10 Shows and Movies That Have Brightened Up Quarantine Life

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Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction by Megan Mann

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Never Have I Ever 1x04 Review: “... felt super Indian” (Embracing Your Culture) [Contributor: Jenn]


“... felt super Indian”
Original Airdate: April 27, 2020

I love that Never Have I Ever is focused on portraying an Indian American family and their religion and culture without it being a derogatory punchline. (Kudos, of course, to creator Mindy Kaling who was also the writer on this episode.) And I especially love that wrestling with her identity as a young Indian woman is at the forefront of this episode for Devi. She spends most of the episode wrestling with not feeling like she fits in within her own culture, while simultaneously feeling like she doesn’t fit in with her peers.

The end result is a really fun episode that doesn’t rely on stereotypes or cliches in order to portray some lovely character development.

GANESH PUJA

The fact that not all Indian Americans have the same religion is part of the plot of “... felt super Indian.” Devi explains that while her family is Hindu and therefore celebrating a Hindu holiday, not everyone who’s Indian is Hindu. (My best friend who’s Indian American, for example, is Sikh!) And quite a few things happen at Ganesh Puja: Nalini gets pitying glances and comments from “aunties” since this is her family’s first time celebrating the holiday since Mohan died. The episode focuses a bit on her and her relationship with the aunties, which I genuinely appreciated.

Later this season, we’re going to get more chances to see Nalini humanized and portrayed not just as Devi’s mom or Mohan’s wife but as a woman who’s struggling with her own grief. Much like Devi, she’s not always sure how to best handle the weight of her pain, but I love that we get a brief sense of the comments she has to endure from within her own community in this episode. We’re going to see more as the series unfolds about the kind of expectations placed on Nalini and the difficulty she’s had in the wake of Mohan’s death.

Kamala, meanwhile, spends the episode grappling with her arranged marriage once more. She meets a woman named Jaya who’s an outcast because she refused an arranged marriage, married a Muslim-Indian man, and ended up getting divorced.

The conversation between Kamala and Jaya seems to confuse Kamala even further — while Jaya doesn’t necessarily regret her choices, she also doesn’t wish the kind of social standing on anyone else that she currently has. Even Raj, a pandit at the celebration, can sense that Kamala isn’t happy and doesn’t want to be married. She’s supposed to be praying for it, but she’s stuck between the place of wanting to be true to who she is and her own happiness and not wanting to disappoint others.

Devi’s plot is the most significant in the episode. She’s eager to go away to college and break free from her family expectations and religious restrictions. She wants to distance herself as much as possible — at least that’s what she says in the beginning of the episode when she runs into a friend named Parvesh who’s voluntarily returned to celebrate Ganesh Puja. He tells Devi that after he went away to college and roomed with someone who’s Indigenous, he was inspired to connect with his culture in a meaningful way. 

Instead of his parent’s religion and heritage, Parvesh adopted his culture as his own for the first time and began to see it in a new way. Devi is still skeptical but she spends most of the episode trying to charm a college admissions advisor who can get her into any school she wants. When she pitches herself to him, he’s not impressed. He essentially tells her that nothing separates her from the other overachieving Indian American candidates he’s encountered. There’s nothing special or unique about her story. Devi is frustrated until Ron, the advisor, realizes that there IS something different about Devi — her tragic backstory. 

Ron tells Devi that if she shares the story of how her dad died and she was paralyzed, he could get her into any school she wanted. Devi, someone who’s spent the series so far running from the story that caused her so much pain, is stunned. And for a moment, we think that she might actually consider this. After all, she talks throughout the series about how she can’t wait to get away from her seemingly dull life and become her own person. But when she’s actually forced with the choice to share her grief to get something she wants, she refuses.

And then Devi runs into Paxton in the hallway. When he questions her sari and why she’s at school on the weekend, she tells him about Ganesh Puja, rambles a little bit, and then is surprised again when Paxton compliments her in a flirtatious way.

At the end of the episode, Nalini, Devi, and Kamala have a lovely little moment with Raj where he essentially tells them that they’re all going to be okay. The final shot of the episode is the three women looking out the windows of the van, hopeful.

Favorite things: 

  • “Looks like an ad for India, right?”
  • “We’re just obsessed with fountains.” “Oh, I love a fountain.”
  • “I’m gonna be an atheist who eats cheeseburgers every day with my white boyfriend.”

What did you all think of the episode? Sound off in the comments below!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Julie and the Phantoms 1x04 Review: “I Got the Music” (The Haunting of Trevor) [Contributor: Jenn]


“I Got the Music”
Original Airdate: September 10, 2020

Even though they’re ghosts who’ve been dead for 25 years, Luke, Alex, and Reggie are still teenage boys at heart. That means they often get easily distracted or fixated on things that are less important or pressing than others. “I Got the Music” isn’t really a two-parter, but it functions like one since we’ll see the fallout of their choices in “The Other Side of Hollywood” shortly. 

In the meantime, let’s talk about how this episode is a plot-building one and that it also helps us get to know Alex Mercer a little bit better.

FOCUS UP

Alex and Willie’s connection is undeniable and it continues to develop in this episode. I love that Willie is this very chill, very relaxed skater who loves skateboarding in museums and screaming to get his energy out. Alex, however, is not relaxed. As he accurately points out, he struggled with anxiety the whole time he was alive and dying didn’t help. Especially because he can’t seem to control what’s happening to and around him. That’s a hallmark trait of someone with anxiety: the desire for control and the frustration when life doesn’t work the way you want it to.

One thing that does frustrate and almost defeat Alex is the inability to hold objects. When Willie asks him to move a bench in the museum, Alex says that he’s unable. And after one try, he all but gives up. But Willie encourages him to focus — another thing that Alex’s anxiety prevents him from doing. Instead of wandering thoughts and aimless emotions, Alex follows Willie’s advice and channels his thoughts into a singular focus. And it works! He’s able to actually pick up the bench and move it. Later on, Luke and Reggie are surprised when Alex is able to touch and hold things and it makes me happy that he’s continuing to practice mindfulness. 

In addition to this episode being a great one for us to learn more about Alex’s character, we also get a glimpse into the burgeoning relationship between Willie and Alex. I love that their relationship is so pure, supportive, and open. They don’t know each other that well but Willie is a safe, calming space for Alex. At the same time, he also pushes and challenges Alex to step beyond what’s comfortable and into what’s possible. Alex loves his bandmates, I have no doubt about that. But I love getting the chance to see Alex vulnerable with someone outside of the group, and for him to be able to learn that it’s okay to let go of control and exist in the ambiguity. Willie lives his life with freedom and we all want Alex to do the same.

MEET TREVOR

The most important plot of “I Got the Music” is that the boys learn that their former bandmate, Bobby, now goes by the name Trevor. But there’s something even worse than him changing his name: he stole their songs. Julie reveals to the boys that Trevor’s music is what inspired her and her mom to be songwriters; Alex then tells Julie that as it turns out, Luke was really the one who introduced her to music. All the songs that made Trevor famous were ones that Luke had written. The boys are furious, understandably so. And I think one of the most heartbreaking but small things they mention is that their parents will never know how great they truly were; Trevor took sole credit and he could’ve at least shared some of that fortune with Luke, Alex, and Reggie’s families to make sure they were okay after the boys were gone.

Now, we don’t know much about how or why Bobby changed his name and image. I suspect that after all his bandmates died tragically, he endured trauma. Perhaps changing his name and image was a way to disassociate from the pitying glances or concerned fans — a chance to have a fresh start. And we don’t know why Trevor took the songs and passed them off as his own. Maybe it was an accident at first and then the fame and success got away from him. We also don’t know much about how Rose and Trevor became so close. She knew him from Sunset Curve, so did she know that he was stealing Luke’s songs or did she assume he’d written them himself? There’s a LOT I hope that the show unpacks in season two in regards to Trevor/Bobby, but suffice it to say that the boys haunting him seemed on brand for their teenaged ghost selves.

Julie, however, is insistent that the boys let the past be in the past and focus on the present — the fact that Flynn got them a gig playing at the school dance. Unfortunately for Julie, even though the boys promise that they won’t let revenge color their judgement, they really do. We’ll see the fallout in the next episode. But it makes sense: these are teenagers who’ve been scorned and they can’t see the forest for the trees. To them, it doesn’t matter if Trevor stole their songs 25 years ago or 25 seconds ago — they want revenge. So they haunt him and scare him off, but it’s not enough. Revenge is a drug and they needed another hit. So they enlist the help of Willie to try and do more damage. Willie points them in the direction of the Hollywood Ghost Club where we learn that Caleb (Cheyenne Jackson) is already waiting for them.

Be careful what you wish for, boys. You might just get it.

Hitting the right notes:

  • While “I Got the Music” ranks a bit low on my list of Julie and the Phantoms favorites, I can definitely sense the nod to the show’s musical predecessor, High School Musical, in both the music and choreography. That’s one, big, show-stopping number!
  • I love that originally Owen, Charlie, and Jeremy were supposed to be in this number (Madison mentioned this in a live and the boys rehearsed it) and just imagine how much MORE fun it would have been if they were dancing against the lockers.
  • “How’s the band? Still hot? Still talented? Still dead?”
  • “Just remember, he’s made of air.” “Cute air.”
  • “I’ve always been a little anxious and then I died. Which did NOT calm me down.”
  • HOME IS WHERE MY HORSE IS.
  • “Oh… he looks like a substitute teacher.”
  • “... It’s a little bit about the money though.” “A little bit about the money.”
  • “This place is creepy.” “Well, so are we.”

What did you all think of “I Got the Music”? Sound off in the comments below!