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#18 – Thoughts After Watching the Handmaid’s Tale with My Boyfriend

There are probably a hundred blogs and articles that you could read that tell you how AMAZING The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu is and how it’s a must watch and analyze it through a much more critical lens than I. But while I’m definitely going to tell you, “YES! Please watch it!” What I felt like would be the most beneficial dialogue I could bring to the table is my own personal experience.

In the summer of 2007 between my junior and senior year in high school, I had a reading assignment for my Advanced Composition course where we were given several lists of books on certain themes and we needed to read a set number from each list and write reflection pieces on them.

To be honest, this was my first foray into “adult” writing. I’ve always been a fan of young adult and fantasy literature and that’s pretty much all I read for fun up until to that point. But this assignment made me read some really amazing and thought-provoking literature. To this day, I still consider many of them to be among my favorite and most informative books. (Some examples include The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez). But the book that influenced me the most was undoubtedly Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It was the first book I ever read that depicted sex (and a rather unsexy version at that). It was first time I saw the everyday injustices of being a woman. It was the first time I began to fear what the government (or really any group with unchecked power) could do to me. And so despite it’s dark subject matter, it became one of my all time favorite books. A choice which when people asked me to list my favorite books was always confusing or appalling to them.

So 10 years later, when a television adaptation premiered on Hulu, I was so ready for it. But there was also a part of me that was terrified of it. The show was in production before Donald Trump won the presidency but somehow it couldn’t have been more timely of a release. It’s message is an important warning for our current political and cultural climate. And if adamant Trump supporters and those on the far-right want to know what these “snowflake women” are afraid of, it’s the universe in The Handmaid’s Tale. A world that seems so insane that it couldn’t be possible and yet, somehow, came to be when people stopped watching. When they got too comfortable. When they thought they already had all the rights they could ever need.

But you just don’t realize how quickly everything you’ve taken for granted can be taken away from you until they’re already gone and you’re dressed in a red with your skull bumping against a strange woman’s crotch as her husband tries to impregnate you.

Watching Hulu’s adaptation was a must for me, and I convinced my boyfriend to join me because I felt like it’s required watching in these times. While I knew the story and would have watched to the end no matter what, he was hooked after the first episode because it was just so INTENSE. And watching it became our weekly, much-looked-forward-to ritual. (He lovingly referred to it as “The Handbride’s Tale” in order to lighten the mood). And when we finished the series last week, I’d come to the following conclusions:

  • I’m so very glad that the world of The Handmaid’s Tale disturbed him as much as it does me. I’ve seen that this hasn’t been the case for everyone who’s watched with their husband/significant other. The feeling of mutual horror is important to validate the fear one has of this actually happening.
  • He kept waiting for the action which I thought was indicative of his love for post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories. But what’s really surprising about The Handmaid’s Tale is how many rights get stripped away with so little fight. And the fact that the story is from the point-of-view of a normal woman. That while there is violence that happens (e.g. the bombing of the Senate and the House), so little directly happens to our protagonist. It’s the fear that keeps people in check and allows this theocracy to take over.
  • It was interesting to watch with someone who didn’t have any preconceived notions about the story. I was always surprised if he correctly guessed what would happen next. But because the series expands upon the original world of the book, giving us more perspectives from Luke to Ofglen/Emily to Moira to Serena Joy, we also had several discussions about what was “assumed” when reading the book to what was shown in the series and how it affected our views.
  • Finally, we never discussed the fact that the Commander and Serena Joy are originally written to be much older than they ultimately were portrayed in the series. It does make me wonder what my boyfriend’s reaction would have been to the same situation had the Commander not been the relatively swarmy Joseph Fiennes but instead a much older actor. I do wonder if his “appalled meter” could have gone any higher.

So if you haven’t watched The Handmaid’s Tale yet, get a Hulu free trial and binge that thing! If you have, I’d be interested to know what your thoughts and experiences while watching it were. Let me know in the comments!

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Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival – Food & Beverage Sampler Review

The Food & Wine Festival at Busch Gardens Williamsburg is one of my favorite times at the park (second only to the pure MAGIC that is ChristmasTown), and I was so excited to get to experiences the YUMS this year too. I give you a rundown of the new kiosks (Mediterranean and India) and my favorite dishes in the park in my latest video which you can check out below.

But I also decided to splurge for a Food & Wine Sampler Pass for the first time, and I wanted to give you my thoughts because one of the questions I’ve always had is “Is it worth it?” The short answer is, most likely.  There are two options, a 10 item sampler for $45 (plus tax which comes out to be $50) or a 15 item sampler for $60 (plus tax which comes out to be $66) but for simplicity’s sake let’s go with the pre-tax prices. This means that on the 10 item sampler, any dish or drink you purchase will be $4.50 and on the 15 item sampler it will be $4.00. Dishes and drinks range between $3.00 and $6.00 so for some of the heartier and more expensive items this is quite a good deal!

Drawbacks you do have to note though: this sampler pass doesn’t cover EVERYTHING. It includes all the entrees (yay!), specialty non-alcoholic drinks (like my favorite the Hibiscus Lemonade in Hawaii) and some samples of wine and beer. Flights of wine/beer, cocktails, or full-size alcoholic beverages available at select kiosks are not counted though and you’ll have to pay for those separately.

So how do you get the most out of a sampler pass?

  • Unless you’re just really not very hungry (but I mean, it’s a festival about food so why wouldn’t you be!), the 15 item pass is the best deal because it brings your average price per item down to $4.00.
  • This is definitely the best option for a group as you can split the 15 items between you and share all around!
  • If you’re mostly interested in sampling the beer and wine from the kiosks this is also a perfect idea. Most of the samples run at $5 so you’d be saving a $1 for every drink!
  • I also think it’s a perfect idea for a family if you’re going to be in the park all day. You can graze around the park as you take the kids on different rides and save money for lunch/dinner by getting several of these smaller items rather than something from one of the main dining areas.
  • If you’re really looking to get the bang for your buck, make sure that you purchase items that are under $4.00 separately (and if you have a season’s passholder you get a 10% discount so it’s even cheaper!)
  • If you’re looking for simplicity this is also your best option. You pay once (say, at your first kiosk) and then the rest of the time you just have the cashiers scan your pass and you’re golden! No fumbling with cash or card or trying to keep track of multiple receipts!

Reasons you might should skip out on the sampler pass?

  • You’re more interested in the cocktails or wine/scotch/beer specialty samples. These aren’t included in the sampler so save your bucks and go straight for the booze!
  • You’re there for the desserts. Most of the desserts in the kiosks run in the $3.00 to $4.00 range so you’d actually be overpaying for them in the long run.

So there you have it! I think the sampler pass is best purchased when you have at least three people eating and the 15 item one is an absolute no-brainer when comparing it with the 10 item sampler. I hope this has given you a bit of clarity on how to spend your money at the Food & Wine Festival. It’s all delicious so I can really only say go for it!

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Why Stitchers is the Absolute BEST!

In a surprising twist of events, one of my favorite shows Stitchers on Freeform (which has had moderate views and ratings for two seasons despite being jerked around in timeslots and days) has premiered with a 3rd season!  This is extremely exciting for me because it’s 1.) An amazing show and 2.) Has a passionate fanbase.  And I think during the radio silence between season 2 and the announcement of season 3 when that fanbase was reluctantly coming to the realization that our favorite show might be canceled and cried out for renewal, we actually helped influence Freeform’s decision to renew. We might be a smaller fandom but we sure are full of spunk!

I’m so happy that Freeform took a chance on a third season for Stitchers, and I wanted to share my love with you (as inspired by gifs) so that you might discover the awesomeness that is Stitchers with me!

1.) It’s full of badass ladies.

This gif pretty well sums up why this show is awesome. The ladies do the dirty work. And Kirsten is just one of them.

2.) Men of Science

Linus and Cameron are the nerdy dream team. I want these Men of Science with me if I’m ever having to solve crimes by stitching into the brains of dead people.

3.) All the nerdy references you could ever want

Cameron is simultaneously a doofus and heartthrob. And anytime you throw in a Back to the Future reference I’m a happy gal.

4.) Just Camille.

She’s got so much wit and sass. I aspire to be Camille in my everyday life. She doesn’t take sh*t from anybody.

5.) The best cast ever.

Stitchers Season 3 opens with Kirsten’s team in jeopardy. She outright refuses to work without them and goes on a mission to save them. If you’ve watched Stitchers you know why. From Maggie Bapiste, an ex-CIA assassin and now the leader of the Stitchers program to Detective Fisher, an LAPD officer recruited into the Stitchers program to the rest of the Stitchers lab team, the Stitchers world is filled with awesome and compelling characters.

6.) Sci-Fi Crime Procedural Drama

Science Fiction + the NSA? Seems outlandish, right? However, it works because the characters themselves usually feel like it’s a bit crazy too. But who’s not going to whip out an NSA badge if the times comes?

7.) BFFs not Frenemies

Stitchers begins with Camille and Kirsten at odds. They’re too brainiac girls from CalTech and you might think that this catty dynamic will be central to the show. Turns out uber competitive and smart girls CAN get along and love one another in their own odd ways (even when one of them is incapable of emotion for the first season). I love their friendship. And I love how Freeform portrays it.

8.) Linus and his family storyline

There is life outside the Stitchers lab, and this became incredibly obvious to poor Linus in Season 2 when his dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Ritesh Rajan does an all-star job showing the emotion of a young adult who’s got his professional life all figured out but a chip on his shoulder in relation to his family, dealing with this real life drama.

9.) The way Kyle Harris looks at Emma Ishta

Oh gosh…just…MY HEART!

10.) #Camsten

Very rarely do I start a series and from day one am I completely gung-ho about a ship. But with Camsten, I just can’t even! They’re such a perfect pair, it’s crazy! And I’m hoping to get some great Camsten payoff in season 3 after these last two seasons of angst!

So guys if you haven’t already checked it out:

Also if you’re looking for the basic run down of the plot check out blog on the show pre-season 2 here, and my video about season 1 below!

 

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How to Prioritize Your Life

6-2-17 How to Prioritize Your Life

It’s been a hot minute since I posted anything here on the blog, and I’ve been really sad about this. But now I’m back on a new day with some thoughts on how to remedy this!

My big problem during the last month and half was that I felt like all my life priorities had gotten WAY out of whack. Do you ever have times like this? Where you’re running on fumes but keep telling yourself, “If I can just get to X, then everything will calm down and fall back into place!”

Well, sometimes this might happen. In a magical-not-very-realistic world, maybe. But in my experience, it’s never actually worked out that way.  Instead, I’ve usually come to a crashing halt because I end up getting really sick. Being sick usually affords me the time to take a critical look at all my responsibilities and commitments because my body’s stopped obeying my intense go-go-go drive temporarily. Not that it’s a pleasant way to essentially be forced to reevaluate your priorities, but I guess I just tend to take life as it comes to me.

Pre-getting-the-cold-from-hell I’d release this video on my summer plans to slow down my video output. (We’re going to do just Thursday videos from June through August!) I had already seen my mental wellbeing and productivity careening off the rails so I thought I’d take early action to try to mediate the coming chaos. I still got sick, but at least I only had one video to worry about instead of two!

You see, I want to do ALL THE THINGS. And I also have incredibly high expectations for myself on anything I set my mind to do. Unfortunately, these two attributes don’t usually play nice together. It’s physically impossible for me to always be DOING MORE while keeping up my 110% standards.  This usually results in me crashing into pits of self-doubt and hate because I feel inadequate. Or overextending myself to the point where I freeze up and don’t accomplish much of anything for fear of failure.

None of these are very good outcomes, but what do I do to better prioritize my life and goals and interests?

For me, it’s about reevaluating where I’m at and making new and updated task lists continually. I legitimately have a list for everything. It helps me feel in control of the chaos that’s constantly writhing under the surface of my life. And it keeps tasks, ideas, and interests that I don’t have time to accomplish at the moment, still in my mind.  As life morphs and grows with time, I can see when something that’s been on the backburner might be a welcome change to the routine. Or hopefully know (when things just get a little too overwhelming) how to reorganize my commitments to take off some of the stress while still allowing me to feel creative and productive.

It’s certainly no easy task! But it’s been on my mind a lot lately as I think about where I am now and where I want to be in the future and what that means for how I prioritize my life. In the short term, I’m going back to producing one video a week for the summer and I’m changing my blog release day to be Friday. There was something about releasing all this midweek content that was exhausting me so we’ll see what happens with a Thursday/Friday double hit! Furthermore, I really want to spend the summer organizing and creating a website for iIMAGINEblank so that my videos and blogs (and just generally ALL my content) are in one place and better cross-promoted. I’m also thinking about some big, more awesomely creative projects I’d like to do with iIMAGINEblank, and I’ll hopefully be able to do lots of pre-production on them so I can put my plans into action in the coming months!  I have lots of cool ideas to stretch my skills and grow my brand beyond just life advice videos and I feel like now is the time to seize the day and do it!

So here’s to a productive (but enjoyable!) summer!

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Why is Everyone So Angry?

Two weeks ago we discussed how toxic fandoms can become, especially in online discourse. And in writing that blog, I realized there was a much bigger issue at play that I also wanted to address: Why is everyone so angry?

I feel like I’ve gotten trapped inadvertently in a global outrage cycle. For a while, I thought, “Oh this is just the product of immature tweens with access to the internet and too much free time.”  Then in 2016, I thought, “Oh, well adults seem to be doing it too, but that’s just because of the U.S. election.” But by 2017, I’ve realized that an Outrage Virus seems to have infected most anyone who uses the internet. Because it’s not just about differing political views or recreational trolling anymore.

Sometimes it feels like the whole world has gone mad.

For example, have you ever watched a funny video about a baby or a pet doing something silly? Invariably, if you scroll down to the comments on a video like that, there’s at least one person irritated at the baby’s parenting or the ethics of filming your pet doing said silly thing. And that feeds into other people who were just there for a laugh seeing that outrage and becoming angry themselves (because why can’t people just watch the video and enjoy it?)

And the cycle begins.

I am both fascinated and horrified by this cycle. It’s like how you can’t look away from a terrible car wreck.  You’re disgusted by the sight, but you also think you can figure out how it got to this point if you look at it long enough and you also want to know what happens next.

And cue my addiction to online comments.

Donald Trump seems to be the current king of the Online Outrage Tribe, but he certainly didn’t start it. Who did? Have we always been this angry and just didn’t have an outlet to vent? Was it an exponential but unsuspected takeover as we became more disillusioned with the world because of the rapid expansion of technology?

Is there a cure!?

I don’t have answers for you, unfortunately. But I think it’s important to recognize a problem/trend so that you can be more aware of how it’s affecting your everyday life. And therefore, take actions to try to counteract it.  I do so by trying to make more videos with an optimistic take on life. A positive light on the horizon of a super dark sea. But I don’t think you have to be making videos to be an influence. Whether you’re tweeting or Facebooking or blogging or texting or discussing something in person, trying to take a step back from that viral outrage and look at the bigger picture is so important. It helps to shake others out of their anger trance too.  It’s actually a lot easier to be a literal light in the darkness of these dangerous and angry times than one might expect. You simply just have to make an effort to not get swept up in the story sea of outrage!

 

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My Life: One Year Later

This time last year I opened Gmail to find a truly mind blowing arrival. An email from the YouTube staff letting me know that I had been chosen for YouTube NextUp NY’s inaugural class. The email was sent on March 31st, and it basically had to say “This isn’t an early April Fool’s joke! You really are NextUp!” which I think is hilarious but also kind of sums up exactly how getting that email felt.

I’d applied for two YouTube-related things in early March and I’d been rather confident in hearing back from one (VidCon’s “Less Than Famous” Panel because I’d been a runner-up in 2015 so I mistakenly thought I’d be a shoo-in for 2016).  So I had my hopes dashed a bit when I saw the panel participants announced a few days prior.  As for YouTube NextUp, I thought I had such a low chance of being chosen I essentially applied and forgot about it.

But what happened was such a crazy rush of impossible coincidences that a year later, with my life so vastly different from what it was then, I can’t help but reflect on the catalyst that receiving that email was.

Things you don’t know:

The day I received the email I had taken a half day from work and spent the afternoon touring apartments in Downtown Lynchburg. I’d reached somewhat of a breaking point with living with my parents/being far away from Parker/desperately searching for new employment, and I thought that perhaps moving out of my parent’s house despite the risks of signing a year lease in a city that I didn’t want to be permanently and staying at my (honestly) dead-end career-wise job for another year would maybe bring me some kind of relief.

And there was a sense of excitement to it because I toured a beautiful 2 bedroom loft apartment with exposed brick and original hardwood floors and a cool “millennial-girl-living-her-best-life” vibe that was being offered for the price of the 1 bedroom apartments if filled quickly. And it was so beautiful and all the things I thought I should be doing with my life (according to Instagram, that is) even if it wasn’t really the best financial or career-related decision. So I’d just filled out an application and was excitedly telling two of my best friends about it via text (who had a less-than-enthused response because “But what about Richmond?” and “I thought you hated your job?”) when I opened my email and low and behold…

And things kind of came to a screaming halt. Because this was an Opportunity with a capital “O.” And moving out. Living my Instagram life. None of seemed as important until I’d allowed this Opportunity to change me.

So I put the fancy apartment on hold, and I went to New York for a week.

And I talked to my fellow creators. I learned about what they did for their “day job.” And how they balanced YouTube and their careers. Or rather, how they were trying to integrate YouTube into their careers for the most part.

And I came away, maybe not with a foolproof plan to YouTube stardom, but a better idea of how I wanted to live my life–real life, career life, Youtube life, all of it.  Unfortunately, that meant not moving into the trendy loft apartment. It meant putting a pretty solid end date on my time at my current employment. And it meant not taking a backseat on life anymore. I’d spent so much time saying “Well I can’t make better videos because I don’t have lights” or “I can’t make 2 videos a week because I just don’t have the ideas/energy” or “I can’t make non-dating advice content because that’s not what my subscribers are here for.”

I can’t. I can’t. I CAN’T.

But I could. Even when it seemed so darn impossible! (Like me being selected for NextUp).

So I said, I’m going to move to Richmond by September whether I found a job or not.

And I found a job. And I moved in August.

I said, I’m going to make 2 videos a week.

And I’ve made 2 videos a week (except for 2 weeks around Christmas when I just needed a break) since August, and I feel like I have more ideas than ever!

I said, I’m going to try making different content.

And I’ve made travel videos and review videos and a lookbook and collaborations with friends and a music cover of “City of Stars.”

I’m not telling you these to brag. When I write it all out like this, I actually surprise myself because to me it just feels like I’m doing life. It doesn’t feel extraordinary. It’s just what I have to do to get by. (But with obvious self-imposed challenges, of course).

What’s really awesome and amazing is that even though YouTube NextUp didn’t really do much to boost my channel in terms of subscriber growth, it did allow me to find what I think is important in life, in creativity, in my career, and in online video making.

I’m very a different person and a different channel in many ways than what I was at the beginning of April 2016. And I’m quite happy with not having to go back.

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Fandom Toxicity

Do you have a favorite TV show, book, video game, YouTube channel, or movie? Does it have a passionate fandom?

Fandoms are really interesting to me. I’ve always been a “fan” of things, and I love many of the things that super passionate fandoms create. I loved reading Harry Potter fan fiction in high school when it was at it’s height. I love watching Delena (The Vampire Diaries) and Captain Swan (Once Upon a Time) romantic moment compilations on YouTube. I love looking at fanart of Sailor Moon or Mario or Zelda or Disney characters. I love consuming much of the amazing thoughts, art, and tributes that my favorite fandoms produce, and even contributing to the fandoms myself as I sometimes write about my predictions or hopes for my favorite TV shows here on my blog and on YouTube.

But not everything that passionate fandoms create is beautiful and happy.  I’ve been noticing lately that some of my favorite fandoms have a creeping layer of toxicity under the surface that I’m rather disappointed with.

What seems to be happening is that fans have SUCH a vehement connection to a show/movie/game/character/creator that they feel a sense of ownership over it.  So that when something happens that doesn’t fit with the narrative that they cling to, there is a violent backlash.

To illustrate this a bit, take the Once Upon a Time fandom. I’ve written about the show on the blog here a bit so you know that I love this show. You should also probably know at this point that I have a bit of an addiction to reading online comments (see this vlog for the full confession). Combine these two together, you get me realizing that a show with a lot of distinct storylines and characters opens itself up for some EXTREME rivalry. Like there are people who love Regina and the Evil Queen and who ship Regina and Emma (not just as amazing friends and co-moms like they’ve become on the show but an actual romantic relationship despite there being no signs on the show of such a possibility so far). There are those who love Emma and Captain Hook together and those who think Hook is “trash.” There are those who desperately want Rumple and Belle to find a happy ending and others who think it’s an abusive relationship. Differing opinions on who should be the main focus of the show or who should end up with who is totally normal when it’s an ensemble cast. But if you hang out on Twitter or Facebook or even the Once Upon a Time Wiki long enough, you’ll find people pretty violently attacking each other for their opinions! That’s not what should be happening in a fandom! Isn’t it supposed to be a place where you can share your mutual love for a thing?

Many times it extends to the actors or writers themselves with attacks on their character or physical appearance or spreading questionable rumors about “who’s dating who” or “who hates who” among the cast. A few good examples here come from the Pretty Little Liars fandom (which as a whole I think is actually less toxic than many of the other shows I love, but I suspect it’s because fans have been kept in the dark so much about what’s actually going on). When Sasha Pieterse who plays Allison, the notorious “dead girl” on which the show was based around, ended up not being dead and became a regular on the show, fans attacked her weight viciously, wondering if she was pregnant when in fact, she’d simply grown up (she’d filmed the pilot episode when she was only 13, the youngest of the all the “Liars”), filled out, and discovered she had a hormone imbalance. Similarly, fans speculate on riffs happening between the PLL actresses, claiming that because Troian Bellisario (Spencer), Ashley Benson (Hanna), and Shay Mitchell (Emily) have posted photos together that they are somehow on the outs with Lucy Hale (Aria).

It just makes me wonder, why are some fans are so obsessed with something that they take it beyond just enjoying it and celebrating in a community of like-minded individuals to the point of critiquing every aspect of the story, the creators, or the actors.  Is it because they think they could do a better job? Is it because love turns into misguided ownership? Is it because the immediacy of social media has given the impression that fans have more control over a piece of art than they really do?

Fans and fandoms, of course, have a big voice in the content they love in this digital age, but it’s still up to the creators as to how much control they actually allow fans to have. You can’t just yell about something on social media because it doesn’t fit your “vision” and expect something to change. If you really want it to be different, make fan art or fan fiction.  Create your own version to satisfy your burning passion for a thing. You’ll probably find someone else who enjoys it!

But all the outrage isn’t helping anyone. It just makes for a toxic environment in a community that’s supposed to be about shared passion.  Respectful debate is one thing. It contributes to the awesomeness of fandoms because obviously we’ll have differing opinions, but letting it devolve into hate and trolling and rumor spreading to either hurt other fans or the very people who make the thing inspiring the fandom is just a waste of the potential that fandoms have.

Communities of people who have a shared passion are incredibly powerful. Spread the love, friends! Not hate!