The Haunting: Hill House vs. Bly Manor

Netflix original The Haunting of Hill House (2018), directed by Mike Flanagan, took the streaming world by storm when it was released. Ten episodes of creepy dark and deeply detailed storylines created a haunting experience for the audience, even days after finishing the series. But how does its successor, The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020) hold up to the hype?

**DISCLAIMER: There will be spoilers for both series in this review, so if you haven’t watched them yet, hold off on reading further! Both series were adapted from works of literature: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898) and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959).


So where to begin? I have a standard rubric that I like to use for rating films (#throwback to podcast film review days). The following categories will be rated on a score of 1-5 with 5 being the highest: Strength of Theme, Continuity, Pace, Character Arc and Ending. I usually include Realism and Special Effects, but since both series are created by the same director, those categories would be like splitting hairs. Let’s get started!

Strength of Theme

Hill House 5/5 – Throughout Hill House, the storyline and theme stay strong: it’s about family. The Crains, purchase Hill House intending on renovating it, experience ghostly encounters almost constantly throughout the show. Bouncing between childhood and adulthood, the family remains mostly intact, recalling their memories of the last fateful night at Hill House.

Bly Manor 3/5 – Bly Manor’s theme was a little harder to understand as the ‘family’ is not blood related or altogether very close. Two children, orphaned, are looked after by an au pair, gardener and chef while their paternal uncle stays at arms length. Throughout the story, the children are close and bonded, while not always responding warmly to the others in the pseudo-family.

Continuity

Hill House 5/5 – The continuity in Hill House is *chefs kiss* perfection. One of the reasons I loved Hill House so immensely was the dedication to detail throughout the series. Not to mention, the reveal of the Bent-Neck Lady was one of the best things I’ve seen in years. Even while bouncing between the past and present, everything was cohesive and made sense.

Bly Manor 3/5 – I was left a little confused with the set up of the show until episode 5. This made it hard to determine the continuity throughout the show because it felt very muddled in the timeline. With characters being possessed by other characters, it was a little hard to keep continuity together: who were they really, themselves or the ghost?

Pace

Hill House 4/5 – Hill House keeps a steady pace throughout the episodes, obviously ramping up for the final two. There was never a moment where I was checking my phone or felt bored with the story. With so many family members experiencing their own traumas, there were plenty of interest points to focus on.

Bly Manor 3/5 – Maybe it’s because of the expectation to recreate Hill House, maybe it’s because of the source material, but Bly Manor was painful to get into. With Hill House, I was locked in almost immediately whereas Bly Manor didn’t catch my full attention until the third or fourth episode. This caused the pace to feel slow in the beginning, then full speed at the halfway point, only to slow down again towards the end.

Character Arc

Hill House 4/5 – The character arcs in Hill House weren’t necessarily good character arcs. It was more an ‘arc of understanding’. Each character came to terms with what happened at Hill House in their childhoods by the end of the series. While some characters, like Steve, had a mild tale of redemption, so much of Hill House was based on understanding and accepting their shared trauma. Luke is probably the only character that had a visible arc – from junkie to sober – but it was still slight and a secondary feature in the total story.

Bly Manor 4/5 – The most poignant character arcs were with the au pairs and the paternal uncle – Rebecca Jessel, Dani Clayton and Henry Wingrave. The au pairs journeys were similar in structure: losing a loved one, accepting the loss and ultimately sacrificing yourself for loved ones no matter the cost. Henry’s journey was a little more subdued. He went from being a standoffish, ostentatious jerk to a loving father-figure to Miles and Flora through the acceptance of his paternity and fighting his inner demons.

Ending

Hill House 5/5 – At the end of Hill House, the story felt complete and without leaving the audience wondering, ‘what if?’. Each of the Crain children were able to close the Hill House chapter on their lives and move forward. I am very judgmental of the way a show or movies end and this ended in the best way. You get to see the family two years after Nell’s death, seeing how they’ve all adjusted and grown.

Bly Manor 3/5 – The ending to Bly Manor felt rushed. The main negative spirit, Viola Willoughby a.k.a. the Lady in the Lake, wasn’t revealed until episode 8. First appearing at length in episode 5 with Peter, you were left wondering who she was and why she was there. The Bent-Neck Lady twist was fully revealed in episode 5, allowing for more time in the story to deal with the revelation in comparison to The Lady in the Lake. Additionally, the ending was prolonged by following the relationship between Jamie and Dani for over 15 years, (don’t get me wrong, I stan them fully), but it felt disconnected from a lot of what happened.

Final Scores: Hill House – 23/25 | Bly Manor – 16/25


At the end of the day, I mistakenly went into Bly Manor expecting the same level of creepy, scary and jumpy storylines as Hill House and was overall underwhelmed by the experience. Let’s break that down a little more.

Did I hate it? No; there were some amazingly emotional and deep moments, interesting styles of showcasing memories and great acting.

Will I watch it again? Absolutely. Hill House required two full watches before I was able to confidently say that I caught all of the small details and background ghosts. Would I watch it more than a second time? Probably not.

Would I recommend Bly Manor? Yes, but I would caution the viewer to not hope for the same level of satisfaction as experienced watching Hill House.

Tips From A Serial Wanderer

Long-time traveler and friend, Agnieszka, sat down with me to discuss everything she’s learned from a life of traveling. Currently residing and studying in Germany, she splits her time with her family in California. Agnieszka has traveled to roughly 45 countries since childhood including: Canada, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bahamas, Iceland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Monaco, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania , Kenya, China, Nepal, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Dominican Republic


Tanzania, 2012

Where did your desire/love of travel come from?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been raised by a father with an insatiable passion and love for traveling. Since I can remember, he was constantly trying to find any opportunity for an adventure and almost always trying to bring his family along. Traveling with him were and still are the most fun and exciting experiences of my life. 

So where did your dad’s love of travel come from?
It was really his inability to travel. My parents grew up in Poland – which was then a communist country under (official/unofficial?) control of the Soviet Union. Traveling to another country was heavily restricted… people could essentially only travel to other communist/soviet eastern European countries. And when something is forbidden from you, usually that’s something you then really want. Growing up my father actually thought about becoming a sailer because that was then one of the very few opportunities to actually travel and see the world. Instead he immigrated at 23 years old to the US and as soon as he was able to afford it, his (and our) world adventures began.

Nepal, 2017

Do you prefer traveling alone or with others?
That’s a difficult question for me. There is a lot of good in both and I’ve enjoyed both tremendously. Traveling alone is – at least for me – a huge challenge. But it was a challenge that allowed me to learn a lot about myself and how to positively develop as a person. I’m self-conscious and antisocial and really quite nervous around people and so I had a lot of difficulty opening up to incredible people I was meeting during my travels alone and probably missed out on a lot of amazing experiences. But the occasions when someone was brave enough to push through my barriers and invite me along on their adventures or show me kindness and love are memories I will always always always cherish – and I would have probably also never experienced those had I been traveling with others. 

So I am grateful for the times I traveled alone and hope to travel alone again in the future… I had freedom to do and see what I pleased without worrying about what anyone else wanted but I then also had the freedom to meet and spend time with whatever wonderful person I meant along the way and experience so many other awesome things beyond just visiting the next famous site. Traveling with others is wonderful because I then have someone to share not only the incredible moments with but also the difficult times. It is not as lonely and therefore is not as mentally challenging.

Machu Picchu, 2012

Stereotypically, society says that women should not travel alone. Have you also experienced that stigma? Or do you feel that it is equally as safe as long as you’re smart about it?
Of course. As a women I’ve experienced sexism and many kinds of sexual harassment. There are countries I probably would not have traveled to had I been alone and don’t have the desire to visit in the future without a male companion. It is not as equally safe for women to travel in several parts of the world. But that has not and will not prevent me from traveling alone – and I don’t think it should prevent any other woman from doing so. Horrible things happen to people everywhere – even of course in the most “modern” and “safe” countries. In the end, it’s important to be as cautious as possible, avoid any possibly dangerous situations as much as humanly possible, and to always try to plan how to keep yourself safe in any given situation. Also I find that one should also try to respect the culture and customs of whatever place they’re visiting… if you’re visiting a country in which women generally cover their bodies in loose clothing, or cover their hair, or avoid doing a certain thing then I think it’s not only respectful to try to do the same, it also avoids more attention on you and hopefully then keeps you a little more safe.

Do you have any tips for staying in hostels?
I am not particularly easy-going about where or how I sleep, so I spend quite a lot of time and effort in choosing which hostels I will stay at – I proably spend more time on that than on actually planning what I will do outside the hostel once I’m there. I’ve only ever stayed in hostels in Europe and I would find and reserve them on “hostelworld.com.” I would base my decision on reviews, whether they provided breakfast, whether it was located close to the places I wanted to visit but also in a safe area, and of course on price. If you are like me and have a deep dislike of sleeping in dirty beds and showering in disgusting showers, these are my suggestions:

France, 2018
  • Book the hostel in advance. Give yourself time to do research and find the best one… This may however unfortunately require you to not take the cheapest bed in the cheapest hostel. 
  • Try to stay in a hostel in or at least near the areas you’d really like to visit or at least in an area that is said to be safe. I’ve stayed in hostels that fulfilled neither requirement and it made my time in that city/area much less enjoyable. 
  • Unless you can sleep through literally everything, bring earplugs and something to cover your eyes!
  • Bring a bedsheet or a sleeping bag! I am very sensitive about sleeping in unclean sheets and so bringing my own definitely allowed me to sleep much better. (I always brought a thin bedsheet with me which took up very little space in my backpack and which I used to wrap around me while I slept, serving as a mattress & pillow cover and as a blanket.
  • Bring flip flops to wear in the shower and a fast-drying towel!
  • Bring a lock! Oftentimes the hostels would provide lockers or similar to store your baggage but they would rarely come with locks and were of course always in public areas so a lock is great for additional security and sense of peace.
Dubai, 2016

What are 5 must-have essentials when traveling? (Besides the obvious)
I don’t really know if there are essentials other than the obvious. I find more people overpack and worry about bringing so much unnecessary things… unless you plan to go deep into no-man’s-land, you will be able to find and buy soap and other basic essentials. I’ve also never been one to travel and actually try to look attractive so I have no suggestions on essentials for when that is a goal of yours… But I suppose some things that I do try to always bring with me are: a comfortable day backpack/bag that closes all the way, medication for the basic pains and aches that you know works well for you, comfortable shoes, a rain jacket, and some secure way to keep my passport and money on me at all times.

Where is the favorite place/places that you’ve traveled?
I have never had nor will I ever have an answer to this question. I truly have difficulty trying to think of one place that I enjoyed more than the others. I have loved and appreciated every single place I’ve ever been to – even the places where I had unpleasant experiences and the places I’d never want to visit again. From every single adventure I learned something and experienced something good and I am grateful for them all. 

India, 2015

Where’s the most underrated or surprising place you’ve been?
Hmmm… this is also difficult. I suppose I am particularly grateful for my experiences in the economically/systematically “poorer” parts of the world. I am often thinking about my experiences in Tanzania where my father and I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will never forget how kind the people were to us and how many huge, happy, beautiful smiles I saw and how much laughter I heard. This memory is something I always try to protect in my heart to remind myself to be grateful, to smile, and to just be freaking kind.

How important is the planning before a trip?
Well… I guess that depends on how easy-going you are, what is important for you to achieve from this trip and what you know you want to see or do. I do always try to plan enough in advance so that I can at least book where I will be sleeping and know what I can do the next day, but I have never planned all details of an entire trip. So it’s not necessarily important… I’ve learned that it is much easier and more enjoyable if you allow yourself to “go with the flow”.

Argentina, 2014

How do you find the less touristy places?
I google and read through a lot of blogs and travel websites, I always ask hotel/hostel staff for recommendations, I ask anyone and everyone I meet along the way for their suggestions, and I always try to get a map of the area from the hotel/hostel and I go through all the sites that are usually marked on them. But… I don’t purposely try to avoid the “touristy” places… they’re often touristy for a reason and I think they are worth seeing if it is indeed something you’re interested in. 

Where’s the next place you’re traveling?
I am deeply saddened to say that I have no idea when or where I will be able to travel next. Not only because of the pandemic, but also because my studies allow me to have very little life or time outside of it and when I do have any time free, I am utilizing it to visit my parents in California. I have lots of ideas and dreams and I hope I’ll be able to make one of them a reality sometime soon. With my boyfriend perhaps Norway or South Africa. My father’s next ambitions are exploring Bhutan and Madagascar, snowboarding in Japan and in the Andes, and kitesurfing in Zanzibar.I also would like to try to find an opportunity to travel a little bit alone again.


Travel Tips for First Time Travelers:

  • Be open-minded. Be open to new experiences (foods, languages, customs, behavior, people) and try to find the good in them all.
  • Be ready to get out of your comfort zone. Traveling often includes stressful, frustrating, uncomfortable situations. Breathe through them. It will be OK and it really is all worth it in the end. Either way, it’s a story to tell for later.
  • Be respectful of other cultures. Do your research about what is illegal and what is considered disrepectful in the area you plan to explore. That is also perhaps involves adapting your behavior/appearance. 
  • Please don’t assume everyone speaks english. I find it more respectful to ask if the person speaks english before beginning to speak to them in it. Perhaps even try to at least pick up some basic words – especially the word “thank you” or “please”. And if you’re American, please do try to speak more quietly… we are really generally quite loud and it really can be quite annoying.
  • Don’t pack too much. You can always wash your clothes while traveling or buy essentials like shampoo at a store.
  • Look into local transport – some cities have apps available for subway lines, buses, etc. And it’s good to know a little bit about what is available in an area so you can always try to find the best and cheapest traveling solution. Find a map of the local area and embrace it! And most importantly – try to walk a little! Some of the coolest things I’ve discovered in a city have just been things I’ve walked past on my way to somewhere else.
  • Go with the flow and be flexible. It will make life much easier for you and you’ll discover incredible things. I promise.
  • Don’t keep important or expensive items in the back pocket of your pants or in the front pockets or the very bottom of a backpack. I’ve met so many people who have had things stolen from them and I’ve seen it in action as well. 
  • Try to be cautious and attentive about everything around you. Be aware of your surroundings so you can try to better protect yourself from possible dangerous situations. Err on the side of safety.
  • Traveling doesn’t have to be unaffordable. Try to be flexible with where and when you travel. Spend time looking at multiple websites for flights and hotels/hostels and try out every single date/location combination you can think of and you’ll be surprised what kind of possibilities you’ll find.

As my father always says, “traveling is the best teacher.” You’ll not only learn about other people and ways of life, but also about yourself and how you can be a better you. You’ll find so much gratitude and love for yourself, for others, and for this planet. Don’t be afraid – be open to the challenges that come with traveling and adventuring and embrace what you learn from them. Follow your heart, find what you want from your life, and just go for it. All in. 

Let’s Get Spoopy.

Let’s be honest, I wait all year for fall and Halloween. Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll say that this is my favorite time of year. I spent most of my teenage years working at various haunted houses, doing special effects makeup, scaring, scene placement and overall, relishing in all things spoopy. This year, I wanted to create my very own creepy movie and tv show calendars – chop full of streaming gems, throwbacks and hopefully a few films you’ve never heard of. Nearly all of the films and shows can be found on Netflix or Hulu, but some may need to be rented or sourced due to availability and age.

What are your favorite Halloween/scary films?

*Disclaimer: Everyone has their own taste in shows and films, so some of these may not be your cup of tea and that’s okay. Feel free to read a synopsis of the films on IMDB or watch a trailer prior to watching. Genres range from gore to supernatural to dark comedy. Also, there are four days missing from the TV Show List due to the fact that there are not any short limited horror series that I’m aware of and I didn’t want to half-show something. Feel free to use those four days however you see fit!

Easy Ways to Interrupt a Depression Spiral

A close friend texted me this week saying, “Three things you do to get yourself out of a slump. Go.”. My answer was go for a walk, clean the house/rearrange things and to light candles. While rushed, the answer is still mostly accurate but I wanted to elaborate more on the whys behind them.


First things first, depression affects everyone differently and can manifest in a variety of ways. Personally, depression comes in waves almost like clockwork. I can feel myself slipping and before long I’m sitting at the bottom of the pit, living there for a while. Two years ago, I hit my roughest patch which consisted of regular depression naps every Saturday at 2PM (which genuinely became a concerning joke amongst friends and family), overindulging in food/alcohol and spewing self-deprecating depression jokes to everyone’s displeasure. I’ve watched friends suffer through these depths numerous times but for the first time I was miles away from the surface with no sense of what to do. I spent months in this proverbial hellscape before drifting slowly upwards. Before long, that heavy weight I’d been carrying was gone, without a note goodbye. Here is my easy guide to interrupting a depression spiral.

  • Learn your warning signs – Inevitably, if you’re experiencing depression, there’s a good chance that it’ll happen again and that’s okay. It’s normal. Like I mentioned earlier, depression can be like a wave: it ebbs and flows. Comes on in a hurry then leaves. Push and pull. While it can be scary to think that it will return, especially when you’re already feeling low, it can instead be a positive situation because you have time to prepare for the next fall. Common signs can include: sleeping too much or not at all, disconnected emotional changes, overeating or under eating, overall numbness or lethargy. 
  • Find simple tricks to give yourself joy – When you’re spiraling, there’s not much that can bring you joy or even a glimmer of hope. Thankfully, I was able to find a consistent, low-energy trick: watching weekly Jenna Marbles videos on Youtube. I have been a fan of Jenna Marbles for nearly a decade and it was easy to go ‘Oh, it’s Thursday – I bet there’s a new video up’. That simple act was enough for me to hold on to. Did I really care about the content of her videos? No. Did I routinely watch them just to get a chuckle or two? Yes. The most important part of this trick is to find something that requires barely any effort on your part but is scheduled: a show on cable, a weekly youtube video, a podcast. 
  • Create a self care kit – For the most part, self care goes out the window during a depression wave however, by having a go to kit of your favorite things, it may be enough to slow the impending tide. Whether you’re a shower or bath person, keep on hand your favorite candles, gels, bombs and scents. Another part of your kit can be productive like art supplies, your favorite book or maybe just an extra comfy pair of sweats. Scents to look for: lemon and orange for energy, lavender and jasmine for calming, bergamot and rosemary for alertness. 
  • Care for something outside of yourself – Loving others is another way to energize yourself. From plants to pets to people, being able to respond and love something can help you feel a little more connected when in the pits. My boss gifted my coworker and I tropical plants last fall that I was determined to keep alive. When my coworker left her position, she gave me her plant to take care of. Tropical plants in central Indiana? Goodluck. For the record, I do not have a green thumb and can barely keep myself alive let alone a plant. They never bloomed, but they’ve sprouted new growth and are something I’m proud of now. 
  • Try something new – Routines can be great but they can also be smothering. I crave routine and structure but once I start falling down a pit, routines make my skin crawl like I’m growing too quickly from the inside and my skin can’t hold me. When you’re feeling a funk come on, try something new. Say yes to an invitation from a friend. Take a different route home from work. Walk a new path at the park. Watch a new sitcom just to change the perspective. We are so comfortable in our own worlds that sometimes breaking the routine and experiencing something new can be liberating and cathartic. 

What worked for me may not work for you perfectly and that’s okay. The goal is to try things that you may not have considered previously if you find yourself descending the steps into the pit. If you’re fully in the trenches, these things may not work or work as well and you should always confide in someone you trust about your feelings. 


If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.

Hiroshima mon amour – A Film Review

Between TikToks and cooking videos on social media, you may have noticed something else last week. On August 6th, the world remembered the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. In the United States and other allied countries, this was the way to end a horrific war, a means to an end. To others however, this was just the beginning of their true suffering. A poignant French New Wave film brings all of this and more into question: Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

This was a film that I studied in college as an introduction to the french language and it will go down as one of my favorite movies for the rest of my life. (Sidenote: My french professor from college still reaches out when selecting her films each year because of how much I loved this film and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing). This film is full of subtle cinematography, heavy juxtapositions and an effortless timelessness. On the surface, the film can seem almost dull – there is no heavy action sequence, there are only two characters and the timeline covers about 48 hours of their story. 

Here’s a little background 

Hiroshima mon amour is considered to be one of the most influential works in the history of cinema; the brainchild of author Marguerite Duras (Moderato Cantabile 1958) and New Wave director Alain Resnais. Resnais was known for his documentary work on Night and Fog (1956) and his contributions to Cahier du Cinéma and the Left Bank, a faction of the French New Wave. Originally starting as a documentary, it was filmed in France and Japan in 1959. The story traces the devastation of the bombing of Hiroshima from two viewpoints: a French actress and a Japanese architect who serendipitously meet for a weekend tryst in 1957. Not to mention that actor Eiji Okada did not speak a lick of French and had to learn it phonetically for the film; kudos to that. 

Why everyone should watch it

The Intro

The intro is hands down a work of art – an absolute masterpiece that sets the tone for the entire film. A compilation of two bodies stuck in an embrace which at first appears normal, then the bodies are covered in ash, glitter and sweat. Paired with an almost bouncy soundtrack, a voice over repeats for a few minutes – switching between Him and Her: “You saw nothing in Hiroshima. Nothing” “I saw everything. Everything”. This subtle yet daring intro is designed to pique the viewer’s interest for the rest of the film. How can one see a place that was once suffering the impossible? How can one truly know a place like that? Duras in her screenplay synopsis explains: “Every gesture, every word, takes on an aura of meaning that transcends its literal meaning.”

Anonymity 

The main characters throughout the film are never named. Referred to in the script as simply ‘the French woman’ and ‘the Japanese man’ or the third, most prevalent character ‘the German’, this creates a unique atmosphere for the story. This could have happened between anyone. There is one story, but many applicable characters throughout the world. Even when you are fully entrenched in their affair, they are still compartmentalizing in a way. They have one shared trauma but the reactions are so incredibly different between the two. 

Cinematography

French New Wave was all about breaking the boundaries of ‘Cinéma du papa’, the traditional predecessor. However, Hiroshima mon amour was relatively tame when it came to cinematography compared to À bout de Souffle (1960) or Jules et Jim (1962). Due to Resnais experience working as a documentarian, there are elements of this in the film like showing news clips of the injured, deformities of the children born in the wake of the bomb. In some moments the film feels almost like a propaganda piece rather than a love story. The film was actually financed by Japan which came with a list of requirements: to be partially shot in France and Japan, include a star from both countries and use local technical crews when shooting. While both film crews were somewhat kept in the dark, this created a unique film – shot from two different cameras on two different types of film, allowing the viewer to easily identify what is the present and what is a flashback.

Juxtaposition

The themes of Hiroshima mon amour are almost always in contrast: life and death, love and loss, he and she, remembering and forgetting, the German and the Japanese, present and past and future. There is a portion of the screenplay that always sticks out in my mind. Visually, a first person point of view wanders down the rebuilt streets of Hiroshima. A voice-over of the french woman hauntingly tells you, “I meet you. I remember you. Who are you? You destroy me. You’re so good for me… Plenty of time. Please. Take me. Deform me, make me ugly. Why not you?”. Each of these comments is destined for a different person. She meets the Japanese man, but remembers the German man. The German man destroys her, but the Japanese man is so good to her. She is continuously conflicted with the juxtapositions. 

Mental Illness

A very subtle note in the film is that the French woman is constantly dissociating. In 1959, the understanding of mental illness wasn’t as advanced as today, but the film is refreshingly modern in some ways. Referring to her time in Nevers (past), she says, “Madness is like intelligence, you know. You can’t explain it. Just like intelligence. It comes on you, it fills you and then you understand it. But when it goes away you can’t understand it at all any longer.” In my interpretation, the madness she’s referring to is depression as a direct result of losing her first love. Later she explains, “That was what my madness was. I was mad with hate. I had the impression it would be possible to make a real career of hate. All I cared about was hate.” She experienced a horrific trauma at a young age and was ostracized by her society – thanks to a little thing called les tondues. Les tondues or Femmes tondues was a public humiliation for ‘collaboration with the occupier’ which resulted in the shearing of one’s head. Towards the end of the film, she dissociates while discussing her past with the Japanese man. She begins speaking to him as if he was the German who died – in part, because they are the same person to her: the ‘enemy’, the forbidden love.     

Reception

Filmmaker Eric Rohmer said it best when discussing Hiroshima mon amour, “I think that in a few years, in ten, twenty, or thirty years, we will know whether Hiroshima mon amour was the most important film since the war, the first modern film of sound cinema”. The film received critical acclaim internationally. At the time, the sensitive subject matter did receive some scorn from certain countries (the United States), however the timelessness of the tale has allowed this film to go down as one of the must see classics.

Making a Drag Queen: Euphoria MarxxX

Who is Euphoria MarxxX? A millennial drag queen that’s ready to shake up the political world? Most definitely. Someone ready to question the norms of society and how we view politics? Absolutely.

I met Kyle/Euphoria nearly four years ago while we were still bright-eyed, bushy-tailed seniors in college, studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. We connected quickly thanks to our shared midwestern roots and a dark sense of humor that could make anyone squirm. We reconnected over zoom this week to trace the path from Aix to drag. This is her story.


Part One: Studying Abroad

B: What made you want to study abroad?
E: I really always wanted to. I wanted to study abroad in high school, but I thought that if I went then that I’d miss out on something. (Hello FOMO!) Look how great that turned out for me! When I went to college, I thought that maybe it was the best time. I pursued a Bachelor of Arts which required 12 hours of a foreign language. I decided my sophomore year that I would complete the entire requirement in one semester abroad. I’d taken french in high school so I knew I wanted to go somewhere french speaking. It worked out perfectly.

B: What was that experience like for you?
E: It was amazing – I want to go back so badly. There were obviously ups and downs, but overall it was such an amazing and life changing experience. It was culturally enlightening, we built friendships and had this whole experience together that no one else but our group had. We picked up our lives, moved across the world for six months, became friends for six months and then moved back to the States. It’s such a weird concept.

B: What about a favorite or least favorite memory?
E: I loved going out with our group in general. I loved going out and experiencing that social environment of living in a different country where everyone is speaking another language. It was definitely a culture shock. I loved our spring break trip – that will always be at the top of the list [read more about that here and here]. Except Bruxelles – nothing good happened there. As for least favorite, I once got on a bus to Bordeaux and our friend didn’t make it in time; I was horrified. I didn’t have any internet connection or a working cell phone, thinking ‘what am I going to do?’. I was honestly afraid that I’d go to this city and never make it back home.

B: If you could do it again, what would you change?
E: I would say that I’d want to go out and experience life more, but I feel like we did so much of that. We were always getting Crêpe à Go Go or pizza from Pizza Capri in town. I wish I would have stayed longer. I only stayed a week or two after classes were done so that I could be home to walk at graduation. If you’re thinking of about studying abroad, just do it. Don’t think about it. Figure out how to make it work and do it. It was such a liberating experience, even with the shitty parts I loved it. I look back on it so fondly now.

B: What was it like returning to Missouri after studying abroad?
E: I was going through a sort of transformation as a human being while studying abroad, I think. Right before leaving to study abroad, I was dealing with the death of my grandpa, the break up of my engagement and my ex’s mother passing so I was dealing with a lot emotionally. When I came back from studying abroad, I hadn’t really dealt with any of it yet, so it was a weird time. Within a year of coming home, I came out as gay. Around this time I started having a rift with my family because of their political views and homophobia. I decided to not deal with that sort of view or attitude in my life anymore. After I graduated college, I lived at home for maybe a month and then found a new place to live and moved out. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made, but coming back home was definitely hard.

B: How did your life/perspective change after studying abroad?
E: Studying abroad definitely made me a more liberated human. I felt like more of an adult, like I could adapt or figure out anything I put my mind to. I felt like we were in such precarious situations sometimes and we would just figure it out – even with the language barrier. We were kicked off the bus on the side of a mountain and still made it home. I think that when I came home I decided that I wasn’t going to settle for unhappiness anymore. Had I not studied abroad, I truly believe it would have taken me longer to come to terms with who I am. 


Part Two: Center Stage

B: When did you first become interested in drag?
E: I didn’t become truly interested in drag until February of this year. When the pandemic hit, my boyfriend Josh had just moved in with me and he’d always tried to get me to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. Watching the show really changed my perception of what drag is. I saw how revolutionary it was and how it questions the gender binary. For me, I had never been able to express femininity and this was an outlet for me to explore that. It started off as kind of a joke – just doing it for fun. But I really didn’t want to half ass something, so I started spending more time practicing it. I started to think, ‘Ok, what can I do with this? I’m in quarantine, but how can I still reach people?’. That’s when I started exploring the idea of political drag. Drag queens have always been the torchbearers for political revolution, especially for the LGBTQ community. They were the ones who stood up to the police at Stonewall and they’re the reason we celebrate pride and it’s so important today to not forget that. I started thinking of how I could still contribute to this political movement, even while social distancing. I decided that I’m going to interview political members while in drag. I want my community, the community I’m surrounded with, to appreciate this as an art form of it. It’s creative.

B: How does it feel to be doing drag in such an intense political climate?
E: It’s given me some anxiety for sure. Even just by announcing to the world that this is what I’m doing, I’m obviously alienating myself from people who may not agree with this. I have to keep reminding myself, ‘what am I doing this for?’. I want to question the norm and I want people to do that as well. It’s very liberating but also a little bit scary.

B: Does the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race give you any extra security – knowing that drag is in such a public space now?
E: I do think it helps. RuPaul has said numerous times on the show that the world would be a better place if more people did drag, and I believe that. She also says don’t take yourself too seriously. In this interview the runway is executive realness. I’m wearing six inch stripper heels, a vibrator necklace and there’s an eggplant emoji in the background. It is so ridiculous. That’s what I have to remind myself; not to take myself too seriously which is something I do often.

B: Who are your drag influences?
E: One of my all time favorites – despite her diva moment – is Alaska Thunderf**k 5000. Then it’d be Naomi Smalls, Kim-Chi, Katya Zamolodchikova and Violet Chachki. The first season I watched was season 4, which was in 2012. One of the challenges on the show was to do a presidential campaign, running as the first drag queen of the United States. So many of the contestants said, “I just don’t associate drag with politics”. To me, everything about drag is political. Everything. 

B: What is the future of Euphoria – what is the end goal?
E: Right now, I’m trying to not set expectations. I think that’s something that gave me a lot of anxiety when I first started. When I went public with this, it was ‘oh now there’s an expectation’. My ultimate goal would be to inspire or to empower anyone that I can. I’ve had one person reach out about me going public with my drag saying that it empowered them to start experimenting with drag which is amazing. At the end of the day, that’s what I want. I think our social media presence is more impactful than people realize – I didn’t realize it until this experience. 

Follow along on Euphoria MarxxX’s journey on Instagram

Watch her first political interview with 2020 Candidate for Congress Maite Salazar

The Final Girls: Who Are They?

Since cinema began in the early 1900’s, there has been the creation of tropes. Tropes are characters or storylines that are universally understood, oftentimes as a metaphor, and are completely overused. Sometimes tropes can be obvious, clever or even downright annoying. In horror and slasher films specifically, there is the trope of ‘the final girl’. The final girl is just what you think it is: the final surviving girl of the film. The final girl was made popular with films like Halloween (1978) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). But what makes a final girl? While there is no clear list of attributes for a final girl, the idea is pretty much unanimous: a girl who makes it through the hellish road of her story to meet with the antagonist in a head-on battle to the end. Are all final girls created equal? Not at all. Let’s take a look into some of the more recent final girl films. 

Housebound (2014)

TW: Gore, violence, mental health
This film is not your normal ‘final girl’ slasher. This dark comedy/thriller out of New Zealand is one of the most underrated films I’ve seen in a long time. Full of twists and turns, this will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. While the main character, Kylie, does indeed make it to the end, it’s not exactly in the most traditional way. Kylie, a reforming shitshow, lands under house arrest at her mother’s house, complete with a creepy murderous neighbor, ghosts in the house and supposed hysteria which all create a perfect thriller.
Final Girl Rating: 7/10

The Rezort (2015)

TW: Gore, zombies, violence
A surprisingly new take on zombie films, The Rezort’s storyline is set after a zombie virus outbreak. All zombies have been quarantined to an island that healthy-wealthies can visit freely to hunt them like a safari. Not a big surprise to any; things do not go well for our protagonist group. Final Girl Melanie does not shy away from the violence and helps her team try to survive, while maintaining her humanity throughout. This B-rated British film also takes an interesting look into the dark side of humanitarian crises amongst outbreaks.
Final Girl Rating: 7/10

Revenge (2017)

TW: Rape, violence, domestic violence, graphic injuries, gore, drug usage, abuse
First and foremost, this film is full of realism, graphic injuries and gallons of fake blood – gotta love the french for that! On a tranquil vacation gone wrong, Jen accompanies her married boyfriend on a boys hunting trip to a remote island. Fairly quickly, things start to go downhill. Jen transforms from a naive mistress to scrambling prey to bloodthirsty badass in under two hours. This is truly a revenge plot like the title suggests and it is so satisfying at the end.
Final Girl Rating: 15/10

Ready or Not (2019)

TW: Violence, gore
This dark comedy may not technically fall under the ‘horror’ bucket, but Grace deserves to be a final girl. On her wedding day, Grace is surprised to learn that she must play a game to be initiated into her husband’s family. A simple game of hide and seek turns into a bloodbath for the ages. Overcoming the shock of what is actually taking place, Grace fights back and becomes an unstoppable force, laughing in the face of Satan (no, really).
Final Girl Rating: 8/10

Honorable Mentions:

Darkness Rising (2017)

TW: Cults, possession, violence, gore, supernatural, curse
Teenager Madison and her friends break into her childhood home, which has been condemned and in disrepair since her mother went crazy. This thriller starts out in a normal cadence, but things go off the rails quickly. Little ghosts in the background of shots, a supernatural house, some serious demon energy – what more could you want? While the story is interesting in a ‘what the f**k just happened’ way, Madison’s character is a little two-dimensional. She gets pulled through the story rather than taking an active role in it.
Final Girl Rating: 5/10

Midsommar (2019)

TW: Gore, violence, cults, graphic injuries, sexual acts, drug usage
A fan favorite from director Ari Aster, Midsommar is a fringe mention for final girls. I wanted to include this film mostly because Dani has to overcome a mountain of trauma to become the final girl. This is a poignant, beautifully directed film that leaves the viewer uneasy and disturbed. Dani may not be an overly violent character, but the ending of the film proves that she’s just as cunning and dark as the rest of them.
Final Girl Rating: 7/10

As a viewer, what can we learn from the final girls? Each final girl is able to find the strength to push through any situation – even if they didn’t think they had it in them. Final girls teach us to adapt and survive, to overcome and conquer any obstacle. While they suffer throughout their stories, final girls always make it to the other side stronger, often with new skills or traits. In our day to day lives, we may not find ourselves in a life-or-death situation like a final girl, but we can carry that resolve with us to the end.

Underrated Shows on Netflix

In society today, we are inhaling mass quantities of media every hour, be it from social media, news outlets, streaming services, etc. But how do you sift through the mountain of data to find something truly innovative, original and noteworthy? Well internet friends, that’s where I come in. During an especially heinous bout of depression last year (or was it the year before? 2020 makes everything feel like a time loop), I consumed an almost concerning amount of media from streaming services – anything to keep the beasts at bay, am I right? I would devour a series of television like candy.

Here’s my list of hidden or underrated gems on currently streaming on Netflix.


250px-Mr._Sunshine_(2018_TV_series)
Netflix (2018)

Mr. Sunshine (2018) – I’ll be honest, this was one of my first experiences with anything in the ‘k-realm’. For those who are not familiar, the k-realm is what I call anything produced from Korea; k-pop, k-dramas, etc. All things in the k-realm are created and pushed to a new level of production value, with no expense spared. This period drama, set at the fall of the Joseon empire and before the creation of modern-day Korea, kept me on edge and engaged throughout all 24 episodes. While it does take a little while to get into and get used to the k-drama styling of shots, it’s well worth it as long as you’re cool with subtitles.

THEMES: forbidden love, honor, loyalty, tradition, war, friendship, alliances, family


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Netflix (2017)

The End of the F***ing World (2017) – This show is hands down one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. I’m am intensely critical of any movie/show if it doesn’t have a good ending. A bad ending will ruin an entire series for me (S/O Game of Thrones). This coming-of-age dark British comedy is something I ask everyone to watch. With short episodes and a killer storyline, it’s easy to binge this two-season show. Based off of a graphic novel by the same name by Charles Forsman, this darkly humorous show finds a way to connect with you – even if you don’t consider yourself to be a psychopath.

THEMES: self-discovery, teen angst, domestic violence, love, adventure, family


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Netflix (2018)

Derry Girls (2018) – Teenagers in Ireland during the Troubles in the 1990’s. Need I say more? This quirky series follows the lives of teen girls trying to live their best lives while attending catholic school. Political pressures of the Troubles continually add interest points throughout much of the story. This is an easy to watch, binge friendly show that will leave you smiling. Intensely witty and believable, this is an underrated classic that almost anyone could relate to.

THEMES: love, teen years, high school, drinking, troubles, friendship


Screen Shot 2020-07-24 at 11.36.27 AM
Netflix (2019)

Russian Doll (2019) – I won’t lie, I’d watch almost anything if Natasha Lyonne was in it. Lyonne said during an interview that she’d been writing this story for nearly a decade before it came to fruition. With Amy Poehler writing by her side, there was no way this show could be anything less than magical. The amount of dedication that came into creating this show is reason enough to watch it. Another dark comedy with a surprisingly uplifting ending; depending how you take it. *Watch during a good headspace day.

THEMES: life, love, self-discovery, drug usage, drinking, sex, video games


Screen Shot 2020-07-24 at 11.37.21 AM
Netflix (2019)

Maniac (2019) – I try to avoid A-list celebrity movies, but this one piqued my interest as soon as I watched the first trailer. I tend to gravitate towards ‘weird’ shows and films and this one is at the top of the list. It felt familiar in the sense that it was reminiscent of a first love of mine: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Following two main characters through a Matrix-like drug experiment, you will be transported into numerous worlds of make believe. This hard-to-describe limited series will leave you feeling a little weird and self-reflective. *Watch during a good headspace day.

THEMES: life, death, drug trials, self-discovery, love, medical study, desire

How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart

My fiancé left me a week before our wedding day. On a Saturday night last fall, with no apparent reason after nearly 8 years together. (Not to mention a house with a mortgage, two pets and a few thousand dollars in wedding expenses.) I was told, “I need space,” and he left. It’s safe to say my life felt like it was in complete shambles, decimated in the course of three words. Never did I think I’d find myself at a Starbucks at 5 am on a Sunday sending out cancellation emails and texts. Personally, I was wrecked; but professionally, I was in the midst of the busiest and most important weeks of my life.

This is what I learned on this wild healing journey.

  • You can’t heal where you were hurt. I didn’t feel comfortable in my house anymore, it just reminded me of the years of memories and time spent there. I went on my honeymoon to Paris with my mom (begrudgingly); thankfully she was able to get off work at last minute to come with me to the City of Lights or Love or for me – the City of What Could Have Been. The trip itself was fairly miserable, with many days spent lying in my hotel bed or walking endlessly through the city so I could try to feign sleep. However the physical distance allowed me to detach. (Note: This is a phrase that I would tattoo on my forehead just because of how perfectly true it is).
  • Support may come in surprising ways. I’m a fairly private person naturally, so when my private life was catapulted into everyone’s eyes, I was mortified. I would go to work and be met with sad, wondering eyes which only made it that much harder. Not to mention the endless embarrassment. Some people in my life, who had once been just on the periphery came forward to help support me; including a long-extinguished old flame, a casual coworker and even someone I’d known for only two weeks. These people without reason or explanation, stepped up and took care of me at my worst.
  • Sometimes there’s no real reason and that’s okay. As a long-time sufferer of high-functioning anxiety and depression, it’s hard for me to accept something that is gray. I need to have a black and white world. Right and wrong; good and bad; yes and no. Not ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I can’t explain it’. But sometimes, things are truly murky. Sometimes, there’s no good answer or reason. It was a tough pill to swallow. But every day I had to remind myself of what was true; actions.
  • Take your time. There is no perfect path to healing, or a one-size fits all plan. I tend to keep myself occupied when I’m anxious – but that prolongs the healing because you’re not actually confronting what happened. Sometimes you need to feel it – even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time in a safe environment. I spent a whole day of my honeymoon, cooped up in our hotel room, watching shitty French murder documentaries and purging myself of everything I’d been avoiding. I made myself confront what happened in its entirety, piece by piece before neatly letting it go. My one-time old flame was the one who really brought me to my senses. He told me, “he doesn’t care right now. I know it hurts, but you need to hear that.” Which was 100% true. As much as it hurt, I was wasting a perfectly nice vacation and being sad about someone who clearly did not care in that same moment. That mindset really helped me to take that first step.
  • Get it out of your system. Holding on to something from the past that is beyond your control is just draining. There will be no good ending. Having spent a solid two years in therapy during college, I consider myself to be fairly familiar with coping mechanisms. I chose to write a letter (technically an email while wine drunk in the bathtub, but hey, it still counts). I wrote to physically manifest my thoughts and feelings into something that could be set free, therefore releasing its toxic hold on me. I wrote to let go of all of the questions, thoughts and feelings that I’d been drowning in. The local radio show I listen to in the Midwest set a standard – “for however many years you’ve been together, take one day to mourn.” By that logic, I had 8 days to mourn. It was closer to 15 but giving yourself a deadline can help. I was determined to not spend an ounce more energy or time on this.
  • Only talk when you’re ready. After such a public catastrophe, everyone is bound to have questions. Even those with the best intentions will still want to ask questions that will feel like nails being driven into your always shattering heart. It took me months to fully open up to friends and family about what happened. On the other hand, you may have to ask close friends and families to stop mentioning it – stop treating you differently. It drove me nuts when people would look at me with sadness or remorse or embarrassment – no matter how well intended it was. I wasn’t some broken puppy in a cast or a bird with a broken wing so don’t treat me as such.
  • Healing isn’t linear. You will have good days and bad days. Maybe even good weeks with a few bad days sprinkled in. You will have nights of crying so hard, you’re sure the walls are about to cave in. But there will be joy. Remember that just because there’s a few slips on the journey, doesn’t mean you’re done moving forward.
  • Get out of bed. Physically. Metaphorically. While yes, those blankets and pillows may feel like your only comfort right now, but you’re not helping yourself by staying there. It may be painful and annoying, but you must get up and move a little. Don’t get me wrong, you need time to feel and process (see previous point) but know that there is a point where enough is enough. Even if it’s just to get a drink of water, get out of bed. I continued going to work (albeit at a heavily modified schedule) just to not be in my house. Was it easy? No. Was it comfortable? No. Did I want to accost every person who looked at me with sadness? Absolutely. But it helped give me space and to see that everything is still moving.
  • Heartbreak is temporary. While in the moment and for weeks or even months and years later, it hurts; little by little it will fade. You will rebuild – yourself, your life and your heart. You will become a stronger version of yourself. During this journey you will learn endlessly about yourself, your expectations and those around you. It may not ever be the same as before, but you’ll be better for it.

While everyone will surely have their own experiences, these were the few ways that I was able to move through my situation a little easier. Rely on those close to you and reach out when you’re feeling down; you are not a burden.