Tag Archives: pop culture

All Too Well: A Love Letter to Inequality

Whether you’re a Swiftie or an innocent bystander whose TikTok For You page has been hijacked by Swiftok, you might have stumbled across the cinematic masterpiece: All Too Well: The Short Film. The film acts as the music video for the 10-minute version of the marquee song from Red (Taylor’s Version). Swift wrote the song about her relationship with ex-boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal and many fans across the country related to its sincere and gut-wrenching lyrics, but this did not spare the short film from criticism.

Taylor Swift; courtesy Universal Pictures

While the singer is re-releasing albums to create her music the way she intended, Swift was accused of holding grudges and parodied for being vindictive and petty.

 The short film puts those critics to shame by taking the audience on a visceral journey of a toxic relationship through the eyes of the young woman subjected to emotional trauma. Audiences are able to visualize the intricate imagery embedded in the lyrics of the song. Those who criticize Swift for holding a grudge are able to see how deeply painful the act of remembering this period of her life must be, and those who accuse her of fabricating details are reminded that one never forgets trauma inflicted upon them.

The film has sparked a conversation about age gaps in relationships and their impact on an individual. Swift, herself has been criticized for dating Conor Kennedy, who was four years younger, and Taylor Lautner, who was three years younger. However, the bigger criticism was the fact that Swift was an adult dating a teenaged Lautner. It is also worthwhile to note that comparing these relationships to the one with Gyllenhaal is unfair and inherently sexist, especially since their relationship had a nine-year age gap.

Power inequality in a relationship is often experienced when one partner has more power over the other’s emotions, financial security, or life in some severe cases. The inherent toxicity in Swift and Gyllenhaal’s relationship stemmed not only from their age gap but the fact that Swift was in her early twenties while Gyllenhaal was nearly in his thirties. The profound life changes between those decades not only shape you as a person but alter your perspective and outlook on life. Furthermore, there is a profound difference in confidence and comfort with yourself between the two ages. This means the older partner always has the upper hand in contrast to the volatile and emotional younger partner in the relationship.

A scene in the middle of the film highlights this imbalance in the relationship as the younger actress (played by Sadie Sink) fumes about how her older boyfriend failed to pay attention to her during a dinner with his friends. He dismisses her concerns and anger, calls her selfish, and gaslights her emotions. While the fight is resolved after he apologizes, a particularly telling moment is when the young girl says she feels embarrassed and her boyfriend says nothing. His refusal to admit he was wrong and that he has a responsibility to not make her feel isolated, shows he truly is an emotional manipulator whether it is unconscious or not.

The film does a fair job to portray him not as a villain, but rather as a damaged man who is unable to recognize his problematic behavior due to his own trauma. Despite criticism, the film captured the truly flawed nature of human beings and is a  warning to be wary of relationships with age gaps at different stages of their life. It is not different life aspirations as the final nail in the coffin of these relationships, but rather the older partner’s ability to manipulate the younger one’s emotion because they have experienced similar emotions and feelings in the past.

The UT Colleges as Adele songs

The season of Fall is synonymous with perfectly winged eyeliner, classic black silhouettes, and ballads that make you want to pour your heart out; that’s right, it’s Adele season. In preparation for this period of heartbreak and deep interpersonal questioning, soothe your troubled soul and enjoy this light take on the UT colleges as Adele songs based on the majors within them.

Moody College of Communication- Hello

Moody School of Communication; Picture by Nicholas Muniz

Hello is possibly one of the most well-known Adele songs of all time. The exhilarating song focuses on the failure of communication between two lovers. Moody intends on changing the world by rectifying miscommunication and enhancing current communication. The song embodies what Moody is trying to rectify in the world– miscommunication.

School of Architecture- Skyfall

School of Architecture; Picture by Nicholas Muniz

The uplifting tune, the drama, and the intrigue of mystery that surround Bond movies; these elements all paint a picture of artistry depicted in the tallest skyscrapers you can imagine. Bringing creativity to life and building the impossible are two traits that the School of Architecture and this Adele song have in common.

College of Liberal Arts – Chasing Pavements

Robert L. Patton Building; Picture by Nicholas Muniz

From governance to psychology, the College of Liberal Arts focuses on the pursuit of excellence through taking risks emphasized by its competitive majors. Chasing Pavements is a song about a woman taking a risk by confessing her feelings despite knowing how unlikely her chances for happiness are within that relationship. CoLA encourages its majors to hope and take risks within the humanities to discover the one true truth about what it is to be human within society at large.

College of Fine Arts- Sweetest Devotion

In order to have a successful career in the arts, one must be dedicated to the point where they are devoted to their craft. This Adele song harps on the triumphs and failures of giving all of your heart and soul in the form of purest devotion, something that is personified by the College of Fine Arts.

College of Natural Sciences- Set Fire to the Rain

College of Natural Sciences; Picture by Nicholas Muniz

Only the College of Natural Sciences could set fire to the rain with their intellect and ingenuity. Students within the college are able to achieve the impossible and indeed give meaning to a mad genius and in that making, this metaphor come true.

College of Education- First Love

First love ,with its idyllic and nursery rhyme elements, reminds one of happier days on the school playground. The cheerful tune is similar to the genuine and kind nature that is a hallmark of the College of Education.

McCombs School of Business- Send my Love to your New Lover

McCombs School of Business; Picture by Nicholas Muniz

It’s common knowledge that McCombs’ students enjoy the thrill of the chase and rarely pursue stability. It’s that attitude which ensures success in business. As a result, they harbor no ill intent to those they have woed in the past and are more than willing to send their love to your new lover after they have ended things with you.

Steve Hicks School of Social Work- Make you feel my love

Showcasing your loving nature and social work go hand in hand and so does this college and Adele song.

Cockrell School of Engineering- Easy on Me

Cockerell School of Engineering; Picture by Nicholas Muniz

It’s not easy being a Cockrell major, as they will let you know, and I can say with utmost confidence they would greatly appreciate it if their professors and the world at large took it easy on them. This new song by Adele not only allows them to drown their misery, but also fulfills their pleas with artistry and grace.

School of Information- Rumour has it

Rumors are the basis of all human interaction and this school looks to facilitate and enhance that interaction. They focus on user experience and design which rumor has it will be the most useful tool in the future of technology.

College of Pharmacy- Remedy

College of Pharmacy; Picture by Nicholas Muniz

Remedy is a song about healing and overcoming difficulties, something which we all accomplish with the help of our friends at the School of Pharmacy.

School of Nursing- Tired

Both the majors in this school and Adele find their true state in this song as they like to remind us after excessive all-nighters that they are, indeed, tired.

Jackson School of Geosciences- Rolling in the Deep

Jackson School of Geosciences; Picture by Nicholas Muniz

Rolling in  the deep is a song that not only references the hard work that students of this school have to put in, but also vaguely reminds you of a boulder rolling down a hill. Something which is not only poetic about the song but is similar to the plight of many of the majors in this school.

Featured image by Nicholas Muniz

Reality Dating Shows: Why Do We Like Them So Much?

Living vicariously through strangers’ lives and then judging them for it? Sign me up!

Reality dating shows have started to take over mainstream television. Shows like Love Island, Too Hot to Handle, and Are You the One? have garnered large fan bases throughout their respective runs, which include many college students. 

So, why do we like this subgenre so much?

According to an article by the Hollywood Reporter, TV and streaming viewership has had a 25 percent increase since the pandemic began. Many of the shows that have seen this increase in viewership include reality romance shows, such as The Bachelor, Love Island, 90-Day Fiancé and more.

Since there was a general increase in viewership for all types of shows, it makes perfect sense as to why the reality romance subgenre has also had a surge in popularity recently. But the question now is why is it so popular among the college-age demographic?

Political communications major Cindy Muñoz said that it’s due to being able to see other people make decisions that make you feel more “normal” in comparison.

“I think partly it’s projection When college kids see these shows, they’re able to see people like them make some of these decisions and it makes you feel like maybe you’re not the only one out here making dumb choices,” Muñoz said. “Personally, my favorite show is Too Hot to Handle. It makes me feel a little more sane in this world [when comparing myself to people on the show].”

Since people are able to picture themselves within the contestants on these shows, they quickly become invested.

“Sometimes these shows make it hard to believe [these people’s lives are] true so it lets you escape your stressful everyday life,” Muñoz said. 

Considering these shows often feature groups of 20-somethings that are attempting to figure out how to form genuine and meaningful relationships, it makes sense that college-aged people can relate to their decisions and feelings, despite how outlandish some of it may be. 

But, hey, that’s what makes good television.

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.