Listen: A New Beginning With *1996*

 Photographed by Morgan Martinez

Photographed by Morgan Martinez

by Scout Kelly

The worst part about making art is wanting to make art. A recent track release by the hot, young band *1996*, a flourishing project by Midwest-based artist Nicholas Ryan Abel, details the anxiety of performance not just as an artist but as a human-person. The track opens with an interview with the artist, who you later realize is both the speaker and the subject. It’s transparent and funny, a look into the pressure one feels when creating and the self-deprecating fear that what you have yet to make is somehow already a failure, even before existing. The second half of the track is a harrowing, dark song that still retains a certain prettiness. It sounds like an episode of the twilight zone, but with glitter.

You can listen to past releases of *1996* on their Bandcamp. Don't miss their performance at the Hooligan Mag Four Year Art Collective. Tickets are available online till February 14th and then available at the door.

 Photographed by Morgan Martinez

Photographed by Morgan Martinez

INTERVIEW: A Conversation with vocalist Joshua Cannon of Pillow Talk

  via  Bandcamp

Pillow Talk is a Memphis-based indie band, pulling from shoe-gaze and electronic influences. Their first full-length record, This is All Pretend, is out March 24 via Animal Style records. The band released the third single "Little Worries" today and are donating 100% of the proceeds made through March 7th to Trans Lifeline - You can read the full statement from the band and find out more info by visiting their Bandcamp here

Pillow Talk’s lead singer, Josh, spoke with Hooligan over email to discuss how music can act as an agent for social change, and what it was like to make the bands first music video.


Hooligan Mag (H.M.): Describe how you navigate the tension between visuals and music in your work. The video for “Ferris and Effie” does really view like a small film rather than a standard “music video.”

Pillow Talk (P.T.): Ferris & Effie was really our first attempt at making a video of any sort. Sam, our drummer, and I love film — he from a visual perspective, and me from a writing perspective. We wanted to make a video for this record, we but didn’t want to fall into the tropes of what a traditional music video looked like when produced by a band our size, on a limited budget.

We wrestled with even including the shots of us playing, but it felt necessary for our first video since we’re more or less unknown. So, I did my best to write it as a short film, a dream-sequence of an older man watching his youth, pining for those moments, and reflecting on that time. Our friend Nate Packard, a photographer and constant collaborator, helped us shoot and edit the video into something cohesive. We’ve grown addicted to working in-house, and just wrapped on our second video.

H.M.: How did you come up with the concept for the video for “Ferris and Effie”?

P.T.: The lyrics are more or less about the duality between foresight and hindsight and the moment I began to see my parents through a human lens. Looking past the light in them and understanding their darkness helped be better comprehend my own obstacles. We wanted to capture the song’s theme rather than directly replicate the concept, so we focused on that duality. My grandfather, who I look up to dearly, played the character in the video. The mannequin serves as a sort of permanent admirer throughout the character’s life, but we ultimately included her to create a more macabre video.

H.M.: Has the wider Memphis DIY scene influenced your work at all / do you have a favorite story about the Memphis DIY scene?

P.T.: Oh yes, absolutely! We all grew up in the scene, playing in different projects. There’s a nonprofit label in Memphis named Smith Seven that I owe everything to in terms of my outlook on playing music and creating a show space. I met Brian Vernon, who started the organization, when I was 12 years old, at a now defunct skate park where he ran the door. He plays in a band named Wicker that operated under Smith Seven’s ethos-banner: If not at the skate park, he’d book shows in his living room or wherever would have us, and, after breaking even, we’d donate any money we made to an organization or someone in need. Same with any records the label released. I’ve got countless stories, but they all center around the idea that punk, and music, should ultimately be selfless in its purpose.

That’s a hard pill to swallow when music — performing it, recording it, releasing it, and asking anyone to care — is so egocentric. I’ve never walked that line perfectly, but Pillow Talk tries to do its part when we can. To me, though, that’s what DIY is, utilizing nontraditional spaces to lift others up.

 

H.M: I hear some hints of shoegaze in your work, are you at all inspired by shoegaze? What do you think the 2017 iteration of shoegaze and/or lo-fi looks like?

P.T.: We’re inspired by shoe-gaze, as well as electronic music, hip hop, and a lot of other music beyond what we’re normally associated with as an “indie band.” A big part of our sound, we’ve found, is in experimenting with the sonic elements that would make up a traditional rock band. In that sense, the vocals can become more of an instrument than a leading voice — guitars can phase in and out of becoming synth or pad sounds. Whatever sounds interesting and atypical to our ears is usually what we dig as far as tones go. Beyond that, our song structure and writing style tends to be influenced from more pop-oriented bands. We probably like a good catchy chorus more than most shoegaze bands. Between members, we share some similar influences, but each of us has pretty different music tastes. This Is All Pretend is the result of us putting our heads together and turning those influences into a whole, and as a piece of music it’s the truest to ourselves we’ve been.

I think we probably aren’t the only group catching on to blurring lines between genres in 2017. One of my favorite current artists, Kevin Abstract, put out a really cool album last year reaching the other way — hip hop and electronic music influenced by indie rock and emo. We are all for trying our best to push music forward in some way.

H.M.: What made you want to start making music?

P.T.: I was born into it. My grandfather is a musician, a rockabilly guy who grew up alongside a lot of the names that make Memphis famous. He was quite literally an observer to rock ‘n’ roll’s origin — touring the country, recording ‘45s, and writing songs for other artists. I grew up on his knee — learning guitar, singing his songs, and hearing his stories. He and my dad handed down a colossal record collection to me, and I was exposed at an early age to different styles of music. There was Sam Cooke and Al Green, Kiss and Alice Cooper, Lou Reed and Albert King, Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell. My dad worked concert security too, so I was fortunate to meet a lot of musicians I looked up to as a kid. I remember seeing James Brown dance, pure magic. It all just had a profound affect on me.

H.M.: How does making a full length record differ from making an EP?

P.T.: Our first two EP’s topped out at five or six songs, and there was more of an immediacy in nearly every aspect of the writing and recording process. We felt that we had to put something out. We rushed to do so, only taking a month or two to flesh out songs. I didn’t particularly spend a great deal of time with the lyrics, which is so crucial to do. In hindsight, I’m not sure why we didn’t think through the process behind both releases more thoroughly. I half-chalk it up to the internet age and the expectancies that come along with it. We’re continuously refreshing our feeds, there’s always something new by someone new, and I think on some level we all want to plug into that momentum. To some extent, technology has made creating and sharing music better than ever, but our attention spans have suffered.

We learned a lot while making This Is All Pretend. I think the universe forced us to slow down. We almost broke up, and went on a hiatus for six months or more. We had started writing songs prior to that happening, however, and I wasn’t sure if they’d ever see the light.

I wrote and re-wrote lyrics pretty constantly during that break as a way to cope with what was personally difficult period in my life involving my grandmother’s health and deteriorating relationships. The album is almost chronological in track listing, and it captures a time I’ve since moved past. I don’t relate as much to some of the words I wrote, but they were necessary because they helped me navigate and overcome a tremendous bout of depression.

But to answer your question, we just spent more time with the songs, working and reworking them, demoing them. We recorded the album analog, too, and that experience brought me closer to the records I love and grew up on. Bringing the LP to fruition was a long process, and hopefully if we do it again we’ll give ourselves even more time to write.

H.M.: Who are some of your favorite artists or musicians?

P.T.: Making a comprehensive list would be tough, and it’s impossible to speak for the rest of the band, but as for some personal influences that influenced the writing of this record:

The Smiths, Morrissey Solo, Belle and Sebastian, The Cure, Future Islands, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, David Bazan, Kanye West, Phil Collins, Madonna, Blood Orange, Bon Iver, Prince. I remember finishing the lyrics to Go Where U Want 2 after seeing The Neon Demon and wanting that song to sound like it could fit in a Nicolas Winding Refn film.

H.M.: What has it been like to work with band camp as they donate their profits to the ALCU? What are some ways that you think music can be used as a catalyst for social change?

P.T.: Any opportunity to assist in uplifting and supporting human rights is necessary and important, especially during the weird times we currently find ourselves living in. It goes back to what I spoke about earlier --  that art should always strive to be bigger than self-interest. No matter the medium, it’s the artist's responsibility, in one way or the other, to speak for those who are oppressed. Our album is a far cry from American Idiot, but we try to do our part. In supporting art, it’s more important than anything to support artists of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. It’s crucial to support gay art. I’m fortunate to live in a city that’s forced me out of my box. I’ve become friends with artists and musicians who are telling a story rooted in a culture alien to my own. Proximity affects ethics and understanding, these relationships have enriched my life.

H.M.: Do you have anything specific that you do when you feel creatively stuck?

P.T.: Two things from two far smarter creatives. Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next.” David Lynch says, “Ideas are like fish, and you don't make a fish, you catch the fish.” It’s a struggle, but those ideas go hand in hand, and I do my best to practice them.

#ReadBeforeYou: Thoughts on Disability and Representation in Cinema

By Rosie Accola 

 Credit to Warner Brothers

Credit to Warner Brothers

~Spoiler Alert~

The film adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ novel, “Me Before You,” is already being hailed as a summer box office Blockbuster, with a star-studded cast including Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Sam Caflin (The Hunger Games). Based on trailers, soundtracked by the quintessential indie woes of The X Ambassadors and Ed Sheeran, the film seems like an opportunity for air-conditioned cinematic escapism at its’ best … and a purveyor of bullshit stereotypes surrounding disabled people’s quality of life at its worst.

The film follows Lou (Emilia Clarke) as she starts her job as a caregiver for a quadriplegic billionaire, Will Traynor, (Sam Caflin). Will and Lou fall in love as she attempts to help him see the good in life. She is infectiously bright and quirky, like any good manic pixie dream girl, she rocks snail buns, brings him flowers— yet to no avail. Eventually Will decides to kill himself via assisted suicide in Switzerland so he won’t hold his friends and family back.

The idea that disabled people are burdens, that there is no possibility of a quality life if that life happens to include a disability, is incredibly toxic and disappointing. One would think that having a disabled person as a main character in a film, especially as a character that is desired rather than desexualized, something that mainstream cinema rarely does, would be a positive thing. Even the saccharine nature of Will falling for his caregiver and vice versa seems almost forgivable, because for once a disabled character exists in the spotlight as someone with romantic interests. Yet, the fact that Will actively decides to end his life for fear of “holding [his partner] back” makes the film's execution a disservice to any sort of mainstream disability representation.

The notion that this experience, of caring for and loving will, somehow makes Lou a better person also perpetuates the narrative of inspiration porn— i.e that the existence of disabled people is noble just because they managed to exist and get out of bed despite being disabled. It’s best exemplified by experience rather than critical terminology, it’s when people tell you they “can’t even imagine” living with chronic pain/having to think through walking down stairs/being they shouldn’t drive etc.  Also by saying Will changed Lou, the film furthers the idea that in narrative art, disability is best used as a plot device or a prop rather than a real, nuanced experience.

This film serves as yet another opportunity for able-bodied actors to profit off of disability narratives. Rather than seek out an actor who was actually quadriplegic, Warner Bros decided to cast Sam Clafin— perhaps this decision was made due to the chemistry between Clafin and Clarke, or Clafin’s Hunger Games allure. Yet it speaks to Hollywood’s overwhelming tendency to utilize experiences of disability without consulting disabled writers, actors, or directors themselves.

Take for example, 2014’s Margarita with a Straw, the Bollywood film follows a young Indian girl named Laila with cerebral palsy as she attends college to study writing in New York. Laila deals with various bullshit aspects of existing while disabled in a university setting, she gets assigned a writing assistant even though she never requested one, but demurs because her writing assistant happens to be hot.  She wins the Battle of the Bands competition at her high school because “a disabled musician wrote the lyrics.” Laila responds to the announcers request for a few words by flipping her off, and it’s triumphant, the middle finger that inspiration porn always needed.

The film is also one of, maybe the only, film that honestly depicts sexuality and disability as coexisting entities. Laila masturbates. She makes out feverishly with another boy in a wheelchair, wheeling up close so she can better loop her arms around him. Once she’s in America, she falls in love with a feminist activist named Khanum, who happens to be a blind woman.  Their relationship gets all the trappings of a hetero box office smash, complete with a loved-up montage featuring two disabled women of color and it’s wonderful

Yet, the woman who plays Laila, Kalki Koechlin, is able bodied. Her movements, her attempts to move her arms in a stiff, titled manner, her head tilt, read as a parody there’s a hollowness. Koechlin has never actually dealt with the immense amounts of frustration that can be felt towards ones own body and knowing this almost feels like a betrayal. On one hand, I know it’s called acting for a reason, but I also know that disabled actors exist. At least, with Margarita,the disability rights group ADAPT was listed as a coproducer in the credits, which insinuates that the film got some input from people who are actually disabled. According to The Guardian, “The film, she says, took its cues from her cousin, Malini Chib, who was born with cerebral palsy and wrote about it in her autobiography, “One Little Finger”. The cousins are just a year apart in age, so they grew up together.” Throughout the film Leila’s mom also makes a point to explain to her college caregiver that, “Cerebral palsy only affects her fine motor skills, it has nothing to do with her intelligence” this is a display of empathy that Me Before You clearly lacks. It implies that disability is a facet of identity, a piece of a complicated whole rather than the defining factor. At the end of the film, Leila takes herself out for a drink, in a classic “treat yourself” fashion. She grabs a margarita, complete with a bendy straw she brought for herself. She asks the waitstaff to pour it into the cup she brought as well, one with a handle and a top, thus making it easier for her to hold. They oblige, and she sips her margarita contentedly, admiring herself in the mirror. Oftentimes in mainstream narratives, we rarely get to see disabled characters content by themselves— any modicum of personhood is always held in relationship to a caregiver or a partner. So to see Laila, out drinking by herself…reveling in her independence and her new haircut is downright affirming.

The tagline of Me Before You is #LiveBoldly, and Margarita with a Straw serves as a necessary reminder that disabled people can do just that, while ironically, Me Before You does not. Margarita With a Straw is the sort of representation that we need; we don’t need to see any more smarmy Forrest Gump bullshit, or any disabled people that exist merely as plot devices or life lessons. We need to remind people that disabled people can and do live boldly, margaritas in hand.

BANDS YOU CAN'T MISS AT FEST 15

 

It's FEST season, and with early bird passes going on sale yesterday, we're celebrating this year by collaborating with some incredible bands for a special "Bands You Can't Miss" piece - highlighting some unreal talent on this year's line-up. 

Check out some of our must-sees and what we have to say about them!

 

Boyfriend Material - Gainesville, FL

By Rosie Accola

An effortless mix between garage rock and dream pop,  Florida-based Boyfriend Material is fronted by Shauna Healey. Healeys lyrics toe the line between cheerily self-deprecating and raw with lines like, Ive always been a mouse with/uncomfortable opinionsbolstered by dreamy baselines reminiscent of sixties girl groups. Healey only recently started playing with a full band, her first two releases, 2014s Little Boxes and 2015s Far From Home feature mostly vocals and ukelele for instrumentation. These tracks are imbued with the same lyrical wit, but Healeys full prowess as a front woman is truly allowed to shine with a garage rock bass-line to back her up. Boyfriend Materials latest E.P.,  S/T will be available as a cassette via Community records. Snag it if your hearts still aching post Dum Dum Girls breakup.

Youll Dig It If: Secretly you know Kristin Kontrol will never come close to the magic of Bedroom Eyes, you have a soft spot for ukeleles and compact lyrical narratives about the process of writing and pals.

 

The Girls! - Columbus, OH

By Rosie Accola

A punk band that knows the power of a good vocal harmony, a festival experience that includes solid bands and minimal miseryboth of these experiential anomalies await you at The Fest, thanks to The Girls! Classifying their music as both punk and power pop on their Soundcloud, The Girls! music acts an opus of confessional punk pouting stylistically similar to Liz Phair, which makes it the perfect soundtrack for any summer fling. Their latest single, Meet Me by the Pool is the perfect song for sneaking a forty and a glance at yr summer crush. The chorus, crooning tonight/ tonightis begging to blasted beneath the window of your beloved with a boom box Say Anything style.

Youll Dig It If: Your summer goal is to rock a crop top and French a stranger, you need something to dance in your unswear to during balmy summer nights

 

NO FUN - Nuremberg, Germany

  Photo by Arne Marenda

Photo by Arne Marenda

By Jonathan Burhalter

Can you imagine no fun with an inflatable whale and naked man in a wrestling mask? That’s what German punk band, No Fun, has already brought to the table in their debut video. Who knows what will be next! Regardless of shenanigans in the crowd, the trio on stage is a group you won’t want to miss. No Fun brings together garage rock, post punk, and pop in their most recent album, How I spent my Bummer Vacation. Check out “Pull the Trigger” and “Ode an Die Freude” (Ode to Joy) to get ready for this show. No Fun’s sound is similar to Brooklyn based band, Chumped, with more pop, or like Colleen Green with more garage rock.

You’ll Dig it If: If you get down to bands like Bully, appreciate sharing some miseries with a good scream, or want to be able to say you saw No Fun at Fest!
 

Insignificant Other - Gainesville, FL

 Courtesy of  Caitlin Elsesser/Triptych Productions

Courtesy of Caitlin Elsesser/Triptych Productions

By Jonathan Burkhalter
 

Lo-fi, queer acoustic bedroom pop group, Insignificant Other, will pull at those dusty romantic longings in your heart in a way that might renew your hope that true love might actually exist (but so do unrequited feelings). Their newest EP, Cop Kisser, is a step out of their usual ukulele-dominant sound by bringing in distorted guitars, drums and other percussion, a bass guitar, a trombone, and more to accompany their dreamy vocals. Imagine the floating sounds of Adult Mom with ukuleles, and you’re in Insignificant Other’s ballpark. If you’re a fan of the uke, you should check out their soundcloud page, in particular a song titled “there is a hell and it is called orlando florida”, and their album la gente guapa come fruta fea. Other songs to check out pre-show are “kehaar”, “con artist”, and “choke”. Reflecting on their lyrics might make you more self-aware.

You’ll Dig it If: You like bands such as Patron Saint of Bridge Burners and Yvette Young, have some time alone that you want to spend dissecting your feelings, or if you want to walk away from a set feeling like you grew.
 

Amanda X - Philadelphia, PA

 Photo by Jonathan Minto

Photo by Jonathan Minto

By Jonathan Burkhalter

Amanda X is a 90s alternative, pop-punk, wave, all-female trio from Philadelphia that features vocal harmonies and a dreamy, distorted guitar. Their most recent single, “New Year”, treads lightly with an electric guitar through idyllic harmonies, keeping an upbeat vibe. Albums Amnesia and Ruin the Moment show off their forward guitar and cool style. They blend pop and punk well, using distortion nonchalantly and not adding any over the top finishing or background noise so that the resulting tones are grungy but not overbearing; just solid songs. You really don’t want to miss the chance to see this group.

You’ll Dig it If: You are looking to avoid overabundant reliance on feedback noise and just want to listen to good music wrapped around lyrics that strike beautiful images. If you like bands such as Frankie Cosmos or Eskimeaux, Amanda X is for you!
 

Bad Cop / Bad Cop - Los Angeles, CA

 Courtesy of Mark Richards

Courtesy of Mark Richards

By Charlene Haparimwi

You will wish the four badass women who make up the L.A. based heavy laden pop punk band, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, were your very best friends. Formed in 2011 by singer/songwriter Stacy Dee with lead vocals and lyrics by Dee and Jennie Cotterill, these boss ladies signed with legendary punk label Fat Wreck started by NOFX lead singer Michael Burkett. With the influence of 90s punk bands like The Muffs and Face to Face, Bad Cop/Bad Cop mixes Joan Jett like vocals, in your face instrumentation and Beach Boys-esque three chord harmonies to create their catchy, hard hitting songs. After relentless touring they released their debut full length album, “Not Sorry,” and you won’t be sorry to put this banger on any chance you get. Full of anti-love songs, cheers to friendship, and facing mental illness head on, Bad Cop/Bad Cop does not shy away from diverse topics. The lyric from their not-so-subtle song, “Rip You To Shreds,” truly encapsulates the band’s no-fucks-given mentality: “I may be kind, but I’m not a sucker/I’ve got no time for stupid motherfuckers.” Catch them at The Fest and Riot Fest this summer!


You’ll Dig It If: You need to have a nice long drive with your female identifying friends, grabbing gas station slushies and frayed denim jackets as you blast “Not Sorry” on the car speakers as loud as you can.

 

War on Women - Baltimore, MD

By Charlene Haparimwi

“I’m not going to dance around the fact that there is a war on women. I’m not implying it. I’m telling you,” lead singer of the Baltimore feminist hardcore band Shawna Potter said. Her co-ed band, War On Women, released their eponymous debut album in 2015 on the contemporary hardcore punk label Bridge Nine Records. War on Women is really fucking punk, differentiating themselves from old school punk and riot grrrl, and aligning themselves with their heavy metal influences such as Metallica. The blistering lyrics, powerful vocals and thrash metal accentuates the commentary of pervasive sexism in modern day America. War on Women makes people listen; and you will love their bluntness, energy and understanding of social issues that plague our daily lives.

You’ll Dig It If: You need to scream your heart out along with Shawna Potter while dismantling the patriarchy and tackling sexist issues in the most creative, kickass way possible.

 

AJJ - Phoenix, AZ

 Courtesy of  FEST

Courtesy of FEST

By Nic Deadman

AJJ has left behind their old name and a portion of their manic-depressive folk roots in favor of a full band that spans from goofy minimalist punk to something more closely resembling a symphony. Even when they dive into upbeat, poppy sounds and themes they're still pouring out the darkest heart of humanity - "I Wanna Rock Out In My Dreams" is a good place to see how easily frontman Sean Bonnette transitions from the fantasy of playing a Gibson Flying V in black leather pants to lamenting how he's finding it harder and harder to even define love and sincerity. Their performances match the music - high energy, good-natured, might make you cry, and always ready to upset expectations for a laugh. (If they cover Slayer as an encore, it wouldn't be the first time.)

You'll Dig It If: You're into Ramshackle Glory, Paul Baribeau, Folk punk goodness.

 

Kamikaze Girls - London, UK

By Laurens Vancayseele

They liked going to Fest so much they wanted to play too. Though last year was singer/guitarist Lucinda's first time in Gainesville, drummer Conor had two Fests under his belt before taking the stage with Kamikaze Girls at Fest 14. DIY in every way, this London, UK two piece plays fuzzy punk rock with a catchy edge that fares well with the Fest crowd; be prepared for melodic singalongs in a packed venue.

You'll Dig It If: Muncie Girls, Milk Teeth, feedback.


Amygdala - San Antonio, Texas

By Rivka Yeker

Amygdala is brutal. Coming from San Antonio, Texas, the 5-piece's sound is passionate and angry. The drums are fast, the screams are blood-curdling and powerful, the guitar is quick and melodic. The band is aggressively loud and they aren’t afraid to embrace it, nor do they shy from confronting important issues like assault, colorism, misogyny, and the patriarchy. Don’t miss your chance to get down with some of the best Anarcho hardcore punk in the game and make sure you snag their upcoming album Population Control.


You’ll dig It if: you’re into Punch and early Cerce and if you want to feel the room shake.


The Winter Passing - Dublin, Ireland

 Courtesy of Brixton Agency

Courtesy of Brixton Agency

By Rosie Accola

 

Ireland-based The Winter Passing provides raucous, soaring, tunes that are perfect for anyone who is still reckoning with the last vestiges of their emo teen phase. The vocals of siblings, Rob and Kate Flynn, coexist to form a comfortable ache, a tension that drives the music and makes it seem all the more earnest. There is something to be said about this urgency, it denotes importance rather than anxiety.  With such an innate hunger for life it’s no wonder that The Winter Passing became an integral part of the Dublin DIY scene.  Above all, The Winter Passing believes in what they are singing.  “The Fever” is what can loosely be described as a killer opening track, with a hammering drumbeat and triumphant guitar riffs that call to mind “Head-on” era Pixies. Their current record, A Different Space of Mind, available for streaming via Spotify. Go ahead and blare it with your windows down while you drive to your dead-end summer job; this record is for anyone toeing the line between reckless and restless.


You’ll Dig it If: You’re curious about the DIY scene across the pond, you stand in solidarity with women in pop punk scenes. You love an aesthetically pleasing music video or two.


Slingshot DakotaBethlehem, PA

 Courtesy of The  FEST  

Courtesy of The FEST 

By Laurens Vancayseele


After thirteen years of being a band and three years of being married, Slingshot Dakota’s combination of catchy keys and pounding drums has become a staple of Topshelf Records’ catalog. This charming duo is returning to Gainesville for the fourth time in support of their newest record “Break”. Singer/keyboardist Carly Comando also bolsters an accomplished solo composing career that netted her an Emmy award in 2008.

You'll Dig It If: You're into Football, Etc. and Lemuria but with keys.


Gouge Away - Fort Lauderdale, FL

  Photo by  Farrah Skeiky

Photo by Farrah Skeiky

By Rivka Yeker

This is the hardcore band you’ve been wanting to listen to. They’re fast, political, and ready to wreck everything around them. Vocalist Christina Stijy stirs unrest with her lyricism about veganism, assault, and reclaiming strength in a world that tries to snatch it. Gouge Away is raw, angry, and ready to tell you about it. You can listen to their new album on their bandcamp by clicking here.

You’ll Dig It if: you’re into aggressive hardcore and woman-fronted power.


Jabber - Oakland, CA

 Courtesy of  Jabber

Courtesy of Jabber

By Rosie Accola

They say never judge an album by its’ cover, but the Josie and the Pussycats-inspired cover for Jabber’s latest release Well... Just Jabber made my heart swell with love. I was even more delighted by the energetic tracks like “anymore” which boldly proclaims, “I don’t wanna be in love with you anymore” beneath an estatic drum beat. It’s the sort of record that oozes femme power, just like the 2003 live action Josie and the Pussycats film. It’s simultaneously snarly and sweet, just like all the best femme punks. Sonically, there are hints of early ‘90s The Donnas and Lindsay Lohan’s garage band in Freaky Friday, as someone who owned a copy of Disney! Girls Rock!circa 2002- - this record is practically a dream come true.

You’ll Dig it If: You know all the words to “Three Small Words”, you’re in need of a post break-up pick me up


The Island of Misfit Toys - Chicago, IL

  By Johnny Fabrizio

By Johnny Fabrizio

By Rivka Yeker

This is one of the most exciting bands to see live, as they cover the entirety of the stage with a Slipknot-sized band of nine people. Island knows how to give you a performance, as vocalist Anthony Sanders brings his theatrical charm to the mic, the band works perfectly together, all clearly enamored by their time on stage. Everyone in the band is remarkably talented, and holds something special in what they each individually bring to their unity, and it’s genuinely just a joy to watch, and if you know the music, a blast to sing along to. Listen to their most recent album I Made You Something on bandcamp.

You’ll Dig It if: You’re into Say Anything meets an orchestra meets a musical.


Shellshag - Brooklyn, NY

  Courtesy of  Shellshag

Courtesy of Shellshag

By Brooke Hawkins

Shellshag is a power duo from Brooklyn, NY comprised of members Shell and Shag. Their most recent album, released on Don Giovanni in 2015 is a ripper, and definitely an album not to miss. Appearances on the album come from members of Screaming Females, Tweens, Vacation, and Black Planet. From their stand up drum kit, to their giant light-up amplifier with antennae speakers for each member, they sure know how to liven a crowd, and start a punk rock party. After you check out their show, watch their Shellshonic Shag O' Vision webseries for more punk-fueled internet fun.

FFO: Screaming Females, Tweens, Aye Nako, and Big Eyes, Don Giovanni Records


City Mouse - Riverside, CA

 By  Faith Cardelli

By Faith Cardelli

By Brooke Hawkins

City Mouse delivers jammy pop-punk straight from California. Their sound is melody driven, with strong '90s sounding leading vocals. Check out their upcoming release this fall/winter on It's Alive Records.

FFO: Murderburgers, Spraynard, The Plurals, Costanza
 

Additional notable mentions on this year’s lineup:
The Flatliners, Lemuria, Tenement, PUP, Rozwell Kid, Jeff Rosenstock, Cheap Girls, United Nations, Antarctigo Vespucci, The Menzingers

For all information regarding passes/hotels/merch for this year's FEST 15 - please visit http://thefestfl.com

Check out the full line-up by clicking HERE.

See you in Gainesville!

Trans Fashion is Not (Necessarily) Trans Empowerment

By Jacob Tobia

 Photo by Erin Southwick

Photo by Erin Southwick

Late one Tuesday night, I was at my friend’s apartment for our usual after work ritual of arepas and red wine. Between bites of corn flour and black beans, I lazily thumbed through the fashion magazines that sat mostly unread on her coffee table.

I picked up the May 2015 copy of Vogue, noticing two headlines on the front cover that, at first, I didn’t believe. I’ve always thought of Vogue as a relatively stuffy, out-of-date archive of high fashion and elite culture as determined by wealthy women on Park Avenue. And yet, right next to the cover image of the actor Carey Mulligan appeared the words “Trans America: The Next Frontier in Gender Politics,” and below those, the headline “Androgynous Chic.”

I flipped through the front ads to the headline articles at the back two-thirds of the magazine, and there she was. Staring back at me from a two-page spread was transgender supermodel Andreja Pejic. The accompanying article began with Andreja’s, story and went on to catalogue the substantial leaps that trans and gender nonconforming aesthetics are making in the fashion industry. Sandwiched between a hundred pages of gender normative advertising, the article proclaimed the end of gender roles.

It read:

“The distinction between man and woman is disappearing.”

“Dressing across gender lines now seems like nothing more than an instinctual aesthetic choice.”  

“Nobody cares anymore.”

I continued reading through the accompanying spread and grew increasingly uncomfortable. The bodies that filled the pages weren’t bodies that I recognized, and they certainly weren’t at all like mine. These people had no facial hair, no chest hair, no body hair to speak of. They were thin, with cut cheekbones, narrow shoulders, slender waists, and graceful hands. They were unblemished, effortless, and unrealistic.

 Photo by Erin Southwick

Photo by Erin Southwick

I tried to figure out why that bothered me so much. After all, this was just how fashion culture worked, right? For decades, fashion has been creating unrealistic standards of beauty for all people, from cisgender men and women to trans and gender nonconforming people; exploiting our insecurities and interfering with our sense of self worth in the interest of selling clothes. But why was it suddenly bothering me now?

As I looked at the magazine, what I began to realize is this: there is a difference between how fashion culture dehumanizes trans people and how it dehumanizes everyone else.

When you’re cisgender, models are venerated and also understood as pernicious idols, as bodies that proscribe a standard of beauty you will be judged against but can never meet. The modeling industry is certainly hurtful to cisgender people, but it is widely understood as hurtful. By most reasonable people, cisgender models are not held up as true role models.

What’s more, very few people would argue that the visibility of cisgender women on the runway means that cisgender women are empowered in society. Rarely will someone turn to a young cis woman and say, “Look at Gigi Hadid. Just look at her. Her visibility on the runway is proof that feminism is making great progress, and women are finally seeing full equality.”

Instead, most progressive people understand cisgender models—both men and women—as unrealistic embodiments of patriarchal beauty norms. And thankfully, many cisgender young people have mentors and caretakers in their lives who can remind them that they shouldn’t judge themselves against the beauty norms that are embodied in fashion magazines.

But we don’t have that. For transgender and gender nonconforming young people in America today, models are seen in a profoundly different light. As a trans person, I am not commonly reminded to be wary of the beauty norms embodied by transgender models and fashion culture. Instead, I’m told by my community and by the media that the visibility of transgender models is an unqualified indicator of the progress of transgender people in society.

But the reality is that the presence of trans and gender nonconforming people in the fashion world is not an unqualified good. Sure, as a group of people who have been historically invisible, it’s great that a handful of us are being seen by the fashion world in a new way. But this also means that our bodies are being consumed by the fashion world in the same unethical and convoluted ways that cisgender people have had their bodies consumed, all the while telling us that this consumption is empowerment.  

Currently, transgender and gender nonconforming young people are facing new kinds of body image issues and insecurities that are directly related to the rise of trans visibility in the fashion world. Now more than ever, young trans people are comparing themselves to thin, conventionally beautiful, transgender models and celebrities who “pass” as the gender with which they identify. They are looking at models like Andreja Pejic, unrealistically comparing their bodies to hers, feeling ugly and undesirable at the same time as they are being told to feel inspired.

That is the contradiction of trans visibility in 2016.  In one ear, the world is trumpeting that we should be grateful to finally be seen. But in the other ear, another voice is quietly whispering, telling us that our bodies do not deserve to be accepted, loved or affirmed if they aren’t thin, if they aren’t on the red carpet, if they aren’t beautiful according to an editor at Vogue or Vanity Fair.

I looked back at that Vogue fashion spread in front of me. And as I thought more about it, I realized why it made me uncomfortable. The “androgynous” models in the spread weren’t real people. They most likely did not identify as gender nonconforming or genderqueer. They were not actual androgynous people, people who live with the realities and repercussions of gender nonconformity on a day-to-day basis. Instead they were an idea, a fantasy; embodiments of what a cisgender fashion editor thinks gender nonconforming people should be.

But I am not a fantasy. I am a living, breathing genderqueer person who has to walk on the streets and take the subway to work and buy groceries and do laundry and live in the world in my body. I am a real, vulnerable, insecure person who has a big ribcage and a little bit of fat on my tummy and a hairy chest and a remarkable amount of facial hair. I will never be able to embody the “androgynous aesthetic” as it has been defined by the fashion world. I will never be able to live up to the fashion world’s image of what androgynous or trans people are supposed to look like.

And increasingly, I am learning to be okay with that. I am continuing the quest to love myself, my body, and my identity—regardless of what fashion culture tells me is beautiful or interesting about it.

Which is why I have to be honest about my apathy towards fashion culture and the supposed empowerment of trans people through it. I do not deeply care that transgender people are in Vogue. I do not deeply care that Jaden Smith is the new face of Louis Vuitton womenswear.

Instead, I care that trans and gender nonconforming people continue to be fired, impoverished, incarcerated, assaulted, and murdered because our bodies are not deemed “beautiful enough” for the world around us. I care that, in the face of those obstacles, our stories are finally starting to be heard by a world that for so long sought to silence us. Andreja Pejic looked beautiful in Vogue, but I will never be overjoyed by trans participation in the fashion industry until gender nonconforming and transgender people are seen not as an aesthetic, but as human beings.

 Photo by Erin Southwich

Photo by Erin Southwich

The Fresh Traditionality of Stephen Colbert

By Joe Longo

 Courtesy of  Charitybuzz

Courtesy of Charitybuzz

This week, January 25-29, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert will feature former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Senator Rand Paul, and host of CBS News's Face the Nation John Dickerson. For The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Kate Hudson, Sia, and Dan Patrick all will be stopping by. Tune in to CBS for politics and NBC for Hollywood? Is that how it goes? While Colbert will also host thespians Sarah Paulson and Chris Pine this week, Fallon lacks the political guests his counterpart has in doses.

In switching from the character “Stephen Colbert” of The Colbert Report to the human Stephen Colbert host of Late Show, many remained skeptical about this transition. Ultimately, the hype fizzled quickly as Colbert embraced the traditional format of late night television where a (historically white) man sits behind a desk and interviews an ever-rotating guest.

Yet unlike his Comedy Central character’s tendency for the dramatic, the new Stephen Colbert revolutionizes through subtly and intracity.

Take January 14, 2016; DeRay McKesson made his talk show debut on the Late Show. On the surface this sounds uneventful. Countless guests have sat in adjacent chairs to a late night host. But it is important to know who this man is; Mckesson is a leader of the ubiquitous Black Lives Matter movement. Now that’s an accomplish itself for late night. How often do we get political leaders, let alone black political leaders outside of Spike Lee and Reverend Al Sharpton on talk shows? During his eight minute segment, Colbert held an honest discussion with McKesson about police brutality and white privilege. Notably, Colbert challenged McKesson.Through a series of tough questions, McKesson spoke about the problematic nature of saying “All Lives Matter” and what truly “white privilege” is. By having McKesson explain white privilege on his show, Colbert used his said “privilege” (his talk show)  as a platform for others to succeed. This type of frank, serious political conversation on late night network television is an anomaly--yet a highly welcomed one.

Notably, Colbert’s “fresh” traditionality debuted during an an election season. With political discussion is at its most culturally relevant for the next four years, 2016 presidential candidates eagerly appear on late night shows hoping to showcase their “relatable” personalities. While the effectiveness of these public relations polys remains highly debatable, these appearances present a prime example of the varying approaches to political discussion on late night. Donald Trump spoofed himself as host of Saturday Night Live, and Jeb Bush played one of Jimmy Fallon’s notorious games on The Tonight Show.

But then, again, there is Colbert. Having already hosted all major 2016 political candidates within the five months following his September 2015 debut, there is a notable tonal shift. While Hillary Clinton chastised the republican candidates on Jimmy Kimmel Show, thus supplying the wanted doses of celebrity conflict, she remained serious for Colbert. Questioning the influence her relationships with Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will have on her potential presidency, Clinton distinctly noted that her campaign is her own and not anyone’s third term. Departing from the expected publicity stunt akin to a celebrity promoting their latest movie, Colbert presented a serious yet comfortable discussion of politics.

Yes, Colbert has always been political.  A former correspondent on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, his roots are in satirizing politics. But Colbert is no longer a face for the edgy Comedy Central. Rather, as anchor for CBS’s flagship late night, a new, wider viewership manifests. According to a 2015 Pew Research study, millennials (defined as ages 18 to 34 in 2015) surpassed baby boomers (ages 51 to 69) as the largest living generation in the United States. This on its own does not mean much. Yet millennials too make up the primary demographic for late night cable television. When combined together, Colbert must cater to a young and aging demographics.

In supplying a new zest to the age-old late night talk show format, Colbert seamlessly enhances and informs his widened audience. Often, the general public hesitates to support new political ideologies. Yet in allowing political leaders like McKesson and Clinton on his show, Colbert is using his platform to highlight imperative topics. He is driving a cultural, political zeitgeist through his beloved flare of comedic honesty and transparency. And most importantly, he expects the same from his guests.


David Bowie: A Eulogy and Open Letter

By Sung Yim

*This post discusses childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, drug use, suicide, and eating disorders*

 Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) Image by Getty Images

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) Image by Getty Images

David Bowie,

You asked us to call you Aladdin Sane. You asked us to call you Ziggy Stardust.

Some of us called you “the most influential musician of several eras.” Some of us called you “space man and transcendent pop star.” Some of us said “everything [you] touched became warm and beautiful and open.”

Dear H—,

David Bowie’s face on the cover of Hunky Dory was so pale and strange, like the drowned Ophelia rendered in velvet and pastel. I once thought he must have been from outer space or the core of the Earth, someplace exquisite and made of moonlight.

I listened to that album on repeat, morning, noon, and night, when I was 20 and strung out on painkillers. The sad waltz of his fingers across piano keys in “Life on Mars” felt like the jingle of a phone call from the friend I lost that year. You killed yourself in a tiny apartment on your college campus. You left behind your beautiful blue eyes and lungs to two lucky recipients awaiting transplant, several pornographic DVDs that we hid from your parents, and an extensive goodbye note that named me among your family members and closest friends.

David Bowie,

You slept with a fourteen-year-old girl. Maybe she was thirteen. The details are fuzzy. It was the 70s. Quaaludes were pumping through veins and your songs through speakers. She was definitely underage. Her name is Lori Maddox and in interviews, she reminisces fondly how gentle your touch, how striking your kimono, how seducing your gaze. How you beckoned her into a bathtub to wash you, then took her over a table.

People say she looks older in photos from back then. She was eager and star-struck. She was a groupie. She was a virgin. People declare the latter two mutually exclusive.

David Bowie,

I listened to “Space Oddity” while lying on the floor of my parents’ basement, growing awkwardly into my bra and out of my braces. I didn’t know what the song meant, what any of your strange and ethereal ballads meant, but my feelings knew no other language in junior high.

Dear H—,

Before you died, you dated L—.

You didn’t fuck her. You didn’t rape her. She lived across the country.

But she was fourteen. You were almost twenty-five. You would video-chat with her about everything under the sun, and teach her how to French-kiss in the crook of a tree when you’d visit ostensibly to see her older brother.

You told her she was a genius. You told her she was so mature for her age. You told her she was the only thing keeping you alive. You made her feel special and I’m sure you thought she was. You made her feel loved and maybe you loved her. She needed that so much.

You were her first love and now she doesn’t know what love even is.

She was a sweetheart with cats. She wore big black combat boots and bangles that hid scars on her skinny brown wrists.

She said yes to everything. She was fourteen. You were almost twenty-five. She was eating five hundred calories a day when you met and now she eats a handful of pills for breakfast.

She googles “child grooming” on nights she can’t sleep. She never understood the nagging unease she carried when you were in her life, why she can only articulate it now that you’re gone, or why it feels so wrong to do so now that she knows how. She used to brush it off and call it immaturity. You did, too.

You were her first love and now she doesn’t know what love even is. The damage seems retroactive—the more she realizes today, the more she forgets of that first love; the more she forgets of that first love, the more she confuses all love.

David Bowie,

I swayed to “Five Years” in a suburban bathroom, dripping green hair dye on linoleum tiles. I was fifteen and I was just a baby.

I was fifteen when my eighteen-year-old boyfriend gave me my first kiss.

I was fifteen years old when he assaulted me on New Year’s Eve, ignoring me as I said no and hold on and I’m not sure because I was too drunk and young and confused to know I could fight, or that I shouldn’t have to.

David Bowie,

You were not the only one. You are not a lone monster. Your name is not rape culture. David Bowie, you were but one participant in an open but unspoken conspiracy. Before you there was Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis.

You were one of numerous rock stars, all idolized by hoards of young girls whose bodies you used and threw away.

You participated in a culture that consumes young girls’ bodies without asking their hometown or birthday. You participated in a culture that puts the onus of statutory rape upon a minor’s capacity for judgment and honesty. You used young people’s bodies indiscriminately because their ability to consent, their stage of life, their life experience, and well-being were all irrelevant to you. No. You were not the only one. You were a star, like so many others. Most men get away with it without platinum records.

People say she’s just a groupie. People say she must have lied about her age. They say she’s fine with it, so why should we care?

Lori Maddox wasn’t just a groupie.

Lori Maddox wasn’t just a liar and she is free to discuss your relationship however she prefers. She’s an adult and she has a right to her own story.

But back then, Lori Maddox was a fourteen-year-old girl. She didn’t just lie about her age as your apologists theorize. You didn’t bother to ask with appropriate concern.

Dear H—,

I still miss you all the time and part of me will always be running from the full picture. The person I knew, the person L— knew. It’s difficult trying to fuse them into one whole person we can both still love.

I will never quite put it all together. How the boy who consoled me to sleep every night after failed relationships and fresh assaults, was also the man who ensnared an underage girl into complete and irreparable dependence on him. How a girl could trust her most intimate traumas, most shameful thoughts, even calorie intake with a man who said he’d love her forever, then grow up wondering just when it was she realized the consequence of yes or no or if she ever did.

Yes or no draped across the laps of men who didn’t bother to ask her or themselves with appropriate concern.

I will never quite put it all together. How I could have kept taking your calls after you told me how old she was. How I kept trying to shave the picture down to make it fit when L— would shudder as she’d recall how you asked for pictures, asked for this or that, asked if she’d get bigger breasts for you one day, all the private things she would do for you one day. Save her virginity for you, one day. How I negotiated an inappropriate relationship with a minor down to loneliness, told myself the reason you couldn’t stand life on Earth must have had something to do with why you couldn’t stick with girls your own age. As if one excuses or explains the other. As if one could soften the other.

I will never quite put it all together.

How I sat frozen at a bar as someone who bought me a drink bragged about “sucking a pair of 14-year-old tits.” How I raised my brow but said nothing as a friend in his thirties told me he snuggled up to a fifteen-year-old girl and almost had sex with her. How I stood at the edge of a roller rink as a group of male friends, all in their twenties, chased around a gaggle of teenage girls in knee socks. How I have watched these things happen, over and over, all my life, to me and others, unable to articulate my discomfort because I didn’t know it had a name.

Because I didn’t know you could save my life and destroy someone else’s in the same breath. I didn’t know how to know both those things at once.

David Bowie,

I blasted “Lady Grinning Soul” while snorting rails of crushed Xanax in a trashed bedroom while my parents were at church. There were days, especially in the winter, when one track switching over to the next was the only marker of time I understood. Your vibrato like the tightening of a cord, the tinny whisper of your vowels, the riffs I know you’d close your eyes to play. My memory was growing holes like weeds, but there you were. Frozen in time, frozen in lasers and plastic, a button and a dial away. You were proof of a world outside my crumbling skull. Your music gave me a foothold on reality. Nobody sang my loneliness to life like you.

But I’ve never met you and we’ve never spoken.

I want the fact that you were not the only one to be reason enough to shatter our culture of silence and complicity around the exploitation of young girls. Not excuse it. I don’t want to burn your records. I don’t want to demonize you.

I want all adults to be accountable.

I don’t believe in kill all rapists. I don’t believe in either/or. I don’t believe in David Bowie, Monster as much as I don’t believe in David Bowie, Hero.

I want us to strive for honesty and precision of language when we speak about you and other idols who have taken advantage, over and over, of ample social capital to get what they want from girls too young to give permission.

I want us to strive for the whole picture. I want us to freely love what good we know of our brothers, fathers, and uncles, enough to unflinchingly tell them the truth they need to hear. The truth young girls need them to hear.

I want us to know that we all carry the potential for harm. I want an end to black-and-white thinking. I want an end to oversimplification in either direction. I want all of us to have the capacity for understanding two starkly different people as the same person. I want to look my rapists in the eye and see not only the stark differences in our actions, but the shocking similarities between our potential.

I want a world where our honesty serves a greater advancement. I want a world where we can accept and learn from the fact that what good a person does can never excuse what harm. And what harm a person does won’t eclipse the good.

David Bowie,

You died of cancer at age 69. We’ve never met and good or bad to the core, I couldn’t say. You were no god or angel, you weren’t extraterrestrial royalty, you weren’t a spiritual experience, and you were far from perfection. You were not a concept. You were a person. You were capable of loving people. You were capable of hurting people. Just like all of us. You touched some lives, you destroyed others. Just like most of us.

Survivors of Assault Are The Superheroes in 2015

By Meg Zulch

 Courtesy of  Forbes

Courtesy of Forbes

With the obvious absence of feminine superheroes in Marvel and DC tales, it's about time that ladies were front in center, rather than posing as attractive sidekicks or heroes with a smaller role and lesser powers. This year, Supergirl and Jessica Jones came into existence, finally speaking to a broader spectrum of genders in their audience. The latter show was what everyone around me was raving about. Despite my natural aversion to all things superhero and Marvel, I settled into my bed and Netflix account with the will to give it a try. 20 minutes into the first episode, I realized my aversion to superhero flicks was entirely because of the lack of representation of feminine characters. Any character in Jessica Jones with real substance was female (including the sharky lawyer), and the men all posed themselves to be less capable complications on Jessica’s journey. The greatest complication of all was the show’s super villain Kilgrave, played by David Tennant (which my Doctor Who-related love for him quickly turned into hatred). I was delighted to discover that the villain, the man Jessica was using all of her (super) strength and resources to destroy, was her rapist. The real life villain lurking in the shadows of every survivor’s life.

 

There was nothing that gave me as much joy as her bravery to track him down, and the satisfaction she felt in wounding him when she finally got her hands on him. It made me think of my own attacker, but without any feelings of defeat or shame. Jessica is a ridiculously powerful superhero, but acknowledges her attack without any guilt or hesitation. She takes back control over her own agency as she hunts him down, choosing to address the damage he's caused, and discovers that Kilgrave has less control over her than she originally thought. The show has all the action, braun, and sexual prowess of an ordinary superhero flick, but with undertones of real vulnerability and relatability from her trauma.

I found myself being able to relate to this superhero, not only because she was non-male but because she was a survivor, not a victim. She got triggered, had flashbacks, and used methods recommended by a therapist to bring her back in the moment. She was sometimes emotional and disoriented after sex. Her abuser affected her in many ways, but she wasn't letting him take over her life, hunting Kilgrave down between her obligatory shots of whiskey. With most media, such as Law and Order: SVU, portraying assault survivors as one-dimensional broken victims, Jessica Jones is refreshing. It portrays all the realities of PTSD with all the badassery of a lady with superpowers.

Her commitment to bringing her abuser to justice, for the sake of liberating Hope Shlottman from jail and saving others from even worse fates at the mercy of Kilgrave’s mind control overshadows her personal experience, pointing to her larger concern of annihilating sexual abuse and emotional manipulation of women. Despite the number of times Jones denies this fact, she is the true hero as she sacrifices her own mental health and safety to defeat Kilgrave. It's reminiscent of the bravery of those who testify in court against their abusers, but without all the legal bullshit and misogyny that often gets in the way of a rape conviction.

Jessica Jones, like last year’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, portrays survivors as they are: living among us, still strongly plugging on and making the best out of their situation in the midst of their healing process. Some survivors, like Kimmy Schmidt, decide to keep looking forward with an unbelievable optimism. But there are those, like Jessica Jones, who feel that they must face their painful past head on for the good of the long term, for closure, and for personal growth. “Knowing it's real means you gotta make a decision,” she said in the show’s first episode. “One, keep denying it. Or two, do something about it.” For someone who is more at a crossroads about how to deal with their trauma, I appreciated the alternate reaction to trauma that Jessica Jones portrayed.

Speaking up about your abuse, reporting an assault, or confronting your attacker can all be incredibly terrifying experiences that many survivors like myself cannot even imagine doing. And with the way law enforcement dismissing many victims and questioning the validity of our stories, our fear in doing these things are justified. But Jessica Jones doesn't care how many odds are against her or how difficult the process may be- she does something about it. And it doesn't make me feel guilty that I didn't press charges, or ashamed of my own reactions to my trauma. Jessica Jones validates my experience to its core, and makes me feel like the superhero I am for simply getting up everyday, and fighting to be more whole and at peace with myself.

To the Coddled American Man

By Meg Zulch

 Courtesy of  @GaryDStratton  

Courtesy of @GaryDStratton 

The other day, among a slew of other troubling comments and mindless rants, I came across a “Louder With Crowder” video that someone had posted in my school’s Facebook group. In it, Steven Crowder discusses University of Michigan’s new inclusive language policy (which bans the use of sexist, racist, ableist, and transphobic language on campus grounds), and tries to make the ridiculous argument that policies like these violate our First Amendment right to free speech.

Once again, I struggled to understand why protecting cis white men’s right to use offensive slurs and harassing language seems to matter so much to certain humans. Would your life really be so empty without offending people and making certain populations feel unsafe? Is it actually restricting the freedom of others when the only thing the policy requires is being a decent human being? Why are you protecting your freedom to cause harm and spread hate?

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve nearly clawed my own eyes out with frustration over observing ridiculous commentary like this. Legions of MRA trolls, and IRL trolls lurking in the shadows of my campus, express these types of sentiments on a daily basis. They argue about the ways in which they feel oppressed when getting called out for saying something offensive, and point to what they find to be the bigger issue: our school and the student body’s commitment to being politically correct and inclusive becomes but a figment of our imagination as soon as we step off the confines of this campus. We all just need to grow thicker skins, basically.

With this very commentary as an example, this statement is impossible to agree with. What about our school is a bubble of inclusivity if there are horrible people who are constantly questioning the completely valid feelings of marginalized people? I don’t feel safe on this campus. Everywhere I go, I see my abuser. I see him in the dark woods when I walk home to my apartment at night. I see him with his friends at every party I attend. I see him in every bed on this goddamn campus. He assaulted me here two years ago while visiting friends of his that I never fail to run into. Thankfully, I do not know the certain kind of terror many others like me experience of seeing their attacker in the light of the day, without any tricks of the light or wild imaginations at play.

But I do know that being PC is valued outside of my friend group, outside of the queer population of SUNY Purchase. I’ve seen it at a panel in NYFW, where an unbelievably strong body positive blogger confronted a comedian for making fat shaming jokes that triggered her, leading to tearful apologies and hugs. I’ve seen it in the media, as people lose high profile jobs over using offensive language in emails or text messages. I’ve seen it in the way my editor tirelessly prioritizes PC in my work, and the way certain commenters point out problematic areas in my writing that I can improve upon. Being a decent, educated, and well balanced person in this day and age is completely necessary in conducting business and relationships. People suggesting otherwise are clearly too ignorant to thrive in these areas.

Then there’s the concern trolls, who brush over how this language affects them, and instead make the argument that these choices are actually damaging to us. In his article for The Atlantic, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Greg Lukianoff tried to prove that trigger warnings and political correctness coddle American students, who should supposedly be exposed to their triggers to help overcome their difficulties with anxiety. Clearly, the cries of critique from marginalized people are falling upon deaf ears of the coddled American man.

It is very, very easy to say things like this as a person quite separated from experiences of oppression. Men like Lukianoff don’t understand the need for trigger warnings because trigger warnings don’t directly benefit them. Many cannot fathom what it’s like to be misgendered, to have racist slurs used against them, to have an anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress affect their daily lives.

Personally, I get triggered by mentions of sexual assault, anxiety, and chronic pain due to my traumatizing experiences with all three. When I’m warned preemptively of the content of a post, especially when it concerns triggering material, I can breathe easy that the safe space of my bed is not going to be invaded. My tendency to have some kind of anxious reaction to triggering content, such as getting stuck in a shame cycle about my attack or losing momentum in overcoming an anxiety attack by reading someone else’s vividly detailed anxious thoughts, is not because I’m coddled or “too sensitive.” In our present-day media saturated world, everyone’s harmful thoughts (or opinions about you) is forwarded right to your phone with a simple push notification. And with transphobia, racism and rape culture being huge problems in our world today, doing everything we can to protect ourselves makes sense.

Trigger warnings and inclusive language are not “coddling” us. They’re teaching us to be more compassionate and mindful toward people with mental illness. And with the knowledge of what’s triggering or offensive to others, we can actively work to dismantle the institutions that create racism, transphobia, and other oppressions.

With certain traumas still fresh in my memory, I am healing in my own time and utilizing the resources available to me to help me continue to make improvements in my life. But on the way, I can do without the insensitive jokes and language. And if that is so difficult to do, if that is violating your “free speech,” then I suggest you reevaluate your idea of free speech as well as the limits of your humanity.

There aren’t any slurs out there for cis white men that hold weight like the “n” word or the “t” word. Accepting your responsibility by altering your language out of respect for those who have suffered more, even if you can’t necessarily relate, would be a huge jump forward in your journey toward adulthood and basic human decency. Treat others the way you want to be treated, and stop silencing the voices of the mentally ill and oppressed on the way. What have you got to lose?

 

Chance the Rapper Speaks Out Against 'Chiraq,' and Lee Fires Back

By Annie Zidek

 Courtesy of Twitter/  @pitchfork

Courtesy of Twitter/ @pitchfork

On the night of November 24th, Chicago finally released the police dashcam from the shooting of Laquan McDonald, which clearly showed McDonald shot down mercilessly sixteen times by a police officer. As a result, people walked in protest against the city’s (as well as the nation's) institutionalized racism. Meanwhile, miles away in New York City, Spike Lee casually discussed his upcoming movie Chiraq on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, adorned in all of his accessories.

Clearly, Lee is a provocateur and is known for pushing boundaries with his work. But with his new movie Chiraq, Lee has gone too far. While the movie seems fitting and socially aware in light of the recent gun violence--both at and within the Black community--the movie almost seems to make a mockery of the gun murders in Chicago.

The title Chiraq in and of itself stirs the image of a violent and bloodstained Chicago, which Lee touches on in his interview with Colbert.

"Local Chicago rappers came up with that name and felt that, not all Chicago, but the South side Chicago, is a warzone, and so they feel, probably even today, that it's safer in Iraq than it is on the Southside of Chicago," Jones told Colbert. He's right. The gun violence in Chicago is a grim reality, leaving some parts of the city truly feeling like a war zone.

Chiraq is based on Lysistrata, a Greek myth wherein the female protagonist bands all the women in Greece together to withhold sex from their men until peace was achieved. The result: the end of the Peloponnesian War. In Chiraq's modern translation, the women in the movie decide to abstain from sex in order to force the men to stop the violence, shootings, and murders that are happening in their city.

Okay, let’s sit back and think about this: Lee really thought he could urbanize an ancient Greek myth successfully by relating it to a very real modern issue (the war-like gun violence in Chicago) with rhyming dialogue? He thought the people of Chicago would totally appreciate him relating their losses of sons and fathers and uncles and friends to a myth revolving around sex?

Many people have spoken up about the absurdity of Lee’s film, including the born and raised Chicagoan Chancelor Johnathan Bennett, better known as his stage name Chance the Rapper. He called out Chiraq on Twitter, vocalizing his frustration and disdain towards the insensitive movie.

Chance the Rapper is unlike any other rapper. He is revolutionary. He’s impacted inner city kids through his personal musical narratives, he’s reached the suburban teens during his performance at Lollapalooza in 2014, and is now touring all over North America. His music is an orchestral celebration of life, a visceral take on Chicago living. He cares about his fans, and shows this by making all of his songs free on Soundcloud.

With a prominent place in the rap community, Chance the Rapper can give a voice to the voiceless affected by troubling circumstances. One issue in which he cares deeply about is the gun violence affecting the city of Chicago. So it's no surprise that the representation of gun violence in Lee’s Chiraq deeply upsets Chance. The 22-year-old has advocated anti-gun violence ever since his music has given him a platform to do so.

He uses his music as a tool to raise awareness to this issue. In the third track on his album Acid Rap (called “Paranoia”), he illustrates the effects gun violence has on kids. The song is the pinnacle of his concern, and a musical narrative for the issue. He discusses how prominent the issue is at his age, and one way he does so is showing how school serves as a safe space: You’re indoors for most of the day, hidden from the perils of gun violence. But then there’s summer, the season of vulnerability:

“...everybody dies in the summer.
Wanna say ya goodbyes, tell them while it's spring.

I heard everybody's dying in the summer, so pray to God for a little more spring.”

And it frustrates him that the media doesn’t seem to care about the kids being murdered in the city. There is a distinct lack of media coverage and awareness towards these issues, as he addresses this in “Paranoia:”

“They murking kids, they murder kids here
Why you think they don't talk about it? They deserted us here
Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here.”

Not only is Chance the Rapper vocal about gun violence in his music, but he also expresses his concern for the issue outside of the musical realm. On May 23rd, 2014, Chicago made it 24 hours without any shootings. The rapper posted a celebratory Instagram pic featuring supportive texts from his dad.

 Photo Courtesy of Chance the Rapper's Instagram

Photo Courtesy of Chance the Rapper's Instagram

Following the photo was Chance’s heartfelt note about the 24 hours.

“#may23rd came and went, and we all made it. Thank you so much Chicago. Thanks to the community organizers and Radio stations that helped. And thanks Dad for teaching us to be hands on, there is no change with us. #takingbackmycity #socialexperiment”

With such a strong advocacy for less gun violence, Chance should be upset about the misrepresentation of Chicago’s bloodshed. Lee’s urbanized attempt at Greek mythology is disgraceful. It belittles the struggles of the families who are personally affected by the gun violence in Chicago. Chance the Rapper is merely vocalizing his distress towards the movie’s false representation of the loss endured by families affected by this pressing issue. 

A week later, however, Chance received backlash from Lee. In an interview with MSNBC, Lee responds to the criticisms on Twitter, pointing out Chance's faults on stance with gun violence.

"Chance the Rapper should say with full disclosure [that] his father works for the mayor. He's the chief of staff," Lee said.

And in light of the suspicions of Mayor Rahm hiding details from the shooting of Laquan McDonald, this puts Chance at a crossroads. He called out Lee for being an "outsider" to gun violence, but he's the son of a man affiliated with an alleged leading player of hiding police brutality in Chicago.

Along with pointing out Chance's flaws, Lee also illustrates a misconception Chance had about the film wherein he called it "exploitive." Lee notes Jennifer Hudson's involvement with Chiraq in an attempt to prove the movie's integrity. "She plays a pivotal role," Lee said. In 2008, Hudson lost her mother, her brother, and her nephew to gun violence when the husband of Hudson's sister shot them in their Chicago home. Bringing to light Hudson's personal history and her involvement with the movie begs the film's credibility on the issue. 

Regardless, people like Chance the Rapper still feel like Chiraq is a misrepresentation of the violence happening in the streets of Chicago. They feel the movie is insensitive and almost mocks the lives of those affected by gun violence. The uproar is fierce, and the boycotts and shouts of opposition speak louder than words ever could.

I Want A Cheeseburger, I Am A Cheeseburger

by Brian Martin

 Courtesy of  PBS

Courtesy of PBS

When a friend and I are feeling bourgeois enough to select a place to eat out, they’ll usually ask me how hungry I am, and I’ll tell them, “Enough to eat 4 McChickens,” or whatever quantity I’m hungry for at the time. When friends tell me about the 10 dollars they spent upgrading their Tinder or OkCupid accounts, I tell them, “That’s about 8 McChickens right there, depending on the county.”

My standard unit of measurement for most practical things is a McChicken.

And, I know. I know that McDonald's has an awful track records in human rights, chicken rights, all that other shit vegan punks like to talk about when they see you buying animal products. The reality of it is that most fast-food places are evil. On the economic end, they’ve strategically halted the formation of unions and ignored national employee demand to have their meager wages-per-hour raised. As Eric Schlosser writes in Fast Food Nation, “fast food chains’ vast purchasing power and their demand for a uniform product have encouraged fundamental changes in how cattle are raised, slaughtered, and processed into ground beef.” Their hegemony over a food industrial complex, according to Schlosser, has effectively disempowered and impoverished rural communities, eliminating their middle class and creating a vast working poor below a small, wealthy elite. And this power extends as far as the deforesting space economies of Brazil and Guatemala.

They’ve infamously been taken to court— and even lost in trial —for using marketing tactics which specifically target children, saturating the media with ads that associate their highly addictive foods with fun, love, and family. The McLibel Trial, for instance, was an infamous case where a gardener and a postman from London managed to convince a judge to rule that McDonald's “[exploits children] with their advertising, produce 'misleading' advertising, are 'culpably responsible' for cruelty to animals, are 'antipathetic' to unionization and pay their workers low wages.” These same efforts, perhaps unsurprisingly, have failed in the USA.

The law in mind, one could call me a childhood victim of “McDonaldization."

At age 3, I remember sitting on my grandpa Betos' lap, having him tell me a story about Elephants and Spiderwebs as we awaited a happy meal. He took off his glasses, turned them upside down, and put them back on his face so that the frames looked like an M. And for whatever reason, I’d never been so pleased: there was a secret McDonald's logo in all glasses.

At age 4, there was a giant advertisement for a Shamrock Shake on the road which lead from Tijuana to the Border. Upon seeing its strange, alien-skin like coloration, the whipped cream, the cherry, I started crying.

After much haggling, me and my mother waited for five hours, moving at the pace of 2 steps per 5 minutes, until we crossed to the US. We walked over to the same McDonald's Beto would take me and tell me stories at. Approaching the counter, I pulled out a secret pocket of change I’d been accumulating from panhandling, street searching, and purse-picking. I poured out the change on the counter like pieces of eight.

The tragic part is when it came in all the glimmering, neon-mint-green glory, my first sip was cloyingly sweet— like, the syrup was rotten, runny, and bleh.

At age 6, after my family had gone bankrupt and we fled to the southernmost city in the Baja peninsula, my favorite mornings were spent at the PlayPlace’s GameCubes while my mother drank McCafe. Yes, you read right: GameCubes in a Mexican McDonald's. Even though the ball-pit caked over with brown stuff and smelled like chancla, the McDonald's was fancy as hell: two stories, 20 televisions, cushioned booths, and game stations in the playroom. Shit was a prize. And I ate it like one. Whenever my mother wanted us to feel good about life and disregard the hurricanes, the dad on a two week journey trucking cinder blocks from one end of Mexico to the next— she’d bring me and my sister here.

This might seem opposite to the common American conception of McDonald's, which tends to view its food as inferior products. Friends who I’ve spoken with about it call it “drunk food”— the kind of stuff you stumble upon after a long night of Fireball shots in Wrigleyville. Others say it is something they gorge on when they’re feeling bad about themselves; "when you’re broke and in a hurry." Then there’s the folks who say the food is incorrigibly disgusting: the “I’d rather eat [cage-free, vegan, cage-free, vegan, gluten-free, green, Rainforest Alliance Certified] garbage than McDonald's” people.

Ironically, when Carl N. Karcher (Carl’s Jr.), Thomas S. Monaghan (Domino’s), Harland Sanders (KFC), Ray Kroc (McDonald's) and more began developing their fast-food empires, they were successful because their products were accessible to working class people. For the first time, working families could afford to eat out. Fast food venues were also spaces where young people could gain work experience. A young Latina friend of mine told me she saw McDonald's as an opportunity to save up money before moving to Chicago from rural Illinois. The scarcity of work and a strict meritocracy has also made the fast-food service industry many people’s livelihood.

Internationally, McDonald's and other American products continue to be aspirational commodities which one can buy to both materially and symbolically communicate one's social mobility. My urban Mexican experience is one example of this. Yunxiang Yan, a UCLA Anthropologist, wrote a piece titled Of Hamburgers and Social Space: Consuming McDonald’s in Beijing, which analyzed the role of fast food in 1990’s China. Yan found that women were the predominant consumers, because “they enjoyed ordering their own food and participating in the conversation while dining,” whereas in traditional Chinese restaurants men would order the food and control conversation. He goes on to write that “imported fast-food restaurants provide a venue where women feel comfortable alone or with female friends,” lest they be marked by suspicions about their “morality or occupation." McDonald's and company provided a space where women, albeit of a particular class, could practice a new kind of social mobility.

I don’t mean to propose that the social space constructed by McDonald's is necessarily revolutionary, especially when we consider their ultimate goal is still, indeed, to produce profit at the expense of their workers, children, and the environment. Though, certainly, as Yan proposes, “there is a close link between the development of fast-food consumption and changes in social structure, especially the emergence of new social groups.” What I’m saying is that fast food means more than its unhealthy chemical composition.

Mind you, as I’ve already noted, criticisms of McDonald's are warranted and well-founded. My purpose here is not to denounce a movement which aims to dismantle unhealthy food systems, fight against soil degradation, vile mistreatment of animals, and promote holistic health (especially in lower-income communities). What I am trying to do is push for a more nuanced analysis of what McDonald's and other American ‘foods’ mean to working class or poor people. Why are we attached? Why, for reasons social, cultural, and economic, can we or can we not escape it? What is the implicit classism, xenophobia, and racism present in middle-to-upper-class hatred of McDonald's? What populations do we associate with this kind of food?

And, on a more personal note, I’m tired of crude, individualistic critiques of consumption. I don’t want to be called out in the middle of eating lunch between work-shifts. I don’t want to hear about the superiority of “organic" lifestyles, which are typically supported by products peddled by the same corporations selling me ground beef. The social and economic success of McDonald's as noted by Yan in Beijing, and Schlosser in the USA, and by me in Mexico, is attributable to the broader social and economic contexts: women had to turn to McDonald's because of the harsh patriarchal culture around them; working class people wanted to feel good about their ability to provide for the family, and could not afford anything but McDonald's.

Myself?

I’m young and messy. I’m hungry. I’m wasteful. I use wi-fi in lieu of expensive-ass phone service. I’m constantly anxious about my prospects for the future. I’m far away from home. When it’s 2 AM and I’m wandering without real purpose, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and sometimes on Christmas, McDonald's is there. Or Dunkin Donuts. Or Burger King. Whatever. I’ll come in with a dollar, buy myself a burger and a few hours of down time. I’ll sit down next to the drunks, homeless folk, and graveyard shifters like it’s purgatory. Because it is. We are all waiting for a better alternative.

Cities of the Rustbelt

by Anna Bruner

 Courtesy of Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Post Gazette

I would say “Pittsburgh” softly each time before throwing him up.

Whisper “Pittsburgh” with my mouth against the tiny ear and throw him higher.

“Pittsburgh,” and happiness high up.

The only way to leave even the smallest trace.

So that all his life, her son would feel gladness unaccountably

when anyone spoke of the ruined city of steel in America.

Each time almost remembering something maybe important that got lost.

 

-       Jack Gilbert, collected poems

 

A few years ago, an art gallery opened in an old steel mill on the Northside in Pittsburgh. Photos of Byzantine Orthodox nuns walking against the smoke-filled landscape of bustling steelworks, paintings of soot-covered faces in impossible masses, and sculptures of reclaimed shards of iron turned the memories of The Steel City into high art to be discussed over drinks and stuffed mushrooms. The old mill was one of the lucky few to be given a redeemed purpose; since US Steel died out and left Pittsburgh in the 70’s and 80’s, most of the mills today stand vacant and deteriorating along the riverside, untouched since the last of their workers were laid off and sent home.

Like so many other industrial cities of the Northeastern and Midwestern United States, Pittsburgh became part of the “Rust Belt,” a trail of cities that popped up as booming hubs of industry at the turn of the century, but have since fallen victim to failed economies and changing times. Also referred to as “The Manufacturing Belt,” “The Steel Belt,” and “The Factory Belt,” the region consists of such cities as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Before WWII, Rust Belt cities were some of the nation’s largest, and supplied work for millions of immigrants. And then gradually they started to decline, and ghosts started to pop up in the form of rail yards and lumber mills and lace factories never to be put to use again. 

 Courtesy of Frick Art Historical Center

Courtesy of Frick Art Historical Center

“We could have been Detroit,” a friend grimly reminded me during a visit home to Pittsburgh, while we cruised the Boulevard of the Allies on our way to Hot Metal Bridge to go to the Southside Ironworks. Everything from streets to bridges to bars to movie theaters in Pittsburgh are so often named after the industry that they have replaced.

“We could have been Detroit if we didn’t have something else going for us. What did they have? Cars. Cars and nothing else.”

And it’s true. Pittsburgh didn’t die with U.S. Steel, hospitals popped up and expanded as rapidly as cells divide, schools recruited more and more engineers and musicians and teachers and doctors, museums named after Carnegie (just like the projects were) filled with more and more private donations. But we could have died. We could have failed. We could have experienced an Exodus. But we didn’t. We built. We grew. We adapted.

In 2010, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was named the most livable city in the world. That doesn’t mean the skeletons of the empire that built us don’t loom over our hillsides and riverbanks along all three of our rivers.

Damen Silos in Chicago sits empty and covered in graffiti, a stark reminder of a time when the city contributed to the grain empire of “the breadbasket of America.” Meanwhile, the back of the yards have hardly changed, while the Meat Packing District has since fizzled into the history books as a grim allegory. The abandoned Cook County hospital still stands as ornate and detailed as a looted Russian palace after the revolution, literally right behind the new hospitals that constitute Chicago’s Medical District. Abandoned synagogues, post offices and condemned brownstones litter the city, the boards once covering their kicked-in windows long ago. 

 Courtesy of Anna Bruner

Courtesy of Anna Bruner

A massive asylum stands guard over the outskirts of Philadelphia. A hauntingly beautiful carousel sits as the crown jewel of a boardwalk in New Jersey's Asbury Park, desolate. Half of Detroit remains a ghost town consumed by weeds, houses selling for $1 once or twice a year in the hopes of a Renaissance that has been a long time coming.

 Courtesy of Marlo Montanaro

Courtesy of Marlo Montanaro

The cities of the Rust Belt are neither dead nor dying, they are frozen. Stagnant. Haunted, preserved, heartbroken. They are America’s ruins, reminding us of a time, an industry, and a way of life so little of our generation understands, even though many of us are the products of their love and labor.

A boiler from the same steel mill my grandfather worked in still sits on the riverside in Pittsburgh, surrounded by a fountain, part decoration and part memorial. Something that once had the ability to maim and kill hundreds of men in an instant, is now something that people pose in front of for photo opps and children play by while their parents wait for their Hard Rock Cafe reservation. It is our roots communicating with us, saying “notice us,

love us,

please,

don’t forget about us,

don’t forget

we were here,

we made you.”

Apocalypse, Myth, Rebirth: The Importance of Stories

By Ian Kerstetter

 Art from  NateHallinArt

I was nine years old and the radio on my school bus had stopped playing music. Breaking news, it murmured. Crash, explosion. The bus driver turned it up without a word. Something was happening in New York. A plane had crashed into a building full of innocent people– then another.

I had never experienced war or violence in any way until that morning. I knew that a long time ago, people had used guns and bombs to hurt each other but I had never imagined that people would do that here and now. As an adult I recognize that violence has had a more or less constant presence on the planet since human history began, but as a child privileged to live in relative peace and safety, my mind had never before imagined war in the present tense. Although I understood the narrative facts of the events that day, I didn't fully understand what had happened to me, or the world, until years later.

The idea that my life, or the lives of those around me, could end suddenly at the will of another human felt like the ground beneath me was no longer stable. The radio could say breaking news at any moment and another piece of the world could end.

My conception of the future had been thrown into question. Ultimately, many if not all people face the idea that the future is unpredictable, and such questioning prompted me to grow and investigate my own beliefs in a positive process, but this process is difficult nonetheless. My parents, teachers, and friends did everything they could to help me cope with my increasing existentialism, but as with any part of growing up, it took time and patience.

The memory of that day made me ask myself countless times, if people could bring themselves to kill each other, what's to stop them? If people had the technology to destroy whole buildings, why not whole cities or nations? It was around this time that I first encountered doomsday theories. Religious zealots, conspiracy theorists, cynical atheists, there were so many people saying the world would come to an end soon. As an impressionable young person, I was overwhelmed. I didn't know what version of reality to hold on to, so I tried to push them all away. New Years' Eve became a frightening night in the legacy of Y2K and 9/11. 06/06/06, 12/12/12– someone seemed to predict a new end of the world every year. They never came true though, and as I grew up, I began to trust in the present moment, and gained the courage and wisdom to study the facts of these false prophecies and see their emptiness, and their patterns of obscuring truth and feeding on fear.

Eventually, I accepted that end of the world predictions were not something that deserved my energy, and that living in fear of the future wasn't healthy or empowering. I learned that people have been predicting the end of days every so often since there were years to be counted. I learned the broader implications of the 9/11 attacks, and the unforgivable violence that our country enacted on innocent people in response.

And while I have healed from the realization that the world is a violent place, and have largely grown past my fear of the end of the world, I still find it troubling how flippant our society seems to be when discussing these ideas. I find it disturbing that people continue to laugh about flimsy doomsday conspiracy theories and pay money to watch disaster flicks that treat mass violence and chaos as mere spectacle. I feel that continuing to give them space in our media and conversations perpetuates them. Conspiracy theories about the world ending on a given date are just as empty as thinking fluoride is put in our water to control our minds or that vaccinations cause autism or cancer. As a reasonable person, I certainly think that science is just as subject to human error as any other field, but I find alarming the number of people willing to deny well-tested scientific truth to perpetuate these theories. I wouldn't suggest that we avoid talking about them at all– rather, we need to openly and critically examine them just as openly as we allow bloggers, filmmakers, and the History Channel pretend that they are real.

The widely popular 12/21/12 apocalypse theory, for example, was born out of a series of misinterpretations about Mesoamerican calendar systems, sensationalist media, and fear mongering, and yet I remember how the theory completely captured the public's imagination that year. The Mayan calendar– completely different from the Aztec calendar stone that was widely pictured to represent it– uses a “Long Count” that allowed for timekeeping up until December 21, 2012. After that, the calendar stopped, but the claim that this signified the end of the world was largely fabricated. While you and I may not really have believed the world would end on December 21st, think about all the people who did– schools were closed and bomb shelter sales went up that year. Consider all of the money, effort, and attention poured into that story. What if all of that attention had been paid to something else, like the U.N. Climate Change Conference in November of that year, which decided to extend the emission reduction policies of the Kyoto Protocol until 2020, which the U.S. continued to refuse to agree to. Imagine if every person who thought about the 12/12/12 conspiracy theory had written about, spoken about, or watched the conference. Social media and the internet have allowed many people to rally around important issues, but how many with such widespread knowledge, investment, and media attention than 12/12/12 or any of the other things we choose to focus our attention on?

In many ways, the world is ending, and has ended many times. For many indigenous people across the Earth, the world ended the day colonists stepped foot in their ancestral home. In different places and times, the world ended and began again with the inventions of bombs, cars, factories and computers. The world is in constant flux, and it isn't a stretch to say we that we are in fact living at another end of the world. But by focusing on the end, are we prepared for what comes next? Where, in our cultural storytelling, are the stories of the future? Sci-fi holds many stories of the far future, and of near futures gone wrong, but where are our stories of the near future gone right? Warnings of dependency on technology, a failing economy, and a suffering Earth are important warnings, but I wonder what stories might be told about humans rising to these challenges rather than falling into chaos, and how these stories could change the course of history.

We need stories that open up the possibilities of a world beginning, not just of a world collapsing. Climate change, nuclear war, hunger, disease, income inequality, genocide all pose real threats to the wellbeing of humans present and future, but the future has yet to be written. Humans have survived many tragedies and challenges; it's not beyond the realm of possibility that we could flourish in a post-apocalyptic world, or not face a Hollywood apocalypse at all. But for this to be a tangible possibility, I think we need storytelling that establishes this, not another disaster film or another gritty post-apocalyptic teen novel.

As artists, writers, and creators, I feel we have a duty to be considerate and deliberate in what stories we add to public conversations about the present and future. We don't need another disaster film or another blog post about Illuminati imagery in Rihanna's last music video. We need stories that interrogate the real challenges facing the world, like climate change, unchecked capitalism, institutionalized prejudice, industrial poisoning of our land and water, or militant imperialism. Zombies and aliens may be entertaining, but there are far more real monsters paying off our government, killing people and the Earth, and yes, writing our stories. They have names and faces –David and Charles Koch, the Walton Family, Robert Rubin, A. Jerrold Perenchio, Tony Hayward– and we should talk about them, and add our own narratives and truths to the stories they try to dominate.

The world may be ending, or may well have already ended. But we are still here, and what we desperately need is to leave behind narratives of end and apocalypse, and to tell stories about this new world we're living in, and open our imaginations to the world we might come to live in, as painful as the transition may be.

Kanye West Should (Not) Be Humble: The Tale Of An Outsider and His Art

By Meg Zulch

 Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

At this past New York Fashion Week, Kanye West premiered his Yeezy Season 2 Collection, a continuation of his ongoing collaboration with Adidas. The show was highly organized, and included performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, all-star models meticulously arranged by skin tone, and the first unveiling of his new song "Fade." The clothes could only be described as post-apocalyptic streetwear, with an obvious consciousness about race relations in America. However, critics tore the show, the clothes, and the man behind it to pieces, calling the whole thing amusing and even deceptive. And so goes the media-shaped tale of Kanye, the court jester of pop culture, and a caricature of his own art.

The validity of Kanye's art has come into question for most of his career. As a proud black man, he has been written off by a good portion of society as being too cocky, too offensive and too ridiculous. This is of course referring to some particular media "incidents," like when he interrupted a Hurricane Katrina telethon in 2004 to say that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." And his most recent public sin, when he drunkenly interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for Video of the Year at the 2008 VMAs (which he then was temporarily banned from).

Kanye West is passionate and can be impulsive at times, but he's not crazy. Putting things into context helps (shockingly). Interrupting the live broadcast of the Katrina telethon was his attempt to publicly call out the government's slow response to the desperate and predominantly black community that was badly affected by the hurricane. He also pointed out the unfair media representation of black families looking for food, saying that news outlets called these people "looters" while white families in the same situation were "just looking for food." Similarly, Kanye interrupted Taylor's speech to express his frustration over award shows' refusal to acknowledge female artists of color in all categories.

But, classic of White America, it's not okay for Kanye to express any anger, even when it's concerning valid points about racism. It's not okay for Kanye to go dabbling in an art form other than hip hop or other pursuits that are stereotypically prescribed to people of color. And he's certainly not allowed to be proud of any of his achievements.

This year, designers first had beef with Kanye when he announced the date for his show, September 16, only days beforehand. Of course, this is inconsiderate to other designers like Anne Bowen and Naeem Khan, who had shows scheduled at the same time on that Wednesday. But who in the fashion community is completely considerate of others' time? If Anna Wintour decided last minute that she wanted to rent out the space Bowen's show was to be held in at the exact time of her show to host an impromptu orgy, no one would bat a false eyelash. I'm not saying that this behavior is right, but the conversation surrounding this when regarding white people in fashion would be very different. But Kanye, a man of color, is expected to remain acting as a humble and unworthy child, who is grateful to just be breathing the same air as all the white shiny fashion designers regardless of his talent or earned merit.

Bowen expressed her anger about his last minute announcement in an interview with Women's Wear Daily. "We have been prepping for a year for this at considerable financial, labor- and commitment-cost to our company,"she said. "Our show date has been scheduled for months and has been on the Fashion Calendar for weeks. We went through all the proper channels to make this a reality. And just yesterday we learned that Kanye West is having a show at the same time on the same date as ours."

This language she used, like "we've been prepping for this for a year," and "we went through all the proper channels to make this a reality" includes a lot of racially-charged subtext. Her words imply that Kanye has not been putting just as much work into his own line, and that he somehow didn't earn his place in NYFW, an imposter riding off the backs of others who actually know what they're doing.

Kanye has earned his spot. He's always been a trendsetter, from the "Stronger" era shutter glasses to his leather skirt he rocked at the Hurricane Sandy Relief concert. Coming from a musical background where he wrote, produced, rapped and created award winning video concepts, he crossed over into his first love (aka fashion) around 2008 when he came out with his first streetwear line Pastelle. Since then, he's pursued fashion study (and even bought a studio) in Paris, has designed/scrapped/perfected multiple lines of his own, landed a design contract with Louis Vuitton, designed sneakers for Nike, and featured in NYFW as well as Paris Fashion Week. His feverish obsession with constantly improving, his love for trying out new styles, and his intense devotion and respect for designers like Vuitton and Givenchy makes it crystal clear that Kanye is not just simply "dabbling" in fashion. He lives and breathes it.

Kanye is an outsider to the fashion world not because he isn't talented, not because he's not a real designer, not because he doesn't take the industry incredibly seriously. It's because he's a black man who produces hip hop music, a black man who didn't get the memo about his "place" and respect politics, a black man who refuses to be silenced and is made out to be a clown and a thug because of it.

Cathy Horyn, a fashion critic for New York Magazine, reviewed his show, saying: "Yeezy Season 2 was kind of amusing." She also said, among every other garbage word she managed to churn out (seething with condescension), that his line of "broken-down basis proved he can't be taken seriously as a designer."

The line's aforementioned basics were highly wearable, while the rest of the clothes presented in NYFW aren't realistically wearable on the street. The collection features mostly nudes, basics that could be easily layered and captured a very Mad Max: Fury Road aesthetic (as well as the health goth vibe fashion lovers have been embracing as of late). By capturing this feeling, Kanye summed up oppression in the United States, as well as a feeling of apocalyptic chaos born out of the institutional racism that has been characterizing national conversation over the past few years (thanks to a rise in police brutality against people of color). The militaristic style of the show captured his (and other people of color's) intense experience of feeling like a slave to capitalism, a slave to racist rhetoric, and a slave to his own demons. But the consensus? "Amusing."

Downplaying and even laughing at the oppression of others is unacceptable. But when these tastemakers, designers, and critics who are racist and find the struggle of marginalized identities "amusing," this drastically affects who is and isn't erased from history. If white people and gatekeepers of fashion history don't think his work is valid, then he may never be remembered as a designer, but rather the fashion industry's personal court fool (if he makes fashion history at all).

So if Kanye is a little disrespectful when regarding the time and money of a room full of white people, the same people that are telling him his art is amusing and that he's a fake, please excuse him. He's forgotten he needs to be a humble, self deprecating human, riding the coattails of Anna Wintour to get white people and their industry to like him in order to be successful. Instead, he continues to bravely present his art to the world everyday, angry and refusing to be discouraged.

The North Shore is Not Chiraq

By Joseph Longo

                     (Bill Rankin/www.radicalcartography.net)

                   (Bill Rankin/www.radicalcartography.net)

“Hi, nice to meet you. Where are you from?” For many students from the Chicagoland area attending a university away from their greater hometown community the go-to response is “Oh, I’m from Chicago,” regardless if they are referring to the actual city or one of the endless suburbs. A one of many, I notice this suburban lingo daily on campus.  But there is a difference. North Lawndale and Naperville are not of the same vein.

A recent The Odyssey article, an online, college-based newspaper, exemplified this issue through a recent listicle of the “25 Signs You’re From Chicago & The Suburbs.” Writer Lauren Rzeszutko mentions dining at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, calling the Willis Tower the “Sears Tower,” and attending the Lollapalooza music festival as all fairly quintessential tasks of the average Chicagoan. Yet buried within the list is number eighteen. “When people ask you if you are from Chicago, you immediately exclaim with glee, ‘hell yes,’ because what better city is there? You may even refer to it as ‘Chiraq,’” Rzeszutko wrote.

The North Shore is not Chiraq. Suburban Chicagoland populations seemingly embrace the term Chiraq when referring to Chicago. Yet this new term describes a lifestyle and environment alien to suburban millennials. The nickname acts as a moniker for the ever-present violence and crime within Chicago, namely the inner-city populations. It does not encompass upscale neighboring towns like Barrington and Lake Forest.

The term, so synonymous with gang violence throughout all major United States cities, led director Spike Lee to title his upcoming film Chi-Raq. In a recent interview with Deadline Hollywood, Lee discussed the importance of highlighting this epidemic. “We started shooting this film this past June 1 and our last day of filming was July 9 so think about that,” Lee said.During that time of production while we were in Chicago, 331 people got wounded and shot and 65 got murdered.” Conversely, according to City-Data.com, affluent northern suburb Highland Park had zero murders throughout all of 2013. That is quite the stark contrast for a millennial to heavily associate the two distinctly different areas.

This idea is not confined to just Chicago, but rather evidenced throughout all major cities where suburbanites and neighboring communities quickly latch on to the ubiquitous mainstay. Yet by embracing the term without living in the marginalized community, one is negating the poignancy of Chiraq. Highlighting the injustice occurring within marginalized communities, this nickname depicts a very specific community. One heavily dominated by impoverished African-American and other minority residents.  According to The Chicago Tribune, 21% of resident of the notoriously crime-ridden Englewood neighborhood are unemployed and 42% live below poverty level. Conversely, the United States Census Bureau reported that Lake County, often ranking as one of the richest counties in the nation, had a 9% poverty rate from 2009-2013. These are not homogenous areas, lifestyles, and--most importantly--people.

Those who truly live in Chiraq—often the marginalized and oppressed—have become outsiders in their own city. Instead suburban elitists appropriate a term of a vast community in which they do not live. They take ownership of a lifestyle and culture foreign to them. So fellow Chicagoland Suburbanites, please do not use and appropriate Chiraq when referring to Chicago, but do become an ally to combat inner-city violence and poverty.

There’s Beauty In Originality, Hollywood.

By Joe Longo

 

This is a big week for Hollywood. It is the unofficial start of “awards season” with the Toronto International Film Festival kicking off today and the Venice Film Festival continuing through September 12th. With this comes an onslaught of actors, directors and producers tirelessly pushing their respective films in hopes of finding a distributor. And these same actors gearing up for a heavy push to garner an Academy Award nomination for their nuanced performances. Matthew McConaughey strolled the Toronto red carpet in 2013 for Dallas Buyer’s Club, and Colin Firth did the same for The King’s Speech in 2010. Both actors portrayed real life characters and eventually won Best Actor Academy Awards for their performances. This pattern has frequented red carpets and film festivals in recent years as the mainstay to receive critical acclaim. Yet what has resulted is a concerning trend in which uniqueness and originality is replaced with redundancy and safety. Hollywood has lost its creativity.

Seven of the past eleven Best Actor Academy Award recipients have won for their portrayals of real men. Of the remaining four, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, Daniel Day Lewis in Three Will Be Blood, and Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland play fictional characters based loosely on actual people and events. The remaining completely original character actor is that Jean Dujardin in The Artist . While certainly not downplaying the intensity and credibility of these performances, there is a clear lack of original charactership. The academy (or movie studios depending on who one points blame) are in a rut and praise what is predictable and known. This year at the Toronto Film Festival alone Johnny Depp in Black Mass, Tom Hiddleston in I Saw The Light, Tom Hardy in Legend, Billy Bob Thornton in Our Brand is Crisis, Ben Foster in The Program, Michael Keaton in Spotlight, and Bryan Cranston in Trumbo all playing leading men in various biopics.

And then there is Oscar front runner The Danish Girl and the film’s leading man Eddie Redmayne. The Danish Girl, the retelling of the first transgender woman to undergo sexual reassignment surgery, stylistically echoes director Tom Hooper’s previous works Les Miserables and The King’s Speech. All three films are historical retellings of the lives of Europeans throughout various eras. Furthermore, Redmayne himself won last year’s Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in another historical biopic, The Theory of Everything. Certainly, Redmayne excelled in portraying Hawking down to his subtle mannerisms--and might do so again as Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl--but this all reeks of familiarity. A template for acclaim has been set and followed repeatedly.

 Notably, this creativity crisis inflicts all of Hollywood with endless remakes of successful films of past decades and constant reboots of classic superhero characters. According to writer and producer Stephen Follows, none of the top ten grossing films of 2014 were original. “This number grows to 13.3% of the films which placed 11th or 25th on the annual box office chart for US gross. However, on the lower half of the annual 100 (i.e. films placed between 51st and 100th), over half were ‘truly original’,” Fellows said. He notes that while original filmmaking is rampant in lesser known movies, big budget Hollywood is afraid to embrace such creativity. “In 2005, almost a quarter of the money spent on the top 10 grossing films went to ‘truly original’ movies,” Fellows said. “In both 2011 and 2012, this had dropped to just 7.8% of the box office gross and in both 2013 and 2014 it was 0%.”

While it can be justified that creativity no longer makes money and drives ticket sales, that does not mean the focus should be on established, understood storytelling. Interestingly, according to Hypable.com, the two biggest flops of the 2015 summer were regurgitated material. Tomorrowland, based loosely off of Walt Disney’s idea of a utopia and EPCOT, has an expected loss of $120 million-$150 million. Coming in second was the much plagued Fantastic Four reboot expecting to lose $80 million-$100 million. So maybe the already understood isn’t known to succeed. The filmmakers of the upcoming the 2017 reboot of Spider-man, the third reimagining in a fifteen year span for the web-slinging superhero, should take note.

While it is important to depict a variety of stories in films, including historical events and persons, creativity has been sacrificed for commerce. The filmmaking process, and the academies that award their work, should champion originality. Let go of the mundane, repetitive storytelling and embrace the beauty of newness. Afterall all these reboots and retelling were once fresh and unique stories.

 

Boy Bands and Breakups: A Subjective History

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By Meg Zulch

Our favorite boy bands breaking up are just as inevitable as our favorite pet's death. You know it's coming in this great circle of life, but you'd rather not think of it. In the meantime, we live our lives as completely devoted fan girls, convinced that we'll be in this for the long haul. In the boy band department, shit tends to hit the fan as soon as one particularly ambitious or dissatisfied member decides to go solo. Or they get tired of touring. Or someone breaks down from the stress. *Cue the collective sound of teen hearts breaking all over the nation.*

I am a self-described and unashamed fangirl, and worshipped One Direction since their conception in 2010. And so when Zayn Malik quit the band back in March (my second favorite member, ugh <3) it felt very much like my heart was torn from my chest, pulsating to the beat of "Best Song Ever" on the cold hard  ground. After I had a good cry and finished ranting about it on Twitter, I realized mournfully that my years of loving boy bands before them prepared me for this. Because as we all know from history, boy bands tend to have a very short shelf life.

The first boy band I ever loved, NSync, went on a "hiatus" in 2002 after JT came out with his first solo album, Justified. In hindsight, this hiatus was indeed a breakup, since they haven't recorded or toured as a band since. The Jonas Brothers were off and on until they officially broke up in 2013, as Nick Jonas moved on to pursue his solo career (which has been arguably way less successful than JB, but ya know. I'm not bitter or anything). Currently, The Wanted are on a hiatus, with multiple members of the band pursuing solo projects. And now, my beloved One Direction is on the chopping block as they announced their hiatus to begin in the next couple of months. Okay, so clearly "hiatus" is a dirty word. Let's ban it from our vocabulary immediately. 

British boy band (and love of my life) One Direction promised to be different from the boy bands I had previously loved. And of course, those heartthrobs kept their promise. They never once attempted synchronized dancing and dressing, they were charmingly informal in interviews, and they tried to make music that they believed in. They tried to keep it as real as possible, but it obviously couldn't ring true to each and every member in the same way, resulting in Zayn Malik's departure. 

At the end of the day, the "boy band" is still a highly manufactured exploitive business, made apparent by 1D's expert utilization of social media promotion and merchandising, and not a model that is meant to satisfy every individual in the group. They were optimistic, but nobody can escape the fate of breaking up and ultimate irrelevance (aka the boy band graveyard). So basically, if and when you care about your mental health and your creative freedom, it's pretty natural to want to break away from such unforgiving beginnings as soon as possible. If you are one of the lucky few who made it big in a boy band, get the exposure, make the money, then peace out.

Before announcing a record deal with RCA, Zayn's reasons for leaving were varied and unclear. There were multiple instances during 1D's last tour that he had to take breaks and trips back home to manage a sensory overload of stress (perhaps anxiety). There have been concerns from people close to him and reports here and there that Zayn might have been abusing drugs and alcohol. Unsurprisingly, mental health issues and substance abuse also have affected other boy bands, like the Backstreet Boys and New Kids On The Block in the past. 

Whatever the mixed reasons were for Zayn's departure, it seemed like the wisest decision for him. He had clearly been dissatisfied, and even a little isolated, in One Direction for awhile. And, being apart of such a successful international band, it must have been very hard to make the decision to leave. But in spite of my broken fangirl heart, I am proud of his bravery in deciding this and, for the first time in years, giving himself agency over his own career and life.

Going solo is not always the smartest business move for a member of any boy band, as the magic formula of their specific ensemble disappears. Only time will tell if Zayn's decision to leave will make or break his public success. But even though conventional success isn't guaranteed, and we hate to see him go, we know it's what's best. We learn from the boys who walk out on our favorite bands the importance of prioritizing our own needs, and that nothing is more important than following your own path. Even if that path seems lonely at times. Sometimes we have to go solo to discover who we are, what we want to do, and where we belong. Whether that be concerning romantic relationships, friendships, careers, or creative endeavors.

So R.I.P. One Direction Zayn, and congrats to the new Zayn (whatever Zayn that might be) for being the ultimate role model of "I'm doing me," and "fuck the haters."

 

The Plight of LGBT Success On and Off Screen

By Joseph Longo

2015 has been a landmark year for the LGBT movement: the nationwide legalization of gay marriage in June, the public’s recognition of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, and the rise of transgender actress Laverne Cox. Naturally, Hollywood has quickly capitalized on the spotlight these civil rights issues have garnered. While the new presence of LGBT films is not directly tied to the events of this past year,  acceptance and recognition of this community has subsequently greatly increased in the past several years. From the HBO series Looking, to the small indie Blue Is The Warmest Color, to the docu-series I am Cait, characters identifying as LGBT are quickly becoming mainstays. Yet has the industry, specifically movie studios, once again acted too soon and not given justice to this community? Possibly.

  Stonewall, 2015.  Centropolis Entertainment

Stonewall, 2015. Centropolis Entertainment

Two major movies premiere in the second-half of the year that not only tell the stories of gay, lesbian, and transgender people, but also are subject to controversy and criticism. The first, Stonewall, is a fictional telling of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, historically considered the birthplace of the lgbt rights movement, through the eyes of a midwestern, white man. The film is inherently flawed as it is indeed fictitious, however that is unapparent as the trailer opens with a voiceover of President Obama’s inauguration speech citing Stonewall amongst other great events sparking civil rights movements. Though one of two transgender women of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Riveria, are often historically credited with igniting the riots, the cisgender, white protagonist throws the first stone in the film. Pat Cordova-Goff, the trans* youth justice organizer for the Gay-Straight Alliance, started an online petition to boycott the film. “ It is time that black and brown transwoman and drag queens are recognized for their efforts in the riots throughout the nation,” Cordova-Goff said. “Do not support a film that erases our history. Do not watch Stonewall.” The online petition is just 1,600 signatures shy of its 25,000 goal. Considered a passion project by openly gay director Roland Emmerich, it is puzzling that such a momentous, important event is subjected to false storytelling and old-school Hollywood perceptions of idyllic character types. The other major film sparking much debate is The Danish Girl which recounts the true story of the first ever recipient of a male to female sex reassignment surgery. Directed by Tom Hopper, notable for The King’s Speech and Les Miserables, on the surface this film highlights the beginnings of a much underappreciated and abused minority. But the details were flubbed. Amid his award season campaign for last year’s The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne was announced as taking on the lead role. This choice was met with concern by the transgender community that a cisgender actor is portraying such an important, influential figure. In an interview with Out Magazine, Redmayne reflected on his responsibility to the transgender community to educate the public on gender and sexulaity. “My greatest ignorance when I started was that gender and sexuality were related,” Redmayne said. “And that’s one of the key things I want to hammer home to the world: You can be gay or straight, trans* man or woman, and those two things are not necessarily aligned.” It is certainly beneficial to discuss important ideas and concepts often misunderstand to mainstream audiences, nonetheless another cisgender white man should not be the messenger. Rather transgender men and women should be the leaders to educate and represent their community and their struggles. Yes, one could argue that Redmayne may just be the best actor for the job, however this speaks to the greater issue of the scarcity of roles available for transgender actors in Hollywood. Similar criticism springs up every few years when high-profile actors and actresses portray transgender men and women: Jared Leto in  Dallas Buyer’s Club, Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent, and Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry. Yet it can be reasoned that are not enough job opportunites for transgender actors and actresses that result in them becoming unqualified and ignored for high-profile, leading roles. A double-standard exists in which cisgender actors portray the bulk of transgender characters, yet transgender actors are virtually exempt in vying for cisgender roles. As society continues to embrace and assimilate the LGBT community, hopefully these men and women will be able to portray characters similar to themselves.

After all who better to depict these stories, than those who have experienced similar circumstances first-hand. Hopefully the portrayal of the LGBT civil rights movement can be a fresh take in which the oppressed minority is given their respect not only on screen but off.