International Dramas: Touch Your Heart

Promotional photo of (left) Lee Dongwook and (right) Yoo Inna. Copyright goes to Rakuten Viki and tvN.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I am back into the K-Drama watch list and this was the one that was first recommended to me on Netflix. So, I decided to give it a shot! The drama was seemingly made because of the drama ‘Goblin’ and its popularity. Though I haven’t watched ‘Goblin’, mostly because it isn’t on Netflix, I have heard a lot about it. The two leads in this drama specifically are the same actors who played the side plot romance couple in that show. And from what I know about ‘Goblin’, I know that most people were unhappy with the way the side-plot romance ended. So, in the hopes of assuaging some of the fans they decided to make a drama starring the two. Most people are still hoping for a second season, but they were all fairly happy with the idea of this drama. As I have never watched ‘Goblin’, my opinion of this drama is very unbiased in regards to that. But I did find the purpose for the drama being made very interesting and you can certainly tell that the actors have chemistry! And two actors who are great working alongside each other usually make for a great drama! But, to be honest, their chemistry can’t save everything. SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Summary: Famous actress Oh Yoonseo finds herself jobless and blacklisted after being involved in a scandal even though she is found innocent. Eventually she finds herself a role in a law drama, but the only way she can be involved is if she agrees to study her role by working at an actual law firm. She soon finds herself working as the secretary for an awkward and seemingly cold attorney named Kwon Jungrok who wants nothing to do with her. But he may just be more soft-hearted than she takes him for.

The Good:

Female Lead: A lot of times in dramas I find that the female lead isn’t given much plot for herself outside of the main romance. This drama doesn’t suffer from that at all. This is also one of those rare dramas where the female lead doesn’t suffer from blank slate syndrome. She has her own well developed character without it ever feeling like a self-insert. But for the most part, her personal arc revolves around her learning responsibility rather than her romance. While she begins the series viewing the job as something fun with no responsibility, she eventually decides to become the best she possibly can be at it. And she definitely does. Because of Jungrok’s personality, it is often Yoonseo who appeals to his clients on a more personal level. And seeing her become just as useful to his work as he is, is everything I want from female characters in dramas.

Male Lead: Jungrok is both adorable and interesting. Though he’s considered the star of the law firm he works at, the rest of the employees don’t seem to understand why he’s so successful with his clients. Mostly because he’s known for his more stand-offish personality. But as you see his work style when Yoonseo becomes his secretary, you realize that his popularity does have to do with his kindness just as much as his sense of justice. And his unexpected kindness is focused on by the series much more than any sense of mysteriousness. I personally prefer my male leads to be more kind than mysterious. I also loved his seemingly realistic awkwardness. It wasn’t blown out of proportion or made to be something for him to overcome. It was just an endearing part of the character that made him even more enjoyable to watch.

Main Couple: Definitely the best part of this drama was what everyone was expecting it to be. The chemistry. And really the main couple in general. Their relationship is entirely based off of trust and doesn’t actually grow until both the individuals grow as people. All of the moments with this couple are wholesome. One of my favorite things about them is that this couple demonstrates consent in some of the best ways. This is one of the few couples in a drama where the guy makes sure he has consent before he kisses the female lead. Which was great! The show also depicts the couple treating work professionally even after they get together, though they are still working together in a close capacity. The over-all respect that this couple has for each other comes across in so many ways. This couple is what makes the drama good. And there’s no second lead, so no love triangles means we can focus more on them as a couple!

The Bad:

The Side Characters: When I said that the couple is what makes this drama good, I really wasn’t kidding. I can’t think of one other character that I genuinely like. Junrok has a best friend who is likable, but he feels so incredibly disconnected from the story that he doesn’t feel like he has a purpose. And all of the people at the law firm were either not focused on enough or extremely annoying. Just for comparison, ‘Vincenzo’ has a similar cast of wacky side characters in the building tenants and I also accused them of being occasionally annoying in my review for that drama. But they served a purpose in the growth of the main character and they weren’t always incredibly bad. Specifically the boss character at the law firm in this drama was awful. I was so annoyed with him by the end of the drama that I started skipping through his scenes. If you want to see a character with comically extreme vanity that never gets better and always results in him acting like everyone else is beneath him, I guess this character is for you. His lack of decency just got to me and the drama refusing to acknowledge it as anything other than funny made it even worse.

Side Plot Romance One: This is yet another drama with two side plot romances and, as you probably already figured out, I didn’t actually like either of them. The first was between Jungrok’s two college friends, who weren’t bad because they were dislikable. They were bad because their plot had nothing to do with anything else in the drama. Occasionally Jungrok would hang out with them when he was sad, but we could have just as easily watched him brood alone. The show tried to show their importance by having them be Prosecution in a few major cases, but they never really found out anything that the main characters didn’t. They just felt like a weird break from the story.

Side Plot Romance Two: This was between two of the more obnoxious characters at the law firm. One of them was like the even more clueless version of Gaston from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and the other one was just creepy. They both start out the series absolutely hating each other and by the end they were suddenly together. Even though they weren’t developed nearly enough for that and it seemed like the writers were attempting to give the audience every reason why they would never work out. I just didn’t enjoy any part of this. I don’t think their romance was even supposed to be cute, because it was only ever portrayed for comedy. Even the writers didn’t take this relationship seriously.

The Cases: The cases at first seemed like they were pretty serial. There was about one case per episode and if it was more plot relevant it might take up two episodes. Which was a structure I originally thought was pretty smart. About half way through the show (predictably, after the couple got together) the writers seemed to have no idea what to do with the plot anymore. So they would randomly bring back old cases or throw in a weird trope-y case that would automatically be solved for no apparent reason. There was a stalker storyline that had no backbone in the plot and was solved after Jungrok punched Yoonseo’s assailant once. My least favorite case, however, was one involving domestic violence. A woman was accused of murdering her husband though many were arguing it should be lightly sentenced because she was being abused and it was likely self defense. Reasonable, right? They then introduce this odd plot twist where she didn’t actually kill him, it was actually a very sweet autistic man that she knew who was trying to defend her. Though the autistic man was still shown in a very negative light. Films and shows need to stop presenting people dealing with mental issues as dangerous. It’s an awful stereotype that needs to die. But then they bring this case back almost ten episodes later for no reason because they realize the autistic man is actually innocent. The woman actually did kill her husband with the help of a different accomplice and it was all premeditated because she wanted the insurance money. Are you kidding me? First you try to show people with autism in a negative light and then switch to victims of domestic violence? If they would have stuck to the simple case structure it seemed like they were leading up to at the very beginning, they wouldn’t have made such questionable moral decisions in a show that’s mostly supposed to be lighthearted anyways. My guess is they couldn’t make a decision on what exactly they wanted the tone of the show to be.

I would have absolutely loved to say that I loved this drama. And I actually really really liked the main couple! My issues were literally anything that wasn’t the main two characters or them as a couple. The plot and the other characters were where the writing crushed the show for me. Over-all, I wouldn’t say that the show was bad. It had some great moments and definitely some very cute moments. But I wouldn’t say that the show was good either, because the writers couldn’t decide on a tone for the plot. If you’re interested in giving this show a watch because you like the premise of an actress falling for an attorney or because you liked these characters in ‘Goblin’, I would say go for it. It isn’t a bad watch. But if you’re going into this looking for a good plot to really draw you in, definitely look elsewhere. Personally, I may return to a couple scenes from this drama, but it isn’t one I would include on a rewatch list.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Netflix Shows: The ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Live-Action Series So Far

Promotional image of Appa, Sokka, Katara, Aang, and Momo from ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’. Copyright goes to Nickelodeon.

Hey! Hallie here!

We haven’t really talked about ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ much on this blog but that’s definitely not because we don’t adore the series. It’s undebatably one of the best animated series of all time. I think about how much I love Toph on a regular basis. And if you’ve kept up with this fandom at all you know that the idea of a live action remake has been a heavily debated one. The series already had a live action remake in the form of a 2010 film that most fans will glare at you for even mentioning. Trust me, it isn’t an overreaction. Because of this horrifically awful adaptation, most were skeptical when it was announced that Netflix was going to attempt an entire live action series for ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’. A lot has changed since this project was first announced, and there’s plenty of reasons to be skeptical just as there are plenty of reasons to be excited. So let’s look at what this series has going for it and what could potentially cause this whole thing to fall apart.

The Creators:

Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are the creators behind the original ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ and were originally set to be executive producers on the live action series as well. This was a major comfort for many fans, who felt as though the major issue with the film was the director’s (M. Night Shyamalan) refusal to include them in the story creating process. However, last year Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko announced that they were leaving the project due to creative differences. And they didn’t seem to believe these differences were small. They went as far as to say that whatever version of the show ended up being created, it would not be the show they intended to make. That’s a pretty condemning sentiment. It also stirred up quite a bit of rumors as fans started to speculate what these creative differences could have been. Many fans spread the idea that the cast was going to be white-washed again, similar to the way it was in the 2010 film, and that once the cast was announced the fans would boycott Netflix. In the very least it’s safe to say this particular theory isn’t all that realistic now that we have some of the cast confirmed. But I’ll get to that in a second. With the creators gone, the role of show runner has been given to Albert Kim. This isn’t an immediate comfort for the fans hoping for someone they can trust to take over. Albert Kim hasn’t done a ton of projects and his most recent work, ‘Sleepy Hollow’, doesn’t exactly align with ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’. However, choosing someone who isn’t as well known is no crime. Kim is a passionate fan of the series who has promised an authentic take on the source material while simultaneously making the story feel more connected than the thirty-minute episodes did originally. He’s also joined by a diverse selection of producers whose unique outlooks could definitely benefit the series.

The Cast:

I have yet to see anyone frustrated at this cast. It’s a really excellent cast so far, though we still don’t know the entire cast at this point in time. Aang will be played by Gordon Cormier, a young actor who’s been in various interesting projects, such as Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’. Katara is being played by Kiawentiio, who took part in Netflix’s ‘Anne with an E’. Sokka will be Ian Ousley, who many know from ’13 Reasons Why’. Zuko is being portrayed by Dallas Liu, who was recently seen in ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’. As of right now, these are the major roles announced for the younger characters in the show. And all of these announcements are really exciting. We see no white-washing here. Instead, we have a mix of Asian and Indigenous actors who are the right ages to be playing such young characters. All of them are also excellent actors with some really impressive roles under their belts. As for the adult characters, Daniel Dae Kim is Fire Lord Ozai. Need I say more? He’s perfect and an icon in his own right. We also have Ken Leung as Commander Zhao, Kay Siu Lim as Gyatso, and, quite importantly, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Uncle Iroh. Most people know Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Appa from ‘Kim’s Convenience’, a show that also included the likes of Simu Liu. Though we don’t have the entire cast, and I’m still eagerly waiting for a Toph announcement, this cast has me very excited. Everyone involved so far is more than suited to their roles and very capable of portraying them.

Why Remake Something Already Great?:

This seems to be the question on most people’s minds. Fans already like ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ as it is. They like it so much, in fact, that when an unconfirmed report that Katara would be older than Sokka in the new series began to spread, fans were outraged. Though this may seem inconsequential, many felt the age change would ruin their dynamic. This rumor has remained unconfirmed, and looking at the cast it seems like it’s untrue. Ian Ousley is a few years older than Kiawentiio and does look it, making it unlikely they’ll try to make him seem younger than she is. Still, these concerns, along with concerns that the series won’t be different enough, are valid. Feeling as though there’s no reason for a live action remake has become a feeling many audiences are familiar with given Hollywood’s recent obsession with them. But Albert Kim has commented that he’s trying to address these feelings while creating the show. He himself wondered what purpose there would be in making ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ a live action series when he was first approached about the project. But because he’s aware of this, he’s reassured fans that he’s trying to strike a balance. He will be changing enough to make the story interesting in its own right and to fit with today’s medium of storytelling a bit better, but will not change anything simply for the sake of changing things. It’s a complicated task but I’d like to take his word on it. Unfortunately, we won’t know anything for certain until the show is released.

That’s really all we know so far. What we know about the story is a synopsis that pretty clearly matches the story of the animated series. So nothing new to discuss there. We also don’t really know when the series will be released. IMDB still seems to be promising a late 2022 release date, but it’s important to keep your expectations in check considering that filming for the show only just began. Either way, I’d like to remain optimistic. I was certainly skeptical for a while, but the new show runner’s devotion to the source material, and this cast in particular, managed to reel me back in. Here’s to hoping the show deserves my recaptured attention.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Book Adaptations: ‘Cursed Child’ Should Not Be a Movie

Screenshot of Daniel Radcliffe in ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. Copyright goes to Warner Bros.

Hi! It’s Annie!

As many of you probably already know, it was recently the twentieth anniversary of the first ‘Harry Potter’ film. And on this occasion of many articles celebrating the books and films, the director of the first two Potter films, Chris Columbus, came out and said that he really wanted to tackle a new project. This project being ‘Cursed Child’. For the few of you who don’t know, ‘Cursed Child’ is a two part play that began on the West End in London and eventually was published to massive queues outside of bookshops everywhere as a script. The story follows the children of the original characters as they go back in time and try to prevent a series of catastrophic things from happening. The fact that Chris Columbus is trying to push this into a movie format received mostly mixed reactions, most bearing on the side of quirked eyebrows. Why, you may ask? Because ‘Cursed Child’ is absolutely absurd. I know that sounds rich coming from a franchise about wizards and witches, but ‘Cursed Child’ was not good as a play or a script. At all. And I’m really not afraid to say this. Some people who have seen the two part play say that it is much better in a play format, just because of how many effects the theatre can do justice. But I don’t think anyone is going to argue that ‘Cursed Child’ is an amazing canonical continuation of the story. While I have come to accept that this may be good live at the theatre; as someone who has read the script I can definitely say that it will probably be awful in every other adaptation. Here are just a few of the reasons why.

Harry Himself:

One of the major complaints about this play is that most, if not all, of the characters are out of character. And you’ll see me go over a few characters because of this. But one of the biggest offenses has to be that the title character of the original series himself is out of character. Harry is not a good father. In fact, in ‘Cursed Child’ he’s not even supposed to be a good father. He has a penchant for ignoring his children, especially when they really need him, and putting pressure on them to be as great as he was. Which literally doesn’t make any sense. Harry is a child who grew up in an abusive household where his caretakers more often than not pretended as though he didn’t exist. So you’re telling me that Harry would not want to make his children have a childhood as far from that as possible? It doesn’t make any sense. Especially when you then consider that Harry always viewed him having to fight Voldemort at his age in a negative light. There is no way that Harry would put any of the pressures on Albus that he does in this. And the fact that Harry grew up to be a bad father in this version is both awful and heartbreaking. There is really no explaining this away. The writers of this play decided to mess up the title character of the franchise to fuel a storyline that barely even goes with anything previous. It’s pretty sad when Draco is ten times the man Harry is.

Hermione (and Ron):

Literally everything about Hermione crushed me. Firstly, when we meet Hermione in this show she is now the Minister for Magic. There are several reasons why this is completely ridiculous. Firstly, in the seventh book Rufus Scrimgeour, a notoriously bad Minister, tells Hermione that she would be good at his job should she want it. She tells him very clearly that she would never want that job. And it isn’t because this was somehow foreshadowing her eventual position. If you look at the original ‘Harry Potter’ books, there’s a lot of rightful warnings against politicians (among all the horrible things Rowling also wrote). Politicians in this world are almost never viewed in a good light and Rowling warns time and time again against the dangers of power. So Hermione becoming the Minister for Magic, is against much of what Hermione stood for in the original books and films. But this isn’t even the least of it. How Hermione is portrayed in the rest of the play is, to me, downright insulting. Scorpius and Albus go back to a version of time where the only very prominent change to Hermione is that she never married Ron. This simple change results in her being a professor at Hogwarts instead of the Minister for Magic. Which, in my eyes, is definitely not a bad thing and something I would much prefer. But Ron being married to someone else makes her even worse to her students than Snape was for some reason. She becomes incredibly awful and rude and she spends half her time pining after Ron. Even though Hermione was never rude even before she was romantically interested in Ron. Way to tell women everywhere that one of the most revered literary feminist icons really does need a man. I have made it pretty clear that I’m not a huge fan of Hermione and Ron as a couple in the first place. I personally view the Golden trio as having a sibling dynamic. But this goes beyond whether or not you like Hermione and Ron as a couple. This implies that all of Hermione’s successes in her career and even in being a good person are contingent on a man and on her marriage. This idea is so sexist, I could cry.

General Absurdity:

As I’ve said before, it’s a little rich to point out absurdity in a franchise that is about magic and witches and wizards. But there are still rules that are created within that world. Rules that are broken several times throughout this screenplay. On one occasion, Scorpius and Albus decide that they are going to leave the Hogwarts Express while the train is still in motion. Alright, fine. However, when they get to the top of the train the tiny trolley witch who sells candy suddenly becomes a Hogwarts spy armed with explosives. What are the explosives? Some of the candy on the trolley cart. Is it just me, or does this sound more like a parody than something actually serious? The fact that this was written in complete seriousness makes me a little bit nauseous. Who thought of this? If I’m going to watch a Potter parody I would much rather watch ‘Potter Puppet Pals’. That’s not where it ends. The entire series is contingent on time turners which are revealed to have a list of new powers we’ve never discussed. And for some reason, Albus and Scorpius attempting to interfere in Cedric Diggory’s death eventually makes Cedric a Death Eater. Not only is this a pretty poor way to honor the Cedric from the books who was just a child when he dies for no apparent reason; this is also extremely unrealistic considering the canonical character. And don’t make me think about the fact that Voldemort has a child, because that’s disturbing in every way possible. Even in the realm of magic, nothing in this entire story makes any sense. And that’s less to do with the magical world of ‘Harry Potter’ and more to do with the complete lack of character integrity.

Scorpius and Draco:

For all the bad, which is by far most of the book, I did want to point out some good. Albus isn’t much of a likable character, but Scorpius definitely is. And Harry and Draco also trade hands on who is a likable character in this story. Draco gets a redemption arc, though I don’t think there’s enough leading up to it. Scorpius as a character is absolutely precious. He’s nerdy and extremely sweet. I think he’s more of a Hufflepuff, but I digress. What sucks more for them is that they have been placed in a story where everything else is so distorted that nothing seems realistic. Including their kindness and character development. I can’t believe I’m saying this about Draco, but both of these characters deserved so much better than the story around them.

These are just a few of my complaints with this awful screenplay. I didn’t even mention the uselessness of Ginny or the complete lack of Neville or Luna. Luna is one of my favorite characters in the franchise and she’s barely mentioned and Neville is even killed off in a piece of this story. I would have loved for them to show LGBTQ+ representation with Albus and Scorpius but, much like the rest of ‘Harry Potter’, nothing is ever confirmed. Many people who read and hated the screenplay saw the actual play and loved it. But many of those people also confirmed that it should never be canon. And really, there’s no part of this that I want to see brought to life after reading it myself. Especially not on screen. I personally have chosen to not listen to anything Rowling wrote outside of the books, and some of the stuff in the books to boot. Such as the death of Fred which you can’t convince me actually happened. But I’m less inclined to believe this than even any of that. Rowling has done enough to the ‘Harry Potter’ fandom already. We don’t need this on top of everything else to make it worse.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Marvel: ‘Shang-Chi’ Review

Screenshot of Meng’er Zhan and Simu Liu from ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios.

Hey! Hallie here!

‘Shang-Chi’ is finally on Disney+ and that means that those of us who missed it while it was in theaters can finally watch it! I’m extremely glad that a large amount of fans decided to go to the theater to see this film, but due to some concerns regarding the place I live and the current state of the world, I couldn’t see it when it came out. But now I’ve seen it and I can confidently say that it deserves all the hype! It’s a gorgeous movie with excellent characters, plot, and fight choreography. Before I go in depth about what I thought about this movie though, here’s your SPOILER warning. If you haven’t seen this movie, do that right now and come back to this post later. I promise it’s worth it.

What I Liked:

Shang-Chi: When everyone came out of this movie talking about how amazing Shang-Chi is as a new main character for the MCU, I was extremely excited to see what he was like. He didn’t disappoint. In an MCU where we’ve seen a mix of main characters who have huge egos and major moral issues, (Tony Stark, Peter Quill, Stephen Strange) and heroes who have large amounts of morality and insane leadership skills (Steve Rodgers, Thor, T’Challa), it’s nice to see characters who reflect the audience a bit better. Shang-Chi is definitely one of those characters. He’s extremely kind and capable but his incredible martial arts skills don’t immediately give him confidence. He doesn’t really know what’s going on for most of the movie and his past makes him question his own actions at every turn. He gets through most plot points by simply trying to be the best person he can be. That’s exactly what makes him so charming. When his father starts to track him down again after many years, his goal isn’t to go after his father, or even to stay away from him. His goal is to find his sister and make sure she’s alright. When he reunites with his father, who was basically abusive to him growing up, Shang-Chi isn’t combative. Despite having seen his mother die before his eyes, he hears his father’s crazy theory out and battles with the fact that he still cares for him. Even when Shang-Chi is pushed to the point of nearly embracing the assassin his father made him, when he finally faces his father, he confesses that he just wants his dad to be there for his family. His story isn’t one of a righteous battle between good and evil. It’s about confronting his past trauma, accepting all aspects of himself, and becoming more confident because of it.

Xu Wenwu: Marvel has a horrible history of making villains who are completely irrelevant and mostly unimportant to the hero. Xu Wenwu instantly broke away from that once he was introduced as Shang-Chi’s father. But this fact wasn’t the only thing that made Xu Wenwu interesting. As the movie unfolds, it reveals just how complicated of a man Wenwu is. Wenwu starts out the movie as an immortal conquerer who essentially tortured his son into an assassin. But it’s revealed that he made every effort to change his ways when he married Shang-Chi’s mother. He put aside his horrific past to make a real attempt at being a good husband and father. It was his wife’s death, and the guilt that brought, that made him decide to turn back to his previously shady ways. But even throughout the movie, it’s his wife who is his major motivation. An evil being makes him believe that his wife is still alive and he is unwilling to let her go. It surprisingly has nothing to do with the evil organization he runs. Not only that, but Wenwu sacrifices himself for Shang-Chi at the end of the movie, revealing that his love for his family never left by giving his son the Ten Rings. We’ve seen some pretty solid villains in the MCU recently and Wenwu is one of them.

Xialing: What a badass. She’s better at fighting than Shang-Chi, and the plot proves it by both making her kick our hero’s ass and save a giant dragon at the end of the film. She also took the trauma from both her father’s indifference and Shang-Chi abandoning her in order to build herself up. She builds her own empire off of a fighting ring and proves that she can control just as much power as her father does. I do have some issues with the way this character was treated, and I’ll get to that later, but I ultimately loved this character and wanted to see more of her.

Shang-Chi and Katy’s Friendship: These two genuinely felt like real friends. Their banter bounced pleasantly off of each other, simultaneously demonstrating their familiarity with one another and providing amusing dialogue. They also worked well as a team. Shang-Chi was more capable of protecting the both of them and getting them out of frightening situations, but Katy kept him grounded and thinking in crisis situations. Katy also provided support whenever Shang-Chi needed it, reminding him that he was right to feel hurt because of his past. And through it all, the two were never forced into a strange romantic relationship. Their friendship was wholesome and I’m so glad the movie didn’t feel the need to mess it up.

The Fight Choreography: Don’t get me wrong, I like a good MCU fight scene. But sometimes it gets frustrating to see so many fight scenes centering on CGI suits and superheroes. Shang-Chi changes all of that. The real martial arts used in each fight scene feel impactful and exciting. Something about the intimacy of this fight style put me at the edge of my seat in every scene. This film has by far the best fight choreography in the entire MCU. And the CGI effects were only used to amplify their movements and add some gorgeous colors to each sequence. This movie is gorgeous on its own, but it never looks more beautiful than it does when a fight scene comes along.

What I Disliked:

Xialing and Katy’s Development: I liked both of these characters, Xialing especially, but both of them seemed to get the short end of the stick in this film. Katy’s outsider position to Shang-Chi’s family drama made her obsolete for some of the movie. When it came time to finally address her character development at the end of the film, it felt rushed and not entirely satisfying. Her problems with her family at the beginning of the film were tied to her feelings of aimlessness, which was briefly addressed towards the end of the film but never wound up resolved. She learned how to use a bow and arrow, but what that did to give her a direction I’m not certain. Especially because she stayed out of most of the final battle all together until her “big” and only contribution at taking down the giant monster. Katy wasn’t a slate of nothing, but she was never developed well enough to draw audience interest away from those who were more involved with the main plot. As for Xialing, she was involved with the main plot and proved to be a very interesting character. But the movie used the fact that her father mostly ignored her to take her out of many major family drama scenes. And the feelings of abandonment she harbored from when Shang-Chi never returned to her was solved in one line with no real scene to pull the two characters together and resolve her trauma. In fact, the end credits scene revealed her as the new leader of the Ten Rings, apparently unaffected by her brother’s influence at all. More work needed to go into both of these characters.

The Ending: After an entire movie about Shang-Chi coming to accept the past he buried and the family he left behind, it was a bit bewildering that the movie would end with his return to San Fransisco. What about his aunt? Why didn’t he stay with his sister to deal with the organization his father left behind? Why would he just abandon it all again? It didn’t feel like they put a lot of thought into the wrap up of the movie.

Trevor: I don’t dislike Trevor, but considering the fact that Shang-Chi viewed an entire map to his mother’s village right before meeting Trevor, I still have no clue why they needed him to take them there. The plot sometimes didn’t seem to know why he was there either. He was only briefly shown playing dead during the final battle and he was nowhere in sight during the epilogue. Why was he in this film?

Those are my thoughts on ‘Shang-Chi’! Though I did have some issues with the movie, I enjoyed it immensely. I can’t wait to see these characters pop up more in the MCU. I also really want to see the director pair Katy and Xialing together. With ‘The Eternals’ opening up a new door for LGBTQ+ characters in the MCU, we can hope!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop: Songs I’m Currently Obsessed With

Professional shot of Leedo of ‘ONEUS’. Copyright goes to ONEUS and RBW.

Hi! It’s Annie!

It’s been difficult for me to find new K-Pop news to talk about considering my brain has been filled with nothing but thoughts of the upcoming BTS concert. I can’t even begin to express how excited I am! But, recently, I was playing a random K-Pop playlist on my phone when I came across a couple songs that I hadn’t heard before. And now I’m absolutely obsessed. Not to mention some songs from the regular groups I mention that just keep playing over and over again in my head. So, in the interest of actually talking about some of the songs currently haunting me (and in the hopes that I could possibly introduce you guys to some songs or groups you haven’t heard of before), here are the songs that are currently on my mind all the time.

“No diggity” by ONEUS:

I know what you might be thinking. There’s already a song called “No Diggity” and it’s definitely not from a K-Pop group. And I can assure you, this isn’t that song and it isn’t even a cover of it. This is a completely different, and in my opinion, a far superior song. Its Korean name actually means more along the lines of “unable to be refuted”, which is a much more clear explanation of what the song is. I very recently heard this one, and I haven’t been able to listen to any other song for days. It’s just so addictive. From the first background beats, to the dark rap of Leedo, to the chorus that’s so catchy it’ll be stuck in your head for days. And the MV is bright, colorful, and even more of a joy to watch. I seriously can’t get over this choreography either. I also love that it’s not just another song about money or fame. The “get your hands off of her” theming that almost coincides with a love song at the same time is pretty unique. Though it isn’t a song with a heartfelt message, it is a badass love theme that’s unusually more hype than most songs about love. And I love it. The song makes for both a great listen and a badass performance. And “Twilight” is also an amazing song, especially for the harmonies, if you’re looking for another song by them after all of that. Because I know I definitely was. Just so you know, I’m definitely listening to “No diggity” on repeat as I type this.

“Drink It” by THE BOYZ:

I had heard of this group before, purely through ‘Kingdom’ which I was watching for the ATEEZ performances. But I hadn’t looked too much into them until I heard this song on a playlist recently. This song immediately caught my attention for its catchiness and now this is yet another song that’s stuck in my head. This one is definitely a bit more on the “sexy” side in both choreography and lyric meaning but it mostly caught my attention for the catchy chorus and the amazing vocals. I liked their music from what I watched of ‘Kingdom’, but this is definitely my favorite of their projects that I’ve seen. This is a bit more vocals focused, which I love and I also love the mysterious aesthetic of the song. I also have to say, the rap pieces interchanged with whispering really makes some of the verses. Over-all it’s a great all around song and I love listening to it.

“Voice” by LOONA:

I kept hearing about LOONA, but I didn’t look too much into them. I think I heard a couple of their songs and then moved on. But when I also heard this song recently on a playlist, I listened to it twice afterwards. This is a pretty typical love song all things considered, but what I like about it is how gentle the song feels. There’s just something super cute about the idea of someone’s voice drawing you into waking. I also can’t say enough about the vocals in the song. The song is definitely more about showcasing vocals than anything else and it does it really well. I have to say, Chuu really stood out to me the first time I heard the song, but the seamless transition between the vocals really made me love all of their voices by the end. And, yes, this is absolutely another song that will get stuck in your head. It’s a nice song that manages to be both exciting and calming at the same time.

“Rhythm Ta” by ATEEZ:

I could choose so many ATEEZ songs that I’m currently obsessed with. Recently while driving to and from work I listen to a lot of ATEEZ, because their music distracts me enough to calm me down. And really I could name any song here. I’ve been listening to “Deja Vu” in particular ever since it came out. But I kind of want to draw more attention to one of their cover songs that I listen to a lot, especially because we’ve already done a few posts about “Deja Vu”. “Rhythm Ta” is a song that was originally made and performed by the group iKON and ATEEZ’s version is practically unrecognizable. The song feels darker and grittier, and that’s not just because they did a dark revolution theme with their performance. The song is completely in a lower register. The song feels much more ATEEZ, which in general is pretty badass and always exciting. If you haven’t checked out the performances for any of the groups on the last ‘Kingdom: Legendary War’, I highly recommend it. We also have a post about it here on our blog!

“Nilili Mambo”- Block B:

It has come to my attention that I have not yet talked about Block B on this blog and I am very sorry for that. Block B is freaking amazing. I feel like you’ve probably heard “Nilili Mambo” even if you don’t think you have. For a long time it was all over TikTok, and I know I didn’t think I had heard it until I was made aware that this was the song that was everywhere. It has an amazing melody as well as amazing pirate vibes that eventually inspired ATEEZ. Right now I’m also kind of obsessed with “Jackpot” which has a really fun carnival theme to it that comes across in both the MV and the song itself. These are both songs where you watch the MV and you immediately understand what the theming is going to be just off of the vibes of the song.

“Blood, Sweat, and Tears” by BTS:

Obviously I had heard this song before and most of you probably have as well. But BTS recently performed this for the online concert and I freaked out. I didn’t watch much of the online concert. If you’re wondering why my sister and I didn’t have a post about that concert, it’s because we’re trying to go to the LA concert as unprepared and ready to be surprised as possible. But I couldn’t help but hear that this was part of the setlist, and this has been one of my favorite BTS songs since I began stanning them. In fact, this was the song that fully brought me into ARMY. So the prospect of possibly getting to see this live is insane to me. We’ll have to see if it’s part of the LA concert setlist, but I think I will melt if they actually perform this. I can’t wait to see if they do, but until then I will be listening to this song on repeat and trying not to cry.

I always love hearing new groups and finding more amazing K-Pop to download on my phone. And now I’m freaking out over it all more than usual with the BTS concert on the horizon and the possibility of ATEEZ going on tour soon. I’m going to be fully immersed in K-Pop for a while. So I definitely think I could do with more variety on my playlist while I listen to only K-Pop for the foreseeable future. And I think in the future it looks like I’ll be listening to little more ONEUS. Damn, there are so many talented artists in this industry!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

BTS: Things to Keep in Mind for the Concert

Still of Kim Namjoon (RM), Jung Hoseok (J-Hope), Kim Taehyung (V), Jeon Jungkook, Min Yoongi (Suga), Park Jimin, and Kim Seokjin (Jin) performing. Copyright goes to the Hybe Corporation and BTS.

Hey! Hallie here!

The ‘Permission to Dance’ concert is just a few weeks away and more and more ARMYs are starting to realize that this is actually happening. It’s just starting to hit me and I’m still not sure I’ll be able to fully convince myself that it’s happening until the concert starts. Either way, this realization is leading to a lot more research. We can theorize about guest performers and what each day of the concert will be like, but I’m thinking more about practical research. Such as venue rules, parking, concert etiquette, and even concert outfits. I’ve seen a lot of advice and important information floating around, so I figured I’d make my own compilation of this information for people who, like me, have no idea what’s going on. I also want to address some misconceptions about the concert that are stressing some ARMYs out right now. So let’s get into this!

ARMY Bombs:

For anyone who doesn’t know, almost every K-Pop group has a light stick. Light sticks aren’t uncommon at concerts in general, but K-Pop groups have official light sticks with unique designs specific to each group. BTS’s light sticks are called ARMY Bombs. As the name suggests, they have a round appearance and a round attachment at the top of the stick that make them appear similar to a bomb. While this might seem like a bit of a…violent choice for BTS, it was very much in line with their “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” identity when they first debuted. Either way, the design is cute and you’ll probably want one for this concert. They light up in various patterns throughout each performance and provide you the only means of becoming part of the “purple ocean”. These light sticks aren’t free. They sell them at the concert venue if you so wish, but be warned that concert merchandise lines will be extremely long. If you want to avoid that, you’ll need to buy a light stick immediately. If you wait any longer than now, you will not be able to order a light stick on time for the concert. Also, my recommendation is you buy only off of Weverse. Not only is Weverse shipping fairly quick, but doing so will ensure that you don’t accidentally buy a fake ARMY bomb. As for making sure that your ARMY bomb syncs up to the concert on the day of the event, there are two things you can do. If past concerts are any indication, there should be a station at the concert that will be solely for providing batteries for ARMY Bombs and syncing them up to the concert. The other thing you can do is download the free app ‘BTS Official Light Stick’. This app should sync your ARMY Bomb up to the concert once the event occurs. Be sure to get your ARMY Bomb!

Bags:

I thought this was well established, but I have still seen a few people recommending accessorizing concert outfits with cute colored backpacks or regular bags. These types of bags WILL NOT be allowed in the venue. If you intend to carry around a good number of items, you MUST purchase a clear bag before the day of the concert. The specificities of these bags are up on the SoFi Stadium website. Essentially they have to be a clear material and they can’t exceed 12″x 6″x 12″. If you look on Amazon alone, you’ll find plenty of companies selling clear bags with the express purpose of meeting these specific requirements. It won’t be hard to find one, just be sure to grab one.

COVID Policy:

Many fans know this by now, but I feel like I should reiterate it. Unless you’re under twelve years old, you have to be fully vaccinated, or at least have had a negative COVID test done within the last 72 hours before the concert, to be able to get into the venue. Also note that you must be fully vaccinated, not partially. Which includes the two weeks of quarantine before the last vaccination shot takes effect. All of that also means you need to bring proof of your vaccination or your negative test. Be sure to bring your vaccination card, a photo I.D. for those eighteen years or older to prove your identity, and a mask to wear for the event. Masks are required at this venue.

Parking:

I’ve seen more and more people confess to what I did while purchasing tickets for this concert. We all skipped right over the page for reserving parking, didn’t we? Unless you want to walk several miles to the venue, you will have to reserve your parking at one of the parking lots around SoFi Stadium. To do this, go to the website ParkWhiz. There’s also an app if you would rather download that. This website is specifically mentioned by SoFi Stadium as the website they work with to sell parking reservations. Parking is a bit pricy, but if you want any spot at all, and you want to make sure you don’t get scammed, get a reservation from ParkWhiz.

Concert Outfits:

Yes, everyone wants to look awesome at this concert. But keep a few things in mind. This concert is in late November, early December. This concert will also be at night. Make sure to dress warmly. Also, don’t wear something that’s going to be extremely uncomfortable for the entire duration of the concert. Most of us will probably be standing and dancing the whole time. You can still look cute, but wear clothing and shoes that will be comfortable to move in.

Fan Chants:

I’ve seen too many ARMYs stressing out on every single social media I own about fan chants. Some are stressed about memorizing the chants. Some are stressed about abandoning the chant in favor of singing along. And some are afraid they’ll be judged by other ARMYs if they don’t go along with the chants. And to be honest, I don’t really blame them for being concerned. Infuriatingly, a good chunk of ARMYs have claimed that those who don’t learn fan chants are “disappointments” that will ruin the concert experience for the members. Others have even gone so far as to threaten other ARMYs. If you don’t have the time to remember the fan chants or if you’re concerned you’ll forget them, please know that you aren’t a disappointment and you won’t be letting down the members. As long as you are fully demonstrating your support for them while they’re performing, they’ll appreciate you. Whether that means you’re participating in the fan chants, singing along, or just scream crying (You know who you are). Don’t let other ARMYs ruin the fun of this experience for you.

That’s all the major helpful information I’ve gathered so far. If you have any other questions, SoFi Stadium has a pretty detailed page of instructions that will likely answer some of those questions. If you find no help there, seek out other ARMYs! Plenty have been putting in research so they can inform other ARMYs of what they’ve found. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re a bit lost. And don’t stress out too much! We’re all going to the concert to enjoy our time together with BTS. This is an amazing, happy experience! Don’t let anything bring that down for you!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Superheroes: Power Rangers-The Best Five Series

Promotional photo of ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers’ (1993). Copyright goes to Saban.

Hi! It’s Annie!

If you’ve been on this blog before, you might know that I actually had a previous post covering this exact topic. Recently I’ve been rewatching different series of ‘Power Rangers’ and I discovered that my opinions regarding my last list have definitely changed. So, this is the new list! I’ve been watching ‘Power Rangers’ my entire life. I’m seriously not kidding. I grew up with it and continued to watch various series as I grew up. It’s always been one of my favorite shows of all time and it’s something that I still go to occasionally for a comfort watch. And I think after a lot of thinking and review, I finally compiled what I think is my list for my top five series. These are the series that I think overall had the best plot, characters, and overall something special that was unique to that series specifically that made it stand out.

5. Power Rangers Ninja Storm

This is the series that started out Disney’s run with the Power Rangers, and I think this was an amazing start. ‘Power Rangers’ has always been a series that changed series by series with things such as comedy and audience marketing. Of course, it has always been for families. But some series took themselves more seriously than others. This marks one of the series that famously did not take itself too seriously. In fact, there were times where it almost felt like a parody. Set in California, this is the most California you will ever find in possibly any show ever. Shane, the red ranger, is a skateboarder. Dustin, the yellow, is a dirt bike rider. And finally Tori, the blue, is a surfer. This is complete with all the California teenager lingo, plenty of trips to the beach, and a lot of time spent in a multi-purpose sports shop. Any ridiculous villains were treated as such and the show definitely leant more on the side of comedy than not. But I think it’s important to point out that, despite the comedy, the series took itself very seriously when it came to character development. Each ranger got their own series of focus episodes where the show explored who they are as people as well as their insecurities. Dustin was one of my favorite characters because the series acknowledged his naivety and positive nature by also showing how easy he was to trust and had him learn from his mistakes. Cam was my favorite character because, aside from his amazing sassy remarks, he proved himself through his own character growth throughout the series before he even became a ranger. It made his achievement of becoming a ranger all the more satisfying to watch. This series also included the very first female blue ranger, Tori, who was consistently treated as the smartest member of the team. And this series is one of the best when it comes to diversity. It seems as though every ranger on this team is of a different race and class. Definitely a powerful start to the Disney era.

4. Power Rangers Jungle Fury

I feel like to most this probably seems like an unusual pick, and I do understand why. ‘Jungle Fury’ doesn’t necessarily deal with the most unique stories of the series released and it also isn’t overtly comedic based. But this series succeeded the most when it comes to demonstration of martial arts, aesthetic, and side character build up. Seriously, this may be the series with the best side characters. This takes place for the most part in a dojo and then in a pizza place. And while the pizza place may sound odd, it actually brought the entire show together for me. I always love seeing a good hang-out spot in a show that becomes the safe haven for the characters, and ‘Jungle Karma Pizza’ is that place. You get to see Power Rangers in customer service jobs, which isn’t a usual thing, and you get to see them bond through cute moments such as flour fights. And the overall feel of the world, including the addition of animal spirits, makes you want to just jump into the world and figure out what your own animal spirit is and what color ranger you’d end up becoming. But this show shines, once again, in character development. Casey, the red ranger, starts out as more unexperienced than the others and must actually learn and train to live up to his ranger status. And unlike most Power Rangers series, this doesn’t just take one episode. Theo, the blue, is really amazing at what he does, but he’s also a huge control freak. Lily, the yellow, is incredibly compassionate and that often results in her attempting to clean up other people’s messes by herself without asking for help. But the real characters that shine for me here, could quite possibly be RJ and Fran. Fran is not a ranger, but she’s one of the support characters that runs the pizza shop while they’re gone. She becomes a needed member of the team and absolutely lovable on top of all that. RJ is one of the best Power Rangers to ever exist. He’s actually the mentor character. RJ struggles with issues with his Dad and a lack of closeness that the series explores as well as issues in controlling his own animal spirit. He’s also crazy, wacky, and just overall lovable. And on top of that, he’s the only Power Ranger ever to use a martial arts style that primarily uses elbows and knees. (This series is a master at showing off several martial arts styles in beautiful ways.) If you watch this series for nothing else, watch it for RJ. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

3. Power Rangers Dino Thunder

This was the second series that Disney tried, and this is the one that actually picked up. And part of that might, admittedly, have to do with the presence of Tommy Oliver. Or, as he’s know in this series, Dr. O. If you’ve ever wanted to see the most popular Power Ranger in the history of the series go from High School ranger, to High School teacher and mentor, then this series is definitely for you. In my opinion, Tommy is one of the parts of this that makes this series dominate. He was a natural leader before, and it is clear that he is also a natural mentor here. His skills as a former Power Ranger allow him to relate to his students more than any mentor before him. When Conner, the red ranger, almost quits because saving the world is interfering with his personal goals, Tommy is the first to understand and to tell Conner that he understands. I feel like with most mentors, there’s a certain amount of pressure that they put on the future rangers into taking up the power and defending the world. Because of Tommy’s understanding, he never pressured any of them into anything. He’s THE understanding teacher that everyone wants. And seeing him morph again after a couple episodes and finally take up another color feels so satisfying. But there’s more to love about this series than just Dr. O. The characters in this one feel possibly the most realistic of any characters from any other series. Conner is a jock, but he’s not depicted as a stereotype. His struggles and insecurities are just as relatable. Ethan, the blue ranger, is a geek and a computer whiz, but he’s sarcastic and not a stereotype either. And Kira, the yellow ranger, is a badass who tells off Conner for calling her “babe” in the very first episode. When Trent comes in later, he’s an artsy student who’s introverted-ness is portrayed as relatable. In fact, I think one of the things I love about this team is that they’re all introverts for the most part, including Dr. O. Which is generally not a thing in this franchise. Also, Hayley is a gem and her cafe makes for quite possibly my favorite hang-out spot in any series of ‘Power Rangers’.

2. Power Rangers RPM

Ok, this is one of the few series that had a less than spectacular theme song. But don’t write it off just yet. Once you get past the cheesy theme and into the show, you’ll quickly realize that you have just sat down for one of the most unique takes on ‘Power Rangers’ you will ever see. RPM is the series that came right at the end of the Disney era. The writers were gearing up to make yet another family friendly series in this franchise when Disney came in and said that they were done making ‘Power Rangers’ and it didn’t matter how good the next series was going to be. Eventually all the writers in that room would have to move on to different jobs. So instead of half-assing a series, everyone involved in the creation of it decided they would do the exact opposite. They were going to go all out on a series that was much darker than they had ever tackled before. What was Disney going to do? Fire them? And so came the most gritty take in this franchise’s arsenal. Though it’s still a family show, I would wait to show some younger kids until they’re just a little older. This series takes place in an apocalyptic world where a computer virus has destroyed most of the planet and there’s only one city left standing. There to protect the city are the RPM Rangers. Scott, the red ranger, is a former airforce pilot whose brother died trying to get rid of the virus. Flynn “I’M SCOTTISH” McAllistair, the blue ranger, is a Scottish hero with a penchant for saving lives who tries to make his poor father proud. Summer, the yellow ranger, is a former rich snob who changed her ways when her butler died attempting to save her life. Definitely not the usual backstories. On top of this, you have Dillon and Ziggy, the best characters in the entire series and the black and green rangers respectively. When we first meet them they both end up in jail pretty quickly. Dillon is a tortured tough guy who just so happens to be a part cyborg with a serious case of amnesia. In a turn of events, Ziggy becomes his best friend. Ziggy is my favorite. He’s a former cartel member (yes, you read cartel correctly) who stole from the cartel he worked for to give medical supplies to an orphanage. He’s also pretty bumbling and absolutely hilarious. He asks all the important questions, like what the explosions behind them when they morph are. This series also has a young female mentor. Hell yeah! This take on ‘Power Rangers’ isn’t exactly dark enough to be fully gritty, but it’s one of the most unique takes on the series with some of the most interesting plot twists and character arcs.

  1. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers

You can’t beat the original. This is the series that started it all, and recently there has been a more heated debate over whether this should actually be called the best series of this franchise. Specifically because of how old it is and some of the stereotyping in the first season. I would argue that this series wins just based off of the sheer amount of content. All of the series that you see listed above had one season. This series had three. And while some of the Nickelodeon shows have since tried to tackle the multi-season format, this is definitely the only multiple season ‘Power Rangers’ series that is good for all of its seasons. The first season did have trouble with stereotyping though. Jason, the red ranger, was a stereotypical jock. Billy, the blue, was the bullied geek with glasses. Trini, the yellow, was the athletic all-rounder girl. Kimberly, the pink, was a girly girl with a valley girl way of speaking. And Zack, the black, was an artsy dancer. But I would say that the series stops relying on these stereotypes about halfway through season one. After that each character gets developed based off of their own merits. Though, I do have to say, I feel like the only character that gets amazing character development in the first season is Tommy. Tommy’s green ranger storyline as well as the introduction of Tommy’s amazing martial arts really set him up as a character. And his anti-hero to hero plot line is still regarded as revolutionary for television. I think that the second season really picked up on character development. Between the addition of the new rangers, Adam, Aisha, and Rocky, and Tommy becoming the white ranger, we got many more character moments to go off of. Billy actually became one of the most capable rangers on the team. Adam was one of the first superhero men on television to be depicted as manly because of his sensitivity and not despite it. And Aisha really lead the way for clearing out some story for both her and Kimberly. Of course, Tommy continued to revolutionize with his character arcs. I want to shout out ‘Power Rangers Zeo’ which is known for being essentially a fourth season of ‘Mighty Morphin’ with different suits. And I absolutely love both Kat and Tanya. I will always love so many other series of ‘Power Rangers’. But this is what started it all and made the franchise into what it is today. And, in fact, it actually impacted all television, not just other series of ‘Power Rangers’. It was one of the first television series to fully depict young people as fully capable, which is something film and television still struggle with.

I absolute love ‘Power Rangers’ and my love only grows the more I watch it. It’s just something that I know I’ll always carry with me along with my other favorite films and shows of all time. But of course, all of these are my opinions. I feel like every series of ‘Power Rangers’ is amazing in its own way. And even though the new series aren’t picking up as much, I at least hope that people will continue to watch and appreciate the old series.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Books: The Hermione/Draco Ship Needs to Die

Screenshot of Emma Watson as Hermione from ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’. Copyright goes to Warner Bros. Pictures and Heyday Films.

Hey! Hallie here!

I haven’t spoken much about Harry Potter on this blog recently, but it’s influence on my life hasn’t changed at all since I last wrote about this series. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to see Hermione trending on Twitter all day today. That is, until I saw exactly why she was trending. For no reason I can really tell, a bunch of Hermione/Draco shippers converged onto Twitter to talk about why they should have gotten together in the Harry Potter series. And, as it always has, this started a giant debate over whether or not this couple would have been cute or catastrophically awful. I tend to lean heavily on the “catastrophically awful” side of this argument, and for very good reason. However, before I get into all the reasons why this particular ship leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I want to say that I’m not trying to shame those who do support this ship. Some people like the idea of this couple simply because of how attractive they find Tom Felton, while others like this couple because they like certain relationship dynamics they find they can easily project onto Hermione and Draco. None of these are morally wrong or condemnable. But there are several very strong reasons as to why Hermione and Draco should never have been explored in the actual books and movies.

Mistreatment of Women:

This is a bit of a dramatic start, but it’s important to point out. For a long while there, and still a bit today, we romanticized men treating women horribly at the beginning of a romance. I’m not talking about enemies-to-lovers romance tropes. Enemies-to-lovers is a trope that involves both people involved being equally insulting to one another. In fact, though I don’t necessarily like these two together either, I’d say Hermione and Ron fit this dynamic better than Hermione and Draco do. Hermione and Ron in both the books and movies hurl insults at one another all the time without one feeling more vicious than the other. They also prove that, though they have many criticisms of one another, there are lines they simply will not cross. Ron actually proves himself most when Draco’s involved, arguing with him and sometimes getting provoked to violence while defending Hermione. Draco, on the other hand, is simply awful to Hermione in a way that goes beyond mutual distaste. He calls her wizard slurs, jokes about her untimely murder in multiple books, and goes beyond insulting her to insult her family as well. Bullying of this caliber is traumatizing to most individuals. Sadly, relationships like this have been romanticized in pop culture many times. Harley Quinn and the Joker are a great example of a romanticized relationship that is disturbing because of the way the woman is being treated. The Joker threatens Harley frequently and has even physically assaulted her. Kylo Ren and Rey are also an example to a point. While I don’t feel that this entire relationship fits into the toxic dynamic I’m talking about here, a lot of people romanticized the first lengthy scene the two shared. This scene was a torture scene, and yet multiple fans referred to it as “sexy”. We need to stop romanticizing relationships where the woman is being treated poorly while the man takes a position of power. It’s disturbing in every instance, including in Hermione and Draco’s case.

Wizard Racism:

Here’s another weighty argument. I’m a white woman. My opinions on this particular argument aren’t going to be anywhere near as informed as those that multiple Black women have given. Still, we need to talk about it. What Draco calls Hermione frequently throughout the books is meant to be a slur. The misguided and ridiculous author of the Harry Potter series often argued that her attempt at representation in the series wasn’t accomplished by putting multiple characters of multiple backgrounds and ethnicities in her books, but by mirroring real-life racism through the idea of blood purity. In the books, those who consider themselves “Pure-Bloods” look down upon and mock Muggle-Borns because they have “tainted” blood and do not have a long line of magic users in their family. Of course, this idea of “representation” accomplished nothing aside from giving us another white person’s take on what it’s like to be racially discriminated against when they could have avoided the topic all together. However, in the Hermione/Draco dynamic you can’t ignore that the term “mudblood”, meaning dirty blood, was written into the story to further this parallel by writing in a made up slur. No one who has been called a racial slur has found themselves suddenly attracted to the person hurling such a horrible word at them. There is no excuse for hurling a slur at someone on purpose while knowing that it will harm them. Even less if the person saying said slur is doing so in order to highlight their own superiority. Draco calls Hermione a mudblood more than he calls her by her own name and he always does it in order to point out how much better he and his family are. Once again, this goes beyond regular arguments and even most bullying. It isn’t forgivable and certainly isn’t a good start for a relationship.

The Bad Boy:

A lot of the love for Draco, and this ship by extension, comes from the love of the “bad boy”. A broody guy who needs someone to help him appreciate life. Often times a guy who has been through a lot of past trauma so that the relationship can be based off of the growth of said character due to his romantic partner. The bad boy trope isn’t inherently bad. Especially recently, we’ve seen a lot of characters like this experience positive changes well before a romance even starts. But Draco most definitely falls into the toxic side of the bad boy trope. He’s morally questionable, never changes as the series progresses, and is only hinted at possibly changing in the future. If Draco were to change, as most people assume a bad boy to do at some point in their story, he proves that he has no major interest in it through the events of Harry Potter. Which makes throwing him together with Hermione and expecting her to change him even more toxic. In situations like this I always enjoy bringing up the new song ‘Heathers : The Musical’ brought in semi-recently. The song is called “I Say No” and it serves the purpose of the main character, Veronica, telling her “bad boy” boyfriend, J.D., that she isn’t responsible for changing him and that she isn’t qualified to sort out his past trauma for him. All of this applies to ships like Hermione/Draco. Draco isn’t a good guy and he isn’t willing to change his ways in any of the books. The best thing he does is refuse to give Harry away in the seventh book, but one moment of decency doesn’t equal a genuine attempt to be better. And deciding that Hermione would be a good fit for him because she might be able to change his ways is toxic in of itself. The bad boy trope isn’t attractive at all if it relies on the woman doing all the work to make the man better.

I could go on and on about why I dislike this relationship, but I’ll stop here. Once again, I’m not saying that everyone who likes the Hermione/Draco ship is problematic. Many people who do like this couple prefer to write and read fanfiction that portrays their relationship as much less toxic than the books do. That’s fine. What does rub me the wrong way though, is the idea that Hermione and Draco should have gotten together in the books and movies as they are now. With all the horrible things Draco did to Hermione still intact. That’s very obviously problematic. With the steps we’re currently seeing taken to portray more healthy relationships in media, we absolutely don’t need a relationship like Hermione/Draco floating around.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Superheroes: ‘Critical Role’ Vox Machina vs. The Mighty Nein

Promotional image of ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ to premiere on Amazon Prime. Copyright goes to ‘Critical Role’.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Despite all the time I’ve written on this blog, I still haven’t talked about ‘Critical Role’ even though I’m actually a pretty big fan of it. And you could definitely say that it’s currently in its prime. With the beginning of campaign three just started (alongside a possible new addition to the team) and ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ set to stream on Amazon Prime soon, they’re really pushing forward into the main stream. Which is great! It makes Dungeons and Dragons as a game seem less like a taboo thing and more like something anyone can enjoy. For me, who actually enjoys Dungeons and Dragons, the fact that they are able to do this is wonderful. Though I do understand how ‘Critical Role’ might be difficult to get into considering each campaign has over a hundred episodes and each episode is usually over four hours long. Though I’ve watched most of both full campaigns, I can’t say I’ve had the time to watch them all. But I do have my opinions on each of the already released campaigns. I think both campaigns are amazing and all of the characters are also amazing! I don’t have a clear favorite. But I do have slight favorites for which character each regular player has played so far. This isn’t a criticism, just me having fun. All opinions are welcome and keep in mind that I love all of the players and all of their characters! So without further ado- let’s just get into it!

Travis Willingham (Grog vs Fjord):

I should jump in right now and say that I’m mostly going to be talking about the character development and role playing side of these characters. And when it comes to both of them, I thing Travis did an excellent job. Grog was one of the main comic relief characters in Vox Machina and he truly was hilarious. Due to his misunderstandings of some situations and his general bluntness, Grog was always a very loud and amusing addition to the group. But he also had a heart of gold. One of the most prevalent parts of his character was Grog’s friendship with Pike. The biggest member of the team being best friends with the smallest member of the team was already an adorable concept. But that mixed with Travis’s real life friendship with Ashely only made everything that much more adorable. Fjord was an interesting addition to the mix when it came to The Mighty Nein. In comparison to Grog’s brute force, Fjord was usually more tactical. Fjord became the impromptu leader of the group, something I doubt that Travis expected after playing Grog who never aided in any decisions regarding over-all group plans. It was entirely because Fjord was intelligent and Grog wasn’t intelligent in the usual way. Because of this I think we got to see Travis explore many types of character development he hadn’t been able to before. Such as romance. (Which I completely get because that can be awkward for me as well, but I think it was funny that he was uncomfortable even though his own wife was playing his love interest.) Over-all, I think we got to see Travis do more as Fjord. So, as much as I absolutely love Grog…

Winner: Fjord

Laura Bailey (Vex’ahlia vs Jester):

Laura Bailey also quickly proved herself to be one of the most hilarious players. Though from Vex, who came off as very posh, it was a pleasantly unexpected source of comedy. Vex is a very elegant character who seemed to only surround herself with more elegance as the campaign went on. Such as when she was eventually named by Percy the Grand Mistress of the Grey Hunt. Her shiny new title went well with many of Vex’s other likes. Which were shiny things. She was the cunning bargainer of the group. And her closeness with her twin brother and eventual romance with Percy was able to show the audience a more caring side of her. But there is something about Jester that is just so Laura. Jester is adorable and funny without meaning to be most of the time. She’s the type of character that can just say anything and get away with it. And if she pouts at you then she’ll probably get her way. I think I would judge correctly if I said that Jester is one of the most immediately loved characters in all of ‘Critical Role’ just because of how fun she is. Jester was actually one of the first characters from this that I fell in love with, because I actually came in around the second campaign. Jester has her own bubbly aesthetic to her and her accent just makes her all the more adorable and hilarious. It’s hard to imagine someone coming out of campaign two not liking Jester.

Winner: Jester

Taliesin Jaffe (Percy vs Mollymauk/Caduceus):

This might be one of the most difficult for me, because Taliesin is masterful about creating his characters. The dice also love him. He’s the master of natural twenties. I don’t know how he does it, but I think with just Percy alone Taliesin became the king of rolling in D&D. And you can tell that Taliesin and his characters have a fan following from the moment you join the fandom. Percy was one of the most popular members of Vox Machina and for good reason. Not only was he a badass in battle, but he was also a badass in every other aspect of his life. Percy was loveably sarcastic, extremely intelligent, and also the master of comebacks. He’s also one of the most complex characters in the campaign. Between his revenge and half possession, Percy isn’t always the most moral of the group. Meaning that he had a massive character arc surrounding how he learned to put aside his revenge and focus more on morals. Molly was barely in the second campaign and he quickly gained a fanbase due to his mysterious past and charming persona. Taliesin had quite a challenge in creating a character that would be so loved after Molly, and he really did succeed with Caduceus. Caduceus not only had an amazing nature aesthetic but he also was very wise and pleasantly calm. Often the voice of reason and comfort for the entire group, Caduceus is one of those characters that you want to be friends with. The popularity of each of these characters is amazing, but Percy’s insane character arc still hasn’t been topped in my eyes.

Winner: Percy

Liam O’Brien (Vax’ildan vs Caleb):

The hipster Dad of the group, Liam seems like he would prefer playing calm characters with happy childhoods. But he’s the master of angsty characters. Vax’ildan is a sly character with a charm about him and a heart of gold. One of my favorite lines from campaign one is “do not go far from me”, which he says to his sister, which attests to the surprisingly gentle nature of the assassin of the group. Both of Liam’s characters are also openly bisexual. Vax had romances with both Gilmore and Keyleth, both of which proved to be very tender moments of the campaign. The duality of Vax is amazing, and it was very difficult to see him go. Especially after the connection he had already built up with Keyleth. Caleb was even more complicated. He was a German sounding character who dressed a little homeless and had an absolute love of knowledge. His romance with Essek, who also had difficulties with his past and morals, was even more lovable. It was really difficult not to love Caleb. Despite his past and angst over morality, he was also one of the most adorably soft spoken but intelligent members of campaign two. I once again absolutely love both characters, but I think I have to go with the adorable awkwardness and gentility of the homeless looking wizard.

Winner: Caleb

Marisha Ray (Keyleth vs Beau):

A lot of people have loud opinions about Marisha’s characters, and I have no idea why this is such an issue. I’ve always loved all of Marisha’s characters and the way she’s played all of them. Each character has a delightfully vibrant and bright life that I think only Marisha could bring to a character. So, this is no exception when I say I love all of the characters in ‘Critical Role’. Keyleth is adorable. She’s an intelligent character who starts out pretty naive but also one of the most empathetic voices in Vox Machina. There’s nothing better than Keyleth talking to the sun tree and Marisha’s animal noises when Keyleth transforms into an animal. Beau is very different from Keyleth in every way. Instead of the shyness you get from Keyleth, Beau comes off as confident from the very beginning. Beau is often calm and collected and definitely not afraid to crack a joke. While Marisha discovered that playing a monk could be difficult, she took it in stride and made Beau confident and able despite her mistakes. But Keyleth was so relatable to me and that’s why Marisha created Keyleth. To be relatable to herself so that she would be comforted in doing something she never had before.

Winner: Keyleth

Sam Riegel (Scanlan vs Nott):

Sam is the comedic genius at the table. There’s no disputing that. Between his T-shirts of funny photos of either himself or other people at the table and his giant tankards of water; it is clear that this man knows comedy. So it’s no surprise that there’s always some sort of giant troll in every character he makes. No other person in the world has probably made Mathew Mercer facepalm this much. Scanlan is a bard who constantly comes up with the absolute worst/best songs to get everyone else at the table laughing. Scanlan also has a flip side, with an unexpected storyline featuring his daughter and even Scanlan leaving for a while. Sam always makes his characters complex on top of the comedy. Nott was unbelievable when she was first introduced. Sam was playing a tiny female goblin. It was hilarious. But Nott proved to be so much more than that. Nott became Jester’s best friend, she was a mother and a wife, and Sam knew how to play that side of her too. Of course, all of that along with “Nott the Best Detective Agency” which was a genius bit of improv. As much as I love Nott and all her craziness, I can’t get over Scanlan’s songs though. I still miss them.

Winner: Scanlan

Ashley Johnson (Pike vs Yasha):

I kind of feel like this battle is very not fair. Ashley was understandably not present for much of campaign two and even quite a bit of campaign one. But Pike was already a developed character, whereas Yasha wasn’t as much. Both characters are still great and I’m so glad we got what we could of Ashley. But I think Ashley also had her own opinions regarding this. Ashley had a hard time connecting to Yasha for quite a while. You could tell that Ashley was much more comfortable with her portrayal of Pike. Pike was lovable, wise, moralistic, and hilariously best friends with Grog. Pike also dealt with Scanlan in a way that nobody else could. Whenever Pike showed up it was a joy because everyone knew that they all needed Pike. Yasha was more reserved, but in a very interesting way. Losing Molly took a toll on her, but she was eventually able to bounce back as one of the main sources of muscle in the group. Ashley breathes life into each session she’s a part of and it’s always a joy to see her characters. But Pike is a comfort to everyone, including Ashley herself. One of the reasons why I love Fearne in campaign three is because it feels as though Ashley is in her element again.

Winner: Pike

Of course, I would be remiss without mentioning Mathew Mercer and his amazing stories and NPCs. He’s a genius and none of these characters would have arcs or be brought to life without him. I’ve watched some of the new campaign and I already love it. Between FGC who is already cute and makes me laugh, to Fearne who is unexpectedly violent, to Orym the humble halfling, to Laudna who is delightfully creepy, to Imogen who is cool and collected, to Ashton who is delightfully sassy, to the characters who we aren’t sure if they’ll stay yet. Such as Bertrand Bell who is a funny familiar face and Dorian who is relatably anxious all the time. (I hope Robbie Daymond stays because I am a huge fan of his!) I actually watched Exandria Unlimited (and died laughing at Orym pretending to be a toddler) so I automatically loved the familiar faces. I love everything these amazing voice actors do, obviously, so I can’t wait to see what they do next. And I can’t wait to see other voice actors guest on the show and to see D&D continue to be more of an accepted hobby because of this show.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

BTS: 2022 Season’s Greetings

Screenshot of Jung Hoseok (J-Hope) in the ‘Star Turned Villain’ concept for ‘2022 Season’s Greetings’. Copyright goes to BTS and the Hybe Corporation.

Hey! Hallie here!

Yesterday we were gifted with a first look at two different photoshoots set to be part of BTS’s ‘2022 Season’s Greetings’. It’s all everyone has been talking about for the last twenty four hours, and with very good reason. Both concepts are amazing looks we don’t get to see these boys in often. Especially because both looks are darker in theme than what BTS has been going for lately. There’s really so much to gush about, so let’s just get right into these concepts!

‘Star/Idol Turned Villain’:

These villain concepts made for the perfect reveal on Halloween. Each member has a different costume that matches the type of villain they’re portraying for the photoshoot. First we have Namjoon as a mad scientist. This pretty obviously matches Namjoon’s personality. The only “plain” part of this outfit are his clear goggles. His white lab coat is covered in multicolored words and patterns with ‘Persona’ seen written on both his sleeves. His red tie is similarly messy, in a very charming way, with letters of varying sizes and teddy bears taking up the pattern. This whole look, including the chalkboard in the back, is very clearly a call back to “PERSONA”. Jin’s next with the shadow hacker character. This character came out of nowhere for some, but Jin’s obsession with video games made this a bit more obvious to me. Either way, it’s a really cool look on Jin. We don’t get to see too much of his outfit from anything released so far, thought the baggy black ensemble really serves the careless look they’re going for. But really, I’m in love with just the messy hair and glasses look alone. Next is Yoongi as the gray pianist. A lot of people weren’t really sure what this character idea even means. I think they were trying to go for the tortured/obsessed artist feel, but it definitely isn’t an obvious pick for a villain. Pairing Yoongi with a piano wins, regardless. You can never go wrong with a good puffed sleeve look underneath a black vest. I also liked the green paint splatter details on the sleeves. Closing off the Hyung line is Hobi as a “mystic strategist”. He’s a pirate. This one was a pleasant surprise. The look walks the line between modern and old fashioned. He has a typical bandana around his head that is sometimes covered with a black pirate hat. He also has an extremely gorgeous red and black coat with striking gold buttons. But along with this we see a more modern black, floral pattern on his button-up shirt. The black tie he wears and gold chains attached to his jacket also feel more modern. And topping it all off is the most adorable scar I’ve ever seen.

Onto the Maknae line starting with Jimin! The villain for Jimin is called “alley cat”. It’s essentially an elegant thief. Some are comparing the concept to Catwoman, which is pretty accurate. We get it all here. A really nice suit with a black sweater instead of a black tie which, in my opinion, makes the whole look sleeker. We get some gorgeous necklaces and chains to emphasize the glam theme of the look. And we get some short, black, leather gloves. It all looks gorgeous on Jimin. Taehyung is a “fate reader” or a fortune teller. This isn’t typically a villain personality, but I don’t see why it can’t be! And wow, Taehyung looks really good in this. Firstly, we have to talk about his black hooded robe. It’s floor-length, with gorgeous gold embroidery that turns more intricate, with tons of beads, when it gets to his shoulders. But that’s not all. When he takes his hood off, we also get to see him in a gold and purple crown with some sparkle going down his eye as well. It’s breathtaking. Finally, Jungkook is shown last as the “action-taker”. This villain role is pretty much just the “bad boy”. Between the black leather and the motorcycle, it’s pretty clear this villain concept isn’t that much of a frightening one. But it’s still really fun. We get more scarring here, like we saw on Hobi, but we also get a full black, leather harness. The harnesses are always, always dangerous to behold. I also really like that this black shirt, seeming to be of mostly sweater material, only has one sleeve. It makes the shirt visually interesting. Even more interesting, the sleeve is tied together and turns into a leather material as it goes farther down. And, of course, who can forget those leather pants? These looks are all top-tier. I’ll be watching this promo video over and over from now on.

Rock Style:

For this look we’ve only seen a few photos, but all of them are badass. This rock style leans more towards the punk rock feel. It’s graphic t-shirts, patterned pants and jackets, chokers, and guy-liner. What more could you ask for? Namjoon and Taehyung both have acid-washed pieces. Namjoon’s leather jacket makes the texture of the acid-washed piece stand out while Tae’s seems to accent the distressed look of his shirt. Jin also has an eye-catching leather jacket, his with two white patches on the sleeves that match the scrawl on his shirt. Meanwhile, Jungkook’s shirt takes distressed to a new level with an organized pattern of squares cut out of it. Plaid patterns always add to any punk look, and I’m especially appreciative of Jimin’s plaid pants paired with the texture of his red shoes, which look like it might be suede, as well as Hobi’s plaid jacket, which I would personally like to steal for my own wardrobe. Lastly, I really want to take a moment to appreciate Yoongi’s beret with all the pins lining the rim. It’s the coolest beret I’ve ever seen. I love this punk theme and I love that they went for a darker theme this time around.

And that’s it for what we’ve seen of the ‘2022 Season’s Greetings’ so far! I can’t wait to see the rest of it when it comes out. It all looks incredible so far. I’m pretty obviously biased toward the villains concept because character concepts always manage to make for my favorite photoshoots. But the punk look is a style that’s inspired my own wardrobe and I love seeing the boys in it. Starting out 2022 with both of these photoshoots makes me very curious for what we’ll see them do next year.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie