Calling The Beast By Its Name

I was recently inspired to do a series of posts on my personal brand of feminism, and here is the first one, the cornerstone of my feminist beliefs: I think feminists should call themselves feminists, I think all women should call themselves feminists, I think everyone should be proud to call themselves a feminist. If you’re not, I think you’re either misunderstanding the meaning of the word or being very rude.

For whatever reason, the word ‘feminism’ has gotten a bad rep over the past years. Feminists are often viewed as irrational or silly, and the word ‘feminazis’ is used to describe the craziest of all. I was disgusted to find that there is now a movement that proudly calls itself: ‘Feminism Is Cancer.’ Apart from the fact that the word ‘feminazi’ is very disrespectful to survivors of the Second World War and their families, and that equating a deadly disease with a political opinion is very harmful to victims and survivors of this disease, I also think the rhetoric used to vilify feminists is despicable in its own right. As usual, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has phrased it more eloquently than I ever could, saying:

“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (We Should All Be Feminists)

Just as the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ recognizes that black people have been oppressed throughout history and ‘All Lives Matter’ glosses over the painful history of racism, so does ‘feminism’ indicate the problems society is facing and ‘equalism’ deny their seriousness.

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What A Flat Tire Taught Me About Intersectionality

I first became acquainted with the concept of intersectionality this summer when I was taking a course on gender at the Radboud University Nijmegen. As identity politics are increasingly becoming a topic of discussion, not just in academic discourse but all over the internet, I think it’s important to shed some light on my understanding of the concept, especially since I was confronted with it in my day-to-day life recently.

Or, to make it a bit more complex: Continue reading

National Day On Writing

Yes, you read that right. Today, October 20th, is the National Day On Writing in the US, but I have taken the liberty of celebrating this special day on the other side of the Atlantic as well. After all, I am a writer, or I try to be one. I love writing, and in this blogpost I will attempt to articulate why, and also tell you about some writers who have said or written great things about writing. It’s all very meta, which, coincidentally, is one of my favorite kinds of writing.

Ernest Hemingway has given what is perhaps my favorite advice on writing ever:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Ernest Hemingway

To me this is particularly true. If I don’t write I feel full to bursting with emotions and opinions and stories. I have to tap into the creative vein every once in a while, just to blow off steam. But there are also times that the flow of ideas seems to have dried up. Those days, I have to dig into myself deeply, sometimes so deeply that it hurts, and wait for liveliness to come back into my writing. Because that’s what writing is to me; it is the essence of life. And blood is also, in a much more literal way, the essence of life.

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The Best and Worst of Fictional Mothers

 

“My mom smiled at me. Her smile kind of hugged me.”
R.J. Palacio, Wonder

This post is for my mother, whose smile always kind of hugs me.

Lily Evans & Molly Weasley from Harry Potter

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This fanart of James and Lily was done by Aicha Wijland and I found it here.

Usually I would limit myself to one character per fictional universe, but in the case of Molly and Lily I’m willing to make an exception. After all, a mother’s love for her children is a central theme in the Harry Potter series. First, of course, Lily saves Harry from Voldemort with her maternal protection. Then, years later, Molly Weasley adopts Harry like he’s one of her own children. And let’s not forget that it was Narcissa Malfoy that saved Harry’s life in the Forbidden Forest.

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I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying.

Catelyn Stark

I have no words for Catelyn Stark. She is so utterly brilliant. Of course, there isn’t a single lady in Westeros that doesn’t kick ass, but when it comes to motherhood Lady Stark really wrote the book.

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She’s not afraid to tell her children the truth, even the arrogant male ones that are successors to the estate. She’s willing to fight for Bran’s wellbeing when it comes to that and she loves all her children equally and fairly. And let’s be honest, it can’t have been easy to love an eleven-year-old pre-pubescent Sansa, no matter how much I have come to love her.

Lorelai Gilmore

This might send me straight to the psych ward but Lorelai Gilmore is everything a mother should be in the 21st century. Lorelai Gilmore, I think, is much like my own mother in the way she approaches motherhood and that is the highest complement I could give. Lorelai is the funniest. Lorelai is the coolest. Lorelai is good at giving motherly advice and offering comfort, she is fair and honest and although she behaves as though her daughter, Rory, was a unexpected gift, I think much of Rory’s loveliness is due to Lorelai’s great parenting.

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Of course, the Gilmore Girls have their flaws. (Gasp!). Lorelai sometimes acts or speaks before thinking and Rory can be utterly selfish. What matters is that the Gilmore Girls, in spite of these shortcomings, love each other unconditionally. What matters is that Lorelai is always responsible when it comes to Rory, and that Rory’s selfishness is rarely aimed at her mother.

Mother Gothel from  Rapunzel

Here’s a quick reminder that not all mothers in fiction are lovely darlings like Lily and Molly, fierce protectors like Catelyn or sarcastic little shits with a heart of gold like Lorelai. Some are terrible.

Mrs. Jumbo from Dumbo

Some mothers are absolutely lovely, though.

 

Bellamy Blake’s Bookshelf

tumblr_ntqlxsqrp31qmah7eo1_250Welcome to the Character’s Bookshelf. This is where I speculate, entirely outside of the space-time continuum and the barriers of language, what books would be a fictional character’s favorites.

Do you guys know about Bellamy Blake? DO YOU KNOW ABOUT BELLAMY? DO YOU?  Quick introduction for the uninitiated; this is our lord and savior, our most precious of cupcakes, our purest cinnamon roll: this is Bellamy Blake from The 100, and this is his bookshelf.

Note: In this specific case I have arranged the books in order of Bellamy reading them, so each one has his age at the time of reading listed in brackets.

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The Bad Beginning (and the rest of the Series Of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket (Bellamy is nine years old)

Bellamy read these books to Octavia when both of them were little and she spent most of her time locked under the floorboards. I am absolutely sure of it. These books are about a set of super-smart siblings who deal with their misfortunes through intelligence and witticisms. Sound like anyone you know? That’s right. Sounds a lot like the Blake-siblings.

 

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Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (Bellamy is thirteen years old)

Here’s something else you didn’t know about Bellamy Blake: he’s a huge classics nerd. He named his sister Octavia. So you will never convince me that 13-year-old Bellamy didn’t totally identify with Percy Jackson, everyone’s favorite sassy teenager. Also, Percy had a totally badass sidekick in Annabeth, and Octavia is more than a little bit like her.

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Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (Bellamy is seventeen years old and hides this book form Octavia to avoid merciless teasing)

Blake is the new Darcy. If you don’t watch The 1oo you don’t know this. Also, if you don’t watch The 100 what are you reading this post for? Bellamy Blake started out as a bit of a D-bag. He was the character you loved to hate, until he suddenly revealed himself to be a precious little cinnamon roll. You can see how this is like Mr. Darcy, right? And Clarke is his Elizabeth. No one will convince me otherwise.

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Atonement by Ian McEwan (Bellamy is twenty-two and feels responsible for his mother’s death)

Atonement is a book about guilt, and Bellamy’s got plenty of that. It’s also about complicated sibling relationship, something else Bell has way too much experience with. Come here, Bellamy. Let me give you hot chocolate and wrap you in cozy blankets and tell you how amazing you are.

Why are the characters with the guilt complexes always my favorites? Why is it that when Bellamy feels responsible for his mother’s death, I suddenly love him even more? Why do I always fall for the self-sacrificing fuck-ups? I don’t know, and it probably ain’t healthy, but fiction isn’t the realm of the healthy, anyway. Health and happiness don’t make for interesting plots or characters. That’s why I love Bellamy, and that’s why Bellamy loves Atonement.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (Bellamy is twenty-three and coming to terms with the violence of life on earth)

“Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Now come cry with me over how badly our favorite darling Bellamy Blake needs some therapy and some uncomplicated love and friendship and some apple pie.

Bonus Feature

Bob Morley, the angel that plays our beloved Bellamy Blake, dressed up as James or Harry Potter.

Bob Morley

 

 

Music In Movies

I want to make it clear that this isn’t going to be a blogpost about musicals. I might do one in the future, because I love musicals, but this is not it. It’s not a post about soundtracks, either. This post is about characters in film that love to listen to or love to make music. Not biographies of artists or anything, although Velvet Goldmine ventures into that territory. Completely fictional love for completely fictional music.

Velvet Goldmine

I was recently reminded of how much I love this film when I started preparing for the Bryan Ferry show I’m attending next week. I listened to the amazing Ladytron. But this movie has more to recommend it than just a great soundtrack: it also has Ewan McGregor, whom I love, and a great narrative framework that keeps the audience on its toes.

If you’re a Dutchie and want to know more about this film, watch my father’s awesome video essay. Continue reading

An Evening With Hanya Yanagihara

Last Wednesday, the 5th of October, I had the extraordinary pleasure of attending an evening with Hanya Yanagihara organized by the John Adams Institute. Some of you might remember that Yanagihara released her second novel, A Little Life, in 2015. Fewer of you know how much that novel means to me, but that’s what this blog post will explain.

I should probably have included A Little Life in my post on Books That Helped Me Through Depression, because it definitely did. The reason I didn’t is somewhat complicated. While it is true that A Little Life gives an uncompromising view of mental illness that our society needs more of. I have seen too many teenagers on Tumblr romanticizing mental illness.  But A Little Life is also a book that toes the line of melodrama and edges towards too much.

That’s not a bad thing, at least for me. Depression is too much. Depression is melodramatic. The problem with A Little Life is that some of its content is explicit enough to trigger people. Now, I really don’t think we should be putting trigger warnings on novels and neither does Yanagihara. I think we should be putting trigger warnings on pretty much everything else, but in a novel the reader agrees to let the writer pull them into their world. This can and should involve challenging the reader’s world view. If you’re easily triggered by the topic of self-harm, you should probably stay away from this book. That doesn’t mean the author has to.

 

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. What, you ask, is this book about? Why is it so incredibly great that you can’t shut up about it, Julia? A Little Life starts out as the coming-of-age of four close college friends in New York attempting to make something of themselves. But all is not as it seems. Although the book initially has a rich ensemble of characters, focus gradually shifts towards Jude, who, it turns out, has had an incredibly traumatic childhood. His three closest friends try to help him battle his demons. We, as readers, try to uncover the mysteries of his past, even as we shudder to think what they might be. Continue reading

The Final Episode: A How-Not-To Guide

I live in constant fear of contracting some rare, painful and terminal disease. I’m afraid of height, needles and shadows moving in the dark. I am, generally speaking, a fearful person. My worst fear, however, is not that of abandonment, or the social anxiety I experience at parties, or the dreadful nightmare I often have where my skin falls off and leaves gaping holes behind. My worst fear is being disappointed by a TV show.

We’ve all been there: you’ve invested God-knows how many hours in watching a show you have come to love with all your heart, and, quite suddenly, like the writers have lost their heads, the resolution of the plot is terrible. 

Any writer can tell you that endings are hard. They run the risk of being cheesy, either too happy or too sad, or being just plain random. The ending of a long-running TV show should satisfy the audience, but giving them everything they want runs the risk of appearing unrealistic. It seems to me that the problem is this: we have no endings in real life. We go on, or we die. Even when we die, the people around us, the supporting cast, so to speak, eventually go on. No one has any experience whatsoever with something ending; so, it’s extremely difficult, maybe even impossible, to write an ending.

Still, I have some opinions on what constitutes doing it right and doing it wrong. Let’s have a look at some examples. WARNING: None of these examples are spoiler-free, but spoilers for each show are only in that show’s paragraph, so skip ahead if you must.

Bad Endings

How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother had its finale in 2014, but I only caught up on the show just last year. My friends had been watching it for a while and encouraging me to do the same. It was funny, they promised me, but not in the way of so many sitcoms that got nothing but the occasional snort of laughter from me; HIMYM had character development, it was a TV show with a heart and a soul.

I watched it. That takes three days, four hours and sixteen minutes, according to BingeClock. So I think it’s fair to say that I invested quite a bit of time. Of course, I made it to the final episodes with slight feelings of apprehension, as the resolution of the plot and the answer tot the Big Question (“Who Is The Mother?”) are infamous for being a disappointment.

The rumors were true; it was disappointing. The derailment of HIMYM’s plot wasn’t slow, like in Lost. It happened quite suddenly, over the course of the last handful of episodes. I was no longer amused. Through a series of events that don’t bear repeating, the character development the audience has witnessed over seven seasons is completely undone. No, Barney is not a one-woman man now. No, all those times we saw Ted’s relationship with Robin fail were just temporary, and they are actually meant to be.

A mainstream TV show like HIMYM, which gets its viewership mainly from people like me, looking for a happy feeling and a laugh, should not defy expectations in its final story arcs. HIMYM’s finale should have satisfied the fans, and it did not.

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20 Questions About Music

I took the 20 questions about music tag from Rawan, Myself & I, where I found it. Go check out their blog and feel free to answer the questions too, if you feel like it.

1. Which bands/artists do you own the most albums from?

I don’t really own a lot of albums. My Dad owns them, and I borrow them and put them in my Itunes library and on my Ipod. Yes, I have an old fashioned Ipod Classic and I absolutely love that thing. I think the artist most strongly represented in my music collection are probably David Bowie, Warren Zevon, Elvis Costello and Belle & Sebastian.

2. What was the last song you listened to?

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story from the Hamilton soundtrack, performed by the original Broadway cast.

3. What is in your CD player right now?

I don’t actually use a CD player often, as I said. The last song I played on Itunes was Dexys’ cover of To Love Somebody by the Bee Gees, which is on their most recent album Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Country And Irish Soul.

4. What was the last live show you attended?

Don Henley at the Heineken Music Hall on the 22nd of June.

5. What is the greatest show you attended?

Elvis Costello & The Spectacular Spinning Songbook in the Milky Way on June 5th 2012. Yeah, that’s me on stage in the picture.

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