Required Watching: “My Mad Fat Diary”

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If there was a television show that should be placed in the school curriculum, it’s Channel 4’s “My Mad Fat Diary.” I might be a twenty-one year old woman who’s trying to do adult-related things like pay bills and look for a full-time job, but I still find myself emotionally invested in this teen television series to the extent that I’m 4OD-ing the next episode. I can’t help it—I’m addicted—and not only because Nico Mirallegro plays the love interest.

We’re near the end of season two right now, but to those who haven’t watched the show, let me inform you of the basics. Meet Rae (played by the wonderful Sharon Rooney), a sixteen year old girl who has come out of a four month stay at a psychiatric hospital after an attempted suicide—a fact that she needs to keep concealed from her friend Chloe and her new group of mates. The synopsis might seem a little heavy, but it’s a show that explores everyday teen problems, and with the voice of reason, Kester (her councillor/AKA Professor Quirrel), these problems are (sometimes) solved. Oh, and did I mention that it’s set in 1996?

Yeah, it’s set in 1996, which means a great soundtrack and music metaphors (like you being the only Oasis fan in a world full of Blur worshippers–Oh, the pain!). Each show, I fall in love with a new song that I’ve either forgotten/never heard of (hey, I was pretty young in 1996). So, if the teen flick isn’t exactly your style, at least watch for all the nostalgic references, because I tell you—there are plenty!

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One thing that will make you fall in love with MMFD is the humour. It’s a show filled to the brim with one-liners that come so fast it takes me a moment to think and laugh. Plus, Rae’s inner-monologues are the filthiest thoughts that you would never have imagined coming from a sixteen year old. And I love her for it. In series one, she wants to shag one male character until, and I quote, ‘there is nothing left but a pair of glasses and a wet patch.’

The fact that Rae is an honest depiction of a teenager experiencing the ups-and-downs of adolescence is the reason why the show is must-watch television. Well, Rae’s anxieties and insecurities are more acute than your average teen, but watching her body hang-ups was something I understood. As a viewer, it brought back memories of my time at school and the shame I felt about my body image—I’m sure I’m not alone on this. The show bravely tackles the issues that young women face, such as the media and its pressure on its spectator to excel the “perfect” kind of beauty.  By exploring these topics, “My Mad Fat Diary” brings comfort to its young viewers; a message that says, ‘hey, it’s rough being a teen out there, but you’re not alone.’

Its multi-dimensional characterisation doesn’t just start and end with the protagonist, but I assure you if you haven’t already, go and find out for yourself, because we’re deep into the second series and the characters are still as strong as ever. My only wish was that “My Mad Fat Diary” was made earlier to replace the endless amount of American rich kids programmes such as “The OC” and “One Tree Hill,” because, finally, there’s a programme where I can actually relate to the main character. Well, I say “finally”, there was ITV’s “Girl’s in Love”, but even then the show skimmed over some of the more serious issues (but with phrases like ‘yuck sandwich’ it’ll always have a place in my heart).  So, Channel 4, I can only hope—no, I pray—that you commission series three, because if it doesn’t happen, as Rae would say, ‘it would make me wanna punch myself in my tit.’

Images via http://mymadfatdiarygifs.tumblr.com/

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Music On The Go: “Workin’ Woman Blues” by Valerie June

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Valerie June has my attention. She’s a singer from the Memphis music scene, who last year released the critically acclaimed album, “Pushin’ Against a Stone”, which got everyone pretty excited with collaborations from Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and the legendary Booker T. Jones.

June brings a raw, country sound to the table and what can I say? I’m a sucker for a woman with a story in her song, and the single “Workin’ Woman Blues” is a track you can’t let go. It’s Americana that has all the feeling of blues, but none of the baggage. Yet, the one thing you can’t ignore, which ties up the track are her harrowing vocals. As soon as she opens the line, “I ain’t fit to be no mother, I ain’t fit to be no wife,” you are gripped and taken somewhere else that isn’t a rainy day in England.

“Workin’ Woman Blues” is necessary for a music listener on-the-go, as it’s a track you can either chill out to on a lazy afternoon or put on before a Saturday night.

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Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer Answered?

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This week it has been reported that Putin may grant amnesty to the two remaining Pussy Riot members still incarcerated. Maria “Masha” Vladimirovana Alyokhina and Nadezhda “Nadia” Tolokonnnikova, may be freed from a two year “religious hatred” sentence. And it’s about time, right? The Russian Government has been a bit too power-happy and, let’s face it, they have been in a fluster over the band’s actions. However, Pussy Riot has stuck to their guns and kept cool, to the extent of eye-rolling at their prosecutor’s accusations.

Pussy Riot is a Feminist Punk-Rock band, who formed in response to Vladimir Putin being re-elected in 2012. They’re known for wearing bright clothes and balaclavas, and turning up in public places to do protest performances. Most of these performances are campaigns for women’s rights—as sexism is still a massive issue in Russia. They’ve performed in clothing stores and most notably they’ve performed in Red Square.

Their most famous gig to date was in February 2012, where Pussy Riot stormed the altar in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and sang their ‘Punk Prayer’ called Holy Shit; a punk prayer that calls on the Virgin Mary to kick Putin out of power because of the corruption in the Orthodox Church.

After pressure from celebrities such as Madonna, who took her top off to a stadium audience to show the words “FREE PUSSY RIOT”, to Yoko Ono, who personally pleaded for the release of the band members. And nobody should say no to Yoko. Yet, authorities still proceeded with charging the three members of the feminist punk band. Even after the mass media gave Pussy Riot their support and multiple protests were held throughout the world, did the court budge under pressure?

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The news of the possible release of the two remaining members, Masha and Nadya (Katia, the third member, was set free after she appealed in October 2012) came at the same time as the documentary, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer was shortlisted for an Academy Award. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the documentary has everything to do with the remaining members’ possible freedom, yet it definitely has played its part. Over the past three months, pressure has mounted for the two women to be freed. In September, reports were leaked to the press about Nadia’s hunger strike, which wasn’t anything to do with her sentence, but to do with the prison conditions she lived in. It was claimed that the penal institution she was sentenced to punished the inmates if they complained about the conditions or about another inmate’s health. In a penal institution in Russia, an inmate will work a 14-16 hour day of hard labour and live off four hours of sleep. Nobody can live like this. It is inhumane.

It wasn’t just Nadia’s hunger strike that caused a stir in the media, putting pressure on the Russian government. In September, thirty members of Greenpeace—who were peacefully protesting against the Russian company, Gazprom, for drilling in the Arctic for oil—were arrested on the grounds of piracy. For Greenpeace to be arrested for piracy is insane. This meant that they could face a 10 to 15 year sentence. Not only were they faced with piracy charges, but the foreign members were held in St. Petersburg, unlike the four Russian activists who were allowed home. Luckily, (yet, this doesn’t have anything to do with luck…) the charges were reduced to a Hooliganism sentence—the same Pussy Riot faced—and slowly the members have been released, however they still have a legal battle hanging over their heads.  If Putin lets the amnesty grant go through, this would also mean that the Greenpeace members could avoid jail.

As all these travesties of justice happen before our eyes, the members of Pussy Riot keep it cool under pressure within their time in prison, and, also in Masha’s case, having her child threatened to be taken away by the social services. To go back to the documentary, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer sheds light on the case, giving the world a detailed insight of the bravery of these women and their beliefs. In one scene, the members are surrounded by a media frenzy. One journalist tells member, Katia, that they are releasing an album with all of the Pussy Riot protests songs. ‘What are they calling it?’ she asks. The reporter replies, ‘Occupying Red Square.’ Katia smirks. ‘It should be called “Kill the Sexists.”’

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What We Love This Week…Cats in Tights

Cats. Cats. Cats. Cats. The household pets have been a love of the internet for the past few years, from lolcats to grumpy cat—we can’t get enough. Now, we’re on to a whole new era of kitty-love. Yes, cats are now in tights.

This is all brought to you from Meowtfit of the day, the tumblr page that gives people a daily dosage of cats in tights. ad_119640632

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Why We Need More Women like Lena Dunham on Magazine Covers

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Lena Dunham. Love her or hate her, she’s one of the few women on our screens who represents your everyday gal in Hollywood. So, when the rumour mill starts running about how Anna Wintour is actively trying to get Lena Dunham to cover Vogue, there should be more than a few nods of approval.

The reason behind Wintour’s bidding is because, ‘Anna is trying to seduce Lena into bringing her next-generation audience into the Vogue brand.’ It’s about high time, too, as having a woman like Lena Dunham on the cover would make me read Vogue. Lena Dunham is the modern day woman who gives an honest voice of twenty-something women. Albeit, it’s not always a pretty voice, but in her film Tiny Furniture and her hit, award-winning show Girls, she brings relatable characters and topics about the millennial generation.

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Lena Dunham is known for having a healthy figure and not being afraid to exhibit it, which, yes, is a great reason to why they should feature her on the cover of Vogue, because young women in this day and age need a role model who isn’t a size zero. However, her figure shouldn’t be the main factor of why it’s great to have a talented woman like Lena Dunham on the cover.

The reason why we should have Lena Dunham, and other women similar, is because she is one of the few women out there who writes, directs and stars in her own show, and the world always needs for plenty more successful and creative women in their glossy mags. Earlier this year, Indiewire reported how there’s only one female director to, roughly, every fifteen male (the exact number is 15.24). Out of their study, which assessed 11,197 directors, they found that only 29.8% of filmmakers in the industry are female. To say the least, this is pretty god-damn disheartening.

Why is there such a huge gap between men and women in the film industry? Well, it’s hard to just pin it on one reason. A few of the reasons Indiewire offer are: women find it hard to network with men in the film industry, some women can’t get enough funding for their films, and some women have reported that they can’t get hired simply because they are a woman.

But what if there aren’t as many women who want to be filmmakers? Honestly, I wouldn’t find that unbelievable. From personal experience, I found that in my film groups at degree level and A-level there was a higher male to female ratio of students. The reason behind this could be because films can exclude women.  It’s no secret how Hollywood stereotypes women, objectifies women and also instil a fear of growing old into actresses of the industry. Even the supposed ‘female friendly’ rom-com genre, women are seen as clichés who have to undergo a transformation, mostly a physical one, to achieve their personal goals and win their man.

Even if this contributes to the problem, it still doesn’t fully explain why there’s a lack of female film students, but then we look at drama classes, which are famously packed with women who strive to be on the silver screen.

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However, these statistics doesn’t mean that there aren’t any great female filmmakers (Sofia Coppola, Andrea Arnold and Jane Campion, to name a few). Even though the statistics are so dismal, I’d  like to think things are looking up, since it still feels recent when Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win Best Director for Hurt Locker. We can only hope that her success might inspire a generation of females to participate behind the camera.

So, bring on the Lena Dunham’s of the world. Give them magazine covers, and let’s not just concentrate on their beauty, but their achievements and success in their chosen fields. In the future, hopefully there will be more women who pursue the film industry, who feel inspired to follow the lead of female filmmakers like Lena Dunham.

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“Chinese Food”: Is This the New Internet Phenomenon?

It started with Rebecca Black. A product of ARK Music, who rose to fame in 2011. Now, whenever somebody says Friday, there are still people who can’t help but mutter, painfully, Friday…Friday…gotta get down on Friday…

Now, we have a new song that wishes to be the next sensation: Alison Gold’s Chinese Food. Yep, it’s just as bad, guys.

This time, we don’t have a young girl driving underage with all of her equally underage friends, singing about what particular day they like to party on. No. We now have a young girl, singing about her love of Cho-me-me-me-mein. On the surface, it seems kind of cute. Similar to when I was young and used to write songs about balloons that mysteriously had the same tune as whatever Atomic Kitten track was out at that time.

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However, this isn’t a song about your simple egg fried rice. Oh, no. With an intro of a Chinese man cooking and shouting angrily at the camera, you understand that this video might tread over some fine lines. One aspect of this video (which is bordering on this line) is the lonely, creepy panda, who mid-through the song ends up being Patrice Wilson (singer of ‘Happy,’ the official sequel to ‘Friday’). The best bit about this? He attends her sleepover. Pencil Face, move out of the way.

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What’s the most offensive part of the Chinese Food video? The appearance of two girls dressed, kimonos and all, as Geishas. If you’re going to enforce every Chinese stereotype, why would you then throw in Geishas, a part of Japanese culture? The ignorance alone makes this video insulting. It’s nearly on par with the racism in Florence and the Machine’s video, No Light, No Light.

The video is already at the 4.5 million mark, and I’m sure it will be even more popular when I’ve finished this article. What is sickening the most is that the people behind the song and video, (Patrice Wilson, Heath Ripplinger, Chris Lowe, Ian Hotchkiss) probably know all too well what they are doing here. Controversy sells. All we have to do is look at Miley and her accessorising of black culture to know this, with one of her songwriters, Timothy Theron, stating that when she wanted a song, she knew what sound she was looking for. She apparently told him, ‘I want urban, I just want something that just feels Black.’

It’s getting tiring for singers/songwriters/producers/directors/whatever testing the waters to see how far they can push the limits. Chinese Food is a part of this kitschy, internet spoof-pop and tries to come across as being a light-hearted joke, but this time it’s not funny. But if controversy gives them youtube hits, I wonder if they really care? I doubt it.

American Horror Story: Third Time’s the Charm

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‘There is a house in New Orleans…’

Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story is launching into round three after the previous season drew in  5.79 million viewers from the first episode.  After last season, which was a whirlwind of nun’s, Nazi’s, mutilated asylum patients and, of course, aliens, it does make you scratch your head to what Murphy can possibly do with the show next. Oh, but don’t worry. This time, it’s the witching hour.

It’s not exactly Cackle’s Academy…

Now, I first off want to state I am a huge AHS fan. See? I even abbreviated. Yet, with the first two series, the show hit a slump somewhere or another. In season one, we are introduced to the Harmon’s: a broken family, who move away from their house of bad memories only to become residents of the Murder House. That’s right: Murder House (it’s a part of a murder tour and everything). The show starts off with a bang, introducing us to strange activities in the basement and the creepy neighbours next door who continuously break into the house. From the first episode, there’s tension, there’s intrigue and there’s plenty of twists and turns. It’s all uphill…well, until the final episode.  It’s not that it was bad, it just wasn’t great. I expected fireworks, Murphy, fireworks! Instead, I got this bland half ending that I really could have taken or left.

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Really, Murphy, you’re going to end it like…that?

Then, we had American Horror Story: Asylum. The series that supposedly has all of Murphy’s personal fears all wrapped up in a not-so-nice package. Now, I decided to look past series one’s hiccups. This was down to Murphy deciding to do something different and take a fresh canvas into a new, creepy setting, and he brought half of his old cast with him (thank God, because we need more Jessica Lange!). Again, it started off well, with the main protagonist, Kit Walker (Evan Peters), whose wife gets abducted by aliens, which gets him into a bit of a pickle and, eventually, into a mental health asylum. Here, the asylum is run by an authoritarian figure, Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange), who keeps the asylum running under strict rules and stricter punishments. I was just as enthralled as I was with the first series, but by the time it hit the halfway point, my attention started to dither. Too many story-lines. Too much happening at once. And then a musical number out of nowhere? (To be fair, it was pretty catchy). However, if Murphy learnt anything, it was his mistakes from series one. Yes, the ending was pretty decent and gave me a new love of actress Sarah Paulson.

We’re about to start American Horror Story: Coven, and so far, it’s looking good. The teaser trailers have left me intrigued and thirsty for more. Plus, I’ve had The House of the Rising Sun in my head for the past two weeks. One of the reasons why this season could be the best yet is down to one factor: the cast. Again, we have veterans Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe and Sarah Paulson re-joining the third installment, but we also have a few newcomers: the Oscar winning actress, Kathy Bates, the Oscar nominated, Gabourey Sidibie and, y’know, Julia Robert’s niece, Emma Roberts. Also, from AHS season one, Denis ‘I will eat your children!’ O’Hare and Taissa Farmiga (who’s become a favourite actress of mine after her Bling Ring stint) will be returning.

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As the countdown for series three commences, I am feeling optimistic. I mean, there’s an episode called ‘Bitch Craft’, so if it’s not going to be terrifying, it’s at least going to fun. So, get ready for the witches, get ready for the voodoo and the love triangles, and most importantly, get ready for Jessica Lange.

American Horror Story: Coven will start tonight at 10pm on FX.

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