Editor's Picks History Ancient Practices

Here’s what you need to know about the history of kimonos

The kimono is more than a symbol of Japanese culture that is instantly recognizable to the rest of the world. It is a garment that embodies what it means to be Japanese, worn for centuries since the Heian period (792-1192). Since then, the kimono has evolved into many different styles based on who is wearing it and for what occasion. And because of the many things that the kimono embodies, the possibilities are endless. 

So let’s start with the history of the kimono and how its significance has evolved into its uses in modern-day Japan.

Taken from the Chinese Wu Dynasty in the 8th century, the kimono was first seen with shorter sleeves and was known as the kosode

Like most feudal societies, much of Japan’s history (before the Edo period opened the country to the rest of the world) was riddled with in-fighting. Because of constant warfare between rival daimyo (feudal lords), Tokugawa Ieyasu was suspicious of foreign influence, colonialism, and Christianity. After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and becoming the shogun, Ieyasu focused on strengthening the social, political, and economic fabric of a war-torn Japan.

Japan – and only Japan – was Ieyasu’s priority. The Tokugawa Era (or the Edo period, as it’s better known) ushered in a period of peace and prosperity for the country. For the next 200 years, Japan’s ports were isolated from the rest of the world (except for Korea and China), until the 1854 Treaty of Kanagawa opened the borders to Commodore Matthew Perry and his American warships. 

It was during this time that the kimono as we know it was born. Up until then it still had been called a kosode and had relatively few style changes. What remained constant was that everyone wore it, regardless of age, gender, or social standing. Granted, peasants made up more than half of the social hierarchy during the four periods leading up to the Edo and Meiji restoration periods (1868-1912)

Fashioned from a single bolt of fabric, the kimono was more than a lavish piece of clothing. It was art.

Wealthy daimyo classes commissioned their kimonos much in the way the Borgias or the Medici of Renaissance Italy commissioned grand paintings for their ornate halls. Fashioned from a single bolt of fabric, the kimono was more than a lavish piece of clothing. It was art. More significantly, it was the wearer’s identity. With every embroidered flower, every hand-painted scene, and every swirl of color, the kimono told a life story. Fabric, pattern, and color were crucial, for they represented someone’s rank, gender, and age, and it all tied into their image within their social standing. 

Today, the kimono is still symbolic of not only the wearer but of Japan itself. Kimonos are worn at weddings, funerals, tea ceremonies, and so much more. For example, 20-year-olds wear their kimonos to shrines on Coming of Age Day, a holiday when boys and girls are accepted into society as adults for the first time. Girls wear furisode, a kimono with long, flowing sleeves, while boys wear the haori half coats with hakama trousers that are decorated with their family’s crest.

For formal events like weddings and funerals, married women wear tomosode, kimonos with shorter sleeves, and subdued designs that highlight their family crest. While it’s more common for attendees to wear Western suits and dresses (thanks to Westernization during the post-Edo Meiji Restoration), wearing a kimono is still very symbolic of the pride surrounding Japanese heritage to this day. 

Another holiday where we see the kimono is Shichi-Go-San (seven-five-three), a Shinto-influenced ceremony that promotes the healthy development of children at ages seven, five, and three. 

Perhaps the most iconic and recognizable kimono-wearer is the geisha. The geisha’s role has evolved over the centuries, but today they provide entertainment, food, and drink for tourists and wealthy businessmen alike. Things like hem length and the color of the collar tell onlookers the geisha’s rank; if her collar is red and not white, then you know that she is a maiko (a geisha in training). 

Despite Japan’s rapid industrialization after the 1854 Treaty of Kanagawa, the kimono is still deeply woven into the cultural fabric of their society. Japan went from being an isolated, feudal nation to one of the Big Five at the Treaty of Versailles by 1919. Yet for all of this success (like becoming the third-largest economy in the world), they still held on to the kimono, the symbol of their roots in an ancient world.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Book Reviews Books

“Squire” by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh is about making your mark in a world riddled with prejudice

It’s no secret that I am obsessed with the fantasy genre. Shadowhunters, faes, witches, wizards, demigods — I’ve read about them all. But I’ve always learned that fantasy as a genre has often overlooked the diverse world we live in. Very rarely do you see a female protagonist who you don’t just relate to, but also looks like you, and can play an imperative role in your life while growing up. What I am trying to say, is that fantasy seriously lacks representation, especially Middle Eastern expression.

Authors such as Hafsah Faisal and S. A. Chakraborty have started to change that. Their stories are set in worlds inspired by Ancient Arabia, something we don’t get to see much because western fantasy has never represented the rich culture and traditions of the Middle East without painting their people as barbarians.

Then comes Squire, a rich, sweeping fantasy adventure graphic novel led by Palestinian-American writer Nadia Shammas and Jordanian-American illustrator Sara Alfageeh, which raises questions about colonialism, prejudice, and identity while setting up an immersive world. The characters are driven and well-written (and beautifully illustrated!). They ask the right questions and go as far as attempting to answer them. It unravels as a battle that sees people fight against an empire that was built on injustice. It’s terrific, really.

Aiza, our 14-year-old protagonist, has always dreamed of being a hero — a knight. The story takes place in the once-great-now-ravaged-by-famine Bayt-Sajji empire, where Aiza was born a member of the subjugated Ornu community. She’s a second-class citizen, dreaming of making a mark in the world. She gets by selling fruits on the street, but Aiza’s ambition knows no bounds.

When a military recruiter comes to her town, she jumps at the chance. Joining the competitive Squire training program could one day grant her full citizenship and a heroic legacy, and the permit to travel across the empire. But more than anything, it may allow Aiza to utilize her full potential. So, she signs up, ultimately finding herself training under the unyielding General Hende. She finds a mentor. She finds friends and rivals alike. She’s also hiding a secret — Aiza straps band-aids to her wrist so she can conceal her Ornu identity, the symbol of her community tattooed to it. 

Aiza soon discovers that the “greater good” promised by the military may never include her and that her friends might be in danger of the unknown, oblivious to the reality they’ve signed up for. She realizes she must make a choice — she can either be loyal to her heritage or plead allegiance to the empire.

Squire is a love letter to immigrant kids. It is teeming with social commentary that raises critical questions about cross-cultural friendships, rewriting history, complicity in warfare, legacy and its consequences, and unlearning the injustices of colonialism, knowing fully well that all it has ever done is hurt people. These powerful themes are nicely balanced thanks to Aiza’s humor, her unwavering ideals, and the unlikely companionship she comes to share with an older mentor.

The illustrations are so impressive and representative of Arabic culture — the art features apricots, figs, and olive trees, some characters are pictured wearing cultural Arab clothing. Squire is an effortless read — I started and finished it in a single sitting!

This is a simple story that asks timely questions and wrestles with the lack of morality and ethics in a time of war. I would’ve loved to learn more about what happens after the central conflict is over, but I can confidently say that this is an essential novel many young brown girls will find a glimpse of themselves in.  

In today’s day and age, we know how important representation is, and for some people more than others, it’s nearly impossible to see yourself within the pages of an impactful novel let alone seeing someone who looks like you on the silver screen. Squire throws both of those accepted, idealized concepts out of the window. It is a triumph, a story that has a message about the many devastating hardships we see in the real world while being a story about a compelling, ambitious young girl with a dream.

Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas releases March 8, 2022. You can pre-order it via Barnes and Noble here!

Skin Care

Here are some of my favorite Korean skincare products

My love for Korean skincare was mostly inspired by my high school best friend, shoutout to Noor because I don’t know where my skin would be without her. Since then, I have spent hours on end searching for the best products and making sure I look up everything from their ingredients to customer reviews. Now I’m not an expert but most of my friends do come to me when they are looking for skincare advice which is why I decided that knowledge needs to be shared with a wider audience. So, here is a list of my favorite Korean skincare products

1. COSRX Aloe Soothing Sunscreen

[Image description: Two bottles of aloe soothing sunscreen on a green background.] Via COSRX
If there is one skincare product that you should never skip it’s your sunscreen, yes even in winter. UV rays from the sun are one of the leading causes of premature skin ageing and can lead to other problems such as dark spots. Now I know that finding the perfect sunscreen can be so hard, especially for POC looking to avoid something that leaves a white cast. I have tried a lot of sunscreens, but nothing has come close to the COSRX Aloe Soothing Sunscreen. Not only does it block UVA and UBA rays it also moisturizes your skin. The star ingredient, Aloe Vera is not only highly moisturizing but is also known to help fade hyperpigmentation and repair a damaged skin barrier. Most importantly, this sunscreen never left a white cast on my skin.

2. Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence

Benton snail bee high content essence.
[Image description: Benton snail bee high content essence.] Via SokoGlam
An essence is often labeled as one of the most important steps in a Korean skincare routine but what exactly is it? Not only does this powerhouse product carry a high dose of active ingredients meant to treat your skin it also prepares your skin for the rest of your routine making sure that it is a lot more effective. The Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence is one of the best on the market if you ask me. Now I know what you are thinking, why would you put snail mucin and bee venom on your face? Well, for starters snail mucin not only helps promote collagen production but also helps in healing and regenerating your skin and the bee venom is believed to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. This essence also contains niacinamide which is well-known for its brightening effects.

3. Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream

Klairs rich moist soothing cream.
[Image description: Klairs rich moist soothing cream.] Via Klairs.
If you have dry skin like me, you probably can’t live without your moisturizer which is why I spent years looking for the perfect one. When I found the Rich Moist Soothing Cream from Klairs it was basically love at first use, my skin had never felt so soft and supple. The best part was that it did not feel heavy on my skin or make it feel greasy as a lot of past moisturizers had. The product has powerful ingredients such as Jojoba seed oil and Shea butter which are not only great at moisturizing your skin but also protect it from free radicals and environmental damage. Additionally, the presence of Glycerin means that it also helps your skin retain moisture while Niacinamide supports your skin barrier.

4. Son & Park Beauty Water

A bottle of Son & Park beauty water.
[Image description: A bottle of Son & Park beauty water.] Via NudieGlow
Tired of spending so much money on multiple products for your skincare routine? If yes, then you will definitely love this two in one product which acts both as cleansing water and toner. We all know how important it is to cleanse your skin properly and use a toner to make sure your skin is back to its natural pH level after being washed and cleansed. The papaya extract in this beauty water acts as a mild natural exfoliator to reveal brighter and smoother skin while the witch hazel water gives a calming effect. The benefits of this product don’t end there as it also contains orange fruit extract, lavender water, and rose water which give your skin subtle hydration and moisture.

So, what are you waiting for? Time to fill your shopping cart with some amazing skincare products.

Skin Care Self-Care Beauty Lookbook

How skincare companies teach us to hate our bodies with “pretty” products

If I was a fruit, I would be a peach. Just like the fuzzy summer staple, I too, am covered with fine hair everywhere. I’ve since made peace with it because what is the alternative? Succumbing to societal pressure and hating my body? I don’t have time for that. And yet there are still skincare and beauty companies lurking on my social media feeds trying to convince me that my body’s hair, fat, cellulite, stretch marks, acne, and oily skin can all disappear with a product bundle amounting to well over $100.

While these companies might think they have good intentions, I’m skeptical. Some of these brands sound exactly like people I wouldn’t want to get stuck talking to in real life. These kinds of people are quick to take notice of all of my flaws and even quicker to recommend how they keep their skin looking like a beauty advert. What they’re really admitting when they say things like this is, “I’ve been blessed with great genes. No one in my family has chronic or cystic acne, nor do we have stretch marks, cellulite, or even body hair, so of course all of these quirky remedies work for me.”

Quite a few of these same skincare brands hire models who also were born with genes that make them less prone to large pores, acne, and cellulite and who don’t have hair, fat, scars, or stretch marks on their bodies. So, when I see a video come across my For You Page of a straight-sized white woman shaving the peach-fuzz downy of hair on her butt cheeks, I can’t help but question the intentions of these skincare brands. Do they want people to start being self-conscious about new parts of their body? Scrolling through the comments, one particular brand responded to users by agreeing that “all bodies are beautiful” or that no one is “expected to [shave their butt cheeks] but if you want to, we have a great routine.” Cool cool cool, but if “all bodies are beautiful,” then why does your brand only include straight-sized women and mostly only white women? Seems contradictory.

This same brand sells products that help “increase firmness of the skin, while minimizing the appearance of fine lines and cellulite” and other products that “increase circulation, facilitate tissue drainage, and plump out dimpled skin.” Is this why all of their models are straight-sized? Because if they actually included more body variation amongst their models, they would have to admit their products don’t work?

In an interview with HuffPost, Zakia Rahman, a dermatologist with Stanford Health Care, said, “Topical creams are really confusing because it’s a multi-billion dollar market and many of those things don’t work.”

The American Academy of Dermatology Association states, “If you’re looking for facelift-like results from a jar, you’ll likely be disappointed. Despite the claims, the results you see from a skin-firming cream will be subtle at best … When you see immediate results, the product tends to be an effective moisturizer.” On stretch marks, they assert, “like any scar, stretch marks are permanent, but treatment may make them less noticeable … It’s important to understand that no single treatment works for everyone — and many products don’t seem to work at all,” including home remedies like almond oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, or vitamin E. For cellulite, it comes down to some creams and lotion may have an effect.

Understanding what most bodies look like is going to be paramount for the skincare and beauty industry moving forward. It’s totally fine to sell products in pretty packaging with fun colors and smells. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s fun to buy these kinds of products because they’re pretty. But when brands pretend these products will help improve acne, cellulite, stretch marks, and other “problems” most human bodies experience, that just seems unethical and wrong.

To be clear, I’m not criticizing anyone for wanting to change how they look—because not wanting to have hair on your butt is a preference. However, skincare and beauty companies don’t acknowledge this. Instead, many of these brands continue to sell questionable products using harmful advertising and models and influencers who fit nicely into the beauty standards outlined by Western society. Unfortunately, this only reinforces harmful ideologies and excludes many groups of people.

I would prefer if skincare and beauty companies celebrated size-inclusive models and models with acne, stretch marks, fat, cellulite, and dark body hair in their pretty social media photos and marketing campaigns. This would even the playing field and actually show consumers that as a brand, they do in fact believe that “all bodies are beautiful” just as they are. There’s nothing ugly about bodies with acne, stretch marks, fat, cellulite, body hair, and more, so why not start putting your money where your mouth is? I’d love to see more photos and videos on my feeds of models with any of these natural body conditions having fun using booty polish or booby serum, not because it will “improve” how their body looks but because it’s fun and it smells good.

Skincare and beauty companies need to realize that today’s savvy consumers aren’t looking for superficial solutions to “problems” that aren’t even problems. Just admit the solutions you’re selling are fake and go. We’ll all be much better off for it, because the alternative is continuing to tell women that there is something wrong with how their bodies look. And that’s unacceptable.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

History Historical Badasses

Meet the woman detective who saved Abraham Lincoln’s life

Isn’t it crazy to think that if you weren’t at the right place at the right time, your whole existence will change on a dime? The Butterfly Effect is a wild concept and definitely one I think about with America’s first female detective, Kate Warne.

Hers is not a name that often appears in textbooks. In fact, this may be the first time you’ve heard of Warne at all. Did you know that if it wasn’t for her role, Abraham Lincoln could have been assassinated before his inauguration? This conspiracy event has become known as the “Baltimore Plot”.

The Pinkerton National Detective Agency caught wind of a plan to kill Lincoln by secessionists before his inauguration in 1861. Initially, the detectives were hired to keep an eye on the train route while Lincoln was making his rounds. He was on a whistle-stop tour before the final destination leading Lincoln to be in Washington D.C. However, this part of the trip proved to be even more crucial because Lincoln planned to switch lines…an ideal time to intercept him. 

Since people didn’t associate women with detective work, Warne was able to pose as Lincoln’s sister and ride the train with him as an undercover backup. Lincoln covered himself with a shawl, pretending to be ill to avoid wandering eyes. All the while, Warne was armed with a gun. Ready to fire at a moment’s notice. The logic? At the time, no one would suspect a woman to have ulterior motives if she was traveling with a sick family member. 

Thanks to Warne’s intelligence, the team of agents were proven to be instrumental in thwarting the plan. Even though this has been known as Kate Warne’s highest achievement, we shouldn’t forget how she landed this history-altering position. 

When Warne first saw the job listing for the Pinkerton’s Agency, Allan Pinkerton immediately assumed she was interested in a secretary role. Female detectives and officers were unheard of at the time and the idea of a woman could step up for the role seemed outlandish. But that didn’t stop Warne. In fact, that only sparked her determination. By pointing out what the agency lacked, Warne made the case on why she would be the best candidate. 

Warne explained to Pinkerton that the agency lacked the distinct advantage a woman detective offered. Because this was a man’s job at the time, no one would suspect a woman overhearing the conversations of important people was actually gleaning information on them. 

Pinkerton was convinced and hired Warne. She even herself to be one of the best officers on the team, according to Allan Pinkerton himself. Kate closed many cases by using her feminine traits to her advantage.

I love that Warne didn’t have to sacrifice a part of herself to conform to a job. She ultimately made the job work for her and benefited from it. This is a great lesson in not losing yourself in any aspect of your life, especially if those key parts can help make you stand out from the rest. 

It’s women like Kate Warne that make me think of my mom. No, she isn’t part of law enforcement but she is a woman in a male-dominated field. She is a courier and delivers packages. It’s a simple enough job description, but it is physically demanding and tends to be monotonous. She has to offload packages into her truck, drive them to the location, and then take them out. The weight varies and oftentimes she doesn’t receive much help. If anything, my mom is the first person to volunteer to help another person, which most of the time is when a man can’t pick up his slack. They have underestimated my mom from the start but for over 30 years, she has proven herself to be a dedicated worker and then some. 

People don’t think about these careers since the end result is all they see. The packages being delivered or the cases being closed. Behind the scenes work can be incredibly tiresome and if the environment isn’t conducive, it just makes everything harder. Especially in a field where you don’t find many others like yourself. Women often have to carry the burden of doing more than they should, especially since society keeps underestimating us at every turn. The need to do more to compensate because of some men doing the bare minimum puts an unfair shift in the balance. 

I’m glad to be able to share Kate Warne’s story. Not much is known outside of her role as a detective, but that doesn’t make her any less inspiring. Being “the first woman” of anything is an incredible feat to obtain. One that definitely doesn’t come lightly either. It’s just a painful reminder that society has a long way to go before we don’t need to start every story with this milestone.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Celebrities Movies Pop Culture

What boycotting JK Rowling means on the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that you believe in equal rights and you support the trans community in spirit. That you call yourself an LGBTQIA+ ally and wear rainbows in June and march at Pride with your queer friends. If you support J.K. Rowling instead of boycotting her, all of that is performative. Because it’s easy to advocate for human rights in the face of overt injustice, against people who want to openly deny people rights. But when it’s time to really take a stand, to renounce something you like because it’s problematic, will you do it? Will you stand with your queer friends then?

J.K. Rowling has said a lot of things that were transphobic. There is no way around it at this point. The author has reiterated her points time and time again with conviction. And a few other things that made me lose faith in her long before that. Now, people coming to her defense will say she is entitled to her own personal opinion. That she is not hurting anyone with her thoughts. That she changed her perspective recently and spun her argument around women’s safety rather than trans rights. But the issue is much more complex than that. Her thoughts, per se, aren’t hurting anyone. But her words? J.K. Rowling has a terrifyingly immense fanbase. Her words are endangering trans lives.

When she tweets about her own prejudice against trans individuals, she is preaching to an echo chamber of millions of people who listen to her as if the world hangs from her keyboard. People who feel validated in their own ignorance and hatred. People who go out there and spread that message and turn it into discriminatory and violent acts.

This needs to be established. Words have consequences. Celebrities especially, who hold so much mediatic power, need to be held accountable for their actions.

I am sick of hearing people my age, people who should know better, that they have stopped supporting J.K. Rowling when they still buy her new books and go see her new movies. That is the definition of supporting an author. Unfollowing on social media is not enough to boycott somebody.

The reason why Rowling is so rich isn’t that she sold billions of books – although that certainly contributed. It’s that she gets royalties. As of 2020, her biggest source of income are the Wizarding World theme parks. She also gets a cut from every time television airs a film based on her books. A cut from every cinema or theatre ticket sold (don’t go see Cursed Child, it’ll be an actual waste of your savings). A cut from every item of Harry Potter merchandising you buy your friends for Christmas. If you truly want to show you don’t support her, then stop supporting her.

I know, I know Harry Potter was your childhood. It was my childhood too. And my teenage years. I named my dog after a Harry Potter character. I still have posters up in my childhood bedroom. Like many in my generation, I am the person I am thanks to Harry Potter. I still love the characters. I still stay up at night reading and writing fanfiction inspired by the world of Harry Potter. But I go out of my way to make sure nothing I do supports a person with transphobic views. I go out of my way to make sure more and more people know what supporting her means for certain people.

Not everyone wants to be an activist, and that’s fair. What I find truly unacceptable is people claiming ignorance. “I’m a feminist and I don’t agree with what she said about trans people, but let me enjoy Potter in peace.” It doesn’t work like that. If you’re an ally as you claim to be, you shouldn’t enjoy Harry Potter in peace. You should fight against the powerful person telling millions of people that we aren’t all equal, a powerful person claiming that some people deserve fewer rights than others. Isn’t that what Hermione and Harry would do? Isn’t that what they did do?

I’m not saying we need to collectively disown and renounce Harry Potter, throw away our memorabilia and burn the books. I’m not saying we should pretend to hate it or that we never loved it in the first place. I’m saying we should take what it taught us and use it to make the world a kinder place. And yes, paradoxical as it sounds, that includes boycotting its creator.

It’s not a moral dilemma. We can enjoy a story and disagree with the author’s political views 20+ years after she wrote the books, it’s as straightforward as that. Philosopher Roland Barthes, a pillar in literary theory, comes to our aid in this: he coined a concept called la morte de l’auteur, quite literally “the death of the author.” Barthes encourages readers to split an author from their works and to view them as two separate entities. The author has full agency over the work, but relinquishes their authority over it the moment a work of art becomes public; it stops belonging to the author and it becomes property of its users, who are free to do with it what they will. This theory is also the most strenuous defender of fanfiction and fanart in the eternal debate around transformative works. Like John Green once exemplified and paraphrased, “books belong to their readers.”

J.K. Rowling owns the rights to Harry Potter (as she should, given she’s written it), but she doesn’t own our relationship to it. And we don’t owe her anything in return. There was no blood oath sealed when we first purchased The Philosopher Stone in the 90s or 00s binding us to the book’s author. We did not vow our unquestioned allegiance. Perhaps some of us did when we were younger, overcome with romanticism. Today, we cannot forsake our critical sense in the name of that loyalty.

Keep heart, Potterheads. Harry and his friends and their adventures belong to us. We get to still love them. I do. I have supported J.K. Rowling for over a decade of my life before she started spewing nonsense, but I don’t owe her my integrity now. I don’t owe her anything else but the truth. And the truth is I am, in part, what she made me: a woman who won’t stand for injustice and will speak out against it. It’s almost ironic that it was her own characters that taught me to fight back against her.

Many people are convinced, in theory, by this argument. But in practice, they don’t see what they can contribute. J.K. Rowling is too popular to ever truly boycott, and that may be true. But we should all do our part. If views drop, if ticket sales and book sales drop, eventually, in the long run, the industry will notice. If official merchandise isn’t being sold at the same rate it used to be, there will be a decrease in production. So take those steps. Unfollow her on social media, report her problematic statements. Buy second-hand books, DVDs, merchandise. You will also do some good to the environment and maybe to someone in need. You can also consider supporting small entrepreneurs and fan creators and buying non-official merch. Better to support them than a billionaire and a huge conglomerate like Warner Bros, who certainly doesn’t need your money.

It’s a miracle Warner Bros was able to bring back the entire core cast for the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film. Many of the actors have chosen to distance themselves and even condemned J.K. Rowling for her TERF-sounding statements. In fact, it’s safe to assume many only agreed to come back for the reunion at all because the author would be absent. This choice may look like a damnatio memoriae, like WB itself decided to exclude her from the show, but it’s actually a premeditated marketing move. By excluding her from all promotion of the reunion, they are ensuring the masses are not reminded of Rowling’s recent statements, and that they will purchase an HBO Max subscription and tune in happily with no sour feelings.

On her end, Rowling is also able to, if she chooses, play the victim, the part of the female creator who was excluded from a celebration of her own work of art. Ostracized and written out of the narrative she herself has created. Please do not be fooled by this pity-inducing move. J.K. Rowling is still very much earning royalties from the reunion. She may not be present in person, but she’s still making money out of it. Our nostalgia is once upon played upon and manipulated to enrich her.

Watching Return To Hogwarts on HBO Max still equals supporting J.K. Rowling. Watching the new Fantastic Beasts film does too. It means handing even more power to a person who spoke against trans rights.

Do you want to be on the right side of history?

TV Shows Movie Reviews Pop Culture

A definitive ranking of every ‘Pride and Prejudice’ adaptation you need to know about

No novel is as popular as Jane Austen’s (who I also like to refer to as the Queen of Angst) Pride and Prejudice. The 1813 novel of manners is brimming with empowering heroines (but not Lydia, never Lydia), brooding men yearning for character transformations, balls, and, of course, proposals. It is a truth universally acknowledged that any fan of Jane Austen will always be excited about watching a Pride and Prejudice adaptation – even if it has Lily James and zombies in it. 

I’ve read and re-read Pride & Prejudice countless times, participated in heated debates to explain why Joe Wright’s version is the greatest movie ever, and performed a one-person play narrating every character’s dialogue before my mirror. What I am trying to say is that I am not just a Pride and Prejudice enthusiast…I am a super fan.

Many Austen admirers share my love for the novel and its many adaptations. Although the argument always centers between the BBC series and Joe Wright’s work, other adaptations have been long forgotten. So for you, my fellow P&P fan, I ranked 15 adaptations. Watching these (not necessarily in the same order) is something of a rite of passage for every Janeite. Or so I like to believe.

15: Pride, Prejudice, And Mistletoe (2018)

We love a modern Pride and Prejudice adaptation that has a Christmas spin on it. The Hallmark movie starring Lacey Chabert and Brendan Penny is a gender-flipped version of the story — with the actress playing Darcy and Penny portraying her former debate team rival Luke (aka Elizabeth). Darcy is a big-city gal who returns home for Christmas break and helps her mom put on a charity gala. Interestingly, Luke Bennet (yes, they did that) is the very man catering to the party. 

Now, as far as an adaptation goes, it’s pretty refreshing and almost cute for a Hallmark movie, but don’t go expecting any fiery insults and angst. There isn’t much similarity to the book other than the characters’ names, and it is like a P&P adaptation on a sugar rush. Still, it is worth watching once!

14: Unleashing Mr. Darcy

My fellow Janeites, I know what you’re thinking. What kind of respectable P&P adaptation calls itself that? But take it from me, after watching so many different book-to-screen renditions, there isn’t a single one as hilarious as Unleashing Mr. Darcy. They took the title very seriously and allowed Mr. Darcy (Ryan Paevey) and all the other cast members to voice precisely what they were thinking in this one.

This movie doesn’t just put a modern spin on the book and throw our characters into a fancy New York City dog show setting — it transforms it into a comedy. In the movie, there is one scene where Elizabeth’s (Cindy Busby) mother takes one look at Darcy and goes, “He’s almost too pretty.” Yeah, he is. There’s another where Darcy looks over at Elizabeth at the dog show and says, “Fine eyes, shame about the freckles.” And right when she thinks he’s talking about her — that’s when he clarifies, “I was talking about the dog.” Don’t even get me started on the iteration of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The punchlines in this movie are absolute gold, so make a tub of popcorn, sit back, and watch them unfold.

13: Christmas At Pemberley Manor (2018)

This adaptation — also a Hallmark movie — sees Elizabeth Bennet as a New York City-based event planner on her journey to set up the holiday festival in a small town. She meets Darcy, a high-profile billionaire who wants to sell the estate she intends to use as a venue. She eventually persuades him, and they work together to arrange said festivities and fall in love. A turn of events causes the festival to shut down unexpectedly, and Darcy decides to sell the estate (because apparently, it can’t wait). The night before Christmas, Elizabeth wishes for a miracle to reinstate the town’s holiday cheer and bring back the festival, and a magical Santa answers.

I love stories set in small towns, but this isn’t my favorite inspired adaptation, and very little of it makes sense. But I’d suggest watching it and taking everything with a grain of salt — you’d be surprised to find out that some moments are not as cheesy!

12: Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy (2013)

Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy follows Elizabeth (Kam Heskin) as a college student and aspiring writer against the modern-day background of Utah. It’s a fun spin on the story — Elizabeth doesn’t care about getting married and wants to focus on becoming a writer.  The publishing house that might fulfill her dream is co-owned by the pompous Darcy, and throw in a Las Vegas elopement from the ever-so-scandalous Lydia and some gripping Jane and Bingley drama — this is a pretty good nod to the novel! It has plenty of hilarious moments and displays the characters and their lives in the future as well.

I’d recommend watching it without any expectations — you will be rewarded with a fun P&P-inspired movie that you’ll love!

11: Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Allow me to be honest for a quick minute — I’m sure if the 1980 show was my first venture into the many P&P adaptations that exist, it would be my favorite. The remake is true to the novel and is one of the more nuanced versions. The story is the same, and everything you love is all there, but it’s the characters and performances I’d like to talk about! The five-part miniseries is filmed beautifully, you hear the chirping of birds, and even the silence between Elizabeth and Darcy speaks. Elizabeth Garvie is as close to Austen’s conception of Lizzy Bennet, but she isn’t as lively as Ehle or Knightley.

The show is subtle and stately, and David Rintoul’s version of the brooding hero is a little stiff as opposed to his other counterparts, but I think this is a story where there’s something for everyone, so it is likely that you’ll view it differently than I did. It is 100% worthy of your time and appreciation. 

10: Lost in Austen (2008)

P&P meets fantasy in this four-part series. Amanda, a woman from London, enters the novel’s plot through a portal in her bathroom. She joins the Bennet family in their world, and Elizabeth finds herself trapped in 21st century London. Their presence affects the events in their worlds disastrously. The story primarily focuses on Amanda, and how she tries her best to move through the novel’s plot, but things keep on changing because she’s there in place of Lizzie. And when Mr. Bingley expresses interest in her instead of Jane, things get tense.

Lost in Austen is so much fun to watch for any fan of the author. It’s one of those shows you cannot believe exists, but it does. It’s as if a Janeite wrote fan fiction that was made into a television show — only that it’s really good. 

9: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is honestly a fascinating experiment in genre work. Lily James and her co-stars kick everyone’s *ss because, in this version of the beloved novel, women aren’t taught embroidery, and they don’t make cushions. They spend their time cleaning guns and swords and are trained in combat.

The Bennet sisters are famous for their beauty but also their deadly warrior skills, and instead of being worried about bagging the newest bachelor in town, they say cool stuff like, “I shall never relinquish my sword for a ring.” It’s P&P, but with zombies. Elizabeth Bennet’s wit helped her outsmart Darcy in the novel, but here, her weapon and talent for battle help her save lives. I don’t think Jane Austen would mind this version, to be honest.

8: Bride and Prejudice (2004)

Close your eyes. Think of Pride and Prejudice. Now imagine if the story was set in a small town in India. Next, picture everyone singing and dancing — which shouldn’t be hard because if you’re familiar with Bollywood, you’ll know that everyone is always singing and dancing. Okay, now open your eyes. You’ve got Bride and Prejudice!

One of the most fun versions of the story I have ever seen features Aishwarya Rai as Lalita, aka the Indian Lizzy Bennet, and Martin Henderson (Virgin River) as Darcy. Everyone in this movie is very good-looking. Wickham is portrayed by Daniel Gillies (Elijah from The Vampire Diaries), and there are just way too many familiar faces! It’s a story about love across cultures, reminiscent of Austen’s labor of love and yet so highly original. It is the adaptation of my dreams, and it’s so humorous. Henderson is probably the third most-handsome Darcy ever. 

7: Death Comes To Pemberly (2013)

Ever wondered what happened after Darcy and Elizabeth got their happily ever after? Murder, that’s what happened.

This 3-part series starring Anna Maxwell Martin and Matthew Rhys is P&P infused with a classic whodunit murder mystery! Set 6 years after the events of Austen’s book, the BBC drama is based on P.D. James’s novel of the same name and is an entertaining and seriously worthy sequel to the story. Before the plot gathers steam and focuses on a murder in the woods nearby, the show gives viewers a glimpse into the enchanting Pemberley estate — the glorious paintings, libraries, and rooms are all paid thoughtful attention to. The murder mystery might take a backseat sometimes, but this adaptation is a breath of fresh air that will capture the attention of any and every P&P admirer. 

6: Pride And Prejudice (1940)

This black-and-white film stars Greer Garson as Elizabeth and Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. For some reason, though, their costumes are reminiscent of the Victorian era and not regency as in the original novel, so the creators appear to have taken a fair bit of creative liberty. It’s the first big-screen adaptation of the classic novel, and the wit is sparkling, casting is spectacular, and the design is just stunning to look at.

It’s unquestionably one of the big-budgeted adaptations, and though the actors might appear to be older than the characters, the chemistry between Darcy and Elizabeth is incredible. You will find yourself swooning over Olivier, as I did.

5: Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Bridget Jones’s Diary is based on Helen Fielding’s popular novel of the same name (which is a reinterpretation of Pride and Prejudice, by the way) and stars Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones, a British 30-something post-feminist woman.

Dedicated to finding romance and taking control of her life, Bridget begins writing everything she hopes will manifest in her life — in a diary. Bridget’s life changes drastically after she meets Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), and they eventually compete for her affection. It features clever casting and cameos from actors in P&P adaptations and is a classic rom-com that never gets old. The movie is definitely a more modern version of the story — it has some sexual overtones but they’re handled tastefully. Zellweger also earned a Best Actress nod at the Academy Awards for her role! 

4: Austenland (2007)

Austenland is one of the most underrated adaptations of Pride and Prejudice I have ever seen. It’s funny and charming and full of witty exchanges and epic pratfalls that deserve a lot more recognition!

The protagonist is living the life of every Janeite’s dream – her room is jam-packed with P&P memorabilia, and she has a life-size cut-out of Colin Firth as Darcy (where can I get one of those?). One day, she spends an obnoxious amount of money to go to a Jane Austen-theme park where the women wear Regency-era gowns and the men wear..whatever the men in Austen books wear. It stars Keri Russell as P&P superfan Jane Hayes on her journey to finding her own Darcy, but her “copper package” does not allow her the privileges enjoyed by the other guests. Jennifer Coolidge’s golden punchlines kept me laughing through and through, and the honesty of Russell’s character is hilarious. “I am single, because apparently the only good men are fictional!” she says in a scene, making any P&P fan worth their salt scream “ME TOO!” 

3: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012)

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a multiplatform adaptation of the Jane Austen novel. The web series reimagines the classic around a fictional vlog filmed in the bedroom of Elizabeth (Ashley Clements), a 24-year-old grad student who lives at home with her parents and is burdened with student debt. The show primarily takes place in Lizzie’s bedroom, foregoes any fancy costumes and landscapes shots, and only sees the protagonist discussing the trials and tribulations of her daily life. It is dramatically different from the 1813 novel, but it honors its story and is the most creative version of P&P on this entire list.

At 100 episodes, it’s the easiest web series to binge-watch. And if you’re still unconvinced of how cool The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is, here’s a fun fact: In 2013, it became the first web series to ever win an Emmy award!

2: Pride and Prejudice (1995)

If I didn’t have so much love for the 2005 movie, the BBC series (directed by Simon Langton) would easily be ranked number one. How do I begin discussing how great this adaptation is? Jennifer Ehle is the perfect Lizzy, she’s as charming as she is lively, she embodied the character just as I imagined her to be, and gave her so much grace and poise. Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy, sideburns and all, is full of angst and glances that scream yearning. Every time he longingly glances at Lizzy, or gives her a soft smile — I find myself internally screaming. This is the original “I burn for you” vibe, not Bridgerton. Sorry, guys.

Remember when Firth’s version of Mr. Darcy walked out of the lake and the greatest television moment in history was born? Yeah, it was so cool that they immortalized it in a statue. It’s not like we needed to remember that on a good summer’s day in 1995, Mr. Darcy jumped into a lake, completely unaware that he would meet Elizabeth Bennet on the other side. We’re never forgetting it. If you haven’t watched this adaptation yet, drop everything and watch it STAT. You’ll find yourself breaking into applause many, many times.

PS: Remember when Colin Firth said “…your good opinion is rarely bestowed, and therefore more worth the earning” ?? I’ll go weep now.

1: Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Joe Wright’s 2005 movie starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen is ranked number one on my list. At 2 hours and 9 minutes, this movie is significantly shorter than the BBC series, but there’s something about Keira and Matthew’s iteration of my favorite mismatched fictional couple ever that always brings me back to it. There’s no Mr. Darcy jumping into a lake and emerging from it, but there’s the hand flex. When Darcy offers Lizzy his hand so she may step into her family carriage, he turns away before she can glance at him, flexing his fingers in agony. Again, classic “I burn for you” vibe which doesn’t require words to accompany it. It’s mind-numbingly romantic because this scene is entirely built on subtleties. 

Mr. Darcy’s proposal in the pouring rain, in the ancient-looking mausoleum, Lizzy’s first visit to Rosings, the exchange of glances between them when she plays the piano, the look on his face when she expresses her wishes had changed — it’s so comforting to watch. It’s an accurate portrayal of two people who are drawn to each other despite their beliefs or circumstances. No matter how many more times Pride and Prejudice is adapted for the big screen, the 2005 film will always have an audience!

Pride and Prejudice has been influential in establishing the template for romance novels that came after, and has continued to inspire filmmakers to bring the story to life again and again. It is a tale for the ages — and I can’t wait to see who brings their vision to the narrative next. But I’ll say this, there’s something about women directing empowering young fictional women that’s incredibly powerful.

So, if the gods are listening, can Greta Gerwig helm her own Pride and Prejudice adaptation next?

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!


Our codependency habits can be traced back to our childhood

 Oftentimes the habits that we form (good or bad) are learned in our formative years and carried into adulthood. When you enter your early 20s these habits make themselves known to you and are mirrored in the relationships that you form with others. Habits can be formed in early childhood or as you get older. These habits determine how you treat others and reflect how you feel about yourself. 

Habits are rituals and behaviors that we knowingly and unknowingly perform that help us carry out everyday activities such as brushing our teeth, taking a bath or a shower, fixing our hair in the morning, and unwittingly following the same routines every day without much thought put in.

There are three subcategories habits fall into. The first category is the habits that we don’t pay much attention to because they are a part of our daily life, such as tying shoelaces or brushing teeth. The category is habits that we have worked hard at establishing and are beneficial to our wellbeing like exercising, following a healthy diet, or sleeping early to get your 8 hours of sleep! The third category of habits are the habits that are not good for us, these are habits such as smoking, procrastination, overspending and finally the habits you form of codependency 

Codependency is the mental, physical, emotional or spiritual reliance on a partner, friend, or family member.

The word codependency was first forged in the 1950s, by members of the Anonymous Alcoholics as a way to support the partners of individuals who were involved in substance abused. 

However today, the term covers a much broader topic.

Codependency is a learned behavior. When we observe the behaviors of our parents (good and bad) as children, we make them our own. They can stem from having a parent or guardian who had difficulty with setting boundaries, could never say ‘no’ to others, was the martyr, had poor or unhealthy communication skills. These behaviors are learned early on and brought into our close and intimate relationships. 

Adults who grow up with parents that were emotionally unavailable are more likely to become codependent adults. And as adults, they will mostly find themselves in relationships with partners that are emotionally unavailable , exhibiting the wound that stems from their childhood. At first, you may excuse this behavior from the other person, in hopes that they will change or believe that you can be the one to change them. 

Our subconscious may hope to dream that one day the other person will acknowledge the love that we give and be inspired to change. And maybe if we give them more time, they will finally return all the love that we so desire. This kind of reasoning is harmful. It is more so when the other person displays abusive behavior. Codependency does not only exist in romantic relationships but can be seen in platonic relationships and friendships. In trying navigate relationships in my, I have found that I too have some codependent habits that have been not only harmful to the relationship but harmful to my wellbeing. Before starting my journey of healing I was unaware of these habits and I would find myself repeating the same unhealthy cycles when it came to my friendships and relationships. This all came to an end once I started becoming more self aware of myself and how my own behavior contributed to having to repeat these cycles.  Being aware of my codependent habits was the start of my healing process.

If you believe you are in a relationship where you carry out habits of being codependent, the first thing in becoming independent is to take a look at yourself first and not at others. Signs that you be codependent include feeling responsible for the actions of others, doing more than you should in your relationships to keep the peace, being afraid of being alone, needing the approval of others to attain your self-worth, challenges with adapting to change or making decisions for yourself, and having your own emotions determined by the thoughts and feelings of those around you.  

But here is the good news, codependency is a behavior you can unlearn. In order to hold space for all healthy relationships in your life, you need to heal yourself first. Start with being honest with yourself and others, in your communication and in expressing your needs and desires. Practice having positive thoughts and higher expectations to counteract the negative ones. Learn to not take things personally, not everything is yours to fix or change. Take breaks! Taking breaks is important in grounding yourself and remembering who you are. And last but not least establish boundaries. Establishing boundaries is one of my favorite things to do lately, not only with others but with yourself as well. Having boundaries has taught me where my needs begin and where the other person’s needs end.

As you navigate your way in trying to break the cycle of codependency, it may seem as though you are being selfish and unfair. You’re not. Putting yourself first is not selfish but rather self-care. Unlearning unhealthy habits needs one to be patient with themselves and allow for mistakes along the way, as you won’t always get it right. If you start to experience feelings of guilt when you make the initiative to put yourself first, know that it is okay and that you are still learning.  

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Book Reviews Books Interviews

Ali Hazelwood talks fanfiction, romance tropes, ‘The Love Hypothesis’ and her next book

It has been four months since the release of The Love Hypothesis, and its overwhelming success is making author Ali Hazelwood feel “incredibly verklempt” about it. 

Along with being an immensely talented writer, Hazelwood is a cognitive neuroscientist. She hails from Italy, and lived in Germany and Japan before moving to the U.S. to pursue her Ph.D. Before The Love Hypothesis was a full-fledged novel, it was fanfiction centered on Star Wars characters Kylo Ren and Rey Skywalker, one of the author’s favorite ships. I had the honor of conversing with Ali Hazelwood about her experience writing fanfiction, scenes she had to edit out of her book, the similarities she shares with her characters – and her next book, Love on the Brain.

The Love Hypothesis was born during a fanfiction exchange with her friend Frankie, recounted Hazelwood. “A friend wanted to read a fake dating story. I’d just watched the Netflix adaptation of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, so I was really feeling the trope. And I decided to set the story in academia because academia is all I know!”

The Love Hypothesis follows the story of Olive Smith, a third-year Ph.D. candidate who doesn’t believe in romantic relationships unless it has anything to do with helping her best friend Ahn be in one. To convince Ahn to date her own ex, Olive lies about seeing someone else. But right when she’s about to get caught red-handed working late in the laboratory, she panics and kisses Dr. Adam Carlsen, a 30-something hotshot professor known for being set in his ways. They eventually enter a fake relationship because they both have something to gain, and thus begins one of the most fun books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. The Love Hypothesis is brimming with romance tropes, and yet, it tackles everyday problems in academia and makes sure you laugh out loud from time to time. I suffered from a massive book hangover after turning over the last page. I looked for fan art. I signed up for Hazelwood’s newsletter, which included a bonus chapter. I tweeted ferociously. I got my friends to read it. 

Writing a story against the backdrop of STEM could be a challenge for anyone, but not Hazelwood, a cognitive neuroscientist by profession. “I look at the relationship between brain structure/function and behavior,” she says, adding, “I’ve always been interested in what makes people the way they are, and whether we can find some answers in their brains, so I use a lot of neuroimaging (MRI, fMRI, ERP) to look at individual differences in personality and behavior.”

Hazelwood’s academic career inspired her setting for the novel. “I feel like academia is the only setting I can reliably write, because it’s what I know best,” the author shared.

Fanfiction helped Hazelwood find her voice as a storyteller and novelist, and she had great things to share about her experience. It helped her work with ideas without worrying about her story and introduced her to a cohort of friends who supported her writing.

“Fic writing is amazing and it really allows to flex writing muscles without some of the constraints of traditional publishing (like length and story structure). More importantly, though, what fic has given me is amazing friends who have supported me and encouraged me and constantly read my writing even when it’s at its crappiest and help me make it decent, and I’ll be forever grateful for them!”

When I asked Hazelwood if she had to cut out a favorite scene from the final version of the book, she spilled on Adam and Olive’s relationship, revealing that the characters had breakup sex in the hotel. Hazelwood still mourns the deletion of the scene, and so do I!

“There were more sex scenes that just kind of ended up not really fitting into the last version of the book (and I’m weak, I always cry when I have to cut out sex scenes…) In previous versions of the book Olive and Adam actually had breakup sex in his hotel, but it turned into a kiss in the final version, and while it fits better with the tone of the story, I do mourn the extra sex scene a bit….” said the author. 

We also talked about the supporting characters in The Love Hypothesis, Olive’s roommate Malcolm, and Adam’s colleague, Holden, and the relationship they eventually enter. If Hazelwood could write a spin-off follow-up to The Love Hypothesis, she’d love to revisit their story.

“I would love to write the Malcolm and Holden Go to Ikea to Buy a Table novella. They would spend half of the time bickering, the other half making out in the model rooms. It would be beautiful,” she said.

The Love Hypothesis isn’t just a romance novel — it also details the abuse of power and the sexism women in STEM face on a daily basis. I asked Hazelwood about what inspired her to address that in her novel, and her answer reveals she decided to draw from her personal experiences.

“It’s something I’ve seen so much around me, and experienced so much of. When I started grad school I was the only woman in a cohort of eight, and the only non North American person. Sometimes it felt really isolating. Plus, the structure of academia almost actively promotes toxic power dynamics. It was nice to explore some of my feelings about all that stuff in a work of fiction.”

In the past, Hazelwood has enjoyed reading Star Wars, Star Trek, and Pride and Prejudice fanfiction. She’s a Jane Austen superfan, and that is why, we can expect to see some major Darcy/Lizzie vibes from her upcoming novel, Love on the Brain. The bestselling author is also excited about writing modern adaptations of her favorite Austen novels — Emma, Persuasion, and Pride and Prejudice set in academia, in the future.

Hazelwood further shared some details on her upcoming book, expressing that Love on the Brain was her love letter to everything she loved about neuroscience. Her research as a neuroscientist isn’t similar to that of Adam and Olive’s, and she might not share Olive’s love for pumpkin spice (she HATES it!), but she weaved her personal experiences into building the characters of her second book.

“The main character in Love On The Brain, which will be out in August 2022, is a cognitive neuroscientist who uses transcranial magnetic stimulation (a technique I also used when I was in grad school). It was a lot of fun to write, a love letter of sorts to my favorite parts of neuroscience!” she revealed.

In terms of Hazelwood’s favorite romance tropes, there are three. “Enemies to lovers, soulmates, enemies that oh noes, just happen to be soulmates.” And in terms of the tropes included in her upcoming book, the author shared a list that will make anyone set up a calendar reminder to pre-order in time.

Love On The Brain includes:

  • Enemies to lovers
  • Secret pining
  • Forced proximity
  • Emotionally constipated main character
  • You’ve got mail
  • Size difference
  • Broody, protective love interest
  • Misunderstandings 

If you’re yet to read a romance novel that surprises you and makes you laugh and smile all at the same time — The Love Hypothesis is it. Teeming with vibrant characters and refreshing romance tropes, this is the kind of book you want to end the year with.

TV Shows Pop Culture Interviews

In conversation with The Witcher director Louise Hooper

The Witcher is arguably one of the best Netflix fantasy series. It has rich worldbuilding and cleverly crafted twists but its biggest strength is its portrayal of women. With a female showrunner at the helm, it begs the question of whether having more women behind the scenes affects what happens on screen. We caught up with director Louise Hooper – who worked on the game-changing episodes 6 and 7 of season 2 – about her work on the series and whether she sees representation heading in the right direction.

“The honest truth is, I hope it is. I doubt it’s moving as quickly as it should,” Hooper says.

Renowned for her work on critically acclaimed series Cheat and Flesh and Blood, Hooper has been in the industry for a long time and is a great authority on the topic. In her experience, she doesn’t believe that women are better portrayed if only women are behind the camera. “I’m just really wary of saying that women make it soft and respectful and empathetic and men don’t. I think it’s about being a good human or not a good human.”

So does representing female characters accurately fall solely on women directors?

In short, no. Hooper believes that “you can have men with great emotional intelligence and they can direct a woman or write about a woman in a way that’s really insightful and brilliant.” Ultimately, she aims to portray all sorts of emotions to the audience, no matter what. “Hopefully, I get as much depth and empathy as a director out of the male cast in exactly the same way that I would from the female ones.”

Earlier in the year, The Tempest attended a female filmmaker’s panel at the BFI London Film Festival, where creators spoke on a similar issue.

“I think some men really capture female stories. I worked with Tom Beard and produced a film called Two For Joy… he really writes women’s characters beautifully and so I always feel like it should be inclusive,” said Sadie Frost, director of the fashion documentary ‘Quant’.

Research appears to be the key as Sam Firth (The Wolf Suit), commented that it’s what distinguishes “good filmmakers” and further said, “I want men to be making feminist films.”

Mounia Akl (Costa Brava Lebanon) likewise agreed: “I think that’s the most important thing… if you’re talking about something you don’t know then you have a big responsibility to really research then invite to the conversation, those who really know it.”

The unfortunate truth though is that women aren’t given the same opportunities in the industry. It’s therefore understandable that viewers may be protective over who tells particular stories. More often than not women are depicted in quite a gratuitous light or through the ‘male gaze’. Fantasy is especially rife in this area, but The Witcher refreshingly diverts from such a portrayal. Hooper rightly identifies that “it’s about being respectful, not objectifying women and not making them always the victim of violence.”

Now there is a point to be made that some scenes do perhaps require some sensitivity. Hooper brings up the birth scene from episode 6 as an example as “when you’re working with a woman and you’re a woman yourself, of course it’s great to have that ease and conversation. In terms of modesty, you have to be really respectful and careful.”

Likewise, certain instances deserve to be told by those who have first-hand knowledge, as in the past those opportunities didn’t even exist, especially stories surrounding race issues.

So what do the statistics tell us about women in film? Women are also often kept out of genres. For instance, in action and adventure, only 16% were directed by women in 2019. Does that mean they’re less interested in the genre? Of course not. In fact, a Fandango survey found that action is the top genre for women. Hooper’s point holds a lot of weight here, as it should be more about who has the right vision for a project rather than putting the burden on female directors to only take on a certain type of project. We want fight scenes too.

While women make up 50% of moviegoers, only 10% of the top-grossing films were directed by women in 2019. Why are they not entrusted with blockbuster budgets? Gina Prince-Bythewood was shockingly the first woman of color to even direct a high-profile superhero film (The Old Guard is fantastic, more women directing action sequences please).

Having women in positions of power appears to impact representation in other areas of production though and Hooper acknowledges that The Witcher showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich “is brilliant. She really champions women.”

It’s clear that there are still miles to go in having a more balanced crew on set, but according to directors, this will not be achieved by exclusively allowing women to lead female-led stories. The consensus seems to be that while it’s important to hire more women for projects, it should be done across the board, across all genres.

Outfits Fashion Lookbook

We need to talk about Zendaya’s outfits on the Spider-Man press tour

Zendaya’s status as a fashion icon is undeniable. The 25-year-old Emmy-winning actress has always dared to experiment with her red carpet looks, and she has consistently nailed it — no matter what. From her Met Ball reiteration of Cinderella to her many pop culture-inspired outfits during the Spider-Man: No Way Home press tour, Zendaya has taken the fashion world by storm, and she’s not going to stop anytime soon.

Zendaya is the youngest person to be honored with the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Icon award and has struck every note on the fashion spectrum. Elaborate, sci-fi-inspired gowns? Check. A wet-look dress that will forever be imprinted in our memory? Check. Wearing a high fashion breastplate without letting it wear you? Also, check.

But what I am most excited to talk about are Zendaya’s many looks during this year’s Spider-Man press tour. From interviews to red carpet premieres, the actress who plays Peter Parker’s lady love MJ in the franchise wore outfits inspired by iconic Spidey villains, depicting the epic intersection of pop culture and fashion. Here’s a look at three of my favorites:

1. The Doctor Octopus-inspired gown at The Ballon d’Or Ceremony

Zendaya pays homage to Doc Oak by wearing a black dress featuring a metal spine
[Image description: Zendaya pays homage to Doc Oak by wearing a black dress featuring a metal spine while attending the Ballon d’Or Ceremony in Paris, France] via Roberto Cavalli
On November 29, Zendaya attended the Ballon d’Or Ceremony (a prestigious annual football award) in Paris, France, along with her Spider-Man co-star and partner Tom Holland. All eyes were on the actress as she looked stunning in an incredible open-back black gown from fashion designer Roberto Cavalli’s autumn 2000 collection. When you see it from the front, it seems like a typical, sleek skin-tight dress, but its pièce de résistance is detected when Zendaya turns around.

The ensemble was “re-edited” by the label’s creative director, Fausto Puglisi, to feature a metal spine that runs along the back of her dress. The golden spine detail has earned comparisons to the iconic Spider-Man villain Doctor Octopus and his mechanical arm appendages, which the character Otto Octavius designed to assist him during his experiments. The skeletal gold piece is linked by micro chains and is designed to resemble the vertebrae. Zendaya worked with her longtime stylist, the legendary Law Roach, to pull off the look. The actress confirmed her dress borrowed inspiration from the fan-favorite fictional supervillain when she took to Instagram, noting that she loved a good reference.

2. Zendaya’s take on Green Goblin 

Zendaya wears a green and purple suit from Maison Valentino
[Image description: Zendaya wears a green and purple suit from Maison Valentino at the Graham Norton Show.] via Twitter
Zendaya appeared on The Graham Norton Show (a British comedy chat show), where she sported a vibrant green-and-purple suit from the Italian luxury fashion house, Valentino. Styled by Law Roach once again, the actress opted for the outfit, which is part of the brand’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino Rendez Vous collection. The look appears to pay homage to the Spider-Man villain Green Goblin (Norman Osborn), whose supervillain suit in the Marvel comic books embraced the same colors. Green Goblin’s suit in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy did not feature hues of purple, but Zendaya is adorning the color combination for fans! Is this the beginning of Zendaya’s supervillain era? I sure hope so! The actress is infamous for rocking some of the most fashionable suits we’ve ever seen, and this one is another of them. 

3. Zendaya’s Spider-Web Earrings and Double-Breasted Blazer

Actress Zendaya wears spider-web earrings at a photo call for her movie Spider-Man: No Way Home
[Image description: Actress Zendaya wears spider-web earrings at a photo call for her movie Spider-Man: No Way Home] via Twitter
For the Spider-Man photocall in London, Zendaya made spiderwebs look chic. The actress wore Alexander McQueen’s Spring/ Summer 2022 collection from head-to-toe, sporting a double-breasted blazer embroidered with crystals and thigh-high black stockings, which were similarly dazzled. The gray wool brazer was teeming with glittering crystal raindrops across the shoulders, and Zendaya accessorized the sparkly look with arachnid-themed earrings from Jacob & Co. The earrings formed a spider web design and dangled from a crystal spider attached to the earlobe. Zendaya ditched the franchise’s villains for her outfit this time, but I’m sure Peter Parker would appreciate her tribute.

4. Zendaya’s Spiderweb Dress and Matching Mask

Zendaya in a nude dress from Valentino featuring spiderweb detailing.
[Image description: Zendaya in a nude dress from Valentino featuring spiderweb detailing at the Spider-Man: No Way Home Premiere.] via Valentino
Zendaya evidently saved her most extravagant look for the end — the Spider-Man: No Way Home movie premiere in Los Angeles. The actress wore a custom Valentino nude black dress featuring a plunging neckline and beautiful, spiderweb detailing all over. She wore black Louboutin pointy-toe pumps, and for accessories, her stylist chose Bulgari diamond drop earrings for Zendaya. Just when I thought she couldn’t possibly look any more beautiful, Zendaya put on a black, feathered lace mask to complete her look.

Over the years, Zendaya has transformed into a fashion icon and she’s a cultural phenomenon for a reason. Zendaya has consistently used her celebrity status to discuss race and social justice thoughtfully. Despite what others may say about her, she owns her power and takes control of her narrative. Zendaya is an exciting celebrity to watch because she is more than just an actor and a fashion icon — she is ambitious and wants to be a storyteller who spotlights unrepresented women.

I do not doubt that she will be successful in doing so, because at 25-years-old, despite her many achievements, Zendaya is just getting started. 

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!