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!

TV Shows Pop Culture

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

I had arrived home late from a long day at my first journalism internship. My head pounded from sleeplessness, six cups of coffee, and social media scrolling. However, just seconds after kicking off my shoes, dumping queso into a bowl, and hacking my parents’ cable account, I burrowed into a blanket and back into the world I had just escaped: I came across Freeform’s The Bold Type.

Of course, this flickering world broadcasted a bouncier pop soundtrack – why hadn’t Tove Lo’s disco tits ever spontaneously played as I strutted into work? – and outfits worth more than my paycheck. Yet I still beamed at Jane Sloan as she raced up the Scarlet Magazine staircase, blown-out hair bouncing, story pitches and best friends in tow.

Wistful, I grabbed my phone and posted a Tweet: What if my internship was like The Bold Type? The magazine’s editor liked it, then the social media guru. The next day, we laughed at our cold takeout lunches and the clutter overtaking our desks. There were no fashion closet gossip sessions. Like every girl who grew up watching The Devil Wears Prada and Sex and the City, I had finally realized I would not be a rom-com heroine. Oppositely, like most journalists, I now bore bags under my eyes and blistered feet alongside my bylines.

The Bold Type, many publications have been quick to point out, isn’t an accurate picture of today’s journalism. In an industry where everything seems to be prefaced with the word under – as in, underpaid, understaffed, underfunded – the show stands out as decidedly over the top. But unlike some other disenchanted viewers, I won’t stop watching it. And I won’t stop being inspired. 

The fact remains that when male-fronted shows like 24 and Breaking Bad take liberties with the realm of possibility, no one seems to care. In fact, these shows go on to achieve widespread acclaim. But when a talented female journalist I follow online posted a picture with her coworker and best friend, calling her the Sutton to her Kat, a disgruntled man and former reporter replied by telling them that they’d never be paid much, and that they got hired only because they were young and cute. He even accused them of pushing veteran, male journalists out of the business.

With The Bold Type, audiences gain insight into how Jane explores her deepest internal struggles in nuanced, thought-provoking writing. Though Scarlet Magazine doesn’t exist, I can’t be the only one who wanted to read about Jane coming to terms with a breakup, unpacking her hang-ups toward religion, recognizing her white privilege, and grappling with different political views in her friend group. I can’t be the only one who cheered from my bedroom when Jane’s editor published her unflinching critique of an employee health insurance plan that covers Viagra, but not fertility treatments. 

She dances better than I ever could. She makes taking a tequila shot look graceful… yeah, right. But Jane has shown me how to push against the status quo in small, realistic ways. For instance, when a speaker at an event I covered perpetuated unfair stereotypes about millennials, I wrote an op-ed about it. When I began to question my spiritual and religious beliefs, after identifying as an atheist for half a decade, I wrote about that, too. People reached out to me about both of those pieces, saying they connected with my words. It appears that readers just might be ready for the kind of personal, authentic, socially relevant journalism The Bold Type hinges on.

For all its frills, including alluring depictions of Paris Fashion Week and media award galas, the show’s central arguments may just be ideas we can all emulate: women can be fulfilled by their careers, infuse the professional with the personal and modernize an often male-dominated, occasionally stuffy industry from the inside.

Men’s equivalent “guilty pleasure” television – hmm, ever notice how that term never gets applied to Game of Thrones or football? – often revolves around seducing women who are way hotter than them, or mastering stunt-double feats. Instead, The Bold Type simply dares to imagine a professional environment where women are treated as equal and capable, and, as a result, are able to become more invested. In a media climate where women occupy just 17 percent of leadership positions at the top 100 local media companies worldwide, this smart, empowering show still represents a fantasy.

I’m bold enough to say it shouldn’t.

Movies Pop Culture

I live in India and love Hollywood. But why is it so hard for Americans to stop using awful Indian stereotypes?

I’ve grown up with a love for Hollywood films and American television shows. What I don’t love though is the widely inaccurate and lack o representation when it comes to Indians and India itself. 

Honestly, where are we and why are we perceived in such an incorrect way?

The only shows I can think of that accurately represent the Indian community are The Mindy Project and Master of None – all thanks to the greatness behind the screen.


Without their help, we can’t rely on Hollywood movies and television to get it right. In their world, Indian representation is meager at best. When we do find ourselves represented – it’s so highly inaccurate and grossly stereotypical that it saddens and frustrates me at the same time.

[bctt tweet=”Indian representation is meager at best.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Take, for example, Raj in The Big Bang Theory or the way India’s poverty was displayed in Slumdog Millionaire.

Don’t misunderstand me here, I don’t have a problem with showing the reality of India, but it seems like Hollywood only sees this poverty-ridden part of my country and can’t seem to snap out of it.

India is so much more than cows on the roads, noisy markets, and Holi. 

We don’t play Holi 24/7, all 365 days of the year, y’all.  It’s a festival that comes once a year and it means a lot to us, but it’s not all that there is to us.

Reducing India to such a narrow image is disappointing.

When it comes to characters specifically – we’re either highly qualified doctors, teachers, engineers or we’re taxi drivers. That’s it. There’s absolutely no way an Indian living abroad could fall into a middle category, right?


This is appalling, considering the fact that we have a population of 1.3 billion, with 29 states, 22 languages, and 9 recognized religions. 

We should surely get at least decent amount of representation in an industry as big as Hollywood, right?

Diversity has always been poor in Hollywood and continues to be so, despite so many talented Indian (and PoC) actors and producers trying to change that.

[bctt tweet=” Reducing India to such a narrow image is disappointing.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It’s worth mentioning that Priyanka Chopra’s foray into the industry has been refreshing after watching her dominate Bollywood for years. 

When I see her onscreen, repping India at such an international level – it makes my heart warm.


As cheesy as it may sound, 12-year-old me struggled to find a character or actor in Hollywood that she could relate to. But 21-year-old me finds that solace through Mindy Kaling and Priyanka Chopra.

Hollywood filmmakers shrink India into this minuscule image of what is perceived and it doesn’t do justice to what we actually are.

Our accent is stereotyped – so incorrectly. 

Not every Indian sounds like Appu from The Simpsons, FYI. And we definitely don’t dance the way Major Lazer and his pals did in the “Lean On” music video.

[bctt tweet=” It’s sad to see our culture being reduced to practically nothing but stereotypes on screen.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The modern Indian is anything but what Hollywood presumes them to be. They pursue unorthodox artistic careers, they’re not all socially awkward, and they’re definitely not reeking of curry.

On one end, our culture and our people get stereotyped and misrepresented to no end in movies and television.

On the other end, they ignore or appropriate our culture to no end.

There was an episode of the Netflix series Fuller House where get this:  Not a single Indian character on the show, but they threw an Indian-themed party for one of the characters and there was a cow in the backyard. 

Because all Indians have cows in their backyard, right?

This narrative is so ignorant and blatantly offensive. India boasts of multiple metropolitan cities that coexist alongside villages. My country is a dichotomy and is beautiful as well. 

So don’t reduce it to what it’s not and don’t try to tell me what I look like.

We are all so beautifully unique and diverse in our own ways, with our own cultures.


We’re more than just your stereotypes.

TV Shows Pop Culture

Matthew Daddario from ‘Shadowhunters’ just proved why “allies” can’t always be trusted

When I finally dove into Freeform’s Shadowhunters some months ago, it was for one reason: Malec.

I read Cassandra Clare’s urban fantasy YA series years ago and mostly, I didn’t like it. I did, however, love Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane: a canonical, interracial same-sex pairing featuring a young, gay Shadowhunter and an immortal, bisexual warlock. This pairing deals with a lot of tropes and lots of xenophobia but somehow manages not to trivialize things, which I appreciate.

According to Tumblr, Freeform’s TV adaptation of the books takes Malec to new heights, and I am so here for it

Since August, I’ve been watching two episodes a week for a quirky little column on another site, but recently, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon. 

(Life, as you know, often gets in the way of fandom commitments.)

Now, after what happened with Matthew Daddario (who plays Alec)’s Facebook live stream, I’m not sure I’ll be watching the series anymore.

For those not in the fandom, here’s what happened on Tuesday, November 28: Matthew Daddario did a Facebook live stream chat with fans from his trailer on the Shadowhunters set. Toward the end, the disembodied voice of Dominic Sherwood (who plays Jace) cuts into the stream to greet Daddario like this: “What’s up, f**?”

You can watch the video here if you have the stomach for it. From Daddario’s reaction — panic, a warning that he’s streaming live, and then a so-quiet-you-can-barely-hear-it admonition that Sherwood “shouldn’t have said that” — it appears to this viewer that the f-slur is a common occurrence on the Shadowhunters set.

It also appears that Daddario, who repeatedly talks about how Alec is “the ideal kind of man,” has no interest in calling out his friends’ gross behavior. His panicked response is obviously because of how many fans are watching. What happens when he and Sherwood are hanging out alone? Surely if Sherwood feels that comfortable throwing out the word f** like it’s a nickname, then no one’s ever told him to cut the crap before.

This video is horrifying.

Daddario goes so far as to claim that the person who used the slur is “a certain background actor,” despite Sherwood’s very distinctive voice. He calls the slur “an interesting choice,” and finishes his poor, awkward attempt at a cover-up by saying, “but that’s okay.”


It’s definitely not, in any circumstance, okay to use homophobic slurs. It’s also not okay for someone — especially someone who champions his gay character and the romance that character is involved in — not to call people out for using slurs.

Matthew Daddario is a straight actor profiting off of his portrayal of a young, gay man on a series primarily watched by teenagers. Many of the people in that fandom watch the series for Alec and for Alec’s relationship with Magnus. They champion Daddario for being so open about how much he loves his character and his character’s romantic arc. They champion him for being an ally to the LGBTQ community.

But if we’ve learned anything in recent months, it’s that the public persona celebrities put on for interviews often hides darker parts of who they are when the cameras aren’t on.

In an equally awkward apology video posted to the Shadowhunters Twitter account Wednesday night, Sherwood apologizes for his behavior and says he’ll strive to do better. Daddario stands beside him, a most serious expression pasted on his face, and at the end of the video he thanks Sherwood for apologizing and then makes a statement of his own.

At no point does either actor acknowledge that Daddario attempted to cover for Sherwood’s use of a homophobic slur, nor do they acknowledge his apparent comfort with it. 

Sherwood does appear contrite — but to this viewer, who’s been disappointed by straight allies time and time again, that seems to come from a place of being caught rather than from a place of feeling bad for using hate speech.

Slurs don’t trip off the tongue that easily if they’re not common to one’s vocabulary. And Daddario’s immediate panic and attempt to defend Sherwood further suggests that this isn’t the first time Sherwood has so casually used a homophobic slur. 

To all the fans in the comments claiming Daddario didn’t do anything wrong: pay attention. 

This kind of behavior sneaks under the radar all the time, and it’s dangerous as hell.

Want to know why LGBTQ people often don’t trust “straight allies?” It’s because of this garbage.

If we can’t rely on you to call out your friends for using harmful language when no one is watching, then how can we rely on you at all?

TV Shows Pop Culture

You really need to see “The Bold Type”

The Bold Type is Freeform’s newest original series. Though it was inspired by the life of Joanna Coles, Cosmo’s former Chief content editor, the show actually revolves around three millennial employees who work at the fictionalized Scarlett Magazine: Kat, Sutton, and Jane.

It’s already been dubbed a replacement for Pretty Little Liars, which unfortunately ended this year. With tons of drama, fierce fashion and forbidden romance, it definitely has all of the needed elements to fill that PLL shaped hole in your life. But don’t get it twisted—The Bold Type is carving out a lane all its own. Here’s why you need to check it out!

(The rest of this article contains minor spoilers for The Bold Type’s series premiere.)

Awesome Characters

The Bold Type follows the lives of three women that all started together as assistants, and have each been promoted in their respective fields within Scarlett. Picture perfect wardrobe aside (which we’ll get to later), these girls are definitely not living in a fairytale. Journalism is a hard business and The Bold Type addresses some of those realities.

Jane is Scarlett’s newest writer.  Near the beginning of the episode, she’s totally beaming about walking into Scarlett’s headquarters as a writer, instead of as just an assistant. Her enthusiasm is short lived, however when Jacqueline shoots down all of her pitches, leaving her a little defeated. And when she finally gets assigned her first story, Jacqueline encourages her amend it because it’s not “personal” enough.”

Speaking of Jacqueline, as the Editor-In-Chief, she’s totally the HBIC– and she knows it. Silence immediately falls over the board room when she arrives, and she totally demands the respect that she’s earned. That said, she’s no Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada). There’s a huge heart underneath her designer clothes, and she does her best to balance being a total boss and mentor to Jane and the other writers. (Though it’s probably not realistic for the EIC to have the time to personally mentor a newbie writer, her insistence on doing so is admirable.)

Then there’s Kat. She is Scarlett’s feminist, uber stylish social media editor, who’s all about gender equality and female empowerment. She says what’s on her mind, even when it’s to her own detriment. During a board meeting, she quips, “It’s not 2006,” when the health editor asks the room’s opinion on the word “va-jay-jay,” garnering her a cold stare. She also lands in a little international trouble after encouraging a Muslim photographer named Adena to smuggle vibrators into her country (where they’re banned), a decision that gets her detained at the airport. Then Kat wants to use Scarlett’s Twitter account to bring attention to Adena’s emergency, against the advice of another employee.

Finally, there’s Sutton. She’s a high-level assistant, who works directly with Jacqueline. Only thing, she doesn’t want to be an assistant forever. She’s got big dreams and she’s not afraid to go after them. She first goes after a job in the ad department, but she soon admits that she really wants a job in the fashion department. She’s also dealing with a conflict of interest, as she’s secretly sleeping with an exec from the ad department.

The Friendships

The premiere of The Bold Type showed us that the friendship between Kat, Sutton, and Jane is just as important as their career aspirations—as it should be! Whether it’s Kat and Sutton helping Jane stalk her “unstalkable” ex for a story, or Kat apologizing to Sutton for not being enthusiastic about a career change, it’s clear that their differences are not more important than the things that bring them together.

The Realistic Relationships

No matter how many preconceived notions we may have about what love will mean to us, there really is no right way to do it, as the characters all learn. Sutton’s secret affair with an ad exec named Richard becomes a source of conflict between her and the girls. Kat, who self-identifies “proud hetero,” finds herself questioning her sexuality as she spends time with Adena, who’s a lesbian. And Jane, well, she’s totally dealing with getting over her ex-boyfriend who just totally ghosted her. Relatable much?

The Glamour

The Bold Type definitely focuses on the sexier aspects of journalism. Between the shots of NYC’s high rises, the glossy pages of Scarlett, the industry parties and the gorgeous fashion, it’s safe to say that The Bold Type is super glamorous.

Speaking of the fashion, The Bold Type has been garnering comparisons to Sex And The City since its trailer was released. And while I’m not sure if Kat, Jane and Sutton’s lives mirror those of Carrie and co.’s (at least not yet), they’ve definitely given them a run for their money in the fashion department. Allow yourself to live vicariously through these ladies by checking out the show’s Instagram account.

After that, give The Bold Type a watch or two (if you haven’t already)—and revel in designer digs, supportive friendships, and spicy flings hopefully, for years to come.

TV Shows LGBTQIA+ Pop Culture

9 queer couples on television that will melt your cold and jaded heart

When it comes to LGBTQ representation, television can be a bit of a heterosexual wasteland. Even if a show has queer characters, these characters tend to play understudy to their straight counterparts. Queer couples become a subplot. While I agree that representation is important, simply having queer characters on a television show is no longer enough for me. What’s even more important are realistic portrayals of healthy queer relationships. These relationships need to be normalized so that queer young people can watch them and see that being cared for and loved is possible and attainable.

Queer people love, kiss, fuck, and have passionate relationships just like straight people. These complexities need to be showcased.  Some shows do a great job of that, while others leave a lot to be desired. Here are some of my favorite queer couples on television right now:

1. Yorkie and Kelly, Black Mirror

If I had any say in the matter, Yorkie and Kelly would have an entire show dedicated to them. Not just a single episode. “San Junipero” manages to fit all of the emotional ups and downs of a relationship, from their initial meet-cute at the bar to the angst of their first fight, into an hour.

2. Amanita and Nomi, Sense8

Amanita is the epitome of “ride or die chick.” If my partner told me that they shared a subconscious with seven other people from around the world…well, I’m not sure how I’d react. Amanita takes it in stride. Nomi is always her first priority and she supports her at all times…even when it means hacking into government databases in order to help members of Nomi’s cluster.

3. Captain Holt and Kevin, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Captain Holt and his husband Kevin spend their evenings comfortably. They read novels on a couch in their living room, drinking red wine while their dog plays at their feet. If that doesn’t reek of the kind of sophistication and easy domesticity we should all aspire to achieve with our own significant others, then I don’t know what does.

4. Lito and Hernando, Sense8

Hernando loves Lito so much. This is evident in the way he is able to keep their relationship under wraps for years in order to protect Lito’s career and carefully-crafted image as Mexico City’s lothario and resident bad boy. It becomes even more evident in the way he supports Lito when Lito is outed and their life together starts crashing down around them.

5.  Even and Isak, Skam

During Even and Isak’s season of Skam, the show’s writers did an amazing job of showing Isak come to terms with his sexuality while also highlighting Even’s struggles with bipolar disorder. Both boys were far from perfect but they were able to be soft and gentle with one another. Their relationship became a vital safe space and source of love and comfort.

6. Magnus and Alec, Shadowhunters

My favorite thing about Magnus and Alec is the communication between the two of them. When a problem arises, they aren’t ever given a chance to sit around and stew until resentment grows. Instead, they talk to about their feelings and actually listen to one other. This results in a specific kind of intimacy that I love watching.

7. Zoe and Rasha, Degrassi

It took a while for Zoe to accept the fact that she was gay. It took even longer for her to find love with Rasha. But once she does, they become one of the most important queer couples of Degrassi High. When they are crowned prom queens during the most recent season, I might have shed a few actual tears.

8. Waverly and Nicole, Wynonna Earp

One of the very first times we’re introduced to Officer Nicole Haught, she is flirting and making Waverly blush. I became heavily invested in their happiness together from that moment on. When Waverly finally leaves her dirtbag boyfriend and gets with Nicole, I shamelessly cheered at my laptop screen.

9. Darryl and White Josh, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

On any other show, Darryl and White Josh might have been a joke couple. They are complete opposites. Darryl is middle-aged, divorced with a kid, and has only recently had his bisexual awakening. White Josh, on the other hand, is young, conventionally attractive, and works as a personal trainer. On paper, the two shouldn’t work together, but somehow they totally do.

This bottom line is: I’m sick of the “tragic gay character” tv trope. I don’t want to watch any more lesbian characters die. I don’t want to watch LGBTQ characters tortured for ratings. I want to watch more queer couple touching and being tender with one another on television.

Queer couples deserve gentle, uncomplicated romance and happy endings.

TV Shows Pop Culture

Why is whiteness the default in every movie and TV show?

I just finished watching the latest episode of Freeform’s Switched at Birth, and I have to say, I’m disappointed.

Switched at Birth is definitely doing a lot of amazing things. I love that it gives viewers complex protagonist roles and major screen time to female characters, Latinx characters, and characters with disabilities. I love that it does its best to address serious social issues like rape culture and provokes healthy dialogue about social issues.

But I’ve grown so tired of mainstream entertainment refusing to treat people of color as people. I expected better from Freeform (previously ABC Family), the network that is home to The Fosters, which gives interesting and complex protagonist roles to women of color and gay, lesbian, and transgender characters.

Did Black characters only matter when the show wanted to address racism?

Switched at Birth‘s latest storyline has to do with racism on UMKC’s campus, the university attended by Daphne, one of the show’s main characters. I love that this is something the show is trying to depict different perspectives on and address respectfully.

[Image description: Woman signs, “And I can’t live in a place that doesn’t even ask black kids how they feel when there’s a race issue on the table.”] via

But one thing kept nagging at me while I watched the story unfold.

The Black characters who are (rightfully so) at the forefront during this storyline were not really prominent characters during the show until now. They made brief appearances here and there, but that was about it.

I have to wonder: where were they before? Did they only matter when the show wanted to address racism?

Honestly, what were their defining characteristics before this racially-fueled storyline came into play? I couldn’t tell you, and I don’t think many other viewers could, either.

Although this is the show’s last season, I have to wonder – if another season was in the works, would these characters have been tossed to the side after this particular plot came to an end?

I genuinely and sincerely love that Switched at Birth exists; I have actually learned a lot from the show about the deaf experience and deaf community. Stories like the ones that Switched at Birth tells deserve to be told and need to be heard. For the same reason, I love that Moonlight won Best Picture.

But why is it that in order to receive recognition from white people, movies about POC need to be about oppression? How often does a movie with a Black cast win an Oscar when it isn’t about oppression?

[Image description: Two men sit at a table, and one man says, “So to make a hit black movie you need a whip, a firehose, or a negro spiritual”] via

Why is it that every “token” Black or brown character on a TV show or in a movie is defined by their ethnic or religious background in a way that a majority of their white counterparts are not?

Why is it that people of color have to have stories directly related to their race or religion in order to be deemed worthy or interesting, whereas white characters are interesting and relatable by virtue of their very existence?

How often does a movie with a Black cast win an Oscar when it isn’t about oppression?

Do writers and directors not see the millions of examples around them of people of color who are living lives exactly like them? We are literally right here and all around you, all you have to do is look.

I honestly feel that any white protagonist could easily be cast as a person of color and the story does not necessarily have to change. This is especially true of stories that take place in America, where so many people of color were either born here or have been living here for generations, making their “background” somewhat irrelevant.

Aziz Ansari nailed it in an episode of Master of None. Another character says to Aziz, “If I do a show with two Indian guys on the poster, everyone’s gonna think it’s an Indian show.”

For Indian people only. Because Indian people are apparently only relatable to other Indian people.

[Image description: Man says, “Yeah, but you would never say that about a show with two white people.”] via

What’s being said here is that a show with two or more white people is just a “regular” show, because supposedly everyone can relate to the universal experience of white people.

Notice that the words being used are “Indian” in reference to people who look like Aziz and “white” in reference to white people. No thought is put into what ethnicity white people are when they are chosen to fill the protagonist roles in television or film. Casting people of specifically British descent or French ancestry doesn’t make a show too British or too French to be relatable to anyone that isn’t British or French.

In other words, whiteness is the default. Anything else is a problem.

But that needs to change.

As a person of color, a Muslim, and a woman, as well as an avid reader and lover of film and television, I have spent my whole life relating to characters that looked nothing like me and connecting to the humanity within them.

It’s about damn time non-minorities were asked to do the same, and it’s time writers and directors learned to do it right.

We don’t have to erase everything about a person of color that makes them who they are, but we do need to stop using them solely as representations of their race or faith.

There is so much more to all of us than that, and right now, it seems like only white people are allotted the privilege of being seen in that wholesome way.

Do some shows and movies do diversity right? Sure.

But I look forward to when those particular shows and movies are the norm instead of the exception.

TV Shows Books Pop Culture

Magnus Bane is an inspiration to every one of us struggling to be our true self

Since Shadowhunters premiered on Freeform last spring, I’ve become totally besotted with one of its lead characters, Magnus Bane (Harry Shum Jr.). The nearly six-foot, chiseled, bisexual “High Warlock of Brooklyn” is a storm of gusto and glamour who draws me in like a moth to the flame. Why I’m so aggressively captivated with the character, particularly as a black pansexual woman, isn’t immediately obvious. But even within the allegorical fantasy world of Shadowhunters, Magnus is a queer man of color whose distinct experience partly resembles my own. Magnus is the embodiment of ferocity. He’s the hero I’ve been waiting for.

Based on Cassandra Clare’s glossy urban fantasy novels The Mortal Instruments, Shadowhunters follows Clary Fray, a young teen who stumbles into the magical and monstrous underworld of New York City. When her mother is suddenly kidnapped by a rogue genocidal “shadowhunter”, Fray discovers her true identity as part of that half-human, half-angel race of warriors. In order to get her mother back, Clary turns to her own, a group sworn to protect humans and “downworlders,” a range of half-human, half-demon beings typically scorned by their angelic counterparts.

While the books are mostly told through Fray’s perspective, the show opted to flesh the individual perspectives of its large cast. This includes Magnus Bane, the powerful High Warlock of Brooklyn who reluctantly agrees to help the new shadowhunter with her mission. A true manifestation of the fire emoji, his comedic flare and natural wit is only surpassed by his unapologetic conviction. Outside of his rather spirited personality, Magnus’ physical frame and tactical experience make him a formidable opponent. A centuries old, incredibly versatile master of magic and supernatural combat, the warlock’s power inspires both awe and fear.

We so rarely see this mixture of electric spitfire and daunting defender on a character with his kind of layered identity, that I find myself clinging to him. The series features another LGBTQ character who challenges perceptions of gay masculinity and represents the experiences of young LGBTQ. But Magnus’ intersections speak to something that, in a more fantastical way, conveys the lived reality of someone who is completely honest about who she is, but has to defend that identity at almost every turn.

The coming out narrative is common on TV, and although it’s important to see, its repeated use has generated an illusion that public declarations are a one-time experience. In actuality, LGBTQ people spend their entire lives coming out. Again and again we’re forced to reveal ourselves and wait for people to either accept or judge us. It can be exhausting and, at times, painful. However, when it comes to Magnus and others’ responses to his sexuality, the warlock refuses to shrink back. From his imposing demeanor down to the details of his wardrobe, Magnus’ unshuttered boldness is a reminder of how comfortable I still want to be with my own identity every single time I declare it.

It’s also a nod to the days I power through micro and outright aggressions. Magnus is an Asian man who has lived 300 years and has experienced racism of both the mundane and angelic variety. Some of that was illustrated during one of the series’ most dramatic moments, which placed Magnus in the midst of a sacred–and segregated–shadowhunter ceremony. Magnus’ presence and refusal to leave was an outright and glorious act of defiance. Not only was his public rejection of prejudice admirable, it was incredibly empowering. Perhaps more importantly, it was self-validating, especially as a means of revealing Magnus’ vulnerability.

Magnus doesn’t struggle with openly being himself, but he is still affected by other’s judgements. Primarily, what can be a discriminatory shadowhunter mentality. Both his sardonic scorn of shadowhunter law and his magically disguised cat eyes–a mark of his demonic blood–are evidence that the belittlement and bigotry sting no matter how many centuries he’s dealt with it. I find that dichotomy of strength and sensitivity incredibly relatable. I am a black woman who is always told she needs to be strong, to be ready, but who is also fundamentally human and therefore unable to exhibit heroic amounts of emotional fortitude at will. Magnus is an illustration of my experiences at the hands of ignorance and hate. He’s a representation of how these moments can shape me, and an acknowledgement that they don’t have to define me.

Outside of Magnus’ internal struggles and development, even his stylistic choices champion the idea that I don’t have to be defined by anyone else’s expectations. His appreciation for what is typically deemed “feminine” is a finger to the idea that “girly” things are inherently fragile or inferior. Magnus Bane is tremendously adept and strong. Being covered in a slew of accessories and a cloud of glitter doesn’t change that. None of his trappings actually make him more “feminine” either. Instead, they subtly illustrate that no one had to be hyper masculine to be mighty. Male-coded things aren’t innately more commanding. Wearing bright purple doesn’t mean you can’t throw a solid punch.

Magnus Bane  is so many things, all of which I love whether they are “me” or not. My love for this enchanting warlock lies in the message his very presence offers.

Through the complicatedness of it all, my existence is brave, it is enough, and no matter how anyone else sees me, I can be utterly fierce.

Race The World Inequality

5 reasons why Recovery Road needs to return to Freeform

Freeform’s Recovery Road was recently cancelled after one season, and I’m so upset.

Recovery Road tells the story of mixed-race teenager Maddie Graham as she enters a sober house to overcome her drug addiction. On Freeform’s website, Maddie is described as a “whip-smart” student who’s “thrust into a completely alien world” as she tries to navigate the all-too familiar teenage struggles of school and romance. Although initially in denial about her addiction, she eventually learns to get along with the various people around her and comes to terms with being an addict. It’s a transformation that’s human and sincere.

Despite how new it was, RR was exciting, compelling, and very well-received by the general audience. Not to mention – Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes gave it some pretty solid scores. But then, on May 13th, Executive Producer Holly Sorensen announced on Twitter that the show had been cancelled.


It was well-received by critics, so why cancel it? Didn’t it fit the usual mold of Freeform’s typical teenage drama tropes of backstabbing, dark/trendy suspense, and conventional plot twists? 

To amount of mixed race and interracial representation on the show was the main thing that impressed me, personally. If Freeform doesn’t allow the show a second chance to emphasize the struggle of addiction, relapse, and improving identity development, at least have the show continue for the sake of mixed race visibility. I wanted more than the ten episodes I got online.

Here are five reasons why Recovery Road needs to return to Freeform for mixed race visibility. And don’t worry, I will try my absolute best not to spoil anything, for those who intend to watch it on Freeform’s website. 

1. It will continue to shine a light on how mixed race girls may get into drug addiction.

In the first episode, the viewer sees how Maddie didn’t expose herself to alcohol and other drugs until after her father died in a car accident (caused by a drunk driver.) Her father had white descent, and her mother has African American descent. In a later episode, she explains to her new friend Wes (played by Sebastian de Souza) that she viewed herself as an alien growing up. To experience that kind of social struggle, and then lose a part of her identity by losing her father, can be very straining for a mixed race person. Additionally, it was interesting to analyze that coupled with the struggle of addiction. Addiction does not affect a certain “type” of person – it’s race-blind. 

2. It could open up an opportunity for multiracial visibility. 

Maddie’s mother, Charlotte Graham (played by Sharon Leal), could be implied to be monoracial, placing Maddie’s racial identity in a binary. However, Sharon Leal is African American and Asian American, and Jessica Sula is Afro-Latina, Asian, and white. When I first heard of the show and saw the diversity among the cast, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to shed light on biracial parents and their multiracial children.

I can’t help but think that this was a formula created by the show’s creators on purpose, but simply fell by the wayside due to the mere ten-episode arc they were given. If this show were to be given a second chance, I’d root for an expansion of a multiracial storyline all the way.

3. It shows the humanity behind single-mother parenthood. 

Seeing Charlotte trying harder and harder, and getting better and better, at reconciling her relationship with her daughter always made my heart happy. After Maddie’s father died and Maddie became more involved in drugs, her relationship with her mother wasn’t as open. According to her mother in the first episode, Maddie was closer to her father, and he was usually able to pick up on anything that was wrong with her. Maddie’s stay in the sober house contributed to her willingness to become more open with her mother about the difficulties of being away from friends and withdrawal. Therefore, even though a part of her may be lost, there is part of Maddie who is still with her: Charlotte. Viewers should be allowed to see that relationship continue to evolve through different obstacles the show could have offered if allowed a second season.

4. It displays the family dynamic of various interracial families.

Besides Maddie being a member of an interracial family, her fellow resident in the sober house Margarita, played by Paula Jai Parker, is a Jamaican woman who runs a restaurant with her white husband, and their biracial son works for them. Before entering the sober house, Maddie’s roommate Trish, played by Kyla Pratt, is a black woman in a relationship with a white man, and it’s implied that they have a child together (this isn’t a spoiler, you have to watch it to see what I mean). Moreover, there was no single point in the show where Maddie or Margarita’s son is exoticized or prodded upon by other characters for their multiraciality. To the creators and writers of Recovery Road, I say thank you, for that. The show’s cancellation means a huge missed opportunity for interracial visibility.

5. It shows the stigma of mental health and addiction for mixed race women and other women of color.

The viewer can see other women of color – the character Trish especially – struggling to cope with their mental health and staying sober. However, to see a mixed race woman of color trying to cope may be new for most viewers. Maddie has a lot of difficulty trying to hide from her friends that she’s been living in a sober house. Referring back to Maddie’s “alien” comment about herself can help the viewer see how mixed race women may struggle with personal issues such as these as much as monoracial women of color, if not more. Seeing Maddie struggle harder and harder with keeping secrets to herself was intriguing to see, especially as someone who has been to therapy and has attempted to keep secrets from others for a long time. This show had so much potential to expand on this!

So again, um…what? Why Freeform? Why?

If this is truly the last we’ll ever see of Recovery Road, I do hope that new projects can emerge with similar topics such as this show. But, if the channel is willing to bring back the show despite the announcement of cancellation, hopefully these five reasons would be taken into consideration in order to expand on mixed race visibility on the show.