Why My Favorite 00’s Shows Are Crap

From the time Jake and I started dating, I knew that we would always have some interests we just don’t share. Jake listens to political podcasts throughout the day. I love reading so much that I have an audiobook playing in my earbuds nearly constantly. He likes to work outside. I like to do crafts. He likes playing video games. I like watching the nostalgic TV shows of my youth… which are objectively bad. For example…

Roswell

1999’s Roswell tells the story of Liz, a high school sophomore who works at the alien themed restaurant her parents own in Roswell, New Mexico, alongside her best friend Maria. In episode one, Liz’s and Maria’s lives are forever changed when Liz is shot and healed by Max, a 16-year-old alien played by 26-year-old Jason Behr. Seriously, if y’all thought Riverdale was bad, just check out some of these early 00’s shows.

Everyone complains about unrealistic physical standards for teenage girls, but this was what they told us high school sophomore boys should look like in the year 2000.

I’ll only briefly mention Roswell’s primary lovers, Max and Liz, the16-year-old “soulmates,” when discussing it’s greatest transgressions. Today, media seems to understand that most teenagers are too young to make lifelong commitments to one another, particularly when the basis of their relationship is life-threatening drama. While half of us in the South might still be divorced by 25, the cinematic era of Noah and Ally has mostly passed. However, in the year 2000, it was just beginning and Max and Liz were pretty standard representatives. Also not entirely unique, the level of romance from Max defined unattainable as he literally risked his life for Liz on loop, professed his undying love in flowery, swoon-worthy language, and even refused to accept her rejection of him, because he knew she loved him. What can I say? We all thought low-level stalking was hot in the early 00s.

It was Maria and Michael who fans insisted provided the most realistic depiction of high school dating. If that’s true, millennials all needed massive amounts of therapy. Only recently have I noticed how absolutely horrible this 22-year-old teenage boy is to his romantic interest. Maria repeatedly risks her car, her relationship with her mother, her job, her academic standing, and her heart for Michael and he walks all over her. Nearly every episode features Michael telling Maria that he doesn’t care about her or their relationship, as she begs for his affection and support for the first two seasons. Only in the final season does Michael gain any modicum of decency as a boyfriend and Maria isn’t the only one who thinks it’s too little too late. Of all the criticisms I’ve seen of unhealthy romance in young adult media, I honestly think this one is the worst depictions.

As much as I adore Roswell, despite it’s damaging relationships, I must admit that the real failing is in the terribly inconsistent and indecisive writing. First and foremost, there’s a confusing amount of longingly staring through windows for a show with a “they’re among us” primary plot… as in so much that you’re not really sure if you’re watching a science fiction show at all, sometimes. Additionally, there’s definitely an element of “Where are their parents?!?!”, specifically with Max and Isabel, who play siblings who were adopted by the perfect upper-middle class family and Liz, whose parents own and literally live in the restaurant that serves as their hangout. These teenagers take off for days and even weeks at a time, with little to no explanation, and no one notices. While there is a weak effort to address this by assigning Maria a free-spirited former teen mother who somewhat “gets” her daughter’s behavior and Michael being an emancipated minor, parents in Roswell only really exist to further the storyline. I cannot understand why these shows still star teenage characters. Why not tell the same story starring characters the age of the actors portraying them, in their late teens and early twenties? They’d still be relatable, but the parents that are so lazily written out would no longer be an obstacle.

There’s also the origins and powers of the aliens to address. Historically, the alleged spaceship crash occurred in 1947, which Roswell acknowledges by stating that the four aliens were incubated in a form of cocoon for 42 years before emerging as six-year-olds, who were discovered walking naked and alone in the dessert. It’s quickly noted, though, as a major and recurring plot point, that the aliens don’t have human blood and any sampling of their DNA risks exposure. I’m not a social worker, but I’m pretty sure any child found abandoned in the dessert is undergoing extensive medical testing to verify health and potentially track down parents. Yet Max, Isabel, and Michael have gone ten years without a single blood draw.

As for their powers, it’s explained that the aliens can “manipulate molecular structures.” Well, isn’t that… insanely broad. Despite these seemingly limitless powers, we see the aliens struggle constantly, even declaring that they don’t all have certain abilities, such as healing wounds, which would fall decidedly under manipulating molecular structures. Ultimately, it’s revealed that the aliens are actually alien/human hybrids who have been engineered to use the full capacity of the human brain and that that’s where the powers originate. I’ll ignore the flawed science there and note that later in the show, we find out that with the help of a mysterious structure called the Granolith, the aliens can actually time travel or even return to their home planet where even humans can apparently survive just fine. The scope of these alien powers fluctuates endlessly throughout the show, with some new ones developing while old ones are simultaneously forgotten. For example, two characters rob a store without bothering to change anything about their appearance, which would not only fall under manipulation of molecular structures, but also buying a wig.

Overall, the plots of Roswell are just inconsistent and baffling, with the local police acting as the first enemy, before the sheriff joins the team when the FBI becomes the primary enemy until they… just lose interest? The main villain then shifts to an alien race serving the ruler of the alien’s home planet, who they defeat… with essentially no trouble at all.

A major and unresolved plot point occurs in season two, when Liz finds out from Future Max that she must end her relationship with him before Tess leaves, leading to the destruction of the world in 2014, Liz feigns cheating to turn Max away from her… even though Tess ultimately leaves anyway, pregnant with his child, after she betrays the group and the world is… fine. Perhaps the enemies Tess helped kill so easily were the only real threat and simply took their sweet time attacking over the course of 14 years.

In season three, with other aliens as a whole conveniently a threat of the past, Max searches for a way to retrieve his son and faces a much less impressive variety of villains, such as an old lady who wants him to heal her husband, municipal law enforcement, and eventually the FBI, a seemingly far less threatening force at this point in the show.

Roswell is just generally all over the place, fraught with manufactured and often inconclusive drama, starring actors who are of a completely inappropriate age for the roles they play… and I love it. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen this show, but maintain every confidence that the number will triple over the course of my life. I know it’s crap and I just don’t care. Thirty-four-year old Belle might not obsess over this show as much as 12-year-old Belle did, but it will forever maintain a place in my heart as one of the only real bits of solace I had during middle school.

Gilmore Girls

1999, what a time to be alive. Gilmore Girls also premiered the year I started the sixth grade and quickly became one of my mother’s and my favorite shows. Lorelai Gilmore was the star of this dramedy about a mother who had her 16-year-old daughter, Rory, when she, herself, was 16. As the only child of an upper-middle class family, Lorelai felt stifled and railroaded toward a life she didn’t want. To gain her independence, she ran away to a small, quirky Connecticut village, taking her one-year-old daughter with her, maintaining as little contact as possible with her parents. That is, until the pilot episode, when she needs money for Rory’s tuition to attend a prestigious private school. Antics and tantrums ensue.

This show has a cult-like following and I’m not gonna mince words here… it is toxic as fuck. Not even in my Roswellian obsessed middle school days have I ever been as aggressive in my love of fiction. So, while I once thought it would be fun to participate in this surprisingly active fandom…

… I no longer do.

My inclusion of Gilmore Girls on this list would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how poorly it’s aged, from the occasionally homophobic and fat-shaming humor to the “Not Like Other Girls” stereotype. While other girls starved themselves to fit into skimpy tops, listened to Avril Levigne, and obsessed over romantic comedies, Lorelai and Rory ate junk food, wore quirky but trendy outfits, listened to The Bangles, and watched classics like The Godfather. While this garners criticism from newer fans, it’s important to consider what it was like to actually be a young woman in the early 2000’s. It sucked. There was a much more particular mold that women were expected to fit. They were supposed to be blonde, overly tanned, scantily clad, adorably stupid, and very hungry. Watching fair-skinned brunettes wear tasteful but fashionable clothing, discuss classic literature alongside obscure pop culture, and eat whatever they wanted actually was progressive in a time when Abercrombie & Fitch literally sold clothing through nudity.

Another modern critique of Gilmore Girls is Rory’s love interests, particularly Dean, her first boyfriend, who is universally loathed by new fans. In the year 1999, though, Dean was the perfect boyfriend, according to the creators of the show. He was handsome in that Classic White Boy way, understood Rory’s humor and intellect, was protective and attentive, and absolutely adored her. Today, Dean doesn’t quite hold up. What was considered protective 20 years ago, now comes across as controlling, while attentive and adoring is easily interpreted as domineering and obsessive. Even Rory’s second boyfriend, Jess, who embodied the Broody Bad Boy stereotype is often seen as abusive, because we just had much lower standards back then. In fact, many fans hate all of Rory’s love interests, including the Old Money Charmer, who I personally still adore, because what’s not to love about money and charm? What can I say? We were all a little broken in the early 00s and had whopping consent issues.

All in all, I think the above criticisms are valid, though often taken far too seriously by newer fans for a twenty-year-old WB dramedy. Gilmore Girls was never intended to be looked at through a 2022 microscope. Emily Gilmore wasn’t written as a thinly veiled version of The Grandmother from Flowers in the Attic. Lorelai wasn’t the star of Netflix’s The Maid. Rory wasn’t Anna Karenina, though it is a bit prophetic that she claims this was her favorite novel. No, this show was simply meant to be cozy fun and that’s how I choose to take it… despite it’s other issues, because aging isn’t the reason I include Gilmore Girls on a list I’ve labeled as “crap.” No, it’s earned this title from me for the glaring writing flaws. While Gilmore Girls has an undeniably cozy and charming aesthetic, it is honestly one of the most inconsistently written shows I have ever watched. From major plot points to characterization, it’s obvious that the writers of this series were just flying by the seat of their pants for the full seven seasons.

I’ll start with money, which most TV shows address poorly. In Gilmore Girls, however, money is central to the plot of the show, as Lorelai has eschewed her parents’ privileged lifestyle to raise her daughter as a single mom… where she owns her own home in a town that would have exorbitant property taxes for all the festivals it holds. Additionally, Lorelai simply doesn’t live her life as a single mom, ordering take-out nightly, taking impromptu road trips, and going on wild shopping sprees. Only when it’s plot-relevant is Lorelai impeded by her finances, such as when she needs tuition for Rory or her house has a termite problem. Throughout the rest of the series, she has plenty of money for All the Things, despite the entire premise of the show being her escape from wealth and her insistence on being a strong, independent, single mom.

I’m not sure if I’d consider characterization inconsistencies a secondary issue, simply because they’re so egregious in Gilmore Girls. In the beginning of the show, we’re introduced to Dean, the smart, witty new boy in town, who understands all of Rory’s obscure references, enjoys her books, and can build a car… who by season three isn’t sure if he can get into junior college. Lorelai’s eventual love interest, Luke, goes from the title of casual acquaintance in season one to Rory’s lifelong father figure by season six. He starts out as a health nut and an avid fisherman, who hates red meat, but eventually claims he’s disgusted by vegan food and has never had lobster. Lorelai opens the show having spent the last 16 years doing everything she could to be a different kind of mother than Emily, but cuts Rory out of her life completely when she decides to take a semester off from college. Luke’s sister and Jess’s mother is described as a neglectful addict in the beginning of the series, but is later portrayed as just a quirky flake who loves her son. Even Sookie begins the show as the klutzy chef, but seems to get her bearings by the end of the first season, because she never struggles with her recurring injuries again.

It’s not just money and character inconsistencies that plague Gilmore Girls, but entire plot points that are just… dropped, such as when Rory joins a sorority at school and it’s never again mentioned. When Lorelai discovers that her boyfriend is suing her father, it’s a big enough deal to end the relationship, but we never hear about it again. An entire episode centers around Jess visiting his dad in California, but after the proposed spinoff is ultimately nixed, we never get a resolution to that incredibly dull storyline we had to endure. Jackson takes on Taylor to become town selectman, wins, and Taylor has the title again after just a few episodes. When Rory takes time off from Yale and is magically able to graduate on time, she demands and receives a writing job at the Stamford-Eagle Gazette and never again mentions it.

Beyond the financial, character, and plot inconsistencies, Gilmore Girls is a cozy story starring some pretty crummy people. Emily gets all the grief from modern fans and she certainly has her flaws, but Lorelai isn’t exactly a better human. Her relationship with Rory is arguably no greater than Emily’s with Lorelai, as she fosters extreme co-dependency and refuses to act as the adult in the relationship. Furthermore, despite constantly complaining about her mother’s controlling and manipulative nature, she spends most of a season refusing to speak to her daughter, even to share her engagement with her, because Rory hasn’t made the exact choices in life Lorelai wanted. Rory, who starts off a little sassy and very driven, goes on to cheat on or with every boyfriend she ever has and ultimately defines entitlement. And yet… I fully intend to start another rewatch this fall, as I cozy up and enjoy the fake fall leaves of Calif-Connecticut. For all its flaws, there’s just something about Gilmore Girls that keeps me coming back, be it the aesthetic or the What Not to Do guide to motherhood.

Smallville

Smallville first aired when I was 14, just one year younger than Clark Kent, high school freshman.

Had anyone working for the WB ever actually met a teenager?

Smallville had a pretty simple premise, as a Superman origin story focusing on Clark Kent’s teenage years. As in all Superman renditions, Clark is written as a gawky, awkward teenage boy, who lives and works on his parents’ Kansas farm. Unique to Smallville, however, Clark is played by a literal construction worker/male model, making this description less than believable. While his co-stars are standard fare for the early 00’s WB, meaning far too attractive and stylish, they’re also more appropriately cast for their roles. Simply put, while his classmates walk the halls of Smallville High looking like Seventeen magazine models, Clark Kent looks more like a substitute teacher or the foreman of a construction crew.

Jake and I have actually been making our way through Smallville since the summer of 2020 and it’s been a fun, if absurd, ride. Even for a superhero show, Smallville, while entertaining, is nonsensical in basically every way, such as overall characterization, the teen romances, Clark maintaining his Secret, and everything about the properties of WB kryptonite.

The characters of Smallville aren’t particularly distinctive for an early 00s teen show, initially comprised of beautiful, stylish teens who are, for some reason, considered unpopular. Clark begins his freshman year alongside friends, Chloe and Pete. Chloe is obviously Smallville’s resident Lois Lane until the creators decide to write in the actual Lois Lane in season four. She’s passionate about journalism to the point that she will destroy every relationship she has to get a story for the high school paper, The Torch, over which she seems to have absolute control. It makes perfect sense that Chloe would be in charge of the school paper, though, because she has a ridiculous number of vague professional connections, including someone at the medical examiner’s office, the mental institution, and multiple sources at the Daily Planet. It helps that she has advanced computer programming skills and can hack into literally any database without getting caught, at the age of 15. For the first three seasons, Chloe is in love with Clark, because that’s why female side characters existed in the early 00s. By far her most annoying trait, however, is her complete inability to speak in normal human sentences. Literally every line she has is such an overblown attempt to sound clever that you wonder if she’s ever actually heard people talk.

  • “Your online horoscope suggests that you try not to flaunt your excitement which I know will be hard since you’ve been waiting for this date since, like your first growth spurt.”
  • “Clark Kent at the keyboard? Have I been downsized in the bureaucratic world of superheroes?”
  • “Canary, you are caught in a virtual cage and you don’t even know it, but I can help you fly the coop.”

This goes on for entire episodes. As for Pete, it’s been 20 years and he did not age well. While Chloe eventually has an entire in-depth backstory, having little to do with Clark, Pete’s character revolves solely around protecting Clark’s secret… even though he sucks at it, taking every chance and excuse he gets to try to out Clark. Regardless, it’s not a good look in 2022 to have such a cliché Token Black Character as Pete Ross. Considering other POC characters, such as Jesse from Roswell, Lane from Gilmore Girls, Skills from One Tree Hill, and Gunn from Angel, it wasn’t a great look for 2001, either.

A Superman origin story would be incomplete without Lex Luthor, of course, and Michael Rosenbaum is still considered by many to have portrayed him best of all. Smallville didn’t only present a young, handsome, successful Lex Luthor, but a sympathetic one. Lex starts out as a something of a local benefactor, befriending Clark, his family, and even his friends out of genuine kindness and interest, despite their continual distrust in him because of his father, the initial villain of the story. At times, it comes off as creepy that he’s 26 and hanging out with a bunch of teenagers, but it wasn’t intended as such when the show was written. Over the seasons, Lex starts to feel hurt, then angry, and even betrayed by Clark for refusing to confide in him and the two have a falling out amidst Lex’s gradual rise to arch-nemesis. If there is any reason to watch this campy show, it is Lex Luthor’s descent into madness and, for a teen show, the WB does not disappoint in how very evil he becomes, from trying to kill Johnathan Kent, to essentially having groomed Lana to be his lover, to committing war crimes.

Finally, there are Clark’s love interests, Lana and then Lois. Lana is Clark’s first love in Smallville and she is absolutely insufferable. I’ll give this show credit for the fact that the majority of the relationships are relatively healthy… except for Clark and Lana who spend far more time having angsty conversations about why they can’t be together than they ever actually spend together. This is primarily because Lana demands that Clark share all of his secrets with her from the very beginning, eventually even teaming up with Lex to investigate him, despite being quite secretive herself. As the show goes on, Lana gets progressively worse, as do the storylines surrounding her, from her sleeping with a teacher, to becoming a witch, to hooking up with Lex. Despite the writers’ insistence that she’s a deep, interesting, sympathetic character, she’s continually proven to be quite the opposite as the show goes on, eventually going toe-to-toe with Lex in corruption.

On the bright side, though Lois definitely fits the Mysterious Gorgeous Bitch trope of the early 00s, when compared to Lana, she’s America’s sweetheart. Lois isn’t a bad character, so much as she’s a bit too abrasive for the iconic role. In the early 00s, strong women were often written as physically beautiful, but closed-off and overtly rude. This is definitely on display in Smallville as Lois repeatedly mocks and insults Clark, despite his and his family’s every kindness. The animosity doesn’t destroy the chemistry between the two, but it’s also never been the case for Lois in any other version of Superman, to be this hateful to Clark, when she just considered Clark to be somewhat dorky, at worst.

Perhaps one of the biggest failings of the writing in Smallville is around Clark’s “secret.” I use quotes, because eventually everyone in Clark’s life knows about his powers, and if they don’t, they should, because he uses them in public constantly. In nearly every episode of this show, there’s a scene where Clark uses his super speed on a public street, yet when his cousin Kara does the same, he throws a tantrum about the importance of subtlety. The only characters kept in the dark for any real length of time are Lana, Lex, and Lois, solely for purposes of plot and overwrought drama. Even guest stars are frequently let in on this secret that isn’t, to the point that there is just no way that it’s not public knowledge by the end of season three.

Finally, the biggest flaw in Smallville: Kryptonite. It’s comic book canon that Kryptonite comes in multiple forms and Clark is impacted in a variety of ways. The problem is that there’s so much Kryptonite in Smallville and it’s affects vary so wildly. For the first several seasons, this show is pretty Monster of the Week with a new kid at school developing miraculous powers that are usually only dangerous because they’re being used in the wrong way. There are two students who can control bugs, one who can turn people into mannequins, another who can freeze people, a young Amy Adams who can suck the fat out of people until they die, several with various forms of telekinesis, a reporter who can turn into water, a few different seductresses… and the list continues. For some reason, however, the Luthors are the only individuals in the world who are interested in studying and experimenting with this magic rock, even though it’s all over town. You’d think that would pose a problem for Clark. Well, sometimes it does… and a lot of times it doesn’t, like when he can’t see it’s in the same room with him yet, while other times, it’s just too hard to roll away from it. Different kinds of Kryptonite require different levels of exposure too, as red Kryptonite appears to be topical, while silver has to be embedded in the skin. The aliens of Roswell have more consistent powers than Clark’s and everyone else’s response to Kryptonite. It’s just a persistent and glaring plot hole in every other episode.

Despite all these issues, Smallville seems to have been the beginning of the the current superhero TV saga and, as consistently ridiculous as it is, there’s something comforting about its camp. Like many shows of the time, it of course ran for far too long, so it may be another two years before Jake and I finish it, but we have both enjoyed it, even if it’s half in mockery.

One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill started my sophomore year of high school and ended my first year of grad school. It told the story of two brothers in their junior year, who shared only a father, Dan. Lucas, was raised by his father’s high school sweetheart, Karen, who he abandoned when he discovered she was pregnant, and his brother Keith. Dan immediately impregnated another woman, Deb, who came from money and could help him become the wealthy businessman he was in the show. Naturally, he married Deb and raised his second son, Nathan while neglecting Lucas. The two grew up as rivals in the town of Tree Hill, only for their relationship to come to a head when they found themselves on the same high school basketball team.

Y’all, the only thing I hated more than sports in high school were the popular kids who bullied me. I have no idea why I enjoyed this show. I think I felt some kinship toward Haley, Luke’s nerdy best friend, though she was far more poised and adorable than I have ever been. Perhaps it was just the depiction of the outcasts becoming accepted that I enjoyed, because in One Tree Hill, even the losers were eventually included to some degree. There was also the romantic element, which received far more screen time than the basketball plot, since everyone slept with everyone in this incestuous little town. I was particularly invested in the love story of Nathan and Haley, who married and had a baby as teenagers, the pinnacle of early 00’s Don’t Try This At Home teenage girl fantasies. Despite my enduring affection for this terrible show, basically every single thing about it is beyond problematic.

I’ve mentioned the relationships of both Roswell and Gilmore Girls, intentionally avoiding the word “toxic,” as I consider it hyperbolic and overused… unless one is describing the Gilmore Girls fandom. That being said, basically every relationship in One Tree Hill, outside of Nathan’s and Haley’s could only be described as toxic. Lucas opens the show utterly obsessed with Peyton, Nathan’s girlfriend and the absolute embodiment of the Mysterious Gorgeous Bitch trope. In Peyton’s case, the mystery for her atrocious personality was the fact that her mother had died while she was young, her father worked out of town, and her boyfriend was absolutely horrible to her. She wasn’t alone in this title, however. Nope. That moniker was shared with Lucas’s other romantic partner, Brooke, Peyton’s best friend.

This is what teenage girls were supposed to look like in 2004.

Throughout several seasons of the show, Lucas plays Peyton and Brooke off of one-another, frequently cheating on Brooke with Peyton, yet never concerned with the fact that he and his brother are wiener buddies twice over… because the teenagers in this town are apparently in the porn industry. Literally every relationship depicted in this show is horribly unhealthy and sets a terrible example for teenage girls. Even Nathan and Haley are only a dim light in the dark when she kisses another guy before going on tour with him. Yes, Haley goes on tour, because aside from the toxic relationships, the plot points in this show are ludicrous.

It’s been awhile since my last rewatch of One Tree Hill, but I do recall that over the course of this show, the following storylines take place:

  • Nathan becomes an emancipated minor to escape his insane parents and marries Haley at 16.
  • Haley leaves Nathan to go on tour with Chris Keller, played by up-and-coming singer Tyler Hilton, who played Elvis in Walk the Line, but otherwise never made it.
  • Bullied teen, Jimmy, from the first few episodes brings a gun to school and holds a classroom full of students hostage, eventually shooting himself alone in a hall with Dan and Keith. Dan takes advantage of the opportunity to shoot his brother and blames Jimmy.
  • Peyton meets the brother she’s never heard of, but discovers he’s really an obsessed stalker who wants to rape her.
  • Nathan gets involved with small town gangsters who are really into betting on high school basketball (is that even a thing?) and gets caught throwing games.
  • Haley gets pregnant and intends to renew her vows with Nathan, but gets in a car accident on the way and nearly dies.
  • A witness comes forward and puts Dan in prison for the murder of Keith.
  • Four years pass and we find Nathan in a wheelchair after getting in a fight at a bar and ruining his chances at playing professional basketball for a team that just signed him.
  • Nathan and Haley’s crazy nanny tries to seduce Nathan and takes Dan hostage, posing as a nurse.

I’ll stop there, even though there are way more ridiculous plot points to note, because I want to mention one of the biggest issues that makes this show complete trash, and that is the insane level of success that every single character reaches after college. While the first four seasons of One Tree Hill tell the story of the characters’ junior and senior year of high school, even writers for the WB/CW seemed to realize that these actors were just getting too old for these roles. So, instead of writing a story where everyone went to college together, they chose to skip ahead four years to age 22, when everyone has their shit together.

I don’t know where you folks were at 22, but I was married to a psychopath and substitute teaching while working at a rec center for minimum wage, driving around with my valuables in my trunk so my ex wouldn’t pawn them. I certainly wasn’t married to an almost professional basketball player, down on his luck but still rolling in it from his sign-on deal, raising an adorable four-year-old, and reaching troubled teens with my love of literature. I knew zero published authors working as a high school basketball coach for their love of the game. I also didn’t have any friends who’d started luxury clothing lines or become successful sportscasters. I certainly didn’t know any 22-year-old record producers/club owners the year I graduated college. I’d buy the plot point that a stoner’s dog ate Dan’s heart before I’d buy that anyone is that successful right out of college…

No really, I’m not making this up.

… and still, I find myself trying to figure out if I can finish Roswell in time to start One Tree Hill with enough time to start Gilmore Girls in the fall, while Jake and I continue to truck along on Smallville, because there’s just something so comforting about the shows I watched as a teenager, no matter how ridiculous. Perhaps it’s the stress of soaring gas prices and inflation and the threat of a world war that leads me to seek solace in pure nostalgia. Perhaps I just take comfort in the fact that Jake will never impregnate my alien rival… I’ll never not know who the father of my baby is… my former best friend won’t attempt to assassinate my father… and a dog will probably never eat my heart… but what can I say? When it comes to 00s shows, I just have terrible taste.

The Worst Witch: Free on YouTube and Worth Every Penny

When I was little, the 1986 film The Worst Witch was one of my favorite Halloween movies. I could never catch it when it was on TV, though, and eventually forgot all about it, replacing it with cinematic classics such as Halloweentown and Twitches, both of which could probably win Oscars when compared with the former. Several years ago, I remembered this old favorite of mine, bought it on DVD, and now watch it a weird number of times throughout the month of October… and sometimes, like… March. My husband must occasionally wonder if he did, in fact, marry an awkward, chubby, 12-year-old, as he comes in the living room to see me singing along to this terrible children’s movie, eating “candy salad” from a ramakin.

While Netflix has recently produced a much more polished version of The Worst Witch, based on the 1970’s book series, in a multi-season TV show, there’s something about Tim Curry passionately singing “Has anyone seen my tambourine?” that can’t be beat. Don’t you worry, though! You don’t have to buy this gem on Amazon. It’s free on YouTube, in its entirety, and it is worth every penny. Here are my thoughts, 25 years after my first magical viewing.

Why does Mildred get all of the blame when she and Maud make the wrong potion? Maud was the one caught trying to sneak her spell book in, so she could cheat. Both girls were equally cavalier about the amount of each ingredient used. Why was Mildred the only one sent to Miss Cackle’s office?

As a kid, I really empathized with Mildred, but as an adult, I realize she’s kind of a mess. She insists that she tries and can’t help the fact that things always go wrong, but she also admits to blatantly ignoring simple instructions, like gathering pondweed at midnight. How hard is it to read a clock, Mildred? These problems are of your own making…

… and yet, nothing excuses an educator speaking to a student like this: “Oh dear, Mildred. Oh Mildred, oh dear. You must be the worst witch in the entire school.”

Seriously?!?! She’s twelve. The conversation even ends with a playful “Was I nasty enough for you?” You mean when you told her that she ranked last in the whole school, because she made a potion incorrectly? How much room for error is allowed? Is not the punishment for failing a test a bad grade? This wasn’t even supposed to be the cruel teacher! Speaking of which…

… when Mildred and Maud are gossiping about Miss Hardbroom and she appears in their room to yell at only Mildred, did she curse her name like Lord Voldemort or is she always watching this child? That’s disturbing and I don’t think she should be allowed within 300 yards of a school.

I understand that the girls are awarded their cats in order of excellence, meaning the lowest performers get their cats last, but they still get cats. I don’t actually think this is a bad system. We coddle weakness too much, today. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding high performers. That being said, who was in charge of procuring the cats and why couldn’t they find enough black ones? Black kittens are literally some of the easiest to find, because they’re the least popular. Even if they couldn’t find a black cat for the lowest performer, why couldn’t they change the color in a world where humans can be turned into animals?

Ethel Hallow is one of the villains of this story. She’s a bully and deserves the criticism she gets for it. That being said, much of Mildred’s distaste for her is voiced in regards to her successes, getting upset at how often she does well in class or is chosen first for games. “Just like her to be the first one to get her kitten to ride.” Well, Mildred, if you actually made the effort you keep claiming you’re making in a high-pitched whine, perhaps you’d be more successful in school, too.

These villains are fabulous. I love that they plot their evil moves in song and dance, while wearing multi-colored robes, that match their hair. Once again, I am Team Villain.

Miss Hardbroom is clearly the Severus Snape of this tale and just like Snape, she never redeems herself.
“Ethel Hallow shows promise, Mildred Hubble, anything but. Mark my words, Mildred Hubble will never graduate as a witch from this academy!”
“That’s very good. Who’s that? Oh. Mildred Hubble. Four.”
What are the professional standards for educators in the wizarding world?!?! What does the interview process look like? Do they require teachers to hold vendettas against their least favorite students? Just as the Dursley’s made me cautious of British CPS, this school needs some serious oversight. Why doesn’t Miss Cackle take this awful woman down a peg and remind her that her role is to support Mildred and build her up? Then again, why didn’t Dumbledore intervene in Snape’s abuse?

How did Mildred think ketchup was blood? She might not be the worst witch, but she also might be the dumbest.

Mildred didn’t just scream in terror at the sight of ketchup, she screamed literally 21 times when Ethel came out of the bathroom wearing a mask. Why do these witches scare more easily than humans?

Why wasn’t Mildred suspicious of Ethel for being so generous as to loan her a broom? I kind of want to put another check in the dumbest witch column, especially with the pointed and sinister comment “It’ll take very good care of you”. It wasn’t just Mildred, though. No one raised a brow to the school bully loaning a costly piece of equipment to the spaz who bested her in front of the whole school. Now that I mention it, are there not school brooms? My schools always had optional communal equipment, even if it wasn’t as high of quality as something you might buy personally. Hogwarts had school brooms and I have a hard time believing that an almost 400 years old international academy for witches wouldn’t. Is there a school-wide conspiracy to humiliate Mildred?

Why do these girls want huge, sexy noses if no one else in their world has them? This seems like an offensive stereotype of witches, when even the young and attractive ones, like Miss Spellbinder and Miss Cackle’s niece, Donna, don’t have them.

What fucking crossroads demon did Tim Curry make a bargain with and how many years are left in his deal? This man is a household name and has starred, almost exclusively, in movies that can only be described as fabulously terrible. You have not lived until you see Tim Curry’s disturbingly sensual music video cutaway from The Worst Witch, as he flies around in a cape singing about how gremlins are going to mess up every cassette from London to Idaho.

“Oh Miss Hardbroom, your girls? … I love it, Miss Hardroom. Let’s get this show on the road.” I want to give the writers the benefit of the doubt, here, and assume they were going for flirty towards Miss Hardbroom, a consenting adult, but the Grand Wizard might be a sex trafficker.

“I was a fool to trust you! You abominable child, Mildred! Get out of my sight!”
“Go to bed without supper and I’ll see you in my office, tomorrow at noon.”
“If these are the witches of the future, I hate to think what the future will bring. What is this generation coming to? I’ve got to split. I’ve got another gig.”

It was a performance put on by children. It’s like a flashback to my years of softball… and basketball… and volleyball… and just gym class.

Why does “turn these witches into snails” turn witches in to snails, but “Ethel Hallow is now a frog” turns Ethel Hallow into a pig? Why does no one believe the former, when they saw the latter? I don’t understand the rules of magic in this world.

Why would Ethel confess to Maud, Mildred’s best friend, that she bewitched her broom, humiliating not just Mildred, but the entire school, in front of their Celebrity Rockstar King? Furthermore, why wasn’t she expelled for this, when Mildred is repeatedly threatened with expulsion for innocuous mistakes? Are there actual guidelines for expulsion or is this just the 80s?

“Once in a purple moon, there is a special young witch, who shines above the rest. Often, she goes unnoticed, because she’s out of step. I have seen this girl trying to fly. Oh, yes, I have. I’ve watched her at play and seen how her friends treated her. The best witch isn’t always the girl who comes out on top of tests. A true witch has witchcraft in her at all times… and this is what you have, Mildred Hubble.”

I… I don’t even know where to begin, folks. First of all, these are bold words from a man who cut his visit short, blowing off a feast that was prepared for him and dismissing an entire generation, because a child made a mistake in what amounted to a school play. Second, on what is he basing his praise of Mildred? He’s never even met her, which brings me to my third point. When was he watching her?!?! The Grand Wizard visits for the first time on Halloween night, but he’s “watched her at play and seen how her friends treat her”? I once had a man show up on my doorstep in a hoodie at 9:00 at night and tell me that he was a Mormon and wanted to come inside and speak to me about Jesus Christ… and I didn’t piece together the fact that that probably wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up for years. Y’all, even I could tell that the Grand Wizard is 100% buying children.

“Now, Mildred, have you made any plans for this unexpected holiday?”
“No, Grand Wizard. I suppose I’d better practice my flying.”
“Would you like to practice with me?”
“With you?!?”
“Oh, absolutely.” ::he said seductively::

The Worst Witch, y’all.12/10… would absolutely recommend.

Concise Reviews of Mostly Dated Shows I Watched or Rewatched During the Pandemic in 250 Words or Less

I, like everyone else, was determined to be productive when Covid-19 hit my country and the lockdown was implemented, in various stages. I was going to do yoga and all sorts of crafts and read all the books and workout and write and, and, and…

I did do some of those things. I walked a lot and on those walks, I listened to audiobooks. I hand-painted a cartoon portrait of my dogs in a bathtub. I painted and decorated the hall bathroom. I… bought a yoga mat and blocks. Mostly… I watched a lot of TV shows, old and new, good and bad. Here are my thoughts, limited to very mild spoilers only.

Lizzie McGuire: I loved this show as a young teen. It was less about relating to Lizzie, herself, and more about wishing I could relate to her very wholesome experiences, at school and at home. As an adult, I realize that this was a pretty sugarcoated version of the middle school years, though, and I’m thrilled that the reboot fell through. Duff wanted an “honest” depiction of life in your 30’s, claiming that the original show portrayed an honest depiction of middle school and I call shenanigans on that. Not once did one of Lizzie’s classmates fear pregnancy, because she swallowed after her first blowie… and that’s a big part of the appeal for me. Even today, I retroactively envy Lizzie’s home life, with her supportive parents and annoying, poorly disciplined little brother. It’s delightful to see that this is one of those shows you can watch as an adult and realize you now relate to the parents just as much as you once did the kids. They weren’t written as clueless or naïve and I’d say this is still a wonderfully hokey watch, that I can’t wait to share with my girls.

The Mandalorian: I’m not gonna lie. I far prefer Star Trek to Star Wars and have picked many a fight with my husband over who would win in a battle, Spock or Obi Wan… because I am cool. The newest installments to the latter have left me cold and viciously hating Rey, because women can be strong and independent, without being ungrateful assholes. So, I had little interest in The Mandalorian, beyond the cuteness of Baby Yoda, but my husband was really excited about it, as were my library teens… and Baby Yoda was still the primary appeal for me. I watched every episode of this series and I couldn’t tell you much about the plot, past “save the child.” One of my teens recently told me that the reason he loves it so much, is that it’s the closest thing to Firefly that isn’t Firefly. I disagree. Sure, the setting is similar, but the heroes aren’t warm or funny or even attractive and the villains are relatively bland. If you’re a diehard Star Wars fan, you’ll likely love The Mandalorian, but if you can take it or leave it, you’re unlikely to feel any differently about this installment. Baby Yoda is adorable, though.

Once Upon a Time: This Disney/ABC family show is objectively terrible, overall. The CGI sets are laughably bad in the first season and the child actor gets progressively worse as his cuteness wears off. The storylines are engaging and clever in the beginning, but quickly become more about participation trophies and honorary mentions, as the writers work to include every Disney character ever throughout the seasons. Honestly, though, it’s still a really fun watch. It’s nice to enjoy a fantasy story that truly appeals to all ages, including fight scenes and love stories in equal measure, with absolutely no penis. Game of Thrones and True Blood have their appeal, but there is definitely a point where I feel like nurses see less dick. Once Upon a Time is not what I’d call good. It’s campy at times and goes on for far too long. I haven’t finished the show, but I’m absolutely certain that it jumps the shark, probably specifically the one from Finding Nemo, if the reviews are any indication. Still, it keeps me engaged, when I want some harmless drama and excitement… and can stomach the heroes repeatedly releasing the villains and being absolutely shocked when they do something evil, once again.

Big Bang Theory: Originally, BBT was a clever sitcom portraying a demographic often ignored… even if some thought the jokes just made dumb people feel smart. The show truly jumped the shark, however, when all of the relationships and female characters became its central focus. Penny was always a plot device, the Xander, a character to whom the audience could relate, as she asked questions on their behalf. She normalized the nerds and acted as the inevitable love interest. She had a purpose. Bernadette was an entertaining representation of how women can be smart and beautiful, though she received little depth as anything beyond Howard’s gal. Then, Amy Farrah Fowler joined the show, lighting the fuse that was its inevitable explosion. Amy was an offensive stereotype of female intellectuals: frumpy, socially clueless, and boring. She had to “fix” Sheldon, who didn’t need fixing as an asexual character, and refused to respect his boundaries… or those of anyone else on the show. While she did get progressively worse, it wasn’t just her. The jokes became formulaic and the focus entirely shifted, as happens to many sitcoms that run too long. What was once a tale of geeky men exploring their post-college years, became a failed attempt at a nerdy Everybody Loves Raymond with jokes about marriage and parenting dominating the predictable dialogue of literally every single character, including the no-longer-asexual Sheldon… because that’s how sexuality works. If I ever rewatch BBT, I’ll stop before the first wedding and recommend the same.

Friends: David Schwimmer carried this show. Whether you like his character or not, the actor was the best at physical comedy and delivery. From the first episode, Schwimmer sold Ross as the awkward, nerdy, doormat. Did everything about his character age well? No, but neither did a lot of things, so I’m willing to look at Ross through the lens of 1999, too. Not only did I enjoy Ross more, I found myself hating Rachel, especially past the “we were on a break” drama. She left a man at the altar and slept with him after he got engaged, slept with an ex after he groped her friend, was always a terrible employee, slept with her assistant, took advantage of her friends, treated Ross like a sweater she neither wanted to wear nor donate by stringing him along for years and sabotaging his every new relationship, and gave the father of her baby no actual say in his daughter’s well-being while simultaneously expecting him to do all of the husbandly things without the title. I shipped Chandler and Monica at one time, with their friends-to-lovers trope and enjoyed their storyline again, but now realize that Phoebe and Mike were the couple to beat. They had an adorable meet-cute with real chemistry. Mike accepted Phoebe for all of her history and annoying quirks, with zero embarrassment. Best of all, their relationship never had time to drag. Schwimmer might have been the comedic lead, but Paul Rudd was the real romantic MVP.

It’s a Sin: I thought this miniseries had six episodes. When I realized it was only five, I was relieved, because it was absolutely heartbreaking. When it comes to movies and TV, I’m basically a robot. Nothing but dead animals and babies makes me cry. The Notebook? Titanic? Schindler’s List? Nope. That being said, I cried during every episode of It’s a Sin and I mean tears streaming down my face. It’s such a compelling tale of a group of mostly gay friends, living in 1980s London, during the AIDS epidemic. The protagonists aren’t caricatures and neither are the villains, really, as the leads each leave home and make their way to London, where they can live their lives freely… until they start to fall ill, one by one. Surprisingly, religion is rarely addressed as the reason for the stigma against homosexuality (and AIDS by extension), which I appreciated, because it’s not necessarily as historically accurate in the 80’s UK as it would be in the US South. This show infuriated me as a librarian, as the main characters struggled to find any information on the mysterious illness killing people they loved. I’ve never been happier for such an amazing show to end. I have read criticism that the one (seemingly straight) character was the Token Straight Friend, but I consider that to be a horrible way to talk about allies. Plenty of straight people lost friends and loved ones to AIDS and this show did a great job portraying that, as well.

7th Heaven: At 10 years old, I wanted to be Mary Camden. All of my friends were slender, athletic, and had parents who made sure they bathed and their clothes fit. I never could seem to master any of those. I realize now, depressingly enough, that my mother wanted to be Annie Camden: wanted by her husband, respected by her community, with children who looked up to her, able to keep all the balls in the air… and she never could master any of those, herself. So, watching this show as an adult was bittersweet for me, as I recognized how far my mother’s life veered from what she wanted. While 7th Heaven might have hit a soft spot for me, though, it has probably aged worse than anything in the history of time. Every negative thing about the 90s is encapsulated in this show, from the most oppressive purity culture to low-key racism thought progressive. The Camdens controlled their children’s sexuality with an iron first, from first kisses to first times. They knew one black family, a most accurate example of Token Black Characters, as nearly every episode featuring them was themed around race… which was also true for all other non-white character mentions. It also went on for way too long. By season 8, all but a handful of the original actors had given up, and so did I. Nostalgia aside, there’s only so much time I can spend with early 00s churchy people, without having flashbacks of my own.  

Roswell: At age 12, I was obsessed with Roswell. I mean that I would be concerned if my child were so fixated on something. I work with teenagers, so that’s saying something. Having reached my adult height by sixth grade and still a few years out from my breast reduction, I remember watching Liz Parker stand in front of her mirror in her matching bra and panties, knowing I could never wear something like that, because the cute stuff didn’t come in my size. If I wanted to be utterly mortified, I could dig up the diaries where I introduced myself with my full name in every entry, just like Liz. Still, I think I’d have preferred to be Isabel, beautiful and in possession of alien powers, with two brother figures who wanted to protect her. Middle school Belle had issues and this show is a lot of what got her through them, so for that reason, Roswell will always have a place in my heart. Objectively speaking, though, it isn’t much different than many early 00s shows, featuring gorgeous actors far too old to play the dramatic and angsty parts assigned. It does, however, lack the clever wit of its more iconic competitors, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and doesn’t measure up in the sci-fi world to shows like Firefly, with a plot riddled with holes. It’s unsurprising that Roswell never made it past three seasons, but I don’t care, because those came at just the right time for me.

Smallville: I never intended for Smallville to be a good rewatch. I just wanted something mindless and campy and Tom Welling’s Clark Kent seemed like a good fit. I’d argue that this show is, overall, one of the worst in the Superman franchise. For starters, if Tom Welling can pass for 15 in season one, I can pass for Betty White now. Clark is supposed to be this gawky and awkward teenager, but no amount of stumbling or sputtering from Welling makes up for his age and build. Any teenage boy who looked like that would be the crush of every girl and invited to every party… once people realized he wasn’t a substitute teacher. It’s not that Welling does a bad job portraying Clark, it’s just that it’s utterly unconvincing at age 25. The mostly Monster of the Week plot doesn’t really redeem Smallville either. While Michael Rosenbaum is my all time favorite Lex Luthor, we barely get to see his dark side for several seasons and the supporting characters leave something to be desired, especially Lana. I don’t remember hating this character. Chloe annoyed me until she got over her Clark crush and started acting like a real friend, but I loathe Lana. She’s self-absorbed and whiney and thinks everyone in her life owes her their every secret. Regardless of its other flaws, Lana is what makes me not want to watch, as an adult. The rest, however, is more or less what I wanted: mindless, campy fun.

Gilmore Girls: Gilmore Girls has been quite the comfort watch for me, over the years. Lorelai always had money for the things she and Rory needed and wanted, despite the insistence that she had to get by on hard work and grit. If ever that wasn’t true, The Bank of Gilmore was happy to write a check, in exchange for company only. The heroines were effortlessly beautiful, universally loved, and were handed the world on a silver platter that they mocked for its pretention. They were best friends and adored by all men and their snowglobe town. It was the ultimate fantasy. I tried to rewatch in 2020, though, and just couldn’t get over how ungrateful these two were for their obscene privilege. Sure, you have a complicated relationship with your parents… so do a lot of people whose parents aren’t willing to write them checks or buy them lavish gifts. The Poor Little Rich Girl plot just didn’t hold up for me after the last year and Lorelai’s insistence on being a friend, rather than a mom, was extremely grating when I work with teens in this situation, was a teen in this situation, and prepare to have daughters of my own. Perhaps Reddit just ruined this one for me by villainizing literally every character, claiming abuse all around and scrutinizing the entire show through a 2020 lens. Maybe I just need to come back in another time of life, but this one was a surprising pandemic no-go for me.

Stranger Things: Oh, Stranger Things, the leading title in shows that didn’t need subsequent seasons. My favorite thing about ST is the hilariously spot-on portrayal of teenagers and the amazing acting that accomplishes it. I love me some teen dramas, but working with the age group has me hyperaware that they are almost never portrayed as a day younger than 19 and always by actors older than that. ST breaks the mold with its nerdy 80s middle schoolers and unique sci-fi plot… in the first season. Unlike many, I never felt that ST needed a second, and definitely not a third, season. I didn’t need to be introduced to Billy and Max, who completely lifted out of the story. I didn’t need the audience-pandering reveal of a Steve who’s scooping ice cream and a Jonathan with a successful career, when the opposite is totally what would have happened, considering Steve’s privilege and charm and Johnathan’s poverty and general creepiness. I didn’t need a love story between the single mom and the drunken, incompetent chief of police. I didn’t need to watch Genius Elle stumble over the English language for three years. I didn’t need to see Mike’s mom become a cheating whore. Mostly, I didn’t need all of the sci-fi plot explained, in detail, ultimately removing any and all mystery from the storyline. Sometimes, less really is more and I don’t care if I’m entirely alone in saying that ST would have been far better as a miniseries with a dark and open ending.

Vampire Diaries: VD started off alright, for teen angst played by beautiful twenty-somethings, a favorite genre of mine. Admittedly, Ian Somerholder carried the show, only slightly aided when the original vampires arrived in season four, but it was still a fun watch… at first. My earliest problem with VD was that all affection for Elena dissipated by season three, seemingly a trope of vampire dramas, as Sookie Stackhouse suffered the same fate. It made for a rough watch when I loathed the main character everyone loved. VD didn’t even have True Blood’s handy backup of engaging support characters, either… just Damon and occasionally Caroline. As with most CW shows, Vampire Diaries’ greatest sin was that it went on far too long. Nina Dobrev (Elena) wasn’t even in the last two seasons and it wasn’t not the saving grace it sounds, because VD was the TV show that most obviously revealed it was never intended to be binged. I’ve never seen anything more redundant. Even reminding myself that the story was supposed to span eight years, I couldn’t get past the fact that every character died multiple times. I’m not exaggerating. A Google search reveals that the only character who didn’t die was Klaus, who left the show for his own spin-off. By season five, character death had zero impact, because supernatural loopholes would just allow for their return. After that, I wished for the ability to watch at double speed. At least True Blood had Alcide Herveaux.

Bewitched: At age nine, as my parents were growing less and less interested in me, TV was my best friend. Nick at Nite’s Block Party Summer was the best thing ever and Bewitched night was my favorite. I suppose I just never grew out of my desire to live in a world with magic and Bewitched painted a picture of a grown-up existence where that was possible. On my rewatch, I realized the magic is still there. I still love the 60s aesthetic, even knowing the absolute hogwash that was the decade’s representation. I still wish Endora were my mother and consider her way ahead of her time. I still adore the shenanigans that came with a magical, meddling family. I just have one complaint: Darrin Stephens. Darrin was, at best, a bully with no redeeming qualities. Not only did he not allow Samantha to use her magic, due to his own insecurities, he insisted she hide who she truly was, because he was ashamed of her… unless he directly benefited. Their marriage was a wonderful representation of the oppression of the mid-century housewife. I’d like to think that someone magical and immortal was only with him as some form of social experiment. In my mind, 2021 Samantha is as young and hot as ever, raising her two magical children, her late husband nearly forgotten. This conclusion makes for a much better watch, because of all the shows I rewatched during the pandemic, I think this is one I’ll never outgrow.

Mad Men: I got Jake to watch the first episode of this one two years ago, only for him to rage quit, insisting Don Draper was a representation of how men can’t be successful and good. Not until recently could I convince him to try again, after explaining that Don isn’t supposed to be a hero and pointing out that if he can cheer for any of the characters in Game of Thrones, he can get off his soap box. So, I purchased the entire show on Vudu and I’m enjoying it more than I did the first time, as is Jake. Mad Men is generally one of those shows that gets better when you know the ending, as you recognize the growth of the characters through the years, in direct correlation to the shifting political and social times. Not only do I see the intention behind Don’s character changing according to what society thinks he’s supposed to be, but his older counterpart, Roger, goes through later stages of the same, even without a secret identity. In contrast, from episode one, we see Peggy’s battle with who she’s supposed to be and who she wants to be, while Betty and Joan cling to roles they were raised to fill… one with success and the other without. We even get to see how these dilemmas impact their children, growing up in such a volatile decade, all with astounding wit and impeccable taste. I’m definitely not sorry to own Mad Men.

The Office: Jake and I watched The Office for the first time, during the summer of 2019. When my manual laborer landed a promotion placing him in an office setting, though, I insisted we rewatch from episode one, so he could experience the business casual shenanigans in a new perspective. I bought the DVDs on Amazon and The Office has been even more enjoyable the second time. Originally, I found Jim to be somewhat spineless, pining for Pam for years without action, while seeing Pam as a bit cruel for stringing along both him and Roy. This time, I was able to better recognize the nuance, knowing how things ended up for the couple. Not only did the two work together, but Pam’s live-in fiancé also worked downstairs. There’s no scenario where she leaves her fiancé and dates her coworker and everyone is happy. I also figured out what exactly I don’t like about Pam and can get past it as a very human flaw: she is an utter doormat. While I could never relate to being that much of a pushover, that trait makes her transgressions a lot more forgivable. As for Michael, while I love Steve Carrell, I find him to be a much more abhorrent person than I first did. I place intentions higher than most and they still don’t carry that much weight. Holly was just as dorky, while being a much better person, and I’m a bit sad that she doesn’t get someone better.

There are no positive spaces on the Internet.

I’m sure I’m not only speaking for myself, when I say that 2020 was an isolating year. The shut-downs began in mid-March in my area and, despite my Gramma constantly quoting Trump’s claims that we’d be “wide open by Easter,” it wasn’t long before I was beginning to realize this wasn’t going away until we had a vaccine.

I worked the last Sunday the library was open, March 15th. We closed for two weeks, which quickly turned to three, then four, then six. Fortunately for my husband and I, my library system paid every single employee their full pay and benefits and didn’t even assign us any work, while we were at home. I was luckier than most in my field… than most in general. Regardless, this all happened on the heels of some really difficult personal issues and suddenly… I was all alone. Jake is an essential worker and never had a single shutdown-related day off, which was certainly for the best in the long run, but in the short-term, sort of just left… me, dealing with some really tough stuff during a pandemic.

Those days have mostly blurred in my mind. They were a series of Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart trips for presumed essentials, because the idea of not having access to something was freaking me out almost as much as the rising virus cases. They were hours of playing Netflix in the background, while obsessively reading the news. They were endless walks around the neighborhood, accompanied by audiobooks. They were pings from apps about the rising cases and paranoia that my job wouldn’t be there when this all ended. Mostly, though, they were lonely. I’d gone from seeing my teens three days a week, to not knowing when I’d ever see them again. I’d gone from having family nights and weekends, dropping in on Taco Tuesday with my pals from the West Side Library, seeing friends and coworkers daily, attending meetings and breakroom potlucks, to the occasional text message conversation and talks with my Gramma that always ended when it got political. Easter was spent at home, with Jake, attempting to enjoy a beloved family holiday with a Sad Ham for two and a Zoom call with my family. Not that the rest of the year was leagues closer to normalcy, but the solitude of those six weeks, even for a proud homebody, was devastating.

It’s been about three and a half years since I deleted my Facebook account, a decision I’d advocate for most and March of 2020 was the first time I’ve ever genuinely considered returning. At least with Facebook, I’d be able to connect with family, see their updates, message them, and maybe feel a little less alone during a pandemic. Then I remembered my previous social networking experiences and thought about all of the political articles, rants, and conspiracy theories I’d be treated to, by both my extremely left and extremely right family members, who have little to no understanding of basic social media etiquette.

I thought about the time my crazy redneck uncle told my high school friend that he wasn’t “no better than” him, just because he had a “two dollar degree”… without knowing that this man had no more than a high school education and was a former marine. I thought about the digital slap fights between women who didn’t even know each other in high school, let alone today and the family gossip based entirely on speculation from social media posts. I thought about the mommy wars and the inevitable comments about how women without children had no idea how hard all of this could be, the comparisons of busy schedules and stress. I noted how awesome it was that, after three years, my family had finally accepted that I was no longer on social media and every piece of news, from family parties to family deaths, was going to have to be delivered over the phone… as it should be, and I didn’t want to ruin that progress. It was already a difficult year and all of the above were not going to make me feel better. So, in lieu of social media, I clung to strangers like a lifeline, through various subreddits.

I started with a subreddit that I’d previously frequented in phases, one populated by somewhat traditional women, that focused on dating and improving your marriage. At first it was fun and I felt like I was socializing with real people. Then… it turned and comments were made about how women shouldn’t work if they have children and women who didn’t want them would live lives full of regret, so I wrote a snarky comment about how the subreddit was no longer for me and left.

Next, I tried to connect with my fellow librarians, since I missed interacting on a professional basis at work. This was probably my second to briefest attempt to connect through Reddit, because libraries can be politically toxic, ironic for a profession rooted in serving all. By ironic, I mean wildly hypocritical. After ignoring the inevitable politics in posts and comments for a few weeks, I saw one directed at teen readers advisory. That’s totally my jam… or so I thought. This post was from a straight, white man, asking for book recommendations that starred straight, white boys, who were progressive and inclusive and championed their minority friends, be they Black, gay, trans, what-have-you. The comments were filled with criticism about how boys should be able to look up to female leads and tangents about how books have historically only starred boys. Riiiiiight, but do we really want the only male heroes young boys look up to to be the kids from Lord of the Flies? Boys should make do with female leads, even though you’re arguing the reverse is a disservice? Are we not allowed to have role models that everyone can see themselves in, or is it just white males? Aside from these terrible arguments, there were entirely unrelated rants about the lack of representation of lesbians in YA fiction and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to talk about helping teens, all of them, not just the ones that made my resume look or gave me conference talking points. I just wanted to bond over the profession I’d missed and in just a few weeks, Reddit had made me want to leave it altogether.

So, I decided to try something a little lighter in the Gilmore Girls thread. What could possibly go wrong in sharing a fandom?!?!? Y’all, in 2020 I learned that all fandoms be fucking crazy. People wrote pages about how every single character was abusive or narcissistic or sociopathic or ::insert WebMD diagnosis here:: for fucking Gilmore Girls. They attacked me for saying I thought Melissa McCarthy’s modern-day projects were crass, for thinking Dean was alright in the early seasons, for liking Emily… and they fought each other over the exact same topics, viciously. Really?!?! Am I the only one who thinks that I shouldn’t have to thicken my 2020 raw skin to discuss Gilmore Girls?!?! But folks, I’ll tell you… it was nothing compared to the Harry Potter fandom.

I made it a day, y’all. I made it one day in the Harry Potter subreddit, before someone tore into more for a very mild defense about how Draco Malfoy was just a kid and a pawn to his family. The response was a half-page long and went on about how when this person was a teenager, they knew better than to do the things Draco did, that they weren’t bullies, because they were more self-aware. Instead of replying that they might not have been bullies as teenagers, but certainly were now, or writing a lengthy comparison to the Malfoys and organized crime families, I deleted my comment, left the feed, and never returned. Apparently the Harry Potter subreddit is moderated by Lord Voldemort, himself.

In the meantime, even the subs I followed for some light pick-me-ups, like r/interestingasfuck and r/aww and r/crafts became hostile. I stumbled on an anti-Catholic rant in comments, others about how people who won’t let their dogs sit on the couch were abusive, and when I shared a photo of an art project my library teens did, someone left multiple comments about how I could have done it differently and it could have been improved.

Finally, r/romancebooks, which had been a surprisingly fun and accepting space over the course of a few months, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Previously, tastes ranged from Pride and Prejudice to rapey drug dealer porn and all were accepted, if not shared. Then Bridgerton hit and newbie fans to the genre joined, lacking an understanding of how very many sub-genres it possessed, and the judgement sky-rocketed. Even authors only a few steps off the beaten path, like Kristen Ashley and Joanna Wylde, were being vilified for “romanticizing abuse” and posters were theorizing about how the authors themselves must have horrible personal lives and joking about egging their houses. Excuse me, but has anyone ever checked in on George R. R. Martin’s sister, to make sure she hasn’t been sold to rapey horse lords? How about Stephen King’s kids? Are we worried they might have been butchered by some ancient folklore creature? No? Then I guess it’s only women we judge for their art and men get a pass. After another poster began harassing me on my last post, I’d had it. I rage quit Reddit. I deleted every username and installed blocking software on my laptop, phone, and workstation computer, so I couldn’t even browse absent-mindedly without a username.

After the Reddit debacle, I searched for a replacement, but all of the less popular forums seemed just as hostile. I even messaged a friend and asked, point-blank, “Are there any good, supportive forums online, or is everyone a jerk?” Her immediate response was “Everyone’s a jerk.” This was the same friend who tearfully messaged me when someone called her a bad mom for working, on a Dave Ramsey Facebook post. I had to point out that this woman was clearly not spending her time engaging in interactive puppet shows, if she was tearing down other moms on Facebook.

Twitter was out, because I thought I couldn’t possibly care less about celebrities. Their Covid-19 Poor Little Rich People attempts to relate to the common man proved me wrong. Instagram is just as bad as Facebook, unsurprisingly as they’re both owned by Mark Zuckerberg and are notorious for causing FOMO and body issues and just general judgement toward all women. The only perk to Instagram is the lesser degree of political commentary and even that can crop up seemingly out of nowhere. Even BoredPanda, a feel-good site with articles about cute little animals, is politically out of control in the comments. Why can’t I look at pictures of kittens in peace?!?!

So, I finally accepted the truth, at 33 years old: there are no supportive spaces on the Internet. Adults will forever lecture kids and teenagers about cyber bullying, as they type out hateful messages to people they should be building up, on Instagram and Twitter and Reddit and Facebook.

I left Facebook years ago and I’m reminded that I had the right idea, as I not only feel less criticized and frustrated without any of it, but have more time to do the things I actually care about, like read and sew and work on my digital photo albums. Hopefully, that list will soon include interactions with Real Live People, so I won’t feel the need to grasp for human connection online. At the very least, however, I now have more time to entertain Future Belle and you people.

Four Stitches and a Tetanus Shot: My Favorite Librarians Who Saved the World

Quiet season at the library has more or less ended, now that the holidays have passed. As a teen librarian, this means that I’m planning more original and creative programs for my kids, as opposed to lazily ordering kits from outreach, because there’s a 60% chance no one will show. This means more prep and sadly, for me, more injuries.

Three weeks ago, on the new branch manager, Penny’s, third day, I was prepping for my stained glass program, when I cut my finger and yelped in surprise and pain. It was just bad enough that, without a Band-Aid, the blood would have been an issue, so Penny helped me bandage it, sharing her own klutzy tale and we returned to work.

It was a rough day, as I later learned that a coworker from another branch had suddenly died over the weekend. He’d been my motivation for becoming a teen librarian and I told him so just last summer, at our teen volunteer laser tag party. I powered through, however, as I chose an additional last minute craft for the week’s book-themed family program. What cuter craft than a laminate bookmark made of shapes cut from book pages… or so I thought, as I trimmed the edges with the guillotine paper cutter.

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In my shock, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. I walked into Penny’s office, cupping my left thumb and blurted “This is much worse.” A flurry of activity ensued, in which I learned that dealing with blood is not one of a librarian’s many talents, as Penny, a former high school librarian, was the only one who could assist without fainting… including myself. Someone called Jake, as Penny determined that I needed to go to aftercare.

Jake: “So, what did you do?”
Me: “I made a beautiful craft.”

Three hours and four stitches later, the doctor asked when I’d last had a tetanus shot and my manual labor husband chimed in:

Jake: “I’m sure she’s had one through work.”
Me: “I’m a librarian. We were just mocking the fact that we have to take a blood borne pathogens training. When would they have given me a tetanus shot?”

So it was, that after seven and a half years with the system, I learned about worker’s comp… along with my new manager, on her third day. On the way home, I cried and told Jake that Jim died. He asked who Jim was and, knowing it was the only way to jog his memory, I reminded him of the guy at the Southside Library, who, coincidentally… was missing a thumb.

“I’d love to have a job where I can read all day.” Yeah. Me, too. Let me know if you find it.

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So, my thumb has finally healed enough that I can comfortably type to tell you about my favorite librarians, who saved the world. Spoiler warning, as appropriate.

Rupert Giles – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

It was a fandom war, when I got my new puppy, y’all. Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Harry Potter? In a moment of truth, however, I named my little guy Rupert, after the half-superhero, half-father figure librarian of Sunnydale High. Giles wasn’t just the only reason the Scoobies ever even knew what or how to fight, he killed two major series villains, one as a mercy to Buffy, so she wouldn’t have to take it on her own conscious. For me, his real heroism, however, was best repesented in the scene where he comforts Buffy after she loses her virginity to Angel, causing him to lose his soul. Anyone with a buttload of explosives can be a badass. It takes a real hero to comfort a crying teen, as her world falls apart.

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Mike Hanlon – Stephen King’s It

Zetus lapetus, librarians never get any credit in fiction. If you ask anyone how Stephen King’s It concludes, depending on whether or not they’ve read the book, they’ll either mention eleven-year-old group sex or a weird spider from outer space. No one seems to recall that this story, in ever single way, is about a librarian who saved the fucking world. Not only was Mike Hanlon the only character to stay in Derry, he was the sole individual who kept any memory or record of the horrors that happened in his childhood. He called back Bill and the gang to fight this ancient evil, after they all went on to live lives of success, leaving him behind to be an intelligent black man in a terrifyingly racist town. Fuck Bill. He was only the main protagonist, because he was a semi-autobiographical and Stephen King is in love with himself. Mike Hanlon was the real MVP.

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Samwell Tarly – Game of Thrones

Due to his lack of rapey tendencies and general mental stability, Samwell Tarly is portrayed as a meek, cowardly character in Game of Thrones. In some respects, this is a valid description, as he refuses to stand up for himself and fails at most athletic and physical feats. His overall lack of aggression seems to have freed up a lot of mental space, though, as it’s Sam who discovers the long lost key to killing the White Walkers, by testing it out personally. He even cures greyscale, a magical and more horrifying form of leprosy, on his way to discovering John Snow’s true identity. Of course, Game of Thrones has not actually concluded, which makes this more speculation than spoiler, but we can see where this is going. Sam uncovers the true identity of John Snow and he ushers in a golden age of royal unity for the Seven Kingdoms, even though this is a world where magic is second only to violence, because research is badass.tumblr_myzwhrflwp1s5m21go3_250

Barbara Gordon – Bat Girl

Barbara Gordon wasn’t only the daughter of the police commissioner, James Gordon. She was the head of the Gotham City Public Library. Y’all, I have worked in an inner-city library, and Batgirl or no, this makes Barbara Gordon a tough cookie. Not only was she a researcher and homeless people’s advocate extraordinaire, Barbara Gordon used her innocent librarian cover to throw the scent off her own vigilantism, which is essentially my dream… if I could just get Jake on board. Even when she became wheelchair bound, Barbara Gordon simply shifted her goals and alter-ego to become The Oracle, basically librarianing the bad guys right into the hands of Batman and friends. Librarians, folks, are truly the unsung heroes of literature.

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It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus: In Defense of the Villains

In honor of Halloween. Originally posted October 29, 2013.

A few weeks ago, I was telling Gail about my Game of Thrones marathon. I tried to explain that, no matter how drawn out the storyline was, it was entirely worth it to keep up with the Khaleesi.

Gail: “Okay. Wait. Are you sure she’s the heroine? Because, you really don’t have the best track record with that.”
Me: “Hey. Like 14 people liked my Facebook status defending the witch against Hansel and Gretel. Those little shits vandalized her house. She was the victim, damn it!”
Gail: ::silence::
Me: “.. but, no. Everyone else thinks the Khaleesi is the heroine, too. Even the people who can’t see that Cruella de Vil was doing her part to curb over-breeding.”

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She’s practically an activist.

So, it came as no surprise to Gail that, for my next blog post, I was going to make my case for the Sanderson sisters… particularly since I’ve watched Hocus Pocus nine times this month and have been quoting it on Facebook daily. Actually. Best thing about living alone: the dog doesn’t care that I can (and do) recite that movie as it plays. Now, just to clarify, my argument isn’t so much that the Sanderson sisters were innocent and/or wronged. It’s more that their actions were justified. The kids in the movie deserved to have their souls sucked dry. Happy Halloween, y’all.

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We all know the story. In 1693, the Sanderson sisters were tried and convicted of witchcraft, after punishing some young trespassers. Perhaps the girl was lured into the yard; perhaps not. We never got to hear the details of the case, over the sounds of angry townspeople. We do, however, know that Thackery Binx was was doomed to live forever as a cat. Wait. Doomed? Being an immortal cat would be fucking awesome!

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Regardless, the witches cast one last spell, just before they were hanged.

Three hundred years later, in not-so-modern-day Salem, Massachusetts, Max Dennison and his “laid-back, California, tie-dyed point-of-view” have relocated with parents and little sister Dani. Though he lives in the aparent Halloween capitol of the United States, Max isn’t buying into this whole “Sanderson sisters” bit. His enthusiasm for his new school and town is further lessened, by the bullies who steal his shoes.

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His name ain’t Ernie no more.

Disgruntled and frustrated, Max goes home in socks, only to flop on the bed and masturbate to the thought of Allison, the pretty girl in class, who totally shot him down. Fortunately, little sister Dani leaps from the closet before Max unzips, demanding to be taken trick-or-treating. Max puts up a fight, declaring that she’s eight and can go by herself.

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Ultimately, Max ends up escorting his little sister, leading them to a luxurious house, owners unknown. Finally, we begin to see the true character of these little delinquents as they knock on the door of this stranger’s home, and upon receiving no answer, stroll right on in. Alright Dani, I’ll forgive you for this. You’re eight. There’s candy involved… but what the fuck Max?!?! You’re 16/17 years old! You’re on your way to a fucking B&E!

Fortunately for Max and Dani, this just happens to be the home of Max’s mastubatory heroine, the one and only Allison… and she is simply delighted that the boy she turned down earlier in the day is standing in her foyer uninvited and stealing candy. At this point, Dani embarrasses Max by declaring that he loves Allison’s “yabbos.” Rather than asking her obvious stalker to leave, the teenage model in a $200 Halloween costume laughs at the fact that the rude and awkward new kid has been talking to his kid sister about her tits.

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Allison seems taken with Dani and tells her that her mother used to run the museum dedicated to the Sanderson sisters. Max immediately suggests they break in.

boy that escalated quickly

I told you he was on his way to a B&E. Despite the protests of both Dani and Allison, the three criminals soon find themselves in the old Sanderson house… setting shit on fire.

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Okay, I get that this was just a candle with a mystical warning, but this place is a damned tinder box. Look at it! It’s made of 300 year old wood! It’s best not to start fires, y’all. Also, why the hell is all this stuff still here? Doesn’t someone own the merchandise? I mean, maybe they can’t just sell the Occult shit to tourists, but the lighters and the candy? If this place was so haunted that the workers had to just desert everything inside, I’m pretty sure Satan’s Damned Candle isn’t just sitting around with an “I dare you” sign on a box of matches. Just sayin’.

Max reads the inscription and Dani does not ask what a virgin is. I’m sorry, but this is the one thing that I just don’t buy. I’ll allow for the suspension of disbelief for everything else, but as much as I adore this movie, Dani was eight. They just said so! It was 1993 and her parents scolded Max for saying “sucked.” There is no way she knew what a virgin was. Anyway… just as Max lights the Black Flame Candle, the electric lights burst and… wait, wait, wait. If someone’s paying the electric bill, surely this place is better guarded than this!

Ahem…

Green lights flash as the witches strut in and marvel over who lit the Black Flame candle. Upon discovery of the children… wait. Hold it. In 1693, a boy Max’s age was considered a man. He likely had a wife and kids. What, exactly, are the parameters for “child?” Anyway… apparently Max and Allison both qualify as children, because the Sanderson sisters want to eat them as well. I’m a little confused as to whether or not they were, indeed, cannibals and feel Disney has done me a great disservice by not clarifying. Case in point: “Let’s barbecue and filet him.” – Mary

In an effort to flee, Max sets off the sprinkler system, insisting it is “the burning rain of death.” Okay, so at this point, this kid has not only broken into two houses and risked burning the latter to the ground, but now he’s flooded it? Three hundred year old wood is going to be seriously damaged by that much water! Eat him Winifred. Eat him and scratch your back with his spinal column, for destroying your home. Before Max can escape, Binx the cat leaps onto his chest, calls him a fucktard, and instructs him to steal the sisters’ spell book

1. Breaking and entering… twice
2. Lighting the Black Flame Candle
3. Flooding the house
4. Stealing the priceless Occult artifacts

How is Max the protagonist? Why is Max the protagonist? He asked for all of this.

Sidenote: Did anyone try to blow the Black Flame Candle out? I mean, it’s at least worth a go, you know?

After robbing a museum, the derelicts and cat seek refuge in a cemetery… after dark. That’s right. The cemetery was closed.

5. Breaking into a cemetery

In contrast, the Sanderson sisters did not break in. They just hovered over the ground for awhile. Eventually, events lead the witches, desperately trying to reclaim their rightful property, to a neighborhood filled with trick-or-treaters. In the meantime, Max leads Binx into the street, with no idea that he’s immortal, ultimately getting the cat run over. Even if he doesn’t die, we know it hurts, because he complained of pain later, when he was held over an open flame.

6. Killing/inflicting immense pain upon Binx

As the witches seek out children, the main ingredient in the potion that will allow them to live forever, they come upon a creepy old man dressed as Satan and think he’s the real deal. They figure their “master” can help them reclaim their book. Let’s just hope it’s not like the books get back, covered in urine. Who knows, though. Max clearly has no regard for anyone else’s property. The Sanderson sisters consult with Fake Satan, while Max and company try to convince a cop (psych) and eventually his own parents that they’re in danger. The sisters realize they’re mistaken about their master and leave to find that their brooms have been stolen by three children dressed as our “villains.”

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What?!?! 

Who the hell just steals a bunch of brooms that clearly belong to someone?!?! No wonder the Sanderson sisters want to kill children! It’s not like they’ve had any pleasant experiences with them!

The witches chase the “protagonists” to a town party, where Max has been unsuccessfully trying to convince his parents that he’s being stalked by the supernatural. No shit. Really? After the sisters put on a lovely performance, encouraging overweight Americans to get some exercise with “dance until you die!”, the children hatch a plan to burn the witches in the school kiln… in the middle of the night.

7. Breaking into a government building in the middle of the night
8. Operating highly volatile and expensive equipment with no experience
9. Burning school property in the form of a boombox used as bait

The witches burn as the children cheer… sadistic little shits. But, wait! They’re not really dead. Binx is fully aware that this may be the case, instructing them not to open the Sanderson sisters’ spell book. Allison, however, is enjoying her bad boy phase and declares “What harm could it do?”

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For realz, yo?!?! It’s made of human skin and has a working eye. What the hell kind of harm do you think it can do?!?!

While Max was making out with Allison, the Sanderson sisters acquired some more children…

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Seriously. What is a child? On what are they basing this?

… and are currently waiting for death, when they look out the window and see the beacon sent out by the book. You know what? I’ve about decided that this is just the story of a woman desperately fighting censorship. We’ve got another activist here.

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Belatedly, Binx the cat tells the kids that “nothing good can come from this book”… because it is made of human skin. Seriously. These kids fucking asked for it. There’s a final showdown in the cemetery…

10. Breaking into the cemetery again

… and sadly, Max survives, though Winifred had him in her clutches.

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Not only does Max survive, but the Sanderson sisters perish. The worst part? The only intelligent and good being in the entire movie is officially killed. That’s right. Binx the Immortal Talking Cat is turned back into a stupid boyWhat the fuck, Disney? First you take the awesome talking furniture in Beauty and the Beast and turn it into boring ol’ people and then you kill Binx the Immortal Talking Cat?!?!?

The movie ends on this tragic note, but we see in the sequel that Max and Dani got theirs for leaving the bullies to slowly starve to death in cages. Though it’s never addressed in Hocus Pocus, the brief soul sucking leads to Max’s eventual demise. His parents no longer mention his name, their marriage crumbles, and Dani grows up to seek refuge from that tragic night, through the comfort of the deeply disturbed neighbor boy in…

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I’ll never be his #WCW.

The first time I told Jake I loved him, it went a little something like this:

Me: “You make me really happy.”
Jake: ::silence::
Me: “Does it freak you out, when I say stuff like that?”
Jake: “What? No.”
Me: “Would it freak you out, if I told you I loved you?”
Jake: ::laughing:: “No.”
Me: “I love you.”
Jake: “I love you, too.”

In the beginning, neither of us was particularly eloquent when it came to sharing our feelings. Jake told me he loved me, in the simplest of ways, with no flowery language. For a few months, that left me feeling pretty insecure and I tried my hardest not to demand clarification, cuz you know, we all hide our crazy.

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The one time I did ask if he really meant it, it didn’t go over so well when Jake got defensive and stuck his foot in his mouth.

Me: “It’s just… I always say it first. You only say it back.”
Jake: “You never give me the chance! Every eighth word is ‘I love you.'”

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For realz yo, Jake is at the top of the list of people who are not allowed to speak at our wedding.

Over time, however, I came to realize that Jake truly meant what he said, despite how simply he said it. I didn’t have this epiphany because of the right frequency or combination of words, either. Instead, I concentrated on looking for other evidence of his feelings … and it became blatantly obvious that he loved me.

The night I called Jake crying, because being an adult is hard and he abandoned his hunting trip to be there the next day was probably the earliest proof. When he told me he couldn’t wait to spend the weekend together in another state so he could introduce me to all of his friends was further confirmation. Of course, when he scheduled a ski trip to celebrate the end of my Gardasil shot regimen, which meant we could finally have sex… coupled with the very fact that he waited eight months to get laid, I was convinced. I knew without a doubt, that Jake loved me, even though he’d never shared it via cute text messages, a “no, you hang up first” back and forth, or through the most modern and ubiquitous medium: social networking.

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That’s right, y’all. In the year and a half that Jake and I have spent together, the most public validation of his feelings he’s given has been by letting me change his relationship status after three months. Now, as an active Facebook user, I’ve posted  many a status and photo with the world, about the fun we have and jokes we share, while managing to keep the emotions light. Jake has never protested, and has made it clear he doesn’t mind… but he’s also never returned the favor. In fact, unlike my high school friends who share little “this song describes our love” links on each other’s wall, Jake saves all of his appreciation for what we have for me and me alone.. and you know what? It feels far more genuine.

When I see that girl from high school tell her husband how wonderful he is, assuming it’s not a birthday or anniversary, my first instinct is always to wonder why I’m reading something so personal. When those sweet, misspelled text message screenshots show up in my feed, I cringe at being included in such intimacy. That feeling increases tenfold when I look at photos of the actual engagement or a video of a pregnancy announcement. It’s like public affection is the sixth love language and the sentiment doesn’t really mean anything unless it’s seen by 236 people from high school, that summer working at the water park, and the sorority you rushed but ultimately decided not to join. After all, if he says he loves you and your family in North Dakota who you haven’t seen since you were nine didn’t read it, did he really even say it?

On the contrary, Jake’s private little Eskimo kisses, his hand on my lower back when we’re in public, his hugs from behind while I’m cooking, the way he grabs me for a last cuddle before I go to work, are solely for me. He’s not showing off for the aforementioned 236 people when he insists I stay in the car while he gets gas. He’s simply showing me that he loves and cares for me. None of my friends or family will ever know, until they see it for themselves… and that’s okay. I will never be Jake’s #WCW, but I will never wonder if the only reason he expresses his love, in his way, is because everyone is watching. There are still times when I ask, point blank, if he loves me more than anything. He gives me the assurance that of course he does and because no one else can hear it, it means that much more.

 

The Sociological Horror that is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, you know I adore a good over-analysis and that extends to my favorite classical Christmas movies, including Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

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There have been numerous depictions of Santa Claus in the media. He was anti-establishment in the stop action film, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. He was absent-minded in Elf (how do you not realize there’s a human child in your toy bag?) He was on acid in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. He was terrifying in A Christmas Story…

… and he was a douche bag in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. 

The movie opens with newborn Rudolph residing comfortably in a cave with Donner and “Mrs. Donner,” because female characters don’t warrant their own damned names. It quickly becomes obvious that Rudolph is horribly disfigured, when his nose starts to glow.

Mrs. Donner: “Well, we’ll simply have to overlook it.”
Mr. Donner: “Now, how can you overlook that?”
Santa: “Great bouncing icebergs!”
Donner: “Now, I’m sure it’ll stop as soon as he grows up, Santa.”
Santa: “Well, let’s hope so, if he wants to make the sleigh team some day.”

No one mentions the real concern here, and that’s that Rudolph’s nose makes a high-pitched whining noise. Seriously, light up all you want, but stop that. I suppose it doesn’t matter, though, because Santa’s made it pretty clear what his sleigh team values most: conformity.

We even see the universality of this concept, when Hermey the Elf tells his boss that he doesn’t enjoy his job.

Hermey: “I just don’t like to make toys.”
Boss Elf: “Oh, well, if that’s all… what?!?!?! You don’t like to make toys?!?!.. HERMEY DOESN’T LIKE TO MAKE TOYS!”
::Immediately, all of the elves start to whisper about the Freak Elf (not a direct quote)::
Boss Elf: “Do you mind telling me what you do want to do?”
Hermey: “Well, sir, some day, I’d like to be a… a dentist.”
Boss Elf: “A dentist?!?! Now, listen you! You’re an elf… and elves make toys. Now, get to work! 10 minute break! Not for you! Finish the job or you’re fired!”

Okay, dude, first off, you asked what he’d prefer to do. Second, he just told you he hates his job and doesn’t want to do it anymore and you responded by taking away his break and threatening to fire him, though you clearly want him to stay? Also, what kind of regime is this? Elves are born and die in their station as factory workers? They’re shamed for wanting to pursue higher education? Fortunately for him, Hermey grows a pair and decides that he can’t be fired, because he quits.

Meanwhile, Donner makes Rudolph cover his disfigurement with a fake black nose that makes him sound like he has a sinus infection. When Rudolph complains about the discomfort, we get this parenting gem:

Donner: “There are more important things than comfort: self-respect! Santa can’t object to you now!”

So, like a closeted, homsexual, country boy, Rudolph dons his fake nose to make his dad happy, and as long as he’s doing so, Donner is proud.

We return to the elves, as they practice their Christmas song for Santa. As far as we’re told, this isn’t really for any kind of event. They’re just singing Santa a song to make him happy. He accepts this gift with the poise of a mom stomping on her child’s macaroni necklace.

Santa: “Hmmm… well, it needs work. I have to go.”
Mrs. Claus: “What does Papa know? It’s beautiful. You keep it just the way it was.” 

See. Even Mrs. Claus is like…

Geez. No wonder my parents’ generation came up with the participation trophy.

Ultimately, both Hermey and Rudolph are shamed into leaving Christmastown, but not before Rudolph’s crush, Clarice, is told by her father

“You get back to your cave this instant! … Now, there’s one thing I want to make very plain. No doe of mine is going to be seen with a… a red nosed reindeer!”

Off they go, and in their travels, Rudolph and Hermey team up with Yukon Cornelius, prospector of silver and gold, narrowly escaping The Abominable Snow Monster of the North, Bumble. Bumble is apparently very dangerous, though he never actually harms anyone. Rudolph’s parents, however, are still quite worried about him. When Donner heads out to find the bane of his existence, Mrs. Donner wants to go as well, but Donner insists on leaving her behind.

Donner: “No. This. Is. Man’s. Work.”

Regardless, Mrs. Donner sets off to search, taking Clarice along with her, also known as kidnapping. Seriously, she’s a child and you’re taking her out, alone, into the arctic? No wonder the men belittle the women in this story.

Rudolph and Company find The Island of Misfit Toys, where everyone different has been banished. No seriously. The lion with wings, King Moonracer, gathers them from around the world and keeps them on the island, until they find homes. It’s never explained how they’re supposed to go about that while confined to a deserted island, though. Read: banishment. The truly confusing part, is that most of these toys’ problems are easily remedied. The water pistol that shoots jelly could be filled with water. The Charlie in the Box could start going by Jack. Also, who made these loser toys? Was it Hermey? I’m betting it was Hermey, either falling down on the job while daydreaming of incisors, or fullfilling some kind of God complex, while he created an inferior species.


Is that… other toys they’re burning?

Sadly, Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon are denied safe haven on The Island of Misfit Toys, seeing as how they aren’t toys. King Moonracer still has the gall to ask for a favor, though. Rudolph is to plead the case of the banished toys to Santa, in the hopes that he’ll find them homes. They’ve already tried to find homes, so I’m guessing they’ll end up in some kind of orphanage. The elves, of course, could replace the square wheels with round ones or repaint the polka-dotted elephant, but that was apparently too difficult in the first place… Hermey.

When Rudolph returns to Christmastown, his parents and Clarice are still out looking for him. He’s now an adult reindeer. It’s been at least a year since he left, as it takes a male reindeer about that long to reach sexual maturity.* Clarice knew that boy for about 11 minutes and she’s been searching for him for over a year. That’s what I call commitment. Lucky for her, Rudolph returns this sentiment by heading out to search for the search party, where he’s held hostage by Bumble, who honestly, is only seen petting Clarice. No one’s been harmed, until Rudolph attacks Bumble and he clubs him. That, right there folks, is self-defense. Naturally, in response, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius set a trap to knock Bumble unconscious.

Okay, so I get that Yukon is supposed to have some sort of history with Bumble. He’s apparently very dangerous and that petting would have turned vicious… eventually. Here’s where it gets intensely disturbing, though. After Bumble is knocked unconscious, Hermey and his God complex pull out all of his teeth. What the fucking fuck?!?! That’s like half of the procedure used in Human Centipedealso by a man with a God complex!!!

hermey
Hermey. So I had a little free time? That doesn’t make me “creepy.”

After Yukon pushes Bumble off a cliff, “they realized that the best thing to do, was to get the women back to Christmastown.”

We all know the ending, of course. Rudolph and pals make it home. Santa finally realizes that the exact same idiosyncrasy, for which he shamed a child all along, can be exploited for use as a fog light in an epic storm… because the elves can’t make a fog light? Then again, I suppose if the task fell to Hermey, it would be a fog light that doesn’t light up, so he can feel better about going against The Regime’s demands of him, when he’s finally allowed to become Christmastown’s dentist. Seriously? The guy has no training beyond his experiments with animals. That’s like making the town butcher your new gynecologist. Speaking of animals, abominable snow monsters bounce, so Bumble is given a job… to put the star on the tree. That’s right. He can no longer feed himself, but for one minute annually, his life still has purpose. Last, as an afterthought, the misfit toys are saved by Santa… though we never do find out who wants these half-assed creations.

http://www.theanimalfiles.com/mammals/hoofed_mammals/reindeer.html

There Is No War on Women

That’s right. I said it. I’ll say it again. There is no war on women.

inspire

Fine. Perhaps I need some qualifiers. There is no legal war on modern day, American women… says this modern day, American woman.

Up through recent history, I would have vehemently disagreed with the above statement. For most of time, physically, women were the weaker sex, by nature; while intellectually, women were the weaker sex by design. Both ideals were perpetuated on a global scale. Not until 1870, were married American women allowed to own property. In 1918, Great Britain granted the vote to women over 30. It was 1920 in the U.S., before women finally won any rights to vote. Britain then took a few leaps back, deciding acts of lesbianism shouldn’t have the same punishment as male homosexuality, because women were too naive to comprehend such behavior. In the U.S, it was not until 1960 that the FDA approved birth control pills, which was leaps and bounds ahead of Great Britain’s 1974 availability.

Depending on your theological beliefs, man is potentially seven million years old and the institution of marriage (as we think of it today), is estimated to be around 4,000. Still, I was five on July 5, 1993, when it officially became illegal, in all 50 states, for a man to rape his wife. That’s right. Twenty-one years ago, women were still considered property of their husbands, in the same sense as a fleshlight. So… I am not saying that there has never been a war on women, in this country. I am saying that it has been won.

Where, exactly, am I hearing of this “war on women”? Well, let’s start with… 

The Trivial Crap

Recently, some very successful women have declared that they’ve been held back (clearly, Condoleezza Rice) by the male sex for calling them “bossy.” I’m not going to write about how ridiculous this is, because so many other bloggers have already covered it, but to sum it up, these women are demanding that we stop using the word bossy. This is a thing, y’all! This is a pretty minor issue, sure, but isn’t that a point in itself? Have we run out of evidence of a “war on women”, so thoroughly, that we have to ban words that are completely gender neutral, while enabling young girls to blame their failures on mild extrinsic factors? I’m sure this one will blow over quickly enough, but I’m also sure some equally stupid movement toward “gender equality” will rise up, drastically favoring women; such as when parents were appalled by The Children’s Place’s distribution of a t-shirt implying that girls would rather dance than do math.

children's place

Admittedly, it was a terrible idea, but was it the horror that mommy blogs made it out to be? No. Especially considering that little girls will still wear this to school.

boys are stupid
“Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them.”

Given the choice between the two, I’m really more concerned that one shirt incites violence, than I am that the other declares shopping to be more fun than equations. Why is there no emphasis on the villainization of little boys and how that affects them? Why are we only supposed to be concerned with the mental health of our little girls, with the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, when society regularly tells little boys that they need to look like Chris Hemsworth in Thor? How is self image even gender specific?

The Glass Ceiling and Equal Pay

Alrighty then. Let’s address a less trivial issue.

– glass ceiling –

noun

an unfair system of attitudes that prevents some people (such as women or people of a certain race) from getting the most powerful jobs

Well, the woman whose life has been so irreparably damaged by a fairly innocuous insult, that she must start a movement to ban words – suck it, first amendment! – is the COO of Facebook and worth $1.05 billion. I think Sheryl Sandberg’s very existence kind of covers the issue of whether or not women can find “the most powerful jobs.”

What about everyday women, though? They still only make .81 for every dollar a man makes, right? Well, no… not really. When this subject comes up, I have to remind myself that Research for Fun is not a game normal people play. I’m a librarian. I’m a researcher by trade and by heart. This topic happens to be one of my favorites to study and in fact, the 81 cents on the dollar statistic is intrinsically flawed, because it’s figured by averages and nothing more. Many studies show that when all factors are considered, such as the fields women choose, the hours they work, leave time, priorities such as pay vs. working conditions, et cetera, the perceived “wage gap” closes itself. The differences remaining are often so negligible that they can be attributed to aggressiveness in pay negotiations and things of that nature. While a man will probably choose a more stressful, time consuming, but lucrative career path, such as petroleum engineer, a woman is still more likely to choose something in a caretaker field, with more vacation time, steadier hours, and lower pay, such as librarian. 
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Reproductive Rights
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Finally, the biggest claim I can find that declares a “war on women” is made by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in regards to an attack on women’s reproductive rights. Before 1936, it was more or less illegal for a woman to learn about birth control, as the topic was considered “obscene” and banned from distribution through the mail. Today, for better or for worse, any 12-year-old can perform a Google search and walk into a drugstore to grab some condoms. As a society, we don’t hoard information on the subject at allWhereas a woman’s doctor might have been able to tell her father or husband if she was using contraception 50 years ago, now HIPPA laws mandate doctor/patient confidentiality, no matter the individual’s age or marital status. Those issues were an “attack” on women’s health and reproductive rights and are, clearly, no longer the norm. In regards to abortion, not until 1971 did Roe vs. Wade actually grant a woman the right to the procedure (as long as the fetus was not viable outside the womb), without explanation, in defense of her privacy. 
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Now, I am not going to debate abortion here, because that is not my point. My point is that abortion is debatable, as a moral issue, not a gender issue. Nationally, 51% of Americans consider themselves pro-life and the make-up of pro-life men vs. pro-life women is actually at about 50%. These people, both men and women, are not attacking women. In their minds, they are protecting the innocent, and don’t want to personally fund their destruction. Regardless of your take on the issue, you cannot argue that these laws are gender biased, because their proponents are distributed fairly evenly, between the sexes. Yes, a woman is the only one who can get pregnant, so these laws target her. By extension, however, a man is the only one whose potential child can be disposed of without his consent, so these laws target him. The presence of gender, does not make the subject gender.
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ACLU also mentions “medically unnecessary ultrasounds.” Define unnecessary. Personally, I feel that any medical procedure, should be thoroughly explained. When I miscarried, I had to look at an ultrasound of my emptying uterus, as the doctor explained what was happening. I had to look at the bloody fucking wandbut it’s too much for someone to be informed about what’s happening to them by choice? I’m not suggesting anyone play clips of crying babies as they perform these ultrasounds, but that’s not what’s being done, either. “Here’s the heartbeat” is hardly the same as “here’s the eyes you will never see open.” If that is what your doctor said to you, then get a lawyer.
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So there it is. There is no war on women. Sure, there are still some kinks to work out of the system, but I don’t think we gals are unique in that. A gentleman at a gun store once responded to my request to look at a Springfield .45 XDM with “You don’t need to be messin’ with that.” Was it sexist? Yes. Was it a declaration of war? No. When I Google image searched “international abuse toward women”, I found pictures of decapitated heads shrouded in burkas, children undergoing female circumcision, and women in various stages of recovery from acid attacks. We’re awfully quick to throw around the word “war” in a society where both of these things are pretty universally abhorrent. Perhaps some households, some religions, some small sects of society hold strictly traditional gender roles, but if they’re forced on adults, we consider it abuse.
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sexist children's book
“Boys fix things. Girls need things fixed.”
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In the 70’s, When my Gramma’s boss found out that she was going back to school, he told her that he didn’t care what degree she earned, she would 
never be an accountant. Today, though? The only job I can’t hold is King, and I don’t think any American is entitled to that, anyway. Every now and then, my Gramma will say longingly “Women can do anything, today.” Yet, as a society, we don’t seem to see it. We’re too busy demanding equal pay for kindergarten teachers and physicists. Personally, I chose a less lucrative field. Some claim that that’s because women are socially programmed to do so, and to that, I say fuuuuck you. How dare you tell me that, because I’m a woman, I’m not intelligent enough to form my own opinions and set my own priorities? How dare you say that to any woman, be she the stay-at-home mom or Sheryl Sandberg, herself? I didn’t become a librarian because someone called me “bossy” when I was little (and they totally did) or because society told me I wasn’t capable of more. I wanted this, because I’m an intelligent and capable adult. So, suck it. 
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The same goes for this reproductive rights argument. If you’re not happy with the fact that a woman can get a medically safe abortion in all 50 states, you need to have a sit down with my great grandmother and her wire hanger. No. That’s not a joke. I’m not entirely sure what more you want out of abortion laws, but I am certain that my views on the subject are not an attack on women. Again, how dare you say that I’m not capable of forming that opinion on my own, that it’s some brainwashing accomplished by man as they feel the need to assert their control over the female body? How intensely arrogant that I can’t just disagree with you, while remaining fully informed. I write this blog for fun and I’ve got over15 citations listed. I promise, I’ve done the research.
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From what I can see, the only “war”…
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acid attack
Acid attack. Still wanna go with that word?
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… on women, that I’ve experienced, is when other women tell each other that they’re making the wrong life choices. (No, that doesn’t apply to pro-lifers in general, because they feel they’re considering a different life, that cannot speak for itself.) Despite the fact that I’ve survived a wretched marriage, obtained a master’s degree, begun a professional career, and cared for myself financially and physically for years, I’m making less money than men, because I was programmed to do so. Similarly, that girl from high school, who wants to become a professor, surround herself with cats, and never get married or have children? She’ll change her mind. She’ll see the light and realize the right way to be female.
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It’s not possible for me to have a different interpretation of the concept of “life.” I just must not be informed of the biology behind Plan B and can’t defend an innocent without attacking “all women.” On the other side of the debate, a woman can’t take Plan B, without being called an irresponsible slut or being told that if she gets pregnant, she asked for it. It is possible for us to have differing opinions without insulting each other. From what can see, it’s not men flinging these comments. If there is any remaining war on women, it is being waged by women.
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Citations

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenstimeline1.html

http://www.mmu.ac.uk/equality-and-diversity/doc/gender-equality-timeline.pdf

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/aprilholladay/2004-12-10-

http://bigthink.com/dollars-and-sex/the-origin-of-marriage-and-the-evolution-of-divorce

wonderquest_x.htm https://www.rainn.org/public-policy/sexual-assault-issues/marital-rape

http://banbossy.com/

http://www.parents.com/blogs/parents-news-now/2013/08/07/must-read/the-childrens-place-apologizes-for-offensive-girls-t-shirt-2/

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/glass%20ceiling

http://www.forbes.com/profile/sheryl-sandberg/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2012/04/16/its-time-that-we-end-the-equal-pay-myth/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-abortion-timeline,0,7911413.story

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/us-abortion-map/

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/314640/abortion-and-gender-gap-numbers-ramesh-ponnuru

http://www.gallup.com/poll/118399/more-americans-pro-life-than-pro-choice-first-time.aspx

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/01/no-women-don-t-make-less-money-than-men.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/us-abortion-map/

A Call for Censorship

I am a librarian. Now, most people think that means I shush folks, shelve books, and push my glasses up my nose with my forefinger.

Indeed, I’ve done all of those things, but there’s more to it than that. As I’ve previously mentioned, librarians have a host of responsibilities. We help people fill out job applications, create resumes, send money to their spouses in prison, set up e-mail addresses, download e-books, recommend reading material based on age/interest/reading level, create programs people actually want to attend… the list is endless. We are public slaves… and we love it. One of our major platforms though, is the war on censorship.

No, really. If an angry mom has a tantrum, because a librarian gave her 10-year-old Thong on Fire (click the link! click the link!), it will be explained to her that the library does not censor or police information, but she’s welcome to come in and assist her daughter in choosing her reading materials. We dispense knowledgeWe do not control knowledge. I can no more pull Thong on Fire for its lewd content, than I can pull Heaven is for Real for its Christian content. I stand by this. It is a truly American viewpoint… perhaps one of the only ones left.

All that being said, however, maybe it’s time that we, as individuals, choose to censor ourselves a bit, particularly in regards to our children.

Sunday, the Midwest got a gust of cold wind and a brief flurry. Naturally, we were all stranded. I didn’t even go to Mass, because of how I almost died, last time. Gail, just being off for her one day (because being a mailman suuuuucks), texted me…

Gail: Wanna play a game? I’ll recommend a show and you recommend a show. We each have to watch two episodes.
Me: Okay. Hart of Dixie.
Gail: Bates Motel. The first episode is a little graphic, but it’s really good.

:: two hours later, referencing Gail’s “dark erotica” phase ::
Me: What the hell is with you and rape?!?! It’s like your freaking favesies! You think it’s the best of everything!
Gail: I said the first episode was graphic!
Gail: Which OBVIOUSLY means rape. Lol.

So, for the last few days, I’ve been watching Bates Motel. It’s easily the most disturbing thing I’ve seen since the week I marathoned American Horror Story, while ranting on Facebook about how the entire writing staff is made up of broken souls.

AHS is still in the lead, though I gave up on season 3 for a while.

Jane: What did it for you? The incest or the bestiality?
Me: The bleach enema.
Jane. Spoiler alert! I haven’t gotten that far!

These disturbing epics have gotten me thinking. Yes, they have to be the result of a group therapy effort gone awry, but I’m more interested in effect than cause. Now, I exaggerate a lot. I know that… but American Horror Story disturbed me to my core. I was genuinely upset by the school shooting episode. I work with teens every day and the idea of them being so afraid and alone, waiting for death, having just enough time to process all they’ll miss in life… ugh. I’m done writing about it. It’s too much. That’s also a pretty healthy reaction. I remember Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook. Just the portrayal of similar events deeply unsettles me. As it should and as the writers intended. I, however, am an adult. 

I’ve discussed media’s effect on society before, but it’s been of greater concern to me, recently, how children are being affected. Just the other day, I discovered a fun correlation. The average age of first exposure to pornography is 11.* The average age for first cell phone is also 11.* I’m not criticizing the idea of giving children a way to call for help. I am concerned, though, that just as puberty hits, we give children limitless and often unmonitored access to media… and that’s the norm. Children have always been curious, certainly; but that curiosity used to manifest itself in stolen peeks at dad’s Maxims or the wrinkled pages of an old bodice ripper found in the garage. Neither medium, however, was acceptably nestled in a child’s pocket at all times.

The danger does not only lie in obvious sites, either. Today, smartphones have numerous apps that parents don’t even consider a threat. Tumblr seems harmless enough, sure… until you combine the words “naughty” and “gif.” The same goes for the Kindle app. Maybe between Harry Potter books, your curious 13-year-old is also absorbing The Erotic Dark. YouTube is just a bunch of cute kittens, you say? Search for “ass kicking.” Just the words SnapChat are enough to make me want to home school… and all of these things are available from the very device that was given to them to keep them safe.

My question is, what is this media doing to children? What will the case studies look like in 15 years? When I was younger, video games were the primary concern. In fact, I firmly believe that video games are still an issue. Don’t get me wrong. Grand Theft Auto V’s protagonist, Michael De Santa, did not shoot up a movie theater in Colorado. Are we harming developing young minds, however, by normalizing this kind of behavior through media? Ten years ago, we didn’t even have all of this new access to media and we were still asking this question. Today, Netflix is a beautiful thing… until your nine-year-old makes it through half a season of Sons of Anarchy, before you even realize they’ve been watching it. This used to (primarily) be the plight of the neglectful parent. Sure, I was watching Sex and the City at age 12, but that’s because my mom was more interested in being my bestie than an authority figure. Now, what kid doesn’t have a smart device?

While the expanse of this problem lies mainly with electronics, even beyond that, erotica is publicly acceptable.For realz yo, my sister-in-law had a “Laters Baby” sticker on the car she drove to her job as a 7th grade reading teacher. That’s a 50 Shades of Grey reference, for anyone who didn’t catch it. At the height of its popularity, that book was all over Facebook. My sister-in-law wasn’t even the only teacher posting about it. Additionally, the covers of books in that genre used to be anything but subtle…

bodice ripper
Wait. His chest is disproportionate to… everything else. No, really. The gun looks tiny.

… today, the trend has shifted to the completely innocuous.

the gambleIn this one, he essentially holds her captive until she think it’s sexy…
like in The Beauty and the Beast.

So, even when you aren’t reading something on a Kindle/Nook/iPad, no one has to suspect that you need to change your panties, anymore.

Aunt Glenda: “Is that a Kindle, Belle?”
Me: “Yeah. It’s a Paperwhite.”
Aunt Glenda: “Can I see it?”

It took me an unexplainable amount of time to find any book that was appropriate for Thanksgiving dinner, before handing it over.

I reiterate that NO library will deny these books to anyone.

I’m not proposing that we all pretend it’s 1986. Technology is a beautiful thing, with many benefits and self-control can only be taught with moderation. I’m also not suggesting we, in any way, police the media consumption of adults. They’re old enough to compartmentalize and separate fantasy from reality. That’s no one else’s responsibility. Children, however, are the responsibility of society and, most importantly, their parents. We’ve entered this age where we’re so afraid to tell kids that they can’t do something. We’re terrified of setting limits and I see that in the students in my classrooms who cannot get through a single hour without some form of electronic media, be it music or texting or social networking. I see it in the kids who watch violent YouTube videos on their phones and the 6-year-old boy shouting “BITCH!” at the computer in the library. This is all happening right now. Children are becoming addicted to pornography, The Walking Dead is completely desensitizing them to violence and gore, little girls are sending pictures of their breasts to boys (22% ages 14-17)*, teens are encouraging self-mutilation and eating disorders, and no one is doing anything about it. We will see the day when a presidential election is compromised by a sext. So, my suggestion? Start telling children no. The library certainly won’t do it, because it’s not our place. Nor is it the place of Netflix, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, SnapChat, Tinder, Samsung, and iPhone.

We don’t have the luxury of rating systems anymore, as we did when video games and movies were the scariest things out there. We have to create limitations ourselves. I’m not saying that I have the perfect answer for what those limits are, despite the fact that I see no reason anyone under the age of 18 needs 24/7 internet access, but they have to exist. Parents need to set limits that work for them, and find a way to enforce them. Schools need to reclaim the power and ban cell phones from sight. Parents should back them. Children should never touch a single electronic device in church, ever. The phone should be put away during mealtimes, and that goes for adults as well.  Perhaps an extension of the problem is that we’re too busy with media to take notice of youth. We can’t protect kids from everything, especially in this digital age, but that doesn’t mean we have to banish them to the town from The Children of the Corn, either.They need guidance. They need our effort. They need a little censorship… because things never work out so well when children run the show.

children of the corn

http://www.citizenlink.com/2012/01/27/the-new-normal-%E2%80%93-youth-exposure-to-online-pornography/

http://www.theonlinemom.com/secondary.asp?id=1981

http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-sexting