Pop Culture

Travis Scott shows that fame and ethical responsibility go hand in hand

With great influence, currency and power come great responsibility. Compared to the average person, artists, musicians and actors do in fact have moral obligations towards their fans. For instance, Travis Scott and the mass casualty incident that occurred at Astroworld in November this year.

If you’ve been following Travis Scott throughout the year, you probably already know the broad strokes of the tragedy that occurred on the 8th of November, but here’s a quick introduction: the Astroworld festival was first held in 2018 at NRG Park in Houston. Scott was a huge fan of the amusement park (which closed in 2005) as it inspired his 2018 album. In addition, the festivals have been said to have a specific theme that is particular to Scott’s aesthetic. A merger of Marilyn Manson and Willy Wonka, rides, and swings along with magicians and dancers in full mirror suits. There was an intentional eeriness to it. A murky twist that made otherwise rides suitable for children, appropriate for Scott’s audience that is predominantly young adults.

The causes of this tragedy were entirely due to mundane negligence.

Since 2018, the festival has grown significantly. From 35 000 people attending then, to now 50 000 attendees, forcing the concert to become a two-day event. Back in May, it was said by several outlets that 100 000 tickets sold out in less than an hour. This brings into question what the real number of attendees was. It’s not surprising that 10 people were reported to have died and many injured when the crowd was compressed toward the stage at the  Astroworld concert. It’s more surprising that tragedies like this are not prevented.

Despite the outlandish and thankfully short-lived satanism conspiracy theories, the causes of this tragedy were entirely due to mundane negligence. When examining the principles of crowd management and what may have gone wrong at the festival, there are two things that stand out.  The crowd was plagued with disorderly and even violent elements. According to the Guardian, there was an operations plan in place however, it did not include protocols for a mass crowd outpour. When crowd management is properly adhered to, the staff can identify the characteristics and frequency of the crowd and respond in accordance with a prearranged strategy.

What was more alarming about the management of this event, was that there weren’t enough medics on duty. Those present were not adequately trained, making it almost impossible to walk through the crowds to people in need of help. While the industry requirement is to ensure that for every 250 people there is one crowd manager, there are strict guidelines as to what kind of training those managers must have. Some organizations even offer 15 to 30 minutes of online course training, which underlines the little to no regard the organizer’s had for the safety of the people who attend the event.

The tragedy that happened at the Astroworld concert could have been easily prevented had there been a careful and calculated plan

It’s been reported that Scott tried to stop the concert numerous times in an attempt to draw attention to audience members needing help from medics on duty but he was not aware of the severeness of what was going on. In as much as he may have attempted to stop the show, too many people lost their lives for Scott and his team to not have made responsible decisions.

Scott may say that he cares about his fans, but he has on many occasions has famously encouraged “raging” at his shows. Not only that but the musician does not institute age limits and openly markets himself to younger audiences. In 2017, he encouraged a fan to jump from a second-floor balcony during a show in New York City. It’s uncertain if the fan suffered any injuries, but this is just one of the many reckless acts he has initiated.

The tragedy that happened at the Astroworld concert could have been easily prevented had there been a careful and calculated plan regarding the availability of medics on duty, adequate training for medics and maybe a little compassion shown from Travis Scott and his team would have gone a long way. To be fair we could say that with all the blinding lights, hazy smoke, and an elevated platform, Scott could not have been able to grasp the severity of what was happening in the crowd.  But his crew and management team could. They were on the ground and bearing witness to the cries for help, suffocation, and gruesome scenes of many fans fighting for their lives. Even though Scott was on stage, we have seen many artists over the years pause their performance when a fan needs help or is in distress. In 2011 at London’s Hammersmith Apollo performance, the singer Adele paused the show when someone in the crowd fainted. It was only when medics arrived and the fan was taken care of did she proceed with the performance.

We have seen many artists over the years pause their performance when a fan needs help or is in distress

In the greater scheme of things, this conversation is not about the satanism conspiracy theories that have made their rounds on the internet or music or even unruly crowds. It is about professional responsibility of which Travis Scott is failing dismally at this. He may have a ‘cool’ job, but it comes with a great deal of responsibility and in this case safety and security. In the same way that traditional businesses must ensure that their building is safe to occupy, and offices aren’t fired hazards, artists have a moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to make sure their shows or events are safe for attendees. This is why his brief pauses during the show are not only to blame but were damning and ineffective.

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Up and Coming Music Pop Culture Interviews

A conversation with ‘Wooly and The Uke’ on ‘Home’, music and being creatures of emotion

Janat Sohailbetter known by her moniker “Wooly & The Uke”-  describes herself as “someone who intentionally and subconsciously focuses on human fragility and this loop we’re all stuck in; a self-critique on it all.”

The Berlin-based Pakistani musician and audiovisual artist, known for her hauntingly beautiful vocals and deeply introspective lyrics, just released her latest single “Home” from her upcoming EP “These Days”. The single, she says, is dedicated to those who carry “multiple homes inside of them” and in particular focuses on the grief that resides within all of us.

[Image Description: Wooly and the Uke in front of a blue light with glitter over her face. Source: Shazam]
She described her songwriting process, her growth since releasing her first single “Circus” in 2017, and her thoughts on art and emotions with us on Instagram Live.

The Tempest: Musicians usually try to break through the Pop and Rock genres, but not many go for Indie because of how selective it is. What were the challenges you faced trying to break through the Indie music scene, especially in Pakistan?

Wooly: It’s difficult for all of us to know what we want because we are constantly surrounded by so many different media and so many people put forth so much work that gets so much spotlight, so it’s so hard to know if is what I want to worth it…  Many people have told me that the music I make is too artsy for them to understand. It feels really good to make such music because it’s what I feel, but there’s also a part that makes me realise that it is a small niche.

Not many people want to listen about ‘the death of this world’ and other such existential themes while driving around in their car *laughs*. I’m still learning to find that balance between what I want and making it easy enough for others to understand by communicating it well enough.

“It feels really good to make such (artsy) music because it’s what I feel, but there’s also a part that makes me realise that it is a small niche.”

The Tempest: You released Circus back in 2017, and now you’re releasing a new E.P. with the lead single already out. Do you feel that progression and change in yourself compared to then?

Wooly: I think there’s been a massive change because when I release “Circus,” I didn’t trust in my own vision and trusted what I thought others needed. While I’m still happy with it (Circus), from then to now there’s been a massive journey of discovering and trusting myself and my own vision as well. It’s a challenge we face in our society when we are conditioned so much to be humble and grounded and compliant.

I’ve also explored different kinds of music and I’m in the process of breaking out of this bias/binary and opening myself to all these other kinds of genres… There’s so much happening in the spectrum and so much other music coming out, and there’s so much to learn out of all of that; what I could implement in my own music. Experiences such as travelling and getting to collaborate with other people from all over the world change your vision a lot too.

[Image Description: Wooly and the Uke sitting on concrete stairs, wearing a floral suit and playing the ukulele. Source:]
The Tempest: Let’s talk about “Home,” your lead single from the E.P. “These Days.” You described it as an ode to those who carry grief like home inside of themselves and those who carry multiple homes inside of them. What was the process behind its creation?

Wooly: The past two years living abroad taught me that it doesn’t matter how comfortable you get somewhere, there’s always an urgency to start another chapter; a spiralling identity crisis because of where we come from and always feeling like an ‘other’ in this society. That, and constantly having to prove yourself are these two categories from which I view it all from the surface.

But if you look at the subcategories of yourself, and go deeper, there’s so much more going on in there! Your own unique talents, your personal beliefs, your identity and so many other layers make you you. And usually, when you’re unable to accept these parts of yourself, you question how other people will accept you. So you condense yourself into tiny boxes with all the different identities you show people on different occasions; these different personas are different shelters which we can call home. One that’s very different from the one we have physically.

“You condense yourself into tiny boxes with all the different identities you show people on different occasions.”

The lyrics start with “Mother, brother…” because I feel like these are two figures are the most important in life. You always feel guilty for not doing, listening or being enough for your mother and you’re scared of losing her; a mystical figure in your life. Brother is a binary male figure to who you’re constantly trying to prove yourself to. All of this while carrying yourself and trying to breathe through it all is what it’s all going for.

The Tempest: This was your directorial debut too. How did that feel?

Wooly: The words “directorial debut” also took a lot of confidence to write and adopt. But it was important to me as well. There’s always a beginning for everything, and if you have a vision for it, it’s important to go with that. I’m also in the process for it to be clear that it didn’t come across as a big-budget production with any fancy special effects, because my priority was to get that raw emotion out.

When I was writing the idea for ‘Home’, I was just sitting at night and visualised the whole thing;  all I could see was the figure in the black shelter/shroud sitting like a creature. The idea was that when we’re all going through something, especially grief, we turn into this lump or creature without realising it. We’re all creatures of emotion and it’s hard for me to see us as anything other than that. We’re constantly trying to shed things, take things, others trying to force them on or off you. I tried to portray that moment of isolation and rejection in the video.

“We’re all creatures of emotion and its hard for me to see us as anything other than that.”

The Tempest: Normally you put your own interpretations of your music in description boxes. How open are you to other interpretations, if they’ve been conveyed to you?

Wooly: It’s interesting, especially since a lot of interpretations for ‘Home’ had religious contexts to them. I feel like all art is metaphorical and it’s okay to have your own interpretations of things because it matters to you and what you think and experience. There were religious concerns that even I had with ‘Home’ because I thought about how people would mistake the cloth as a burqa, and breaking out of it would be taken as breaking out of oppression (which it isn’t, at all). Other interpretations were similar to what I had so I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing *laughs*

The Tempest: You have three other songs in your E.P. “These Days”. Will they be similar to Home, or different or somewhere in between?

The idea behind the E.P. is to have it flow like a narrative; like Pink Floyd and how their albums felt like a story progressing with a beginning and an end. Home is the intro, and the next song “Same as You” is about a very taboo topic in our society – how difficult it is to love other people who may be misunderstood in our society or not accepted. “These Days’ is an interpretation of my own thoughts of what these days have been like. Life has always been kind of shit *laughs* even if it has its good things.

I’m also in the works of releasing a pop song, in collaboration with Zahra Paracha and the really talented pianist Maham Riaz from Nescafe Basement, that I’m very excited about too!

[Image Description: Wooly and the Uke in a green shirt, with the sunlight on her face. Source: Soundcloud]
The Tempest: What can we expect from Wooly & The Uke in the future?

Wooly: Music is definitely going to continue. I’m in Pakistan for the next few months and I’m very open to collaborating with people now. I got a really nice idea from someone for a little musicians’ retreat which I’m excited about. I’m also in the process of setting up a small audio-visual production house, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time; combining all my interests into one thing. And of course, making more obscure shit with everybody else *laughs.* I just really want to end the year with my brain splattered everywhere into what I create.

The Tempest: Like a Jackson Pollock painting, all splattered over the canvas?

Wooly: That’s a really good comparison, yes.

The Tempest: Out of my own curiosity: where did the ukulele come from?

Wooly: I got the ukulele around the time of Nescafe Basement, and I love it because it’s very portable and I can play it anywhere. It’s a sneaky little instrument and I can take it everywhere.

“These Days” will be releasing soon, as an audio experience. She will be returning to Europe in a few months and will be performing more then. In the meantime, you can check out our full interview with Wooly and the Uke on our Instagram account!


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It’s time to stop humanizing villains, and revel in who they truly are instead

Imagine you’re scrolling on TikTok. You stop to watch a video using the sound “Instructor Mooselini’s Rap.” As PaRappa The Rapper sings — “Alright, we’re here just sitting in the car. I want you to show me if you can get far! Step on the gas! Step on the brakes!” — images of villains who have received the spin-off greenlight from Disney cycle through. Maleficent, Cruella de Vil, Loki, and Gaston start the list off, but then the video dives into unchartered waters: the hunter from Bambi, Marvel’s Red Skull, and Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine. What!?

While I made up this TikTok video, I do honestly think it could very well be a tale as old as time very soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a Disney boardroom far, far away, an exec has tossed up the hunter, Red Skull, and Emperor Palpatine as possible characters to revisit in an upcoming film or television show. This is because villain origin stories are becoming more common as film and TV content, which isn’t a bad trend. I mean, who doesn’t love villains?

One of my favorite villains of all time is Shego from Kim Possible. Shego got her start as a member of a crime-fighting quintet with her brothers. However, the more villains she fought, the more she became enamored with villainy. Ultimately, she left her brothers’ group because they were too incompetent and joined up with Dr. Drakken. One of the reasons why I like Shego is because she is confidently and unapologetically evil. Nowhere in Shego’s backstory is there any trauma or pain; she simply enjoys participating in crime.

However, Shego is starting to be in a villain minority. With the rise of origin story films and television, tragedy (“tragedy”) is becoming more commonplace. In my opinion, we’re reaching the brink of this style of content because making tragic backstories a necessity to villainy ruins the whole concept of villainy.

Cruella is probably one of the best examples of this. The online backlash to Cruella was very amusing. Many people were aghast that the writers thought a good origin story for the iconic character Cruella de Vil would be to have her mom murdered by a pack of dalmatians. It was a … choice, to put it politely.

Cruella de Vil seemed like one of the last irredeemable villains. As a character, she consistently delights in being cruel just because she could. We don’t need to empathize with Cruella, mainly because her unabashed villainy was the most fun part of her character. Disney could have given us an utterly absurd film similar to Suicide Squad in which we get to see more of Cruella de Vil being the fashionable scoundrel she is. Instead, they tried to justify her motives and actions (killing puppies!) — which isn’t always possible for villains, and that’s the way it should be.

Kuvira from The Legend of Korra received similar treatment as Cruella. During the fourth season of the show, Kuvira says, “I was cast aside by my own parents like I meant nothing to them! How could I just stand by and watch the same thing happen to my nation when it needed someone to guide it?”

In the Ruins of the Empire comic series, we learn more, finding out that Kuvira was a difficult child her parents struggled to raise and they eventually sent her away to Zaofu. While this origin story does pull on my heartstrings (more so than Cruella’s at least), this backstory makes me think the writers are setting the stage for Kuvira to start a program for abandoned kids, not become the Great Uniter.

Kuvira believed what she believed and did what she did not because she had a tragic backstory, but because she had a vision for the future of the Earth Empire. She wasn’t afraid to use any means necessary to achieve her goals, which to her meant employing fascism, imperialism, and tyranny to create order. Kuvira is a morally ambiguous villain that we do not need to empathize with to understand. I am saying this as a fully-fledged Kuvira fan. I’m not an apologist because there really is no defending Kuvira, but I do love her very much. Your fave is problematic: me.

Thanos is another morally ambiguous villain we do not need to empathize with in order to understand. And yet, I recently learned that Thanos has a “tragic” backstory in the Marvel comics. In some versions, Thanos’ mom hates him and tries to kill him; in others, she sees death in his eyes and tries to kill him.

Both versions are pretty tragic, and yet neither helps us further understand Thanos’ motives as depicted in the Avengers films. He didn’t want other planets to end up like his planet, and he thought the best solution was to eradicate half of the universe’s population. If anything, his backstory foreshadows his actions, which I think is the point.

However, some people argue villains are people to whom terrible things have happened. But that’s not always true, and that’s why I think tragic villain backstories shouldn’t be forced upon all villains. If we continue to use Thanos as an example, his goal to wipe out half of the population has nothing to do with the fact that his mom tried to kill him. But if Disney were to make a film about his origin story, the writers would probably try to make that scene a tearjerker.

It’s also frustrating because there are successful tragic villain backstories. The Joker and Killmonger both have origin stories that serve as in-depth explorations of the effects of systemic societal issues. But what systemic societal issue is Cruella trying to tackle? Not every villain has endured hardships. Sometimes villains are just evil, and that’s why we love to hate them. Trying to humanize these villains justifies behavior that shouldn’t be justified.

Real-life villains — you know the superrich, oil monopolies, major corporations, global dictators — don’t have tragic backstories (and their actions most certainly should not be justified). Jeff Bezos isn’t hoarding wealth for any other reason besides greed. Donald Trump didn’t run for president to change the U.S. for the better but to have power and status. In fiction, let villains be villains because people do bad things in real life for a variety of reasons, and it’s not always because of childhood trauma.

Like Alfred said, “Some people want to watch the world burn.” Full-stop, end of story. They want to watch the world burn, so they burn the world. I’d still watch that movie, especially if Shego was the main character.

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TV Shows History Pop Culture

I love history, but I can’t stand historical TV shows

I’m a big history nerd. I’m not only a history major, but someone who collects and wears historical clothes, who owns figurines of historical figures, who collects books on my favorite parts of history, and who played history games throughout my entire childhood. Studying history has always been a huge part of my identity, and one I’m still happy to include in my life today. But it’s probably time to admit it: I hate historical TV shows. As a history geek, I should love them, but it’s hard for me to stomach a single one.

These shows forget that people in the past did, in fact, have fun.

I have one main reason, and it’s that these shows are straight-up boring. The lighting is too dark, the costumes too beige and ugly, and every word of dialogue is spoken in a raspy whisper. Everything is so bleak it’s almost impossible to follow. Try watching The Medici or The Tudors. I have difficulty figuring out anything that’s going on. And don’t get me started on the lighting in The Crown. 

A disheveled white man with a beard and a loose top.
[Image Description: A dark-haired white man in a dark shirt] via BBC. This is how Da Vinci’s Demons dresses its protagonists — in dull, disheveled, and downright ugly clothing.
And trust me, I won’t hear the excuse that real life was just as bleak back then. As a keen student of historical costuming, I know that a lot of historical clothing was bright, extravagant, and sometimes just ridiculous. I admit it’s not the biggest issue, but it still rubs me the wrong way. I feel like these shows forget that people in the past did, in fact, have fun occasionally. You rarely see any entertainment or festivities in these shows, unless they’re doomed to go horribly wrong. You almost never see any characters genuinely laugh in these shows. Sure, living in the past was terrible in a lot of ways, but people still retained a sense of humor.

I’ll give you an example. I once made the horrible mistake of attempting to watch Da Vinci’s Demons, which loosely follows the life of Leonardo da Vinci, and encapsulates everything I hate about historical television. The show portrays Leonardo as a tortured, edgy womanizer, despite the fact that he was almost certainly gay and, by all accounts, a very pleasant person. Throughout the show, he almost exclusively wears dark, tattered shirts and dusty trousers, whereas the historical Leonardo wore brightly-colored tunics and tights. It might sound ridiculous to the modern viewer, but personally, I think we should acknowledge the absurdity of history. And let’s be honest, sometimes it’s easier to relate to people who don’t take themselves too seriously.

A brightly colored Renaissance painting of a wealthy, finely dressed family.
[Image Description: a Renassaince painting showing a group of people dressed in beautiful costumes.]This is how people in the Renaissance actually dressed! Short tunics, leggings, bright colors…it may not be as sexy, but it’s way more fun!
There’s also a lot of unnecessary drama in historical TV shows. I’ll admit, this trend strikes me as odd because there’s already so much drama in real history. Shows like The Tudors, The Borgias, The Last Kingdom, and The Medici like to make a big deal out of political battles and sex scandals, and rarely imbue these plot lines with any humor or humanity. Drama is important for entertainment’s sake, but we can still try and make the drama seem somewhat human. Most relationships aren’t built on stolen glances and steamy affairs. Why not portray these love stories with affection, awkwardness, and a tiny bit of down-to-earth humanity?

History isn’t all epic battles and heaving bosoms, a lot of it is everyday life.

Even the grand, epic battles are a little too dramatic for my sake. They ignore the disease, the squalor, and the sheer tedium of real-life battles. It might not be fun to acknowledge the unglamorous parts of history, but it makes for better television. If we’re going to relate to these historical figures, we need to at least see them as human.


Most historical TV shows seem totally unwilling to have any fun with history. They refuse to acknowledge that along with the drama and sadness of history, there’s also comedy and absurdity and awkwardness. Historical people were real human beings. Sometimes they wore ridiculous outfits, joked around with each other, and made awkward mistakes. History isn’t all epic battles and heaving bosoms, a lot of it is everyday life. I certainly don’t think these shows are evil, but they do make history feel so much more distant and detached than it really is.

We should remember that history has plenty of dimensions, some good and some bad, some funny and some serious, some totally normal and some downright weird. It doesn’t help to glamorize or romanticize history, but it doesn’t help to dull it down either. Historical figures were people too, and our television should at least recognize them as such. Besides, it’s more fun that way anyway.

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I didn’t like horror movies until the pandemic — here’s why

If I’m going to be perfectly honest, I used to hate horror movies. It might be a social faux pas to say, but I didn’t see any merit in them. To me, they were just another unnecessary source of anxiety in an already anxiety-inducing world. Then the pandemic hit. Now, I don’t just like scary movies, I love them. I’d even go as far as to say I need them. But why?

I can’t quite answer that. What I do know is that horror movies have turned from a great source of anxiety for me to a kind of comfort or escape. The jump scares and ghost stories in horror movies seem so out of this world that it’s hard for me to be scared of them, especially when the real world is already so scary. It can be helpful to direct your anxiety into something not only fictional but so unworldly and absurd that you can’t imagine it happening in real life.

There’s been a pandemic outside for over a year now, and a whole host of political and human rights worries have both prolonged the pandemic, and been unearthed by it. Sometimes it’s nice to retreat into a world of haunted houses and demons from other dimensions, even if just for a moment. When I’m watching these movies, I’m more focused on ghosts than on the pandemic, and that’s a much-needed distraction.

Still, even if it’s easy to escape, it’s not always right. I think that part of the appeal of horror movies isn’t just how distant they are from the real world. They also appeal also because they represent the real world all too well. Media isn’t just a place to escape, but a place to reflect on the state of our society. We obviously can’t turn our backs on the real world forever.

For me, watching horror movies during quarantine helped me understand the world outside of me, even when I wasn’t able to experience it personally. There are clear-cut examples, such as Get Out or Us, which criticize racism and societal inequality, or Pan’s Labyrinth, which is essentially a parable for fascism. Even the ones without overt political messages can be commentaries on the state of our society. Films like It Follows and Scream are commentaries on the sexist tropes and slut-shaming present in a lot of horror flicks and turn those stereotypes on their head.

Horror movies are also very helpful for anyone dealing with isolation, anxiety, or uncertainty. Watching films like Midsommar or The Babadook, which feature women undergoing mental health crises while also encountering supernatural horrors, made me feel somewhat seen. Going through a mental health crisis can sometimes feel overwhelming and close to the supernatural. I’ll admit, seeing my struggles through the lens of a horror movie is actually really effective. Sure, it’s not realistic, but it still makes me feel less alone.

Horror movies were always unnecessarily stressful to me, and I couldn’t find any artistic value in them.  I admit that I was totally wrong. Part of me was just being pretentious, and part of me was still working through my own issues with anxiety. I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t like horror movies, because we all have our own tastes. Still,  I’m now proud to say that putting on a scary movie is comforting for me. Sometimes, the real world is confusing and scary, and watching a story about supernatural issues is easier than confronting real ones.

However, it goes deeper than just escapism. Horror movies actually help me conceptualize and challenge the real issues the world is facing. They’ve forced me to confront both my personal issues and the role I play in society. Scary movies started out as an escape and then became a wake-up call. They became a way for me to start understanding complex societal issues that were difficult to wrap my head around – to serve as a stepping stone for more nuanced discussions and ideas.

Of course, horror movies have gone above and beyond just being ‘scary’. In fact, it’s been pretty eye-opening for me. From stereotypical horror movies to ones that dissect issues like racism and feminism (I’m looking at you, Get Out and Jennifer’s Body), there truly is something for everyone – especially if by the end of the movie, you can’t sleep at night.

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The Internet Music Pop Culture

Social media embarks on a campaign to bully the Tramp Stamps off the internet

It was a quick rise and an even quicker fall for new pop-punk trio Tramp Stamps. After releasing their third single, “I’d Rather Die,” TikTok, Twitter, and even Tumblr showed up and showed out to do what social media does best: expose, ridicule, and shame. If you sift through the bullying, dogpiling, and trolling, you’ll get to the roots of the matter—which has nothing to do with three women trying to make it in the punk industry and everything to do with selling harmful ideologies of white feminism for capitalist gain.

The Tramp Stamps’ first song, “Sex With Me” was catchy, fun, and interesting enough to listen to after I closed TikTok. However, I probably only listened to the song a handful of times before my For You Page became overrun with call-out videos. It truly felt like one moment the Tramp Stamps were just a burgeoning band using TikTok like any other small artist. Then I blinked and they became mouthpieces for something far more insidious.

On April 9, 2021, the Tramp Stamps released “I’d Rather Die.” While the title might read aggressively to those unfamiliar with internet culture, I’d argue the title doesn’t give listeners enough warning about its content. The second verse is what led TikTok user ‘furbyrights’ to sum up perfectly: “Assault is not punk.” I’ll let them explain in the following video.

Another user ‘blacksupremac1st’ pointed out that the lyrics sexualize and fetishize people of color and queer women—because what else are you implying when you say that straight white men are boring to have sex with?

Then, internet users discovered that one of the band’s members, Paige Blue, is married to a— wait for it —straight white guy! So, on top of being incredibly problematic, the song is also hypocritical.

The band made a video clarifying “I’d Rather Die” is based on the fact that each member has had a bad sexual experience with straight white men who coincidentally had the same name. But intention versus impact is real. Just because the Tramp Stamps never intended to come off a certain way doesn’t mean that wasn’t the impact. Their video is pretty similar to a common strategy white people use to wiggle out of acknowledging white privilege, systemic racism, and internalized white supremacy.

No matter how the Tramp Stamps tried to defend themselves, TikTok, Twitter, and Tumblr were not having it. They were essentially bullied off of every platform.

On April 17, the band released a statement on their Twitter. In addition to refuting cancel culture, the group also decried the industry plant accusation as sexist and ageist. But you might be wondering, what’s an industry plant?

Complex defines industry plants as typically obscure artists who are signed by record labels, given a new sound and aesthetic, and then “jammed down the throats of consumers.” Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Post Malone, and more have all been called industry plants by various deep corners of the internet. However, I’m not a big enough music snob to care whether the Tramp Stamps are an industry plant or not. I’m more worried about how the Tramp Stamps and their label are trying to use white feminism as their ticket to song sales.

Koa Beck, in her book White Feminism, defines white feminism as “an ideology and a very specific approach and strategy toward achieving gender equality that focuses more on individual accumulation, capital, and individuality—accruing power without any redistribution or reconsideration of it.” NBC’s Marie Solis echoes this definition, describing white feminism as a fundamentally exclusionary ideology with a goal “not to alter the systems that oppress women—patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism—but to succeed within them” and exploit women and marginalized people in the process.

If white feminism and the Tramp Stamps were two concentric circles, their annulus is why many internet users have dubbed the band Riot Grrrlbosses, a play on Riot Grrrl and Girlboss. But, the Girlboss era ended – for good reasons.

White feminism—and the girl bosses it created—has not prioritized intersectionality, inclusivity, or even real feminism. Even though multilevel marketing (MLM) companies still try to use this two-dimensional brand of feminism as a profitable strategy, today’s consumers are savvier than that. Today’s consumers know social justice work like feminism doesn’t mesh with capitalism because capitalism is still used to exploit so many communities. For the Tramp Stamps to think they can apply #girlpower to their songs and then pat themselves on the back for being “progressive” and “feminist”—it just doesn’t work. And it’s quite lazy.

The Tramp Stamps situation is also frustrating because there’s plenty of pop-punk and punk bands who are actually doing more for the genre than just posing as do-gooders. Contrary to what Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine believes, there are so many bands, like Meet Me @ The Altar and Magnolia Park, keeping the punk genre alive for a new generation. And, if you scroll through the replies under the Tramp Stamps’ latest Twitter post, you’ll see even more bands like Pinkshift and Hoity-Toity making it known that punk is for literally everyone.

Should the Tramp Stamps continue their career, I hope they realize that so many music listeners want to support women in music. But it isn’t 2017 anymore, and the white feminist schtick isn’t going to cut it. Let this debacle serve as a reminder for any other girl bosses coming up in the music industry.

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“Butter”: BTS prove no one is as smooth as they are with their newest dance-pop track

Just as they blew our minds (and world records) with “Dynamite,” the band of seven men from South Korea has just made an incredibly smooth comeback with a second all-English track “Butter”. Originally described as a “dance-pop track brimming with the smooth and charismatic charm of BTS,” the track certainly lives up to it and the aforementioned charm has melted our hearts for sure.

The music video starts off black and white with the boys wearing outfits similar to those of 80s rock legends. A beat extremely reminiscent of “Another One Bites the Dust” begins playing and Jungkook (with an EYEBROW PIERCING) starts off  with the lyrics:

Smooth like Butter

Like a Criminal Undercover

Gonna pop like trouble

Breaking into your heart like that

Taehyung (V), ever so infuriatingly cool, follows up with:

Cool shade stunner

Gonna owe it all to my mother

Hot like summer

Gonna make you sweat like that

All seven of them pose for a group mugshot that has absolutely NO RIGHT to look so amazing, with Jin very aptly describing BTS and the effect they have on us with the following:

Oh when I look in the mirror

I’ll melt your heart into 2

I got that superstar glow

[Image Description: BTS posing mug shot style in a black and white still] Source: Youtube
[Image Description: BTS posing mug shot style in a black and white still] Source: Youtube
Suddenly, the chorus bursts out full of color and subsequently fills our lives with it too. The band breaking into a series of moves that show they’ll groove their way straight into making history once again, singing:

Sidestep right left to my beat (heartbeat)

High like the moon, rock with me baby

Know that I got that heat, Let me show you ‘cause talk is cheap

Sidestep right left to my beat

Get it! Let it roll!

Only one other song has filled me up with enough glitter, serotonin and stardust to move the earth, even while I’m bleary with sleep at 8 AM my time. And that is none other than last year’s hit single “Dynamite.”

I don’t think I have enough butter puns to describe the sheer excellence of the track! And do not even get me started about SUGA’s rap. Do not. You’ll never hear the end of it.

The rest of the music video and song have equal amounts colorful, charismatic, suave, and quite possibly the best possible way to confess your love to someone.

For BTS, the object of their affections was revealed in the sweetest homage to their fanbase: forming the word ARMY with their bodies, with the lyrics “Got ARMY right behind us when we say so.”

[Image Description: BTS posing and standing in ways that form the letters ARMY] Source; Youtube
[Image Description: BTS posing and standing in ways that form the letters ARMY] Source; Youtube
If anything, BTS keep on proving that one can be a happy pill and make history side-by-side.

While everyone was trying to make sense of the chaos 2020 had brought with the pandemic, global superstars BTS gave us their album “BE” and made sure to let us know that we weren’t alone.

Dynamite” went on to become a record-breaking, Billboard-chart-topping, Grammy-nominated gargantuan that clearly outran all other competitors in the global music industry by a million miles. Their second single, “Life Goes On,” became the first non-English track to debut on top of Billboard charts.

[Image description: BTS dancing in retro outfits in front of an orange and purple background] Source: Youtube
[Image description: BTS dancing in retro outfits in front of an orange and purple background] Source: Youtube
In the hour since its release, “Butter” has racked up 20 million views already, making it the fastest video in Youtube history to get that amount of views. Let’s not forget “Dynamite” ended up breaking a world record for the fastest music video to reach 100 million views in 24 hours.

Will BTS break their own records once again with “Butter”? Will this be the song that finally gets them a long-deserving GRAMMY award after their snub earlier this year? We’ll see.
But one thing’s for sure, nothing is impossible for these seven wonderful men. With their talent, dedication, hard work, and the love they hold for their fans and passion, the universe has always conspired to work in their favor.

They’ll be performing the song at Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) in two days’ time, so keep an eye out for that

In the meantime, I think I’m going to make pancakes and sidestep right left to the beat while I do so. Looks like the perfect food to have while watching the boys prove once again how nobody’s “butter” than them.

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Little Mix was the first female group to win Best Group at the BRITs, but why did it take this long?

For the first time in the BRIT Awards’ history, a girl group wins the prize for Best British Group. Little Mix, were the ones to finally break this barrier after a decade as a group, but why did it take so long? 

Little Mix is arguably the biggest girl group of the last decade. They have sold 60 million records worldwide which makes them one of the best selling girl groups tied with Destiny’s Child and they are the 5th best selling artist in the UK based on single sales. This year marks the groups 10 year anniversary in which they’ve consistently put out music with 6 albums and 27 singles, which a feat not many girl groups have achieved. And they show no signs of stopping.

This past week they won the BRIT Award for Best British Group, a prize that has never been won by a girl group in the awards 43-year history. This is an amazing achievement, but why did it take over 40 years for a girl group to win? There have been many successful British girl groups in the past including The Spice Girls, but not even them received this recognition. And why did Little Mix have to wait 10 years into their career to win, despite being one of Britain’s most successful artists of the last decade?

One possible reason stands out: misogyny, something Little Mix has faced throughout their careers. 

 Image Description: (left to right) Jade Thirlwall, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Perrie Edwards performing at the X Factor final 2011
[Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards of Little Mix standing in their white gowns with their BRIT Award for Best British Group.] Via: Ken McKay/Rex Features.
Little Mix, who formed on The X Factor in 2011 and went on to be the first group to ever win the talent show and have been the only girl group to win since. They went on to release the hit song Wings, their first of many empowering anthems.

Jade Thirlwall, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards & Jesy Nelson (up until her departure in December 2020),  kept promoting girl power and empowerment over their decade long career with hit singles such as Salute, Power, Woman Like Me and their biggest single to date Shout Out to My Ex from their 4th album Glory Days.

Despite their huge success, Little Mix was ignored in all the awards time after time.

The Glory Days era saw the height of Little Mix’s success, they had a no. 1 single, their album spent five consecutive weeks at no. 1 album and were on tour with Ariana Grande and this is when they first got nominated for Best British Group at the 2017 BRIT Awards. Based on the facts it was undoubtedly that Little Mix would win, no other group nominated had a more successful year.

However, they lost to a male group whose album sales for 4 times less than Little Mix that same year. They went on to be nominated again in 2019 losing out to the same male group despite once again having a bigger year. We’ll never know why exactly Little Mix didn’t win those awards but the fact they kept losing to male groups with far less success speaks volumes.

By looking at the history of who has been nominated and won in this award category, you can help but feel there is misogyny and music snobbery in the process. Often times this category is packed with male groups. On the rare occasions where a female group such as Little Mix or The Spice Girls are nominated, they’re the only ones and do not go on to win.  This is most likely due to snobbery and misogyny towards these groups and their fanbases.

Most often than not,  girl groups or artists that have predominately young female fanbases are not taken seriously. For fans, such as myself, this is extremely frustrating. They write their music, have stellar vocals also can execute immaculate choreography, and all while serving looks! But it feels like the industry just overlooks them for male groups who do the bare minimum.

Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix stood against pink background
[Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix stood against a pink background.] Via @littlemix Instagram
The BRITs have not been the only occasion where Little Mix have experienced the downfalls of being a female in the music industry.  The group have recounted in interviews times they were told to flirt in order to get their songs played on US radio. Jade Thirlwall told ASOS magazine: “We went to a radio event in America, full of VIPs. Someone from the US label said, ‘Go and flirt with all those important men’. I was like, ‘f*k off.’ Why have I got to go in and flirt to get my song on the radio?” 

The group have also faced huge waves of backlash for their attire on stage and in music videos. Not to mention the numerous occasions they’ve scrutinised for their appearance, so much focus being on who they’re dating and false rumours of bad blood in the group. Little Mix has faced so much of what the music industry and media have to offer in terms of sexism. 

Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix all stood dressed in black.
[Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix all stood dressed in black. ] Via @littlemix Instagram
In 2021, Little Mix got nominated for the BRITs Best British Group once again, after a 2020 filled with highs and lows for the group. Their tour got cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they produced their own talent show, released their sixth studio album and said goodbye to one member, Jesy Nelson.

 After all the highs and lows, Little Mix went on to be the third time lucky and finally won the award. Their speech was heartfelt and recounts what they’ve overcome to get to this point. “It’s not easy being a female in the U.K. pop industry. We’ve seen white male dominance, misogyny, sexism, and lack of diversity. We’re proud of how we’ve stuck together, stood for our group, surrounded ourselves with strong women, and are now using our voices more than ever,” Leigh-Anne Pinnock said.

They also used their speech to reflect on their historic win. Jade Thirlwall said: “The fact that a girl band never has won this award really does speak volumes… So this award isn’t just for us. It’s for the Spice Girls, Sugababes, All Saints, Girls Aloud — all of the incredible incredible female bands, this one’s for you.”

Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix sitting in white gowns hugging after winning their BRIT Award for Best British Group.
[Image Description: (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix sitting in white gowns hugging after winning their BRIT Award for Best British Group.] Via @littlemix Instagram
As a fan who has supported Little Mix from the very beginning, their speech evoked so much emotion from me. I found myself crying because I was bursting with pride and overwhelming joy. I was so proud to see them use their platform to call out the misogyny and lack of diversity of the industry. Them shouting out girl groups of the past who also deserved this award just was a beautiful example of what women supporting women should look like. 

This award felt like the recognition Little Mix deserved after a decade of hard work and determination. They have been true to themselves, ignored scrutiny and stuck together to show that girl groups aren’t hyper-sexualized silly puppets and frenemies and they have empowered their fans with music that feels genuine and authentic. 

This win feels like the world and industry are starting to see that Little Mix are more than just another girl group who are having their fleeting moment but talented artists and powerful women within the industry. The girls are here, and they’re here to stay. 

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K-pop Music Pop Culture

Mirani returns with her single “Daisy” and surprises fans with a new sound

Just as spring arrived this year, hip-hop artist Mirani gave fans a fresh single, “Daisy,” to mark the start of a new season in her career.

Though softer in sound and slower in pace than her previous singles, “Daisy” continues to showcase Mirani’s ability to pen thoughtful lyrics with roots deep in meaning and metaphor. Spring is often considered a welcome reprieve from the dark days of winter. While “Daisy” does capture this sentiment, Mirani’s lyrics also include moments in which she questions if she’s deserving of the relief spring can provide.

“Spring has been a complicated symbol for me to deal with, but I think I finally overcame this fear,” Mirani said in an exclusive interview with The Tempest.

Mirani noted she typically finds inspiration for her music in movies and TV dramas. “Writing down these emotions [felt by the characters] helps me come up with my song lyrics,” she shared. However, the emotional journey in “Daisy” is more personal. In fact, the lyrics explore a moment Mirani experienced while on the set for an advertisement. One of the staff presented her with a “beautiful flower,” which she felt she hadn’t earned yet since she had only just finished filming Show Me The Money 9.

“I felt really awkward about the situation. I found myself asking, from the force of habit, ‘Do I deserve this flower?’” Mirani recalled. “Then I realized I’m not really used to these good and ‘fragrant’ things yet, and I tried to express this thought in the song.”

For those of us trying to turn our dreams into a reality, Mirani’s experience is incredibly relatable. It’s easy to feel imposter syndrome once we start to catch even a whiff of success. It’s also easy to compare ourselves to others, to be “jealous of the flowers blooming” and to wish “spring would hurry and pass.” But just like Mirani realizes in “Daisy,” it’s okay to acknowledge when our spring has come.

I asked Mirani if she had any words of encouragement for those of us pursuing our dreams, especially those who are following in her footsteps in the music industry. She said: “I know how hard it is to create something. I believe you are the best and doing just fine no matter what, so keep going. Rooting for you!”

While Mirani’s lyrics are personal to her experience, she wanted the music video to be applicable to anyone. She worked with the director to add more fun into each shot to keep viewers curious and leave the meaning up to interpretation.

“I wanted people to watch it again and see many different factors,” Mirani told me. “I think the outcome turned out great.”

“Daisy” also offered Mirani the opportunity to work with pH-1 again. “I think my voice matches great with pH-1’s voice tone, so I was excited to collaborate with [him] once again,” she said. The two first worked together on Show Me The Money 9, creating hits like “Achoo” and “VVS,” which both peaked in the top five of the Gaon Digital Chart. “VVS” also won Hip-Hop Track of the Year at the 2021 Korean Hip-Hop Awards. A month before her latest single dropped, Mirani signed with AREA, a new label by GroovyRoom in partnership with Jay Park’s H1GHER MUSIC—an exciting continuation of her work with the producer duo that she first started on Show Me The Money 9.

When I asked why she wanted to become an artist, Mirani revealed it was her brother who first introduced her to hip-hop music. She then went on to join a hip-hop circle in college, where she discovered her passion for performing. “I really enjoyed the first moment on the stage, and I decided to be a rapper since then.” Fast forward to April of 2020, Mirani debuted independently with her single “Detective,” joining a growing number of women hip-hop artists and rappers in South Korea.

“I know there aren’t that many recognized female rappers within the scene. And I’ve been deeply thinking about how I can also be part of those influential female rappers,” Mirani expressed to me.

One way Mirani is hoping to add to the genre is by experimenting with her own sound and lyrics. “I’m thinking of working on more diverse genres and themes,” she revealed. Whether this is a hint for a possible upcoming album or her music in general, she wouldn’t say. She did, however, confirm, “This is just the beginning for me.”

This might be just the beginning for Mirani, but with each single, she’s proven to be a fresh, new voice worth keeping an ear out for. Her catchy melodies and contemplative lyrics define her style as simply her own, with “Daisy” adding another layer. As she continues to play with her sound, I can’t wait to see what she puts out next.

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Here’s everything you missed from the Oscars 2021 gala

Did you miss this year’s Oscars? Nothing to fear! We have summed up all the best moments.

 The Academy Awards are usually held in the Dolby Theatre and seat almost 3400 attendees. The event is filled with a jam-packed program that includes star-studded skits and sketches, epic montages, and elaborate in-person musical performances – all with a comedian serving as host. This year’s affair, held on Sunday 25 April 2021 was noticeably more intimate.

For the 2021 gala, all of the theatrics were swapped out for a more subdued evening. Held at the Union Station, the 170 attendees were seated around tables, in the vein of the first few Oscar ceremonies. Musical performances were recorded and aired before the telecast. Skits were paired down to Lil Rel Howery quizzing Andra Day, Daniel Kaluuya, and Glenn Close, who showed off her music knowledge and dance skills. There was no host for the third time in a row, but celebrity presenters galore with Oscar-winning actress and director Regina King kicking off the evening that proved just as historic as the times it was held in.

Here is a list of our breakthroughs and firsts of the night:

1. Daniel Kaluuya makes Britain and Uganda Proud

Oscar winner, Daniel Kaluuya
[Image Description: Daniel Kaluuya poses backstage after his historic Oscar win.] Via The Academy.
As an awards season favorite winning Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA awards, it was no surprise when Daniel Kaluuya took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor at this year’s Academy Awards. His performance as Fred Hampton, deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party was a standout and his acceptance speech proved to be just as memorable.

In an embarrassing yet hilarious moment, he excitedly expressed his appreciation for life and commented, “My mum and my dad… they had sex and now I’m here!” Before that, he made sure to thank “family, friends and everyone I love from Londontown to Kampala” as he became the first Black British actor and the first actor of Ugandan descent to win an Oscar.

2. Best Actor category was the last award presented

This year's Best Actor nominees
[Image Description: The nominees in the Best Actor category at this year’s Academy Awards. From left to right: Riz Ahmed, Steven Yeun, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman and Chadwick Boseman.] Via Variety.
The Best Picture category is often the pièce de résistance of the night and the last award presented. In a rare turn of events and for the first time, the Best Actor category was the last award presented of the evening.

This definitely fueled rumors that the Academy was going to posthumously honor Chadwick Boseman for his final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be for the actor, with the honor of going to Sir Anthony Hopkins for his role in The Father.

3. Honoring the elders

Oscar-winning costume designer, Ann Roth, at work on the set of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
[Image Description: Oscar-winning costume designer Ann Roth, adjusting actress Taylour Paige on the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom] Via IMDB.
As previously mentioned Sir Anthon Hopkins won the Best Actor statue and became the oldest person to win in the Best Actor category at 83 years old. Proving age is just a number, Ann Roth tied in becoming the oldest woman to win an Oscar at the age of 89 for her costume design work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

4. South Africa’s first documentary win

The poster to My Octopus Teacher available on Netflix
[Image Description: Poster of My Octopus Teacher.] Via Netflix.
After winning a slew of awards during award season, My Octopus Teacher was able to wrap its tentacles around the Best Documentary Feature Oscar at the 93rd Academy Awards. In doing so, My Octopus Teacher became the first South African nature documentary to become a Netflix Original and to win an Oscar.

5. South Korea makes history again

Best Supporting Actress winner Yuh-Jung Youn
[Image Description: Yuh-Jung Youn speaking as she accepted her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress..] Via E!
Continuing South Korea’s winning streak after Parasite, Youn Yuh-Jung became the first Korean actor to win an Oscar for her portrayal as the matriarch in one of the 2020s most talked about films, Minari. Youn Yuh-Jung won in the Best Supporting Actress category.

6. First woman of color to win Best Director

Chloe Zhao is the first woman of color to win for Best Director
[Image Description: Director Chloe Zhao accepting the Best Director Oscar for her work on Nomadland.] Via the Academy.
Chloe Zhao graciously accepted the award for Best Director for Nomadland and became the second woman to win the award after Katheryn Bigelow in 2009. She also became the first woman of color and the first Asian, specifically, Chinese woman to win in that category.

7. First time is H.E.R. lucky charm

Best Original Song winner H.E.R.
[Image Description: H.E.R.’s holding her Oscar.] Via Variety.
R&B singer H.E.R. is used to receiving music awards and parlayed that into film when she was not only nominated but won for Best Original Song on the first try. She won for the anthem, Fight for You, featured in the film, Judas and The Black Messiah. This victory also made her first black woman win in this category since Irene Cara in 1983.

8. Black women finally honored in makeup and hair

The first black women to win an Oscar for Best Hair and Makeup
[Image Description: Mia Neal (left), Jamika Wilson (center), and Sergio Lopez-Riviera (right) celebrating their historic win.] Via Variety.
Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson made history on Sunday night after becoming the first black women to receive a nomination and subsequent win in the Best Hair and Makeup category. Their amazing work alongside Sergio Lopez Riviera can be seen in Viola Davis’ transformation in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

9. First animated film to feature a Black character in the lead.

The offical poster for Pixar's laestest animated film, Soul
[Image Description: Poster for Pixar’s ‘Soul’.] Via IMDB.
“It’s been way too long, and I don’t know that we really have a good answer. We’re always looking to reflect as much of the world out there as we can, and we’re happy that it’s finally happened — that we are representing a part of the population that just hasn’t had as much voice in our films up to now.” director Pete Docter said of the why it took so long for Pixar to have a film with a black lead character.

The film is Soul and it follows the journey of Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a music teacher who after an accident reverts back to his soul state. Proving that representation is necessary, the film went on to win Best Animated Feature.

10. All that glitters is not gold but Emerald

Director, writer, actress and producer Emerald Fennell wins at the Oscars
[Image Description: Triple Oscar nominee, Emerald Fennell celebrating her first Oscar win for Best Orignal Screenplay.] Via The Academy.

Having appeared on Call The Midwife and the latest season of The Crown, it is Emerald Fennell’s behind-the-scenes work that has garnered all the Academy’s attention.

Fennell’s feature film debut, Promising Young Woman, showcased Fennell’s talent as she wrote, produced, directed, and even made a cameo in the film. She was nominated in three categories, Best Picture (as a producer), Best Director (becoming the first British woman to receive the recognition), and Best Original Screenplay, which she won. She became the first woman to win in that category since 2008.

While a lot of firsts occurred at the 93rd Academy Awards, these firsts will continue to be seen as groundbreaking until the under-represented are provided equity, in front of and behind the cameras. There is still more ground to be broken in terms of diversity and inclusivity, not only in film but within the academy. Let’s hope that the Academy can continue this upward trajectory in years to come!

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Rina Sawayama has dropped a new ‘Chosen Family’ remix and now I’m crying again

When Rina Sawayama dropped a reimagining of her queer pop ballad “Chosen Family” to celebrate the one-year anniversary of her debut album SAWAYAMA (a.k.a. My Album Of the Year and Always), Pixels everywhere were lying in a pool of their own tears. The remix, a duet with the legendary British musician Elton John, feels like a hopeful relief from a long and difficult year that has taken its toll on communities everywhere. 

During this pandemic, we are collectively grieving and fighting against continuous cycles of racist state-sanctioned violence and displacement of the most vulnerable in our unequal society, from Black youth and immigrant elders to precarious low-wage workers and the incarcerated. When Rina assures us in the pre-chorus, “Settle down, put your bags down / (Ooh) You’re alright now,” the importance of community for resistance and rest, mutual support, and survival strikes me as an important reminder to hold on to during this year, and the months to come. 

SAWAYAMA the record and Rina the artist have come a long way in just a year.

Just last summer, the British-Japanese popstar publicly addressed exclusive and racist music industry standards that disqualified artists like her from competing in major competitions like the Mercury Prize. Though a Japanese citizen, Rina has lived in the U.K. for 26 years. Pixels worldwide trended #SAWAYAMAISBRITISH to support Rina as the British Phonographic Industry (the governing body for major music awards) was criticized for its regressive policies. Ultimately authorities were compelled to make the eligibility criteria more inclusive.

While it remains to be seen whether or not these regulations will create systemic changes benefiting immigrant musicians of color, it’s undeniable that SAWAYAMA is a critically acclaimed game-changing masterpiece that brought us confessional storytelling in the form of stadium anthems (potentially in a post-pandemic paradise). It has launched viral trends, rebirthed itself in Deluxe form with absolutely banging bonus tracks, and led to what is about to be one of the best Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts in recent memory. The crowning glory for SAWAYAMA appeared to be when Rina was nominated for the prestigious Brits Rising Star award

The collaboration with Elton John was a year in the making as well. John has publicly praised the record several times, heralding Rina as the future of pop music that knows no boundaries. He also spoke out in favor of Rina during the Mercury Prize controversy, calling for change. Rina and John bonded over their work and beliefs as queer musicians in pop and their inability to peform heterosexual love songs. It’s unsurprising that they chose to work together on “Chosen Family”, a big, “cheesy” ode to queer families and the belongings we choose when we’re cast out of spaces that were supposed to protect us.  

When the “Chosen Family” single was first released last year, Rina dedicated it to her queer friends who she considered family. The song “is an invitation for anyone that feels that sense of otherness to find their chosen family, where they can truly be themselves and feel loved”. The remix reaffirms this, and both Rina and John emphasize that it is meant to inspire compassion and community in a grieving world. In the re-recorded version, the artists harmonize over an emotional melody, now overflowing thanks to John’s piano accompaniment. The performance video captures the artists singing to each other before a blue backdrop creating a protective bubble-like space. 

While SAWAYAMA traverses through difficult terrains like intergenerational trauma, racism and appropriation, alienation, and climate grief, “Chosen Family” remains its tenderest corner to take refuge in. Over the past year, I have revisited this corner often for inspiration and strength, or just to meditate. I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness for all the friendships that have kept me going this year, the queer intimacies, and opportunities to stand in solidarity with others fighting for a better, braver world: “We don’t need to be related to relate / We don’t need to share genes or a surname / You are, you are / My chosen, chosen family”.

“Chosen Family” also underscores the power of narrative and the power to tell your own story to heal yourself and your communities, “Hand me a pen and I’ll rewrite the pain / When you’re ready, we’ll turn the page together”. This past year, we also mourned the many who lost their lives to the cruelty of capitalist institutions in a pandemic, displaced from their homes, and separated from their families.

We remember to hold space for and tell the stories of queer and trans communities that were subject to disproportionately higher rates of murder and abuse during the pandemic. We remember them in their absence, the truths about how they were hurt, we remember them in their joys and brilliance, and we work to address the traumas in our communities. 

At the end of the day, against the tide of isolation, it is the relief in knowing that “I chose you / You chose me / We’re alright now”. I always cry at these lines because the relief is so great. What a relief that I have my chosen family. 

To sum up, I love both versions of the song. Do I have mixed feelings that Elton John, everyone’s favorite liberal gay white dad/uncle who occasionally says racist things is on the remix? Oh yes. What does his endorsement of Rina say about the future of her sound and political stance in music? This is a separate article on what “mainstreaming” can do to politically conscious artists. For now, I’m interested to see her career progress. Will I be streaming “Chosen Family” the original, now and forever? You already know the answer. 

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Celebrities Pop Culture

Joss Whedon has been accused of abusive behavior yet again

Followed by Ray Fisher’s allegations of abuse of power and misconduct by Joss Whedon, former Buffy the Vampire Slayer stars have come forward with their own experiences of alleged abuse by Joss Whedon. Much of these allegations repeat what others who have worked with Whedon have claimed over the years.

Earlier in July 2020, actor Ray Fisher reported allegations of abuse of power by Joss Whedon on the set of Justice League. He tweeted that Whedon’s behavior on the set was “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable.” These allegations were followed by a subsequent internal investigation launched by WarnerMedia. The statement from the company provided little explanation of the course of action it would pursue. However, Fisher has since refused to appear in any DC films.

On Wednesday 10th February, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy, accused Whedon of abusing his power.

On Wednesday 10th February, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy, accused Whedon of abusing his power. Carpenter has previously claimed that she was “afraid” to go public with her allegations, as it could considerably impact her career. However, in the wake of the MeToo movement and increased awareness and advocacy for women’s rights, she admitted she feels much more confident today coming forward with these allegations. Carpenter recalls being body-shamed by Whedon during her pregnancy and subsequently dropping out of the show. 

Carpenter was motivated to come forward in solidarity with Ray Fisher’s allegations against Whedon that made rounds in the news last summer. Amber Benson who played Tara on Buffy also issued a note of support for Carpenter and backed up Carpenter’s claims regarding Whedon’s behavior. In a tweet, she wrote:

Even Sarah Michelle Geller who played the titular character Buffy Summers came forward in support of her co-stars. In an Instagram post, she stated that while she is proud to be associated with Buffy Summers, she does not want to be associated with Joss Whedon forever. 


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Geller’s partner Freddie Prinze Jr. said in 2003 that his wife has had to deal with a lot of nonsense behind the scenes on the show. We know that Whedon has publicly mocked Geller’s work in the past. He called her work in Cruel Intentions “a porny”, which Geller claimed to be “incredibly hurtful” to her. 

Michelle Trachtenburg, who played Buffy’s younger sister on the show, also asserted that Whedon did not display “appropriate behavior” around her as a teenager. However, Trachtenburg did not provide a detailed account of Whedon’s behavior. However, she did claim that there was a rule saying that Whedon “was not allowed in a room alone with Michelle again”.

Allegations about Whedon’s behavior have been surfacing for a while. The global successes of Marvel’s The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron directed by Whedon resulted in him being brought to direct competitor DC’s Justice League. It was a challenging production that was made worse by Whedon’s “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” behavior according to Fisher.

Whedon has come under great scrutiny in recent years due to allegations of misconduct. He has had to leave several projects such as the Batgirl movie for Warner Bros., Pippa Smith: Grown-Up Detective for Freeform, and most recently The Nevers for HBO Max.

Whedon has yet to respond to the latest allegations made against him and his reps have refused to comment. However, what these recent allegations clarify is that toxic and abusive behavior by those who hold significant power is more prevalent than we imagine.

In the past, young actors were regularly villainized, it was Geller who bore the brunt of fan backlash, whilst Whedon always got a free pass and his career continued to grow. Whedon received praise and appreciation amongst fan circles for interacting with fans regularly through Buffy message boards. On the other hand, Geller was demonized for not accrediting Whedon and all that he did for her career.

In an increasingly evolving cultural climate, many people have come to realize that abusive behavior by those in positions of dominance is unacceptable. Those exploiting their power need to be held accountable. Despite being the victim, it took Carpenter almost a decade to gain the courage to finally share her story.

Abusers can have any gender, but most often in history, it’s been proven to be men who walk away with no consequences. We need to overcome the misogynistic patterns. Instead of being blindsided by the fame and praise of men in positions of power, we need to at the very least hear out the victims and recognize the existence of a pattern. Without this, we continue to fail the future generation of actors and actresses. 

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