True Crime and Tragedy as Entertainment

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about using real life pain, tragedy, and abuse as entertainment. A part of this comes from listening to the podcast Missing Richard Simmons, in which one journalist looks into the enthusiastic fitness instructor’s rather sudden retreat from public life a few years ago and the turmoil that the show caused. Listening to that show felt weird at so many moments and Amanda Hess over at the New York Times nailed exactly why it felt so invasive.

There are so many other examples similar to Missing Richard Simmons that are based on that same sort of premise: using and telling someone else’s story in a very public way. Many (but not all) of these productions are about events that are traumatic and violent, making them moments that I’m sure not many would want to constantly relive on a public stage.

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Beauty and the Beast

Honestly, I was kind of excited to see the new live action Beauty and the Beast. Like some people my age, I grew up on Disney and Dreamworks films. I knew many of the popular songs by heart and The Lion King was one of the first movies I remember watching. I would daydream of going to Disneyland or Disneyworld and while I don’t think she’s perfect, I love the idea of Emma Watson as Belle.

But there’s a part of the movie that I feel conflicted about: LeFou being gay. Because of this tiny subplot, there’s an Alabama theater not showing the film, Russia has banned those under 16 from seeing it, and Malaysian censors requesting that the tiny scene showing him dancing with another man, all of which makes me want to see it just to spite them. And from what I hear, this subplot is one of the tiniest points in the entire film.

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Actions.

There is so much going on in the world today, especially with all that the current administration and Congress is pushing through. In the midst of all this chaos, it can be easily to get overwhelmed  – I know I have been. But it’s important to keep fighting, to keep resisting, and to take care of yourself. Self-care and taking a deep breath is just as important as being on the streets and making calls.

With all the issues going on, there are plenty of ways to resist and not everyone’s activism is going to look the same. People have different abilities, resources, and schedules, which means that not everyone can march in protests but there are so many things that need to happen. With this, I thought I’d find some great and different ways to join the fight.

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Podcasts.

I’ve written about a few of my favorites before so it’s no secret that I love podcasts. My day job allows for a lot of listening time so I tend to go through a lot of episodes each week. And while I have reviewed plenty in the past, I thought I’d compile some of my favorites all together! I’ve grouped the list by category/related content so if you see one you like and are looking for more, check out the ones in the same group. This list is in no way a true reflection of all the amazing audio content that exist nowadays but just some of my favorites. Some will have easily accessible transcripts, others will also have Patreons and ways to support their work. All that information, if it’s applicable to a show, will be right below each show description.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Despite being a massive Harry Potter fan, I was late to the game watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But I finally saw it a few weeks ago and loved it, in large part because of all the new things the film brings to that universe. From history to character insight to a new wizarding world, there was just so much more to this film than I really anticipated.

The actual production and acting in this film were amazing – Eddie Redmayne was great as Newt and I surprisingly loved Colin Firth as Graves, although I could have done without the creepy relationship between Graves and Credence. The costumes were so amazing and I would love to have Newt’s blue coat. And the special effects that created the beasts were so incredible. It was so much fun to meet all the creatures because other than a select few in the Harry Potter books and films, we don’t really meet that many magical creatures.

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Stonewall (2015)

During its initial release and promotion, I wrote about Roland Emmerich’s 2015 film Stonewall and about how the film was essentially not representative of what happened during the 1969 Stonewall Riots. I wasn’t the only one to critique the film before even seeing it – the hashtag #NotMyStonewall brought up a variety of criticisms for the film and of the decision to center a cis, white gay man rather than the real life people who were present.

And for over a year, I forgot about the film. It didn’t seem to really do that well, getting only 10% from Rotten Tomatoes, and despite being friends with a large amount of LGBTQ+ folks, I honestly don’t really know anyone who actually went to see it. But a few weeks ago, I was staying at a place that didn’t have internet and because the one video rental place in town was having a special deal of renting five videos for the price of three, I decided to finally see what Stonewall (2015) was all about.

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The LifeAfter Podcast.

170x170bbA few weeks ago, I discovered a new podcast from the same partnership that produced The Message. As I loved The Message, I was immediately on board with the new one and was not disappointed. Life.After follows FBI clerk Ross Barnes as he tries to get through everyday life and work after losing his wife in a car accident several months before. Listening to his late wife’s posts on an audio social media platform is often all that gets him through – that is, until he hears something new and rather weird.

There are only 10 episodes in the podcast, with each one about 25 minutes long. The production and sound of this show is incredibly well done and while there were times in which it fell a bit flat, the voice acting was convincingly real. According to one of the creators of the show, they would record the show outside the studio and on location, allowing for the show to be more authentic. And this is such a tiny detail and such a weird comment but the fact that they had a specific sound for VoiceTree posts made it seem more like a believable platform.

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Major!

By complete chance, I saw the documentary Major! recently and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the past few months. A small part of my experience was also learning that a local nonprofit movie theater does a queer movie series and being surrounded in large part by other LGBT and queer folks. But being able to learn about and celebrate Miss Major was really the best part.

The documentary is in large part about Miss Major Griffin Gracy and her story as a black trans woman, veteran of the Stonewall Riots, a survivor of Attica State Prison, former sex worker, and community leader/activist. Her work at the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), for example, has supported trans women who are currently in jail and prison or who are formerly incarcerated. There are interviews from Miss Major herself and the community around her about her life and work and there’s so much love and support in this film.

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The Gilmore Girls Reboot.

I am a big Gilmore Girls fan – I initially watched the show episode by episode on ABC Family, where one episode would play every weekday at 5pm. For a few years, my mom, sister, and I watched a few episodes each week and bonded over the adventures of the mother-daughter duo. Being able to watch the entire series on Netflix was so great and like many other fans, I was very disappointed in the seventh and final season.

But hearing that there would be a reboot and seeing all the trailers and videos is really exciting. This show is far from perfect and has its own flaws but I have such great memories of watching it with my family that I’m really excited about what’s to come.

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