Fangirl Thursday: A New Decade

Fangirl Thursdays have always been a place for me to get personal. These posts have been a safe space for me and—hopefully—for all of you to talk about the experiences, the media, and even the life events that have made us who we are. So I can’t think of any better place to address the fact that tomorrow is my 30th birthday, and before I embrace my thirty, flirty, and thriving new decade, I needed to say goodbye to the one I’m leaving behind.

The best way for me to express myself has always been through letters, so it’s time for me to write a little something to the woman I was 10 years ago—on the brink of turning 20 with no idea where this crazy, exciting, and fulfilling decade was going to lead.

Dear Katie,

There’s so much I want to tell you about the next 10 years of your life—the places you’ll go, the people you’ll meet, the TV shows you’ll watch, the writing you’ll do…But I’ll start with the most important thing:

They make new Star Wars movies. Good ones. The ones you cried over when you were 12 because you thought they’d never make them. You get to see what happens to Han, Leia, and Luke—and you get to meet some really amazing new characters, too.

Right now, you can’t imagine those movies ever getting made. You might not even be sure you care anymore if they do get made. (Stop fighting it: You totally care. You care A LOT.) But it happens. And that’s the best way I can sum up your 20s: There’s so much good stuff coming your way that you can’t even imagine right now.

I know the thought of life turning out differently than you imagined terrifies you. You have a plan for your life—married by 24, kids by 27, journalism job somewhere close to home. Well, I want to be the first one to tell you that none of that happens—and that when you’re facing the dawn of your 30s, you wouldn’t want to fix those broken plans even if you had the chance to go back and do it all again. You’re about to make some big choices, little girl, and they’re going to be the right ones. You’re going to feel unsure and afraid that you’re throwing your plans out the window, but here’s one of the most important things you’ll learn in the coming decade: Your instincts are always right. That little voice inside of you telling you not to take that job, telling you to get out of that relationship, telling you to trust that Craigslist ad for a job opening…That voice doesn’t care about your five-year plan. It cares about what’s going to make you happy, healthy, safe, and successful. Listen to it.

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“But I Won’t Feel Blue”: The Case for Purposeful Fluff

Mamma Mia

When my friend asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday later this month, I told her all I really wanted was go to brunch and see Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again—for the third time since it came out last week.

Why the sudden, overwhelming interest in sitting in a movie theater and watching a bunch of actors sing ABBA songs? Is it the gorgeous Grecian landscapes? The spunky choreography? The presence of icons like Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep, and Cher?

All of those things have contributed to my latest pop culture obsession (especially Cher), but my love for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again goes beyond my love for catchy pop songs and iconic actresses.

I love this movie because it’s happy. It exists to do nothing other than make you leave the movie theater feeling better than you did when you went in. And in a world where it can be really hard to feel good most days, that’s a downright heroic mission statement.

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10 Reasons Why You Should Be Watching Pose

pose poster

Source: FX

There’s never been anything on television like Pose. From the creative minds driving it to the actors bringing the stories to life to the stories themselves, Pose is breaking new ground and doing it in incredibly powerful ways. At first glance, it’s a story about ball culture—the underground LGBT+ community of ballroom competitions—in 1980s New York City. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story about family, identity, and what it means to find acceptance in a larger world that refuses to see you for who you truly are.

The best television shows do more than just reflect the changing world; they help create change by introducing the world to stories that need to be told. That’s exactly what Pose is doing by giving members of the LGBT+ community—especially the transgender community—the chance to tell their own stories. And with the announcement that Pose has been renewed by FX for a second season, those stories will continue to change hearts, open minds and eyes, and move viewers to tears for at least another year.

Before tonight’s season finale (airing at 9 p.m. on FX), I wanted to write my own little love letter to my favorite new summer show, so here are 10 reasons why you should make Pose your latest summer binge!

1. It’s telling stories that need to be told through the words, direction, and performances of the people best equipped to tell them.
Pose is a unique show not just because it’s focusing on the stories of people of color in the LGBT+ community, but also because many of the people in charge of telling those stories and bringing them to life are members of that community. Pose has the largest cast of transgender actors as series regulars in television history, and many members of the cast have personal experience with ball culture and its ability to build a community. In addition, the show has a number of members of the LGBT+ community, including the transgender community, as writers and directors, with writer/director/producer Janet Mock serving as the first transgender woman of color to write and direct an episode of television with the episode “Love Is the Message.” The personal connection that has gone into every part of Pose’s production comes through in every honest, celebratory, and revelatory moment. Representation matters both on screen and behind the scenes, and Pose is taking that idea to important new heights.

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“I Want It to Be Real”: The Best of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings

The Americans 3.10

Source: spoilertv.com

The Americans is a show about a lot of things: Cold War politics, international espionage, bureaucracy, ideological conflicts, and, of course, WIGS. But at its heart, it’s a show about marriage. It’s a show about trust, intimacy, honesty, and what it means to be truly seen in a world where we all are wearing some form of disguise more often than not. And that’s what’s made it stand out in both the sea of spy shows that have developed into their own genre over the years as well as the sea of antihero-driven dramas that have emerged in this Golden Age of Television. Instead of being focused on missions of the week or the internal struggles and dark deeds of one (usually male) character, the show has always been a kind of love story—a story that first and foremost cares about a husband and wife and how the world around them affects their union, and vice versa. From the pilot onward, the relationship between Philip and Elizabeth Jennings has always been the show’s driving force and its emotional core, and it seems that after a season of separation and tension, that relationship is poised to be at the center of what’s sure to be an emotional series finale.

My love for Philip and Elizabeth’s marriage is well-documented around these parts. It’s what initially drew me to the show, and it’s what’s kept my viewing experience from ever becoming too bleak. Even when bodies were being shoved in suitcases and throats were being slashed, one look from husband to wife had the ability to fill my heart with hope that even in the worst circumstances, something beautiful can be built. Even in a world of lies, something honest can exist between two people.

That’s why—despite the murder and the blackmail and the sex with other people—The Americans is the piece of fiction that I think best explains why people get married, why someone would choose to commit to another person for their rest of their life. And it’s because being married means having a partner. Even if your life doesn’t involve chopping up bodies in parking garages, it probably will involve raising kids and balancing careers and making big decisions in the same way Philip and Elizabeth have learned to do, and it’s nice to know you don’t have to do those things alone. And even if you don’t have to lie for a living, we all hide parts of ourselves from the world—but as Philip and Elizabeth have shown us, being married means finding the one person you can be your true self with. It means finding the one person who understands you better than anyone else, the one person you can be honest with, and the one person you know has your back when it feels like the world is against you. Even though there have been times when Philip and Elizabeth have struggled to be those things for each other, they always come home in the end. And that’s what marriage is more than anything else—it’s home. It’s the person who you stand beside when the rest of the world is falling apart around you, and that’s who Philip and Elizabeth have become for each other.

The journey Philip and Elizabeth have gone on—from strangers to fake married coworkers to co-parents to falling in love to getting married for real and all the stops, starts, and separations in between—has made for one of the most compelling relationship explorations I’ve ever seen in a piece of fiction. Brought to life through the incredible talents and heart-stopping chemistry of Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell (whose own working relationship turned into a real-life romantic partnership thanks to this show), Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are something special. As such, I wanted to celebrate the end of their journey (in whatever way it may end tomorrow) with a look back at their best moments.

These are the scenes, lines, and looks that I always come back to when I think of why The Americans told one of the most subtly affecting love stories of this Peak TV period. There were so many great moments between them that it felt nearly impossible to cut it to just 10. I hope you share your own favorites in the comments so we can keep the discussion going!

1. Elizabeth lets Philip in (1.01: Pilot) 
I can trace my love for The Americans back to one specific moment from the show’s pilot: Philip’s voice cracking when asking Elizabeth how Timoshev hurt her and then him killing her rapist with his bare hands as she watched, completely transfixed. In that moment, both the audience and Elizabeth had to confront an essential truth of Philip’s character: Elizabeth always comes first. He will give up everything for her, and he will choose her and her needs over himself and his needs every time. And once Elizabeth finally let herself believe that someone had her back and truly cared about her, everything changed. It led to the perfect “In the Air Tonight” love scene, but even more importantly, it led to Elizabeth breaking the rules by telling Philip about her past and revealing her real name. That simple act of emotional intimacy, punctuated by the most adoring look I’ve ever seen in Philip’s eyes as she intertwined their fingers, showed that Elizabeth had found something more important than her orders to keep her true self hidden; she’d found someone who would love that true self.

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Holding on to Humanity: My Journey with The Americans (So Far)

Today’s The Americans analysis is going to be structured differently than what you’re used to around these parts, but hopefully my rationale makes sense when all is said and done. There are only so many weeks in a row that I can talk about how well Keri Russell is playing Elizabeth’s downward spiral, and there are much more important things I want to get around to now that we’re a few episodes into this final season.

the americans 408

Source: spoilertv.com

As many of you know, I don’t watch a lot of “prestige dramas.” I never warmed up to Breaking Bad, Mad Men didn’t interest me at all, and The Sopranos was before my time and never beckoned me to discover what all the fuss was about years later. All those male-driven antihero dramas just seemed too depressing to keep watching every week for years on end. Life can be hard enough; I didn’t want the media I consumed to be another source of doom and gloom.

And then I discovered The Americans.

What made that show different? Why did I fall so deeply in love with what many people have called one of the bleakest shows on television when I couldn’t stomach other similarly dark dramas? Obviously the fact that its main antihero was a woman made it immediately more compelling to me. Elizabeth Jennings drew me into her messed-up mind in a way that Don Draper, Walter White, and all the men who came before them never could. But it was so much more than that.

It was the fact that, from the pilot, this has been a show about two broken people learning how to love each other. It has always been a show about a marriage. But even beyond that, it has always been a show about humanity. It’s a show about the things that makes us human—our need to connect with each other, our need to find some level of truth and honesty with another person, our desire for intimacy. From the moment Philip chose killing Elizabeth’s rapist over turning him in and Elizabeth then chose telling Philip the truth about herself over following their orders to never mention their pasts, The Americans has always been a show about choosing people—flesh and blood and warmth—over hard and cold ideals.

That focus on the connections between people has kept The Americans from being too dark. Even at its lowest points—the death of Nina, the sad story of Martha—there was always an underlying sense of humanity amid tragedy. Nina was killed in a brutal way, but she died because she chose friendship over following orders and betraying a good man. And Martha’s life was shockingly spared in no small way because Philip had come to care for her. Also, she may have ended up in Russia, but she didn’t end up alone. Her dream of being a mother was realized in the form of an orphaned Russian girl the KGB arranged for her to adopt.

It all comes back to people. On a show about warring ideological forces, the human beings on both sides are shown to be exactly that—human beings. And human beings have a desire to connect with each other, to build relationships and develop intimacy and form families.

That’s what made The Americans different for me. It was a show that ventured into very dark territory, but it balanced that darkness with humanity. Even when the show seemed bleak, it never became completely nihilistic. It never preached the idea that nothing matters because everything and everyone is terrible (which would have been an easy thing to preach given the subject matter). In fact, it seemed to be preaching the opposite: There is meaning to be found in even the saddest lives and most tragic stories. But that meaning isn’t found in something intangible like patriotism or even idealism; it’s found in the relationships we form with each other.

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Six Years and Counting: Let’s Share Some Love!

Today, NGN turns six years old, and I’m struck by how much things can change in six years—but also by how the really important stuff stays the same.

Six years ago, when I sat down to write my first post, I had no idea what was in store for this little hot pink blog. All I knew was that I had things I wanted to say; I had a part of myself—a nerdy, passionate, emotional, enthusiastic part of myself—that I needed to share with the world after hiding her away for a long time.

There are a lot of things I never could have imagined about the highs and lows of the last six years—the friends I’d meet, the shows and movies I’d write about, the sleepless nights spent trying to plan the perfect post, the conventions I’d go to, the tears I’d shed when the words wouldn’t come, the actors and creators I’d be so blessed to interact with, the things I’d share about myself—but the most surprising thing of all is that people actually wanted to read what that nerdy, passionate, emotional, enthusiastic person had to say. And people still want to after six years. There is nothing more humbling to me than that.

This has been a year of balancing in my life. It’s been a year of trying to find a happy medium between my developing professional life, my own personal wants and needs, and my passion for running this website. And sometimes, that’s meant setting NGN aside and focusing on things like staying on schedule at work and getting a healthy amount of sleep. It’s meant fewer posts, but I truly believe the posts I’ve written this year have gotten back to the true reason I started this website. I wrote them not out of a sense of obligation, fear of letting people down, or desire to please others (all of which naturally happen sometimes in the course of six years as a writer). Instead, I wrote them because I had things I wanted to say, and I wanted to share those things with my fangirl family.

I still find myself in awe of the family I’ve created here, and I am so thankful to all of you who have visited NGN during the last six years—from the ones who just stopped by to read one post to the ones who form the backbone of my support system and have been there for me through it all. So many things can change in six years, and so many things have both with NGN and with my life in general. But one thing that has stayed the same is the overwhelming gratitude I feel that so many incredible people have taken the time to read the ramblings of a nerdy girl and have reached out to let that nerdy girl know she’s not alone. I’m grateful for every comment, tweet, Tumblr reblog, and like, and I’m honored to have so many brilliant, funny, and kind people as part of the NGN Family. I don’t know what I did to deserve not only your readership for the past six years, but also your support and friendship, but I hope all of you know that this thing couldn’t work at all—and certainly couldn’t keep working for six years and counting—without you.

With all that being said, I want to bring back a little something that we used to do around Christmas here at NGN. That’s right—it’s time for a LOVE POST!

Here are the basic instructions as I remember them from my old LiveJournal days: Make a comment on this post with your username (and things like your Twitter or your Tumblr URL if you feel like people might know you better by those identifiers). Then, sit back and let others reply, telling you how much and why they love you. Finally, share the love! Reply to your friends’ comments on this post and tell them how awesome you think they are, or finally tell that one commenter you really respect how insightful you think their thoughts are.

The greatest thing about NGN’s development over the last six years has been seeing all the friendships that have formed among all you who’ve stuck around, and I thought there was no better way to honor that and to thank all of you than a post meant to shower you all with love and to encourage you to do that for each other.

I’ll kick off the comments to show you how to get things started, and I hope all of you join in so I can personally thank you for being such bright lights in my life. Let’s put some more love into the world today; I can’t think of a better way to celebrate!

I love you Winston

Fangirl Thursday: Olympic Withdrawal Edition

IHOCKEY-OLY-2018-PYEONGCHANG

Source: The Denver Post

The 2018 Winter Olympics, are officially over, and I have no idea what to do with myself.

I make no secret of the fact that I am an Olympics junkie. I’ve been watching both the Winter and Summer Games religiously since Atlanta in 1996 (Magnificent Seven 4Ever!), but my full-blown obsession began in 2002. That year, thanks to a little Canadian pairs skating magic to the score of a little movie called Love Story, 13-year-old Katie fell into the kind of love that lasts well beyond two weeks and even well beyond four years. Sixteen years later, I’m still staying up way past my bedtime to watch Canadians tell love stories on the ice and win gold medals in the process.

There have been plenty of memorable Winter Olympics moments since those Games 16 years ago, but none completely captivated me the way the moments of these Games did. It seemed that every night, something happened that made me cry on my couch from the pure joy of watching someone achieve a dream, make an incredible comeback, or live out what felt like a chapter of a fairytale.

If these Olympics felt special to me, maybe it was because of that fairytale element—and maybe it was because we all could really use some fairytales right now. There were so many moments during these Games where it felt like even Disney couldn’t make up a story more inspiring or compelling than the one playing out in real time right in front of us. Night after night, we were treated to scenes that made us believe—even just for a moment—that good things can still happen amid all the bad things we’ve grown accustomed to seeing all around us. For two weeks, the athletes at these Olympics gave us something fun to talk about and to tweet about; it was such a welcome change of pace to scroll through Twitter and see excitement, joy, and hope instead of the usual dread, anger, and pessimism that the world we’re living in seems to generate in overwhelming quantities.

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Suddenly the World Seems Such a Perfect Place (or Help, We’re All Obsessed with Two Canadian Ice Dancers!)

Once upon a time…

A nine-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl became ice dance partners, and in the boy’s own words, “Something really changed in my life when I started to hold onto the hand of a beautiful little girl.” The boy gave up his early dream of being a professional hockey player, and the girl gave up a spot in a prestigious ballet program—all because even as children, they were committed to each other. The girl was the boy’s first kiss; the boy became the girl’s best friend.

As the years went on, they faced highs and lows. She endured painful surgeries to keep skating with him, and while she recovered, he trained with sandbags because he didn’t want another partner. They won Olympic gold in their home country, becoming Canada’s sweethearts in the process, but four years later, they came home with a silver medal instead of the repeat gold they were chasing.

They took a couple of years away from the sport, but they couldn’t stay away from the ice—or from each other—for long. As the boy said, being close to the girl was “the whole reason [he] wanted to come back to skating.” They decided to return to the sport they loved with a new mindset and a new focus on telling their own story, on making it “personal” this time around. They fought to choose their own music—music that reminded the boy of the girl whose hand he first held 20 years before. And they fought to become the best once again—to bring home the gold medal that eluded them in 2014.

They faced tough competition, and despite winning a gold medal with their teammates, they needed to have the skates of their lives to win individual gold. They began with a world record, but their fiercest rivals set the bar high with one of their own. Stepping onto the ice as Olympic competitors for the last time, they knew they had to do something magical in order to win. But instead of waiting for a fairy godmother, they created their own magic—the boy singing their song to the girl as they danced across the ice, capturing the hearts of everyone in the crowd, captivating the world, and catapulting themselves to the top of the standings and the medal podium.

And they lived happily ever after…

Or so we all hope, right?

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NGN’s Best of 2017: Reasons to Hope

the good place

Source: avclub.com

One woman, standing in the middle of no man’s land with only a shield and an unshakeable sense of purpose, drawing all the fire to protect those who cannot fight for themselves.

One woman, staring down certain death with steel in her eyes, deciding to sacrifice herself to save the people and the cause she believes in with everything she has.

Two sisters, coming together despite their differences, finally executing the man who caused them, their family, and their home so much loss.

A mother and daughter, training together in a garage, learning what it means to never feel like a victim again.

A team, finding their strengths in the wrestling ring, using their bodies for themselves and not for anyone else.

A group of mothers, putting aside the things they believed divided them, acting as a force of nature to make sure an abuser never lays a hand on his victims again.

When I looked back on my favorite media moments of the year, one theme emerged loud and clear: This was a year that so many pieces of media—from prestige TV dramas to big-budget blockbusters—let women be their own heroes. This was the year that women teamed up, fought back, and found strength in themselves and in their relationships with one another.

This was the year female characters said “No more.” No more pushing us to the background. No more telling us people don’t care about our stories because of our gender, our race, our sexuality, or our age. No more trying to divide us or painting us as each other’s enemies. No more abuse. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was also the year more women than ever before started to say “No more” in real life, too.

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Hope and Heroism in The Last Jedi

last jedi poster

Source: StarWars.com

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! PROCEED WITH CAUTION! 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is many things. It’s surprising. It’s emotional. It’s visually stunning. It’s challenging. And at its heart, it’s deeply, profoundly, and unashamedly hopeful.

Star Wars has always been a story about hope—who embodies it, how it spreads, and what happens to those who lose it. In this way, it’s perhaps our most cherished piece of uniquely American mythology. For generations now, people have seen reflections of our collective national fears and aspirations in this saga, and they’ve found hope in this story that has now been passed on for more than 40 years. And that’s what myths are. They’re the stories we tell ourselves to get through the darkest nights, to inspire us to keep going, and to help us believe that heroes exist and maybe even exist inside of us.

In the eyes of some people, The Last Jedi takes that mythology and smashes it—making heroes fall and hope shrink. However, those eyes are trained on the past, and The Last Jedi is a story about the past giving way to the future and old heroes passing the torch to new ones. It doesn’t destroy the Star Wars mythology that’s been passed down since 1977; it expands it. And in doing so, it provides us with a new message of hope that is deeply important for the world we’re living in:

You don’t have to look like a traditional hero to be a hero. You don’t have to be born into greatness to do great things. Your worth isn’t determined by other people’s expectations; every person has value, and everyone’s journey can be a hero’s journey.

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