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Archive for the ‘teen soaps’ Category

The Downside of Being Good: Paris, Rory and “Gilmore Girls”

In feminism, gender, girl culture, teen soaps, TV, YA on September 25, 2014 at 11:24 am

Sarah Todd

Paris Geller scares people. It’s a beautiful thing. As a teen prep-school Napoleon taking the quirky citizens of Gilmore Girls by storm, she intimidates parents, students and teachers alike. At a debate meet, she engages in psychological warfare to freak out the competition. Her silent scowl is enough to persuade her opponent to change his call in a coin toss before the silver lands. She throws a literary bad boy off his game by dismissing the Beats as self-indulgent jerks. She makes her guidance counselor cry. When a suitor goes Casper on her after he heads off to Princeton, do you suppose that Paris weeps? Does she create a complex flowchart to determine whether some stray remark or unflattering hairstyle has driven him away? She most certainly does not. She simply jots his name down in her revenge notebook.

As a girl too focused on achieving world domination to stop and worry about what other people think of her, Paris is an honors graduate of the Amy Poehler “I don’t care if you like it” school of thought. It is this quality that makes her the perfect foil for her classmate Rory Gilmore, who appears–at least outwardly–to be the ultimate good girl.

While Rory is undeniably charming, I’ve long been annoyed by the way Gilmore Girls insists on having other characters go out of their way to tell her so. Teenage boys fall for her on sight, from a high school Don Juan (Tristan) to the aforementioned literary bad boy (Jess) to a sweet-and-steady jock (Dean). Rory almost always has at least two boyfriends, one current and one would-be, and it’s a safe bet that they’ll resort to fisticuffs over her at one dance-a-thon or another.

Not only does Rory invariably set hearts fluttering, she also wins steady praise for her intelligence. A teacher commends her for honing a school newspaper article about a repaved parking into “a bittersweet piece on how everybody and everything eventually becomes obsolete.” And the reading! Characters are constantly tripping over themselves to remark upon her book intake. (“Aren’t we hooked on Phonics,” a suitor observes upon entering her room for the first time—a hilarious line, since the only books visible in that particular shot are on two small, perfectly standard shelves above her desk.)

Rory’s mother Lorelai is particularly invested in the Rory-is-magic narrative, as Anne K. Burke Erickson notes in her essay on the show. Having gotten pregnant with Rory at age 16, Lorelai desperately needs to believe that Rory is a younger version of herself who can have the future she never did. As a result she’s constantly praising Rory for virtues large and small. “Rory’s never late,” she notes. “She’s almost annoyingly on-time.”

It’s a lot to handle. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cults of Mortality: Selfies and Vampire Diaries’ investment in Aging

In Memories, teen soaps, Television on August 1, 2014 at 7:14 am

Screenshot 2014-07-31 16.48.16

Phoebe B.

**Spoiler alert (only for season 4)

For a show populated almost entirely by young, firm-bodied, and beautiful characters, The Vampire Diaries (TVD) is obsessed with mortality. Nobody in Mystic Falls appears to live past the age of 50, either killed off or sentenced to a premature afterlife as a vampire or ghost. As a result, nobody ever truly leaves Mystic Falls, even in death. Vampires stick around, drawn to this magical epicenter, and ghosts continue to haunt characters, appearing every so often to provide advice and wax philosophical.

Despite the predominance of immortality in TVD, many of its characters remain (at least during season 4) committed to ditching eternal youth in favor of a fixed life span. While one might live forever as a vigorous (not to mention gorgeous) vampire, vampirism also means no kids and no growing up. Season four of the TV show is dedicated entirely to this obsession with aging, as the troop of supernatural characters go in search of a cure for immortality.

Rather than feel nostalgia for days of yore and youth, many TVD characters actively long for their lost mortality and the potential of aging. Their fixation with living out a “natural” life seems strangely at odds with a culture that regularly champions youth and beauty above all else. To them, living forever in a youthful body is a curse rather than a gift. Even so, the show glorifies its young and beautiful vampires: by the end of season four, almost everyone remains forever young.

Early in Season 4, after Elena transitions from a human to a vampire, the show’s three girlfriends—Elena, Bonnie (witch) and Caroline (vampire)—get together for a good old-fashioned girls’ night. There’s alcohol, blood bags, loud music, dancing, and lots of selfies. The girls even agree, in a seeming nod to the Bechdel test, that on this girl-centric night they will stay away from discussions about men. Instead, they focus on being happy in these moments together and escaping the violence that has heretofore overtaken their young lives.

Read the rest of this entry »

Re-Plotting History: Omission, Race, and “The Vampire Diaries”

In race, teen soaps, The South on December 5, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Aoife Ní Dhochartaigh

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

It’s no secret that The Vampire Diaries is obsessed with history. I suppose it’s kind of a given on a show about immortality. The past informs the present: the characters constantly react to, reference and repeat history. Mostly, of course, they engage with their own, private histories. Stefan thinks of the people around him in terms of people from his past: Caroline as Lexi, Elena as Not-Katherine, Klaus as Damon (once upon a time.) Damon casts his sexual partners as himself, and himself as Katherine – reliving that particular shitstorm over and over – which has resulted in some pretty horrific abuse over the course of the show.

And one of the great things is that TVD references its own history – the history contained within the show – in really effective ways. They don’t need to tell us that history is cyclical, because they do such a good job of showing us. The dialogue and visuals contain so many parallels that the repeated settings and lines become hugely meaningful, especially to dedicated viewers like me. (To name but a few: Wickery Bridge, Elena’s porch, the whole ‘always’/’right now’ thing.)

Despite this historical obsession—both American history and the show’s own history—the story TVD tells is structured by one clear and egregious absence: slavery. Instead, the hideousness of slavery keeps being suppressed, and keeps manifesting in gross, awful ways: compulsion, sire bonds, the relentless economics of the doppelganger body. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap: “Mona-Mania” (Season 3, Episode 15)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television on January 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm

This week on Pretty Little Liars, Spencer and Mona went head-to-head in the Ultimate Combination Quiz-Off and Bun-Off (Updo versus Half-Up). Lucas told Hanna that he’s been an A-team middle man ever since Mona caught him selling off test answers. Among his A-team duties: visiting Mona back when she was in Radley to pass on secret envelopes from Jason DiLaurentis. Meanwhile, Aria and Meredith teamed up to investigate the unsavory dealings of Lord Byron, and Emily and Paige dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder with a soothing trip to the woods in the middle of the night. Read on to parse the details of this week’s episode.

I think she means a bildingsroman.

What do you make of Lucas’s blackmail story and his new plan to get homeschooled as a way of avoiding Mona’s wrath? He seemed legit terrified.

Sarah T: I believe him–I never bought Lucas as the dastardly type–but I hope he doesn’t go through with homeschooling, because I don’t want any more of my favorite second-tier characters getting sidelined! (Miss u, Jenna-Thing.) Also, why did Hanna not seem to care about that Lucas was delivering messages from Jason to Mona in Radley?? That seems like a big deal to me.

Phoebe B: Agreed on ALL counts. I totally believe him but I also always thought he was a lovely character. I also didn’t buy the whole gambling debt and I’m going to hit Hanna with an oar then disappear situation. Also, I am super confused that Lucas A) did not say more about the letters he was delivering to Mona and B) annoyed that Hanna didn’t ask. Then again, it is a classic PLL mystery move just to keep us all entangled!

Why is Mona suddenly so interested in the academic decathalon? So much academic sporting! Is she just doing it to mess with Spencer, or does she have another motive up her sleeve?

Sarah T: I definitely think she did it partly to throw Spencer off her game, and partly because she really doesn’t want to play dumb anymore, and partly for image-reform purposes. I think the trick with Mona is that the hurt-puppy act isn’t really an act at all: She really does feel persecuted at school and ashamed of her past and in need of emotional support. She really did go crazy when she thought she lost Hanna, and she really does want Hanna’s friendship back now. But all that doesn’t mean she’s not also a scheming super-villain. Like Che Guevera with bling on, she’s complex.

Phoebe B: She is so very complex and I’m so glad she is back on the show … And I do agree that she was trying to throw Spencer off her game while also doing a little image makeover. Also, now we know why that poor guy with the bike had to have an accident last week…

Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “That Girl is Poison” (Season 3, Episode 5)

In Pretty Little Liars, Recaps, teen soaps on July 13, 2012 at 8:20 am

This week the PLLs were back and super-suspicious of everyone, but with good reason. After all, Jenna did reveal that she could see; Garrett got out of jail for a night (creepy!); and Spencer had some amazing lines. Read on for our thoughts on this week’s PLL adventures.

Is it that girl who is poison?

Is Jenna evil? Or good? And why were there so many awkward hats at her birthday?

Phoebe B: I am SO confused about Jenna. Then again, this entire episode (including the hats) confused me a lot. I definitely did not believe her plea a couple weeks ago to the PLLs, when she asked them to keep her vision a secret. But I was willing to think that she too was being tormented by A, but now I feel confident that she is on the A team (remember when she drove to meet someone we couldn’t see last season?). Aaah!

Sarah T: Hahaha, there were so many weird hats. I don’t know, I feel like a Wonderland theme is a little childish for Jenna. (Although–Red Queen reference to the card Mona was holding and singing about the other week?) Anyways, Jenna seems to walk the line between good and evil — which is the most interesting way to be. Good job, Jenna! Our PLLs do too, if you stop looking at things from their perspective and start thinking about their tacit support of Ali’s reign of terror, their involvement in the fire that blinded Jenna, the lies they told and continue to tell their loved ones, etc. Morally flawed toasts all around. I don’t think I saw anything at the party that made me particularly suspicious that she was part of A, though — Phoebes, did you spot something in particular that made you flip on her? Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Kingdom of the Blind” (Season 3, Episode 3)

In teen soaps on June 20, 2012 at 9:45 pm

This week things started to get a little bit out of control for the PLLs. It appears Mona is faking her crazy, Lucas is being creepy and also visiting the not-so-crazy Mona, Caleb is getting grumpy, and Mr. Fitz bonds with everybody. Read on for more thoughts on this week’s “Kingdom of the Blind”!

Do you believe that Jenna is scared? Or is she playing the PLLs?

Melissa: I really can’t tell for this one! The story she told about Emily just wandering around town drunk was a little out there…but then again, “out there” things seem to happen all the time in Ye Little Towne of Rosewood. The infamous fly-smashing shot really set her up as a villainous femme fatale, and her wide green eyes shouldn’t make us forget the scheming she and Garrett got up to last season. Then again…she did almost die in a fire and she did go blind in a fire, so Jenna has plenty of reasons to be scared. Could she have been a pawn in A’s game? And how hilarious was the bait and switch scene that led us to a doctor’s office and then to a gun store, all based on a note in a flute case? I kinda wanna call the girls paranoid, but Em had a good point: “You’re not paranoid if someone’s really out to get you.”

Sarah T: Jenna is nothing if not complex: I think she’s probably genuinely scared of someone and that she’s definitely not telling the Liars everything. But why should she trust them, really — from her perspective, these are the girls that blinded her and have done nothing but yell at her and act spooked ever since. She’s been sketchy too, of course, and she definitely set up Garrett for who knows what reason last season, but at this point it’s impossible to say what side she’s fighting on or what her motivations are.

I’m also interested in the implications of Jenna asking the Liars to keep her sight a secret. This is the first time she’s ever asked them for anything — not counting asking Aria to be her accompanist I suppose — and it has the potential to forge a bond between them. (Ben Franklin argued that if you want someone to like you, you should ask them for a favor, and I think he’s probably right.)

Phoebe B.: I agree with both of you! I am SO confused by Jenna …  At once, she is totally the victim of Ali and the PLL’s cruelty but at the same time she has been set up as a femme fatale and also was super tricky last season. I just don’t know! But I am inclined, at least for the moment to believe her, though the story of her picking up Emily seems pretty weird although not impossible. But why would Emily be at Ali’s grave ready to get framed for digging up the grave? Was that just a coincidence? It seems so unlikely. Though I do agree that Jenna asking them to keep a secret seems like a gesture of trust, but what if she is just playing them? Trying to rope them into trusting her? It all seems so dangerous! Read the rest of this entry »

A Giant Anniversary

In feminism, Food Network, girl culture, Hunger Games, Teaching, teen soaps, violence on June 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Phoebe B. & Sarah T.

It seems like only yesterday that Girls Like Giants was a tiny blog-like twinkle in our eyes. But the calendar doesn’t lie: GLG is officially one year old.

So much has happened in the last 12 months, it’s as if we all exist in a perpetual state of hyper-reality. Titanic sailed back into our lives on the winds of romantic nostalgia and 3-D mania; Katniss slew our hearts with her hardcore, hard-up courage; Rihanna found love in a hopeless place; the whole internet world stopped to argue about Girls. And this blog became a place for sometimes-complicated, sometimes-funny, always-thoughtful conversations about media and popular culture.

That last development is thanks to GLG’s awesomely talented contributors and to our equally awesome readers. You are the smize in our eyes, the Knope in our hope, the Unique wonder that makes us feel glee. Basically, you’re the best. Without you, we’re just a blog in a big old black hole of nothing.

To celebrate our blog-o-versary, we’ve put together a short list of some of our favorite posts from the past year. We limited ourselves to picking just one post from each author. What were some of your favorite posts from the past year? And what kinds of subjects and topics would you like to see GLG take on in the future? Let us know in the comments — we’re all ears.

Sarah T. tackles literary sexism in “Jonathan Franzen, Edith Wharton, and the Problem of Personality.”

Phoebe B. reflects on a gymnastics-filled childhood, tough coaches, and her favorite show in “Post-Dance Academy Reflections on Teaching, from a Former Gymnast.”

Melissa S. considers how to reconcile her love of Kanye with hip hop’s frequent women-bashing in “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Affair with Misogyny, Hip Hop, and Post-Feminism.”

Chelsea B. explores how removing Katniss’s voice impacts The Hunger Games movie in “On Silencing Katniss and Lady-Feelings.”

Sarah S. revels in Vampire Diaries, Caroline, and second chances in “The Unique, Potentially Surprising Ethics of The Vampire Diaries.”

Chelsea H. examines the Food Network’s treatment of ethnicity, race, and cultural cuisines in “Food Network Star, Branding, and Ethnic Entrapment.”

Brian P. contemplates cross-playing gender in video games in “Gender/Play: The Problems, Promise, and Pleasures of Video Game Crossplaying” Part 1 and Part 2.

We also want to thank our other amazing contributors Narinda Heng, Taylor D., Jennifer Lynn Jones, Austin H., Jeni R, Sarah H., and Gina L. for allowing us to post their thoughts on everything from rock climbing to The Hunger Games, Torchwood, Rachel Dratch, Scored, and beyond.

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Blood Is the New Black” (Season 3, Episode 2)

In Recaps, teen soaps, Uncategorized on June 13, 2012 at 11:01 am

The PLLs are gearing up for a scary, confusing, and crazy season. This week, we discovered a dark secret in Aria’s past; Meredith returned (ugh);  Ella took a test; Mona stabbed her finger with tweezers; and the PLLs proved that Jenna can see. Read on for some GLG musings on this week’s episode!

What’s up with Jody from Center Stage (aka Meredith) getting all up in Aria’s grill? Does her end game involve Jamiroquai

Phoebe: Firstly, is is so weird to see Jody from Center Stage being mean! I just want her to do a rock ballet to a Jamiroquai song. Secondly, Meredith is SO mean! Although some of her meanness makes sense now that we know she was unfairly accused of destroying Byron’s office … It also seems like maybe she suspected Aria of the vandalism already. Also, why are all the women that work at Hollis College really mean and horrible? Like Meredith and Ezra’s ex-girlfriend Jackie (was that her name?).

Melissa: I was also wondering why Meredith and Jackie were so…similar. Snarly diva attitude? Check. Hair that’s just like the PLL’s hair from season one (voluptuous, shiny, long, and curling-iron perfect)? Check. Vendettas straight out of eighth grade? Check. Inappropriate levels of rage towards a high school girl (having nothing to do with her TERRIBLE dress made out of a canvas sack but having everything to do with her terrible, pretentious, cheating father and her terrible choice to date a semi-adult-man who is her teacher)? Check. Also, just for the record, while I’m not planning on having an affair with a much-older and meaner married man any time soon, should I do so, I would kinda expect his children to be vengeful. I’m just saying…

Spencer drank all the coffee out of this bag, then I draped it around my knees and used belts to hold it up!!!

Read the rest of this entry »

“Bunheads”: Regrets, They Have A Few

In teen soaps, Television, Uncategorized on June 12, 2012 at 8:44 am

Sarah T.

The smart-aleck heroine at the center of ABC Family’s new dance drama Bunheads isn’t a mess — though she sure thinks she is. She has, however, messed up several times over.

In the show’s pilot episode, Michelle (Sutton Foster) reveals that she let a promising dance career slip away, gradually sliding from the American Ballet Academy to the life of a jaded Las Vegas showgirl. She lives in a bare apartment with a broken air conditioner and a fridge containing precisely one six-pack of beer.

That’s Mess #1.

Mess #2 happens when Michelle is summarily dismissed from a Chicago audition that she’d hoped would be the start of a comeback. Fearing that she’s over the hill, she opts for a different kind of overhaul. Thanks to a perfect storm of desperation, martinis, and the kindness of a mild-mannered yet ardent suitor named Hubble, she marries a practical stranger. The next morning, she wakes up in the passenger seat of a car bound for the sleepy coastal town of Paradise, California. She ogles her wedding ring, stares open-mouthed at Hubble, and falls back asleep.

As a sucker for heroines who make big mistakes and live through them, I’m already pretty much set to love Michelle without reserves. As played with screwball-comedy jauntiness by Broadway darling Foster, she’s a complicated woman: brittle, warm, goofy, disappointed. She’s willed herself into tailspin for most of her life, using parties and drinks and easy laughs to muffle the nagging doubts that clip at her heels.

“You’ve squandered a lot of potential,” her new mother-in-law tells her. She’s a former professional dancer herself, so she knows what she’s talking about.

“I know,” Michelle says.

“Are you sorry?”

“Every day of my life.” Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “It Happened that Night” (Season 3, Episode 1)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on June 7, 2012 at 10:20 am

The Prettiest of the Little Liars are back and A is scarier than ever. Last season ended with a Psycho-esque turn. With Mona tucked away safely in a mental institution, the PLLs thought their A-related troubles were over. Sadly for them, but lucky for us, they were wrong. This season looks scarier than ever replete with empty graves, a new and more terrifying A, and much much more. Read on for GLG’s thoughts on this season’s opener.

“Mona played with dolls, I play with body parts”. -A

What do you think about the PLL’s individual states of being? Emily is understandably having a rough time…

Sarah T.: I’m glad they all had prototypical summer activities: Spencer was scholarly, Aria was artsy, Emily was a do-gooder and Hanna had fun with cooking classes and new vocabulary a la Cher from Clueless. (Maybe my favorite moment of the episode was her solemn attempt to comfort Aria by correctly yet oddly using the word “jubilation.”)

Spence and Hanna seem to be the most stable at the moment. It completely makes sense that Emily’s in heavy-drinking and mourning mode: she’s now lost two people she was close with (and with whom she had romantic relationships ranging from semi- to fully-realized). Shay Mitchell did good job of showing how Emily’s sullenness is a cover for the real pain she’s dealing with.

Aria seems more fragile than usual in the aftermath of the A-bathroom scare, which probably has as much to do with the fact that her parents are splitting up as it does how terrifying that hoodie person was. (What happened when the stall door swung open slowly? We never find out. Did she have a panic attack and black out the way Emily did, or was there no one there at that point?) I’ll be interested to see if A is finally going to start coming after her the way A has with the other three girls.

Phoebe: I totally agree about Emily and feel like her response is pretty reasonable. Although, I felt so sad for her when she felt guilty as if A basically abducting her and taking her to an empty grave (ie framing her) was her fault! Also, I thought it was weird that this episode the PLLs were apart so much. Like they were together initially at Spencer’s house and then the Lake house but then spent most of the episode in separate places, which made me anxious!

Also, Aria! So, while the episode totally set us up to believe that she has having a panic attack (what with her earlier bad dream at Ezra’s) I am not sure that she did have a panic attack. I wondered if perhaps A was in the bathroom and being extra scary. Since A seems to always know everything, maybe A knows and is cruelly playing on Aria’s panic attacks?

Lastly, I love that Spencer spent her summer sitting in the former A room at the former creepy motel and trying to reconstruct it from memory. (Although I am worried that her computer will be gone by next episode since she foolishly left it in the room when the PLLs went out to discover all the photos in Spence’s car.) But I love that she realized that there is more to A than Mona and that she decided to be proactive and detective like about it. Go Spencer!

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome Back Pretty Little Liars!

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, Recaps, teen soaps, Television on May 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Next week, the Pretty Little Liars are back! And a few of us at GLG are pretty excited for their mystery-filled summer return. But before they’re on our screens again, we thought a little pre-season catch-up might be in order. Read on for our thoughts on last season, our favorite and least favorite beaus, and some predictions for the PLL’s summer homecoming.

In your opinion, what are some of the most important things that happened last season?

Phoebe: Jenna can see! Remember when she hit that fly in the mirror and it was AMAZING. Also, Mona is A or part of A and also pretty crazy, it turns out. Poor Hannah … But, oh man was Mona’s final monologue in the season finale amazing (and Norman Bates-esque). And, Mona was visited by somebody (maybe Vivian Darkbloom?) while in the mental hospital. Also, definitely worth noting, A is definitely a group of people, not a single person. The therapist is back but I’m a little bit worried that she has returned to do A’s bidding, rather than help the PLLs. Importantly, the season ended with the PLLs finding out that Maya is most likely dead and most likely killed by A, whomever that may be.

Melissa: Phoebe really hit the highlights. Can you say VIVIAN DARKBLOOM? Also, love-problems: Aria’s dad tried to send Mr. Fitz to Georgia; Toby thinks Spencer was dating Wren (or does he?!?!?!) and seems to be back in service of Jenna; the probably-dead Maya seemed to have some secret goings-on that she kept from Emily, and I’m not talking about under-water light-mobiles; and Caleb is going behind Hanna’s back to elude her overly-protective, blender-wielding, thumb-drive-demolishing ways. Also, the moms thought about mobilizing again to protect their daughters, though that hasn’t yet come to fruition.

Sarah: Since you two have covered the most important plot points, I’ll focus on the most important style points. Aria wore neon platform clogs and ladder pants and some kind of dead Muppet vampire vest. Wren perfected the rumpled, spritely English gentleman vibe. Paige dressed in a tuxedo at the final dance and she looked hot. Mona was a vision at all times and I started wearing a side ponytail so I could be more like her, although now it appears I should also invest in an oversized black hoodie and a straitjacket.

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Post- “Dance Academy” Reflections on Teaching, from a Former Gymnast

In Dance Academy, gender, Teaching, teen soaps, Television on May 14, 2012 at 10:54 am

Phoebe B.

I am a teacher, and I have just about always known that I wanted to be one. I have selfish reasons aplenty for why I love to teach, and there are just as many political reasons why I think teaching is important. But this post is about more than just my teaching experience or thoughts on teaching, rather it’s about teaching style and the teachers we see represented and reflected in popular culture. That said, my own experiences as a teacher and a student certainly provide the lens through which I understand and negotiate teaching. I am, as described by my students at various points, fun and funny, awkward, difficult and rigorous with high expectations, goofy, helpful, young-seeming, and tough. I’m sure there are many more adjectives that might describe my teaching, from my students’ perspectives or even mine for that matter, but I want to stick, at least for the moment, on the descriptions of difficult, rigorous, and tough.

I grew up doing competitive gymnastics, a sport I began at 3 or 4 and left at 17, right before my junior prom (the prom pictures still reveal quite a few left-over, and impressive, gymnastics muscles). Gymnastics, from the time I was in third grade through the time I left at 17, was my whole life or at least a giant part of it. In that sport, you learn to push yourself all the time. Your harshest critics are your biggest fans, your coaches push you beyond your perceived limits to find new limits, they spot you until they trust you can do it on your own, and they sometimes cause you pain to push you further that you thought possible or even productive. The gym was a space where all the girls on my team both suffered and triumphed together: there were tears, frustrated storming out, yelling, time outs, extra strength exercises because you talked back, and hugs and congratulations when you stuck your landing.

I was never the best gymnast or best gymnastics student, nor was I the best school student. I didn’t stand out a particular amount, but I worked really hard, often surrounded by people that were better than me. This continually pushed me to be better–to be more like them. But the tough coaches were also crucial, although it has taken me quite some years to realize and appreciate this fact. They treated us like family, we were like their kids. When we traveled together, they set our bed times, made sure that we ate enough when we went out to eat, set rules and regulations for acceptable forms of behavior and instilled in us the idea that we were responsible for ourselves, our success, and our failures.

These coaches were, and probably still are, really demanding. But their toughness made me strong and responsible and sometimes even resilient. And I would venture to say that this is true of just about all the gymnastics girls I grew up with. They were the kinds of teachers whose methods I did not always like, but whose lessons have stuck with me. They were the teachers, along with some crucial writing teachers in high school, that influenced my own teaching. They are the teachers that lead my students to label me as tough, rigorous, and demanding. But that rigor, those rules, that discipline, also allowed crucial space for fun, for experimentation, for creativity, and for self-expression.

The Dance Academy crew

This phenomenon, the tough yet caring teacher, is not one I often find reflected in pop culture. But then there was Dance Academy, the marvelous Australian TV show available on Netflix. As GLG co-founder and partner in crime Sarah T. will tell you (she is the one that convinced me to watch it), Dance Academy is amazing. And it is amazing for SO many reasons. But for now I’ll just stick to one, which is the relationship between students and teachers at the Australian National Dance Academy. There is one teacher (and by the second season she is the principal of the school), Miss Raine, who particularly strikes my fancy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Finale Recap: “‘A’ Day” (Season 2, Episode 25)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television on March 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

This week, on the season finale, the PLLs wore some masks; traveled to a Psycho-like hotel in search of A; Spencer found A’s lair but was tricked by Mona; and Mona was revealed as part of the A team. Read on for more on this week’s crazy episode!

Mona is A! (Or at least part of the A-team.) How do we feel in our hearts and souls?

Melissa: Sad! I believed in Mona’s redemption, up until this very episode. But I also still kinda love her, because she is such an evil mastermind, and it was gratifying even to me (Spencer’s biggest fan!) to see Mona outsmart Spencer for a few moments. (The muttered line, “Cashmere sweaters……” was so hilarious to me. What a reveal for Spencer!) I also feel like this was a half-reveal. Mona herself admits that she’s only part of the A-Team (a fact the rest of the PLLs seem to be blithely ignoring, God only knows why) and I feel like she’s clearly not THE mastermind, as the closing tag shows her saying, “I did everything you told me to!” I’d say whoever is pulling Mona’s strings is the real (wo)man behind the curtain…

Chelsea B: The whole Mona storyline over the last half of this season felt so weirdly centralized that it was always suspicious. However, I did think Mona did a good job of bluffing with Spencer (Master of Suspicion) up until she was good and ready to show her hand. She knew the black swan thing would be a tipping point, for reasons I’m still unclear on. I suppose I mostly feel validated, but interested in more details about the Mona/Vivian Darkbloom partnership because if her story about shopping in Brookhaven and running into Ali wasn’t entirely fabricated, the red coat that appears in the final scene has important implications.

Phoebe: Yes yes and yes! So, I loved Mona’s final monologue about lipstick and things. It was so creepy and amazing and felt straight out of Psycho (as did the rest of the episode I suppose). And, I was gratified to find out that Mona is actually super smart and kind of like an evil Spencer. And, the red coat at the end I feel like is a sign that Ali has a twin. Okay, so I just really want Ali to have an evil twin who is running the show.

Sarah T: I was only really sad when I thought Mona was dead — when her eyes flew open and she checked her watch I was flooded with relief. Because as Melissa and Phoebe say, it turns out she’s a pretty awesome psycho-villain-genius, just as she was a pretty awesome superficial mean girl with a heart of gold and a pretty awesome eager nerd with braids and glasses. Mona just gets five stars whatever she does in my book. However, I feel awful for Hanna, who really loved Mona and must be experiencing serious trust issues (and now Lucas is implicated too?).  Good thing Dr. Sullivan is back in town. OR IS IT? Trust no one. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “If These Dolls Could Talk” (Season 2, Episode 24)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television, Uncategorized on March 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm

This week, our beloved show finally lost its mind, and it was amazing. Dolls came alive and murdered everybody; creepy psychic children ate lollipops while imagining what it’s like to be buried alive; Garrett was arrested; Jenna is not blind (what?!); and Ali sure gets around for being six feet under. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, you get the drift. Read on for more of this week’s end-of-times-esque PLL adventures.

PLL is really pushing hard for the sheer skirt over short skirt trend these days.

Let’s talk creepy dolls. What did you hide behind (scarf, pillow, sweater, etc) during the “Follow me, end up like me” scene? And why are the grandmother and kid on A’s dole?

Phoebe: Oh my goodness, this scene was SO creepy. I most certainly hid behind my hands and the dog. And, then peeked out to see what I was missing. Between the creepy doll-voice and all the dolls falling on the PLLs, it was totally freaky. Also, I want to know how the creepy doll store owner and A knew that the girls would go back to the store and thus had the perfect set up to terrify the PLLs. Or, was A there and thus controlling the strings of the creepy dolls coming alive situation? But, also, that child! So terrifying. And, I cannot figure out what their relationship is to A, maybe the grandma owes A a favor? Or maybe they are related?

Sarah: I actually can’t remember the last time I was so freaked out by TV. I was totally edging back on my couch and looking wild-eyed at the door as if a tiny Ali doll was going to burst in bearing a butcher knife. But that image of the Ali doll parroting “Follow me, end up like me” half-buried in a mound of dirt is so powerful — it’s going to stay with me (terrifyingly!) for a while.

Good question on whether A was there at the of the flying shelves and cymbal-banging monkeys — I feel like either A or the grandmother must have been behind the doll attack, unless PLL is straight-up going the supernatural route. (But how would A or the grandmother make the dolls’ eyes snap open like that?? AGH they’re alive.) And also: how perfect that this show keeps coming back to creepy dolls. Every time we see dolls — normally a symbol of innocent girlhood — they’re always monstrous. Our core four don’t live in an innocent world.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Unique, Potentially Surprising Ethics of The Vampire Diaries

In gender, girl culture, teen soaps, Television on March 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Sarah S.

*spoilers*

The Vampire Diaries employs many twists and turns of plots in its depiction of the supernatural roller-coaster that is the life of Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev). And it needs these twists to keep the story going through now, its third season. If Elena and her vampire boyfriend Stefan (Paul Wesley) vanquished all the bad guys, found a non-Elena true love for Stefan’s brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder), and lived happily ever after, the show would be over. Many series deal with this dilemma with a shrug, paying no heed to continuity or character development in pursuit of ever more soap-operatic happenings to keep viewers engaged (paging Lost). The Vampire Diaries does something different though: it adheres to an unwavering ethical conviction in second chances that grounds its continuous switching of allegiances—romantic, familial, political, or all-of-the-above.

The motif of redemption characterizes the entire love triangle between Stefan, Damon, and Elena. When the series begins, she’s looking for a new life after the death of her parents, Stefan’s looking to fix the mistakes of his past by loving Elena, and Damon comes to strive for the same endeavor—albeit with seductively wiggling eyebrows and the added moral quandary of not hurting his relationship with his brother. This dynamic continues in seasons 2 and 3 when Stefan “turns off his humanity” and becomes a monstrous, murderous “ripper” who Elena and Damon, nevertheless, believe can be saved. Elena functions, in many ways, as the moral compass for both brothers and for the show as a whole. However, she’s no pure and wilting damsel, making mistakes of judgement herself that often require apologies or other attempts to fix what’s broken. In the end, no matter how despicable either Stefan or Damon is, was, or will be, all three of the central characters believe the offender can be redeemed.

She's like a love compass.

We see a similar emphasis on second chances in the rest of the boys who round out the cast: Elena’s emo younger brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen); the high school quarterback Matt (Zach Roerig); the tortured vampire hunter/history teacher Alaric (Matthew Davis); and the town bully turned self-reflective werewolf Tyler (Michael Trevino). Tyler epitomizes the group’s belief in second chances perhaps best of all, transforming from a swaggering ass to a tortured werewolf to Caroline’s boyfriend to a hybrid werewolf-vampire unable to exert self-will against the orders of his “sire,” Klaus (Joseph Morgan).  Through each of these transformations—emotional and supernatural—Tyler grows as a character and, therefore, rises in the audience’s connection to him. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Eye of the Beholder” (Season 2, Episode 23)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, Recaps, teen soaps, Television on March 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm

This week’s prettiest little liars triumphed over house fires; pieced newspaper clues together; met a random pilot named Duncan; and perhaps found an ally in Jenna. Read on for more on this week’s PLL escapades.

Let's talk about these outfits.

Who do you think this Duncan character is? Can we trust him, and what did you think about his scenes with Aria?

Sarah T: Who? Ohhh Mark Wahlberg’s younger brother you mean? I trust him so far, since we haven’t been given any reason to believe he’d want to hurt Ali or anyone else. Going off of last week’s discussion of Aria becoming Vivian, I thought that scene with Aria in the plane was so illuminating–when Duncan tells her, “You want to understand your friend? What she was looking for? Take control.” Because now the show is really pulling together the ways the four PLLs are dealing with the loss of Ali, her complicated legacy, and the aftermath of her death.

Spencer is dealing by trying to solve the mystery and lay all the answers out in the open once and for all, so that the house she lives in isn’t always so dark and shadowy and filled with strangers. Hanna’s dealing by helping and/or befriending pretty much everyone Ali ever hurt — Lucas, Mona, now Jenna. She’s the new Ali, but she’s reinventing what the new Ali can be by harnessing her own inherent solar power and making amends for the past (particularly since she tacitly supported Ali’s bullying by not doing anything to stop her). Emily’s dealing by continuing to love Ali and remember her in her better moments, so that all the best parts of her live on. And now Aria–who was the most self-obsessed for a long time, and seemed to be dealing mostly by transferring all the pain and confusion and hurt into her secret relationship with Ezra–is finally dealing by becoming Ali/Vivian in order to understand her. She’s learning how to recognize the parts of herself that lived in Ali, and the parts of Ali that are still alive in her. And that is a rocky, bumpy, scary business, hence the plane and the turbulence, but it may be the key to making a breakthrough. You guys! I can’t even say how much I love this show.

Phoebe: Oh my, I think you said it all and best! But, I am a little less trusting of this Duncan fellow and the time up in the plane with him (with all those tight shots of the two of them) totally made me anxious and feel like he might be up to no good. However, I am excited by this new piece of the puzzle in which Ali returned to Rosewood hours before any of the girls knew. What did she get up to that afternoon? And what had she found out? I can’t wait to know! Also, I am intrigued by Spencer’s mom’s confession that she is the one who suspected Melissa … why didn’t Mr. Hastings reveal that to Spencer? So many lies in the Hastings house, but it was nice to see Mrs. Hastings and Jason chatting at the end of the episode.

Chelsea B: The scenes with him were good, though I agree with Phoebe that the airplane scene made me super anxious. I think this is probably just a personal problem, but I keep assuming that every new dudebro they write into the show is going to supplant Ezra (Holden, Jason, etc.). We’ll see if that actually happens with this one, or if I’m doomed to forever imagining romantic conspiracy theories involving Aria.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to be awesome like Georgina Sparks …

In Gossip Girl, How to be Awesome Like, teen soaps, Television, TV villains on March 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Phoebe B.

Gossip Girl’s Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg) is one of my favorite television villains. We first met Georgina at Constance where once upon a time she was best friends (albeit briefly) with Serena (Blake Lively). These days their relationship, like all of Georgina’s, is fraught at best and enemies at worst. In earlier episodes of the series, Georgina drank too much; hid a man’s death after he died in her and Serena’s presence (something I think she blackmailed Serena about and perhaps also the beginning of the end of their friendship); and convinced Dan he was the father of her child and then abandoned said child (by the by Dan is not the father). Then, Blair exiled Georgina to Russia, which was after Georgina had found God and promptly gotten kicked out of her God-camp, perhaps also at the hands of Blair. And, most recently Georgina ruined Blair’s wedding to Louis. In fact, one of the reasons I think I like Georgina so much, besides that she is hilarious, is that she makes a good rival for Blair as she is perhaps almost as good a schemer.

Georgina dressed as a priest and set to ruin Blair's nuptuals

This season Georgina returned to New York married to a supposedly rich yet not so bright man, Philip, with her child Milo, and on a new mission to stir up trouble on the Upper East Side. And just this week it seems that she was successful. Indeed, Georgina did declare quite happily that it appears that she has just taken “down the entire Upper East side.” We’ve celebrated many wonderful characters and actresses in the “how to be awesome columns,” thus, I thought it was perhaps time to celebrate a good old TV villainess. So, while you might not want to be awesome like Georgina, after all, she is a little evil, here are some tips of things to avoid should you want to stay far away from the villainy behavior that defines Georgina Sparks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Father Knows Best” (Season 2, Episode 22)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Uncategorized on February 28, 2012 at 11:26 pm

This week our prettiest little liars got one step (read: episode) closer to finding out the true identity of A; got the moms involved; had awkward father-daughter dances and even stranger sibling moments; Aria wore a very red coat; and Maya is still missing. Read on for more on the PLL’s adventures.

This week featured a lot of awkward daughter-dad moments between all the girls (save for perhaps Emily and her dad). What are your thoughts on these dad developments?

Sarah: Spencer wins the prize for worst dad. Peter Hastings is Captain Von Suspicious. I think I believe him about hiring the PI to investigate Melissa, though. I also heavily dislike Byron (Aria’s dad), who did seem to be putting a lot of gross pressure on Aria to be his “little girl” (matching his tie to her dress). I was glad she told him off, because part of the subtext to his whole thing about Ezra is about controlling her sexuality, which is definitely not okay. Emily’s dad was sweet and helpful in the search for Maya, though. I’m nervous about his going back on duty–I hope he’ll be okay!

Phoebe: Spencer totally wins the prize for worst dad and I love the reference to Captain Von Trapp (particularly given Christopher Plummer’s recent win!). I too believe him about hiring a PI as that actually makes sense. Also, I am worried that Spencer’s mother might be involved in all this. And I second your thoughts on Aria–he is being a bit of a jerk. But also, Emily’s dad was so sweet and awesome and I really hope he’ll be okay to come back to Rosewood but I am glad that Emily’s mom will be back on the show. I have really enjoyed watching their relationship develop. Lastly, it is awesome that is episode is named for (I think) the 1960s domestic sitcom Father Knows Best, in which father always does know best. But, for PLL clearly this is not the case! Yay for TV references! Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Breaking the Code” (Season 2, Episode 21)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on February 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm

This week on PLL, danger is in the air; Spencer gets drunk; Melissa is back in the picture; Aria and Ezra hit a bump in the road; and Mona becomes A’s newest target. Read on for more on our favorite pretty little liars.

Thoughts on why Melissa feels so scary? And what does that video mean?

Sarah: Why oh why did Spencer go with her to a second location? Is it a barn? Oh lord, it’s probably a barn with creepy dolls and horseshoes in it. Anyway, I think Melissa feels creepy because she has all the Hastings intensity and terrorizing ability with little to no mediating personality traits, and also because she had like twelve good reasons to hate Ali murderously. I don’t know why she’s so anxious to find Ali in that video clip, but it can’t bode well. Also, the fact that Melissa worked at the law firm where the blocked Vivian Darkbloom calls were coming from definitely puts her at the top of my list of A-candidates. And also also, is Garrett going to be the father of the baby, not Ian?

Phoebe: Oh man I was definitely also wondering whether Garrett was indeed the father (and not creepy Ian). Either way, Melissa’s choices in male-companion types = terrible. Then again, I agree Sarah that she is all the Hastings intensity without anything to make that softer and ya know less scary. And I am so concerned for Spencer’s safety with the episode ending as she walks out of the house without her phone! Why leave your phone Spencer?! So worrisome. Then again, could Melissa actually harm her own sister? And what did she want to tell Spencer at Ian’s funeral?

Chelsea: Melissa is scary because she’s always scary. She’s just like Spencer, but with way more bitterness and a tad more ruthlessness. Also, her Ann Taylor wardrobe when she doesn’t seem to do anything Ann Taylor-y in life creates an unsettling dissonance for me. Seriously.

Melissa: I think Melissa is scary (not talking about myself here) because she has been willing to see Spencer hurt before. Remember? Oh sure, murderer husband pooky poo; I’ll keep loving you and not believe my sister that you’ve been threatening her. And Melissa has always struck me as ruthless: willing to throw her family under the bus to get at the men that she loved at the time. She seems to have no loyalty and to be a big ball of bullying possessiveness, with a great capacity for emotional blackmail. I’ve always thought she was at least part of Ali’s death, though I’m not sure I think she’s A…She doesn’t seem quite devious enough…But SPENCER?!??! Why for the first time ever are you believing someone so readily? Normally you reserve that poor judgment for the police. Why are you trusting your sister? Just because your father’s past behavior is currently tearing your family apart? Noooooooooooooooooo.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chuck Bass, Chris Brown, and Un-Forgiving Violent Men

In gender, race, teen soaps, violence on February 12, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Phoebe B.

The controversy surrounding Chris Brown’s upcoming appearance at the Grammy’s has had me thinking about my favorite Gossip Girl character, Chuck Bass. Chuck, his smoldering eyes, and his bad boy-gone-good situation consistently woo me (at least once a week on Monday nights that is). But the thing about Chuck, which I have a hard time reconciling with his position as my favorite GG character, is his past behavior: in the pilot he attempts to force himself on Serena; later in season one he does the same to 14-year old Jenny (Dan’s little sister); later in the series he trades the beautiful and amazing Blair for a hotel; and ultimately when he finds out Blair is engaged he punches through a window.

Chuck Bass

The narrative drive of the show, at least in part, is about Chuck’s redemption—he becomes a seriously swoon-worthy character by this season (and GG’s 100th episode!). For viewers, that violent history, which is often blamed on his absent and fairly mean father and lack of a mother, is erased throughout the narrative of the show. Indeed, my love for Chuck is possible because the show makes me forget Chuck’s darker deeds—which are most often acts of violence against women. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “A Kiss Before Lying” (Season 2, Episode 17)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, The Bachelor, Uncategorized on February 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

This week we encounter our prettiest of liars as they say I love you for the first time; discover bruises on their fake boyfriends; happen upon false identities and fake hairstyles; and protect those most dear to them. Read on for thoughts and opinions on the PLLs! Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “The Blond Leading the Blind” (Season 2, Episode 17)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm

This week the PLLs wear some great clothes (especially Aria!); make new alliances; lose a boyfriend; gain some lost and creepy footage; and discover new and scary truths about A. Read on for more PLL news and opinions! Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “A Hot Piece of ‘A” (Season 2, Episode 15)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

This week on PLL, the liars attempt a birthday bash that ends in danger and drowning (maybe), bring Caleb into their super secret circle, and suspect Lucas of being A’s helper. Meanwhile, Mona returns and Jenna and Garrett fight. Read on for answers to our post-PLL questions. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Be Awesome Like Hanna Marin

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 10, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Phoebe B.

As any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to regular television programming, several of the Girls Like Giants crew teamed up to crack the awesomeness codes of the core four.

Hanna is one of my favorite PLLs (although I love them all for different and various reasons) in part because she is the funniest PLL, but also because just like the rest of them she is far from perfect. Part of what makes her so awesome is that she is both loyal and tricky at times; sometimes she gets hurt and makes crazy choices but other times she is the best of friends; I feel for her when A (and/or Ally) is mean to her (often more than for the other ladies) and I think her sense of humor often makes the show. So here are a few ways to be awesome like Hanna.

Hanna with some mighty fine shoplifted sunglasses

Most importantly, always cut tension between your friends with some humor and witty one-liners

Never use your powers for evil. Even when Hanna becomes the new “it” girl post-Ally, she is never mean (in the way that Mona is) and instead befriends Lucas (to whom Mona is quite cruel), joins the student paper briefly, and is an all around nice gal.

Be a super loyal and supportive friend to the other PLLS. For example, invite your best friend stay with you (Em) when her parents move out of town AND give your soon-to-be boyfriend a place to stay when he has no home (remember, Caleb briefly slept in the school library). Hanna is also seemingly always the first one to find out about the other PLLs secrets (for example, that Em is gay, about Aria and Fitz’s super secret romance, etc) and she is always 100% there for her friends. She even tries to intimidate a guy who is following Caleb in order to protect him (she thinks he is a police officer, although he is not). Hanna is just pretty much the best of friends. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Be Awesome Like Aria Montgomery

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Chelsea Bullock

As any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to regular television programming, several of the Girls Like Giants crew teamed up to crack the awesomeness codes of the core four.

It’s no secret that I, much more than most of my lady-friends here, adore Aria. She does dumb things, is super stubborn, is kind of sneaky, and is borderline boy-obsessed. However, there are also lots of great things about her. Want to channel awesome Aria?

Don’t be afraid to experiment with style. One of the things that I love most about Aria is her ever-changing, occasionally wacky-yet-dark sense of style. She isn’t afraid to be punk-rock chic on Monday and laced-up, prim and proper on Tuesday. Her style often reflects her mood rather than some lofty, solidified sense of self. She also embraces trends–even unfortunate ones (hello, dangly hair feather)–but is never apologetic about her choices because she simply doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s too busy having fun trying out different versions of who she might be through her clothes.

Love your family really, really hard. Most of Aria’s biggest mistakes happen with her family. She keeps a secret for her dad and she tells an almost two-season-long lie to her parents and her brother. However, she never hesitates to make her devotion and affection for her family known. Her parents, even when they probably shouldn’t, depend on her and treat her with respect. This means that even when Aria is making big-time mistakes, she returns that respect to them and trusts that their mutual love for one another will make everything okay in the end. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Be Awesome Like Spencer Hastings

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Melissa Sexton

As any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to regular television programming, several of the Girls Like Giants crew teamed up to crack the awesomeness codes of the core four.

Spencer Hastings is my favorite Pretty Little Liar, because I see a little too much of myself in her: skeptical, aggressive, competitive, driven, and rabidly loyal to the people she loves. Nobody else is as likely to drag the girls into hair-brained schemes that are aimed at vengeance or vindication…but that result in further complication. Her stubbornness and bossiness often create tension with the group of girls; her affection for older boys, especially her sister’s boyfriends, gets her into all kinds of family conflict; and yet she is a fiercely awesome leader and friend. So how can you channel Spencer’s awesome qualities?

Stand up for yourself and for your friends: Spencer often gets into trouble because of her smart mouth and her lightening-fast temper. On the other hand, though, she is a girl who knows how to stand up to the petty manipulation of high school and of murderers. She is the one girl that Ali feared because she refused to be bullied by her and because she would openly fight with her. Whether it’s standing up to Ali in the midst of sleepover, standing up to her sister’s husband Ian when she thinks he’s a killer, or standing up to her father when he refuses to tell her why he seems to be involved in sneaky cover-ups around Ali’s murder and is mean to her boyfriend Tobey, Spencer sets boundaries and speaks to them loudly. Sometimes her protective nature makes her seem bossy and controlling towards her friends, like when she goes to talk to Ezra Fitz about Aria’s budding romance with possible killer Jason; but as their reconciliation scene suggests, even then Spencer has her friends’ best interests at heart and will risk danger and open conflict to help them. Her penchant for conflict also comes in handy as the basis of many a ruse, like the recent season-re-opening battle with Emily that she stages to throw A off their conspiring tracks. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Be Awesome Like Emily Fields

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Sarah Todd

As any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to regular television programming, several members of the Girls Like Giants crew teamed up to crack the awesomeness codes of the core four.

How to Be Awesome Like Emily Fields

Be the hardest worker who has ever worked so hard. Emily’s athleticism is a big part of her identity, and with good reason: sports reward daily dedication and a desire to push yourself harder. She’s the best athlete on the swim team because she puts in the time and effort. When another girl on the team, Paige, tries to upset Emily’s game with homophobic comments and assorted low blows, Emily’s response perfectly summarizes her philosophy: “If you want to beat me, work harder.” What a perfect comeback: not only does Emily strike at the root of Paige’s insecurity, it’s actually good advice she’s giving. To a mean girl who just made a homophobic comment about her. That’s our girl.

Have serious self-respect. As Emily begins dating girls, multiple people try to use her sexuality to manipulate her or make her feel like she should be ashamed. A blackmails Emily and sends pictures of her kissing her girlfriend Maya to both Emily’s mom and Hanna. Paige tries to use Emily’s sexuality as a weapon against her, and Paige’s father does the same to the nth degree. But even as people try to make Emily feel guilty and wrong about who she’s attracted to, Emily becomes increasingly comfortable with her sexuality. When Paige eventually confesses that she’d like to date Emily, but not in public, Emily wisely but gently breaks off their budding relationship. “I’m not ashamed of who I am,” she says. “But I used to be. And if we have to hide like this all the time, I’m going to start to feel that way again.” Emily’s integrity encompasses but is by no means limited to her sexual orientation. What it comes down to is that Emily is growing up, and part of that process is learning how to refuse to betray herself–no matter what anybody else says or wants. She can be the strongest person in the room just by standing her ground.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Through Many Dangers, Toils, and Snares” (Season 2, Episode 14)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 5, 2012 at 3:53 pm

This week we welcome back our favorite little liars in full force as they fake fights, sneak into scary greenhouses (alone!), tell parents their secrets, and much much more. Read the rest of this entry »

The Secret Circle Double-Header: “Beneath” and “Balcoin”

In Secret Circle, teen soaps on November 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm

This week, we take a look at dark magic and secret siblings.

What is afoot with Charles? He seems more evil than normal. And are you worried about him having the crystal? 

Phoebe: I am so worried! I feel like killing Nick has turned him evil or changed him (of course, rightly so). I was hoping it would make him more sympathetic. But seemingly it has only brought out some sort of darkness (to use the show’s word) in him. For this reason, him having the crystal seems like a lot of trouble. But also, I am sad in that it reverses the gender dynamic that was at play between him and Dawn, wherein now he is the more powerful (in terms of magic) which just switches things back to regular heteronormative understandings of straight male/female relationships. Also, I was a little confused this week when Dawn blamed Charles for not doing a good job killing Henry (Faye’s grandpa), as didn’t Dawn kill him? And then Charles just clean up the mess …

Sarah: Interesting point about the power dynamic between Dawn and Charles—I have a feeling Dawn will come out on top again, though, as she seems to be running circles around Charles in the brains department. I think Charles with the crystal is probably bad news but not as bad news as Dawn having it, as Charles seems more limited in his imagination… Read the rest of this entry »

The Secret Circle Roundtable, Season 1 Episode 7: “Masked”

In teen soaps on October 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm

This week on The Secret Circle, Cassie throws a Halloween party replete with kidnappings; Faye wears a daring top and Diana wears some rad fake teeth; lots of people bleed, one person dies, one person burns, and one person gets a concussion (Cassie’s grandma, hope you’re okay!). Read the rest of this entry »