Ruskie Business (1×15) Review

There were two moments in Veronica Mars that left me speechless – not just surprising but genuinely motionless due to the sheer shock and meaning behind everything.

This episode contains one of those moments (the second comes a little later in the season).

The most inadequate way to sum up this episode would be that it has THE FEELS (whatever that may mean to you).

I’ll try to think up some better words (or any words for that matter) to help explain why I love this episode so much but for now, this is the plot…

The search for Lynn continues as Veronica and Logan discuss Lynn’s credit card being used under her maiden name which may be a sign that Lynn is hiding. Logan shares a sweet moment of appreciation for all that Veronica is doing.

Duncan is planning an 80s dance and Meg tasks Veronica with finding a secret admirer. Veronica believes that she has a secret something of her own since she has been getting a series of phone calls with no one on the line.

Keith also asks Veronica to get rid of a woman who is looking for the one who got away (a client he doesn’t want to deal with, not a woman Keith wants to kill).

Katerina is a mail-order-type-bride who left her groom because he wasn’t a looker but she now misses him. Katerina believes that he is in California, potentially under a different name to get better acting prospects.

Veronica asks Wallace to check-out some of Meg’s potential admirers – Martin (an introverted dorky kid) and Caz (an obnoxious jock). Wallace checks out their phones but has no luck.

Wallace has an interesting line about Veronica not hanging out when they are hanging out.

Veronica places a fake casting call to find Tom Cruz (the aspiring actor) with no luck.

Veronica also finds a new credit card bill for a fancy hotel so her and Logan go undercover as a couple to try and find out the person staying there. They are unable to get access but Logan decides to stake out the hotel until he finds his mother.

Tracking down a flower-store lead for Meg’s SA, Veronica gets a very vague description of a high school male.

Back to the lost love case, Veronica uses a photo of Tom with his dog, Steve (terrible name for a dog), to find Tom’s vet.

Unable to make contact with Tom, Veronica asks Leo to find out who the animal hospital called during her call to find Tom.

Meg and Veronica go to a party in a model home with the hopes of finding the secret admirer. Caz is a bit self-absorbed and can’t hold an interesting conversation. Martin is funny but not Meg’s type (she has poor taste in guys, he seemed like a catch).

Logan is still held up at the hotel and Veronica decides to give him a nudge by reporting Lynn’s card as stolen. This prompts the woman staying in the hotel to come downstairs.

It… isn’t Lynn but Logan’s sister, Trina, played by Buffy alum, Alyson Hannigan. Trina isn’t too broken up about her step-mother’s death and saw no harm in stealing from a dead woman.

Trina and Logan don’t appear to have the best relationship as Trina callously mocks Logan’s abuse at Aaron’s hands.

Confronted with the truth that his mother is dead, Logan collapses into Veronica’s arms in maybe the most heart-breaking scene in TV history, definitely the show’s history.

Keith has been working an insurance fraud case (which is why he didn’t have time for Katerina’s lost love) and finds that he is being followed by some sketchy men. In a smooth move, Keith finds out the name of the men following him.

Veronica takes a sketch artist to flower guy and with Leo’s help, Veronica finds Tom in time for Keith to tell Veronica that Katerina isn’t a lost lover but a criminal associate trying to track down a man in witness protection.

Veronica recovers from the news so she can lure out the criminals and have them arrested at the model home.

Meg stops by to take Veronica to the 80s dance. She doesn’t care who her admirer is because Caz and Martin aren’t worth being her admirer. Veronica’s manila whore barbie look is killer.

Veronica gets a fax confirming that Duncan is Meg’s secret admirer. Veronica accepts Duncan and Meg’s blossoming romance despite the heart being a fucked-up thing that doesn’t always want mutually exclusive things. She goes to cry in her car and Leo shows up to take her back to the dance where Logan, dressed as the real Tom Cruise, is fueling his grief into binge drinking.

Trina arrives to take Logan home.

Leo and Veronica kiss. Veronica gets another prank call and Leo uses his deputy powers to find the pay-phone who has been calling Veronica. A mysterious woman has recently used the phone.

Veronica finally comes face to face with her mother again. Unfortunately, so does Clarence Wiedman.

Once again, we see the writers at their best purely due to the balancing of every element. We have Meg’s mystery love, Logan’s missing Lynn and Veronica’s faux-love case all existing with ease.

If anything, this episode is the best example of how to balance plots since all the plots are connected by overlapping themes. Meg, Logan, Veronica and fake Katerina are all searching for someone (a secret love, a missing mother and a lost lover/ wanted witness) and they are all disappointed in some way.

Everything works in harmony with each other.

There is a nice symmetry to the episode – a mother lost, a mother found.

More on this next episode. For now, let’s talk about Logan because this episode broke me.

He has really softened up over these past few episodes but this episode really took me by surprise. Logan’s breakdown in one of the most genuine moments of the entire show. For a character that is all about image, something about him willingly crying in public while his former friend holds him is just deeply depressing to watch (and I mean that as a huge compliment).

I always knew this side of Logan must exist but I didn’t expect it to reveal itself this soon and in this way.

The entire scene is so raw!

I think the audience can really relate to Veronica who has the facial expression of someone who feels like they are intruding on a very private moment.

Both Dohring and Bell do outstanding jobs this episode and they really didn’t get enough credits for their roles.

The scene not only offered an emotional climax to the Lynn subplot but also opened up a whole load of questions about the rest of the season/ series and Logan’s arc.

I didn’t know where the writers were going to go now that Logan was exposed as a human capable of love and grief.

Was he going to pretend like nothing had happened? Resent Veronica for seeing that side of him? Become a changed man who is more upfront with his emotions?

The best way to tell if a story is good is if the audience finds themselves asking what will happen next with anticipation in their eyes.

I honestly thought I would have a lot more to say about this episode but my thoughts on the episode either get paired with moments from later episodes or can be summed up emotional ramblings.

Since I try to keep these reviews as spoiler free as possible and I try to keep my rambling to a minimum, I’ll end with some words on why this episode resonates with me in a way that is hard to put into words.

Character is everything to me.

As a reader and a watcher, the best stories are ones told with people who interest me, question me, connect with me. What use are stakes if I don’t care if the character suffers them? What use are rewards and goals if I don’t care who reaches them?

As a writer, it is what I spend most of my time on.

Usually, if I create a character so vivid and real everything else follows with ease (or great frustration depending on what kind of day I am having – writing is hard some times).

My reasoning being that most things can be forgiven with great characters.

I don’t care if the CGI in Black Panther is sloppy at times if Killmonger and T’Challa keep bringing me to tears.

I can forgive some of the outdated elements of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as long as Buffy keeps slaying in all meanings of the word.

I will overlook the printing errors in A Girl Called Shameless (Laura Steven) because Izzy is just so damn funny.

You can remaster poor CGI, you can rationalize plot holes but you can’t underestimate the power of people.

Something all my examples have in common (along with the show I am meant to be talking about) is that all the stories are named after or refer to the main character. They are the premise, protagonist and commonality within their stories (sorry, couldn’t think of a third P word that would fit).

And when I watch an episode like this where the two moments that connect with me the most are two of the characters crying over the things they have lost, then that is the biggest compliment I can give something.

The plot is solid and the writing is at its best but that wouldn’t mean anything if we weren’t given a reason to care.

The next episode won’t involve so much of a tangent (I promise)…

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Avengers: Infinity War: Thanos Has Arrived

Last year after seeing Infinity War, I wrote my thoughts on some of the themes surrounding sacrifice as a kinda instant-reaction post but with Endgame officially reaching over $2 Billion in box office revenue, I thought it was only fair to finish my thoughts on all the Avengers movies.

I’m not going to waste any more time setting things up because the movie definitely doesn’t. We don’t make it past the Marvel logo before the movie officially starts.

An Asgardian distress signal is sent out as Thanos has recently come aboard in search of the Space Stone after recently acquiring the Power Stone from a now demolished Xandar. Loki being Loki, saved the Space Stone before Asgard was destroyed (Ragnörak). Loki exchanges the Stone for Thor’s life before trying to kill Thanos. He is unsuccessful and dies. Heimdall also dies – his last actions being taking Hulk to Earth. Hulk crash-lands in the Sanctum Sanctorum NYC in time to warn everyone.

Tony is asked to join the conversation and we get a reminder of what the Stones are and what they might do. Steve also gives Bruce some updates about the Avengers’ status. He is about to call Steve when a giant spaceship lands in NYC.

Everyone gears up to stop some bad CGI minions from taking the Time Stone. They are unsuccessful as Stephen and the Time Stone are taken on-board the donut ship, along with Tony (and Peter who stowed away).

Meanwhile, in SPACE, the Guardians are chilling when they pick up the Asgardian distress signal. Thor comes to and informs them that the first place they helped save is dead and Thor is going to a dead star to get a weapon to kill Thanos. He also mentions the Soul Stone which means something to Gamora based on her face. Rocket and a moody teen Groot assist Thor while the others stay behind.

In Edinburgh, Wanda and Vision seem to be living happily together (I have never seen Edinburgh so quiet but whatever) when they are attacked by some of Thanos’ minions but luckily saved by Steve, Nat and Sam.

On the way to Knowhere (because that is where the Reality Stone was taken at the end of The Dark World), Gamora asks Quill (who are now in a relationship) if he will kill her rather than let her get taken by Thanos.

I love that their relationship has developed off-screen. It helps sell the realism of the MCU and for anyone who knows Gamora’s views on singing and dancing, will have guessed the new relationship status based on her singing along to Quill’s music.

When confronted by Thanos, Gamora kills him without hesitation and… cries.

FUCK! I have so much to say about this wonderful moment. For now, let’s just say this took me by surprise in the best way possible.

Turns out all of this was a ploy to see how Gamora felt about him. Knowhere is already rubble. Thanos takes Gamora and Quill shoots her (but Thanos turns his laser to bubbles).

The Avengers still on Earth take shelter with Rhodey and Bruce. Vision suggests sacrificing himself so Thanos can’t get the Stone. Since Wanda’s powers were created by the Mind Stone, Vision believes that she could be the only one to destroy it. Wanda doesn’t like the idea of killing her beau and Steve is always against any life being taken for granted.

Bruce suggests that Vision might be able to still exist with the Stone if they somehow got it surgically removed.

Stephen is rescued by Peter and Tony. Tony officially makes Peter an Avenger. All three agree to Tony’s idea of taking the fight to Thanos and letting the ship continues its course rather than trying to find a way back to Earth (also, let’s face it, they probably couldn’t fly the space ship back to Earth).

Thanos and Gamora have a heart to heart. Gamora is a bit pissed that Thanos committed genocide against half of her people and all. Thanos claims that her planet was on the brink of starvation and now it is a paradise. He wants to do the same to the whole universe. He asks Gamora where the Soul Stone is and when that fails, he tortures Nebula until Gamora gives in.

They travel to the beautiful Vormir where a ghostly Red Skull informs them that gaining the Soul Stone requires giving up the thing you love the most. He pushes Gamora over a cliff.

In Wakanda, Shuri thinks she can save Vision. Thanos’ minions arrive so everyone gears up to give Shuri some time.

Thor, Groot and Rocket/ Rabbit work together to make Thor a Bifrost infused axe complete with Groot handles and all. The trio arrives in the middle of the Wakandan action.

On Thanos’ homeworld of Titan, Quill, Drax, Mantis, Tony, Stephen and Peter all meet each other to discuss the who, what, where and why of Gamora. They agree to team up to take down Thanos. When the man shows up, he makes his case once more and the others try to subdue him. Quill’s grief gets the best of him and things fall apart.

Quill gets a lot of shit for this moment (i.e. if Quill had done nothing, Thanos would have been defeated) but people seem to be forgetting several things.

The first is that Thanos doesn’t win because Quill messes up, he wins because everyone fails to secure their own Stones. Nobody gives Stephen the same level of shit or Gamora or the Xandarians or the Collector or Wanda.

Second of all, can we give the guy a break? Imagine sacrificing everything to save the day. Now, imagine sacrificing everything only to lose. He almost kills Gamora. He pulled the trigger. He has to live with the fact that he would have killed Gamora and he still failed her. Grief is messy enough as it is but Quill isn’t just grieving Gamora’s loss but also a loss of innocence.

Now, you can still think he messed up but the guy needs some sympathy as well.

Regardless, things go downhill from there. Things end when Tony, going head to head with Thanos, gets stabbed in the chest. Close to death, Stephen offers up the Time Stone to spare Tony’s life – given Stephen’s earlier comment about their chances and his priorities regarding the Stone, it is likely that Tony is needed more than the Stone.

On Wakanda, everyone winds up in the battle, including Vision. Time runs out and Wanda has to destroy the Stone and Vision but with Thanos now having the Time Stone, he gets the Stone anyway.

Thor stabs Thanos in the chest but it’s not enough. Thanos snaps his fingers.

Casualties include (but are not limited to) Stephen, T’Challa, Bucky, Sam, Groot, Drax, Mantis, Quill, Wanda and fucking Peter Parker (damn you, Tom Holland!).

Thanos goes away to retire. Maria and Nick get dusted but Fury manages to send out a signal to Captain Marvel.

You know, before going into this movie, I made a few predictions. I thought that Robert and all the Chrises would steal the show. The rest of my predictions were a range of options like either Thanos will lose but at a great cost (someone will die in the process) or Thanos will win and there will be great losses all around.

In a lot of ways, my predictions came true or fell in the realm of possibilities I had thought about but SOOOO many things about this movie were surprising.

If you had told me that two of the best characters and actors in this movie would be Saldana and Olsen. I wouldn’t have believed you, not because they are in any way bad actresses but because in all the MCU movies, they have been supporting roles so it never occurred to me that they would be given larger roles with plenty of material to use to their advantage. I mean, Saldana had more screen time than Robert and the Chrises, who saw that coming?

I also never thought that the biggest movie of the year would explore themes of abuse… WELL! I’m going to save the more triggersome talk for the end of the post but the mere fact that I feel the need to add a trigger warning to an Avengers’ movie discussion is a testament to just how far not just Marvel movies have come but superhero movies in general. We are living in an age of Logans, Black Panthers and more!

But before all that stuff, let’s talk about Tony because this is essentially his nightmare that we are witnessing.

A scene I purposefully neglected to mention in my Age of Ultron review was one scene between Tony and Fury where Tony confesses that the vision of all his friends dead with an army heading for Earth was his main motivation for creating Ultron. The worst feeling about his vision was the fact that he survived.

This movie features an army heading for Earth as Tony watches the people he loves die without him being able to do anything about it. After Peter’s dusting, Tony gives a little look at his hands – he’s waiting/ hoping to vanish too but it never happens.

He fails and he has to live with it.

But even if all that stuff doesn’t matter to you or is a little too much to think about on every viewing, there is still so much to love because the number of meticulous details is astonishing.

I am still picking up new things on every viewing. My last viewing gave me “die blanket of death” when Drax was fighting Strange’s cape.

Other examples include but are not limited to Tony transferring elements of his suit from his feet to his arms and back so he could land stronger kicks and punches against Thanos.

Or the fact that Steve, Okoye and Rocket had to watch Bucky, T’Challa and Groot die for a second time.

Or how Rocket refers to himself as the Captain of the Milano and by the end of the movie, he is the only remaining Guardian left. Rocket also gets to show off his prosthetic obsession again as he hands Thor a fake eye and gets to fight side-by-side with Bucky.

Or how the crew had to work with the Black Panther crew because they had created their own map and chants that needed to be incorporated into this movie.

OR how Loki’s death scene acts as both a callback to The Avengers and as a testament to how much Loki has grown. The line “We have a Hulk” was originally told to Loki because he was the threat to Earth. It is now said by Loki (he is including himself in the WE). It seems fitting that the Avengers’ first enemy is defeated by their latest. As well as being poetic, it also adds context to Thanos i.e. this enemy is worse than the first.

And I really could go on because there is so much to unpack and so much that deserves unpacking. There were a lot of elements to juggle and I think the crew found a great way to balance everything out. All the character groupings help maintain conflict and compliment each other really well.  I think the best team might be Thor, Rocket and Groot.

There really are too many people to thank for this movie because along with the entire cast and crew of this movie, I feel like Infinity War is a response to so many of the movies that have come beforehand.

I mentioned in my Avengers review that each character has an individual reason as well as a group reason for facing Loki and this movie has some similar themes.

Xandar is destroyed which was the Guardians’ first outing. Thor watches his loved ones dies at the hands of Thanos. Other characters have a personal reason for keeping the stones where they are etc. It just all works cohesively.

There is no repetition which is rather impressive for a plot that is essentially a treasure hunt. The writers did a great job varying the search for the stones whether it was the stone being already in Thanos’ hands, the stone requiring sacrifice from both Thanos and our heroes or the stone being handed over willingly.

You never see the same thing twice. We aren’t bored and things keep moving.

I can’t wait to talk about Endgame!

I’m going to leave it there for now but I am going to add some Thanos themed thoughts below.

 

 

TW: the next section is going to be delving into abusive relationships. Approach with care if you have experienced abusive relationships directly or indirectly.

 

Some background on me – my longest relationship was an abusive one… and I didn’t know it which must sound immensely stupid/ strange/ confusing to anyone who has never experienced an abusive relationship and trust me, I felt the exact same way.

It was long after the relationship had ended and only when I was confronted with what a healthy relationship looks like (in the form of my then loving boyfriend opting to talk through a problem rather than run or fight) that it occurred to me that I might have been in an abusive relationship.

I think I didn’t see it while I was in the thick of it for several reasons:

  1. It was my first relationship so I had no baseline for what constituted “healthy romance”
  2. It was with another woman – people don’t talk/ show/ do anything concerning two women IN A SERIOUS healthy relationship let alone an abusive one (I’m not even sure fifteen-year-old me knew it was possible to have an abusive dynamic be anything other than female victim and male abuser)
  3. She was my best friend

No. 3 is what kept coming up as I watched Infinity War.

You see, my ex was a manipulative, soul-sucking monster who knew exactly how to hurt me in more ways than one and she knew exactly how to tell when I was too depressed to argue or retaliate… AND YET… we were friends before we started dating and she was my friend during a time when I was deeply depressed but didn’t know it. I had alientated all my other friends because they didn’t know what was going on with me and I couldn’t explain it. All except for one – so no matter how bad she treated me and how much pain she caused, she will still always be the best and worst friend I had for three years of my life because she was the only friend I had for three years of my life.

So what does this have to do with Infinity War?

Well, let’s put it this way. I didn’t think I would need to attend a support group after seeing the movie. I did a double showing with my friend. We went immediately from watching A Quiet Place to Infinity War and I never would have guessed that the latter would be the one to truly envoke a painful and horrifying reaction.

The evolution of superhero movies is kinda insane. If we look at the campy, good vs. evil stories to where we are now, it isn’t hard to see why less evolved movies just aren’t cutting it anymore. When DC is producing a fun romp but Marvel is producing a fun romp that discusses themes of sacrifice, love and abusive relationships, then there isn’t a lot of competition.

To say it was a bold choice to discuss Gamora and Nebula’s abusive relationship with Thanos to the extent this movie did is an understatement!

I can and probably will do an entire essay on what people get wrong about abusive relationships but the main one that struck me when watching Infinity War was the level of nuance they gave to the dynamic.

So often abusive relationships are spoken in such binary terms (evil abuser, good victim) which is great until people start to question how the “good” person couldn’t see the evil and then we enter victim blame territory.

A character like Thanos perfectly embodies the power of abusers. Josh Brolin plays him with such charm and the Russos shot him as the protagonist so the audience feels a connection to him that makes us feel kinda uncomfortable because we know that he stripped Nebula of her humanity (alienanity?) by literally taking her “flaws” and replacing them with something better/ easier to control and serve. He raised Gamora and Nebula as enemies so together they couldn’t support each other or rise against him. He committed genocide and forced a child to become dependent and develop an attachment to her parents’ murderer to name a few of his heinous acts.

He is not a good person but the audience is allowed to make that decision for themselves. They aren’t beat over the head with this information and they are given enough reasons why someone might fall under Thanos’ spell. His size and presence are intimidating without saying a word and if that fails, he directly threatens the lives of people we care about.

Now two main issues come up with Thanos in this movie – why did the Soul Stone work and why didn’t Thanos snap more resources rather than fewer people?

If you ask me why the Soul Stone worked, I wouldn’t say it is because Thanos loves Gamora (at least not selflessly).

I can’t speak for the philosophical capabilities of a somewhat sentient stone but if I had to guess, I would say that the stone lets the user make the call. With love being subjective, what I view as love is hardly going to translate to everyone and vice versa so I think Thanos thinks he loves Gamora enough for his sacrifice to matter. I think he does care for her but love as I understand it isn’t about pushing someone off a cliff to achieve something I want. It is about giving up what I want so someone doesn’t have to go over a cliff.

I do think Thanos loves Gamora selfishly. What I mean by that is I love driving but I don’t care if the wheels get damaged at the expense of getting me where I want to go.

Thanos is ready to praise Gamora and shower her in affection when it suits/ praises him. He calls her generous and strong but he does this while taking credit for these attributes and he takes no responsibility for her skills as a liar because he believes she does it badly.

He is a narcissist who craves validation and affirmation.

There have been many memes about Thanos’ snap decision and there have been many counter posts involving mathematics and the difficulting of creating over destroying but I personally think the questions and answers miss the point.

Thanos is an egomaniac! Out of his entire race of people, he believed that he was the only one who knew best. He isn’t open to suggestions on how to make things better. He wants power. His phrasing of a “grateful universe” speaks volumes because it implies that people will be grateful to him/ for him. People will appreciate and come to love him for his actions.

This rationale tied with some god parallels becomes more important in Endgame. I’m not going to spoil anything, I’m just going to point out some interesting observations from someone who has known a Thanos or two.

Loki comments that Thanos will “never be a god” in the first scene (someone with a former god complex would know how to spot an aspiring god). The movie ends with Steve saying “oh god”. Thanos spends the entire movie tracking down the very thing that enables him to have power over life and death (he brings Vision back to life only to kill him).

He wants what every abusive person wants – control without consequence.

He’s not after the Infinity Stones because he’s a humanitarian extremist. He’s after the Stones so he can be a god. Let’s just hope Loki was right.

Well, that was longer than I thought it was going to be.

Can’t wait to talk about the Avengers conclusion!

I Understand Victim Blaming (Kinda)

TW: the following post contains references and discussions regarding sexual harassment, assault and rape. If you have experienced any of these, directly or indirectly, please read with care and take regular breaks. There is no graphic imagery or direct mention of sexual violence – merely the aftermath. 

 

I used to think victim blaming was a heinous act only done by the immensely stupid, the incredibly ignorant or the unbelievably evil.

I still do.

I just also have a different perspective to add to the conversation.

Just a quick disclaimer about the title – I am not an advocate for victim blaming or anything related (e.g. slut-shaming).

This isn’t going to be 2000 words of me sticky up for the real victims of abuse – the people brave enough to ask about a person’s clothes, sexual habits or appearance (sarcasm is heavily implied).

This is an attempt at a somewhat sympathetic understanding of those who don’t act their best when people are going through their worst.

When it comes to topics deemed “controversial”, sides tend to be formed. The internet has a tendency of exacerbating that. The middle ground is lost. We adopt mindsets that there are people with your viewpoint and there are people that are wrong.

When it comes to abuse, there is no exception. I find it funny (in a darkly comedic kinda way) and also distressing that so many non-survivors feel so confident in sharing their viewpoints that tend to fit into “don’t ALLOW yourself to be a victim” all the way to “I am so supportive of survivors that I think all rape jokes should be banned and all any and all threatening acts should be treated as the biggest affront to humanity”.

The aim of this post isn’t to insult or belittle or to speak for all survivors. This is one person’s experience. One person’s insights into being on the receiving end of victim blaming.

Now, I get that most people don’t want to talk about sexual violence. I am a survivor and I don’t want to talk about it.

The things I’d rather be doing instead of writing this include but are not limited to:

  • tidying my bedroom
  • cleaning the kitchen
  • tweezing my uncle’s ear hair
  • performing a one-woman show about my inner-most fears
  • drinking anything green
  • listening to dub-step

Despite that, April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month and it seemed like a lot of people weren’t well… aware of that. In an attempt to do my part, I have written four posts on and around the subject of sexual violence (to offer some light reading for everyone) because we shouldn’t confine sexual assault awareness to just one month (also I was going through a rough time in April so I delayed the posts until May… but the former point is still valid).

And with that alluring introduction, let’s get started.

Pre-abuse, victim blaming just came off to me as needlessly cruel. I always saw it as the verbal equivalent of kicking someone while they were down but that is a bit unfair. It’s more like seeing someone being pushed over and deciding that you should question them on the time they have devoted to balance-strengthening exercises. Or if you prefer, it’s like judging a stabbing victim for not having knife-resistant skin – maybe you aren’t directly violent with someone but you do have your priorities mixed up.

Ultimately, victim-blaming is that level of absurd stupidity.

Their death was their own fault. That fall wouldn’t have killed them if they only developed super-powers.

That being said, victim blaming didn’t really bother me because it was something I wasn’t completely aware of and I was too young to fully grasp what it meant to be both assaulted/ harassed/ abused and blamed for it. But age doesn’t really have much to do with it. It’s more that I wasn’t exposed to this world I now live in.

The mere fact that it feels like there are different worlds is likely the biggest reason why victim blaming has been sustained all these years (well, that and sexism).

People feel they can get away with pointing fingers because it seems like the victims are few and far between or have in some way, brought things on themselves.

Post-abuse but pre-help, victim blaming was an atrocity. Whether the people making the comments knew it or not, every one of their words was aimed at me and every survivor I knew.

Every news report where the journalist referred to the victim’s clothes… every stranger on the bus asking why that reported victim went running alone… every “DUMB BITCH”, “STUPID WHORE”, “TEASE” and “ASKING FOR IT” was another kick to my already fractured psyche.

Since victim blaming has no logic to speak of, there is no such thing as individual feedback. It’s generic shouting disguised as helpful criticisms but at the end of the day, it’s all just noise screaming in our ears.

It really messes with your head. After a trauma, you are already struggling to come to terms with what has happened – battling denial, repressed memories, triggers and all the other “delightful” bonuses. Having others weigh in on what happened does nothing to help someone through a traumatic or uncomfortable situation.

During that period of my life, people who victim blamed weren’t ignorant, naïve or stupid, they were just demons there to haunt me (no wiggle room).

That was until I attended my first support group.

I got there late after spending most of the day convincing myself that I didn’t need to go up until 30 minutes before it was due to start at which point panic set in and I rushed around trying to get there on time.

I got in the building. I could hear my heart beating in my ears and all I wanted to do was vomit just to get the butterflies out of my stomach but no such luck.

I headed down the hallway, lightheaded and fighting the instinct to run very far away.

Only one thought was going through my head:

Tell me it was me!

And that’s when it dawned on me just why so many people jump at the chance to blame the victim over the predator.

At the moment before my hand pushed the door open, all I wanted more than anything was to find a room full of people just like me.

Well… maybe not just like me. A room full of clones wouldn’t have helped my mental state.

But I was hoping for some commonality. I was hoping that I would walk in and immediately spot the similarities.

I wanted to be able to point at our matching hazel eyes, freckles, mannerisms. I wanted to be able to see that we were all wearing the same Chuck Taylors. Maybe we would all be queer or below average height? Maybe we all couldn’t afford to continue kickboxing classes? Maybe we all made the exact same mistake?

I didn’t tell any of the rape survivors that when I finally made my way past the threshold.

Words cannot describe the level of disappointment, frustration and guilt I felt when I found myself faced with a room full of different people… annoyingly different people. It was as if someone in that room had heard my thoughts and assembled a room full of token individuals just to piss me off – you had people from different backgrounds, personalities, mental abilities, physical abilities, dress senses, musical tastes, appearances, sexualities and gender identities.

And all of that made me all the more devastated than if I had just walked into a room of abuse survivors wearing the same Chuck Taylors (this essay isn’t sponsored – and based on the content, that likely won’t change).

It took me some time to sort through why our differences made everything so much worse but eventually I came to a revelation.

If I had found some kinda commonality then I could maybe find some comfort in that. I would know why what happened happened. If despite all of our individual differences, we all had something in common (other than our tragic backstories) then it stands to reason that there might be a connection. Maybe we would be the first to figure out that rapists don’t cause rape, having size 4 feet does.

And if we could identify a cause or even something that made us all likelier targets then we could use this knowledge to inspire preventative measures.

If I walked into the room and we all had the same Chuck Taylors then I just needed to burn my shoes.

If we all had hazel eyes then I could invest in blue contacts.

If we all had the same name then I could change that too.

I could dye my hair, speak up, stay quiet, wear all the makeup or none at all, change my style, pretend to like shit music, pretend to be everything I’m not.

I could and would change anything about me if it meant that I never had to go through any abuse ever again!

Being the same would also mean that I never stood a chance. This was always going to happen to me.

I wouldn’t have thoughts of WHAT IFs because this was always going to be it. I could find some twisted sense of peace in its inevitability.

And so I wonder if that is what compels people to act on their worst impulses.

Maybe that stranger calling me a SLUT is just as scared as I am.

Maybe if my abuse was a result of some preventable mistake then that can offer others some twisted peace of mind as well.

If I’m some DUMB BITCH that made a mistake that other people would never make then maybe they can sleep at night knowing that they won’t make the same mistakes. They’ll be smarter, wiser, stronger, faster.

They’ll wear the right clothes and say the right things on the right way home. They’ll make the choices that don’t end in violence.

Now, I don’t say any of this so you won’t sleep at night. I don’t intend to take away anyone’s mental security blanket or coping mechanisms.

I am merely pointing out that you won’t find any comfort in lies.

Clothes don’t rape people, rapists do.

You don’t prevent sexual violence by contorting yourself into the image of a non-survivor that doesn’t exist. We prevent sexual violence by challenging rape culture.

We call-out the bullshit. We relay the facts. We speak up when everyone tells us to shut up.

We support survivors despite how much that may terrify our egos and sensibilities.

We teach children about consent. Instead of teaching girls how to dress and how to avoid causing offense, we teach everyone how to treat others with respect and compassion.

We aspire to live in a world where people feel comfortable setting boundaries and where others feel comfortable respecting them.

We start with understanding.

I kinda understand victim blaming… what now?

The One With The Dozen Lasagnas (1×12) Review

This is maybe the first episode of the series that just doesn’t sit well with me.

Previous episodes have contained jokes that haven’t aged well or even secondary plots but this is the first episode with a central plot that is handled badly – not completely without redemption but it definitely has some obvious faults that need to be addressed.

The guys are singing the Odd Couple couple theme tune rather well.

After the cold-open, Ross prepares for pregnancy and childbirth with several books. Chandler and Joey are helping but Joey’s finger baby impression only makes Ross feel uneasy.

Ross goes to drop off a non-veggie lasagna for Carol and Susan and childishly disrespects Susan’s vegetarianism.

Ross does gain maturity as the series goes on but there are moments early on that make him insufferable. It’s just the relentless pettiness that gets under my skin.

Rachel’s fling with Paolo hasn’t flung yet which surprises Rachel and frustrates Ross. Rachel and Paolo are planning on going away together, thus cementing the severity of their progressing relationship.

Turns out Joey loves babies – a revelation that comes as Joey and Chandler’s table disintegrates. They need to buy a new table which sparks fears of commitment in both Joey and Chandler (mainly Chandler).

Carol and Susan know the sex of the baby and Ross doesn’t want to know.

Chandler and Joey couple buy a table with the ex of Kip looming over their interactions. This scene always cracks me up. It’s a bit overdone at this point – the trope of couples arguing while buying furniture – but it always works for me (mainly because I always see a recreation whenever I visit Ikea). I do like that the trope at least offers something new by showing it through the lens of friendship rather than romance.

Paolo goes to get a massage from Phoebe who is a masseur.

Rachel and Ross have an interesting reaction to the sex of baby news. Rachel claims she would want to know but Ross is clear that he doesn’t want to know until the birth.

Phoebe comes back from work annoyed and describes how Paolo sexually harassed her.

I will be coming back to the reactions in the conclusion.

Pheobe goes to tell Rachel what happened and this scene really gets me – partially due to familiarity and also due to the setup. Phoebe and Rachel haven’t had a one-to-one as of yet and it stands to reason that they are probably the most distant out of all the friends (there is no virgining romance and neither lives in the same building like the others).

Both actresses did a great job. I could feel Phoebe’s anxiety at telling Rachel – her need to prove her honesty/ credibility and her desire not to cause Rachel any pain. It’s all terribly real and I hate how good it is. So much isn’t said but it is clear that Phoebe is afraid of not being believed because there is a pattern of mistrusting victims in relation to any kind of sexual violence.

While all of this is going on, the guys show off their new foosball table because screw practicality.

Rachel breaks up with Paolo and Ross gets karma for being an ass this episode.

Rachel’s reaction may seem sexist but given the guys’ actions this episode, can you blame her?

As Ross tries to lay the groundwork for future dating rather than supporting the friend who just ended a serious relationship or the friend who was just harrassed (seriously, he’s shit this episode), Rachel lets it slip that Ross is having a boy.

Let’s talk about the happy stuff first before I start getting mad.

Joey and Chandler’s friendship is always a standout but I think this is the first episode to really focus on how strong their relationship is. I love their intimacy and how hurt Joey is at the mention of Kip. They are really great together.

Speaking of friendships. Monica is the best! Monica is the one who seems the most concerned about Phoebe’s well-being as she is recounting the harassment and she is the first one to insist on going to check on Rachel (for non-selfish reasons).

We all should have a Monica in our lives (especially when you are going through the kind of things the other women are).

But no more stalling…

In all fairness, there is plenty this episode does well in regards to sexual harassment. As I mentioned, about 95% of all of Phoebe and Rachel’s interactions are not just accurate but realistic and respectful. There is a moment in the episode where both women are in an apology battle until they ask themselves why they are the ones that are sorry.

Speaking from experience, it’s a tragic trend that often the perpetrators of sexual harassment are the ones that should be apologetic but never are. Usually, you find that the victims of harassment feel the need to apologize for the harasser’s actions as some sort of internalized victim blaming. It sucks! The scene really got me because I have felt like I have been both Rachel and Phoebe more than once in my life.

Despite the interactions between Rachel and Phoebe, the others reacted everywhere on the spectrum. Monica was the best. Joey and Chandler seemed rightfully horrified by what Paolo did but didn’t comfort Phoebe (at least one screen) which seemed odd since the sexual harassment of a guy they didn’t like offered more of a reaction than the treatment of a friend.

But who cares about that because Ross’ reaction was just sick.

As his friend is bravely opening up about an experience that can be anywhere between degrading and annoying to humiliating and traumatic depending on the severity of the harassment, Ross’ only concern is how this will likely end Rachel’s relationship with Paolo. Opening up about sexual harassment isn’t easy because you often fear that you might not be believed or that you will be believed but people will victim blame. Who knew you also needed to fear your friend viewing your harassment as something advantageous for their love life?

Giving Ross the ABSOLUTE benefit of the doubt and assuming that he isn’t close with Phoebe (and by “not close” I mean he lacks any remote empathy for her), his treatment of Rachel isn’t much better. Sure, Paolo is an ass but that doesn’t mean Rachel won’t be conflicted about her breakup with him. This was her first serious relationship since Barry and even if she knows that ending the relationship is not only right but also something she will relish in the moment, that doesn’t mean she won’t grieve what could have been or what they had.

As we see in this episode, she feels guilty over not spotting Paolo’s assholery and likely needs space and compassion. Somehow, Ross is surprised to find that Rachel’s break-up and betrayal have affected her (weird, right?).

In my opinion, Ross gets better than he deserves and I don’t particularly approve of Chandler and Joey encouraging Ross to go after Rachel moments during her break-up.

It’s kinda ironic how an episode written by four men wrote the men in varying degrees of bad compared to all the female characters who are great friends and wonderful human beings.

Characters aside, I do have one other issue with the writing and that’s the terminology.

Lets’ be clear – Phoebe was sexually harassed. Someone inappropriately groped and flashed her without any verbal or non-verbal consent from her. That is harassment! If Phoebe in anyway understating the events, it might also be assault.

Despite this very clear-cut example of harassment, the characters never outright us that term. The phrasing seems to alternate between “made a pass” and “hit on”. The former I am fine with. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable speaking the ugly truth then that’s fine… BUT… “hitting on someone” is almost exclusively used to mean flirting.

I could (and have) discussed why this is problematic. In short, the interchangeable language of sex and sexual violence leads to a lot of problems for survivors of sexual violence. The long answer can be found in Mistakes People Make About Sexual Violence.

It just frustrates me to hear these phrases used as equals because out of context, I would think that Paolo tried cheating on Rachel with Phoebe rather than the scenario of Paolo taking advantage of Phoebe’s professionalism as a means of harassment.

This “confusion” almost justifies Ross’ dismissal of Phoebe’s feelings because, from his perspective, she is just evidence of Paolo’s cheating and not a victim of anything.

There is, let’s say, “a spirited” debate over how older forms of entertainment should be treated with newer audiences with ever progressing views i.e. should I judge this episode’s by today’s standards and not by 1995’s standards?

My thoughts on the issue are fairly simple for such a heated and complex debate.

I always try to go into older pieces of entertainment with the mindset that things have changed and a story released ten, twenty, thirty years ago will be more likely to use culturally unacceptable language with little self-awareness of the fact.

That being said, that awareness doesn’t make me enjoy the stories anymore as a present-day viewer.

I can appreciate that the stories weren’t written with me in mind as an audience member while still getting irritated by homophobic slurs in casual conversation and acceptable/ overt misogyny.

I don’t blame the writers for their shortcomings when writing Friends because, for the most part, they do a really great job at innovating but I can’t acknowledge how forward thinking the writers can be without also mentioning how short-sighted they are at the same time.

And obviously, it’s up to you how much this matters to you. I know plenty of people who can compartmentalize but I also know plenty who cringe every time older stories reference Asain characters by a racial slur or a woman as “property”.

Luckily, the next episode is a lot more enjoyable all-around.

Mars Vs Mars (1×14) Review

TW: the main plot of the episode contains accusations of statutory rape. Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment or assault may find the following post triggering. The discussion will not include any graphic imagery but read with care and take plenty of breaks when needed. 

 

This episode is important.

I usually start off these reviews by saying how much I like the episode and hint at the reasons why as well as the themes involved… and I am going to do just that but besides being a well-written episode with great moments of character, one-off arc events as well as a continuation of the compelling season arc events, this is also as relevant an episode as it was back in 2005.

More than that, this episode acts as a culmination of so many themes and ideas that have been built up over the season – reputation, bias, perspective, sexual violence (all the fun stuff).

I love this episode! It is daring and brilliant!

There is a lot to discuss!

Picking up where Lord of The Bling left off, Logan is outside Veronica’s door and makes his case – Logan believes Lynn isn’t dead but faked her death to get away from Aaron. Her credit cards haven’t been found and Logan can’t shake a feeling that something is up.

Veronica agrees to help.

At school, Veronica is in an awesome looking history class with Mr. Rooks played by one of the episode’s Where’s Cameo, Adam Scott, who will work alongside Kristen Bell many more times over both their careers. Here he plays the friendly, enthusiastic teacher.

The second of the episode’s Where’s Cameo is Leighton Meester who plays Carrie Bishop, an isolated and aloof student who introduces herself by giving back Mr. Rooks keys, informing him that she’s not pregnant and stating that their relationship is over.

Veronica talks to Mr. Rooks who is shocked and scared because rapists aren’t allowed to work in schools (and rightfully so).

Wallace steals Carrie’s file and Veronica immediately sides with Mr. Rooks since Carrie has a reputation for lying and drama.

Veronica tricks Duncan into giving her his practitioner’s name so she can find out the drugs he is taking.

Things get complicated when the Bishops hire Keith to help with Carrie’s case for Mr. Rooks’ ethics committee.

Veronica believes that Carrie shouldn’t be given a chance since Carrie and her friend, Susan Knight, were gossiping about Duncan and Veronica post-break-up.

Meanwhile, in Logan’s case, Veronica hires Cliff to interview a woman who claims to have seen Lynn’s suicide but she is only interested in the money. Logan is rightfully pissed but some of his elitist comments seem unnecessary.

Veronica explains herself to Leo (due to the events of Silence of the Lamb) and they make-up.

Veronica visits Mr. Rooks’s at his home.

I have to ask, does America not have child safeguarding laws? In the UK, a student spending time with a teacher without a parent/ guardian’s knowledge and permission would be enough to hold a separate disciplinary meeting.

Mr. Rooks does not have a lawyer for the hearing. He seems oddly pitiful as the sensitive father in a shirt and jeans, severely outmatched against Carrie’s parents, their lawyers and the school board. It is possible that Carrie is coming after Mr. Rooks because his grades might be disrupting her chances of getting into a great school.

Logan shows Veronica an article claiming that Lynn is alive but when Veronica tracks down the witness, she is just a crazed fan. Logan finally accepts that his mother is dead and all hope is gone.

Weevil notices Logan’s distress.

Veronica gets punished with an ink bomb for trying to access Carrie’s diary/ evidence of Mr. Rooks’ supposed guilt.

Weevil tells Veronica about a freshman who claims to have evidence that Lynn jumped from the bridge.

Keith tells Veronica about Mr. Rooks’ previous firing which could also be due to sexual assault. Veronica goes to talk to Mr. Rooks about it and he just claims that he was too liberal for his former conservative school.

Veronica confronts Carrie about a track meet she went at the same time as one of the supposed assaults. Carrie also points out that everybody hates her, not Rooks so why would she be lying for notoriety or popularity? What does she have to gain from coming forward?

Veronica goes to Duncan’s doctor and learns that he and Abel Koontz shared the same doctor.

At the hearing, Carrie claimed that Mr. Rooks sent her messages addressed to SK (sweet knees) which might be necessary for another disciplinary hearing on the grounds of shitty/ cringey pet names.

Veronica proves that text messages can be easily fabricated.

Further evidence that Carrie was away at track meets during the supposed assaults does nothing to help Carrie’s case.

Mr. Rooks is acquitted and Veronica stops by his place to see how he is doing.

Again, child safeguarding laws are a great thing. If you don’t have them, get them!

Veronica notices certain details around Mr. Rooks’ house which fit with Carrie’s story – specific bed sheets, musical tastes and mannerisms. This makes her anxious so she leaves prematurely.

Veronica researches the medication that Duncan is on (some form of epilepsy that can cause violent fits and memory blackouts).

Veronica finds out that the winner of a Mr. Rooks led speaking competition hasn’t been around school because she is pregnant by rape. SK, Susan Knight, has been kicked out of her house by her parents and she doesn’t feel brave enough to come forward so Carrie told Susan’s story on her behalf.

Carrie claimed everyone was supportive which is an oddly touching detail.

Weevil has a meeting with Logan, Veronica and the chatty freshman. The chatty freshman was shooting a shit movie and accidentally caught footage of Lynn’s jump. This appears to have put the final nail in the coffin but Veronica finds that one of Lynn’s credit cards is still being used.

Mr. Rooks resigns.

Veronica goes to visit Abel Koontz to inform him that she knows he’s dying and has likely been paid to die in prison so someone he cares about can get a substantial inheritance.

For an episode with so many unrelated subplots, the writers really juggled them with ease. More minor plot lines definitely don’t feel tagged on and none of them overcrowd the main message of the episode. Logan and Duncan’s plots come up enough to keep things progressing for later episodes but they never distract from the Rooks/ Bishop plot or the exploration of “he said, she said” (I say this as a term of phrase and not as strict criteria for harassment claims).

This episode is painfully real – it hurts.

I don’t really know where to start so I’m going to just go through all the things I appreciate one by one:

  • The fact that the supposed victim is distant and cold whereas, the supposed rapist is approachable and warm
  • The fact that Carrie’s reputation is considered evidence of her guilt
  • And most importantly of all, the fact that Veronica is wrong!

I cannot stress how much likability impacts the treatment of sexual violence claims! It tends to be that unlikable accused rapists are more likely punished than likable accused rapists. There are studies that show attractive or charismatic defendants tend to get less harsh sentences and are more likely to get not guilty verdicts.

People also seem to not care about unlikable victims coming forward as if their claims matter less because they aren’t as respected. When sexual violence happens to a nice person, it’s a tragedy. When sexual violence happens to a bitch, it’s a lesson or karma.

This goes hand in hand with the idea that sexual violence = punishment which is expressed in everything from people’s indifference to prison sexual violence to several countries that use sexual violence as a form of sentencing.

But the thing about crimes is that the circumstances don’t matter. Robin Hood is still a thief even if he steals from corrupt rich and gives to the poor and rape is still rape whether the rapist is a fun-loving family man or the victim is a massive asshole.

Sexual violence is not a punishment or karma – it’s a crime – and even if Carrie were the victim, her cold exterior and insensitivity do not justify people jumping to conclusions about her guilt.

And the likability of the characters isn’t the only thing that causes bias.

Veronica goes to ask Mr. Rooks how he is before asking Carrie how she is or ever asking for her side of things. She hears the words of a beloved teacher and immediately jumps to conclusions and the audience is taken along for the ride.

The audience is given Mr. Rooks’ perspective on the matter. We hear his side. We see his cute daughter. We get sympathetic descriptions of a divorced man who loves his job and respects Veronica’s skills. We want to believe him and we want Veronica to be right. The previous episodes have done nothing but establish that Veronica is who you want to side with when you don’t know who is right or wrong.

It is because Veronica is wrong (despite her experience) and because the audience is deceived that this episode is something truly special.

In the wake of the MeToo movement where prevalent celebrities were exposed as rapists, harassers, abusers and perverts, people reacted anywhere between good to problematic.

There were people like Ben Afflick and Matt Damon who refused to condemn Weinstein and when they faced criticism, both suggested that people should try to understand what it is like to feel betrayed (yep, because abuse survivors know nothing about betrayal).

And more recently, you have Barbra Streisand who suggested that the survivors of Michael Jackson wanted to be close to him.

That is the power bias, preference and perspective have on people. When you are a nobody calling out some of the biggest and most popular stars in Hollywood, you feel like you might as well be screaming into a void.

Now, Mr. Rooks is a far cry from a pop icon, abusive director or manipulative movie mogul but he is the school equivalent. He has power, status and the support of the faculty and peers alike and as we see, EVERYONE either ignores Carrie’s claims or dismisses them.

When Veronica is wrong, she isn’t only confronted with her own hypocrisy but the audience is taught a valuable lesson about sacrificing our own pride to help support those in need.

One of the hardest things about coming forward as a rape survivor is overcoming the nagging feeling that you won’t be believed because when your abuser is someone you know, your friends and family know, you know it is a lot easier for people to call you a liar than admit that they were wrong. It can feel like an attack on their intelligence. How couldn’t they have seen who they really were? But with a majority of sexual violence committed by people known to the victim, something people need to remember is that they weren’t the only ones deceived and at least all they got from the experienced was a bruised ego.

Which brings me to Carrie.

I am conflicted about what Carrie did.

You see, a huge stigma surrounding sexual violence is the myth that the victims are lying (likely due to some seemingly high chance of gaining fame and fortune). I’ve written a whole other post on why famous rape survivors are not a thing and other such myths if you are interested (Let’s Talk About Rape).

Depending on which source you look at, false sexual violence reports are roughly are common as any other false report for other crimes. In other words, false rape accusations are just as unlikely as false arson claims or false stalking accusations which isn’t surprising because in case it’s not obvious, filing a report and having it maintained is a long, tedious process and most people don’t see it worth the effort in making up stories to get attention when buying an extravagant outfit is far more accessible.

Most statistics are gathered by recording the number of rape claims made compared to the number of cases that end in the accusor admitting guilt to false claims but other statistics will include false accusations to include anything from not guilty verdicts in rape cases, having statements withdrawn (even if this is done under duress) and claims made on behalf of someone else (regardless of whether the crime was real even if the victims were fabricated).

I understand Carrie’s motivations. Her friend was hurt and rather than pressure Susan to expose herself to memories that she doesn’t feel able to confront, Carrie decides to get retribution on her friend’s behalf.

There were definitely better ways to go about things but I’m not exactly going to be hard on an awesome friend sticking up for a teenager who was abused by one of their teachers. Besides, there are later examples in the show that are a lot more harmful and a lot less forgivable.

So instead, I’m just going to ask others to not do this while giving a sympathetic teenaged character some slack.

Now, throughout the season, reputation has been everything.

We get introduced to Wallace who was quite literally labeled as a snitch.

Veronica’s monologue introduces the entire cast – Logan (the jackass), Duncan (the ex), Weevil (the criminal biker), Lilly (the sassy best friend) – and these reputations are slowly stripped away to something more human and whole but the labels do taint their early interactions. We believe the worst in some people and we are more inclined to side with others.

And of course, Veronica has the most infamous reputation of the show – a nosey, slutty former sheriff’s daughter with a penchant for getting into trouble and making enemies. Some of her reputations are accurate and even flattering but most of it is an exaggeration and misleading but in Neptune, reputation is fact as seen in Like A Virgin. And as Veronica said in that episode, her reputation doesn’t bother her but it depends who’s listening.

I could go on but I will be coming back to this episode again and again.

If someone were to ask me why I love this show and why this should be recommended to EVERYONE, this episode would serve as my presentation.

It’s a well-constructed episode but not so much so that you miss the soul of things. As some who gravitated toward the themes of this episode, I have to applaud everyone who was involved in adding the nuance and minor details to the episode like Mr. Rooks’ quiet confidence and Carrie’s determined resolve.

And things don’t disappoint next episode either!

The One With Mrs. Bing (1×11) Review

This episode is fun and has quite a bit to say about the men so I like this episode but it has a subplot that is creepy and stupid so I also don’t like the episode.

I’m conflicted. I can’t tell if the good outweighs the bad and I can’t tell if what we learn about some characters is worth the oversight then immediate neglect and denial over other characters’ sudden terrible traits.

Let’s see if I can sort this out.

Phoebe and Monica come across an “attractive” man and engage in some street harassment which leads to the man in hospital.

This begins the B plot and the only good thing to come out of it is Monica’s comment on her wolf whistle which should be something all catcallers consider. Monica asks what she expected to happen and mockingly responds, “Ooh I love that sound. I must have you now”. Take note, all street harassers! If you think yelling at someone is considered a form of wooing then you are sorely mistaken. At best, it’s embarrassing and terrifying. At worst, you wind up in a coma in an outdated B plot.

Monica and Phoebe project their own desires onto the stranger which seems unhealthy, weird and misogynistic of the writers (it seems very “girl crazy” and if the plot involved Joey and Ross, this would have been more obviously wrong in 1995).

Giving both women the absolute benefit of the doubt, Phoebe has just broken up with David and is in need of a rebound and Monica is always pressured to search for guys thanks to Judy’s insistence. More on this later.

Nora Bing (Mrs. Bing) is on TV, being interviewed for being an erotic novelist. As the interview goes on, it becomes more obvious that Nora and Chandler have a strained relationship. Nora is quite open about her sexuality compared to Chandler who is rather insecure and private.

Ross is still needlessly bitter over Rachel’s relationship with Paolo.

Everyone goes to eat food with Nora (including Paolo). Ross gets drunk to distract himself from Rachel and Paolo’s uncomfortable levels of PDA.

Nora comforts Ross which ends in a kiss witnessed by Joey.

Ross pleads with Joey not to tell Chandler and Joey agrees as long as he tells Chandler what happened. Joey also mentions that mothers are off limits but sisters are okay (remember that, Joey).

Monica and Phoebe get jealous over each other’s fake relationships with coma guy and things escalate from feeling guilty about putting him in the hospital to just plain creepy. I’m pretty sure changing someone’s PJs without their consent or knowledge is considered assault.

Like I said, you would never come across a B plot where Ross and Joey started caring for a woman they put in the hospital by changing her clothes while she was unconscious and getting oddly territorial over the idea of her.

Ross cowardly blames Paolo for the kiss with Nora (in more than one way). First, he claims that Paolo kissed Nora and then Ross tries to avoid responsibility for his actions by placing some of his blame on Paolo and Rachel’s relationship.

Ross’s inability to handle jealousy like a mature adult is one of his main character flaws and it is at its worst in season one.

Chandler is mad at both Joey and Ross for kissing his mother and not telling him respectively.

Rachel attempts to write her own erotic novel which kinda irritates me. As an aspiring writer, I can tell you that writing is a craft and a fucking hard one at that so amateurs who believe they can or should write a book just “because” makes me feel a combination of deep pity for the fool who knows nothing of the difficulties and anger at their ignorance. I am not surprised that this is the first and final mention of Rachel’s writing.

Despite Ross’ annoying nature earlier in the episode, he does make a fair point when he reminds Chandler that two people kissed each other and if Ross is getting shit for kissing Nora then Nora should get shit for kissing Ross. Chandler is reluctant because he doesn’t like confrontation and doesn’t want to address any of the unresolved issues he has with his mother.

Meanwhile, Phoebe and Monica go to check on coma guy again and find that he is awake and not reciprocating the affection they gave to his unconscious self. The guy has a pretty laid back reaction to two strangers/ stalkers forcing intimacy on him. I personally, would be calling security and googling how restraining orders work.

The conclusion of this terrible plot seems somewhat fitting. I am relieved that this horror story didn’t end in romance but I am also frustrated that neither woman seems to be aware that what they did was wrong. It feels like the writers were indicating that the women were right in feeling undervalued for giving up their time and affection for a man that didn’t care. Some of the delivery almost feels like this was intended to be a social commentary on misogynistic, heterosexual relationships where the women put in all the effort and the men don’t care.

All of that might have been interesting to discuss if not for the fact that all this happened with an unconscious man and nobody seems to care/ know why this is wrong!

Moving on…

Chandler finally stands up for himself and has an honest conversation with Nora about how her reckless nature makes him feel and the two end on good terms.

This leads to Chandler forgiving Ross and Joey.

I think I’ve said my piece about the plot with Monica and Phoebe. In short, I think this is the first episode to have aged poorly. I said I wasn’t quite sure if elements of The One Where Nana Dies Twice were tone-deaf but this episode definitely has elements that just make my skin crawl.

Like I said, the women aren’t given much respect this episode so let’s move onto the men.

Ross is at his worst for most of the episode. As of this moment in the series, Paolo has done to hurt him (directly) and has treated Rachel well. He’s been making her happy and that should be enough of a reason for Ross not to blame what happened between him and Nora on any level.

He chose not to tell Rachel how he felt and he chose to kiss Nora – both actions deserve his accountability.

We do get to see some of his best qualities as he does get to the heart of the matter and persuades Chandler to have a candid, much-overdue conversation but his more insufferable traits don’t outweigh the good he does in this episode (at least for me).

In contrast, Joey wants Ross to be happy (and by extension, be with Rachel) but not at the cost of ruining Rachel’s current bliss. He accepts and tolerates Paolo and Rachel’s relationship while also encouraging Ross to do the right thing. He motivates Ross to come clean so Chandler doesn’t hear about the kiss from anyone else and while Chandler does have a right to be angry at Joey, you have to respect that he wanted Chandler knowing the full story and not his perspective of it.

This episode mainly provides more insight into Chandler.

His relationship with his parents is strained to put it mildly (as indicated in The One Where Underdog Gets Away) and we get to see the mother side of things this episode.

Nora is invasive. It is obvious that Chandler finds talking about sex uncomfortable (especially when it concerns his mother’s sex life) but she doesn’t shy away from things. While I appreciate her sexual empowerment, she could be considerate of her son’s feelings so naturally, their relationship is tense at times.

As immature as Chandler can seem at times, he is one of the more “grown-up” of the friends. Mild spoilers but he is the main reason that Joey isn’t homeless and starving. There will be many more examples to come of how and why Chandler is so caring and all that he does for his friends.

For the time being, you get the first hints of why this might be the case. His mother isn’t the most maternal person and she doesn’t seem to be very aware of what Chandler needs. She kisses his friend, doesn’t tell him about it and constantly ignores how uncomfortable she makes him.

You get the impression that Chandler is used to looking after himself and being the adult in most situations.

I think the bad isn’t made up by the good for me but I do keep going back and forth.

Next episode is just as confusing.

Lord of The Bling (1×13) Review

Lord of the Bling is Veronica Mars’ second reference title to the Lord of the Rings trilogy after Return of the Kane. I mentioned the relevance of the title the last time things came up but I haven’t mentioned the themes and similarities of the trilogy to Veronica Mars the show.

The trilogy consists of three books – Lord of the Rings, Twin Towers and Return of the King. The overarching plot revolves around a fellowship of different races transferring the last in the line of very powerful rings to the only location where it can be destroyed.

The reason the ring needs to be destroyed is that the ring both acts as a symbol and quite literally imbues the wearer with feelings of power. Absolute power corrupting absolutely, the journey tests the mental stability and integrity of the fellowship as many individuals attempt to hang on to the ring’s power.

I can see why the trilogy has sparked such inspiration with the show since power and corruption could be Neptune’s tagline. So many characters do what they do to hang on to power or to try to step up in the Neptune hierarchy.

On top of that, the show is known for dealing with topics such as sexual violence and a HUGE yet common misconception is that sexual violence has something to do with attraction when in actual fact, it has everything to do with power.

This episode has a lot to do with power.

Percy “Bone” Hamilton is a big-shot in the music industry with a whimp as a son and a horse-riding daughter. He gets told that his daughter, Yolanda, is missing. Naturally, his first stop is at Mars Investigation where Wallace informs Veronica that Bone is a criminal who owns a “Gangster Rap” company.

Veronica admits to knowing Yolanda… a long time ago (cut to the theme tune). Turns out Veronica and Yolanda used to be fairly close (along with Lilly, Duncan and Logan).

Bone hands Keith a list of enemies, one of them being a man called Sam Bloom who he put in a wheelchair.

Logan and Aaron get ready for Lynn’s funeral which goes as well as you would think. Aaron seems to be feelings overly romantic over the past but Logan isn’t having any of it. Logan seems overwhelmed by the grief Aaron appears to be feeling and the lack of grief his sister isn’t feeling.

Through separate investigations, Keith and Veronica both find a lead at a club where a bouncer, Marcel, is another person on the list. Marcel directs them back to a guy called Dime Bag.

Keith finds out where Dime Bag is staying and goes to plant a bug in their hotel room. Veronica is asked to stay behind but when she learns that he is bugging the wrong room, she poses as a hotel worker and goes to plant a bug in their actual hotel room.

Logan attacks a scummy paparazzo and has it out with Aaron. Basically admitting that they both could have been better people but Aaron could have been a whole lot better.

Veronica visits Bryce, Yolanda’s brother, who believes she has been kidnapped and confesses some deep resentment for his father. Despite Bone being in jail for most of his life, Bryce’s intelligence is considered a disappointment.

Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Lilly is irritated by Logan’s jealous streak and is ditching Logan’s upcoming party and thinking of getting a new guy. We also learn that Yolanda was the girl Logan kissed (the catalyst for their latest break-up mentioned in Clash of the Tritons). This same situation led to Veronica and Yolanda no longer speaking.

Bone makes a call to Dime Bag and he says that he knows where Yolanda is but a hidden camera shows that this isn’t the case.

Veronica and Wallace find out that Sam Bloom’s son, Benjamin, was with Yolanda at the night club on the night of her disappearance.

At the wake, Aaron seems to have an epiphany of sorts where he decides to turn his back on Hollywood to take care of his family. Logan seems a little more apathetic and aloof than usual (playing video games at his mother’s funeral). Duncan confronts him and Logan states that he believes that Lynn faked her death to be free of Aaron.

Veronica’s investigation uncovers that Benjamin has left for Vegas.

Bone shows Keith a ransom note for $500,000 at a heavily surveilled location which seems odd – the kidnapper must be really smart or really stupid to get away with this.

Turns out it’s the former – Bryce has taken advantage of Yolanda’s voluntary disappearance to get back at his dad for being a bit of a dick.

Veronica gets Yolanda to make a video call to her parents – she is alive and well, married to Benjamin. She won’t come back until Bone and Sam Bloom end their needless feud. Bone doesn’t respond.

Side-note: Keith explaining how laptop webcams work is the most dated thing in the show. Haha.

Later, Veronica calls Yolanda again and congrats Yolanda on her engagement/ says she’s sorry for not being her friend because Lilly told her so. Yolanda accepts.

Just as the call ends, Veronica gets a knock on her door.

Logan would like Veronica to find his mother.

Bringing things back to the themes of power I (oh, so subtly) alluded to earlier, the entire A plot illustrates the consequences of power and people’s attempts to hold on to power.

Both Bones and Bloom are so obsessed with a powerful image that they won’t risk looking powerless even if it means that their children are happily married and part of a family.

And Bryce is willing to let others believe that his sister is kidnapped just to enact a power play between him and his father.

I didn’t expect the mystery person Logan kissed to be expanded any further but I am glad that they did, especially in this way since it develops the themes of season one and will become incredibly important for the next episode.

The season has been playing around with the idea of perspective and bias a lot over the past few episodes:

Weevil has told his side of the story in terms of the Lilly romance but we never see how their relationship actually was or hear Lilly’s opinions on it – for all we know, Weevil was intimidating to Lilly

Veronica’s whole reputation is based on gossip and the perspective of ignorant students.

Logan believes his mother is alive and we don’t see what happened to her or have her thoughts expressed.

Veronica suspects the Kane’s for Lilly’s death but maybe her hatred of the Kanes is impacting her judgment.

Plus many more…

And in this episode, we don’t see the lead up to the kiss – only that it happened. Yolanda tells her side of the story. Logan tells his and people decide to blame Yolanda for “reasons”.

It breaks my heart to see Veronica victim blame someone but I don’t find it remotely unbelievable. The thing about sexual violence (whether assault or harassment) is that a combination of stigma, lack of education and problematic aspects of certain cultures means that the odds of someone unfamiliar with sexual violence doing something harmfully stupid is high.

You can’t understand until it happens to you. I think the guilt Veronica likely feels over her last interaction with Yolanda is why she feels so motivated to help find her. Sure, she might feel guilty about leaving her alone when she needed friends but Veronica knows the impact of victim blaming now which must be eating her up.

And all of these themes come together to bring us the next episode which might be one of the show’s best and one of the most important episodes of TV.

You’ll find out what I mean.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: It Continues

Age of Ultron gets unfairly judged (I think).

When The Avengers came out, it was this larger than life success and living up to the expectations it set was always going to be challenging and so most people tend to only reference Ultron as the runt of the Avengers family.

Now, I personally think Ultron is the worst of the Avengers movies but I don’t mean that as an insult – merely a statement.

Saying something is the worst of the Avengers movies is like saying something is the third best free meal or the third best good night’s sleep. Its ranking doesn’t make this a bad movie and I think its ranking often overshadows some truly great moments, themes and messages.

We open in fictional Sokovia where the Avengers are trying to regain Loki’s scepter from some military scientists. The team is working as effectively as they did at the end of the last movie and they have more of a family feel than before. Steve’s aversion to Tony’s swearing along with everyone’s general banter is a lot more casual and free-flowing than their first outing.

As things settle down. Hawkeye gets injured by a speedster. Black Widow calms down the Hulk. Tony gets a vision courtesy of Scarlet Witch.

Everyone goes back to Avengers Tower to study the scepter. Jarvis believes that the stone might be housing something.

Tony suggests that he, Bruce and Jarvis could use the scepter to create AI great enough to allow the Avengers to retire or at least deal only with human threats. Things don’t seem productive so the Avengers go drinking.

At a random party, there is some girlfriend measuring, some Bruce and Natasha flirting (which is both smooth and dorky) and some worthiness testing. The evening gets interrupted when an oily Iron Man suit stops by to make a dramatic entrance, announce his murder of Jarvis and declare that the Avengers need to be extinct. He takes the scepter and rebuilds himself in Sokovia.

The other Avengers are pissed that Tony created a murder bot without telling them (Bruce was also involved but nobody seems to care).

Meanwhile, Ultron recruits the Maximoff twins in a church. They agree since Tony’s weapons helped destroyed their home and killed their family so they willingly signed up to be experimented on.

The Avengers find a lead to Ulysses Klaue (an arms dealer who acquired vibranium from Wakanda but not before getting a cool brand for his troubles) in their search for answers.

The twins try negotiating with Klaue but when that doesn’t go well, Ultron offers some more persuasive words. Klaue leaves the encounter richer but one arm less because he associated Ultron with Tony.

The Avengers show up, Ultron is rude and doesn’t offer his evil plan. Wanda goes around giving everyone visions (except for Clint who isn’t a fan of mind control).

Natasha has visions of a super spy/ ballet school. Thor has Ragnorakian visions. Steve has the dance he never had. Bruce sees something that makes him Hulk out. He goes on a rampage around Johannesburg which means that Iron Man needs some Hulk busting gear.

Everyone goes to recover (physically and psychologically) at Clint’s barn. Ultron also recovers by getting a vibranium body built for himself.

Nat and Bruce have a heart-to-heart about childless futures. We get some additional Civil War conflict brewing as Steve mistrusts a person who tries to stop a war before it starts (likely due to the events of Winter Soldier) and Tony mistrusts a man with no obvious dark side (likely because his is so prominently on display).

Fury and Tony have a conversation I will come back to in my next review.

Thor talks to Selvig before taking a bath in a magic pool where he sees Infinity Stones and produces lightning for the first time.

The Avengers discuss how Ultron has been trying to access missiles but something is stopping him. Ultron’s new body is going to be a humanish robot with the scepter’s hidden, yellow gem in its forehead.

Wanda finds out Ultron’s plan for world evolution and the twins peace out.

The Avengers arrive in Seoul to reclaim the cradle housing Ultron’s new body. Natasha gets it but is kidnapped in the process.

Tony figures out that Jarvis survived Ultron’s attack and has been fighting against Ultron this entire time. Tony suggests to Bruce that they put Jarvis in Ultron’s new body. This causes another Avengers fight but Thor barges in to light up the gem.

Enter Vision – an eloquent newborn we instantly trust because he could technically claim Asgard as his own.

The Avengers, accompanied by Pietro and Wanda, confront Ultron in Sokovia. Nat is rescued. Her and Bruce debate leaving but Sokovia needs the big guy.

Ultron tries creating a meteor out of Sokovia to produce another extinction level event. Vision locks Ultron out of the web which pisses him off so he sets mini Ultrons on everyone.

Teamwork fighting ensues. Pietro sacrifices himself to save Hawkeye and a kid. Wanda’s grief destroys a load of Ultrons.

The injured and the fallen get on the Quinjet. Hulk goes off to Sakaar. Vision finds the last Ultron and kills it as the other Avengers save the day/ Sokovia/ the world.

Let’s get some quick-fire complaints and praises out of the way before I get onto the deeper stuff.

Alright. The two main complaints of the movie when it first came out had to do with Black Widow and movie tie-ins.

I didn’t actually know these things were issues until everyone raved about it as if it were the worst thing ever done (until the internet promptly moved on to the next worst thing ever done).

For those of you who weren’t paying attention in 2015, here’s a summary.

Some people found the mention of Wakanda and especially, Thor’s trip to the magic pool as needless tie-ins/ set-up to other movies. It felt like an indicator of what would later be a terrible habit of big movie franchises spending far too much movie time planting the seeds for further installments rather than focussing on gaining further installments with a great movie.

I won’t pretend like Thor’s trip doesn’t stall the pacing of the movie but I don’t think it is nearly as egregious (fancy word, I rarely get to use) as other examples that readily come to mind.

I think the difference between things like Thor’s side quest and other unreleased movie tie-ins is simple – does the scene change things? In other words, if we removed the scene or reference or cameo from the movie, would the story stay the same?

Without Thor’s trip to the magic pool, we wouldn’t get Vision and we wouldn’t get a final act. Thor’s revelation dictated his decision to create Vision. If you don’t mention Wakanda then we don’t get Ultron obtaining vibranium and we don’t get the significance of the substance (i.e. we don’t learn it is as strong as Cap’s shield).

If you think the scenes went on too long or disrupted the pacing then I won’t argue but to say that they were pointless or gratuitous references to other movies is a bit harsh.

Now, the Black Widow stuff is a little more sensitive. The gist is that when Natasha refers to herself as a monster. It is just after she has revealed that she is sterile so many interpreted the scene to mean that an inability to procreate makes you less human/ evil/ useless. It’s easy to make that assumption when so much of Hollywood’s history, and society as a whole, has involved people belittling women who can’t or won’t have kids.

That being said, I didn’t read the scene that way. Not when I first saw it and not now. I always interpreted the scene as Natasha stating that her sterility is a product of her espionage training and is a constant reminder that she is what people made her. Bruce believes that he is also a monster because a part of him can never escape being the Hulk which he sees as his greatest failing. Natasha sees herself as a monster because a part of her will always be the assassin she was made into. Their inability or refusal to have kids is just a side-effect of both their situations.

There is also the connection that both weren’t given a choice in whether or not they should be made into “monsters”. Bruce is turned into the Hulk by accident and Natasha was forced to take part in assassin training and “the ceremony” against her wishes.

Steve and Tony both make references to being monsters (as both a positive and an insult) so while I see why people felt hurt or targetted, I don’t believe that was anyone’s intent.

And even if the character of Natasha were implying that her infertility made her a monster, both Bruce and Natasha are proved wrong. It is Black Widow’s spy skills that helped the team locate Ultron and it is the Hulk that helps save Sokovia/ the world, not Bruce. Their perceived shortcomings aren’t inherently good or bad. They are what they make them.

On less controversial notes, the editing isn’t as smooth as The Avengers. There are less long takes and purposeful scene transitions. The actions scenes, in particular, are a little too fast and loose with the cuts.

The mindless drone fights in the third act also feel a bit tired even if it does add to some greater themes of teamwork.

But let’s move on to some positives.

I like that the movie feels different from the first. I don’t get the vibe that anyone was trying to relive the success of the first movie. From the character dynamics to the new settings, everything feels fresh and new. Instead of NYC and aliens, we have dry Johannesburg/ busy Seoul/ snowy Sokovia and AI.

More than that, it seems like the cast and crew went out of their way to do things differently.

For example, in The Avengers, we only ever see Bruce transforming into the Hulk and in Age of Ultron, we only ever see him transform from the Hulk to Bruce (likely to highlight the power shift between Bruce and the Hulk). This time around, the Hulk is the one more involved in the story.

But my biggest praise for the movie is the scenes discussing Mjölnir’s properties i.e. if you put it in an elevator and it still goes up, does that make the elevator worthy? Or everything about the party scene where most of the Avengers try lifting the hammer (especially Thor’s look of worry when Steve tries then gives up). As well as being witty moments with plenty of fan and comic book commentary, it is also smart as it sets up Vision’s introduction and his trustworthiness.

My thoughts on the new additions are pretty straight-forward.

I don’t have much to say about Vision other than I’m glad Bettany got to show that he could act as both a disembodied voice and a fully-formed character.

I forgot how angsty Scarlet Witch is this movie (not that I’m saying it’s undeserved). It’s just weird to see since she is so level-headed and controlled in later movies. You get a greater appreciation for her arc once you remember where she started.

This movie came out a year after X-Men: Days of Futures Past where Quicksilver’s appearance was universally loved so I think keeping a competing Quicksilver around would have been a mistake. I think it shows a maturity and a self-awareness that people didn’t bother wasting any time on trying to out Quicksilver Fox. That being said, I think I wasn’t alone in thinking that the movie did everything to set up Hawkeye’s death, only for Quicksilver to save his life.

Which brings me to Ultron.

James Spader really was the only person for this role. His voice is hypnotic and has a sophistication to it but his tantrums don’t feel out of place either.

His reading of the line “I had strings but now I’m free, there are no strings on me” is surprisingly haunting.

Ultron as a character is interesting with some compelling insights.

He claims that everyone creates the things they dread as we see in the movie. The very actions of this movie create the Sokovia accords. Starks missiles lead to the twins’ creation/ an enemy in him. Tony creates Ultron and Ultron helps create Vision which ends up killing him.

Ultron reiterates by expanding this statement to include creating things that surpass us (i.e. children) as highlighted by Tony mockingly referring to Ultron as his child and there is the very visual image of a smaller Ultron model being ripped in two as a larger/ more advanced model emerges through it.

So, what does all this tell us about Ultron?

Well… he’s a child. He’s self-absorbed, immature, he hates being compared to his father and thinks he knows everything (because technically speaking, he knows all the knowledge that can be found on the internet) but he doesn’t have any life experience. He doesn’t have the wisdom to use his knowledge effectively.

He’s very naïve. He makes assumptions fast and refuses to learn from those around him.

Vision is also rather naïve which you can account to their youth and/ or both individuals being a product of the Mind Stone. Vision captures a more optimistic naivety in comparison to Ultron who automatically thinks that global extinction is plan A, B and C for saving the world.

But now let’s move onto the real antagonist of the movie.

That’s right. Long before everyone was going on about how Thanos is the true protagonist of Infinity War, Tony Stark was playing both antagonist and protagonist in Age of Ultron.

Here are the criteria for both positions:

Protagonist – one or the main character of a story

Check!

Antagonist – someone or something that actively opposes the aims and objectives of the protagonist

Tony creates Ultron who plans to wipe out the world. Tony actively decides to hide the plan to create Vision and Ultron from the other protagonists.

Check!

There are many connections to Frankenstein from Tony bringing something to life to visual homages to questions of who the real monster is.

A lot of people, audience and characters alike, are annoyed by what Tony did and I don’t blame them but I do understand Tony’s thinking.

In the previous Avengers movie, Tony is the only one to go into space and see the magnitude of the alien threat. He sacrifices his life and may have actually died for a split second. In Iron Man 3, his PTSD becomes difficult to manage and by the time Age of Ultron starts, Tony has had a vision implanted in his head of all the Avengers dead and an alien army heading for Earth.

There is a little detail that often goes unnoticed. Wanda seems almost surprised by Tony’s vision which I think is important. Wanda may cause people to have visions but due to the tailored nature of them, it’s clear that the contents come from the minds of the affected individuals.

I think Tony’s PTSD may have exacerbated whatever type of vision Wanda was aiming for.

All of this sets Tony apart from the other Avengers since the others may be heroes and want to save the world but none of them know the stakes because they’ve seen what failure looks like and they know the scale of the threat. He fears not being able to help those around them (he also fears something else but that’s for next time).

The best and worst thing about this movie is the character development. You get a lot of quite significant moments in this movie but they don’t appear that way until the arcs come to a climax in later movies. It’s a product of its placement in the series which is a shame because it’s an entertaining movie and it would have been a difficult one to make.

While Infinity War is impressive in terms of scale, we can’t praise the scope of it without thanking what came before. It is likely because the previous movies were such a success that the Russo Brothers had evidence that multiple characters could be juggled effectively but until these first two Avengers movies, there was nothing else like this.

Sure, the X-Men franchise has a huge ensemble cast but each character in that franchise is connected by a common prejudice. They are all mutants so they all face similar discrimination and issues. Their common interests allow for more natural/ easier interactions because they all belong together to an extent. The Avengers are all vastly different – tech billionaire, alien lightning god, recently-thawed WWII soldier, etc. They may all be heroes and want to help people but aside from their heroism, everything about their personalities says that these people shouldn’t be spending time together.

This movie follows the theme of the previous movie where there is yet another Buffy connection. James Spader was mentioned in the pilot (also written by Whedon – he really can see the future).

So yeah, Age of Ultron isn’t perfect but I think it gets overlooked far too often in the MCU.

The One With The Monkey (1×10) Review

It’s New Year’s Eve (at least in this episode) and the gang is having trouble with love (as per usual).

I personally hate New Year’s in and out of entertainment. It’s over-hyped with very little payoff and yet… I love this episode. It’s funny, heart-warming, relatable, well-written, well-directed and the acting is great all-around.

Ross gets himself a monkey who was rescued by his friend, Bethel.

I’m with Phoebe – why would you name a child Bethel?

This scenario brings up whether or not it is legal to own a monkey as a pet cos I’m pretty sure it’s not. It also brings up the question of what the writers were thinking. I get that this was intended to be Ross’ post-break-up mistake (along the same lines of getting a new haircut, a rebound or a night of binge drinking).

Marcel is Ross’ way of coping with the messy divorce. The only thing is that it seems so unrelatable that I doubt anyone is watching him and seeing themselves in the situation. On top of that, animals are a pain to work with so I don’t know why the writers didn’t think of anything else as a replacement.

I am only spending so much time on this because it is the episode’s worst aspect by a huge margin so I need to mention how stupid this all is.

In other news, Joey has got a job as an elf.

As New Year’s is coming up and the gang all seem to be dateless, they all agree to a no date pact for the party they are throwing.

Phoebe goes to perform a song about a snowman and suicide (a pairing like salt and pepper or murder and sandcastles) but stops when two men start talking. One man, David, gets scolded into an apology and gets intimidated into asking Phoebe on a date.

Phoebe begins dating David and things go well enough that she wants to invite him to New Year’s. The guys are horrified but Chandler has already caved and asked Janice.

Phoebe and David continue some pre-date bliss and have an awkward/ charming kiss.

The pact begins to disintegrate as Monica invites Fun Bobby to New Year’s, Joey invites a single mother he met while elfing and Rachel can now spend the night with Paolo who is due to return from Rome. Marcel is acting up and Ross begins getting jealous of Chandler’s bond with him which doesn’t help his dateless status for New Year’s.

Max (David’s friend) tells Phoebe that he and David are going to Minsk (Russia, not Belarus as of the airing of this episode) which leaves a somber note in the coffee house.

David decides not to go so he can see where things go with Phoebe.

The single mother, Sandy, brings her kids to the New Year’s party which dampens Joey’s ambitions for the evening.

Ross brings Marcel despite Monica’s protests.

Rachel is a mess because Paolo missed his flight and she got attacked by a vicious taxi woman.

Janice goes from 0 to 100 in terms of romance so Chandler hits the breaks.

Fun Bobby’s granddad died so he isn’t in a celebrating mood.

David is down in the dumps so Phoebe tells him to go in a sweet, endearing and funny scene as she reenacts both sides of the conversation with her getting far less credit than she deserves.

David leaves for three years (sure it won’t be any more or less).

Sandy goes to make out with Max.

Everyone is alone so Joey kisses Chandler.

End of episode.

There is something I like to refer to as the Single Stigma whereby various societies and people within them shame or pressure single people to not exist by converting themselves in couple people.

I know this well.

Luckily my parents don’t buy into this mentality but so many other people do. I’m at the age where people I went to school with are thinking about marrying their high school sweethearts and they all show a look of pity when you remind them of your single status.

Now, I haven’t cared what people think of me since I was fourteen so while the pity glances annoy me, they don’t have the same impact on me as some people who get relentless questioning about their relationship status from all angles and things tend to get worse around romantically forced holidays (Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Christmas, New Year’s, etc.).

This is a long way of saying that I get the significance of New Year’s from anyone subjected to the Single Stigma.

What is essentially an acknowledgment of a new year has become an event for social ridicule. If you don’t have someone to parade around on a romantic holiday, you might as well admit that nobody loves you and no one will ever love you and you will die alone in an empty apartment and be buried next to a stranger’s grave (or some shit).

Chandler says it more succinctly to Rachel at the start of the episode.

The Single Stigma and the show’s commentary on it is one of the elements that makes this episode work so well. With the exception of Phoebe, the guys all try to get dates for the party and in trying to obtain superficial relationship statuses/ relationship replacements, they all suffer backlash.

Monica’s romance is overtaken by grief, Ross’ monkey loses interest in him, Chandler gives the wrong impression to Janice, Joey has his date hijacked and Rachel gets attacked and abandoned (interesting that the writers grouped Rachel with the others, basically equating Paolo with a monkey or an ex dug up from the past).

Phoebe’s relationship is genuine and because of that, she has some touching moments with David that the others don’t get from their dates. She is the only one who doesn’t go searching for a date to show off and she winds up as the only one on an actual romantic date.

This brings me to Phoebe and David. Considering that both are a couple for less of an episode, their relationship should feel rushed and underdeveloped (because I’ve known 90-minute movies that don’t achieve what this 20-minute episode did) but a combination of great chemistry and complimentary personalities brings these two characters to life in a way few others do.

David is so shy, insecure and normal that Phoebe’s unapologetic quirkiness is a great tool to get David to take greater risks. And Phoebe is so often treated like the crazy friend, hanging out on the sidelines that seeing someone be so infatuated by her feels cathartic.

David is one of the best love interests of the show. I think Phoebe and Monica might have the best love interests of the gang but I will be sure to critique every one I come across.

Back to the episode…

I think this is the first Phoebe-centric episode which is a bigger deal than the previous Rachel, Ross and Monica centric episodes because originally Chandler and Phoebe were only going to be supporting characters to those four. I could say that I’m glad the writers changed this but I think it would be more impactful to just say that out of the core six, I think Chandler and Phoebe are the best characters. It does depend on what mood I am in when I watch the episodes and I will argue that characters like Monica and Joey are the best friends to have but Chandler and Phoebe are the ones I relate to the most/ laugh with the most.

To quote a future episode, Phoebe is wonderfully weird and this episode shows off why perfectly.

She is assertive, free-spirited, independent and by far the happiest friend. If she wants something, she goes after it so you rarely see her stressing over a job she wants or pining after a guy she likes because if she wants something, she’ll make it happen or let it go.

We could all learn a lot from Phoebe, in particular, her break-up with David.

I’ve said before that loving someone means wanting what’s best for them even if that doesn’t include you. Or if you are a more visual person, then just go watch Phoebe’s break-up scene.

Initially, Phoebe’s desire to be with David outweighs anything else. David can’t decide what to do so she tells him to stay with her. When Pheobe is confronted with what that will mean (David missing a career opportunity), Phoebe makes the difficult decision to let David go after his dreams.

Phoebe’s selflessness is one of her best traits and her go-getter attitude is one of the traits that will bring out the best in the other characters again and again.

Next week, we get another Chandler-centric episode. This time we get to meet Mrs. Bing.

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