TV Shows Uncategorized Pop Culture

Netflix’s Sex Education does better at teaching sex ed than most schools

Netflix’s comedy Sex Education, now in its third season, is centred around a group of students and teachers at a British high school. The show aims to teach its viewers about sex, and sexuality and, often does a greater job than most schools sex ed classes.

The premise of the show is that students at Moordale High are not receiving satisfactory sex education programs, so Otis (Asa Butterfield) and his classmate Maeve (Emma Mackey) set up a sex therapy service for their peers. The young teenagers seek out material on how to improve one’s love life and overcome sexual problems. The two find often correct and honest information, that they give to those asking for advice.

In the first episode of season three, we see Dr Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson) do an interview on her new book, Uneducated Nation: A Sex Education Manifesto for Our Youth. When the host asks her to speak about the book, she replies by saying she was, “shocked at the ineptitude” of school sex ed classes. So, she wrote a book that is an “easy-to-read manual to help empower our teenagers, and their parents, as they become sexually active young adults.” The interviewer responds to her, “Sounds a bit racy.” Dr Milburn replies, “Well, if, by racy, you mean highly researched and completely essential to the health and well-being of our children, then, yes, I suppose it is.”

Milburn’s response could be used to describe the series itself, racy but essential. Sex Education could also be a mirror to how school-based sexual education curricula could advance the communication of pertinent material to curious and impulsive teenagers.

Sexually provocative, but educational, Sex Education is one show that exemplifies how narratives in popular culture can represent teenage sexuality positively. Often the positive aspect of sex is left outside of the classroom. Teenagers are sexual beings too who desire and deserve sex-positive information.

For instance, in the first episode of season three, the opening scene is lively, teasing, and sexy. The scene moves between various moments of sexual pleasure. From heterosexual sex to masturbating while watching porn, gay sex between young men, gay role-playing sex between young women, online sex, virtual reality sex and, the pleasure of reading a book while indulging in cheese puffs. This series of sexual arrangements not only shows a range of desires across ages but sexualities and body sizes.

One of the things to note about the show is how it does not have any messages or hints about abstinence, fear that is related to representations of teen sex, or timidness around what sex is. Instead, it portrays a very open, bold, and authentic truth about what relationship teenagers have (or should) with sex.

Sex Education also debunks misinformation about sex, such as the idea that pornography is only harmful to teens. Watching porn can be “a bit of fun,” to quote one of the characters. In addition, Sex Education debunks another assumption where one of the characters falsely believes that a large penis guarantees one sexual satisfaction and, another thought that her labia should be tucked in.

The quality of sex education differs from one education system to another. However, it is clear that the need for more conversations centred around pleasure must be prioritized instead of focusing only on reproduction. Sex Education contests a commonly held perception about teenagers that they should be sheltered from the ills of sex and sexual material. A narrative portrayed by teens and about teens can bring about crucial tools to invite conversations between children and adults about sex.

The discussion brought by television shows like Sex Education emphasizes and highlights the need for more comprehensive sexual education not only in schools but in cultures and in family homes themselves.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

The Baby-Sitters Club season two is an injection of joy the world needs

Did I expect to spend the weekend sobbing over a bunch of middle school characters as they explored everything from friendship to budding romance and even death? Maybe not, but since I’m the one who chose to binge the second season of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix in one weekend, I really should have seen this coming. 

I devoured season one of The Baby-Sitters Club last July. I had just moved to a new apartment in the middle of the first pandemic summer, and as much as I loved my new neighborhood and my morning exploratory walks, I missed, well, life. I thought the first season of the series, which adapts Ann M. Martin’s sprawling empire of novels, was perfect in almost every way: a sweet, uplifting show that nevertheless tackled big conversations in the world today. And importantly, it was one that allowed me to forget the pandemic.

The Baby-Sitters Club season two hit Netflix on Oct. 11, 2021, and built upon the solid foundation of its first season. It offers a lot of the same things the first season does, while deepening storylines, character lives, and conversations. In case you’re unfamiliar with the show, it stars a group of middle school girls, led by the entrepreneurial spirit of Kristy Thomas, who start a club/business: in exchange for money, they will babysit neighborhood kids. Along the way, they learn important lessons about family, standing up for yourself, pursuing your dreams, and so so much more. 

I spoke with Jen Petro-Roy, who is a former teen librarian and also the author of a few middle-grade novels, including P.S. I Miss You. She pointed out something I loved about the show myself: how modern it is. It’s set in a pandemic-free alternate universe version of contemporary times, and the showrunners did an excellent job modernizing the cast, the storylines, even the props.

“All of these updates seem so natural, too,” Petro-Roy said. “Of course it makes sense for MaryAnne to find her strength standing up for a trans girl she’s babysitting. Of course, the cast is more diverse. It makes sense, and that’s all because of how accepting, loving, and inclusive the world of Stoneybrook and the Baby-Sitters Club are.”

The beauty of the show, of course, is that it deals with such real-world topics through the framework of a middle-grade media property, and every episode ends on an uplifting note. The characters may go through hell over the course of the episode, but they’re going to end up stronger, happier, and better off than they started. 

As a kidlit writer myself, one of the things I try to remember in penning my young adult novels is that they need hope. That’s not to say that everything needs to be hunky-dory throughout the story, or even that everything wraps up in a bow neatly for the characters. The Hunger Games is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Those characters go Through It over the course of the trilogy, but the ending is meant to show up that there is hope despite this. Katniss makes some choices at the end of Mockingjay that I hate, but they are accurate reflections of her trauma, and the ending is ultimately hopeful for a better day.

The Baby-Sitters Club is a shining example of middle-grade media because it’s enjoyable to people of all ages (I’m 28 and obsessed with it, but the focus is squarely on the middle school-aged characters — and their real-world counterparts, the viewers. The struggles the girls face are relevant to their age. This season, MaryAnne had her first boyfriend, and an episode’s plotline was about her trying to figure out what that meant for her. Whereas maybe a young adult audience would have wanted to see the story revolve around a first kiss or even first time having sex, for middle-graders it’s perfect that it just revolves around taking the relationship from “friends” to “more than friend.”

Petro-Roy thinks the show is a “perfect example” of media for middle grade.

“The main cast are actually real kids and the BSC themselves are dealing with classic issues of growing up (making new friends, first boyfriends, a loss in the family),” she said. “Middle grade is that strange time when kids are starting to solidify who they are in the world and wanting to have adventures on their own while still being called back into the fold of their family pretty strongly. This show exemplifies that so perfectly in its storyline and its talented child and adult cast.”

There is so much, so very very much, to love about The Baby-Sitters Club. It hooks in adults, teens, and tweens alike, telling the stories that we can all relate to: middle school drama and trauma. Both seasons are available now on Netflix, and I highly recommend the show.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

The 17 best shows to watch on Netflix if you are obsessed with true crime

As a self-proclaimed true crime series connoisseur, I have watched every true crime series there is to be watched in the genre and later went on to research the heck out the stories. It started off by watching poorly written and directed police investigation shows, the only appeal being that some of them are inspired by true events. The casual viewing experience soon turned into an obsession! 

The curiosity and thrill that comes with watching true crime are indescribable. The trill being understanding the psyche of serial killers, uncovering a crime with the law enforcement officials or awaiting the final verdict.

The reason for the obsession that pulls us into a rabbit hole of murder, destruction, mystery and justice is answered by Psychologist Dr. Meg Arroll. While speaking to The Telegraph, Dr. Meg said, “True crime stories allows us to explore the darker side of nature in a safe way.” 

[Image description: A woman smiling while clasping her hands under the caption "me when there's a new documentary about a serial killer on Netflix] via Filmdaily
[Image description: A woman smiling while clasping her hands under the caption “me when there’s a new documentary about a serial killer on Netflix] via Filmdaily
“If we can understand the motivation and the backstory, then we do feel that we have more control over our lives and the world in general,” she added.

This list brings you the best of rest from the world of true crime and investigative thrillers. If you are someone already obsessed like me and want a re-watch list or if you want to step into the world of this nitty-gritty genre read along!

1. American Murder: The Family Next Door 

[Image description: A family of four, a man, a woman and two daughters sitting in a field and smiling at the camera] via American Murder: The Family Next Door
[Image description: A family of four, a man, a woman and two daughters sitting in a field and smiling at the camera] via Knickerbockerglory.
This true crime documentary follows the events that lead up to the 2018 Watts family murders. It uses social media posts, police bodycam footage, text messages, archival and home video footage to depict the events that led to the crime. 

It is a bone-chilling documentary about family, greed, betrayal and loss of innocent lives. It is also Netflix’s most watched documentary feature being viewed in almost 56 million households. 

Length: 1 hr 23 mins

Watch the trailer here

2. Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer

[Image description: A picture of a cat made with a collage of different pictures] via Don't F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
[Image description: A picture of a cat made with a collage of different pictures] via Netflix
Released in 2019, this docu-series made me question my social media presence in the most uncomfortable, fearful way. 

The series narrates events following a crowdfunded online manhunt into a series of animal cruelty acts committed by Canadian Pornographic actor Luka Magnotta, which leads to the eventual killing of a Chinese international student. The docuseries also highlights the obsession of online amateur investigators to solve mysteries and how that obsession leads to them assisting the law enforcement officers in catching the criminal. 

Length: 3 episodes (55 mins – 65 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

3. The Serpent

[Image description: A man and a woman staring at the camera with a car in front of them] via The Serpent
[Image description: A man and a woman staring at the camera with a car in front of them] via Netflix
The series is set in the mid-1970s, based on the life of the infamous ‘Bikini Killer’ aka Charles Sobhraj, a French serial killer of Vietnamese and Indian descent. 

It follows Charles over the years 1975-2000 as he murders and preys on young travellers exploring the ‘hippie trail’ of South Asia. This true crime series shows dramatized events of the actual crimes. This series also subtly highlights racism towards the Asian community in 1970s France.  

Apart from the gruesome murders and the cat-and-mouse chase between the killer and law enforcement officials, you can view it for the beautiful costume design and cinematography. 

Length: 8 episodes (58 mins – 59 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

4. Mindhunter 

[Image description: An inkblot that merges into the faces of 3 people] via Mindhunter
[Image description: An inkblot that merges into the faces of 3 people] via Netflix
Mindhunter is an American psychological crime thriller series based on the 1995 true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. It follows 2 FBI agents and a psychologist as they interview imprisoned serial killers to try to understand their psyche and solve current crimes. 

The series features notable serial killers like the Co-Ed Killer, Monte, Son of Sam and Charles Manson among others. This series is the perfect blend of true crime, psychological and investigative thriller. Warning! Some of the episodes might leave you feeling sick to your stomach. 

Length: 2 Seasons (10 episodes each)

Watch the trailer here

5. Fear City: New York vs The Mafia

[Image description: a photo of a street in New York] via Fear City: New York vs The Mafia
[Image description: a photo of a street in New York] via Netflix
As the name suggests, this series is about New York City’s Five Families: Gambino, Colombo, Bonanno, Lucchese, and Genovese. These families were part of the most feared crime organization (American Italian Mafia) of New York. These crime families have historically operated throughout the New York metropolitan area, but mainly in the New York City. They have been involved in a number of illegal activities like, murder, extortion, corruption of public officials, gambling, infiltration of legitimate businesses, labor racketeering, loan sharking among others.

The series is shot from the point of view of the FBI and how wiretap technology helped them in dismantling the most powerful Mafia families of New York. 

If you are a fan of The Godfather, The Irish Man or any Martin Scorsese movie, this one is definitely worth watching!

Length: 3 Episodes (42 mins – 58 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

6. Amanda Knox

[Image description: A close up of a woman's face looking scared with reviews from publication on the right] via Amanda Knox
[Image description: A close up of a woman’s face looking scared with reviews from publication on the right] via Netflix.
This Emmy nominated documentary is about Amanda Knox, a woman twice convicted and later acquitted of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher. The documentary chronicles the murder of Knox’s roommate Meredith  and the investigation, trials and appeals that followed after. 

This court trial went on to become one of the most controversial trials in the world with two of the most influential countries (USA and Italy) getting involved. The documentary is very immersive and pulls you right in. Once you start, you will be hooked. 

Length: 1 hr 23 mins

Watch the trailer here

7. Manhunt: Unabomber

[Image description: Two men sit facing each other. One of them is wearing a prison suit] via Discovery Communications, Trigger Street Productions and Lionsgate Television
[Image description: Two men sit facing each other. One of them is wearing a prison suit] via Discovery Communications, Trigger Street Productions and Lionsgate Television
This Netflix series is centered around hunting down and catching the domestic terrorist, Ted Kaczynski aka the Unabomber. The series features Sam Worthington (FBI Agent Jim Fitzgerald) and Paul Bettany (Ted Kaczynski) in lead roles.

The motive of the killer is what sets this series apart from the rest on the list. It showcases the themes of loneliness and depression and its effects on one’s motives and morals. A must watch if you wish to view something a little subdued in violence but intense in drama. 

Length: 8 Episodes (43 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

8. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich

[Image description: a collage of the pictures of Jeffrey Epstein's victims which form his face] via Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
[Image description: a collage of the pictures of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims which form his face] via Netflix
This four-part docu-series features interviews with several survivors including Virginia Giuffre and Maria Farmer, along with former staff members and former police chief Michael Reiter against convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein

The series starts from the first criminal case filed against Jefferey Epstein by the stepmother of a 14-year old survivor who had been taken to Epstein’s mansion by an older girl. She was paid $300 to strip and massage Epstein. This case led to a cascading effect of other survivors coming out and speaking against Jeffrey Epstein and his associates. The docu-series exposes the filthy rich world of Jeffrey Epstein and shows how he used his wealth and power to commit these crimes.

Length: 4 Episodes (56 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

9. Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.

[Image description: A black and white picture of Tupac and Biggie standing in front of a car] via Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.
[Image description: A black and white picture of Tupac and Biggie standing in front of a car] via Universal Cable Productions
The series chronicles the murders of pop culture’s most notorious influences, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. It follows two investigators as they try to get to the bottom of the murder mystery. 

It shows the life of Tupac and Biggie in a very earnest and honorable way-just two young men from humble backgrounds trying to make it big in Hollywood. The show also does a great job at highlighting themes of racism, fame, friendship and greed. 

Length: 10 Episodes (46 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

10. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

[Image description: a Collage of two close up pictures of Ted Bundy] via Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
[Image description: a Collage of two close up pictures of Ted Bundy] via Netflix
The four 60-minutes episodes of the series were made from 100 hours of unheard interviews and archival footage of serial killer Ted Bundy, as well as interviews with his family, friends, surviving victims, and the law enforcement members who worked on his case. 

The series traces the life of Ted Bundy in the light of his crimes, arrests and escapes. It’s eerie and creepy so much so that Netflix issued a warning to not watch it alone!

Length: 4 Episodes (51 mins – 74 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

11. Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer

[Image description: A poster of the night crawler standing in the dark with a red light focusing on his eye] via Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer
[Image description: A poster of the night crawler standing in the dark with a red light focusing on his eye] via Netflix
This 2021 true crime docuseries is about the serial killer Richard Ramirez who left the residents of Greater Los Angeles and later San Francisco Bay Area terrorized from June 1984 until August 1985. The series is narrated by two detectives, Gill Carillo and Frank Salerno who played an instrumental role in catching the killer. 

The series is graphic and shows the murders without any filter. It also hints at Hybristophilia (sexual interest in and attraction to those who commit crimes) and how it plays a role in painting an evil man as a hero. 

Length: 4 Episodes (46 mins – 48 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

12. Wild Wild Country

[Image description: A congregation of the followers of Osho standing in a valley with an eye above them] via Wild wild country
[Image description: A congregation of the followers of Osho standing in a valley with an eye above them] via Netflix
The docu-series is about the famous Indian spiritual guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho), his one-time personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela, and their community of followers in the Rajneeshpuram community located in Wasco County, Oregon. 

It shows the reality of this cult-like organization and the extent to which the followers of a cult go to please their leader, which eventually leads to attempting a bioterror attack. The series leaves you in a conflict of good vs evil and makes you question the common sense of the population of Rajneeshpuram.

Length: 6 Episodes (64 mins – 71 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

13. The people v OJ Simpson : American Crime Story

[Image description: A picture of O.J. Simpson covering his face with his hands. One hand has a glove on it] via The people v OJ Simpson : American Crime Story
[Image description: A picture of O.J. Simpson covering his face with his hands. One hand has a glove on it] via FXP
This series received 22 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, in 13 categories, winning nine, including Outstanding Limited Series. If this doesn’t sell the series, I don’t know what will. This crime drama series chronicles the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson ex-wife of the star NFL player, O. J. Simpson, for which he stood on trial. 

The series is an intense courtroom drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat till the last episode. 

Length: 10 Episodes (41 mins – 66 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

14. Carmel: Who killed Maria Marta?

[Image description: A collage of images with a young Maria Marta in the center] via Carmel: Who killed Maria Marta?
[Image description: A collage of images with a young Maria Marta in the center] via Netflix
The miniseries tells the tale of the murder of Maria Marta, upper-class Argentine sociologist. The murder which seems like an accident turns into a series of accusations and pointing fingers as soon as the autopsy report arrives. 

The four-part series explores different investigative angles and suspects in each episode making it interesting till the very end. The series reveals family secrets, betrayal and envy. 

Length: 4 Episodes (55 mins – 60 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

15. Evil Genius

[Image description: a collage of images of a mugshot, handcuffs and a man wearing a white t-shirt] via Evil Genius
[Image description: a collage of images of a mugshot, handcuffs and a man wearing a white t-shirt] via Netflix
This bizarre high-profile crime focuses on the death of Brian Wells, a pizza delivery man who was forced to rob a bank. The robbery soon turns into a complex plot involving a scavenger hunt and homemade explosives. The storyline takes a new turn at every corner and will leave you on a roller coaster of plot twists. It also explores the themes of mental and personality disorders.

Length: 4 Episodes (45 mins – 48 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

16. Unsolved mysteries Volumes 1+2

[Image description: A storm approaching a house in the middle of the fields] via Unsolved mysteries Volumes 1+2
[Image description: A storm approaching a house in the middle of the fields] via Netflix
This 2-volume series is a must-watch for any true crime lover. Each episode explores a new mystery by the end of which, you will end up joining every conspiracy theory subreddit page there is. Some episodes stand out such as, ‘Death in Oslo’ an episode in which the investigation revolves around an unidentified woman who dies in a hotel in Oslo under mysterious circumstances. 

It is perfect for casual viewing, for when you don’t want to binge-watch the whole series in one single sitting.

Length: 2 Seasons (6 episodes each)

Watch the trailer here

17. Room 2806: The Accusation

[Image description: Dominique Strauss-Kahn standing in front of the French flag] via Room 2806: The Accusation
[Image description: Dominique Strauss-Kahn standing in front of the French flag] via Netflix
This docuseries follows the 2011 sexual assault case involving French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the height of his career. One sexual assault case opens the graveyard of deeply buried and hidden away crimes. Unlike Jeffrey Epstein, Strauss-Kahn was a respected politician and economist who served as the president of the IMF. It exposes the dirty world of politics and power and tells the tale from the survivors point of view. 

Length: 4 Episodes (43 mins – 63 mins each)

Watch the trailer here

From courtroom dramas to classic cat and mouse chases, this list has it all! These shows will keep you on the edge of your seats and make you watch your back the next time you walk down the streets. So hop on to the train of murders and mystery where each turn will leave you in state of jittery and let us know which one is your favorite!

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TV Shows Sexuality Love + Sex Love

‘Too Hot To Handle’ season two had just as many blue vulvas as blue balls

Too Hot To Handle season two is a ride! It starts with tricking contestants into participating and somehow manages to escalate into even more debauchery from there. Namely, almost every contestant stuck up their middle finger to Lana and her rules, resulting in the loss of a record-breaking amount of money from the prize fund.

A round of applause for the casting directors, who succeeded in finding the horniest people alive. While this did make season two more jaw-dropping than season one, it also meant we were reminded that some men still think blue balls are the best way to convince women to sleep with them.

If you try to make the jump from the Love Island franchise to Too Hot To Handle or vice versa, fair warning you will get whiplash. While Too Hot To Handle has been called the bootleg Love Island by some, the only similarities between the two shows are that they both lock hot singles in a villa with hopes someone falls in love — or lust.

The premise of Too Hot To Handle is that couples are restricted from any sexual activity in favor of sparking a real, emotional connection. Lana didn’t ask, and yet the season two cast still made a case for what I’ll call the twofer: building an emotional connection while engaging in sexual activity. This made the second season far more entertaining because it meant the cast could care less about winning $100,000 — a fact much more scandalous than the rampant under-the-covers action.

At one point, couple Cam and Emily decide they will try to abide by Lana’s rules after being the biggest rule breakers in the villa. Immediately, Cam complained of having blue balls with hopes that Emily would give him a handjob. Thankfully, Emily declined, providing people everywhere a blueprint on what to do when someone tries to use blue balls as leverage for sex.

Honestly, when Cam first said the words “blue balls” unironically, I thought I had fallen into a wormhole that dropped me into the year 2005. I thought we had evolved away from using blue balls as a way to manipulate people, primarily women, into having sex. And yet, Too Hot To Handle season two featured Cam, in the year 2021, blue-balling it up, much to the chagrin of the season two cast and viewers everywhere.

Ultimately, Cam decided to take matters into his own hands, literally. But he didn’t have to do that. According to Healthline, blue balls, medically known as epididymal hypertension, are not that serious and can be solved via various nonsexual, nonarousing activities. In the villa, Cam could have pumped some iron, taken a dip in the pool, or even gone for a chat with a friend. Basically, the pain of blue balls can be alleviated by any activity that keeps you busy. This means if you or someone you know is struggling from blue balls, encourage them to treat it like a personal problem they are in charge of solving.

When the cast found out Cam’s blue balls lost the group two thousand dollars, Chase exclaimed in a confessional, “He is so obsessed with his blue balls. All of us have blue balls, Cam!” This is probably true, in more ways than one. The women on this season’s cast were just as horny as the men, which is why I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone was sporting a blue vulva.

Just like blue balls, blue vulvas, a.k.a. blue uterus and pink pelvis, happen with vasocongestion, which is when bodily tissues swell as a result of increased vascular blood flow and blood pressure. Sexual arousal is one cause of vasocongestion, which can result in the vulva (or balls) taking on a blueish tinge. Again, an orgasm or a nonsexual activity are easy remedies.

My biggest problem with blue balls is not the balls themselves. Historically, men have less of a problem finding release with a partner than women. In addition, women’s sexuality is still taboo, while men are expected to be and accepted as sexual beings. Both of these facts coupled with how blue balls have been used as a manipulation tactic continues to imply men’s sexual release and satisfaction is more important than women’s.

Cam from Too Hot To Handle has become the target of my anger not because he had blue balls. Anyone can have blue balls or blue vulva. It’s how he handled his blue balls that enrages me. His actions showed that not once did he think of Emily’s need for release. He only cared about his own blue balls, which speaks volumes of his character as a lover and person.

It goes without saying that any allosexual person, whether they have balls or a vulva, can still have a high libido. Sexuality isn’t confined to just one gender.

One person’s blue balls aren’t more important than another.

Here’s to hoping Lana is already planning a seminar on this very topic for season three of Too Hot To Handle.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

Netflix’s Hollywood: the best way to tell a true story is to reinvent it

It’s been over a year since Hollywood released on Netflix, and I still remember beginning the show with a sense of uneasiness.  I always feel this way when I am watching period pieces because they’ve always seemed one-toned and whitewashed. For a while now, I’ve been very wary about the way that history is being represented in pop culture.

Coming from the Gulf, I am sensitive to these things because I have seen how history can be warped by others. Not much has been documented (and made public) by locals about our history, so the world sees the British documentaries with their commentary. Those kinds of images stick with you until you cannot imagine another alternative, to men in the desert swatting away flies with no woman in sight.

That’s why I feel so strongly about the way that history is presented on screen. Netflix’s Hollywood is set in the 1940s, post-World War II. Period pieces suffer from a common problem. They are so white. Even the most popular period pieces, like Little Women, Atonement, The Notebook, and of course The Great Gatsby, have an almost entirely white cast. What’s that about? 

A popular period drama director, Julian Fellowes, defended the lack of diversity with the claim that “you can’t make something untruthful.” It’s not difficult to see how dangerous this way of thinking is. If the media make it out that people of color were only recently ‘introduced’ to the main stage of society, then they’re deliberately negating all their contributions. Not just that, but for decades, period dramas have been butchering history to make it fit their ideas of romance.

Fortunately, there have been movements to ‘unwhitewash’ period pieces and tell more layered stories. That’s where Ryan Murphy’s Netflix mini-series Hollywood comes in, with its re-invention of a true story of stardom and success. 

The show begins with a relatively simple premise: a WWII veteran, Jack (David Corenswet), is trying his hand at making it onto the big screen. But he soon realizes it takes more than passion when he struggles to even be cast as an extra despite his angelic looks. Accepting a job as a gas attendant, he learns to resort to other means to make it past the iron gates of the Hollywood studios. Pimped out by his manager, he ‘services’ female customers to make ends meet and wait for his big break. Lucky for him, the gas station is full of young, attractive guys dreaming of becoming stars. 

Cue the montage of women rolling up to the gas stations and asked to be “taken to dreamland” and Jack hopping in to sleep with them. Preppy music plays in the background and I am left a little disoriented. A hollow feeling in my stomach, I can’t put a finger on why I feel this way. There is, I suppose, a kind of delight in the way that the women are expressing their sexual appetite but it is completely overshadowed by the darkness of these men’s dreams being exploited.

Still, Hollywood plays it off lightly. I understand its intent, that there is sometimes no way to break into the industry. The show makes a big point of having the actors literally sell themselves in order to pay the ‘price’ of their dream, which I hold no judgment about. Yet, this part of the plot is left behind really quickly and becomes of little significance in the following episodes. 

In that same gas station, a new hire, Archie (Jeremy Pope), is an aspiring screenplay writer with a script that has been picked up by producers. Now every actor and actress in L.A. wants a piece, but there’s a catch. Archie can’t take ownership of his work, let alone be involved in its production because he’s Black

What’s more, the producers have written his film off as a dud either way. Mainly because the new film director (Darren Criss) wants to cast Camille (Laura Harrier), a Black actress, in the lead role which Archie had written in reference to a blonde actress, Peg.

There is an inherent commentary that is woven into this decision, which I thought was really important. Are actresses interchangeable, regardless of their background? Does the role have to be retrofitted to Camille? Archie, the script’s author seems to think so, and is a little dubious about Camille’s ability to relate to the role. But in the end, the director gave us his answer to that question as he merely changed the name of the character and kept the rest the same.

As the film starts to get made, to our surprise, there are still many obstacles ahead. A feeling of dread starts to envelop me, as the audience, because I fear that everything these actors, the writer, and the director have worked for will not be able to succeed in the face of the fierce discrimination they meet at every corner. Hollywood navigates these sensitively, not shying away from exposing the deep-seated homophobia that doubles against some of the characters. 

And my predictions ring true, to some extent. White supremacist groups target the cast of their film, Meg, and even after they get a chance to wrap up filming, their film reel is burned to a crisp. Yet, somehow, by the finale, they are all granted a second chance when a copy of the film is found and it is released to wide public acclaim. Multiple cast members, including Jack, Camille, and Archie receive Oscar nominations. 

While I was delighted by how it all turned out, as I was starting to really root for the characters, all of this seemed too fast. I could feel that the show was trying to wrap itself up. I could let it slide until the abusive, predatory agent, Henry, gets a sort of redeeming moment where he apologizes before dying. To me, the ending, after such a strong start and promising climax, was disappointing. 

I understand what Hollywood and its Netflix producers were going for, a subversion of history. I am all for that. It’s an exploration of what could have been if it were not for the systematic, oppressive measures that barred the fictional movie, Meg, from ever hitting the big screen, at least for a while. 


Yet, what saves Hollywood for me, is that they managed to keep it mostly authentic to the reality of the times. It is still far from a fantasy. Underneath its pleasing 40’s aesthetic, handsome leads, and golden dream of success, there is so much to lose for each character. It is not ideal, the producers manage to keep the story grounded in reality as the characters still face troubles to reach their dreams and often have to compromise.

How I see it is that Hollywood in the ’40s, and even now sometimes, has the door closed in the faces of non-white actors trying to play roles in movies that are not about race. But here, the door is cracked the tiniest bit open to imagine what the industry could be.  The show has aged well and continues to remain a worthwhile one to catch up on while we relax after the socially distanced or online Pride parades.

Hollywood has a strong cast, large ambitions, and succeeded at changing the way we see the industry and the stories that industry creates. It’s an eye-opener to the opportunities created, the traps of the system, and the nuances in between – a unique take on a giant that’s normally difficult to access. And, most importantly, it’s a very promising start towards more diverse period dramas that we need this Pride Month.  

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Music Life

Embracing pop music as an indie teen broke me out of my shell

I used to spend my teenage years looking down on mainstream media, content, and artists. However, when the iconic opening beats of Charli XCX’s Vroom Vroom blasted through a store at the mall, it was mostly for show that I rolled my eyes and grumbled to my friends, “This again?”

Admittedly, I couldn’t deny to myself Charli’s EP was catchy. But whenever I would catch myself mumbling the lyrics to one of her songs, I would switch the music back to something indy and familiar like the Arctic Monkey’s song “R U Mine?” 

“Hey, let’s listen to real music,” I used to say. 

I began to wonder why I resisted mainstream music so much. Was it because every song that played on the radio was so saccharine and bubbly? Was it because most pop songs seemed to be selling one thing: a normative view of femininity, relationships, and sex? Especially binary characteristics of femininity I felt I would never live up to. 

I didn’t have the words to express how I felt about the subject, so I would just groan and badger my family to turn off the radio whenever pop songs would come on. I was convinced I would only enjoy myself when the Script, Coldplay, or any other artist I decided was popular but still not pop came on. In my teenage mind, their music explored more than clichéd romances or affixations on femininity. 

However, deep down, I was training myself not to enjoy Billboard’s Top Hits. I actively tried to brand myself as indie, alternative, and unlike the rest. 

Consequently, this attitude made it harder to engage with the people around me. When they talked about their shared interests like the new season of American Horror Story or played Taylor Swift’s new single, I would quickly shut them down. “Let’s listen to real music,” I would say, not meaning to but still coming off as demeaning. 

Deep down, I was training myself not to enjoy Billboard’s Top Hits.

As a result, I was quickly becoming someone who was difficult to be around. And understandably so as it gets really old to be with someone who doesn’t try to be invested in the interests of those close to them. Once I noticed this about myself, I realized I needed to confront what animosity I really held towards popular music and culture before I became unbearable to be friends with.

So, eventually, I had to ask myself: what was this facade that I was trying to keep up? What about pop music really bothered me so much? 

At the core of it, I found I was terrified of being like “other girls.” Now, the irony in this frame of thinking is so many young girls when I was growing up were trying not to be like the rest. And steering clear of pop culture was my way of going against what it seemed was expected of me as a teenage girl.

More than that, I was afraid that if I bought into pop music, I would lose certain aspects of my personhood that made me special. My self-proclaimed “edge” over everyone else would be no more. So I pretended pop music was all beneath me and even pretended not to like any of it. However, not allowing myself to enjoy things other people enjoyed left me feeling majorly excluded.

Allowing myself to get into popular culture, has broken me out of my shell

To be clear, it’s completely fine not to be interested in popular music, shows, or movies. Just because they are popular and mainstream doesn’t mean they’re relevant nor enjoyable to everyone. Yet, to demean the value of mainstream art just because it’s popularly consumed is wrong. Plus, I knew I secretly enjoyed it all.

Last summer, I burned through the existing seasons of AHS with a couple of friends who had already seen it. They were excited to relive the feeling of being in high school and I was just joining them along for the ride. Though, episode after episode, I couldn’t believe I was denying myself such good storytelling simply to maintain some imagined act of rebellion.

So the next time I went out with my friends, I unabashedly picked a Britney Spears song to sing at Karaoke and hollered her lyrics to the amusement of my roommates. “Toxic” is now infamously known as “Amal’s go-to song” amongst those closest to me. It felt so good to just let loose and enjoy good music without having my guard up. So what if I wanted to enjoy something tens of millions of people enjoy as well? 

Allowing myself to get into popular culture, from pop music to the TV shows that everyone’s buzzing about, has really broken me out of my shell. Now, I feel less alone. The culture I had always thought was excluding me actually made me feel more included than ever. Of course, there are still pop songs that would never make it into my playlist (I won’t be shady and name them). And shows I’ll still pretend I’m watching ironically, like Gossip Girl. But I will never again be a pop culture hater.

Plus, my music taste is still pretty indie, but I am not ashamed to throw some Nicki Minaj into the mix every once in a while.

Through embracing pop music and popular culture in general, I became more in touch with those around me. I found there is actually power in sharing interests with such a global community. And at the end of the day, it’s popular culture for a reason— all of it is just so damn catchy!

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Up and Coming Best of Netflix Movies Pop Culture

Every new movie coming to Netflix this summer

After this long and stressful winter that has seemingly lasted a lifetime, summer is finally approaching, and we can’t wait! Warm sun on our skin as we lay on a grass field or on the beach, earphones in our ears and no pressing thoughts or emails to answer to.

Whether you plan on spending your holidays at home, or in a remote place, you should always have some movies and snacks ready for your trip! We put together a list for you to follow to stay up-to-date on ALL Netflix’s new releases this summer.

1. Carnaval 

The Carnaval protagonists together, smiling.
The Carnaval protagonists together, smiling.

Carnaval is a Brazilian musical comedy starring Giovana Cordeiro who plays Nina, an influencer. After breaking up with her boyfriend when a video of him cheating on her goes viral, Nina uses her digital influencer connections to get an all-paid-for, all-access, all-you-can-do trip to Salvador during Carnaval, bringing along her three best friends. On the trip, she learns life is not all about social media.

Available on: June 2nd, 2021
Watch the trailer here.


2. Awake

Awake: Lucius Hoyos as Noah, Gina Rodriguez as Jill Adams, Ariana Greenblatt as Matilda of Awake. Cr. Peter H. Stranks/Netflix © 2021
Peter H. Stranks/Netflix © 2021

Do you think you get cranky after pulling an all-nighter? Imagine the world losing the ability to fall asleep. This sci-fi thriller follows a mysterious global catastrophe that wiped out electronics and rendered humans insomniacs. The film focuses particularly on Jill (Gina Rodriguez), a former soldier, through the journey of deciding between the fate of the human race and the need to protect her child. Sweet sweet motherhood.

Available on: June 9th, 2021
Watch the trailer here.


3. Wish Dragon

WISH DRAGON - (L-R) Jimmy Wong as Din and John Cho as Long. Cr: ©2021 SPAI. All Rights Reserved.
©2021 SPAI. All Rights Reserved.

Join Din and the all-powerful dragon Long as they embark on the search for Lina, Din’s former childhood friend. This American-Chinese animated movie is directed by Chris Applehans, who will take you through a rocambolesque adventure set in modern Shanghai. 

Available on: June 11, 2021
Watch the trailer here.

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SKATER GIRL - (Center) RACHEL SAANCHITA GUPTA as PRERNA BHIL. Cr: Kerry Monteen / Netflix © 2021
 Kerry Monteen / Netflix © 2021

A coming-of-age story set within the world of sports? That’s already Hollywood gold right there! Except, you have never heard the story told like this, and in a world not often represented in films. In director Manjari Makijany’s Skater Girl, teenage Prerna discovers and then falls in love with skateboarding in rural India, and strives to win the national championship against all odds.

Available on: June 11th, 2021
Watch the trailer here.


5. Jagame Thandhiram

Aishwarya Lekshmi laughing in Jagame Thandhiram

When a British crime lord is in need of help to take down his rival, Suruli (Dhanush) is hired to take care of the job. Surili is a Tamil gangster who moves to London for the job. However, upon reaching there, taking down a rival is not the only issue he faces.

Available on: June 18th, 2021
Watch the trailer here.

6. Fatherhood


From the filmmakers of About A Boy, Fatherhood is a heartwarming, funny, and emotional story based on the book Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by Matthew Logelin. The movie stars Kevin Hart as a father who has to raise his baby daughter as a single dad after the unexpected death of his wife. Hart’s character navigates the doubts, fears, and dirty diapers of being a widowed single dad. It shows Hart in a different, more dramatic role than we’re used to from a Kevin Hart movie.

Available on: June 18, 2021
Watch the trailer here.


7. Good on Paper

Good On Paper (2021), L to R: Iliza Shlesinger as Andrea Margaret Cho as Margot, and Ryan Hansen as Dennis
Alex Lombardi / NETFLIX

Good On Paper starring and written by Iliza Shlesinger (we loved her Elder Millennial), is what happens when comedian Andrea Singer who after years of putting her career over love meets a perfect guy who might just be the love of her life. At the suggestion of her best friend Margot, Andrea goes off in search of who Dennis really is. On paper, he checks all the boxes, but is he everything he appears to be?

Available on: June 23, 2021
Watch the trailer here.


8. THE ICE ROAD (June 25)


Since you’re looking for an action-thriller to host for a fun movie night, Liam Neeson and Laurence Fishburne have got you covered! The Ice Road stars the two icons in a race against time to save trapped miners after a remote diamond mine collapses in northern Canada. The film also stars Benjamin Walker and Amber Midthunder, and is written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, the writer of the original Jumanji film and Armageddon.

The film will be released on June 25th.



AMERICA: THE MOTION PICTURE - (L-R) Killer Mike as "Blacksmith", Oliva Munn as "Thomas Edison", Jason Mantzoukas as "Samuel Adams", Channing Tatum as "George Washington", Bobby Moynihan as "Paul Revere" and Raoul Max Trujillo as "Geronimo". Cr: America, The Motion Picture, LLC. © 2021
AMERICA: THE MOTION PICTURE – (L-R) Killer Mike as “Blacksmith”, Oliva Munn as “Thomas Edison”, Jason Mantzoukas as “Samuel Adams”, Channing Tatum as “George Washington”, Bobby Moynihan as “Paul Revere” and Raoul Max Trujillo as “Geronimo”. Cr: America, The Motion Picture, LLC. © 2021

In this wildly tongue-in-cheek animated revisionist history, a chainsaw-wielding George Washington (voiced by Channing Tatum) assembles a team of rabble-rousers — including beer-loving bro Sam Adams, famed scientist Thomas Edison, acclaimed horseman Paul Revere, and a very pissed off Geronimo — to defeat Benedict Arnold and King James in the American Revolution. Who will win? No one knows, but you can be sure of one thing: these are not your father’s Founding… uh, Fathers. The voice cast includes Simon Pegg as King James, Judy Greer as Martha Dandridge, Bobby Moynihan as Paul Revere and Raoul Trujillo as Geronimo. The ensemble additionally features Jason Mantzoukas, Olivia Munn, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, and many more. With Archer executive producer Matt Thompson at the direction.

America: The Motion Picture comes to Netflix, June 30th.



De la Mora family picture.
De la Mora family picture.

What happened after Paulina and Marìa-Jose’s wedding? Manolo Caro returns with this latest installment in the House of Flowers series that sees Paulina (Cecilia Suarez) investigating newfound evidence that would confirm Agustín Corcuera killed Pato. The search for vengeance in the present is parallel to a younger Virginia and Ernesto’s journey in the 80’s to obtain Augustín’s confession, in a style similar to the third season of the series.

The House of Flowers: The Movie will come to Netflix this June.


Trollhunters: Rise Of The Titans - (L-R) Claire (voiced by Lexi Medrano) and Douxie (voiced by Colin O'Donoghue). Cr: DreamWorks Animation © 2021
Trollhunters: Rise Of The Titans – (L-R) Claire (voiced by Lexi Medrano) and Douxie (voiced by Colin O’Donoghue). Cr: DreamWorks Animation © 2021

From producer Guillermo del Toro, the Netflix series crossover event has finally arrived! The characters and stories you know and love from the popular shows Trollhunters, 3Below, and Wizards will intertwine and come together in the new Netflix Original Film Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans. The animated feature boasts a stellar voice cast including talents like Steven Yeun, Cheryl Hines, Tatiana Maslany, Diego Luna, and a lot more!

The whole family will be able to experience the finale of the Arcadia saga on July 21st.



Felicity Jones as Ellie Haworth and Nabhaan Rizwan as Rory McCallan.
Cr: Parisa Taghizadeh/NETFLIX

A beautiful romantic story that has a Letter from Julliet vibe to it where a journalist named Ellie (Felicity Jones) in London, comes across a series of letters. They follow the love affair of Jennifer (Shailene Woodley) and Anthony (Callum Turner) from the 1960s. Each letter captures Ellie’s interest so much she goes on a mission to investigate the true ending and what became of their affair

The Last Letter from your Lover comes out on July 23rd.


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13. RESORT TO LOVE (July 29)

RESORT TO LOVE. Christina Milian as Erica Wilson in Untitled Alicia Keys Project. Cr. David Bloomer/ NETFLIX © 2020
RESORT TO LOVE. Christina Milian as Erica Wilson in Untitled Alicia Keys Project. Cr. David Bloomer/ NETFLIX © 2020

An upbeat rom-com with a twisty and interesting storyline. There’s a wedding, someone’s in love, but it’s not just the bride and groom (Jay Pharoah). Family, friends, affection and secrets. All the makings for a swoon-worthy but hilarious movie. 

Resort to Love is out on July 29th.



THE LAST MERCENARY - Group of mercenaries walking in front of an explosion proudly.
THE LAST MERCENARY – Group of mercenaries walking in front of an explosion proudly.

With Summer comes your daily prescription of action movies, and The Last Mercenary is just what the doctor ordered. Hollywood icon and martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to your homes, and stars in this action-comedy that sees his character try to reconnect with and save his son from both the government and the mafia.

It hits (or spin-kicks) onto the streaming service on July 30th.



Blood Red Sky - A mother hugs her son, with both sitting in airplane seat.
Blood Red Sky – A mother hugs her son, with both sitting in an airplane seat.

If you are looking for a movie that keeps you on your toes, check out this English-German production. Directed by Peter Thorwarth, Blood Red Sky or Transatlantic 473 as it is also known, sees the protagonist (Peri Baumeister) fight off against a group of terrorists hijacking a transatlantic overnight flight, while also keeping her son safe.

Blood Red Sky will premiere in July.

16. THE KISSING BOOTH 3 (August 11)

The Kissing Booth 3 - Main cast sitting on some chairs by the pool, smiling.
The Kissing Booth 3 – Main cast sitting on some chairs by the pool, smiling.

As part of the trilogy, The Kissing Booth continues but with yet another dilemma. With Elle leaving for school soon, the only pressing problem is that she needs to make a choice. Will she go with her best friend as promised or have a change of heart and follow her boyfriend?

Available on: August 11th.
Watch the trailer here.


17. SWEET GIRL (August 20)


Follow a husband (Jason Momoa) as he navigates avenging his wife’s death while protecting his only daughter (Isabel Merced). Brian Mendoza’s feature directorial debut, Sweet Girl sees the amazing thriller-horror focused trio of Philip Eisner, Gregg Hurwitz and Will Staples in the writing room. 

Sweet Girl debuts August 20th.
Watch the trailer here.


18. HE’S ALL THAT (August 27)


An exciting modern twist on the 1999 classic She’s All That. This contemporary, gender-swapped version will cover the story of a teenager (Tik Tok sensation Addison Rae) on the mission to convert a  seemingly non-popular high school senior (Tanner Buchanan) into the Prom king. It’ll feature makeovers, makeouts, and of course: drama. What more do you need for a summer flick?

He’s all that comes out August 27th.


BECKETT - Beckett (John David Washington) looks behind him suspiciously.
BECKETT – Beckett (John David Washington) looks behind him suspiciously.

Set with a gorgeous backdrop of Greece, this danger-centric movie directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino (Call Me By Your Name). will have you at the edge of your seat. John David Washington (Tenet, Malcolm & Marie), is caught up in a mysterious but deadly political conspiracy. Follow along his journey of escape in this dramatic thriller, and grab some popcorn cause we know it’s going to be a bumpy ride. 

Beckett will come out in August.


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TV Shows Book Reviews Pop Culture

Don’t freak out over the latest Bridgerton news, the show will only get better from here

Warning: potential spoilers ahead!

Fetch the smelling salts! It was recently announced that breakout star Regé-Jean Page, who played the steamy Duke of Hastings, Simon Bassett, will not be returning for the show’s second season. Millions of horrified fans swooned when they heard the newsand not in a good way. 

But fret not! As someone who has read ahead, I can assure you that Season Two will be better than Season One

How do I know this, you ask? Well, like you, dear reader, I fell in love with Bridgerton. But not for the reason you might think. Many became obsessed with Bridgerton because of its focus in Season One: Daphne and Simon’s love story. While Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor played their roles beautifully and fogged up our screens with their off-the-charts chemistry, they were not what sucked me into this show.

It was Anthony Bridgerton, Daphne’s overprotective eldest brother, played by Jonathan Bailey, who did it for me. Despite this, when I watched Anthony scare off all of Daphne’s romantic prospects in the first episode, barricading her from her one goal (ahem, marriage), I thought, God this guy is annoying

It wasn’t until he had more scenes to himself that I sat up. One of my favorite scenes is in episode two when Simon reveals to Anthony how Lord Nigel Berbrooke got a purple eye (by making untoward advances on Daphne the night before). He immediately breaks off his sister’s engagement to the self-serving Berbrooke, almost making a scene in the process.

Sure, Anthony didn’t give Daphne a choice when he betrothed her to Berbrooke, but he almost got violent when he heard that the guy tried to force himself on her. He is only trying to give his sister what’s best. He is struggling in his role as the head of the Bridgerton family, a role that was thrust upon him at a very young age after his father’s death. This internal conflict will become much more important in the next season (and book) of the series. 

[Image description: Anthony Bridgerton with his glower at full throttle during Daphne's first ball in Season One.] Source:
[Image description: Anthony Bridgerton with his glower at full throttle during Daphne’s first ball in Season One.] Via
The show is riddled with nods to the second book and Anthony’s arc. Remember the bees? Why was Anthony constantly checking the time? What’s up with the repeated mentions of the late Viscount Bridgerton, and how much love there was between him and his widow Lady Violet? Perhaps the biggest piece of foreshadowing for what’s to come was in the Season One finale when Anthony vowed to Daphne and Simon that he’d never marry for love

The attention on Anthony Bridgerton, subtle though it was, captured my curiosity. 

So I bought my first Bridgerton book; not the first novel, The Duke and I, but the fan-favorite The Viscount Who Loved Me, the second book in the nine-part series. Here, Simon and Daphne barely make an appearance, which is one of the reasons why I’m not surprised by or concerned with Page leaving the show. If the writers base the next season on The Viscount Who Loved Me, Simon wouldn’t have made much of an appearance anyway. 

Who will make an appearance then, you ask? Why, none other than Lord Bridgerton and Kate Sheffield, who will be known as Kate Sharma in the show.

The book starts with the classic love/hate trope often found in period romances. Kate arrives in London for the social season with her half-sister, Edwina, and her step-mother, Mary. At the same time, Anthony is of the firm belief that if he abandons bachelorhood and settles down with a wife, he will make his dead father proud and honor the Bridgerton name.

But a darker reason drives this goal. Remember all those times we saw Anthony check his pocket watch? His father died before his 39th birthday, and because Anthony had the closest relationship with his father out of all the Bridgerton children, he believes that he, too, will die young. Therefore, he must ensure the continuation of the Bridgerton viscountcy and sire an heir before his impending death. 

He decides that his wife must be beautiful on top of intelligent, and sets his sights on Edwina, who is the season’s “diamond of the first water”, the pretty one, the one all the dandies in London flock to while Kate, our heroine, is left on the sidelines. Anthony would never even have noticed Kate if Edwina hadn’t declared that a man must win Kate’s approval before proposing in marriage. 

[Image description: Simone Ashley, above, will portray Kate Sharma in Season Two of Bridgerton.] Via
Immediately disliking the viscount because of his rakish reputation, Kate and Anthony get off on the wrong foot, despite the instant chemistry, attraction, and intimate, heartwarming bond that only grows stronger as the two of them heal each other’s fears and insecurities with love and support. This is in stark contrast to Daphne and Simon’s story, which is peppered with miscommunication and selfishness. Forcing a guy to change his mind about wanting kids definitely won’t make him feel trapped, right Daphne? 

In The Viscount Who Loved Me, you don’t have to worry about potentially toxic behavior. Anthony and Kate have a better connection simply because it’s built on respect.

After finishing their story, I methodically followed all of Bridgerton’s social media accounts and anxiously awaited casting news on who would play Kate. Simone Ashley was cast in the role, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. She embodies Kate’s look; beautiful and alluring, but not in the classic, delicate way of Daphne or Edwina. This is important; her lack of classical beauty up against the attractive, womanizing Viscount Bridgerton is a source of one of her vulnerabilities.

This is also what makes her relationship with Anthony so special; he is utterly attracted to her and she doesn’t see it because she has always been told she isn’t pretty enough. Also, Kate’s firm-mindedness compliments Anthony’s stubborn arrogance. These are the traits that the two admire in each other the most, and I can’t wait to see how Bailey and Ashley portray these beloved, fiery characters.

So no, the Duke won’t grace our screens next season, but we will see the Viscount and the story of how he secures his Viscountess, which is a much better one. It will be the talk of the ton when we watch the guarded, arrogant Anthony Bridgerton becomes humbled by a fiery woman who doesn’t faint at the sight of him, and yet at the same time sees him as her equal, her confidant, and most importantly, her friend.

Get The Viscount Who Loved Me, or The Duke and I here and support your local bookstore! 

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Editor's Picks TV Shows Pop Culture

Don’t be fooled, ‘Ginny and Georgia’ is no ‘Gilmore Girls’

Spoilers Alert

It’s Sunday night and I stumble across the trailer for Ginny and Georgia. The words, “we’re like the ‘Gilmore Girls’ — but with bigger boobs,” play on-screen and I’m instantly intrigued. Because who doesn’t love a mother-daughter duo tv show? More so, when it references the ultimate feel-good Stars Hollow fantasy. So of course I started watching the show expecting something light, but wow, was I wrong. There was so much in this show, maybe too much for me to unpack in one article but here are my thoughts:

Ginny (played by Antonia Gentry) is a fierce feminist and a seemingly strong-headed teenager who was raised by her single mom, Georgia (Brianne Howey). 

“Life is a battle and beauty is a goddamn machine gun.” – Georgia 

Georgia is a sassy force of nature, and we see that over the flashbacks that are peppered through the narrative and her will and determination to protect herself and her children at all costs. She’s always dressed for success – on a mission to dominate a world that was cruel and unfair to her. And yet, she doesn’t stop at anything. She wears her armour like a second skin and no one is given permission to pierce it.

The series begins with Georgia moving to Wellsbury with her two children, Ginny and Austin (Diesel La Torraca). Ginny and Georgia have a fascinating relationship and the mother-daughter duo is complex if anything. They come across as best friends and yet as the show progresses, cracks begin to form within their relationship and ends in ashes (pun intended). 

“I’ve accepted that everything that sparks joy is cancerous, and I love string cheese. I’m embracing death.” -Maxine

Ginny instantly finds a new friend in the girl next door, Maxine. She’s full of life, energy and drama – she’s the girl we’re rooting for throughout the series. But along with an introduction to Max, Ginny meets her broody (so typical) twin brother, Marcus. How much do we live for the bad boy trope on tv? But I’m not complaining, cause for me, it worked. Meanwhile, Georgia has already been spotted making her moves on the town’s Mayor, Paul (Scott Porter) who FYI is George Tucker from Hart of Dixie!!! The show was really chasing those small-town feels. It’s clear front the onset of the show that Georgia has a dark past, one that she’s been running from her entire life and that she tends to find a new man in every place she ventures (as Ginny states). 

[Image description: Three people standing in the street. The girl in the middle smiles while the one on her right is frowning.] Via Netflix
[Image description: Three people standing in the street. The girl in the middle smiles while the one on her right is frowning.] Via Netflix

There’s one flashback in particular that resonated with me deeply and I wish they had given this plotline more to unpack. But since they didn’t, I’m here to introduce you to my favourite character, Joe (Raymond Ablack). Firstly, can we just acknowledge how beautiful this man is? His charisma, persona and all-around good guy VIBES were just killing it throughout and I was rooting for him and Georgia to end up together. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

We see a 15-year-old Georgia finding out she’s pregnant at a rest stop, when she meets a young boy (Joe) who shares half of his sandwich with her. He tells her he’s from this town called Wellsbury and ends up giving her his black ray bans. It’s this adorable, whimsical and purely sweet moment. When Joe realizes that Georgia is the girl from the stop he gave his glasses to all those years ago – he’s ready to finally confess his love for her. And damn, was I there for it. 

But alas, she was already engaged to Mayor Paul. What struck me about this plotline, in particular, was that Georgia was always determined. She wanted a better life for herself, and seeing Joe and finding out where he was from stirred something within her. I would have loved for the show to explicitly show Georgia acknowledging that dream of hers. But Georgia is never vulnerable, she lives for power and the upper hand and that’s how she gets out of so many awful situations.

As the series moves along, we find out that not only was Georgia’s past chequered, it was in fact, murderous. Her history though is only one string in this narrative. The show keeps you on your toes – questioning where it’ll take you next. We have the new girl cannon coming in with Ginny, a girl who’s never even had friends much less kissed a boy turns popular and that power almost changes her for the worst. There’s the whole love triangle with the good boy (Hunter) vs the bad boy (Marcus) who Ginny loses her virginity to almost ten minutes after meeting him. You do you, sis. 

And then we have the biracial identity aspect, Ginny’s dad is Black (Zion – who I’ll get to in a bit because so many thoughts) along with dealing with racism within the classroom. Although the race aspect could have been handled better, there is one scene where Ginny claps back at her English teacher for being racist and another time when she speaks out about analysing literary theory solely through a white male lens. As for the fight between Ginny and her also biracial boyfriend, Hunter – what was THAT? The way they attacked each other with racial stereotypes was cruel and honestly just left a sour taste. We needed more time to unravel that thread and yet, the story picked back up again and pulled us into the whimsy of it all.

[Image description: Ginny and Georgia bonding over while the mother does her daughter's hair] Via Netflix
[Image description: Ginny and Georgia bonding over while the mother does her daughter’s hair] Via Netflix

Zion is Ginny’s father who is basically out of the picture. He’s the guy that comes back temporarily to make everything seemingly okay while playing happy families but ups and leaves. In a way, I was rooting for their family to get back together and when Zion reveals that he truly wants to stay in their lives and commit to a future together – I was living for it. But just like Chris and Lorelai in Gilmore Girls, some families don’t have happily ever afters.

“What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.” – Ginny

That wasn’t the only problematic moment in the show though. Recently, Taylor Swift called out the series because of its reference to her dating life:

“Hey ‘Ginny & Georgia,’ 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back,” Swift wrote. “How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse shit as [funny]. Also, Netflix, after ‘Miss Americana’ this outfit doesn’t look cute on you…Happy Women’s History Month I guess.”

And honestly, ya girl loves Taylor so I did feel like the reference was unnecessary. Taylor’s love life has been overtly dissected by the media for years—why can’t we give her a break? Let’s be honest she saved us this year with folklore and evermore and Love Story (Taylor’s Version) and she she doesn’t deserve these cheap jokes.

“This is love.” – Abby.

Maxine is aching over her recent breakup as Abby feeds her oreos and whispers the wise words of all true friendship and they lay tethered in the air between the four girls of MANG (Maxine, Abby, Norah and Ginny). For me, one of the greatest elements of Ginny and Georgia was that friendship. While the show encapsulated so many different things, this was one piece that resonated with me. It was fuelled by drama, by stomach aching laughter, friendships being broken and formed again – everything that I (think) teenage friendships encapsulate. On that note, Gen-Zers on TikTok have been bashing the show for its acutely millennial depiction of teenagedom. But what can I say? All I know about teenagers is what I’ve seen in the classroom. 

Revelations about Georgia’s past come to light in the finale and Ginny along with little Austin are seen leaving Wellsbury as a result. There’s a foreboding voiceover as the half-siblings drive off on a motorbike where Ginny claims that she’s running away from it all. And in a painstakingly beautiful light, it’s juxtaposed with Georgia’s final voiceover where she believes she’s finally free and the running is all over: roots planted, lies put to bed – a fictitious happily ever after. 

So if you were expecting to walk through the dreamscape of a pretty and pure Stars Hallow, drenched in sunshine and love, stop now. That isn’t what you’re doing to get. Georgia is no Lorelai and Ginny is no Rory. There’s a lot within the show that makes you feel, love and hurt but there’s also a lot that is inexplicable and everything comes to a fleeting and forceful end with the finale. That’s not to say I won’t be hoping and eagerly waiting for season two.

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Let’s talk about the history of the Lock Bridge that Emily goes to in Paris

It’s Valentine’s day – lovebirds and palentines – follow along with our Vday series right here.

Since the Netflix original show Emily in Paris, everyone is dreaming of living out their Paris fantasies and planning their dream vacation. Eating chocolate crescents, day drinking on a workday, and wearing the best outfits as we roam the streets of France. But anyway, with all the love, romance, and dating going on throughout the show got me thinking about one particular romantic landmark in Paris, most commonly known as “the love lock bridge.” There is so much to talk about when it comes to the history and famous tradition of the love lock bridge in Paris. So let’s get to it!

The tradition that makes the love lock bridge famous and a destination for couples from all around the world is that couples come to the bridge, write their name on a padlock, lock the padlock on the bridge, and then throw the key into the river. The tradition is meant to symbolize eternal love and commitment.

A picture of the Pont des Art with the Eglise Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois and Samaritaine in the background.
[Image Description: A picture of the Pont des Art with the Eglise Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois and Samaritaine in the background. The bridge with locks of gold and an array of other colors.] Via Unsplash
Officially, the lock bridge in Paris is called the Ponts des Arts. The bridge was built over the River Seine. It is a bridge for pedestrians that links the central square of the Palais du Louvre to the Institut de France, which makes it a popular spot for visitors and photographers. There is a total of 37 bridges across the Seine River within Paris, and only five of them are pedestrian bridges.

The bridge was built under the regime of Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte ordered the construction of the bridge on 15th March 1801 and it was fully constructed by 1804. The building of the Ponts des art introduced a new building material to the era. The lock bridge in Paris is actually the first successfully built iron bridge in France and the third iron bridge built worldwide.

Unfortunately, throughout its history, the bridge has had its fair share of incidents and damage. In World War I and World War II, the lock bridge experienced damage from two aerial bombings. There were also a number of boats that collided with the bridge before it finally collapsed when a ship rammed into it in 1979. (Yikes!)

The most recent incident occurred in 2015 when the bridge railing collapsed due to the weight of its many love locks (ops!). In response, the bridge became closed to the public for repair and the government removed padlocks from the bridge. There are said to be over a million locks on the bridge today. That is definitely a lot of locks! (The cynic in me wonders how many of those couples stayed together after their Parisian trip.)

While the tradition is quite famous in the city of love, it actually did not originate in Paris, and there are several other places where people hang love locks around the world. This includes Australia, China, Italy, Serbia, and New York. The exact origin of the tradition seems to be unclear. However, there are a few theories.

One theory is that the love lock tradition came from a town in Serbia around the time of World War II. The story is that a young man and woman were in love and would meet in the middle of the night on a bridge in the town of Vrnjačka Banja. During the war, the man went away because he was in the military. When the man left, he fell in love with another woman. (Definitely not cool!) Tragically, the woman he left died from heartbreak. The tradition of placing a lock on the bridge began due to superstition. Women began putting locks on the bridge in hope that their love would be everlasting.

A picture of the bottom of a light post on the Ponte Milvio. Around the bottom of the light post is a silver chain with locks attached to it.
[Image Description: A picture of the bottom of a light post on the Ponte Milvio. Around the bottom of the light post is a silver chain with locks attached to it.] Via Wikimedia Commons
Subsequently, Italian writer Federico Moccia is believed to be responsible for influencing the current wave of the tradition. In 2006, he published a book called I Want You, which was developed into a film. The book featured a couple who put a padlock on a bridge in Rome to symbolize their love. This influenced Italian couples to place locks on the Ponte Milvio bridge as well. From this instance, lock bridges began to become a prevalent attraction across the globe. With Paris being the city of love, the love lock bridge became an extremely well-known landmark and one of the most famous love lock bridges.

Despite the history of this romantic tradition and the Pont des Art bridge, there are now numerous debates about whether this tradition should still be allowed. Placing locks on the bridge in Paris and on other love lock locations has caused damage to architectural structures. It has also caused damage to the surrounding environments. This debate has been especially prevalent since the collapse of the railing of the Pont des Art.

So before taking part in this tradition in Paris or any place else, I suggest being informed on whether or not you are allowed to do so. Fines are definitely not fun, and neither is destroying a centuries-old piece of architecture!

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“Fate: The Winx Saga” lacks charm in all the ways that matter

It’s not uncommon at this point for beloved, family-friendly cartoons to be reworked into a teen or young adult series with darker characters and storylines in order to appeal to a wider audience. Similar to Riverdale and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Fate: The Winx Saga is Netflix’s latest gritty live-action adaptation. Based on the Italian animated children series Winx Club that aired on Nickelodeon, Fate veers from its source material to adopt more mature elements to the show. However, in doing so, it sacrifices the appeal that initially made audiences fall in love with Winx Club.

Relive your childhood with the Winx Club live-action that is angering the internet

Fate, of course, takes inspiration from the Nickelodeon cartoon, mostly centering around Bloom (Abigail Cowen), a fire fairy that needs guidance in controlling her powers as well as battling the inner, emotional turmoil that threatens to further harm herself and others. To hone in her powers, she is recruited to Alfea, an institution for fairies, by the headmistress Farrah Dowling (Eve Best), based on Faragonda from the original cartoon. There, Bloom meets the rest of what will soon be her crew of magical fairies, all with their own set of unique powers.

Of all the girls, it is implied that Bloom is the most exceptional and powerful fairy, not only amongst the group but in the history of Alfea. With all of their combined strength, the girls must conquer the forces that threaten the safety and future of their school.

The Netflix show premiered to audiences on January 22nd and has quickly received mixed reviews from critics and show watchers. Fate currently has a 34% show rating on Rotten Tomatoes along with a slew of negative or lukewarm reviews from publications such as Paste, Variety, and Polygon. On the other hand, viewers have praised the show on social media, contrasting with the opinion of critics. Fate even has a starkly higher audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 83%. 

So, with all of the conflicting discourse surrounding the show, where do I stand on Fate: The Winx Saga? Personally, as someone who is a long-time fan of gritty fantasy series (Children of Blood and Bone, the later Harry Potter movies, Game of Thrones), Fate just doesn’t do it for me. It would be a decent show if it stood on its own; however, for a show about magic, Fate lacks charm and additionally fails to live up to what made the original animated series great.

For starters, there was better diversity in the original Winx Club series. Most notably, in the original cartoon, Musa is Asian and Flora is Latina. In Fate, Musa (Elisha Applebaum) and Terra (Eliot Salt), who was subbed for Flora, are both played by white actresses. This would not have been so much of a flaw for me if the show did better with the changes they made to Terra’s character.

Terra is often on the receiving end of fatphobia in a way that serves no substantial purpose to the plot or her character arc. Rather, the treatment she endures from others just feels mean. In one scene, Aisha (Precious Mustapha) and Musa negatively discuss weight gain in front of Terra, causing her to feel uncomfortable and perhaps even embarrassed. Afterwards, neither Musa nor Aisha ever acknowledges or apologizes for hurting Terra in this manner, which in turn doesn’t make me, as a viewer, want to even like Musa or Aisha. Nevermind the fact that Aisha is one of two POC cast members in the show and, to add insult to injury, her main role in the overall plot is being a side-kick to Bloom.

[Image description: Bloom looking at the camera and creating fire with magic.] Via
[Image description: Bloom looking at the camera and creating fire with magic.] Via Netflix.

In fact, many points throughout the show feel unnecessarily mean spirited. Firstly, the girls’ relationship with each other starts off bitter, which is off-putting given the emphasis on friendship and sisterhood in the original Winx Club. Another example of the mean spirited nature the show tends to explore is how Dane (Theo Graham), the only gay character within the main cast, is outed later in the series by an Instagram story that shows him being intimate with Riven (Freddie Thorp) and Beatrix (Sadie Soverall). On top of all this, Riven is a homophobic bully whose character is used to perpetuate outdated tropes of needlessly outing people. All of which is a storyline that is redundant and simply reductive for Dane’s character. 

In the same video, the three make fatphobic comments about Terra, which she sees, and then cries, as she also had a crush on Dane. The choice to have Terra played by a plus-sized actress was great because if certain changes from the cartoon should have been made, the first one would undoubtedly be showcasing realistic body sizes. However, the way Fate clumsily handles fatphobia to empower Terra (which comes off weak anyway) makes me wonder if they should have tried to tackle it at all.

Besides, it’s stated at the beginning of the show that there is a difference between humans and fairies. So, I’m not sure why fairies would care so much about upholding oppressive social hierarchies designed by humans anyway.

I also find myself missing the fashion of Winx Club. The choice to give Fate more of an edge than its source material didn’t have to sacrifice the girls’ looks, as things can be girly and gritty at the same time. See: Euphoria’s iconic makeup looks. I know critiquing fashion is arbitrary; however, it would have made more sense for a Winx Club adaptation to have fashion be a distinct aspect of the girl’s characters. The show creator Brian Young also produced The Vampire Diaries, which makes sense in hindsight, but Winx Club becoming a gritty, Riverdale-esque YA fantasy show is ultimately confusing and makes me wonder why it wasn’t just pitched as a stand-alone show.

[Image description: The five Winx standing at the school entrance. From left to right: Musa., Stella, Bloom, Aysha and Terra.] Via Netflix.
[Image description: The five Winx standing at the school entrance. From left to right: Musa., Stella, Bloom, Aysha and Terra.] Via Netflix.
Fate: The Winx Saga is so far from the animated series in the ways that made Winx Club unique from other fantasy stories that it feels as if the show doesn’t know what it wants to be. 

All in all, as Fate: The Winx Saga is likely to add more seasons in the future, I mostly want more for the characters, especially for the traditionally underrepresented identities in the series. Fate had great source material to work with, but certain changes to the show in efforts to make it grittier were simply off-putting, lacked direction, or fell flat altogether. Still, I’m optimistic that the critiques surrounding this show will help to improve the story-telling and character arcs so I can hopefully add another gritty and compelling fantasy series to my roster of favorites.

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Why “Bridgerton” is a love letter to the female gaze

If you were like me and spent the holidays bingeing the much-anticipated Netflix show Bridgerton as a means to cope with all of the madness that 2020 brought us – you would be very pleased to discover that the Shonda Rimes-produced show gave us a refreshing, beautiful and sexy view of Regency-era London. This resulted in the show breaking Netflix records, having been watched by 63 million people worldwide since its release on the platform. The overnight success resulted in Netflix announcing that they’ve renewed the show for a second season. 

Now, I have a couple of problems with the way modern cinema romanticizes historical era events and the way they casually brush over things like imperialism, colonialism and racism, all in the name of being authentic. But Bridgerton gave me much to think about over the Christmas break as I watched eight episodes over the span of two days.

To catch up readers on what the show is about – Bridgerton is a television adaptation of the Julia Quinn romance novels of the same name, a Regency-era saga that follows the love lives of the eight Bridgerton siblings, a wealthy high-society family living in England. Think balls, coy glances, ladies indulging in snark over feathers and lot of bodice-ripping.

The show follows Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dvynevor), the eldest Bridgerton daughter who makes her debut in high society and is one the lookout for the “perfect match”. After being crowned the season’s most promising bachelorette, Daphne sort of falls flat because of her well-meaning but hot-headed older brother’s meddling in marriage prospects, the very broody Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey).

Daphne’s marriage prospects become the whole town’s business because of a newsletter published by omnipresent Lady Whistledown (a Regency-era Gossip Girl voiced by Julie Andrews). Things begin to look up for her when she crosses paths with the rakish Duke of Hastings (Rege Jean-Page), and they hatch a scheme that has everyone who ever grew up reading fanfiction and a love for story tropes squealing for their dear lives.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Bridgerton, mostly because I was obsessed with how the show portrayed its rich story – from the way characters were crafted (all the female characters had much to do and were active players), diversity (I have never been so happy to see a cast which represents how the current world looks like), the exquisitely crafted costumes, the music (I am currently obsessed with the show’s classical music renditions of pop songs), lush sets and of course, the blatant appreciation for female sexuality and the female gaze.

Now the show is not perfect like most art isn’t and there have been a lot of critical pieces that debate whether adding people of color to the cast does anything to erase slavery, and also the very problematic sexual encounter between the two leads which doesn’t really get addressed. Let’s just say that if the roles had been reversed, people would have immediately recognized it as rape.

An image of Rege Jean-Page and Phoebe Dynevor in the Netflix show, Bridgerton
[Image Description: A still of Rege Jean-Page and Phoebe Dynevor as Simon Basset, The Duke of Hastings and Daphne Bridgerton in the show Bridgerton] via Netflix
But I enjoyed the way the show was very sex-positive and how they showed a young woman with feminist leanings coming of age and discovering her place in the world in a time where women didn’t have much of a choice.

I loved how they presented Daphne’s reasons for wanting marriage and showcased the other women in her life and around her – Eloise (her younger sister) who can think of better things to do than marriage, Lady Featherington (sort of the show’s anti-hero) who competes with the Bridgertons, Daphne’s mother Violet (who only wants her to marry for love) and Lady Danbury (a widowed noblewoman who I low-key wish was my life coach).

There are layers and interesting subplots. There’s also a slight alluding to why Bridgerton has people of color in the show but it doesn’t really explain much. I wish they had commented on the race aspect because it felt like a missed opportunity there. I also have to disclose that I personally will not object to Rege Jean-Page posing in a sexy calendar spread for charity, I mean – have you seen the GIFS of his chest?

A GIF of Rege Jean-Page shirtless from the Netflix show Bridgerton via Giphy
[Image Description: a GIF of Rege Jean-Page shirtless as Simon Basset, The Duke of Hastings from the Netflix show Bridgerton] via Giphy

All in all, what made the show stand out was the amount of care that the cast and its characters were treated with. Phoebe Dynevor gave numerous interviews and spoke about how there was a big effort from the production’s team at Shondaland to make sure that the actors were comfortable filming the intimate scenes. She even shared that having an intimacy coordinator on set who approached the sex scenes similar to fight scenes choreography and a collaborative scene partner, made everything much smoother.

It is worth noting that the way all the women and sex scenes are framed very tastefully, you never feel like the gaze on the characters are exploitative and when the lead actress is naked – there’s no unnecessary zoom-ins on breasts and such, which would sadly be the norm in historical shows like Game of Thrones which position themselves as female-led because of having a female lead. I also enjoyed how the show framed the men, especially as objects of desire, in contrast to its women. We saw more women clothed than men, which was a refreshing first.

Maybe it’s not your cup of tea but I enjoyed the blatant escapism, the beautiful English countryside and the promise of true love (even if it’s done in a manner similar to Indian arranged marriages) especially when it’s pictured on a cast that seems more endearing with every interview I read or watch. If you’re looking for a well-deserved break from the mundane, you know where to go. And if you can’t wait a year to find out what happens next, you have eight books of Bridgerton content!

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