Review, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP. 11, “To Riverdale and Back Again”

Coming Home


 Grade: B++ (Not quite an A, though hon)

I really enjoy these episodes where the majority of the tension and drama is centered in a single night. Last week it was “The Lost Weekend” and Jughead’s birthday; this week the nexus of the episode is the Homecoming Dance. As someone who went to private school, I don’t know what a “homecoming dance” is, so I Googled it. according to Wikipedia, it’s in many ways essentially a fall prom, taking place in September-October, and the “homecoming” part is welcoming back alumni to the fold. So I guess that makes sense that it was held in the gymnasium, which I previously thought was rude that the chairs of the homecoming committee couldn’t spring for a second location. Hindsight.

This episode is the return of Archie’s mom Mary, played by Molly Ringwald. For some reason, it was this character that really solidified—paired with the homecoming theme—the reason for the Brat Pack casting. I mean, actually I think only Ringwald is part of the Brat Pack. But several of the actors playing the parents were well-known teen actors in the ‘80s: Molly Ringwald—Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles; Luke Perry—90210; Madchen Amick—Twin Peaks; Skeet Ulrich—The Craft (!!). The point of hiring these actors (in my mind) allows for unspoken history to be added to their backstories. You have the faint whispering in the back of your head that you’ve known these people since they were teenagers, so when they return as the parents of a new generation, the overall sense is that of a continuing story.

As Betty plans the homecoming dance and tries to balance her loner boyfriend and her Mommy Dearest mom, Veronica is trying to…prove her father is a murderer? The end result is a little murky, but the driving motivation—to learn the truth about her father—pushes Veronica into uncomfortable and gripping places. Because to discover whether or not her father is a murderer requires her to implicate FP Jones—Jughead’s dad—in the process. It’s a Catch-22: to save her own image of her father, she has to destroy someone else’s.

This more dangerous side of Veronica—she says to Alice Cooper when offering her help, “I don’t feel the same kind of loyalty to the Jones family that Betty does”—peels back the “reformed bad girl” persona that she has crafted upon her arrival at Riverdale. Not saying that this means that she’s a bad girl, but her actions prove that there’s something dark and steely underneath her glossy black curls. She’s not afraid of the consequences. Archie goes along with her because—despite having just left a relationship because he was too inattentive—he wants to be her boyfriend. Ronnie, understandably, is like, “Hon, we might be about to prove that my father murdered the town golden boy—I’m kind of busy right now.”

But since Archie’s storylines are generally direct results of his various relationships—see Ms. Grundy, Val, Betty—he decides to help her break into FP’s trailer (tragic) to find any evidence connecting him to Jason. They come up empty because, remember, FP smuggled Jason’s letterman jacket to Joaquin already. He took the jacket, we can assume, while burning Jason’s car of any evidence of Jason’s drug-smuggling for the Serpents.

Betty discovers that Archie and Veronica are investigating FP because none of them are particularly sneaky, and she’s outraged. Personally, I’ve never found Betty more boring than when she’s dating Jughead (whom she “loves” now). I hope they break up and Betty lets Petty Betty rise again like a phoenix from her ash-blonde roots.

In an adjacent plot, Preggo Polly is blundering around Thorn Hill mansion looking for any evidence that the Blossom Parents murdered their son. While snooping, she stumbles upon Cliff Blossom and his wig (!!?) collection. That prompts a chastising from Mrs. Blossom when she’s delivering Polly’s daily milkshake. They will later use that milkshake to roofie Polly, but who didn’t see that coming? Ever read Hansel and Gretel?

Don’t trust sweet treats from evil people, hon.

But when Polly convinces Cheryl to forage through Mrs. Blossom’s jewelry to find something for the dance—pre-roofie, obvs—Cheryl discovers the ring Jason proposed to Polly with. Now, here’s the intrigue—Jason would’ve supposedly never let go of that ring willingly, and technically it’s rightfully Polly’s. So how did Mother Blossom come by the ring?

Cheryl tells her parents that she flushed it down the toilet after finding it, to erase any trace connecting her parents to her brother’s murder. But in the last frames of her in this episode, we see her staring at the ring resting on her alabaster palm before curling shovel-tipped nails over it. What is Cheryl planning?

Overall, this episode was juicy. As Ronnie and Archie sing, “Kids of America” (kill me, shoot me—oops, too soon—make me deaf), the scene intercuts with the Riverdale police force searching FP’s trailer—guys, this is feeling very Making A Murderer to me—and finding the revolver used to kill Jason. The intercutting did not have quite the impact I think the editors intended, probably because that song is horrible, but I can understand where they were going and, hon, I got in that car.

And while we think that FP is a murderer for a hot two minutes (Jughead has a meltdown) Archie and Veronica track down Betty to tell her something: That revolver was planted there. This is so Making A Murderer I can’t deal! Except FP Jones is way hotter than Steven Avery. WAY HOTTER AND WAY MORE INNOCENT. Actually, I have no opinion on the Avery case. I did have to write a paper about their slightly problematic editing.

Overall, even though this episode forced us to listen to an cover of “Kids in America”, we got several seconds of Shirtless Archie (second week in a row; we’re back people!) so can I really even drag it?

NEXT WEEK: “Anatomy of a Murder”


And one more Shirtless Archie for blessings on your family:

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Politics, Thinkpiece

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Header Image Source: CNN


Public figures like Caitlyn Jenner and Ivanka Trump are shying away from disclosing their political activities.

While promoting her new book, Secrets of My Life, Caitlyn Jenner sat down with Andy Cohen at Sirius XM Radio for a town hall-style meeting Wednesday, April 26. Jenner made headlines when she came out as transgender in 2015. In their discussion, Cohen steered the conversation towards politics—Jenner is famously a conservative Republican. Jenner said that she had been making trips to Washington, D.C. but that her influence in politics would be private and unseen.

It was a reiteration of the point she made the night before on CNN with Don Lemon. She said that she would not take up President Trump’s offer to go golfing after he revoked the former administration’s protection for transgender students. However, Jenner said she would go golfing with President Trump in private, because if she did it in public, her community would “go nuts” and ostracize her.

Besides the puzzling contradiction of going on public television to say that you will golf with President Trump in private, Jenner’s statement that much of her involvement in politics would be behind closed doors is troubling at best and dangerous at worst.

Jenner is markedly tone-deaf when it comes to issues of LGBTQ equality. On The Ellen Show, she did not express complete support for same-sex marriage, and that it was an issue that she used to be completely against as a self-identified “traditionalist.” Instead, she said that if “the word marriage is so important to you, then I can support that.” She claimed that the hardest part of being a woman was picking out “what to wear.”

These can be dismissed as tragically unfortunate choices of words, but the root of the issue is that Caitlyn Jenner is a person of immense privilege who wants to speak for, represent and negotiate on behalf of arguably the most disenfranchised and least privileged subsection of the U.S. population.

According to a 2016 Reuters article, “almost 60 percent of transgender Americans have avoided using public restrooms for fear of confrontation, saying they have been harassed and assaulted.” According to the Office for Victims of Crime, one in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted in their lifetime. 13 percent of African-American transgender people surveyed were sexually assaulted in the workplace, and 22 percent of transgender homeless individuals reported assault whilst staying in shelters.

And while Jenner is transgender, it cannot be denied that for 65 years she presented as a white, privileged man. And after she transitioned, she had unfettered access to the best surgeons and doctors, a private Malibu estate for recovery and no monetary restrictions. Some transgender people choose to not go through surgery, but for those that would like to the costs are usually prohibitive.

Jenner has also been largely isolated from the daily discomfort that many queer people experience every day—catcalling, harassment and discrimination. All of these things, combined with her inexperience with politics and her position as a conservative Republican who voted for Trump, make me uncomfortable that she might be the touchstone for Republicans and the representative of the LGBTQ community. That she would do it with no cameras, at private dinners and meetings behind closed doors is even more concerning.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Ivanka Trump in her interview with Gayle King for CBS News. “I don’t think that it will make me a more effective advocate to constantly articulate every issue publicly where I disagree,” she said. “And that’s okay. That means that I’ll take hits from some critics who say that I should take to the street. And then other people will in the long-term respect where I get to. But I think most of the impact I have, over time most people will not actually know about.”

This idea of silent impact does a few things. Firstly, it absolves people like Trump and Jenner from any responsibility. If you don’t know what they’ve done, you can’t blame them. Secondly, it’s impossible to hold them accountable for anything. If they never pledge any sort of action, it’s impossible to keep them in line. Lastly, it’s difficult expect them to operate within a rational, ethical framework because you have no idea what they’re doing.

And lastly, as a person with unparalleled influence and platform, you don’t get to be private. If Ivanka wanted to operate as a private citizen, she shouldn’t have moved to Washington, D.C. and taken a position in her father’s administration. When she made that deal with the devil, she gave up the right to be private. When you’re operating from the most powerful building in the world, the American public deserve to know what you’re up to. If Caitlyn Jenner wanted to remain private, she shouldn’t have dropped the tantalizing tidbits that she was taking meetings in Washington.

You can’t have it both ways. If you want public power, then you don’t get to wield it privately.

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Essay, Humor

I LOOKED INTO THE VOID AND THE VOID LOOKED BACK: “Buffalo Exchange Amnesia”

A.k.a. I didn’t recognize somebody; Alternative titles included “I Don’t Know Her: The Danny McCarthy Story,” “Goodall for Nothing: Can’t Recognize Faces” and “Face It”.


I ran into a situation where I was greeted by someone whom I didn’t remember, and my level of unrecognition was so deep that I felt that not only had I never seen this face before, I had never seen any human face before.

Let me back up.

I was going into Allston—think Brooklyn with less gentrification and more rats—to meet up with a friend at Buffalo Exchange and get light-wash shorteralls (a decision that has garnered me much derision).

Buffalo Exchange is a slightly more-curated, one-tier-up version of Goodwill. Hipsters go there to get cheap clothing when they can’t hit the free shipping minimum for Urban Outfitters. So instead of buying some shorteralls online, and not knowing the fit or how much of a blue jean lima bean I would look like—

Side bar: If I ever make a country album, it’ll be called Blue Jean Lima Bean and I’ll have a wheat straw clenched in my teeth.

—I decided to be economically savvy. I would go to Buffalo Exchange and see if they had any shorteralls or overalls (or as I call them ‘pre-shorteralls’). I wanted a kind of folksy, “makes my own soap” Bushwick-Coachella-Rumspringa summer look. Essentially, I aspire to look as Amish as possible at all times.

And in Buffalo Exchange I had my Fifty First Dates-level of amnesia.

Buffalo was packed to the gills. A line of people looking to drop off clothing (for store credit or cash) snaked through the men’s section. After picking up several “Can’t Decide If They’re Ugly or Hip” button-downs, I shifted to the t-shirt rack. As I was figuring out if I hated myself to subject myself to this torture, someone tapped me on the shoulder, the one opposite to the line of people.

I turned towards an older man in a fedora and—I might be exaggerating but I don’t think so—a full three-piece suit. “Izeverthin here a dowla?” he asked.

I literally stared at him. “Um…”

“Izeverythin here a dowla?” he asked again, and I realized he was asking, “Is everything here a dollar?” in a thick Boston accent.

Being rude, I assumed that he didn’t get Buffalo Exchange like I got Buffalo Exchange, so with one hand—my other hand was holding several ugly button-downs—I thumbed the price tag out of the t-shirt he was looking at. “That’s the price–$9.40,” I smiled at him. But he was not satiated.

“No, the sign says a dowla,” he shook his head and pointed over his shoulder at a sign on the wall. I squinted at it: “Earth Day, Everything A Dollar.” But I still didn’t know what to say, so I made a silent “help me” plea to the line behind me of people waiting to drop off clothes.

“Everything in one section was a dollar before 3 p.m.,” a girl—dark hair, olive skin and startlingly light eyes lined in glittery eyeshadow—answered, pulling me out of my misery.

“And it’s,” I said, pulling out my phone, “3:40.”

“One dollar, that’s a good deal,” I remarked to her before turning back to the man. “Sorry.” He grumbled something about “a dowla” again before turning back into his own shopping. “Thanks,” I said to the girl.

“No problem,” she answered brightly before adding, “And by the way, nice to see you again!” and squeezing me genially on the shoulder.

aHhH!” I squeaked at her open, friendly eyes—eyes that I had never, in my entire life, ever seen before. She smiled as I managed to croak out, “You too!!”

Now, I’m very good at faces. It probably comes from being an unathletic gay kid in a Catholic grammar school, but because I didn’t have a lot of friends, I spent a lot of time observing people. And because of that, I’m generally pretty good at remembering faces, even if I’m not that good at remembering names. I’m great at remembering bizarre details—I won’t know your name, but I’ll remember that you hate avocadoes.

The reason I’m bad at names but good at faces is because whenever you’re introducing yourself to me, my mind is going rapid-fire, “I hope my palms aren’t sweaty; don’t squeeze too hard; say your name, you idiot” on and on. But the entire time, I’m staring at your face.

So as I was staring into this black hole of her face—a face I was sure I had never seen before—my mind was frantically pinballing around my recent memory to no avail. Afraid she would try to continue the conversation, I shyly shifted away to another side of the t-shirt rack and studiously avoided her glance.

The reason I was so shaken is because not only was this a face I had no memory of, but clearly she had a very strong memory of me. And since I pride myself on good facial recognition, I suddenly felt as if I wouldn’t be able to recognize any faces ever. I furtively looked around, hoping that I didn’t run into anyone else that I didn’t remember. How deep does this go? I wondered. Who do I recognize?

As I stumbled around the store looking for my friend—Would I even know her when I saw her?—I felt as if I were in a TV show where the protagonists realizes that they haven’t been remembering anything. It was Jason Bourne meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Jane Goodall to taste.

Eventually I found my friend—screaming someone’s name over and over in a small store with strangers is generally a good way of finding people—and told her what had happened. All the while I looked around to make sure that the girl wasn’t within earshot. Although, admittedly, there was no way for me to know if she was or not. And if I ever ran into that girl again, I probably wouldn’t remember her face because the last time I saw her face I was in a noiseless scream. The cycle is wont to happen again so I’ll probably never know this girl.

And at the end of the day, I guess the moral of the story is that I ended up buying a pair of ripped-up $20 Levis.

 

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Politics, television, Thinkpiece

BILL O’REILLY IS LET GO FROM FOX NEWS BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING HAS BEEN SOLVED

Header Image Source: ABC News


On Wednesday, April 19, Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, announced that they would be terminating their professional relationship with Bill O’Reilly, the prime-time host of The O’Reilly Factor. A.k.a. they fired him.

The announcement comes after an April 1 New York Times story about an investigation into O’Reilly. Namely, that during his twenty-year career at Fox, O’Reilly and Fox paid out roughly $13 million to women who made allegations of sexual harassment by Mr. O’Reilly.

Social activists applauded the triumph of justice over injustice. However, in their haste to crow about this immediate victory, they forgot that the poison root of the issue still festers.

Since the article’s publication, more than 80 advertisers pulled support for The O’Reilly Factor, which was consistently the top-rated program in cable news. The initial Times article placed The O’Reilly Factor‘s earnings from 2014 to 2016 as $446 million from advertising. According to market research group Kantar Media, the amount of on-air advertisement bought dropped from nearly 16 minutes to eight minutes in just two weeks.

The Times reported that women inside the company expressed outrage and questioned “whether top executives were serious about maintaining a culture based on “trust and respect,” as they had promised last summer when another sexual harassment scandal forced the ouster of Roger E. Ailes as chairman of Fox News.”

The investigation found five women who had been paid off to avoid continuing forward with allegations of sexual harassment. Some of the alleged harassment consisted of O’Reilly taking interest in a woman, promising to help her career, and then making sexual advances on her. Other reported actions from Mr. O’Reilly were lewd comments, verbal abuse, and phone calls where it sounded and seemed as if O’Reilly were masturbating.

In the initial statement, and in articles from Fox since, the company has characterized O’Reilly positively. An internal memo, signed by Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James, all company executives, described O’Reilly as “by ratings standards…one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news…In fact his success by any measure is indisputable.”

In an article centered on the news of O’Reilly’s departure, author Howard Kurtz called O’Reilly “the biggest star in [Fox’s] 20-year history.” Kurtz ended his article by writing, “Even most of his critics acknowledged that O’Reilly…is an extraordinary broadcaster.”

Wednesday evening, Fox News anchor Bret Baier addressed O’Reilly’s departure on air, saying, “Bill O’Reilly, the biggest star in the 20-year history of Fox News, is leaving the network in the wake of mounting allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.” CNN reported on Thursday morning that the payout O’Reilly would be receiving will end up somewhere in the “tens of millions.” In the payout after his ouster, Roger Ailes received $40 million.

The continued characterization of O’Reilly as a star is troubling. It undercuts any progress the company claims to have made in the aim of strengthening “trust and respect.” The language and message Fox is sending is clear. By refusing to condemn O’Reilly they are making the point that his sexual harassment was acceptable as long as he was making them money.

They were fine paying $13 million dollars because what he was bringing in was so much more. And it was not until investors began pulling out—until O’Reilly became a liability— that he was let go from the company.

It also actively reinforces the notion that bringing complaints about things like sexual harassment against people in power is oftentimes fruitless. O’Reilly preyed particularly on women in subordinate positions, promising them jobs or promotions or access. He outranked them in power, money and influence. And he outranked them in importance, at least in the eyes of Fox. For the five women who had the courage to come forward, to deal with the career ramifications of being honest, there might be countless others, who did not want to come up against the might of an entire corporation.

Yes, eventually Bill O’Reilly was out of a job. But if the Times had not done their investigation, if the advertisers had not pulled out, it’s impossible to gauge when Fox would’ve grown tired of bankrolling O’Reilly’s predation. They didn’t grow tired of it in the twenty years O’Reilly was in their employ. Because that’s what it boils down to—they paid money, to the women in payouts and to him in salaries, to keep him in a position of power, the same one he would abuse to harass women. If they hadn’t been caught, every sign points to the likelihood that 21st Century Fox would’ve kept bailing O’Reilly out.

And so while Twitter erupts in the small and immediate victory of O’Reilly’s firing, we lull ourselves into complacency and forget the real meaning behind the story. Fox News is not dedicated to an atmosphere of “trust and respect.” They tolerated sexual harassment in exchange for monetary benefits.

They did not fire Bill O’Reilly because he was a sexual harasser. They did not fire him because people found out. They fired him because he cost them money.

O’Reilly is the head of the hydra—you cut it off and another one grows. The poison and power of corporations like Fox does not lie in extremities like O’Reilly. They originate from the core. The problem with Bill O’Reilly wasn’t just Bill O’Reilly. It always was, and still is, Fox.

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Rambles

WALKING ON BROKEN GLASS

Written while on the Amtrak coming back into Boston

“I’m feeling faint from blood loss.”

I’m writing this on the train because when I get off the train, I’ll be trying to navigate through vast swathes of people back to my apartment. I’ll be walking right into the Boston Marathon—not into it, but like in it, ya know?—and once I get home, I’ll be getting cute so I can join in the festivities. That’ll probably end with me falling asleep at five p.m. and waking in a saliva-damp haze at 10 p.m., by which time the moment for blogging will have passed.

So now is best. I only have shitty Amtrak Wi-Fi right now, so I’ll have to upload this when I’m home, which brings us back to the original problem of the saliva-sleep. Whatever. C’est la vie.

Easter was this weekend, and if you don’t follow me on Twitter you didn’t see my hilarious retweets. I mean, I didn’t do anything except retweet something that someone else wrote that was hilarious, but still. Gary Janetti, a writer, had a series of tweets centered around “Jesus’ Gay Friend,” which is both the most hilarious angle to take and also skewers exactly how dramatic it is to gather all your friends for a last supper, fake your death and then resurrect a few days later. STUN.

Yesterday, after a large diner brunch, my mother, sisters and I were sitting outside, sweating in the heat at our patio table. We had fixed the umbrella that morning, making sure it was nestled in the brackets and flush with its cinder block base. The wind was blowing softly, and I was working on an article.

Suddenly, the umbrella flared as a gust of wind whipped underneath it. The pole, set so painstakingly in place by me and my mom, began to lift with the pressure. As the umbrella wrenched itself free, the glass table surrounding it broke into a thousand-thousand pieces and rained, tinkling, over my lap, legs and the deck. My laptop dropped to the floor, yanking my earbuds out of my ears with it.

Everything happened both so quickly and so slowly—silence deafened me as I stared dumbly at the glittering glassine chunks in my lap. Slowly, we moved away from the table. I lunged for my laptop and set it carefully on a nearby chair before picking up my iPhone off the ground. My LaCroix—Pamplemousse—could not be saved and was buried under essentially a sand dune.

“Are you cut?” my dad asked, brought outside by the deafening crash. “No, no,” I assured before I actually looked down past my shorts—dusted with glitter (glass)—and realized that my legs were scored with pinpricks of blood. I was the only one bleeding—blood dotting my slippers and beginning to run softly down my legs.

(At this point, the train pulled into the station and I was right—I didn’t finish it. It’s now 11:43 a.m. on Tuesday)

I stood, frozen in place, because every step led to slight pinpricks as the glass shards whispered, “I’m here!” It wasn’t the big chunks of glass in my slippers that scared me. It was those little shards that were tangled in my leg hair, or taking up residence in the folded-up cuffs of my shorts. My upper thighs were speckled with small lacerations and glittery little teeth—it was almost like the glass was saying, “Maybe if you weren’t wearing such short shorts we wouldn’t have cut you up here.” Being slut-shamed by pre-sand is never a good idea.

After I waddled away—having been combed over by the spout of a vacuum—and got changed, I then had to go out and help my family clean up the mess. In a blood-stained white t-shirt, gym shorts and big Timberland work boots, legs covered in dried blood, was the most masculine I ever looked, and will ever look. So I spent the rest of the afternoon of Jesus’ a-rising squatting, using a spackle to flick chunks of glass out from in-between slats of weather-beaten wood.

“I’m feeling faint from blood loss,” I joked from my deep squat, joking but hoping against hope that someone would be like, “Oh you should sit down!” No such luck.

So now I’m sitting in a glass-enclosed box of the law building, with a “I’m Healing Here!!” Band-Aid, a nail broken from where I stabbed myself with a fork while doing dishes, and numerous mental scars from being with family for any amount of time. So that’s fun.

I think the lesson here is 1) Never go home for a religious holiday weekend, 2) Don’t fuck with umbrellas, and 3) Never go outside. Bubble-boy it forever.

This was the worst blog post ever, but whatever, it’s done. HOPE YA LIKE IT.

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