cutthroat partner to encouraging mentor. Confident jackass to lost and confused drunk. Still, in all seven seasons of Mad Men, I can honestly say I never expected to see Don Draper: Hippie.

The final season of Mad Men found many of the characters, not just Don, floundering to find self realization. Could Joan really be content working under men who saw her as nothing more than a pair of walking boobs? Could Peggy have both her career and love? Could Pete find a way to redeem himself in the eyes of his wife and daughter? Could the seemingly never satisfied Betty find a way to leave this earth content with the life she’s lived?

The answers to all of these questions arrived in the show’s series finale. Sure, to some extent the finale felt a little too neat, making sure that all the loose ends were tied up nice and tidy with a pretty bow on top. But despite those ends being tied up, they weren’t always what the fans necessarily wanted (Betty’s illness and Pete’s family reunion, to name a few).

What made the finale truly classic was the result of Don’s quest for self-actualization. Up until the final seconds of the finale, I was starting to doubt that we’d see that same kind of closure for our antihero as we’d been seeing for the rest of the characters. What on earth could his retreat to California have at all to do with the rest of the series? What did it all mean?! But, all it took was a Mona Lisa smile to appear on Don’s face and the singing of Coca-Cola’s most famous advertisement for me to get it. And just like that, the ending of Mad Men made its way into series finale history.  


Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Ten

21 Apr

On Pointe

Gilmore Girls Revival

As a television fan, there’s nothing worse than when a show you love gets canceled too soon. Best case scenario and you’re provided with a quickly put together happy ending à la Studio 60 or Pushing Daisies. Worst case scenario and you’re simply left hanging, never to have an even hurried resolution (FlashForward, anyone?).

The ending of Gilmore Girls in 2007 was somewhere in between. When its original network, the WB, was merged with UPN to form the CW, creator/producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino could not come to a contract agreement with the network. Consequently, the last season of GG was executed under new showrunner David S. Rosenthal. Rosenthal did his best, but it just wasn’t the same, and the last season of GG left many fans frustrated and disappointed.

Talk of a GG movie had been floating around for years, but with varying levels of commitment and probability from its cast members. Then, in October of 2015, TVLine broke the news that a GG limited-series revival had been picked up by Netflix, and would be headed once again by Sherman-Palladino.  

Copper Boom!

Since the original announcement, exciting news and photos have been breaking almost daily, leaving fans more merry than if they’d had a whole bowl of Founders’ Day Punch. Nearly every cast member from the original series have been confirmed to appear in the revival, promising healthy doses of Stars Hollow locals (Sookie! Kirk!) and beloved “outsiders” (Paris! Doyle!) alike. If that weren’t exciting enough, the revival also hints at answers for burning questions about both Lorelai and Rory’s love lives, and promises that fans will finally hear the top secret four words that Sherman-Palladino said she intended to end the series with.

The anticipation of the revival is clouded only by the overwhelming absence of Edward Hermann (Richard Gilmore), who passed away in December of 2014. That and the fact that they couldn’t just write April Nardini off to boarding skill. Still, it’s the type of closure that fans of canceled shows can usually only dream about. Now if only it would get here sooner.


Off the Mark

“Honey I’m Good”

This particular Off the Mark entry was supposed to have been about Heroes Reborn. The fact that I gave up watching it after three episodes, and thus haven’t much to say about it, should speak volumes as to why it originally made this list. In lieu of writing about Heroes, I’ll instead rage write about the earworm of 2015, “Honey I’m Good” by Andy Grammer. (For the record, I do know that this song was originally released in November of 2014, but it didn’t take over the airwaves of U.S. radio until 2015.)

To clarify, “Honey I’m Good” has made the Off the Mark list not because it’s a “bad” song. Admittedly, it’s melody is beyond catchy, and it’s a song you can’t help but sing along to. It’s not the beat or the actual music that’s the issue. My problems with “Honey I’m Good” are strictly lyrical.

At first listen, one might be tempted to find this song to be sweet. It’s a man singing about his faithfulness to his significant other. What’s not romantic about that? When you listen to the rest of the lyrics, the answer is plenty.

Yes, the song is about a man’s desire to “remain true” to his girlfriend. But, in the same breath, he also says that if he’d give up his loyalties in a heartbeat if he had one more drink. While I understand the truth that people often make stupid decisions (like cheating) when they’re intoxicated, a truly committed adult man is not going to let one more drink lead him astray.

Furthermore, the man in question can’t stop talking about the, er, features of the temptress in the bar. Is waxing poetic about another girl’s legs and ass romantic? I think not.

And am I the only one out there wondering why the girl who’s got all of his love is sitting at home by herself while he’s out partying at the bar?

Honestly, if I were the man’s girlfriend, I’d be the one bidding him adieu. Let him take his wandering eyes and his sold-for-alcohol faithfulness and hit the road.

Again, I’ll admit that the song is quite a jam, but the lyrics should be insulting to anyone who’s ever truly been in love. If this is some sort of new-age take on monogamy, I’ll have to pass. [Honey] I’m good with the old fashioned way.

Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Nine

3 Apr

*Taps Mic* Is this thing on?

On Pointe

Jennifer Lawrence

It’s no secret that I love Jennifer Lawrence. (See 2013’s love letter here.) She’s talented, she’s hilariously personable, and she seems like an every-girl’s best friend despite her A-list celebrity status. This year, though, JLaw makes our on pointe list for a new trait: feminist.

In December of 2014, emails were leaked through the Sony hacking scandal that showed that Lawrence made less money for her role in American Hustle than her male costars. Rather than just roll over and accept this information, Lawrence wrote an open letter about pay equality for Lena Dunham’s website Lenny Letter. In the letter, she points out that qualities such as straight-forwardness and self-advocation are viewed as negatives when exuded by females, but yet these same qualities are applauded when coming from men.

Lawrence’s letter is short and to the point, but it speaks volumes to the issues that plague gender equality today. That an Academy Award-winning actress who has led two successful movie franchises still has fight for the paycheck she obviously deserves has severe implications to women everywhere who don’t have that kind of obvious bankability under their belts, but still do their jobs just as well as their male colleagues.

Since Lawrence’s letter was published, she has been praised by both male and female actors (Bradley Cooper, Emma Watson, Elizabeth Banks, and Mark Ruffalo, to name a few) for shedding light on the ongoing sexism prevalent in Hollywood. Hopefully, this light will eventually shine outward onto what is a worldwide, not just a Hollywood, issue. Someday, when people of the future look back on the factors that influenced the trend toward true gender equality, they’ll undoubtedly have Jennifer Lawrence on their list. At least I know I will.


Off the Mark

Scott Bergstrom

If you’re like most people I know, you’re probably wondering, “Who the hell is Scott Bergstrom?” Let me answer that for you: he’s a tool. A tool of epic proportions. The (perhaps) more professional answer? He’s a young-adult (YA) author. Supposedly a talented one. Bergstrom’s debut-novel The Cruelty earned him a six-figure book deal and a movie adaptation. It seemed as though the career Gods were on his side. Until he opened his mouth.

In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Bergstrom attempted to explain why he originally chose to self-publish his novel. In short, he thought his book wouldn’t be embraced by YA publishers because of the issues of morality present within his writing.

In the interview, Bergstrom said, “The morality of the book is more complicated than a lot of YA…In a lot of YA, the conflict takes place inside a walled garden, set up by outside adult forces. If you think of those stories as a metaphor for high school, they start to make a lot more sense, but that was one thing I wanted to depart from.” (Read the full interview here.)

I’m sure, that is I hope, that Bergstrom thought he was highlighting what made his work different and worth a read when compared with his YA competition. What he actually did, however, was insult an entire genre of fiction and an entire cohort of fiction writers. Furthermore, his statement carries sexist undertones as he, a male, criticizes a genre dominated by female writers and characters.

To brush salt into the wound, an excerpt from Bergstrom’s novel shows the main character herself continuing to insult the genre.

“I pull a book out of my backpack and lean against the door as the train shoots through the tunnel under the river for Queens. It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they’re all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to go to war when all you really want is to write in your diary about how you’re in love with two different guys and can’t decide between them. These novels are cheesy, I know, and I suck them down as easily as milk.”

The only logical explanation is that Bergstrom hasn’t actually ever read any YA novels. If he had, he’d know that many of them tackle real-world issues like war and disease, which are issues as morally complicated as it gets. Even those set within the context of high school frequently address topics like mental illness, homelessness, sexuality, and gender identification, which are, again, morally complicated issues in their own right.

A Tweet from YA Books Central summarized the root issue quite nicely:

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 5.47.27 PM

Both fans and writers of YA (V.E. Schwab, Victoria Aveyard, and Ally Carter to name a few) flocked to Twitter and the internet to defend the genre using the hashtag #MorallyComplicatedYA. If you don’t have time to scroll through them all, at least check out Patrick Ness’ Tweet about eating his morally simplistic Fruit Loops. Classic.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 5.47.41 PM

Several websites such as Buzzfeed and Bustle have also dedicated pages to recommended #MorallyComplicatedYA.

His comment about the moral complexity of YA novels aside, the description of Bergstrom’s heroine has also been read as stereotypically sexist and, in the context of the same interview, hypocritical. The Publishers Weekly interview says that “Bergstrom’s heroine is Gwendolyn Bloom, a Jewish, slightly overweight 17-year-old, who is transformed into a ‘lean warrior with hair dyed fire-engine red,’ during her mission to rescue her father, a kidnapped diplomat.” If you read this like I do, it reads something like this: “Heroine is social misfit who needs to lose weight to be successful.” How very high school.

While his success in the industry may have appeared magically overnight, his staying power is questionable. However talented a writer he may be, he’s got a lot of backpedaling and ass kissing to do if he’s going to un-piss-off an entire industry and much of womankind. At best he’s an ignorant asshole. At worst, he’s just an asshole. Either way, count me out.


Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Eight

18 Mar

So I know that we’re nearly three full months into 2016, and the need to rehash what happened last year is all but gone, but by God I will finish this blog series. I WILL.

In all seriousness, apologies for essentially neglecting this blog for a full month, but Life.

Anyway, where were we?

On Pointe

Jurassic World

If you know me, you know there’s nothing I love more than 90s pop culture. It makes sense, then, that the things I love second-best in this world are modern-day throwbacks to the 90s. This is assuming, of course, that they do my most beloved decade justice.

Enter: Jurassic World.

It was obvious from the very first trailer that Jurassic World was not created with any new-fangled intentions of reimagining the franchise. Instead, Jurassic World serves as the sequel you always wanted The Lost World and Jurassic Park III to be.

In case you spent summer of 2015 in a cave somewhere, let me fill you in on what you missed. Set 22 years after the events in Jurassic Park, Jurassic World shows a well-established and seemingly well-functioning theme park on the familiar island of Isla Nublar. This time around, there’s no inherent danger to humans interacting with dinosaurs. That’s old news. This time around, the problem is how to keep humans interested. The solution? A genetically modified dinosaur called Indominus‍ Rex. If only the scientists behind Indominus considered the fact that their enhanced dinosaur might be too smart. What happens next is thoroughly predictable, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

The movie is filled with perfect doses of action, humor, and suspense. There are times, sure, when the story dances dangerously on the line between creative and ridiculous. The scene that launched a thousand zookeeper memes, anyone? Still, the visual effects are on pointe, and the acting is solid. Plus, Chris Pratt. Enough said.

If all of that wasn’t enough, the film earns bonus points for not forgetting its roots. There are plenty of easter eggs and nods to the original movie to keep both film buffs and 90s nostalgics (*cough* me *cough*) happy. Who seriously could resist the flashbacks to their youth when Grey and Zach inadvertently draw attention to themselves via flashlight cellphone and find themselves protected from the most ferocious dinosaur on the island only by the glass of their transportation bubble? And that’s only one of the many references and easter eggs hidden throughout the movie. (See more examples here and here.)

There’s something to be said about a movie that doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Jurassic World won the hearts of moviegoers (and the box office) not because it revolutionized the concept of a summer blockbuster, but because it embodied all that was great about the summer blockbusters that came before it.

jurassic world


Off the Mark

Grey’s Anatomy 

Fans of Grey’s Anatomy (myself included) have been through a lot in the show’s nearly twelve seasons. We’ve seen the characters we’ve grown to love go through the emotional wringer countless times. Breakups, makeups, affairs, daddy issues, mommy issues, children issues, plane crashes, bombings, shootings, diseases, and more – the characters on Grey’s Anatomy have been through it all. Assuming, of course, that those beloved characters haven’t already been killed off or written off entirely. In fact, there were only five of the original season one main characters left employed at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital at the start of season eleven.

Emphasis on the “were.”

You would think that after George, Sloan, Lexie, and Denny Duquette (Yes, in my mind he was a main character. No, I’m still not over it.), that we’d be used to the shock of losing the characters that are near and dear to our hearts. Even so, Grey’s is no Game of Thrones. There were certain characters that we always thought would be in it for the long haul. Sure, we knew they’d wind up at the end a darker and twistier version of their former selves, but we still thought they’d be there.

That all changed in the closing moments of season elevens’s 21st episode when Derek Shepherd (played by Patrick Dempsey), Doctor McDreamy himself, was killed in a car crash after (of course) heroically saving the lives of those involved in an unrelated car crash. Sound ridiculous? It was.

Derek’s death on Grey’s Anatomy was not just a “shocker;” it was a betrayal. Meredith and Derek had (finally) returned to happiness after two seasons of Career Standoff, and it seemed like the couple that was the backbone of the show was at long last going to experience that elusive thing called Happiness. Even worse than just feeling emotionally ripped off, was the fact that Derek’s death was a total blindside. Dempsey had signed a contract for both seasons eleven and twelve, and an actor leaving a stable television show mid-contract is nearly unheard of.

Rumors have swirled that Dempsey’s early departure from the show was a result of on-set conflicts between him and series creator/writer Shonda Rhimes. If that’s the case, all I can say is, “Seriously, Shonda? Seriously? That’s the adult way to handle a work conflict? Please.”

As if losing one of our favorite characters wasn’t bad enough, Rhimes added insult to injury by having Meredith run away for nearly a year (shown in a series of fast-forwarded vignettes), to be alone with her (surprise!) pregnancy from the one and only time that she and Derek slept together between his return from D.C. and his death. Hurray for another baby that will only appear in Meredith’s life when it’s convenient plot-wise. What a truly original concept! (Sense the sarcasm.)

So let’s pretend that Derek’s death and post-mortem offspring didn’t rip out our hearts, spit on them, shred them to bits, and then hurl Shakespearean insults at them. 2015 would still have been a disappointing year for Grey’s Anatomy. While I don’t have time to rant about the continued Arizona/Callie drama, the heartbreaking loss of April’s baby, and the arrival of one of the physicians responsible for Derek’s death to Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital, I am going to make some special time and blog space to talk about Amelia.

Amelia is a relatively new member of the Grey’s Anatomy cast. Sure, there were those couple of crossover episodes with Private Practice back in seasons seven and eight, and a recurring role on Grey’s in season ten, but Amelia wasn’t a series regular on Grey’s until season eleven. Despite this, it’s important to note that Amelia has been a presence in the Shondaverse since 2009. It’s a shame that Rhimes doesn’t give her fans more credit for knowing this, since they’ve essentially recycled Amelia’s storylines straight from the Private Practice archives. This was never more clear than in the mid-season finale when Amelia fell off the wagon. Again. For viewers only familiar with Amelia from Grey’s, this might seem like a new plot device for Amelia. (Not) Spoiler Alert – It’s not. What it is, is lazy writing.

Lazy writing wouldn’t be an unfair assessment of what Grey’s Anatomy has become in recent seasons. Grey’s seems to be proof that just because a show is on for a long time, doesn’t mean that it should be. Here’s to hoping that Rhimes doesn’t use 2016 to completely write off the show that launched her TGIT domination. Even better, here’s to hoping that she finds a way to repay Grey’s fans for all that they’ve suffered in 2015. She owes us that much.


Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Seven

2 Feb

On Pointe

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains mild spoilers about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

To say that there was nothing in the entertainment universe more hyped up than Star Wars: The Force Awakens would be an accurate statement. The film was announced in late 2012, giving fans a full three years to hypothesize and theorize and fantasize about the continuation of the beloved franchise. The slow trickle of casting news, photos, and teaser trailers that essentially told audiences nothing about the overall plot of the movie only added fuel to the well-stoked fire.

Was I, too, one of those fans beyond excited to see the movie? Yes, but I couldn’t help but feel that there was no possible way the actual movie could live up to the years of excited anticipation and sky-high expectations set by fans. After all, the scene was all too familiar for Star Wars fans who waited, patiently, for 16 years between episodes VI and I only to be tortured rewarded with Jar Jar Binks.

I needn’t have worried.

The Force Awakens is the epitome of a perfect franchise sequel. The casting is great, the acting is on pointe, and the visual effects are stunning (of course). Even more important, is the story. It’s a story that looks familiar to fans – an evil regime is trying to overthrow the Republic, and, surprise!, there is a resistance – but it doesn’t feel tired. The rules of the game and the players have changed just enough to keep viewers intrigued.

And let’s talk about those players. Finn! Rey! BB8! And ok, yeah, Kylo Ren, too. Both the heroes and the villains of The Force Awakens are remarkably fresh (A Storm Trooper with feelings? Shut the fuck up!), but they fill in the empty spaces of the Star Wars family tree so naturally, it feels as though they’ve been icons forever.

Where The Force Awakens truly strikes gold, though, is with nostalgia. There is enough of the new to keep the franchise from becoming repetitive, but there are plenty of nods to the original trilogy to reward fans for their loyalty. From obvious payoffs like the return of the Millennium Falcon to more subtle gems like the voices of Yoda and Obi-Wan in Rey’s visions of The Force, there is much going on to satiate the desire for the magic of the franchise’s past. The Force Awakens somehow manages to play out as a beautiful tribute to the Star Wars universe, while at the same time paving the way for its own rightful place in iconic movie history.

The film ends on a painful punch of a cliffhanger that leaves fans desperate for December 15, 2017 to GET HERE FASTER. That gives them nearly two whole years to hypothesize and theorize and fantasize about what will come next for the franchise. This time when the moment comes for answers, though, I won’t be worried, because, finally, all is right in the Star Wars universe.  

star wars

Off the Mark

True Detective

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains plot spoilers about season two of True Detective.

It’s hard to say exactly what I hated most about season two of True Detective. But, for the sake of this blog, I’ll try.

Let’s start with the characters. There was Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), who spent an awful lot of time fighting for custody of his son, despite the fact that he seemed perpetually embarrassed of and not really all that fond of the boy. Then there was Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), who really did try everything he could to get on the straight and narrow before resorting back to his tooth-pulling mobster days, honest; it’s just that he loves money. Oh, and we can’t forget about Frank’s wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), who made this list only because she insisted on hangover-eyeliner even in her soberest moments. (Seriously, who styled that woman?) 

The worst culprit was Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh. Woodrugh is a California Highway Patrol officer plagued by his military past. He’s also a closeted gay man. As the season plays out, Woodrugh lies to, impregnates, and proposes to his girlfriend, meanwhile sleeping with a male ex-military comrade. It’s a storyline meant to make viewers feel for Woodrugh, to see him as a tortured soul trapped by everything society tells him he should be. Except for the year was 2015, and society wasn’t telling him to be anything but honest about his true self. Woodrugh took at least 10 giant leaps backwards for LGBTQ characters, and when he was killed off in episode seven, all I felt was a whole lot of nothing.

The only even slightly tolerable character was Rachel McAdams’ Ani Bezzerides, and I only say that with a hint of I-Love-McAdams bias. Bezzerides was a character with a legitimately tragic past trying to do her best in the world. Sure she made some questionable choices along the way (sleeping with Ray, anyone?), but what anti-hero doesn’t?

Characters aside, the overall plot of season two was a mess. I couldn’t keep track of who was working for whom and because of what blackmail. Even worse than a mess? It was a boring mess. I found myself not actually caring who was working for whom and because of what blackmail. One or two moments of excitement (Ray getting shot by the man in the raven mask, the drug-induced visit to the sex party), do not an entertaining season make.

I’d like to say that at least the writing was good, but the truth is that the dialogue was shit. Poor Vince Vaughn got the worst of it, with his character spouting lines as ridiculous as, “Never do anything out of hunger. Not even eating.” It’s clear the writer’s thought they were waxing philosophical, but the lines were so ridiculous that viewers spent more time laughing at the dialogue than actually considering what the lines may have meant.

It really is a shame that season two of True Detective crashed and burned so epically, when the first season was so fabulously crafted. It was a classic case of a bar set high and over-thinking how to reach it. That being said, there are two positives to take away from what was possibly the most disappointing season of television in 2015. 

  1. It’s over.
  2. While a third season of True Detective is still a possibility, there’s nothing officially on the calendar. This gives the show’s mastermind, Nic Pizzolatto, plenty of time to ruminate on where he went wrong in season two, and hopefully turn the the ship around. After all, it’d be hard to be much worse.

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Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Six

21 Jan

I’m happy to announce that the over/underrated 2015 series has reached the halfway point! That means that instead of ranting about what was over or underrated in 2015, I will now be ranting about what was on pointe and what was off the mark this past year. Enjoy!

On Pointe

Mindy Kaling

I’ve adored Mindy Kaling ever since her scene-stealing days as Kelly Kapoor on The Office. The scene where she explains to Ryan how to use Netflix? Classic. This year, though, with her show The Mindy Project making the move to Hulu, a role in the hit Pixar film Inside Out, and a new bestselling book under her belt, was clearly the Year of Mindy. So, how do I love Mindy Kaling? The ways are innumerable, but here are my top 3 from 2015.

  1. The Mindy Project
    Mindy Kaling’s role: creator, star, executive producer, writer
    I want to be Mindy Lahiri when I grow up. For one thing, she says everything I’ve ever thought (see exhibit A and exhibit B). If her spot-on commentary on life wasn’t enough of a reason to love her, she’s also a doctor and businesswoman. In short, she is smart, successful, and on top of her pop culture game, which is basically everything I aspire to be. To be clear, I do know that Mindy Lahiri and Mindy Kaling are not the same person, but it’s Kaling’s spot-on comedic timing and smart writing that make Dr. Lahiri a character that so many people can identify with. With The Mindy Project’s move to Hulu, Kaling has been able to take the show to an entirely new creative level. The dialogue is racier, the characters are crazier, and the laughs are louder. The Mindy Project was always a groundbreaking show for starring an Indian-American actress. Diversity props aside, is it worth a subscription to Hulu? Absolutely.

  2. Why Not Me?
    Mindy Kaling’s role: author
    On September 15, 2015, Kaling released her best selling collection of essays titled Why Not Me? Like her previous essay collection, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), her work in Why Not Me? is funny. Sure, we’d expect nothing less. But, her essays are also deeply relatable, touching on topics universal to women everywhere. Kaling writes with a tone that oozes honesty, and her insights into her own thought process make her even more endearing. Why Not Me? should most definitely top everyone’s to-read list in 2016. (Don’t believe me? Check out an excerpt from the book here.)

  3. Person I Want To Hang Out With
    Mindy Kaling’s role: fashion icon, social media superstar, role model
    Aside from her obvious professional prowess, Kaling has solidified herself on Twitter and Instagram as the girl that everyone wants to be. If I can’t instantly become Mindy Kaling, then I guess I’ll settle for being friends with her. And if I can’t have that, then I’ll live vicariously through photos of her wearing stunning Salvador Perez ensembles, or hanging out with friends (some of which are cast members or fellow writers on The Mindy Project) while they go ice skating, or vacation in Hawaii. Then, if I can’t do that, I’ll just longingly read her Twitter feed about watching old episodes of Sherlock, and sigh wistfully while I’m imagining that I’m watching it with her.

Whether it’s acting, producing, directing, writing, modeling, or simply being Mindy, it’s clear that there’s nothing Kaling can’t do. How do I love Mindy Kaling? I’m sorry, I’m too busy trying to craft Tweets as clever as hers to count the ways.


Off the Mark

Fiction Recycling

It’s bad enough when shitty writing somehow makes it through a publishing deal and winds up on shelves. It’s even worse when that shitty writing somehow becomes a bestseller with an even shittier movie adaptation. And worse? When that original shitty writing is revamped and redistributed to the masses, all the while disguising itself as new material.

Take, for example, E.L. James’ Grey. For those of you who may still be blissfully unaware, Grey is a retelling of Fifty Shades of Grey, told from Christian Grey’s perspective instead of from the point of view of his prospective victim submissive Ana Steele. Now I am not immediately opposed to the concept of alternating perspectives. It’s a compelling literary technique that’s wielded great narrative success for contemporary authors like Kathryn Stockett (The Help), Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), and Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train). But, the success of multiple perspectives hinges on the fact that each perspective needs to bring either new information/events into the fold, or a markedly different take on events that the characters have experienced together. This is where Grey fails, and fails epically.

Rather than giving fans new content, James literally rewrote every scene from Fifty Shades of Grey. There’s not a single new encounter between Christian and Ana. Even worse is that their conversations and email messages are copy/pasted straight from Fifty Shades. Ignoring the fact that the writing is heinous and Christian Grey comes across as a psychopath without Ana’s thin rationalization of their relationship, Grey is just straight up lazy writing.

James’ attempt to shamelessly keep the money train going without exerting any further work whatsoever isn’t the only example of fiction recycling to occur in 2015. In order to honor Twilight’s 10-Year Anniversary, Stephenie Meyer thought it would be a good idea to publish a companion novel to the Twilight series titled Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined. The gimic reimagining? Meyer chose to switch the genders of her characters. This time around instead of Bella, there’s Beau, and instead of Edward, there’s Edythe. Nearly every other character’s gender is changed as well. Why she chose to celebrate Twilight this way, rather than finishing the much clamored for Midnight Sun (Twilight from Edward’s perspective) is anyone’s guess.

Meyer explained the concept of Life and Death by saying it was done in an attempt to address concerns that Bella was a “damsel in distress.” As many a critic have pointed out before me, though, all Meyer succeeded in doing was showing people that she’s mastered the “find and replace” function in her word processing program. Aside from the name changes, Life and Death reads as nearly the same novel as the original Twilight. Some have argued that it’s supposed to; that the point was that Twilight would be the same story no matter the characters’ gender. I could maybe buy that if the story was exactly the same. But the changes Meyer has made (again, as critics before me have noted) have only managed to perpetrate even more traditional gender stereotypes. Beau doesn’t cry in one scene, for example, where Bella does. Meyer even admitted that she modified Beau’s scenes so that “he’s not nearly so flowery with his words and thoughts.” If that’s not sexist, then I’m a sparkly vampire.

The bottom line for both James and Meyer is that they took the easy road to quick money. To hide behind claims of giving fans what they wanted and trying to right feminist wrongs is insulting at best. Fifty Shades and Twilight fans may not always be the brightest crayons in the box, but even they know a scam when they read one.

GreyLife and Death