Coronavirus Race Inequality

America’s COVID-19 protests are a lesson in hypocrisy

On August 9th 2014, Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot an innocent, unarmed, black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO. For many in America, this terrifying incident was just a glimpse into the severe racial discrimination that black people regularly face in the hands of an oppressive system. I remember what happened afterwards, when that neighborhood rightly broke out into a protest that lasted for weeks, which prompted parallel spouts of #BlackLivesMatter activism in similar neighborhoods. I remember the tear gas and rubber bullets that the police, wearing riot gear, confronted protesters with, and I remember the military style tanks that were deployed by the Missouri National Guard to quell those protests. 

I watched again in 2016, when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem at games, opting to kneel instead, in protest of this country’s treatment of racial minorities. He is quoted by NFL Media to have said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people are getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Many other athletes followed suit. 

I remember President Trump fanning the flames of white supremacy when he said that Kaepernick should leave the United States and “find a country that works better for him.” From that moment on, Kaepernick was the one who was labeled by a large sanction of Americans as being unpatriotic and disgraceful. 

Then, in 2017, neo-Nazis gathered for the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA. Hundreds of white nationalists joined forces to protest the removal of Confederate monuments, bearing torches and shields. As the night progressed it turned bloody. One counter-protester and two police officers died, others were badly beaten. Two days later, during a press conference, President Trump said, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.” 

Fast forward to this week, and I have seen and continue to see thousands in states like Michigan, New York, California, Nevada, and Illinois rally against statewide stay-at-home orders amidst the coronavirus pandemic that has so far taken the lives of nearly 70,000 Americans. None of those among the “anti-lockdown” and #reopen protests are donning facemasks or practicing safe social distancing. 

This video is just one snippet from the protests this weekend, but it speaks volumes. None of these police officers are in riot gear, there appears to be no army tanks, and the protesters are not met with tear gas or rubber bullets. Those who are participating in the anti-lockdown demonstrations are aggressively close to officers and are even behaving viciously while putting their hands on them. But nothing happens to them. These protesters, who are historically the ones who respond with “just obey authority” when a black person is beaten or murdered at the hands of the police, are displaying their ignorance for world to see. The cops too are somewhat unable to see danger when it comes to white people, even when the danger is clear, because that is the narrative that has been ingrained into our society. Meanwhile, according to that same narrative, there is an ever present danger when it comes to black people, even when no danger exists.

This is hypocrisy in America.

In Michigan, angry protesters who want the stay-at-home order that has been in place since March 23 to end forced their way into the statehouse. Many were armed gunmen, carrying confederate flags, and wearing Trump/MAGA gear, while waving signs that read, “Give me liberty or give me COVID-19”. The crowd attempted to move up to the second floor of the Michigan Capitol building, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer was, but they were met by police blocking the door. 

The predominantly white demonstrators, though a minority opinion in their state, are mostly concerned about the economy. They are frustrated and feeling oppressedwhich is quite a conflationby the current lockdown order. They would like to see some normalcyOf the protests in Michigan, President Trump tweeted:

What about the families who have lost loved ones to this virus, don’t you think that they are very good people who want their lives back again? 

Or, better yet, what about the community in Ferguson who watched while Michael Brown’s body laid in the street for hours under the August heat after he was murdered in front of them. America should have given in a little. America should have put out the fire a long time ago. These are, indeed, very good people. They are the ones who are angry, every single day because of the reality they face. They want their lives back, safely. 

And, if we really wanted to talk about patriotism, the anti-lockdown protesters would, in a just world, be the folks that are at the brunt of those “find a country that works better” remarks. These unpatriotic and disrespectful demonstrations are being done at the expense of Americans who are working and risking their lives on the frontline. The protesters are effectively going against everything they ever claimed to have stood for except for one… racism.

Movie Reviews Bollywood Movies Pop Culture

Here’s why I finally lost my undying obsession for DDLJ

“Go, Simran, go. Live your life.”

These iconic words, spoken at the climax of the 1995 Bollywood classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), never failed to make me tear up as a teenager.

DDLJ is the story of Raj Malhotra (Shah Rukh Khan/SRK) and Simran Singh (Kajol) who both reside in the UK and fall in love on a trip across Europe.

They cannot marry, however, because Simran’s father has already decided she will marry Kuljeet Singh (Parmeet Sethi), his friend’s son, whom she has never met. Rahul then pretends to be Kuljeet’s friend and crashes Simran’s wedding preparations to try and win her family over.

I fell in love with DDLJ as a child.

I adored Raj and Simran. I admired Kajol’s unibrow. I recited the dialogues alongside the characters. Most importantly, I treasured the romance. Nothing could be purer than Raj’s love for Simran and what he was willing to do to win her father over.

On the face of it, DDLJ is the perfect rom-com. It presents an unlikely pair – opposites who attract and fall deeply in love – only for a parent to tear them apart. It makes you root for them and cheer out loud when they finally do unite at the end. Like millions of other girls, I also wanted a Raj who would be willing to fight the world to be with me.

Nothing could be purer than Raj’s love for Simran and what he was willing to do to win her father over.

However, as I grew older, rewatching it made me uncomfortable, and it took me some time to realize why.

Raj, it turns out, is the flag-bearer of the creepy guys you see at a store whom you avoid eye contact with because you know they’ll start following you around. He dangled Simran’s bra in her face five seconds after meeting her, and then kept pestering her even when she clearly told him, multiple times, she was not interested in talking to him.

Raj also lied to her about them sleeping together. After all, what girl doesn’t find it hilarious when she wakes up, disoriented, next to a stranger who jokes about sleeping together when she was too inebriated to remember anything?

Worse, when Simran starts to cry upon hearing this, he goes on a rant about how he couldn’t even imagine doing that to her because he knows that honor (chastity) means everything to a Hindustani girl.

What I despise more than Raj’s behavior is that like most Bollywood movies, DDLJ places Simran entirely at the mercy of the men in her life. Her father decided she is to marry a stranger, and before this happens she has to beg him to let her travel across Europe for one last hurrah.

Then, when she returns from a trip equivalent to the last meal, she is punished for doing something deeply unforgivable in her culture – falling in love.

Simran’s own fight and refusal do not produce any results.

As punishment, her wedding is moved up and she is taken to a village in India where her future husband lives. This is a man neither she nor her father has ever met. This is also a man shown to be an alpha male with no intention of staying loyal to Simran. Yet, the preparations continue.

Her future became dependent on Raj and his decision on whether she’s worth fighting for. Simran’s own fight and refusal do not produce any results.

The other women in the film also exist along the periphery. Simran’s mother supports her but is helpless because the only will that matters is that of her father. Simran’s sister teases her about Raj and helps facilitate their forbidden romance.

Simran’s aunt is there only for comic relief due to a potential romance with Raj’s single father. Worst of all, Kuljeet’s sister Preeti exists only as the punchline to a joke that is not funny. She falls in love with Raj who happily leads her along to hide his relationship with Simran.

Meanwhile, the decision to fight for Simran, our signature damsel in distress, is what makes Raj the hero. Thus, DDLJ takes a movie designed for female audiences, as rom coms are famous for, and makes it entirely about a man and his fight while the women are shown holding no agency over their lives. This only reinforces how marginalized brown women are in our real lives.

The movie is yet another reminder that the men in our life, be it our boyfriends or our fathers, are our priority.

The entire movie is a battle between the egos of two men. And like most Bollywood movies, the romance here would not be complete without the man literally fighting for love. Ironically, this aggression plays a role in convincing Simran’s father of Raj’s undying love.

What made me uncomfortable with DDLJ’s “romance” was, ultimately, that Simran had no choice. The grand gesture at the end of DDLJ is Simran’s father letting her hand go, telling her to live her life, only for her to immediately clasp onto the hand of another man.

DDLJ is not a bad movie. I would go to the extent of calling it a pretty good movie. It’s funny, emotional, and really panders to the Indian diaspora at the expense of the British (something the anti-colonialist in me appreciates).

The movie is yet another reminder that the men in our life, be it our boyfriends or our fathers, are our priority.

However, I don’t rewatch it for the romance because it reminds me of something deeply abhorrent in our culture; that we as women hold no agency over our lives, but especially over our love lives.

We are all Simran, begging our fathers to let us be free once before they marry us off to whoever they decide is suitable. We are all Simran as she pleads with her father to let her go; to let go of our hands and our lives. We are all Simran, now tied to another man, as our ambitions and dreams remain nameless and unimportant, all secondary to the concept of marriage and men.

I used to wish for a Raj. After rewatching the movie, I now only wish to be Raj, if only to have the agency of going wherever I want and marrying whoever I want (if I want), the way I know I could never do as Simran.

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Health Care Health Wellness

Here’s how to actually be supportive to your friend with bipolar disorder

Lately, most of my heartbreak has come from lost friendships, some of which I still haven’t gotten any closure from. In part, this is because I have bipolar disorder.

In the time that has passed, I’ve come to realize that I deserved better. I deserved to be surrounded by people who accepted me as I am and so do you.

There have been many situations where I have found myself among my friends, experiencing an episode — either depressive or manic — and felt completely alone in my suffering when a few acts of kindness could have made a huge difference.

1. Acceptance

: A girl sitting and looking out of a window.
[Image description: A girl sitting and looking out of a window.] Via Unsplash
Regardless of whether someone is a lover or a friend, don’t ever assume that they can be fixed. They are not a broken tailgate or a leaking engine.

The assumption that a person can or needs to be fixed can destroy your relationship with them.

This is because people cannot simply ‘snap out of it’. This is because they are not doing it to themselves: it is happening to them.

2. Compromise

Two girls talking
[Image description: Two girls talking.] Voa Unsplash
Someone’s mental illness is not about you unless you are abusing them.

So, expecting someone with a bipolar disorder to meet you at your physical, emotional and mental level is unrealistic. This is why you have to be the one who meets them halfway.

If a person cannot come to you, then you come to them, if a person during mania episode wants to jump off a bridge or out of a window, then suggest bungee jumping or skydiving.

At the end of the day, it is about finding a compromise.       

3. Improvise

Two women sitting on a rooftop while watching sunset
[Image description: Two women sitting on a rooftop while watching sunset.] Via Unsplash
Improvising is very important. There will be times when the notion of order and routine falls out the window and all you can do is wait it out. In those moments, it’s best to simply be there for someone.

Sometimes, you’ll need to take it one day at a time, and if one day is too much then take it one hour at a time.

And if that feels like too much for them, go moment by moment because sometimes, you simply need to hold them through the pain.

4. Don’t retaliate

A girl sitting down, looking sad.
[Image description: A girl sitting down, looking sad.] Via Unsplash
When someone is having a panic/anxiety attack, that is not the time to psychoanalyze them. That is not the time to pull out the receipts of all the times that you were unsatisfied with their behavior.

Simply telling someone to calm down is redundant because that person is already doing everything in their power to calm down.

So sometimes, if you can’t cope, the best thing you can do for them is to call someone they trust. Getting someone a bottle or a glass of water can be helpful regardless of the fact that it might not resolve the panic/anxiety attack.

5. Be patient

Two boys hugging in a bar.
[Image description: Two boys hugging in a bar.] Via Unsplash
People who have compulsive behaviors and various tics exhibit (tap toeing, pen clicking, thigh rubbing, pacing) ways to expel anxiety.

While these might be irritable and distracting to a normal person, rather than simply pointing out your annoyance, something you can do is provide the person with alternate forms of expression.

For example, if a person is pacing, you can both go for a walk; if a person is clicking a pen, you can give them paper to write on.

6. Be responsible

A man and woman playing at a foosball table.
[Image description: A man and woman playing at a foosball table.] VIa Unsplash
Social anxiety is real. It isn’t when someone is being rude, or when someone has poor manners. If you have a friend that does have social anxiety, you’ll have to compromise. If you’re inviting them to a party, you have two responsibilities that you must uphold; the first is to respect the people they choose to interact with and the people they choose not to interact with.

And the next is to respect and accept when they want to leave and ensure they get home safely. Allow your friend to gravitate towards people that they find interesting.

Another option is to bring along games or cards, that way if they don’t want to interact but are interested in the games they can play them.

All relationships are hard work. While the representation of mental illnesses like bipolar disorder still has a long way to go, accepting the people among us for who they are, and helping them out goes a long way.

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TV Shows Pop Culture Interviews

Golden Globe winner Ramy Youssef on disrupting Hollywood’s Muslim stereotypes – and what really keeps him going

First-generation Muslim American Ramy Youssef isn’t your typical actor. He’s made waves by taking home a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical television series, for his role in the Hulu series Ramy.

As the co-creator and star of Ramy, 28-year-old Egyptian-American actor, and stand-up comedian Youssef set out to tell stories about a kid from an immigrant family who wants to hold on to his culture. He based the main character on his own experiences growing up in suburban New Jersey as a Muslim who considers himself religious.

I felt like a lot of narratives I saw [of] first-generation children…or anyone from a strong faith background was watching them kind of try to erase where they come from.”

“It shows someone engaging with their faith in an honest way. I felt like a lot of narratives I saw [of] first-generation children…or anyone from a strong faith background was watching them kind of try to erase where they come from and distance themselves from the tension of their parents and culture,” Youssef said in an interview with The Tempest. “I wanted to make something that reflected my experience. [That experience saw me] trying to honestly engage and identify with my background, but still asking questions about it.”

With a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Ramy is built around Ramy Hassan, played by Youssef, a Muslim unsure of what type of Muslim he is or ought to be. The show breaks stigmas and barriers in the Muslim community by addressing topics like sex and dating in Islam, as well as post 9/11 feels.

During our interview with Youssef, we discussed Muslim American representation in the media, his character and spoke of the importance of diverse and authentic representation in the entertainment industry.

The show’s trailer premiered in March, racking up more than 5.6 million views on Youtube. Muslims, in particular, have reacted strongly, with many feeling represented, while others criticized the show’s portrayal of American Muslims and the absence of Muslim women.

Youssef acknowledges the critiques, explaining that Ramy isn’t meant to represent all Muslims. “[As Muslims,] we take a burden on to try to represent everybody and that’s not fair, that’s not something other creators have to do in the same way. It’s important to tell the most specific story to you, don’t worry about any of the feedback or blowback because your job is to actually make something that you can grow from.”

When it came to the importance of representation, particularly the media’s often inaccurate and harsh portrayals of Muslims, Youssef explained his thought process while developing the show. As an Arab-Muslim, he represented the identity he could best depict.

“This is just one piece of representation. This is a small slice of an Arab Muslim family, most Muslims in America don’t even fall under that category,” Youssef said. “Most Muslims in America are Black, while many are South Asian. So this isn’t an antidote to a 24-hour news cycle or years of propaganda and war literature on Muslims. It’s simply just one piece of the puzzle.” 

According to Youssef, there are a lot of differences between the Ramy he plays and his real life. He spoke about the family in the show as compared to his own and described how in real life he has a creative outlet to express himself, whereas Ramy, the character, does not.

“This isn’t an antidote to a 24-hour news cycle or years of propaganda and war literature on Muslims. It’s simply just one piece of the puzzle.” 

“This character, this family talks a little less to each other and this character has less of an outlet so he’s more stuck. But the thing that I really love about this character and something that really resonates with me in real life is that when he has a problem or when he’s trying to figure himself out or get the best version of himself he prays,” Youssef said.

“He turns to God. That is where he goes, that is how he feels comfortable expressing himself and trying to figure himself out. This was something that was really important for me to put out there and that I wanted to have seen,” he added.

Youssef aims to depict the reality of Muslims in his show. He wants the audience to see that Muslims have the same problems, values, and desires other Americans do. 

[Image Description: Three men, Youssef, left, with Mohammed Amer and Dave Merheje, are seated in prayer, while Youssef looks up and to the sky.] Via Barbara Nitke/Hulu
[Image Description: Three men, Youssef, left, with Mohammed Amer and Dave Merheje, are seated in prayer, while Youssef looks up and to the sky.] Via Barbara Nitke/Hulu

“I want the audience to see that Muslims have vulnerabilities. I want them [the audience] to take a look at the types of problems that this family and character face and understand that our problems are very much like anybody else problems.”

Through this show, Youssef hopes to recontextualize words and spaces, while also demystifying the tropes about how Muslims are and operate. “When you hear ‘Allahu Akhbar’ in America it means something violent, but when you watch this show, you realize that is something people say when they are looking to find a calm moment- when they are looking to reflect, just an act of worship that is tied to being a human.”

“Dehumanization here is what’s most important. Anything else is just very specific to this story and not really indicative of anything more than that,” he added.

When asked about the advice he would give to fellow Muslim Americans seeking to follow in his career path, Youssef spoke of the importance of taking risks.

“Try to pray and drink a lot of water.”

“Take risks, don’t be worried about the feedback that you may or may not get. Just know, that if you’re young and want to be something, you just have to be as authentic as you can. Be yourself,” Youseff said.

He finished his advice off with a practical note: “Try to pray and drink a lot of water.”

The first season of Ramy is available on Hulu. Earlier this year, the network announced that the show had been renewed for a second season.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Brandt Jean and the messy politics of forgiveness

As the verdict for Amber Guyger’s sentence came in, sentencing her to ten years in prison for killing Botham Jean, the conversation quickly turned to the embrace of Amber Guyger by Brandt Jean in the midst of the celebration of the guilty verdict. From that moment on, sides were taken from cries of “what would possess him to do such a thing” swinging all the way to “I understand.” It’s been almost impossible to meet in the middle, it seems. 

Lost in this discourse is one very important person whose life will be forever altered by this event- and that’s Brandt Jean. Most of us cannot imagine the type of grief and heartbreak one feels when a family member is murdered in his own home. His older brother has become another sad reminder that racist violence at the hands of the state still continues to plague the everyday lives of black people in this country. And much like many families whose loved ones death become symbols in the movement, he and his family also become symbols of the pain, suffering, and hope left behind by such actions. 

The public extension of an olive branch that Brandt Jean gave to Amber Guyger when he took the stand is something that I, personally would not have done.  The optics of not only hugging the person that murdered your brother but professing that you love her and forgive her are beyond the scope of infuriating. Especially when such an action is easily weaponized by white people. But to suggest as many have done, that this was an action done for the performance of whiteness is not believable to me. Brandt Jean and his family are practicing Christians and the Christian idea of forgiveness is not about the white gaze. Or any gaze at all, for that matter.  It’s about a type of liberation from the things that actively harm a person. 

Another thing to take into account is the familiar statements on social media demanding no forgiveness from one’s family if said person ever came to harm. In retrospect that makes perfect sense. Nevertheless, the person in question will still be dead. The family is the one that will be left behind to continue living. Whatever ethics, code, or moral stance they may need to adopt in order to face the next day for the rest of their lives, they should be able to do that.  Free from judgment and disapproval.

The other approach to this type of violence is anger, which black people in this country are more than entitled to. Who can forget the full-throated and definitive “Hell No” of Esaw Garner when she was asked if she accepts the remorse of the police officer who ended her husband’s life? Her anger was palpable and eviscerating. It was what she needed to be and feel at that moment. Her anger was necessary in order to cope with the death of her husband.

The point in all of this is that there is no one way to manage such a tragedy.  From anger to forgiveness to any and every decision in between. Black people must be given the space to come to terms with a horrifying chapter in their lives. Their individual complexity and challenges must be taken into account, and their humanity never is forgotten. Black anger should be respected and revered because so often we aren’t given the space to be that.  But so should the decision to forgive. The path to life after a calamity is complex and confusing. We’d all be better off as bystanders remembering that.

Book Reviews Race Books Pop Culture

The Hate U Give paints a clear picture of police racism in America

I’ve read a fair share of books in my life. There have been novels which moved me, amused me, taught me, and inspired me. Rarely, though, have I come across titles which have done it all. Most often fall short of their mark. Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give isn’t one of them.

Released in 2017, The Hate U Give quickly took the world by storm, prompting the 2018 release of its film starring Amandla Stenberg who, beforehand, was best known for her character Rue from The Hunger Games.

The Hate U Give was inspired by two distinct things. Its title is in reference to one and that is American rapper Tupac Shakur whose music is well known for focusing on racism and social oppression. The title’s acronym reads THUG, a nod to his concept of THUG LIFE which fleshes out to read: The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. “What you feed us as seeds, grows and blows up in your face,” Tupac explained.

The other source of inspiration was the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Together, both feed into the prevalent themes of the book which highlight how oppressive systems keep the poor and minorities from progressing by feeding into a cycle of crime and violence.

The book follows the story of 16-year-old Starr Carter. A black teen who lives in an underprivileged, predominantly black neighborhood but who attends a posh private school where the majority of the students are white and wealthy.

And there Starr teeters, portraying two personas and managing two entirely different worlds. There is the Starr of Williamson Prep (her school) and the Starr of Garden Heights (her home). But the balance she created between the two comes crashing down when she finds herself the sole witness to the police shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend, Khalil Harris. 

Soon, Starr is caught in the middle as Khalil’s death becomes a national headline and takes on a narrative we, unfortunately, all know too well.

Black person. White officer. Shoot first. Media frenzy. Racial tension. No justice.

Many of us are on the outside looking in, yet we fight. We stand in solidarity and protest. We tweet and post and write letters and articles. 

“People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right,” wrote Thomas (p. 61).

However, true to reality, Khalil didn’t get justice either. 

And it’s this brand of honesty that makes THUG stand out even more. Thomas brilliantly places readers in the thick of the situation. We feel Starr’s fear, pain, frustration, anger, and strength as she realizes the unique position she finds herself in. We feel it as she deals with hearing Khalil’s reputation dragged through the mud. His transgressions used to label him a “thug” and a “gangbanger” and justify his murder. 

We feel it when riots and protests take place, when the blatant discrimination is laid out clear as day, when her white Williamson Prep classmates capitalize on a serious injustice to get a day off at school, when the police put words in Starr’s mouth as they paint a picture to fit their narrative. It’s felt with every word Thomas penned down.

Khalil, then, is symbolic of every person who has fallen victim to police racism and brutality. Philando Castile. Michael Brown. Sandra Bland. Oscar Grant. Freddie Gray. Rekia Boyd. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Walter Scott.

Same story, different name.

Overall, THUG is a tale of racism, activism, grief, family, friendship, wealth disparity, police brutality, and the media’s portrayal of the black community. It educates, impacts and inspires – three signs of a must-read book – and does it engagingly.

Get The Hate U Give here for $10.99. Watch it here for $14.99.

Want more book recommendations? Check out our first ever global Reading Challenge!

TV Shows LGBTQIA+ Pop Culture

15 LGBTQIA+ tropes that need to be retired yesterday

Queer representation is having a good year (Valkyrie “needs to find her queen”! David (ew) and Patrick! Robin Buckley!). However, we’re still backsliding. There are still too many LGBTQIA+ tropes and trends in television that reinforce negative stereotypes and perpetuate a complete lack of awareness when it comes to the queer community. Negative characters and oblivious portrayals are as disheartening as they are harmful.

And yet, Emmy season after Emmy season, we pat incremental change and mediocrity on the back, calling it progress. That needs to stop. No more trophies until it actually gets better. So, Hollywood, here’s a list of what could be, should be, has to be improved because you clearly need help:

Beware of spoilers!

1. My body is your body

The cast of <em>Queer Eye</em>, five men of similar build dressed in suits.
[Image description: The cast of Queer Eye, five men of similar build dressed in suits.] Via Getty
There are bears and otters and butches and femmes everything in between, but they’re rarely seen on screen. The Queer Eye hosts pretty much have the same body type. Darren Criss or Ben Whishaw could dead dropped into the majority of LGBTQIA+ roles and no one would notice. There is little to no deviation and that’s not representation. 

2. Language 

A brown-haired, white boy responds to someone off-screen, saying: "I'm not gay."
[Image description: A brown-haired, white boy responds to someone off-screen, saying: “I’m not gay.”] Via Derry Girls on Netflix
Somehow “gay” is still slung like it’s damaging to one’s masculinity. In Netflix’s Derry Girls, James is repeatedly called “gay” for no reason other than perhaps getting a rise out of him. The series is set in the 1990s, but this detail doesn’t get excused as world building. It doesn’t add anything and it doesn’t help. 

3. This is going to take ALL episode

A shirtless, white man is drenched and seated on a stage. Behind him is a woman lying down.
[Image description: A shirtless, white man is drenched and seated on a stage. Behind him is a woman lying down.] VIa It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia on YouTube
Coming out storylines are still important; however, they don’t always have to take the entire season to come to fruition. Let that character do something else with their story arch. Not everyone needs a Puppy Episode

4. One dimensional queers

A brown-haired white man in a blue button-down and red bowtie says: "Uh, my friend Eric and then my ex John, and then Eric again."
[Image description: A brown-haired white man in a blue button-down and red bowtie says: “Uh, my friend Eric and then my ex John, and then Eric again.”] Via Grace and Frankie on Netflix
The Damiens and other gay-best-friends are being swapped out for those with more depth, like Sex Education‘s Eric. Queer characters deserve development beyond being gay, give them hobbies and all the trivial bits that are written into other characters.

5. Acceptance = Flawless Allyship

A white man in a cap and brown shirt looks stoically at his son.
[Image description: A white man in a cap and brown shirt looks stoically at his son.] Via Glee on YouTube
The super chill attitude of parents/siblings/partners is refreshingly positive, but it leads to a the assumption that Love Is Love and the conversation doesn’t need to go any further when in reality there’s a lot more to be done for gay rights. 

6. Heteronormativity with all the trimmings

Two white women - one blonde, the other black-haired - in prison are having a conversation while seated on the floor. The blonde one says to the other: "You're really telling me you didn't miss me at all?"
[Image description: Two white women – one blonde, the other black-haired – in prison are having a conversation while seated on the floor. The blonde one says to the other: “You’re really telling me you didn’t miss me at all?”] Via Orange Is The New Black on Netflix
Queerness often appears as a straight relationship simply rewritten so that both partners are of the same gender. Not everyone can or wants to assimilate to that norm. There isn’t a boyfriend and a girlfriend when there are two girlfriends.

7. She wears a hat and you know what that means

A woman in a blue striped shirt, suspenders, and a newboy cap is seated in a dark restaurant.
[Image description: A woman in a blue striped shirt, suspenders, and a newboy cap is seated in a dark restaurant.] Via The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on YouTube
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s Susie is the example of presentation standing in for conversation. Her character feels too much like a benchwarmer for when the show decides to get political. 

8. One lone queer character amid masses of straights 

Two dark-haired white men - one in a suit, the other in a red bellhop uniform - are staring each other down.
[Image description: Two dark-haired white men – one in a suit, the other in a red bellhop uniform – are staring each other down.] Via Mad Men on Netflix
There’s never an abundance unless it’s the L Word or Loking. There are partners and exes, but rarely just everyday other queer people. 

9. Queer-baiting

A blonde girl and a black-haired girl kiss. They're dressed in a yellow-and-white cheerleading uniform.
[Image description: A blonde girl and a black-haired girl kiss. They’re dressed in a yellow-and-white cheerleading uniform.] Via Riverdale on The CW
A potentially queer character or couple is usually hinted at or teased. Too often the scene seems to have been written just to draw in a potential audience. The entirety of BBC’s Sherlock, anyone?

10. “I’ve never done this before.”

Two women are lying in bed looking at each intensely. One has her arm outstretched, cupping the face of the other.
[Image description: Two women are lying in bed looking at each intensely. One has her arm outstretched, cupping the face of the other.] Via Killing Eve on YouTube
The fluidity of sexuality deserves screen time, but currently the bed’s a little crowded with “straight” people. This I-normally-wouldn’t-but image feeds into the whole queers are here to steal your wife stereotype. 

11. Strategic camera pan

Two white men in suits are on the dance floor, their foreheads touching as they gaze lovingly into each other's eyes.
[Image description: Two white men in suits are on the dance floor, their foreheads touching as they gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes.] Via Modern Family on ABC
The camera tends to look away during even remotely intimate moments between queer characters. Or deny by omission that they even have sex. Equal screen time or bust. The Shadowhunters fandom erupted when Malec was denied a sex scene in season 2. The writers tried to make up for it in season 3.

12. Lesbian sex involves a lot of clothing

Two women in bed cuddle after sex. The one on the left side-hugs the one on the right who says: "Hello."
[Image description: Two women in bed cuddle after sex. The one on the left side-hugs the one on the right who says: “Hello.”] Via In The Dark on Netflix
This costume quirk is obviously an attempt to keep it PG, but come on. Straight couples have had strategically draped sheets for decades. Will no cameraperson attempt to hide the nudity of two women on screen? 

13. Repression & Hate = Closeted Gay

Two high school football players - one black, the other white - mock two other students dressed up in costumes.
[Image description: Two high school football players – one black, the other white – mock two other students dressed up in costumes.] Via Glee on YouTube
Characters like Sex Education‘s Adam illustrate the tired trend of tortured high school bullies being the result of their own self-hatred. Scripts need to stop assuming the best of hate and homophobes. 

14. Bury your gays

A dark-haired, brown woman stared coyly at her blonde friend.
[Image description: A dark-haired, brown woman stared coyly at her blonde friend.] Via You on Netflix
If your script includes the death of a LGBTQIA+ character, go back to the writing room. Remember what happened in The 100‘s fandom after Lexa was killed?

15. Queerness is overwhelmingly white

Two white women in tank tops are drinking in a low-lit dining booth.
[Image description: Two white women in tank tops are drinking in a low-lit dining booth.] Via Gypsy on Netflix
Thankfully shows like Pose, Queer Sugar, Dear White People, Black Lightning, and The Bold Type are changing the game.

In general, television has come a long way since shows like Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, and Ellen. LGBTQIA+ representation no longer finds itself confined to the first two letters of the acronym. Of course, there’s still lot’s to learn, but in the meantime, support the series that get it right and show the world what it needs to see. 

Book Reviews Pop Culture

“The Nightingale” shows us that war heroes aren’t always men

Kristin Hannah’s book The Nightingale is impactful, important, and not something that fades from memory easily. I read it quite some time ago but the story still weighs inside me.

It’s about women. It’s about struggle. It’s about love. It’s about war.

The Nightingale is the story of two French sisters, Vianne Mauriac and Isabelle Rosginol, as they resist Nazi forces when World War II engulfs France.

Despite being sisters, Vianne and Isabelle are as different as two people can be. Vianne, the older sister, believes in following rules and peacefully surviving through the time of war. Isabelle, on the other hand, is more rebellious, fearless, defiant, and wants to fight in the war. As the war wages on, the differences between them become more pronounced.

“You are stronger than you think you are, V,” Antoine said afterward.

“I’m not,” Vianne whispered too quietly for him to hear.

Vianne’s husband, Antoine, is sent away to fight as a soldier. After he’s gone, Vianne is left alone with her daughter, Sophie. She continues teaching at a school along with her friend and neighbor, Rachel.

Throughout this time, she faces many challenges – Nazi officers billet with her, her body is violated, and her Jewish neighbors are arrested. Later, she begins rescuing Jewish children and hiding them at the local Catholic orphanage when their parents are taken away. She’s afraid, but she has suffered enough and wants to make a difference.

Isabelle, in the meantime, becomes a part of the French resistance movement, and hatches a plan to assist allied airmen out of France after their planes are shot down. She becomes known as the Nightingale for her work. Isabelle is dangerously vulnerable at this time as she faces a threat of being caught by the Nazi forces.

Later, Isabelle is captured by the Nazis and interrogated. Doubt shadows them – they don’t believe the Nightingale to be a woman. Isabelle’s estranged father saves her then, by claiming to be the Nightingale. He’s executed in her place.

“How can I start at the beginning, when all I can think about is the end?” – Isabelle Rosignol

I live in a country, Pakistan, that has been pushed to brink of war several times. And each time that happens, the role of women in war, and their sacrifice, is often ignored. Women bear the brutalization of war – many are raped and sexually violated – but even then, no one talks about them. Misogyny cages women, even when there’s a war impending.

This book presents a hidden perspective. It shows that women too are war heroes, in their own right.

Vianne and Isabelle are powerful characters. They represent all women who bravely take part in war and fight for their countries – those who survive, those who lose their lives in the middle of it all, and those whose struggles stay with till the end of time.

Vianne is abused at the hands of a Nazi officer and is left impregnated with a child who’ll always be a painful reminder of the past, of war, of the enemy. Vianne’s story resonates with many women who are violated during war.

Isabelle walks into the unknown and puts her life in danger. She leaves behind her name, her story, her life. She makes a mark in the world. She fights. And she wins. She speaks her mind, defies the Germans, makes this war her own. Her story resonates with women who refuse to back down. 

Vianne and Isabelle are real women. They aren’t merely characters of Hannah’s imagination. They’re true people, they’re stories that we often forget.

Get The Nightingale here for $12.23.

Want more book recommendations? Check out our first ever global Reading Challenge!

Health Care Health News The World

Why the world needs to embrace health care tourism

Here in the UK, we pride ourselves on our universal health care service, the National Health Service (NHS). Regardless of employment status, age, gender, or where you live in the country, the premise of the NHS is that everybody has a right to free, high-quality health and social care services. 

It didn’t take long for the NHS to become politically weaponized. In the 2016 Brexit vote, now-Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed that we sent the European Union £350 million every week, and plastered that message on a bus that toured the country, calling for a redirection of those funds to bolster a struggling NHS. Although the claim then proved to be fraudulent, many people latched on to migrants from the EU and beyond as a cause for the struggling NHS, regurgitating the classic narrative of people ‘taking services that they had not paid in to’.  

The concept of ‘medical tourism’ then started to become commonplace in the UK. It came attached to the narrative that immigrant communities were coming to the UK purely to seek free medical treatment at the cost of the British taxpayer.

Medical and health care tourism could not be further away from that insinuation. Yes, affordability is one of the main reasons that people travel to access health care services, but those who travel are largely from economically-developed countries or well-off backgrounds. 

Therefore, we need to reframe what medical tourism actually is; the first step is to depoliticize and decolonize it. 

The top ten destinations for medical tourism are all developing nations: India, Turkey, Brazil, and Mexico are all on the list. Singapore is perhaps the only country that stands out as being further along the development scale. In some of these countries, procedures can be 90% cheaper than in nations such as the U.S. 

It is no wonder, then, that those living in countries where health care costs are a burden are looking for alternatives. Alongside surgical or medical procedures, there are growing markets for wellness and alternative medicine tourism and cosmetic tourism.

A growing number of diasporic communities are also returning ‘back home’ to undergo medical treatment. As well as affordability, this could be because of the increasing numbers of reports of discrimination against people of color in the healthcare systems of developed nations. My own father went back to India to fast-track diabetic treatment, and a member of my extended family also went back to India for fertility treatment, which has been discontinued on the NHS.  

Health care tourism is often painted as risky, mostly for the same reasons that developed nations believe that immigrants are leeching on their healthcare systems: racism. 

It is not wrong for doctors to advise that people conduct thorough checks of those who are going to be operating on them, as well as knowing about pre-op and after-care arrangements in advance. Especially in a time when medical procedures are being packaged alongside holidays, it would be foolish not to be informed. 

But to call into question another medical professional’s standards, purely because of where they are from, is essentially racist. My father’s medical scans from India were not accepted by doctors in the UK due to perceived issues with quality. Yet India is currently one of the largest markets for health care tourism, praised for its accessibility, affordability and service quality

Trying to curb health care tourism is only going to backfire. In a globalized, data-driven world, health care already should be accessible to everybody, anytime and anywhere. Eighteen British hospitals were responsible for £42 million of revenue from overseas patients, not to mention the further £219 million that these patients then spent on accommodation, food, and transport in the UK. But no one talks about the positive aspects of medical tourism from migrants.

The UK and such countries who claim to be afraid of the ‘strain’ that medical tourism places on their services should learn from places like Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE, where medical tourism is actively marketed and embraced; they have colonized a market niche. The quality of service, combined with the multitude of languages spoken throughout the region, makes it an attractive option for medical travelers from all over the world. 

It shocks me to my core that health care is still not a universal human right globally, and that it is used and abused to relay political, discriminatory, elitist messages. Healthcare tourism is not only good for the economy, but also for global public health, societal integration, and sharing of knowledge.

Closing off healthcare in line with national boundaries is going to be akin to shooting ourselves in the foot.

How To Use The Internet Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Confessions of a former catfish

I have a confession to make: I’m not a good person.

It’s probably why I’m writing this anonymously because if you knew who it was that was confessing this, you’d probably reconsider every perception you have of me.

You see, I’ve done a pretty good job of coming off straightlaced, religious and ethical to the real world. Hell, I might have a filthy mouth and curse too often, but I keep it clean when it comes to being around my family.

I’m fiercely loyal to my friends and family, but deep down I’m terrified of losing everyone and have a recurring dream of being forgotten and alone by everyone who once knew me.

Hell, I might have a filthy mouth and curse too often, but I keep it clean when it comes to being around my family.

My mom worries that I’m too soft when it comes to dealing with work and friends, and I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I’m socially awkward.

So, of course, it wouldn’t really make much sense when I tell you that when I was fourteen years old, I ended up catfishing a boy on the internet.

And that, in the process of catfishing him, I decided to kill myself off.

I used to have a deep addiction to the internet.

Deep, twisted, and dark – I found myself wandering into realms of the world wide web that should probably never have been possible for someone as young as myself. I discovered my first x-rated AOL chat room when I was nine years old and would troll it, not really understanding what A/S/L meant but quickly catching on to the other language that was being flung about in the chat room.

My parents kept the internet strictly monitored and on very short time limits, so I got very good at making legitimate excuses at having to use the computer and hiding my online life from my real one.

Amidst everything, I still found myself struggling with a deep moral compass, justifying my morally reprehensive activities with the fact that I was just like one of those undercover cops online, finding sexual predators by trolling chat rooms. That made it marginally better, as my morally disgusted psyche struggled with my more reprehensible Id.

Here was my chance to fit in somewhere, where it wasn’t strange to be pretending to be someone else.

I discovered Neopets a few years later, back when it was at its peak of activity, and the company hadn’t yet sold out with the stupid merchandising deals. I quickly tired of the games and the cheat codes, and one day found the RPG forums that were populated by hundreds of other bored Neopet gamers.

RPG, I quickly learned, meant role-playing games.

The threads about actual historical or video game events were boring to me – what really mattered was the stupidly fantastic, quickly-moving romantic movie-based (or general scenario-based) threads.

My parents thought I learned to type as lightning fast as I do as a result of writing papers. If I told them it was to keep up with the role-playing threads on Neopets, they’d probably have a fit.

See, the threads were linear in the way they started.

Someone posted a scenario and available roles. You quickly called dibs for the most interesting parts, and the games started. Stories unfolded quickly, and most people opted for crappy but satisfying storylines that included hookups and online kissing.

I was everything that I wasn’t in real life.

Weird, I know. But I grew addicted, and badly so. Here was my chance to fit in somewhere, where it wasn’t strange to be pretending to be someone else. I played everything I could get a hand on – women, men, once in a while, an animal. That wasn’t too interesting to me.

I soon learned that users would take their chats “off the thread” which just meant a chance for an online hookup, where you would literally sext before sexting even happened.

Six hours would pass in a blink of an eye, and I’d be churning out stories, connections, and hookups before I even realized what I was doing. It was a feeding ground of egos, ageless in a world where you were really only supposed to be taking care of a discolored, imaginary pet.

I was lonely. I had low self-esteem and body issues – but in this online world, where you could be anything, I was everything that I wasn’t in real life.

It was there that I met Josh. I’m calling him that because, honestly, I’ve forgotten his name.

I was Misty on Neopets, and that’s what he knew me as. I had a soft spot for him, the ruthless fourteen-year-old girl that I was, and we struck up a friendship over email that quickly turned romantic.

He sent me lyrics from a song he and his friends had written for their garage band, a song that he had dedicated to me.

I forgot to email him back. I forgot for weeks until I finally checked.

I told him things about a life that was fabricated for him, an imaginary life where I was an early high school student, pretty but bullied by the other students. I crafted a life that he fit perfectly into as my savior, and he fell right into it. He sent me his photo, and I sent him a photo of a pretty brunette girl I found online. He was in awe over how he could possibly deserve someone as pretty as me.

I felt guilty and ugly.

It was, in its ultimatum, my perfect story. But then again, who’s happy with perfect stories?

The downfall is so much more interesting.

So I grew bored with Josh. He was too kind, too good, and too needy. He needed my validation on his looks, his life, and his decisions. I had already gone through another dozen flings on Neopets. My life at home was a complete 180 from what he believed mine to be online.

That’s what made me decide to kill myself off. It’s as bad as you think.

I stopped responding to his emails after I told him that the bullying at my school had intensified. Having built a reality in which one girl at my school was getting more physically violent towards me, I forgot to email him back. I forgot for weeks until I finally checked.

There were twenty emails from him, all freaked out, each more frantic than the last. I read through them all, my heart sinking more with each one. Misty!, he typed in one, R U okay???! I haven’t heard from u in forever!

What was I supposed to do? I could confess and say who I really was, but that was too much of a headache. I was trying to cut my addiction to Neopets, and with that, came my need to cut my addiction to Josh.

So I slowly typed out an email, one that took me longer than any other email that I had probably written until then.

I hated saying goodbye, so instead, I had someone else say goodbye for me: Misty’s father.

I don’t remember the details exactly of how I killed myself off. It was a solemn email, one that spoke fondly to Josh about Misty’s goodbye note to him, and how the bullies got to her, in the end. It was all the bullies’ fault. I signed it with a sigh, knowing just how despicable I was for doing it – but sending it anyways.

I didn’t log into that email again after that. I didn’t want to face reality.

After all, it was the internet.

Editor's Picks Movie Reviews Bollywood Movies Pop Culture

13 of the most iconic female characters in Indian movies

Bollywood movies are not the prime example of an industry known for its strong female characters. In fact, they are often criticized – especially South Indian movies – for the lack of female characters with substance.

While one has to agree that Bollywood movies need to do a lot more on this front, we can’t forget the amazing characters we have seen from these movies so far.


1. Aruvi from Aruvi (Stream)

A brown woman with straight black hair is laughing as she plays in a stream of water. She's dressed in black top.
[Image description: A brown woman with straight black hair is laughing as she plays in a stream of water. She’s dressed in a black top.] Via Deccan Chronicle
Aruvi is the personification of female rage, a character that symbolizes how a woman could be as gentle as a stream, but could easily turn into a destructive force of nature too. She is an everyday woman whose life is changed when she is diagnosed with AIDS. Her story sheds light on the hypocrisy of the patriarchy, the ignorance and lack of humanity in the conservative South Asian society, and the power of women.


2. Tara from Oh Kadhal Kanmani (Oh love, apple of my eye)

A woman stands in the rain with an umbrella over her head. Her expression is solemn, her black hair pulled back in a bun, and she's dressed in a pink-gray ensemble.
[Image description: A woman stands in the rain with an umbrella over her head. Her expression is solemn, her black hair pulled back in a bun, and she’s dressed in a pink-gray ensemble.] Via Urban Asian
The character of Tara steals the show in this beautifully-modern, realistic, classy and cute love story between two ambitious individuals who won’t put their career on stake for a relationship.

Tara is uncompromising, confident, bold and someone you’ll easily fall in love with. The best part is that she could easily be the girl who lives next door, and there’s a beautiful realism about her that makes her story so meaningful and close to your heart.


3. Nirupama from How Old Are You?

A woman in a pink-teal sari has a large paper unfolded in her hands. She looks ahead as she navigates through a crowd.
[Image description: A woman in a pink-teal sari has a large paper unfolded in her hands. She looks ahead as she navigates through a crowd.] Via Global Film Studies
Nirupama is an ordinary woman – a wife and mother with a routine and unexciting life. Her story is a reflection of the average life of middle-aged women in India.

At 36 years old, she wonders whether she has passed her prime, the age where she can do something new, follow her dreams, and become someone special. As she finds the answer to the question, that it’s never late for a woman to follow her dreams, she inspires all of us with her uplifting story.


4. Ponni from Iraivi (Goddess)

A brown woman in a yellow sari has her eyes closed as she rests her head atop that of a young, brown girl.
[Image description: A brown woman in a yellow sari has her eyes closed as she rests her head atop that of a young, brown girl.] Via IMDB
Iraivi is a movie full of brilliant female characters, each portraying women who exist in a man’s world. Ponni’s story is undoubtedly the most beautiful – the moving tale of a young bride whose illusions of marriage shatters gradually.

However, Ponni doesn’t mope or let her husband walk all over her, transforming into a woman of quiet strength and resolve, and we know for sure that she will bring up her daughter as another strong female.


5. Laila from Margarita with a Straw

A young woman with wavy black hair is laughing as lowers her head toward a teal straw placed in a yellow glass.
[Image description: A young woman with wavy black hair is laughing as lowers her head toward a teal straw placed in a yellow glass.] Via Huffingtonpost
Laila’s story will make you laugh, cry, feel, and break your heart. It’s the story of a girl with cerebral palsy, who doesn’t let her disability define her.

We follow Laila as she travels from India to New York, experiences a whole new side of life, finds love, explores her sexuality, deals with heartbreak and struggles to break the news of her bisexuality to her mother. There are times you’ll even dislike Laila, but that’s what makes her character so human and real.


6. Tessa from 22 Female Kottayam

A black-haired woman in glasses is staring out the window, her hands pressed against each other under her chin. She's in a gray ensemble.
[Image description: A black-haired woman in glasses is staring out the window, her hands pressed against each other under her chin. She’s in a gray ensemble.] Via The Hindu
Life seems great for Tessa as her career is off to the right start, and her love life is wonderful. But it all comes crashing down when Tessa is raped, framed and betrayed by the very man she loved and trusted.

22 Female Kottayam is all about an angry female and the lengths she goes for her revenge. Tessa becomes the embodiment of femme fatale, and she’s ruthless in her journey for justice, keeping you rooting for her and her cause.


7. Subbu from Aaranya Kaandam (Anima and Persona)

A brown-haired brown woman in a brown-black sari is walking through the alley of an old neighborhood.
[Image description: A brown-haired brown woman in a brown-black sari is walking through the alley of an old neighborhood.] Via Constant Scribbles
Never underestimate a woman – this should be the moral of this movie. In a gangster flick full of violence and tense moments, a character like Subbu – the innocent mistress of an aged gangster – could’ve been completely overlooked but the seemingly hapless female ultimately becomes the game-changer.

A character who at first induces pity for her situation, then affection towards her innocence, will leave you stunned at the end.


8. Geet from Jab We Met (When We Met)

A brown-haired woman in a white top is smiling widely as she speaks animatedly.
[Image description: A brown-haired woman in a white top is smiling widely as she speaks animatedly.] Via Filtercopy
Geet’s iconic dialogue, “Mein apni favorite hoon” (I am my favorite person), defines her as a character. She is talkative, happy, optimistic, unapologetic, adventurous and so full of life.

And even after 12 years, she’s still one of the favorites of Bollywood rom-com heroines. She teaches us that it’s okay to be self-obsessed, urges us to take risks, encourages us to talk our hearts out and inspires us to always do things that will make us – not the world – happy.


9. Sivagami from Bahubali (One with strong arms)

A brown woman with heavy eye makeup stares challengingly ahead. She wears a red sari and heavy gold jewelry.
[Image description: A brown woman with heavy eye makeup stares challengingly ahead. She wears a red sari and heavy gold jewelry.] Via India TV
The foster mother of the titular character, Sivagami is a fearless, brave yet vulnerable woman of gray shades. She rules a vast kingdom with ease despite being surrounded by deceit and evil.

The scene where she sits on the throne with so much arrogance, just after killing a traitor – with his blood still splattered on her face – while breastfeeding both her kids, her eyes daring anyone to cross her, gives me goosebumps every time.


10. Roja from Roja (Rose)

A brown-haired woman is staring up in curiosity at something.
[Image description: A brown-haired woman is staring up in curiosity at something.] Via Hindustan Times
Roja is a simple village girl who is married off to a man – an absolute stranger – in the city. Everything about her married life is a revelation, and just as she slowly falls for her husband, he is kidnapped and she is stranded in an unknown city.

The way she struggles to get her husband back, in an alien location, negotiating in a language she doesn’t speak with no resources whatsoever, only backed by determination is simply inspiring to watch.


11. Sandhya from Dum Laga Ke Haisha (Give in All Your Energy)

A black-haired woman in a white-red sari looks coyly to the side.
[Image description: A black-haired woman in a white-red sari looks coyly to the side.] Via India Today
This underrated love story is full of heart, and Sandhya is a character with so much strength and optimism. Plus-sized and comfortable with it, she tries to live with a mistreating husband who doesn’t believe he’s attracted to her.

Then she leaves him, not tolerating his nonsense. And even as she gives him a second chance, she makes sure it’s on her own terms, and the best part is that she doesn’t try to become someone else to get love.


12. Devi from Masaan (Crematorium)

A brown, brown-haired woman in a brown top looks sideways with a hard glare.
[Image description: A brown, brown-haired woman in a brown top looks sideways with a hard glare.] Via Bollywood Life
Blackmailed by a police officer when she’s caught having sex with her boyfriend, Devi doesn’t crumble under the pressure, rather remains firm on the fact that there’s no shame in her actions.

She is a woman of steel, and throughout the movie, her stiff spine and unapologetic gaze serve as a slap in the face to the patriarchy that tries to victimize her.


13. Shilpa from Super Deluxe

A black-haired trans woman in a blue saree sits and gazes out into the distance.
[Image description: A black-haired trans woman in a blue sari sits and gazes out into the distance.] Via The News Minute
This is a controversial pick as Shilpa is a trans woman played by a male actor. However, she is also probably the first trans-leading character in a mainstream Tamil movie.

Shilpa is flawed and selfish, but she rises through all the insults, humiliation and prejudice she faces through the immense love she has for her son, and it is truly inspiring. Super Deluxe also features three more unconventional and strong female characters who all deserve a nod too.

These characters all have different stories, with totally different lives, yet all of them stand out because of the way they look at life, and the impact they leave on an audience. As we celebrate these characters, it’s important to remember that we still have a long way to go, especially in terms of intersectional female characters who belong to different minorities, as well as the casting of the right actors to bring in more authenticity to their portrayals.

TV Shows BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

What “How I Met Your Mother” taught me about the one

I never really delved into romance as a genre when I was younger.

I mean, it was not a clear-cut no to affairs of the heart. I didn’t mind a love story as a subplot but I could not get my head around why people would read a whole novel or watch a whole show dedicated to love and relationships.

It took me until my late teenage years to move towards romance fiction. Over time, I uncovered the expectations, the trials and the tribulations of such relationships. Unknowingly, living vicariously through popular culture has prepared me for the future.

Situational comedies, for me at least, function as a form of escapism. More often than not, they’re based in New York City, the archetypal place to find yourself in your twenties. Being a Londoner myself, I covet the image of a group of six friends, hanging out in a city that never sleeps. Alongside the appeal of a close-knit group is the hope of meeting ‘the one.’ Indeed, the elusive ‘one’.

Growing up, I always found the portrayal of love in romantic comedies inferior to that of sitcoms. Partly because of the formulaic sequence of romcoms ignored character development. If there’s no depth to the protagonist, I struggle to empathize. And, ultimately, wince at the inevitable sappy happy ending.

Sitcoms, on the other hand, are so much more than comedic misunderstandings and double entendres. The serious moments intertwined with light-hearted comedy give a whole new depth to the romance.

One show that never fails to teach me a lesson about love is How I Met Your Mother.

To some, Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) is a schmaltzy hopeless romantic. But to me, he is the guy who instills faith in love for those of us who are believing less and less every day. Much like me, he tends to overthink and look for signs from the universe to make a decision.

Pondering over what could’ve been has become a recurring theme in my life. I mean, I get so caught up in overanalyzing and attempting to make the right decision, I miss out on the opportunity to make the actual call.

Overthinking whether I should say hello or analyzing what a certain facial expression meant does more harm than good. Truly, giving every little thing a meaning is as indicative of the sign itself.

That being said, Ted’s encounter with ‘The One’ was not completely the result of his own actions. The famous yellow umbrella belonging to Tracy (Cristin Milioti) which made its way into Ted’s life demonstrates that fate has a way of working itself out. The universe has a plan and that plan is always in motion.

I understand that concept.

Like Ted, I also wonder about the little parts in the machine that are making sure I end up at the right place at the right time. I think, if I’m being honest with myself, I rely too much on these parts and neglect taking action myself. Second-guessing and preventing myself from taking risks have only ever resulted in what-ifs.

Of course, being nervous about taking a step lets you know that you’re onto something important.

Even if the call I make doesn’t pan out the way I want it to; I just hope that I have at least half the emotional endurance that Ted has.

That’s why to me, How I Met Your Mother is much more than your average sitcom.

Future Ted’s narration is an excellent example of reflection, though sometimes biased. How I Met Your Mother tells a great tale demonstrating how your present actions can have an impact on the future. Indeed, the telling of a love story in reverse order is further validation that everything will turn out fine.

The show has left a lasting impact, so whenever I’m stuck in a rut, I can switch it on and turn to Ted’s wisdom.