Hello and welcome to my blog. The name BridgeMoney was an alias I found when playing Cards Against Humanity. I liked it so much that I decided to use it for the name of the site. As the title suggests, I want to write things. The topics can be about anything that interests me: video games, books, TV shows, YouTube. I have a YouTube channel where I uploaded two videos, but they’re both horrible and nobody should watch them. Lately I’ve been thinking about reviving the channel with new content, but I’m still in the process of learning how to film and edit, so it probably won’t be soon.
Another reason I started this is because I’m somewhat of a writer myself. I’ve written three short stories and since graduating high school last year I’ve been working on a full-fledged novel. I don’t know if it’s any good yet, but I’m just trying to complete the first draft. I just need a place where I can put all my ideas, however dumb or random they may be.
If anyone is reading this, please tell me if you have anything you’d like me to talk about. I’m currently in school so updates to this blog might be infrequent. Anyways, that’s all I have to say for now.
Yeah, so February just kind of flew by. I don’t really have a reason for not posting, but I definitely haven’t forgotten that I have a blog that I really should update more frequently.
Now, normally I’ve been making posts about a single piece of media that I like or dislike, but this time I want to do something different which I’ve seen a lot of people cover books do. I’m going to go through a bunch of stuff I’ve read, watched, or listened to, and compile my thoughts all into one big round-up. There’s really no central theme to this, other than the list being a little teen-centric. So let’s talk about some media!
To All The Boys: P.S I Still Love You
This was one of the two romance movies I saw on Valentine’s Day to remind me that I’m still alone. I’ll get to the other one later, (and boy will I get to it) but I’d say this was a pretty good substitute for a relationship. The main draw is seeing Lara Jean and Pete Kavinsky navigate being a real couple, all with the added chaos of her former crush, John Ambrose, spicing up the mix. Having not read the books, I don’t know about the faithfulness of this adaption, but I’ve seen the last film and liked that one too, so it seems to be working for me. But I’d say that what makes To All The Boys enjoyable is its characters, not it’s plot, which is pretty standard rom-com fare. Overall I highly recommend it if you need something light and sweet, like all the desserts Lara Jean make.
I don’t know how else to say it: I do not understand cheerleading. I don’t know why it’s so big, or what attracts people to it, or why seeing countless injuries during a practice is supposed to make me admire the level of commitment a cheer team undergoes just to win a trophy in Florida. Watching this documentary only reaffirmed those feelings. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy some parts of the series. It does a really good job at establishing members of the team as people beyond the concussion-stained mat, and their stories are genuinely fascinating. Seriously, what is it with small Texas towns and competitive sorts? Can’t any of them find something else to obsess over? Maybe something more safe like video games. The second half of Cheer is the most uncomfortable I’ve been watching a show. By the end, I almost knew there was going to be at least one severe injury at the big competition, by virtue of all the other practices having one. My thoughts on this are complicated, and I could give it it’s own post, but I’ll just end it here by saying that anyone who tells their daughter to eat jack fruit is an asshole.
Like A Love Story
When people say that this book is a love letter to gayness, they really mean it. This is the absolute gayest book I’ve ever read, and in the best way possible. This can join the ranks of all the other books I mentioned back in my YA post of examples of fresh, diverse stories that you can’t find in any other genre. You could tell by reading that the author actually spent time and effort to faithfully recreate New York in the late 1980s, complete with all the Madonna references. I think what I love most about the story, and what people should take away from reading, is that gay/LGBT people have had their own history scrubbed from existence, and the need for more gay stories to be told, whether it be through pop divas, artists, poets, writers, or activists. It is absolutely one of the gems to come out of YA in 2019.
Music I’ve been listening to
I usually don’t share my music taste on here, mostly because there’s not much to say other that “I like how it sounds”, but since 2020 started, I’ve found some artists I’ve been jamming to non-stop, so here are a few if you’re interested.
The Bravery: They’re everything I like in a band. Early to mid-aughts, indie, fast, energetic drums, and vocals you can’t help but sing along to. Their first album is loaded with bangers front to back.
Neon Trees: Why can’t more pop music sound like this? Why can’t more rock music sound like this? Why isn’t “Teenage Sounds” and “Everybody Talks” universally considered one of the best songs of the 2010s? All I know is that they’re criminally underrated. Check out their 2012 album Picture Show if you need more convincing
100 gecs: These guys are the living versions of doomers, producing absurdist electronic nonsense that also bops as hard as anything in the mainstream. I really can’t describe it using words, so as my fellow generation says, “it’s a vibe”.
This was the other movie I saw on Valentine’ Day. I highly debated dedicating an entire post to this, but decided not to because I saw it as ragging on “low hanging fruit”. I mean, the cover says it all. You don’t even need to be familiar with Wattpad’s reputation to figure out that this is bad. But I couldn’t just let this one slide without sharing my thoughts. After is what happens when a fanfic writer attempts to write something original, and fails spectacularly. (yes, the person who wrote the book was actually a fanfic writer). What amazes me is that this isn’t even the first time Netflix made a movie adaption out of a Wattpad novel (see: The Kissing Booth, which has a sequel coming out later this year). And compared to this, The Kissing Booth looks like high class cinema. There’s just so much I find wrong about this movie, and listing them all here would be somewhat satisfying, but just trust me when I say to avoid After at all costs. It isn’t even worth hate-watching out of morbid curiosity, it’s just…no. To further illustrate my point, here’s a picture of the main love interest’s final essay he writes at the end of the movie. His COLLEGE essay that he writes for his COLLEGE English class for a COLLEGE grade. You know, in COLLEGE. I said I didn’t want to rag on low hanging fruit, but my God, did anyone involved in this movie care about anything other than their paychecks?
I might do this again if I have a lot of stuff I want to talk about but not spend that much time on. Let me know if any of you have some more thoughts.
For the first time in almost two months, I finally finished reading a book. It was Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West, and as for what I thought of it, let’s just say…it’s the reason why I’m writing this post.
There’s really not much to say about it story-wise. It’s a YA rom-com where two people get together at the end after some mildly inconveniencing obstacles that could easily be solved with two seconds of communication. Oh, and the main character likes the lake, and there’s a school podcast which is interesting until about halfway through, when it just becomes a question of “will the generic boy love interest who’s obviously calling in ever reveal himself?”, by which point you can see directly in a straight line where the story is headed. Simply-put, the book is basic. More specifically, the book is basic and shallow, the two worst combinations a book could be, besides pretentious and full of itself.
But, as the post’s title suggests, basic doesn’t necessarily mean shallow. And it’s not like I was expecting this book to be even half as deep as the lake pictured on the cover either. The most basic of stories can hide the most rich and complex themes and ideas, and be even more satisfying than an elaborate one made to challenge your mind with graduate-level philosophical questions. This premise was especially reinforced to me at the beginning of the month, when I binged all three and a half seasons of Netflix’s most adorable new sitcom about surviving cancer through the power of friendship, Alexa And Katie.
Yes, I am unironically in love with this show, just as I am with it’s distant sitcom cousin, No Good Nick. Both shows take basic story premises, and use them to make the absolute best quality television possible. They tell well-written, relateable stories, such as navigating your first day of high school or helping someone win a student election, in the most entertaining way that makes you root for its characters to succeed. They’re made for kids and families, but it never feels like they’re dumbing down plots just so younger audiences can understand them. The writers of these shows trust that anyone, from any age or background, can enjoy what they’ve written, a fact I’ve pointed out previously on this blog when talking about what makes a YA book/author truly great in my eyes.
There’s nothing wrong with writing only to please your target audience(which for Kasie West I assume are preteen girls). But it just disappoints me when I see elements that could make for a very interesting and fun story(a podcast run by teens, the lake vs. city rivalry) and have them turn out to be blander than boiled, unseasoned chicken. Even though I’m using this story as the basis for my post, I can honestly say I don’t hate it. It’s just unfortunate that the book wasn’t better, which I also can’t really blame the author for. That’s obviously the type of books she knows how to write best considering she pumps them out yearly. And I most certainly can’t blame the fans of these books. If it lines up with their tastes, and they enjoy reading them, who am I to criticize from my barely structural ivory tower? The only thing I can do is recommend stuff that I think is worth people’s time according to my own narrow tastes. (This is a really not so subtle way of me saying to check out the shows I mentioned).
If there was a point to be made here, it’s that a story being so called “basic”, should in no way turn you away from it immediately. The best forms of media, in my opinion, are ones where a lot can be gained or learned from a little. And maybe people get a lot more out of Kasie West books than I do, but the only thing I’m getting out of it is a number on my Goodreads page.
This was originally going to be a post giving my thoughts on the latest Netflix show I watched over the past few days, pictured above. (spoiler: I love it). But since I’ve already done that before with another fantastic show, I decided to make this a little bit more personal to me. Specifically, why my tastes are the way that they are, and why I’m absolutely fine with staying in my media “comfort zone” and not branching out.
I still want to talk about the show I watched though, because it’s really good and will most likely go under the radar for people not into family-friendly teen sitcoms. Alexa & Katie is an incredibly sweet, wholesome, heartwarming show about a girl with cancer(Alexa), navigating high school with her best friend, Katie. That’s pretty much it. They go through some problems related to having cancer and normal high school stuff like dating and school dances, but everything manages to work out in the end because Alexa and Katie have each other, and there’s very little that the power of girl friendship cannot solve, including cancer.
During the first few episodes, I was wondering if the series would take a little bit more of a dramatic tone, focusing mainly on Alexa’s medical issues and the impact on her friends and family. But the further I watched, I realized that that’s not what the show’s about. This show is about living your best life in spite of whatever illnesses or conditions you may have, and showing off probably the most adorable friendship in modern television.
It’s not surprising in the slightest why I’d gravitate towards a show like this. I like stuff set in high school, I like the theme of friendship in stories, especially female friendship, and I like interesting spins on slice-of-life stories that are grounded in reality and well-written, all of which fit Alexa & Katie to a tee. But I kept thinking about what makes this show stand out from other things with a similar premise that I don’t enjoy as much. Mainly, well…Oh boy. It’s time to do some dunking.
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but make the connection. Let me be clear: I’ve only watched the movie of The Fault In Our Stars, and haven’t read the book. But I don’t think I need to read it to say that Alexa & Katie schools John Green’s writing in it’s portrayal of super-cool, relateable cancer teens so freaking hard, and I’m living for it. I know, they’re two different genres with different themes and whatever, but there’s no way you can tell me that Alexa isn’t an amazing icon compared to the snoozefest that is Hazel Grace. I would put a virgin vs. chad meme here, but I think I’ve already proven my point.
The interesting thing here is that on the surface, the books John Green writes should be right up my alley. Normal teen stories that make me think about the deeper complexities of life and existence? Sign me up! The problem is the importance he puts into each and every sentence, like he just wants you to know that he isn’t only writing YA, but an in-depth thesis on humanity using teenagers as his subjects. In short, I don’t feel like John Green is genuinely writing to young adults; He’s writing to young adults who’re wise beyond their years and want to pretend like they’re too sophisticated to enjoy a simple high school romance story. And if there’s one thing Alexa & Katie has over The Fault In Our Stars, it’s genuineness.
This problem can extend to the opposite end of the spectrum as well. An author whom I haven’t discussed previously is Kasie West, who writes extremely light, fluffy teen rom-coms that have very low stakes and are designed to be fun reads. I read one of her books, Love, Life, And The List, about a year ago and, to put it mildly, there isn’t much to the story, or anything at all really. It was the most “eh” book I ever read. If you like her books, that’s cool, but I just can’t enjoy something with as little substance as what she writes. And if there’s anything you can’t say about Alexa & Katie, it’s that it’s another ordinary high school show with no substance.
I guess what I’ve been trying to say for the past few paragraphs is that I have a very specific taste for media, especially pieces of media involving teens, and that not everything will automatically appeal to me based on a few characteristics. And that’s perfectly fine. One of the best things about the past few years for me is consuming all different types of media, and figuring out what I like and don’t like from there. I don’t want to feel guilty for not being into high fantasy stories other than The Last Airbender, or sci-fi stories other than The Twilight Zone and Invader Zim. I know what I like, and I will continue to seek out stuff that interests me. If that ends up being only girly YA books and family sitcoms with cool twists, then I’m fine with it. I’m sure I’ll try to challenge myself once in a while, but I’m not going out on a limb for things I know I probably won’t be into. I hope that any of you reading this do the same. Embrace your tastes, no matter how narrow or trashy or controversial they may be. And please, give this show a chance, even if it isn’t your cup of tea. Alexa & Katie is the light we need in these dark, dark times. I mean, they literally had a dance party in a hospital, and filmed it. If that’s not the ultimate dunk on The Fault In Our Stars, then I don’t know what is.
2019 has been a year. Around this time in 2018, the only goal I had was to finish my book, which wasn’t even halfway completed yet. Well, I did that back in October, along with many other things that I still can’t believe happened to me.
I’ve kind of refrained from talking about myself on here in favor of doing more creative posts, but since it’s the end of the year, and the decade, I thought I’d share some of the cool stuff I did and reflect on how much these past few months have changed me. Because I really think the past couple years have been the best of my life so far.
I started this blog
Yeah, pretty obvious one, but creating a place to share my thoughts has certainly made me realize that I just like the act of creating, whether it be fiction or a ranty, incoherent mess of paragraphs gushing about a TV show. There’s still so much I want to write about, so don’t expect the posts to go away anytime soon (unless I decide to completely focus on YouTube videos, which is far off in the future). I also didn’t expect anyone to actually read or follow my blog, so thank you to anyone who liked my posts and decided to keep up with them. I’m still pretty new to this, and I know my writing style is developing, but 2020 will have more content, hopefully more frequently, so stay tuned for what I have in store.
I wrote poetry…and performed it
Other than reading The Poet X, my only previous experience with poetry was the writing mini game from Doki Doki Literature Club (which you should absolutely play by the way) In August I signed up for this creative writing class at school, thinking I’d be writing short stories and blowing everyone away with my angsty prose. I walk in the first day, and it turns out the class is almost entirely centered around poems, and all students are required to make a 15 page chapbook by the end of the semester. It also turns out that everyone has to perform their work in front of an auditorium holding about a hundred people. The class was wild. In the end I really enjoyed it, even if I was pushed a little too far out of my comfort zone. It was nice to have people read my work and have them react in real time, which I’ve never done before. (a lot of firsts in 2019, I know). I don’t think I’ll continue with poetry, as I learned early on in the class that I am not good at it, but I guess if there’s any lesson to be taken here, it’s that you should take classes based on what interests you, and not immediately quit if it becomes challenging. Speaking of which…
I literally dropped a class because ofa book
I am not a math person. This became clear to me my first semester when I took Trig. Do you ever have that feeling when you’re sitting in a class and the professor’s words are flying straight past your head? That was me, waiting the clock out and pretending that I cared about anything the professor was saying. I ended up getting a D, so I very brightly decided I’d try again in the spring with statistics. Statistics was a lot easier than trig, but the problem of not caring was even bigger this time around. I skipped a few classes, and in April, I was walking between the shelves at the library when I opened up a very special book: The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.
I read the book before, but all I can remember that day was flipping to the last page and seeing those four beautiful words: Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes. I know this sounds extremely coincidental, but reading that last page made me think of myself as a writer. I couldn’t get it out of my mind for the rest of the day, and in that same college library, I opened up one of the computers and officially dropped statistics. Even though it hasn’t even been a year since then, I see it as one of the latest defining moments of my life. The moment I realized that the book I was struggling to make progress on due to half-assing school could actually be published someday, and maybe being an author is a career I see myself doing. I went for way too long on this, but the point is that I like writing better than math and The House On Mango Street is one of the best pieces of literature ever written.
NO GOOD NICK!!!
Yes, I am still obsessed with this show. And I’m still figuring out a way to organize my thoughts into something that makes sense to the average uncultured swine who hasn’t watched it and is unaware of the glorious, scheming antihero that is Nick Franzelli. If you’re reading this and still haven’t watched it, PLEASE GO WATCH IT. I need more people to gush to. I mean, look at her, how can you not want to see this girl succeed in committing criminal activity to a live studio audience?
Starting a YouTube Channel…again
I said back in my introduction post that I tried making videos before, but stopped once I realized they sucked and were about things no one cares about. Well, I’m giving it another go, and if you search up BridgeMoney on YouTube, you’ll see that I already have my Daria post uploaded in video form (side note: copyright’s a bitch). This is more of a trial-run to see if I could take a half-decently written piece and edit it well enough to make something usable. The next video I’m slated to do is my ripping apart of Looking For Alaska the miniseries, but I want it to be a significant step-up in quality, so expect that sometime in early to mid January. There will be a point when I start making videos from scratch, but I figure what I’ve written on here is a good-enough point for me to start.
The new year(and the new decade)
I’m not really the type of person that sets hard goals for the new year, but 2020 is definitely going to be important for my creative “journey”. There’s a couple big writing projects that have been sitting in my mind for a while now, and I need to settle on one and dedicate myself to it wholeheartedly. One thing I want to make clear is that I still care about school, and my obligations there might take priority in getting out more posts/videos. But as far as my real passion is concerned, I’m fully focused on being creative. I have no idea how I’ll balance out writing fiction and my blog at the same time, but I’m confident in the fact that I’m not going to abandon this. I feel good about what lies ahead, and I hope more people will get to share it with me. Thank you so much to anyone who decides to read any of this, and if you’re interested at all in what I do, follow me on twitter @BridgeMoney17, and check out the one video(soon to be two) on my YouTube channel, also BridgeMoney. Well, that’s all I got for now. And like Mango Street does sometimes, I bid you goodbye.
9:03 pm on December 4, 2019 Tags: Avatar: The Last Airbender, fantasy, worldbuilding
I’ll be honest, fantasy and sci-fi are the hardest genres for me to get into. Not because I don’t like cool spaceships with lasers or fire breathing dragons, but because a lot of stories in these genres don’t have…well, actual stories beyond their world. If you write in these genres, good world building is a must. You need to make the audience believe at least a little bit that the world you’ve created is real. But what is good world building? Is it pages upon pages of town descriptions, sketches of races, and cool looking maps of your world’s geography? I say no. World building is such a misused term, and so many people, me included, don’t know a thing we’re talking about when we say we want deep, complex world building. So then what is a good example of building a world without an encyclopedia to navigate it. Well, it of course goes back to one of the greatest shows of all time, Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Everything you need to know about the world of Avatar is told to you in its minute long intro. In it, you learn:
There are four elements: water, earth, fire, and air
There are four nations of these elements who once lived in harmony
The Fire Nation is evil and changed everything when they attacked
The Avatar was supposed to bring balance to the world, but mysteriously vanished
A war has been happening for a hundred years
The new Avatar is an airbender named Aang
Aang needs to learn all four elements in order to save the world
That’s like 20 pages of exposition all condensed into one minute of animation and voice over. And the best part? It plays at the beginning of every episode, so you don’t forget what the stakes are or why the story even matters. You are told before the first episode starts the fundamentals of the world, and every little piece of world building beyond that is just extra flavor. In other words: The focus is the story, not the world.
I hold a very strong opinion that world building alone is not and should not be a replacement for a story. The best thing good world building can do is make a story more interesting and unique, but it can never fix a bad one at its core. This is where I think I differ from so many fantasy and sci fi fans who will go crazy for anything that vaguely adds to the lore or canon of their favorite world. There’s a Game of Thrones book that literally the history of a single family, and there’s a Harry Potter book that’s literally just a history and guide to quidditch. I mean, I’m sure some people really want that, but I would never read something that’s just 100% lore.
People obsess over the lore of their favorite franchises, and I just plain don’t get it. I could care less on the detailed history of the bricks used to build the walls of a certain city or the biography of the meals most commonly eaten by foot soldiers of the empire’s third battalion in the pre civil-war era (this is why I never read any of the in-game books in skyrim). Lore bores me to all hell, and unless there’s a plot with stakes and characters to get attached to over time with a fulfilling climax and resolution, I’m not gonna care for it. Give me a story please.
Another great example of world building is, dare I say it, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (I’m not a brony I swear). I’m not talking about the later seasons, which got bogged down by too much lore that strayed away too far from the show’s original premise. I’m talking about the first two episodes, where just like in Avatar, the entire purpose of the show is perfectly laid out for you within the first few minutes.
So in the world of Friendship is Magic, there is Equestria. And beyond that, we are told:
There are two sisters who rule Equestria, Celestia and Luna
Celestia controlled the sun, Luna controlled the moon
Luna turned evil and became Nightmare Moon, which made Celestia banish her to, well, the moon
Equestria is currently in a state of harmony, unlike in Avatar.
Do you want to know the best part of this mini info dump? It doesn’t matter to the show at all. The real start of the story is when Twilight Sparkle (the purple one) moves to Ponyville and starts making friends with the other ponies. It’s about the characters first and foremost, not an ancient prophecy that will determine the fate of the universe.
My point with this is that deep world building doesn’t require you to write a mountain of expository information. Explain the bare minimum amount so the audience can follow along and add bits and pieces that are relevant and important to the story from there. What was so amazing about Avatar is that all 61 episodes did something to advance its story and characters. Even the ones that seem like filler such as “Tales Of Ba Sing Se” or “Ember Island Players” have so many subtle details that make you learn more about the world in unconventional ways, its mind blowing that this was a children’s show on Nickelodeon at one point in time.
I really should open up my tastes more and consume more fantasy or sci fi, but none of them seem to line up with what I really want in a good story, which are strong characters with personal stakes that aren’t on a grand scale. I’d love to hear some more thoughts on this, so tell me what you think in the comments. Is world building as overrated as I make it out to be? Or am I just a rambling mess? Probably both, but share your thoughts anyway.
Disclaimer: This post is written by a straight malewho knows very littleabout the LGBT community
So, I’ve been consuming media for a decent amount of time now, and I’ve noticed this trend throughout the decade of the 2010’s, the one that’s guaranteed to start a discussion in one form or another. I’m of course talking about representation, and the increasing desire people have nowadays to make media more diverse. This can of worms that I just opened can go in so many different directions, but what I want to talk about is how certain pieces of media portrays their representation, specifically concerning the LGBT community. I guess this topic came up because I watch and read a lot of romances, and they’ve gotten a lot more, how you say, “colorful” in recent years. Please note: I’m not going to make any judgments on whether a piece of media’s representation is objectively good or bad. All I’m doing is giving my personal thoughts and opinions.
Keep in mind that I have no true agenda with this post. I just like talking about media I find interesting, and people are free to agree or disagree with my opinions. Now that the warning signs are out of the way, let’s get to the media, shall we?
I’m going to split these up into two main categories, alternating with each one: the rep. I like and the rep. I didn’t quite like or have problems with. Get ready, because some of these are ones I absolutely need to get off my chest.
Rep. I Like: Bloom Into You (2018)
Starting off on a high note, this is an anime that you must see if you’re into girl-girl romance (or yuri as us weebs like to call it). It’s so gentle, and sweet, and charming, and doesn’t hide the fact that the main characters are lesbians, it just hits you from the first episode and pulls you along for the ride. What I like most about this show is that both of the main characters are romantic equals to each other. That is to say, neither of them has an advantage in terms of confidence or popularity. Both of them have their own insecurities that prevent their relationship from progressing and they work towards fixing those internal issues side by side. Even outside the cute romance, Bloom Into You explores the concept of identity extremely well, and the struggles of figuring out who you are in adolescence. More romances should be written like this, and I’m glad anime has at least one shining example of a healthy yuri show.
Rep. I (don’t) like: Life Is Strange (2015)
Now this one might be a little controversial. Let me just say that I love Life Is Strange, and it’s one of my favorite games of all time, but my problem lies specifically in how they handled Max and Chloe’s relationship. Max and Chloe are great together in the game. They bounce jokes off each other constantly, they have a history that makes you care about them, and many of your choices in the game depend on how much you value Chloe as a…friend? girlfriend? I don’t know because the game doesn’t make it clear, even when the final decision you make in the game involves literal life and death. I guess I struggle with how the game wants you to define your relationship with Chloe in whichever way you want, but also make you care about her enough that you’ll be swayed to choose one ending over another. The story would’ve been better if they just decided that Max and Chloe were romantically interested in each other from the start, and not give little nods in-game to the people who ship them online. This marks a bigger issue for me in that I don’t think dropping “hints” is a good technique to tell the audience a character is gay. Thankfully this trend seems to be fading away, but I found it to be common in stories from the early to mid 2010s. Character’s sexualities had to be defined in the most foreshadow-y, roundabout way possible without actually just outright telling you, because they can’t be too direct, that would be “forcing an agenda” If you feel that you have to tiptoe around your subject matter out of fear of upsetting people, maybe it’s best to avoid the subject altogether. If only someone could go back in time and make the game more clear…oh wait.
Rep. I Like: Life Is Strange: Before The Storm (2017)
Ready for my hottest take yet? I think Chloe and Rachel are a better couple than Chloe and Max. There, I said it. Life is Strange’s three episode prequel game, Before The Storm, fixes my main criticism of relationships not being fully defined. Before The Storm has gay characters that are explicitly stated in the game, and this time, there’s much more power behind Chloe’s choices with Rachel than Max’s choices with Chloe. I feel this way because there’s much more of a romantic tone present from the beginning of the story when Chloe meets Rachel, all the way to the final choice, which in my opinion was more difficult to decide on than in the previous game. And while you could actively make choices around Chloe and Rachel being just friends, the opportunities are there to become more romantically involved, and those scenes are brilliantly done from an emotional standpoint. The main difference between Life Is Strange and Before The Storm is that Before The Storm had clear intentions with the characters. The developers wanted to show Chloe’s relationship with Rachel, and how she helped Chloe deal with her loneliness and depression before Max moved back to Arcadia Bay, and they executed that perfectly. Even if the entire game’s choices are meaningless considering the events of Life Is Strange, it still features one of the best same-sex romances I’ve seen in a video game, and the soundtrack, like the first game, is great, so I’d absolutely recommend you play both games if they seem up your alley.
Rep. I like: Pretty Much Anything Becky Albertali Writes
As a reader of YA, I’d say that Becky Albertali is one of the best contemporary authors currently working. No, her books aren’t as “intellectual” as John Green’s or as emotionally poignant as Adam Silvera’s,(though he’s definitely part of the LGBT rep. I like as well) but they’re just downright fun to read. I remember picking up The Upside Of Unrequited for the first time and being utterly astounded at the level of profanity she packs into every page. Becky Albertali is one of the rare YA authors that actually gets how teenagers speak, and can write hilarious dialogue that doesn’t come off as corny. (It also helps that she was a clinical psychologist who worked with teens) Narrative-wise, her books might be a little dumb and formulaic, but what stands out is that they’re normal stories about gay teens having fun, which is all they need to be. I could talk more about the larger themes of Simon Vs. or how much I love Leah in Leah On The Offbeat, but those are posts for another day. Side Note: What is up with Becky Albertali’s obsession with Waffle House? Is it really that good?
Rep. I (don’t) Like: Everything Sucks! (2018)
There’s this phenomenon I’ve discovered through watching this series that I aptly coined as “Rachel Amber Syndrome”. This is when, a girl, usually a loner or an outcast, has a crush on another girl, this other girl being this mysterious, starry-eyed popular chick that is into quirky hobbies like theater and is overly eccentric. It’s basically the manic pixie dream girl trope, but with 50% more lesbians. Most lesbian relationships I’ve seen in T.V are a form of Rachel Amber Syndrome, but Everything Sucks follows this formula so closely, and even though I enjoy Life Is Strange, the romance in this series, well, kinda sucks. The show takes place in this alternate reality 90’s high school where the drama geeks actually rule the social hierarchy, and the A.V club are the real nerds. The two girls who end up together, Kate and Emaline, both fall under the “Rachel Amber” type, but I seriously don’t know what the show was going for in portraying their relationship. Is it supposed to be cute that Emaline constantly bullies Kate in the beginning of the show, making her more uncomfortable in her sexuality? Is it supposed to be charming when Emaline reveals the motivations behind her behavior, which is the same cliched drama geek thing of “I can’t be my true self around others” and “I always feel like I have to put on a mask to the world” that I’ve heard a thousand times before? This is not a healthy portrayal of a relationship, whichever way you put it. I’ve seen much worse gay romances before, (see 90% of yuri anime) but this show didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth, and I hope it can be a lesson in what not to do in the future.
Rep. I Like: The Loud House
It’s pretty clear that The Loud House is the most popular Nickelodeon cartoon in a long time. And for good reason. Controversy aside, this show is a great lesson in writing good female characters that go beyond their stereotypes. The show first proved it was willing to include gay characters in an episode when they revealed Clyde’s parents, who are two men and also in an interracial relationship. The next time the show wowed me was the final few seconds of “L Is For Love”, when Luna writes a love letter to a female classmate. Unlike other supposed examples of good representation, The Loud House is actually what happens when subtlety is done right. It doesn’t need you to rely on “hints” or “foreshadowing” in order for you to get that they’re woke, it tells you simply by showing it. A more recent episode, “Racing Hearts”, is about Luna and that same classmate she likes going on a date, and it’s treated every bit as the same as if she went with a boy. Watching this makes me grow more confident in my stance that there’s no excuse for creators to not write more gay characters and gay relationships into stories. A kid’s show on a major network proved that it’s possible, and that it can be done well without “feeling forced”, so what else is holding people back? There’s this YouTuber called Lily Orchard that goes into this more in-depth, and calls what The Loud House did as “bare minimum flexing”, and I couldn’t agree more. We need to get out of this mindset that pushing boundaries an inch is considered groundbreaking, and stop praising baby steps if we want to see significant change. The Loud House is well-deserving of praise, but it’s not where the bar for representation begins or ends. And as you can see if you’ve looked ahead, people are willing to praise a pretty low bar.
Rep. I (don’t) Like: The Legend Of Korra(specifically the ending)
Yep, this is the big one. I’ve been thinking about this ever since I first watched it back in 2014, and I can honestly say now that my opinion hasn’t changed that much in those five years. It’s just not well done, and the creators shouldn’t be getting overwhelming praise for shoehorning in a gay couple in the last thirty seconds of the series. Ship Korrasami all you want, but there’s no way you can convince me that this was foreshadowed or hinted at well at all. (No, the end of book three doesn’t count.) Korra and Asami are close friends, and they’ve been close friends for most of the series, until Mike and Bryan decided they weren’t. It’s like they realized that their cartoon with a badass female lead protagonist that had been going on for three seasons wasn’t progressive enough, so they panicked and slipped in some last-second representation to make up for it. Lily Orchard also talks about this in her “Legend Of Korra Is Garbage And Here’s Why” video, which you should definitely check out even if you’re a fan of the show. This should not be the standard for gay couples in media. We can do better, and we have done better, and I’m glad this trend is changing.
I’m definitely not an expert in how exactly LGBT representation should work in media, nor am I really qualified to speak knowledgeably on these issues, but I just wanted to provide my perspective to add in the discourse. If you have your own opinions on what I’ve talked about, leave me a comment down below.
When I first heard that John Green’s emotionally profound award-winning debut novel Looking For Alaska was going to become a miniseries on Hulu, I wasn’t that optimistic about it. I thought it might be interesting to see 2005 YA put to 2019 television, but didn’t expect much beyond that. Well, after watching all eight hour-long episodes, I can definitely say that Looking For Alaska is…Look, I don’t like it, okay? I didn’t like the book when I first read it, and the series does a fantastic job of reminding me of the book, and how much I don’t like it, and how I think John Green is one of the most overrated YA authors ever, and…yeah, I have a lot of thoughts about this.
Here’s all you need to know about the story of looking for Alaska: Boy reads books. Boy goes to boarding school because of book. Boy meets cool group of friends. Boy meets quirky cute girl, who is also into books(though not the same kind as boy) Boy falls in love with quirky cute girl. Pranks, smoking and drinking, hatred of snitches, quirky cute girl [REDACTED} two-thirds through, wow deep philosophical questions about life and death bro, the end. I think that pretty much sums it up.
I watched the first two episodes of the show thinking that the story might actually become better in my eyes, that the adaptation to screen might actually make me get why so many people love it and made them cry when they were in middle school, but that just didn’t happen. I still thought Miles was the most generic, milquetoast character ever written, and I still thought Alaska was made out to be this mysterious, brooding layer-cake of a teenage girl when in reality she’s just a kiddie pool that’s barely a foot deep. Why am I supposed to feel sad for her again? Why am I supposed to care about Miles finding his stupid “Great Perhaps”, or that the dean of the school is newly divorced, or the whole conflict between the weekday-warriors and the scholarship kids, or that Lara is Romanian and has an accent. Why am I supposed to care about any of it?
I guess there are some positives, but they only come from scenes exclusive to the series. The philosophy professor having a backstory is cool, but it so obviously feels like a way to make the story less dated than it already is. The colonel’s character is a bit more fleshed out, and there’s actually a decent message about race and class during the scene with his girlfriend Sara’s Debutante ball. There’s a really cool indie soundtrack that is way better than the show deserves, filled with early aught bands like The Killers and Bloc Party. It became apparent to me about midway through that I have a problem with Looking For Alaska as a story, and nothing short of a fundamental rewrite will ever make me enjoy it more than a light 6.
The second half of the series is where I completely lost any interest I had in it being good. So much of it felt like petty teen drama to me, and as I’ve said in previous posts, I love teen drama (when it’s done well) The pranks between Miles’ group of outcasts and the weekday-warriors were so stupid and boring, and there’s this whole thing about Alaska being a rat, which is the absolute worst thing to be at Culver Creek, and how Miles and the colonel don’t wan’t to be friends with her, and I’m sitting here like, what did the weekday warriors do that was so horrible in the first place? I mean, they insult the kids on scholarship sometimes, and they got some of Alaska’s precious books wet (which she even says were mostly from garage sales), and that’s enough to warrant illegally tampering with their college transcripts? I was so confused when the colonel was trying to defend the prank to the eagle, calling it a harmless crime. He literally wanted to ruin their chance at attending college, and the eagle kindly informed him that it was illegal, yet he still wanted to fight the charge. Then there’s Alaska’s super urgent reason behind why she needs to stay at Culver Creek: her dad is mean to her and blames her for her mom dying. Okay, couldn’t the book or the series at least show me an example of her dad being abusive, so that it’s literally not a one-line explanation?
The supporting characters in the group, Takumi and Lara, don’t really do anything. Takumi’s just there to show off 2000’s fashion, and Lara gives Miles a face to suck on before he realizes that, gasp, he does indeed love Alaska. And forgive me if I’m being a little over-dramatic here, but HOW does Miles, a sixteen year old boy in 2005 with access to the internet, not know what a damn blowjob is? I seriously can’t wrap my head around it. He watched porn with Alaska, presumably knows about sex, and you’re telling me he just hasn’t seen the act before? Please, I need to know if John Green also didn’t know what a blowjob was when he was sixteen, because that scene was physically painful to watch.
Alaska’s death in the series was even more overblown and dramatic than in the book, and it didn’t make me feel anything for her, even with the added context surrounding her last moments. People are mad, people are sad, questions remain unanswered, and it ends in the same way the book did: with a pointless philosophical monologue about the afterlife and the beauty of ambiguity, and here’s John Green to pick up his literary achievement award.
I’d like to think of the “Great Perhaps” as the chance the story could’ve actually been good, which is very slim under John Green’s hand. I don’t want to rag on him too much, because he’s a pretty cool YouTube personality, and he has improved as a writer (Turtles All The Way Down is legit a good book.) But watching Looking For Alaska reminded me of how much YA has changed since 2005. It’s gotten so much better, and we don’t need to settle for sub-par stories that pretend to be deep and complex when there are actual stories a thousand times deeper than a girl smoking cigarettes because she wants to “die quicker”. We have authors like Angie Thomas, Becky Albertali, and Adam Silvera that make fun and interesting books about real-world issues that don’t make you want to reel your head back and cringe from reading. I’m sure Looking for Alaska was groundbreaking for 2005, but it came out at a time when one of the most popular YA books was The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (for real, the movie adaption is miles better than this series.) It may have been a story people needed then, but it’s not the story people need now. There are people who enjoy Looking For Alaska way more than me, and that’s perfectly fine, but I just can’t vibe with it.
I tried looking up some famous last words as a kind of ironic way to end the post, so here’s the best one I found. The last words of convicted murderer Thomas J. Grasso were used to complain about his last meal. he said, “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s; I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.” Likewise with this series, I did not get what I was looking for. But at least I know where Alaska is, because she’s dead.