Review, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP. 8, “The Outsiders”

Grade: A

After a multi-week hiatus (and a much-needed break for me) Riverdale is back and stronger from its absence. In an episode that catapults off the character introductions of the previous few episodes (something that seemed tedious in the moment), the drama is H.E.R.E.

The last few episodes dragged because they were building character backstories. We met Polly and FP and Mr. Cooper and the Blossoms (even crazy Nana). So when everyone appeared in this episode, there wasn’t the need to have a lead-up. We know these people. Things have been teed and now Riverdale is winding up to hit it out of the park.

Andrews Construction is going through a tough time. Clifton Blossom has stolen all of Fred’s crew out from under him—forcing Fred to halt breaking ground on the drive-in property. That way, Fred and the mysterious buyer (the incarcerated Mr. Hiram Lodge) will be forced to sell the property, which Clifton will promptly snap up.

And as Fred popped open another beer to sip, I watched his sad turtle face and wondered if he had voted for Trump. I believe he did, and I don’t begrudge him for it. Middle America, single father, working class. Few jobs, struggling to make ends meet for his gorgeous son—I could believe that Fred would fall for the Trump rhetoric.

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Source: The CW// It’s the Gangbang Boys, ready to start drilling!!!

However, Archie and the Gangbang Boys show up to work as Fred’s crew—Archie, Juggie, Kevin (remember her?) Moose (remember him? He and Kevin almost fucked in the woods before Jason’s corpse cockblocked them—corpse-blocked?) and Random Extras 1-3. It’s never fully addressed if they should be in school, only that they’ll do work after football practice and weekends. Because that’s what back-breaking construction work should be—an afterschool hobby.

“Come on,” Hermione says, trying to convince Fred, “desperate times…” She trails off, and I have to wonder exactly what she would’ve ended that sentence with. “Desperate times…call for a disregard for child labor laws?” Where is Lewis Hine when you need him?

After a hard day at work, the boys file into that work-cabin-aluminum-can thing for some ice-cold sodas. Kevin pushes back his gelled hair away from his dirt-smudged face, looking like Lumberjack Ken—the doll that young gay boys everywhere would’ve wanted for Christmas—when Moose, looking for his phone on the lot, stumbles upon some thugs smashes a crowbar into the…electric-thingy? Unclear. They beat up Moose, and I totally thought Kevin would cradle Moose’s head in his lap and do a Spiderman-kiss, but that didn’t happen so I’ll have to find something else for my “Sad Gay Spank Bank.”

Sad Gay Spank Bank is sponsoring this post and has incredibly reasonable rates. #SponCon #Ad

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Source: The CW// “Keller High Water” coming soon

In my head, the reason why Kevin has been so absent—so absent that it’s revealed that that Southside Serpent he hooked up with at the drive-in is his boyfriend now—is because he’s off filming an entirely separate show. It’s just him and Serpenty (Joaquin?) sipping phosphates at Pop’s and searching the shelves of Riverdale’s version of CVS for generic-brand douches. It’s called Keller High Water and I’m working up a spec script to pitch to the CW. But back to our regular programming.

Actually, this entire episode had a very political, us-versus-them undertone. When Chief Keller rolls his stubbly face to the scene, he really “can’t do much.” Archie points out that if this were Clifton Blossom asking for help, Keller would help. And that, Archiekins, is the premise of the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

While the Gangbang Boys—Archie, Moose, Kevin and KEVIN’S BOYFRIEND—go to a Southside Serpent bar, for…reasons (?), Betty, Veronica and Juggie throw Polly a “You’re a Teenager but We Have No Concept of Age-Appropriate Behavior” baby shower.

While there, before Cheryl BURSTS in with a black Gothic pram, Polly asks Betty to be the baby’s godmother.

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Source: The CW// Tag yourself, I’m Nana

“Me?” asks round-eyed Betty. “Yes,” answers Polly. “If anything happens to me, I want you to raise the baby.” I’m unclear about the legality of “godparent” in general, since my godmother only sent me the occasional birthday card and I was the altar boy in her wedding, but how binding is this proclamation? Especially when both people involved are not even 18?

Archie and the Gangbang Boys stomp into the bar—and side bar, Archie really knows how to wear a pair of jeans. Like those are definitely an athletic cut, and his muscular thighs are filling those things To. The. Brim—to ostensibly look for the thugs who beat up Moose. Because they’re stereotyping (political commentary) and assume the Southside Serpents are evil. Archie gets into a fight with a guy in a beanie (dark) and as it gets physical, Beanie says, in a brief moment, that Archie isn’t the first little prep to come in here causing trouble.

*gasp*

Jason? Rememer when Jason was dealing drugs—yeah that was for the Serpents. So it seems like FP has a motive for burning up Jason’s car; no trace, no conviction.

The boyz find out that Juggie’s dad is a Serpent—which, duh—total drama. Archie bursts into Polly’s shower to reveal Jughead as a lil baby ssssnake. This isn’t even the most dramatic thing about the shower. Polly screaming at Mrs. Blossom and her mother is the most dramatic thing, followed closely by the creepy-as-fuck rocking horse that Madame Blossom gifts to Polly. Fuck.

After a terse resolution, Polly reveals to her mother and Betty that Mr. Cooper tried to convince Polly to get an abortion. Alice is horrified and shocked—and this is a woman who claimed that she was pissed she didn’t murder Jason Blossom—and eventually throws her husband out for it. But the rift between the parents Cooper pushes Polly into the cold, creepy embrace of the Thorn Hill Blossoms. And as the grand mahogany door closes, you can see the white skullish face of Mrs. Blossom in the crack.

The episode seemed largely stand-alone, but that’s because you didn’t let me finish, hunhy. In back-to-back scenes, we get a whiff of some nefarious action from darksided DILF FP Jones. He gives Kevin’s twunk boyfriend the task of hiding Jason’s jacket, when we find out that FP is the one behind Kevin’s burgeoning new relationship—entirely to get to Chief Keller. Poor Kev. He really has had a rough go of it. Then FP offers himself and his dudes as Fred’s crew. Uh-oh.

Now what Riverdale has to do is begin to tie together the threads they’ve laid out. This will be a 13-episode season, so we’re well past the halfway mark. What sort of security does Jason’s jacket provide FP? What did Alice mean when she said she was “capable” of things? Who told Hiram Lodge about Hermione and Fred, and is that really why he sent thugs to the site? Why does Betty keep wearing blue? Does Jughead have a bald spot from wearing that beanie? Did he get his beanie from Beanie Guy?

Next week: La Grande Illusion

 

STRAY MOMENTS:

  • Is it winter in Riverdale? Is there a reason that we are being punished with no Shirtless Archie?
  • Polly went from being, like, 8 months to 3 months. Seriously, she was so pregnant at the asylum.
  • “Nana has dementia…and gypsy blood.”
  • “Do you think you can waltz in here with a bedbug-infested rocking horse, wave a blank check around, and steal my daughter?”
  • Cooper tried to get Polly to have an abortion
    • A WOMAN’S CHOICE (SOCIAL COMMENTARY)
  • Archie would be SUCH a DILF—I can’t handle it omg
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Essay, LGBTQ

MY VOICE IS MY VOICE

A few weeks ago I was hosting my sister and her friends at my apartment. Cram five queens into a three-by-three-foot box, and it’s pretty hectic. But whatever, it was fun and they bought me Patron (the toilet Patron from “ONE-TWO-THREE”!) as a thank-you present. On Saturday, when they were heading out to da club and I was heading to a house party, one of my sister’s friends brought over a friend from the area.

He walked in and my high-school-heart beat a little bit faster. He was just like every frat boy-wannabe I went to high school with (an all-boys Catholic prep school)—non-psycho American Psycho hot face, slicked back long hair, Oxford shirt buttoned tightly over lacrosse muscles, canoe-like leather shoes and blue jeans. Yung Wall Street.

And when I introduced myself to him, it wasn’t me. It was a strong, firm handshake and a voice that was like mine, but several octaves lower and controlled. “Hey, I’m Danny,” he/me said.

It’s a voice I pulled out a lot that weekend as I met my sister and her friends’ straight guy friends. That afternoon, I was downtown and I got out of my car. “What’s on your sweatshirt?” said-shouted a straight guy on line outside the bar I was going to. I looked down. I had pulled on a cross country hoodie from my sophomore year of high school, underneath an olive-green bomber jacket.

I shifted my jacket and showed him. “Fuckboy Prep,” he said (name has been changed, because duh). “Yeah, do you know it?” I asked, my voice hitched in the bottom of my throat, my vowels pitching backward into my esophagus.

It’s difficult to describe the “straight” voice, but it’s like that: instead of projecting forward, the words make a boomerang: out from the bottom of my throat, below my Adam’s apple, jut forward and then careen back into my collarbone.

“No, but I went to Yung Money Prep in Maine,” he said. We nodded at each other. End of conversation.

It’s a voice that I unearthed from the deepest recesses of my early tweenhood. Monotone, soft, deep. A voice I had discarded when I came out at fifteen and, shaky in my gayness, hurtled towards the opposite end of the scale and went full “Agaytha Christie.” What a gay joke. Neither were my actual voice, which is decidedly average and can veer equally into deep monotone and higher-pitched modulation.

It’s something I do when I’m meeting straight guys for the first time. I drag my voice back into low-pitched “sups” and “yo.”

I do it for a few reasons: I want to be taken seriously by another man, and I want to survive.

“Survive” sounds so extra, but let me remind you—I went to an all-boys Catholic high school where I was already harassed enough. Lowering my voice into a monotone was at least one attempt on my end to make myself seem like less of a target.

I have one vivid memory of sitting at a lunch table at fourteen. I was saying something when across the table, a mean hot redhead said to me, in brusque masculine tones,

“Talk like a boy.”

This was before I came out, so I was vibrating with anxiety about being “found out.” I couldn’t respond to him, so I picked up my tray, shakily threw out my trash and hid in the library. In the moment, I was doused in ice-water dread. Later, I would feel a coiled mixture of revulsion and attraction to him. Revulsion that he could embarrass me with four words, and attraction to him and his masculinity.

Because that’s what it comes down. We as queer boys are taught to hate our femininity and strive towards masculine attributes. It might be why gay guys work out so hard at the gym, sculpting Adonis bodies and artfully manicured scruff. Why we put “masc for masc” on our Grindr profiles. We eschew femmes and shame bottoms because we never, ever want to be put in that vulnerable position again.

So instead of living our truth, we shut it off and hate it. We fight against it. We slit the throat of our femininity and let it drop to the floor, a sick survivalist instinct to protect ourselves in a masculine, heteronormative world.

But in that “passing” is a hidden desire uncomfortable to admit: that part of passing for straight is not just out of a survivalist instinct, but undeniable envy.

I would imagine that queer people have thought about it; some of us have the ability to pass as straight in a heteronormative society. To not appear different or othered. It’s a dangerous thing because it’s a temptation to step outside of your marginalized group.

In a day-to-day scenario, it’s easier being straight than it is gay. When I’m walking late at night, with a female friend and we come across a group of straight guys, I put my arm around her, or I move closer. We both tacitly understand that those guys won’t respect a woman not wanting to talk to them, but they will respect a boyfriend because there is the notion of women as property.

And as much as it is a protection against catcalling for her, it provides me with a dangerous taste of heteronormativity. It provides me a glimpse of the luxury, respect and authority that being a straight white male awards you. The ability to express physical affection without wondering if it could get you gay-bashed. The respect given to you by straight men who don’t see you as Othered or predatory or sissy.

In a lot of ways, when I lower my voice, I’m still that skinny little kid who wants to impress straight boys. Look how manly I can be! Hear how low my voice can go!

It’s a muscle-memory reaction, a hit of fight-or-flight adrenaline, and it’s something that complicates me even now. It complicates my relationship to my sexuality because for so long, I have been taught to hate it. And when that didn’t do anything, I moved on to hating myself. And others. And everyone.

It’s easy to forget, six years on, that I have been irreparably damaged by the strain, stress and assault of living in the closet for fifteen years. And it’s easy to forget that that strain and stress does not disappear when you come out. That the reason I dress more plainly and simply now is a way to avoid being labeled as flamboyant. That I keep my hair messy to not seem prissy. That the reason I like mean guys is because in the hidden depths of me, meanness is associated with masculinity, and thus, idolization.

There is damage in having been Othered. There is damage in hating a part of you because society has deemed that part to be malignant.

But there is power in reclaiming that damage. I started wearing nail polish recently. And even that small bit of femininity has eased me a little. Because I am a feminine person in some ways. And in just as many ways, I am also masculine. Everyone is masculine and feminine; labeling or coding one as negative only serves to incur further damage.

My voice rings up high when I’m excited. I talk fast. I use my hands a lot. I’m expressive. These are just descriptors. They’re not bad or good, they just exist. My voice is my voice.

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Essay, Life

“ONE—TWO—THREE!”

Neon-green teeth against deep, dark violet skin. A ceiling fan broken from too many hands flinging into the air. Too many bodies crammed into too little square footage, forcing the heat to climb upwards until your white shirt has turned filmy as it clings wetly to your skin.

We see the host, and I grab the drink out of his hand to take a sip of artificial margarita. We set up residence against one wall, some girl’s long strands of hair whipping against the small of my back as she dances with someone else.

Talking becomes a post-lingual experiment. The mouth forms words that will never reach someone else’s ears, instead swirling out and upward into the collective cacophony. You communicate by mouthing simple words, by pointing, by the arching of eyebrows.

That’s a college party. Sound so big it forces you into the corner, heat so high everyone loses water weight against their will, and a Babel tower of red Solo cups.

It’s the kind of thing that could only occur in college. Only occur when there’s an uneven distribution of wealth. Top-shelf liquors mixed with liters of lukewarm Sprite, the kind that our teachers brought in for class parties. J.Crew button-downs with beaten-down Converse splashed with various liquids. You bypass the club with their $10-covers and instead cram in with sixty of your Facebook friends-of-friends and sweat it out to Childish Gambino.

It’s the kind of thing that could only occur when you’re on the razor’s edge between childhood and adulthood.

Before, we stood in her bathroom, me balancing a water bottle of Patron and two shot glasses on the ceramic lid of the toilet tank. I poured the Patron into the glasses, alternately labeled in ridged letters “Don’t Mess with Texas” and “Malibu”. I took care to make sure they were level with each other before handing one off. In between her putting black eyeliner on, we licked the bony tops of our thumbs and dumped salt on the damp.

“One—two—three,” I said as we clicked the shots together.

Lick the salt. Suck down the Patron. Hold the two in your mouth for a second before gulping. We didn’t have limes so I grabbed a bottle of lemonade. The sickly-sweet-sour taste of the lemonade, from concentrate, cuts through the tequila as I made a hasty gulp before passing it on to her. We stagger the second round of shots so that we can have equal access to the chaser.

Lick. Suck. Gulp.

I perch behind her as she tries to balance out her eyeliner. I pull thick swathes of auburn hair into place. We preen, and something warms in the outline of my ribs.

Later it was a bottle of red wine that we passed back and forth. We had to clench our teeth to avoid consuming the coils of foil from the twist-top that had fallen to the bottom of the deep dark red. Afterward, we would have to comb our tongues free of the aluminum scraps.

We went to a birthday pre-game first, one we drastically overestimated the punctuality of its occupants. By the time we strolled in at 9:45, they were already platonically grinding to Top 40, and That One Girl was yelling at people to start requesting their Ubers.

“FIVE MINUTES PEOPLE, CALL YOUR UBERS,” she waded through the clusters of drunk people. “FIVE MINUTES.” This was not a Lyft crowd.

We had enough time to say hi to Birthday Girl & Co and mooch some Smirnoff Raspberry into thrown-together cocktails. But they were annoyingly punctual, and by 10 p.m. we were the last ones to swirl out of the apartment, shoving potato chips into our pockets for snacking on the sidewalk.

At the second party, the purple light burned through the window even as we were approaching from outside. Inside, sweat mixed with liquor mixed with burnt weed. Hawaiian shirts glowed hotly against dark violet skin. Synthetic leis lit up the undersides of chins and matched eerily with the neon whites of people’s eyes.

Inside, everyone is a stranger, even the people I know. The darkness coats everything, so that familiarity becomes a moot point until they’re in your face. I run into people from class, old half-forgotten acquaintances, and former besties. In a party, old frictions are limned over in the alcohol haze.

She and I stand by the bar counter, a square hole in the wall between the living room and the kitchen. Separated by a narrow line of strangers are friends from my collegiate nascence. Friends whom I knew when I hardly knew myself. That clogging nostalgia rises from my chest and coils behind my tongue. The sense is that identity is a series of rolling hills.

You climb one with some cluster of people, crest over the top and skid to the bottom. Then you begin again. And suddenly people begin to drop off. After one hill without them, they become a little blurred. After two and three, you have lost sight of them entirely. But they’re on their own hills, cresting and skidding endlessly over and over. Run up, hover, run down.

And eventually you realize that if you keep looking back, as the hummocks replicate, you’ll trip. So you force yourself to look forward, cresting with new people, ending at the bottom of the hill with new people.

Sucking the foil from my tongue, I lean down to say something to her and come face-to-face with a yelling landlord. Party’s over, he says. The purple light weakens as yellow-bulbed rooms are opened up, the crowd thins, but the music thumps on, as loud as before. It blankets over the scurrying people, grabbing coats, appearing from cracks in the walls and hidden spots like cockroaches.

As I wrestle our coats from the pile, she spills a cup of something over me, her and the floor. Margarita, probably, or Sprite. Something sticky and sweet that dots my jeans like rain.

As we leave the purple light party, our laughter trailing behind us at this long-ago failure of a night, we cut through back alleys to our familiar place. Two identical beers and nearly identical burgers—fries to split between two people.

Our hills have neatly aligned, I realize as we tuck into burgers, the kick of spicy secret sauce hitting the ridged roof of my mouth. Bite of burger, snap of fry, sip of beer. Sloppily sopping up that secret sauce, too drunk to care about appearing proper.

Balancing between childhood and adulthood is like that. It’s the razor’s edge, the series of hills. The ravenous eating of two dollar burgers after wine and tequila and beer. Patron in plastic and curls of foil on tongues. Too many metaphors because I haven’t learned yet that one will do. It’s the here now and the not there yet.

We stand at the bottom of the hill and I reach my hand out towards hers. She clasps it, sweat against sweat. Chipped baby-blue nail polish.

“One—two—three.”

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Politics

THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT GOES TO VOTE TODAY, FRIDAY MARCH 24

Update 3/25: the American Health Care Act was pulled from the floor and did not go through the voting process. Speaker Ryan has stated that the Affordable Care Act will be the law for the “foreseeable future.” President Trump has since stated that he will wait for the ACA to “explode” and then create a “greater healthcare plan.”

Today, Friday, March 24, 2017, the House of Representatives will vote on the Affordable Care Act replacement bill—the American Health Care Act—with significant changes having been made last night and without the Congressional Budget Office analyzing those changes. Previously the CBO offered projections of, despite a decrease of ~$337 billion in the deficit, roughly 24 million people without coverage by 2026. Even by just repealing the ACA leaves 18 million people uninsured.

The bill underwent multiple changes after receiving severe blowback from all Democrats and several factions of Republicans. GOP moderates felt that the plan was too ill-thought and would leave too many people uninsured. GOP conservatives felt the bill did not go far enough, and dubbed it “Obamacare-Lite.” Those divides postponed the vote, which was supposed to take place yesterday. Ryan and other proponents of the bill did not want to go forward without the votes.

 

The new bill would defund Planned Parenthood. The rationale for this is restriction of abortions. However, Planned Parenthood puts no federal funding towards abortions. They do put federal funding towards reimbursement for services like birth control, contraception, and cancer screenings. Patients use public health programs, like Medicaid and Title X, go to places like Planned Parenthood that take that coverage. They use the programs, Planned Parenthood sends the claim to Medicaid (for example), which reimburses them, and then Medicaid sends the bill to the federal government. Abortions, which account for roughly 3 percent of all PP services, do not get reimbursed.

So when the GOP says that they will defund Planned Parenthood, they are doing it out of spite, because what they’re actually doing is stopping people from being able to use Medicaid for non-abortion services.

Vice President Mike Pence, formerly the Governor of Indiana, recently posted a photo of himself and the President meeting with the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus is made up of the GOP conservatives who are dragging their feet about the bill.

To get them on the side of voting yes, those in charge of the bill—House Speaker Paul Ryan, VP Pence, and even Trump—have struck a deal with the Freedom Caucus. If the Caucus agrees to the bill, the Essential Health Benefits list will be removed from the bill.

What’s the Essential Health Benefits?

It’s a holdover from the Affordable Care Act. It requires insurances to cover—at the bare minimum—the following 10 items:

  • Emergency Services
  • Hospitalization
  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services
  • Pediatric services

There has been no analysis on the future consequences on striking off the Essential Health Benefits because the CBO has not been given enough time to conduct research.

Trump has put pressure on the GOP to push this bill through. It would solidify his stance as a deal-maker—something he ran on during the campaign—and would show his control over the rapidly dividing Republican party. He has also threatened that the Republicans will lose their majority if the bill does not pass. That pressure has forced massive overhauls to the bill. House Republicans and Democrats are set to vote on a bill that they haven’t read in full, or had sufficient or significant research on.

But perhaps the scariest part of this whole thing is that photo that VP Pence Tweeted out. Him and the President meeting with the Freedom Caucus. With the strength of the Freedom Caucus, the American Health Care Act is that much closer to being passed.

A circle of wealthy, privileged, heterosexual cisgender white men, deciding the fate of women, minorities, cancer patients, those with mental illness, and the vulnerable. We might not have seen the finished bill, but we have seen enough of the consequences. The AHCA would mostly affect the elderly and sick—premiums would rise due to declining assistance—while the young, healthy and wealthy would see tax benefits. In addition, according to Forbes, over the next decade, the plan outlines an $880 billion tax cut, with $274 billion going directly to the richest 2%.

If the AHCA, the new healthcare plan, only benefits the young, healthy and wealthy, while leaving premiums rising, care decreasing, targeting the elderly and the sick, and ~24 million uninsured—then it’s possible that this isn’t the best plan.

But this is the world we live in—the decision of this small cluster of white men, for whom this healthcare plan will only benefit, will impact the rest of us.

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Essay, LGBTQ, Life

“WHAT KIND OF GAY ARE YOU? CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT!”

I took a “What Kind of Gay Are You?” quiz because, in a world that is rapidly changing and mutating, I needed at least one answer in my life.

That sounds dramatic, but that’s only because it is. So you’re astute. Congrats, hon.

It was a slushy snow day. We were huddled around a tall Starbucks table, damply drying off and cradling inappropriate iced coffees in between our hands. It might be winter outside, but my sweat glands knew no season.

I was taking a “What Kind of Gay Are You” quiz on my phone, because—frankly—I needed to know. After selecting one that seemed thorough—I didn’t want your run-of-the-mill quiz; I wanted a deep dive—I started checking boxes.

The problem, if it’s a problem even, and the reason for this erudite season is that my body exceeds gay boundaries. I’m tall and rangy—thirty pounds and three inches ago I might’ve been a twink. But as I stretched upward, the hours at the gym making me dense with muscle and bone, it became a lot more difficult.

I couldn’t find a physical category that seemed to fit. I’m not stocky enough to be a bear; not hairy enough to be an otter; neither hairy nor muscular enough to be a wolf; not effete enough to be a twink; too big to be a twunk; not geeky enough to be a gaymer. I could go on; I won’t.

Jock. Pup. Gym Bunny. Cub. Silver fox. (Just kidding; I went on).

Nope. Nope. No. Nope. No.

You might think that with as many categories as that, finding a niche would be easy—or at least possible. But instead my long, lean body—toned but not muscular, solid but not stocky—spills over any box, muddying the distinctions. I wanted some answer that might offer me a semblance of geace™ (gay peace).

So this outside, impartial source took in my body weight, my height, my musculature, my style, my activities, the timbre of my voice—average but deceptive because the pitch wildly vacillates based on whatever mood I’m in. But before I could get my answer, it produced the dreaded text:

Register an account to find out your answer!

“Fuck that,” I said, finding a small button at the bottom:

Proceed without account

I clicked it and the small circle at the top of the screen spun. The same screen popped up again. Clicked again. But every attempt to click the button led to a Sisyphean cycle of reloading that same page.

Eventually, I had to give up. I’m not made of steel—I rarely put energy into anything that isn’t writing, Real Housewives, or grilled cheese—and my phone battery can only withstand so much blunt trauma.

But I was disappointed—much more disappointed than I realized I would be, and more disappointed than I think anyone should be about any Internet quiz.

Would this one Internet quiz have changed my life? No. Would I be able to order a custom license plate with my assigned tribe and be inundated with romantic pursuits? Likely no but one can dream. It’s not like each category requires you to pay dues, or offers you any networking possibilities. There’s no “Bears In Media” except for Smokey. The only thing that’s likely is that I would’ve been disappointed with any answer.

But still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would’ve been nice to have at least one answer in a life that seems to hold very little for me right now. Days later, I was having a conversation with classmates about baby names. I really like the name Betty, spelled Bettie. One classmate offered up “Bette” as also being cute.

“But then people will always wonder what kind of gay I am,” I argued. “Am I a Bette Davis gay or a Bette Midler gay? ‘Cause that’ll affect how people try to pronounce her name.”

As I’ve been applying to more jobs, I’ve been in stasis, uncomfortably but evenly pulled between my Imposter Syndrome and my inescapable anxiety about being jobless.

The former tries to stop me from submitting my application, and the latter reminds me that if I don’t do this, my future remains as cloudy and voided as it currently is. So I remain largely in the middle, occasionally jolted into movement by a particularly strong wave from either end. My limbs—those rangy long limbs—are pulled to their full extension, tendons popping and bones straining at the joints.

I’m in a drawn-and-quartered life crisis.

Too tall to be a twink, too slim to be a jock. Too lively to be the reporter I’m training to be. Too timid to be an opinion writer. Too dumb to be a genius, too smart to be an idiot. Too cocky for my own good, too self-conscious for my own health. Too good in too many things, not good enough in one thing. Perfectly at the center of so many identities, sticky strands of confliction pulling at so many different parts of me.

Everything is up in the air. On social media, all I see are these static pictures of people in their things. The red-carpet one. The photographer one. The writer one. The engineer one. Steel. Silk. Definitive things. Not some thing, but this thing. Do I go for this or for that? Do I put all my energy into one path, or do I spread my eggs like it’s Easter Sunday?

I want answers to questions that haven’t even fully formed yet. For the first time in 21 years, my life is opaque. And the more people I talk to, the more common I realize that feeling is. So I might not be a thing one, but I’m not the only one.

I closed the tab of the “What Kind of Gay Are You?” quiz, quick darkness swallowing the cartoon drawing of a jock intertwined with a twink. I didn’t really feel like a twink or a jock. Or a bear or an otter or a silver fox or an otter.

I really only felt like myself.

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pop culture, Review, television, Thinkpiece

“PARIS”—KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS

On March 19, Keeping Up with the Kardashians aired the episode centered around the Oct. 3 Paris robbery and assault of Kim Kardashian. The episode, titled “Paris,” was cut together clips of the Wests’ personal videographer, KUWTK film crew and camerawork done by Kim’s assistant Stephanie Sheppard. The result was 42 minutes (no commercials) of the most powerful reality television I have ever seen.

The episode was so effective because it was drastically different from how the Kardashians usually portray themselves. The blurry, ‘80s-style videography from Kanye’s personal archives is not typically (or ever) utilized in a KUWTK episode. Everyone holding a camera is a friend, rather than a crew member, meaning that Kim is much more open. That closeness between friends, Kim interacting with the camera, translates to the episode feeling much more dynamic and intimate.

The show also made the smart decision of not beginning the season with the Paris incident. In the episode-and-a-half period before the robbery, the show intentionally showcased more of Kim’s personality. She has often remarked that the show portrays her as dumber than she actually is, so this portrayal feels more authentic. We see her smiling, nosing around Khloe’s new relationship, thumbing through racks of clothing, laughing about her bodyguard tackling the butt-grabbing prankster to the ground. So when Kim finally gets robbed, and as the story gets retold through Kim and the people around her, we have become so attached to the bright, funny, sharp side of Kim that the robbery burns even brighter in comparison.

The Kardashians have built their careers on documenting their lives, but as they’ve gotten bigger, they’ve gotten better at hiding their true feelings. They say less, and everything they show is very edited. “Paris” is so raw and real and sad, that it’s antithetical to everything else they’ve ever shown.

Some people will criticize her for showing the robbery aftermath in the same way that people criticized her for documenting her life, claiming that she was the reason she got robbed. The common critique of “She flaunted her wealth” permeated every news title, the beginning of every argument. But in the same way that “she flaunted her body” is not a valid excuse for rape, flaunting anything should not be reason for inviting assault.

The gut reaction to victim-blame stems from this hatred of Kim Kardashian for being confident in her womanhood, particularly in her sexuality. Ask anyone who dislikes Kim, and it all begins with, “She’s famous for a sex tape!” As if she released it herself; as if she promoted it; as if Ray J is the most famous man in the world even though, through that logic, it should’ve promoted his career as well. A sex tape in 2007 does account for being arguably one of the most famous people in the world in 2017.

It’s the fact that Kim refused to be shamed or cowed by her sex tape. She didn’t let it define her. We as a society have such a visceral reaction to the notion of a woman not being shamed into the restrictive box set aside for female sexuality. And I truly believe that Kim refusing to be adhere to social norms led to resentment, and that resentment led to hate, and that hate led to victim-blaming.

Even though the sex tape wasn’t mentioned, it hung over the entire retelling. Because Kim is both a celebrity and a woman, the seriousness of the robbery becomes intersected with the threat of sexual assault. When the robbers came into her room, she was naked but for a robe. She detailed one robber pulling her down to the edge of the bed towards him by her legs.

“He pulled me toward him at the front of the bed and I thought, ‘OK, this is the moment they’re going to rape me,’” she said. “I fully mentally prepped myself—and then he didn’t.”

If this had been a male celebrity, I doubt that we would say that he was responsible for his assault. The notion of “asking for it” is so deeply associated with the feminine—blaming victims of rape for their assault by asking what they were wearing, how much they were drinking, who they were talking to—that anything done to a woman, especially a woman so closely linked with her sexuality, leads to victim-blaming. Because we see her “asking for it” in one sphere, and we transpose that onto another.

The Paris robbery has always turned into blaming Kim; blaming her robbery on her flaunting her wealth and life on Snapchat. But it needs to turn into a conversation on how we view women. How we shame and condemn women for owning their womanness; how we get angry about it. How we think, maybe in the darkest recesses of our inhumanity, that she had this coming.

Kim Kardashian did not have this coming. No amount of flaunting ever necessitates robbery or assault. She did nothing to deserve this. And as painful as I’m sure this reliving was for Kim, it was valuable. This is a woman who has an unparalleled platform and access. And instead of shying away from it, she used it for the broader good. She’s (hopefully) changing the way we talk about survivors of assault. Not with victim-blaming but with empathy and understanding.

“I took a tragic, horrific experience and did not let it diminish me,” said Kim on Twitter after the episode had aired. “Rather grew and evolved and allowed the experience to teach me.”

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