Sunday, June 10, 2018

Why Progressive Comedy is More Than Political Statements

The political climate of America the last two years has morphed American television into a breeding ground for tons of hit political commentary shows and prominent comedic figures becoming less and less subtle with their messages, which isn't a bad thing. The election of Donald Trump ushered in a much more politically vocal generation of Americans from multiple corners of the political spectrum.

Celebrities and comedy writers are less cautious, releasing scathing criticisms on the current president unlike anything I've seen in my lifetime (granted I've only been around for eighteen and a half years.) Stephen Colbert, Conan O'Brien, and Ed Helms among others are making forays into hosting more open, direct critiques of politicians both left and right. However, I think that we've begun to allow these kinds of outward political commentaries to take on the label of "progressive media" and are somewhat ignoring the vast array of T.V. shows that have come into the entertainment world in the last few years.

Too often, extremely popular shows highlighting marginalized people are cast aside because the "progressive comedy" label is being dominated by white men in suits hosting snarky talk shows. Shows such as Black-ish and Fresh Off The Boat, which both existed prior to the Trump presidency aren't being recognized for the heavily representative shows that they are; placing a family of color and a family of Asian-American immigrants in the spotlight, telling stories that are truly unique in American television.

Addtionally, Netflix-produced shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Master of None both feature LGBT characters of color as regular characters on the show: Kimmy Schmidt's Titus Andromedon and  Master of None's Denise. Both characters show the positives and negatives to being black and being gay and due to the clever minds of the shows' writers, explain the struggles of people similar to their characters in a way that those who have dealt with similar trials can relate.

There is a whole host of other T.V. shows that feature people of other marginalized groups, but I just chose four very popular ones to provide a few examples. Progressive representational comedy is certainly more than white guy political talk shows on Comedy Central. The shows I mentioned in this piece are just a few of the many many cleverly written comedic shows that present social issues in a real life setting with characters who truly represent marginalized people explaining everything from coming out to being the child of immigrants in America. Shows that present social issues in a comedic and true way while still giving people a place to laugh and see those like themselves in media are truly important in the time we are living in right now. We obviously aren't on any road to abandoning political comedy talk shows, especially with the rise in women like Samantha Bee and Sarah Silverman dipping their toes into the late night talk show scene. But when we think about progressive media, both outwardly political television as well as sitcoms that display social struggle in a more true-to-life setting deserve their respective places in a conversation about human rights and political discussion in media.

Some other shows to check out:

Angie Tribeca
Broad City
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Chewing Gum
Crazy Ex-Girlriend
One Day At A Time 

Any other suggestions? Comment below!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Makings of a Man

Inspired by the boys I overheard in the hallway this week.

she is at her Most Valuable when you are one,
only a woman because your manhood said so
with lips hanging open, the most ladylike gasps

you make her whole because without man, woman is nothing

she is sobbing at midnight, alone in an empty dorm

when she talks, your brain fuzzes, a car radio without a signal
god forbid she utters a word other than "yes"
because that's all you care to hear
she's fun when you're drunk
she's taxing when you get a sober voicemail the next evening

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Video of the Week: "This is Not a Feminist Song" - Saturday Night Live

With feminism being injected into mainstream media more than ever before, it's fairly easy to take any “girl power" song from the Top 40 and call it a feminist anthem. As a young and very connected feminist, I'm even guilty of buying into this immediate adoption of popular, girl power-y songs without always listening to them critically.

That's why I chose “This is Not a Feminist Song" as my video for this week. This SNL skit, (which has actually existed for a year), comically calls out the lazy writing that goes into some girl power songs. The lyrics satirize the half-hearted “Get up and fight!" anthems in the mainstream. The women of Saturday Night Live (and Ariana Grande), sing in the chorus “This is not a feminist song. We tried real hard but it took too long." They say they've tried to write about everything feminism includes but it was just too much and they gave up.

I think that this satirical criticism of mainstream “feminist" music nails it. I'm not saying that every popular song about feminism is inherently half-assed or a poor attempt at activism. But, I think this skit highlights the way that mainstream feminism is watered down. It creates a dialogue about the commercialization of feminism and how a lot of songs that may not necessarily be feminist, are being considered as such.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

No, We Aren't Making Fun of You

A while back, my classmates were talking about how they feel judged when they hear someone speaking another language around them in public.

"I swear they're making fun of me." 

This comment was met with resounding agreement around the room. It took a lot of willpower on my part not to tear into everyone around me. It's been a while since this happened, but I definitely regret not speaking up. Truthfully, I was afraid to say something. Communicating how I felt to my classmates that speak mostly or only English at home was daunting. The way they expressed their discomfort with hearing languages other than their own frustrated me to no end.

For me, speaking and hearing Greek is a comfort. For other people, speaking a different language with their family is necessary for communication. Whatever the reason is, we aren't using our ability to communicate in a second language to pass judgement on those around us.

I have been learning Greek since I could speak, and writing Greek since age six. The Greek language has always been part of who I am. It is damaging to hear the assumption that people similar to me are only using other languages to be secretly judgmental.

I realize that I can't necessarily change peoples' minds on this subject, but I still implore you all to take into consideration how hurtful these assumptions can be. Language is a beautiful tool that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. It brings people together and allows us to share knowledge. Reducing somebody's actions down to simplistic thought such as “they're gossiping about me" devalues the power of language and communication.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Peek at my Podcasts

I made my first foray into the world of podcasts when I was in sixth grade. MuggleNet, a Harry Potter fan news source, started recording episodes of a podcast called Alohomora! From there, I've done some exploring and I now have a little podcast library on my phone. Through suggestions from Tumblr blogs, teachers, and my own research, I have discovered some pretty entertaining and informative shows. Here's a quick rundown of what's in my podcast collection. If you listen to any podcasts, leave a comment below with which one is your favorite!

1. Alohomora!: A Global Reread of Harry Potter - MuggleNet

Like I said, this was the first podcast I subscribed to several years ago and I still listen to it today! The global reread is over but there are still episodes published on a fairly regular basis. The podcast discusses plot holes, character growth, and how social issues tie into the Harry Potter series. Any nerds with serious nostalgia will appreciate how Alohomora! still makes it feel like we are right  in the middle of the pottermania.

2. Not Too Deep with Grace Helbig

I started watching Grace Helbig on YouTube my freshman year and I quickly found her podcast and fell in love with it! She interviews a score of Internet stars and celebrities and never fails to make me laugh. A warning: do not listen to this in public. I have cracked up way too many times on quiet bus rides or during classes while listening to Not Too Deep. Anyone who needs a laugh should give this podcast a listen.

3. Welcome to Night Vale

This fictional podcast is recorded as if you're listening to a radio station in a very weird little town. It is definitely a favorite of mine for this reason. When listening to Welcome to Night Vale I feel like I am transported somewhere else. I appreciate how different it is from any other podcast I've heard. for people looking for something on the weird side, I recommend Welcome to Night Vale. 

4. Invisibilia - NPR

So far I've only listened to one episode of Invisibilia, but just like most NPR-produced shows it is absolutely intriguing. This was suggested to me by a teacher after we listened to an episode in her class about how emotional norms differ between cultures. Invisibilia is the Latin word for invisible things and that is just what this show focuses on. Episodes explore assumptions, emotions, ideas, and beliefs. Invisibilia is certainly on the more intellectual side and encourages you to think outside of the box. To challenge your mind, check out NPR's Invisibilia. 

5. Popaganda - Bitchmedia

Much like its thought-provoking online articles, Bitchmedia's podcast, Popaganda, makes incredible feminist commentary on pop culture and news. They cover music, politics, sports, television, movies and everything in between. Popaganda invites a wide range of guests to participate in their weekly discussions. For any feminist, Popaganda is a must-have in your podcast library.

6. The Productive Woman - Laura McClellan

I recently discovered this podcast and so far I am really enjoying it. Laura McClellan gives awesome advice on staying organized. She tries different organization methods and reviews them and shares how she stays on top of everything she does. I'll admit that if you aren't interested in organization or planning, you will probably find this kinda boring. But I recommend The Productive Woman to people looking to explore new methods of organization.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr President,
I realize your time left in office is dwindling and it hurts my heart to think about you leaving. You have touched the lives of millions of Americans, including me. I was nine when you were first elected in 2008, and even though I didn't understand much about politics, I cheered when you won. It was exciting for me as young girl interested in social studies and the Civil Rights Movement to see a black president for the first time.
When you were up for re-election in 2012 I was in the seventh grade and had a bit more of a grasp on politics. My own opinions began to develop and I admired you even more. I cannot bear the thought of you leaving office in just two months. You have certainly become one of my role models, as well as your incredible wife, Michelle.
To be truthful, I am terrified of what is to come when you turn the presidency over to Donald Trump. Sobs shook my body the night that fear-mongering monster became the president-elect.
President Obama, I will miss the strong, graceful, kind first family that was yours. The physical ache I feel imagining an America without you at the helm is indescribable. It is impossible to forget the way you supported and built up your spectacular daughters every chance you had. Your ability to keep your composure in the face of terror and tragedy was inspirational to me. When we were in fear, cowering, and turning on one another, you encouraged us to join together instead of creating distance and divide.
In your eight years, you have clearly shown the American people you care, and I could not be more grateful. Thank you for all of the hard work you have done and that you will continue to do.

Kalliope Bessler


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November Playlist: End of the Day Dance Party

Everyone needs time to unwind and let go after a long day so I made this playlist for doing just that! Crank up the volume and bust a move! Enjoy my mix of upbeat dance songs, happy November.

End of the Day Dance Party

1. Do Better by Say Anything
2. Post To Be (feat. Chris Brown & Jhene Aiko) by Omarion
3. Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners
4. Rich Girl by Daryl Hall & John Oates
5. One Dance by Drake, Wiz Kid, Kyla
6. Hot Stuff (I Want You Back) by Pussycat Dolls
7. Cheap Thrills by Sia, Sean Paul
8. CAN'T STOP THE FEELING! by Justin Timberlake
9. ...Baby One More Time by Britney Spears
10. Good Summer by Kate Nash
11. BO$$ by Fifth Harmony
12. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars
13. All In My Head (Flex) by Fifth Harmony, Fetty Wap
14. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) by Michael Jackson
15. Closer by The Chainsmokers, Halsey