Last year, I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD as many of us know it. While the label was slapped on me at 25, I think I’ve been dealing with it in at least some form for most of my life. Simply put, it is a disorder where people have obsessions and compulsions. It can be quite nebulous in its manifestations, but when it comes to onscreen depictions, OCD is seen as a fear of contamination and a need for cleanliness. Characters such as Tony Sheloub’s Monk from Monk or Jack Nicholson’s Melvin from As Good As It Gets are prime examples of stereotypical representations of OCD; they must wash their hands constantly, they obsessively count, they can’t step on cracks in the sidewalk, they are afraid of everything. These rituals and fears then make them weird and their OCD makes them unrelatable. But that’s not how OCD manifests for everyone; for some people, contamination fears are a large part of their compulsion. That’s not the case for me. If I never have to hear someone say to me, “but you’re messy, you can’t be OCD,” I’d be so elated. My OCD is much more internal, meaning I don’t have many visual compulsions. My mind is constantly flooded with obsessive thoughts about harm coming to myself and others, which means I’m always trying to find ways to avoid that harm. This can manifest through planned walking routes, constantly checking the oven, counting my steps, biting my nails, the list goes on and often changes depending on my stress levels.
A large part of figuring out how to cope with my OCD has involved recognizing the deeper meaning of my personal relationship to the horror genre. Horror has always been a part of my life. I have devoured horror films and books since an inappropriate age, finding a strange solace in the violence. Slumber parties always involved horror movies. I owned almost all of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike’s books. I watched horror trailers obsessively. I dove into the world of pirated movies so I could watch the latest horror indies. It’s always just been part of who I am, so when I was diagnosed with OCD, I didn’t think at all about how this could link to my love of horror.
Gentleman Jack (2019) makes me feel that my life is possible. As a long-time fan of Sally Wainwright, I trusted her to do justice to Anne Lister’s diaries. My expectations were high, but after having been let down time and time again by most lesbian-centered representations, they were still within reason. Before the series premiered, I expected a brilliant portrayal of Lister – one that is done with respect and empathy. However, on the topic of lesbian sexuality, I had far less hopes. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Gentleman Jack unabashedly delights in including its lesbian audience, and revels in speaking only to lesbians. The series goes beyond merely portraying lesbians on the screen, and takes lesbian representation a notch further by being unapologetic about its depiction of lesbian desire, lesbian sex, and lesbian mannerisms.
Just as the real Anne Lister was proud of her ability to seduce women, Lister’s fourth-wall breaks in the series seduces the audience, charms them with her wit, and most importantly of all – remind lesbians that we have always existed. In-between 200 years ago and now where our lives have been violently annihilated by virtue of homophobic cruelty, we always have existed, and we continue to exist.
I think it’s pretty indisputable that the language surrounding “nerds” has drastically changed in the last decade or so, at least in the United States. Looking back at dated nostalgia pieces, the rhetoric surrounding “geeks,” “dweebs,” and “nerds” gets pretty scary and antagonistic. As our country has matured (in some ways) we have seen a slight shift in this language, where scholastic achievement is being valued alongside physical and social. However, I know many people who have been repeatedly demeaned and shamed for their interests and intellectual tendencies. I am one of those stories, having had schoolmates, adults, and anonymous internet personas ridicule, tease and make me feel worse about myself because my interests didn’t align with theirs. This was confusing to me, as I thought that I was supposed to be supported for wanting to learn and grow. I felt like I needed some examples of how to be a nerd in the world, as I couldn’t find it in my own environment.
Let’s face it: we live in a terrifying world. Every piece of news seems to further illustrate our awful reality and it’s hard to feel like anything is ever going to get better. But, in times like this, a little imagination can work wonders in imagining what different versions of the future would look like, futures that contain wondrous machines, bloodthirsty monsters, and powerful figures that fight oppressive systems. Netflix’s animated series, Love, Death, and Robots works to harness the power of imagination in the creation of 18 different futures that are dark, terrifying, hopeful, and even queer. Sure, it is not perfect, but it is a beautiful example of how animation can provide us images of a previously unimaginable future, one that discusses queer representation, oppression, and bodily autonomy.
Controversy sprouted on Twitter when one user pointed out that the order in which the episodes were served up to viewers was potentially based on their sexuality, which is a terrifying prospect in itself. Even now sexuality is being used to judge what content to give us, even if Netflix so vehemently denies this is the case. This is only one small example of the terrifying digital future that is expanding exponentially by the minute, one that provides us with tools to educate, build community, spread hate, and harm. Even in the face of the irony of its distribution, Love, Death and Robots expands on these tools into previously unimaginable possibilities.
This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.
It’s been over a year since I’ve witnessed Gamora, one of the most strong-willed women of the Marvel universe, die by the hands of her own abuser.
I know that Avengers: Endgame is a three-hour film with an ungodly amount of baggage to sort through. I know that not only were directors Anthony and Joe Russo challenged with crafting a satisfying conclusion for our original six Avengers, but they were also tasked with forging a new direction for all other characters within the 22 movie franchise, post the aftermath of the cosmic-shattering events of Infinity War. Knowing all this to be true, and all that was at stake, I entered the theater aware that there was no possible way all of the Marvel fan community, with their own favorite characters and unique emotional investments, could realistically walk out of Endgame fully pleased with what they had watched; and yet, despite knowing all of this, even despite enjoying most of what I saw in Endgame, I’ve still had a festering, empty feeling in my heart over one character: Gamora.
I am aware that I will always carry a bias here. The Guardians of the Galaxy movies mean a lot to me. I love how over the top they are, from their nostalgic needle drops to their sometimes overbearing amounts of sentimentality. I love that they are two calculated, messy movies about scarred and lonely people full of regret, who realize that they are stronger together and that there is a greater meaning of life in the family connection they choose in each other. I’ll save you the specific details, but as someone with a messy relationship with my own blood family, and as someone who’s strongest emotional connections are amongst friends from all sorts of different places, these themes especially ring true. Gunn’s two Guardians films often pass boundaries (i.e. “green whore” line from Drax in Vol. 1, or the many jokes about severed limbs from Rocket) but despite all of that, they’re always being told from a place of sincerity and genuine growth that has struck a chord with me since seeing them on their opening weekends.
On December 18th, 2015, Star Wars awakened once again; a pivotal moment for the last decade of mainstream entertainment. And what made The Force Awakens a graceful, triumphant return was the fact that it was both a nostalgic trip back home for all those who were already invested in the Star Wars franchise, and also a call to people closer to my age to partake in its broad cinematic legacy.
I remember skipping a whole day of high school with my friends so that we could head straight to Disneyland in the morning, and then to AMC so that we could get the best seat possible in that bustling theater. I already had a history with Star Wars because of my family’s expansive DVD collection, but I was particularly eager to finally have a new trilogy of these films to call my own. I was wearing a quickly thrown together Han Solo costume, I got seated in the middle row, with only my friend and a bag of m&ms at my side when the projector lit up. My eyes gleamed up at the opening crawl, for I was ready to be transported once again to that galaxy far, far away– content with knowing that people like me had a place amongst those stars.
And when I came home from the cinema and fired up the Tumblr log in screen so I could write my first post about how much I loved the new Star Wars, I wasn’t aware of how that love would, in retrospect, become my first steps into a larger world of fandom.
Content Warning: Mentions of trauma, bombings, violence, and death.
Marguerite Duras’ and Alain Renais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) has been most famously celebrated as one of the pioneering films of French New Wave. Two strangers meet wholly by chance, and spend the next twenty-four hours ruminating on the poetics of loss, suffering and memory. Of course, the title itself alludes to the bombing of Hiroshima, which immediately situates the film within the challenging politics of re-presentation. Can we ever do justice to the atrocities of war? Is it crude to talk about Hiroshima through a lover’s discourse? How to talk about Hiroshima? How can we nottalk about Hiroshima?