Bo Burnham, Waitress, #GirlLove, and The Fosters

Hi friends!!!! It’s definitely been a while! Right now I’m trying to get back into the routine of writing on a somewhat regular basis, so I figured I’d do something simple. So many thoughts are floating around in my head about fun stuff I’ve been wanting to share, so I decided to put it all in one post. These are some of the the things I’ve been really digging lately, dudes!

Make Happy—Bo Burnham

I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve watched Bo Burnham’s Netflix special what. So obviously, when I heard his new show (filmed right near my old stomping grounds in Westchester!) was being released on Netflix, I knew to expect something great. And what’s funny is while I really enjoyed the show, Bo Burnham is not the type of person I could imagine giving a shit about a review from a 22-year-old with a blog. But at the same time, his show is so powerful in a really interesting way that I can’t help but comment on it, so I’ll ask for a moment of indulgence. Whenever people discuss the trouble in comedy with “being PC” or worrying about offending people, I always point their attention to Bo. Along with other favorite comedians of mine like Grace Helbig and Aziz Ansari, Bo is a prime example of how you don’t have to be offensive to be funny. It’s a crazy concept that seems impossible to people these days, but watching shows like Make Happy restore my faith in the world of comedy. Mind you, there are a lot of dumb jokes about farts and masturbating, but aren’t we all secretly 12-year-old boys when it comes to what makes us laugh? Maybe that’s just me…oh, well. Bo’s style of comedy combines a series of bits with a lot of song mixed in, which I think really adds to his ability to capture an audience. Music and comedy—is there a better combination? He discusses the familiar and targeted lyrics that are found in country songs, the generic shift that is happening in hip-hop, and the fact that you should not be relying on upbeat, pop anthems to make your troubles go away. So many obvious themes that we all know to be true put into silly songs and paired with amazing delivery. My personal favorite is (obviously) “Straight White Male”. And that one lyric about your dick not being a gift…brilliant shit. The number one theme I take away from Bo’s show is a strong commentary on performance. This commentary does not focus on the fact that Bo is on stage entertaining an audience, but rather the way this gets translated into our everyday lives. Throughout the show, Bo takes time to remind the audience to think about their actions in a number of different ways. By having a thoughtful conversation with the audience about where we choose to focus our attention, Bo gets us to think about performance in a way that is maybe a little meta, but absolutely intriguing and worth an hour of your time.

Waitress

With an amazing cast of talented actors, a moving and authentic storyline, and music by Sara Bareilles (I still can’t spell her name without the help from Google—thanks for lookin’ out, pal), Waitress has been getting a lot of praise lately, and it is definitely all warranted. After seeing the show about a month ago, I still haven’t taken the cast album off repeat. I have always been a big fan of Sara Bareilles’s songwriting, and the translation of her music to the stage with this particular story makes for a great theater experience. The basis of the show surrounds a small town diner with employees who don’t exactly love the way their life is going, especially the main character, Jenna, who is expecting a baby with her manipulating (to put it kindly) husband. Though this is a storyline we’re all familiar with, the cast does a fantastic job bringing a new life to the plot, characters, and message. While I was fairly sure of how the show was going to end, that didn’t leave me uninterested. Far from it, actually. There are so many intricate details attributed to every character that you feel yourself transported to Joe’s Pie Diner with them, rooting for Jenna and her friends so they can live their dreams, no matter the circumstances. I’ve never been great at reviewing theater, mostly because of my firm belief that everyone experiences the story in their own personal way. Just from the soundtrack alone, I am so moved by this work. From Christopher Fitzgerald’s show-stealing “Never Getting Rid of Me” to Jessie Mueller’s emotional solo “She Used To Be Mine”, each of these actors deliver such fresh and captivating performances that I am left wanting more. I am looking forward to seeing this show again, as I am confident it will be running for some time. If anyone is looking for a buddy to accompany them to this masterpiece, just holler. Ya girl is always down to spend some money on quality theater 😉

#GirlLove—Lilly Singh

Amidst all of the drama going on in the media lately, Lilly Singh is an absolute breath of fresh air. She has been one of my favorite content creators for a while—her videos are incredibly genuine and you can always tell the hard work she puts into her passions. Recently, Lilly started encouraging the use of the hashtag #GirlLove on Twitter to emphasize the importance of women supporting each other in a society that so often forces us to be in competition with each other. “Girl-on-girl hate is such a huge issue,” Lilly writes in the description of her first #GirlLove video. “It’s about time we got rid of this lame trend and came together to build women up.” Since this first video was posted, Lilly has worked to raise money for the Malala Fund in honor of educating women around the world, participated with other YouTubers on a #GirlLove panel at Vidcon 2016, and just recently announced a new web series that is dedicated to delivering this powerful message. I’m sure it’s a surprise to nobody that I’m a big fan of this campaign, but it’s not only the feminist in me that loves Lilly’s mission. I always get inspired by the people with platforms like Lilly’s (almost 10 million subscribers…YEAH, SHE’S THAT GOOD) using their voices in order to make a change. Sometimes YouTube gets a bad reputation for people making silly videos and making money off of it—which definitely happens. And while these videos are definitely entertaining, they also have the power to create a platform for people to contribute to the problems we all face everyday. Lilly’s dedication to spreading the message of #GirlLove is so important, especially in a time when we all seem to be so caught up in the drama of people’s lives who we don’t even know. So with this post, I’m shooting some extra #GirlLove to Lilly Singh. You’re killing the game and I can’t wait to see the big moves you make in the future.

The Fosters

I’m not sure there are many people left on this planet who haven’t heard my pitch for jumping on board with Freeform’s incomparable The Fosters, but for the four of you, here’s my rant. Some people may be turned off by the network previously known as ABC Family, afraid of dealing with uninteresting, teen-driven plots for audiences who are fans of shows like Pretty Little Liars, but I beg anyone who appreciates quality storytelling to put those fears aside for the sake of The Fosters. I truly believe this show has some of the best writers on TV right now. The stories they are telling are interesting and complex, but something I really appreciate from these writers is the way they can address topical issues in such a beautiful way without messing with the natural plot. Aside from the fact the very structure of the show is built off diversity and offering multiple perspectives, the audience has the opportunity to take these perspectives to the next level in a very easy way. We see stories about survivors of sexual abuse, long-lasting race issues among families, violence and bullying in schools; while these are topics often portrayed on TV, I feel that we are so used to seeing the same outcome—some kid gets in trouble, or maybe the consequences are prolonged for drama, but eventually there is a happy ending. But The Fosters does an amazing job of delivering some harsh realities. Sometimes there isn’t proper closure and sometimes justice isn’t always achieved by those who truly deserve it. But wrapped up in these harsh realities is a family structure that works toward accepting that what really makes these difficult moments in life worth getting through are the people around you. Listen, I’m not the most dedicated TV watcher. When shows start drifting away from what initially drew me to them in the first place, I tend to lose interest and eventually stop watching. And the more I watched The Fosters, the more I worried this was going to happen. There was so much quality content that I kept thinking “When is this going to start sucking? Can this show really continue being this good?” Thankfully, it did. Of course there are certain plot lines that I’m not crazy about and there are those occasional episodes that don’t excite me as much as others, but overall, it’s definitely a show that continue to love season after season. Every episode, I can’t help but notice how wonderfully certain topics were executed, or how long I am left thinking about conversations that were being portrayed. The Fosters gives quality attention to real life issues, offers real life solutions, and makes us really consider our positions in what we see reflected in our own lives.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray // Review

I have always loved to read and write, but when it came to high school English class, I always had trouble staying engaged. Part of me knew that it was the institution of grading; I never wanted to be graded for the way I read a book, I just wanted to enjoy it. The constant essays, analyses, and exams that were required often hindered my reading process. I was always so concerned with figuring out the answers the teachers were looking for rather than my own interpretation of the text. I also couldn’t help but notice that so many of the books on the required reading list were extremely lacking in diversity. How many books about privileged, straight, white, cisgender boys did I have to tolerate before I could get my diploma? It was unnerving. One example that always comes to mind is Lord of the Flies. I don’t think I’ve really met anyone who enjoyed this book when we read it in high school. All I took away from it was the theme of teenage boys causing chaos and forced to come to terms with how privileged they are. Personally, I think we see enough of this plot in everyday life.

One day, when I was scrolling through Tumblr, I saw that someone had posted about a feminist, intersectional, and female driven alternative to Lord of the Flies. I have heard of Libba Bray’s novel Beauty Queens before, whether it was in YouTube videos about suggested YA books, from friends and peers, or seeing the book in stores, always picking it up and putting it back down for some reason. I’m not sure if it was the cover of the book that initially turned me off – which is definitely a possibility, considering my weird aversion to books with photographed models on the cover – but when I saw this post and the nuanced expansion on the characterization and plot, I decided it was finally time to give it a whirl. And DANG, am I glad I did.

This novel has a very simple premise: much like Lord of the Flies, a plane crashes on an island and the teenage passengers are forced with the task of creating their own method of survival. But as the title suggests, these aren’t typical teenagers, but contestants for the Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant. With the typical image of teenage beauty pageant contestants being rich and vapid white girls competing for the ultimate status of beauty and adoration, Bray sets up a completely misguided expectation for the reader. While there are definitely some aspects of these girls’ personalities that fit into the beauty queen stereotype, such as being obsessed with makeup and glamour, the group of girls depicted in this novel is diverse, smart, intersectional, and feminist as shit. From the devoted contestant who wants to use her first place winnings for a spot in medical school, to the former member of a beloved boy band who is transitioning and working to prove that there is no single way to define womanhood, Bray gives the reader a number of perspectives that these women use to tackle their situation and overcome expectations from the pageant’s sponsor, The Corporation.

Within this group of about twelve remaining constants who survive the plane crash, there are representations for the LGBTQ+ community, the deaf community, women of color, class differences, and so many more. And unlike some media that offer these platforms of representation, Bray’s novel achieves these storylines without it feeling like a forced attempt to include “other” perspectives for the sake of being diverse. Ideas of the patriarchy are constantly being challenged in this story, as the women use their situation as a way to prove they can make an effectively functioning civilization for themselves without the presence of any men. The girls discover that all of their own personal experiences have garnered different types of skills that attribute to their survival in unique and important ways. They even discuss how they hope to make the ideas they have while on the island a reality when they return home, such as starting GirlCon (which I totally wish was a thing), establishing their own pharmaceutical company, and exposing the corrupt institution that is The Corporation.

And if the intricate use of characterization and gripping, suspenseful plotline doesn’t pull you in from the beginning – which would really surprise me – you will at least be sure to laugh out loud while reading this novel. Bray brilliantly uses the expected speech and jargon of these beauty pageant contestants to make the dialogue believable, as well as the perfect amount of ridiculous. The line “Oh my gosh, Miss Delaware just died,” while Miss Texas rattles on about Jesus being her co-pilot still gets me every time.

This novel really has it all, which is to say it has so much more than Lord of the Flies. If I had read this book in high school, I may have actually put more effort into taking notes, fulfilling essay prompts, and participating in class discussions. I mean, which would you prefer: talking about how that one kid named himself king of the fuckboys with a pig’s head (or something like that, I clearly repressed all memories of this book), or having a chat about a bunch of girls who had a world’s worth of different experiences that attributed to them being able to survive on a deserted island… and one with half an airplane tray lodged in her forehead? I’m telling you, this book is incredible.