Anime for Beginners

So, you’re interested in anime. Great! While anime gets a faux bad rep, especially when you’re in middle or high school, there are some truly great shows out there that everyone should watch at least once. Whether you’re ready to jump all in or you’re still testing the waters, here are some great beginner anime shows you should try. 


Classics

Naruto / Naruto Shippuden

TW: Graphic violence, intense action scenes, death

Based off of the popular manga, Naruto is the 4th highest selling manga series in history. Both series follow Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja who aspires to be Hokage of his village. This show balances action, drama and comedy through hundreds of episodes. If you’re looking for something to binge in a weekend, this show is definitely not for you at a total of 500 episodes. But if you want to watch a few episodes at a time and really experience the story, then check it out! 

Differences between Naruto and Naruto Shippuden – Naruto is the very beginning of the storyline, while Naruto Shippuden takes place around 2.5 years after the original. The characters are seemingly more mature making the show a little more palatable to older audiences.


Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra

TW: Violence, intense action scenes

Formerly a Nickelodeon show in the early 2000’s, A:TLA and LoK have seen a resurgence in popularity since landing on streaming giant, Netflix. Each show is broken up into four books – or chapters – while the avatar navigates through their objectives. A:TLA follows Aang, the first avatar in 100 years as he battles the Fire Nation, while LoK follows Korra, the next Avatar, nearly 70 years after A:TLA as she modernizes a nation.

While connected, these are two separate shows and each deserve a watch – with A:TLA at 61 episodes and LoK at 51, it’s fairly easy to binge through. Personally, I feel like LoK is a little easier to watch since it follows a more mature character Korra (aged 17) compared to Aang (technically aged 112 – but 100 of those years, he was frozen). 


*Fullmetal Alchemist / Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

TW: Graphic violence, gore, intense action scenes, death, alchemy/magic, war, genocide

This is, and has always been, one of my favorite shows. I originally watched FMA on AdultSwim, eventually rewatching FMA:B when it was released on Netflix. FMA follows the Elric brothers, Alphonse and Edward, as they learn alchemy and try to become State Alchemists. FMA is a steampunk, post-European industrial revolution dream – full of common themes like the seven deadly sins, social discrimination and ultimately, family and brotherhood. Spurring the storylines along is Alchemy’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange – to create, something of equal value must be lost.

Differences between FMA and FMA:B – They are the same storyline, however FMA diverges from the original manga storyline while FMA:B follows it completely. The animation in FMA:B is also better since it was created five years after the original. 


Action

One-Punch Man
TW: Violence, intense action scenes

As the name depicts, One-Punch Man follows the story of superhero Saitama, who grows bored of his ridiculous strength, striving to find a worthy opponent. Set in a super-Earth, overrun by heroes and villains, Saitama has his work cut out for him. Popularized thanks to fun animation and emotive styles of the protagonist, OPM is a fun action packed anime series that functions as a parody to traditional superhero lore; specifically Superman.  


Soul Eater
TW: Violence, intense action scenes

Soul Eater follows a team at the Death Weapon Meister Academy as they try to become a death scythe to be used by the ruler of the school, Shinigami a.k.a. Death. Primary characters, Maka and humanoid-weapon, Soul, battle other meisters as well as the organization Arachnophobia to save themselves and the DWMA. While this is an action heavy show, there is a heavy dose of comedy, often brought by secondary character Death the Kid and his pistol partners, Liz and Patty Thompson.


Fairy Tail
TW: Violence, intense action scenes

Another popular anime, Fairy Tail, follows Natsu Dragneel and other members from the Fairy Tail guild as they embark on adventures and missions throughout Earth-land. This comedic fantasy show spans over 300 episodes, running for nearly a decade. Although the storyline can be a little light in comparison to other shows, Fairy Tail has been a fan favorite across all age groups for the last few years.


Horror 

Parasyte: The Maxim

TW: Graphic violence, body gore, intense action scenes, death

High schooler, Shinichi Izumi, is inhabited by an alien parasite named Migi whose goal was to enter the human’s brain to control the body – however, the plan didn’t work out fully. This horror anime has elements of dark comedy, which make it a little easier to suffer through. The alien race that Migi is a part of is trying to colonize the Earth, by assuming and devouring their hosts bodies. At 24 episodes, this anime is fairly quick to binge, but it can be a little heavy and dark. 


Elfen Lied

TW: Graphic violence, abuse, psychological torture, genocide, nudity    

An absolute favorite of mine, Elfen Lied was also the inspiration behind Eleven/El from Stranger Things. This gripping 13-episode, horror anime explores the idea of social isolation and division and treatment amongst humans.

A graphic depiction of an attempted hostile takeover, Elfen Lied also has a warmth and love imbued into the storyline as well. Following Lucy/Nyu, a member of the newly mutated Diclonius species, Elfen Lied explores the effects of imprisonment, abuse and the darkness within human nature. Hands down, this is equally one of the most beautiful yet disturbing animes I’ve seen. 


Attack on Titan

TW: Gore, graphic violence, cannibalism

After colossal humanoids, called Titans, breach the walls of town, Eren Yeager and friends decide to protect humanity from these monstrosities by becoming a part of the Scout Regiment. This action heavy, dark fantasy anime has a little bit of something for everyone. While there is surely a high amount of death and destruction (and cannibalism thanks to the Titans), this is a very interesting watch. With 59 episodes and 8 additional releases, AoT will take some time to work through. 


Whether you catch episodes late night on AdultSwim, Toonami or CrunchyRoll there is an anime for everyone.

What I Learned Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons for 300+ Hours

A true gift from this shithole year was Animal Crossing. Originally released in 2001, AC has been popular amongst audiences for almost two decades; releasing in the US in 2002. With over 40 million units sold worldwide and five spinoff games, there is clearly something for everyone to love and learn from Animal Crossing. 

The newest game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released worldwide in the beginning of 2020 on the Nintendo Switch, eight years after the previous AC game release. A perfect storm of social distancing and much needed entertainment brought AC:NH to new heights, with over 5 million downloads in the first month alone. So what’s so great about this game?

First and foremost, I am not an avid video game player nor am I a good video game player. I typically get bored after a few gaming sessions, having only completed two games prior (s/o We Happy Few and BioShock!). But I love AC:NH and have spent 310 hours playing over the last six months. This is what I learned while playing AC:NH. 

Game Premise 

You embark on a deserted island getaway and are able to create, morph and design your perfect island over time. You have residents that move to your island, along with shops, seasonal events and more to experience. Thanks to your raccoon overlord, Tom Nook, you start the getaway in debt, but don’t worry, you’re able to pay it off quickly. 

What I Learned

First Homesite; Island 1

Daily tasks are necessary – in the game and life.

As a person who’s struggled with heavy depression on and off for a decade, sometimes the essential tasks like cleaning, laundry or eating can be a burden. In AC:NH, your character is rewarded for doing simple things like picking up sticks, clearing weeds or chopping down trees. Being able to make a character push through mundane tasks made it a little easier to force myself to get out of bed and do laundry.


If you’re unhappy, restart.

New Campsite; Island 1

I spent almost 275 hours building an island which is roughly 12 full days. I received the coveted 5-star rating on accident at around 180 hours and was seriously unhappy. I really didn’t like my island – I started playing without knowing the purpose, creating a mismatched, haphazardly built island that I really wasn’t enjoying. So I restarted. Erased all that work and started over. That same principle can be applied to each of us every single day. If we’re unhappy with something – our attitude, mindset, exercise level, whatever – we can change that. Hit the restart button until you’re at ease and at peace with yourself. 


Everything changes and that’s okay.

Celebrating Summer; Island 1

You can build a perfect utopia from top to bottom, but inevitably something will change that you have no control over – like the seasons. AC:NH is set to recreate the seasons of your hemisphere, changing the available DIY crafts, ingredients and overall landscape of your island. This is not something that can be fought, but merely accepted. I do not enjoy change as a person, but playing this game has surprisingly made it a little easier to accept. (An overexaggerated reaction, but a good example nonetheless). 


Sometimes, people you love leave.

5-Star Status; Island 1

When you start your island, there are two other islanders who spawn with you. You’re able to interact with your islanders and swap gifts, etc. throughout the game. However, sometimes your islander will decide that it’s time for them to move on to another island. At first, I hated when islanders would want to leave – because I wanted them to stay with me. But just like in real life, sometimes you have to let people go so that they can be the best versions of themselves. Or alternatively, you need to let them go because they’re not good for you anymore (cough*Curlos*cough).


Just because my island looked different than others, doesn’t mean it’s bad.

Yoga by some trees; Island 2

A fun perk in AC:NH is that you’re able to visit other islands, deserted or inhabited, to trade or simply see a friend’s design. After watching a few of those 5-star island tours on Youtube though, I was feeling pretty dejected about my shabby island. Who cares? As long as I like my island and it functions for me, then it doesn’t matter. The same principle should apply to regular life too. Who cares if I’m not the same size, personality or type as someone else? It shouldn’t matter as long as I’m happy with myself. 


People can be jerks, but that doesn’t mean you should put up with it.

Turkey Day; Island 2

AC:NH contains over 400 characters that you could randomly meet or interact with. The characters are grouped by a personality trait: normal, peppy, sisterly, snooty, cranky, jock, lazy and smug. Snooty and smug villagers can be annoying to deal with, especially when they’re being rude towards other characters. You do have limited control of kicking people off the island if you so choose. There’s no reason to keep villagers or people in your life if they bring you down. Surround yourself with those who bring happiness. 


For anyone that’s looking to kill some time as we move towards another potential lockdown, maybe give Animal Crossing: New Horizons a chance. With bright colors, cute characters and a mostly stress-free gameplay, this can be a great escape for anyone experiencing heightened anxiety from lockdowns, COVID-19 or just the day to day stress of life. Spend your time fishing in lakes or growing flowers or diving for sea creatures.

An Ode to Jenna Marbles

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet – specifically YouTube or Tumblr – in the last decade, at some point you’ve probably run across Jenna Marbles. Considered to be a part of the original group of YouTubers, Marbles posted her first notable video in 2010 titled ‘How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good Looking’. Instantly a star thanks to her witty humor, adorable pets, fun skits and relatable content, Jenna Marbles has continued to make thousands laugh every ‘Wednesday-slash-Thursday’, until now. 

From make-up tutorials to dog birthdays to drunk crafts, Jenna Marbles has been a constant in my life for a decade. There was a time recently, when I was deep in the waves of a gnarly depression spell, where the weekly videos she posted were the one thing I could count on to give me a brief moment of happiness. Just five minutes where I would feel okay – a few lighthearted laughs at whatever antics she pulled. Even if it was one of her less exciting videos where she dip-dyed Crocs just for the hell of it – it was everything to me. 

Her content has changed dramatically over the years. Starting out she was a foul-mouthed ranting 22 year old in the Wild West of the internet. She made some problematic videos which were removed over the years as she transitioned into her new style. She’s since become a much more calm, mindfulness-minded *32 year old lady*.

Jenna decided to leave YouTube, social media, the whole shebang, at the beginning of the summer this year after many fans brought back long-deleted videos where she was being problematic. She posted one of the most realistic and relatable apology videos (that has since been removed) that I’ve ever seen and trust me, I watch them all when I’m bored – shout/out James Charles for the never ending stream of them. This is my ode to Jenna Marbles.

Jenna,

You’ve allowed us unfiltered access to your life for a decade; through break ups, new pets, new homes, everything. You’ve created endless jokes and relatable content for a sea of greedy fish. While I’ve never met you and never will, you provided a light during the darkest times of my life and for that, I will be forever grateful. I hope that you feel as much love and happiness as you’ve given to us over the last ten years, even if you decide to never return to the internet world. 

Always a fan,

Bailey 

Shows to Watch When You’re Feeling Blue

Sometimes it’s hard to get invested into a tv show and sometimes you just need some background noise that occasionally makes you laugh. As chaotic as this year has been, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to watch a show that is loaded with emotionally heavy turmoil and drama, like Game of Thrones. While The Office, Friends and Parks and Recreation are the classic favorites, here’s a list of easy to watch shows that you may not know on streaming services that can keep your spirits lifted while filling the void.


Letterkenny (Hulu)

Letterkenny is hands down one of my favorite tv shows – ever – and that’s saying a lot. It is intensely creative, witty and sometimes the humor is so subtle that you’ll absolutely miss it. This Canadian sitcom was the brainchild of Jared Keeso, first launching ‘Letterkenny Problems’ on YouTube in 2013 before it was picked up by Crave in 2015. Centered around the small town of Letterkenny in rural Canada, the show follows the life and shenanigans of Wayne, Katie, Daryl and Squirrely Dan.


Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)

Another Canadian contender, Schitt’s Creek, was recommended by coworkers and I finally caved. The first two seasons are painful to get through – but once it gets going, boy it’s amazing. Synopsis: rich family loses all money aside from a shitty (pun intended) town bought as a joke and now resides there with local, small town folks. Chaos ensues. An easy watch for someone not looking to get attached to characters, also full of subtle humor.


Future Man (Hulu)

This one is completely out of left field. This show features Josh Hutcherson (of the Hunger Games) as a lonely, video game nerd in 2017 who ends up being the savior of humanity – in 2162. With fun time travel mishaps, a crazy crew, endless laughs and an easy to follow storyline, Future Man is a perfect show to just toss on when you don’t know what else to watch. I’m also happy that Hutcherson found something else to do besides Hunger Games!


Great British Bake-Off/
The Great British Baking Show (Netflix)

Let’s be honest, this is the most wholesome, satisfying competition show to watch. If watching Chopped or Iron Chef gives you anxiety, try out Great British Bake-Off. Hosted by comedians, there’s a lighthearted air to the competition. Plus, the bakers are always so nice to each other which is exactly what we need more of this year. There are over 10 years worth of this show, plus spin offs so you’ll be able to rely on this cute show for awhile.


Man Down (Netflix)

Greg Davies, a 6’8” British comedian, plays a primary school drama teacher in Man Down. Loosely based off of his own experience as a teacher in his younger years, this show is created for quick laughs. At only 24 minutes long, these episodes are easy to turn on as background noise while occasionally paying attention to the plot line. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love Greg Davies and everything that he does – but this show doesn’t require constant attention.


The Good Place (Netflix)

A more popular show, The Good Place, seems to be whimsical and fun on the surface but actually includes an accurate portrayal of philosophical questions. With a fun cast, easy to follow plot and a few twists along the way, The Good Place is a feel good show. Kristen Bell is amazing as showrunner, but let’s face it: Janet is the best character. If you can’t get into it, please just watch season 3, episode 9: Janet(s). Her acting range is stupid.

Remember the Fifth of November

I have a list of films that I always recommend to people and V for Vendetta has been at the top of that list for over a decade. I watched this film for the first time in junior high, just a few years after its cinematic release and was immediately moved by how timelessly poignant this film is. Released in 2005, this dystopian film takes place in 2028 – 14 years after a horrific virus outbreak ravaged London. Following the story of protagonists Evey and vigilante ‘V’, the audience watches as a tyrannical government is overthrown. Every year on the fifth of November, I watch this film. But during a recent viewing with a friend, I was startled to see the unfortunate and uncomfortable similarities between this film and the hellscape of 2020.

How could a film from 2005, based on a 1980s graphic novel, so accurately depict our current misery? Let’s break that down.

**DISCLAIMER: This film is controversial, graphic and deals with a multitude of sensitive subjects including pandemics, LGBTQ+ issues, homophobia, medical torture, kidnapping, etc. Please watch at your own discretion. SOME SPOILERS BELOW – BE AWARE.


The Setting

Set in modern day London, the country is run by a hyper-conservative, tyrannical government that took control following the explosive ‘St. Mary’s virus’ that consumed the lives of at least 100,000 citizens. Freedom of speech is nearly non-existent, nightly curfews are in place, roving ‘finger men’ police the residents with complete ruthlessness and surveillance vans roam the streets listening in on citizens.


The Villain

The first and most obvious villain is dubbed as ‘V’, the vigilante who demands justice from those who wronged him. V is modeled after Guy Fawkes, a failed rebel from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 who was immortalized by the British tradition of Bonfire Night. However, the true villain is the government, and more specifically, High Chancellor Adam Sutler, the reigning fascist power in the country.


The St. Mary’s Virus (SPOILER)

The St. Mary’s virus is credited for what brought the tyrannical government – Norsefire – to the ruling party. Showcased publicly as a horrific, random virus, St. Mary’s was later revealed to be a biowarfare created by the very government supposedly protecting citizens. Released in three separate locations – a water treatment plant, a primary school and a hospital – the majority of virus victims were those that the government deemed ‘undesirable’.


So why is this film so impactful?

Once, dystopian landscapes were a far fetched idea used as propaganda or science fiction to entertain the masses, but now it’s different. For me, it feels like we are teetering on the precipice of something major in the United States. Never before, at least in my lifetime, have we been more divided as a nation, although I understand that the generations before us have watched as tyranny ruled countries and have witnessed first-hand the wrath of wars, totalitarianism and fascism. As a pre-teen watching V for Vendetta for the first time, I was astonished to see how a country could change overnight after one incident – one virus – and that so many innocent lives could be lost.

But now, in 2020, I can fully see how that can happen. I hope that there will never be an end of V’s or Evey Hammond’s or Inspector Finch’s, those who strive to find the truth and fight for a better world for us all.

“He was Edmond Dantés… and he was my father. And my mother… my brother… my friend. He was you… and me. He was all of us.” – Evey Hammond, V for Vendetta.

You Should Watch Orphan Black and Here’s Why

Cult-hit from BBC America, Orphan Black, is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, hands down (& I watch a dumb amount of tv). I purchased the first two seasons on a whim at Target one day and binged them the very same weekend. Most importantly, after a five season run, the show ended in a good way, which is a lot to say since most long-running shows usually end in a dumpster fire that pisses off fans and critics alike. I continually return to this show, year after year, to rewatch and fall in love with the characters all over again. It also the first show I recommend and loan to friends looking for something new. Here’s why you should give this sci-fi series a chance (explained without spoilers).

1. Tatiana Maslany is the HBIC

Orphan Black’s lead actress Tatiana Maslany plays a whooping 14 different characters throughout the show, oftentimes appearing in the same scene with multiple versions of herself. Not only that, but the characters will pretend to be other characters in the show which is a major mindf*ck. For example: Sarah will pretend to be Rachel and it’s obvious that it’s Sarah’s character. Thanks to a great continuity coach that assists on every episode to make sure that the movements, speech patterns and overall character vibe is correct, this show is mind blowing. When watching the show, you forget that it’s just one actress playing all of the parts because Tatiana is so unbelievably talented. From accents to voice pitch to style and characteristics, she is hands down one of the best actresses of this century.

MIC DROP.

2. Endless Twists and Turns

This show, while an emotionally heavy investment, has an endless amount of twists and turns. The first episode starts with a bang and that momentum carries all the way through five seasons. Orphan Black is hard to describe because it deals with almost every theme including: cults, religion, science experiments, cloning, infertility, LGBTQ+, familial bonds, body modification, nature vs. nurture, military, drugs, body autonomy and most importantly the idea of a family, created by choice. OB does not shy away from hard topics like rape, abuse, self-harm, substance abuse or miscarriages – which controversially or not – can make this show emotionally hard to watch at times.

3. #Feminism

While there are male characters in the show (S/O Felix, Art and Paul), the show is heavily female led. The protagonist is Sarah Manning with the story following her life as she tries to make amends for her dark past. The main villains also are primarily female, which is an interesting dynamic to see. Sometimes the female villain trope is too played out; too emotional, too vengeful, too easy to understand and defeat. Each of the female characters in the show are unique, strong, defiant and not bound by cursory design.

4. Realistic Characters with Realistic Reactions

So often nowadays, everyone has a super power or extra something to help them through hard situations. This show only has one character that is a little unordinary – Sarah Manning’s daughter Kira. Everyone else for the most part is utterly normal. Allison lives a suburban soccer mom life. Cosima is a scientist attending university. Rachel is a career woman. Sarah is a single mom trying to win back her daughter. Beth was a police officer. Normal people in the face of something absolutely horrendous and abnormal – yet they surpass the circumstances regardless. The character arcs in the show are a sight to see. Paul, a character you love to hate from the beginning, has one of the best character arcs of the entire show and it is heartbreaking. Over the course of five seasons, each character grows in their own way.

5. Cinematic Techniques

One of the most incredible things that Orphan Black does is stitch together scenes involving two characters played by Tatiana Maslany. And I’m not talking just having two of them in a room together utilizing jump cuts like The Parent Trap (1998). These scenes have the characters fighting each other, dancing together, comforting each other and singing together; which again, as one woman playing all of the characters – that’s a feat. Tatiana did have a stunt double to work with in the scenes, who she often referred to as the unsung hero of the show – Kathryn Alexandre. Cinematically, this show would have been so much different without the use of the Technodolly. Technodolly’s memorize a scene and its own movements so that a scene can be shot multiple times then stitched together. OB’s use of the technodolly paved the way for other sci-fi shows like What Happened To Monday (2017).

6. Found Families

One of the biggest takeaways from Orphan Black is the sense of family. Sarah starts out as a misguided single mom, formerly an orphan, who is just trying to run her next scam. She falls into a wild crazy situation which she has absolutely no reason to get involved in – but does anyways. A once lonely-forgotten shit of a person becomes a sister, a mother, a lover and friend. Perfect strangers come together under circumstance to create a true family – something that they never had before. I am a firm believer in found families – families that you create based on your own needs and a shared sense of community which this show emulates perfectly.


Orphan Black can be emotionally heavy and may not be a good fit for everyone, so please watch at your own speed / emotional ability. All seasons can be streamed for free on Amazon Prime Video or you can rent them if you do not have an Amazon membership. It could also be streamed on Netflix EU, as of fall 2019.

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