Stan Lee: A Tribute

Head Writer Rachael Cheeseman with Contributions from Chad Echakowitz, Grae Westgate, and Jon-Michael Lindsey

Stan_Lee

We here at Forge & Flint were frankly devestated to hear the news that Stan Lee, the inspiration, the legend, had passed away. Perhaps it shouldn't come as a shock, he was 95 years old after all, but Stan Lee has been such an iconic figure in our lives, he has given us so much that it's hard to imagine a world without him in it. For many of us, myself included, Stan Lee's creations were so much more than stories. They were epic adventures and inspirations and cautionary tales and pure blissful escapism. So, as homage to this indescribable man and all he did for us, we have decided to put forward our favourite marvel characters and how and why they came to be such.

Colossus - Rachael Cheeseman

 Courtesy of  Geek & Sundry

Courtesy of Geek & Sundry

For me, no Marvel character will ever rival Colossus (AKA Piotr Rasputin) Since his first appearance in X-Men in 1975 his character has been a moral, just, selfless hero. But he is not without depth, he has faults and flaws which he overcomes again and again to show that we can always choose to be good, we can always choose to be better than the crap life throws at us. Born in Russia, Piotr was raised on a farm where his exceptional size and strength were extremely useful. Having lost his older brother he became a devoted and protective sibling to his little sister Illyana. It was in protecting her from danger that his mutant powers emerged. He was able to transform his flesh into an extremely strong and powerful metallic substance that granted him extreme strength and endurance. He was contacted by Professor X and thus Colossus was born. As a member of the X-Men, Colossus was quiet, respectful and perhaps for many this pushed him into the background. Not for me, I thought his contemplative nature was truly something to aspire to. Here was a man, of extreme strength who practised gentleness, kindness. Reluctant to use his powers if ever he saw the possibility for peaceful resolution. A lesson many powerful people could do with learning. If ever faced with having to kill another person Colossus battled with his guilt, with his sense of duty and responsibility. Eventually, after sustaining injury attempting to protect his fellow X-Men, Colossus becomes trapped in his metallic form but never loses his human nature. Eventually Colossus is killed after he sacrifices himself in battle. Selfless to the end. In many ways Colossus reminded me of my own big brother. Thoughtful, considerate, selfless and (to me at least) a hero. He was a character I could look up to, one I felt genuine care and concern for and who taught us all that heroism comes in many forms and that sometimes the strongest stance you can take is one of refrain and restraint.

 Spider-man - Chad Echakowitz

It is incredible how an idea, turned into a comic through ink, can have such an extensive impact on the whole world. The simplicity of thought that generates such a force as to change the entire entertainment industry through strategic lines and colours arranged on a page is truly baffling. And yet, this is what Stan Lee did over and over again. And that’s the message I take away from the life of Mr. Lee: even the smallest things can have the biggest impact.

 Courtesy of  Cartoonbucket.com

 No superhero epitomises this – for me at least – more than your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man. A young man, growing up in the cruel streets of Manhattan loses his uncle to crime, gets bitten by a spider and well… you know the rest; there’s been a whole host of movies about it. Spider-man is a fantastic coming of age story, and has helped many a youth (including myself) come to terms with change. It’s awkward, it’s messy, and it can be quite violent. And Spider-man embodies that change, showing us that even a lonely loser who is going through some major changes can still be a hero.

 Stan Lee had a fantastic way of making his superheroes relatable because, at their core, they are all human. They are flawed, they make mistakes, and they sometimes even do things that are less than savoury. It makes the reader think, “well, if they’re like me, I can be like them.”

 We are all heroes. We just need to hold ourselves up to that moniker. After all, with great power, comes great responsibility.

 

Nico Minoru – Grae Westgate

 Courtesy of  Pinterest

Courtesy of Pinterest

Stan Lee’s legacy has trickled throughout the comic book universe since the day the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters first opened its doors over five decades ago. Lee’s first generation of X-men paved the way for teenagers for years to embrace their weirdness in the face of adversity, giving the losers, the introverts, a voice amongst the jocks and the cool kids. We all wanted to be a hero, and knowing that even the weirdos that adorned the pages of the Marvel World could stand up against the adversity of everyday life gave us a belief that we could all be a hero in our own way.

My first real real foray into the comic book world, though not a Stan Lee creation in itself, was Brian K Vaughan’s Runaways. Telling the tale of a group of super-powered teenagers who discover that their parents are in fact members of the villainous Pride, Runaways takes a clear inspiration from its mutant based predecessors. Leading the group is the awkward Nico Minoru, a sexually confused teen, gifted with the Staff of One, a magical totem that grants her all the power in the universe, but only when a blood sacrifice is made. A clear allegory for womanhood, Nico encapsulates the darkness and confusion that comes hand-in-hand with pubescence. And to top that, she’s a badass Asian goth chick that any horny young teenage boy can root for. Runaways has been my comfort since its inception back in 2003. It was my first Issue One, and I have stuck with it ever since. I have followed the adventures of Nico and her intrepid band through the Pride years, through Joss Whedon’s exceptional time travelling arc, even to the Arena-based death and beyond. In the ever-increasing backlog of comic books that now lives happily atop my mantelpiece, Runaways is always the first to be devoured. And it’s Lee’s influence that rings true. A beacon of hope for teenagers lost in a world that hates them. A morality tale giving them strength, hope, and the will to find their place amidst the madness. Thank you, Stan, for laying the foundations that will support every young heart that your legacy has found its way into, and for giving lost teenagers throughout the world somewhere to run to.

Daredevil - Jon-Michael Lindsey

It is true that my childhood was infused with Stan Lee & Marvel creations. Spider-man toys and Annuals for Christmas, Captain America videos at one of my birthday parties. In my teen years I meandered between Marvel, DC & Vertigo, but it was Daredevil that caught my imagination.  Matt Murdoch first appeared in April 1964. He was a young boy who, after saving an elderly stranger from being hit by a truck, loses his sight to the truck’s radioactive cargo. This also heightens his other senses to an almost super-human level, with a “radar sense”.

 Courtesy of  Pinterest

Courtesy of Pinterest

Guided by his boxer father, “Battling” Jack Murdock, he learns to deal with his disability. He’s also taught the very important lesson that violence won’t solve anything and is made to promise that he won’t resort to it in order to solve any problem. Sadly, time is cut short when Jack is murdered by gangsters for not throwing a fight. Matt, who has now graduated as a lawyer, creates the alter-ego of Daredevil in order for him to keep his promise, then takes revenge against those responsible for his father’s death, bringing his own brand of justice to the criminals of Hell’s Kitchen.

Stan himself cites one of his Daredevil stories as among his all-time favourites, when Matt defends a blind Vietnam veteran in court from being framed for bribery. (Brother, Take My Hand – issue 47)

There are many things that appeal to me about Matt Murdock/Daredevil. He is one of the first disabled superheroes, giving those readers with disabilities a view of hope. Not only does he learn to cope without his sight, but he goes on to lead a successful life as a lawyer. Being a lawyer, he also takes on certain cases that no-one else wants, always sticking up for the little guy. The other resonating quality is that one of the names associated with Daredevil is The Man without Fear (which went on to be a Frank Miller comic series in 1993). How many of us, disabled or not, would wish to have that quality in our lives? To be able to do what we dream of, what we aspire to – without the crippling sense of fear to hold us back? That is why the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen will be a hero to me, just as the man who created it is worthy of the same title.

Stan Lee brought so many beautifully flawed, complex, relatable characters into our lives. Characters who we could look up to, who could be role models and who imparted genuine wisdom that many of us still carry around with us today. This is but a brief sample of the joy he brought. My solace comes from knowing his work will always live on, like the greatest art does. I see it in my three year old son who is already hooked on the legends of Thor and fascinated by the bravery of Captain America and awed by the intellect of Tony Stark and is genuinely moved by the kindness of Spider-Man. My little boy who found pure childlike wonder in Dr Strange's magic and believes Black Widow and Gamora are the strongest of the avengers and sees no reason why he can't look up to them and aspire to be just like them. That joy he feels, the desire to do good and be strong and brave and stand up for something. That is Stan Lee's legacy and, I don't know about you but, I think it's a hell of a good one.

Men, Woman, and Watching Porn

Written by Rachael Cheeseman

Hey, remember your first encounter with porn? Of course you do. It’s a weird, pervy rite of passage, a first tenuous step into adulthood. For me, it was when I was 11 years old at a sleepover with two close friends. The friend whose house it was, had an older brother and had seen him hiding things under his bed. He was out, so naturally we decided to play detective and went snooping around his room. This was also my first experience of a 17 year old boy’s bedroom and I can tell you now it was repulsive; I felt like Clarice Starling during the autopsy in Silence of the Lambs, if only someone had had some vapour rub for me to smear under my nose. We waded through the quagmire of dirty, sweaty clothes adorning the floor, the plates of leftover food that were growing cultures the likes of which should only exist in a laboratory, and at last we found what we were looking for. A single, tattered (dare I say, well loved?) nudie magazine. It was cover to cover leggy Amazonian women with far more hair than would ever be acceptable in the industry today. They were posed lewdly with vacant, disinterested expressions and my friends and I all shared the same thought. Why is this sexy? Granted, we were young, we hadn’t yet reached any kind of sexual maturity, none of us were attracted to women. However, we all knew about sex and masturbation, and understood the beauty of the female form but we still couldn’t - for the life of us - work out why anyone would find the blatancy of that magazine sexy.

Could it simply have been because we were girls? We all know the stereotypes surrounding male and female views on pornography but how much truth lies behind them? Are we really that different?

Men Watch More Pornography than Women

this is something we’ve all heard. Usually accompanied by some tosh about how much stronger the male sex drive is and how men are constantly thinking about sex. I can’t stand hearing men talked about in this way. As if they’re rutting animals with no self control. It perpetuates blame culture in rape because we can’t expect men to actually keep it in their pants and it’s damn insulting to men everywhere. It’s dehumanising and patronising and it strengthens this peculiar notion we hold as a society that enjoying sex somehow makes you a deviant.

However, there is truth to the statement that men watch more porn than women. According to Michael Castleman of Psychology Today a whopping 71% of x-rated pornographic online videos are viewed by solo men, 19% by heterosexual couples and 2% by solo women and lesbian couples. So, why is this?

It has been suggested that men are more aroused by visual stimuli than women, though there is little empirical evidence to support this. In fact most evidence would indicate men and women have an equally strong reaction (measured by increased blood flow to the genitalia - can you imagine being in that study?). But what’s more, men tended to only become aroused watching pornography that mimicked their sexual interests whereas women reacted regardless of whether they were watching heterosexual, homosexual or lesbian pornography.

Lykins et al expanded on this, stating that men and women could be equally aroused by visual stimuli but varied in what details they chose to look at. In this study they found men spent more time looking at the people in erotic photographs; they looked more at their bodies as well as their faces. Whereas, the women in the study spent more time looking at the contextual features of the photographs, such as the scenario, the roles the people appeared to be playing, the clothing they wore, etc. So it doesn’t seem to be that men are more aroused by visual stimuli. It would appear far more likely that there are a whole host of cognitive differences in arousal.

“What? Our minds matter when it comes to sex? No way!” I hear you cry sarcastically. As obvious as this might seem, it took psychologists a frighteningly long time to draw this conclusion.  Rupp and Wallen in their 2008 study highlighted just how many factors come in to play when we’re discussing arousal whilst viewing pornography. Aside from the obvious physical differences in how men and women respond, we also have to consider a whole host of psychological facets; experiential factors, subjective awareness of arousal and contextual or cultural norms, to name a few.

If we look purely at the neurology, FMRI scans have shown that men and women show increased activation in the same regions of the brain (predominantly the amygdala, the cingulate cortex and striatum) while viewing erotic images with one exception: only men showed increased activation in the hypothalamus. Now the hypothalamus is very tiny but very complex. It does an awful lot of very cool stuff but its key function is regulating hormones. It’s unclear at the moment what exactly this activity means but there is a clear neurological difference in how men and women react.

 

When Women do Watch Porn, We like Other Women

Intriguing right? Maybe to you guys. I can guarantee not many female readers will be surprised by this. A naked woman is a beautiful thing. She’s all curves and soft skin and all her “plumbing” is nicely concealed in a neat little Georgia O’Keeffe style “flower”. A naked man… How do I say this? Men are beautiful - please don’t feel self conscious about yourselves, fellas, but sometimes, being confronted with the kind of well endowed man the porn industry favours is just not a sexy experience. It’s eye watering, a little un-settling (I mean honestly how is that poor girl going to walk tomorrow?) and sometimes kind of intimidating. So it certainly feels understandable that women tend to download more lesbian pornography than men. In fact, a recent survey by Youporn showed that the terms “lesbian scissor”, “lesbian orgy” and “lesbian threesome” were searched by women overwhelmingly more often than men (as much as 500% more often).

So now we know that both men and women watch porn and are perfectly capable of being aroused by visual stimuli, let’s see what Freud had to say on the matter.

 

The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy

Of course I have to mention Freud. You can’t discuss sex and not talk about Freud. Believe me, I’ve tried, but the two topics go together better than the whole cast of Grease singing that awful “We go together” song. Say what you want about Freud (actually don’t, I love his work and I don’t want to have fight any of you) but the man never underestimated how important sex is.

In a nutshell - and this really is just the basics - Freud believed that when it comes to sex, men cast women in one of two roles; the Madonna, a woman he admires and respects; or the whore, a woman he is sexually attracted to and disrespects. The theory draws a clear distinction between love and sex. Love is pure, virginal, maternal and to be kept that way. Sex is shameful and dirty and to have sex with a woman is to debase her. Now, I feel I have to point out, that this isn’t a conscious distinction that is being made. It is the subconscious acting on years of socially reinforced stereotypes and “scripts”.

Men, therefore, are faced with a very difficult problem when they fall in love with a woman. Dare they consummate that love and degrade and sully the woman they adore? Obviously they have the desire to have sex and yet they also feel compelled to settle down, have a long term relationship and perhaps to father children. How do they cope with these two opposing desires? Well, according to Freud, any number of neurotic disorders or anxiety disorders can arise from this but the most pressing issue is the loss of sexual desire for their significant other. It has been suggested then that the pornography gives the perfect outlet for men faced with this dichotomy.

Now, obviously Freud has been criticised for many reasons, his research was based purely on case studies and his theories are contextually dependent, however some psychologists believe this complex is a very real issue in relationships to this day and could account for why men account for so much of the downloading of pornography.

I’ll be honest with you guys. There is so much to explore on this topic. So much more than I could ever explore here, more than I could even explore if I was writing a small book on the matter. You need to consider different cultural views towards pornography, generational differences, societal influences, sexual disorders, literary pornography the list is endless. Because, guess what? People are complicated. We’re messy and unique and it’s downright dangerous to draw sweeping generalisations based off nothing but age old stereotypes. Men like watching porn and women don’t. Men are aroused visually whereas women need an emotional connection. Women don’t like watching other women. Statements like this are part of what make people worry that they can’t talk openly with their partners. They make people think they’re abnormal. Well, here’s the dirty little secret; we all like sex and that’s okay.

Hallowe’en: An Origins Story

Written by Jon-Michael Lindsey

 Photograph by   Raini Scott

Photograph by Raini Scott

Once again, Halloween is upon us. The night for trick or treating, parties with fancy dress, ghoulish make-up, and horror film marathons. I wonder, however, how many people actually know how this all started.

The Celtic tribes of Northern/Western Europe. who called the night, Samhain (those who follow the Old Path still call it that, pronounced, Sowhain). It was the New Year for the Celts, but it was also the time when the veil between the world of the living and the Other World was at its thinnest. It was a night for honouring the ancestors, in which a “dumb supper” was held in honour of those who had passed away, with the seat at the head of the table being left empty for the ancestors. The empty place would be served with food and drink, but the other guests were not permitted to look at the seat, as it brought misfortune to look directly at the dead. After the meal, the untouched plate and cup would be taken outside as an offering and left in the woods.

There is a trend of traditions that we see observe in modern times that are ancient and have developed dramatically over time. Apple-bobbing, for instance, came from the Romans. Apples were sacred to Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruits, trees and gardens. They were forever amalgamating their traditions with that of the population they’d invaded. It was deemed that whoever was successful in getting the first apple with their teeth would have good luck for the next year. Luck also had its part to play in other origins of the Samhain festival. Disguises were worn to ward off evil, and masks were worn to scare the spirits back to their own realm, rather than getting stuck in ours. A large bonfire would also be lit to protect the tribes.

As for the pumpkins, this actually started in the middle ages. Initially turnips were used in Europe, carved out and candles were inserted into them as lanterns. This was for the bearer to use as they went door to door asking for food in return for a prayer for the dead. This changed to pumpkins in the USA in the 1800’s, as they were more readily available.

As the church became more dominant, it needed a way to attract people to be converted that was less problematic than brute force. Convergence became the key, so the Christian calendar adapted to incorporate the festivals of those people still following the Polytheistic, native religions of the land, thus creating a weird synergy. This is why, for example, All Saints Day is on November 1st.

So whatever your feelings about Halloween, however you choose to spend it, I wish you all a safe and enjoyable time as I raise a glass to our ancestors.


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How to Survive a Horror Movie

Written by Grae Westgate

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Halloween is upon us. The season of the witch. The infamous Michael Myers sequel that somehow managed to omit the iconic killer. Yup. We’re talking horror movies, and, perhaps more importantly, how to survive in the ever-increasingly likely event that you find yourself in the midst of some supernatural goings on.

Of course, we’ve already been warned of the key rules by the late great Randy Meeks; don’t have sex, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, and under no circumstances tell anyone that you’ll be right back. ‘Cause you won’t be right back. You’ll be dead.

But sometimes these rules aren’t enough to get you through a whole horror franchise, so, in celebration of the spookiest time of year, we’ve put together a handy survival guide to make sure you live to see the next Paranormal Activity instalment.

1. Be Pretty (but not too pretty)

Attractiveness is definitely a pre-requisite for being in a horror movie. If you’re not above a 7, chances are you’re the comic relief (more on that later), or you’re in the audience. So, should you find yourself being stalked by a masked serial killer, take a look at your friend group. If you’re the Neve Campbell to a specifically nineties Rose McGowan, or Jennifer Love Hewitt to a Buffy season two Sarah Michelle Gellar, chances are you’re safe. If you’re the hottest one in your group, then sorry hun, you’re going to be third or fourth on the kill list.

2.Don’t go into the Woods

Look, a Spring Break vacation to your uncle’s cabin in the woods may sound like a great idea. Pack up the vista cruiser with beer and condoms (along with the mandatory bong) and hit the road for party central. But here’s a better idea: just don’t. That little woodland retreat is likely to be home to demonic entities, ghosts of deformed locals, or even trees that drag you into the forest to rape you.  Stay home instead. Study. Get a part-time job and start saving for college. Nothing bad ever happens there.

3. Don’t go to College

College attracts people from all walks of life, and, for some reason, it attracts the crazies even more so. If you’ve already been in a horror movie in high school and managed to survive, chances are that your sequel is going to take place at college. Is one or more of your fellow survivors at the same college? Then you’re definitely screwed. Of course, if this is your first rodeo, you’re probably safe. Unless, of course, you’re a film student doing a project on urban legends, or the member of the hottest sorority in campus.

4. Get out of the Damn House

One of the most infuriating tropes in the horror genre is that of running upstairs instead of out of the front door. If the killer is in the house, then get the hell out of there. Of course, your estranged brother may have stretched cheesewire across the doorframe in a “guessed it in the first act” twist, but, nine times out of ten, just leave. The killer’s not going to gut you in the middle of the street.

5. Stick Together

This goes for any horror survival situation. It doesn’t matter if you’re solving mysteries at a haunted amusement park or simply trying to outrun a chainsaw-wielding maniac; do not, under any circumstances, split up, otherwise, you’re going to get picked off one by one. Safety in numbers, stand back to back, and stick to well-lit areas. Though, upon saying that, never stand with your back to a TV news van.

6. Put the Book Down

If you do happen to find yourself in your uncle’s cabin or in an old Chinese junk store, just put the book down. Don’t read it out loud, especially if it’s in some ancient language that you don’t recognise. This rule extends to ancient artefacts, Ouija boards, strange puzzle cubes, or anything that would look happily at home on Marilyn Manson’s mantelpiece. It’s going to summon a demon, and no one needs that.

7. Get Possessed

This may, at first, sound counterproductive, but if you’ve already been stupid enough to read that book and unleash hell, one of the safest situations to be in is that of the possessed victim. Sure, you’re going to be vomiting bile and bending about more than a contortionist at P.T. Barnum’s, but when it comes to demonic entities, being the host is almost a sure-fire way to make sure you at least get through the experience alive. Reagan, Emily Rose, and even Anthony Hopkins in the exceptional The Rite all knew it was the way forward. The exception, or course, is if you happen to be standing anywhere near a window when the demon jumps in. In that case, you’re just biding time until the demon resurfaces in a mental institution. Again. And again. And again.

8. Make Sure You Have Both Parents

If you’re from a broken home, then you are scientifically ten times more likely to be victim of a serial killer. Or be a serial killer. Carrie White. Jason Voorhees. Norman Bates. Billy Lumis. That crazy girl from The Loved Ones. Child abandonment causes serious deviant behaviour. Folks, stay together; if not for yourselves, then for the children. That said, don’t stay together too much, otherwise we end up with a Sawyer situation. A family that slays together, stays together.

9. Put the Camera Away

In recent years, it’s become something of an obsession for those who find themselves stuck in a horror movie to start filming everything. Personally, I blame Heather Donahue. Whether you’re the victim of some paranormal activity, experiencing a few grave encounters, or simply giving the devil his due, you’re going to need both hands. So put the camera down and pick up the phone. That said, you’re in a horror movie, so no matter where you are, you don’t have any signal, so use those hands to grab a weapon. Unless you’re making a Behind the Mask documentary (man, that was a good film…).

10. Don’t be the Comic Relief or the Film Buff

This is where I say goodbye, dear reader, as, frankly, I know I’m dead. My jokey attitude and encyclopaedic knowledge of movies might just about get me through the first film by the skin of my teeth, but even if I make it through round one, I’m screwed when it comes to the sequel. I’ll probably make it to the final act and, if I’m really lucky, I might get a pity snog from the attractive Asian nerd before we both get massacred, paving the way for the showdown between the killer and the Final Girl who, let’s face it, I’ve been in love with since pre-school. But hey, I was probably your favourite character, and whoever they cast as the comic relief in the sequel, threequel and the eventual one further down the franchise where the killer winds up in space, is always going to pale in comparison. And if this does happen to be my last hoorah, don’t panic; I’ve given my goth sister a VHS with the rules to survive the rest of the franchise.

Happy Halloween y’all. Stay safe!


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4 Horror Movies you Should be Watching this Halloween

Head Writer Rachael Cheeseman, with Contributions from Simone le Roux, Chad Echakowitz & Grae Westgate

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Halloween is just around the corner and we at Forge and Flint have been reminiscing about all the spooky movies that left us sleeping with the lights on.

Our love of horror is a tricky thing: we enjoy being scared but only to a point or in a certain way. We want a scary film to stay with us, but not to where it interferes with our ability to function, much like the original IT film that led to 8-year-old me refusing to shower for far longer than I am willing to admit. 

Everyone has a different opinion on what it is that makes a horror movie great, be it tension or gore or jump scares. There’s so many ways to leave an audience with a white knuckle grip on the arm of their chair but combining that pulse pounding terror with a compelling story, believable characters and enough light relief to stop people losing their minds, now that is a delicate balancing act.

So without further ado, here is a selection of what we consider to be the very best Horror movies of all time.

 

1. The Orphanage (2007) – Rachael Cheeseman

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 I love a good horror movie. The nerves, the tension, trying to second guess when the next scare will come, yelling at the characters for being idiots who can’t demonstrate even a modicum of common sense in a life threatening situation, the whole experience. I am a horror movie addict. However my love of the genre has also made me somewhat picky. I can’t stand films that rely on gore, the “found footage” trend is, in my humble opinion, a load of low quality, shaky, out of focus rubbish and an over reliance on CGI has ruined many a decent horror flick.

 Yes, there are plenty of movies I could grumble about, but one that never ceases to impress me is The Orphanage directed by Guillermo Del Toro.

 When I sat down to watch this film I knew I’d be getting a visual spectacular, Del Toro never fails to deliver on that front. I knew it would be atmospheric and unique but I did not expect to feel genuinely frightened and that was a wonderful surprise.

 For those who have not seen it, The Orphanage is about a woman named Laura returning to the orphanage where she grew up, she moves in to the abandoned facility with her husband and son with the plan to turn it into a centre for disabled children. Laura’s son begins seeing the ghost of a young boy and on the centres open day he goes missing. The movie then follows Laura’s desperate attempts to find her son and puzzle out the increasingly mysterious goings on within the orphanage.

 Aside from being beautiful, the thing that really drew me in to this film was how unrelenting it was. The sinister nature comes in to play early on and it never really lets up. The story is gripping, the acting is superb and really what can be scarier than creepy old buildings, a mother’s fear for her missing child and ghost children? On top of that the film is subtitled, so it demands your constant focus which just adds a whole other immersive element.

 The Orphanage is simply an excellent all round horror movie that has left more than one person I know a little bit ill at ease for quite a while after watching. I adore it, and with an 87% rating on rotten tomatoes, I’m clearly not the only one.       

 

2. The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Chad Echakowitz

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 Horror movies are crucial for the development of art. If you think you have a novel idea, there’s probably some little indie horror film that has done it first. Because there are so many of them, they must be innovative to gather any kind of interest. As a result, horror movies begin to sway the trends and techniques that other genres adopt. But none of these facts are why this film has made this list. Above all the brilliant cinematography, above the horrific monsters, this film is just great. There is no other way to describe it.

 For those who haven’t watched it yet (emphasis on the yet), The Cabin in the Woods follows a group of teenagers on their completely clichéd trip up to their clichéd uncle’s clichéd cabin. Everything about the first 20 minutes of this film is set up to be just a horrifically ordinary slasher flick. But then things turn metaphysical. It turns out that the whole trip is staged and a group of scientists are controlling every interaction the teens make.

 At its essence, this film takes the traditional slasher tropes and flips them on their head by controlling everything that happens. The interactions are manufactured, the murders (though real) occur under completely predetermined outcomes, and even the monsters are controlled by the scientists behind the scenes. The film then takes a complete left turn, with the dénouement revealing something no one would have ever seen coming.

 To further emphasise my point, this film holds a sublime cast (featuring Chris Hemsworth), a director who has made his chops working on projects such as The Martian, Lost, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a writer who can only be described as Joss Motherf***ing Wheden. You cannot ask for a better combination. It’s like peanut butter meeting chocolate all over again. And a score of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes just further proves what I am saying. Actually, I’m going to go watch this film again right now.

 

3. Sinister (2012)– Simone le Roux

 As everyone who’s known me for more than an hour is aware, my favourite thing in the entire world is settling in with a horror film. It doesn’t even have to be good. And, much as I appreciate the trend towards stylistic, well-written horror movies with an over-arching theme and a commentary on society today (I see you, It Follows and The Babadook), that’s not what I really want. I want tense, jump-scary, scenarios with as much creepiness as is physically (or metaphysically) possible. That’s why Sinister will always be one of my top horror movies.

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 For the unfortunates about to watch this movie (you don’t have a choice), here’s a quick summary: A crime author (played by Ethan Hawke) is desperate to revive his career so he moves himself and his family into a house where a gruesome, unexplained murder took place. Upon discovering a box of super-8 tapes in the attic, along with some eerie drawings, he begins to unravel the horrifying mystery of what happened at the house, and with previous families.

 It has all the elements of a properly scary film: creepy children, unexplained deaths, a murder house, scratchy old films on super-8, a demon, an “imaginary” friend, a helpful detective, and a man obsessed. You would think that that combination would be tired by now, old news when haunted house movies come out in flocks every year. You would be wrong.

 Rather than lazily relying on the characters doing inexplicably stupid things to move the plot forward, the movie instead gives you characters that do everything right, and it’s ultimately their undoing. Any irrational behaviour in the main character’s part is easily explained by his obsession with solving a mystery and finding success, rather than being a tit who keeps watching awful footage for no reason. This is flawlessly acted out by Ethan Hawke, who swore he would never do horror up until he read the script for this film and fell in love.

This movie is scary the entire way through, with an appropriately eerie soundtrack and just enough jump scares to keep it interesting. Quintessential horror, I think.

 

4. Train to Busan (2016) – Grae Westgate

 I’ve always been a sucker for zombie movies. It stems somewhere from my childhood obsession with Goosebumps combined with having seen George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead at far too early an age. At somewhere around twelve years old, I remember being absolutely horrified at the scene where Kyra Schon’s Karen is revealed to be one of the dead before stabbing her distraught mother to death with a trowel. Grotesque. Shocking. I was hooked.

Of course, it’s a well-known fact that the late, great Romero lost some of his spark after the first three films in the series, and, in a sea of equally trite zombie fayre, it’s rare these days to find something with a bit of bite.

Cue one of the greatest films to have ever stumbled out of East Asia, the Korean masterpiece, Train to Busan.

Telling the story of busy busy businessman Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) who, after forgetting his daughter’s birthday, decides to make amends by taking her home to Busan to see her mother. This should-be-simple-enough train ride quickly derails, however, when a sickly young woman stumbles onto the train, rapidly unleashing a zombie virus upon its unfortunate passengers.

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On paper, the film sounds quite silly; indeed, there is a bizarre amount of similarity to the Sam Jackson outing, Snakes on a Plane. And yet, it’s riveting. As the film progresses, we get invested in each of the survivors as they try to battle their way through red-eyed deadites, and, much like the early seasons of The Walking Dead, there really is no way of knowing who is going to make it through the journey to safety. With each subsequent death, the audience is left increasingly heart-broken, and even in its final moments (a wonderful tribute to  that Romero flick that started the whole trend), we are holding our breathes in hope for sanctuary. You will never hear ‘Aloha Oe’ in the same way again.

Filled with suspense, terror, and special effects that would make even the biggest of Hollywood studios jealous, Train to Busan is arguably one of the finest films in an over-saturated genre. And with an enviable 96% on the Tomatometre, director Yeon Sang-ho has certainly put zombies back on the right track.

And there you have it! Go forth, get spooked, feel the chills, they’re good for you, and if necessary, keep the lights on.


More Articles Like This…

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4 Films with Surprisingly Terrifying Morals


7 Podcasts You should Definitely be Listening To

Lead Writer, Chad Echakowitz, with Contributions from Simone le Roux, Jon-Michael Lindsey, Bethan Louise Grubb, David Whitrick, Kaitlin Bellamy, and Grae Westgate 

 Photograph by   Icons8

Photograph by Icons8

Podcasts are amazing. They are prime examples of what the human imagination can do when left to the expanse of creativity. For as little as 20 minutes, or as long as three hours, some random people can take you out of whatever menial task you are doing with a simple conversation, and you can walk away feeling enlightened, thrilled, or just plain entertained. 

And now, in celebration of the release of Forge & Flint’s own podcast, It’s Not That Bad, we would like to celebrate podcasts in general, for bringing us such wonderful moments. Here are seven writers to tell you about their favourite podcasts.

 

1)    Ear Hustle – Chad Echakowitz

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Presented by Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods

Produced by Radiotopia

We’ve all had that moment in our lives where we think, I could definitely survive in prison. I used to think that way too. Then I listened to Ear Hustle.

Do not think that Ear Hustle is a podcast intended to scare you in to never wanting to go to prison; instead, this fantastic podcast sets out to educate listeners about what prison life is actually like. Earlonne Woods - one of the hosts of the podcast – is currently a prisoner at San Quentin Correctional Facility where the show is hosted. This insider scoop helps the listener gain a sense of what prison life is like, and not the lies that films and television tell you.

And while it can be grueling, and many of the episodes will make you want to run home and hold your loved ones close, it also explores the humanity of prison life, of people coming together as a community in the most unlikely of places. With a wide range of topics that explore prison life (such as choosing cell mates, or “cellies”) to things prisoners plan to do when they get out, this podcast is emotionally gripping, leaving you raw at the end of every 45-minute episode.

It is so unusual, so unique as a podcast, if you aren’t listening to it already, you need to add it to your library.

 

2)    The Last Podcast on the Left – Simone le Roux

Presented by Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski

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Produced by The Last Podcast Network          

If you love True Crime and laughing at things you absolutely should not be laughing at, this is the podcast for you.

After five years running, the hosts have a seamless dynamic that makes for seriously entertaining listening. The show is well-researched and the information is put forward with story telling that flows well. Marcus Parks guides you through the story, with input from actor Henry Zebrowski, who does voices and impressions to bring the characters to life (often hilariously). Ben Kissel rounds off the cast as the dad-like figure, asking questions the listener might have and reigning in some of Marcus and Henry’s wilder tangents.

What you get is the most fun way possible to learn about the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, L. Ron Hubbard and the Entfield Poltergeist. This podcast also seeks to expose these scary figures of history for what they truly are: losers. They’ll point out that Ed Kemper was just a big cry baby and that Jim Jones was some insecure dude high off his face.

Get ready to become the creepy person at the party armed with too many serial killer facts and a darker sense of humour than you knew you had.

 

3)    Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review – Jon-Michael Lindsey

Presented by Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo (and other occasional guest presenters)

Produced by Somethin’ Else

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If you’re lucky enough to know the great English actor Jason Isaacs in person, you’ve probably already had your phone hijacked and force-subscribed to this podcast, and thus converted to the Church of Wittertainment. First appearing on Radio 1 in the 1990’s, it moved to its current home on Radio 5 Live in 2001. Since then, the show goes out every Friday with 2 hours-worth of film reviews and interviews. So what is it about this podcast, then, that makes it worth your time when you can find this sort of content anywhere these days?

Quite simply, it is because of the banter between host (Simon) and contributor (Mark). It’s been likened to that of a bickering married couple, but it’s what keeps the fans/Wittertainees coming back each week. Listeners to the podcast are treated to extra content not featured on the live show, including some hilarious and sometimes heart-warming correspondence, along with showbiz anecdotes and discussions about AALS (Altitude Adjusted Lachrymosity Syndrome), the cinema-goers Code of Conduct and of course the summer cruise, and they also have their own Wikipedia – the Witterpedia. With so much excellent content and additional features, it is no wonder the podcast has won the Sony Radio Academy Award and Listener’s Choice in British Podcast Awards 2018.

Jason Isaacs features regularly (an old school friend of Mark’s), with other alumni including Sir Kenneth “chuckles” Branagh, David Morrisey, Tom Hanks, Toby Jones (always better than a noby Jones) and many more, all of whom involve themselves in the spontaneous comedic outpourings. This is well worth your time and after a simple subscription on your fruit-based device (still not funny) or other, you’ll soon become a part of the congregation and LTL (Long Term Listener). All that’s left for me to say is everything is going to be alright and “Tinkety tonk old fruit, and down with the Nazis”.

 

4)    My Brother, My Brother and Me – Bethan Louise Grubb

Presented by Justin, Travis & Griffin McElroy

Produced by Maximum Fun

“Are there dogs in the new Batman Movie?”

“Does a fart contain DNA?”

“I think I have Pepsi stuck in my lungs – what do I do?”

The McElroy brothers can provide you the answers to all of these questions and more. My Brother, My Brother and Me (often abbreviated as MBMBaM, pronounced /məˈbɪmbæm/) has been dubbed “the advice show for the modern era”. Each week you can join the brothers as they delve into the dark depths of Yahoo Answers, and give advice to those in need.

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The show is very much what you could only describe as organized chaos. They talk about everything and nothing, but their friendly voices draw you in and the slapstick humour keeps you there. The agony aunts (uncles?) put themselves into the question-asker’s shoes and each brother gives their perspective on the question. The charisma and chemistry of the brothers genuinely put smiles on faces, and at the same time makes you question the unhinged inhabitants of Yahoo Answers. This podcast gives you a self-confidence boost when you realise these bizarre – and quite frankly stupid - questions are asked by real-life people walking this earth.

I now question what I used to do on a Monday before MBMBaM came into existence.

 

5)    Inside Jaws – Dave Whitrick

Presented by Mark Ramsey

Produced by Wondery

I’ll be honest with you – my foray into the vast and frankly intimidating waters of ‘the podcast’ was tentative, at best.

After a brief dalliance with The Last Podcast On The Left - my initial blood lust quickly quelled to a faint and non-committal thud, I moved on to Lore which has succeeded in holding my attention span, albeit in a sporadic, I’m-going-to-flick-through-this-intriguing-magazine-that-has-a-couple-of-honestly-great-articles-in-it-but-also-has-quite-a-lot-of-tenuous-filler, sort of way.

I suppose what I was looking for was a story, something to grip me with both fists and twist. Twist my soaking rag of an imagination and drip all that lovely creative word-juice over my sleepy commuters lap, propelling me forward into what would doubtlessly turn out to be a predictably unimaginative day. After all, why else do we tell stories? Or listen to them? Read them? Watch them? As a lad, my love of reading would spark a simultaneous love of movies and audio books, comics and surprise surprise Cilla – Writing. 

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So this is where you say, I thought this was about podcasts? Stay with me friend, I’m getting there despite taking you around all of the houses in my neighbourhood. Nice isn’t it, though, right? Seriously, I guess what I’m saying is I like podcasts that tell a story, a story that grabs me. Bites me even. A story with teeth…

I first heard of Mark Ramsey and his audio-exploits through threads about horror and thriller podcasts. Inside Psycho and Inside The Exorcist are, in my humble opinion, absolute belters and anyone with a  modicum of interest in either film, podcasts, horror or all three should go listen to them immediately. However, Inside Jaws is my most recent listen and Ramsey’s most recent release. And as Jaws has a very special place in my heart, this has to be my recommendation. For me, Jaws was a formative, gateway experience. Despite the fact it terrorised me and left me dreaming of sharks swimming through my bedroom window for weeks (I was only six, I swear), it was among the first films I can remember being truly rapt and would spark a passion in me that burns to this day: sushi. I love sushi. I do but that’s not what I meant.

 

6)    Annotated – Kaitlin Bellamy

by Book Riot

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I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable person when it comes to literature.  So when I tell you that Annotated is a constant educational delight, know that I mean it with my whole heart.

Annotated presents itself as, “stories about books, reading, and language.”  However, it doesn’t stop there.  Every single episode is a journey into the obscure corners of familiar things.  For instance, exploring the fascinating history of EXACTLY how Mary Shelley came to create the genre we now know as Science Fiction, and the rainy holiday bet that drove her to write Frankenstein.  Or the exploration of just how Shakespeare became the household name he is today, and how close he truly was to being lost forever as an unknown genius.

The episodes run less than 30 minutes each, perfect for your daily commute or a quick jog on the treadmill. It is easily at the top of my personal list, and I cannot recommend it enough.

 

7)    We Hate Movies – Grae Westgate

Presented by Andrew Jupin, Stephen Sajdak, Eric Szyszka and Chris Cabin

Produced by HeadGum

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I live my life through movie tropes. Indeed, I live my life through BAD movie tropes, and I take an immense pride in my encyclopaedic knowledge of terrible movies. As such, I’m always on the lookout for great podcasts that revel in ripping apart the dregs of cinema.

We Hate Movies, presented by a group of improvisational comedians, is a hilarious look at the crap that Hollywood insists on serving us. Each episode centers on a different film, ranging from the well-known blockbuster, such as The Lost World or any number of superhero fayre, to lesser-visited bargain basement classics like Dr Giggles and Samurai Cop.

A prior knowledge of a movie adds an extra level to the humour as we laugh along with the ridiculousness that we’ve come to loathe (the running gag of Stan Lee pissing all over Jack Kirby’s legacy is side-splittingly funny), but it’s often the films that you’ve never heard of that bring some of the biggest belly laughs.

With a new hour-long episode each week, often punctuated with live shows centered on infamously bad ventures such as Howard the Duck or The Emoji Movie, along with the Patreon exclusive “Animation Damnation” in which the team looks at classic cartoons of our childhoods through world-weary eyes, We Hate Movies is a must for any cinephile.

Of course, we wouldn't be able to end this article with a little self-promotion: 

8) It's Not That Bad

Presented by Simone le Roux and Chad Echakowitz

Produced by Forge & Flint

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Simone and Chad are two of the most optimistic people you have ever met. Being twenty-somethings in a world not made for twenty-somethings, they endure the hardships of modernity with smiles on their faces and chipper attitudes. 

And now they bring their optimism to you where, every week, they review two of the world's worst mainstream movies and tell you why they aren't actually as bad as you think. Simone and Chad search and pry through the cold, stagnant waters and somehow, someway, tell you, "It's not that bad". 

With continuous positivity, laughs, and segments examining not only the films but the people who created them, these two plucky millenials will bring a little bit of sunshine into your life. 

 

And now you are ready. Whether this is the first time you are going to venture in to the world of podcasts, or you are a seasoned veteran, you now carry the wisdom and advice of people who have no justification to give it. Even if you only adopt one of these recommendations into your library, you are in for a treat. There is something for everyone here so pop those headphones in, you have a lot of catching up to do.

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Not Sexually Harassing Someone with your Words

Written by Simone le Roux

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In light of the #metoo movement, there has been a lot of discourse around sexual harassment; what it is, and how you shouldn’t do it. You can boil the reactions from men down to two distinct catagories. The first is for men to simply nod and agree that making someone feel uncomfortable or unsafe is generally wrong, then take a hard look at their own actions. And the second is for men to get in a huff and proclaim, “What, so I can’t even compliment a woman anymore without being called a pig? This is a WITCH HUNT.”

This article is for the latter.

While the line may seem confusing, harassment and compliments are two different things. In my experience as a Woman Walking this Earth, I’ve had my share of both. Or at least, enough to know what will make me roll my eyes and what will actually flatter me.

For the sake of this article, let’s assume that you, the reader, genuinely want to be able to compliment a stranger and make that person understand that you like some aspect of them, without coming off as a creep.

Step 1: Intention

Why do you want to comment on this person’s appearance? Do you like a specific aspect of their outfit/hair/look? Do you want to be kind? Are you hoping to brighten their day? These are all really good reasons to compliment someone. You’re seeing them as a whole person with feelings that you would like to improve.

If, instead, you’re complimenting them because you’re with your mates and it’ll be a laugh, or you want everyone to know that you think this person is attractive, or you want to get a reaction out of them, those are shitty reasons. Rather don’t say anything and call your mom to ask how she is instead.

Step 2: Getting their Attention

Here’s the thing: no one owes you the time of day. No matter how badly you want to talk to someone, they’re not obligated to let you into their personal space or give you attention. This is why we say “excuse me” when we need to ask a stranger a question or we accidentally bump into someone. It’s an unspoken rule that you don’t claim someone’s attention or touch them without permission.

If you want to compliment someone in a way that makes them feel good, yelling out of your car or commenting as they walk by isn’t going to do it. It shows that you don’t care about their comfort or privacy in this interaction, which makes the compliment sound insincere straight away.

Similarly, if you say “excuse me” and the person doesn’t stop to talk to you, that’s fine. You can’t force your sentiments on someone who doesn’t have the time or inclination to talk to a stranger at that point. You certainly shouldn’t get mad at someone who is denying your request for attention, because that also shows that you don’t care about the person’s right to privacy in a public space.

Before complimenting a stranger, it’s always best practice to politely ask for their attention, then wait to see if they give it. If they don’t give you attention, move along.  

Step 3: The Compliment

Complimenting an aspect of someone that they can’t change isn’t particularly meaningful. If they’re pretty or have a nice body, the odds are that it’s due to a heavy dose of genetics, and that the person already knows that.

Putting even a little more thought into a compliment makes it so much more meaningful. If you say, “That colour looks good on you”, you’re complimenting both how they look, and their style. If you say “You look lovely today,” you’re not just complimenting their looks, but also how they’ve chosen to dress, do their hair and carry themselves that particular day. It means a lot more than, “Nice ass,” because hey, I didn’t choose my ass and I can’t do much about how it looks at this moment either way.

Step 4: Finishing Up

Compliments are a gift: you give them without expecting anything in return. So, the person you compliment doesn’t owe you a smile, a thank you or a conversation afterwards. Not everyone likes talking to strangers and, despite your best efforts, not everyone will appreciate your masterfully executed compliment. That’s fine, you tried.

The important thing, though, is that you respect the person enough to be around for the reaction. Driving past someone and yelling a “compliment” out your window shows you don’t care enough to see how the person reacts – you just wanted to get your feelings out there. This puts you on par with a kindergartener, which isn’t the best place to be socially.

So, after you’ve complimented someone, stick around for a beat. If they say thank you, then great. If they tell you to fuck off then hey, that’s the risk you ran. Either way, you’re respecting that person enough to handle the consequences of your well-intentioned action.

What it boils down to

Complimenting someone and getting it right is nuanced. This shouldn’t be surprising because people, too, are nuanced. And – I’m just going to say it – women are people too. If you just keep that in mind and try not to be a dick, you’re well on your way to not sexually harassing anyone. Congrats!

Why Footloose is the Most Important Film of All Time

Written by Chad Echakowitz

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Let’s just set one thing straight: this was my idea first. I have felt this way since 2016 when I first posted my theory to the world. I am only writing this article now, however, because I think it’s time - the world needs to know. Plus it’s become relevant in pop-culture again so people will hopefully listen. 

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Footloose is a heart-warming story about a young upstart named Ren, who moves from Chicago IL to the sleepy town of Bomont. Under the control of an uptight Reverend Shaw Moore, who, with the approval of the rest of the town, has outlawed alcohol, drugs, other profanities, and – worst of all – dancing. To make things worse, Ren falls for Reverend Moore’s daughter. Things happen to fill out an hour of movie time, and then we get to the crux of the story: Ren wants to challenge the no-dancing rule and bring back the Senior Prom. Spoilers: He succeeds and everyone has a lovely time and this plucky teen gets accepted into the community and everyone lives happily ever after, footloose and fancy-free.

This film is the most important thing to ever happen in film. It is more important than Citizen Kane. It is more important than Shawshank Redemption. Hell, it’s more important than Dirty Dancing. At its core, Footloose is a film about social change. It teaches us about progress and how it isn’t always easy, even when it is necessary. So, sit back, relax, and kick off your dancing shoes.

 

The Morality of Footloose

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The crotchety elders of Bomont had a good reason for banning dancing and other salacious behavior: An incident occurred in which alcohol, dancing and other profane activities led to the death of some beloved teenagers. When applying the sine qua non test (a legal test that asks the question; without this event occurring, would the crime have taken place? If the answer is “no” then it is likely that that event was the cause of the crime) it is completely understandable that the elders would ban such things as alcohol and dancing. And it had worked. The teenager mortality rate in Bomont had gone down to a wholesome 0. But it was frustrating for those suspiciously attractive teens: They couldn’t express their angst or rebel against the system. There was no outlet.

But then Ren came along and challenged the system. He asked why. He took a purposive approach to the laws and shook the system. In a harrowing scene, Ren uses the Elder’s own ideologies to make them see that dancing isn’t actually that bad:

"From the oldest of times, people danced for a number of reasons. They danced in prayer... or so that                             their crops would be plentiful... or so their hunt would be good. And they danced to stay physically fit...                        and show their community spirit. And they danced to celebrate." And that is the dancing we're talking                     about. Aren't we told in Psalm 149 "Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song. Let them praise                       His name in the dance"?

And this is an important lesson that we all need to take to heart. We need to acknowledge the past and understand why things were the way they were. Undertaking a purposive approach will mean we can all come together with a common understanding and, from that starting point, change things.

Of course, not every social change can be as easy as lifting a ban on dancing. A simple meeting in a town hall will rarely change things. But if we all endeavour to better understand the other side, to become more empathetic, we could change a lot more through that unity.

 

The World Belongs to the Young

 In the town of Bomont, the old control the young, prohibiting behaviour and curtailing their freedom. When Ren arrives, he again challenges this way of life, a way of life that most of the youth find undesirable. By revolting, Ren teaches the kids that they have a right to speak up, especially when it comes to their own lives. And this is the second most important lesson in Footloose. While it is important to listen to our elders, and heed their wisdom, we need to take control of our own lives because that’s what they are: our own.

With a world that is rapidly developing into a technological anomaly, the likes of which has never been seen before, it is absurd to have laws and procedures that cannot accommodate such changes. In the same vein, we cannot let people who were not born into this technological world dictate the future when they cannot understand that technology. The two are incongruous. I am not saying they have no value. They still have wisdom, they can still teach us so much that comes with experience.

We need our elders, but we need to have our own say in the world we will be living in. We cannot be dictated too and blindly accept a future that was not designed by us, but for us by people who do not understand us. We can work together, taking wisdom from the elders and progressive attitudes from the youth. That way the future will be better for both sides built on compromise and mutual understanding.

 

Dance as if it were Illegal

 As I said back in 2016, future generations will look back at Footloose and laugh: “How ridiculous,” they’ll say. “Why would you base a whole movie around the prohibition of dancing?” That’s when we’ll smile in our old age and say, “You may laugh, young youngster, but there was once a time where towns did actually ban dancing and music.” At which point they will scoff, open their hologram phones and learn all about the music that was banned, dancing that was prohibited, and other ridiculous taboos that are now considered normal.

This is the third, final, and most important message of Footloose. Progress makes what used to be normal seem ridiculous and absurd, and this is good. From films like this, we can see how far we have moved forward from our history and we can gauge whether this is good or bad. Footloose is an amazing example of how far we’ve come as a society. We are so much more willing to accept things, to challenge archaic ways of being. We now listen to the youth more readily and try to understand the perspectives of others.

To make the simple and fun act of dancing illegal only seems ridiculous now, because we have progressed to a point where it can be ridiculous. In 50 years (hopefully), people will look back at movies like Detroit and Get Out and think how outrageous it was that we treated people differently just because of the colour of their skin. And we will smile and agree. It was outrageous but look how far we’ve come.

I may be idealistic. I may think that heeding the morals of a dance film made in the 80’s will help to progress humanity into a better world of understanding and inclusion. But I’d rather be that than someone who watches a movie and doesn’t learn anything from it. Footloose is fun, it’s uplifting, and it fills you with a sense of justice. By learning from something as silly as Footloose, by taking its morals to heart, we can all grow in to better people.

Graveyard Keeper Review: Twisted Nostalgia

Written by Kaitlin Bellamy

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Developer: Lazy Bear Games

Publisher: tinyBuild

I am no stranger to management simulations (more commonly referred to as "sims"). I grew up on Harvest Moon and the obvious but classic Tycoon series. So when Graveyard Keeper was presented to me as a pixelated journey into nostalgia, I was intrigued. And I was not disappointed. It may only be in Alpha testing now, but the game has already made quite an impact, and its future is incredibly promising.

Graveyard Keeper is marketed as “the most inaccurate medieval cemetery management sim of all time.” It is perfect in its simplicity, and takes the mechanics we all know and love and sprinkles them with a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek, macabre wit. From the sassy talking donkey who brings you bodies for the morgue, to your alcoholic skull companion, Gerry, everything in Graveyard Keeper is delightfully dark. Lazy Bear Games has managed to charmingly blend humour and horror, and I, for one, am hooked.

Part of the joy of Graveyard Keeper is discovering its strange little world through the eyes of our protagonist. This nameless man appears to be from our modern time, but finds himself transported, without explanation, into a backwards medieval village. He is given a new job, and the title of “Keeper,” by a strange and mysterious figure who seems to have been waiting for him. Almost at once, strange tasks are thrust upon him. Quests to improve the graveyard and get the church open again, autopsies and harvesting fresh meat from the dead bodies, and, believe it or not, seeking out a Royal Stamp to make the dead body meat sellable. What is this world we’ve been stuck in?!

Think that’s twisted? Add in the fact that this poor man is just trying to get home! But can he? Is he, too, another dead soul, and this is his afterlife? Hints in the opening of the game suggest that it might be, but we just don’t know. In the meantime, our Keeper continues to pursue quests that might, eventually, help return him to the real world. But until he can, he’s got a job to do. And he’s going to do it well.

Everything from your income to your crafting skills are tied up in the graveyard itself. Imagine a farming sim, but instead of tomatoes and carrots... it’s corpses. As you can imagine, resource management takes a bit of a disconcerting turn when those resources are dead bodies, and their various flesh and fluids. Cheerful, no? Well don’t worry, there’s more to come. Vampires and ghosts and witch-burnings, oh my! Embracing the stereotypes of Medieval beliefs in the best way, Graveyard Keeper takes the “Dark” out of the “Dark Ages” and turns it into a creepy series of adventures you can use to your advantage.

Interactions with the local vendors add yet another unique mechanic to this simulation. As mentioned by the innkeeper, things have been rough in The Village. Stocks are running low, and many businesses are struggling. But if you can get the church back up and running again, pilgrims will come, and bring their coins to stimulate the economy. As a result, the vendors grow with you. As you continuously improve upon your graveyard’s status, levelling up throughout the game, the vendors can unlock new tiers of their own. This delightful bit of realism encourages a “save the village” mentality, as your church’s success can directly impact the usefulness of the NPCs around you.

From a technical perspective, it’s difficult to accurately gauge everything until the full release, so I’ll wait to pass official judgement until August. I’ve also been playing only on the PC, so I can’t speak for the console versions. However, based on what I’ve already seen, my biggest concern is accessibility. There is very little in the way of tutorials in the beginning, leaving the player with a certain amount of button-mashing and screen-clicking until they figure things out. This may not be a problem for some players, but I could see it being a major stumbling block for others. Never was I told how to save my game, or directed to an easy menu of any kind. However, the actual day-to-day life of the Keeper was spelled out well enough, with prompts appearing for simple commands like “talk,” “open,” and “work.” Movement is intuitive enough, with clearly-defined paths and fences to keep you in line. Graphically speaking, the game is simple but elegant. I, personally, prefer its style over Stardew Valley. Both are reminiscent of old 8-bit video games, but Graveyard Keeper has a far more realistic colour pallet, and their landscape doesn’t have the “cookie cutter” feel that always bothered me in Stardew Valley. Instead, the graveyard and its village are beautifully detailed, despite the simplicity.

This game is, quite frankly, perfect for today’s generation of adult gamers. We grew up with “American Dream” simulation games, giving us the hopes of running our own theme parks or zoos. And now, as jaded adults struggling to keep up, Graveyard Keeper takes that dream and twists it into a dark comedy that perfectly resonates with our blackened souls. The game is only in Alpha now, but if the full game is half as good as the test, you won’t want to miss out.

Bottom Line: The graphics are charmingly simple, and the game is delightfully dreary. I can’t wait to see what ghost stories we can unlock when the full version goes live, but even the Alpha is several hours’ worth of wickedly good fun. Check it out now at GraveyardKeeper.com, and keep an eye out for the official release on August 15th, 2018. I know I’ll be lining up with my 8-bit shovel at the ready.

5 Reasons Why 2018 isn’t as Bad as it Seems

Written by Chad Echakowitz

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We’re six months in to 2018 and my goodness… What a year it’s been. Let’s be honest, 2018 has been a long, stressful year filled with lots of downers: multiple mass shootings, the return and open expression of Nazis, terrorism, and so much more. So what should we be thankful for this November when Thanksgiving rolls around? Right now, it doesn’t seem like much.

Well today is the day we turn this year around, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal. While 2018 has been the hurricane Catrina of shitstorms, there have been some pretty swell moments too. Here are just five of those swell moments to make you think, things could always be worse.

1)    The (Alleged) Golden State Killer is Finally Caught (April 24, 2018)

 Sketches from some of the victims of the GSK

Sketches from some of the victims of the GSK

The Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist, also known as the Original Night Stalker, also known as the Vasalia Ransacker, also known as the East Bay Rapist, also known as the Diamond Knot Killer was an evil man (as his multiple monikers would suggest). Between the years of 1974 and 1986, he committed at least 12 murders, 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California. He was able to evade police, detectives, and the common sleuth for the last 30 years.

That is 30 years of police in utter purgatory, which lead to many failed marriages, countless victims who never got closure, and whole families ripped asunder while the man who committed these atrocities saw the turn of three decades as a free man, unaccountable for his crimes.

Then, out of nowhere. A name emerges in 2018. Joseph James DeAngelo. Joseph was arrested on the 24th of April and charged with the crimes associated to the Golden State Killer. DeAngelo’s DNA matched the DNA evidence left by the Golden State Killer. It is important to note that he has not been convicted yet, and he is innocent until proven guilty. Until such a time, we can only allege that he is the Golden State Killer.

Regardless of whether he is or isn’t this evil beast that haunted California in the 70’s and 80’s, it is an encouraging fact that this 30 year old crime is the closest to being solved that it has been in a long time. Finally, victims can have peace, families can have answers, and law enforcement will rest easy, knowing another bad guy is behind bars.

This is an uplifting moment in 2018, not just because an evil person is behind bars, but because it gives us hope. Cold cases are awful because there are no answers, there is no peace. This case gives us all hope that there is no time restrictions on finding these criminals. If we can find Joseph after 30 years, there is still hope for other cold cases.

 Courtesy of   Oxygen

Courtesy of Oxygen

Joseph was caught using a relatively new technique of tracking people through ancestry websites. They were able to locate him using a process-of-elimination-style investigation of DNA obtained from a member of family. This technique will have a huge benefit to cold cases as ancestral DNA can be collected relatively easily creating matches through bloodlines to find criminals that have long disappeared. Science and technology drive progress and hopefully, the stack of cold cases will start to diminish.

 

2)    Los Angeles has instituted Parking Metres that Provide for the Homeless (February 8, 2018)

This isn’t a novel idea by any means. It has been instituted in other cities from as early as 2014. But what makes this a 2018 good thing is that the idea is spreading. It raises more awareness across the world and shows how easy it is to give back to those less fortunate.

 Courtesy of the Flintridge Centre

Courtesy of the Flintridge Centre

Downtown Los Angeles has set up six parking meters which will use the funds it receives to help the homeless in the surrounding areas. The initiative was set up by the Flintridge Centre, as well as Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar and her offices, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis. While there has been mixed feelings about the idea, with some thinking it doesn’t truly engage with the problem of homelessness, and others saying it isn’t actually feasible, it has still received a wide acceptance and favourability with the public.

This initiative shows us that there are people in power, elected officials, who are trying to make a difference for the better, who look at the less fortunate and want to make their lives easier, instead of harder. There is still kindness, and charity and compassion, even here in the depths of 2018.

 

3)    Chinese Scientists have Successfully Cloned the First Primates (January 24, 2018)

Some may say this is a bad thing and doesn’t deserve a place on this list, but those people are focusing on the repercussions that such a feat may cause, and not the scientific wonder that is this achievement.

To clone something is hard. Like really, really hard, you guys. The first successful cloning experiment was only completed in 1996 (Dolly the sheep) and since then, we have only been able to successfully clone a handful of animals. 

 Courtesy of   Smithsonian.com

Courtesy of Smithsonian.com

This is the fist time ever that primates have been cloned using the same method that scientists used to clone Dolly (Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, or SCNT). Before this, the longest primate pregnancy from cloning was 80 days. This is a breakthrough in modern science and opens our world to opportunities previously thought impossible. Whether we should take advantage of these opportunities or not is a very different story, and falls deep within the realm of bioethics, a subject we are not going to get into here.

But if we look at this cloning for what it is, creating identical life through scientific methods, it is truly awe-inspiring. It has taken dedication, determination, focus, intelligence, creativity, and so much more just to do this. And that is what being human is all about. We thrive to live in the what if. We love the hypothetical. And we adore making it a reality.

Without getting too much in to the politics of cloning, such breakthroughs can also lead to human organ growth to help save people’s lives, as well as expand research into diseases which cause progressive cell death, such as MS and Motor Neuron Disease. Through this new science, we could end up saving countless lives.

 

4)    Saudi Arabia goes to the Cinema (April 18, 2018)

In the 1980’s the government of Saudi Arabia banned the viewing of films and going to cinema on moral grounds, backed by extreme religious groups. For the past 30 years, The Saudi Arabian people have been unable to see such classics as Jurassic ParkInceptionGremlins, and everyone’s favourite, When Harry Met Sally.

But times have changed and earlier this year, the ban was lifted, and the new cinemas, now open to everyone, premiered with the greatest movie of this year, Black Panther.

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This is such a monumental event because it sees a change in the passage of time, from the old, archaic rules which are now redundant, to new, more practical ways of life. Times change and the people have to change with them. This is a great step forward for the people of Saudi Arabia and their ability to express themselves. It is a freedom unfelt for the past 30 years. And what a way to break the cycle: with Michael B Jordan’s sexy body smoldering on their screens.

 

5)    Ireland Goes Pro-Choice (May 25, 2018)

Abortion is an extremely controversial topic, and something we don’t need to get into here. But on the 25th of May, Ireland, with a resounding 66.4% in favour, repealed the eighth amendment of the Irish Constitution which made abortions illegal.

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This is a gigantic step forward for Irish women, not because they now have the right to have abortions in their own country (instead of having to travel overseas, often alone without proper help, support or supervision) but it is because they have the choice to have an abortion or not. This isn’t an issue of pro- or anti-abortion, this is an issue of allowing a woman to have the right to choose what to do with their own bodies.

This is also a public health issue. The new law will mean that abortions will be governmentally regulated, ensuring a higher standard of care for women going through abortions. This substantially cuts down the risk of death from backstreet abortions and related pregnancy illnesses.

In an age where equality and autonomy of self has become emphasized, this vote is extremely important in recognizing these concepts and bringing them into reality. This is a clear sign of progress. We are moving forward. The people are listening.

 

There’s a lot more to be excited about, of course. People stood up against inequality, prejudice, and the murder of innocent people. Big businesses are starting to be held more accountable for their actions. And we all got to enjoy the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Merkel. There is no denying that bad things have happened too but we need to acknowledge that, even though things look pretty bad right now, there is always light to push against the darkness.

5 Netflix Originals you should Drop Everything you're Doing to Go Watch

Lead Writer, Rachael Cheeseman, with contributions from Simone le Roux, Grae Westgate, Leah Nichols, and Chad Echakowitz

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Netflix has really come into its own these days. When people invite you over for "netflix and chill" you're actually hoping for some good quality binge watching - that's how good it has become. The secret to this success? Original content. Netflix has opened its arms to some of weirdest and most wonderful writing out there, and while it doesn't always hit the mark, it's still a refreshing change of pace, and when they do get it right... oh my god. So in order to really embrace the huge variety and diverse appeal of the original content on Netflix I have invited my fellow writers to tell you about what they consider to be the best of the "must see" viewing on Netflix.  

1. Lost in space - Rachael Cheeseman

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I am putting forward Netflix remake of the age old classic Lost in Space. This reboot of the 1965 original tells the tale of the Robinson family who have left Earth as part of a crew of the best and brightest to start a colony on a new planet. Needless to say, the mission doesn't go entirely to plan and the family finds themselves stranded in an extremely hostile environment that requires all of their skill and know-how to survive.  

The show wastes no time pulling you in with some incredible action sequences and pulse-pounding tension. The very first episode left both my husband and I staring slack-jawed at the television thinking that this was nothing like the hokey sci-fi show that is so often parodied and mocked in modern media.   

I can't pinpoint exactly why I loved this series as much as I did, all I know is I am not usually one to binge watch until Netflix is sending me the little "hey buddy, you still watching? Everything ok?" messages but with Lost in Space, I couldn't help myself. Washing up went undone, dust gathered, pages flew off the calendar in a bizarre passage-of-time-montage and I remained glued to the TV. Maybe it was the sexy robot - seriously, there has been a weird obsession with the robot and his physique. Or perhaps what made this show compulsive viewing for me was how well it modernizes the rather cheesy but beloved original story. Gone is the good, old-fashioned, and all-American family, but they don't lose any of the fierce loyalty and love that holds families together. Their bond was totally convincing and heart-wrenching on more than one occasion, but above all filled with all the complex, messy difficult emotions that real relationships are made of. The way the show handled the action/sci-fi aspects was just the icing on the cake. Add into this some truly remarkable acting talent and nail-biting cliffhangers and it really isn't surprising I devoured this series. And with an audience rating of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes it seems I'm not the only person who fell in love with the new and improved Robinson crew... and their sexy sexy robot. 

 

2. Dear White People – Chad Echakowitz

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Season 2 was released a couple of weeks ago and I couldn’t believe how much I missed this show. Season 1 had me laughing, in tears, and just downright angry over things I had never even thought about. Dear White People follows multiple black protagonists as they navigate the white minefield that is Ivy-league University in America. But this show isn’t a pity party or propaganda piece to highlight the problems people of colour face every day. Instead, it takes a real look at the difficulties of being part of an eco-system that labels itself as progressive, and highlights how unprogressive it is. It does so while still managing to be hilarious and well-paced, not getting bogged down in racial politics to the point where it feels like a lecture. It is not wonder that this show scored a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

I walk away from each and every episode having learned something, and saying to myself, “Damn, things have been really fucked up, and I didn’t even notice it.” And that’s what makes this show important. It teaches while still being easily digestible. You feel for the characters because they are incredibly human, and through empathizing with what you can relate to, you also sympathize with what you can't.  

The acting is exceptional, all from actors and actresses who aren’t very well known. The writing is brilliant, mixing between teen-speak and colloquialisms, and philosophy and economic theory. The soundtrack is superb, marrying classical, hip-hop, and modern music into a sea of seamless elegance. 

I came for the education, I stayed for the heart, I’ll be back for more because I can’t get enough.

  

3. Riverdale – Leah Nichols 

I relented to watch this tour de force about four months ago. I went into it thinking it would be your typical small town, teenage sitcom. Oh how naïve I was! 

Episode One sees the start of a police investigation and the town is in total chaos, there is nothing I like more than drama, so instantly I was hooked. By the end of the day I was on Episode 10 wondering what had gone wrong.   

This series has it all; gangs, mobsters and hooded people who want to biblically cleanse the town of sinners.  

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The protagonist, Betty Cooper - played by the beautiful Lili Reinhart - runs the school newspaper with the help of Jughead Jones, her kind-hearted, writer boyfriend; ‘the boy next door’ Archie Andrews; and the typical rich girl, Veronica Lodge. They make for an amazing quartet for crime solving when the town is thrown into disarray. 

Fortune really does at least try to favour the brave in this series but luckily the writers were not afraid of giving its leads a hard time. One of the brilliant things about this show is that it isn’t scared to yank the emotional rug from under you. And that is reflected with a Rotten Tomato score of 87%. The amount of episodes that end on a cliffhanger is, quite frankly, uncalled for but it keeps you watching.   

The second thing this show does so well is portray its characters and their relationships.  I really grew to care about the outcome of their poor teenage lives, the gang of four in particular, because love and loyalty is rewarded with love and loyalty being returned. They are all so different and bring their own skill set to their consistently cursed lives.  

This show makes it so painfully easy to love each and every character, which makes it worse. When the world comes crashing down around them, you feel it too.  

I recommend you watch it and feel the emotional turmoil I did. It’ll be the best thing you ever did. You wont regret it. And if you don’t fall in love with Ceryl Blossom’s sass and amazing archery skills, you’ll stay for one of the other amazing three-dimensional characters, whether it’s Jughead’s amazing loyalty, Betty’s kind heart or Archie’s kick-ass skills, you’ll find something to your taste!  

 

4. Aggretsuko - Grae Westgate

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You would have had to have been living in a box contained within a locker smothered in lead somewhere at the bottom of the Mariana Trench to have managed to avoid the international powerhouse that is the adorable Japanese cat (recently retconned to actually being a girl who looks like a cat…) that is Hello Kitty. The major bread-winner for Toyko-based toy company, Sanrio, Kitty-Chan boasts not only her face on every little girl in the world’s stationary sets, but also her own theme park, as well as a place on Paris Hilton’s bed-stand in the form of the Hello Kitty “neck massager”. 

As times changed, however, and consumers grew up into the nostalgia-fuelled millennials we have all become, Sanrio began to notice that demand in older audiences for cutesy knick-knacks was somewhat waning. 

Cue the arrival of Aggretsuko, a new animation from the commercial masterminds behind Kitty, Keroppi, My Melody and all their pastel-coloured comrades. 

At first glance, Retsuko, a darling little red panda, fits comfortably amongst her innocent Sanrio brethren. In actuality, however, the show is a smart allegory for the crushing mundanity of Japanese office life. Our hero is an accountant at a typical Japanese firm; she does that wonderful “I’m so very busy” Japanese office walk (seriously, it’s a thing… office workers in Japan feign a run everywhere they go in order to make themselves look more productive), she worries about what her colleagues think of her shoes, and she puts in massive amounts of overtime behind her desk whilst her chauvinistic boss (an actual pig) demands tea and deadlines as he polishes his golf clubs. Every instance in her daily life is so horrifically true to the daily grind, the show might be soul-crushing if it weren’t so damned cute. 

What makes Aggrestsukodifferent from everyone else in her office, however, is that behind her subservient compliance, her rage constantly bubbles, releasing itself in her nightly visits to the local karaoke box, where she vents her anger through some hilarious renditions of death metal tunes.  It’s ridiculous, it’s jarring, and yet somehow it works. 

Throughout the first season, Retsuko deals with relationships in the workplace, finding self-belief, and, ultimately, learning not to be a doormat. 

Awash with endearing characters,  Aggrestuko (with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%, might I add) is a smart and funny look at the horrific reality of adult life, as seen through the eyes of the Hello Kitty generation. From Sanrio’s point of view, this is one of the cleverest moves a long-standing company could make; a series for adults deliciously seasoned with the flavours of childhood. It’s like Stranger Things, but instead of just spoon-feeding you Member Berries, it actually makes you think. And want to go scream out some karaoke. 

 

5. Queer Eye – Simone le Roux 

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard the hype around Queer Eye. A reboot of the old Queer Eye for the Straight Guy from the early 2000’s, this show does it even better, as evidenced by its 96% score on Rotten Tomatoes. As with the previous show, each new member of the Fab Five has their area of expertise, consisting of Karamo Brown (culture), Tan France (fashion), Antoni Porowski (food and wine), Jonathan Van Ness (style and grooming) and the insanely hard-working Bobby Berk (interior design). Don’t go thinking this is just a makeover show with great eye-candy, though: these guys are all about sustainable change. 

They know that a nice haircut and a new wardrobe won’t change somebody’s life, and they work accordingly. Get ready for Tan to explain why he’s giving the IT guy fun prints to wear, and for Karamo to have a heart-to-heart talk with a policeman about why black people in America live in fear (spoiler: they become friends and it’s magical). Sure, your home is a mess, but let’s talk about why you’ve stopped trying to make your space nice. Yeah, your diet sucks, but why do you believe you don’t deserve delicious food? This show has made me cry every episode. I have grown-ass man friends who have unashamedly told me they cried as well. Each member of the Fab Five is both talented and extremely empathetic, sharing their own stories with the men they help.  

And the men they help aren’t the easy-pickings struggling artists of New York. This season, their HQ is in Atlanta, Georgia. These five gay and flawlessly coiffed men strut into ultra-conservative towns and easily befriend self-professed Red Necks, Trump supporters and conservatives without batting an eye.  

Queer Eye is well-produced and some of the most cathartic content I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s not just weepy girlfriend content, either. I think it has a very specific message for all men out there, too: It’s good to look after yourself, to be open about how you feel, and to take time to do nice things for just you. Also, organize your damn cupboards and throw out your jorts.  

 

So, there you have it. Just a brief glimpse into the extraordinary breadth of original content Netflix has to offer. If you haven't already changed into your slouch pants and got the pizza on order, ready for some serious binge watching, what the hell is wrong with you? Go, glue yourself to the sofa, but don't think you're in for some mindless viewing, be prepared to think, feel and learn a whole hell of a lot. By the time you're all caught up with our great recommendations they'll have brought out a whole new bunch of shows for you to get addicted to. You better go get started. 

4 Films with Surprisingly Terrifying Morals

Written by Chad Echakowitz

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Stories are important. No matter the format they come in, we need stories to help us grow, to fill our souls, and to teach us how to be the best we can be. After all, as some wise passer-by once told me, we’re not human doings, we’re human beings.

Stories are important because they teach us lessons: The Fox and the Stork teaches us to be kind to others, to accept and accommodate each other’s differences. The Lorax teaches us that we need to get off our asses in order to change things. And Pokémon (yes, even Pokémon) teaches us that through friendship and hard work, we can achieve anything, and that, even if we fail, we should never give up on our dreams.

But there are times where these morals somehow get lost in translation. The stories mean well and on face-value, they seem pretty innocuous. Yet, when you really think about it they are downright bonkers and play fast and loose with the term, “Morals”. Here are four such stories which somehow missed the mark.

 

1.     Grease

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I didn’t see Grease until last year, so I am coming at this film from a perspective of a 24 year old cynic who makes a living finding crackpot theories in pop-culture classics. That being said, I loved this movie. It’s hilarious, it speaks about some really hard-hitting issues, and brings the tumultuous lives of teenagers to our attention in fun, spunky dance numbers. It’s iconic. And that makes it dangerous.

If you don’t remember how the film ends, let’s just have a quick recap: at the school carnival, Danny – played by John Travolta – rocks up wearing a Letter jacket (a piece of clothing that is out of keeping with his usual Greaser wardrobe). He explains to his friends, who are innocently jibing him about said Letter jacket, that, “You guys mean a lot to me, but Sandy does too and I’m gonna do anything I can to get her, that’s all.” At that point, Sandy arrives wearing extremely tight leather trousers (which, presumably, she had to be sewn in to) and a leather jacket - also uncharacteristic of her usual wardrobe. Moments later, as the music swells for “You’re the One that I Want”, Danny throws away his Letter jacket and returns to the Danny we all know and… love isn’t the right word. Feel not-hate towards.

And therein lies the moral of the story. In a sentence, this film teaches us that if we really like someone we should better ourselves for them (good so far) unless they change for us (wait, stop) at which point, we are allowed to abandon any progress we made (please, no more) and make the other person sink to our level (gaddamnit). Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if staying the same meant you were a good, upstanding person, such as Sandy was (good grades, friendly, and well-behaved). But to stay the same when you’re just the worst, like Danny is (smoker, drinker, alleged sexual-abuser) it is not okay to revert when you’ve come so far and to bring Sandy down to your level.

Additionally, this horrid message gives off a double standard, seeing as Rizzo was deemed a slut because of her sexual prowess throughout the movie, but as soon as Sandy does it, it’s okay. It all just makes you want to drop out of beauty school.

Love is blind but at some point someone needs to step in and say, this is just unhealthy.

 

2.     Titanic

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 And speaking of poisonous relationships, this one is the King of the Ocean (see what I did there?)

Jack and Rose are both beautiful, and, essentially, their love story is just as beautiful. A rough, down on his luck lad teaches a pretentious, rich youngster how to live. He helps her escape her cage of privilege and enjoy life for its simple pleasures, like spitting off railings, having sex in carriage cars, and being drawn wearing nothing but the Heart of the Ocean. It is a love worth dying for. Or is it?

 

The love of Jack and Rose is much like the Poison Dart Frog: truly beautiful to behold, but utterly deadly. And that’s exactly what happens: Jack literally dies for their love. And there is no reason he had to. I am not one who subscribes to the theory that they both could have fitted on the debris (buoyancy is a factor that most people do not consider) but, as Jim Carry says in Bruce Almighty, “could you have at least taken turns?” At least then, they could have had equal chances of surviving.

Also, this all happens over the period of just two days. I know angry readers will say, “Have you never heard of love at first site?” To which I reply, with a heap of self-control, have you ever heard of a long lasting relationship built off of a two day hangout on a boat? Two days is not enough time to decide if something is true love. They don’t know if they could stand each other for longer than a week, or if they could live together, or if they’re cat or dog people. You know, the important stuff.

But the real danger of this story is that it teaches people that love is only true when it involves sacrifice. Love does involve sacrifice; it is the putting of someone else’s needs before your own, but true love is also reciprocal. It is a mutually beneficial relationship between more than one person. If only one person is sacrificing themselves, that’s not true love. That’s just self-deprecation. But because of movies like Titanic, people have started to believe that true love is only true when everything is put on the line, including your life. And that is an incredibly unhealthy take on love.

 

3.     Lights Out

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Understandably, a lot of people will not have watched this 2016 horror film. It had a promising trailer but a less-than-thrilling end result. But if you did take the time to watch this film, you’d have seen that the only genuinely scary part was the moral of the story.

Sophie is the mother of this story’s protagonist, Martin. Sophie suffers from severe depression. When she was diagnosed as a child, she was sent to a psychiatric hospital. There, she met Diana, who suffered from severe sun sensitivity. Diana was effectively tortured and killed by the doctors at the hospital but her spirit lived on in Sophie through her depression. Whenever Sophie’s depression got worse, Diana would return to reek havoc and kill people. After Sophie’s husband dies in a freak accident (caused by Diana), Sophie’s depression hits a new low, and Diana comes back to stay, terrorizing Martin and the other members of the family.  In the end, Sophie realizes that in order to get rid of Diana, she must kill herself. She does so and Diana dies, leaving Martin a relatively unharmed orphan.

If you can’t see the problem just from this brief summary, you evidently have that in common with the scriptwriters. Lights Out probably has the most dangerous moral of any film on this list. Essentially the film is saying that, in order to defeat your mental health illness, you should just kill yourself. Diana was a physical manifestation of Sophie’s depression, and the only way to kill the manifestation was to kill herself. What started as an interesting metaphor for mental health and how it can affect family dynamics ends in a horrifying, damaging conclusion.

In a time when we are at last openly discussing mental health issues and reducing the stigma around seeking help, this film is very out of touch. It takes momentous steps backwards by not only personifying mental health as an unbeatable, terrifying monster, but additionally saying that the only way to fix mental health problems is to kill oneself. I mean… what?

 

4.     Aladdin

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Aladdin is just a bad dude. And this message should be so obvious that we really shouldn’t be letting children watch this film. Aladdin, right from the off, lies to Jasmine, pretending to be something he’s not, just to get close to her and win her over. I know she lied to him first, which almost cost him his life, but his lie is way worse purely on the hypothetical basis that, if his lie had resulted in them having sex, it would technically have been rape… just saying.

Their whole relationship is based on his lie. And that is before he even gets to know who she is as a person. All he knows is that she’s the princess, she’s beautiful and she doesn’t know how money works. Essentially, Aladdin is not that different than Jaffar, except Jaffar actually knows Jasmine’s personality.

Yes, the final message of the film is that you should accept yourself for who you are and love who you want for who they are, but the film spends a long time showing how deception and trickery are the best ways to get that person you’re after. The film is shallow and creates yet another unhealthy view on love. Iago is funny though so that’s nice.

We live in a society where we can look reflectively on the past, identify the wrongs and learn from them. All these movies are excellent (Except Lights Out), but we cannot just hold them in high esteem without questioning them. If we don’t question things just because we enjoy them, we cannot learn and we are doomed to fail. This is as true for movies as it is with our laws, our role models and our leaders. Question everything. Never leave a stone unturned, and never let go Jack.