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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Celebrities Movies Pop Culture

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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Tech Now + Beyond

Pakistan’s app-banning streak is both a personal and political attack

As a Pakistani woman, I have always viewed social media as a safe haven of sorts where I can share my views and opinions without being sidelined. In a country where women are so often marginalized and subjected to misogynistic trends, social media offers us a form of refuge to express our very constrained freedom. And this is exactly why Pakistan’s latest bans on dating apps and Tik Tok left me appalled. To me, these bans and blocks signify a further limitation of rights for women and the prevalence of sexism and misogyny in the country.

Recently, Tinder, Grindr and other similar dating apps were blocked for disseminating immoral content. This was followed by a ban on Tik Tok as well. According to Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), notices were issued to the five dating apps, and companies failed to respond within the stipulated time. 

The decision was made to prevent the circulation of ‘immoral and obscene content’. Put simply, the ban on certain apps was imposed to appease the conservative factions of the country. 

Pakistan has had a long history of internet/social media bans and blocks. In recent years, the government has banned YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook as well. Content is monitored and often removed if it is deemed immoral by the authorities. 

The recent blocks have sparked a renewed conversation about the government’s attempts to control the flow of ideas on the internet. Restrictions on social media sites are normalizing censorship. Increased regulation is limiting free speech and paving the way for the conservative factions to benefit from it.  The rapidity of ‘moral policing’ is such that it is only realistic to expect a handful of social media sites left to access in the country. The government’s motives are unclear but what it does tell us is that the ban is geared towards suppressing free expression and the endorsement of conservative values in the country.

The ban on Tik Tok felt personal because it is the one platform that gives everyone a chance to express their creativity and showcase their talents. 

In the contemporary world, the internet and social media serve as one of the major avenues to express freedom of speech and expression. It is difficult to imagine progress without it. Blocks and restrictions can be a major setback for the upcoming generations, limited and monitored access to the internet will curb ideas and innovation. Amongst other things, it will sabotage the ability of technology in helping to eliminate the negative connotations attached to Pakistan.

The most recent ban on Tik Tok was yet another measure to suppress entertainment and creativity in the country. Tik Tok is one of the only platforms that made a vast majority of the Pakistani population feel welcomed (quite literally). People from various cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds are not only able to access the platform but also produce content that was viewed and appreciated widely. 

There was no way to control the flow of information or trends on the app; perhaps this is why it was so threatening. Although, the ban was uplifted in the face of politics. But it felt personal because it is the one platform that gives everyone a chance to express their creativity and showcase their talents. 

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There have been numerous calls within the country by human rights campaigners to uplift the bans. As much as I want the ban to be unlifted, I cannot help but think we are headed towards a state with strict controls and censorship on the internet and print media. I find it rather daunting because social media seems like the one avenue where I can truly voice my opinions in a country where women are so often silenced. 

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TV Shows Movies Pop Culture

Why are plus size women always relegated to the comic relief sidekick?

We all know the trope. The main character is skinny, white, pretty. She can be goofy, but rarely at her own expense. Her love stories are the focus of the plot. She always has a funny sidekick, often a woman of color, and most commonly a plus-size woman. She’s there to provide emotional support and a witty one-liner or two. Think of Sookie in Gilmore Girls, who plays second fiddle to thin and quirky Lorelai Gilmore. Or think of Etta Candy in every incarnation of Wonder Woman. Even children’s shows, like Total Drama Island, Good Luck Charlie, and Austin and Ally repeat these tropes. Don’t fat women deserve better?

It’s nice to see fat women in the media, for once, but why do they always have to be funny? Almost every larger woman in TV or the movies is basically a walking joke. Sure, it’s gotten more diverse, but the representation itself has barely improved. Fat women are still relegated to comic relief or goofy sidekick. You might say we’re a long way from the Fat Monica gags on Friends, but that’s not true. Think about Insatiable, featuring Debby Ryan, which treats its main character as a joke until she loses weight. That’s the same formula, isn’t it?

Let’s consider some of the most popular plus-size actresses around now. Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson both broke into the mainstream years ago, and their popularity has rarely floundered. They’ve both been in dozens of TV shows and movies, usually playing comedic roles, which they do brilliantly. Rebel Wilson just recently had her first starring role in a romantic comedy, for which she garnered critical praise. Melissa McCarthy won an Academy Award for her dramatic lead role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? However, if you ask most people, they primarily think of them as comedic actors or side characters. Why is that? They’ve both shown that they have range, and both immense comedic and dramatic talent. They’ve both played lead roles. So why do we relegate them to comedic side characters when they’ve proven that they’re capable of so much more?

These two women are success stories, however. Most plus-size actresses never get the chance to expand into dramatic acting. Skinny comedic actresses have plenty of opportunities to break into dramatic acting, even if they’re not particularly talented actors. Skinny comedic actors also get totally different treatment. Actresses like Jennifer Aniston and Anna Kendrick are in plenty of rom-coms, but when they’re funny, it’s quirky and cute. They’re rarely the butt of a rude joke. Furthermore, these skinny comedic actors are able to break into dramatic roles with ease. Plus size actresses have to prove over and over again that they’re worthy of serious roles, whereas skinny actresses can easily transition from comedy to drama and vice versa. 

The problem I see with this is that plus size women constantly have to prove their worth to others time and time over to be taken even remotely seriously. They need to be funny and willing to make jokes at their own expense in return for our consideration. We require humor and self-deprecation from fat women, in return for the common human decency we all return. Fat women don’t need to put on a performance to earn their keep. They are capable of the same range of emotions and humanity as the rest of us.

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We deserve more fat women on television, and not just as comedic sidekicks.

I want fat women in periodic dramas, with pretty dresses and dramatic love triangles. I want to see fat women in rom-coms, having meet-cutes and falling for handsome heartthrobs. Let’s see some fat girls in coming-of-have fantasy stories, as the chosen one, as the hero.

Plus size girls and women have every right to just as beautiful, dramatic, and tragic as their skinny counterparts. For once, I’d like to see a version of Gilmore Girls where a plus size mother and daughter are the protagonists, and get to be cute and quirky and fun. I’d like to see a fat Wonder Woman too.

A woman’s value should never be dictated by her size, and that’s true in television as well as in real life. Let the big girls be the heroes for once. They deserve it.

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TV Shows BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Why are ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Bachelorette’ still so white?

I love reality television, particularly The Bachelor. 

The roses, the crying women in limos, the wine I drink while watching it… I love every bit of it and its experience. What started as something that I simply wanted to try out has now become a beloved show that I tune into every Monday night it is on. 

The Bachelor premiered in 2002 as a simple dating show and soon became one of the most popular shows on network television. It has several spin-off shows – The Bachelorette, Bachelor Winter Games, Bachelor Pad, and Bachelor in Paradise – yet, like many reality tv shows, this show still has its very present flaws. 

For it is still lacking one very important thing, diversity, particularly when it comes to the show’s leads. 

There have been 23 seasons of The Bachelor and 15 seasons of The Bachelorette to date, but only two leads of color have been featured: Juan Pablo who is Venezualan and Rachel Lindsay who is African-American.

Every other lead has been white. Let that sink in. 

There have been 23 seasons of The Bachelor and 15 seasons of The Bachelorette to date, but only two leads of color have been featured.

Now, this has not been for lack of trying from the viewers’ end. This year, in particular, many viewers rallied together in support of contestant Mike Johnson in hopes of him becoming the first black bachelor. Throughout The Bachelorette season he was a contestant on, Johnson was charming, classy, and very well-received by many of the show’s viewers.

As per usual, though, the franchise decided to go with another white lead, Peter Weber, from the upcoming season of The Bachelor. While I am a fan of our guy Pilot Pete, I would be lying if I wasn’t a bit disappointed when I found out the news. 

So, why have The Bachelor and its franchise shows been so white throughout all of these years? 

It isn’t because of a lack of contestants of color. Throughout the years, the franchise has featured many contestants that have come from a wide variety of backgrounds but these contestants typically get much less screen time, with many sent home at an early point of the season, and so are much less likely to be chosen at the end of their season.

More than 23 seasons and this show is still basically Barbie meeting Ken and vice versa, over and over again. 

The bias that the franchise has towards its white contestants can be seen through social media as well. Typically, contestants of color have a much smaller amount of followers in comparison to their white counterparts. 

For example, black bachelorette Rachel Lindsay has 872,000 followers on Instagram, while Jojo Fletcher, a white bachelorette, has around 2.2 million followers. So, while Lindsay is not disliked by the fanbase or franchise, she does have a much smaller following online, compared to the other white bachelorettes. 

The ratings of Lindsay’s season were also lower than in previous seasons. The first five episodes of her season had around 5.7 million viewers instead of the typical 6.7 million. This occurred despite Lindsay being extremely camera-friendly and charismatic. 

Lindsay even criticized the franchise for how her season was made. She said, “I was denied my on-camera happy ending and labeled an angry black female.”

“Bachelor Nation just doesn’t care about people of color.” – Rachel Lindsay 

With all this being said and taken into consideration, one could say that it will probably be a while until we get our first black bachelor, if at all, because of the franchise’s attitude towards its contestants of color. For, as Lindsay said herself on the Bachelor Party Podcast, “Bachelor Nation just doesn’t care about people of color.” 

Look, as someone who is definitely in the minority of the show’s viewership, I know that these facts are disappointing. Is this the best they can do? More than 23 seasons and this show is still basically Barbie meeting Ken and vice versa, over and over again. 

This franchise can, and should, do better. Hopefully, if fans keep pushing for change, more diversity will come to this cheesy yet entertaining show. 

TV Shows LGBTQIA+ Pop Culture

15 LGBTQIA+ tropes that need to be retired yesterday

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

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

Beware of spoilers!

1. My body is your body

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

2. Language 

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

3. This is going to take ALL episode

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

4. One dimensional queers

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

5. Acceptance = Flawless Allyship

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

6. Heteronormativity with all the trimmings

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

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

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

8. One lone queer character amid masses of straights 

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

9. Queer-baiting

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

10. “I’ve never done this before.”

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

11. Strategic camera pan

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

12. Lesbian sex involves a lot of clothing

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

13. Repression & Hate = Closeted Gay

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

14. Bury your gays

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

15. Queerness is overwhelmingly white

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

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

TV Shows Pop Culture

How “Schitt’s Creek” crafted reality without redeeming the rich

Schitt’s Creek has a pretty unpitiable premise.

Wealthy couple, Johnny and Moira Rose, find themselves broke after Mr. Rose’s business manager makes off with their fortune. The Roses and their two thirty-something children, David and Alexis, are then forced to relocate to the nowhere town of Schitt’s Creek, given it’s the only property the IRS left them. The pilot episode finds the family moving into the Schitt’s Creek motel and attempting to acclimate to the pace of this presumably backwater town.

Initially, I was hesitant to tune in. I don’t find watching the uber rich struggle to do mundane tasks funny. You can only hear so many versions of the how-much-could-a-banana-cost line before it hits you that Jeff Bezos definitely has no idea how much a banana costs. Financial illiteracy in this age just isn’t cute. I’m not sure it ever was (particularly in Trump’s America) and the disconnected rich person act is just too close to reality to be real fodder for comedy. 

While Schitt’s Creek does have an element of schadenfreude, the comedy of the show goes beyond the low hanging fruit of watching the wealthy sleep in a bed of their own making. The strength of the show is it’s ability write beyond that first joke.

A dark-haired, brown man confusedly says, "I don't even know what tailgate means."
[Image description: A dark-haired man confusedly says, “I don’t even know what tailgate means.”] Via Schitt’s Creek on Netflix
The Roses spend a few beats bumbling around, not knowing what to do without business centers or oil baron boyfriends but they quickly find footholds. It’s evident that they’re made of sterner stuff. Viewers learn that before Schitt’s Creek, Alexis escaped from a Thai drug lord’s trunk, Moira fixed a wobbly table, and Johnny built a video empire. The Roses have talents; they’re not Trumps. This foundation gives them something of a fighting chance. It also makes them more likeable.

The Roses are, additionally, not set up to be villains. They’re the victims of white collar crime, not the perpetrators of it. If any, their crimes are spending $850 on a pair of pants and owning too much cashmere. Moira and Johnny quickly realize in the harsh light of Schitt’s Creek that they haven’t prepared their children for life. This self-awareness makes them worthy of at least some sympathy.

A white, blonde woman proudly says, "My sister and I baked bread from scratch."
[Image description: A white, blonde woman proudly says, “My sister and I baked bread from scratch.”] Via Schitt’s Creek on Netflix
The Roses also appear to be cognizant of how much their identity was their wealth. In an early episode, David struggles to separate out clothes to sell to the thrift store. He admits to motel clerk Stevie, “These are my things. I hand-selected each of these things. They mean a lot to me.”

In that moment, the viewer is reminded that the Roses only have what they were allowed to keep. Everyone, regardless of their tax bracket, would be a little lost without their things.

“I am having a very hard time right now dealing with the idea that people think that my things are worthless or funky or fake,” David continues later, after trying to hock his clothes online.  This is something universal, in that it touches upon the insecurities and struggles to define the self.

Overall, Schitt’s Creek does a tremendous job humanizing all its characters, not just the Roses. Everyone in the town is allowed to be more than just a punchline about the rich or poor. With its rural setting, Schitt’s Creek could’ve used small town as shorthand for simpleton. However, while the residents may be portrayed as less cosmopolitan, there is no sense that they’re worse off.

There are a few charmingly clueless townsfolk but none of them are reduced to mere a joke. The town’s major, Roland Schitt, has a wispy mullet and a penchant for eating with his fingers but he’s also a loving husband and giving friend. Stevie, with her Target jeans and flawless sarcasm, matches David gibe for gibe. 

The Roses quickly earn the viewer’s favor with proof of their own depth. The germaphobic, possible-megalomaniac Moira neglects to care for her flu-stricken daughter, but eventually rallies to her aid. In subbing in at the front desk, Johnny proves both his business savvy as well as his stupidity. There’s a lot of character growth and depth in Schitt’s Creek but not in a way that makes the show about redemption.

Part of the genius of Eugene and Dan Levy’s writing is their ability to add layers beneath their character’s couture and well-moisturized surfaces. They do this without coming across as cliche by balancing the good behavior with the bad.

The Roses also don’t emerge utterly changed after each season. They maintain the elements of their personality that make them Roses. Similarly, the people of the town may learn a thing or two but they maintain their own identities. No one is steamrolled for the sake of plot. Everyone is deserving of dimension and written in a way that resembles real life and that is the success of the series

TV Shows Pop Culture

Seeing yourself as a songbird: how “Tuca & Bertie” on Netflix gave women a mirror

The world of Netflix’s now-cancelled series Tuca & Bertie (2019) is ridiculous from the title sequence.

If you’re unfamiliar with creator Lisa Hanawalt‘s work (eg, Bojack Horseman) and her undefined line between human, animal, and hybrid, it may take a few frames for your brain to calibrate.

The world of T&B is an anthropomorphized menagerie. The buildings have breasts, the neighbor is a houseplant with legs, an ultrasound machine makes a getaway with his wife. There are birds in the sky, but that bird is in short shorts? In the way that Goofy and Pluto are both dogs, but only one lives in the house, T&B creates a universe where you’re never quite sure which animals are animals, which are people, or who’s going to start talking next.

Ultimately, it asks the question: in an animated world, is anything inanimate?

Still from title sequence featuring anthropomorphized building and building with billboard for "A Tornante Production". Via Netflix.
Still from title sequence featuring anthropomorphized building and building with billboard for “A Tornante Production”. Via Netflix.

Seconds into the pilot, my first thought was, “I wouldn’t suggest this to my parents.”

It’s not inappropriate per se, but niche enough to startle anyone who doesn’t actively seek out this kind of genre-bending content. But then I immediately found myself asking, “why not?” The series is not just relatable to Millennials, but also speaks to the emotionality of an age that existed for all generations. Whether Boomers want to admit it or not, they went through the same wobbling stability and unsureness that Tuca and Bertie are going through. Same panic, different phone size. 

In broad strokes, T&B is about two young friends trying to make something of themselves in a big city. It is in that way not all that dissimilar from How I Met Your Mother, It’s Always Sunny, New Girl or all the other look-at-my-life shows that built on the idea that everyone’s life is the same yet completely different. The plotlines aren’t unfamiliar. In one episode Bertie moves in with her boyfriend. In other Tuca is smitten with her deli guy. It wouldn’t be too hard to transpose an episode of T&B into another televised universe. The One Where Bertie and Speckle Try Kinky Sex or The Gang Goes To Yeast Week. 

Still featuring songbird Bertie leaning back in office chair, singing about spicy chips while holding a bag. Via Netflix.
Still featuring songbird Bertie leaning back in office chair, singing about spicy chips while holding a bag. Via Netflix.

The one major difference is that T&B is uncompromisingly female.

Tuca and Bertie’s medicine cabinets are overflowing, they freak out over break-ups, they struggle to pee in rompers, they aspire to become pastry chefs, they perform all the things that in a gendered world are feminine, only without the polish. It is this last bit that sets T&B apart from the women that came before them. Tuca and Bertie’s accomplishments come with cracks in them. Bertie lands a new position, but is immediately disheartened by the hours. Tuca stands up to her Auntie, but realizes she still needs her charity.

The world of these birds isn’t cruel or unfair, it’s just more realistic. More realistic at times than most live action. Perhaps because Tuca and Bertie can’t spend an hour in hair and makeup, they come across as about as ready for life as anyone else at any given moment. Something about how their feathers fall gives the impression that they’re capable of making the same mistakes as the viewer. 

This imperfection is not the imperfection of HBO’s Girls that gives the viewer anxiety-by-proxy. Nor is it the faux imperfection of Friends. T&B is not messy as in #GodBlessThisMess, but messy in the honest, tangled, take-your-ass-to-a-therapist kind of way. Women are rarely allowed to languor in this state without being self-deprecating, charactertured, or satirical. It is a space between being the overly-sexualized high-schooler and the mother.

Not a girl, not yet a Good Wife. Tuca and Bertie aren’t high-powered career women or perpetual girlfriends. They’re defined by their characteristics, not their jobs or relationships. Ally McBeal was a lawyer, Meredith Grey was a surgeon, Samantha wrote about her dating life. Tuca and Bertie… are Tuca and Bertie. The plot is driven by the facts of life– by Bertie’s fight with her boyfriend or Tuca’s attempt at a new job– but that’s not the first or the fifteenth thing that comes to mind when you think about the show. It is a show about two women figuring out their 30s. 

Still featuring anthropomorphized houseplant neighbor Draca smoking in her apartment while surrounded by turtles. Via Netflix.
Still featuring anthropomorphized houseplant neighbor Draca smoking in her apartment while surrounded by turtles. Via Netflix.

By cutting T&B, Netflix is deprioritizing this kind of storytelling. It’s saying more detectives with dead wives, more dramas about the same predominantly white period in English history, more glorification of serial killers. Not more women with anxiety attacks in posh grocery stories, women with pain-inducing reproductive systems, women with STDs and uncertain futures. No more pet jaguars. Without it, women on television can largely be described “pleasant.”

Self-identified people-pleaser Bertie would probably fight me on this one, but the women of T&B aren’t pleasant. They’re not ladies or any of those other annoying terms for women that diminish their very humanity. They’re just Tuca and Bertie.

It’s unfair that they only got one season. Still, I encourage you to savor those 10 episodes to see yourself in these songbirds. Here’s to hoping they find a new nest. 


Press Pop Culture

Best of The Tempest 2018: 9 Stories from Pop Culture

It’s been a peculiar year in the realm of entertainment. We’ve had such big, progressive victories and such big setbacks and anachronisms in terms of representation, transparency, and inclusivity. Many LGBTQ+ artists thrived, and 2018 was dubbed 20GAYTEEN by singer Hayley Kiyoko. It was the year of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, and yet big name studios are still out there producing films that are imbued with racism, sexism, homophobia, and fatphobia as well as often promoting rape and hate.

We’re still light years away from consuming the egalitarian entertainment we deserve. I knew that very well when I became Pop Culture Editor at The Tempest. I understood that I would have to look closely at many media products that would make me mad, which I would rather ignore and avoid at all costs, but I gladly accepted the challenge. I believe our mission is to shed light on everything that is going on, and that includes denouncing the many injustices that occur in the entertainment industry. We can’t possibly stay silent about the things we deem wrong, because silence is complicity.

But we also don’t like to only see the glass half empty, and we love to admit that there are many things to praise and to celebrate. Without further ado, I present to you 9 of my favorite Pop Culture stories we published in 2018, a mix of the good and the bad.

1. Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Despite the good representation that television and the music industry gifted us with this year, blockbusters are still actively promoting the erasure of female queerness as well as employing queer bait. This is a trend that needs to stay in 2018.

2. What time is it, Hollywood?

What time is it, Hollywood?

What about what happens behind the camera? This article explores some trends of the entertainment industry from the inside out, because actresses are not the only people we need to protect. Let’s say #TimesUp to all kinds of discrimination.

3. Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

There is a big misconception in fiction and in critique: that a female character who dares be different and dislikable is automatically a great feminist heroine. She’s not, and that’s okay.

4. Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

We are tired of people giving J.K. Rowling a free pass for everything just because she wrote a beautiful book series 20 years ago. For a while now, she has been twisting things to appear “woke” instead of honestly admitting that as the times progressed, she also wants to be more inclusive. There is no need to say that she was planning plot twists all along when in reality the implications of that make her way more problematic. Read why in this piece!

5. Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

If you don’t know what an item number is, you need to read this piece. If you do know, you need to read this piece. It’s eye-opening and I will never look at a Bollywood film the same way again.

6. This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

Contrary to what some haters will have you believe about feminists, we do celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of men, when they deserve it. This article is a clap on the back of an Oscar-winning director for an amazing film that contributed to making 2018 better.

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

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

You may or may not know this show, which was a true revelation for its honest representation of working (and woke!) millennial women. However, the show has been accused of portraying a utopistic world of equality (but it really doesn’t, the protagonists deal with misogyny, racism and homophobia every day). This article cleverly responds to that claim, contextualizing it particularly within the journalism world (where the main characters spend most of their time) that we know too well.

8. Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Abusers deserve to be held accountable for their actions. After the tidal wave that was the #MeToo movement, it’s good to see that celebrities are still being taken down after abusive behavior.

9. My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

A constant struggle in the transition to adulthood is that we are burdened with too many responsibilities and we have too little time to do the things we actually want to do out of sheer pleasure, like reading. It does not help that books have gained a very strong competitor for our time and attention, the “monster” that are streaming services.

We’re ready to kiss 2018 goodbye. In the hope that 2019 will be a more satisfying year for women, people of color, and all oppressed minorities, happy new year from the staff of The Tempest!

TV Shows Pop Culture

‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ taught me more life lessons than you’d think

Long ago, when I was in elementary school, I used to watch television sparingly. Then, everything changed when Avatar: The Last Airbender premiered. If you are a fan of the television show, you may have noticed that my first two sentences were a parody of the opening sequence. If you haven’t watched the show, I recommend that you do. If you watched the film adaptation, I recommend that you forget it. It doesn’t do the story justice.

Avatar: The Last Airbender ran on Nickelodeon for three seasons, from 2005 to 2008. The show follows Aang, the last airbender, as he sets off to defeat the Fire Lord. The Fire Nation has waged a war against the Earth Kingdom and the two Water Tribes for nearly 100 years. The Fire Nation wiped out the Air Nomads, leaving Aang the last of his kind. Aang has to master all four elements — earth, fire, water, and air — before facing the Fire Lord.

Avatar was my favorite television show when I was younger. Frankly, it still is my favorite television show now. I have a hard time pinpointing down what precisely draws me to this show. So, I’ll name just one:  Katara, one of the protagonists of the show, taught me many lessons at my young impressionable age of seven. Fortunately for me, these were the right lessons. Katara showed me how to combat misogyny and recognize that seeking accountability is not the best method for closure at times. 

One lesson that Katara taught me is the importance of fighting sexism when it comes to opening doors for yourself. Katara is the only waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe and becomes Aang’s waterbending teacher. While Katara is a talented Waterbender, she has not had formal training. She recognizes that she should receive this training in order to better instruct Aang in the art of Waterbending. Katara goes to the North Pole in the episode “The Waterbending Master” to try and receive formal training from Pakku, a waterbending master.

Unfortunately, Pakku rejects Katara’s request to train under him. Yes, you guessed it, because she is a girl. Instead, he allows a less-skilled Aang to train under him solely because he is a guy. Later on in the episode, Katara challenges Pakku to a fight. Although she does not win, Pakku recognizes her skill at waterbending and invites her to train under him, which she accepts.

During my first year of university, I had used Katara’s passion to combat sexism in my Economics classes. These classes were predominantly male, and I felt that I had to work harder in order to be taken more seriously. I don’t think I should have had to work harder, but my hard work paid off.

In the episode “The Southern Raiders,” Zuko, a former antagonist who decided to help Aang, offers to help Katara find the Fire National general who killed her mother when Katara was a child. This episode plays a large part in Zuko’s redemption arc, which is arguably the best redemption arc of all time.  Zuko and Katara are able to locate this person, Yon Rha. Katara wants to kill him, and she nearly does but decides that killing him won’t offer her closure. It certainly won’t bring her mother back.

Like Katara, I have found that a method that I have wanted to hold someone accountable would not benefit me in the long run. I nearly sued a professor who sexually assaulted and harassed me, but I decided that a possibly years-long court battle would not help my mental health. Like Katara will never forgive her mother’s killer, I won’t forgive my assaulter. I just need to find a different method for closure.

Lessons that Katara has taught me have stuck with me for over 10 years past the final episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I will never stop being grateful for all this show has given me. Katara is a strong feminist character whose personality and journey helped shape me to become the person that I am today.

TV Shows Pop Culture

You’re not going to like this, but “Friends” lied to us about adult life

I first started watching Friends a handful of years after it went off the air.

I was, admittedly, a bit behind — I was nearing the end of my middle-school years, and most of my friends had been tuning in since we were still learning our times-tables. By the time I watched my first episode, I already knew the references, the character, and the basic plot points.

Still, the show caught my attention in a big way. A lot of middle-school kids can’t wait to grow up, and I was no exception, picturing my twenties through the lens of this sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating, always entertaining show. I pictured myself and my own adult friends hanging out in coffee shops, wearing designer clothes, entering high-powered jobs and falling in love.

NBC / Via

I also pictured the spacious apartments and lack of parental oversight nearly all the characters enjoyed.

This rosy view of Friends-inspired adulthood continued all throughout my teenage years. I couldn’t wait to be in my twenties. Then, suddenly, I was.

And let me tell you, watching Friends now isn’t nearly as fun as it used to be. I just can’t stop noticing everything wrong with the show.

For one thing, adult friendships are simultaneously more complex and less dramatic than the show ever made them out to be. My best friends are people I love deeply, who have a lot of history with me, who care about what I care about but don’t necessarily want the same things as me.

On a surface level, this sounds a whole lot like Friends.

But scratch that surface and you’ll find that real-life friendships, while messy, are usually not nearly as frantic or unsupportive as the ones on the show. We don’t live together or even across the hall from each other, and we don’t hang out every single day like the gang seems to.

And — gasp — we very rarely hang out in coffee shops.

But in spite of my less frequent hang-outs with my friends, when I watch the show, those relationships largely seem weightless, and I think it’s because I know how meaningful real adult friendships are supposed to feel.

I can also confidently say that most twenty-somethings do not live as extravagantly as our TV friends do.

NBC / Via

Much has been said about how unrealistic the friends’ dating lives are, but on a practical living level, most of us also don’t experience anything like what the show depicts. We don’t have those fancy apartments with huge windows and multiple rooms and kitchens with lots of counterspace, even outside of major metro areas.

A lot of us still live with our parents.

We also don’t usually wear designer clothes, and from my own experience, those we do wear came from the clearance rack at the department store off-season.

Most of the show’s friends also rarely see their parents.

As an angsty pre-teen, this seemed like a dream come true, but I’ve actually never needed or wanted my parents in my life more than as a twenty-something.

While the show did a good job of portraying how disconcerting it can be to grow up and see your parents as flawed human beings, what it didn’t drive home was how fun it can be to get to know your parents as an adult. Maybe part of the reason I don’t hang out in coffee shops with my friends is that I’m too busy hanging out with my family a lot of the time.

Even for my real-life friends who live far away from their families, regular calls home are part of the norm.

Beyond all these story issues, it’s hard to watch Friends now without seeing how problematic it is.

Its homophobic, transphobic, near-exclusively white, gender-stereotyping, slut-shaming view of adult life hasn’t aged well. Many of the punchlines are based around things that are, to me, decidedly un-funny, especially recurring jokes about Carol, Ross’ lesbian ex-wife, and Chandler’s dad’s gender identity.

It all feels lazy and insensitive, and in episodes with these kinds of jokes, it’s hard to pay attention to anything else.

What I’ve learned from watching Friends as an adult is that I can’t let TV decide exactly who or what I want to be.

Sure, I can spend a day like Carrie Bradshaw or confront hard truths about myself through the lens of Elder Millennial, but at the end of the day, I can’t let TV’s glossy, sometimes-dated view of the world shape my expectations of myself and my future.

Books Pop Culture

How television breaks class barriers and stays culturally relevant

I love the arts. I’m one of those people who would happily spend the entirety of a two-week vacation in a museum, who knows the words of countless musicals by heart, who goes to as many live concerts as possible. Seeing creativity and skill come together to create something affecting is one of the great joys of my life.

But lately, I’ve noticed a few things that have changed the way I see the arts, and how I spend my time engaging with them. First, I’ve noticed that many of the things we might consider “high art” require substantial resources to consume. For example, seeing live theatre on Broadway requires being able to pay the sometimes obscene ticket prices most popular shows charge, just like seeing the most famous pieces of art in person requires being able to get to those fancy museums in those big old cities they’re often housed in.

The fine arts are for the wealthy, their privilege allowing them to travel and indulge in these important markers of culture. These art forms were not intended for the masses.

The second realization I’ve had involves watching television. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t look forward to evenings with my screen, watching characters make their way through stories right in the comfort of my own living room. But as I’ve gotten older, many shows no longer fit the old-timey vision of TV as a mindless waste of brain space – they’re artistic, well-made and meaningful.

When I see a sweeping shot of Cornwall in Poldark, I recognize the mix of wide angles, rich colors and atmospheric sounds as a symphony of its own, a true piece of artistic expression put to screen. When I hear the tense, emotional conversations of characters on Halt and Catch Fire, I am stirred just as I am when I see a famous painting, complete with history and feeling.

A lot of TV is still, as in the medium’s early days, “just for fun.” But much of it isn’t. I watch something like Humans and it would be hard to miss the important commentaries on our future and what it means to be human happening during its scenes. Breaking Bad showed complexities of the human psyche with simultaneous gravitas and nuance. Avatar: The Last Airbender, which I consider the most perfect show ever made, found a rare balance among being funny, moralizing and accessible, while still exploring personal development and emotional weight.

So much of television these days must be considered an artistic endeavor. As such, we should also recognize it as something that is culturally relevant, just as other forms of high art. But what sets it apart is that it is available to the masses, without the restrictions of class and location that dictate who can enjoy those other media.

Most people have, at the very least, a mobile phone, which can serve as a gateway to all those series. Television is getting more broadly accessible all the time. Once, prestige dramas were only available on select cable channels, but now watching TV is cheaper than ever through alternative methods like streaming services.

On TV, we can see themes like race, gender and sexuality explored with nuance and by a diversity of voices. Television viewers are even more diverse, and they can see their stories told in constantly evolving ways, whether that’s through a sharp comedy or a wordy drama. Today’s programming is for the people, by the people. It’s whatever we want or need it to be. And if we see something we don’t like, or not enough of something else, we have the power to call it out and make change.

The point is that television is not an elitist medium. We can all talk about Game of Thrones because we can all watch it, without the pomp and circumstance of having to see it live or in some specific location. We can tune in in our own homes, on whatever device, and watch it without pouring piles of money into ticket prices. This widespread availability of the art form is equalizing, and whether the snooty partakers of highbrow art realize it or not, it’s the future of our cultural understanding. And we’re all the better for it.