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What boycotting JK Rowling means on the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that you believe in equal rights and you support the trans community in spirit. That you call yourself an LGBTQIA+ ally and wear rainbows in June and march at Pride with your queer friends. If you support J.K. Rowling instead of boycotting her, all of that is performative. Because it’s easy to advocate for human rights in the face of overt injustice, against people who want to openly deny people rights. But when it’s time to really take a stand, to renounce something you like because it’s problematic, will you do it? Will you stand with your queer friends then?

J.K. Rowling has said a lot of things that were transphobic. There is no way around it at this point. The author has reiterated her points time and time again with conviction. And a few other things that made me lose faith in her long before that. Now, people coming to her defense will say she is entitled to her own personal opinion. That she is not hurting anyone with her thoughts. That she changed her perspective recently and spun her argument around women’s safety rather than trans rights. But the issue is much more complex than that. Her thoughts, per se, aren’t hurting anyone. But her words? J.K. Rowling has a terrifyingly immense fanbase. Her words are endangering trans lives.

When she tweets about her own prejudice against trans individuals, she is preaching to an echo chamber of millions of people who listen to her as if the world hangs from her keyboard. People who feel validated in their own ignorance and hatred. People who go out there and spread that message and turn it into discriminatory and violent acts.

This needs to be established. Words have consequences. Celebrities especially, who hold so much mediatic power, need to be held accountable for their actions.

I am sick of hearing people my age, people who should know better, that they have stopped supporting J.K. Rowling when they still buy her new books and go see her new movies. That is the definition of supporting an author. Unfollowing on social media is not enough to boycott somebody.

The reason why Rowling is so rich isn’t that she sold billions of books – although that certainly contributed. It’s that she gets royalties. As of 2020, her biggest source of income are the Wizarding World theme parks. She also gets a cut from every time television airs a film based on her books. A cut from every cinema or theatre ticket sold (don’t go see Cursed Child, it’ll be an actual waste of your savings). A cut from every item of Harry Potter merchandising you buy your friends for Christmas. If you truly want to show you don’t support her, then stop supporting her.

I know, I know Harry Potter was your childhood. It was my childhood too. And my teenage years. I named my dog after a Harry Potter character. I still have posters up in my childhood bedroom. Like many in my generation, I am the person I am thanks to Harry Potter. I still love the characters. I still stay up at night reading and writing fanfiction inspired by the world of Harry Potter. But I go out of my way to make sure nothing I do supports a person with transphobic views. I go out of my way to make sure more and more people know what supporting her means for certain people.

Not everyone wants to be an activist, and that’s fair. What I find truly unacceptable is people claiming ignorance. “I’m a feminist and I don’t agree with what she said about trans people, but let me enjoy Potter in peace.” It doesn’t work like that. If you’re an ally as you claim to be, you shouldn’t enjoy Harry Potter in peace. You should fight against the powerful person telling millions of people that we aren’t all equal, a powerful person claiming that some people deserve fewer rights than others. Isn’t that what Hermione and Harry would do? Isn’t that what they did do?

I’m not saying we need to collectively disown and renounce Harry Potter, throw away our memorabilia and burn the books. I’m not saying we should pretend to hate it or that we never loved it in the first place. I’m saying we should take what it taught us and use it to make the world a kinder place. And yes, paradoxical as it sounds, that includes boycotting its creator.

It’s not a moral dilemma. We can enjoy a story and disagree with the author’s political views 20+ years after she wrote the books, it’s as straightforward as that. Philosopher Roland Barthes, a pillar in literary theory, comes to our aid in this: he coined a concept called la morte de l’auteur, quite literally “the death of the author.” Barthes encourages readers to split an author from their works and to view them as two separate entities. The author has full agency over the work, but relinquishes their authority over it the moment a work of art becomes public; it stops belonging to the author and it becomes property of its users, who are free to do with it what they will. This theory is also the most strenuous defender of fanfiction and fanart in the eternal debate around transformative works. Like John Green once exemplified and paraphrased, “books belong to their readers.”

J.K. Rowling owns the rights to Harry Potter (as she should, given she’s written it), but she doesn’t own our relationship to it. And we don’t owe her anything in return. There was no blood oath sealed when we first purchased The Philosopher Stone in the 90s or 00s binding us to the book’s author. We did not vow our unquestioned allegiance. Perhaps some of us did when we were younger, overcome with romanticism. Today, we cannot forsake our critical sense in the name of that loyalty.

Keep heart, Potterheads. Harry and his friends and their adventures belong to us. We get to still love them. I do. I have supported J.K. Rowling for over a decade of my life before she started spewing nonsense, but I don’t owe her my integrity now. I don’t owe her anything else but the truth. And the truth is I am, in part, what she made me: a woman who won’t stand for injustice and will speak out against it. It’s almost ironic that it was her own characters that taught me to fight back against her.

Many people are convinced, in theory, by this argument. But in practice, they don’t see what they can contribute. J.K. Rowling is too popular to ever truly boycott, and that may be true. But we should all do our part. If views drop, if ticket sales and book sales drop, eventually, in the long run, the industry will notice. If official merchandise isn’t being sold at the same rate it used to be, there will be a decrease in production. So take those steps. Unfollow her on social media, report her problematic statements. Buy second-hand books, DVDs, merchandise. You will also do some good to the environment and maybe to someone in need. You can also consider supporting small entrepreneurs and fan creators and buying non-official merch. Better to support them than a billionaire and a huge conglomerate like Warner Bros, who certainly doesn’t need your money.

It’s a miracle Warner Bros was able to bring back the entire core cast for the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film. Many of the actors have chosen to distance themselves and even condemned J.K. Rowling for her TERF-sounding statements. In fact, it’s safe to assume many only agreed to come back for the reunion at all because the author would be absent. This choice may look like a damnatio memoriae, like WB itself decided to exclude her from the show, but it’s actually a premeditated marketing move. By excluding her from all promotion of the reunion, they are ensuring the masses are not reminded of Rowling’s recent statements, and that they will purchase an HBO Max subscription and tune in happily with no sour feelings.

On her end, Rowling is also able to, if she chooses, play the victim, the part of the female creator who was excluded from a celebration of her own work of art. Ostracized and written out of the narrative she herself has created. Please do not be fooled by this pity-inducing move. J.K. Rowling is still very much earning royalties from the reunion. She may not be present in person, but she’s still making money out of it. Our nostalgia is once upon played upon and manipulated to enrich her.

Watching Return To Hogwarts on HBO Max still equals supporting J.K. Rowling. Watching the new Fantastic Beasts film does too. It means handing even more power to a person who spoke against trans rights.

Do you want to be on the right side of history?

TV Shows Pop Culture

‘Shadow and Bone’ is Netflix’s best fantasy show to date

Like any well-written fantasy, Shadow and Bone operates on an allegory for the real world. Underneath the phenomenal directing, the stunning sets, and the magical special effects, it is a story about prejudice and otherness, about faith, zeal, and overreaching. 

The series is an adaptation from the novels by author Leigh Bardugo known as the Grishaverse and a crossover of sorts between the eponymous Shadow and Bone trilogy, about Alina Starkov, an orphan and soldier in the First Army who goes on a classic hero’s journey, and the Six of Crows duology which is about a band of – for lack of a better term – criminals who make heists an art form.

The show did a spectacular job staying true to the nature of the source material while becoming more conscious, more dynamic, and full of surprises for book fans. There aren’t many significant differences in plot, apart from those that stem from the Six of Crows characters being inoculated in the main storyline in a very welcome mix. The Crows add a completely different dimension to the show, contributing to what can effectively only be described as a heist storyline. This creates a highly heterogenous ensemble cast where everyone is driven by a different motive and goal, and the viewers have fun uncovering all those layers to most characters, while some may remain a mystery reserved for future seasons. 

“What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.” The iconic saying that the entire series revolves on doesn’t make it into the show in words, but it still hovers over the story constantly. All the characters are hungry, some even greedy, for something. More power, more money, more love, more acceptance, more freedom, more ambition, more time. 


Alina Starkov’s (Jessie Mei Li) storyline perfectly follows that of any chosen one: ordinary girl – what’s more ordinary than a soldier in a land that’s based on Tsarist Russia? – becomes extraordinary in the span of a moment, finding out she’s always possessed a unique power that could save her country. She’s the Sun Summoner, one of the most powerful Grisha who’s ever lived. Alina initially rejects her new status as it takes her away from the only home she’s ever known, her best friend Mal Oretsev (Archie Renaux). Through time and with a little encouragement from new acquaintances, Alina gradually comes to accept and embrace her nature. 

The show follows a circular structure. Alina starts off as a nobody, a little girl everyone picks on, who strives to be ordinary so as not to draw unwanted attention; she ends the season disguised once more as a nobody, trying to escape her Saint’s notoriety. She doesn’t take her gift lightly and she isn’t leaving her country behind for good. The promise of her return feels as tangible and as sure as the Crows’ next heist. 

As a fan of the books, I believe the show really enhanced the story. The new medium allows us to not be limited to the first-person point of view, one that’s tied to the main character’s biased narration with only Alina’s thoughts and feelings to establish the world and the relationships. In fact, the true key is seeing all characters and how they act when they aren’t around Alina. That makes all the difference when it comes to her two love interests (which I know you are all here to read about): halfway through the season, Alina is mad at Mal because she thinks he’s deliberately ignoring her, and the show lets us see Mal is actually on a dangerous quest that will take him to her, while Alina’s many letters to Mal are being intercepted by General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), who sees Alina’s need to be wanted and loved, and uses it to his advantage to manipulate her. 



In the book, we are stuck in Alina’s head along with her frustration with Mal and her budding attraction to the Darkling, never seeing what they are really up to. The show uncovers their motives for us. General Kirigan is not romanticized through Alina’s eyes. Ben Barnes did a spectacular job diving into his layers, humanizing him while playing a twisted character. There is no doubt he is a megalomaniac, thirsty for blood and power, who doesn’t care about others as long as he wins. What makes the story so intriguing, though, is that a part of him genuinely craves Alina’s approval and love, mirroring that side of her. 

That’s what is so tragic and refreshing about this series: just because opposites attract, doesn’t mean they’re right for each other. Sometimes, one’s opposite is beyond saving and redemption, because the choices they make should be more important than the qualities they’re born with. As Alina points out in the last episode, she and Kirigan could have saved and ruled Ravka together as equals, but he overreached and put a collar around her neck to control her power like a puppet. What people find romantic about this, I will never know. 



Through everything, Mal and Alina always strive towards each other, towards home. In the same way that Alina causes the death of her companions when she burns the maps so she can go through the Fold with Mal, Mal’s friends die on the mission to find the Stag so he can go see Alina. How Alina can only let herself be seduced by the Darkling’s charm after she’s apparently moved on from Mal (and how even before she kisses Kirigan, she looks at the scar on her palm) isn’t lost on the audience, either. In the meantime, while they are unable to communicate, we are the repository of the words Alina and Mal want to exchange. Poetically, they both write to each other about true North, a trope that I can never get enough of. 

At the end of the day, it matters little that Mal and Alina’s undeniable love wasn’t labeled. There was no need to charge the last few episodes emotionally even more by having them share a hurried kiss in the wilderness. It would’ve stopped the action, slowed the pace down, and for what? They’re each other’s home and true North and have been all their lives, which is worth a lot more than a kiss or two. In any other story, the protagonist might’ve at least tried to push the best friend away, saying the mission was too dangerous, to save their life, but Alina doesn’t, and it’s not out of selfishness. It’s because, for both Mal and Alina, there simply isn’t a scenario in which they’re not together and things can go well. 



Alina and Mal have always been outsiders and they are subject to the outward racism that we still have in our world. We see another kind of prejudice in the show too, the loathing of the Other. Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman) and Nina Zenik (Danielle Calligan), a Fjerdan Druskelle and a Ravkan Heartrender, provide us that exposure: the real reason why Ravka is at war with all neighboring countries is that they are scared of their Second Army of Grisha. Fjerda in particular believes Grisha to be abominations, inhuman creatures who go against nature and Djel, witches who should be burned at the stake. That is what drives Kirigan – an urge to make the Grisha safe (and to rule the world, of course) because he remembers a time when they were hunted even within Ravka’s borders. Through Nina and Matthias, we see that this prejudice is born of ignorance, not of inherent evil. 

When Nina and Matthias prioritize survival and put aside their differences, their personal beliefs and vendetta, they become better for it. They come to realize that what they both fear and hate is the unknown, because up until that point, they believed the lies they had been fed to perpetuate the war between their countries, a conflict that Fjerda excuses to effectively plan the genocide of all Grisha. When Nina and Matthias, twin souls, soldiers destined to fight for different sides, finally make their own choices, they are finding not only each other, but themselves. 


Greed is a lever

The missing piece of the puzzle are the criminals who call themselves the Crows: Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), a rising star of the underworld of Ketterdam, Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), his most trusted spy, and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), his sharpshooter. They see an opportunity to strike a life-changing deal and they take it. What drives them? Greed, on a superficial level, but so much more. Vengeance, freedom, faith, debt. We mostly hear about Inej’s backstory, but it doesn’t mean the stories of the other Dregs have been erased: Easter eggs are scattered across the episodes. It’s only fair that we come to uncover Kaz’s secrets with time instead of all at once, but just hearing the way he utters Pekka’s name is enough to tell us there is more. I am sure his and Jesper’s backstories will be shown in due time next season. 

These events are set before Six of Crows, so it’s wonderful to see the dynamics between the trio gradually shift until they become what they are at the beginning of the books. Kaz and Inej melt hearts with their intensity. Their relationship was one of the things I was worried about in the adaptation because slow-burn doesn’t even cover it, and that’s exactly how it should be; the show captured it flawlessly, without the characters having to explain themselves. Jesper, too, was simply perfect and he stole hearts especially in the scenes with Milo the goat, the true MVP. 

The Crows’ plot is all original to the show, so it’s where the showrunner could express his true potential as a creator and storyteller, and I daresay he passed with flying colors. Kaz’s plans are true brain-teasers, but not enough that they’re impossible to follow; the dialogue is witty. It’s clear from the casting of the show that the writers’ room cared deeply about diversity and representation. By adding Poppy, they wrote in the first-ever trans woman of color in a fantasy show, and with Jesper, they added a bisexual and biracial sex scene that somehow didn’t come off as tokenism.


When the future of the world feels like it hangs on Alina’s shoulders, it’s nice to have the Crows balance the stakes. It was entertaining to witness Jesper’s jokes, Inej’s faith, Kaz’s scheming and how the three intersect to create the perfect trio. Even the directorial choices when it came to their story were refreshing. They mixed up the pacing and provided a constant change of scenery, allowing us to see more of the world—and how word of the Sun Summoner is spreading throughout Ravka. 

No matter how confident he is, Kaz completes a 180-degree turn by the end. Though a firm non-believer, he recognizes that Alina must go free, and he puts aside his pride when he lets her go and renounces the promise of one million kruge. Perhaps kidnapping a Saint was crossing a line even for Dirtyhands. 

That restraint goes to reinforce the overarching message of the show, setting the good guys apart from the villains: overreaching is never good. Excess of greed, of ambition, of power, can only lead to true corruption. Even in a world of magic, there must be a limit to what humans—and Grisha—can do without upsetting the order of things. Alina understands that when she refuses to kill the Stag to take his power for herself. 

In the finale, everything comes full circle for our cast, with a delicious role reversal: Mal and Alina are on the skiff again, one hovering over the other on the brink of death; Nina and Matthias are again on a ship where one of them is a prisoner; the Crows looking for a Heartrender for the next con.

It was lovely to see the characters come together at the end and how they quickly forged alliances. Honorable mention to Inej and Zoya Nazyalensky (Sujaya Dasgupta), the duo I didn’t know I needed. The entire cast portrayed their characters spectacularly, and I wish I had words to describe how much I loved Genya Safin (Daisy Head), David Kostyk (Luke Pasqualino), and Fedyor Kaminski (Julian Kostov), as well as the scene-stealing Baghra (Zoe Wanamaker). In addition to the brilliant writing, a note must be reserved for the details of the spectacular sets and the intricate costumes as well as the score and special effects. 

Shadow and Bone is a transformative experience for audience and characters alike. In the span of the 8 episodes all characters, perhaps with the exception of the long-lived General Kirigan, have come a long way, and we cannot wait what there’s in store for them

We can only hope that Netflix announces a season 2 (and 3, while we’re at it) soon so that showrunner Eric Heisserer and his brilliant team can continue adapting this masterpiece. There are a couple of new characters we are dying to see. After all, what is infinite? The universe and the greed of fans.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

Prepare to be bewitched by Diana and Matthew in “A Discovery of Witches” season 2

The first season of A Discovery of Witches has a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.1 on IMDB. I’m leading with this to convince each and every one of you who might have passed on this gem if you thought it was “just another show about witches and vampires.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let me tell you that this story is a true masterpiece and deserves to be watched even by the most convinced fantasy skeptics.

Based on the best-selling All Souls novels by Dr Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches is a tale about supernatural creatures that live among us, but also a tale of community, belonging, history, legacy, and evolution. It is also, undeniably, a love story; perhaps the best I’ve discovered in 2020. 

If you haven’t watched season 1 or read the books, go do that now and then come back to this review, because it will be quite spoilery for season/book 1. If, on the other hand, you are awaiting details about the upcoming season 2, buckle up. 

Something that positively struck me about the adaptation of book 2, Shadow of Night (my favorite!), is how marvelously it portrayed that, as Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont timewalk to 1590 to find the lost Book of Life, their quest inexplicably turns inwards, towards themselves and each other, as they simultaneously face harsh and hostile surroundings. The balance between their world-changing quest and their internal one hits the perfect spot between introspection and action. Which is incredible, considering how much plot there is to establish and unpack, and how many faces to introduce. 

As a historian, Diana hasn’t had a lot of success in meeting her heroes: they all turned out to be different than expected.

The first new character we meet is English playwright Christopher Marlowe, played spectacularly by Tom Hughes, who brilliantly captured Kit’s duplicitous nature and daemonic essence. Kit is Matthew’s best friend, and he is also the first to openly doubt and reject Diana, setting a hard-to-break pattern of hostility that she will face in 1590.

Diana is little more than a refugee in this time and place, with no possessions or connections save for Matthew. It’s clear from the first that her success depends on her partner and on her ability to quickly adapt to and accept societal standards. It certainly isn’t easy for a proud outspoken 21st-century feminist to be thrust in that world, and the outward sexism wearies Diana faster than you can say France. 

“Women own nothing… save what lies between their ears.”

I was infinitely glad that the slights and limitations that a foreign woman such as Diana would suffer in 1590 were, for the most part, established implicitly, rather than with pitiful speeches on misogyny, because how could Diana, a professor of history, expect anything different from the 16th century? What’s better, we are reminded that Diana actually has it easier than most, as a beautiful woman married to a rich, influential, and fearsome man. 

She is warned time and time again that Matthew wouldn’t be the same once in a different context. He does regress to his 16th-century self in front of Diana’s eyes and together with her we discover more of his (seemingly endless) secrets and an even darker side of him. Soon enough, he starts displaying more territorial and vampire-animalistic behavior that Diana doesn’t tolerate for one second, giving the audience no chance to misinterpret possessiveness for romanticism. No, she meets him headfirst beat for beat until he relents. 

“Diana’s getting to know him again in this era,” says Teresa Palmer.

The two share a lot of incredibly sweet and tender moments too, but the season isn’t without their fights, which I appreciated in equal measure. Despite what 1590 might want of her, Diana will never be a passive housewife. She confronts and provokes Matthew when necessary and she always does what she needs to get her way. 

The undeniable chemistry between Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode – together with the spectacular writing – is the reason why the show works so well, easily translating into the best on-screen supernatural couple I’ve ever seen. Their scenes feel even more spontaneous and genuine than in their freshman season. 

Palmer has clearly grown in her role in tandem with Diana herself. The only funny note I have is that as an Australian actress playing an American pretending to be English, Teresa’s Aussie accent came through a couple of times, but it only served to make me smile, like in the instance where somebody asks her where she hails from and she hesitantly replies “Cambridge, my lord… well, perhaps somewhere to the west of Cambridge.” However, she delivers every demanding scene spectacularly. 

“Perhaps somewhere to the west of Cambridge…”

Matthew Goode’s already flawless performance is required to step into divine levels as his character gains even more layers, and Goode will shock you with mind-blowing results. I do not say this lightly, but he will be robbed of an Emmy if he doesn’t win one. 

Diana Bishop might have a hard time adjusting to being Mistress Roydon, but the 16th century presents Matthew de Clermont with a more daunting challenge: to face and battle with his past, his old self and the decisions he has taken, with his conscience much heavier. He is nearly eaten by remorse because he cannot stop or undo everything wrong that happened the first time around. The stakes are much higher now, and his actions have more dangerous repercussions both on the past that now surrounds him, and on the future. 

Old wounds reopen in Matthew, almost to the point of choking him. He’s caught between loyalties (to his father, to his master, to his God) but he never lets that interfere with his love for Diana. No, because every moment of every day he chooses her against the conflicting interests of his past and present self. 

 “He shifts into this darker version,” says Palmer. 

It was marvelous to witness a more vulnerable side of Matthew, with Diana being his guiding light, his anchor, his strength, in a poetic role reversal from last season. The heartbreaking scene where we see him unravel might be my favorite of the series. 

But Matthew isn’t reduced to a broken man. We see different sides of him, in contrast to his stoic presence of season 1. In 1590, Matthew can be playful with his friends, tender with his lover, aloof with his family, assertive and persuasive with great potentates, caring with children… after all that, it’s uncanny but hilarious to see him be chastised by his father like a schoolboy.

On this note, if Diana underwent a sort of generational conflict in season 1, coming to terms with her late parents and their questionable secrets, now we witness multiple characters struggle with accepting their fathers’ legacies and stepping out of their shadows. Matthew and Baldwin have to come to terms, in different ways, with the future/past loss of their larger-than-life father Philippe de Clermont; similarly, Matthew’s revolutionary son Marcus is forced to grapple with the responsibilities brought about by his new role as Grand Master of the Knights of Lazarus that he gained in his father’s absence, and what that means for him and for the world. 

As Diana and Matthew prepare for a journey within their journey that sets in motion unexpected events in the future, chaos and uncertainty ensue in present-day Venice, Oxford, and Sept-Tours. While a good 75% of the action is focused on the main couple, we do check in on the other characters, even if not as much as fans might hope (missing my fave Miriam!). Matthew and Diana’s storyline is so full of complications, with unexpected obstacles at every turn, that it needs to take center stage; the events in the present are allowed to move at a much slower rate. 

The source material to cover is massive and mostly told from Diana’s point of view, except for a couple of sporadic chapters to keep us updated on the present. In the show, we simply have to follow more characters. I know more casual watchers will lament the convoluted storyline that might be perceived as compressed, but as a fan of the book, I guarantee the producers did nearly everything in their power to save time without making too important changes. Almost no character in the huge cast is erased (just the one, sigh) but they cleverly altered the timeline and inverted the order of certain events to condense. The only way they could’ve adapted Shadow of Night better is if they’d been granted a longer season. 

Before we conclude, a word on certain characters I have not yet mentioned. Gallowglass is everything I wanted him to be. Painfully loyal to Matthew and quickly fond of Diana, he brings in a comedic and vibrant energy from the first moment the camera sets on him. Steven Cree portrayed him perfectly, just as every book fan might hope. 

Matthew’s mother Ysabeau never fails to deliver elegant sass mixed with intensity. She had me in tears in episode 6. Newcomer Phoebe Taylor might shock some, but I was enraptured by her character and Adelle Leonce’s performance. 

Having seen the first 7 episodes of season 2, I can certainly say the show succeeded in capturing the essence of Shadow of Night. The writing has only become more powerful, the world-building and atmosphere always inviting me to get lost in ADOW’s world. Books fans will enjoy many Easter eggs — pay especially close attention to the murder cases and other crimes happening in modern-day Oxford and the early mentions of blood rage. 

Every single detail in the show is perfect and full of meaning. The crew who worked on the sets and costume departments deserves multiple awards for recreating Elizabethan London buildings and costumes from scratch, a feat that sounds easier than it is. Just an example of the exquisite cinematography: I couldn’t help but notice that as the School of Night is talking about the changes in Matthew, a golden “MUTATIO” is engraved on the wall behind Kit. It’s a minuscule detail, but isn’t there where the devil lies?

Behind the familiar feuds between witches, vampires and daemons, this story truly strives to find the answer to one proto-Hamletic question, “why are we here?”, investigating humanity even within the supernatural.

A Discovery of Witches is the best fantasy show on air. Season 2 will leave you on the edge of your seats and begging for more when it premieres on January 8. Find out where you can watch it based on your location here!

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TV Shows Pop Culture

Maybe Netflix’s “The Politician” was trying to warn the United States all along

If you’ve never watched an episode of Ryan Murphy’s The Politician on Netflix, the easiest description I can give you to prepare you is that it’s about a bunch of rich Slytherin kids trying to out-Slytherin each other.

The acclaimed Netflix show centers around Payton Hobart (Ben Platt), the eponymous politician, with each season focusing on a political race he runs: the first for school body president, the second for State Senator, and the third for Vice President of the United States. The series is an easy to spot satire of American politics, making light mocking of how campaigning and voting really works (this one is still a sore topic), painting an equally vilifying image of politicians for the lies they spin as demeaning of voters for how easily swayed they are.

I have to admit, when I started the show I was a bit confused. I was already enamored with most characters after a nanosecond, but I couldn’t understand why there was so much talk of high school. And then I realized Murphy wanted us to believe that the actors – most of them in their late 20s and early 30s – are playing juniors and seniors in high school. It really does not help that they are dressed like 40-year-olds and keep talking like them, but, fine, I told myself. I’ll suspend my disbelief when it comes to age. 

[Image description: still from The Politician - Jams, Alice and MacAfee sitting in the library] Via Netflix
[Image description: Still from The Politician – Jams, Alice and MacAfee sitting in the library] Via Netflix

The 8 episodes of the first season are very different from one another tonally. If the first batch can be reduced to a popularity contest, the middle of the series becomes a melting pot of psychopaths, sociopaths, and would-be murderers who all attempt to take the life of poor Payton (who is just trying to get into Harvard, after all).

The overt allegory of the current political climate is only the foundation of the show, not a suggestion for where our in-story loyalties should lie. We are still supposed to root for the guy whose only aspiration is to win because he’s made it his life mission. We’re still supposed to root for him after seeing all the machinations and lies that he and his team have put into place during the campaign. Payton and his rivals – all rich, white, conventionally attractive people – attempt to get closer to the mass of voters by choosing running mates from the limited pool of diverse and oppressed students in their fancy Santa Barbara school, as if that could somehow diminish the candidates’ privilege: an outspoken Black gender-non conforming feminist, a differently-abled dude, and a cancer patient who is actually a victim of Munchausen by proxy.

(I was hoping Infinity would turn sociopath and murder her Nana herself but I guess the violence circle had to stop somewhere.)

These teenagers are shown to be united by a vague sense of wolf-like pack loyalty, but it’s not quite explained how they got there: I cannot understand how after all the backstabbing, betrayals, and actual assassination attempts, they still manage to call each other friends. James was in love and sleeping with Alice and then it went away in an instant. Payton continuously mistreated McAfee and James and they still acted like his servants. Skye literally tried to murder Payton by feeding him rat poison… Why did these people believe in Payton so much, even those who claimed to hate him, to the extent where, three years after not seeing each other, they’re willing to hop on a flight and drop their lives to convince him to run for state senate?

Paradoxically, as the stakes get higher in season 2, we witness fewer homicide attempts as the team’s tactics become more refined, resorting instead to threats, negotiation, and blackmailing. The show always does a supreme job with its rationalization of immorality.

The second season undid some things that I didn’t like about the first’s ending. One, that Astrid would suddenly join a crusade for Payton’s run when she and him never had love for one another, and two, that Payton was going to use Dede’s throuple against her in the race.

[Image description: still from The Politician - Dede cuddling with her husband and lover] Via Netflix
[Image description: Still from The Politician – Dede cuddling with her husband and lover] Via Netflix

I have a big problem with the show suggesting that being in a loving, consensual polyamorous relationship is the worst thing a senator could do. I understand Payton’s team wasn’t being judgmental of the act itself but rather was willing to exploit the scandal it would create in the public opinion, but I thought it was gross coming from a bunch of teenagers who have cheated on each other multiple times, only to then also enter a polyamorous relationship themselves. Anyhow, I was glad to see they found a nice way to spin it in the end. Kudos for the way they handled the generational conflict as well as the necessary environmentalist influx.

The other unforgettable protagonist whose subplot stands on its own is Georgina Hobart (Gwyneth Paltrow). The amount of chaotic energy she has is off the charts but is highly entertaining (I am contractually bound to say nice things about her because of the anti-Game of Thrones season 8 references in 2×01). Georgina dotes on Payton more than she does her biological sons — two scheming snakes — and has much more in common with him than meets the eye, not just their ambitious political aspirations. She and Payton share a sense of emotional detachment that I found heart-wrenching, a devoid of feeling where their hearts should be, which is beautifully represented in the show’s intro — whoever is responsible for it is a genius and should be paid more. 

I don’t think The Politician necessarily set out to be an eye-opening show shedding light on the state of American politics for all viewers — if that were the actual aim, it’s way too on the nose of Murphy — but I hope it does for some people who need it (especially because it came out before a significant election).

If we untangle the mess of the characters’ lives and their impossible scenarios, the final moral would probably be that politics isn’t dark or light: these politicians are humans, and yes, they scheme and lie and cheat and ridicule, but so do their friends and all their voters; they just have more ambition. The unpacked message could translate into: be savvy, beware of politicians, don’t expect them to be better. The hyperbolic and simply chaotic caliber of every episode ensures that we don’t take the story too seriously, have a few laughs, and retain the message.

[Image description: Still from The Politician - Georgina Hobart speaking at an electoral debate] via Netflix
[Image description: Still from The Politician – Georgina Hobart speaking at an electoral debate] via Netflix

Bonus thoughts: Ben Platt should sing in every episode. Also, I cried every time River appeared to offer Payton comfort or advice. Every. single. time.

Unfortunately, not much is yet known about season 3, but we are very much looking forward to finding out what the world will look like after Georgina Hobart became the President of the United States. 

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TV Shows Up and Coming Pop Culture

Netflix’s “Emily In Paris” is the new rom-com you will hate to love

This may be blasphemous to some people, but Emily in Paris is so much better than Sex and the City.

I only compare because they were both created, written, and executive produced by Darren Star. While I have to admit I was never a fan of his 90s or early 2000s shows, the new Netflix rom-com starring Lily Collins was like a balm for my travel-starved soul.

In the era of quarantine and COVID-19, everyone will be grateful to live vicariously through Emily Cooper as she gets the opportunity of a lifetime, lands her dream job and moves to Paris in the span of a week.

The first few episodes of the show brilliantly capture the dichotomy between the French and the Americans. Emily, who is living every white American girl’s dream of moving to Europe and accidentally becoming an Instagram influencer, experiences quite the culture shock from the moment she steps on French soil. Of course, she demands to see the chef when she claims the meat of her first meal in Paris isn’t well cooked.

She’s entitled in the way that Americans abroad can be: not maliciously, but simply not comprehending that the American way is not the only–or always the right–way, and that the world doesn’t revolve around the USA or spin on their axis. The French, proud as they are, miss no opportunity to remind her of this.

The most obvious example of Emily’s naïve, internalized American superiority complex is that she does not worry about walking in a French office not knowing a single word of French beyond oui and bonjour, but expecting everyone to speak perfect English in their own country. With her positive, can-do attitude, she thinks she can learn French by taking a course, underestimating the complexity of the language, something that her new colleagues immediately disdain her for.

The climax of this American absurdity is reached when Emily tries to convince the Louvre to put a bed in the same room as the Monna Lisa in a marketing installation she’s working on, and she actually believes they will let her, because, after all, “Beyoncè did it.

Emily’s error is in repeatedly trying to make Paris (and her workplace) American. The city and French culture are intriguing and inviting, but a mystery that she can’t make sense of, so she tries to make it fit into the patterns she knows and loves.

After many instances of the French’s close-mindedness getting in the way of Emily truly enjoying her new life, we witness one of the finest dialogues in the series when one of Emily’s colleagues invites her to abandon her perspective and look at things through different lenses. He then brilliantly summarizes the American/French lifestyle paradox: “You live to work, we work to live,” and illustrates the ambivalence and cultural clash of (French) arrogance versus (American) ignorance.

[Image description: still from "Emily In Paris" - a brunette girl, Emily, and a blond girl, Camille, stand close and laugh at a joke Emily has made.] Via Netflix
[Image description: A brunette girl, Emily, and a blond girl, Camille, stand close and laugh at a joke Emily has made.] Via Netflix
The show maintains a good pace throughout the 10 episodes, balancing new characters and mini storylines and plot twists in a way that doesn’t feel like a sitcom at all. Emily quickly becomes friends with Mindy (played by the gorgeous Tony-winning Ashley Park who gifts us with a couple of singing moments in the show), a sassy Chinese girl who’s in Paris to escape her rich heiress and failed teen idol life (loved the episode where her crazy rich Asian friends come to visit!) and then with bubbly, extrovert Camille, also a rich heiress, whose family owns a chateau and produce champagne.

Everything is perfect in the friend department, except one of her new pals is dating the young man Emily kissed passionately the other night. This spirals down in a lot of tension, sexual and otherwise, between the three characters which had me begging for polyamory, as Emily is torn between being a good friend and giving in to her budding feelings.

[Image description: still from "Emily In Paris" - two women, a brunette wearing yellow (Lily Collins) and a black-haired one with her arms crossed wearing pink (Ashley Park) sit on a bench together, grinning at each other] Via Netflix
[Image description: Two brunettes, Emily (Lily Collins) wearing yellow, and Mindy (Ashley Park) wearing pink, sit on a bench together, grinning at each other] Via Netflix
However, what rom-com would this be if Emily didn’t have multiple love interests? Her options in terms of beaus range from the up-and-coming chef who lives in her building, to a pretentious Semiotics professor, to a guy she meets at a party, to her friend’s perfect brother, to a libertine millionaire who may also have an affair with her boss, to another client whose deal is a make-it-or-break-it for her… practically every man in France seems to want to flirt with her, even the realtor who only hands her her apartment’s keys. Basically, the only men in the show who don’t show an interest of sexual nature in Emily are the gay colleague and the sex addict colleague who act as the comic relief of the show.

We follow Emily along as she grows more confident navigating Paris and her job, as she discovers how ludicrous some French things are… like the way the noun for ‘vagina’ is masculine and nobody thinks twice about it. Or how people in marketing don’t know the difference between ‘sexy’ and ‘sexist’.


Despite the occasional raised eyebrows, Emily finds balance and her life is almost perfect. Paris is out of a dream where everyone’s English is flawless, all distances are walkable, and crime doesn’t exist. Mindy makes one comment about the metro being dirty, but Emily’s glamorous life doesn’t require her to take public transportation. Plus, the legendary costume designer behind The Devil Wears Prada Patricia Field is the genius behind the show’s clothes, so Emily’s outfit game is perennially on point. Her job is finally going well and her Instagram is growing her a faithful audience and some influencer marketing offers.

[Image description: Emily, wearing a green coat and a hat, stands in line ahead of other girls who are all dressed fashionably and holding their phones] Via Netflix
[Image description: Emily, wearing a green coat and a hat, stands in line ahead of other young people who are all dressed fashionably and holding their phones, waiting to speak to a man in a suit holding a guest list and a gift bag] Via Netflix
However, it’s clear the showrunner doesn’t know how social media works: sorry to burst your bubble, Darren, but you don’t really start with 48 followers and get 20k in a week for moving to Paris and occasionally posting snaps of your life in the city with weird hashtags.

There is no overarching social commentary to the show, and for once I am glad of it. The tone of the story is so light that it may start floating, and it’s exactly what you need if you’re living a stressful, anxiety-inducing life every minute of every day.

The show tries to say something about toxic office environments, but it falls short – it’s clear to everyone that Emily’s boss Sylvie is purposely acting like a bitch and dislikes Emily for simply not being French. But even this is glossed over as no one stands up to her and Emily herself tolerates the bullying and keeps trying to win her over with smiles and positivity.

[Image description: still from "Emily in Paris" - Emily and Luke sit next to each other in a pitch meeting that doesn't look fun.] Via Netflix
[Image description: a woman wearing a floral dress, Emily, and a man wearing a colorful jumper and a black suit, Lucas, sit next to each other in a pitch meeting that doesn’t look fun.] Via Netflix
Emily is smart, likable, cutting-edge, great at networking, and has creative ideas, but we shouldn’t disregard that her luck keeps coming because every man she wants to do business with is intrigued by her as this funny, exotic creature. She has talent, but would she be this successful if she wasn’t a conventionally beautiful (I mean it, she’s perfect) petite white woman with Lily Collins’s face and Patricia Field’s style?


The show offers a modern-day fairytale where the protagonist is not some long-lost mighty hero reluctantly going on her journey. She’s an everygirl. She could be me, or you. At the end of the day, she dreams of happiness and success, plans it out carefully and then undoes it with a single decision. Her love life is a mess. But every situation she finds herself in magically unravels.

Emily in Paris is an endearing little show about the (mis)adventures of a young woman who works in media, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should we.

[Image description: Emily approaches her new office's front desk where Lucas is on the phone.] Via Netflix
[Image description: Emily approaches her new office’s front desk where Lucas is on the phone.] Via Netflix
All ten episodes of the show come out on Netflix on October 2… and we better get a second season because the first ends in a cliffhanger!

Editor's Picks Books Pop Culture

The Tempest’s Reading Challenge is back and here’s everything you need to know

There is nothing more refreshing than opening a new book and going on a journey with the characters. Or picking up an old book, like visiting an old friend that you haven’t seen in a while. This is especially true today as we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic. So what’s better than a reading challenge to make this seemingly never-ending quarantine more pleasant?

What’s better than a reading challenge?

In 2019, we launched our first-ever global Reading Challenge. You, our dear readers, picked the books that we proposed to our audience of millions. This year we are pleased to announce we are repeating last year’s experience after your enthusiastic participation. What better time than now to relaunch this fun initiative?

How this reading challenge works:

You nominate the books and tell your friends and families to do the same.

We will publish the final list of books and then we’ll start reading together. You do not have to read all the books on the list. And you may read other books that didn’t make the list. While you do, you get to talk about the books with everyone at The Tempest and our audience.

Without further ado, here is the form for you to submit the book nominations.

We at The Tempest are constantly striving to provide better representation for underrepresented groups, and that is reflected even in this project. And there are some new categories, to spice things up a bit! Remember, you don’t necessarily have to nominate one (or more!) book for each category, you can skip if you do not have any recommendations.

This year’s categories are:

  • A book on disability or written by a person with disabilities
  • A book written by a woman of color
  • A book with an LGBTQIA+ main character
  • An ‘own voices’ book
  • A book based on true events
  • A self-help book
  • A book on careers
  • A book from a new author
(Pssst… head on over to our Instagram for a cute printable to keep track of your reading challenge.)

The last category, in particular, we added because we want to help new authors promote their debut books. Thousands of book tours and launch events have been canceled due to the pandemic, so we are going to give them the push they deserve. If you know of any rising authors who could use the promotion, refer them to us, we’re here to help!

All the more reasons to join…

In other words, our Reading Challenge this year is going to be bigger and better. We will host virtual events and live Q&A sessions with authors and bloggers to, giving you the opportunity to interact with your favorite authors.

As last year, we encourage you to share on social media what you are reading using the hashtag #TheTempestReadingChallenge and to invite your friends to participate.

Show us what you’re reading and what you’re feeling. Send us your favorite quotes, share pictures of the books and videos of you talking about them, and you’ll be reposted on our official social media channels.

And join our Goodreads group if you want to participate in deep discussions about the novels. You are welcome to send us pitches of your book reviews if you want to be published on The Tempest website. Email me at with “READING CHALLENGE BOOK REVIEW” in the subject.

Let’s go on an adventure. Stories will keep us together (and sane!) even if we are apart.

You have until April 30 to nominate books.

Editor's Picks LGBTQIA+ Music Pop Culture

We have to stop making straight celebrities our gay icons

Every year I attend Pride, a place for so many of us to feel safe and loved and free to be whoever we want to be. It is a time for celebration, for joy and love. It is a time to cheer at how far we’ve come, and often to protest what is still denied to us.

Music plays a big part in Pride, and I am still appalled at the kind of music that I hear every time.

I can only speak for the parades that I have attended of course, but I am sad and angry that I rarely or never hear a song by an artist that is actually LGBTQ+.

Why are we so quick at clapping at straight allies who do the bare minimum?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me saying, “Pride is a gays-only party!” That’s not at all what I’m saying. The point of my indignation is that while we’re out there celebrating ourselves, we may as well be dancing and singing along to artists who put themselves out there and write about the same struggles.

A poster encouraging to vote for Ariana Grande as the best straight ally
[Image description: A poster encouraging to vote for Ariana Grande for Celebrity Straight Ally] Via British LGBT Awards
There is this tendency to hail some straight artists as gay icons, probably because they’re campy. Salon Magazine’s explanation for this phenomenon was that “Drag queens imitate women like Judy Garland, Dolly Parton, and Cher because they overcame insult and hardship on their path to success and because their narratives mirror the pain that many gay men suffer on their way out of the closet.”

According to this logic, any artist with a sad story can be a gay icon.

The only queer singer that I’ve heard at a Pride recently is Lady Gaga, but the DJ wasn’t even aware that she identifies as bisexual. He admitted he just thought of her as a gay icon, “like Madonna and Beyoncè and Barbra Streisand.”

This was said to me by a gay man who works in an organization for the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights.

Similarly, the internet hails Ariana Grande as the gay icon of her generation. I love Ari, and I adore her voice, but she’s been known to purposely perform ambiguity (also when it comes to race and ethnicity) to create mystery and speculate on her identity. Essentially, she likes to queerbait (BUWYGIB music video, anyone?).

If we’re choosing contemporary straight allies to represent us, I’d rather hear from somebody like Alessia Cara, who doesn’t speculate on her sexuality, but sings of naturally being one’s true self while often wearing what traditionally is considered male clothing because she’s never cared for the norm.

According to this logic, any artist with a sad story can be a gay icon.

Again, everyone is welcome and free to march to whatever songs they wish to at Pride. It would just be nice if it was a celebration of the people who are actually providing some representation. I would love to hear some Janelle Monàe, Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan, and Halsey, especially their songs narrating the struggles and joys of being queer.

And there are hundreds, thousands of lesser-known queer artists who are not mainstream and deserve to be heard. What better place than Pride to introduce them to a wide audience? What better place to promote unknown gay talent?

This is not a rant as much as it is a suggestion and plea from somebody who is sick and tired of still hearing Katy Perry’s incredibly biphobic “I Kissed A Girl” at Pride in 2019.

We can do better.

In more recent years, there have been so many other mainstream songs where a female singer will talk about having “illicit” feelings for another girl that are not “bisexual anthems” but only harmful to the community. (A couple of names that come to mind are Rita Ora and Demi Lovato.)

Taylor Swift’s new single “You Need To Calm Down” clearly wishes to be the gay anthem of the year, and you can tell that her heart is in it. The video truly is a triumph of self-expression that celebrates everyone’s individuality in different shapes and colors.

With a petition to support the Equality Act and an Instagram feed full of rainbows everywhere, Taylor is gracefully presenting herself as a saving hero to the LGBTQ+ community this year. She’s probably ensuring she’ll win the Vanguard Award 2020, which is a prize GLAAD presents to a cis straight member of the entertainment community who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for LGBTQ+ people.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful to all these famous people for supporting the LGBTQ+ community. I appreciate that they go out of their way to call out homophobes and to support their queer colleagues and fans.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me saying, “Pride is a gays-only party!”

Regardless of whether it’s just a pandering marketing move to gain access to the gay community and widen their fanbase, I’m sure their words and gestures mean so much to so many people, and I see with my own eyes that they do influence many for the better and accelerate acceptance.

They’re not the problem. They’re doing their duty as decent human beings.

It’s just that, I would like for a gay icon to actually… you know, be gay.

Why are we so quick at clapping at straight allies who do the bare minimum but we’re so slow at accepting fellow queers and promoting them for their talent? The older generation might not have had (openly) queer artists to turn to, but we do.

It is time we started to lift them up.

Comics TV Shows Pop Culture

Supergirl’s passion for truth and justice inspired me to pursue journalism

There is one thing we can all agree on, whether you believe The CW’s Supergirl to be a problematic show or not – sometimes I think it’s really messed up, sometimes I enjoy it. Kara Danvers is a role model to women everywhere. But the reason why I love her is not her superpowers. It’s what she does as a journalist.

Before we get into that, I want to express my opinion on the show as a whole: I really think the writers pander themselves on its easy, white feminism, striving to prove how being a ‘girl’ is just as okay as ‘man’. Their flaunted girl power makes me cringe most of the time.

But I also realize how important it is for little girls to see a female superhero on television. I cosplayed as Kara Danvers at a con last year – simply because it was an easy costume to make. But let me tell you, dozens of five-to-ten-year-olds pointed at me screaming ‘it’s Supergirl!’ in excitement. Boys and girls were throwing their fists into the air and asking me to take pictures with them, and I understood one thing. Not everyone is always going to analyze everything.

For some people, television is just entertainment, and for all its problematic aspects, Supergirl is an iconic show. It did pave the way for female superheroes. I didn’t even know a female superhero existed until The Avengers introduced me to the Black Widow, and I was already grown up by then. At least, in its own superficial way, Supergirl is representation. It may be unperfect, but it’s better than no rep at all.

Once we got that out of the way, I have to say that Supergirl inspires me for so much more than her x-ray vision and frost breath. She inspires me with her uncompromising sense of justice, and her steel will do to good.

It’s not only through her superpowers that she spreads truth and justice. She decided to work for the people in her ordinary human job as well, through her writing career. Her choice to explore a new path for herself and become a reporter gave me the confidence to admit that I wanted to be a journalist too.

Now, I’m willing to extend my suspension of disbelief from her superpowers to the fact that she instantly became an ace reporter in the matter of an episode. In the show canon, we don’t even have evidence that she went to college and studied anything relevant to journalism, or that she even had an interest in writing, prior to the episode when she is offered the reporter job. If we manage to overlook that just as we overlook her inhuman speed, Kara’s arc as a journalist is extremely inspiring.

At one point, she is forced to make a decision between what is right and what is easy: her boss tells her she will be fired if she publishes a particular piece of information, but she goes ahead and sends the article anyway. She loses her dream job, but she knows that telling the truth without withholding anything is more important. In the end, that particular article gives her more fame and recognition than any other, along with the deep respect of her readers. Even in her incognito persona, Supergirl is still making a difference for the best in the world.

People complained that not having a job was an unfeminist act on Kara’s part because she was content with saving the world AND having a boyfriend for a couple of days. But the way Kara lost that job was brave and selfless, not weak or in any way reinforcing the patriarchy. She was looking out for the people in her city with her very human talent for writing, in the same way she does when she’s punching evil aliens.

As Kara says, “Being a reporter is about connecting with people, about finding hidden truth and sharing it with the world, it’s about service, and telling stories that need to be told in order to make the world a better, more comprehensible place. And it’s going to make me the best version of myself because it will definitely push me out of my comfort zone.”

Supergirl is right. Writing can be difficult, challenging and intimidating, and it should be hard. But it’s also incredibly rewarding. It creates bonds, it requires a deep understanding and a stark sense of right and wrong. It’s not easy to keep a tight ethic in journalism, but doing it makes you a better person. Almost a superhero.

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