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Julie and The Phantoms: Don’t Underestimate This Teen TV Show

Quirky show idea? Check. Diverse characters? Check. Awesome soundtrack? Check. Cute band boys? Triple check!

A show made for teens is always hard to make when it’s walking the line between too childish for adults and too graphic for teens. But, maybe the new teen musical, Julie and the Phantoms is the answer to this problem.

Directed by Kenny Ortega (AKA the mastermind behind the High School Musical and the Descendants trilogies), nothing short of amazing was expected out of this new show, which is exactly what Ortega delivered. The Netflix series is a musical-based supernatural storyline filled with mystery and romance. 

The new Netflix series, based off of the original Brazilian hit show, Julie e os Fantasmas, stars upcoming actress Madison Reyes as Julie Molina.

Julie is a 15-year-old musical prodigy that is maneuvering her way through high school while dealing with her mom’s recent death and the resulting loss of her passion for music.

One night she discovers and accidentally summons the three ghosts (or phantoms, if you will) of Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Alex (Owen Joyner), and Reggie (Jeremy Shada), who were teenage rock stars that died back in 1995, right before they were going to perform the biggest show of their career.

Julie is the only living person (or “lifer” as described in the show) that can see the three guys, you know, in true Disney-esque fashion. Soon after, they discover that the band can actually be seen by humans when they perform with Julie (a twist!). So of course, they decide to start a band. Julie navigates her way through high school drama and crushes while also finding a passion for music again with the help of her new ghostly bandmates.

Credit: Netflix (Left to Right: Jeremy Shada, Madison Reyes, Charles Gillespie, Owen Patrick Joyner)

In this unique Netflix original, there is so much to love. The idea itself is very intriguing in the fact that it has a little bit of everything for everyone. Especially when it comes to its characters.

The cast for the series is one of the most diverse for a children’s/teen’s show that I have personally seen. Having characters with different ethnicities, sexual orientations, and home life dynamics which is one of the best things about this show. It gives its audience of young, impressionable teens and pre-teens the representation that many television shows lacked in earlier years.

Our main character, Julie Molina, is a talented, young Latina that has an incredible passion for music but who’s also struggling to grapple with the expectations of being a teenager. Coming from a newly single-parent household, she is attempting to figure out the new dynamic structure for her family with the absence of her mother.

The band’s kind-hearted drummer, Alex (Owen Patrick Joyner), is the show’s only openly gay character. This is a huge strive in the right direction when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation within shows that are targeted toward young audiences. 

Luke (Charles Gillespie), the guitarist of the band, although not an outwardly diverse character,  goes through an interesting development throughout the series. Towards the end of the nine-episode season, we find out that Luke had left his parents on bad terms before he died due to the lack of support for his music career. Thus, revealing a more vulnerable side of the lovable guy that we first see in the beginning. Having a character have a situation such as this, makes them much more human and relatable to many teens who have gone or are going through similar struggles right now. 

The show’s comedic relief and bass player, Reggie (Jeremy Shada), had been insinuated to have parents that were not very loving and that fought frequently. In one of the early episodes, his parents had been described to have been “one fight away from a divorce” which may resonate quite a lot for many people who have unstable home lives. It has actually been a conspiracy amongst fans that due to the instability of his home life, Reggie has developed a need to cling onto other parental figures to find comfort.

Credit: Netflix

We also get introduced to Julie’s best friend, Flynn (Jadah Marie Johnson). Flynn is a talented, 15-year-old Black girl, who is in the same music program as Julie. Throughout the series Flynn’s character becomes a voice of reason, playing a huge role in Julie’s character development. She remains a prominent character in Julie’s life, so much so that she is actually the subject of one of Julie’s songs in the show, Flying Solo.

As a supportive role, there is Willie (Booboo Stewart), a fellow ghost that becomes tied into the Phantoms’ ghostly adventures. His character provides guidance through the afterlife, becoming a key element in the progression of the story. Although not specifically touched upon in the series due to Willie having less of his backstory revealed, Stewart is known to be of mixed descendants thus translating into his character’s identity.

Additionally, Julie’s father in the series, Ray Molina, is played by the famous Puerto Rican telenovela actor, Carlos Ponce. This is seen as a significant inclusion by the Latinx community since Ponce was a prominent actor within the telenovela world throughout the 2000s and 2010s.

Along with having a huge range of diverse characters, there’s also something else that’s amazing, the soundtrack!

The entire nine episodes of the feel-good, musical series are actually named after the song that is most prominently featured in each episode. Each episode comes with lessons being learned, friendships being tested, and bonds being formed between many of the characters. Music becomes the glue that sticks the entire show together and makes everything work.

Photo credit: Netflix

As the show progresses, we see how Julie’s relationships with her bandmates, friends, family, and her passion for music goes through many different twists and turns. The series soundtrack steers the audience through the dynamic changes in each character’s life.

Photo credit: Netflix

From the Phantoms’ ‘90s punk rock song, Now or Never, to the last song that Julie wrote with her mother, Wake Up, the soundtrack details the vastly different aspects of the show and the journey that the main characters take. 

The songs from the show even become an outlet for the show’s antagonists to reveal their own personalities and stories.

There really is something for everyone in the Julie and the Phantoms soundtrack. 

(As of September 16th, the Julie and the Phantoms soundtrack went #1 on the iTunes music charts.)

This surprisingly deep and meaningful show is one with many different themes and lessons that the characters go through. By having these themes be put into a show made for such a wide audience,  it provides a great platform to talk about subjects that may have been seen as too taboo for tv. But, this show somehow makes these tough subjects much easier to digest and to learn from with the way that it is structured.

Julie and the Phantoms does a good job touching on difficult subjects such as dealing with death, grief, and regret as well as emotional healing with multiple characters. The series tackles teenagers having to figure out who they are and the challenges of finding your identity. During this modern age, the question of sexuality arises and the anxieties that come along with it. The struggle to figure out the way the dynamics of love and relationships are different now when compared to before. Redemption is also seen in multiple forms throughout the series when characters are forced to deal with the consequences of their actions, whether they were intentional or not. 

Family is also a huge aspect when it comes to the relationships within the show. The literal interpretation of this theme can be seen as Julie’s family deals with the loss of her mother, their family struggles in restructuring themselves into a single-parent household throughout the entire season. This theme can be found through the turmoil that was left behind in Luke’s family due to regret and grief being addressed toward the end of the show. But there is a more figurative representation of this theme in how the band sees one another as their new, chosen family that can depend on each other since some of them didn’t have that opportunity when they were alive.

I would highly recommend everyone to go and see what I mean when I say that this show is definitely not something that you want to miss.

20 travel movies to get you through quarantine

Got cabin fever? Take a fictional trip and live vicariously through these movies. While most of us are staying at home when possible, it doesn’t have to feel that way. Here’s a list of movies to watch when you need that extra dose of travel and adventure without actually leaving the house.

Crazy Rich Asians 

Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Youtube

What its about: Join Rachel Chu and her fiance as they travel from New York to Singapore to visit his family. With a star-studded cast, immaculate costumes and setting, over the top drama, and the adventure of a lifetime, you can say less!

What a Girl Wants

Where you can watch it: Netflix, Youtube, Amazon Prime, and Google Play

What its about: An early 2000s rom com with Amanda Bynes on a journey to find her estranged British father, gain a sense of identity, and find love and adventure along the way. 

Black Panther

Where you can watch it; Disney+, Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s aout: Okay, we all know Wakanda isn’t even a real place, but don’t we wish it was? Join T’Challa and his journey to becoming leader of Wakanda and exploring his purpose as the Black Panther

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Where you can watch it: Netflix and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: This is a Hindi film so yes, you’ll be reading subtitles, but it’s worth it! Its about three best friends who go on a bachelor party trip to Spain. This movie is full of love, laughter, personal growth, and some fire music you’ll definitely want to dance to.

Sisterhood of the Travelling pants

Where you can watch it: Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Youtube

What its about: Okay, I used to think this movie was corny too, but rewatching it as an adult, it’s such a touching film with an authentic portrayal of girlhood and coming of age. Not to mention, Lena’s trip to Greece is such a dream vacation. 

The Lizzie McGuire Movie

Where you can watch it: Disney+, Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: An absolute c l a s s i c. You may not be able to study abroad this semester, but at least you can live vicariously through Lizzie McGuire as she lives a double life during her summer trip to Italy.

Parasite

Where you can watch it: Hulu, Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: This movie isn’t as light hearted as the other movies on this list, but is still an excellent film that chronicles wealth disparity in South Korea and very much deserved the Oscar for “Best International Film”.

Spiderman Far From Home

Where you can watch it: Disney+, Amazon Prime, Starz, and Hulu

What it’s about: Zendaya. That’s all the reason you need to watch this movie. But if that’s not enough you also have your friendly neighborhood spiderman and the gang going on adventures in europe!

Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement

Where you can watch it: Disney+, Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: A young Anne Hathaway andChris Pine go from enemies to lovers as they  challenge antiquated royalty laws in the beloved state of Genovia… need I say more?

Desperados

Where you can watch it: Netflix

What it’s about: A woman in her 30s, on the brink of her life falling apart, goes on a trip to Mexico with her friends to delete a drunk email she sent to her boyfriend. If you’re a fan of New Girl, you’ll love seeing Nasim Pedrad and Lamorne Morris in this movie. Not to mention, the drone shots of the beaches in Mexico were breathtaking.

Tigertail

Where you can watch it: Netflix

What it’s about: Tigertail highlights the generational divide between a Taiwanese immigrant father and his first generation American daughter. In this movie, you’re taken back and forth between the father’s youth in Taiwan, his immigrant journey to America, and his current life after his children have grown and started their own families. 

Monte Carlo

Where you can watch it: Hulu, HBO, Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: Another underrated feature, Monte Carlo has a similar storyline to the Lizzie Mcguire movie but is a bit more realistic. In this feel-good movie, three girls go on a trip to Paris and find love, adventure, closure, and purpose.

Lion

Where you can watch it: Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: Based on the autobiography of Saroo Brierly, a man who was lost from his family in India as a child, was adopted by an Australian couple, and sets out to find his family years later as an adult. The story is gripping, emotional, and really comes alive with the amazing Dev Patel’s portrayal of Saroo.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Where you can watch it: Netflix, Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: An 1980s classic with Harrison Ford, go on an archaeological adventure with Indiana Jones!

Cheetah Girls 2

Where you can watch it: Disney+, Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: The Cheetah Girls, an American ICON of the early 2000s and a sequel that didn’t disappoint! Their trip to Barcelona was full of BOPS, adventures, and friendship.

Love Rosie

Where you can watch it: Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: Lily Collins and Sam Claflin excel in a film set in the UK and Boston which tells the story of Alex and Rosie, lifelong friends, who spend their lives searching for their true love: each other.

The Hangover

Where you can watch it: Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: Another 2000s classic. Combining Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, with Zach Galifianakis, and introducing Ken Jeong onto the comedy scene produced an iconic comedy about a bachelor trip gone wild.

The Karate Kid

Where you can watch it: Netflix, Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime

What it’s about: The original and the remake are both amazing and either are worth the watch. But if you’re a fan of Jackie chan, Jaden Smith, the song “Never Say Never” by Justin Bieber, and you’d rather take the journey from Detroit to Beijing (instead of New Jersey to California in the original), then the 2010 remake is the one for you.

Queen of Katwe

Where you can watch it: Disney+, Youtube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime 

What it’s about: This biopic showcases Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess player, and her amazing journey becoming an international chess champion. We love to see it! (Of course, we also love to see Lupita Nyong’o) 

Nacho libre

Where you can watch it: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Youtube

What it’s about: Another underrated childhood movie with Jack Black playing an aspiring luchador while working as a cook at a church in Mexico. And I promise you, there’s tons of jokes that probably went over your head as a kid.

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.

The People of “Tiger King”: They’re Not Great

The Kingdom of “Tiger King”: Rated from Pretty Okay to the Absolute Worst

*WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King.” Reader discretion advised.

“I really appreciate the fact that none of these people like me.” One of the many infamous quotes said by Carole Baskin in Netflix’s hit docuseries, “Tiger King.” As it turns out, this quote is applicable to most of the people featured in the show.

The series released on March 20 of this year and it became an instant hit. Social media blew up with memes, conspiracy theories and the occasional problematic “hot takes.” The internet’s response aside, one thing is certain: most of these people are pretty terrible. 

Here’s a list of the main players of “Tiger King” rated from best to worst, according to me. Feel free to keep your own list but if you call Joe Exotic a “gay icon,” your opinion is immediately invalidated.

10. Saff Saffery (Former keeper at Joe’s zoo)

Source: Netflix

Saff is, by far, the best person in this series. He is one of the few voices of reason and seemed to have a pretty neutral view on how things went down. Saff really just wanted to do his job and have a bit of fun in the process. While trying to do his job, Saff got his arm bitten off and it only deepens our sympathy for the poor man. (Especially when Joe’s more worried about his finances than Saff’s well being…more on that later.)

Speaking of standing up for Saff, he is a transgender man and was repeatedly misgendered by everyone in the entire series. It made my blood boil. Even the show creators used his dead name in his introduction text. In the bonus episode that premiered on April 12, Saff spoke about the continued misgendering. He was his usual calm, collected self and claimed that audiences were more outraged about the inconsideration than he was. In the words of the youth of today, we have no choice but to “stan” Saff.

9. Joshua Dial (Joe’s former campaign manager)

Source: Netflix

Arguably, Dial is not a major component of this story. But he was the only one to make me laugh out loud in the course of this ridiculous, upsetting journey. He, like Saff, was one of the few saving graces of the series. His dry humor and blatant honesty made me want to be his friend in real life.

He called his job as campaign manager for Joe Exotic “the worst experience of his life.” Perhaps that’s what makes him so likable; he’s honest about how awful Joe is and doesn’t make us sympathize with him like other people do (ahem, the director…but we’ll get to that). Dial also witnessed the suicide of Joe’s late husband Travis, making us sympathize with him. The incident truly portrayed just how horrendous the situation that Joe dragged him into had become.

8. John Finlay (Joe’s ex-husband)

Source: Variety, courtesy of John Finlay

This poor man. He was manipulated in so many ways. He said, in the first episode, that he met Joe when he was about a month out of high school. Joe abetted John’s drug addiction and preyed on his vulnerability to make him “fall in love” with him…which, of course, we all know wasn’t really love. In fact, John admitted later on in the series that he wasn’t even gay and had been cheating on Joe for quite some time with a woman. They eventually divorced.

Although John worked at Joe’s twisted zoo and was his right-hand man for quite some time, he was ultimately the victim of a disgusting and selfish manipulator. Not to mention the fact that the directors only used interviews of him with his shirt off and portrayed him as a clueless meth addict. (That cut of talking about “meth mouth” and going to John smiling…clever editing but insulting to John.)

7. Rick Kirkham (Joe’s former producer)

Source: Netflix

I’m just going to say it: Kirkham’s voice annoyed me. Obviously, this doesn’t make him a bad person but I just thought I’d throw it out there. What does make him a bad person is the fact that he didn’t care that Joe was a horrible, abusive, manipulative person; he only cared that the man made “great tv.”

I admire Kirkham, in a way, for being a successful producer and journalist. But I do think his ethics were flawed in trying to make Joe a national sensation when he knew how poorly Joe treated his animals and staff. He was also one of the ones who repeatedly misgendered Saff. But, in the end, he’s just a man who was trying to do his job. Comparatively, he’s not all that bad. But he’s not great.

6. Howard Baskin (Carole Baskin’s current husband)

Source: Netflix

I would argue Howard is chaotic neutral. He does whatever he’s told by Carole and he didn’t do anything explicitly dreadful like others in the series. I definitely think Carole’s manipulated him in ways similar to Joe manipulating his husbands. However, by doing everything Carole says, Howard probably did some pretty questionable stuff.

For example, regardless of their intentions, Carole and Howard sued Joe Exotic’s mother, a woman already being sucked dry by Joe, and bankrupted her. They undoubtedly hurt several others in their pursuit of putting an end to Joe Exotic’s empire, like suing several of the zoo’s blameless staff members. The couple probably views these incidents as collateral damage but they affected real lives in their vendetta. Howard also aids his wife in the hypocritical caging and profiting off of big cats. In the end, though, you can’t hate the poor dude for being whipped. Also, on a separate note, that photo was truly amazing.

5. Eric Goode (Director/producer of “Tiger King”)

Source: Mike Pont – WireImage

One of the worst people involved in the series is barely seen on screen. Eric Goode, an entrepreneur and filmmaker, has become a bit of a household name with his breakout hit “Tiger King.” What people might not know is that he is also a “wealthy hospitality mogul” who owns several swanky hotels and restaurants in Manhattan.

In their tell-all article, Buzzfeed News detailed the chronicles of the workers laid off by Goode in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the article, approximately 70 waiters and cooks were laid off by the director in March. While other employers have worked to provide for their unemployed workers, Goode’s former employees reported that he hasn’t lifted a finger to help them in their time of need, despite his millions and newfound Hollywood fame. Further details about Goode’s blatant disregard for his employees can be found here.

In addition to his recent corona controversy, I have qualms about the way Goode portrayed the people of “Tiger King.” Throughout his series, he victimized Joe Exotic (a narcissistic, manipulative animal abuser), villainized Carole Baskin (who is not great but surely does not deserve all the hate she’s receiving as a result of this show), portrayed multiple subjects (John Finlay, for example) as clueless rednecks, let everyone misgender Saff, and barely even drew attention to the main issue at hand (the abuse and problematic keeping of big cats). While the series is certainly entertaining, it can be seen as problematic.

4. Carole Baskin (Owner of Big Cat Rescue)

Source: Netflix

Ah, Carole Baskin. Although that Carole Baskin remix of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” is one of the best things I’ve ever seen, I think the fact that social media has decided to make her the main antagonist of this story shows just how misogynistic our society really is, whether implicitly or explicitly. With that being said, Carole is not guiltless.

I have differing opinions on the circumstances of Carole Baskin possibly killing her husband. But murder is murder and I think she probably killed her husband. Which is pretty bad. Regardless of if she really did it or not, Carole took a large sum of her husband’s abundant assets after he disappeared. By doing so, she stole a large portion of her husband’s inheritance that should’ve gone to his first wife and their daughters. In addition to her fishy handling of her missing husband, Carole did some bad sh*t long after the murder debate was a hot topic in the 90s. Carole and Howard sued several staff members of Joe’s zoo in order to get to Joe. Carole exploits hundreds of volunteers for free labor. (Which can be seen as a smart business decision but like…it’s wrong. It’s like an unpaid internship.) 

Finally, my biggest grievance with Carole Baskin is, what I see as, her blatant hypocrisy. She advocates for big cats to be free, to not live in cages and what is Big Cat Rescue? A “sanctuary” full of cages. Despite her intentions, I think it goes against everything she stands for. To make matters worse, she profits off of her so-called selfless pursuits. It all seems very suspicious. The show’s “facts” from Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic seem like a bunch of he said/she said and, to me, it’s all bullsh*t.

3. Joe Exotic (Former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, main subject of “Tiger King”)

Source: Netflix

So…to recap: he’s manipulative, greedy, narcissistic, and all-around just ridiculous. He openly admitted to manipulating two vulnerable straight men to have sex with and marry him by preying on their substance abuse. He created horrible conditions for his employees to work in; the trailers provided for their lodging were disgusting and they made so little that some took expired meat from the Walmart trucks to eat for themselves.

He was obsessed with Carole Baskin and made horrific threats against her life (shot a doll that resembled her in the head, put venomous snakes in her mailbox, made lots of verbal threats, the list goes on and on). As the end of the series revealed, he shot and killed five tigers and Saff claims the number of murdered tigers is even higher. Joe bred and abused tiger cubs and profited off of their unfair treatment. Something that is not detailed in the series is that Joe did not actually make the music featured on the show. As Vanity Fair revealed, Joe stole the work of a songwriter and vocalist and passed it off as his own. It was heavily hinted in the series that Joe was the one who burned down his own recording studio and alligator house. Personally, I definitely think he did.

Last but certainly not least, regardless of if he was coaxed into doing it or not, Joe Exotic tried to hire someone to kill Carole Baskin. It baffles me that many people on social media want to see Joe exonerated. I think he’s exactly where he belongs.

2. Jeff Lowe (“Businessman,” 2nd owner of of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park)

Source: Netflix

Oh my God, I could go off for hours about how much I hate this man. He is truly the worst. To start, one of the first things he said in the series is “A little p*ssy gets you a lot of p*ssy.” He was referring to his usage of tiger cubs to lure women into having sex with him. This is obviously insulting to women and it shows that he has no remorse for literally stuffing tiger cubs into suitcases and dragging them around Las Vegas.

He treated his animals with no respect, just like he treated women. He’s constantly reducing women to their looks and sees them as sexual objects. In the last episode of the series, Lowe said the first thing his wife needed to do after giving BIRTH was “go back to the gym.” I mean, are you f*cking kidding me? He was especially horrible to women but he really treated everybody like sh*t. He was rude to everyone, even the innocent workers at the zoo. Lowe completely screwed over Tim Stark when he tried to open another zoo with him.

I think he definitely set up Joe to be caught for trying to murder Carole Baskin. He pretends to have an incredibly lucrative lifestyle but he’s lying to everyone and is drowning in debt. All the man cares about is money and sex and he doesn’t care who he hurts to get to both. He deserves to rot in jail right next to Joe Exotic.

1. Doc Antle (Owner of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species)

Source: Netflix

Of all the d*cks in this series, this man might be the worst one. He is manipulative, sick and greedy. I refuse to call him “Bhagavan” because I think his entire treatment of Eastern culture is cultural appropriation.

As seen in the series, Antle uses his entire sanctuary as a kind of cult. He lures women in with promises of a wild lifestyle with tigers. Once they’re trapped in his web, he holds sex over their heads as a way to move up in management. He manipulates them and uses them for sex. Not to mention the disgusting way he exploits them in their catsuits and tiny uniforms. He, like Jeff Lowe, objectifies women and uses them for his own benefit. He makes me so sick.

I think one of the saddest moments in the series is when the crew went to former Institute worker Barbara Fisher’s house and she detailed her horrid experience at Antle’s organization. She explained how the workers work almost all day, every day while not getting paid enough to pay for basic necessities. She shared that Antle made her get breast implants so that she would be more “sexy” for the park. Her account showcases the disgusting nature of Doc Antle.

Then there’s the way he treated his animals. It was heavily implied that Antle kills tiger cubs once they get too big. Joe Exotic furthered these suspicions when he claimed Antle murders tigers in gas chambers so that he can breed more. Once he breeds more, he sells the cubs to anyone who will buy them, including circuses and poorly managed zoos. PETA and other animal rights organizations have accused Antle of animal abuse for years but, somehow, his park is still running.

Source: GIPHY

Not everyone in “Tiger King” is inherently good or bad. In fact, there were a fair amount of people who were simply normal, like former G.W. Zoo manager John Reinke, former G.W. zookeeper Erik Cowie and reporter Sylvia Corkill.

Hopefully, this list will make you think twice before you praise Joe Exotic for being a “gay icon” or call a white man “Bhagavan.”

Hidden Gems on Netflix

Netflix has been a friend to us all while we’ve been stuck inside (because hopefully you HAVE been staying inside and wearing a cloth mask when going out in public, as the CDC demands). Unfortunately, just like most friends from high school, they get old real quick.

Luckily for us, there are some shows and movies on Netflix that do not get nearly as much love as they deserve. Here are some underrated, hidden gems to uncover on Netflix while we’re working/living from home.

(*Note: I know there is already a “Hidden Gems” category on Netflix but I’ve tried to find content that’s not included in that category. Yanno, originality and such.)

Dragula (TV Show)

Source: GIPHY

Directed by: Nathan Noyes & Adrian Varatti

Starring: The Boulet Brothers, Peaches Christ, Alaska Thunderfuck, and so many more!

Plot: Ghouls unite! In the Boulet Brothers’ horror-infused drag competition show, performers face-off in challenges and runways to become America’s next drag “supermonster.”

Why I Like It: RuPaul Charles is controversial and oftentimes problematic. In my opinion, which I seem to share with many others, he has a very limited view on what “true drag” is; and, to him, it doesn’t involve anyone who isn’t a cis-gendered male. This is especially troublesome considering the fact that the ballroom scene of the 70s/80s, made famous by the film “Paris is Burning,” heavily influences RuPaul’s show and it was widely popularized by the talent of many trans women. It’s just…very upsetting, to say the least.


“Dragula” is different. The Boulet Brothers (famous drag duo and hosts of the show) constantly reinforce the idea that all drag is valid, not only on their show but on all their platforms of social media. In fact, they call their contestants “ghouls” rather than “queens” because of the non-binary performers on their show. Through the show, you can see they’re creating a really strong, loving community. In addition to their open-mindedness, “Dragula” is crazy. Rather than having “lipsyncs for their life,” the ghouls have to endure “extermination challenges” if they’re in the bottom, which are grueling physical challenges like a paintball fight/duel or stapling one-dollar bills to their skin! The show is wild, innovative and I’ve been in love with it ever since the episodes got their humble beginnings on YouTube. I was ecstatic to learn they’d moved to Netflix and I hope you are, too.

Unbelievable (TV Miniseries)

Source: Substack

Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko (Ep. 1-3), Michael Dinner (Ep. 4-6) & Susannah Grant (Ep. 7 & 8)

Starring: Toni Collette, Kaitlyn Dever, Merritt Wever

Plot: After a young woman endures a brutal rape, local authorities and those around her become more and more skeptical of her story. Three years later, two female detectives in a different state uncover the pattern of a serial rapist, making his way across the country and using the same MO the young woman described years earlier. Based on the 2015 news article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape” by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong.

Why I Like It: This story is so shocking, I was hooked from the first episode. Obviously, I believed the young woman from the get-go, which made the show ten times more frustrating to watch but ten times more satisfying when the detectives start piecing together the truth. All the performances are incredible, especially those of Kaitlyn Dever, Merritt Wever and (one of my favorite actresses EVER) Toni Collette. However, arguably the best part lies in how the showrunners handled the nudity of the show. That sounds strange but female nudity in the media greatly outnumbers male nudity. But “Unbelievable” doesn’t exploit a single naked woman throughout the show. The only nudity that’s shown is when the rapist is finally brought to justice and he’s stripped naked in his jail cell. The camera stays on him, humiliating him and quite literally exposing him. It’s a small taste of justice after spending seven episodes vehemently hating him.

Someone Great (Film)

Source: GIPHY

Directed by: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson

Starring: Brittany Snow, DeWanda Wise, Lakeith Stanfield

Plot: A music journalist suffers a harsh break up with her long-time boyfriend and calls upon her best girlfriends for one final, incredible night in New York City before she moves to San Francisco.

Why I Like It: Okay yes, unfortunately, Gina Rodriguez is in this. She is awful. BUT, one of my best friends recommended this movie to me and I think she did because it’s such a feel-good buddy movie. The three women featured (DeWanda Wise, Brittany Snow…*sigh* Gina Rodriguez) have such a beautiful bond and they seem like genuine friends. The film is funny, light-hearted and will give you just the right tingly feelings if you’re missing your friends while being stuck in isolation.

Sleepover (Film)

Source: GIPHY

Directed by: Joe Nussbaum

Starring: Alexa PenaVega, Sara Paxton, Evan Peters

Plot: A sleepover with friends turns into a wild scavenger hunt after Julie and her friends make a bet with the most popular girl in school to see who will win a coveted lunch spot when they start high school in the fall.

Why I Like It: Arguably, this would not “qualify” as “cinema.” Yes, it’s a biased pick because it’s a movie I adored when I was a kid and I think it’s underappreciated. But! It’s one of the few great teen flicks from the early 2000s that feels straight out of the blissful 1990s teen flick golden age. (“10 Things I Hate About You,” “She’s All That,” “Clueless,” etc.) It’s so much fun to see beloved actors like Steve Carrell, Jane Lynch and Evan Peters star in this tiny production. Especially Evan Peters; his character is a far cry from his usual moody/creepy/murderous personas on “American Horror Story.”

Pan’s Labryinth (Film)

Source: GIPHY

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Maribel Verdú

Plot: In 1944 civil war-era Spain, a young girl is drawn to a magical labyrinth and must complete three tasks in order to prove she is the reincarnation of an ancient princess, escaping her sadistic step-father, pregnant mother and the raging battles surrounding her.

Why I Like It: I could gush about this film for hours. Guillermo del Toro is one of my absolute favorite directors and this masterpiece was made before he became a household name in the U.S. It’s my favorite of his for many, many reasons. For one, the characters are incredible. The protagonist, Ofelia, is fiercely brave and damnably imaginative. Her only friend in her new household, Mercedes, is a stone-cold badass and unbelievably smart. I freakin’ love women. Then there are the special effects. The creatures! The “Pan” that is referred to in the title is this gigantic, ancient faun that is played by the lovely Doug Jones (You think you don’t know him but he’s played hundreds of monsters, especially for del Toro; look him up!) and is brought to life through incredible practical effects. The most terrifying scene in the whole film, the one that made the king of horror Stephen King squirm in his seat, brought the Pale Man into the horror hall of fame. There are no words to describe the Pale Man; you’ll have to see him for yourself. Overall, it’s a beautiful story of childhood innocence, unadulterated imagination and small acts of resistance that spark a rebellion.

Hook (Film)

Source: tumblr

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, Dante Basco

Plot: When his children are kidnapped in the middle of the night, workaholic Peter Banning is shocked to learn he is the legendary Peter Pan and he must save his children from his notorious nemesis, Captain James Hook.

Why I Like It: This is yet another film from my childhood. Unfortunately, it brings a sour taste to my mouth when I remember Dustin Hoffman plays a lead role. The movie itself is really wonderful, though. It’s one of those films I watched recently to see if it held up to my childhood standard and it turns out it did. It’s surprisingly witty, profoundly whimsical and has Robin Williams in what I think is one of his best roles. Goddamn, I really miss Robin Williams. It’s really fun and takes a smart spin on one of the most beloved stories that have ever been told.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (TV Show)

Source: GIPHY

Created by: Rachel Bloom & Aline Brosh McKenna

Starring: Rachel Bloom, Donna Lynne Champlin, Santino Fontana

Plot: Unhappy with her life as a big-shot lawyer in New York City, Rebecca Bunch abandons her life to move to West Covina, California, after running into her childhood love.

Why I Like It: If you love musicals, you will love this show. Rachel Bloom (executive producer and star) is a severely underrated musician and comedian. I’m not going to lie, season one is kind of slow but after that, it’s fantastic. The show is hilarious, witty and some of the songs are actually really catchy. Not to mention every song is a stroke of pure genius; sample songs include: “Let’s Generalize About Men,” “You Stupid Bitch,” “Oh My God, I Think I Like You,” “We Tapped That Ass.” Bloom’s series also talks about important topics such as sexuality, abortions, mental health, postfeminism, and actual feminism. It’s really a home run for me.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (TV Show)

Source: Netflix

Directed by: Louis Leterrier

Starring: Nathalie Emmanuel, Taron Egerton, Anya Taylor-Joy

Plot: In this prequel to Jim Henson’s 1982 film “The Dark Crystal,” three Gelfling from different tribes must gather the creatures of Thra in a rebellion after a horrifying secret is discovered about their leaders.

Why I Like It:  I love love love Jim Henson. (If you’re unfamiliar, he’s the one who created the Muppets and that wonderful 1986 film “Labyrinth” starring David Bowie.) Much as I love Henson, I am not the biggest fan of “The Dark Crystal” film, which was a pretty big deal at the time due to its insane puppetry and special effects. To me, this series is SO much better than the film it stems from. The characters are well-rounded and lovable (especially the adorable, warm Deet), the plot is way more fleshed out and there are constant twists and turns that leave the audience wanting more. Even though movie-making magic has come a long way, the puppetry is still absolutely stunning. Not to mention the cast is STAR! STUDDED! The cast includes but is not limited to Taron Egerton, Simon Pegg, Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Mark Hamill, Lena Headey, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Abducted in Plain Sight (Documentary)

Source: Tenor

Directed by: Skye Borgman

Plot: In this shocking documentary, a family describes their anguished journey leading up to and following their 12-year-old daughter’s kidnapping by a family friend…and the second time he kidnapped her several years later.

Why I Like It: I had never heard of this documentary until my boss and one of my co-workers mentioned it to me. I was intrigued and watched it and OH MY GOD. It’s truly insane. This horrible, sociopathic pedophile manipulated this family in every way, shape and form. As the story unravels, you can’t help but scream at your screen because of the f*cked up shit that went on for so long. I still can’t believe he was able to abduct her twice. TWICE! The shock factor is definitely there and I think it serves as a tale of warning to parents everywhere. Keep your kids close and don’t keep your creepy neighbors closer.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Film)

tucker and dale vs evil | Tumblr
Source: tumblr

Plot: Best friends Tucker and Dale try to escape to their quiet cabin in the woods but they are soon pulled into a giant, grisly misunderstanding when a group of nearby college students mistakes them for crazed murderers. 

Why I Like It: Please don’t be deterred by the fact that it’s a horror movie. I promise it is not scary. The only reason it’s rated R is for violence and language, and all the violence is played for comedy. Anyway, I love this movie. Tucker and Dale look like your run-of-the-mill creepy dudes but they’re actually really sweet and the friendship the two share is so wholesome. The whole concept of the film is a really fun play on the “cabin in the woods/college students getting killed off one by one” trope that is often seen in horror movies. It’s like a funny version of the 2011 film “The Cabin in the Woods,” if you’re familiar with that. (If you’re not, it’s available to stream on Hulu, which I also recommend even though it’s the wrong platform.)

I love these shows/films a lot but I completely…well, kind of understand if they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. As previously mentioned, there is a “Hidden Gems” section of Netflix if you’d like better, more professional recommendations. Call it narcissism but I think mine are pretty damn good.

Stay safe and please please PLEASE follow CDC guidelines and stay safe!