UT Austin

Super. Dysfunctional. Representation.: The Women of “The Umbrella Academy”

Why I love “The Umbrella Academy” but not the way it treats women

Illustration by Serena Rodriguez

**WARNING! This post contains spoilers for the first season of Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy.” Reader discretion advised.**

Christ on a cracker! Gerard Way fans rejoice because “The Umbrella Academy” is set to premiere its second season on July 31. The Netflix original show received an outpouring of fan love upon its initial release last February. 

“The Umbrella Academy” is smart, funny and full of action. What it is lacking is positive female representation. All the women in this show are either killed off or their roles are determined by the men around them.

The show follows an adoptive family made up of seven siblings, each equipped with their own unique superpowers. Number One has super strength, Number Two can hold his breath indefinitely and is very skilled in close-quarter combat, Number Three can alter reality with a simple lie, and so on and so forth. At the center of the family is the harsh, foreboding father figure, Sir Reginald Hargreeves. He brought the siblings together and exploited their powers without giving them the love one usually receives from a father. 

Being a single father is no easy task, even for a rich British man. So, Reginald created a mother figure for the seven children: Grace (played by Jordan Claire Robbins). Grace is a smiling, doting robot…literally, she’s a robot. She cooks, cleans and plays the role of “mother” perfectly. A perfect foil for Reginald’s stern demeanor. And the beginning of a very troubling pattern in the “Umbrella Academy” array of characters.

Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins) – Source: IMDb

When Number Seven (her real name is Vanya and she is played by the incredible Ellen Page) was younger, her powers made her completely unmanageable. Reginald tried to introduce her to a multitude of nannies/”mothers” but she destroyed all of them. The only one that stuck? Grace, the blank-staring 50s-style housewife whose only purpose is to listen to her man (her creator, mind you) and take care of her children.

This is not an attack on mothers or wives; I’m addressing a harmful stereotype that has perpetuated for decades. A stereotype that’s troublesome to see in one of the most popular shows released in the past few years. I would hope there would be more dimensional roles for women at this point. 

I would also hope women of color wouldn’t be seen as expendable in this day and age. But writers let me down all the time. Helen Cho (played by Emily Piggford) was the first chair in the orchestra Vanya was auditioning for. She was barely seen in the show before she was killed off and her body was left to rot in an attic. Cho felt like a plot device rather than an actual character. We were briefly introduced to her and then she was used for furthering Vanya’s journey. It makes you wonder why the writers chose to use a woman of color as a character destined for tragedy.

Helen Cho (Emily Piggford) – Source: IMDb

Then there’s Detective Eudora Patch (played by Ashley Madekwe). I really liked her. She was intelligent, independent and she was not afraid to put Diego (Number Two) in his place. It was a bit irritating that one of her main purposes was to be Diego’s love interest but Diego is my favorite Hargreeves so I, personally, was not too bothered by it. I wanted him to be happy. 

Patch was looking into strange murders around town that seemed to be linked to the Hargreeves family. This fateful investigation led to Patch’s untimely death. She was shot after finding the show’s two antagonists in a motel. Patch went from a strong female character to being another woman of color killed off for plot progression.

detective

While the scene where Diego cries over her body serves as a great moment for the audience to sympathize with the second Hargreeves, it is incredibly frustrating that Patch died for seemingly no reason. Patch didn’t have to die but, unfortunately, women of color are apparently still seen as dispensable in media.

As previously mentioned, there were two main antagonists for “The Umbrella Academy”’s first season: Hazel and Cha-Cha. They were assassins sent to kill Number Five, the sassy youngest sibling whose history is too intricate to get into right now. (Just watch the show, they explain it better than I ever will.) Cha-Cha was played by the incomparable Mary J. Blige. She was strong, ruthless and seemingly indestructible. That is until Hazel falls in love with a local waitress. Once Hazel becomes distracted, Cha-Cha becomes enraged. Despite their mission to kill Number Five, she vows to kill the couple, punishing them because Hazel abandoned his job. 

She is focused on getting the job done, which I can respect. What bothers me is that it is heavily implied that Cha-Cha has romantic feelings for Hazel and that’s part of the reason she loses her shit. If Cha-Cha were a real person, not a fictional television character, she would probably ditch her lovey-dovey partner and get the job done herself. But, no. She’s a woman in a television show so her entire persona is dependent on the man she’s with. The man she probably has feelings for. To quote Miranda Priestly: groundbreaking.

Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige) – Source: IMDb

Another, perhaps unsuspecting, antagonist of the show is Vanya. Vanya’s character troubled me in two ways and neither of them had anything to do with the fact that she was a villain. In fact, I think the world needs more female villains. First, Vanya is completely undermined for most of the season. She supposedly “doesn’t have any powers” but it was actually Reginald repressing her powers with medicine since she was a child because she was too strong. (Again…watch the show if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Anyway, because she has “no powers,” everyone treats her like she doesn’t exist. They speak down to her, think she has no spine and generally gaslight her into silent submission. It is a horrid routine that many women are all too familiar with.

Vanya meets Leonard. Leonard is a dick. He is the second issue I have with Vanya’s characterization. Throughout the season, Vanya doesn’t have the confidence to stand up for herself. Leonard gives her that confidence through his “love” and “support,” which, of course, we find out is all a ploy to weaponize Vanya and get revenge on the Hargreeves for an age-old grudge Leonard has. Men really ain’t shit, huh? (Kidding…sorta.) Anyway, I wanted Vanya to find strength within herself. I always want women to find strength within themselves. I’m tired of men ostensibly handing it to them or helping them achieve it. We are perfectly capable of doing it ourselves and I want to see that reflected in the content we consume.

Vanya Hargreeves (Ellen Page) – Source: IMDb

Finally, we get to the most atrocious act of them all. One of the strongest Hargreeves is Number Three (her real name is Allison and she’s played by Emmy Raver-Lampman), the sibling who can alter reality by saying the words “I heard a rumor…”. Allison also has this weird romance with Number One (whose real name is Luther and whom I have a strong dislike for) but that’s not my biggest grievance, although it is a grievance. Allison was flawed, this is true, but I was also very fond of her. She was a strong leader, a loving sister and someone who had gone a little mad with power. I thought she was a well-rounded character. Which obviously meant to the writers that she had to silenced. Literally. Towards the end of the season, Allison had a falling out with Vanya as she began coming into her powers. In the skirmish, Vanya accidentally slashed Allison’s throat. For a terrifying moment, we were left wondering if Allison was even alive. 

Allison thankfully survived the ordeal but she was left mute. Her vocal cords must have been severed by the blow. (I don’t know how anatomy works or if that’s even possible, but it happened.) The one Hargreeves constantly using her voice to stand up for herself and others was quelled by violence. Not to mention the fact that Allison is yet another woman of color harmed within the show. It’s very upsetting to see but at least she wasn’t killed off, I guess? It sucks that I have to say that.

Allison Hargreeves (Emmy Raver-Lampman) – Source: Netflix

Ellen Page, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Mary J. freaking Blige. The cast was brimming with talented women and they were all let down by poor writing/character development. I’m not the first one to notice the unfortunate trend of female representation in “The Umbrella Academy” and I hope I’m not the last. Here’s to hoping the new season brings positive change.

Things to Do Now That We’ve “Decided” the Pandemic is Over

Not every country can ignore a pandemic because they simply got “bored” but Americans prove, yet again, that having freedom does not equate to having intelligence.

Source: Kumail Nanjiani – Twitter

“These are unprecedented times.” If I hear that phrase one more time, I might just explode into a thousand quarantined pieces. But, luckily (I guess), our country has decided coronavirus doesn’t exist anymore! We didn’t wanna deal with it anymore so we’re not! Science is incredible, isn’t it? You can just will away a pandemic. Or, at least, that’s what a majority of Americans have concluded.


Despite the continuing rise of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S., it looks like people are going out more often than ever before. Okay! Since we value material things like going shopping or getting a haircut over the health and well-being of ourselves, our loved ones and essentially every living soul around us, here are some things you can do to distract yourself from the impending doom of our country:

Look Forward to a Career in Politics or, More Specifically, Capitalism

If you’re completely ignoring the safety precautions put forth by multiple health experts, you may be a capitalist! Good for you, that’s what America intended. The government is valuing the economy over human lives so it sounds like the perfect place for you. You can jumpstart your career by going to protests in favor of reopening, begin privatizing your own means of production and start saying goodbye to your friends now because they will probably (definitely) not be your friend for much longer. But, hey, you’ll have some money.

Make Some More Young, Hip Friends

It’s widely known that the most susceptible group to COVID-19 is the elderly. In fact, according to the CDC, eight out of 10 reported coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. are people 65 or older. Lots of younger age groups seem to think, because of this, they are immune to COVID-19 and don’t have to worry. If that’s their mindset, they should prepare for the future. To those people, I recommend looking for more friends their own age. Since they’re especially endangering all their loved ones of the older persuasion, they should go ahead and prepare for what life might be like without them. Surrounding yourself with other young, carefree, selfish people will soften the blow, right?

Don’t Vaccinate Your Children

A surprising amount of people are refusing to do the easiest form of protecting themselves against an illness (i.e., wearing a mask). If they can’t follow the simplest precaution, they might as well save some money and avoid all other logical medical practices. Keep the streak going, America! Either now or in the future, you can refrain from vaccinating your children. Sure, they might be unprotected from a multitude of diseases, but they’ll be following in their parent’s careless footsteps. Like mother, like daughter. 

Don’t Use Your Blinker and Don’t Bother Flushing

America’s individualism ideology is truly in the spotlight thanks to this pandemic. I have never seen so many people blatantly disregard the well-being of those around them more than I have in the past six months. (Looking at you, Cabo 211.) Alright, fuck it! Let’s just throw in the towel now. No more common decency! When driving, don’t use your blinker; fellow drivers can just figure out your changing lanes on their own time. Don’t worry about flushing the toilet after you’re done. The person after you is perfectly capable of flushing. It’ll be like that scene from Big Mouth’s second season when shame disappears. Complete bliss(?).

Try Skydiving Without a Parachute

Yes, people are being reckless with everyone else’s lives, and it appears most Americans are paying no mind to their own health as well. As previously mentioned, people who are ostensibly young and healthy seem to believe they’re invincible. Let’s truly test that theory. You should try skydiving without a parachute! It’s just as thoughtless and irresponsible as not taking a pandemic seriously. Plus, I’m sure you’d have a really great view along the way. It would certainly be prettier than being stuck on a respirator in the hospital.

I know it can be difficult to read social cues via the Internet but this is satire. I do not condone any of these behaviors and neither does anyone at BurntX. Obviously, this is not directed at those who have been following all health and safety guidelines. This is aimed at critiquing those who are taking this pandemic lightly. It’s for those who are selfish enough to not even wear a piece of fabric over their face to protect their neighbor.

Source: Twitter

Although I have attempted to make parts of this funny, the situation of our country is no laughing matter. People are dying. Loved ones are being affected and hospitalized everywhere. 

Please please please please PLEASE do your part to help in any way you can. Stay informed, especially regarding the status of your county/city. Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay home unless you absolutely have to leave. For the love of God, stop eating out at restaurants! Get some take out! Just, please, be safe and think about those around you.

Resources:

The Stuck-at-home playlist

Here we are. Four months into quarantine and so much has happened. We’ve been witness to one of the biggest civil rights movements to date. We have seen celebrity breakups and tragic paparazzi photos (Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello…I’m looking at you.) But, we have also learned a lot about each other. Through the power of social media, especially Tik Tok, it’s as if we are going through this pandemic as a community consisting of Gen Z and millennials. 

Music has definitely been an outlet for most people these days. With the rise of Tik Tok, lots of undiscovered artists are being…well, discovered. With summer in full swing, I took it upon myself to share some music I’ve enjoyed since March. When it comes to making a playlist, I find myself trying to justify each song and why they belong there. This time, I’ll group a few songs together to save you some time. You’re welcome.

Songs I’ve Stolen From Tik Tok

Frank Ocean is finally getting the recognition he deserves. I urge you to check out all of his music if you haven’t already. Now, let me blow your mind. When I found out that Djo was actually a stage name for Joe Keery, I basically ran to Apple Music to listen and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. — tighten this up (shorten) if you can

Chateau (Feel Alright) -Djo

Roddy -Djo

Peach Trees -Ax and the Hatchetman 

In My Room -Frank Ocean

Lost- Frank Ocean

Songs To Get You Moving During Quarantine 

Quarantine has forced most of us to slow down and, as a result, sit down. I’ve seen so many tips and routines on social media for working out– but a killer workout playlist is an obvious must. Here are a few of my favorite songs to workout to while contemplating what type of bread I’ll bake later:

E.T. -Katy Perry ft. Kanye West

Savage Remix -Megan Thee Stallion ft Beyonce

After Party -Don Toliver

Tokyo Drifting -Glass Animals & Denzel Curry

Songs From Some of My Favorite Black Artists

#BlackVoicesMatter, always. 

Sober -Childish Gambino (one of my favorite beat drops literally ever)

Anything from Kid Cudi!

Blinding My Vision -K. Roosevelt

Time Machine -Willow Smith

American Boyfriend -Kevin Abstract 

Shea Butter Baby -Ari Lennox & J. Cole

Ex -Kiana Ledé

Songs For The Vibes

I firmly believe everyone needs a vibe playlist. Yeah, you can call me basic but when you think about it, every person’s vibe playlist is different. So here’s my challenge for you: start making your vibe playlist that fits your unique taste and personality. Once quarantine is over and we are able to see our friends, share your playlist with them. It’s a fun way to discover new music and get to know your friends a little better.

suburban wonderland -BETWEEN FRIENDS

All of their music is top notch. No skips. 

A Kiss -The Driver Era

Fun fact: Ross Lynch is half of the duo that is The Driver Era. I’ll let that sink in. 

Games -Lennon Stella

Her voice was 100% sent from God. 

Moral of the Story -Ashe ft Niall Horan

That 1D stan forever part of me will support Niall no matter what but this song? A banger. A sad one, but a banger nonetheless. 

Remedy -Surfaces

Summertime -Verzache

Beige -Yoke Lore

Mind Games -Verzache

Your Love (Deja Vu) -Glass Animals

newly released! So good that it’s criminal!

Songs From a Few of My All-Time Favorite Artists

If I had to choose a few artists that I go to when I feel like all odds are against me, Harry Styles and Mac Miller are at the top of the list. These are some songs that remind me there will be better days, best listened to at the highest of volume:

Best Day Ever -Mac Miller

Fine Line -Harry Styles

I’m Full -Wallows

Thanks for sticking with me. Let us know if you take a listen!

5 Ways She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Represent LGBTQ Identities

As I’m sure most of you have experienced,  I have spent a large amount of my time stuck at home this corona-summer sniffing out hidden gems and bingeworthy TV shows on Netflix. Out of the countless movies and shows that I have binged or sampled this summer, the one that stood out the most by far was “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.” The storyline was addictive, the pastel accented animation was aesthetically pleasing, the characters are well developed, but most notably the LGBTQ+ representation was the best I have ever seen in a children’s TV show, or let’s be honest here, in practically any TV show ever. So without further ado, here are five ways the show tries to represent the LGBTQ+ community. 

Spoilers below!

5. Spinnerella and Netossa

All images courtesy of Netflix

Let’s start off with the first lesbian partnership introduced, Spinnerella and Netossa. They are married and are really affectionate towards each other, often calling each other by pet names. It is clear that they have a deep commitment to each other when one becomes brainwashed by the show’s collective antagonist, the Horde, because her wife never gives up on her. 

4. Bow’s Dads

In Season 2, Bow returns home to his parents, George and Lance, to reveal to them that he isn’t actually a university student like he has pretended to be, but is actually a soldier fighting the Horde. This episode parallels a coming out story and Bow having two fathers is never a point of contention or surprise to any of the other characters. It’s just clear that they love each other and their son. No more explanation necessary. Period.

3. Inclusion of many gender expressions, including non-binary characters

In reality, the way we express ourselves through what we wear is much more complex than “boy wears blue jeans, girl wears pink dress.” We all have so many options and ways to physically express our gender and sexuality through fashion, hair and makeup. I believe that She-Ra and the Princesses of Power do a great job at showing the different ways that people can express their gender and sexuality. For instance, the character Bow does not appeal to masculine gender norms while characters like Scorpia and Huntara are strong, muscular females whose personalities and fashion do not appeal to the stereotypical feminine gender norms. 

There is also a nonbinary character named DoubleTrouble, an androgynous shapeshifter, who goes by the pronouns “they/them.” When DoubleTrouble is introduced, their pronouns and identity is never a point of surprise or contention to the other characters of this universe. DoubleTrouble is even voiced by a nonbinary voice actor named Jacob Tobia. 

2. Heterosexual couples don’t get more airtime than homosexual couples 

This is a big one. In so many of the shows that do have homosexual couples, they usually end up being on the periphery to the main, center-stage heterosexual relationship taking place. What makes this show so appealing to all audiences is that heterosexual couples and characters don’t get more attention than LGBTQ identifying characters and couples. There is an effortless equal development and display of relationships, regardless of sexuality, that takes place in the series. 

  1. Adora and Catra get their happy ending 

Adora (She-Ra) and Catra get the number one spot in this listicle because as protagonist and antagonist, respectively, their relationship was the central driving force to the entire series. I actually felt a little guilty while watching the series finale because I thought this ending was just too good to be true. Although I knew that Adora and Catra were meant to be together, I still had my doubts over whether the producers would actually bring the two most major characters together because my mind was still believing that it was just too good to be true. Even with all of the other great representation in the show, I was still expecting the infamous film trope “bury your gays,” which refers to killing one of your gay characters or giving an unhappy ending so that the two lovers can never end up together. It’s terrible, I know, but countless films have done this to make shows more digestible to a homophobic audience. So when Catra explicitly said “I love you” and kissed Adora, I was jumping with joy along with all of the other thrilled She-Ra fans for the couple getting the happy ending that they deserved. 

Bonus: Entrapta might be an asexual/aromantic character?

There are many theories circulating online about what Entrapta could represent as a character and although never confirmed in the show, I really think she could be the show’s asexual/aromantic representation. First off, in the show she says something along the lines of that she would rather study relationships than be in one. This could just be a personality quirk of hers following the theme that she just doesn’t understand people as well as she understands robots, HOWEVER if you take a look at Entrapta’s color scheme – black, grey, white and purple – those colors match the ace pride flag. Personally, with the amount of attention to detail put into this show, I don’t think this is just a coincidence.