tv reviews · Uncategorized

Snowpiercer Returns, And So Does Mr. Wilford

After premiering its first season in the peak of a national lock down, during the height of uncertainty and managing not to get lost in the chaos; Snowpiercer returns for a second season with an even more wild ride and bigger stakes to lose. It’s always a toss up when shows decide to start their new seasons in the same place the first one ended, especially when the timeline is as close as mere moments between them as is the case with Snowpiercer. However here, the decision to begin right where we ended was the best choice and the madness of the season premiere puts this roller coaster levels above the first one even though this is just the first episode.

First, the briefest summary of season one I can give: Classism, capitalism and white privilege rule even when the entire population exist on a one thousand and one cars long train. The haves pretend that the have nots don’t exist except for when it’s absolutely necessary. While first and second class live in luxury, the tail end of the train live in poverty and third class chases the dream of better while fending off the threat of less. Andre Layton, a taily and their unofficial leader, quietly plots the next revolution that will lead his people to better living conditions. However all of that comes to a halt when he’s pulled to the front of the train by the Head of Hospitality and Voice of the Train, Melanie Cavill. A women with the biggest secret on the train. She needs Layton to solve the problem of a murder in first class. The murder though, is nothing compared to the secrets and betrayals that run rampant through out the season. And when the revolution finally does happen, new democracy has been just been born before it’s shoved to the back burner for a bigger problem. The real Mr. Wilford has returned, latched his impressive train Big Alice onto Snowpiercer and he is pissed. Melanie had better count her days. Now it can no longer be the front vs the end, if our favorites are going to live then it must be Snowpiercer vs Big Alice.

In the season opener, there is no time for reflection. A battle may have just been fought and won (lost for some) but the passengers aren’t allowed a moment to mourn those who have died, think about the actions they took to survive or even celebrate the relief of victory. Snowpiercer has been viciously jerked to a stop, shocking everyone aboard no matter what section they reside in because we all know the one thing the train can never do is stop. As the end of the train is opened by force, and the taillies stand ready to attack, Melanie risks everything by getting off the train to see if she can get them back rolling and to install some extra security of her own. But when the train starts moving and she’s still crawling through the snow, getting back on means climbing aboard Big Alice and facing Mr. Wilford now instead of on her own terms.

Inside where it’s warmer, but not by much, Andre, Ruth, Till and the others are greeted by Melanie’s thought to be dead daughter Alex. She has come through the hole made in the tail end of Snowpiercer by Big Alice and she has a list of demands that the passengers must meet or else Mr. Wilford will leave them to freeze. The list is incredibly mundane and seems almost like a joke but Layton can’t afford to take chances, soon he and several people are running off to collect the items. Since word travels fast on Snowpiercer before everything can be collected they all know that Wilford has returned but none of them really know what that means.

Meanwhile Melanie is met with hostility from pretty much every person she encounters on Big Alice. They all know that she stole Snowpiercer and left them to die in the cold. Her having the audacity to still be alive seven years later is like salt in the wound to them. Even though the tension of a Melanie and Wilford reunion has only been building for less than a full episode, the pay of them coming face to face for the first time is a great one. Wilford is not what we were expecting. His almost cheery demeanor and casual attitude makes for a confusing first impression. Mr. Wilford is supposed to be revered by all, frightened by all. But the man that Melanie meets is full of light tones and playful banter. Until suddenly he’s not. With the quickness of a light switch, Wilford can go from fun and playful to deadly serious and scary. Not to mention he’s got the ace up his sleeve that Melanie didn’t see coming, Alexandra is still alive. Obviously nothing about Big Alice latching onto Snowpiercer is as simple as survival of the fittest, there is something else at play here.

What I like most about Snowpiercer, is the complexity of its characters. In terms of development, this show is one of the few that leaves no story behind. Obviously the one to have the biggest development this season is most likely going to be Melanie but it’s the progress of other characters that I find myself more drawn to. When it comes to Melanie, I’m pretty split about her. I don’t dislike her, but I don’t actively like her either. Her constant excuses that she simply inherited Snowpiercer and all of it’s injustice plays heavily into the trope that white women are always throwing rocks and hiding their hands. Melanie ran Snowpiercer for seven years, and in not one of those years did she think that she could make life better for all? It’s upsetting but not surprising. So now that she’s going to have to deal with the fact she’s more like Wilford than she wants to admit, season two has potential to turn me into a Melanie fan. But only if she’s going to be given a redemption arc that looks more like accountability than redirected blame. As a side note though, the plot to have her daughter be under Wilford’s mentor ship is brilliant and could provide some pivotal moments in Melanie’s character progression.

Our other lead however, might have been given a plot line that could hinder the development of his character. I am a massive fan of Andre Layton, I think he’s probably the best thing to come out of this show. But I am not a fan of the baby subplot that he’s been hooked with. Zarah’s never ending betrayal all throughout season one has soured me to her character permanently, so I don’t have even a corner of a sympathy card for her. The pregnancy situation between her and Layton doesn’t make me yearn for them to rekindle their relationship, it doesn’t even make me hopeful that there will be future generations in this world (which can be questionable with the state of things). The reason I have such resentful feelings for Zarah is because she only seems to care about Layton when it benefits her. She left him in the tail for a better life and as soon as that life went to shit she was selling him out in the hopes his pre-freeze job could save her from a murder charge. She didn’t want to get back with him once he became the train detective and she wasn’t helpful at all in any plan for the revolution. Sure she took care of Layton when he was having withdrawal from being stuffed in the drawers but that was only because if he dies then she is screwed. To me, the relationship between Zarah and Layton falls into the toxic trope of white women only using Black men as shields and nothing more. No matter what they claim to feel for them. I would have much preferred if Layton’s subplot of season two was dealing with the racism that’ll come with him being in charge now. If classism and capitalism still exist in this world, then there’s no doubt that racism does too. And to gloss over it, especially with a Black lead feels like a disservice to the story. Still though, I’m excited for Layton’s journey this season and I’m really interested to watch the partnership that he and Melanie must have to survive, get a little bit more attention.

Despite how interested the two leads of the show are, it’s the supporting characters that I’m most excited to learn about this season. In particular, Bess Till. Her switch from Brakemen to honorary tailly was quick and almost completely in the background of the first season. One minute she was following Roche’s orders and then the next she was helping Josie break Layton out of the drawers and standing at his side ready to fight. She lost her girlfriend and the respect of those she’d been working hard to like. Not to mention she just fought in her first ever revolution. Till is probably going to spend a lot of season two reeling and trying to cope. Plus, Layton and Till’s friendship was the highlight of the few episodes we got to see it in. It would be great to see them strengthen the bond and get closer in this new chaos they’ve been thrown into.

Last thing I want to talk a little about is Mr. Wilford himself. The new shiny villain, played by Sean Bean, is like a character straight out of a fairy tale. He’s charming and suave and handsome, but his smile can turn terrifying with a simple tweak of his lips. Which means he is dangerous as hell. But he’s also fascinating as hell. This man has waited and plotted his revenge for seven years. Over two thousands days he’s been working on getting his train back. And since he was thought to be dead by Melanie, he has the upper hand on her for now. Though he never so much as raises his voice in the first episode, it’s the passengers of Big Alice and their reaction to him that says everything one needs to know about how life is on Wilford’s train. At the end of the wild first episode, we’re left with something that completely blew me away. When Wilford gives Alex the order to get the trains moving again, his Head of Hospitality Kevin who has been captured by the taillies of Snowpiercer begins to pray and give thanks to Wilford for sparring them; like he is their literal god. We only got to meet a few of the people aboard Big Alice and though they seem better off and far more advanced in their medicine than those on Snowpiercer they all have an air of fear about them. And if all of his passengers fear him like he is God, the things they’re willing to do to stay in Wilford’s good graces promises to be unheard of, unsettling and hopefully irredeemable.

The first season of Snowpiercer wasn’t the best thing on television while it was airing but it was compelling enough. I personally really enjoyed it despite the glaring flaws. However it seems that season two intends to fix some of the small setbacks of its predecessor, especially its pacing. Season one was a ride but it was a slow burning one, this first episode of season two gives off the vibes that things are being kicked into high gear and there will no longer be a slow burn of anything. The chaos and urgency of the “The Time of Two Engines” leaves viewers sitting on the edge of their seat even when the scenes in front of them are easy. There is a sense of underlying dread that comes with Wilford and his Big Alice. And I can’t wait to watch it all play out.

Snowpiercer airs Monday nights on TNT and can be streamed on HBO Max

-Danyi

PS: if you made it to the end and enjoyed what i had to say, cashapp me some lunch $danyi13

asexuality · black girl blogs · short stories · Uncategorized

A Game of Perspective

When Angy was younger, she would sit on her sisters’ bed and watch the older girl tape magazine pages to her wall. Clara had a thing for boys with strong cheekbones and dark hair, the pattern was evident to Angy who spent a lot of time listening to her sister gush about whichever popular boy they went to high school with. Often Angy would wonder why she never felt the same way about the boys that Clara did. She even had an English class with her sisters’ second biggest crush. And every time he smiled at Angy she would try her hardest to understand why her sister liked him. Each time though, she found herself left disappointed. Her sister had terrible taste in boys.

After Clara graduates, Angy doesn’t have to listen to boy talk anymore but she’s more lonely than she’s ever been. Her sister is her best friend and without her, Angy doesn’t really have anyone. The girls she sees the most in school, Alex and Caden have both recently gotten boyfriends. And the sound of lips smacking against each other makes Angy’s skin crawl so she doesn’t see them like she used to. They don’t seem to notice or mind.

The summer before college, Angy got her first boyfriend. A guy from her senior English class, James. He was nice and he was quiet and Angy thought she liked him. They would sometimes go to the movies together and Angy always enjoyed the conversations they had afterward. James was smart. James also wanted to kiss Angy and hold her hand and put her hand down the front of his pants while they sat together in the car. It was something she hadn’t expected and at first, didn’t quite know how to react to. He wanted her to touch him for what? He wanted to always have his lips pressed to hers for what? And when Angy had asked him about it, after spending ten minutes awkwardly trying to kiss him back and move her hand at the same time, James hadn’t really had an answer for her.

“You make my dick hard.”

After he drops her back home, Angy texts James that maybe them hanging out so much isn’t a good idea. She doesn’t want to spend all their time together kissing and touching when they could be talking and laughing. Angy reads the text message over several times before she sends it to him, hoping that she’s explained herself fully and in a way he can understand.

James calls her and laughs at her.

Angy spends the rest of the summer in her room. She doesn’t even tell anyone which day she’s leaving for school or when she’ll be back. Alex and Caden don’t text her goodbye, Angy finds out from social media that they’re practically living with their boyfriends now. Both of them seemed to have forgotten Angy’s entire existence.

It doesn’t matter though, because Clara texts her and asks Angy if she’s on her way. Angy packs the last of her boxes into the trunk of her Dad’s truck and doesn’t bother to look back once she’s buckled in her seat and they’re turning onto the highway.

College is very different from high school. But it’s also very much the same. Clara is a junior and Angy a freshman. Her sister has already moved off campus and although Angy spends a lot of time there, she can’t spend all her time in her sisters living room. Her roommate in her dorm is nice enough, a small girl named Kathy. She’s beautiful and she knows it, her boyfriend knows it too. Angy wonders if he ever gets tired of having her pretty much glued to his hip. Then she wonders if Kathy ever gets tired of always having someone in her space. She’d asked her roommate about it once, but the girl’s answer hadn’t made much sense.

“We’re addicted to each other,” She winked at Angy. “The sex is amazing.”

Angy went to bed that night wonder what amazing sex had to do with letting your personal space be taken away.

“You’re thinking about it too hard Angy,” Clara tells her the next time she’s sitting at her kitchen table doing her homework. “It’s human nature to want to fuck, you just gotta find the right person. Just because it didn’t work out with James doesn’t mean it won’t with someone else.”

Angy isn’t sure Clara’s right but she doesn’t say anything. Maybe she hasn’t met the right person yet.

She meets Ashley by chance, they have the same sociology class together and they awkwardly stand together one morning waiting for the door to be opened. Only the professor doesn’t show up and by the time it’s twenty minutes past start time, the rest of the class has wandered away.

Ashley bangs on the door one last time, sucking her teeth and muttering about professors being unprofessional. She kicks the door with the toe of her heeled boot and a pen drops out of her backpack, rolling over to Angy. It’s a black ink one with a theme designed on it. Angy picks it up and studies it for a moment before she looks up and holds it out to Ashley.

“You can keep it.” Ashley waves a hand, she’s digging around in her purse. “I’ve got so many of those things in my dorm.”

Angy blinks a few times before she slips the pen into the side pocket of her backpack. The two of them are still the only ones standing in front of the door.

“You’re Angelica right?” Ashley asks, pulling out her syllabus for the class and glancing over it. “Clara’s sister.”

Angy nods. “You know Clara?”

Ashley laughs and nods. “I do.” She grins at Angy, folding the syllabus back up and replacing it in her purse. “You could say she’s like my big sister.”

Angy doesn’t know what to say, but she smiles at Ashley anyways.

“You wanna grab lunch?”

Angy doesn’t see a reason to say no.

Two months later, Clara throws a party and Angy doesn’t have any choice but to attend. It’s her sisters’ party, first of all, and Kathy is going and so is Ashley. If she doesn’t go, she’ll never hear the end of it.

Angy even goes the extra mile and lets Ashley dress her. She wants to try and understand what is so fun about being hot and sweaty around other people. Angy wants to process correctly why people have a need to drink alcohol and socialize. So she attends her sisters’ party with her roommate and her best friend. In a tight dress with high heels and her face made up. She’d let Ashley go the whole nine yards.

Clara’s house is packed with people. There isn’t a room that’s empty and there isn’t a seat that isn’t being sat upon. It makes Angy’s skin itch, to see her sisters space so full of people. She isn’t able to dwell on it for long, almost as soon as the house fills up Ashley is shoving a red cup into her hands and pulling her through the groups of people.

There’s no ice in her cup, so Angy struggles to force the liquor down. She thinks about mentioning to Ashley that she should have asked Clara to make their drinks. Her sister knows exactly how to make her drinks so that Angy doesn’t taste the alcohol. It all works out though because soon Ashley is pulling her back into the kitchen and Clara just so happens to be in there as well.

She takes the red cup from her sister, she looks in it and sucks her teeth.

“My sisters picky about her drinks,” Clara explains to Ashley. “You need just the right amount of ice and if you have it, a chaser for her to gulp down afterward.”

Ashely’s listening intently to the older woman and Angy can’t help but find the whole situation strange. Her best friend being taught how to make her drinks the right way by her older sister. It’s weird.

Again though, she isn’t given long to think about it. Clara’s quick and within minutes Angy’s drink has been made and put back in her hands. And of course, Ashley is soon pulling her back through the party. Back into having to socialize with a bunch of people she barely knows.

They’re sitting on the steps, drinking and laughing when suddenly Ashley is taking her hand and pulling her to her feet.

“What’s wrong?” Angy asks, she’s surprised her words aren’t slurred yet.

“It’s kinda loud down here don’t you think?” Ashley asks leading Angy up the stairs. “Let’s go somewhere quieter.”

Angy lets out a sigh of relief. Finally, she’s getting away from all the noise, she’s getting a chance to relax. Maybe even actually enjoy the drink she’s been swallowing down because it’s expected of her.

They end up in the bathroom, her sisters’ bedroom is locked and the guest bedroom already occupied. Angy doesn’t want to think about what whoever is in there doing. Ashley shuts the door behind them and locks it, her thin fingers switching the lock with ease.

Angy jumps up onto the cabinet, setting her cup next to her and letting out a deep sigh.

“You okay?” Ashley asks as she checks her makeup in the mirror.

“Yeah, it’s just overwhelming.” Angy shrugs. “My sister loves people, she always has.”

Ashley laughs. “She throws a good party, I’ll give her that.” She looks at Angy in the mirror. “Are you having fun?”

Angy shrugs, swinging her legs a bit. “I guess, I mean it’s kind of boring to me. Just drinking and talking to people about things I don’t really care about.”

Ashley grins and puts down her mascara. The tub rolling across the counter and coming to rest against Angy’s thigh.

“Well let’s liven things up a little bit huh?”

Angy turns to give Ashley a questioning look but she doesn’t get the chance to. Her friend is suddenly moving and reaching for Angy at the same time. Her fingers are clammy as they touch Angy’s cheeks and come to grip in her hair. The other woman had moved between Angy’s legs, pressing herself close to the point she’s against the cabinet itself and her chest is pressed to Angy’s.

Ashley kisses Angy hard, her lips smashing against the girl on the cabinets. Angy finds she can’t move, as if someone or something has reached through the mirror behind her and holds her in place, Angy can only sit and feel her friends lips moving against hers. She pushes her tongue into Angy’s mouth and whether it’s the taste of another person or the feel of Ashley’s tongue against her Angy isn’t sure but it shocks her enough to the point of moving. Angy’s hands find Ashley’s shoulders and grip them firmly before she shoves.

Her friend falls back, arms flailing in the arm. Angy thinks she might actually tip back into the tub but she doesn’t wait to see. She hops down from the cabinet, knocking her red cup over in the process. There’s a crash behind her as her fingers slip on the lock of the door but Angy is able to clumsily flip it open and twist the handle.

She’s out the bathroom and down the stairs before she hears Ashley calling after her.

Clara’s in the living room and she sees Angy rushing down the stairs. She meets her little sister at the front door, blocking her path and demanding to know what’s wrong. Angy doesn’t think she’s crying, her face doesn’t feel wet but her sister doesn’t move out of the way even when she tells her that she’s fine.

They stand in front of the door, quietly arguing for a moment. Angy insisting that she’s fine and just needs air and Clara not falling for the bullshit excuse in the slightest. It isn’t until Angy hears her name behind her, coming from Ashley’s confused voice, does she shove past her sister.

The night air is cold against her face but Angy welcomes it. Her sister doesn’t live far from campus. She can walk back.

There are footsteps behind her, frantic and rushed and Angy ignores them. There’s only one pair so at least she’s sure that not both Ashley and Clara followed her. Only one of them did. Angy won’t turn around to look but she hopes silently that the one to follow her wasn’t her sister.

“Jesus Ang, slow down!”

Angy can’t be granted any small mercies tonight apparently.

Her sister is buttoning the last button on her coat when she finally falls into step with Angy. There’s something draped over her right arm and when she holds it out to Angy she sees more evidence that her big sister is exactly that. A big sister. The coat is dark green and new, Angy isn’t sure she’s ever seen it before. She slides her arms in and zips it up, burrowing down in the warmth.

“So,” Clara clears her throat. “You wanna tell me what’s happening?”

Angy sighs. Her eyes sting with unexpected tears and Angy blinks rapidly, suddenly mad and frustrated with herself. Clara waits, patiently and silently while Angy wrestles to get herself together. They walk two whole blocks before Angy can decide on what to say.

“I….I don’t understand people.”

She winces and sneaks a glance at her sister.

Clara is looking ahead, her eyes scanning the dark streets ahead of them. Checking and making sure it’s safe. Big sister Clara, Angy thinks with a small smile.

“Is that all?”

Angy shakes her head and takes a deep breath.

“Everyone’s so obsessed with sex.” She says, the words suddenly wanting to come bubbling out. “I don’t understand it, I don’t get it and I don’t want to get it. It seems like all everyone wants to do is have sex, or talk about the sex they’re having. It’s weird and it’s honestly kinda gross.” She looks at Clara again. “Ashley kissed me in the bathroom and I panicked.”

Clara meets her eyes. “Why’d you panic?”

“I don’t like kissing.” Angy stresses. “I don’t understand why everyone else does. And I don’t understand why I have to like it just because you guys do.”

She sees her sister smile and Angy huffs.

“Relax,” Clara says, linking her arm with Angy’s as they come to a stop at a red light. “I’m not laughing at you.” She looks up and down the street, there aren’t any cars. “It’s just not like you to get caught up in something like this.” She tugs Angy across the street, against the red light.

“I’m not caught up in anything,” Angy says defensively. “I just wish my friends would stop wanting to kiss me.”

Clara nods. “And that’s perfectly okay to want that.”

Angy looks at her warily. “That’s not what it seems like.”

“Angy, if you don’t want anyone touching you or kissing you or dating you that’s completely in your right,” Clara says firmly. “You don’t have to let someone be close to you just because everyone else has someone close to them.”

Angy chews on her lip and looks around, watching the dark shadows as they pass them.

“It makes me feel like an outsider.” She says quietly, her stomach clenching with embarrassment as she speaks. “Like there might be something wrong with me, with my mind.”

“There’s not,” Clara says sharply. She stops walking, forcing Angy to do the same. “Ang, I’m serious.” Clara unloops their arms just so she can grab her sister by the shoulders. “There’s nothing wrong with you, do you hear me?”

Angy looks at her sister. It’s not often that they get serious with each other, very rarely does the situation call for it. She’s heard this kind of firmness in her sisters’ voice a handful of times. It always catches her by surprise.

Clara squeezes her shoulders, bringing Angy back into focus.

“I hear you.” Angy nods, sniffing quietly. “I hear you, sis.”

If she doesn’t believe her, Angy can’t tell but Clara nods her head and they start walking again. The dorm rooms are within sight now.

Her sister walks her all the way back to her dorm door. The older of the two mumbling about how much it had changed since she had been there.

“You were just here not even two years ago.” Angy snorts opening her door and peeking inside. It’s dark, Kathy must still be at the party.

“Are you gonna be okay?” Clara asks.

Angy nods, smiling at her sister. “Of course I am, I just needed to vent.” She starts to unzip the coat but Clara’s hand stops hers.

“Keep it.” Her sister rolls her eyes. “I know you haven’t bought one yet so I got you one.”

Angy smirks. “I appreciate you.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Clara pulls out her phone. “I’m gonna order an Uber. Come over tomorrow?”

Angy thinks about it for a minute before nodding. “Yeah okay, I’ll text you.”

Clara taps away at her phone, already walking down the hallway. Angy watches her go for a moment. She’s just about to go into her room when her sister calls out to her.

“Angelica!”

She sticks her head back out of the door, meeting her sisters’ eyes all the way down the hallway.

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Clara says firmly. “Okay?”

They hold each other gaze for a long moment. Angy can feel a wave of emotions crashing over her, the words her sister chose to emphasize and the fact she came after her in the first place. Angy doesn’t think anyone will ever understand her the way her sister does. And she’s grateful for that.

Angy takes a deep breath and smiles at her sister.

“Okay.”

The End.

-Danyi

asexuality · black girl blogs · black women · Uncategorized

Androgynous and Ace, The New AA

When I was seven years old, my older cousin told me that I looked like a boy. She did it because she didn’t want me hanging out with her and her friends. I wanted to go with them to the mall, but no group of teenagers wants a kid trailing after them while they hang out. She’s nearly eight years older than me so I was nothing but an annoying little shadow to her. I know now that she didn’t really mean it but the younger me, the growing up in a judgemental society me, didn’t and it has resonated with me so much that eighteen years later I’m only now starting to deal with it.

Back then, I was only hurt about my big cousin not wanting me to be around her. I didn’t understand the real meanness behind her comment. Until middle school, when a girl who I didn’t even know told me that I had the body of a boy. This time, it wasn’t my face, but my body that apparently didn’t fit the normal female standard. I remember how hot my face got when I had fully comprehended what she’d said to me and I remember how my stomach twisted in unidentified embarrassment. It was only more fuel to my growing need to disappear, a need that I didn’t quite understand. My older cousin said I looked like a boy and now someone else was saying it too, so it had to be true. I pressured my mother and aunt to buy me clothes that were too big for me and I hid in them.

I didn’t learn the word Androgynous until I was in high school, however, it wasn’t a pleasant introduction to it. My boyfriend at the time was upset because I had cut my hair into a mohawk, he was discussing with his friends through texts about how manly it made me look to him. One of his friends replied back “lol she’s just androgynous dude.” but my ex, hated that idea and claimed that he didn’t date “unknowns”. Oddly enough, I don’t remember my reaction or if I reacted at all. Maybe it hurt me so bad that I’m still repressing it, or perhaps not being able to remember is proof enough in itself. However, I do remember googling Androgynous and hastily searching for someone who looked like me in the images that were brought up. I ended up disappointed as Google, then and now, only provided images of white women with pixie cuts and strongish cheekbones along with guys who faces were slightly feminine. I looked nothing like them and they don’t even slightly resemble me.   

Either way, I took solace in looking like a boy. Or at least I tried to because I didn’t know what else to do. I cut my hair short and kept my clothes as large as I could get them. At least at first, but it was a constant battle with my boyfriend who was embarrassed to be seen out with me. He felt like everyone would think he was dating a guy and that he was gay. Soon, my baggy jeans and huge t-shirts started disappearing from my closet and were replaced with leggings and halter tops. I had the body, I should be showing it off. It wasn’t what I wanted, but everyone around me did. So I went with it. Fast forward through some years of trauma and the severe depression, my clothes no longer became a concern of mine. I had bigger problems than the fact people thought I looked like a guy. While they were busy judging my face, I was mulling over the fact that all my emotions seemed to have finally disappeared. I didn’t feel happy or sad or even content, I was just here.

Which makes for really interesting interactions when someone wants to date. Every guy that attempted to talk to me eventually gave up as I didn’t react to things the way they thought I should have. My need to distance myself from romance and relationships was practically unheard of. Black women are supposed to always want a significant other. Society has projected that image on us to the point it’s the norm and those of us who aren’t interested in that particular area, are usually mocked and made fun of. People around me couldn’t understand, I had been with my ex for six years and now suddenly I wasn’t interested in relationships anymore? Something had to be wrong with me. And trying to explain that me being with my ex and loving him but never really liking all the things that came with being in a relationship? There’s no simple way to explain something like that and when you’re trying to explain it to someone who already has an idea about you in their head, it’s like talking to a dust mite.

Then, to add on to my ever growing pile of heavy thoughts on my mind, I started identifying as asexual. If you’ve read my other articles you know that I discovered “Asexual” on Tumblr and ended up spending hours on Google learning and reading about it. Just like the images attached to my google search of Androgynous, most if not all of the stories about asexuality came from white people. I couldn’t relate to the stories of growing up with no crushes or the accounts of being made fun of not wanting to have sex (which isn’t what asexuality is anyways but that’s another day, another article). So for a year or so, I struggled internally. I had absolutely no desire at all to have sex with anyone. I didn’t want to kiss anyone and handshakes were about all the touching I’d allow. My trauma and it’s contribution to my asexuality is still a glaring red folder that I need to open and read, but it always added a layer of confusion to thoughts. Was I really asexual? Or just a trauma-ridden woman who needed time and space and an excuse to not date anymore? It’s easy to acknowledge when I see a face I find pleasing, but it’s hard to say these things around others because we’ve been conditioned to believe that any recognition of attraction is sexual. Even though I heavily identified with the term asexual, I wasn’t able to communicate with others about it because of reasons that just kept building up. I’ve had crushes before, I still have crushes now. I can see why some people love sex, for a while, it was kind of enjoyable at times. But on the internet, where most things are exaggerated, because of those things, I couldn’t be truly asexual. On one side I had to be like the accounts of white asexuals and absolutely not want anything to do with anyone ever to be considered asexual. Then on the other side, I’m a black woman and black women can only be sexual, to some of my fellow black people I was just on some weird white shit. I was stuck in a never-ending spiral of these labels existing but not thinking they applied to me because I couldn’t find anyone to relate to and was only being shown examples of absolutes.

I talk about being asexual a lot because the community is so small and the more visibility we can gain the better. But I don’t really feel as if I belong there, much like I feel like I don’t belong in the androgynous community either. On the internet, I watch as most if not all, asexuals fight for inclusion in the LGBT+ community. It’s been a long battle and at times a weird one but I don’t feel as if it’s my fight. Or even if I wanted to fight my words would be heard. Because I don’t fit into the already pre-established definition of an asexual. So when I try to speak up, my words are dismissed and pushed aside. The account of a black woman struggling with hypersexualization is boring compared to the want of being included in a group of people. After all, if I’m not fighting for asexuals to be included in the LGBT community am I really an asexual at all?

And because everything in life intersects, when I finally took the time to sit down and think about being both Androgynous and Asexual I was thinking for far longer than I originally wanted to. It’s hard to hear that my face and body isn’t the “set standard” for femininity. Not only from a family member but a complete stranger as well, not to mention the reactions my ex had to my style choices and even now how my short fade haircut makes men automatically assume that I’m a lesbian. With all of that surrounding me,  finding any type of confidence in myself and the labels I choose for myself became nearly impossible. It’s something I’m still working through. I often wonder if a chain reaction was started somewhere or if being both androgynous and asexual are complicated separate for myself. I know, of course, that I could be one without the other but I think about the phrase “everything happens for a reason” comes into mind and makes me second guess myself.

It’s taken years to try and come into some sort of acceptance about being androgynous and asexual. Funnily enough, I think I accepted the latter long before I did the former. Because if I have to, I can keep being ace a secret. I can’t hide my androgyny. My face is mine, and although it’s not perfect it’s like this for a reason. I try to keep that mantra in my mind always, especially when I find myself being stared at in public. I could always change my face, plastic surgery has been brought up many times. Both from myself and from other people. However, I reject that idea that I need to cut and pull and reshape my face. I applaud those who do get plastic surgery, it takes a different kind of confidence to be able to do that. One that I’m not sure I’ll ever have. But I don’t want to change my face and I’ve finally reached the point where I don’t want others to accept my face. I don’t need validation from others about my face and body because it’s not theirs in the first place, it’s mine. Only my opinion about my self matters.

I look back now, at my cousin telling me that I looked like a boy and part of me wants to thank her. She prepared me for the harshness that society was going to bring. Intentionally or not, she set me up to be ready for every negative comment that is thrown my way. Honestly, no one will ever say anything as bad as some of the things that she and other family members have said to me. Being told that I look like a boy may have at first hurt me to my core, but I took that hurt and studied it until I understood it. Now I use that hurt to help others understand that the way they are is okay. Because I wish that, instead of telling seven years old me I was boyish, my cousin had been there to help me understand the internal dislike for things I couldn’t change.

-Danyi

black girl blogs · Movie Reviews · reviews · Uncategorized

Blindspotting: A beautiful insight of the ugly struggle

Words are hard. By themselves or strung together in a sentence. They’re tricky. Some of them have several meanings while others only have one definitive meaning. They can be exchanged like currency and thrown like punches. Both universal and limited. There just might be nothing more complicated than words. But there also might be nothing more beautiful than words. When used correctly and with imagination, they create works of art. Weaving colorful pictures into our minds without dipping a brush into paint, words compiled together to make scripts are often exquisite and give us compelling stories. The best movies have the best scripts. And Blindspotting, written by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs is one of 2018’s best.

Collin has three days left on his probation. He’s made it an entire year without any incidents and if he can make it through these last three days he’ll be free. As free as possible, with him being a tall black male with long braided hair that is. One would think since Collin has made it this far that his last three days of probation would be a breeze. But life always seems to have a way of making what should be easy, hard. And when your best friend is loud, volatile and ready to fight at the drop of a hat; staying out of trouble is more complicated than people realize. Miles has been Collin’s best friend since they were 11 years old, they work at Commander Moving and spend every day together. Collin even picks Miles up in the morning, drops him back home at night and makes sure their time cards are properly clocked in and out. They’re like two peas in a pod. However, where Collin is laid back and chill, Miles is abrasive and ignorant. Usually, it’s reflected back on Collin before it is Miles and even though that isn’t Miles fault, it eventually becomes the backbone of their fall out. Collin is, more often than not, the one who pays for Miles’s foolishness.

Make no mistake though, Miles isn’t stupid. He’s just very much a town nigga, he’s proud of his Oakland roots and he’s ready to defend himself at all times because of his pale skin in a sea of brownness. He’s had to be this way to survive but now with the gentrification of Oakland, more and more white people are starting to show up. Which makes Miles look like a poser to those that don’t know him. And there’s nothing worse than being considered a poser.

While Miles deals with the possibility of being seen as a transplant, Collin quietly suffers from PTSD after witnessing the police shoot an unarmed black man. Over the next couple of days, Collin is haunted by the incident. In the back of his mind, there’s the constant blaring of the car alarm that went off when the black man was shot. The red light flashes in his mind when goes for his morning runs and when he sleeps at night. Any time Collin sees a cop car his world suddenly zeros in on it. He’s is now always acutely aware of his surroundings and always on guard. He may be out of jail, but in many ways, Collin is still a prisoner. Which is only proven even more every time he goes home to the Halfway House. In this house, he’s nothing more than another convicted felon. The parole officer who runs the house, James, cares not for Collin’s personal life or feelings. His main focus is whether or not Collin has done his assigned chore of cleaning bathrooms each day. He tells Collin that he’s assigned these chores so that it can be determined if he can follow simple orders or not. As if how well Collin can clean a bathroom is going to stop the police from messing with him out on the streets.

It’s in the usage of words that Blindspotting finds its home. It’s a beautiful film visually but it’s the dialogue and the script that give it that little boost above the rest. Shown amazingly in the parking lot argument that Collin and Miles have after Miles loses his temper at a party. It’s a blow-up that’s been a long time coming, the two have clearly never had a real fight in their friendship before. To Miles, Collin is acting brand new. Almost like he’s trying to fit in with those that are gentrifying their home. He’s right in the sense that Collin is different since having gone to jail. But Miles is wrong to think that the change was something Collin did willingly and is just doing to try to fit in. Collin had to change to survive. He’s on police radar already for just being a black man but now he’s on it even more because he’s a convicted felon. He had to change so he doesn’t end up dead or back in jail. Miles doesn’t get that.

Throughout the whole movie, Collin has been calling Miles nigga. He refers to him as one constantly, it passes his lips with such ease and Miles just goes with it. He’s never said it back, he is white after all. But he hasn’t ever stopped Collin from calling him one either. It’s addressed however when emotions are high and tensions boiling over, Collin demands that Miles say it back to him. Collin wants to hear Miles say “yeah, my nigga”, he wants to hear that word come out of his friend’s mouth. But Miles won’t say it. He’s white, therefore he technically isn’t a nigga and can’t ever be one. And Miles knows that. Most importantly he knows it’s disrespectful. Even though Collin has given him permission to say it, which is all it takes for some nonblack folks. Miles knows that him saying nigga would be disrespectful to Collin. But he has it put into a whole new perspective when Collin tells Miles that his actions, his ignorance and his gun-toting bullshit is what they (the police and white people) expect from Collin. Even when it’s clearly Miles who is the ghetto one, people still look to Collin to be right at his side acting the same way. Miles is the nigga that they are out here looking for, even though their eyes automatically seek Collin to slap that label onto.

I really like Blindspotting. The story, the character structure, the script and the attention to detail. It’s all amazingly well thought out. There are so many layers to the film that one viewing isn’t enough and even after seeing the film five times, I find myself picking up on new things that I missed before. It’s in the details the story is able to become such a powerhouse. From new futuristic houses sticking out between older traditional Oakland homes to the way transplants have no care for the natives. Or the fact that the man in charge of Collin at the halfway house is a black man who has absolutely no sympathy for him at all. Even the flashback of the fight that sent Collin to jail is packed full of details that help the present story that beings told now.

Collin and Miles’s relationship is one of the greatest details of the film, the way they understand each other. It’s in the structure of their friendship that makes all other dynamics connect and progress the film through its journey.

For example, a seemingly big part of Collin’s struggle is his ex-girlfriend, Val. She works the front desk at Commander Moving so Collin has to see her every day. They broke up when Collin went to jail and Val hasn’t forgiven him nor gotten over it. She still likes Collin but is too aggressive in her disapproval of certain parts of his lifestyle. Val constantly tells Collin that he needs to get rid of Miles, dismissing the fact that Miles is his best friend. His only friend from the looks of it. She wants Collin to want better for himself, but she can’t get past the fight that put Collin in jail and she won’t stop blaming Miles for it.

One thing I wish we could have gotten a little more of was Collin and Ashley. I wanted them to have a one on one conversation about the trauma of cops shooting black people. Her just asking him if he’s alright and then never bringing it up again or noticing Collin’s rapid decline was a little strange to me. She does have a whole child to care for so it’s not unrealistic for her to not notice, but it would have been nice all the same.

As a beginning filmmaker, Blindspotting is a film that I’m going to be studying for a long time. It’s a masterpiece and it’s beautiful but it’s also simple. It’s not complex or hard to follow and I think, in that, it’s able to build a strong storyline and even stronger characters. It’s a film that you can tell truly began in the writer’s room with a clear vision of what the message was going to be. And I love that. It makes me excited for the world of films and opens the possibility of what we could be seeing in the future. I’m especially excited to see what Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal do next. It promises to be, at the very least, a thought-provoking good time.

9.8/10

-Danyi

Movie Reviews · reviews · Uncategorized

Sorry To Bother You- The Movie We Need To Talk About

I like weird things. Weird movies, weird shows, weird books and even weird clothes. If it’s different, to me, I’m more than likely going to at least give it a chance. There are some things that get a little too weird for me but more often than not I back things that others side-eyed. I used to think being called weird was an insult, I used to think that I needed to hide my nerdiness and never talk about what I liked in a group of people. Now though, in my mid 20’s, being weird is the next cool trend and people are clamoring over themselves to try and earn the crown of “Most Weird”. I’ve watched people flock to shows and movies, claiming them to be the outstanding kind of weird. Most of them aren’t but it’s interesting to watch people suddenly want to be weird. There is something good that has come out of this trend though. Black people are finally getting to showcase our weirdness and we’re getting to be loud and proud while we do it. And it’s a beautiful thing.

When I was in college, a classmate introduced me to a band called The Coup. Their frontman, Boots Riley, had a different way about rapping that really spoke to me. The Coup had just realized their newest album “Sorry To Bother You” when they were brought to my attention. And I played the album out over late night study sessions and bus rides to campus. As time passed though the album was shifted from my regular rotation to being occasionally played and finally just being something that would play in the background when I shuffled all songs on my phone. So imagine my surprise when, years later, it’s announced that Boots Riley had written and directed a film titled “Sorry To Bother You”. I freaked out. Then I saw the trailer and freaked out again. From the trailer alone I could tell that this movie was going to be my kind of weird.

Sorry To Bother You tells the story of Cassius Green, a young man who’s slowly sinking in an “alt reality” where the world relies on capitalism to keep it afloat. He and his girlfriend Detroit, whose art is as stunning as she is, live in his uncle’s garage. Detroit works as a sign twirler while Cassius has just been hired as a telemarketer for RegalView. They may be poor but they’re happy. And they’re trying their best to keep away from the rapidly growing trend known as “Worry Free Homes”, a place where people work 14 hours a day and are packed together like sardines. But it’s marketed as a happy, almost retreat, like community where no one has worry about debt ever again. At RegalView, the goal is to call as many people as you can and sell encyclopedias to them. The more you sell, the more you’re paid. However, Cassius quickly learns that more often than not, the clients are going to hang up on him. And with this job being a commissions only one, his paychecks aren’t going to be as much as he wants them to be if they’re anything at all.

Eventually, an older black man named Langston takes pity on Cassius and tells him that if he wants to make any money he’ll have to start using his white voice. Cassius dismisses this at first, a push back against conforming to the man. However, Langston explains that what we consider a “white voice” isn’t really about the person being white. It’s about sounding like you’ve got everything under control, you have no worries and you’re just as successful as the person you’re talking to. And after he takes a call and demonstrates, Cassius realizes that he just might be onto something.

Just when Cassius is starting to get the hang of being a telemarketer that actually makes sales, he is pulled into a completely opposite direction when his friends on the call floor decide they’ve had enough. Led by the resilient and persistent Squeeze, the workers stage a protest during peak call times. They want to be paid for the work they do and not just used like mules to keep the company going. Both Detroit and Cassius’s best friend Sal are down to demand change but Cassius himself is hesitant because he knows that the bosses upstairs are watching him. He needs to be promoted to Power Caller, to keep his uncle from losing his house but he also doesn’t want to go against his friends and girlfriend.

When he is promoted, Cassius is given a taste of what life is like when people are actually paid for the work they do. He gets to see what it’s like to not have to struggle to live. But he also discovers what prices he must pay for this life, what immoral things he has to turn a blind eye to and the kind of person he has to become if he wants to do well in this new world. And it’s not until Cassius is invited to the owner of the company, Steve Lift’s annual party does he realize that maybe he’s working for truly evil people.

For the sake of spoilers, I won’t go much further into detail about what happens in the movie. However, I do want to look at some of the things that I took away from this movie and why I think it’s really important for everyone to see it.

To me, Sorry To Bother You, is one of the most profound movies I’ve ever seen. Its stance on capitalism is loud and clear, with the Worry Free Homes and the RegalView job being commission only instead of by the hour. The movie gives us a clear picture of what we will be like as a society soon. Some would even say we’re already there and STBY is just showing us how everything will play out. The Worry Free Homes are a glorified version of prisons and they are presented in a way that makes them seem far less toxic than they are. On the TV, the people who in the Homes are happy to be there. Happy to be doing the work and happy to literally be worry free. But because of their presentation, people don’t question the ethics. There’s a resistance, of course, a group named Left Eye spends a majority of their time defacing Worry Free adds and aiding protestors when they hold their rallies. However, society as a whole doesn’t care and isn’t outraged enough for anything to be done. So Worry Free Homes continue to be an okay thing. I wouldn’t call this much of stretch from our world today. We rely heavily on public outrage for things to get done and more often than not if you want something changed you’re more likely to be successful if you take the issue to Twitter than you are if you take it to Congress or the Government. Even when Cassius finally thinks he’s found a way to take down Worry Free and by extension of them RegalView, he learns that people only care if you have an answer to the problem. No one wants to help solve problems that don’t affect them directly.

Another theme that Sorry To Bother You focuses on is the idea that black people are often seen as mules. We are worked harder and longer than most and often the work ends up not mattering because the goal post continues to be moved or isn’t even for us to score goals in the first place. What I mean by this is, at first Cassius wanted to be promoted just so he could save his uncle’s home and not have to struggle anymore. That’s all he really wanted. When the higher-ups suddenly took an interest in him, he was moved up and looked at as someone who could build a bridge between two worlds. He was moved up because he’s a black man who is going against what other black people and people of color are doing. It did not escape me that Cassius and his boss Mr. Blank were the only black Power Callers. They were the “we’re clearly diverse” hill that RegalView would die on in case they ever needed to defend themselves for what they were doing. Cassius is good at being a telemarketer but it wasn’t just his skills that got him an invite to Steve Lift’s party, a familiar setting that black people in the workforce often find themselves in.

There are little things scattered throughout the movie that I enjoyed and also show us just how ridiculous but alarming things have become. From the most popular show on the air being about people beating each other up to the elaborate code that a Power Callers have to us in their elevator and even Cassius’s broke down bucket car. They may seem like an exaggeration but when you stop and think about it, they really aren’t. Society as a whole has changed into something that is quickly becoming toxic and if we continue to ignore it, we’ll only get worse.

It’s important that people see this movie because not only is it massively entertaining, it’s a movie that has something to say. It may say it weirdly and it may make a lot of people extremely uncomfortable but the message STBY is trying to get out is one we all need to hear. I’ve seen the movie three times now and each time the audience reactions are different. Everyone takes it differently, I was in one show where a person got up and left while at another everyone clapped when the credits rolled. It’s bringing up things that society wants us to ignore and just be okay with, and Sorry To Bother You is here to say fuck that. We need to pay more attention to what is happening and stop hiding behind good presentation and promises of a better life. Because the “better life” has a rule printed in the finest of fonts that it can only be given to a few.

I only have one worry about Sorry To Bother You, and that is, that the “shocking” visual revelation in the third act will overpower the messages the movie conveyed. I fear that people only take away from the movie the end result and not how the movie got to that end in the first place. The revelation is very shocking, don’t get me wrong but what’s even more shocking is the people only want to talk about that. It’s being called this years’ “Get Out” and that alone tells me that many people missed the memo. They can’t comprehend that this movie is nothing like Get Out, but because both films deal with race they think the two must be considered the same. Get Out was one thing, Sorry To Bother You is something completely different. They are not mutually exclusive. We can praise STBY without comparing it to any other film because honestly there is no other film like it. Boots Riley has created a space where weirdness can have a home but the weirdness isn’t exempt from real life problems. And I think that’s wonderful.

The cast makes the movie all the better. Lakeith Stanfield is quickly becoming the actor to watch and his embodiment of Cassius Green is fantastic. Tessa Thompson has us all falling in love with her soft-spoken but highly radical Detroit. While Steven Yeun gives Squeeze a ton of heart and makes you want to join the resistance just to make him proud. Armie Hammer and Omari Hardwick play the roles of the villains beautifully. Hammer’s Steve Lift is absolutely insane but his presentation and constant cheery attitude lets him get away with pretty much everything. While Hardwick’s Mr. Blank was one of my favorite things about the movie, he’s a villain in the sense that we don’t know much about him but his support of Steve Lift tells us he’s in this for himself. I only wish we could have gotten to see more of Cassius’s uncle Surge because I love Terry Crews.

I recommend that everyone see this movie. Especially in a theater with others so that you can have this transformative experience with other people. I hope that it’s successful and Boots Riley is able to make more films, he’s clearly got a lot to say about things we need hear. Sorry To Bother You isn’t ahead of its time, rather it’s arrived right when we need it.

-Danyi