I couldn't in good conscience call myself a true anime fan. I'm a casual fan of the genre at best – I haven't truly watched it since the days of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura.
That is, until Puella Magi Madoka Magica. At first glance, it looks almost unbearably saccharine – Madoka, the protagonist has cotton candy pink hair, and together with her friends, they make up almost every color in the rainbow in their ultra-girly get-up. To my prejudiced eyes, it looked, in a word, silly.
But then I started to notice that all of my smartest, savviest friends could not stop gushing about it – and feeling the tiniest bit left out, I decided to give it a try. It was one of those shows you binge-watch over the course of a day – and binge-watch I did. Approximately 6 hours later, I was crying my eyes out and feverishly planning out a Homura Akemi Halloween costume (even though it was February). Long story short, everyone should watch it, and here's a few reasons why:
- First off, the series is beautiful. Part of the premise involves a magic parallel universe, which is rendered in animation through breathtakingly gorgeous collaged art. It's unique, and I'd watch it again for the art alone.
- It's surprisingly dark – no spoilers, but there's a definite nihilistic slant to the series (though it is ultimately hopeful and uplifting). The writer (Gen Urobuchi – A.K.A. "the Urobutcher") is most well known for writing horror, and it shows.
- And speaking of Urobuchi – the writing is top-notch. You'll cry. A lot.
- It's adorable. (Does that even need saying?)
- Finally, the series is a thought-provoking study on the whole "magical girl" genre – it serves to both celebrate and subvert it.
So, what are you waiting for? Look past the pastel bows and puffed sleeves, and give the show a try.
ABC Television Network
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made quite the bold move when they revealed that strong-but-silent (not to mention super handsome) Agent Grant Ward was actually a mole for HYDRA. Few saw it coming – though as Skye pointed out, he does have a touch of Hitler Youth about him.
Fans all over the interwebs have noted each of Grant's (played by Brett Dalton) subsequent killings with a solemn "There's no coming back from that." He has shot Victoria Hand point blank, slaughtered several miscellaneous agents, strangled the beloved Patton Oswalt-portrayed Agent Koenig, and most recently, dumped FitzSimmmons into the ocean... and the body count continues to grow. As Skye notes (she has a lot to say about her evil almost-paramour) he's become quite the serial killer.
It may seem that so many cold blooded killings would be hard to come back from, but it's starting to look like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might just be headed for a redemption arc: this week's episode paints Grant as somewhat sympathetic, seeking to highlight his yet untapped capacity for empathy (or as Garrett calls it, "a weakness"). We're encouraged to sympathize with Ward after we see how brutally Garrett indoctrinated him from a very young age – after years of trials, including surviving alone in the woods for six months, Garrett forces him to kill his one loyal companion, Buddy. But does Ward actually do it? To me, it read as ambiguous, just as his treatment of FitzSimmons does. He speaks of his so-called "weakness" when he ejects their pod into the ocean, but A) they didn't fall very far, and B) they're more than smart enough to find a way out of the locked container, a fact that Ward should be well aware of. I'm not condoning the fact that he just dumped his two most adorable former friends into a situation worthy of Houndini, but the ambiguity of it all points to Ward eventually switching back to the good team.
There's also his love of Skye to consider – a love that he confides to evil bro/mentor Garrett, is genuine. And as much hullabaloo has been made about the Skye/Ward relationship (according to Chloe Bennet, they're soulmates), it would make sense that we might just be going down the "true love conquers all" route.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for true love – but will the Skye/Ward-together-at-last satisfaction be worth the capital A Angst that is sure to follow? He's always been something of an angsty guy, and to borrow a phrase from Agent Romanov, he's sure going to have a lot of "red in his ledger" to atone for if he comes out of this mess a good guy. Surely it will take at least a half-season of angry outbursts, silent tears, and sullen silence if he ditches HYDRA for S.H.I.E.L.D., and is that really something we want? Besides, he makes such a charming-yet-incorrigible villain!
What do you think?
Betty Francis might just be one of the worst mothers on TV. She's the kind of mom that routinely inspires reviewers and writers the Internet over to off-handedly joke about Sally and Bobby's future psychiatry bills. The kind who has whole super-cuts devoted to her worst moments. Her infamous parenting skills often toe the line between twisted humor and legitimately horror, to chillingly good effect… so without further ado, let's take a look at her greatest hits (sometimes literally):
10. The recent "Eat your candy" line of dialogue is sure to go down in Mad Men history along with other favorites, such as "Not great, BOB!"
9. That time she locked Sally in a closet. That is like, Mrs. Trunchbull-level bad.
8. All the times she yelled at her kids to "go watch TV." (Other variations include: "Go upstairs," and "Go to your rooms.")
7. The iconic dry cleaning bag scene.
6. All the times she called Sally fat – as in, "It's so horrible to put girls that fat in a leotard."
5. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that she derisively called her 10 year-old child a "little lesbian."
4. The best "I'm bored" rebuttal ever:
It may as well be written on her tombstone.
3. The infamous Thanksgiving yams incident, pictured above.
2. The awful way she handled her father's death, re: Sally: "She's a child; she'll get over it!"
1. And here it is, Betty's number one worst parenting moment:
Ironically, this was one of her better moments as a parent.
Last week, Avril Lavigne released a new music video, the now infamous "Hello Kitty." You'd think Avril Lavigne and everyone's favorite cartoon cat would be a match made in heaven, but unfortunately her (rather bland) video was pretty darn racist – cultural appropriation, awkward stereotypes, the whole nine yards. So, in honor of the latest music misstep, let's take a look back at the racist music videos of late.
"Hard Out Here," Lily Allen
Lily Allen's "Hard Out Here," was meant to be an anthem decrying the sexism of the music industry. Unfortunately, Allen's intended feminist message got somewhat obscured by the racist overtones of her video, which featured her dancing (fully clothed) in front of a group of (almost naked) women of color. Sure, it was intended as satire, but that doesn't take away the sting.
"Talk Dirty," Jason Derulo
Jason Derulo's "Talk Dirty" can be heard just about every other time you turn on the radio, and the song itself is bookended with a girl speaking in a heavy accent – it ends with a giggling Asian girl saying, "I don't understand" in broken English. Problematic to say the very least.
"Dark Horse," Katy Perry
The 50 percent of the time we're not hearing "Talk Dirty," we're hearing "Dark Horse." Katy Perry's video for "Dark Horse" offended thousands with the burning of a Allah pendant. It should also be noted that Perry's a repeat offender, after her geisha-inspired "Unconditionally" performance at the American Music Awards.
"Fine China," Chris Brown
"Fine China" was yet another problematic video – I mean, it's in the title: he actually refers to his Chinese girlfriend as an inanimate object. The video itself is also rife with stereotypes. But really, do we expect much better from Chris Brown and his rather sullied reputation?
Whew – and the worst part is, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Emma Approved's pairing of Joanna Sotomura and Brent Bailey has sent us down a few different roads. We reminisced upon their first scenes together. We did our fair share of teasing over the semantics of Brent Bailey-ism "Fake it until you become it" vs. the accepted "fake it until you make it" (among other things). We entertained quite a few tangents on every subject from a mutual appreciation of Clueless to vlogging alien babies. We talked about the delicate balance between fact and fiction, between private lives and fan culture. But mostly we talked about the terrific joys of adapting Jane Austen so well. So, Austen/Pemberley Digital fans, read on for some lovely character insights from Emma Approved stars Joanna Sotomura and Brent Bailey themselves:
Favorite memory from filming?
Joanna Sotomura: One was when [Brent] didn't realize the scene ended. It was like this awkward scene and it's supposed to end with both of us sitting on the bench when Harriet comes in with her ukulele. but he didn't know if he was supposed to sit or stand, so he awkwardly stands up and goes to leave and just picks Dayeanne up and walks out of the room! [To Brent:] Did I steal one of yours?
Brent Bailey: No, I think I would go with the hand explosion one. You know, when we do the shake, and it's not official 'til you shake on it? And I was like, "Now blow it up…" We slowly figured out how to do it in a way that was fun for us that wasn't 10 minutes long.
JS: Well, that and the hand over your mouth thing, too. Because at first it was me just pushing you, but then we realized the chair didn't roll!
BB: We have a lot of favorite moments, I guess.
Is there any scene in particular you're really looking forward to shooting?
JS: I'm really looking forward to when Knightley tells Emma that famous line…
BB: "If I loved you less—"
JS: "—I might be able to talk about it more." I just want to play that scene so badly. Emma, who's so heartbroken and jealous, doesn't care, but does care, and just wants Knightley for herself, to take care of him forever. I can't wait to play that part of her, because she's slowly opening up and warming up and showing all these new facets. And that's the one I'm really looking forward to. The one where she's just a mess.
BB: I'm excited for the kiss. Yeah. Especially because there's the Tumblr that's literally counting the days. That obviously comes right after that line — depending on how Bernie [Su, executive producer] does it — so, just that whole moment where they both finally let down their guards and become vulnerable to each other.
What are your favorite Jane Austen characters?
JS: Emma. Does that sound too biased? I love the idea she's a character Jane Austen created like, "No one's going to like her except me." I think it's a bold move for any author to make, to create this kind of unlikable character. Because then you have to hope your readers stay with her, and watch her growth. I just like all her faults and her stubbornness.
BB: Martin. Because I like that whole story. He's just the underdog that everyone really, really wants to finally get with Harriet. And he tries so hard, and he's just a really genuine guy. And the way [James Brent] Isaacs plays him is just so awesome.
And if you were a Jane Austen character who would you be?
BB: I would stick with Knightley.
JS: Oh my God, he's exactly Knightley.
BB: I got my masters in business, I was a computer guy... obviously, Knightley's not a computer guy, but you know. I'm definitely more of the romantic type.
JS: That's funny, because Emma's the furthest from me. When we first started the series, I was constantly apologizing, and super nervous, and very unsure of what to do, and not assertive at all. So I almost feel like I would have been the Harriet character in the beginning. When you're all wide-eyed, and someone tells you to do something, and you're like, "Okay! Sure! I totally trust you. I think you're awesome. Let's go!"
What advice would you give your characters?
BB: To stop being so stubborn and just tell Emma how you feel. Because I think by this point, and part of that's just my interpretation, he has a pretty good idea that he's interested in Emma.
JS: I think a month ago, I would have told Emma to lighten up and share a little more. To share responsibilities, to share with Alex what's going on. But right now, where she's at, and where she's growing, I think the advice I would give her is, "Don't be afraid to love." There's such a harsh thing she says: "I've never been in love, and I don't think I ever will." That's just kind of a sad way to live your life. So I would tell her to not be afraid to love.
Speaking of which, any way in particular your on-screen relationship influenced your off-screen one?
JS: [To Brent:] I mean there was a genuine moment in the first round of shooting when you kind of threw me off a little bit, because you made something really sincere. It's weird, because I know we were acting, but in that moment I was like, "Wow. Whoa. I think I might be forming a bit of a crush." It's near the end of one of the first set of episodes, and he says "Seriously. Nice job," and I was just kind of stunned. And that's actually what's on tape now: my genuine surprise: "Okay. I now have a nice-sized crush on you."
BB: We didn't jump straight into a relationship. We became really close friends, and eventually I was like, "You're one of my best friends." And we kind of took it from there, taking it slow and understanding that it could be really awkward for the show. And it's never the best idea to date someone you're working with. But for me, the risks didn't outweigh the benefit of how happy it made me to be with her.
FOX Broadcasting Co.
"Mindy Lahiri is the new Liz Lemon" is not a phrase we say lightly. After all, they're very unique ladies, on very different career paths, with very distinct personal and romantic goals.
But even so, there is one thing our two favorite leading ladies share in common: in their own ways, they are each the quintessential everywoman. They both despise exercise (in fact, each tries her hand at a hip hop class, only to leave utterly discouraged), they both love food (just last week, Mindy almost ate a bear claw she dropped in the street, and we've all seen Liz shotgun a pizza), and they both struggle to maintain a healthy balance between work and love life. While Liz is "working on her night cheese," Mindy's busy falling asleep and spilling copious amounts of red wine on herself during viewings of Amélie – in short, they're women that everyone from reclusive recent grads like myself, to church-going single moms like my aunt can look at and go, "That's me."
But Mindy takes the relatable-ness a step further – in addition to being a New York City woman trying desperately to "have it all," she's also got a secret weapon: her narcissism. Yes, you might expect that a self-absorbed, at times morally-questionable heroine might act as a huge repellant to viewers. But Mindy is anything but – in fact, her flaws only serve to make her even more relatable. Because if Mindy can proudly proclaim her ignorance ("I'm not dumb. I'm ignorant, sure, very. But I'm not dumb!") and admit that she cares more about celebrity gossip than she does about the environment, well then, so can I (though to set the record straight, I probably care about celebrity gossip and the environment equally). I'm not endorsing self-centered ignorance, but hey: it's a side that all but the very best of us have, and it's nice to see someone who can cop to it while still remaining ultimately likable.
So Dr. Lahiri? Keep doin' you, and Liz Lemon and the women of the world salute you.
20th Century Fox Film
Why am I going to see X-Men: Days of Future Past? Because of Fan Bingbing. To be fair, Fan Bingbing-as-superhero-Blink isn’t the only thing I’m looking forward to: I’m a (casual, as opposed to mega) fan of the X-Men movies, especially the James McAvoy/Michael Fassbender-helmed X-Men: First Class. It’s just that, in a world where superhero blockbusters reign supreme, there just doesn’t seem to be enough room for Asian/Pacific Islanders (API) – or really very many people of color, at all actually.
There have been a lot of great steps forward lately – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has two Asian American series regulars, and the most recent Wolverine flick was set in Japan, but other than that? It’s kind of a white wasteland out there, with the occasional (and much-needed) black actor sprinkled in.
Think about it: The Avengers (don’t even get me started on Joss Whedon. I love him, but I’ll never forgive him for the egregiously whitewashed/culture-appropriating Firefly), The Amazing Spider Man, Captain America – all very, very white films. Even Thor, which set a nice precedent with their multi-racial pantheon of Nordic gods, saw almost all of those minority actors completely sidelined in the sequel Thor: The Dark World.
And the worst part is, not only are there not enough Asian/Asian American roles to go around, they are often eliminated entirely in favor of more white characters – or we’re treated with a little yellowface (I’m looking at you, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Dragonball: Evolution). Remember Rogue from the first few X-Men films? She was an amalgamation of Rogue, Jubilee, and Kitty Pryde. Rogue was an interesting choice, but they just have easily could have chosen the Asian American mutant Jubilee – and the API community would have wept tears of joy.
I’m just saying, movie industry: having an Asian/Asian American cast member makes me about three times as likely to buy a ticket. Not for any lack of love for the white actors working hard to bring these comic book favorites to life, but because of just how thrilling and important it is to see people of other races given the heroic limelight, especially in films directed at younger audiences. And if I’m part of a rapidly growing demographic who generally feels the same way? You might want to get with the times.
The Shameless Season 3 finale left Season 4 with a lot of work to do. The end of the previous year read like a potential series finale: Lip was accepted into MIT, Fiona was beginning to move on from Jimmy/Steve with her first stable job (and boyfriend/boss) at World Wide Cup, all as Frank looked headed towards the great beyond with his liver failure diagnosis. Heck, even Sheila was left by her daughter and boyfriend/daughter's husband, only to start a Mary Kay-style sex toy business.
Suffice it to say, in Shameless terms, things were tied up about as neatly as we could hope for. But if Season 3's finale served to pull together a lot of long-running plotlines, Season 4 knotted them all together worse than we could ever imagine. And it's those exceptionally hard-to-untangle knots that made up Shameless' best season to date.
Season 4 redefined "low" for most of the characters – we're certain that Frank will look back on his pint of non-alcoholic beer with a shudder. But in all seriousness, many of the characters really did fall farther down the rabbit hole than we've ever seen them. The ever-cocky Lip got knocked down a peg, but this time it wasn't by mean girl Karen Jackson – no, it was the University of Chicago that caused him to really work for the first time and showed him just how much he was capable of juggling.
Fiona hit her low point when Liam nearly died of an overdose on her watch, then continued to get deeper and deeper as she went from jail to parole to jail and, finally to parole once more.
And Frank had the darkest arc of all. And the most Sisyphean: after 12 episodes of wrestling with mortality and watching the crows circle ever closer, he finally broke through to the other side, only to celebrate with a few hearty pulls of liquor. Yes, this season certainly had its fair share of heartbreak, but by pushing these much-loved characters to their very limits (though let it be said that if there's a way to go even further, Shameless will find it) we got some of the very best storytelling on television.
We've said it before, and we won't hesitate to say it again: here's to a Season 5 that exceeds even our wildest expectations.
ABC Television Network
Fans of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been lying in wait for a time when their love for this critical un-darling could finally be vindicated. It's been a long wait, sure, but I think the show has finally built up a momentum that will carry viewers through to Season 2. Funnily enough, S.H.I.E.L.D. had lots of early whispers of a Season 2 pick-up, what with its big league-cinematic ties and high-profile showrunners. However, it's not until the last few episodes that a sophomore year has really looked like something the show earned. The early episodes devoted a little too much time into uncovering backstories of various minor Marvel heroes and villains, and not enough into the main mysteries of the show, such as Coulson's resurrection. As such, we're reaping quite the payout now, but it was the early episodes that paid the price.
With the recent very successful Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie-ins (the growing sense of camaraderie and chemisty between the main team members certainly hasn't hurt, either), S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally becoming a show to watch. The HYDRA takeover kicked the show into some real action, acting as the metaphorical time-bomb drama that they so desperately needed (especially as the literal time-bombs were less than thrilling).
There's also the fact that we now have a turncoat amongst us: Grant Ward's big reveal was a large factor in the show's newfound exciting-ness, especially as they made it quite clear that his feelings for Skye are genuine, as opposed to part of his cover, like his loveless fling with Melinda May – oh, and did we mention that Snarky Evil Ward is a lot more interesting than his more straightlaced counterpart?
As we march into the final few episodes, S.H.I.E.L.D. has left us with a handful of juicy mysteries: why is Skye an 0-8-4? Will Agent Ward choose Skye or HYDRA?
Let's hope Season 2 builds off of this newfound quality for an even stronger second year.
Shameless just brought what many critics are calling its most mature season full circle to a satisfying finale.
Satisfying in all ways but one, that is.
The show decided to resurrect Jimmy/Steve, long presumed dead since last year's penultimate episode of the season. Of course, he died off screen, so the door was technically open for a stunt like this, but after a full season of episodes without even a whisper of him, his mysterious mid-credits return came as a major shock, and unfortunately, not in a good way.
Now, I have nothing against the concept of character resurrection (though it can get clumsy – see Buffy, The X-Files, etc). It's just that the show was doing so well without him. Without Fiona and Jimmy/Steve's on-again-off-again saga, we got to spend more time on other characters, such as fan-favorite Mickey Milkovich and new additions like Sammi. By taking the focus off of Fiona and Jimmy as the central couple, Shameless was able to earn its stripes as a true ensemble show – a shift that made the show even stronger, and gave it the legs to weather all kinds of new stories (such as a nearly Fiona-free episode... that would have been almost unthinkable early in the series).
And I hate to sound like I have sour grapes, but is Jimmy/Steve really someone worth bringing back? Sure, he's got his boyish good looks and fancy stolen cars, but he's also awfully whiny. And on a show overflowing with fascinating characters, do we really need to bring this lackluster one back from the dead?
I'm hoping for the best, but fearing for the worst. I'd hate to see Shameless regress after the amazing growth it made this season.
What do you think?