The Best Trilogies | Planet of the Apes (The Reboot Trilogy)

SPOILER and all. Obviously.

For all of you who spent the last twelve months under a rock: Previously on Earth: There has been an outbreak of a virus which resulted in a pandemic. It inflicted massive suffering and death on a global scale. Humanity was forced to act as one. Ventilators were rare at some point, hygienic equipment had to be shipped across seas, and many, many people have died from severe pneumonia and other afflictions linked to the disease. There are vaccines at this point, the questions now revolve around distribution and equality (as is usual). In spite of all this, humanity is doing okay. There is still time for elections, twitter memes and celebrity birthday bashes, and since most of the stuff we truly care about has been happening online before the outbreak, anyway, not that much really changed. Except now, we can’t hug. So…. For everyone else: Welcome to the show.

Here it is, finally. Planet of the Apes. The third and last chapter in my All Time Favorite Trilogies book, befittingly closing a trilogy of trilogies. I could go on, since there are many more that deserve at least an honorable mention (such as the Dark Knight Trilogy). But this baby is grown and needs to be wiped clean from my drawing desk.

So, let’s get this over with. It has to be stated right at the beginning that I have not seen every movie in the franchise. The 1968 PLANET OF THE APES is a silly, yet brilliant movie, but I was never truly interested in the rest of them. I might be, one day, if the pandemic drags on and I have absolutely nothing else to do. That being said, I consider the 2011-2014-2017 trilogy to be an opus in its own right (even though they are technically reboots), with gifted directors, well-chosen music and outstanding motion-capture performances.

RISE gives us Caesar and a lot of references to the previous movie(s), which I will now simply refer to as POTA. DAWN feels oddly ill-named, but gives us exactly that. A dawning civilization of apes. WAR is intented to bring this trilogy to an end (and give the reason for a planet of apes), and I believe it did this job admirably. The latest trilogy is really a reboot-prequel trilogy, telling the story from way back then in a new and technically highly advanced manner and with some new twists (which, obviously, I may only speculate about). The point where they all meet is POTA, and it really doesn’t matter if you prefer Tim Burton’s contribution or Charlton Heston’s awkward line-reading and tons of machismo – they both make only a slight amount of sense coming from WAR. Given the enormous success of the trilogy, there is reason to assume that they might attempt to redo POTA a second time, with motion-capture and all that jazz, and I couldn’t be more happy if they did.

But before we go there, let’s start wrapping up the third and last installment of my ALL TIME FAVORITE TRILOGIES. I will be relaying them in order of preference, so to hell with coherence, amirite? We’ll start with the last:

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (Apocalypse…Soon!!)

Caesar and his people are forced to consider moving, after Koba (a former ally who was unabashedly and literally gunning for Caesar’s spot as king and who is now dead) had wreaked havoc in an attempt to convince Caesar that humans are not EVER to be trusted. In consequence of his actions, a group of soldiers under a ruthless Colonel now encroaches on the apes in the woods and it becomes clear early on that we are already in the middle of a war, which is confirmed by Caesar later. The ape king is reluctant to participate in all-out warfare, fearing too many apes will die. So, Rocket and Blue Eyes (Caesar’s first-born) set out to find a place for the apes to go. And, lo and behold, the party returns with visions of a “promised land”. And sand. It’s a place beyond a desert.

So, while Caesar hesitates, one of his own betrays him and his wife and his son Blue Eyes are killed at the hands of the Colonel himself. Caesar is confounded, trying to figure out how to get his apes to safety while fighting his own drive for revenge. Visions of Koba reappear frequently throughout the movie and are symbolic as they pave Caesar’s way into conflict. The movie wants to see him break, because Caesar’s main issue is his loyalty to Will and by that extension, to humanity. He goes to find the Colonel in the abandoned military base, where most of his fellow apes are imprisoned by now. I honestly forget how and when that went down. Possibly off-screen. Caesar gets arrested and is nailed to a cross (read that again) outside the cells where his fellow apes are being held and made to work without food or water, building a wall.

We actually meet the Colonel through intercom at the very beginning of the movie, and we are supposed to sense that he is clearly up to no good. Woody Harrelson’s voice, however, goes only so far. You may easily comprehend that Colonel McCullough is, at the very least, a nut job. When we eventually see him, he oversees a camp that is really just a discount Nazi installation, and Woody’s character shaves his head in broad daylight. I guess showing him shave his beard while juggling a rifle would have been too much on the nose. The Colonel, as it turns out, sacrificed a lot to save humanity from being lorded over by apes. He is waiting for a supporting legion from the North. But Caesar, of course, is onto him. He might be beside himself with grief and anger, and also wearing an iron collar, but he is sharp as a tack. The drama between those two alone is worth the watch.

On his way to the camp, however, Caesar and his gang find a girl in the remoteness of desolation. She is afflicted with the effects of the Simian flu. Earlier, it just wiped out humanity. Now, it is mutated and robs humans of their primary means of communciation. The girl (later to be named Nova) is mute (and, contrary to other reports, not deaf), and Maurice, that big brown ball of charisma, sees it immediately. But the girl is also remarkably calm, nimble and poised at the sight of a fully grown Orang-Utan. She’s somehow also the same person that Charlton Heston later gets to schmooze in his cell. Go figure.

WAR is the final movie about Caesar’s journey, which is marked by his identity as an ape, his relationship to humans and the kind of leadership he comes to embody. Caesar’s faith is tested (don’t say I didn’t warn you about Biblical references) one last time, when he feels forced to (intentionally) kill a human being. WAR is also a great movie for you to spot references to Scripture, if you have any truck with that sort of thing. I could have done really well without “Bad Ape” (reference or not; comic relief is always a not), and especially – no surprises there – without the human child. Call me callous, but I don’t ever need an audience stand-in character to show me what emotions to feel in which moment. Bhhr. And yes, I get it. She is also there to make the apes understand the condition that humans are suffering from due to that virus. But staring into her blank face, and having her bond with Maurice, and later with Luca… didn’t warm my cockles. Maybe it did yours.

As I said before, the movie is at its most potent when the ape king and the Colonel tough it out with admiration, disgust and bewilderment at the same time. Nobody would expect Woody Harrelson’s character to show compassion, but he has respect for the ape, not daring to meet him unchained. He knows that the ape has just cause to grind an axe with him, and he’s not committed enough to meet Caesar on equal terms. I enjoyed the movie for a number of reasons, and it is a deserving bookend to an excellent trilogy. But on the whole, the storyline of Woody Harrelson’s character didn’t feel fleshed-out well enough for me. Most of the Colonel’s conversation is fabular (“It is… a holy war”; “I need that wall”), and it doesn’t resonate with an otherwise brutal, yet contemplative movie.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (Crossing the Rubicon)

RISE, in the beginning, suffers from rather one-dimensional characters at a bio-engineering company (Gen-Sys) and a fairly flimsy story. A female ape from the lab at Gen-Sys is shot, after she rampages through the building exactly when the company’s high shots meet with potential money donors for the marketing of a drug to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Will, who developed the drug, is somehow not being let go and instead of explaining that the female ape was protecting her baby (a mere fact that nobody working in a lab could have been expected to know about), he tells no one and takes the now orphaned baby chimpanzee home with him. His father, who incidentally suffers from Alzheimer’s, names him after Gaius Julius Caesar and the name sticks.

Will quickly becomes aware that the drug that was being tested on Caesar’s mom also worked on the baby chimp, with Caesar being exceptionally smart. Will is tempted to raise him as a child, and who could have blamed him? But there is a problem when a wild animal has membership to a group where he is led to feel equal and is then taken to the forest on a leash and has the brains to question what is happening to him.

Caesar wants freedom, but not in order to be free from the comfort of a loving home. He begins to understand, maybe even on a subconscious level, that his life must be of his own choosing. He starts to rebel against his foster family (perhaps sensing kinship somewhere else?), while remaining unflinchingly loyal to the individual members, Will and his father. After an altercation involving the latter and a neighbor, Caesar is taken to an animal shelter for apes on the hill top (how convenient). At first, he doesn’t understand why he is being punished and wants to go back home. Of course, they don’t explain the legal implications to him, and so he has no choice but to assume that they no longer want him in their home. Caesar’s final step to remove himself from Will is heartstopping.

The animal shelter is Caesar’s testing ground and he quickly evolves to become the leader of the pack. He gets his hands on the drug in Will’s home, brings it back to the shelter to enhance every ape’s brain, then challenges the evil warden (and I’m being told that HP fans will love the character?) and the movie treats us to a masterfully played moment from the original POTA. Caesar and the apes break out of the shelter and pound on the Gen-Sys headquarters, drive out the director and free the rest of the lab apes (including one very scarred and traumatized bonobo named Koba).

Yeah, it takes a bit to get on board with it all. But the scenes on the bridge are nicely played out and we even get to see that Caesar is adapting and improvising quite a bit. (We’re also treated to a nice recall of the Roman Emperor’s military chops.) As the apes make their way to the Redwoods to establish a proper home for themselves, Caesar’s development from a rebellious teen to a semi-mature adolescent is complete. He is reconciled with Will, but the ape from behind the window will no longer ask permission for anything. As the music swells, he makes a dash to the tree top. It’s up and up for him.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (Some Apes are More Equal than Others)

DAWN is the second movie in the trilogy and Caesar is now the leader of the tribe in his proper right, having established rules (“Ape not kill Ape”) and having taught them a bit of American sign language, which he learned from Will. We get to see loyalties tested and plans derailed. Much as was to be expected from a movie with an Orwellian undertone, this movie is dark. It’s all about power, but not the kind of power you think (well, at least not at first).

Humanity is all but wiped out from the Simian flu. A few pockets of surviving (and presumably immune) humans exist all over the world. And now, one small group in San Francisco is on its way into the woods. Caesar’s woods. Apparently, they’ve been running out of electricity for years, and now they have only two weeks left. Bummer. I cringe at this fact every time, especially in the scene when the electricity comes back on and tablets start to recharge with that distinctive brrheep.

Anyhoo, back to the lecture at hand: Within the woods, there is a dam that can generate electricity, but they need to repair it first. Enter Malcolm, who will become a stand-in for Will and a test for Caesar to re-build trust. The ape king is torn between being kind enough to help humans in need and a general leeriness and desire to protect his tribe. Koba, whose storyline is effectively played out in DAWN, catches on to that gnawing uncertainty in his leader, and winds a chance. Caesar is not impenetrable to Koba’s assertions. Not at all. He just makes a different call. And he pays for it.

At this point, very few apes other than Caesar are also verbal on some level. Koba is one of the few. He explains to Caesar that he is being too trusting with humans. In a powerful scene, he points out what “human work” had done to him. He all but pleads with Caesar, and is being dismissed, because he is too aggressive and Caesar doesn’t share his views. Koba hatches a plan and leaves for the city. And Caesar becomes aware of his absence, perhaps guessing that he shouldn’t let the bonobo get too far out of sight. Maybe it was the exposure that was no longer new and allowed the director and the whole team to delve into the idea of apes having a basic communication in spoken as well as sign language, but Caesar asking “Koba where” is, to this day, one of my favorite moments in the entire trilogy.

Meanwhile, Koba has killed two people with an assault rifle and the movie takes a minute show that the ape is himself unsure at first what kind of fire has just ignited in him. Revenge? Hate? Fear? His sufferings were real, but they also grew a bitterness in him that was inextinquishable. Caesar understood that, even though he suggests to Maurice that he “couldn’t see” that Koba could not forgive. It is worth pointing out that of the two, only one suffered substantial bodily and mental harm at the hands of humans, without the redeeming qualities of nurture, care and respect (at least from what the movie tells us). On that account, I believe it is too simple a claim to make that Caesar was forgiving and wise, while Koba was brutal and selfishly driven by revenge. The bonobo does take a turn, though, and arguably could have gone another way. His trust in Caesar is broken exactly because he knows Caesar has been “cozy” with humans the way he (and other apes) have not been. Being unable to get his message incorporated into Caesar’s doctrine has Koba understand that a coup is his only option. Now, I may have read a whole lot into the plot line (and I have a hunch that there is a huge amount of back story to it all), but what I did read into it was incredibly rewarding to watch. The two apes act out multilevel trauma and healing – something that was supposedly a very human thing to do.

One major drawback of the movie is that it is too long and could have done with at least twenty minutes less screen time toward the end in downtown San Fran. Coming home to Will’s house and finding that video recording – what for? Not that I’m really asking, it’s a rhetorical question, of course, because fan service. But the movie loses momentum by the juxtaposition of the two already extremely opposing views: Koba’s uncontrolled hate of and Caesar’s reminiscence of the goodness in humans. The link between them is Blue Eyes, who is unsure about the world he now finds himself in and, with the help of Malcolm, stumbles back into the one he knew.

The bit about Will being “a good man” always gave me an odd feeling, like it was patched on and isn’t necessary at all. RISE also made a point of showing that Will is not entirely “good” or even above reproof in his treatment of Caesar. The human aspect in this movie felt almost like a tag along. Which is either a testament to an outstanding “ape performance” or writers who really wanted to tell a story that didn’t revolve around humans, but rather humanity. The team around Gary Oldman’s character had more depth to them than Malcolm, the doctor-girlfriend, the angsty teen and the gang of marauders put together. Whoever wrote the scene of Keri Russell’s character coming out of the house, plopping onto the veranda next to her highly sensitive stepson with bloody fucking arms after removing a bullet from Caesar, was clearly not going for either subtlety or plausibility.

That being said, I absolutely love that movie, the constant rain, the world-building of the ape camp and the development of the antagonism between the ape king and his rival is golden. It’s solidly done, leaves nothing to be desired from the first movie and gets you excited for the next installment.

My personal favorites have always crystallized around a general feel that I get from a movie. Logically, DAWN is not the best movie, but it manages to work up a cinematic STORM of imagery, music, atmosphere and acting. And it is just masterfully handled. Caesar’s story arc is what makes the entire trilogy watchable multiple times over. Anyone who leaves the theater untouched by Andy Serkis’ performance must be cold and dead inside. It’s a heartfelt story, but also a wisely spun tale of capture, supposed superiority and injustice, slyly handing down a verdict on our concept of who deserves freedom and why.

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How I Decided to Detox from Bullshit in 2o2o

This is an updated version of a blog entry which was posted on April 19, 2020.

Something happened to me last year, when I first finished the blog post “How I Decided to Detox from Bullshit in 2020”. I was thrown off a train at full speed, and I wasn’t ready for it. It just happened. In hindsight, I believe something inside me pulled the breaks. I was scared at first to write about my experiences. Anxiously believing that if any of the people I met last year ever stumbled upon this, it would be an “awky mo-mo,” as the kids say. Then, one day in early 2021, I felt reality on my shoulders, softly whispering into my ear: “As ever fucking if.” Then I was finally able to be at my ease. As I rewrite it today, I’m listening to “Older” by the late and wonderful George Michael. It has always been my album to connect with the essence of me, with my core – who I am and where I come from. It was never a religious journey, but always a spiritual one. As a Saturn’s child, I am fully aware that we grow backwards, starting old and severe and growing fully supple and young with the years.

In these times of great uncertainty, most of us go through special shit that leaves us feeling diminished, lost and hurt on a scale we never even knew existed. It was no different for me. And I couldn’t make sense of it, because what I knew and what I had learned so far had not prepared me for this. My own words made me feel increasingly hollow, like I was frauding my own experience in order to make yet another clever listing of “X Telltale Signs He is a Dipshit” or “How to Know You been Played”. It occurred to me to wonder if truly being honest about my experience would require something of me that I didn’t have at my disposal the first time around: vulnerability. The genuine quality of being open to hurt and disappointment. Being able to sit with it and listen to pain and decide to heal with it, not without it. Being able to tolerate – yes, even and especially – rejection.

Disappointment in love and relationships affect and to a certain extent break us all, as circumstances and personalities sometimes align. There are schools of thought out there that will not stop explaining that everything happens for a reason. I’m not a subscriber to this philosophy, because I find it to be an easy target for “quick-fix solution-seekers”. Life is random. End of song. Making it sound like the magic of your experiences is going to manifest in hindsight is really your brain using a fancy filter on the human need to make sense. It’s not destiny. But I get what makes this notion so attractive. I would submit that whatever happens to you in life, you are regularly offered a chance to look at the situation again, maybe from a different angle, maybe next time around from the perspective of the other. This can be terrifying, but also enlightening, as it offers a ticket out of perpetual victimization.

My demons have always been dancing around issues of fear of abandonment, self-loathing, worthiness and – ironically – self-righteousness. I had to come to terms with the fact that I – thinking so little of myself and being exquisitely susceptible to criticism – could actually be extraordinarily judgemental. I learned the hard way that the things that I prided myself the most in were the things that pointed right to my greatest weaknesses. I will not always love myself, and sometimes it might just seem too much to ask. And I still made a commitment to no longer abandon myself, for fear of anybody else beating me to it.

Being single in these times can be a test in patience and calm acceptance. Those qualities are not necessarily associated with online dating, I know. And that is exactly why they need to be an equal and opposite force to pressure, performance and the fantasies of finding at last what we have been longing for all of our lives. I read a caption once that went something like this: “People don’t date anymore. They hook up, catch some feels, have a good thing going and then end up ignoring each other.” I have come to understand that we all are free to test the waters, try on for a fitting what is out there and leave when it doesn’t pan out. It warrants a wee moment of recollection, however, that sometimes we are the waters being tested. It can make us feel disoriented and discarded, and it is easy to retreat into indignation and dismiss whoever wasn’t willing to stick around. It is also easy to forget that we have no idea what people feel who get silently, gently, gradually ignored by us.

With all this technology available, have we become less capable? Is this one of the many paradoxes of life to be smiled at? Are we truly more vain and shallow, less able to communicate honestly and to reflect on our blind spots due to the ascent of Tinder et al.? Is it really online dating, or is it the attention-extraction business model that treats the human experience like a mine to be plundered? Is dating in the age of data capitalism more than an unwitting expression of our most intimate fears and hopes, fed tons of steroids and scudded through an orange-and-teal filter? We all seem to want intimacy, yet – for a plethora of reasons – can only accept it when it’s on call. We want bodies and reject what is inside of them. This compartmentalization is not a mystery – it is how we have structured our societal interactions. Spirituality is supposed to remedy our ache for connection – instragramized, that is. We need fancy, colorful captions to remind us that we might actually be divine. 

After my relationship ended after almost six years, I had a string of pseudo-relationships to show for my time as a single woman, and it made me sad to look at this soppy excuse for a dating life. I had to ask the unpleasant question: Do I truly want to be with someone? What would I change immediately, if I could? The people I met, or perhaps my patterns of accepting? I knew I wanted to change something in the future. And I wanted to understand why many other people out there continued to feel like a failed state – jaded and angst-ridden, trapped in a societal frame that doesn’t make money, if you are happy, poised or simply at ease.

Genuine communication of one’s own wishes, needs and expectations is key, especially online where there is no immediate vibing of two (or more) bodies. Yet it is AWOL in many cases, as people are busy working their butts off to stay worthy of attention, being attractive enough to catch a good conversation and hoping that it will lead to something else (whatever this “else” might be in this moment). I kept reneging the boundaries I had set for myself, because I was scared AF that they might put people off. And boy, did THAT put people off. I’d navigate around that tender space in me that was hurt, and I would negotiate with it for some part to be allowed to be transgressed, rather than risking someone else’s discomfort for a short minute by declaring my No. I realized that this isn’t how it is done, and it is certainly not what anyone wakes up hoping to find online.

So, what have I learned in conclusion? What can I offer any soul out there, trying their best, dipping their toes and holding their heart in shaky hands? My compilation is of course fragmentary, and many aspects, truisms and bonmots can and should be added or removed as is seen fit. My personal adage goes something like this: The best place to start is from a place of wanting to heal. We all enter the field with wounds, damages and trauma. There is no quantifier, because this is your life, not a clinical study. Whatever felt traumatizing to you growing up was trauma. You may have learned to dance with people’s demons while frantically working to keep your own in the closet. It takes courage and perseverance to let your demons join the dance, risking a lot of confusion and calamity, rejection, reproach and resistance – and possilby, ultimately, catharsis. There is no guarantee, just a chance for change. One dance at a time.

They say that the worst experiences turn out to be valuable teachers, or lessons, or however you prefer labeling this well-worn trope. However well we are prepared – learning happens when we fall from the horse differently. The schemes of people who are savvy in hoodwinking others are not inherently clever, nor are the people excelling in it such crafty personages. Tricky online schemes are successful because of what they prey upon: The human need for being chosen, being lucky, being the one for whom it finally works out. We all want to win. If necessary, we go to great lengths and brave any consequence. We go full stupid on our true Self and find ourselves, at the end of the road, picking up pieces after a storm we didn’t know was brewing inside of us.

The tragedy of the human condition is that every one of us is entangled in patterns of woe and disregard for others. We are all bad at caring for others to a certain degree, because we are all busy with ourselves, and we are all here on this earth to learn. We are free to accept this “flaw” and peacefully engage in opening our eyes to the blind spots in our make-up, branded on our souls through parentage. We are all doing our best with what we have. Given or acquired. Not all of it is good, and not every heart is inherently good for us. None of this makes any of us less of a universal human being.

When Covid-19 kicked off earlier last year, I found myself at a watershed. Either I go on making the same “character-building experiences” over and over until I’m 109. Or I learn something from previous experiences that I hadn’t integrated before and start heeding my own advice, slowly but surely. To facilitate this, I have decided to compile a list of what I wish someone had told me a couple of light years ago.

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So, Rumor Control – Here are my facts:

“What if he really is a great guy and I blew my one chance at happiness?” It is okay to look into our own backyard. It is even helpful, in order to understand our own relationship patterns that this encounter may have accidentally disinterred (and for that, we may be thankful later). But don’t do it two days after a rupture. Raw emotions don’t lend themselves well to cold analysis. Take a date a couple of weeks from now in your calender to sit yourself down. And remember to stay on your own side. Look at what needs to get straightened out in your book, not on someone else’s checklist. The better you understand your triggers, the more thorough your healing is going to be, because you seal off the friable bridges that lead back into past addictive behavior. Identify with the pure spot in you, the one that knows no scheming and no patterns. All the rest is learned. And rest assured that as much as this anxiety might seem insurmountable at the moment, the intensity will lessen. What seems to be the holiest of truths now, is most likely not uppermost in your thoughts months from today.

So many questions, so much confusion

Maybe I should help him to get to know me, so he will learn to love me.” Your desire is clearly fed by recent events, which left you confused, clingy, embarrassed, and sleepless, but also eager to change the situation for the better. Those feelings are not you, they are your conditioning, your program. Once those feelings have subsided, by the grace of time and seasons passing, your heart will understand what your bones knew the minute it could be known: If he doesn’t love you now, he never will. Look forward to the day you will fully realize it and be able to say to yourself: “Dude’s been lucky. No reason to anoint him.”

Maybe he didn’t know how to tell me that he loved me.” Men and women in love – or even with a transient liking – will find a way to let the object of their desire know. If they don’t, they truly want no such thing. No one cherishes holding back on their feelings, in hopes of someone else discovering the full breadth of it, unless maybe teenagers on Dawson’s Creek, re-enacting the Breakfast Club. No lackadaisical love interest with their faculties about them is secretly waiting for you to free them from an unloving relationship and/or loneliness. If they are – run.

Maybe he’s distant, because he feels that he’s falling in love with me.” Much as I adore Jane Austen, he’s probably not Edward, and he most likely didn’t get engaged to someone else at the age of 19. If they are distant, it’s a way of keeping – well, distance. Stop imagining conflict in them, when there is really no hint for it, other than your desire. Make a conscious decision to accept that you would have liked for things to have gone differently, that it didn’t happen and that you were disappointed in the event. Start weaning yourself off the useless narrative of one party guilty and one party wronged by using large quantities of charity towards yourself instead of a crowbar.

Maybe he will change his mind.” No, ma’am. If he was going to change his mind, it would have happened by now. When you are months into a one-sided relationship, however mutual it may feel between the sheets, make an honest calculation. How much have you given? And what can you still reasonably expect to get out of it? Anything that doesn’t scream “utter delight in your heart and soul” is a steal of your potential. Remember that not everyone who desires you automatically knows how to value you. 

Why can I not understand what it is he wants?” If it is unclear what his business is, ask him. You normally wouldn’t have to pry information from someone who is supposedly opening up to you. Don’t hold out for anyone to clarify what isn’t giving them any discomfort. If you are too scared to ask for fear of driving them away, ask yourself why you are willing to deny yourself clarity, so that someone else can remain comfortable. Compliance can’t build relationships, it can only reinforce patterns. Anyone pushing trust with you will give you a reaction. It might be a burning sensation or a chill. Pay attention to your body’s signals, because your body is how you connect with and stand in this world. It is how your soul communicates your boundaries to you. And with boundaries fully intact we can fully and freely engage with and honestly open up to others.

“Why do I get such a weird feeling every other time we talk/text?” Be attentive to what they complain about. Observe what is being said, and how and when these complaints are being launched. Three weeks in? Or after exchanging four messages? It is easy to get exhausted in this world of constant availabilty, when someone reprimands you for allegedly being “cold” when you don’t send back the corresponding abundance of heart emojis (as if you owed them your time and consideration for using tech to express a feeling).

If these complaints take on a distinctly sophisticated veneer, it is time to be on your toes. If most of it sounds rational and insightful, it is easy to hand over your power of identification. Especially, if you grew up learning that it is a polite thing to accept what others say about you. However: Don’t sign that waiver just yet. If you find yourself no longer knowing left from right and you don’t recognize yourself in your actions, this could be a case of gaslighting. If you feel like something is severely off, you’re probably right. You just don’t have connectivity yet

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You’re not failing. You’re human.    

“I can’t seem to let them go.” It is a good start to want to let go. Stay on that track, and get help, if needed. As hard as it may be to digest, there is no talking around the fact that they decided to end it, or leave, or simply not get involved after all. Once you can accept this – and it will take time and nerves and a lot of effort – you will understand that letting go has already happened, because they are – well, gone. If you can’t yet get over them, it sure is a good sign that you are growing tired of being under them. Stay alert for your own life’s pleasures, and draw away from dwelling on conversations with them, compliments they made, light that they brought into your day. There will be a time to remember all this fondly. But not now, that shit is still too hot. Respect the general rule of reducing contact to a minimum, or completely, if necessary. Renewed contact should not feel like a desperate attempt at reviving a DNR. Allow yourself time to traverse into that state of flow, where communication feels natural and easy – first and foremost – to you.

I can’t believe I was so stupid.” We all know that feeling. As an outsider, you would have smelled the rat long ago. But being involved means every single detail about their emotional state is up for your inspection and interpretation, because no one else is around. And your interpretation is based on your wishes more than on reality. It’s just brain chemistry. There’s a reason why love and madness often seem to have similar characteristics. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, practice smiling at how wonderfully human you are. The trick is to stop looking for proof that they are assholes. That way, you stop yourself suffering from evidence of your victimhood.

People keep telling me I should forget about him.” If it were that easy, you would have done it by now. Don’t let anyone chastise you on account of your feelings. The “people” telling you to get over someone tend to be quicker in getting over someone they haven’t dated. Simple as that. It sucks not to be a priority in someone else’s life, when they mean so much to you. But it can help to admit it and start grieving for the loss. Grief has the qualities of something immeasurable, which is why people want to limit it. Being in the valley means exactly that – you don’t have the mountain top view just yet. Hold on. There’s a way out of there. And damn it, you’ll go it.

I can’t seem to get closure”. Forget closure, if you think it’s that one last sentence you’ve always wanted to say or write in a relationship that has gone sour. Closure is a state of mind, not an Instagram post. It will come when you are ready for it, like an old diplomat. It can wash over you when you sit at the kitchen table one afternoon, wondering what a crazy week this has been, and just like that, you realize that you have closed the book, ended that chapter, moved on. Donezo. Finito.

“If I wait long enough, and show him what a good girl I am, he will eventually see how great we are together and text again, right?” It has been said before, and it is worth saying again. A person can spend their whole life waiting. On different people, but still. Waiting. You can choose to discover the various colors in which a person can wait. A furious red, an envious yellow, a cold blue or even a hopeful green. If you enjoy all these colors and what goes on inside of them, then that’s fine. Just make sure you know it’s still waiting. It is possible that he realized that you weren’t great together and decided to bail on you. There’s no shame in admitting that this piece of knowledge may have eluded you before. I would submit that we are dignified, universal human beings and not everyone will regret losing us. Read that again.

Do I have to give up on love, in order to find it?” I might be the wrong person to answer that question, because for me, personally, those stories – about people who gave up on love and then OUT OF NOWHERE found someone wonderful – are a load of crap. I have always tried to stay as far away as humanly possible from stories of extreme dearth and extreme affluence. To me, it just doesn’t resonate with the way I have come to understand how life works. Also: If love is a reward for those who have succeeded in deceiving themselves to be “not looking at all!”, then sod it. They can keep it.

Have a Margarita and join us!

Someone I know once said, rather aptly, but not very gallantly: “As for me, guys have to shit me in the face, before I understand that they are truly unavailable and want to be so.” Lots of women have been coaxed into believing that they need to fix the guy, help him on to do the right thing. We have learned to think of men as inept, childlike and immature (remember the “development gap” of two years?), only to be fully unnerved when they eventually do act irresponsibly. I treat men for the grown-up people they are. If they don’t have their shit together, it’s not because they are male.

Lay off being a one-(wom)an rescue mission for others, and diligently take care of your own needs, instead. Take some time off to study the narratives that shaped you. What were the patterns of love in your childhood home, during adolescence and young adulthood? How did you learn to love? Was it merit-based? Or did you learn to give freely? Were you taught love in the environment of fearful restraint, or based on the principle of reciprocity? Don’t let anyone shame you on account of what you grew up with – least of all yourself. It was not your choice. No human being is born unloving or unlovable. Humans learn to be stingy with emotion, when their upbringing taught them that display of emotion = drama = stress = even less of what they truly need, which is affection.

Refuse to be sent on a trip to looney town, where your brain sets out to find evidence that things can never turn around for you. Instead, kindly ask yourself for evidence of how beautifully you can love. If your brain only remembers a fraction of your capacity when you caressed that dog or embraced your sister… And I can’t stress this enough. Kindly. Ask. Yourself. To forgive, to accept, and to be patient. The kindness you show yourself in the darkest of times is the equivalent of the the joy you allow yourself to feel when things come easy.

We have all been there. We have all done it, many times over. Put down the shovel and grab a bag of chips. Open up a bottle of nice chianti and watch the movie Up in the Air with a good friend. If you’re still feeling anxious and lonely after that, remember that this is only a phase in your life. It is not your life. Remember that you are a human being, looking for love, companionship, attachment, and reciprocity. Not getting it from that particular person doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it. It simply means: “Nope. Not here. Keep looking.”

I should have never let him go/deleted his number.” When things get rough in the process of detoxing, our brain chooses the easiest way, which is to go into addictive mode and channel all those ideas about how to make the unpleasant situation go away. You can see how helpful this system is just now… What you can do instead is treat yourself to a time-out and look at resentment as information for you about where you might have ignored a transgression before. We rarely let go of people without good cause. It might be a trigger, or a trauma, but it likely isn’t a trifle. We all have learned patterns of how to deal with stress, emotions and challenges to our peace of mind. Fun fact: Your peace of mind is not the important thing to protect, because if it were, comfort zones wouldn’t be a thing. What you need to protect is your ability to learn, your flexibility to adapt and your capacity to rebound. And for that, it takes emotional security. Wise people have said about cells that they can’t repair and grow at the same time. Think about that. 

Loneliness can be a terrifying prospect. And the fear of it can be debilitating, just as much as the state itself. However, from my own personal experience, I can tell you that sometimes in life and love, we grow within a relationship, and sometimes we grow without. Whatever ended was not your last chance to learn something valuabe, nor your last ticket to happiness, and definitely not the last person to ever look at you like you are made of ice cream. When we learn something new, the test for it usually comes later in the year. We’ve accepted that for school curricula, but we haven’t necessarily adopted the notion for our own evolving, ever growing human souls.

Hollywood and Hallmark

My life is worthless, if I can’t find love.” It’s a commonly held false belief that getting over a break-up requires no work on your part. It’s a canard, as the French say (tee-hee). Get rid of it. Having agency means you get to pay attention to what you feed your mind and body. Getting over a break-up may require other media outlets than those that suggest – and in no uncertain terms – that “love is the only thing that makes us feel alive”. So does self-actualization, personal freedom to express oneself, friendship, kindness, laughter, sunshine, good food and an active zeal for a fulfilling professional life.

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Remember that an entire industry makes bank off of your misery, selling you that myth of love being the only thing that matters in life. But much like with many other stories they sell, truth would be outraged if she were present. We’ve just bought into this shit way too long. Honestly think about what makes you jump with joy, what makes you feel like you don’t have enough room in your chest to hold your heart, because it’s about to burst!

Many love-experienced people can think of something besides love. Mostly because many love-experienced people beyond the age of 25 have gone through hurt and disappointment in love, which is a part of it. Remember: If the wrong kind of people keep piling up in your life, it doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy of more. It means you’ll have to revise the check-list and maybe commit to sticking to it more vigorously. You’ll still have to allow yourself to be seen. Retreat is not an option.

And believe you me, I’m not cheekily telling you this, while the adorable, kinky, loving and attentive boyfriend sits right next to me on the bed, gleefully typing advice for his own weekly column into his “woke” sticker-decorated laptop computer. I’m not preaching from the other side. I’m right there with you. And I know: It might get hard, it might get unpleasant, it might get frustrating and it certainly gets you nowhere sometimes. Never give up on what you long for. One of those days, it will be what carries you through the day. Human desires are more than their eventual fulfillment. Lively dreams and hopes make us feel alive.

If your struggle is long and ongoing and you are filled to the brim with self-loathing, let me give you a good piece of advice: Clear your head space of unnecessary baggage. Thinking that it would have all gone just swimmingly, had you only said this or done that is not only highly unfair to your own perception. It is also betting on the unbettable. Human interactions – in any case – have a tendency to depend on at least two individuals. Thinking that it was all in your hands and you bungled it doesn’t help. You have a chance to grow bigger by learning that it’s not all you. It can be a liberating experience, if you let it.

Based loosely on the lyrics of Jewel, if I could tell you just one thing it would be: Allow some philosophy into your life. Doesn’t have to be high-flying shit, just some fundamental appreciation of what you can and can’t control. If you need to stay strong, and I know you will have to, mobilize all forces. Talk to friends, consult spiritual texts that will not reinforce your first and most established ideas, but instead help you learn. Which is: Great struggle means you know what you’re fighting for. And it is very likely you and very likely not the relationship that never came to be. If you feel like you’re lost at sea, it is because you are. Look out for the lighthouse, because there is one. People before you have been lost at sea.

Love – just like the ever elusive glory – is not a possession (hats off to the one and only Cher) for you to get your hands on. It is the complex and often frustrating concept of desperately wanting to give something you have yet to disclose in yourself, in hopes of receiving something the other might not want to give to you at all. This is what people mean when they say “love yourself first”. It’s not just new age woo. It means: Get confident in bringing joy into your life yourself. All else will always and forever be a hunt for the next person or thing to be dependent on. “Will it take a very long time to learn this?” You bet. “Any chance I don’t have to do it?” Sure. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head (I hope). Just remember: Complacency doesn’t breed affection. No love grows from sheer will-power or, even worse, from a conviction that you’ve been dealt a bum hand. The universe is not keeping tally. And it owes you absolutely nothing.

Things may never come around to what we perceive they should come around to. Life has a way of unfolding however it damn well pleases. You have only two choices: Either roll with it, or get overrun by your anxieties, fears, unmet demands, and your indignation. When you’re ready, you’ll be able to wake up one morning and say CONDITIONS HAVE CHANGED. And they will have.

You’ll be braver, more resourceful and more self-reliant for it. Every crisis is an invitation for change. You shed old beliefs about yourself, about the world, about love. And you discard whatever is no longer serving you. You’ll end more of the old suffering, almost by default. Walls have been torn down for you to figure out which ones need to be rebuilt, and which ones may in fact have held you captive all those years. And, in the end, if you want to trust someone, trust Carly: It will be coming around again.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The last installment of the Sequel Trilogy and the Movie I refer to as “The Blower’s Granddaughter”

MAJOR SPOILERS ahead and all that.

And so it is, the shorter story, no love, no glory. No hero in her sky.” Damien Rice

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OK, folks. Here we are. The last installment of the sequel trilogy, or what may one day be referred to as FORCE, DUMPSTER FIRE & SKYWALKER. Let me start by saying, the movie disappointed me. Not so much with regard to the actors and the action and all that, but for some reason, one hour into the movie, I was bored out of my wits. I had a sneaking suspicion early on that this was due to the movie’s incessant need to pay homage to the Original trilogy. Personally, I don’t need two out of three movies paying homage to three previous movies. Give The Last Jedi all the hate you want, but at least recognize that Rian Johnson was willing to inject something new into the series.

My investment in the main characters was at times marginal, but with the secondary characters, it got even worse. I was nowhere near interested in yet another explanation of why they needed the one thing, but couldn’t get the thing because of the other thing, and then suddenly someone comes up with a thing and they can make the original thing happen after all. It is what got my goat with the whole Canto Bight crap in The Last Jedi.

Throughout the sequel trilogy, one problem has kept bothering me. Kylo Ren seems to be on the fence about Rey an awful lot. Killing her/asking her to join and co-rule Galaxy/Give her to Snoke aka Emperor Puppeteer. You name it. The same shit has bothered me in TROS. Why doesn’t Kylo Ren kill the Emperor? It is a cheap incentive to offer the Supreme Leader even more POWER at this point. And the movie knows this, because it throws in Rey’s true parentage as a quelque chose spécial. Of course, we are supposed to forget that Ren is already way too intrigued by the “girl” to just do the Emperor’s bidding, yet he gets into that fucking TIE Intercepter. OF COURSE, Palpatine tells Kylo Ren of Rey’s true bloodline, and Kylo Ren becomes even less capable of killing the girl. It’s just baffling.

Another major gripe I had was in the form of using old footage to keep Leia in the series. Although I believe they did a good job with giving the Princess and the General the sendoff she – and especially Carrie Fisher – deserved, I have come to dislike the use of footage that was intended for another scene, or another movie, for that matter. She was not part of The Rise of Skywalker. And it shows. Her lines come off as unbalanced within the conversations – brief as they are. I’ve always liked Leia, because I fancied a lot of Carrie Fisher in her. I choose to remember her as the quirky, free-spoken badass military woman and not the subdued regal flare.

Some other stuff: Didn’t really care for the new characters – human or droid. Oh, and the horse-riding on the Star Destroyer – unnerving. The reappearance of Lando did nothing to the movie, IMO. The new characters feel patched on and deliver a backstory I could not be bothered to care for. The lady who also escaped the First Order suddenly could be Lando Calrissian’s daughter? Go to bed.

I also could not get over the fact that, supposedly, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren couldn’t sense that Hux was the spy. The character of General Armitage Hux feels like an incredible waste. Domnhall Gleeson has great potential for hardened villainy, which Rian Johnson already had no use for. TLJ chose to make him look ridiculous and TROS followed suit. Not great.

I’m okay with Rey being a Palpatine. As much as I was just fine with the Force being something accessible to other people outside of Galactic royalty, I liked the idea that there was more to her and I’ve always found it plausible that Ren would have at least partially lied to her in The Last Jedi. Was hard to give up the idea of her being a Kenobi, to be honest. But that’s because I’m a huge Kenobi fangirl. Anyway, I digress: Rey is a Palpatine, and for the whole trilogy, it is a far more intriguing development than Obi Wan would have been. So far, so decent, but the moment when Rey “chooses” to commit to the Emperor’s demands comes off as rushed and her inner turmoil is way more palpable in every other moment of the trilogy than in this. Which is a pity.

What has really improved in comparison to TLJ was the overall tone. I enjoyed the banter between Poe and Finn and Rey. Finn in general left a very good impression on me. His quip about Poe’s mood is hilarious and the moment they get on the Falcon and he gets in the gunner seat and takes a nonchalant, bored, yet revved up look is ingenious. Small moments that establish wit, humor and badassery in his character. I have never shipped Finn and Rose, so for me personally, not pursuing this was no tragic loss at all. But I can see how their “little history” being swept under the rug is offending to a whole lot of people. And for good reason. In my head – which, by the bye, is still wearing a beautifully trimmed and shiny reylo-hat – I was hoping for him to kiss Rey. Just like that, and not make such a big fuss about “telling her something”.

Basically everything involving Rey and Kylo Ren – from fighting to force-skyping to finagling their way to transfer objects through the force – was awesome. A dyad in the force, eh? Okay. Bit too poetic for my ear, coming from Kylo Ren, but we’ll move on. Which brings me to THE moment. The Kiss. And let’s not for a minute pretend that J.J. had any choice about it. There had to be something to give those two beyond friendship. The fact that Ben Solo dies immediately after the kiss, however, is on another plane altogether.

To have the last Skywalker just die with exhaustion, after he has sacrificed and redeemed himself, was not only painful to my fangirling heart (especially given the fact that I never wanted to see him redeemed in the first place). It also made me cringe a little bit. I do have to admit, however, that I was glad to see Ben’s redemption be brought on by his memory-chat with his father, even if Rey had something to do with it. This was way more satisfactory than to have “the girl” redeem him. It makes for a nice story, but not much else.

Whatever it was that left me unsatisfied, it had nothing to do with the romance being discontinued due to untimely death. I can deal with that. But to have Ben Solo disappear like that – yes, he is a mass murderer, and a fiend, but he is also the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo – felt like a cheat. And Rey is surprisingly upbeat after losing what was supposedly the pillar of her young life – Ben. “Oh, he’s one with the force, now.” What? Uh-uh.

As an aside: It is a bold choice to have the most revered lineage in the Galaxy come to an end with a Palpatine claiming the pedigree and be cool with it all. That scene reeked of appropriation. The movie wants us to believe that, in the end, bloodlines don’t matter, because what matters is in your heart. Yet it spends a decent amount of scenes implying that Rey’s anger is derived from her own sinister blood line, rather than a life of hardship and destitution.

On top of it all, Ben Solo not having a Force ghost appearance was, to me, a big letdown. If Leia is known to be a trained Jedi only of late (and that is still something of an if), and Luke swore off the whole shebang a while back, why are they appearing as Force ghosts? Leia was Rey’s master for what? A year? And Luke didn’t even bother to train her, really. Yet the one person that Rey’s battle (internal and otherwise) revolves around, the one whose hand she wants to take and who saves the day in response to her actions, is not?

At first I thought it was just sad. Then I thought it was an oversight. Now I believe it is a clear indication that Ben Solo is going to return. He is not dead. How they are going to do it, I don’t know. But if this trilogy has taught me one thing, it is to “KonMari” the shit out of my beloved trinket-box of memories and beliefs about a galaxy far, far away.

At some point, people will be asked which of the STAR WARS movies (outside the OT) they are able to watch from start to finish, without skipping or going on extended cigarette/bear-fetching/toilet breaks. For me, two out of the ST don’t make the cut. This is what I mean by disappointing.

That being said, I still stand by what I said in my last post about the Original Trilogy. Its true merit will show some decades down the line. With that, I have absolutely no problem. It is befitting a franchise that has survived so many letdowns and angry outbursts from fans to be in for the long haul. Especially in times like these.

 

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The Best Movie Trilogies (So Far) | Star Wars The Original Trilogy

This obviously contains spoilers for any and all of the Star Wars movies SPOILERS SPOILERS but seriously! These movies have been around for soooo long.

Like most people born somewhere between 1977 and 1983, I got to know the original trilogy not in theaters, but through VHS tapes and, later on, remastered on DVD. This, of course, is not the best way to enjoy the saga in full, and that is due in no small part to the notable changes that were done for the re-release.

It took me well over twenty years to fully understand and appreciate the significance of Star Wars in cinematic as well as cultural terms. As a teen, I misunderstood it to be nerdy stuff, preoccupied with tech-talk and sophisticated machinery in space. I gathered the good v. evil plot to be universal, but the actual worth of the original trilogy became clear to me only after I had seen the prequels (go figure).

I am infinitely indebted to all the gloriously insightful reviews on Youtube, which helped me leave my reylo-fangirling hut for a minute (which I wasn’t too glad to do), but also better understand the original trilogy. And I have enjoyed the extreme ends of the spectrum – from MauLer to Star Wars Connection – for completely different reasons, of course. 

It turns out, Star Wars really is a soap-opera in space. People falling in love, people falling to the dark side, people looking for allies in the strangest places, and people coming to their senses, with the help of loved ones. But the merit of the OT is that it gives all of it a greater context, a universe that IRL people aspire to live in.

I’ve loved the original trilogy from the moment I started for real, and I believed ranking them would be easy. I was pretty wrong about that. When it came down to it, I realized that what made me rank the movies was the overall feeling I got from them. As I’ve said before, I am a sucker for the darker tones, the less uplifting message and the turmoil of an internalized battle.

That being said, Empire Strikes Back is my favorite of the original trilogy. Empire is obviously the first choice for many fans. It is easily the darkest of the trilogy, starting with a somber tone. It is also the one with the biggest plot development (on Dagobah), and Yoda revealing himself to Luke is probably my favorite scene in Empire. The movie gets the mixture of “meaningful” and “lighthearted” just right.

Empire is the movie with the most 1980s feel to it, and it is also Han Solo’s movie. He embodies that kind of tough-talking rogue with half-witted comebacks. He is not out there to fight the Empire. He is out for himself, following his instincts and trusting no one except Chewie. But of course, this being the 1980s, he gets sucked into the story and the mission even further, because he falls for the female lead.

Personally, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Han Solo. I enjoy Harrison Ford in other roles, as Rusty Sabich as much as Rick Deckard, but his Han Solo never got through to me. I do enjoy, however, Leia and Han’s banter, with her teasing (“this bucket of bolts is never going to get us past the blockade”) and him being flabbergasted, ultimately going into flirty mode almost out of desparation. Han Solo and Leia Organa are the icing on an already brilliant movie.

A New Hope is my second favorite, and I like the fact that Star Wars is one of the few franchises that managed to offer an even better sequel to an already pretty awesome and successful first movie. STAR WARS, however, is the setup to a great movie experience and a treasured gem. Who wouldn’t feel for Luke, the ambitious farm boy, who always gazes up at the stars, thinking and feeling and hoping, there must be more to life?

Also, my choice for a home planet has always been Tatooine. It is home to the most famous cantina in the world, the place of origin for the Skywalker legacy, it is an exile for Obi-Wan and home to our hero Luke, and man, do I love the binary sunset.

What really bothered me about A New Hope was that Obi-Wan calls Vader by his title, rather than his name. “You can’t win, Darth” felt like an odd thing to say. He would have called him Vader, or even Anakin to irritate him even more (although I must add that I have seen Mark Hamill and other people say “Darth”, as well. Meh.) It also felt odd that they would let Luke carry the name Skywalker, which would be fine if you wanted to conceal his sister from him. But in order to keep Vader away? Very odd.

Return of the Jedi is the last of the original trilogy and on my list. If Empire is a straight A, and Hope is a B+, then Jedi is a solid B. Visually quite striking, the movie has a number of great shots. But it is also the most tedious and uninspiring of the Original Trilogy. It has a weird pacing, and Luke’s negotiations with Jabba the Hutt are just dull and unconvincing.

The fighting on the Sail Barge is clunky, and with Boba Fett, the saga lost one of it’s most intriguing characters in a silly fashion. Early symptoms for the disease of the prequel trilogy? Maybe. Of course, Leia choking Jabba is plainly absurd. That massive blob would not have been so easily killed, nor go unattended by his minions long enough for her to go through with it. Eh, nitpicking. 

For me personally, from the moment they get to the twice named “forest moon of Endor!” (thanks, Ackbar) and in those ridiculous army-style fatigues, the movie becomes exhaustive. I’m not a hater of Ewoks. But the whole “primitive wood culture” trope and the gang being tied up to be the feast for Threepio (who cannot impersonate a deity, FFS) really got on my nerves.

Luke’s final battle with his father against the Emperor is one of the finest moments of the movie. And all of the scenes with Yoda are just golden. I’ve always been a great fan of Mark Hamill, and his interaction with Franz Oz is just endearing every single time.

As for continuity: I know that logical gaps with the prequels are not the OT’s fault, but Darth Vader sensing that there is a sister comes off all kinds of wrong, even for the OT as a closed entity.

First, in Episode II, we learn that Anakin knew of the pregnancy. He is being told, and sees and talks to, a very pregnant Padmé. Granted, he may not have known that there were two. But he must have wondered what had become of the baby? Did he never ask? Not once? He learns about his “offspring” from the Emperor, yet he has never closed himself off and when searching his feelings, he knows it to be true. So, when he fights Luke, he can sense the young man’s attachment to a female who is close to him and he draws the conclusion that it’s a sister?

All in all, Return of the Jedi is far from being a bad movie. But it’s weaker than its predecessors in many ways, and that is quite a shame, considering that the next installment would be almost thirty years away. It has one of the most iconic scenes of the entire saga – Luke in his final battle against Vader and the Emperor, and Vader redeeming himself – but on the whole, it is a convoluted film, too long and overburdened.

Now, what the futures holds… Regardless of what you love about Hope, Empire & Jedi, or what you don’t like about them, the story of Luke Skywalker is that of a flawed hero, and that is what makes him so relatable and the saga so endearing. Which is not to say that all good things must be preserved. You must be able to continue a story, even change it, in order to make it relevant. This can be done beautifully, or badly.

The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, with the thrilling new possibilities for the two main protagonists and the breathtaking cinematography, had given me a sugar high that lasted for some time, and it scared me to think that my experience of the OT would be marred by the new movies. I do believe that while both movies are deeply flawed (and I’m not attributing this critique in equal measure to both films), the greater worth of the sequel trilogy will reveal itself twenty years down the line.

Distance and time has given the original trilogy the chance to evolve into a treasure. It had the potential for it, to be sure. But it also had the potential to be forgotten as a hilariously absurd sci-fi soap opera in space. It is probably not a coincidence that the hands-on visionary style and effortless story-telling can be fully appreciated in a time of Sequelitis. 

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How to Make it Through A Depressive Episode

CAVEAT: I am not a medical doctor, nor any other type of member of the medical profession. I do not have exhaustive knowledge of any type, or form, or variation of the illness. My purpose is to share some thoughts about what I know and what I’ve learned as a patient. PLEASE keep this in mind. I know that depression is not a character trait, even though it might feel so much like part and parcel of one’s essential being. I know while being there constantly, it also has a way of coming and going. It has a tendency to sniff out the moments of your tenderness and vulnerability, and it strikes with ferocity. Whenever life deals you a blow, which it does, you’re going to have to work extra hard to make it through without losing your shit. And because I know that, I thought it might be useful to assemble a few steps that have helped me navigate at times. So, here goes.

  1. Definition Are you one of them? You know, at some point, we’ve all been there. The relationship doesn’t work out, you don’t get the job you’ve always wanted, the economy is in recession, you’re lonely and your resources are exhausted. Whether or not you’re more susceptible to developing a depression than your peers are depends on many factors. But anyone can develop a depression, and a lot of people do, which tells you a lot about the society we’ve created and have been perpetuating for aeons. Studies show that the disposition to develop depressive episodes is largely genetic, often triggered in early childhood or youth by an existential crisis, or a constant onslaught of a multitude of factors like an unstable home and a loveless childhood, no friends at school, violence, abuse, and other forms of inappropriate behavior. All of those can make it harder to “function” later in life. They don’t call it the formative years for nothing. It is important to understand that YOU define depression, not the other way around. My personal approach here is somewhat flowery, but nonetheless true to me: “My depressive episodes are an intricate mixture of my ancestors and my own ingredients, and their chemical reaction to society and the daily terrors of being alive. They are additional ornaments that are not always pretty, but they don’t take anything away from me. I’m a universal being and as such, I am complete.”

  2. Depression Keep calm. Even though it might feel like your entire body wants to stop existing, remember that this doesn’t have the power to end you. Trust your body and its instinct to survive, before you trust your brain, because your brain is infected with a virus. Much like any other virus, it doesn’t go anywhere once it’s in. But also much like a virus, it’s heavily dependent on the host organism to feed and nurture it. Keeping your nerves about you is vital. And remember: The prime object of your body is to survive.

  3. Defiance Anyone who’s ever been in a fight will tell you that in theaters of war, no negotiations will yield good results, unless both sides have fought for their cause. “Making peace” is not something you do in order to get rid of something. It is about putting up a decent fight for your own dignified and personal self, before you can reach a truce. Then you can go and negotiate the terms on which you are to have a good life. There will be times when it all seems too hard to do, when you’ll be unfathomably tired of it all, when you don’t want to work at it anymore. At a certain point, you become inured to the positive results of keeping your head straight and you just want to scream “FUCK YOU, and that bigoted horse you rode in on.” And that’s fine, it’s a healthy attitude, as long as you remember who the enemy is. Here’s a hint: It’s not you. This may not sound like good advice when you are in the middle of a depressive episode and all you want to do is cry. But I’ve seen it work first hand. One night, when I was unsuccessfully trying to cry myself to sleep, I had enough of it. I got up and pinned a short text on my bathroom mirror that read “Darling, you deserve it all. You deserve love and peace and magic and joy dancing in your eyes.” It wasn’t resignation that got me to pin this text there. It was defiance. And with both fingers flipped dutifully up into the sky, I got back into bed.

  4. Pain The emotion of relentless and agonizing pain, hopelessness and an all-consuming sadness are what, in theory, could make this whole thing so relatable to others. “Imagine yourself being in pain for two out of every three months, not knowing why or how long this will go on, and not being able to stop it.” Everybody who’s alive knows pain, and yet it’s the one thing that feels intensely unique.

  5. No More Pain When your depression has reached a stage where you don’t even feel pain anymore, you know this has gone too far and you need help immediately. If you haven’t thought about therapy before, it is a good idea to think about it now. And there are difficult times ahead, make no mistake about it. But staying behind is not an option, because this is a primal stage. Get up, and make sure you get the help you need to survive. You may not have asked for this, but it is here now. And you will need your feelings in order to get through this. When you feel dead inside, get help. Find someone among your friends who you trust enough. Then make an appointment with your GP to go there together. One step at a time. Let them make you believe that they got your back.

  6. Advice When you’re feeling vulnerable, less chatty, and prone to emotional turmoil, it is best to avoid people who make you feel empty, and less accepted for feeling low. When you feel like you don’t have the energy for them, then you don’t have the energy for them. Acknowledge the fact that – unlike your brain – your body is not cryptic. Be honest with yourself about your specific needs, and allow them to change, and alter throughout your life. Your friend from childhood days may turn out to be not so great in your thirties. That is not a failure, it is called dealing differently with life’s challenges. For people with depressive episodes, it can feel like a scene fresh out of a horror movie to be told these words: “Well, if you exercised more, and you’d eat more healthy and all, and, you know, go out into the sun more often, you’d be a lot better.” Which is not to say that those things aren’t good advice in themselves. But a good friend who cares about you will know better than to give you this kind of crap, along with pressure to succeed and fear of failure as the cherries on top.

  7. From cognitive to emotional realization: At some point during this episode, and probably early on, you will realize that some things feel familiar. The way your mood is getting ready to go downhill, because things are not going the way you planned, it’s the holidays and you’re lonely, or your friend has found a new boyfriend and you are upset about it. Feeling bummed about any of this is not unjustifiable. You’re not a narcissistic dipshit for wanting things to go well for you. When you sense the aroma of a depressive episode slowly creeping around the corner, waving its rotten hand at you, you know what to do: “Oh, hey. It’s you. Anything new today? Or more of the same? Me telling me I’m too stupid to live, too ugly, too fat, too childish, too unlovable? So, okay. What else is on? Nothing? Right, so I have a day, buh-bye now.” It may help to be honest at the same time. You know this won’t change over night, and it will probably take years, but that is because conditioning up to this point has taken a lot of years, too. And the remedy has to start somewhere, for fuck’s sake. For me, it turned out to be a good approach to be painfully pragmatic. I always feared that people were talking behind my back. You know, talking shit. And then one day, I thought: “Well, what am I so worried about? It’s not like they need a reason to talk shit. And to be honest, they could all say really nice stuff about me and be just as wrong about that.” So, there. After a while, the unattached, above-mentioned way to deal with the creepy rotten hand waving at you will become a habit. Something that has sunken deep into your emotional quilt and has manifested itself into something that hardly gets you agitated anymore.

  8. Plan Any plan will do. You can plan to go the supermarket tomorrow and decide that it is time to wear a clean t-shirt for this occasion. Just because it’s the outside. The plan may include more than one thing, but it doesn’t have to. You may also scheme larger, wishing for a nice weekend and thinking that taking a long walk by yourself in the woods may be just the thing. If that’s too far ahead, write a note to think about it again on Friday afternoon. The important part is to plan ahead, devise a future, be it ever so small. From a week, to two weeks, to a month to six months. If you develop a sense of the future, there is little time and space for gloomy thoughts or suicidal ideation, and you’re starving the virus, at least for another cycle.

  9. Pathological residue: Some mild forms of paranoia are likely to remain from any given episode. This is what I call the pathological residue of a recurring depressive episode. Your senses will be on high alert, and you won’t be able to trust happiness for a while. Likewise, anything that makes you feel lonely and depressed will have a certain appeal, because it is familiar. The new mindset is not yet fully implemented, but the old is already breaking apart. That’s scary, and that’s okay. Just make sure you give the new mindset time to grow, air to breathe and water to drink.

  10. Pack of Wolves: Whenever you’re feeling like it is coming on again, think of your mind as a pack of wolves. The old leader is a nasty old bugger, lazy and demeaning, and the other wolves know that it is time for a coup d’état. There’s a cub with a lot of promise, who shows good ideas and wants to move the pack forward. But how to go about the business? Here’s what you do: You change the feeding routine. From now on, you will feed the cub first and only after he’s full, everybody else will get theirs. The old wolf is going to act up, but soon he’ll lack the power to act up. And all because you changed just one little thing.

Images taken from: “Catch & Release” (The Deepend Mix) by Matt Simons © 2014. No copyright infringement intended.

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The Best Movie Trilogies (So Far) | Alien (also: Why the new Star Wars Trilogy is going to be soooo GOOOoooOOOD!)

SPOILERS SPOILERS This obviously contains spoilers for The Last Jedi and other films.

A while back, I read about a petition to remove The Last Jedi from canon (erased from the archives, if you will). I remember my first reaction being hysterical laughter. I couldn’t see what they were so bummed about. Then I realized with some shame that when tempted with the removal of a certain fourth installment of a franchise that shall be nameless for now, I’d be in trouble.

Anyhoo, it turns out I had seriously underestimated what Luke and the Skywalker legacy meant to so many people’s lives. There was more at stake than childhood memories. It was about continuity and maintaining something valuable in a world that is increasingly ephemeral.

The sequel trilogy is going to be a different story, and many people won’t like it. But that’s how it goes in movies. The reasoning behind the idea that fans deserve recognition in the writing room kind of eludes me. Of course, it is easy for me to say, now that reylo is unquestionably canon. But even if it weren’t, I wouldn’t feel resentment toward the writers. Ultimately, it’s at their discretion, and they don’t owe me a certain story. End of song.

I thoroughly hated the introduction of midi-chlorians, and my heart bled for Obi-Wan’s character deflation, and the CG abomination that is Yoda in the Prequels. And let’s never talk about the properties of sand, ever. However, the movies are all relating a story, and this story is continued by other people now. It’s an arc spanning forty years, and it keeps going. This kind of endurance is part of the saga’s endearing quality. Few films have pulled this off.

Or was all this hate for Episode VIII something else entirely? A reflection of the poorly constructed romance between Finn and Rose? Clearly, those two won’t catch fire anytime soon. The Canto Bight casino detour had a huge share in sparking people’s ire immediately upon release of The Last Jedi. I wasn’t too keen on it, either. I thought it was a stupendous waste of Finn, and I would have loved to have seen him excel. Instead he gets derailed – literally – so that we can behold The. Most. Stupid. Thing. Ever. Uttered.

Rose as a character, especially in the last third of the movie, ruins a lot for me. Diversity is necessary, and various outlets have rightfully pointed out that not everything revolves around white people’s drama. However, the handling of Finn and Rose felt awkward and clumsy. Disney did what it is known for: Culturally biased storytelling with a knack for the traditional and regressive, blithely optimistic and socially tone-deaf.

I don’t mind the old characters dying off (not in real life, though. Carrie Fisher’s passing made me very sad). That being said, I like where the new trilogy is going. I love the new characters, the darker and grittier vibe. I wouldn’t mind getting rid of Artoo (I’ll always treasure him) and Threepio, because they, to me, are the old trilogy. It’s a great trilogy, but it’s complete now, and it has been for a while.

Luke was the last survivor of the old generation. We thank him for what he has done, because without him, we wouldn’t be here. But he doesn’t have to be around anymore. Rey knows enough (for whatever reason), and the rest will come in time. I’m hoping the new trilogy continues to explore the darker currents of the human mind and actions, especially the concept of the dark and the light being present in all of us.

I don’t want redemption for Kylo Ren, I want people to deal with him being angsty, traumatized, unstable and struggling. I’m thrilled with the new trilogy already, and we are still one movie short. Ideally, this foray will come full circle with a raving review of Episode IX. I’m sure it will be wonderful, because Disney wants to make bank.

Anyhoo, I digress. What I really wanted to do was to write about my favorite trilogies of all time. And since I decided to start from the top, it will all begin on a commercial towing vehicle called the USCSS Nostromo on its journey home…

Alien is my favorite franchise, even though it has some of the worst letdowns in movie history in it. This is a testament to the true greatness of the first movies, and the power of its ideas. You might ask yourselves: “Why would anyone in their right mind like a franchise as controversial and streaky as Alien, especially over Star Wars?” Granted, it wasn’t a decision I made easily. But at the end of the day, I’m a sucker for the dark and gloomy, and the frailty of the human condition. I thoroughly enjoy a good science-fiction, dystopian horror movie with no happy ending. And there you have it.

Alien, to me, is the best movie ever made. Especially considering the low budget and relatively young director. Ridley Scott really made a spectacular movie out of what could have been a disaster (without a spray-painted beach ball). Everything about this movie is great, the pacing, the mood, the music, the characters, the acting, the Nostromo, the set pieces (grâce à the late and fantastic H.R. Giger). I get goosebumps even today, when we enter the bridge and the screen suddenly flashes to life in this retro red light. A+ all the way.

What has always appealed to me in the Alien franchise was the idea of a powerful badass woman, easily surpassing male counterparts in her assertiveness and clarity. Having them be mothers (read: caretakers) was, in my mind, unnecessarily regressive and a reminder that society still feels uncomfortable with strong women who aren’t softened by motherhood.

Aliens is not a bad movie, but for me, it lacks the quality that made Alien such an effective experience and enduring film: the terror of the unknown. And don’t even get me started on the discount-Rambo gung-ho one-liners of the Colonial Marines. I liked the idea of giving Ripley and Hicks a connection that could have been explored further. The fact that it wasn’t, however, didn’t disturb me nearly as much as it did other fans of the franchise.

Enter Alien3: The lore on Alien3 is mostly negative, citing the brutal killing of Hicks and Newt, but also David Fincher’s fray with the producers (the origin story of David and Walter, LOL) and appallingly ridiculous CG-enhanced xenomorphs chasing through the corridors. The film has its flaws, undoubtedly. Killing off Newt and Hicks never rubbed me the wrong way, however. It was in keeping with Alien’s original mood, which was bleak, and hopeless, and paranoid. Losing Newt was, quite frankly, a relief.

The biggest gripe I have with Alien3 is that it’s really never explained how Ripley got impregnated with a Queen embryo. The explanations for this on the internet are murky at best. But what makes this movie work for me are the actors and David Fincher’s impressive visual style and proclivity for the dismal. I saw Alien3 before I saw Aliens. In fact, Alien3 introduced me to the franchise. It is painful to think that this could have turned out so much better, had he been able to pursue his vision. However, I still love Alien3 as an underappreciated classic.

Maybe David Fincher benefited from his falling out with Brandywine by gaining a much better grasp of his profession. He became one of my favorite directors. To this day, I like the Alien franchise because it represents what I love about science-fiction. The powerful ideas for the future and the mundane realities of being human. “Truckers in space” and corporate paranoia – the good, the bad, and everything in between. This is powerful stuff.

I like to think of the first three films as a trilogy, even though it is not factual. Resurrection was so laughingly bad, including clone-Ripley, that I am confident the filmmakers were never really aiming at the quality of the original films. I will abstain from even mentioning other newly introduced characters, or creatures, for that matter. Where to put the behemoth Prometheus and Covenant, then?

Prometheus wasn’t as big a disappointment to me as it was to others, but I could see why people weren’t happy with it. It’s got some stunning visuals, somewhat interesting characters, and though I didn’t need to learn about the engineers, I was mostly okay with what they came up with, a notable exception being the ridiculous birth scene.

Enter Covenant: That was a weird experience for me. It felt like a great date that turned out to be a dud. I’ve heard people complain about the xenomorphs in broad daylight, and at first I didn’t much care for it, because it fit into the action of the movie. But that was exactly the problem I ended up having with it. It’s a mediocre action/horror movie, and it has no recollection of the original somber mood.

There is nothing in this movie that makes you uncomfortable for no apparent reason, or jumpy, or suspicious of corners, or leery of oddly uncalled for pep talk. The people in this movie don’t act like normal people on a mission in space would do. I’ve never flown on a mission, nor am I likely to, but you can’t tell me that “artless” and “daft” are the top qualifications to land a job like this.

With the original film, I was able to believe they all made it through a tough process eliminating competitors with vigor, wit, and class. The non-dimensional assholes of the USCSS Covenant fly their ship as if they were on the bayou, and they’re all married to one another (because, you know, so that they care for each other), and take their masks off on a fucking alien planet for no reason. And I haven’t even gotten to the David and Walter tryst in the grotto yet…

Anyway, I’m not looking forward to the next installment. In fact, I’m not sure I want to see it. It seems to me to be a good time to abandon ship and give it a try in the shuttle. With a little luck the network will pick me up. Signing off for now. See you next time when I discuss Hope, Empire & Jedi.

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Wake Me Up When December Ends

Those of you who have been unfortunate enough to have been born in the month of December, especially within the last two weeks of the year, have probably had the same disheartening experiences at least once in their lives, if not every damn year. Adulthood, indeed, is no remedy.

I grew up in a remote and very, very, very small village right smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. When I was a child growing up, I thought that my birthday was just not as important as that of my siblings, because baby Jesus was somewhat higher on the ladder.

I didn’t much mind that I received presents only once a year, when everybody else did, or that during that one time, I had to go out and buy everybody else a present, as well. It was just the way things were. As a child, I had no reason to be pissed that none of my friends could be bothered to drive in the stormy and icy cold, because no one had a car to begin with.

As a child, I wasn’t particularly aware that it should feel strange to me that I didn’t have a proper birthday party in, say February, or March. Again, things were never really different, and I didn’t know anybody who shared a birthday with me, excepting my uncle, who I didn’t ever ask if he threw parties, because I didn’t think he knew what that was. I believe that my birthday fell off the cliff in most cases between the ages of nine and 19.

By the time I had moved out and started the long and arduous journey toward adulthood, I observed a change in my composure when I unwrapped the mandatory calendar or organizer for the upcoming year in it’s classy Christmas-themed gift-wrapping paper. I became irritated when people sent me messages, wishing me a wonderful Christmas holiday, actually forgetting my birthday, only to apologize later because of “all the holiday hoopla”. And even the chocolate, Santa-shaped and in angel-gold foil, wasn’t enough to calm me down. I was livid.

The same things that I had overlooked as an overlooked child, and tried to good-naturedly ignore in my twens, now spark my ire, and by now I no longer feel guilty about it. I can fully expect a whole day of every year accepted and appreciated as my birthday, and I do not think it’s okay to give half of it away, just because it’s someone else’s birthday who you don’t even know. And on that particular day, I do not want to console my mother, who feels so damn sorry for me, and wishes she would have talked to the doctor about it (“Put it back!”).

And I don’t want to be someone’s guest for the 400th time on my birthday. I’ve spent this day on so many chafed couches, in so many neglected guest rooms with wallpaper falling off and the staleness of youth unwittingly trapped behind the posters. I’ve spent enough nights wadded to insanity with all the glitter and wrapping paper, candied fruit and glorious celebrations. I’ve had enough of that for one life. If I don’t have a family, then I’m sure as hell not going to pretend I’m part of one. 

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The Black Aunt

Rocky drive on a moldy road. It clearly doesn’t look like the Wild West that was promised to me. More like a Serengeti type of landscape that is about to turn into jungle at any corner. The heat is feisty and ill-disposed, no fresh air has conquered this beaten bus for a while. The unkempt outside of the bus is no direct opposite of the inside. I’m barely able to fully process the disgust with the millions of unwashed scalps having been pressed into this Plexiglas window shield there before me. An anxious part of me wants to pull out a tissue and clean it, but that would only make sure that damn gunk is literally everywhere.

I’m suddenly reminded of a shampoo commercial from the early 1990s. As I cautiously lean my head against the filthy window, I’m half-expecting to see a woman washing her amber mane in the river outside, gazing out into the sunset. The sticky heat outside, and the oxygen-free determination inside conspire to make me groggy and I’m about to slip into a heavy slumber, when I suddenly notice the woman in black to my left.

Even though I have never seen her in my entire life, she looks familiar. Like a relation, a really old, really neglected relation. I observe her narrowly, like someone who stares at people but gives it some effort not to let it show too much. She never looks at me, not once, and it’s like someone else introduces her to me, a voice from the off. People with high levels of dopamine or a generally serene disposition call her a glitch, an “off-day” or something to that effect. Those in the know have coined terms such as “the black dog”, the cloud, depressive episodes, mild to severe depression, or dysthymia.

I call her the black aunt. She’s not an actual aunt, but she was related to my mother. I have never met her and she died long before I was born. But my hunger for a happy life and my anxiety to live are equally tethered to this frail and haggard woman. Her black lacy dress is buttoned up, making sure no inch of skin shall ever be exposed to anyone unworthy, like, say, the sun.

I remember her. She’s no friend of mine, and yet it feels like she’s been a part of my life for the last twenty years. That calls for a celebration, not a seizure. But that’s not how either of us feels. We are both instantly weary of each other. Twenty years is a pretty long time.

The black aunt is moody today. Something is making her irksome. She is silent, almost irritably so, and she looks tired. Her worn eyes stare blankly into the seat in front of her. She seems to have no thoughts. It occurs to me that if she had had the chance, she would have liked to have called in sick today. Let somebody else do it for once.

I wonder if she can smell melancholy on me. I know she doesn’t like melancholy. It makes her job so damn hard. Melancholy is like her elusive elder sister, highly diversified in her appearances, creative at times, passive and gloomy at others, but always highly intrigued by life and fascinated by the creative fluidity she herself brings.

The black aunt is nothing like that. No one enjoys her company and no one asks to be readmitted into her society. Yes, she probably smells the odor of melancholy on me. “Shouldn’t of been away so damn long,” is probably what she’s thinking. But even rambling, she seems fatigued. Her voice is strained. By now, I stare blatantly.

Then a commotion. Next to us, a young woman has taken the seat. It’s a two-seat furniture, so it gets cozy with us, if not to say crowded. The black aunt tenses up instantly and she visibly hates every second of it. She still won’t look into my face, but I can tell that she wants me to do something about it. I can hear the tinned sound of her cranky voice in my head. Tension is building up in her. I wonder if she can actively self-destruct. But all her energy is directed toward me. I feel the heavy, nauseating pull of it strain my skin, my muscles, my eye-lids and my limbs. “Do something!” She is furious.

I’m thinking Nope. The young woman is not alone. She is with friends and they are all on their way to a hen’s night. They are as giddy and lively and noisy as they come, and I can distinguish every feature of it that the black aunt hates with a vengeance. Liveliness, vitality, vigor, silliness, all those things she can’t abide.

But she’s this small and feeble creature, she of course lacks the proper means to disband herself from this terrible situation. She’s crushed into the seat by this powered-up barrage of women, wildly laughing and telling each other fun stories each of them has heard a million times over. I’m hearing the black aunt grunting in my direction, “valley girl” and “blonde with a credit card”, as if that is supposed to make me bitter.

The ladies continue talking, about how the woman next to us had been with another guy before, and how he had been a failure, and couldn’t make her happy, because he didn’t love her enough, and what have you. At that point, I get to feel the black aunt’s power over me again. The rush of darkness flushes through me, starting with the head and washing down my entire body. Anger, envy, and disappointment build up.

I recall all the things that I had done in my life, and how I would have liked to have done most of them differently, had it not been for. Well, had it not been for me, really. I stood in the way of all those things. The black aunt breaks into a smile. It’s a nasty smile, showing rotten teeth and a meek self-consciousness about it. She is about to look into my face. And all I can think of is how I don’t want her to. Ever again.

She is about to go into the tried-and-tested mode of making me run from life. And I’m not buying it. I’m thinking about letting her rot. I know that this climate of vitality and freshness is draining her life blood. She begins to curse, and starts abusing me, calling me names my own mother wouldn’t dream of. She mentions every single man’s name that I have ever loved and enunciates every syllable, so as to make sure I remember alright.

But all I get from this tirade is the sense of her despair, and I let her finish and run dry. By the time she’s done, I say “eh”, and I turn my head around to look outside the window again. For the first time in twenty years, I feel absolutely no desire to please her. I’m just sitting in my worn-down seat, looking outside the window, and the black aunt, who’s been so dependent on me providing for her, looks down with disgust.

She is exhausted, and her arms tweak me like little branches. A sure sign that she’s losing control, because she is terrified of touching. She hasn’t been this let down by me before, and I know I’ve done something really bad. Thinking about it almost makes me smile, but I’m not wild enough to show her that just yet.

But being here, being unresponsive to her need for attention, for staleness, for emptiness, for negativity, her constant need to put others down – it all stops meaning anything to me. I am my own person, and in that moment I know, I will divorce myself of her. Not now, but soon.

Minutes go by, and she has settled into the situation more or less. The expression on her face is hard to read, but I’m going with resigned. She even looks out the window now. Her groggy eyes finally meet my gaze. Her face even lights up a bit, as if relieved from a heavy burden. And she asks me. “Are we okay?” “We are”, I say, and look out the window again.

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9 Telltale Signs That Shipping is Ruining Your Life

  1. A carbon-dated interview with David Duchovny in a really old magazine gets you all hyped and wildly scanning the worn pages for any information that he and his co-star Gillian Anderson did it (which is a well-established fact, but “…couldn’t hurt to hear him say it…”)

  2. You’re old enough to use the word “carbon-dated” but not yet old enough to let go of this crazy shit.

  3. On a regular Sunday afternoon, you sit in front of a TV screen and two people randomly kiss and you get up, running around the living room in hysterics, screaming “WellitsaboutFUCKINGTIME!!!!”

  4. Your best friend tells you she just broke up with her boyfriend, and you lose no time asking “You sure you’re not on a break?”

  5. You have created a youtube song list in your imagination (a.k.a on your computer), and it features all the versions there are of “Let Her Go” as well as anything ever recorded or imagined by Ed Sheeran.

  6. You browse the internet every two hours to check the latest merchandise on your fandom (#reylo), and stop by deviantArt the other hours.

  7. You watch the whole series of The West Wing again, just because you figured that you really hadn’t given the CJ/Danny ship the time it deserved.

  8. You find yourself hanging around the waiting area at the local hospital a little more often than would be reasonable under any circumstance other than massive internal bleeding or trauma to the head, and you are secretly annoyed because no cute doctor will come up and chat with you.

  9. You are in the hospital with massive internal bleeding or trauma to the head, and the most disturbing fact is that the cute doctor is now going to do a rectal exam.

 

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A Shippers Guide Through the Nineties

I often get a nervous look from people when I tell them what shipping is and that I happily engage in it, when time allows. Why would you care for a fictional relationship between fictional people? They seem to ask with eyes wide open and a muted tongue. “Um. For the same reason people read novels, I guess.”

Shipping is basically the imagined or explicitly written romantic subplot of two or more people in any given TV show/franchise/movie. If you are anywhere near my generation, your brains would spew out an image at “Ross and Rachel” or “Joey and Pacey”. For the younger ones, it would be “Bella and Edward” or “Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor” aka #rebelcaptain, which is a stand-alone fantasy fuck-fest.

“Ship” is short for “relationship” and “shipping” is the action of promoting, imagining or creating romantic attachments between characters. The first time I came across that term (and concept) was in the middle of the X-Files craze (which was a great time to be alive). Shipping is not synonymous with fan fiction, but a lot of heavy duty shippers write extensive fan fiction. Early versions of that would include people sending their typed stories to fanzines, which I never did, because I lived way too remotely to even know that such a thing existed.

You can also ship couples who are not “canon”, meaning they are not part of the historical arc, or mythology (also, not a fixed thing). An example for this would be “Sherlock and Molly” from the TV-Show Sherlock. Had a small following at one time. Died out. Sherlock Holmes is, in his own right, an interesting character, with all the hyper-nerdy “high-functioning sociopath” babble and the dashing looks that are a category of their own. However, Molly Hooper is clearly no match for him. In his schemes, she is a doormat for his frequent displays of gawky and unpleasant bravado. Shipping them is like a light swoon. It will be over soon, the memory will be sweet, but that is really all. This ship was deftly outshone by its gay counterpart, “Sherlock and Watson”, or Johnlock.

You can ship in between different species, with “Raphael and April”, a very popular non-canon ship with a female human and a male mutated six-foot-talking turtle, who is also a teenager, and a ninja. Exciting!

As a side note: This is a “no holds barred”-thing and you’re either okay with it, or you’re not. People in this world enjoy writing about humans and turtles exploring the physical pleasure each can give the other, and chimps being way more intimate with humans than most anthropologists would assume. So if that is bugging you for some reason, you might want to stay clear of it. In this universe, everything that is imaginable is also very possible.

I want to make it clear. I’m a shipper and the times when I was easily shamed by it, well, they are over. I’m not out there defending anyone who takes their hobby too far, there are limitations to any human activity. I enjoy fan fiction, and the Ninja Turtles actually got me started on this one. Following fictional people on imaginary twitter accounts, however, has proven not to be a mainstay with me.

There is an argument going on about the degree of influence of fanbase/community outrage or excitement on movie makers for future installments, such as Episodes VIII and IX. It remains to be seen whether the writers catered to the fanbase or went in a different direction that may include other characters than the assumed OTP (original true pairing), maybe even a Wookiee.

It was around the time of TFA’s release that I realized that shipping might imply some alarming tendencies to the uninvolved. I found myself reading people’s comments, in utter bewilderment, about why #reylo is not okay “because they are totally related” or he “abuses her and she still falls for him”. There is something to be said for the argument that women in popular culture always must fancy the moody asshole, who even abuses them. Usually, the dipshits get some shred of redemption arc (i.e., Beauty and the Beast, John Bender and Claire Standish, Kylo Ren and Rey?), but they don’t end up without the girl.

So redemption is like a nice drop of honey into sour milk – makes it better in no way. I’m not condoning violence and abuse, and yet I engage in these stories, because I want to see the creation of a new narrative. And there are tons of it out there. In fact, I believe Rey is the dawn of a new Mary Sue era, because OF COURSE she is a Mary Sue.

Reylo is a wonderful ship and, with all its trashy references to mythical tropes, quite endearing. As in real, daily, human life, I enjoy a broad spectrum online. I prefer Reylo for a bunch of reasons. But if Finn and Poe were to get it on, I’d be delighted. I don’t need this ship to come true in order to appreciate it, and I’m just as fine with other pairings.

Another trending and very interesting pairing in the Star Wars fandom is Kylo Ren and General Armitage Hux, or #kylux. Fanart is replete with tender images, but also very, very explicit drawings. Caution is advised, since all the boxes of smut are ticked here. I get little if any sense that in this pairing, either of the two is expected to redeem the other. How refreshing!

Having seen the The Last Jedi, and having fully understood that #reylo is indeed no longer the imaginary journey of an ever increasing fanbase, I am giddy with excitement for the next installment. And I realize that there are many people out there still vastly uncomfortable with this ship. The backlash against “the reylos” is incredible, and I haven’t been this clueless about people’s motivation since kindergarden.

But with all the tension rising, I started to wonder. How did this come about? Why are people shipping, and, even more interestingly, why am I shipping? Well, I believe it all began, like all true love begins, without me knowing it.

In the 1990s, which for some of you is only a distant memory of bad taste in clothes and music, and for others a mere date on their ID, there were already a ton of couples being heavily shipped. By that time, of course, no one called it that and the internet wasn’t invented yet, so deviantArt and tumblr were not yet around. People drew in their note books and fantasized about couples in private. Back then, what we had was “are they or are they not going to” Ross and Rachel; also: Joey and Pacey, the duo that made “Dawson’s Creek” watchable; and Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano from “My So-Called Life”, which I adored. Both were TV shows that launched now household names Claire Danes, Joshua Jackson, Jared Leto and Katie Holmes on the big screen.

Younger audiences may be reminded that there was ill-fated love before Netflix’ Original “13 Reasons Why”, or may recall some craze around “Team Jacob” from Twilight, which I would have joined, if I had been interested enough in the franchise. For nostalgia, and because some of them are still the best, I am going to give you a break-down of the most memorable ships of the nineties. SPOILERS and all!

Dawson’s Creek (1997 – 2003) focuses on a teenage twat named Dawson Leery, whose big obsession (and calling, apparently) is to be a great director. But not just any old great director. No, Steven Spielberg’s league. By the show’s halftime, one can get the impression that the two protagonists – Dawson and his tomboy friend from across the pond, Joey Potter – are destined to be together. Problem is, no one wants that to happen. This included the writers, apparently, so they came up with a saucy twist. Dawson’s right-minded and aptly named friend, Pacey Witter engages in after-school activities with his English teacher, only to be heartbroken and to realize later on that he fancies Dawson’s friend Joey. The show wouldn’t be worth mentioning, if it weren’t for introducing the words “hyperverbal” and “monosyllabic grunts” to a teenage audience; the other reason being Joey and Pacey’s relationship evolving from playful and witty banter, which clearly establishes them to be at each other’s level, to red-hot sexual tension. The show ended, to the benefit of all, and I honestly don’t even know if the two of them stayed together. That was really never the point.

When Who’s The Boss (1984-1992) aired for the first time, I was probably too young to understand it beyond the jokes. But by the third rerun of the show (mid 90s), even I think I must have gotten the idea that Tony and Angela are one of the most adorable couples ever to hit the TV screen. The relationship they had throughout the years was complicated, to say the least, or, as Mona called it, “a very slow car, with a broken tire, driven by a nun, who is blind”. The producers managed to keep it sweet and heartbreaking, sometimes fleeting, sometimes boisterous, but never out of place or rushed. They are so unalike at first and it is only later in the show that it becomes clear that they not only learn a lot from each other, but actually share core values. “And it doesn’t hurt that he’s a hunk”, of course. In retrospect, I believe that my passion for shipping might have begun with Tony Micelli and Angela Bower. And there are worse things to get you hooked, right?

“TV love” emergencies, in the early 1990s, largely belonged to Chicago’s County hospital and its ER – Emergency Room (1994 – 2006) staff. The show was brilliant, being created by the late and brilliant Michael Crichton. It also had a few memorable ships in store. Easiest to remember, of course, are Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway. Frankly, I was never sold on those two. To me, Doug and Carol were never good – together or apart. I thought Abby and Carter were a great OTP. Theirs was a tenuous, volatile, heart-eating relationship. However, as I watch the show again later in life, I get more behind the subtle passion of Peter Benton and Jeanie Boulet. I enjoyed the hell out of those two. It was refreshing to see a black couple fully fledged out, for a change, and not as a sterile sidekick to the white main characters. That being said, nothing gets past the actual OTP of ER, Mark Greene and Susan Lewis. They were so lovely, especially because most of the stuff that happened between them never really happened. It was decidedly a “what if” scenario, and it was painful and moving at the same time. Their friendship was solid and had enough of the flirting quality to even reach an elevated level. And it was what made it too damn hard for Mark to MAKE A MOVE. Them not being a couple struck much more of a chord for me than Doug and Carol being an item for years.

The Long Lost and Forgotten: Before this actress bored me to death in allegedly one of the most exciting shows in recent TV history (big question mark enter here), and before she kissed Leonardo DiCaprio (which I didn’t care three straws about), I was totally enthralled to Claire Danes as Angela Chase. I still hold a dear spot in my heart for her solely because of My So-Called Life (1994 – 1995). The show ran only for one season, but it was all that was needed to unite American teenage angst and heartfelt, ill-fated first love in the decade that still had some rusty 1980s “Some Kind of Wonderful” estrangement with the world stuck to it. It was heartbreaking to see Brian Krakow yearn for an Angela that frankly only existed in his imagination. They would never have been anything more than friends, because Brian’s gawky antics of nerdism and unfathomable faith in her were not an attraction to begin with. But I still appreciate the Cyrano-esque episode that gave Brian the long awaited chance to speak his true feelings. His suffering was severe, and for that reason only, it might have been a good choice to discontinue the show.

The West Wing (1999 – 2006) is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Anyone who could resist Aaron Sorkin’s mind blazing through the corridors of power, and character development through high-pitched U.S. Government liturgy, must be morose in nature. The show, however great, doesn’t stand out producing a wild potpourri of shippable characters, the wonderfully dramatic and heart-eating exception being C.J. Cregg and Danny Concannon. The show’s main players on that field were Josh and Donna, whose ship rendered the community such indelible lines as “If you were in an accident, I wouldn’t stop for a beer” and the great comeback “If you were in an accident, I wouldn’t stop for red lights.” My favorite parts were the more subtle moments, when he brushed her hips a little too long for it to be unintentional and when he stares at her in a dress. That, however, is no excuse to let this thing boil on for SEVEN YEARS (in our years, not “Fran Fine Years”) and give it the icing of an engagement we don’t get to see.

Now for the cream: Friends (1994 – 2004) would not be the popular TV show running for ten years successfully without the wonderful arc tossing Ross and Rachel back and forth, including an overstrung use of “being on a break.” It’s clearly not the only reason you would watch Friends, because Chandler is hilarious, Phoebe and Joey have the best lines when they’re dead serious (true!) and Monica is just fun to hate sometimes. But let’s be honest. When Ross came up to pick up Fluffy Meowington’s cat toys and phoned in to hear his messages (how’s that for a weird coincidence that is clearly impossible in this day and age?), and learned that Rachel was “over him”, I went nuts.

My brain started sputting the words ABOUT TIME! and AAAARHHHAAAAGGHHH! in random fashion. Plain and simple, and I assume that every person in their right mind, and with a fair amount of fan craze about them, felt the same. Rewatching “Friends” for me is like rereading “Pride & Prejudice” for others, hoping that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy might yet end up together. I root for Ross everytime I watch the show, even though he does outrightly stupid shit, and is clearly never fully convinced that Rachel is his equal. But Ross and Rachel, “since the 9th grade” and “start looking!” and “I don’t get a goodbye?” Seriously, that was an awesome time.

The Mother: In the end, all historical and future shipping (at least the heterosexual and conventional/boring) is bound to have begun with Gillian Anderson walking into a rehearsal for a show about aliens, black oil, corrupt government officials, and a lot of filming in some damp place outside of Vancouver. That the story of The X-Files (1993 – 2002) didn’t fall through the cracks of TV history right away is in no small part due to the behemoth sexual chemistry between the two main characters, Dana “Skeptic” Scully and Fox “Spooky” Mulder, or what came to be known as MSR (Mulder/Scully Romance). Those two were aflame on camera, and I don’t care what they did behind it.

Maybe it was the red hair that would gain a fuller and darker hue over the seasons, maybe it was scruffy Mulder, or the sheer terror of constantly being called to the hospital to each other’s bedside. It may have been nerves. There is a reason why it took Chris Carter so long to have those two finally give way to their attraction. At this point, it must have been downright painful. When it did happen, in a dark prison cell and Skinner bashfully standing right next to them, I was disappointed at first. But I was young and impressionable, and I had labored under the misapprehension that when Mulder and Scully finally kiss, it’s gonna blow up the building. What we got was – perfectly phrased in these words from a fansite – “a long hug and an extended kiss.” To me, it was perfect. I just needed a few years to realize it.

Frame taken from this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Biff_ZLCwVA

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