pop culture, television

VANDERPUMP N’ DUMP

Something I can’t stop talking about is Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules. It is, without a doubt, the best reality television series.

It began as an offshoot of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and centers on the lounge of Real Housewife Lisa Vanderpump. The show originally portrayed the restaurant’s servers (SURvers) as up-and-coming (ish) models, actors and musicians who were using the restaurant to get by. Now, six seasons in, the cast members have morphed into these weird, emotionally stunted Instagram celebrities who, somehow despite all of the spon-con they hawk, still work at the restaurant and still make the same awful decisions in the latter half of their thirties.

Vanderpump Rules is the greatest show because it’s an actual, deep cut of human psychology. Every single person on the show operates beyond empathy and borders on intolerable. It’s also entirely unscripted. At least a decade into the reality television machine, most things are semi-produced. Fights used coded language that hints at larger, behind-the-scenes drama (that would break the fourth wall if acknowledged). But the drama on Pump Rules is so small, so insignificant, and so completely driven by people who can’t get out of their own way.

Within the first twenty minutes of the first episode of season six, we learn that Jax, a main cast member, (publicly) cheated on his girlfriend of two years, Brittany, with another SURver named Faith, while Faith was working as a live-in home health aide for an elderly woman. This is the first episode.

Ultimately, Brittany, a deeply devout Christian who moved from Kentucky after meeting Jax in Las Vegas, decides to stay with Jax. This is the second girlfriend Jax has cheated on during the show’s run. He cheated on his previous girlfriend Stassi with her best friend, Kristen, who also happened to be the girlfriend of his best friend, Tom.

This initial bomb leaves in its wake deeply troubling ways of coping. There is a lot of internalized misogyny and Peter Pan syndrome on Pump Rules. The guys band around Jax and say that he’s built to cheat, he’s a good person, he deserves another chance. The girls revolve around Brittany and alternately tell her to dump Jax and make him “super-jealous.” Brittany seems hell-bent on “changing” Jax, and he, despite being a serial cheater, finds worth in relationships.

These people act the same on and off camera; they actually are rewarded for behaving badly. But it’s fascinating to watch a group of people endlessly entangle themselves with each other, incapable of not hurting each other, and, despite all of the misery that they cause, remain a group.

Watching Pump Rules, you can catch glimpses of your own personality, the darkest recesses of your being. It’s the id of the reality television world. All of the things you wish you could say, the pettiness and mean-spiritedness and cattiness, are purged away as you watch two 35-year-olds chain-smoke on patio furniture in the alley behind SUR. It’s confession, basically.

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2018

PARKLAND, FLA.

In high school, I was worried about a lot. I was worried about getting good grades, getting into college, finding new and inventive ways to make myself known to my crushes. I was worried about track meets and my performance in them; I was worried about an upcoming test. I was worried that my shirt was too wrinkled and that I had forgotten to do my homework. I was worried about the ending of the Mayan Calendar on December 21, 2012.

I was not worried about getting shot.

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 took place during my senior year of high school. It was the first time I realized danger could be breathing down your neck, completely unbeknownst to you. But, like a lot of people I think, we believed – prayed, hoped against hope – that this was an anomaly. That what happened in Sandy Hook could not – would not – happen again. I remember President Barack Obama reading out the names of the victims, his voice steadily breaking down but remaining holy and baritone.

Unfortunately, as the years have passed, what happened in Sandy Hook was not an anomaly. It was one chapter in a book of alarming trends – lone gunmen with semiautomatic assault rifles wreaking havoc, death and terror upon unsuspecting communities. I remember the massacre in Pulse Nightclub in Orlando – the then-largest massacre in modern United States history with 49 people, many queer and of Latinx descent, dead. That number was surpassed on October 1, 2017 with the Las Vegas massacre, leaving 59 dead.

Every time, it followed the same pattern. Horror as the event and aftermath unfolded. Offerings of “thoughts and prayers” sent out by legislators. Calls from civilians and Democrats alike to change gun control laws, met by claims of “politicizing tragedy.” If I go to my grave never hearing “politicizing the tragedy” again, it will be too soon. And eventually, we move on – whether at the hands of another tragedy or another political scandal or time and space from the blast.

“Thoughts and prayers” sticks nauseatingly in my ears as it becomes more and more clear that lawmakers will do nothing to change gun control laws. They will twist the request, claiming that it is an affront and an attack on law-abiding citizens. They will cite the Second Amendment, they will say that the answer is more guns, more weaponizing. The lines in the sand will become deeper and deeper, carving up innocent people along the way.

Even as I’m writing this, the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida are being attacked and derided on social media for calling for gun control. Commentators like Tomi Lahren and politicians like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio falsely claim that the survivors do not want gun control, only to be flatly disproved by the actual survivors.

If this were a bombing, the response would be different. It’s gruesome to say, but it’s true. If the shooter were Muslim, or a person of color, the response would be different. But there is something about this particular combination – white, young, male; semiautomatic weapon – that does not elicit the appropriate response. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that there will never be the appropriate response.

And why is that? Why is it that when teens started eating Tide Pods, there was a response within the month? That we have to take off our shoes at airports because of one man tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes? Why is it that the party that holds such strong beliefs, often on marriage rights, freedom of speech, abortion and personal property, has such a lax response?

It is because, in part, the National Rifle Association has a chokehold on the Republican politicians in power. It’s easy enough to look up which politicians have accepted funds and donation from the NRA, and to see how they respond and react to these tragedies.

Those donations, however great or small, are worth more, we’ve seen, than people’s lives. Because Sandy Hook was not enough. Orlando was not enough. Las Vegas was not enough. It has not been enough to incite action.

Despite it all, I have to hope against hope that this time will be different. It will be different, in part, because of the #MeToo movement. Because we are in a period of change, where the voices of the disenfranchised and oppressed are forceful enough to make change. Because the mighty totems of power that once held the status quo in check have begun to topple. Because we are getting tired of the cloying sympathies that evaporate within seconds.

This goes beyond party lines; this goes beyond those grooves drawn in the sand. There are ways to limit and curtail the purchase and possession of semiautomatic weapons without infringing upon the rights of law-abiding citizens.

It cannot, and should not, be up to citizens to prevent these tragedies. It is not, as President Trump said, the fault of bystanders to proactively recognize and stop shooters – something even the FBI failed to do. This conversation should not be about the red herring of mental health, as it so often becomes. It should not be about fear-mongering or the blame game. It should be, and must be, about active reform.

Kids should not be worried about getting shot during class. They should not, as the Washington Post reported, have to bring bullet-proof vests “just in case.” They should be allowed to be kids; they should not have to die, should not have to bury peers, should not have to leave parents and friends and goals behind.

This will not get better; this will not diminish. This trend will continue. This does not end until we change how we react.

For everyone affected in Parkland, Florida, I’m sorry that you’re going through this. I am so sorry that we did not do enough. But we will. Because we have to.

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Body Health, Essay, Mental Health

HANG LIKE CHICKEN

In my first-ever gym class of high school, we underwent a fitness diagnostic. Our gym teacher required the students to perform as many chin-ups as they could. If they were not able to do a chin-up, he offered, they could simply hang from the bars.

The oddness of those two choices – to either perform an act or engage in something that arguably proves nothing except the presence of fingers – was further underscored by the vast breadth of physical prowess. If you had hit puberty by then, you could do chin-ups. If you hadn’t, you hung like a limp flag or, more realistically, the trussed and plucked chicken hanging in a meat shop. Since I’m barely hitting puberty at 22, it’s an easy guess to figure out which camp I fell into.

That did not stop me from pathetically attempting a chin-up. I didn’t realize that it’s nearly impossible to do a chin-up from fully-extended arms, so I tucked my knees underneath me and tried to pull myself up from ramrod-straight arms. After several tense, physically agonizing moments, I let myself hang quietly before dropping back down to the floor.

And I remember, in the seconds that I hung from the bar, thinking how completely pointless this exercise was. Gym class proceeded much in the same way; after freshman year, I just opted to do homework with a clutter of the other unathletic boys while the fitter ones fucked around with dodgeball, or whatever. By senior year, I was skipping out of gym entirely – using my senior privilege and status a runner to avoid it. But, to be honest, having a gym class once every six days wasn’t doing me, or anyone, any favors.

So for most of my life, the chin-up, and any desire to do it, eluded me. When I started working out in college, I hopped in and out of the chin-up phase. Once I realized that clinging to the bars and literally leaping up into a chin-up position didn’t technically count, I swapped to the assisted pull-up machine and avoided it whenever I could.

The assisted pull-up machine requires you to put your knees on a pad and subtract weight from your total mass. So if you’re 160 pounds, and you subtracted fifty pounds, you were doing the chin-ups with a body weight of 110 pounds. I was subtracting so much weight that I was actually flinging myself upwards with every pull and reaching an exosphere orbit.

I would eye the people who could do a pull-up or chin-up unassisted with hot glowering envy. It seemed literally impossible, and then I saw people actually adding weights to their own self and doing repetitions with that. That was as unbelievable to me as those stories of mothers lifting up cars to save their loved ones – actually more unbelievable. I began to measure my prowess in terms of how many unassisted repetitions I could do – one was bad, two was better, three was ideal.

But as I worked out more, I began to reacquaint myself with the pull-up machine. As I lost weight and gained muscle, the notches of the weight began to shift lighter and lighter. Eventually, I was doing ten to twenty pounds of assistance, for a weight of roughly 185.

And then, a few weeks ago, I decided to leave the pad entirely. Straining, I pulled myself up – my elbows narrowing into neat acute angles – and down. When I completed sixteen chin-ups, four repetitions in four sets, I fell into a crouch and felt my heart pump blood headily into the aching muscles. But I kept doing it. every day, at the beginning of my workout, I did sixteen chin-ups – always in four sets of four – before moving onto the rest of my workout. I found that the less I focused on what I was about to do, the better I performed. If I hesitated, arms extended upward but feet still on the ground, I could barely get myself into the air.

I began to change it up – I added another set of pull-ups to the routine. Eventually, I switched to sixteen pull-ups (working the back muscles, shoulder muscles and the latissimus dorsi muscles). I tacked on a set of chin-ups, and on arms days, I would do sixteen of each.

I’ve noticed more muscle changes in the few weeks that I’ve started doing unassisted pull-ups. My shoulders are squarer, my collarbones swoop with the graceful lean of ship’s bows, and my biceps are bigger. In the shower, I catch glimpses of back muscles rippling in ways that they didn’t before. I’m obsessed with my shoulder blades, their hookedness like two eagle beaks.

Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I have a complex relationship with my body. And I’ve often leaned on the gym in unhealthy ways, eviscerating myself on days when I had to skip, or punishing myself for days that I didn’t push myself as far as I could’ve. In my most depressed, the gym becomes more of an outlet and a crutch. Before, when I looked my best, it’s often because I was feeling my worst. At a particular low point in college, mental health-wise, I would escape to the gym for hours every day, later pinching the fat on my hips as it melted away. I obsess over my body’s aesthetic, how this looks and how this lays.

I’ve always carried that anxiety when going to the gym; that I could backslide and become obsessive again. I still have lingering habits, a twinge of despair when I weigh myself, or a slight internal battle about how much cardio to do. I take my backslides softly, and slowly, and I’m trying to treat myself gently. It doesn’t always work, maybe not even half of the time, but I try.

Doing these pull-ups aren’t about how they will make my body look. It is a physical challenge, a test of my own strength – something that doesn’t come from aesthetics alone.

But this feels different for me.

When I’m doing pull-ups, I revel in the strength as I lift upwards. I imagine all of the scenarios where I can pull myself up. Action movie scenes, where the ground falls away beneath me and I have to swing myself up from the lip of a cliff. Deep dark holes that I’m trapped in. American Ninja Warrior monkey bars. I revel in getting stronger, and it feels wholly unconnected to aesthetics or attractiveness. In every muscle micro-tear, I steel myself with strength. I feel myself getting stronger, and I nourish it like a seedling. I picture myself as a warrior, each line of muscle meaning that I am more capable, more sturdy, more indomitable.

It isn’t about how I look – it’s about how I feel.

And damn, sis, I feel good.

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Essay, feminism, Thinkpiece

CITIZEN ROSE – SUSPENDING DISBELIEF

While watching the first installment in a series of five, I remembered how primed we are to not believe women.


 I went into the first episode interested, but hesitant. I didn’t really know much about it, just that it was on E!. The only similar project that E! has done recently was I Am Cait, which skewed more documentary and less reality than any previous programming. Citizen Rose is a documentary, but it often elevates to an art piece. It’s non-linear at times, and broken up by short vignettes and multiple perspectives and angles.

I decided to watch it after watching the short clip, that’s since gone viral, of Rose getting into a verbal altercation with a trans woman at a book signing for Brave, McGowan’s new book. McGowan said that the trans activist had been a plant utilized to disrupt her, and she promptly canceled the tour. One of my favorite podcasts, Babe?, discussed both the incident and the documentary – I love their opinions, so I felt curious enough to watch it. The first installment is uploaded in full onto YouTube.

I want to preface this by saying that I am white, I am cisgender, and I am male. My privilege informs how I see the world, and while I try to educate myself and be mindful, I still have that lens built into my experience. If I say anything that’s uneducated, or misinformed, or wrong, I would love to be educated.

I think the biggest thing I took away from Citizen Rose was how deeply the instinct to not believe women is built into me.

I noticed it when Rose said that she was targeted by spies and was worried about being killed; I had this gut reaction to call her a liar, or crazy, or delusional. But then I realized that she had already been proven right.

In Ronan Farrow’s article, he described the lengths Harvey Weinstein went to discredit Rose. He used two different black ops spy units, one called Black Cube, to infiltrate Rose’s life – find out things that could be used against her, steal her then-unpublished book from her. This is, according to Farrow, proven. I had forgotten this actively, so when Rose said that the trans woman at her book signing was a plant used to attack her, I immediately dismissed her.

But I was more willing to believe a man that was fact-checking than the woman herself. I had this knee-jerk reaction to distrust Rose.

If Rose was right about the spies following her, then she might be right about the plant. The problem is that we don’t know, but we refuse to offer her the benefit of the doubt. And even if it’s not true, McGowan has existed in a world of constant gaslighting for the last twenty years. She was never believed, or heard, or acknowledged. She didn’t know who to trust. For twenty years, she must’ve felt like she was losing her mind.

This is part of the problem. We refuse to believe women. And I don’t think that this is an accident.

I thought back to the recently released Quentin Tarantino audio about Roman Polanski.

“He had sex with a minor,” Tarantino said in the recording. “That’s not rape. To me, when you use the word rape, you’re talking about violent, throwing them down – it’s like one of the most violent crimes in the world.” Though Tarantino later said that he was playing “devil’s advocate” in that interview, what does that say about how he views rape? And how does that translate into his work?

In one of her speeches, Rose talks about the cult of Hollywood that dictates how we perceive people.

“This is what you are as a woman…this is what you are as a man,” she says. “This is what you are as a boy, girl, gay, straight, transgender.” Then she leaned into the microphone, “But it’s all told through 96 percent males in the Director’s Guild of America; that statistic has not changed since 1946.”

Hollywood is often dismissed as shallow, vapid and fluffy. But perhaps that’s on purpose. Because if you don’t see it as substantial, then you don’t see it as a threat. Then you suck down the poison they give you without even thinking, without even realizing how it informs how you perceive the world. Representation matters not just for its own sake. It affects every part of you, how you see other people and how you see yourself. So if movies tell you that women are objects to be pursued, and that men must be dominant in their pursuits, you are being trained to not recognize rape and assault. You learn it through the rigid definition of what predators tell you it is.

But that’s not the truth, and that’s what Rose is trying to say. The things we’ve been given, the tools and the vocabulary, are built on an altar of maintaining the status quo. It’s meant to keep women quiet, docile and objects; it’s meant to keep men aggressive and unemotional and straight.

“Don’t rock the boat.” “Don’t be dramatic.” “Don’t worry.” “Don’t be a bitch.” “Don’t exaggerate.” “Don’t be crazy.”

At one point, Rose asks the viewer to recall everything they know about her. That’s she slutty; that she’s crazy; that she’s unwell. And she asks them, us, to think about who is telling that to us.

In many cases, it was people under the thumb of Harvey Weinstein. People like Weinstein used the cult of Hollywood to introduce and reinforce stereotypes and misinformation about women, queer people, people of color. And that immediately cripples any point to the contrary, because you will never, ever be believed.

Rose McGowan is not perfect; far from it. She’s messy and complex and complicated and says the wrong things sometimes. But that’s everybody; we are all imperfect. But think about why we insist that our leaders be completely without flaws – is it because we need to be led by perfect people, or is it meant to stop us from rallying behind someone? Is it meant to keep us rapid and frothing at each other, rather than at the people who deserve it?

It’s why we attack the actors, usually female, who star in Woody Allen’s movies but still give Woody Allen money for filmmaking. It’s why we attack Meryl Streep. It’s why we tear apart women when they step out of line, but offer second chances, and third and fourth and twenty, to men. Why we call grown men “boys” but slut-shame girls.

When Rose got off the stage after her speech, she saw that an article had already written up about it. And in a line that would normally be so quiet and such a throwaway, she said, “Wow. This is incredible. Someone listened to me.”

No one, ever, ever, listened to Rose, or Asia Argento or any of the other survivors. There were people who knew what was going on: who walked past the locked doors, who let up unsuspecting women to towering offices, who massaged away the truth: no one listened to people like Rose.

So when I was watching, I tried to suspend my disbelief, my societally-ingrained reflex to dismiss her as “crazy.” And once I did that, I listened.

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2018, pop culture, Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE Ch.26, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

The devil you know.


Grade: B+

A “capo,” or caporegime, we learned tonight, is someone that does the killing – the dirty work of the boss. It widens the web of guilt, attaching other people to the sins of someone else.

Betty assists her mother get rid of the body of the man who came to the Cooper house, a crime that Jughead and FP will eventually get drawn into. Veronica negotiates with Mayor McCoy on behalf of her father. Archie gets pressured by Agent Adams. All of these tangential people are being drawn into the actions of others, almost against their will.

The energy of the episode catapults off last week’s, where, interestingly, Tall Boy was, in a sense, the capo of Mayor McCoy and Hiram Lodge. Now that Juggie knows that Tall Boy was working at the behest of Hiram, he sends back the head of General Pickens to the Lodges and uncovers the nefarious actions of Mayor McCoy – that the Lodges donated hush money to McCoy while she looked the other way on their business dealings.

What I love is that Jughead is, at his core, trying to do a good thing: stop his friends and family from being evicted. It’s getting overshadowed by, you know, covering up a murder but it’s still super nice! Veronica stops Mayor McCoy from going public of her crimes by threatening to release the information of her affair with Sheriff Keller, which would decimate them, their families and their social standings.

Archie is being pressured more and more by Agent Adams, who wants to get Hiram on tape. Archie uses the newspaper coverage of Papa Poutine’s murder to bring it up to Hiram, but Lodge isn’t budging. And when Archie doesn’t deliver the goods (and purposefully misleads the FBI), Adams goes after Fred with some made-up illegal immigrant worker business.

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Source: The CW // Cheryl was criminally underused this episode.

Upon a second visit to the dead body – wrapped in a rug and deposited in an old pipe – Betty discovers his phone, which show that he has a jealous girlfriend and a thriving drug-dealing career. This disproves my theory that he came to the house as a result of Betty or Chic’s cam-habits, but begs the question: is Chic doing drugs? Or is he involved in the dealing?

Betty cracks and involves Jughead in the cover-up. He, then, involves FP who utilizes his “getting rid of bodies” expertise to dissolve the body. He’s learned from his mistakes covering up Jason’s murder and he won’t be getting caught this time. Is it just me, or did we all gloss over the fact that FP got rid of Jason’s body?

After Archie comes clean to Hiram, that an FBI agent approached him but Archie hasn’t squealed, Hiram’s minion Andre – Hot Andre – comes to collect him for a visit with the boss. As the limo descends into darkness, conveniently scraping spookily against finger-like branches, Archie becomes more and more nervous.

And perched on the edge of a cliff, the river frothing below, is not Hiram Lodge. Instead, framed by liquid sheets of dark hair, Hermione Lodge is “the boss.” It turns out that, as we suspected, Agent Adams was not, in fact, an FBI agent. Instead, he was a test for Archie – to prove his loyalty. And the phrase, “capo,” comes back from the beginning of the episode. Agent Adams was the capo of Hermione. But more interestingly is the role, the active role, Hermione appears to be taking. She is not, perhaps, the capo of her husband. She might be an agent of chaos in her own right.

Archie is confused, and betrayed. However, the test worked: Archie didn’t snitch. But with the steely blackness of Hermione’s eyes, it doesn’t feel like a victory. It feels like a warning: that Archie is not safe, not because of Veronica, not ever.

This is the first time that the Riverdale ragtags didn’t involve the police in something that’s happened, and it marks an unholy shift in the narrative for me. Before, they circumvented the (relatively) hapless law enforcement when they had to, but they still were operating on the side of good. Now, with so many people moving to cover up a murder, and some getting deeper into the pull of mafia, our heroes of Riverdale are taking a distinctly antihero approach.

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Essay, Humor, Things Happening RN

I’M EAVESDROPPING

THURSDAY, STARBUCKS – I just spent twenty minutes listening to two teenager/twentysomething girls complain about their babysitting wards, specificially some kid named Soren. I kept meaning to start writing something, but I was drawn in beyond understanding. Soren dropped something on the floor and then just walked away. She would totally clean it up no problem, one girl assured, but it was the laissez-faire attitude Soren possessed that really irked her. By the way, that’s never true. It’s never that you would totally clean something up but the person was rude about it – you also don’t want to have to clean it up. But for some reason, it’s unacceptable to say, “I don’t want to clean up after you, Soren!” I laugh so hard at this fake, imaginary person who loves cleaning up after people but loves politeness more.

“Do the parents care?” “No. I mean, they get mad, but they don’t really do anything.”

I’ve been doing a lot of eavesdropping lately. Not necessarily on purpose, but it’s just been happening. I work at a moderately hipster, reasonably priced popular grocery chain. And what I’ve learned in the almost five months I’ve been there is that nothing makes you more invisible to people than working retail. People, bless their hearts, really are blind to you.

The other day, I was manning a register when, behind me, a customer was loudly monologuing about the upcoming Super Bowl. “Tom Brady’s so mentally strong,” she was trying to convince my co-worker who, bless her, does not watch football. “He’s totally mentally strong,” she shouted into the void. When I turn innocuously to catch a glimpse of her, she latched onto me. “You watch football right?” she asked without waiting for me to answer. It’s a minute later before I found a dip in the conversation to say, “No, not really.” She bore a more-than-passing resemblance to Jenna Lyons, the former creative director and president of J.Crew – slightly more mannish and full, but strangely magnetic.

Even after we’ve all affirmed that we, unlike her, do not watch football – I’ve watched one game this season – she continued to launch several rhetorical questions into the open air. Receipt in her hand, she kept going. Next customer being rung up, still she stood talking. And finally, when she said her goodbyes and pushed her laden cart out of the store.

Days later, she came to my register and started talking – mercifully, not about football. She was ranting about The Walking Dead before offering up, sans spoiler alert, “Yeah Carl was bitten.” And when I said, “Oh I don’t watch that show,” she repeated the spoiler, “Yeah, he’s the son. He’s annoying. He’s dead, well, not yet but he will be. That show’s really going off the rails.” To so brazenly offer up what was surely a pivotal twist in the series without even the slightest concern or spoiler alert – what if I were watching the show? – was shocking. When I offered up that I was currently watching The Crown, she pivoted easily and naturally. She had not seen the show but her brother-in-law was the owner of some football team and also an ambassador to the U.K. She dug up a picture of him meeting the Queen and attempted to show me several more Instagrams before the lack of Wi-Fi foiled her. She would, she promised me, show me the photos next time.

As she left, I had to fight a smile from creeping across my face. When I first escaped her football speech, I pictured what the rest of her day must look like, as I often do with customers. I pictured her talking the ear off of other mothers at drop-off; I pictured her loudly holding court at the dinner table. I pictured her as loving fiercely, but suffocatingly. But something about her vicious lack of wherewithal about name-dropping shifted my lens of her.

She just, bless, didn’t give a fuck. She wanted to name-drop, and so she did. She had opinions about The Walking Dead, so she shared them. She had an effusive admiration of Tom Brady, so she expressed it. It didn’t matter to her that no one shared in her journey; an audience was entirely beside the point. What I had interpreted as an inability to read the room was actually just blind conviction. And there’s something about bald and bold confidence that draws me to people. People so often step around how they feel, like those girls did with Soren. Instead of just saying, “Fuck off Soren, I’m not your maid, I’m your babysitter. Now clean up the floor,” she couched it in the way he (or she, the name Soren leaves the gender mysterious) handled the dropping. But I imagined that “Mentally Strong” would have no problem eviscerating Soren. And Soren would probably, eventually, be grateful for the straight talk.

People so rarely say what they mean. We’re wrapped up in manners and culture – it’s not necessarily a bad thing – but it was so arresting to see someone so unconcerned with the norms. A normal person would exchange meaningless banter at the register – their weekend, the weather, perhaps a recipe or two. But for her, all the world’s a stage.

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2018, Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE Ch.25, “The Wicked and the Divine”

Are we going to ignore that it seems literally impossible to “decapitate” a bronze statue?


Grade: B-

In things I never thought I would say: I’m completely intrigued by Jughead’s storyline so far. He’s gone from annoying emo Dan Humphrey to annoying Serpent to now intrepid journalist and activist-ish. He’s fighting against the corrupt powers-that-be: Sheriff Keller and Mayor McCoy. But while he’s also fighting the good fight, he’s being tripped up by his old, dumb decisions: namely Miss Penny Peabody.

It’s Veronica’s confirmation, as we can discern from her couture fitting of a white satin dress. When I was confirmed, I wore a one-size-fits all robe and sweated it out with two hundred other 12-year-olds. But to each his own. Veronica’s whole family is coming into town…her crime family. According to Agent Adams, this provides a perfect opportunity, ostensibly, for Archie to dig up some good dirt on the Lodges. However, Archie, newly apprenticed to the Dark Lord, is having trouble balancing his two boyfriends (a problem I’ve never had). He’s been invited to work Hiram’s poker game with other industry kingpins.

Veronica is afraid of bringing Archie into the fold, into the family. Outsiders aren’t usually allowed in, but Hiram sees something in Archie that’s different. And either Veronica breaks up with him to protect him, or she forever keeps him at an arm’s distance. Veronica is grappling with her future in the family: both as a moll and as a scion. But I’m wary of Hiram’s sudden acquiescence about Archie’s role in the family: is he really okay with Archie taking a greater part?

And when Veronica eventually decides that she does not want Archie involved, it may be too late. At the poker game, he overheard two of the kingpins plotting to get rid of Hiram, whom they felt had become too weak. So when he suspects them of attacking, Archie warns Hiram. Veronica attempts to warn Archie off, but he already knows that Hiram is a monster. But then something happens that makes me unclear about Archie’s motives. This entire episode, I was operating under the assumption that Archie, in spite of himself, was actually enjoying being Hiram’s disciple and when Veronica tries to warn his about Hiram’s future plans – of which SoDale is “just the beginning” – Archie stops her from incriminating herself. Is he still loyal to Boyf Numero Uno, Agent Adams?

On the Southside, Serpents are being targeted as the suspects of defacing the General Pickens statue. Sheriff Keller regularly harasses Jughead and his friends with no evidence; Mayor McCoy allowed for the eviction of the entire trailer park. But the call is coming from inside the house. Those evictions spur Tallboy, who hates Jughead, to bring Penny Peabody, angry and irritated and tattoo-less, back into the fold for legal retribution. She, however, wants an eye for an eye: an end to Jughead at her own hands. FP, upon learning that Jughead skinned Penny’s tattoo and broke Serpent rules for attacking one of their own, says that Jughead will be the downfall of the Serpents. Okay, sis.

Juggie and Betty put up flyers to find the head, and get a call from a local scrap company. Someone’s found the head. When questioned, he admits to seeing someone unfamiliar around the scrapyard. In the most obvious twist, it’s Tallboy. He set up the decapitation, possibly with the Lodges, to bring Penny back and get rid of Jughead and FP, allowing him to take control of the Serpents.

Eventually, Papa Poutine, one of the kingpins that tried to get rid of Hiram, has been found dead and the Lodges get a cumbersome confirmation present: the head of General Pickens. Could it be that the Serpents know Tallboy co-operated with Hiram and now they’re taking their revenge?

In all of this drama, Betty’s induction into the world of cam-modeling seems relatively underplayed. If this were anything else, it would be the major storyline, but when I’m watching her and Chic, I can’t even muster up some energy. Betty’s “dark” side is being messily underutilized, and besides the fact that, like, she’s sixteen and that’s totally illegal for her to be a cam-model, I’m just not that interested. I don’t want to explore her darkness in a vacuum. Also Hal, who may or may not have fucked Penelope, refuses to live under the same roof as Chic, is going to a “Share B-n-B.”

Betty is more compelling when she’s putting her Nancy Drew skills to the test, and even more compelling when that puts her morality – and Dark Betty – in question.

And just when Betty and Jughead seem to be rekindling their flame, the lingering omission of her webcam life hangs between them. An omission that might come to light when one of Chic’s, or Betty’s, clients knocks on the Cooper door. A visit that ends with Alice Cooper cleaning his blood off her lacquered wood floor.

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