Press Pop Culture

Best of The Tempest 2018: 9 Stories from Pop Culture

It’s been a peculiar year in the realm of entertainment. We’ve had such big, progressive victories and such big setbacks and anachronisms in terms of representation, transparency, and inclusivity. Many LGBTQ+ artists thrived, and 2018 was dubbed 20GAYTEEN by singer Hayley Kiyoko. It was the year of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, and yet big name studios are still out there producing films that are imbued with racism, sexism, homophobia, and fatphobia as well as often promoting rape and hate.

We’re still light years away from consuming the egalitarian entertainment we deserve. I knew that very well when I became Pop Culture Editor at The Tempest. I understood that I would have to look closely at many media products that would make me mad, which I would rather ignore and avoid at all costs, but I gladly accepted the challenge. I believe our mission is to shed light on everything that is going on, and that includes denouncing the many injustices that occur in the entertainment industry. We can’t possibly stay silent about the things we deem wrong, because silence is complicity.

But we also don’t like to only see the glass half empty, and we love to admit that there are many things to praise and to celebrate. Without further ado, I present to you 9 of my favorite Pop Culture stories we published in 2018, a mix of the good and the bad.

1. Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Despite the good representation that television and the music industry gifted us with this year, blockbusters are still actively promoting the erasure of female queerness as well as employing queer bait. This is a trend that needs to stay in 2018.

2. What time is it, Hollywood?

What time is it, Hollywood?

What about what happens behind the camera? This article explores some trends of the entertainment industry from the inside out, because actresses are not the only people we need to protect. Let’s say #TimesUp to all kinds of discrimination.

3. Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

There is a big misconception in fiction and in critique: that a female character who dares be different and dislikable is automatically a great feminist heroine. She’s not, and that’s okay.

4. Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

We are tired of people giving J.K. Rowling a free pass for everything just because she wrote a beautiful book series 20 years ago. For a while now, she has been twisting things to appear “woke” instead of honestly admitting that as the times progressed, she also wants to be more inclusive. There is no need to say that she was planning plot twists all along when in reality the implications of that make her way more problematic. Read why in this piece!

5. Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

If you don’t know what an item number is, you need to read this piece. If you do know, you need to read this piece. It’s eye-opening and I will never look at a Bollywood film the same way again.

6. This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

Contrary to what some haters will have you believe about feminists, we do celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of men, when they deserve it. This article is a clap on the back of an Oscar-winning director for an amazing film that contributed to making 2018 better.

7. Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think

Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think 

You may or may not know this show, which was a true revelation for its honest representation of working (and woke!) millennial women. However, the show has been accused of portraying a utopistic world of equality (but it really doesn’t, the protagonists deal with misogyny, racism and homophobia every day). This article cleverly responds to that claim, contextualizing it particularly within the journalism world (where the main characters spend most of their time) that we know too well.

8. Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Abusers deserve to be held accountable for their actions. After the tidal wave that was the #MeToo movement, it’s good to see that celebrities are still being taken down after abusive behavior.

9. My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

A constant struggle in the transition to adulthood is that we are burdened with too many responsibilities and we have too little time to do the things we actually want to do out of sheer pleasure, like reading. It does not help that books have gained a very strong competitor for our time and attention, the “monster” that are streaming services.

We’re ready to kiss 2018 goodbye. In the hope that 2019 will be a more satisfying year for women, people of color, and all oppressed minorities, happy new year from the staff of The Tempest!

Music BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Chris Brown: known for treating women like garbage, releasing uninspired 45-track albums, and hopefully soon, for getting his ass handed to him by the justice system.

Chris Brown, along with rapper Young Lo and an unnamed woman, is being sued by an anonymous woman who is going by Jane Doe in a civil lawsuit alleging rape and other instances of sexual assault. In Feb. 2017, Jane Doe and her roommate attended a nightclub in Los Angeles where Chris Brown was performing. Young Lo (Lowell Grissom Jr.) invited the two women to an after-party at a recording studio, which then moved to Brown’s house.

Throughout the course of the night, Jane Doe was held in Brown’s house against her will, intimidated, raped several times, and forced to perform sex acts on both Grissom and the unknown woman listed in the lawsuit.

Chris Brown is a known abuser.

His history of terrorizing woman dates back to at least 2009, when he infamously hit Rihanna multiple times in the face, leaving extensive bruises and cuts. He received five years of probation and six months of community service, but no jail time. Fast-forward a few years, and then-girlfriend Karrueche Tran revealed that Brown had been aggressive toward her throughout their relationship. He reportedly hit her and pushed her down the stairs, and sent her threatening text messages, telling her he would “beat the shit out of” her and that he would shoot her. She was granted a restraining order against Brown in June 2017. And then, earlier this year, photos surfaced of Brown choking a woman while partying in Miami. Both he and the woman insisted later that he was just playing around and it was harmless fun. And now,, Jane Doe has come forward with her lawsuit, once again exposing Chris Brown for exactly who he is, even though we’ve all known for years.

To top it off, news outlets report that a woman, Cassandra, was granted a restraining order against Brown after he stalked and hit her.

Brown, despite the evidence of his abuse, has stayed relatively unscathed through all his assault scandals. When he beat Rihanna almost to the point beyond recognition, people were outraged, but a few years later when he and Rihanna briefly reconciled, fans were mad at her for choosing to get back together with him. The backlash from the incident didn’t seem to affect his career, or at least not permanently: he’s had numerous hits since then and still gets plenty of airtime.

The response the public has seemed to give his continued mistreatment of women is to shrug and move on.

However, it seems that is changing with this latest lawsuit outlining horrific details of rape, assault, and trauma Jane Doe experienced. Movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up are far from perfect and are often exclusionary, but they have still helped create an environment where women are taken seriously. Where men, such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, and R. Kelly are being put on blast, boycotted, and even sentenced to jail time.

The past year has seen women speaking up and out about men’s predatory behaviors, and recently, the public has actually been there to support them, as opposed to 2009 when Brown attacked Rihanna.

I hope that, as a society and as consumers, we are finally fed up enough with abusive men that we boycott them, support their victims, and refrain from giving them props for their “creative genius” while conveniently ignoring their terrible treatment of women. Women consistently show up and relive their traumatic experiences in front of the public; the least we can do is believe them.

I’m glad to see that the reactions to Chris Brown’s garbage behavior are angrier and less apathetic than when he assaulted Rihanna. We need to keep the pressure on men to, you know, not be violent, and we need to shut down rape and assault apologists when we encounter them. We need to keep standing up for women.

It looks like women are finally shutting the door on Chris Brown. Let’s keep the momentum going and hold all powerful and famous men accountable.

Politics The World

If you haven’t already – you really need to stop listening to R. Kelly

If you follow music or news at all, you have probably heard of the recent R. Kelly “cult” allegations. If not, you can read all the details here.

Essentially, the 50-year-old singer has been accused of holding several young women against their will in a cult-like scenario where he controls every aspect of their lives (food, clothing, sex, who they have contact with, etc.). The women’s parents are now coming forward with details, among them how their daughters entered the relationship with R. Kelly and how often they had been heard from.

Three other women, former members of his “inner-circle,” are also detailing the horrible living conditions and emotional abuse they were put through in their time with him. The reports are disturbing, especially when you know the singer for his smooth and popular songs like, “I Believe I Can Fly.”

However, allegations like this aren’t new for R. Kelly. He’s had a history of court cases for marrying a 15-year-old, battery charges, several incidents of underage sexual relationships, and child pornography. With all his money and the excuse of insufficient evidence, he managed to get through all this cleanly.

I didn’t know about this history before, but, to be honest, I’m not surprised. We have a history of letting celebrities get away with their actions, usually without apologies.

Bill Cosby, Akon, Chris Brown, Michael Jackson, Casey Affleck, Woody Allen…

You get the point.

Most of us know about the accusations made against these men, and yet we choose to ignore them. Even if we don’t support the celebrity himself, we still support their art, which, by default, supports the artist. It can be hard to let go of your favorite songs or movies just because the person who made it was involved in some scandal we’re really not sure about. It’s easier to jam out to R. Kelly’s “Ignition” with your friends, turning the lyrics into meaningless words, and forgetting that this man is an emotional and sexual abuser.

Think about it this way: the more we support these artists, the richer they get, the more fame attached to their name, and the more they are allowed to get away with anything. A lot of celebrities can pay their way out of their messes. Even if they don’t get away with their crimes, they still have the support of their fans, are allowed a comeback, and a pass to do it all again.

This is what we’re seeing with R. Kelly.

There are always arguments supporting the celebrities. In this specific case, people are saying that the women involved with Kelly are now all adults, that this is a consensual relationship. One of the women came out to say that she’s fine, so why can’t we just let it go?

Firstly, we don’t know if she was forced to say that, especially regarding the conditions she’s in. Even if she wasn’t, that is what cult psychology does to a person

Kitti Jones, one of the former insiders, recalled her relationship with Kelly to Buzzfeed, “I got trapped. I had people telling me I was an idiot. But it took me a long time to realize they were right, and I’m talking now because I hope I can help some of these other girls.”

If the parents’ desperate plea for help isn’t enough to convince you, then understand that in cults, victims are toyed with emotionally and given promises anyone can fall for, even if they are unhappy. Just because a relationship/group involvement is consensual does not make it right. The people who died in Jonestown died consensually.

And, anyway, these sorts of defenses come up with every allegation against a celebrity (and any abuse case, really). It’s just easier to let your conscience rest with one of these excuses so you can continue consuming the celebrity’s art.

But we need to start holding them accountable beyond a week-long scandal. Not just for the women in those specific cases but also for the survivors of sexual abuse everywhere.

If Kelly had been stopped before, if his defamation had been taken more seriously the first, second, and third times around, maybe these women wouldn’t have found themselves in the situation they’re in.

The first step to holding celebrities accountable is for the law to stop letting them get away with their actions (which hasn’t been helpful so far). The second is for other celebrities to stop collaborating with and supporting them (which does not seem likely).

The third step is up to you – the fans, the consumers.

Stop supporting these predators and making their actions normal. They’re not, and we definitely shouldn’t be singing about it in the car with our friends.

TV Shows Pop Culture

Let’s talk about male rape on TV.

Editor’s note: This piece discusses sensitive issues of rape and sexual violence that may be triggering to some readers.

Outside of Law & Order: SVU, men being raped and acknowledged as victims seems to be a distant thought on television. Late last year, even a beloved show on television with a strong feminist following presented a very troubling depiction of a boy who was in a situation with a twisted dynamic. But for some reason, conversation on why it was alarming was never fleshed out.

In its episode “The Other Dr. L,” The Mindy Project highlights Lucky Bastard Syndrome when Dr. Leotard – played by guest star James Franco – is clearly blackout drunk and is raped. The ensuing conversation, though, doesn’t touch how he was unable to make the decision to have sex with a coworker’s ex-wife, and the episode focuses on the consequences of this action. There are eerie traces of victim-blaming throughout the episode. In one scene, Mindy leaves Dr. Leotard in his apartment hallway after she can’t find his keys. She kisses him, and he yells, “Woah, neighbors!”

[bctt tweet=”He then has to leave the workplace, though it was obviously not consensual.” username=”wearethetempest”]

She puts her hand over his mouth and says “Nothing happened, you liked it,” before leaving him there. In the following scenes, Dr. Leotard is heavily intoxicated and it is insinuated he has sex. He then has to leave the workplace, though it was obviously not consensual.

Men already under-report rape and sexual assault. And this is largely due to tropes like Lucky Bastard Syndrome and feelings of shame perpetuated by society. The National Crime Victimization Survey turned up a remarkable statistic in 2013. After asking 40,000 households about rape and sexual violence, the survey uncovered that 38 percent of incidents were against men. This is alarming and further substantiates why we need to be cognizant of male rape being dismissed or not viewed as rape in television, in one show after another. Popular culture shapes and is a reflection of our shared cultural norms and values.

[bctt tweet=”Men already under-report rape and sexual assault.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The show How to Get Away With Murder also featured a case in the episode “He Has a Wife.” A mother of two is accused of killing their nanny, Elka. Elka’s murder unearths a love triangle between her and two males in the family – including Cody, the teenage son, who apparently protracted an STD from having sex with her.

It’s never established that Cody was a survivor of statutory rape, and the lack of discussion makes light of the situation. Instead, the legal team regrets not discovering Cody and Elka’s “ relationship” sooner for their legal agenda. After a legal intern pulls the information from Cody, almost casually, there is zero discussion of the twisted power dynamic she had as his caretaker, or the age difference.

[bctt tweet=”Popular culture shapes and is a reflection of our shared cultural norms and values.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The narrative of sexual exploitation and abuse is entirely erased and normalized. A teenaged boy got an STD from someone meant to be his caretaker. It’s disgusting and despicable, but none of this is unpacked. Not a single member of the legal team or court bats an eye. Even Cody’s father reacts by killing Elka and framing his wife. His toxic masculinity was harmed because his son was “having sex with her,” in a jealous rage. This severe reaction was rooted in jealousy from another man in Elka’s life, instead of a realization that his son was exploited. This speaks to how toxic male sexual entitlement is.

We witness this recurring trend in pop culture and society, too. In real life, we have seen R&B singer Chris Brown fail to comprehend that he “lost his virginity” at an age far below the age of consent. Chris Brown was raped. At the age of eight, no one – no one – can consent to sexual acts.

[bctt tweet=”This speaks to how toxic male sexual entitlement is.” username=”wearethetempest”]

His lack of recognition of this skewed dynamic is a clear example of why sexual assault of men and boys deserves more than detached mentions. Teen boys who have sex with adult women are glamorized. It’s rarely interpreted as an offense, but instead a dirty little secret.

The prevalence of perspectives like that of Chris Brown also warrants a discussion on ethically dealing with boys who do not believe they were raped. The casual nature of this incident skirted around every aspect of this discussion and reinforced this harmful behavior.

[bctt tweet=”We witness this recurring trend in pop culture and society, too. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

It’s easier for us to recognize troubling dynamics when a girl is underage. However, there are times young women deny their assaults, similar to Chris Brown. The argument that boys and girls are not the same when it comes to statutory rape is dangerous. Statutory rape is normalized when an audience believes they were in love or that there was consent. It’s troubling, and yet is referenced often in popular culture because of the classic novel Lolita. We witness it normalized in the popular show Pretty Little Liars, where 16 year-old Aria is seen as consenting and mature in her relationship with her teacher from season one. She’s also minor and unable to truly consent. But that, of course, is predominantly erased.

Our entertainment should make us question how we gauge consent in pop culture. It would be wonderful to see enthusiastic consent on television. But the world is not one rooted in enthusiastic consent, so I understand that television depicts the nuances in life.

[bctt tweet=”It’s easier for us to recognize troubling dynamics when a girl is underage.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Television and literature often act as models for society. So for me, watching these storylines without seeing them be unpacked is troubling. I expected even an implied discussion of the ethical issues presented by sexual assaults like Cody’s. I was disappointed.