That’s When the Fun Begins: The Best of Captain Swan

good form

Is there anything more magical than a wedding? On Sunday, Emma Swan and Killian Jones are finally tying the knot during Once Upon a Time’s musical episode extravaganza, and to prepare for their walk down the aisle, I thought it was the perfect occasion to take a walk down memory lane, reliving our favorite moments in their fairytale romance.

There’s never been a love story on television like Emma and Killian’s. From the very start, it’s been the perfect blend of sweeping fairytale and relatable realism. This pirate and princess have taken us on a journey that’s spanned years and realms; have found each other through lost memories, alternate realities, and a ridiculous number of curses; and have gone to the Underworld and back again for each other. Along the way, they’ve struggled with their own demons, fears, and emotional walls—forces of darkness just as strong as any villain they’ve ever faced—but they’ve emerged from those battles stronger as individuals and as partners.

Killian and Emma have proven their True Love many times—sacrificing for each other, choosing each other, fighting for each other, supporting each other, and making each other happy when they thought happiness might not be in the cards for them anymore. They’ve given each other hope, and in the process, they’ve given hope to so many people watching.

So before the next chapter in this love story begins, let’s take a look back at my 10 favorite moments along the way—from Never Land to the Underworld and from time-traveling adventures to breakfast table kisses. Don’t forget to share your favorites in the comments!

1. “Perhaps I would…” (3.02: Lost Girl)
There’s a moment in every “shipper’s” life when you go from liking the idea of a pairing and thinking they have good chemistry to being completely sold on what this relationship could be, and this moment of startling sincerity from Killian Jones was that moment for me. I appreciated Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison’s chemistry and could see the potential in pairing their two character together as far back as “Tallahassee,” but this was the moment I went all in. The way the scene shifted from playful and flirtatious to suddenly sincere stopped me in my tracks, and it made me realize that what Emma Swan truly deserved in a partner was exactly what Killian Jones was offering her in that moment (and would continue to offer her from them on): someone who would love her for everything she is and would patiently wait for her to let him see the true Emma behind her armor.

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A Fabulous Five Years

On April 2, 2012, a 23-year-old editorial assistant sat down at her brand-new MacBook and wrote her first post on a hot pink blog about why she was proud to be a nerd. She had no idea who that post would reach, what post would come after it, or how long she would keep that blog running. All she knew was that she needed to write analytically and enthusiastically about things she loved, and this seemed like the best plan.

Five years later, a 28-year-old associate editorial director sat down at her slowly dying MacBook and started writing her 733 post on a hot pink blog about why she’s still proud to be a nerd.

So much has changed in the last five years—both at NGN and in my life—but some things will never change. I will always believe that there’s no more fulfilling life than the life of a nerdy girl. I will always be thankful for every comment, like, and view this website gets. And I will always find joy in writing analytically and enthusiastically about the things I love.

Every year since NGN was created has been a new adventure, filled with challenges, changes, and lessons to learn—and this year held more challenges, changes, and lessons than any other. A new position at work pushed me professionally in ways I never imagined I would be pushed so early in my career, and that’s led to some changes here at NGN in terms of how much and how often I post. Such a major life change called for me to reevaluate my relationship with what I do here at NGN, and recently, I’ve been reminded that this website and the kind of writing I do here bring me more happiness and fulfillment than almost anything else in my life.

It’s good to work hard, but it’s also good to make time for what makes you happy. And even after five years, running this website still makes me happy. Writing posts, interacting with the NGN Family, and reading all of your comments (I may not always reply, but know that I still read and appreciate every single one.) has been a way for me to connect with the best version of myself at a time when it could have been easy for me to lose the voice I started to find on April 2, 2012.

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Hold on to Happiness

There are times it feels like you really have to reach to find happiness. There are times it feels like everything around you is angry, dark, and heavy. There are times when it seems like the entire media landscape—from the news to the fiction you turn to when you need to escape the news—is conspiring against your valiant attempt to find reasons to smile and laugh every day.

This seems like one of those times, doesn’t it?

Looking back on posts from previous years, it seems that around this time every year, television decides to get really dark, and this year is certainly no exception. From Jane the Virgin and Nashville to This Is Us, there’s been no shortage of tears shed over fictional characters lately. And even in the world of cinema, this has been a rough patch if you’re looking for some escapist fun and unabashed joy; Oscar season isn’t known for its happy films, but this was a particularly heavy year, where even the film being praised most ardently for its joyful spirit (La La Land) ended on a bittersweet note.

What are we to do when things look dark? We celebrate the light. We appreciate moments of pure good where we find them. And we hold on to happiness like the precious treasure it is.

I watched a lot of Fuller House in the days around the presidential inauguration this year. It’s a show that exists for no other reason than to make people happy, and it does its job well. It’s not Breaking Bad or Orange Is the New Black, and not every show needs to be or should be. Sometimes you just want to watch a silly, simple show where storylines are wrapped up in 30 minutes with a group hug. It’s a throwback to a more innocent, less cynical time, and if you’re looking for some warm, fluffy feelings in your media-consuming life, I highly recommend it.

Another show that has become my antidote to all the death and cynicism on television in recent weeks is Timeless. It’s certainly not on the same level of fluffiness as Fuller House, but it’s about three fundamentally good people working together and becoming a family through trust, respect, and empathy, which is even better than fluff. Plus, it’s a time-traveling adventure with great costumes, impeccable guest stars (Fellow Once Upon a Time fans should check it out if only for Sean Maguire’s almost inhumanly charming turn as James Bond creator Ian Fleming.), and characters you feel good about rooting for—characters who have grown more in one season than some shows allow their characters to grow during an entire run, characters who fight for each other, characters who have big hearts and are big nerds. It also has my favorite developing romance on television right now between Wyatt Logan and Lucy Preston, and there is no happier feeling than watching a fictional relationship progress from initial skepticism to respect to fake engagements to real hugs to “I cannot lose you again!” to opening hearts and taking chances—all in the course of one season.

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Galentine’s Day Goals

Leslie Ann 617

Today we celebrate my favorite fictional-turned-real holiday: Galentine’s Day. Not only is today a day to eat waffles and drink mimosas, it is a day to celebrate the women in our lives. It is a day to celebrate female friendship, female mentorship, and female support systems.

Ladies celebrating ladies—what a novel, beautiful concept.

This year, it feels even more important to celebrate the power of women and the positive impact they have on our lives. As such, I’m reopening submissions for The Fan Mail Project for another month—with a deadline of March 13, 2017, at 9 p.m. EST. You can read all about the project and how you can contribute to it here, but the general gist of it is this: Write a letter to a female character who has inspired you in some way. Thank her for being a positive influence in your life or maybe in the life of someone you know and love. Share your story by sharing what she means to you.

That’s what The Fan Mail Project is all about—sharing our stories of courage, vulnerability, growth, struggle, and strength by sharing the stories of the female characters that helped us see our own beauty, power, and potential. And at a time in which so many people are actively trying to silence women and keep us from telling our stories and the stories of other women, it’s our job to persist in our stubborn belief that our stories matter.

We matter.

Throughout the process of compiling the letters that have already come in for The Fan Mail Project, I have been moved to tears more times than I can count by the beauty and bravery of every single person who has used their voice to take ownership of their story through their love for the stories of female characters from every corner of the media landscape. You are all my Galentines this year, inspiring me with your authenticity, your honesty, your openness, and your stubborn refusal to be anything but your most authentic self.

So this is your chance to join in the movement that has helped me—and I hope others—grow in incredible ways. If you wanted to write a letter but never found the time or the inspiration, this is your chance. If you wrote one (or more) but always wanted to write another, this is your chance. And if you already wrote a letter but want to add to it or change it to reflect the continuing relationships we all have with the fictional women who have imprinted on our hearts, this is your chance to do that, too. I know I have two letters I’d like to update myself and at least one more I’d like to write. For a while, I let the state of the world and the state of my own busy, stressful life keep me from the joy and hope that this project has given me for the last year and a half. My Galentine’s Day goal this year is to return to this project with bright eyes, a hopeful heart, and a renewed sense of purpose.

The world needs these letters and the stories they tell. The world needs our stories. But even more importantly, we need these stories. We need to remind ourselves today and always that we are just as amazing, strong, and inspiring as the fictional women we love so much.

So write your letter. Embrace your story. Tell the world that you have something to say and you won’t be kept from saying it.

Happy Galentine’s Day, friends. Let’s show the world what we can accomplish when we celebrate ladies not just today but every day.

Finding My Fight Song

“Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in.” — Hillary Clinton

“When they go low, we go high.” — Michelle Obama

I’m trying, ladies, but it’s been hard.

It’s been 2 months and 12 days, and I’ve been trying for every single one of them to look for the good, to find reasons to be positive, to hold on to hope—in short, to be the Katie you’ve all come to know over the last four years here at NGN. But 2 months and 12 days ago, something inside of me broke, and I’m still trying to figure out how to fix it—or if I ever will be able to fix it.

Positivity, optimism, and hope do not always come easily for me. When you’ve lived with anxiety for as long as you can remember, you have to fight every day to be someone who tries to see reasons to feel good about the future instead of reasons to be terrified at every turn. And for a long while I was doing a pretty good job with that; I was fighting that good fight every day, and it felt like I was winning.

And then Hillary Clinton lost, and, in a major way, it felt like I lost. It felt like the things I had fought so hard to believe and preach with conviction and truth every day in my own life—the power of light in the face of darkness, the importance of choosing hope over fear, the belief that people are stronger together, the importance of diversity, and the value of women—were suddenly no longer valued by my country. In the days and weeks and months following that seemingly endless Election Night, I’ve come to discover and embrace the fact that more of my fellow Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, and that has given me some comfort in the dark times I’ve faced. But that’s often felt like a tiny bandage on a gaping hole in my heart.

It’s been all too easy for me to slip back into old thought patterns. I’ve been so anxious lately that some days I find myself crying or panicking while putting on my makeup or sitting at my desk. I’m filled with doubt about the world and my place in it, and the uncertainty in our country has made me question the certainty I used to feel about nearly everything in my life. Fear, anger, and apathy have been creeping back into my life in the last couple of months—to the point where I haven’t even wanted to write anything here or work on The Fan Mail Project because I haven’t been able to find the strength to see much good in anything or much of a reason to hope that I can effect any kind of positive change through my writing.

I think that was the hardest part for me, accepting that sometimes you can put the work in and it still won’t matter. I wanted Hillary to win. I didn’t vote for her just because I disliked and feared the possibility of a Trump presidency; I genuinely believed in her and believed she could change our nation for the better. I donated, I wore the shirts, I decked my car out in the stickers, I convinced family members and friends to vote for her, I wrote extensively about what she meant to me—heck, I even wrote a biography of her for fourth graders thanks to my job. And to see all of that passion, work, and genuine belief end in the worst-case scenario had me spiraling. For the first time in a very long time, it made me question if it was worth it to ever care about something with my whole heart again.

All in all, I’ve been far from the best version of myself for these past 2 months and 12 days, and it’s been especially evident in the immediate lead-up to today’s transition of power. Yesterday I cried for a long time about a lot of things, and it hit me mid-sob that one of the things I was doing was grieving.

I hadn’t let myself grieve.

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How Long Forever Was: Remembering Carrie Fisher

leia

Rest easy, General.

“It was raining in L.A. and I was Princess Leia. I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever. I would never not be Princess Leia. I had no idea how profoundly true that was and how long forever was.” — The Princess Diarist

What is a legacy? Hamilton taught me “It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” But I believe some people—if they leave the right kind of mark—live to see at least a small portion of that garden. And I think Carrie Fisher was one of those people.

She got to see the little girls dressed up as Princess Leia. She got to hear stories of women who were inspired by the character she brought to life. And she’d be the first one to tell you that she also got to hear stories of men who were inspired in their own way by the character, too.

Princess Leia is a huge part of Fisher’s legacy. She will live on forever in that character—forever our Princess, our General, our trailblazing badass.

I’ve written so much already about what Princess Leia has meant to me (and I’m planning to write much more in the future), so I’ll just say this about Fisher’s most famous role: I have no idea who I would have become if I never saw Leia shooting her blaster, kissing her pirate, and commanding her troops as a kid, but I do know that woman would have been a lot less confident, independent, outspoken, and happy.

I was introduced to Princess Leia at the ripe old age of five, so it took a while before I understood that she wasn’t real and that a woman named Carrie Fisher played her in the movies. But once I could grasp that concept and I learned about Fisher’s life, I became incredibly intrigued by her writing career. Even as a kid, I knew I loved to write, and upon learning that Fisher became a writer after her time in that galaxy far, far away, it occurred to me that maybe if I couldn’t really be a Princess/Rebel, being a writer might be the next best career path.

Princess Leia is my hero, but so is the woman who played her. And as I’ve gotten older, my admiration for Carrie Fisher beyond her job of bringing Leia to life has only grown. Her ability to be unapologetically, unashamedly, unrelentingly herself in a world that constantly tried to make her feel bad about that is something we all should strive to channel in our own lives. And her emotional honesty and openness—especially in her writing—represents the kind of bravery I can only hope to achieve.

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Fangirl Thursday: Feel the Magic

Henry’s speech about the power of belief and the necessity of magic in the Season Five finale of Once Upon a Time will always be one of my favorite moments in the history of one of my favorite shows. And that is because it touched on something I believe with all my heart: Magic is real. You just have to be open to it in order to experience it.

Kids find magic everywhere—the stars in the night sky, the waves in the ocean, the worlds they create in their own imaginations. But as we get older, we tend to stop looking for magic. We get cynical, and then we start looking for reasons to roll our eyes at others who still see magic around them. We learn facts about the world, and we think that means we need to throw away our sense of wonder because we know how things work now. We become busy, and we put our heads down to get where we think we need to be—losing sight of the places where magic lives.

But that magic is still there. It’s just waiting for us to find it again. And those places where we find it—where we reconnect with what it means to believe—are special. They are places where we are reminded of one beautiful fact: Sometimes even grownups can still be believers.

Belief creates magic. There’s something profoundly magical about a room full of adults who put aside their cynicism and even their logic in order to allow themselves to experience they joy and excitement that can come from the willing suspension of disbelief. I’ve seen it in movie theaters, during plays, and at TV screenings at conventions: the way a group of adults all cheer when something great happens, cry when something emotional happens, or gasp when something surprising happens. Logically, we all know we’re watching actors performing words and actions from a script. But something special happens when you find yourself surrounded by people who let themselves believe the emotional truth of what they’re watching and experiencing: You start to believe, too. And that is the strongest kind of magic there is—the magic that comes from a group of people believing together, even just for a moment. Communal belief. Communal participation in magic.

Everyone has their own special place where that sense of communal belief is at its strongest. For some, it’s a darkened theater the night the latest Harry Potter or Star Wars or Marvel movie premieres, where you get to watch and react with other fans who find the same magic on the big screen. For others, it’s a stadium or an arena, where sitting in your seat just the right way or cheering at just the right time or saying a prayer right before overtime actually feels like it might make a difference.

For me, it’s Walt Disney World.

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Let’s Go: A Letter to the Women of Ghostbusters

This is the latest in my series of letters to inspirational female characters that will be compiled in a book alongside letters from my fellow fangirls and fanboys. If you are interested in being part of The Fan Mail Project, I’m still taking submissions on a case-by-case basis, and you can check out all the information here

ghostbusters

Source: ghostbusters.com

Dear Erin, Abby, Patty, and Hotltzmann,

You made me cry. Normally, this would not be much of a surprise to anyone, but even my intensely emotional self can usually keep it together during action scenes in summer blockbusters. But there you were, battling ghosts, guns blazing, and I couldn’t help it. I thought of the millions of little girls who would watch that scene in the coming days, weeks, and years, and I felt so overwhelmingly grateful for the fact that they will grow up in a world where women like you get to save the day.

A group of girls will grow up with that image—four female friends fighting ghosts without any help from a man and without ever having their looks become the focus instead of their skills—being their introduction to action movies. They’ll grow up with that image stuck in their minds and written onto the fabric of their fangirl hearts, and that’s a kind of power that not even the strongest proton pack can produce.

That’s why all the talk about the four of you “ruining” people’s childhoods was such garbage. You can’t ruin a childhood that already happened. But you can help create a brighter childhood for a new generation of young girls. And that is exactly what you’ve done. Your purpose isn’t to create nostalgia for the past; it’s to create inspiration for the future.

The world you inhabit is a world where women fighting ghosts isn’t seen as a big deal. And that matters. (It’s also sadly far away from the world we actually inhabit.) If they only paid attention to the movie, young girls watching Ghostbusters might not ever think that there’s something atypical about you being heroes, and that’s how it should be. You’re treated as people and not as paragons of feminism or stereotypes of “strong female characters,” and it’s so important for girls to see a world where women aren’t defined by their gender or limited by it. You’re ghostbusters who just happen to be women, and that kind of normalcy in terms of the treatment of female heroes is so rare, which makes it so important.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you aren’t examples of how to overcome common problems women face throughout their lives. So much of your collective story is based on the fact that no one will take you seriously when you talk about what you believe and what you’ve seen. Even when you have proof, what you say makes people uncomfortable, so you’re belittled and ridiculed and painted as delusional. People try to silence you, but you stand your ground. Thank you for being an example of what it means to own your truth in a world that is often uncomfortable with women speaking out about what they know, what they believe, and what they’ve experienced.

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Fangirl Thursday: Change Is Good

I’m not normally someone who likes change, but sometimes change can be great.

Some of you have known this for a couple of weeks now (if you follow me on Twitter): I was promoted to an Associate Editorial Director position within the children’s publishing company I’ve worked for since I graduated from college. This is an incredibly exciting (and just a little bit anxiety-inducing) change in my life, allowing me to take on new responsibilities and grow not just as an editor but as a leader, which is what I’ve always wanted from a job.

What does that mean for NGN? Hopefully not much. But I do want to prepare you for the fact that it might mean posts showing up later than usual as I deal with my new workload. However, I promise to keep producing the kind of content that’s brought you to this site in the first place. It might just take a little longer than before for that content to be produced.

For a long time I wrestled with the idea of doing what I do here at NGN professionally, but over the last week or so I’ve done a lot of soul-searching. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I like things the way they are now. Would it be great to get paid for running NGN? Of course. Who wouldn’t like making money writing exactly what they want to write how they want to write it. But I’m not sure I’d love it this much if it were my actual job. So for now, I’m going to enjoy the fact that I have a paying job doing something I like and a website I run for my own enjoyment that by some miracle of the Internet has become something other people enjoy, too.

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Fangirl Thursday: Look for the Hope

It’s been an emotionally draining, depressing, and frustrating few weeks in various fandoms. It seems TV show after TV show has been doubling down on the idea that shocking deaths make for good television, without thinking about what certain deaths might mean for large groups of their fans. And even if characters aren’t dying on your favorite show, chances are it’s still gone into darker territory this season. It seems almost every show I watch has dealt with heavier material this year. Even the usually light Brooklyn Nine-Nine ended with an atypical life-threatening cliffhanger this week. (Even though I think we’re all 99.9% sure Holt’s going to be fine.) And the offerings at movie theaters aren’t much better lately, with superheroes fighting each other all over the place.

In short, if you feel a little beaten down by the media you’re consuming lately, you’re not alone.

There’s a tendency to judge the quality of a piece of media by how serious it is. Most of the “prestige dramas” we hear so much about are incredibly heavy and often bleak. So people often stick with television shows that make them feel hopeless and upset more often than not because they think that’s what “good” television is supposed to do. They think that walking away from a TV show when it starts to feel oppressively negative says bad things about them as a viewer instead of bad things about the show that made them walk away. Because a good drama can never be “too dark,” right?

WRONG.

It’s not just okay to walk away from a TV show when it starts negatively affecting your emotions on a consistent basis; it’s smart. There’s nothing wrong with putting your mental and emotional health above a television show’s ratings or your reputation as a fangirl or fanboy. Even if you loved a show for years, if it’s making you feel miserable or triggering you in some way, you’re not less of a fan if you stop watching something that’s not good or healthy for you anymore.

This trend of prioritizing shock value above quality character development needs to stop. This is especially true when the shock value comes from killing or traumatizing characters simply to show that no character is safe and that the world they inhabit is awful. If a character dies, that death should mean something—and not just that anyone can die. And if a character is put through a traumatic situation, it should be treated with care not just in that moment, but in all the moments that follow it. Death, beatings, torture, and rape shouldn’t be added to stories only to get people talking or to show how horrible a person or a society is. They should resonate thematically; they should carry weight not just in one episode, but throughout the rest of the series. They should matter.

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