I’m Worried You All Genuinely Like Joe Exotic

I’m Worried You All Genuinely Like Joe Exotic

I did not make this, but it’s a Zoom background. Go mad.

Netflix recently released its newest addition to its collection of binge-worthy documentaries. I’m a fan of a good Netflix documentary and have written about some of the features offered on the streaming platform before. But this documentary was crazy.

Tiger King (2020) doesn’t give much away in its trailer and synopsis. I think we were all a little hoodwinked into thinking this would be a straightforward docuseries about animal cruelty and crazy Americans.

It gave us so much more than that. Trailer trash, larger-than-life characters, murder plots, missing husbands, sabotage conspiracies, and organised crime; these are just some topics covered in Tiger King (2020). Believe me when I say, it’s a rollercoaster of a watch, and it also introduces us to the iconic pop culture sensation that is Joe Exotic of G.W. Zoo.

This guy is so weird. You might think you have him figured out, but you really don’t. He’s got a mullet, an excess of tattoos, a handlebar moustache, and many guns. “Got it,” you might say. But he’s also an ex-cop and ran for President and Governor of Oklahoma in 2016 and 2018, respectively. “Okay.. I think I still have him figured,” haha nope. He’s also openly gay, has polyamorously married two men far too young for him, and been married 5 times altogether. The fact he has owned, bred, and traded tigers and lions at the former Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park is probably the most boring thing about him.

In the documentary you also get to see him sing cheesy country songs that he doesn’t actually sing and be generally outrageous throughout. It’s fantastic telly, and Joe Exotic truly is the star of the show amongst a cast of other weirdos in the big cat trade that I’ve summarised for you below.

Alongside Joe Exotic is Bhagavan Doc Antle, owner of Myrtle Beach Safari and familiar in the exotic animal trading world with a cult-like following of young groomed girls in his arsenal. He also has long white hair in a ponytail to add insult to injury.

Joining them is Tim Stark, the no-nonsense zoo owner of Wildlife in Need with a tough love approach to his wild cats; Jeff Lowe, a gambling swinger pimping out tiger cubs to get laid even though he literally looks like Jigsaw; and Mario Tabraue, an ex-drug dealer who “sold cocaine to fuel my animal habit” in his own words.

There’s also the supposed villain of the piece, Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue. She claims her zoo is more of a rescue sanctuary and that she really does differ from all the others. She looks the part with her flowing blonde locks and tie-dye floaty tops. The hippy home-wrecker enjoys grassing up and apparently making life hell for all the other exotic animal enthusiasts. Oh, and she allegedly fed her millionaire husband to her tigers and cut his family out of his will.

Carole Fuckin’ Baskin. Image: WIKIPEDIA

Excuse me?!

That’s right. Honestly, with all the backstabbing and murder conspiracies you really forget that these people have exotic animals as pets the further you get into the documentary.

It’s a slow burning film, be ready for that going in. The first episode or two might not grab you, but once it kicks off it really kicks off. Per usual Netflix fare, it’s visually pleasing and sheds light on people within an industry you probably had no idea about before.

We also have Netflix’s typical hero vs villain approach between the main characters. As I’ve said before, we have a hero in Joe Exotic. Free Joe Exotic petitions have gone wild since the documentary’s release, and President Donald Trump himself is considering pardoning him.

We also have villains. But I’m here to tell you, it’s not Carole Baskin. I’m here to tell you, despite Joe Exotic’s popularity, they are all fucking terrible people.

My support in this article for Carole Baskin is not an attempt to exonerate Carole Baskin. But if you seriously watch this documentary and believe she is the worst out of the lot of them, you have a problem.

I believe most of the hate Carole gets is because she doesn’t behave the way a typical victim acts (according to society anyway). She is also incredibly annoying, hypocritical and deluded.

Don’t get me wrong; Carole is not the good guy. At her most low-key level, she was complicit in stealing a married man away from his wife and screwing their kids out of their rightful inheritance. I can’t say for certain if I believe she really did feed him to her tigers. Dodgy, manipulative practices and a seemingly disingenuous love between her and Don Lewis tick some boxes, but I’m not sure she is ruthless or calculating enough to organise a murder.

Not in the way Joe Exotic is.

I do not understand how you can like Joe Exotic but hate Carole Baskin if it is down to what they are each accused of. It’s possible that Carole did murder her husband Don Lewis, but if she did, she got away with it. Joe tried to murder Carole and didn’t get away with it! Say what you like about how he wasn’t really going to kill her, but there is a wealth of videos he made where he threatens to do just that, and encourages others to threaten and abuse her on his behalf. That ain’t right!

Joe Exotic is a psychopath.

Mullet mugshot. Image: WIKIPEDIA

Joe Exotic cons his family out of money, throws anyone under the bus if he feels he’ll get more fame and fortune from it, and shows himself to be manipulative and predatory when it comes to relationships.

The Netflix documentary features interviews with some of his previous husbands. The first we meet, John Finlay, is the sweetest guy who reveals he actually isn’t gay and has never considered himself gay. He also wants you to know he doesn’t look like that anymore and that he has teeth. The second husband we meet (SPOILER) shoots himself.

John Finlay, recounts how he was a struggling meth addict fresh out of high school when he met Joe, and we can conclude from this and other truths told by John that Joe Exotic is actually a predatory groomer who preys on vulnerable, straight men, with considerable years lacking in age and life experience. Joe Exotic keeps this pattern going with the latter husband mentioned above, Travis Maldonado, who was only 23 years old and struggling with drug abuse when he accidentally killed himself in 2017.

To rub salt in the Joe-Exotic-sucks wound, during Travis’ funeral, we see Joe Exotic talk disrespectfully and seedily about Travis in front of his grieving mother, referring to her son’s balls for way longer than necessary. Ms Maldonado reveals in her own interviews that she did not approve of or trust Joe with her son and you can’t help but feel sorry for her as she tearfully expresses her regret at not intervening in the relationship.

But yeah, Carole Baskin is the bad guy.

In society and culture, we like having clear cut roles for people. We like having defined villains and defined heroes. Tiger King (2020) takes that societal expectation and throws it out the window. Everyone in Netflix’s Tiger King (2020) is a villain; including Joe Exotic.

Do you think I’ve got it wrong? If you reckon Joe Exotic is innocent, comment down below. Let me know what you think!

The Most Motivational Films to Watch When You’re Unemployed

The Most Motivational Films to Watch When You’re Unemployed

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

When it comes to unemployment, I am an expert. I’ve been let go, fired, and I’ve quit, so trust me when I say, I know that being unemployed can be the most callous time you have in your life.

It’s hard keeping motivated. No matter how many jobs you apply for that are suitable for you, you get rejection after rejection, and it’s really hard to not take it personally.

‘Water off a duck’s back’ comes to mind, because unless you get tailored, specific feedback, you need to just believe that it’s not your fault if you didn’t get a job you’re qualified for. You might totally screw up the interview or application of course, but all sorts of reasons can contribute to a no interview or no hire situation that are beyond your control. You don’t know who you’re applying against and what’s happening behind the scenes in the company, so it’s more important than anything to not let those rejections get to you and stop them from ruining your confidence.

Easier said than done though. You need to keep a good mental head space when you’re job hunting, so while you’ve got a few more hours spare, watch these films after a long day of job seeking to really build the perspective, resilience and confidence you really need right now.

Into the Wild (2007)

I just ripped all the images off Google.

I’m not suggesting that if you hit a bump in the road you should say, “Fuck it!” and run away from your life. But Into the Wild (2007) sends the message that it’s okay to go against the grain and to look for personal, spiritual success over professional, monetary success. You will be hit with severe wanderlust after watching this, but also a profound sense of something that will motivate you to make your fantasy life a reality.

Tootsie (1982)

Every single one of them.

“I’m not psychotic I’m unemployed”. No words have been so accurate when you’re job seeking. If you’ve become unemployed very suddenly, odds are you’re just desperate to pay your bills in the immediate aftershock. So you start applying like you’re desperate, and you should apply like you’re desperate! There is no shame in doing a bad job well. This is a cracking film to watch to know that if it pays the rent and you know you can do it, it’s worth applying anyway, even if you don’t necessarily fit the bill of the job or think it’s a job you’ll love.

The Blind Side (2009)

Whatever, sue me if they’re your pictures.

I’m aware this is a very ‘white savior’ film, but it is a true story with a positive message. What you should take from this is that it is always worth your time to share your resources and help those who need it. If you’re unemployed or struggling, you can watch this and feel some hope that there are people out there who want to help you and want to see you succeed. Kindness can get you through this, remember that when you feel alone. Oh and there’s sports in it too, I guess.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Take me to court, I don’t care.

The ultimate example of patience paying off. This is easily one of the best films of all time, and it is unbelievable that it was a box office bomb upon its release. The slow but sure commercial success of the movie is motivational enough, but main character Andy Dufresne’s stoic patience, self-belief and resilience can inspire us all to hang on in there for a little while longer.

Whiplash (2014)

If they’re your images I will credit you.

This film is insane. Though yes, it might inspire you to keep pushing and working as hard as you fucking can for that one moment where you can go “I’VE GOT IT!” but I hope it doesn’t. I actually hope you can watch this film while you’re down on your luck from a higher perspective, one where you go “Jesus Christ, I might be struggling for now, but at least I’m not scary obsessive like these guys”. If working yourself to the bone puts everything else in your life into place then fine, but Whiplash (2014) makes us question; is it really possible and is it even worth it?

9 to 5 (1980)

Do you know how much time it takes to find out who the fuck took the pictures though?

One of the best movie examples of sticking it to the man. Something that has benefited me in interviews is going in with the mentality that the company has to attract you as well as you having to attract to them. Prepare, use the STAR technique, and don’t ever forget that you are a potential candidate because you have skills and experience the company needs. Don’t accept shit for nothing, and remember if Dolly Parton wouldn’t stand for it, neither should you.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Like seriously, credit for images etc. needs to be as easy to find as pornography.

Oh god, just know going in that this is an emotional one. Will Smith was absolutely snubbed for an Oscar for his performance in this film, and the fact that his own son, Jaden Smith, is playing the child relying on his father’s success just makes the heart-tugging moments hit harder than usual. This film really encapsulates the ups and downs of going into business with yourself. Hard times might be ahead and you need to be ready for that, but ultimately believing that it will work at some point (And of course it will; pet rocks made a profit, so can you!) and keeping yourself motivated triumphs over all in the end.

Rocky (1976)

Also know I have no assets if you want to sue me.

The ultimate underdog, rag-to-riches story. Sylvester Stallone’s story is legendary; from stealing jewelry and selling his own dog to make ends meet, he wrote one of the most iconic films to date with the most uplifting message for anyone down on their luck in life. Whether you’re into sports or not, the self-belief Rocky and his writer had to instill in themselves makes this one of the most motivational films of all time. Even more motivational when you learn that after the film’s success, Stallone was able to buy back that dog he sold during his meagre times!

The Intouchables (2011)

Like what you gonna take, my deodorant? Knock yourself out, it’s all I have.

This one is subtitled, but honestly unless you’re dyslexic or have visual issues, get over it. This film is feel-good and fun while reminding us we all need to ask for help from time to time, and that help might come from an unlikely place. Don’t be afraid to explore new opportunities and experiences as well, as Philippe would be able to tell you how rewarding taking those chances can be. As well as this, we can learn from Driss that even if you think a job’s not for you, your personality and charisma can make you a great fit, and fitting into the culture of a new workplace is a rare and valuable thing.

Mrs Doubtfire (1993)

Probably shouldn’t dare people to sue me if I’m already poor.

Another cross-dressing character, this guy needs a job enough to lie to his own kids. But there is some wisdom in there. You need to promote the skills you know you have, even if it means utilising them yourself. Think about what skills other people don’t have and what others have complimented you on in the past. Even things you don’t necessarily see as a skill, just market the fuck out of it anyway! Run with your strengths and apply for jobs under the premise ‘Hire for attitude, train for skills’.

Trading Places (1983)

My PayPal is on the ‘Contact’ page btw.

This film is underrated in all the categories it applies to. No one considers it a Christmas film, no one uses it as a fine example of Dan Ackroyd, Eddie Murphy or Jamie Lee Curtis’ work, and I think that is truly criminal. If you’ve been working for ‘the man’ your whole life, you’ll immediately feel this film shows exactly what the top dogs of your company are doing to the peasants below them. The reason I’m putting it on here apart from to further my communist agenda, is because it reminds you how futile it all is; you can jump from rags to riches if someone takes a chance on you, and you can lose it all in seconds as well.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

I’m actually just fine tho sweeties.

Sometimes “it is written”. No matter your background or expertise, sometimes you find yourself in a rare predicament where you think “Everything in my life has built up to this opportunity”. However in this day and age, a lot of people fall victim to imposter syndrome, or being too modest about their accomplishments. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is a harrowing story about luck and destiny, that will make you realise that it’s not all about the work you put in, but sometimes it’s about being at the right place at the right time. A rarer circumstance than you’d think, but before you think an offer is too good to be true, just watch this film and remember, sometimes it’s simply meant to be.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

As long as I don’t get sued anyway.

Can’t talk about this one for too long because I will cry. Although it might not end with a spring in its step, this film proves just how far you can go if you reach out for some mentoring. You might be at a crossroads or brick wall in your career, and despite your raw talent exceeding those around you, you can’t move past this block. Look to those with previous experience and ask for advice, and you just might find all your wishes come true.

Aladdin (1992)

Image: Google or some shit.

This Disney number ultimately carries the message that money and success won’t solve all your problems. I hope you get that job you want, but odds are, a career change won’t solve everything you think it will. We’ve been led to believe that if you change one thing in your life, the rest of your grievances will resolve themselves. Evaluate what you’re really unhappy about before you believe more money or more responsibilities will change it for the better, because as Aladdin (1992) shows, basically you can’t polish a turd or wipe everything clean in one go. Each separate component in your life deserves separate attention, and take it from me, if you’re in a break in your career and can afford to evaluate your own psyche and routines, I cannot describe how worth it that recentering is.

Do you think these movies would give you a boost when you needed it most? Or did I miss one that’s even more motivational? Let me know in the comments, and if you are facing some career uncertainty right now, keep the faith and reach out. It won’t last forever and you’re worth a decent livelihood.

25 Songs from the 00s Everybody Loves for your Quarantine Playlist

25 Songs from the 00s Everybody Loves for your Quarantine Playlist

Two girls drinking Barcardi Breezers. (Photo by: PYMCA/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

If you are fortunate enough to have the resources to quarantine during this pandemic, one thing you will agree is that quarantine and isolation is pretty damn boring. You’ve watched all the films, read all your books, and did the chores you’ve been putting off for months. So now, it’s the noughties’ turn to cheer you up.

Ahh the noughties. It’s the decade I carved an identity for myself in and the decade’s culture that I absorbed the most. It was a combination of a hangover from the 90s, the years of the chav (the official Year of the Chav was 2004 if you’re interested), and the infancy of emo. It’s easy to forget that My Chemical Romance and Paris Hilton were a thing happening at the same time and even easier to forget some of the best jams we’ve been blessed with in music history.

I know the internet is kind of a 00s thing as well. It may have been invented in the 80s, but in my opinion it only truly started taking the shape of what it is now in the 00s. The result of that is the tidal wave of millennial nostalgia talking about culture and music of our childhoods, repeating the same songs every time that we never really stopped listening to anyway.

So I’m going to try and be a bit different. Look, you already know that ‘Mr Brightside’ is timeless and Justin Timberlake was the Justin Bieber of our era. But maybe you’ve forgotten a track or two and maybe they need dusting off and appreciating now we’re all grown up.

Stick the playlist on below, and read on for a list that’ll take you right back to a moment in the past where you’re patiently waiting until your 16th birthday to buy a branded packet of Lambert & Butler for under a fiver. Your ratty Ugg boots that you wore in the rain again are making their way to the park to drink WKDs with your friends and you can’t wait to show off your new Motorola Razr. You’re especially grateful you’re out because your mum bollocked you for spending an obscene amount of money on a polyphonic ringtone and wallpaper advertised in your favourite magazine. You flung your Jane Norman bag in the corner as soon as you got in from school, applied a 47th coat of mascara and white-pink lipstick, and wondered if the boy with the large dyed fringe and skinny jeans would be out tonight.

1. ‘Dilemma’ – Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland

To me, this song is always going to be peak 00s. There’s durags, Nokia phones with keypads and the iconic 00s choice of lip makeup on Kelly Rowland consisting of dark brown lip liner and light pink lip gloss. Will we ever find out if you can actually use Microsoft Excel to text as well?

2. ‘Love Don’t Cost a Thing’ – Jennifer Lopez

I know nobody has forgotten about Jennifer Lopez, I mean with her recent SuperBowl Halftime Show performance and saucy gig in Hustlers (2019), I don’t think we will ever see the last of her and I am absolutely fine with that. But while ‘Jenny from the Block’ gets a shout-out at every house party, ‘Love Don’t Cost a Thing’ is so underrated it’s criminal, and it deserves more hype.

3. ‘Leave (Get Out)’ – Jojo

Jojo made me obsessed with big hoop earrings and dresses over jeans for a very long and ill-informed time. Let’s also not forget that Jojo was 13 YEARS OLD when this hit reached number one in the charts. 13! I was navigating mood swings and falling “in love” every ten minutes at 13, not breaking records and travelling the world. Geez Jojo…

4. ‘God is a DJ’- P!nk

It’s by P!nk. It’s got overly distressed jeans in the video. It’s featured on the Mean Girls (2004) soundtrack. How can you not call this noughties? P!nk has developed as an artist over the years but this is a often forgotten jam of hers that deserves more respect. Never forget your roots, P!nk, they rocked.

5. ‘”The Take Over, The Breaks Over”‘ – Fall Out Boy

When people talk about culture in the 00s, they always forget that the contemporary R&B scene, Wigan Pier scene and emo were all happening simultaneously. Fall Out Boy were one of the more widely accepted emo groups and while there’s hits that charted higher than this one, it is so goddamn catchy and fun you’ll find it hard to not see feet tapping when you play it.

6. ‘Fat Lip’ – Sum 41

Another classic from the emo/pop-punk genre that even the most mainstream of townies can’t resist. Sum 41 remind me of a time where skateboards were a status symbol and everyone wanted to marry someone from Jackass. Lead singer, Deryck Whibley, married Avril Lavigne in 2006 and that was the last time the world made sense to me.

7. ‘Heaven is a Halfpipe (If I Die)’ – OPM

Speaking of skateboards, this tune is legendary. You remember the chorus for sure, but the riffs and beats make it a chilled and catchy number that spreads happy vibes whenever it’s played.

8. ‘Gotta Get Thru This (D’n’D Remix)’ – Daniel Bedingfield

Garage is having a bit of a resurgence, especially the granddaddy of garage, Craig David. In fact I had to force myself to not put Craig David on the playlist, because as much as he was king of the 00s garage sound, we don’t forget about him like we forget about this epic remix.

9. ‘Pure & Simple’ – Hear’Say

Crafted through the reality series Popstars (2001), Hear’Say were one of the thousands of manufactured pop bands driving hipsters mad in the noughties. Maybe not the most popular band or chart-topping song, but listen once and I guarantee it will be in your head all day.

10. ‘Hole in the Head’ – Sugababes

Without a doubt one of the most underrated girlbands of all time. Sugababes formed you in ways you didn’t even realise, that’s how good they were. Sugababes are on the Love Actually (2003) soundtrack and Sugababes told us exactly how to respect ourselves as preteens when it came to boys.

11. ‘No Tomorrow’ – Orson

This is one of those songs that you have no recollection of by name, but when it starts playing, you are totally into it. I also believed that the lead singer, Jason Pebworth, was the lead singer in New Radicals of ‘You Get What You Give’ fame. This apparently is not true, but all I’ll say on the matter is that I’ve never seen Jason Pebworth and Gregg Alexander in the same room at the same time…

12. ‘Last Resort’ – Papa Roach

I know you might be thinking, “Sophie! This is Nu-Metal! This a divisive genre and I won’t have you saying it’s accepted by everybody!”. But I defy anybody to not retort after hearing “CUT MY LIFE INTO PIECES” with “THIS IS MY LAST RESORT”. Whether you believe you like it or not, you fucking like it. Everybody likes this song. Why? I don’t know. Papa Roach never set out to be accessible, but for some reason, this song rocks and we all love it.

13. ‘Dy-Na-Mi-Tee’ – Ms. Dynamite

I implore you to listen to this track as a grown-up, because when I did I found that it actually slaps. The entire composition comes together so well and it’s a song that can be played at a house party and a chilled gathering and still garner the same response; respect and the questioning “Why was this not appreciated more when it came out?!”.

14. ‘I Wanna Sex You Up’ – Color Me Badd

This is a song I slept on for years, and I don’t mean in a sexual way. I heard it for the first time in a call center I worked at that tried to make a fun, Google HQ-esque environment including a 90s/00s dance track playlist and from the first few harmonising vocal bars, I was hooked. I guarantee, if you didn’t hear it in the day, you’ll love hearing it now.

15. ‘Heaven’ – DJ Sammy ft. Do

Ahhhhh I bet you forgot that we all indulged in a chavvy phase in the noughties DIDN’T YOU?! This was one of the songs we all transferred over bluetooth more than we were transferring STIs, and for good reason. It’s catchy and gets you in the mood for a Lambrini or two. A must at any decent predrinks.

16. ‘Put a Donk On It’ – Blackout Crew

Very much a pioneer of the Wigan Pier sound going on in the 2000s, ‘Put a Donk On It’ was a meme before memes were a thing. If you heard the hilarious track, you loved it instantly, and when you were drunk the bassline etc. really did genuinely rock.

17. ‘Sticks ‘N’ Stones’ – Jamie T

The hot flavour of the month, Jamie T was very much a staple at any 00s house party that involved girls in skinny jeans, sailor stripe tops and backcombed hair. It’s a song that takes you back and the rhythm remains catchy after all these years.

18. ‘Romeo’ – Basement Jaxx

Spoiler alert; there is more than one Basement Jaxx song on this list. They are timeless songs that tend to be “Oh shit I’ve heard this but never knew who it was!” type tracks. ‘Romeo’ is great for predrinks and downtime sessions in your party playlist (if you schedule tracks in your playlist dependent on how drunk your guests are… which I do… and recommend) and is just generally an awesome song to get down to.

19. ‘Bingo Bango’ – Basement Jaxx

I told you I had more than one Basement Jaxx song! This song makes me think of Bend it Like Beckham (2002) and Vinnie Jones, so I reckon that’s enough of a qualifier to be considered a 00s staple as there needs to be. But seriously, this song is infectious and motivates you to really put a swing into any activity you’re currently doing when the tune comes on.

20. ‘Take a Look Around’ – Limp Bizkit

This was a genius marketing move; targeting the ever increasing Nu-Metal wave of the noughties and capitalising on a bunch of greasy, baggy-clothed teens that were looking for media that fit their identity. Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) did that by employing the likes of Limp Bizkit and Metallica for their soundtrack, and ‘Take a Look Around’ still manages to kick ass.

21. ‘Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)’ – Eamon

The opening track to one of the best music urban legends of all time. The story goes that Eamon recorded this song about non-starter Frankee, but didn’t secure the copyrights to the song which enabled Frankee to record her own retort to the song supposedly setting the record straight about their relationship. Speaking of which…

22. ‘F.U.R.B. (F U Right Back)’ – Frankee

Okay, so if you want to keep the idea that Frankee recorded this song in response to Eamon, skip the rest of this and go to entry 23. The real tea is that Eamon has never met Frankee, and in fact her representatives made a great deal for her to use his tunes that Eamon accepted. The rest is history. Even so, it’s a fantastic song to send a dude you’ve just broken up with and until the day I die, whether it was real or not, I will always be on Frankee’s team.

23. ‘Super Duper Love’ – Joss Stone

I defy anybody to not admit this is one of the happiest, chillest songs of all time. From various gossipy resources, it’s been said that Joss Stone didn’t make it into the mainstream for too long because she was ‘difficult’ to work with, which in 2020, makes me ask “Okay, but in reality, which producer etc is it that she didn’t want to sleep with who trashed her career?”.

24. ‘Our Bovine Public’ – The Cribs

The Cribs were the epitome of the drainpipe, backcombed indie scene that was happening in the early 2000s, complete with fans such as Alexa Chung and Agyness Deyn. Kate Nash was also partnered with the lead singer for quite a while, making all the indie girls jealous in the process.

25. ‘Duality’ – Slipknot

I know what you’re thinking. But no matter who your crowd consists of, when the party is well underway and they want to just let everything go, Slipknot should come on. It’s the most popular song of theirs and I believe it’s because there’s something about it that taps into you as a human being, and you end up doing some primal dancing if you just let the drums get to you. Try it out at your next party, I’m not lying when I say I’ve seen middle class boomers dance to this.

Doctor’s Orders; How to Avoid Coronavirus and Look After Your Health

Doctor’s Orders; How to Avoid Coronavirus and Look After Your Health

Image: UNSPLASH

I’m actually starting this post with an apology.

Unless you’ve been living under the sea or in a coma, you will have heard about the global pandemic of COVID-19, an outbreak of coronavirus that is spreading fast and spreading wide. More than 90,000 people have been affected and related deaths have been recorded as in excess of 3,000.

Symptoms include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. In some cases COVID-19 has caused pneumonia and is particularly dangerous for those of ill health and compromised immune systems.

Like me, you might read that last bit and go “Oh that’s fine then!” and even more so when you chalk up the death rates to mean this strain of coronavirus has a 1% fatality. The use of the word only when people, health experts and the media are saying only vulnerable and already ill people are dying from coronavirus is ableism at its finest, and we all need to check ourselves on that right now.

A death is a death. Death is bad. We don’t like death. But for some reason, when it comes to disabled and compromised members in society, death is seen as a shruggable consequence of unfortunate genetics and biology. Take a minute to step back and realise HOW FUCKED UP THIS IS!

I’m not proud to admit I was guilty of this line of thinking and it took a tweet from somebody for me to realise I am a horrible person for it.

Sums it up really. The idea that the deaths of vulnerable persons is no cause for concern and nothing that needs addressing is nothing short of eugenics; ignorant, callous, Nazi-style eugenics. Nobody has a right to say any one particular group of people have less of a claim to space in this world. So I am sorry if by chance anything I have said in regards to the outbreak downplays the deaths that have occurred, and you should be too if you’ve done the same.

We have a duty to look out for each other in society. So while yes, you might be perfectly healthy and not at risk of anything more than a cough, put the below tips into practice to stop the spreading of coronavirus and recognise the impact this outbreak can have on those that are vulnerable:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue/sleeve when you cough or sneeze (Do not use your hands)
  • Wash your hands often and make sure you scrub your hands well
  • Scrub your hands when washing for 20 seconds, or if you want to have some fun, sing the chorus of ‘Africa’ by Toto. Yep, it’s 20 seconds, and makes basic hygiene incredibly epic
  • Call 111 if you suspect you have symptoms, have been in a country or area with high recordings of coronavirus in the past 14 days, or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus
  • Do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital if you think you have it. Call 111
  • Isolate yourself for 14 days if you have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus even if you are not showing symptoms
  • The virus is spread via droplets from coughing or sneezing that land on surfaces and get picked up when a new person touches said surface. For this reason, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose with your hands if you can
  • Keep surfaces you frequently touch as clean as possible using wipes and hands-free options where offered
  • Do not share things like food/items if people are using bare hands to handle it
  • Avoid shaking hands and kissing even if you really really fancy them
  • Do not travel to affected areas if it can be helped

Obviously, some of these are easier said than done. These tips shared from the NHS and other government bodies also further raise the point of who ‘deserves’ to be kept safe from infection and who doesn’t in the eyes of society.

For another example, as far as I can tell, there has been no national or widespread effort to get homeless people tested and ensure their safety when they are without question one of the more vulnerable demographics and capable of spreading the virus further. It’s all very well for government officials to tell us to be clean and stay at home, but where are the directions for when that isn’t an option?

Sex workers are also being ignored despite many people’s livelihoods depending on physical contact or shared spaces. I don’t necessarily just mean paid sex, but even strippers and other legal adult entertainers are at greater risk than others due to their line of work and there seems to be no effort to minimise potential risk.

As usual, advice to tackle the pandemic and efforts to reassure have been mostly directed at able-bodied, financially healthy office workers. Only some mention of action in schools despite kids being notoriously germy and sticky as well.

But is this blanket short-sighted advice because we’re not really allowed to get sick?

Despite following the guidelines issued by the NHS above and being healthy and able-bodied, anyone can still get sick. And let’s face it, if you are usually healthy and able-boded and you get sick, you are going to work no matter what the papers say.

This is also, fucked up.

Despite countless studies, pieces of medical advice, cases, agreed feelings, articles, and general common sense, people go to work sick and it’s expected that you will not leave even if you’re absolutely dying.

The Office for National Statistics found that workers in the UK take an average of 4.1 sick days per year (whatever the fuck that means, like what is 0.1 of a day? A lie in?) as of 2017, whereas it used to be 7.2 days in 1993. Are we healthier? Is work better?

I wouldn’t say so. But we do feel guiltier.

There is a culture in working life to work yourself to the absolute bone as your day-to-day effort. Half your entitled lunch hour at your desk, come in early, leave late… it’s not right. Chronic illness or physical impairment? Sorry, that doesn’t play well in the workplace! Better put yourself in danger to be seen as a productive staff member!

I may not have had the steadiest employment history as any of my close circle can tell you, but I do know that if you are not paying me for it, I am not doing it. If you want me earlier, pay me from earlier. If you want me to work through my lunch, pay me to work through my lunch. If you want your workers to ignore their own personal conditions, you better have funeral costs included in your benefits package. We all need to stand up more and realise that work is an exchange, not a negotiation. Do not try and slip your workers more work than their paygrade, hours or ability that you advertised for require.

And that includes sick work.

Image: UNSPLASH

How sick leave ties in to my ranting about coronavirus is that apart from you denying what you’re legally entitled to when you don’t take sick leave, you are actually being a selfish prick.

As discussed above, those who are more adversely affected by sickness are rarely thought of when illness is on the table. You might think you can push through the beginnings of the flu, but your desk neighbor with lupus can’t. You might think it’s better to show your face and just go home early but your boss you just shook hands with has a diabetic child that doesn’t. We as a society need to start thinking of health as a community issue, not a personal one, and that starts with shaking off this mentality of “I’ll be fine so I don’t need to worry”. There are thousands of people who will need to worry because of your arrogance.

Taking care of yourself ultimately results in taking care of others. You are a human and you are allowed to be sick. Do what you can to prevent getting sick in the first place, and if you’re unlucky enough to get struck down with something, quarantine yourself and let your body repair.

Now, let’s all listen to ‘Africa’…

Gaga, Swift, Beyoncé; Whose Netflix Documentary Takes Home the Prize?

Gaga, Swift, Beyoncé; Whose Netflix Documentary Takes Home the Prize?

Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé IMAGE: Netflix

These past couple of weeks during a bout of insomnia, I decided to watch all three Netflix features of the pop giants pictured above. Lady Gaga’s film Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017) shows the soft underbelly of the events coinciding with the star’s fifth album Joanne and her performance at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana (2020) is a little mini biopic and behind-the-scenes feature focusing on Swift’s public image and personal struggles over the years of her success. Beyoncé finishes the lineup with a bang in Homecoming (2019) which intertwines footage of her Coachella 2018 headlining performance alongside the months of production that went into the show.

I’m going to go through each one, let you know my oh-so important opinion about them all and give you my final thoughts a la Jeffree Star after we’ve gone through the pros and cons together. These are three deities of pop music and pop culture each in their own completely unique ways. Right off the bat, I want to say before I watched these, I liked Lady Gaga the most, Taylor Swift next, then Beyoncé the least. I actively disliked Beyoncé actually, mostly due to the Jonestown style following she has amassed online that compels me to admit she is superior to all no matter what my own taste is. I also don’t really like R&B or hip-hop, so would this show be enough to change my views? Read on to find out…

Gaga: Five Foot Two, Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga still has my heart and probably always will IMAGE: Netflix

As I have said before, I love Gaga. Not so much to the point I would call myself a Little Monster, the name her fandom has bestowed upon themselves, but I enjoy her tunes, what she stands for, and how she comes across. This documentary offers a stripped down Lady Gaga rather than the avant-garde rock star we tend to see gracing the red carpets.

Directed by Chris Moukarbel, the technical work has been generally well received by critics. Leslie Felperin (The Hollywood Reporter) said the feature “is assembled with competence and style, with graceful editing by Greg Arata” and I do agree; the camera work is crisp, and the editing keeps you interested without getting too gimicky. Is that enough to save the lacking content though?

That’s right Little Monsters, I said it! As much as I loved seeing Gaga in my personal clothes goals and garnered a new found respect for her, the journey and desired message of the film was all over the place. One minute it was about Joanne. Then it was about her health problems. Then it was about the Super Bowl. Then it was about her personal life. Each of these topics were explored quite well and I did remain entertained for the whole 100 minutes, but I did frequently find myself asking “What’s the point in this film?”. Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Germanotta, is a relatively transparent celebrity. There was no big reveal about what she’s really like because I think we all know the score by now, we know what we can expect from her even underneath the dramatic costumes. The film also had the chance to thoroughly document the production process and aftermath of Joanne, or show some extensive preparation and exclusive footage of the Super Bowl show, but hopes of these were dashed the further into the film I got.

What I will say is the horrific scenes of Gaga’s fibromyalgia flare ups are eye-opening, both towards her as a person and the condition itself. On at least two occasions the camera documents Gaga bedridden with pain, sobbing as health professionals try to calm her furious muscles. A visit to her doctor also gives a glimpse into the cocktail of medications needed to try and tame the condition, and as Lady Gaga herself says, you really wonder how normal, everyday people can crack on with this horrible syndrome.

But as educational as some parts were, it didn’t save the whole film. Overall it was fine. It didn’t give me the narrative and production value of Homecoming, but it did offer a little more edge and substance than Miss Americana for my liking. Speaking of which…

Miss Americana, Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift wants you to know she’s deep IMAGE: Netflix

The documentary starts with what feels like is going to be a classic Netflix Set-Up-Mic/Drop-Mic intro; you know the ones on the true crime documentaries where some local’s voice-over sets up with, “Thang with Backwatertown is that nuttin’ ever happens here… errbody knows errbody…” – a drone camera is panning over Backwatertown, then BOOM -“Never wudda guessed we’d have a serial killuh here,” mic drop. Taylor sets up with an intimate and relatable monologue about how she has made her life choices dependent on pleasing people. She confesses the compulsive need to be liked and to be seen as a good person. She sets up even further by detailing her early success in her career which made her feel she had achieved her goals.

The mic doesn’t drop though. It makes the start of the film feel very much like a humblebrag from Taylor Swift, and it did take me about a third of the 86 minutes to realise this wouldn’t be a documentary where Swift rubs in being adored and successful to us peasants in the audience.

Produced by Tremolo Productions and directed by Lana Wilson, it’s another Netflix movie that is stylistically efficient. But like Gaga: Five Foot Two, the actual story is all over the place. What is this film actually about? The only answer I can really offer is ‘Taylor Swift’.

There is no definitive project, moment or message until the very last minute and it’s a pretty naive ‘purpose’ of making this documentary in my opinion. Taylor discusses a range of personal issues including her frequently discussed love life, her sexual assault legal battle, that Kanye West drama and body image issues she reveals she still battles with. But by far the most time-consuming issue discussed is Swift’s political voice. We see her muster the courage to approach and begin tearfully pleading with her father and a member of her management team to be allowed to… say stuff about politics.

That’s it. It’s well intentioned and I understand this is a young woman with no requirement to be politically informed, but it is just quite embarrassing to watch. She’s about 28-years-old when she sobs, “I need to be on the right side of history. … Dad, I need you to forgive me for doing it, because I’m doing it,” in regards to her decision to vocally disagree with Republican Senator, Marsha Blackburn.

It makes me physically cringe when grown women allow their daddies to still buy into this ‘My Little Girl Princess’ trope, and even aside from this, it feels like a reveal of a very white, privileged lifestyle, that Taylor has just discovered that oh em gee, did you like, know politics like, effects people?! It might be harsh to say because like I’ve stated, she is ambitious to make genuine, positive change and that is always a good thing; it just came off as a little naive and patronising to the viewer. I also couldn’t help but note that Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga only have 3 years between their ages, and yet from the get-go, Gaga has been outspoken politically and vocalised her opinions and allegiances whenever she liked. I guess Taylor didn’t get the memo.

On the flipside, this documentary does show how hands-on and astoundingly hardworking Taylor Swift is. We get to be a fly-on-the-wall in multiple recording sessions and I was truly blown away by the level of professionalism and production prowess the pop star demonstrates. If I’m honest, I would have loved a documentary solely dedicated to showing her creative process.

All in all, I thought this was a bit dull and self-involved. Taylor Swift comes across as sweet, hopeful, incredibly talented and just beginning to find her feet in terms of her independence. I can relate to her doubts and fears a hell of a lot, but like Lady Gaga’s feature, I found myself shrugging at the end, as though to say “Ehhhh” in that way Gru’s mother does in Despicable Me.

Homecoming, Beyoncé

Beyoncé honors black culture and heritage in Homecoming IMAGE: phillyvoice.com

Here’s the big one, freaks and geeks. Is Homecoming good enough to turn I, a well-known Beyoncé ‘hater’, a person who has ridiculed the obsession, a woman who has staunchly stood against the infatuation, into a disciple of the songstress?

Absolutely fucking yes.

Homecoming is so good. It’s beyond good. I went in with no loyalty or high hopes as well, so I can only imagine what a treat this must have been for lifelong members of the Beyhive (Beyoncé’s fandom, like of Gaga’s Little Monsters).

Where the other films failed, this one delivered; the topic is clear from the start, this is a feature about Beyoncé headlining Coachella and all the work that went into preparing for that show. We are treated to some personal snippets of her life, such as Beyoncé’s grueling regime to get back to performance-level fitness as well as what life is like for her as a mother and wife. There is a repeating motif of black pride throughout the documentary with beautifully inserted Maya Angelou voice-overs and a vast ensemble nodding to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs as she states throughout the performance) in their performance and attire. I’m white and feel white people have had far too much of a voice when it comes to the discussion of race and pride throughout history, so all I will say is that those concepts I just mentioned among others make this performance feel historic and important. Find a POC writer if you want a more in depth analysis and explanation, and be sure to share and support their work.

Back to the gig. The performance side of the film is just sheer joy. It’s like you’ve stumbled upon the coolest, happiest party by accident, and the host is handing you a beer before bringing you in to dance.

In keeping with the homecoming theme, throughout the performance we’ve got bleachers, marching bands, baton twirlers, breakdancing, pom-pom boots, and of course the homecoming queen herself.

Considering this is her comeback after dipping out of music to raise her family, Beyoncé is on fire in this movie. She dances alongside her troupe like she never had the break. Her vocals are incredible as she demonstrates both range and technique flawlessly. The crowd is going absolutely mental each time the camera pans to them as Beyoncé sings fan favourites, medleys of her hits, and even brings Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams to the stage for a mini Destiny’s Child reunion.

Speaking of the camera, as if a powerful message and incredible performance wasn’t enough; Beyoncé wrote, produced and directed the movie as well! Ed Burke assists as co-director to achieve a genuinely interesting and beautiful piece of cinematography with this project and I must say if Beyoncé truly had as much of a hand in directing this as is implied, I can’t wait to see what she’ll do with that talent next.

Hands down, this was the best of the lot. It’s also the longest, clocking in at 137 minutes, but the flits between performance and preparation mean it doesn’t actually feel that long. I never thought I would rescind my views on Beyoncé, and though her music is still not necessarily to my taste, I have a new-found, well overdue respect for her and I can’t get Drunk in Love out of my head.

So I did basically just mash three reviews into one! But what I want to make clear as I’m wrapping up is that I will not be comparing these artists against each other as women; I am comparing the quality, the artistry, and the content of these films. In the past I have been all too eager to jump on a keyboard and say how I think total strangers “seem like a bitch”, or how “I read somewhere that they were fake and rude”. Enough is enough. Tabloid culture has made it normal to slag off human beings for qualities we as the slagger-offer don’t even know are truthful. I have no idea what these women are like as people. I know I liked Beyoncé’s film the best and I liked Miss Americana the least. I know I disagreed with some of the personal admissions of these starlets, but it doesn’t mean they should be ridiculed for it. I know it’s unrealistic to say you will support and love every single thing any person ever does, but I think if someone’s message isn’t actively damaging or harmful, shouldn’t you just agree to disagree?

I agree to disagree with Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. I agree to agree with Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Watch the documentaries for yourself, and let me know if you agree or disagree with me.

What Makes The Perfect Victim?

What Makes The Perfect Victim?

This year’s NME Awards garnered more attention and more controversy than usual. Everyone and their dog has put their two cents into what they felt went down that night, but it also raised a larger question about accountability in incidences of sexism and what The Perfect Victim actually is.

Northampton based rapper Slowthai (nope, me neither) came under fire for acting like your average drunk dickhead at the event despite winning the coveted Hero of the Year award. He spouted nonsense into the mic, tried to physically kick off on an audience member, but most noticeably got a little fresh and a little creepy with one of the award show’s hosts, Katherine Ryan.

“Babygirl, I don’t want to have to do this to you right now, but everybody – she needs to understand the levels right now,” the 25-year-old slurred to the 36-year-old comedian, adding “If you want to do something, see me later,” before staggering off stage.

Ew.

Rapper Slowthai getting a little too close for comfort to comedian Katherine Ryan. Picture: GETTY

In this age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the leery, culturally accepted actions of men that (mainly) women have long put up with have been starting to get questioned. If you behave like a twat, you should expect to have backlash for it. But what I am struggling to come to terms with is that people were indeed handing out backlash in the wake of the 67th NME Awards… but to Katherine Ryan?

Personally, I adore Katherine Ryan. I’ve seen her live, I’m familiar with her work and I even quote her on a regular basis like a proper geek. The panel show prom queen is fierce, quick and absolutely takes no prisoners, so I was not surprised when she came out on Twitter to say that she really didn’t feel like a victim at all.

“He didn’t make me uncomfortable. This is why we need women in positions of power. I knew he had lost from the moment he opened his mouth like any heckler coming up against a COMIC – not a woman – a COMIC. I was operating 2/10. What a sweet boy. I defused it.”, she tweeted after the incident.

If Katherine Ryan does not feel the need to call herself a victim that is a good thing. It takes any power out of what Slowthai did, it makes him the loser, it bounces off her skin like raindrops on a rock. He also didn’t commit a crime, such as sexually assaulting or raping her, and from what I can find out about the ordeal, he wasn’t pursuant or relentless after Katherine shut him down. If you vomit in the pub, you’ll get barred, you might have to pay for refurb, and the locals are absolutely going to judge and hate you… but you don’t get sent to prison.

Slowthai’s actions were shitty. Not so shitty as, say, Prince Andrew having legitimate ties and suspected custom with a sex trafficker and convicted sex offender (which as far as I am aware, nobody in the royal family has publicly commented on or condemned). Not as gross as Joe Exotic preying on vulnerable young men and forcing them to reject their true sexuality. Also not so shitty as the literal President of the United States having a real recording credited to him where he literally says “just start kissing them … I don’t even wait” and “grab ’em by the pussy” (which Donald Trump has claimed was merely ‘locker-room talk’ and faced zero consequences or investigation into this jarring advice that he himself gave on tape).

But Slowthai’s the one that everybody is talking about. Slowthai is still shitty, I don’t deny that. So why did everyone start saying Katherine was the one at fault?

After Katherine Ryan tweeted about how unfazed she was at the rapper’s creepiness, a lot of people vocalised their disappointment with her. Many responders believed that while Katherine may not have felt uncomfortable, another person could have, and she therefore had a responsibility to call out Slowthai’s behavior. Other people felt that Katherine was essentially giving a free pass to any men behaving similarly in the future, as the comedian had unwittingly approved that for the rest of time, this leeriness and all the escalations that can potentially come with it, are absolutely fine and nobody has any business to ever be upset about it.

What. The Fuck.

Katherine Ryan is a comedian. She is not a police officer. She is not a law maker. She is a ballsy entertainer who responded to an incident that happened to her as she saw fit. This situation happened to her, it is up to her to decide how she personally feels about it and up to her to decide how she wants to respond to it.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: Comedian Katherine Ryan is photographed for ES magazine on July 8, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Amelia Troubridge/Contour by Getty Images)

Slowthai was the one was behaved abhorrently. Not Katherine. That is all that should come into it when you decide who you should be gunning for. If you need a specific reaction in order to condemn an objectively shitty action, you are pretty much part of the problem.

The whole incident got me thinking about victimisation and what society believes a true victim consists of.

I believe Katherine Ryan got so much flack because she did not behave how a victim ‘should’. Society is unconsciously built like a script for a pantomime; everybody has their roles, and everybody is expected to behave in an almost formulaic manner, and if you don’t play your part correctly then you specifically deserve all the bad press that should be shared among the cast. Slowthai behaved like a perfect villain and nobody panicked. Katherine Ryan didn’t behave like a perfect female victim and everybody grabbed their pitchforks. And, scene!

Victims are not supposed to look or behave a certain way. Countless psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals can confirm that. However, through constant affirmation and subconscious indoctrination in media, law enforcement and cultural behavior, people do genuinely believe there is a ‘right’ way to behave like a victim and a ‘wrong’ way.

The Perfect Victim is typically female or a child. This is even tenuously used as an excuse in the victim selection process in torture-porn horror flick Martyrs (2008). Women and children are weaker, dumber and co-dependent. It’s why they get to flee the Titanic first and why their tragic stories sell better in those magazines you only lower yourself to read at a hair salon. Children are so little and fragile, and us ladies constantly need rescuing. Please help us, we are so useless without you big, burly men.

Women are also very delicate and emotional, so when we inevitably become a victim of some awful affair, the expected responses and attributes of the victim are –

  • Crying
  • Shyness
  • Good-looking but in an accessible way so as not to cause jealousy
  • White. Ethnic minorities bring it on themselves and steal everybody’s jobs
  • Middle-class. Poor people also bring it on themselves but we all get a bit ‘French Revolution’ and gleeful when something bad happens to one of the elite. Striking a balance is ideal
  • Humble and afflicted presence to gather mass pity, but without looking like you want it
  • Co-operative and automatically trusting of anybody who wants to help
  • Domestic but also a little bit professional. If you don’t have a family you must be selfish, if you don’t have a job you must be lazy, if your husband is the one who stays at home with the kids you are stripping away his manhood which is mean
  • Straight and cisgender. If you are a transwoman then you’re weird already and if you’re not a heterosexual woman then you are selfishly robbing the world of your sole, true purpose which is to let straight men put a baby in you
  • Bonus points if you are disabled, but only visibly disabled and you have to be really upset about it all the time

This is what makes The Perfect Victim. And this, of course, is all total bollocks.

Anyone can be a victim and therefore anyone who is telling you something awful has happened to them and they don’t like or agree with it should be treated with sympathy and respect. Likewise, if you believe something that happened to someone else is awful, it’s not up to you to decide if they are a victim or not.

There is no right way for a victim to act because every person is an individual. Where one person might cry, another person would get angry. One person might be stoic about their plight, whereas another would be dramatic and intense about it. This is a point that especially needs to be hammered home when it comes to how we treat women who have been a victim, because for some reason, the general rule of thumb in treating women seems to be Find one woman who wants to be treated ‘x’ way and apply rule to every woman you ever meet regardless of what they tell you’.

We are not all the fucking same. This is a very boring point to keep having to reiterate, and I believe most of us would let it slide if it wasn’t dangerous, but believing there is a correct and incorrect way for all women to act in a crisis is very very dangerous.

I think about the case of Angelika Graswald as an example of this. There is an episode dedicated to her on Netflix‘s The Confession Tapes (2019, Season 2, Episode 3 ‘Deep Down’) that examines how after a kayaking accident resulting in her husband’s death, personal bias, straw-clutching ‘evidence’ and an 11-hour police interrogation led to a coerced confession and guilty plea bargain from Ms Graswald despite more credible theories into her husband’s death being offered and Angelika’s maintaining of her innocence.

In the documentary, the people interviewed about Angelika’s case are rife with biased views. Where I was being sarcastic with my little rant above about what The Perfect Victim should look like, these are professionals and law enforcers who genuinely believe that if a woman has gone through something, she should be crying hysterically from the get-go. She should exhibit “normal victim behaviour”.

Angelika Graswald didn’t behave like the perfect victim. Picture: NETFLIX

She didn’t confirm to the societal script of the grieving widow and victim. Just like Katherine Ryan, she was hounded for reacting to something horrible in her own individual way and in Angelika’s case she was actually imprisoned for essentially ‘not behaving normally’ in the eyes of law enforcement.

This is just one of many examples of how having the idea of The Perfect Victim in our heads is incredibly damaging. Another Netflix production called Unbelievable (2019) is an 8-episode drama series in which a victim of rape is doubted, essentially for not behaving or appearing like a “normal victim”. It’s definitely worth a watch but would caution that it can be pretty intense and upsetting to some. I’d argue the pros outweigh the cons in terms of shaking up your own subconscious biases though and think you’ll find it shocking how easy it is for those personal biases to actually ruin a person’s life as you watch the main character Marie’s life slowly unravel in front of your eyes.

And that’s what it all comes down to really. Like I say, I think if certain trains of thought were not damaging and couldn’t impact people’s lives, nobody would complain about it. If you think brown sauce is better than red sauce (it isn’t), it doesn’t change my life or how I’m received as a person, so I’m not going to fight you about it. Well I might, but only if there’s a bacon butty at stake.

But this idea of what The Perfect Victim should look and behave like, it’s already damaging lives. Male victims of sexual crimes are laughed out of reporting the incident. Female victims are not taken seriously when they don’t behave as expected. Ethnic victims are ignored as it’s expected that they’ll be a victim. Disabled people are even touted out as victims regardless of whether they themselves feel like they are or not. Even bigger a point, criminals can get away with their actions because they know how to play The Perfect Victim role! Everything needs to be treated with context and people need to be treated as individuals. Let’s start that now and get rid of this culture of bias that’s seeping into everything we know and deciding conclusions ahead of the facts.

I also really want a bacon butty with red sauce now.

Ivy Asia, The Ivy, Manchester

Ivy Asia, The Ivy, Manchester

The ornate decor makes the place fit for a Bladerunner sequel.

You’re welcomed inside by a cheerful doorman fancifully adorned in St Patrick’s-esque green attire. Two immaculately presented concierges sit behind an enormous white marble desk and peppily catch your attention before you can wander around the three floors of the building without aim or agenda. Confirmation and instructions are given for our booking and we enter the ornate elevator behind us, satisfied that we are in for a treat.

This is The Ivy and it’s telling you how fancy it is.

The Ivy might not be everybody’s cup of tea. For me, it depends on what I want and what kind of day it is, but it’s my birthday and I want to be pampered and feel reet posh.

Situated in Spinningfields in between The John Rylands Library and 20 Stories, before you even get there you know it’s going to be pretty swanky. Spinningfields in Manchester has been likened to Canary Wharf in London and is steadily gaining a reputation for being an upmarket, glossy location to grab fanciful food and decadent cocktails. Glass buildings and financial brand names adorn the area and while initially you do enjoy the masquerade of being wealthy and white-collar, you can’t help but feel the needleprick of Manchester’s gentrification slowly piercing into your skin.

Spinningfields’ glow-up from slum to sanctum is perhaps an outdated point to make, seeing as the area Friedrich Engels once described as “ruinous and filthy districts, people whose occupations are thieving and prostitution” was described as such some 150 years ago. But anyone who frequents the city will be able to tell you Manchester is changing. It’s busier, it’s more expensive, it’s less friendly. I’m not enough of a local to tell you whether it’s a good or a bad thing, but there is a definite shift happening and time will tell if that shift prices out the born and bred people who call the city home.

But back to Ivy Asia.

We step out of the elevator onto the second floor. The decor is still ornate but with definite Asian nods and influences. We’ve come to the right place.

Another concierge pleasantly confirms our booking and shows us to a table, where a third staff member introduces herself as our server and hands us our menus. As much as all the staff have been lovely and efficient, I’m not sure so much interaction needs to be had, but I remind myself that if you want spoiling with luxury, there’s actually a lot of hand-holding involved.

The room is stunning. The eye-catching features are the luminous green tiles beckoning you with their lilypad lighting to keep stepping in, and the Japanese Kawara canopy built in over the bar that gives another clear signal as to what to expect from the menu. The tables have that kind of gold brass finish that we see in a lot of industrial decorated places these days, but it fits with the theme and prevents the floral prints on the soft furnishings looking too ‘grandma’.

Ethereal green tiles cover the entire restaurant floor.

Our server comes back, takes a drink order for two Asahis, and explains how the menu works. I personally like it when an eaterie does this because there is nothing more upsetting than ordering what you think is a main meal only for it to be a sharing plate that will leave you hungry. Likewise, I’ve ordered in places where supposedly snacky dishes have arrived by the mountainful and regretted ordering more than one plate.

She describes the menu as ‘Asian tapas’ which I can totally get behind. The cuisine is described as Asian fusion as there’s a lot of influences from all over the continent in the flavours and ingredients, so I accept the lack of ‘dim sum’ used in the description she gave.

We order the Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Kimchi Mayonnaise, Fried Chicken Gyoza & Truffle Soy, Crispy Duck Bao with Hoisin & Five Spice, Scallops & Sticky Barbecue Pork Belly, Slow Cooked Pork Belly & Asian Barbecue Sauce, and Kimchi Egg Fried Rice (gasps for breath).

There are other things on the menu I would have loved to try including some sashimi dishes and an avocado tofu dish, but my partner hates fish so I had to sacrifice my happiness for his as usual. Plus we agreed I could have all the scallops and he could have all the pork belly as a compromise.

The server confirmed our order back to us and said it would arrive as it was cooked, which again I personally like. For a Thursday evening there was a pleasant buzz and it even got relatively busy when a larger, louder party made full use of the bar, but it was a noise level you can cope with and enough people around to prevent the place feeling cold.

First dishes to arrive were the gyoza and the baos. They both came in one ‘level’ of a bento box and looked good enough to eat… so we did. The gyoza was deep fried and pleasantly crisp, and though my partner enjoyed them massively, I felt they were too big. I’m used to gyoza being small but numerous in a portion, but these were about the same size as the baos and you had about five in the one portion. They tasted good but not particularly better than gyoza I’ve had before, and I’d consider this a safe, filling dish if you don’t know where to start.

The baos on the other hand were amazing. I love baos and I love crispy duck, so it was never not going to work out. There was a bit of a kick from the marinade and some chopped chilies sprinkled on top, but not so much as to overwhelm the rich sticky sauce the duck was coated in. The duck itself was indeed crispy but not tough, and the little pot of fragrant sauce with the fresh salad in the bao married together with it wonderfully.

About halfway through these dishes the buttermilk fried chicken came. I personally wouldn’t have ordered this, I never have high hopes for fried chicken and hate negotiating bones. But the chicken was cut into little manageable cubes and lightly coated in a well-seasoned batter so I was pleasantly surprised. The mayonnaise was another thing entirely…

It was fucking amazing. Kimchi mayonnaise, a little sweet, a little spicy, a little sour, smooth and creamy as you like and one hundred per cent addictive. I’m been very ‘meh’ about kimchi on its own in my experience and have only had the odd dish with kimchi as a noticeable ingredient, but what I would do to get my hands on this sauce again is nothing short of criminal.

It looks a little dubious. With it’s unassuming bright orange liquid form, you could think it’s some sort of American plastic cheese concoction, but I promise you it is nothing short of incredible.

While I was holding back the tears about how amazing this sauce was, our final dishes came. I could have done without the fried rice and it didn’t get finished, but my partner loves a side dish more than I do. It had quite a kick to it that caught the back of my throat once or twice, so if you are expecting Chinese-chippy egg fried rice I wouldn’t order this. The rice itself was more akin to a sticky rice texture but that was most likely the kimchi binding everything together.

My scallops looked perfectly done and had a little orange sauce (KIMCHI MAYONNAISE?! I HOPE SO!) dropped underneath each one of them. In between the three scallops there was a couple of cubes of pork belly that smelled incredible and looked well coated in a dark sticky sauce. Some crispy looking ribbons adorned the plate and I got stuck in.

Oh my god, this pork belly is utterly amazing. It falls off the little skewers it comes on and I confirmed the big portion of pork belly my partner had is just the same. The sauce is decadent and rich and goes well with the charred bits of meat you get with the crispy top of a pork belly portion. The scallops were really good and went very well with the pork, a surf ‘n’ turf combo that I would want to see on a menu again. The crispy ribbons didn’t add all that much to the dish if I had to be critical, but they were little shards of crackling… who doesn’t enjoy them?

We scarfed it all and sat back satisfied. This was a good meal, a very good meal. Service was quick, attentive (to a fault almost if you don’t like a fuss) and we were even treated to a little complimentary cheesecake type thing to wish us both a happy birthday (yes me and my boyfriend have the same birthday, do not get me started). The portions are perfect, save for the gyoza, so after our little birthday sweet we didn’t really feel we needed a dessert, however we did order some sake and a cocktail.

I absolutely do not know enough about sake to review it properly, it was my first time trying it and I thought it was fine, however upon a little research I’m not sure whether it was actually supposed to be served warm to us. I know it’s a popular way to finish a meal, warm sake, but this particular sake seemed to widely be advised as ideal at room temperature. But no harm, no foul, it was a cosy way to end a meal and I know I don’t hate sake now which was the end goal of that exploration anyway.

All in all, I would recommend Ivy Asia in Spinningfields. The chefs and servers are very competent, the dishes are different and delicious, and the price isn’t actually as painful as we thought. It was just under £150 including a service charge, and that was for all the dishes mentioned above, two beers each, two sakes, two cocktails and two freebie mini desserts.

I look forward to going back when a special occasion calls for it and trying out the rest of the menu as well as some of the more fanciful cocktails on offer. Until then I am more than content with my jacket potato from the local caff and going down the pub for a roast on a wintry Sunday for under a tenner.

Check out my other reviews on all things foodie and pop culture and let me know what you want me to review next!

What Makes You So Special?

What Makes You So Special?

“I think the most creative people veer between ambition and anxiety, self-doubt and confidence. I definitely can relate to that. We all go through that: ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ ‘Is this what I’m meant to be doing?'”

— Daniel Radcliffe

That’s right motherfuckers, I just quoted Harry Potter in a serious context.

I want to start this blog by talking about why I never started it before; imposter syndrome.

Ladies, you’ll probably be very familiar with this concept. Fellas, not so much, because the way the world has been built up to stroke your ego and feed your ambitions has meant generally speaking, this is something that affects women more. No offence guys. Even though that all sounds lovely by my reckoning.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which “people believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative, despite evidence of high achievement”. Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, coined the term back in 1978, so surely it should be old news by now right?

Wrong. An estimated 70% of women have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their lives and a study conducted in 2018 found that two thirds of women had fallen victim to imposter syndrome within the last year. Societal roles and societal expectations certainly play into this way of thinking as well. However, despite gender equality and workplace mentality improving leaps and bounds over the years, there are still people out there convinced that they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, their talents aren’t really talents, and they’re fraudulently working and existing just until someone notices what the fuck’s up.

So what does this have to do with me you ask?

It’s actually nothing really important at all. I basically don’t have confidence in the skills and abilities that have always been celebrated and pointed out to me for my entire life. Despite all those Disney moments telling me to believe in my dreams throughout my childhood, I have reached my twenties with absolutely no self-esteem about what I can do and what I have done.

I have… imposter syndrome.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it? Literally hundreds of people throughout my life have told me I write well and should do it professionally. People like to hear my rantings and ravings for the most part and tell me they want to hear more. I have read paid professional’s works and thought “I could definitely do a better job” and yet the thought of pitching, writing and blogging terrifies me. I’ve never handled rejection well and it all just seemed like a fantasy to me.

But I’ve decided to just do it. Getting all Nike on the situation now.

Recently it occurred to me that I don’t believe I deserve to have a career in writing or even just to put my writing out there into the void for free. However when I pressed myself on that (I have a lot of conversations with myself, it’s like Fight Club in my head) I really couldn’t justify that line of thinking.

“Other people want to do blogs and write professionally, but they can’t!”

Okay… but people aside from them also wanted to and did so. People made it work. People thrived doing it.

“There are so many talented writers out there and people with more to say than you, what makes you think you should be the one to do this?!”

What exactly is it that means I shouldn’t be the one to do this?

“No one will read it, no one will think you’re good at writing, and everyone will laugh!”

Fine. I’m already assuming that’s happening anyway. If nothing comes from pursuing writing about society, culture and food, I’m in the same position I started in.

So we’ll see where this goes.

Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?

Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?

On the odd chance somebody from outside my tiny Cheshire village finds and likes this writing blog, I suppose an introduction is in order.

I’m Sophie. I’m 26. I’m basically always cranky.

Honestly I’m just using the exact template WordPress already gave me. You may call it lazy, but I call it efficient, and I think that little exchange sums up like 75% of who I am as a person.

We’ll call this blog article an introduction, but depending on how you feel about it I might rename it a warning. WordPress has asked me, ‘Why do this?’

  • Because it gives new readers context. What am I about? Why should you read my blog?
  • Because it will help me focus my own ideas about my blog and what I’d like to do with it.

Quite honestly, I’m simply using this blog to flex my writing skills. I miss writing creatively and writing critically. It’s taken me until the age of 26 to start owning skills that people have been telling me I’ve had since I was about 2.

I want to write professionally. How realistic that is, we’ll find out as we go along, but finding my voice, practicing my craft and having a ramble about society, culture, and food online seems like a relatively harmless way to get started.

I’m also convinced it will save the people I love from having to let me know go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…

Here’s some basics about me, but if you could also imagine me 5st lighter that would be great too:

  • I grew up in Holmes Chapel and now live in Stockport
  • My mum was Scottish and I absolutely milk the celtic roots of my heritage because of it
  • Dogs are my most favourite thing of all time I love them all
  • I am fat. Doesn’t affect my personality but if I need to put it on Tinder, I need to put it on here
  • I have two brothers, one older, one younger
  • Being the only girl and the middle child is just too much
  • My dad is essentially ‘off the grid’ and has no concept of modern pricing after being housebound for the best part of a decade
  • I have blue eyes and brown hair that is constantly getting bleached and dyed
  • My partner has the same birthday as me aside from the year
  • My ex-partner had the same birthday as Adolf Hitler. I have the same birthday as Eva Braun. That should have been a sign
  • I like certain pockets of every music genre, but I tend to lean towards the indie/rock side of things
  • I’ve seen all the films
  • I fucking hate lasagne

By no means do I think this is the best or necessarily the worst about me. Just stuff of note and things that have shaped me into who I am. It’s an amuse bouche of me I suppose, enough to show if I’ll provoke an attack from you or if I would amuse you.

Hopefully it’s enough to convince you to join me on this online journey. I didn’t enjoy writing that sentence, I felt like a very seedy old man who listens to prog-rock and has a wizard painted on his sketchy van.

But I’ve written it now, no turning back, we’re in this together, us against the world. Hot takes on societal expectations, articles with sociology and psychology themes. Critiques on Netflix dramas and documentaries. Fantasising about food and bragging about places I get to eat at.

God help us all.