Aaand that’s it for April! Usually April is drenched in rain, but it seems like we only got it as a last hurrah over the weekend. We had plenty of pollen though–my allergies haven’t been this bad in a while. But nevertheless, here’s what I’ve been up to this month:
What I’m Reading:
Habibi by Craig Thompson. I really enjoyed Craig Thompson’s Blankets, so I was eager to tear into this one. This graphic novel was…odd. The art was gorgeous and Thompson apparently spent six years researching and drawing it–which definitely shows. Still, the storyline is…awkward at times. It draws a lot of inspiration from Islamic art and folktales, but it occasionally veers into really gross stereotypes. I mean, right off the bat, the story talks about the protagonist Dodola who, at nine years old, is sold to another man as a child bride. This is not the only time Dodola’s storyline involves sexual assault and some of the depictions are incredibly stomach-churning to read. I would write this off as a gross fetishization of sexual violence from a male author (not to mention an incredibly offensive stereotype of Islam)–if not for the fact that Thompson’s Blankets also dealt with similar subject matter. Blankets was autobiographical and revealed a particularly horrifying scene where Thompson and his younger brother were sexually abused as children. So…Thompson may be working out some issues in Habibi, just as he did in Blankets, which I’m a little more forgiving towards. At any rate, the art is gorgeous and it’s worth a look through simply for that.
Endgame by Samuel Beckett. I am not a Beckett fan. I’ve been told that this is because his plays aren’t meant to be read, they are meant to be experienced onstage, which is a fair argument. But the modernist trend of writing incomprehensible plays simply to be incomprehensible is annoying and pretentious to me, so I can’t say I really enjoyed it. I am doing my final paper on this text, probably because I find that my best papers spring out of great love or great hatred. And I do like a challenge.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. We read this memoir for my Literary Theory class and I really loved it. I generally don’t like this kind of stream of consciousness say-whatever’s-on-your-mind for 100 pages with no structure or format, but this was surprisingly engaging. It deals with Nelson’s marriage to her spouse Harry, who identifies as gender fluid and non-binary and Nelson’s own pregnancy and motherhood. It was a really fascinating exploration of familial identities and gender roles.
You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris. I made the mistake of reading this right before one of my classes and I was a sobbing mess shortly after. This little book is about how Leiris dealt with the death of his wife, who was killed in the 2015 terrorist attack in Paris. This book is not easy to read. You are right there with Leiris as he struggles to recount how he explained to his toddler son that Mama will not be coming home. I nearly lost it in the middle of the bookstore when I read about the other moms at his son’s daycare preparing dinners for him, so his son would still have home-cooked meals. But I can’t get over Leiris words to the terrorists that ended his wife’s life: “You will not have my hatred.” He chooses to live in love, to raise his son in love. I am in awe.
What I’m Watching:
Trollhunters. My brothers recommended this show to me–and since it came from the mind of Guillermo Del Toro, I was eager to give it a shot. The trolls and beasties are SO cool–I love their weird and grotesque designs. The universe is really fascinating too–honestly, this show deserves a full-blown review from me, not a blurb, because there’s so much I love about it. Unfortunately, there are a few annoying niggling things about it too. The lack of well-rounded female characters is incredibly frustrating, especially since I know Del Toro can write complex women. It’s kind of a cookie cutter formula in regards to the main protagonists–heroic straight white lead, fat sidekick friend, plucky girlfriend…I mean, they’re all complex and interesting in their own ways, but it’s still a pretty tired formula. When you’re on Netflix, when you have Guillermo Del Toro heading this show, I expect a lot more. They have the freedom to do SO MUCH and it’s frustrating that they aren’t living up to that potential.
Kubo and the Two Strings. I really loved Kubo and the Two Strings. I loved it so much. I finished it completely satisfied and utterly thrilled. It had gorgeous animation, a beautiful story, engaging characters…which is why it sucks for me to have to criticize it this way. After delightedly texting my baby brother that I’d seen this wonderful film, he made a comment that he wished the cast had been chosen better. Curious, I did some digging…and found exactly one Japanese actor in the bunch. George Takei. Who played Random Villager #4. Which is…really confusing to me, because why on earth didn’t George Takei play the Moon King, the main antagonist Kubo fights against? Why, why, why?! To make matters worse, I looked at the credits, thinking that surely, surely there would be some Japanese writers in the mix. …Nope. There sure weren’t. I couldn’t even find any producers or consultants. It just seemed like a bunch of white guys wanted to tell a story alluding to Japanese legends and folktales without asking Japanese creatives for help. That is…ridiculous. There are so many Japanese animators, artists, writers, actors, actresses…I mean, writing a Japanese fantasy epic is a worthy goal, it’s something I’d love to do someday. But doing it without the help and assistance of Japanese people? Really soured the movie for me.
Girlboss. So this was a really interesting series. It is based around the life of Sophie a Amaruso, who started the online vintage store Nasty Gal. I think one of the funnier aspects about the series was that it seemed to go for a 2006 aesthetic…which…is hilarious, because wasn’t 2006 like two seconds ago? Oh, eleven years ago? Seriously? Is this how old people feel when they watch period pieces they lived through? Ack. Anyway, weirdly, I really enjoyed this series…but I’m not sure why. The main character, Sophie is…awful. She is genuinely awful. She isn’t some scrappy inspirational feminist hero, she is a truly terrible person. She shoplifts constantly, she is rude and entitled, she is incredibly selfish, and she has no respect for anyone else. I think they’re trying to make millennials connect with her because she “doesn’t want to be an adult or get an adult job” or whatever, but honestly, I don’t know a single millennial who would treat their bosses the way she treated hers. I watched this series from start to finish trying to figure out why this series was attempting to make me connect with someone so heinous–and also why the hell I was still watching it. I think I figured it out, though. Even though Sophie is pretty much the worst, I think she’s the worst in a way that’s unfamiliar territory. She is a reprehensible character, yes, but she is the lead on a female-fronted show that is about a woman starting a business, not a woman finding love and life in the Big City, like nine million other female-fronted shows. She is unapologetically awful, but she’s unapologetically awful in a Don Draper sort of way. I think she is the Don Draper for women. We are not rooting for her, but we are fascinated at the terrible lengths she will sink to. It’s not a particularly feminist show (as the showrunners would like us to believe), but it does give us something new in terms of media for women. We’ve never had a Don Draper before. Let’s see where this goes.
The Handmaid’s Tale. I have been waiting for the Hulu adaptation for a year now and whoo, it did not disappoint. I was shocked and delighted to see Alexis Bledel playing Ofglen! And man…I’ll always see her as Rory Gilmore, but she really outdid herself as Ofglen. I will never look at her blue eyes the same way again, she conveyed so much. Anyway. The adaptation is phenomenal. The first three episodes dropped last Wednesday and they are unbelievably good. The changes they’re making are excellent–they’re expanding roles and adding to the universe in really nuanced ways. There’s a scene featuring a protest that hearkens directly back to some of the major protests we’ve had over the past few years, so it’s really unnerving to see. They make it clear that this dystopia happened after our modern times–there’s references to Tinder and Uber, the “flashback scenes” are sooo eerie, because of these add-ins. I’m really psyched for more.
What I’m Listening to:
Rob Rokicki. Rob Rokicki is the genius behind the Percy Jackson Musical–the Lin Manuel Miranda, you could say. There are only a few PJO songs up on YouTube, but I am super excited for the full album, which comes out in June! But he has other songs that are really gorgeous. His “Monster Songs” are especially gorgeous–I cried when I heard his Medusa song, entitled “Say Goodbye”. Or his monster song from the point of view of a witch, entitled “Hell Hath No Fury”. And there’s this other song that is not a Monster Song, but just talks about a breakup which I’ve listened to about a thousand times, called “The Waiting”. Check him out, he is really cool. I wish I could take a songwriting class by him!
Dear Evan Hansen. At this point, we all know my love of musicals. So my latest musical craze is “Dear Evan Hansen”, which is just phenomenal. I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack nonstop. This particular musical is worth a full review, so I think I’ll save my more detailed comments for that review. But seriously, check it out.
“Believe” by Heath McNease, Jgivens, & Propaganda. You can check out the music video here! I love honest Christian art that pulls no punches. I think my favorite lines are: “I believe God is whispered in windows/Through the love of our children and loss of kinfolk” and “They say a doubting Thomas prowled among us/The substance of the things we hoped for/Never kept him honest/But I just wanna feel some nail scars/Hearing secondhand is for the foolish/So let me see it for myself, God” are the best lines. Definitely worth buying in iTunes.
That’s all for April!