Why I Absolutely Adore Jane the Virgin

This week, something extremely important happened in my life. What was it, you may ask?

Jane the Virgin returned after its mid-season break this Monday night.

*screams very loudly*

I love Jane the Virgin. I don’t know how many times I can say it in a week – I said it on Monday when the show came on, I said it on Tuesday night to my friends, I said it Wednesday to a girl I had just met. I love this show.

So here’s the story. Last semester, I was scrolling through Netflix to see what they had added recently, and I saw Jane the Virgin on there. I was instantly excited. I had heard really good things about the show, even if I didn’t know anything about it. However, this meant absolutely nothing. There are about 100 things on my Netflix queue that I was “really excited about” 3, 4, 5 months ago.

So when I was having a particularly bad day, and I didn’t feel like doing any homework (although, to be honest, when do I feel like doing my homework), I laid on the couch in my apartment with the lights off and looked on Netflix for something to make me feel better. Surprisingly, I clicked on Jane and started episode 1.

Eventually, one of my roommates migrated into the living room around episode 2 or 3, and we ended up watching either 7 or 8 episodes together. And after that I was hooked. The show was funny, dramatic, serious, clever, intuitive – everything I never knew I could have in a TV show but now needed.

I began telling everyone I knew about this show. I ended up convincing my other roommate to start it, and with one roommate already done, and three currently watching it, Jane the Virgin kind of became the apartment show.

However, all good things must come to an end, and by the time winter break rolled around, we were all done with season one and had to catch up on season two, so that this week we could all watch it together. And of course, we did, and it was fantastic.

Now that we’re all caught up to the present, I should maybe talk about the actual show. There are so many good things I could say about the show, I don’t even know where to begin. As someone who truly cares about diversity (#OscarsSoWhite y’all), I tend to get excited about things that feature a diverse cast. Last semester, I was all about Quantico. Though they could do a bit better, especially in the male cast, I am in love with Priyanka Chopra and Aunjanue Ellis is queen. Last year, I was all about Fresh Off The Boat, featuring the first Asian-American cast on primetime television in 10 years, even if its been surrounded in some much-needed controversy about representation of minorities on television.

So when I started watching Jane the Virgin, I was already pleased at how well the cast was organized. Jane has very strong latina roots, and they come across loud and clear on the show, and yet because of her sunny disposition and ability to befriend anyone, the cast opens up so that it isn’t just a latin@ show, and it doesn’t claim to be one. It doesn’t stigmatize or stereotype the lives of the women on the show, and yet they clearly aren’t there for diversity’s sake. They have complex, emotional lives, and are highly relatable characters.

And not only is the show centered on the lives of latin@s, it also focuses on female relationships and even, at times, prioritizes them over male relationships. For Jane, family is everything, and all of her decisions, her thoughts, feelings, dreams – they are all closely tied to her family. And for a very, very long time, her family has been three women. Three strong, independent, resilient, vulnerable, caring women. Even when portraying Jane as the “good girl” who took care of her teenage mom at times, Xiomara herself isn’t portrayed as helpless. I mean she raised Jane for crying out loud, so that’s saying something. And while Alba may be the grandmother, and therefore the oldest out of the three, she isn’t portrayed as “outdated” or “old-fashioned” in any way. She’s portrayed as strong and caring as well, clearly showing how her traits have been passed down all the way to Jane.

I could keep going, but I think my point is clear. Both comedic and dramatic, both sad and hilarious, both fresh and funny, Jane the Virgin is dazzling. It’s complex, it’s diverse, it resists and even challenges stereotypes, and seriously, when’s the last time you saw the main character of a TV show pregnant for the majority of it? And as evidenced by my apartment, it brings people together.

So your homework this weekend, then, is to sit down and marathon Jane the Virgin. You won’t regret it.

The Comprehensive Guide to Avoiding Awkward Conversations With People From High School

The semester is coming to an end, which means many of us are about to make the trek back to our pre-Ann Arbor home, wherever that may be. While a fair number of us are probably looking forward to hanging out with our pets (Smokey Joe, I’m coming for you), we are probably not looking forward to the possible awkward encounters with any number of kids we went to high school with. Whether they went to a school in-state, Michigan State, or are one of the kids who never left your hometown, chances are they are one of the last people you want to awkwardly ask about life and plans for the future.

So while this might be too little too late for some of you (I know Thanksgiving break may have put you in a few tight spots already), here is my guide to avoiding those awkward convos with people you don’t really want to see:

1. Always have an exit strategy. Whether you’re at the bar or walking the aisles at Target (my worst enemy this time of year), always be aware of your surroundings and have a path of least resistance in case you need to make a quick out. Be careful not to back yourself into a corner, though, because you never know who might be around the next bend.

2. Avoid eye-contact. If you can plausibly deny that you even saw Kurt from your sophomore Advanced Comp. class, you do not have to say hi to him.  The glory of smartphones these days is that you can pretend that you got a really interesting text, or better yet, pretend you’re on the phone with your over-bearing mother. Hell, actually call her if you need to, just get out of there!

3. Avoid the old high-school haunts. Yes, the 24-hour diner in your town was cool when you were 18, and yes it will be nostalgic to sit there at 1am on a Tuesday night, but guess what? Everyone else thought it was cool then and everyone else will have the exact same idea as you – if they ever even left, that is.  You will not be the only one to get home, text your old friend group, and throw on an old football sweatshirt. You will also not be the only one to suffer through conversations about MICHIGAN STATE FOOTBALL (if you are from out-of-state, count your blessings that you can avoid this), and some wounds just need time to heal. You’d be better off meeting at the Public Library.

4. Shave your head. This will throw people off. They’ve never seen your bone-structure so clearly or the shape of your skull before, and they will be confused enough for you to accomplish both #1 and #2. If you’ve been rocking the shaved head since freshman year of high school….well, it looks like you just might want to invest in a nice wig.

5. Plastic surgery. Yes, this is quite the investment, but the return might be HUGE depending on how long into the future you plan on making visits home. You will never have to worry about being recognized for the rest of forever, so long as you keep your new face off of your facebook news feed.

6. Start speaking to them in a different language. This will throw them off-kilter so much that they might just turn around and walk away from you, no questions asked. Even Spanish – chances are they don’t remember much from the last Spanish class they took freshman year of college.  If you happen upon a Spanish major? Simply butcher your speech so much that they won’t know how to respond and will hopefully just awkwardly float away. You’ll lose less dignity this way. Trust me.

7. Get into a car, drive to a body of water in the middle of nowhere, take a boat to a jagged little island, and wait in the single little cabin for Hagrid to come and rescue you and take you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This is a Hail Mary, but sometimes all you gotta do is believe.

8. LAST RESORT: Imbibe in the spirits of the choice (as long as you’re legal, of course!!!) and hopefully you just won’t remember anything the next day.

No Other Art Forum Does What Video Games Do

Video Games, unlike all other art forms, deny you access to the art form when you are bad at it. The below sketch certainly made me stop and think about it for a second.  (Warning! There are some crass terms/imagery in the video.)

I like video games but I am generally very bad at them unless it’s something like Simms where you just live the life of a person and the goals of the game are what the player decides.  Art does not deny the viewer in the same way video games do. Games in general produce this frustration for many. Dancing adequately for an album to continue or understanding a books metaphors is not necessary to finish or enjoy the content.

To me there is no doubting video games as art. I do wonder if the idea that gaming is the only art form that blocks certain people from joining it is true. People often talk about easter eggs and homages in content that others might not understand or notice. While a book may not spontaneously shut down on someone who can’t list the main themes, a particular reader might not fully appreciating a work because they lack the skill to think deeply about the content.

Perhaps this exclusion might be something that helps define art in comparison to crafty endeavors. Art not only needs a particular amount of skill to create it also needs a particular amount of skill to be understood. There are so many people who scoff at various modernist pieces and say that they could have made a piece or that it isn’t art. In a way there scorn might be something that helps define what art is.

This is not to say that all art is of the same quality and needs deep thinking to be understood but that many art styles may exclude viewers in the same way that video games do in a less obvious way.

Funny People

I generally think of myself as a funny person – at least I laugh at my own jokes and tell my dad that I am SO funny even when no one else laughs. But then I get on YouTube and find myself stuck on an endless loop of videos of actual, certified funny people doing incredible things and feel like more than a little mediocre. It’s hard to pretend I’m not in awe or envy when I watch something that seems like a stroke of genius but also like the most natural and obvious thing in the world. The “Why Didn’t I Think of That” moment – crushing so many dreams and putting so many people into their place.

How many fat guys have put on little coats…ever? Probably an unimaginable number. And yet, Christ Farley was the one to make it his bit, to drive David Spade up the wall (and back down again) doing it in the offices of SNL, and then to slip it into the film Tommy Boy. It will never get old, even if you’re living in a van down by the river (another Farley reference – Matt Foley, motivational speaker).

I eventually stumble upon comedians with impressions so exceptional that they make my fake British accent sound like the glibbering of a one year old child learning to talk. Even when Jimmy Fallon was just a fresh face auditioning for SNL, he was pulling laughs, and Jay Pharoah can do an impression of just about every rapper ever.

Then you have comedians like Mitch Hedberg, whose jokes might make you scratch your head until you give them a little bit of thought, but with one-liners like “I’m against picketing, but I don’t know how to show it” and “is a hippopotamus really a hippopotamus or just a really cool opotamus?” it’s worth taking the time to let them sink in. If you haven’t heard his stuff before, here’s a long cut of some of his best jokes:

I usually finish off this session of worshipping those who are infinitely funnier than me with a little improv. Some of the best comedic actors made improv stages their home early in their careers, and I just love watching some of my favorites in the middle stages of their careers – trained in the art of improv but not polished by the lights and cameras of the television set. My favorite to watch is a long-form called Asssscat, a show done by the Upright Citizen’s Brigade. Here is an example of this improv…you might just see a few people you recognize.

With that, I ask you, what is your favorite type of comedy? Who is the funniest person you’ve ever seen? Are my funny people the same as your funny people? I’m dying to know.

Master of None

This week has been a monster filled with to-do lists, late nights and early mornings, which is why I definitely should not have started Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix series, Master of None. And yet there I was last night, telling myself that if I just watched the first episode while eating dinner, it would be fine! Because how much could I get done when my hands were otherwise occupied by feta bread from Pizza House anyways? (Shout-out to my roommate for only slightly guilting me into stopping there for her student org’s fundraiser.)

If you’ve talked to me in the last 24 hours, you are probably not surprised that I am once again talking about this show, because I have grasped at so many straws today in order to bring it up in conversation. I’m not playing – I brought it up in a Women’s Studies class. To make a serious point. That’s how geeked I am about this show.

The first episode in the series, appropriately titled Plan B, starts off with a casual hook-up for main character Dev, played by Aziz, that culminates in an uber ride to the drug store to pick up the morning-after pill. The scene serves as an intriguing look at the lives of our generation and our reliance on technology, showing the two characters Googling whether or not his hook-up could get pregnant and then calling an uber X to pick them up, all while still undressed and under the covers.

The main character is then sent down a rabbit hole full of babies, trying to figure out if he should be thinking of settling down and starting a family. He attends a birthday party for his friend’s baby (but only for the bounce house, of course) where he gets a look at the beauty of parenthood, only to see the other side of the coin when he babysits his friend’s devilish children later in the day. When I say devilish….this woman’s 7 year old son took out his genitals at the grocery store and rubbed it on 30 boxes of frozen waffles because “it feels good!”

At the end of the day, Dev is left exhausted and the viewer is left with a more moderate view of parenthood, which is generous for a show created by Aziz, who spent half of his newest comedy show talking about how awful the concept of parenthood is. We learn that Dev is definitely not ready to have children (as alluded to by the numerous instances in the episode where his actions mirrored those of a child), but that parenthood in general is a collection of wonderful and hair-pulling experiences.

I went into this show expecting something larger-than-life out of a comedian who screams half of his punchlines (I love you Aziz, I promise I do), but what I was with was a show created by a super intelligent dude full of social commentary. He touches on some really interesting issues and brings a fresh take to some issues that some might think have been talked dry. It’s the kind of show that you start for the laughs and stay with for the message, which is why I think that it will reach a broader audience than some of his stand-up.

I would definitely recommend this show, so I’ll leave the trailer here:

(Shoutout to Dev Patel from Meet the Patels, and also Aziz Ansari’s real dad who plays his father on the show)

The New That’s What She Said

Ah, the sexual innuendo. Comedy at it’s best. Simultaneously low-hanging fruit and a playground for elaboration and weird twists and turns. Just this past Friday ComCo ended their improv show with some downright dirty “I like my men like I like my…” jokes – not only a refreshing departure from jokes about women (been there, done that), but a great way to compare men to clocks. Those dongs though.

The best token innuendo to carry around in your pocket in recent years has been the well-renowned and oft-overused “that’s what she said,” the catchphrase of one Michael Scott, manager of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton office. I would give you some examples of this timing-reliant joke, but it might be better to show you one of the best scenes in which it is used:

Though the fad of the “that’s what she said” has passed, it is still one of the classic meme’s of our generation, and a safety net to fall back on when in a war of wit and out of retorts.  As generally happens, though, there is a new kid in town, thanks to a very special detective from Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Detective Jake Peralta will never pass up the opportunity to turn a relatively innocent comment into a slight about one’s sex life, and as a result has developed a pair of spectacular comebacks. “That’s the name of your sex tape” and “That was your nickname in high school” might seem innocuous enough on first glance, but timed right and land hard. Here are a few examples of titles/nicknames, because there isn’t a good montage online:

“Kind, sober, and fully dressed.”
“It’s not your fault, I was terrible.”
“I’m terrible at this, when can we stop.”
“But seriously, what is taking so long?”
“I’m sorry about tonight!”
“It was slightly less unbearable with you.”
“Not even going to touch that.”

These jokes haven’t quite caught on yet, but I imagine that their day is right around the corner. In a country where we turn everything into sex, we might as well enjoy ourselves while we do it, which is why I carry these two quips around with me, waiting for just the right moment to pull them out. Until they set their roots in pop culture, I know I will get more than a few confused looks, but it’s worth the last laugh.

Now, about the Aristocrats…