What We Love This Week… The Most Popular Girls In School

Release your inner bitch with the help of Deandra, Mackenzie, Britnay and Trisha AKA the Most Popular Girls in school! Ok, so maybe Barbies mouthing off at each other in the vilest language imaginable shouldn’t be funny… but it is. Not only will it increase the inventiveness of your insults, but as you start to empathsise with them, you learn the putrid depths of your own personality. It’s soulgazing with a difference.

Now in its third season, the girls have weathered irritable bowel syndrome, Cheernations, reality tv and Deandra’s arms being ripped off. However, can they overcome the new threat of … hipsterdom?

If the previous episodes are anything to go by, this is a story arc not to be missed!

How I Live Now: All You Need Is Love… And Saoirse Ronan!

You can throw a stone in any movie theatre in the world right now and hit at least five posters all advertising movies set in a post apocalyptic world. If there’s not a brown-haired chick with a bow and arrow killing villains with genetically enhanced bees then there’s a red-head fighting against the government in a black vest top with a sexy male counterpart. It’s the thing right now, and don’t get me wrong, I’m kind of loving it. I have a fetish for all things alternative world-y and I’m not apologizing. Give me a Saturday night in with a Daim Bar infused block of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and the “next big thing” in YA fiction and I’m a pretty satisfied boy. However, after fifty-thousand pages of sweaty fight scenes and stolen looks across at the broody yet sensitive fight instructor it can feel as if they all blur into one. Young adult writers really have to find a way to get ahead of the curve and present the audience with something fresh, whilst maintaining all those attributes that keeps the genre so popular.

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Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, released in 2004, really sets itself apart in the YA stakes, flying pretty much under the radar but entertaining and traumatizing all those who find it on the shelf. It focuses on Manhattan brat and struggling anorexic Daisy who heads on over to the other side of the pond to live with her cousins just as a third world war devastates the world. The film was released this year and features the enchanting Saoirse Ronan in the lead role. You would think an Irish girl playing an American in England would present a challenge for most actresses but not Miss Ronan, the girl has caused scandal and devastation in Atonement and played a cut-throat killer assassin in Hanna so her range knows no bounds. As Daisy arrives she struggles to get involved with her cousins’ way of life. They swim, they fish and they frolic in lovely hills from sunrise to sunset and that really isn’t Daisy’s bag. However, dark and brooding Edmond (played by George MacKay) manages to break her down and together they embark on a tempestuous and incestuous love affair that is so cute and British, you half expect Hugh Grant to turn up! But alas, their love is rocked when terrorists release a nuclear bomb in London, world war three is declared, and Daisy and Edmond are separated but not before promising each other that they’ll return to their idyllic life some how, some way!

As a soppy romantic with a love of hand held camera style filming, I was in cinematic nirvana. Ronan and MacKay’s chemistry is so enticing and impacting, they’ve got to be getting it on in real life! The very British feel and the fact that the plot is so grounded in reality is what makes How I Live Now a remarkable YA adaptation. As Daisy and her young cousin, Piper, embark across the country to return to the past they encounter the true horrors of war and the film does not shy away from expressing the real darkness of humanity when all types of order have been abolished. I won’t go into much more detail, but I think you know what I’m eluding to. As the film progresses the suspense never lets up, as Daisy and Piper travel further and further into danger you get a sense that there may not be a happy ending after all.

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The film may bombed at the box office which I think is a shame, as How I Live Now is a film that very much presents the YA genre in a fresh and original way, and not to mention the actors are realistically good-looking which is always a bonus. Not without it’s faults, of course, as Daisy’s dream-sequences are so fanciful that the stark reality style shoots are slightly tarnished, also Miss Ronan gives us a nip-slip that is just not needed and makes you feel a little weird. But I digress, How I Live Now is a fantastic film that both entertains and illuminates whilst gives off the meaningful message in regards to the importance of people and how life really is a blessing. Sniff! 

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Harley Quinn 0- Why, DC? Why?

Harley Quinn, ex-psychiatrist turned chief henchlady and missus of the Joker, has exploded into her own series, which began on Wednesday with Harley Quinn 0.

Harley Quinn 0 has arrived!

Harley Quinn 0 has arrived!

The series, still under a week old, has already been one of DC’s more controversial, what with the whole Draw Your Own Harley Committing Suicide debacle. The offending page, which apparently would have made perfect sense in context, was removed from the finished product, so I guess we’ll never know just how tasteless a gag it was.

Still, onwards and upwards, right? With superstar comics couple Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti writing, and seventeen artists illustrating, including such greats as Adam Hughes and Darwyn Cooke, this book should be bigger and bang-ier than one of the Joker’s bomb pies.

In reality, Harley Quinn 0 revealed itself to be pure filler, filler of the blandest and most boring variety, with no plot and no character development. Not only is the book drowning in its own smug self-indulgence and cleverness at breaking the fourth wall but it is yet more proof of the lack of outward writing in comics. A worrying amount of storylines seem to be written exclusively for a certain type of comic-reading demographic, and Harley Quinn 0 is the figurehead of a movement that seems to be trying to exclude newcomers from comics.

But where the issue really stank was the cringingly self-referential nature of the script. Harley spends the book wondering what it would be like if she had her own comic. She is then visited by the ghostly voices of Conner and Palmiotti, who proceed to show her all the different artistic looks her book could have- this is where the seventeen artists come in, each one more winking and elbow nudging than the last. Imagine how A Christmas Carol would read if Scrooge were visited by David Copperfield, Oliver, and Dickens, and you would still have prose less riddled with self-gratification.

Don't You Wanna Rev Your Harley? Bruce Timm's artwork from the issue.

Don’t You Wanna Rev Your Harley? Bruce Timm’s artwork from the issue.

Harley’s teddy bear asks her why she doesn’t get those writers onboard for her comic, y’know, the one who draws big tits and the one who writes cowboy stuff. Then Palmiotti’s voice corrects the bear, stating that he’s from Brooklyn. If you’re not laughing, wait till you get to the point where they discuss all the other books Palmiotti writes, and how little sales they garner (well if this is the standard of writing to be found in them, it really isn’t a surprise). Finally, for ultimate giggles, turn to the scene where Harley gatecrashes Conner and Palmiotti’s wedding, and Palmiotti vows to kick Harley’s butt… BROOKLYN STYLE!!

If you’re not in hysterics, it’s probably because you’re not a forty-plus comic nerd who knows religiously all the different names and styles of nearly twenty people, and this comic is not meant for you, and never shall be, so please move along and interest yourself in something like Star Wars. We’re enjoying our incredibly mature comics, thank you very much.

I think the most annoying thing about the whole issue is that Palmiotti and Conner were people I previously liked and respected, especially Conner. I maintained that the duo had brought something worthwhile to the Power Girl series, despite all the ‘heh: boobs’ jokes. But Conner, when you have Darwyn Cooke draw you punching Harley Quinn and Cat Woman at your wedding whilst shouting ‘I’m Amanda Conner, bitches!’, that is the exact point where the script needs to be scrapped.

Darwyn Cooke's art from the issue. Seriously though, Conner, I love you already... you didn't need to punch Harley to validate yourself.

Darwyn Cooke’s art from the issue. Seriously though, Conner, I love you already… you didn’t need to punch Harley to validate yourself.

It would be unfair to not state the positives of the book. With some of the best artists in the 52niverse, it was always going to have some stunning artwork, but what I really enjoyed was the Thanksgiving spread DC had included at the back for the holidays, which featured what looked a lot like the Spoiler, so marking the return of Stephanie Brown. So yes. The best part of the book was the part that WAS NOT PART OF THE BOOK.

This was an opportunity to reach out and engage more people in comics, what with Harley’s growing popularity from her appearances in computer games and animation, but, because newcomers are scary, the book decided to make sure that only the right sort of people would enjoy this book, and to hell with the rest.

In short, issue 0 is staggering (and so not in a good way), fairly joyless, and is representative of almost all that is terrible in modern comics. Avoid at all costs.

Well... at least the Spoiler is coming back.

Well… at least the Spoiler is coming back.

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In Defence of Selfies

The slang term ‘selfie’ made it in to the official Oxford English Dictionary around the same time as ‘twerk’ and is actually making some headlines (maybe in an attempt to dethrone conversation from Miley Cyrus). It’s pretty self explanatory, the term refers to self-portraits usually taken by cameras, webcams and smartphones, and now is making headlines as it has been voted the most popular word of 2013.

Success breeds contempt it seems.

For the selfie has become yet another way for popular-media journalists to look down on we the ‘Millennials’. These little snaps of personal life have been used to deem us as selfish, vain, narcissistic little creatures wallowing in the shallow-ness of social media websites; especially Facebook and Instagram.

While yes, I indulge in a casual bit of selfie taking, I can’t take the disapproval of the “youth of today” and our very intimate relationship with technology. We grew up with it, were moulded by it (insert a Dark Knight Rises joke here) and while it may cause concern in areas i.e. internet addiction, technology reliance and the supposed decrease in face to face human interaction, and that’s something that can’t really be changed.

I’ve been interested in Art ever since I could control my fingers, I took it as a subject for fun at every academic importunity. The first thing my teachers would do was to convey the importance of self-portraits and their history, how the way that we see ourselves has evolved over time, understanding the mathematical genius that goes into constructing a face.

Eyes, it’s all in the eyes.

The dawn of the homo sapiens saw the first cave paintings depicting what? – The lives of man. When the arts became more refined the portraits also had hidden messages to all refer to the class, social standing and political affiliations of individuals who would pose for hours in order for the artist to capture their image perfectly. The introduction of the first camera allowed portraits to be taken with less hassle and almost as good results and from there to here isn’t that far.

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine”? Totally a selfie

But of course, this ‘me generation’ in the ‘age of narcissism’ is the only one in human history to be obsessed with the notion of capturing our likeness…

You can’t escape the selfie. Every phone, console, tablet, laptop and computer (even some music players) are equipped with this tool of documentation. Because that’s what it is: feeling glamorous? Make sure that you can see it on a rainy day when you don’t feel too good about yourself. New outfit/hairstyle/make up? Well you might not see anyone out so you might as well make sure that you (and others) remember it.

Hell, what’s wrong with having enough confidence to take a picture of yourself? Is body-confidence no longer a positive attribute to strive towards? Anyway, I’ll ashamedly keep taking selfies, accusations of vanity be damned. My body and face are works of art and somebody’s got to appreciate them.

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I can’t find a damn to give, oops.

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MUSIC VIDEOS: Age-rating that gyrating!

To play or not to play? A question, I'm sure, we all know the answer to...

To play or not to play?
A question, I’m sure, we all know the answer to…

It’s true. The male-gaze in music videos was long established before Miley Cyrus decided she liked licking sledge-hammers. Women have always be portrayed in a sexual light to the point it is almost an established understanding that, if you are to turn to music channels, you will be greeted by skimpily clad women. Buttocks first. Most say it is diminishing, others say it’s merely a matter of claiming female sexuality.

Nicki greets us buttocks first. Not her own, for once.

Nicki greets us buttocks first.
Not her own, for once.

But forget the ‘blurred lines’! In a world where a young girl’s role-model is Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, or the dreggs of Hannah Montana, the argument is no longer about why they portray themselves so sexually, but who sees it.

Rihanna's latest video... Well, at least she's got a thrown. See kids?

Rihanna’s latest video…
Well, at least she’s got a thrown. See kids?

Gone are the days when the charts consisted of S-Club 7, Crazy Frog, and Steps. No longer are music videos the dance-routine highlights of Top of the Pops on a Friday night. Music is less innocent than ever before. And with a wider, more technologically advanced audience, the kids see what the adults see.

As the Prime Minister attempts to stop the sexualisation of children with planned internet restrictions, and as mothers campaign to remove ‘lads mags’ from the lower shelves, the music industry is the next point of attack.  Especially for group ‘Rewind and Reframe’,  a joint campaign made up of  EVAW, Imkaan and OBJECT, taking the battle against the media into their own hands. They petition that sexually explicit videos receive the same viewing treatment as do films, in the hopes that innocence in the younger generations can be restored. With supporters such as Annie Lennox, and David Cameron already behind the cause, it’s time to sign!

You can check out the cause’s manifesto and blog at www.rewindreframe.org.

Sign the petition here!

You Should Be Watching: Steven Universe

If you have any interest in animation, you’ve undoubtedly come across Pendleton Ward’s acclaimed show Adventure Time.

Some of the best moments on Ward’s beautiful brainchild have come courtesy of Rebecca Sugar, background artist turned storyboard artist, writer and composer. Sugar was one half of the dynamic writing team that provided us with such awesome moments as ‘It Came from the Nightosphere’, ‘Fiona and Cake’ and ‘Power Animal’ (a personal favourite).

Rebecca Sugar, rising star of animation.

Rebecca Sugar, rising star of animation.

After Season 4, Sugar left Adventure Time to work on her own show. And it’s a lady first! Sugar is the first woman to create a show for Cartoon Network Studios.

Steven Universe revolves around a character based on her younger brother… and that is where I snoozed off as well. Thankfully, I gave it a chance, and was immediately sucked in by the theme song.

I mean, that’s just adorable!

And then comes the fantastic set up- Garnet (voiced by Estelle for extra trivia points), Amethyst, and Pearl are the Crystal Gems, beautiful warrior women who save humanity on a day to day basis. And then there’s Steven, the protagonist, who is shorter, younger and definitely less gem-tastic than the rest of the group.

The elder sisters-younger brother dynamic of the show really works well. There are some genuinely hilarious, but also sweet, moments when the girls try to make Steven feel better about his non-contributions to the group. Each member of the Crystal Gems is also quite a fun character- I love all of them, even (or rather, especially) the prissy and overly protective Pearl.

And STEVEN!!

And STEVEN!!

As can be expected from a show with its roots anywhere near Adventure Time, the world is a little whacky- great portions of the show make little to no sense. However the show relies on the relationships, rather than randomness, for humour, which is a huge strength.

Visually, the show is gorgeous, taking its cues from old and new animation. The backgrounds are sumptuous, as would be expected from a background artist, and has more than a few nods to the old Hanna-Barbara cartoons. And the characters look as if Betty Boop and Olive Oil were thrown in a blender with Regular Show and Adventure Time. “Is that a bad thing?” you ask. No, my friend. No it is not.

So:

An awesome looking show with visuals to die for? Check.

Interesting and funny characters? Check.

Whimsy? (Gotta have that whimsy!) Check.

Well then, why aren’t you watching it?

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Pop Feminism- Is It A Bad Thing?

Lily Allen’s new song and video, ‘Hard Out Here’ has certainly been causing debate. Feministic or opportunistic? Empowering or Enforcing Stereotypes?

Still from Allen's new video.

Still from Allen’s new video.

Comments on the Youtube video range from:

‘Looks like Lily’s still faking the funk. Trying to act like she’s making some grand statement about music industry and the sexualizing of women but yet having a video that objectifies and sexualizes women, specifically black women. So essentially we have white female privilege at work. She can claim she is speaking ‘truth’ and liberal commentators will clap in agreement but she is still using a$$ in a video to sell a mediocre song. Oh, yeah just like everyone else. She tried it, though’

to

‘lily didu just summarize why we need feminism in one fucking awesome song? you just…. UR A QUEEN’ .

I, personally, am hanging in the feminist corner with this. It’s loud, its crass, it has so many ‘bitch’es in it that it even makes me rethink the word, and, (and I am only going to say this ONCE) is parodying the way popstars like Miley Cyrus use different ethnicities to boost their street cred. Is it The Female Eunuch? No. But it doesn’t have to be. Feminism comes in all forms and flavours and Lily Allen isn’t the first (and hopefully won’t be the last) to bring it to a mainstream pop audience.

I see Allen’s new track as a perfect example of Comfort Feminism, and I really don’t mean that in a demeaning or condescending manner. All the major turning points in my Feminism weren’t informed by manifestos like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique or Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman – as much as I love them. They were marked by pop feminism, or feminism that comforted and made me feel better, because I’m not a robot, I have insecurities, and sometimes that is exactly what I need.

The first person who ever made Feminism cool for me was Amelia Peabody, heroine of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. An archaeologist during the golden period of Egyptology, she also solved crimes, was a wife and a mother, and supported Women’s suffrage. She was also really cool and not a racist. Win! The first couple of books saw her ditch the dresses, and move to first split skirts, then bloomers, and then trousers for maximum crime fighting/archaeological bad-assery! Damn, I thought, anything Amelia Peabody subscribes to, I subscribe to, and thus began my first conscious foray into feminism- though I can never remember a time I didn’t want to be judged on my work and not on my gender or appearance.

Barbara Metz a.k.a Elizabeth Peters, being a badass in Egypt. Also pictured is Amelia Peabody being 80's on the cover of the Mummy Case (the book was A LOT better than the cover).

Barbara Metz a.k.a Elizabeth Peters, being a badass in Egypt. Also pictured is Amelia Peabody being 80’s on the cover of the Mummy Case (the book was A LOT better than the cover).

Amelia Peabody never sprouted anything but basic Feminism- that she wanted the vote and to be treated equally. She wasn’t particularly scholarly or academic in her viewpoints, and it was really a rather minor part of the book- mostly it was about digging up mummies and kicking ass! It was pop feminism, and it changed my life.

But you know what, I was twelve, and I fell off the Feminism wagon. I got very snooty about it too. I believed that all Feminists were extreme man-haters and I was an equalist. Nowadays I know that, not only is equalist not a word, it’s exactly the same as Feminism, minus the pretentiousness. It wasn’t until I was seventeen that I acknowledged myself to be a feminist again, and that wasn’t because of some hard hitting article about gender equality, but because Marina and the Diamonds said she was one.

Marina Diamandis- No Germaine Greer.... OR IS SHE???

Marina Diamandis- No Germaine Greer…. OR IS SHE???

I know, right? Super embarrassing.

Only its not! Marina Diamandis is one of my favourite singers and she made it ok, in my extremely teen-angsty eyes, to be a feminist. That feminism wasn’t about man-hating, and that not only was it awesome, it was also crucial.

Out of my friends, I was the only one who was ‘I’M A FEMINIST!’, but that didn’t really matter. Until I bought a book on Feminism. Then shit got real.

When I bought Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, everyone looked at me like I had sprouted an extra head. Not because I was too feminist, but, ugh, seriously? You need a book to help you decide whether or not to have a Brazilian?

Caitlin Moran's 'How To Be a Woman'

Caitlin Moran’s ‘How To Be a Woman’

Maybe I’m just a weak minded individual, but there are lot of dirty looks in the world, from feminists and non-feminists alike, and sometimes you need Caitlin Moran to bring it back to basics with wanking and just to have a laugh about how ridiculous life is. I know generally what my thoughts are on a subject, but sometimes I like to know that I’m not the only person with those views. And that’s why I called it Comfort Feminism. Because it comforts you and keeps you going, and THAT IS NOT A BAD THING. It is a good, good thing, and we shouldn’t get snide about it just because someone else might be earlier on in their feminism journey than we are.

So Lily Allen’s song may not be feminist rocket science, but it is filled with great lyrics and some brilliant points, and if it gives someone out there the boost they need- the boost that I needed and which Marina and Caitlin gave me- how about we don’t piss on their parade, but instead join arms like it’s the Wizard of Oz and make a night of it?

B-bitch-b-bitch-bitch bitch bitch.

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