If you can relate, please share.

The following is in response to a comment on a Facebook post for the upcoming Netflix documentary, Audrie & Daisy, about three cases of sexual assault against underage girls. The comments made by a man named Matthew on this thread were, while well intentioned, harmful, in that he continually argued with women, enforcing ideals such as “don’t drink too much, and you won’t get raped.” While I don’t ordinarily respond to comments such as this, I felt compelled to recall a personal story from my past that I have never shared publicly. While it was difficult to type this, I believe if my story can help anyone, I need to share it. Here it is:

What if the girl was sober? She was 15, with people she trusted. She did not say yes. She was uncomfortable, having never been in a situation like this before. She tried to push him away. He was a classmate — and when you’re a teenager, the perception of your classmates is everything.

Do you know what women ARE taught? To keep quiet. To put our heads down because “Well, you didn’t say no.” To not start controversy, as is clearly the case with the girls in this documentary. To try and move on, pretend it didn’t happen, see where WE went wrong. That’s why people have a problem with what you’re saying.

You’re saying you don’t like that people are making you seem like a victim-blamer? Well, I don’t like that I was told by friends (girls and boys) not to make a big deal out of it, because I wasn’t “actually raped.” How about the fact that no one knows about it, because I’m STILL (at 28) afraid people will find out who I’m talking about. And if that happens? I guarantee he won’t remember. He won’t have any idea that what he did was wrong, because 10+ years ago, there weren’t a lot of people telling young boys “only yes means yes.”

There were, however, people telling me that I should have done something, should have known something might happen. And, by and large, the women I’ve talked to? Their experiences are quite similar to mine. Telling them not to drink, to watch out, to be cautious of everyone? Wouldn’t have done any good at all.

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Movie Review: Life Partners

This review originally appeared on ScreenPicks.com

Historically, buddy comedies will feature two men who drink together, lament women, and often come close to ending their friendship when one enters into a serious relationship. Life Partners follows a similar premise, but these pals are two women – and we learn from them that regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or occupation, this formula is a tried and true one, if executed correctly.

Best friends Paige (Gillian Jacobs) and Sasha (Leighton Meester) affectionately refer to one another as “husband” and “wife,” cementing their roles as the titular partners. The two have a lot in common: They’re both tough and independent (aside from leaning on one another), and there’s a running gag throughout the film where the two yell at each other as though they’re strangers when they encounter one another on the road.

Paige is an environmental lawyer, so by all accounts, she’s the one who “has her life together.” Sasha, on the other hand, works as a receptionist while she tries to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a professional musician. But both are experiencing the strange time that is your late 20s – when half of your friends are getting married, having children, and talking about 401Ks, while the other half are just struggling to get by. The two friends casually date (men for Paige, women for Sasha), but both have resigned themselves to the idea that they’re not about to find “the one” just yet, and instead enjoy dishing to one another about the awkward encounters and strange singles they meet along the way.

When Paige begins seeing Tim (Adam Brody), she’s quickly swept up in an unexpected romance with someone a bit more mature than she’s used to. Though we know that she usually dates guys she deems be “losers,” Paige is still also just learning what it means to be an adult. Despite Tim’s somewhat geeky nature, he’s a fairly responsible adult, and this begins to rub off on Paige, which we see in subtle changes to her wardrobe, hobbies, and even mannerisms. This is where the tension begins with Sasha, and the two friends struggle to find a balance between the codependent relationship they once shared, and the strained one they develop throughout the film.

While Paige is with Tim, Sasha also dates, and her girlfriends – Vanessa (Abby Elliott) and Mia (Greer Grammer) – offer a bit of comedic relief when tensions are high, but serve mainly to show Sasha’s lack of good judgment and focus. Many can relate to the struggle of just wanting a warm body or someone who looks up to you, but Sasha recognizes that this was her way of escaping from the harsh reality of trying to find herself.

Though the plot is often predictable, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case. We know that Paige and Sasha’s relationship will become strained, and when Sasha begins to date Vanessa (Abby Elliott), it’s easy to see where the relationship will go wrong. However, it was a bit disappointing that despite Leighton Meester’s musical talents (as seen in Country Strong), we only get a quick flash of her singing and strumming a guitar. One would assume that this was mostly due to time constraints.

Speaking of editing, the initial description that I read regarding this film implied that Sasha was angry about Paige’s engagement because the latter had made a vow that she wouldn’t get married until her best friend was legally allowed to marry another woman. I have to say, I’m glad that this aspect was cut from the film. Sasha’s frustration stemming from the changes in their relationship felt natural, and I think that the inclusion of a broken promise would have been unnecessary, and taken away from the focal point.

Relatable and fun, this is not a shocking or life-altering film, and it’s much better for that. Had the movie attempted to break down some kind of barrier in regards to LGBTQ cinema, it likely would not have been the light-hearted, delightful film it turned out to be. Much like Sasha and Paige’s dessert-filled reality TV nights, Life Partners is comforting and easy to indulge in.

Why Personal Branding is Difficult in Today’s Job Market

I recently read a blog post on LinkedIn (because that’s a thing now) that talked about how quickly everything moves now. It used to be commonplace that you started working for a company after graduation, and you moved up in the ranks over the years. Many workers stayed at the same one or two companies for their entire career. Today, in the time of startups and private contractors, that’s very rarely the case. And I think that that’s a good thing, but unfortunately, that’s not what an employer often wants to acknowledge.

My boyfriend just quit his job; He’s going back to school to get a technical degree that should help him increase his chances of getting a job in the industry he intended to get into with his Bachelor’s degree. His employers were, understandably, not thrilled. He’s been at this company for two years, and he’s good at his job. But he’s absolutely overqualified, and explained to them from the beginning that this was not where he saw himself ending up. They clearly hired him regardless, but are angry now that he’s chosen to move on. As I said, it’s not unwarranted for them to be disappointed that they’re losing someone valuable, but is it unreasonable to assume that they might at least be pleasant with him, and wish him luck on his journey? Personally, I don’t see any reason why we can’t be both unhappy that someone is leaving the company, but able to see where it benefits them and you to find someone perhaps more suited for the position.

That was a bit of a tangent, but the point is that employers may often say one thing, and expect another. For instance, I’ve seen a number of employers request well-rounded employees, though they request a very specific skill set. It’s reasonable to want someone who has an understanding of all of the tasks you require of them, but it’s really not to think that someone will be well-rounded in exactly the way that you want them to be. What this all often comes back to is our public persona, or “personal brand.”

How we market ourselves is so important in a society where we look up everyone online before we meet them. We send and receive job applications on our phones, and we utilize LinkedIn and other social networks to craft the way that others see us. My personal brand has changed quite a bit over the years, as I’ve begun to learn exactly what it means to brand yourself. And because I’m applying to jobs in various industries, my brand is probably not going to be all-encompassing for whatever the position is that I’m applying for.

For instance, I may be applying to jobs where I write about TV and film, and oftentimes, these places want someone who is quick-witted, and who frequently live-tweets shows and comments on the latest celebrity gossip. I do post about many of these things, but it’s not all of who I am. And when I apply for jobs in the non-profit and education spheres, they may be turned off by my portfolio and light, entertainment-related posts. Not to complain, but that seems a bit unfair, and sort of goes against the desire for a “well-rounded” candidate. After all, we all have interests and hobbies outside of our jobs.

As I started this post saying, most of us are changing careers frequently. We’re working as freelancers, we’re bouncing from internship to job in various industries, and we’re always looking out for a new way to use our skills. This is simply the nature of today’s inconsistent job market. And yet some employers still insist that the candidates they interview be perfectly tailored for the job they’re applying for. Why not, instead, look for someone who understands the job, and has many of the most important qualifications, but who has other things they can bring to the table? This too is something employers may say that they want, but they really aren’t that interested in. (Sometimes there’s a lack of emphasis on soft skills, and other times there’s such an emphasis on them that it seems as though they’re shopping for a dream candidate who really doesn’t exist. But that’s another blog post entirely.)

You see, while my cover letter WILL be tailored for the position I’m applying for, I’m much more than just a candidate. My resume will showcase a whole host of different jobs and special skills, and that’s okay. I’ll show you how these experiences and talents can help, and if they can’t then well, honestly, they may be more fitted to my next job (because at 26, there will definitely be a next job). I dream of doing many things, and my brand and actions will reflect that. You should want someone at your company who dreams big and wants to try new things.

What Actors Should Know About Journalists

Randomly today, I started thinking about Twilight (bear with me here). I read the books, and yes, they were essentially teen fan fiction, but I was a teenager (just barely), and I was intrigued by the concept of a human in love with a vampire. (Important: This was before I had seen Buffy, through which I realized there was a much better way of telling this kind of story.) I went to see the first movie and, like many, found Kristen Stewart’s portrayal to be kind of annoying, and immediately deemed her a “bad actress.”

This was unfair of me, because looking back now, I see the situation a bit differently. If I were Kristen Stewart, attempting to make my way in Hollywood, and I had the opportunity to attach myself to a franchise that was undoubtedly going to take off with lightning speed, I would probably have jumped at the chance as well. It would get me exposure, open up doors for me, and allow me to make enough money so that I could focus on smaller, independent projects that I really cared about, despite them having a smaller budget.

Now, I have no idea if this was Kristen Stewart’s mindset, but it’s one that I relate to. As someone who studied journalism, marketing is not where I envisioned I would be three years out of college. I’m certainly not a salesperson (despite my two months working at American Eagle in high school), and I don’t really like feeling as though I’m manipulating people. I am, like I believe most journalists are, in love with the idea of telling real stories. Whether they tell them through newspapers, photographs, magazines, radio, television, or the internet, journalists are, at the heart of it all, storytellers.

However, this isn’t typically what those outside of the profession see. They see advertisements, which are, of course, necessary in order to make a living in this industry. They see click bait, they see emotional manipulators, and they see a constant need to be the first, which is often followed by careless mistakes and retractions of those errors. And trust me, I don’t blame them – all of those things are true.

But isn’t that the problem? Our inability to see past what we know to be true at this moment. In order to be a good journalist, that’s something you have to constantly work on. And it must be the same for actors. They also want to make a living telling stories, and they also want to understand what it is that makes others tick. And they also sometimes “sell out” – they make movies or TV shows that others don’t respect as much, and which seem to cater only to making money.

These similarities are what frustrate me when I see actors in the media tearing down, well, the media. You hear of a famous personality yelling at reporters, refusing to speak with journalists, and calling them names. To back up a bit, I do understand to a degree where they’re coming from. When a number of big names decided to take a stand against tabloids publishing photos of their children without their parents’ consent, I fully supported them. Just because someone is well-known, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a right to protect their children from the same exposure.

But I also don’t see why they needed to hurl insults at the paparazzi while doing so. Chances are, they’re just journalists who are trying to get by, who want to tell stories that others are interested in. They may not be going about it in a way that you like, but for the most part, they’re not trying to hurt you. They just want to make a living. I believe the ban they’re put in place is justifiable, certainly, but I feel as though it’s probably just the first of many steps that will ultimately result in the loss of jobs.

Because people are going to go where the jobs are, and oftentimes, creative jobs are “corrupted” by the strive for the almighty dollar. We buy tabloids because we want to read about what these people – the ones behind the faces that we truly don’t know – are doing, eating, saying, etc. And as long as we’re buying, they’ll continue to get made.

I believe that many actors understand this, and they comply with the media to a degree. No one has any obligation to do this (that I know of), but many choose to. For example, there was recently an in depth article in Rolling Stone about Taylor Swift, and in order to write it, the journalist was welcomed into her personal, behind-the-scenes life (or, what she was willing to show of it). At one point, she walked with him in Central Park, and he writes about the sheer number of paparazzi and the security detail necessary for this seemingly small outing to occur.

And yet what he didn’t make note of was the fact that these reporters were doing essentially the same job as he – trying to learn more about Taylor Swift, and tell a story that others will want to read (i.e. spend money on). The difference between the two? Mostly prestige. Therein lies the point of all of this: We’re all using slightly different methods to ultimately get the same desired result. These creative positions we hold allow us to tell stories, but we require money in order to keep doing so. Whether it’s a cheesy teen movie franchise or in the tabloids, many of us have to start at “the bottom,” and it doesn’t really make you any less of an artist than those who are in Oscar-winning films or writing for Vanity Fair. It’s just a different path.

ScreenPicks Review: Happy Christmas

 

happy-christmas-review

 

This review originally appeared on ScreenPicks.com

The struggle of our twenties is a subject that we can’t seem to get away from. This isn’t a bad thing, merely an observation. And it makes sense – today’s young adults are unable to escape the reality that is under/unemployment, technology that keeps us constantly connected, and the assumption that we’re somehow supposed to know exactly what we want and how to get it, in spite of an ever-changing landscape. Pitfalls are everywhere, and finding comfort and love is harder than you might think. This need to find ourselves in one another is a central theme of Happy Christmas.

Joe Swanberg’s follow-up to Drinking Buddies has quite a bit in common with its predecessor: Improvised dialogue, a lot of alcohol, and Anna Kendrick, of course. This time, Kendrick leads the show as Jenny, a 27-year-old with no job or home to speak of, who comes to Chicago to live with her brother, sister-in-law, and nephew after a break-up. Jenny is a solid representation of a 20-something who isn’t quite ready to grow up, but due to the loose script, there isn’t much in the way of exposition.

Jenny feels incomplete in some ways, though it’s hard to tell what made her that way. Part of it is certainly her inability to trust, and feeling deceived and let down by men. We don’t know much about her last boyfriend, only that she thought he was cheating, and when she let herself connect with the affable Kevin (Mark Webber), she immediately recoiled as soon as she felt these same insecurities begin to emerge in herself again.

A film like this is truly dependent upon the actors and the characters that they play. And with a cast of five (six if you count baby Jude), that’s a lot of weight to carry. Comedy-wise, Jude surpasses the rest. He made every character (and every audience member) burst out laughing each time he was on screen. Swanberg (as Jenny’s brother, Jeff) provided a few comedic moments himself, especially while interacting with Jude, proving that the funniest moments cannot be planned for. Carson (Lena Dunham), had a few delightfully entertaining quips. Her signature “put your foot in your mouth” style was much less annoying her than with her Girls character.

But emotionally, the plot was driven by Jenny and her sister-in-law, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey). Initially, there was animosity between the two due to Jenny’s irresponsible actions, but their relationship turned out to be a beautiful one. The story was truly Jenny’s, but Kelly’s tale is another popular one – an artist who attempts to balance having a family and pursuing her dreams. And in my opinion, the best scenes without Jude were those where Jenny and Kelly (and sometimes Carson) were discussing the erotic novel that would make Kelly enough money to write the novel she really wanted to write.

In traditional Mumblecore style, there isn’t a true resolution to the film. And if you’re trying to find a clear message or moral, you’re out of luck here. Nevertheless, Happy Christmas is a charming look at the struggles we face entering adulthood, whether we are dragging our heels at the idea of growing up, or eagerly meeting it head on.

What Depression Means to Me

I know that I’ve written about this subject before, but never as candidly as I’m about to. This is a big step for me, but I feel that in light of recent events, both personally and in the media, this is somehow even more necessary.

For me, it all started with a sleepover. I couldn’t fall asleep – I stared at the ceiling, contemplating every possible thing that could go wrong: I would never fall asleep, I’d be miserable the next day… it felt as though these possibilities were huge, rather than fairly inconsequential things. Soon after, I began sleeping in my parent’s room regularly, lying on the floor with my designated afghan, watching the flickering lights of the TV with no sound.

Sometime after, I’m not exactly sure when, I began to see someone about my issues. (That’s what I’ve always called depression – “my issues” or “my problems.”)  I was prescribed medication, and though the types and dosages have changed, I have dutifully taken at least one antidepressant or anti-anxiety pill every day for more than a decade. I have worked with psychiatrists and therapists, been taken on and off various combinations of drugs after experiencing side effects both psychological and physical, moved a number of times both of my own free will and not, gained and lost countless friendships, struggled through school, started and ended various types of romantic and sexual relationships, and dealt with many other ups and downs. In other words, I’ve gone through what many others have.

Somewhere along the way, I began to realize that this was not uncommon. I began to meet more and more friends and even strangers who spoke of mental illness effecting their lives. Some were more candid than I, which allowed me to see that this wasn’t what made me unique at all. Everyone’s struggles are different, but the fact that we have them doesn’t make anyone of us an outcast – it makes us part of a club. I even began to date someone with depression.

In the last month though, I’ve begun to quantify this more. That’s always been a problem of mine – the need to control and dissect every little thing, in order to figure out exactly why things happen. I panic when I feel this control – over money, over a career, over my health, over my feelings – begin to slip away. And I’ve begun to see things in terms of moments.

Some moments are infinite, looming, and all encompassing – it feels as though I’ll never be able to get through them. Others are easier – I still feel a tightness in my chest and panic in my mind, but I can continue to move through it. And some are even joyful, when I somehow relax enough to allow myself to just be, and to take in the good that is around me. But each moment is just that – a moment, a recognizable period of time that I have to just get through to get to the next one.

I have contemplated suicide, though I don’t believe it’s ever been a serious consideration. I take comfort in that – I know that regardless of everything depression has done to me, it has never allowed that thought to manifest so deep. But I truly believe that, despite all of the control we DO have in our own lives, there are things we will always have to fight against. This is why I’m angered when people call suicide selfish, and when they say that someone should have just fought back. Do you know what it’s like to fight against these thoughts in our minds? Sally Brampton said it best:

“Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive. When somebody dies after a long illness, people are apt to say, with a note of approval, “He fought so hard.” And they are inclined to think, about a suicide, that no fight was involved, that somebody simply gave up. This is quite wrong.” 

To me, my depression is, as Dexter called it, my dark passenger. It will always be there, even though it hides away sometimes. It manifests itself in various ways – as anxiety, as panic, as physical pain, as loneliness, as blind rage. Sometimes it’s like the devil on my shoulder that I fight with, whispering terrible, negative thoughts. Sometimes it’s like a numbing barrier, preventing me from feeling love for those I care about. But it is always there.

To All of the Friends I’ve Lost

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for forgetting to call or text on your birthday, or even post on your Facebook wall. I’m sorry that a Facebook “Happy Birthday” is worth so little.

I’m sorry that it’s become common practice to “like” your status or your Instagram pic, and that almost constitutes “keeping in touch.”

I’m sorry that because I know through social media who you’re dating, where you work, or what degree you’ve just obtained, that I feel as though we’ve “caught up.”

I’m sorry that I didn’t call you when you got a promotion, or got engaged, or moved to a new city, because I felt that it would be awkward now.

I’m sorry that the phrase “It’s a two-way street” has become a part of my vernacular, and that because you haven’t reached out to me, I chose to do the same.

I’m sorry if we had an argument and let our friendship fade away, and I refused to be the bigger person and try to make amends.

I’m sorry that my younger self thought only of the future, and only made the effort to stay in contact with those who were headed in the same direction (physically or otherwise) as I.

Because at one time, you and I shared something. We shared dance recitals, yearbook meetings, or journalism class. We shared homework, bottles of liquor, clothes, and stories of broken hearts and awkward hookups. We shared trips across the city and the globe. Through circumstance, we were brought together, and over the course of a few months or years, we exchanged text messages, secrets, and a part of ourselves. We talked on the phone for hours into the night, or we passed endless notes back and forth to one another, giving each other advice or simply comfort.

It gets harder and harder to make and maintain friendships, and no one wants to be the one who puts themselves out there. So please know that I’d love to hear from you, and catch up. I know that we don’t know each other very well anymore, but I want you to know, I still care. Even if we can’t be friends anymore. But I hope that maybe someday, we can.