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PBG’s Best of 2017: Film and Television

Author:
sophia4

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

FILM

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures came out in 2016 in the US, but only landed in UK cinemas in February this year. It’s a true story untold until now, one of three African-American women whose contributions to NASA in the 1960s were integral to the process of sending the first astronaut into space. It’s a feel-good film for sure, one which educates and entertains us consistently. The three leads – played by the wonderful Janelle Monáe, Octavia Spencer and Taraji P Henson – are funny and full of heart, and are a dynamic trio to watch. Most significantly, this is a film which empowers black women and young black girls, a film which shows them their own power and encourages them to pursue the things that excite them. This film is many things, but first and foremost it is a love letter to those girls who need that nudge.

The Big Sick

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The premise of the Big Sick reads like another manic pixie dream girl film: boy meets girl; boy screws up, girl gets sick + is barely present for a period of time; boy grows up as a result. Thankfully, it is more than that – so much more. It’s smarter than that, and Zoe Kazan’s character Emily has far more autonomy and intricacies to her personality than these types of characters are generally granted.

The film is as much about her as it is about Kumail – the protagonist – as viewers get to know her parents (as individuals, and as a couple), and see her work through her situation with stubborn persistence, frustration, and excitement. She is allowed to be a girl in love, a girl pissed off, a girl confused – all at once – without any of these states being considered some kind of fatal flaw.

More than this, the film explores cross-cultural relationships in modern day America, and navigates the complexities which come with that. It portrays Kumail’s conservative Pakistani family with humour and compassion, depicting a common reality without patronising or painting the parents as backwards or base – an unfortunately frequent pitfall in many interpretations of similar stories. The Big Sick is all around a heart-warming film, undeniably hilarious, and one which can easily be watched over and over (and over).

TELEVISION

One Day At A Time

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One Day At A Time is a reboot of a classic sitcom, a ‘genre’ which has a tendency to feel like a gimmicky money-making scheme. Thankfully, this modern update is not like that. In fact, it hardly relies on the original at all and is easily enjoyable for those unfamiliar with its predecessor – it’s not about nostalgia or references, but a wonderful series in its own right. The cast are phenomenal, driving the show with their lively performances and emotive delivery of the more poignant of moments – of which there are many. It may not be ‘an original’, but it feels like one of the freshest programmes of recent years.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend first aired in 2015, and it’s 3rd season began late this year. This is a show that has consistently been bizarre, hilarious, and engaging throughout its time on television. It has also always had a hint of psychological drama, which is really brought to head in season 3. It’s dared to do something unprecedented and opened up a conversation which desperately needs attention.

Star of the show, Rebecca – played by the show’s writer and co-producer, Rachel Bloom – has been diagnosed with a highly stigmatised mental illness called borderline personality disorder. Rebecca’s journey to and beyond diagnosis has been handled with sensitivity and nuance, her hopefulness about being diagnosed and the painful experience of coming to terms with her diagnosis are both shown. Most importantly, the show has humanised people with a disorder which wider society still considers monstrous – something which many viewers across the world feel enormously thankful for.

See our pick of the best music of 2017 here, and the best young adult fiction of 2017 here.

PBG’s Best of 2017: Music

Author:
music4

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

EVERYONE’S ‘best of 2017’ list features Lorde’s stunning sophomore album ‘Melodrama’. As wonderful as that album is, it’s not the only one to be released this year. It’s been a painful year to be a music lover, particularly for rock and alternative fans. Equally, our ears have been blessed with some amazing new sounds – many of which came from women. It’s important that we celebrate that.

Around U, MUNA

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MUNA are a band who will make you feel looked out for, make you believe that there is still good in the world – that there is good in yourself. Their debut album, ‘Around U’, is empowering from start to finish, in both its lyrical content and its dance-pop sounds. There is reflection throughout, both on personal experiences and on the wider world – the latter most present on the single ‘I Know a Place’. It is an album which leaves the band exposed, but strong. It can do the same for listeners, too.

After Laughter, Paramore

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Paramore have been one of the most exciting bands around since they emerged with their debut, ‘All We Know Is Falling’. They’ve evolved thoroughly with each album cycle, so much so that many – particularly in emo and punk scenes – have been quick to say, “they’ve changed”, as if that’s a negative. But if you really listen, it’s all a natural progression – they’ve not forced themselves into any box, and their music is better for it. ‘After Laughter’ is, unquestionably, their strongest album; one which defies categorisation as either pop or rock. Frontwoman Hayley Williams is painfully frank about struggling with mental health throughout the record, something which was immediately startling on the lead single ‘Hard Times’ and it’s opening line – “all that I want is to wake up fine”. However, these songs are dressed up playfully with 80s-influenced synths and bouncy beats, wrapped in spectacularly sing-along worthy choruses. It’s an album you don’t just want to dance to, you have to. It’s a beautiful mix of joyful escapism and a push to confront your own issues. That ‘After Laughter’ can do both at once is truly special.

Rainbow, Kesha

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Kesha’s return to the pop landscape has been, objectively, the best thing to happen in 2017. Lead single ‘Praying’ is beautiful and bold, a battle cry which has resonated with survivors across the globe. If you haven’t spent half the year screaming these lyrics dramatically, or crying as you listen along… good for you, probably. The album is colourful and full of magic, and it is incredibly vulnerable. It’s a love letter to Kesha’s younger self, to all the scared and traumatised people trying and struggling to heal. It’s a reassurance, a promise, and a manifesto.

All We Know Of Heaven / All We Need Of Hell, PVRIS

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PVRIS’ debut album, ‘White Noise’, was equal parts dark and catchy. Their sophomore release, ‘All We Know Of Heaven / All We Need Of Hell’, similarly manages this, and it is stronger in both aspects. It is a weighty album, filled with the emptiness which stems from separation – from lovers, from those around you, and most significantly from yourself. Lynn Gunn’s vocals are haunting, ethereal in tone yet wholly substantial in force. Songs such as opener ‘Heaven’ and ‘No Mercy’ are anthemic and intense, perfect to jump around and mosh to – even in your bedroom. These are impressively slick songs with raw emotion driving them. The themes of Gunn’s lyrics are what connect people so strongly to this band – and the hugeness of PVRIS’ sound ensures that when they’re packing out arenas, undoubtedly rather soon – they’ll be ready to fill that space.

See our pick of the best film and television of 2017 here, and the best young adult fiction of 2017 here.

Why Snape’s character makes me unsurprised about JK Rowling’s defence of Johnny Depp

Author:
johnny

By Pip Williams

Content note: Reference to domestic and sexual violence

Like much of my generation, the Harry Potter books were an intrinsic part of my childhood. The later films mapped alongside my own teenage years, with the final installment coming out the summer I began sixth form. I watched it in the cinema in Tasmania, and distinctly remember the guy in front of me gasping “no f***ing way!” when it was revealed that Harry was the final Horcrux.

It wasn’t until after the franchise reached its natural end (or so I then naïvely believed) that I began to see the gaping holes in my idyllic childhood favourites. Be it the lack of minority representation, or Rowling’s dodgy ret-cons attempting to correct them, there was plenty to raise an eyebrow at.

The one thing I could never get my head around was how Snape was meant to be a hero. How was I meant to buy into that redemption arc, when–despite eventually dying for the cause, Snape was an abusive bully? Snape treated Harry how he did purely because Harry bore a resemblance to his own father, who happened to bully Snape in school. As if being bullied in school is an excuse for becoming such a vile, vindictive adult human being. I don’t know about you, but “wanting to bone my mum so much that he kept on the straight and narrow” isn’t really a substitute for a moral compass.

The fact that Rowling’s story hinges around the dubious redemption of an abuser should perhaps have been a red flag when it came to her personal politics. Self-satisfied centrism notwithstanding. I’m talking about her miserable response to the tidal wave of fans calling for some accountability over the casting of a known abuser in her upcoming film.

Johnny Depp was cast in current Harry Potter universe franchise, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, before ex-wife Amber Heard accused him of domestic abuse, filming a brief cameo for the first film’s climax. Since Heard came forward, the calls for Depp’s role to be recast have been insistent and unwavering. The appeals to Rowling, a producer and screenwriter of the franchise, to explain how on earth his continued presence can be justified, have finally been answered, but not in the way most of us had hoped. Instead, Rowling issued a statement defending Depp’s role in the series.

Rowling’s statement is a sickening indictment of how deeply abuse apologism runs through the fabric of our society. We see one of the world’s most famous authors declaring that she is “genuinely happy” to retain a known abuser in her franchise, and that she believes she is doing “the right thing”. Like director David Yates, who claims Depp is “full of decency and kindness,” and states that allegations against him “[don’t] tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with,” Rowling seems to have mistaken a lack of abusive behaviour in her presence for proof of his innocence. Much like Snape’s questionable character arc, they hold up unrelated qualities as insistence that he was a good guy all along.

We’re not buying it.

The #MeToo movement is toppling the careers of sexually abusive men at every turn. We need to remember that this isn’t the only kind of abuser out there, and hold domestic abusers to the same level of account. Rowling might believe that “conscience isn’t governable by committee,” so it’s up to us to speak a language she and her team might consider worthy – cold hard cash.

I will not be paying to see the next instalment of Fantastic Beasts, and neither should you. It seems incredible that we have to teach the author of a series about love overcoming evil the basics here, but hopefully, if enough disappointed ex-fans boycott the movie, our message will get through.

If Emma Lazarus could have words with Donald Trump

Author:
elport4

By Sofia Heller

Emma Lazarus was a 19th century Jewish American writer whose poem “The New Colossus,” engraved on Lady Liberty’s platform, embraces immigrants as they enter the United States. Though she was from an upper class family, Lazarus defied societal restrictions and norms and dared others to do the same. She confronted sexism, anti-Semitism, and class struggles in her pursuit of a career in writing and activism.

Despite the fact that writing was an uncommon profession for women at the time, Lazarus rose in popularity and success. She took control of her own career, unencumbered by conventional societal ideals. She published her first book of poetry before she turned 18, and then sought out Ralph Waldo Emerson as a mentor.

Lazarus often wrote about issues pertaining to Jewish people: the treatment of Jews in America and the struggle of Jews worldwide. With the vicious onslaught of pogroms throughout Russia, Lazarus saw the influx of Jews immigrating to America.

Since Lazarus’ family had immigrated to America before the Revolutionary War, they were considered to be the refined elite. Typically, upper class American Jews did not regard Jewish immigrants sympathetically. These wealthier Jews were focused on maintaining their high status in society and didn’t want lower class immigrants to weigh them down. However, as in many aspects of her life, Lazarus took an independent approach.

Lazarus volunteered with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and called attention to the immigrants’ struggles. After being asked to write a poem for the plaque on the Statue of Liberty’s platform, Lazarus chose to cement a message of warm welcome to immigrants in “The New Colossus.” Lazarus’ poem resonates today, relaying a crucial message of inclusivity in a time of uncertainty–especially regarding the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

DACA was ushered in by an executive order signed by President Obama in June 2012. It’s a vital protection for people who immigrated to America as children but never gained legal status. The program allows these people –called Dreamers – to stay in the country with a two year renewable visa, and therefore emerge from under the radar without threat of deportation.

Five years later, President Trump has put DACA, an act of basic human compassion, in peril. In September of this year, Trump rescinded the DACA executive order. The deadline for eligible DACA recipients to apply for or renew a visa expired October 5. Now, Congress has six months–until March 5, 2018–to figure out a solution for the policy.

According to CNN, nearly 800,000 people will be forced to uproot their lives if the DACA program is taken away. These Dreamers have grown up only knowing America and its culture. They have gone to school here. They have planted their roots here. DACA gives Dreamers the ability to continue to participate in and positively contribute to American society.

When considering this new threat to DACA, we must remember Lazarus’ relevant lessons.

Lazarus asks us to take responsibility for the wellbeing of all people. She asks us not to turn our backs on immigrants and to remember that, except for indigenous people, all Americans are immigrants. She asks Jews, specifically, to remember their hardships as immigrants. Lazarus asks us to see America as a country that, by nature, embraces immigrants with open arms.

Now more than ever, we must heed Lazarus’ iconic words: “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This content has been provided by the Jewish Women’s Archive

There’s a reason I don’t have 100k for a housing deposit, and it’s not an £832 lottery ticket habit

Author:
fourrowhouses

By Pip Williams

I’m a Millennial, and your out of touch saving plans don’t reflect my lifestyle

Millennials – defined as the generation born between about 1980 and 2000 – are pretty much all adults now. When this September rolls around, the cohort of students hitting British universities will include students born in this millennium. Why is it, then, that adults from the generations before us still feel the need to patronise us with instructions on how to live our lives.

Earlier this week, London newspaper Evening Standard ran a video summarising how an estate agent named Strutt and Parker thinks millennials should change their lifestyle in order to save for a housing deposit. The “luxuries” we should all apparently be eschewing include:

  • A night out once a week, valued at £6000 per annum
  • Takeaways, valued at £2640 per annum
  • Phone upgrades, valued at £154 per annum
  • Lottery tickets, valued at £832 per annum
  • Ready-made salads and sandwiches, valued at £2576 per annum
  • Foreign city breaks, valued at £700 per annum

Vice did a pretty good breakdown of how ridiculous these costs are, but as a 23-year-old student living just outside London, I’d like to give you a rundown of how they compare to my life.

I’m a middle class student who does receive regular financial help from my parents alongside my maintenance loan, so in theory I should be one of the most comfortably off in my bracket. Let me tell you, my life doesn’t come anywhere close to Strutt and Parker’s figures. (For clarity, I’m excluding rent and regular utility payments from my budget calculations.)

Let’s start with that night once a week, apparently valued at £115.38 each time. First up, that alone costs more than my weekly budget. Secondly, I’ll add that I probably go on big nights out in London once a term, because of the cost of drinks. Thirdly, I’ll add that a big night out probably comes in at around a third of that cost for me – say £10 on travel and £30 maximum on club entries and drinks. If I got home and found myself over £100 out of pocket, I’d be furious and distraught. Anyone imagining that I’m doing that once a month, let alone once a week, must be sorely mistaken!

Now onto those pesky takeaways. £50.77 a week, is it? Coming in at over half my weekly budget, this figure feels similarly out of touch. My local takeaway’s minimum delivery is £16, and I usually struggle to make it up to that even ordering for myself and a housemate. Assuming that we split that cost between two of us, that’s £8 each. How often do we do that? Maybe once a month. We’re spending in a year what Strutt and Parker reckons we spend in 2 weeks.

I don’t have much to say about phone upgrades. I upgrade every 2 years and I’m on a fixed tariff contract so the price doesn’t change. Cutting out the upgrades would make my contract a little cheaper, sure, but it would also mean my phone would be pretty obsolete within a couple of years. Considering I’m in a long-distance relationship and don’t live near many of my friends, I’m labeling that one a necessary expense (for myself, at any rate).

To me, the estimated lottery ticket spending is the most absurd figure. I’m apparently meant to be spending 2 months-worth of my yearly budget on lottery tickets!? I don’t know anyone under the age of 60 who buys lottery tickets, let alone spends SIXTEEN BRITISH POUNDS A WEEK ON THEM.

Hang in there, we’re almost done. Just two more ridiculous claims to debunk. Apparently millenials are spending £49.36 a WEEK on ready-made sandwiches and salads. In my uni café, sandwiches cost about £2.50. Assuming I was buying lunch there every weekday, I’d be spending £12.50 a week. Even if I decided to splash out and go elsewhere for a bougie lil Pret flatbread every day, that would still only cost about £25 a week. As Joel Golby points out in the Vice piece, “the ingredients for sandwiches are not, despite your calculations, free, and once you’ve actually spent money on, say, bread and ham and cheese, you’re not actually vastly up on money you would have spent on just buying one at a shop anyway.

He makes a fair point. I usually do make my sandwiches at home, and I spend about £5 a week on the ingredients I need to do so. Subtract that cost from the £12.50 I could be spending on sandwiches in uni, and I’m saving a princely £7.50 a week. That does add up, I suppose, to £390 a year, but it’s still a far cry from Strutt and Parker’s calculation of £2576.

Onto the final point: foreign city breaks. This is something I do do when I have the time and money (so once a year, if I’m lucky). In the past two years, I have been to Budapest for four days and Berlin for six days. All expenses included – flights, accommodation, food, and spending money – Budapest cost me under £200. Berlin was more expensive, and I had a lot of financially-associated regrets as a result, but it was still under £400 in total. In two years, I still spent less than half of what Strutt and Parker would have expected me to. Holidays may be a luxury, but they’re something we all need from time to time, and cutting them out can have an extremely detrimental effect on our mental health. As Golby says, “I might have a house by the end of it, but I’ll also have a death wish.”

So, there we go. In overview, Strutt and Parker reckon their tips will save you £12902 a year. To put that in context, that’s almost double the disposable cash I have in that period. This is cash I need to feed myself, to buy clothes, to travel to see my girlfriend and my family, to buy cat litter.

The people telling millennials how to save are so devastatingly out of touch with the realities of our lives that their tips are utterly obsolete. There’s a reason we don’t have £100k for a housing deposit, and let me tell you, it’s not an £832 lottery ticket habit.

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