Culture Family Life

I sometimes imagine the stories my grandparents would have told me

My grandparents would sit me down and my grandmother would run her hands through my hair lovingly. She would begin to tell me a story that would relieve my sadness. It would be a story that she conjured up in her imagination that always had a sage life lesson I could learn from. Or a character I could relate to. Sometimes the story was a real event that happened when she was younger, and it would somehow fill up the hollowness inside me. 

The stories my grandmother told me would be my place of refuge. Or at least, that is what I imagined they would be.

My grandparents were never a part of my life; they passed away either before I was born or when I too young to remember. I have always felt that the emptiness that I sometimes believe could have been filled by the love of a grandparent.

From the media I consume, to the real-life relationships I witness it seems as though the love of a grandparent is so pure and beautiful, even if it is complicated at times. 

I often feel so disconnected from my identity and my culture. I come from a multi-ethnic racial group in South Africa that is so richly diverse that it was difficult for me to find where I belong within it. I have always felt like an outsider. Our mother tongue never formed fluently in my mouth. I grew up unexposed to the daily life of our cultures and people. For many years, I just let myself be an outcast. I never tried to understand or connect with my culture which is something that I still regret. I can’t help but wonder that a relationship with my grandparents would have helped me to locate myself within my culture and identity. I think that if they told me where I come from and who my people were it would’ve given me roots to ground myself in my culture and experience its beauty and richness to the fullest.

I imagine that our family was a family of storytellers or song-keepers and that my grandparents would have shared these songs and stories with me. As a writer, I am well aware of the power of a story. Ancient civilizations were built around shared stories. Within stories is the ability to bring communities together and to pass down cultural knowledge and traditions. That is why I firmly believe that my grandparents’ stories and songs would have a profound impact on me.

I like to believe the lessons in the stories would have guided me during my darkest hours. The songs would have become what I sing to myself when I need to feel brave. The narrative would have given me insight into myself. I would have been connected to my culture in a much deeper way than I am now. 

I am made up of the wise advice I imagined my grandmother would give me and the warm words she might have said to encourage me. When my parents failed to ease my anxiety, I imagine my grandfather could make the world feel safe for me again. 

Of course, these are all fantasies in my head. I will never know how a real relationship with a grandparent feels. I will never get to hear their songs or stories and pass them down. I will always have this hole in my life. But I have chosen to fill it with my own stories and songs. 

I hope my grandparents are looking down on me, proud of my voice, and the stories I share with the world.

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Aww Nostalgia Movies Pop Culture

Are the Disney live-action remakes necessary?

There’s a lot I don’t understand about the recent slew of live-action remakes from Disney.

The fact that these remakes rarely live up to the original is just a fraction of my confusion. A child seeing live-action Beauty and the Beast may get the same joy as someone who saw the animated version decades ago. I’m not here to deprive future generations of quality entertainment. I just question why their entertainment is watered down remakes of what previous generations got. 

[Image Description: dancing scene from the live-action Beauty and the Beast, with Belle in a yellow dress dancing with the Beast] via Disney.
[Image Description: dancing scene from the live-action Beauty and the Beast, with Belle in a yellow dress dancing with the Beast] via Disney.
The whole point of fairytales is that they’re handed down through folklore and retold over and over again through the generations. Disney themselves adapted these stories from other, far grimmer (pardon the pun) sources. But live-action remakes just aren’t the same as sharing these timeless stories for the sake of entertainment and keeping these narratives alive.

The whole point of fairytales is retelling through the generations.

While I realize that these films may bring a new generation of viewers the same joy as watching the originals, it just feels like Disney wants a repeat box office performance way more than it wants to define the magic of childhood for a whole new generation. 

The fact that the original films are established, iconic classics pushes the bar that much higher. Live-action remakes were bound to be received more critically with constant comparisons being made to the original.

They seem to openly invite these comparisons because most of the live-actions are also shot-by-shot remakes of the original. This means that the pleasure a lot of us derive from watching these remakes are driven by nostalgia for the original movies. If the goal of remaking a cinematic classic is to update the content for an all-new audience, polish up some plot inconsistencies, and improve the viewing experience and the story as a whole, then why would you choose to make an identical movie?

[Image Description: photo of baby Simba from "The Lion KIng"] via Disney.
[Image Description: photo of baby Simba from “The Lion KIng”] via Disney.

Most live-actions are shot-by-shot remakes of the original

At their best, these movies are nostalgic and give us new renditions of Disney songs. At their worst, they make us miss the originals and do a disservice to the classics. For example – the genie in Aladdin will always be Robin Williams. While Will Smith is great, funny, and seems to embody the same energy that the genie’s known for, he just can’t live up to the genie that Robin Williams breathed life and soul into.

The live-action remake should have had a brand new concept that Will Smith could truly make his own…if their intention was for a new generation of audiences to experience the magic of the original Aladdin.

These movies also don’t usually add value to the story in any way. Jon Favreau’s Lion King (2019) wasn’t live-action but a more realistic animation. Because the flaw in the beloved 1994 classic was that the lions weren’t realistic enough…..?

While technically sophisticated, the realistic animals didn’t have the same emotional capacity as the original, big-eyed characterization. Sure, we can see each individual strand of fur, but it also feels like a lucid dream when the Animal Planet lion cub’s words don’t quite synchronize with his mouth movements.

And don’t even get me started on the mess Mulan was

[Image Description: photo of Mulan dressed in red and holding a sword] via Disney.
[Image Description: photo of Mulan dressed in red and holding a sword] via Disney.
On other hand, the Frozen series, Moana, Tangled, and The Princess and the Frog are all Disney films released in recent memory that aren’t remakes and were hugely successful.

Audiences want to experience new stories

The success Disney found with its recent original content proves that audiences want to experience new stories. The reception of the first Polynesian princess Moana is proof of that. Continuing on expanding their range and breadth of storytelling to include better representations of other cultures can only improve the success of Disney worldwide.

For those of you saying “of course Disney’s just doing it for the money! It’s a huge corporation, what do you expect?” I say, it just seems like a poor use of resources. All the money that went into the live-actions are a far riskier investment than developing original material. One need only look at the misguided attempt at a Cats movie as an example. What started off as a (probably) well-intentioned project to make the Broadway play more accessible to the masses. quickly turned into the stuff of nightmares. 

I’ve come to accept that Disney remakes are here to stay. All I ask is that maybe they try to build on the legacy of the original to make it stronger instead of profiting off nostalgia.

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Family Life

My grandfather showed me the power of stories and the value of my own

When I was a child, my family would travel to visit our relatives in India every summer. For the most part, I dreaded these trips. We would fly for 20 hours to spend weeks in the sweltering Kerala heat, and sometimes I’d wonder whether it was worth it. But it always was.

There was always one person in particular whom I looked forward to seeing again.

Traveling to meet my grandfather was always the highlight of our Indian trips for me. It still is. When my siblings and I visited my grandparents, we would sit by his feet as he told us stories. His words held our attention for hours, often late into the night.

He’d reminisce about his childhood, recount traditional folktales, and summarize deep philosophical narratives that somehow became palatable to our young minds.

He was always armed with the perfect story.

Once, when I complained to him about my grades, he smiled and told me about the lengths my father would go to hide his bad grades as a child. These stories and so many others have formed my warmest childhood memories, ones I’ll cherish forever.


The last time we were in India, our schedule was packed and we went almost the whole visit without a story from my grandfather. So on the last night, my siblings and I sat on the porch, asking for just one story before we left. But he surprised us and flipped the script.

This time, he asked us to tell him a story. My sister and I glanced at each other and laughed. We told him we didn’t have any stories to tell, that all the stories we knew were his.

He insisted. “Just tell me something that you did or something that happened to you. I want to hear what you have to say.”

This was perhaps the first time that someone had expressed genuine interest in my narrative. My parents had always been there for me when I wanted to talk, but this was different. When I was little, I didn’t entirely realize the power that my grandfather’s stories had; I just knew that they meant everything to me. Now the man whose stories had defined my childhood wanted to hear mine.

Listening to his stories was only half the journey; the other half was understanding that mine has just as much power.

It took me years to understand, but my grandfather’s stories didn’t just carry strong messages and morals. They were power themselves. I am so lucky to have my grandfather in my life. To have someone who taught me the importance of my narrative, even the stories I believed to be mundane. But the same can’t be said for everyone.

In our society, it’s easy to fall into the oppressive idea that only some stories matter, that no one wants to hear yours. But that’s simply not true. Each of the narratives that we consume helps to form our worldview. But so do the ones we don’t hear. And narratives we don’t hear are exactly the ones we need to be talking about – the ones that have been unjustly devalued.

I finally understand the value of my narrative, and I couldn’t have done it without my grandfather. Even as I sit here and write this piece, I owe it all to him. The confidence I have to put my stories out in the public for all to view, I owe to him. I don’t think that I’ve ever told him how much I value him, his stories. How he’s empowered me to claim my voice. I guess this is my way of thanking him.

Movies Pop Culture

“Motherless Brooklyn” shows exactly why disabled people need to tell our own stories

I’ll give you three words: representation in storytelling. It’s necessary, it’s important, and — when done right — it can be life-changing. We’ve talked about it before.

In an industry (and a society) hell-bent on erasure and uniformity, surely you’d assume that it could only ever be a good thing. Edward Norton, in his 2019 adaptation of Motherless Brooklyn, certainly seemed to think so.

Except … well. Sorry to burst your bubble, but there absolutely is a wrong way to go about it — and this is why:

Activist Stella Young coined the phrase ‘inspiration porn’ to describe the troubling trend of fetishizing the struggles of people with disabilities, usually for the benefit of those without them. It’s an irresponsible and dangerous pattern that I’ve seen all too frequently. It actually leads to misrepresentation and usually stems from a lack of self-advocacy.

And as a disabled person, I’m tired of it.

Many people who know me know that I live with Tourette Syndrome. But even these people often have an extremely misguided (and harmful) understanding of what that means. And movies like Motherless Brooklyn are amplifying the problem.

Motherless Brooklyn follows the story of a detective who is determined to investigate the circumstances around his mentor’s murder. Along the way, he meets a woman and falls in love — and together, they uncover some shady political secrets. Seems innocuous enough — but that’s not the part I’m concerned with.

The main character in this film — starring, written, directed, AND produced by Norton — is Lionel Essrog, a PI who has Tourette’s. You might have a basic awareness of the disorder: a neurological condition characterized by motor and vocal tics. But it has real physical repercussions, too.

Unintentional self-injury and chronic fatigue due to muscle exhaustion are constant. Because of my tics, I have difficulty performing many tasks that require complex use of my hands: everything from braiding my hair to playing the piano. And in many of us with Tourette’s, motor skills are poor and often performed improperly — aside from those that are impacted by our tics, we also tend to have a general inability to connect to and process how our bodies work. As a child, I damaged my teeth because I didn’t swallow liquids properly. I have had to consciously teach myself how to lift my feet correctly when I walk — and I often still get it wrong.

So to hear Norton — an able-bodied artist — reduce Tourette Syndrome to “twitching and shouting” is, quite frankly, insulting.

First of all, even these symptoms are more complex than this movie makes them seem. Motor tics aren’t so much “twitching” as they are tensing, straining, and even jumping. And vocal tics aren’t usually repetitions of random words, as Norton seems to believe. They can include things like humming, coughing, squeaking, and the slow, deliberate sounding out of syllables. (Sometimes I’ll even ‘write’ something I’ve said with an object I’m holding.) They NEVER (for the vast majority of us) include — as an incredible number of people seem to believe — compulsive, unrestrained swearing.

(Looking at you here, Norton. When I swear, it’s because I have the manners of a sailor. Please learn the difference.)

“It’s like an itch that has to be scratched.” Great explanation there, Norton. It’s almost like that’s exactly how you’ve heard someone try to describe it to you. Because you don’t actually know how it feels. You have no comparison for the physical signals — the unbearable sensation of emptiness in your joints and muscles when they finally relax. And you never will.

Aside from lazy research — wherein much of what his character experiences actually represents symptoms of other conditions; including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Autism Spectrum Disorder — Norton has also managed to include an incredible number of damaging, overused disability tropes in the dialogue and storyline, including:

1) Idealizing your cool, abled friends for accepting you or ‘seeing past’ your disability

Deadpool holds his hands against his face in a sarcastic pose.
[Image description: Deadpool holds his hands against his face in a sarcastic pose.] Via Scified.
We don’t need abled people to ‘save’ us.

2) Abled people finding a way to make your symptoms useful

A figure in medieval robes kneels on a hill. Image text reads, "I live to serve you only, my queen."
[Image description: A figure in medieval robes kneels on a hill. Image text reads, “I live to serve you only, my queen.”] Via Make a Meme.
We don’t exist to serve you.

3) The ‘tortured intellectual’ trope

A man with a stern expression sits in front of a typewriter, smoking a pipe.
[Image description: A man with a stern expression sits in front of a typewriter, smoking a pipe.] Via Jezebel.
Making medical choices to relieve our symptoms is valid and okay — yes, even if it means our ‘special gifts’ are sacrificed in the process.

4) The awkward, nervous disabled guy who can’t talk to girls

A man (Jordan Peele) looks to the side. Sweat is pouring down his face.
[Image description: A man looks to the side. Sweat is pouring down his face.] Via Imgflip.
Disabled adults who are so inclined are perfectly capable of flirting, dating, and having a sex life. We aren’t awkward teenagers in a rom-com.

5) Abled people knowing best and helping us ‘overcome’ our limitations

A woman (Lindsay Lohan) looks ahead with a serious expression. Image text reads, "... the limit does not exist."
[Image description: A woman looks ahead with a serious expression. Image text reads, “… the limit does not exist.”] Via Logical Resources.
When a disabled person says “I can’t do this … It’s not a good idea” — as Norton’s character does — RESPECT IT. They know better than you on this, I promise.

6) Poeticizing/romanticizing our struggles

A boy wearing headphones is squealing with his hands in the air.
[Image description: A boy wearing headphones is squealing with his hands in the air.] Via Know Your Meme.
Motherless Brooklyn describes disability as being like music because, in both cases, it’s “taking over you.” So, let me get this straight — tortured artist = disabled person? I don’t think so.

7) A mother’s love cures all

Bill Nye stands in front of a backdrop of the sky. Image text reads, "That makes no fucking sense."
[Image description: Bill Nye stands in front of a backdrop of the sky. Image text reads, “That makes no fucking sense.”] Via Know Your Meme.
You can’t love away a disability. Also, why would you want to? That’s kinda weird, to be honest.

I could go on (and on and on).

In an interview about the film, Norton described what he liked about characters like Lionel. “The character is a great character because of all of the complexity of his humanity that he shows you was there despite the condition.”

Like … is this news to abled people?

“He doesn’t make him a hero because he had the condition, he makes him a hero because he refused to be defined by the condition.” For one, we aren’t ‘defining’ ourselves by anything — but we are prioritizing our bodies and accepting our own individual limits. Also, you ARE defining us! You are setting the standard for how we (and our conditions) are understood, perceived, and treated. And worst of all, you’re not even doing it correctly.

In his creation of Motherless Brooklyn, Norton’s actions are actually in line with the abusers of power the movie intends to speak against — wherein white, abled men playing dress-up with delusions of grandeur and trench coats presume to speak and set the standards for the rest of us.

So maybe it’s time we got to tell our own stories. After all, someone’s got to do it properly.


Your twenties may have been the best years of your life; mine were drowned out by war

Our twenties are the years that everyone raves about – the time between being a carefree kid and a responsible adult. It’s the time one often gets their first taste of independence. You’re figuring out who you are, and everything is uncertain and exciting. Disappointments and failure will most definitely be a part of it all, but you can take it in stride. I always imagined my twenties would be that way, full of life, experiences, and fascinating stories. But, I was wrong.

A month after my 20th birthday, a war broke out in Libya. I’m saying goodbye to my twenties soon, and I don’t know how to feel about it. The 2011 revolution started with hope – people fought for their dreams of a brighter future. But that hope was quickly drowned out by darker notions.

By the end of 2012, a new chapter had begun in Benghazi. A chapter characterized by chaos, kidnapping, murder, bombs, and gunfire. Being alive under those circumstances felt heavy, and things progressively got worse.

I can’t say it’s over, I can’t say it’s still ongoing, I can’t really explain it at all. The last decade has managed to make us people we never thought we could be.

War only brings suffering. For years now, the war has stolen souls, destroyed houses, and broken hearts. Behind each door, a sad story is being told, and the more closely you look around, the more you see the depth and scope of the destruction.

After drowning in uncertainty for years and losing track while the counting days, I finally decided to be the one that writes my story. Letting the war steal what remained of my desire to live wasn’t working anymore – I deserved better than that. I wanted to have a better story to tell in my seventies, if I ever lived that long.

I decided to stop following the news entirely. It wasn’t easy at first, denying that reality, but I knew it had to be done. I found myself feeling more energetic. I started doing some volunteer work and made a point of spreading positivity by any means I could. I could bring hope to people, draw smiles upon their faces, and focus on the sweeter things in life.

Life wasn’t perfect, but it seemed brighter than ever. Brighter than war.

Even when my foreign friends asked me about the political situation in Libya, I smiled and replied: “You know, I’m not the right person to ask, I don’t follow the news.” They thought I was being careless, and maybe I was. But what I knew for certain was that if the war was not ending, then that was my attempt at ending it in my own way.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was talking about a Syrian series, and I wanted to check it out. I could relate to everything about it, in a weird, scary way. The sounds of bombs destroying buildings. The fear, dissipating into an almost gray dullness that painted everyone’s faces.  Knowing that, yes, you are breathing, and you are, in fact, alive, but you’re inhaling the very smoke from the rubble of the war that has stolen years that belonged to you and the people you love.

I realized that as hard as I tried to block it all out, there was no use. You can’t just erase memories and events that made you who you are. So, now, I choose to remember.

War still claims lives, breaks hearts, and overburdens souls. Yet, it taught me one life-changing lesson: we’re not capable of changing what’s forcibly happened, but we can change the way we deal with it. I can’t give life back to those who lost theirs, I can’t rebuild the destroyed souls and houses, I can’t act like nothing has happened or pretend to be someone else. But I absolutely can be the light.

Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
Movie Reviews Fashion Movies Lookbook

Here’s how “Jojo Rabbit” uses bright colors to shock you back to reality

The traditional colors of ‘history’ are black and white. 

It’s easy to forget that the color and vibrancy of our present-day images are a relatively new color scheme.

Although color photography was first invented in the early years of the twentieth century, the medium wasn’t truly accepted until well into the 1970s. The trepidation to adapt to color photography stemmed from the highly unstable pigmentation of early color photographs, making them difficult to conserve.

After the acceptance of the medium in the ’70s, however, its popularity quickly spread. This means that many events, even in fairly recent history, remain in a black-and-white hue.

Images from the Holocaust, the battles, and recordings of Nazi Germany all seem much deeper in the past than they truly are. 

In addition to these monochrome records, there’s also a bleakness associated with war movies, even if they are in full color. Naturally, the subject itself is far from cheery, but there’s something about the overall dreariness that permeates traditional war films that make them feel far removed from our everyday lives. 

Taika Waititi overturns this expectation in his anti-hate satire of Nazi Germany that is brimming with the fashion, color, and vitality of German life during the Second World War. 

It’s common knowledge now that major fashion houses have had ties to Nazi Germany, even prompting an apology from Hugo Boss for their production of Nazi uniforms. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that life for a young German boy, a member of the Hitler Youth, wasn’t all in grayscale…but somehow it is. 

Buxom Cosmetics

The color and fashion that Jojo Rabbit brings to Nazi Germany make the extent of Nazi crimes that much more indigestible because it suddenly feels much closer to our present day.

As an audience member, it was jarring to see a well lit, bright, vibrant account of brutality and rampant anti-Semitism. 

Young Jojo, indoctrinated to the Nazi agenda, and subscribing to a horrifyingly prejudiced world view while still seeing the world with all the vibrancy and innocence of childhood, is a reminder that we are never too far away from repeating the cruelest periods of human history.

By distancing ourselves from our pasts, we make it easier for ourselves to repeat our past mistakes.

Award-winning costume designer for Jojo Rabbit Mayes C. Rubeo remarks that Rosie’s (Jojo’s mother, played by Scarlett Johansson) signature spectator shoes, which are ultimately integral to the most heartbreaking scene in the film, were inspired by the fact that, “in the 30s and early 40s, the most popular films were musicals. It was all about dancing and jazz.” 

What a strange reality to think about.

Time is not in fact linear, and the golden age of Hollywood musicals happened alongside a world war, and the era in which female pants came into fashion (although they were largely inaccessible to the majority of women).

Still from Jojo Rabbit (2019). A pair of red and white lace-up spectator shoes in the background behind a young boy's head as he turns in the direction of the shoes.
[Image description: Still from Jojo Rabbit (2019). A pair of red and white lace-up spectator shoes in the background behind a young boy’s head as he turns in the direction of the shoes.] Via IMDb.

The film subtly concentrates more vitality and color into the empathetic characters masquerading as Nazis to escape prosecution, including Rosie and Captain Klenzendorf. The Captain’s self-designed, flamboyant war attire in his final scenes is reminiscent of the same verve that Rosie represents. Both characters, at varying points in the film, shield the young, Jewish Elsa from being discovered.

Color and fashion become a weapon for the empathetic, compassionate characters of the film to emit more light in small but powerful ways, the only way they could show resistance without their loyalties being questioned.

Still from Jojo Rabbit (2019). A man in a uniform, red cape, long red fringe on his sleeves, and a bejewelled helmet with feathers on it stands with a cigarette in his mouth and a gun in both hands. Behind him a man stands in a similarly customised uniform staring into the distance.
[Image description: Still from Jojo Rabbit (2019). A man in a uniform, red cape, long red fringe on his sleeves, and a bejeweled helmet with feathers on it stands with a cigarette in his mouth and a gun in both hands. Behind him a man stands in a similarly customized uniform staring into the distance.] Via IMDb.

Jojo Rabbit expertly leverages period-accurate fashion to not only create a world that fully absorbs you into the folds of its color, humor, heartbreak, and monstrosity but also makes a point about how history should be consumed and represented.  

We make history every single day. So to look back at history as an entity that has been extracted from a backdrop of cultural and social significance forces these events into a vacuum.

Jojo Rabbit is a jarring, visually magnificent reminder of the culture and color that was the backdrop of one of the darkest periods in our shared global history.  

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Relationship expert Iris Krasnow unravels the secrets of real intimacy

Iris Krasnow is a journalist, storyteller, friend, mother, wife, and my professor.

I first met Krasnow when I was a freshman in college. She was my professor for an introductory writing class in which I had written a personal essay about ghosting for my final assignment. Looking back at this piece, it might have been more of a rant, but nonetheless this was one of the first times that I felt heard through my writing. She let me write candidly about the space in-between the lines of nurturing and insufficient relationships. She let me grow. 

Krasnow is curious, compassionate, and the author of seven best-selling books all about intimate relationships. Her book Sex After… Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes is the self-help book that has been selected for The Tempest’s Reading Challenge this year and just this past April she published Camp Girls: Fireside Lessons on Friendship, Courage, and Loyalty.

For me, Krasnow is a defining voice of reason for anything in the periphery of relationships, communication, love, and womanhood. Each of her books revolves around personal growth in conjunction with intimate relationships. Sex After offers a series of compelling, and reliable, insights about how to build an intimate relationship, whether that be romantically or with family and friends. The vitality of any relationship is dependent on love and commitment. Basically, true love is found within emotionality. That is, your ability to relate to another person and to enhance their experiences. It is not always about lust. But I’d say that it is somewhat about longing, though. 

This longing could be found within commitment. Each chapter in Sex After focuses on some major life event or change being thrown suddenly onto a couple and ultimately how they persevere. She talks to breast cancer survivors, widows, women who came out later in life, and couples who have experienced infidelity. Each time they tackle the problem, make it their own, and connect through mind, body, and soul along the way. Sure, almost always they also go through the stages of despair and agony, but more often than not these couples do come out stronger and more in love than they were before. This is all a result of trust and reliability. Through this combined process of healing, people, especially women, begin to feel validated. And validation, to me, is an extremely close step towards genuine intimacy.

The female growth cycle seems to be evergreen in her writing. Each character becomes sexier and more alive with every turn of the page. Krasnow’s in-depth reporting and research explores sexuality credibly in real-time and ensures understanding on nearly every level—for nearly every emotion or phase of bodily awakening. 

I love the emphasis that she places on non-sexual love, too, which is why I find so much comfort in her recent book Camp Girls. There is truly nothing like the solace we find in conversations with friends about things along every dotted line in the spectrum. Together, Krasnow makes clear, we can manifest the ellipsis while gaining lessons that are impossible to replicate without the connected experiences that we share with those who are growing and learning just the same by our side. These relationships maintain incredible intimacy, as well as a shoulder to lean on, through allegiance, sympathy, care, and exploration. Krasnow shares that her friends help her feel stronger, more in tune with inner-self, and that hours together feel like seconds while memories from decades ago feel like yesterday. Their company keeps her young, feisty, and in love. 

One notion that I’ve learned from Iris Krasnow that has stuck with me is the idea that you have to be your own soulmate. You will never have the capacity to love someone else, or to believe that another person loves you, unless you love yourself first.

Real intimacy is found after unraveling the layers and free-falling into the depths that you alone locate. With compelling words, Iris Krasnow reminds women of every generation that we must remain honest with our raw selves and loyal to those we grace, and are graced, with companionship. 

Big news: I will be going live with Iris Krasnow herself on The Tempest Instagram (@WeAreTheTempest) on Thursday, May 21, at 12pm EST. We’ll have a candid conversation about love, sex, and everything in between! Join us and come ask Iris your questions.
Movies Pop Culture

I’m a feminist and I think all-female reboots are completely missing the point

Okay, I have feelings about all-female reboots.

Equal representation is a loaded topic. In some cases it feels like we’re all at different points in the same conversation. When it comes to entertainment, however, what we as an audience deserve seems easy enough: entertaining content that truthfully depicts our communities, correctly represents us, and tells our stories in new, inventive ways. 

Entertainment needs to be more aware of its influence, not in terms of box office and value for money but as the makers of culture and a method through which we record our shared histories.  

The conversation on equality and representation has hit its peak in Hollywood with the recent guilty verdict of Harvey Weinstein, the aftermath of the MeToo movement, the continuous backlash to awards nominations, as well as more positive changes such as Parasite’s sweeping win at the Oscars and a slew of films that have given us a glimpse into what more inclusive cinema could look like.  

The most confusing recent trend that the dialogue of equality has brought upon us is all-female reboots. This is not a comment on the movies themselves but a comment on the logic behind their existence.

Here’s what I think: gender-flipping well-known movies that had a predominantly male cast in the interest of telling female stories, or to preach equal representation, are missing the entire point. 

All-female reboots seem more like a lazy rewriting of history, for an audience that has already seen the same story, by a studio that hopes the remake will bring in the same box office success as the original. But equality of the genders isn’t about replacing one with the other the way that all-female reboots seem to imply.

I remember watching Ocean’s 8 in cinemas and wondering who this movie was for. I was already a fan of Ocean’s 11 and this wasn’t so much inspired by the original story as it was ripping off the exact same storyline – it was also simultaneously a continuation of the series because, for whatever reason, the central protagonist had to be Danny Ocean’s sister?

The only real difference between Ocean’s 8 and Ocean’s 11 was that Ocean’s 11 had all the perks of being an original film with a well thought out plot. The big twist ending for Ocean’s 8 on the other hand, brought back one of the original (male) cast members, Qin Shaobo, for a sequence where he steals their actual target for them. This one scene where he singlehandedly steals all of their loot just serves to discredit the female characters’ efforts over the course of the movie and makes the whole point of the all-female reboot murkier still. To add insult to injury the movie assembled an all-star cast that could’ve made a brilliant film. All they needed was great content.

Hollywood needs to pour its effort and money into telling stories from a perspective that has been largely ignored, not rehashing the same story and taping a different gender on the front cover.

There have been plenty of sensational films that took the box-office by storm over the years that have been loved by all audiences, regardless of gender – Hustlers, Bridesmaids, Bombshell, Hidden Figures, Booksmart, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, Mystic Pizza are just a few. Each of these movies, even remakes of classics like Little Women, took the opportunity to tell a side of a story that wasn’t always visible on the big screen. They told stories from the female perspective about females where femininity was a given, not a plot-point. 

Organic representation takes more than just casting diverse people for the sake of diversity. True representation will come when there is equal opportunity for all, regardless of gender, race, and sexuality to own their stories and take part in every step of the process of sharing them, from scripts to the screen.   

Until then, Hollywood needs to put new experiences and perspectives forward and not just churn out afterthought reassessments of movies from the past. The lasting effects of a film, at the end of the day, will be based on its own merit and not on the political statement it tries to make

All-female reboots of existing movies are a cop-out from actually delving into female stories. The conversation about the representation of all genders, races, sexualities, abilities and everything else that makes the human experience distinct and unique is now more open than ever. Studios funding projects that swap male characters for females only miss the point of actually telling stories about women.

They need to stop putting females in male shoes and just give them the opportunity to wear their own.

Comics Pop Culture

I used to love reading Archie comics as a kid, until I recognized the harm they’re doing

I used to be a huge Archie Comics fan. I got it from my dad, who grew up reading a whole lot of comics about the Riverdale gang. There was a whole bunch of comics that he passed down to me and I devoured them. I read a lot of the content and didn’t think twice about much of it. Now though, I don’t read Archie Comics much anymore. The material feels dated to me.

The jokes in these comics are largely predictable. I’ve read Archie Comics dating back decades, thanks to my dad’s extensive collection. The sense of humor is by and large the same now as it was 50 years ago.

But something else has started bothering me in recent years. There seems to be a pattern of chauvinistic, sexist, toxic masculinity in them that’s being written off as funny. And I don’t know how that is still okay.

Some of the themes of Archie Comics leave me wanting to throw them out the window. Now I know this is a stronger reaction than a funny children’s comic is supposed to warrant, but I can’t believe these stories are still being written. Here are some of the themes that really need to stop:

1. Betty’s desperation to win Archie’s affection 

image description: A comic strip showing Betty repairing Archie's car while he asks her to hurry so Veronica isn't kept waiting
[Image description: A comic strip showing Betty repairing Archie’s car while he asks her to hurry so Veronica isn’t kept waiting.] Via Archie Comics
Something a lot of Betty’s stories revolve around is being a doormat for Archie. She’ll basically do anything it takes to get his attention. Fixing his car, helping him with homework, cooking for him, and helping him in any other way she possibly could, only to be casually thanked and then left behind for Veronica. And in the stories where Archie comes back to her in the end, it’s usually because Veronica rejected him. The only thing consistent is that she is never his first choice. And yet story after story we keep seeing her chasing after him.

2. Betty and Veronica are best friends, until Archie comes along

image description: a comic strip
[Image description: A comic strip of Betty and Veronica fighting over Archie.] Via Betty and Veronica Digest
The competition between Betty and Veronica goes completely against the idea of them being best friends. There are stories where they are shown to be doing great things for each other, and then others where Veronica is being catty and putting Betty down and they’re having fights over Archie. And these are best friends? You can’t portray girls acting like this anymore. And there are often stories that will end with them declaring that no matter what either of them achieves, winning Archie’s affection is the only “real prize” that matters.

image description: a comic strip from an Archie comic
[Image description: A comic strip about Miss Riverdale.] Via Archie Comics
image description: Archie comic strip
[Image description: Archie comic strip about girls competing for boys] Via Archie Comics
image description: a strip from Archie comics
[Image description: A strip from Archie comics about boys being more important than prizes.] Via Archie Comics

3. Archie lets two girls openly fight over him while still dating other girls

image description: a page from an Archie comic
[Image description: Archie being an asshole to Betty.] Via Archie Comics Digest
This main character is an open playboy. He knows that there are two girls who are best friends that are constantly fighting for him; he lets it happen without trying to stop it and still goes around drooling over any girl he can and dating anyone that would date him. And yet he is still supposed to be the adorable nice guy.

4. There are often sexist comments and these are sometimes the whole punchline

image description: A panel from an Archie comic
[Image description: A misogynist panel from an Archie comic.] Via Archie Comics
There are some constantly recurring themes in the comic that irritate me to no end: the toxic masculinity, the misogyny and the plain disrespect. Themes that clearly the writers have been carrying forward since the beginning of the comics and even now, in this day and age, don’t make any attempt to renew or change.

The male characters very often make sexist comments about girls, often insulting women who don’t look like Barbie dolls, and hold old-fashioned gender stereotypes and ideas. The story will rarely do anything to change this.

I honestly don’t see how this comic book series is still going and who is letting this go unchecked. This is a pretty famous series. They should use fame to educate, not insult. I promise you that your current readers are going to appreciate it, because I for one do not want to keep picking up comic books that I used to love and keep getting offended by sexist punchlines and chauvinistic attitudes that would do better to be left behind in the 40’s.

image description: comic strip from Archie comics
[Image description: A comic strip about girls not rooting for other girls.] Via Archie Comics Digest
Comic books, especially iconic ones, need to do better. Spread healthy ideas about friendships and relationships. In this day and age they still write about fighting over boys, letting a guy use you or valuing a guy more than your friend, and continue to draw girls with one body type unless they’re being made fun of or being shown as unattractive.

image description: a comic strip showing Archie and a friend making fun of ugly girls
[Image description: A comic strip showing Archie and a friend making fun of ugly girls.] Via Archie Comics
A lot of their readers are teenagers and if you portray teenagers behaving this way without any hesitation, you will either raise a readership that grows up thinking these toxic behaviors are how things are supposed to be, or male chauvinists who chuckle at these jokes wishing that’s how things were.

Or in my case, you’ll lose faithful readers altogether.

TV Shows Movies Pop Culture

My depression makes it impossible for me to watch dystopian sci-fi shows like Black Mirror and here’s why

I need to issue an apology to my best friend for that one time we watched an episode of Black Mirror.

She had already seen all available episodes of the show whereas I had avoided it. However this evening, we were having a grand old time showing each other videos and episodes of tv shows the other hadn’t seen yet and so when she suggested Black Mirror, I said yes. I had heard positive feedback, even if part of that feedback focused on how desolate the show was.

We watched just one episode and it wasn’t even that tragic relative to the others, but after this episode, I spiraled into a brief depressive crisis. Oh my goodness, I thought, there’s no hope for humanity, we’re all awful, we’re all doomed, what’s the point of even trying?

A birds-eye view of a black, white, and gray spiral.
Via [Image description: A birds-eye view of a black, white, and gray spiral.]
A good time was had by none.

I tend to respond very strongly to what I watch. Some might call it being overly empathetic to fictional characters. I am a sympathetic crier in response to those I see on the screen, and I get disproportionately mad on behalf of characters when it comes to injustice. So when a dystopian show like Black Mirror comes along, I take it perhaps a little too seriously. Balance that with walking the tightrope of depression and anxiety, and it turns out a show like Black Mirror and a girl like me do not make a healthy fit.

There are a lot of dystopian shows and movies out there of this vein, that in some ways act as a warning for humanity. A great degree of popular series tend to focus on the destruction of humanity. Maybe humans are needing to be shot into space because we have neglected this earth. Maybe a zombie apocalypse has broken out because we have neglected one another. Maybe robots have have finally taken over because we have neglected our own decision making skills. The message is consistent: we are destroying ourselves and our world and hurtling towards a doom of our own making.

The stories we tell are shaped by us as we are by them. The stories that resonate with us say something about us. If there is an uptick in the popularity of apocalyptic tales, maybe we really are more fearful of our own demise than ever before, and these shows act as a warning or a wakeup call.

Entertainment and art serve different purposes for different people. For some, these dystopian shows are a call to action. “Wake up!” they shout, “and do something to prevent this.” Or maybe they show the inevitable, and instead say “this is your future, deal with it.” Or perhaps people don’t see these shows as indicative of what’s to come at all, but just a way to be entertained.

When I take in fictional media about how we have doomed ourselves, I tend to walk away feeling dejected. The world is horrible, people are horrible, everything is horrible. These sentiments fuel my depression (as if it wasn’t already self-sustaining), and leave me feeling hopeless and empty. When this is the case, instead of taking these warnings as cues, I curl into a ball and wonder what the point is anyways. Maybe this is a sign of a weak mind or a weak will, but it’s where I’m at right now.

This rabbit hole is at the very least unproductive. Even if there is a part of me that feels like I need to do something to make the world better, it drowns in despair. As such, I tend to stay away from these dystopian stories of desolation. Until recently, I tended to beat myself up over this. Does this mean I can’t handle hard truths? There is a performance to everything, and perhaps the performance of being an intellectual and someone who cares about pain in the world means taking in inconvenient truths.

But what is performance without productivity? What is useful about the performance is it takes away from our ability to actually be useful?

Right now, for me, it comes down to productivity. If I am at a point right now where I need to fuel myself with hopeful stories instead of tragic ones, than that’s what I need to do. There is difference between what is performative and what is productive. It is imperative we understand the difference for each of us.

Comics TV Shows Pop Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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