(Bland, Heteronormative, Inexplicably Wealthy) Friends With Kids

I didn’t exactly hate the new romantic comedy/would-be chronicle of the highs and lows of parenting “Friends With Kids.” In fact, if you had asked me right after I left the theater what I thought of the movie, I would probably just have gushed, “I want Maya Rudolph to be my best friend.” Come to think of it, I stand by that statement.

The movie, which was written, directed, and starred in by the absurdly clear-skinned and adorable Jennifer Westfeldt, follows the lives of three pairs — two married, one “best friends” (you can imagine how that one turns out) navigating the churning waters of marriage, parenthood and how the latter totally screws up the former. The aforementioned pair of “best friends,” played by Westfeldt and Adam Scott, decide they don’t want to have the kid-having aspect of their lives wreak havoc on the sex-with-Megan-Fox-having aspect, and that the best way to handle the two is to have a child together, just “as friends,” split the responsibilities, and go about their romantic lives separately.

Well, once again, you can imagine how that all turns out. Fair warning: What follows will contain some mild spoilers, but then again, if you can’t guess the outcome of this film by its two-minute trailer, well, you may need to take some remedial courses on rom-com structure.

The film was marketed as an edgier, more honest portrayal of adult relationships, and how kids and the other messinesses of being a grownup affect those relationships. Even the tag line – “Love. Happiness. Kids. Pick Two.” – seems to speak to a more real representation of what love is like when it’s no longer of the Nicholas Sparks, kissing in the rain, sex in the restaurant men’s room variety. And to be fair, there are moments in the film that do honestly capture that mood, where romance must come second to projectile baby diarrhea.

-Remind me why this movie isn't about us again? -I know, right?

For my money, though the movie focuses primarily on the developing relationship between Westfeldt and Scott’s characters, the two other couples are much more interesting. Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd play what feels like the most realistic couple in the film — crazy about each other once, they now spend most of their time bickering about their kids, but still manage to maintain a united front when the going gets truly rough. Every time they appeared onscreen, I wished they’d stick around much longer.

You can't tell, but we super-duper hate each other. We just have a lot of sex to mask it.

Kristen Wiig, giving a shockingly tamped-down performance, and Disney prince Jon Hamm make up the third couple, a toxic combination who seem to hate one another and their kid(s) (I’m not actually sure how many children anyone has in this film) and who go through a very believable, scotch and red wine-fueled divorce midway through the film. Hamm, in particular, though he hardly talks during the rest of the movie, delivers a raw, profane, and totally real takedown of Scott and Westfeldt’s irrational and irresponsible decision to have a child without, it seems, considering what they’ll tell this baby when he’s not a baby at all anymore and wants to know why his parents had him if they never loved each other. Fair point, Don Draper.

Of course, in the end, the “friend” boy gets the “friend” girl and everyone pairs off in a totally normal, not at all edgy, not at all pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a family way. Duh. But therein lies the problem.

For one thing, I found it grating and oh-so-typical that poor Jennifer Westfeldt, who is so clearly too good for Scott’s mouthy, vaguely rodent-faced, womanizing character, gets to be the one to pine away for most of the film. Way to reinforce every possible stereotype about women’s emotional weakness and inability to have sex without becoming emotionally attached, Hollywood. Shameful. Moreover, when she confesses her undying love for him, he gets to callously blow her off, while all he has to do at the end of the film is beg to (I kid you not) “fuck the shit out of her,” and all is forgiven and they live, I presume, relatively happily ever after. I wanted to see him work for it, the way she had to work so hard to become independent, forget about his sorry ass and put together an amazing life as a single mother. Unfortunately, all he had to do was rudely show up.

What I really wanted from this movie was something impossible for the genre: for the opposite sex leads not to end up together, for the plot to live up to its promises and not fall into a faux-fairytale, heteronormative, lazy interpretation of what it means for things to “work out.” Westfeldt could totally have made it as a single mother, happily, and could have found someone (maybe, if she wanted to) who would not have spent most of their relationship dismissing her because her breasts weren’t big enough. A new kind of family could have been forged, revealing the many permutations modern family-creating really does take, and flying in the face of the expectation that a real, loving household must have a mommy, a daddy, and a prop-kid to offset the mommy and daddy’s important grownup dramas. This movie could have been edgy and tried something new with love, happiness, and kids.

Instead, the boy inexplicably won over the too-good-for-him girl, and everything turned out exactly how I hoped it wouldn’t. Luckily, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig were there to help me through.

Six 90s/Early 2000s Boy Bands That Were Better Than ‘N Sync And The Backstreet Boys

As kids, my friends and I constantly debated over a very serious question: Which boy band was superior, ‘N Sync or Backstreet Boys? We changed our minds on a weekly basis, and though I ultimately decided that ‘N Sync was a more universally loved, successful group, I appreciated BSB’s edge and willingness to take risks (“Am I sexual?” come on, that was quite a scandalous song lyric for 1997, especially to immature 9-year-olds!).

But Tiger Beat and YM magazine opened my eyes to many other ensembles in the music industry, and I soon realized there were countless boy bands who were just as good, if not better, than BSB and ‘N Sync. My friend Nikita would frequently skim my magazines, point to a photo of some obscure boy band, and ask, “Why aren’t these guys popular?” I didn’t know, but chose to look into these fellows and was impressed with their material. Here are some 90s/early 2000s boy bands that deserved just as much recognition as BSB and ‘N Sync — not including Hanson or 98 Degrees, because the former was a joke and the latter was made up of milquetoast meatheads who gave birth to the douchetastic bro movement fifteen years before The Situation developed his signature abs.

1. 5ive

You may not remember British boy band 5ive, but you can probably sing 1/3 of the chorus to “When The Lights Go Out” (just add the word “baby” before the song title, that’s the gist of my knowledge on the pop song lyrics). It played in some Disney Channel original movie, possibly “Model Behavior” (fun fact: Justin Timberlake starred in this made-for-TV movie, the selfish jerk). They also sang “Slam Dunk (Da Funk)” on that Disney reality show about performers. Simon Cowell also signed for them, and that’s saying a lot considering his prickliness.

2. Eiffel 65

Would you judge me if I told you that I still jog to Eiffel 65′s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” and “Move Your Body” on the treadmill? I haven’t listened to “Too Much of Heaven” in almost a decade and a half, but the lyrics still resonate with me, as they speak the truth: “Heaven can always turn around.” Sorry to get all philosoraptor on you, but my 11-year-old self learned quite a valuable life lesson thanks to Europop. I just got off the phone with my buddy Nikki, who believes Eiffel 65 does not deserve to be on this list because they were basically a one-hit wonder of 1999. They may only be known as the band that produced “Blue,” which appeared in cinematic masterpieces, “Big Fat Liar” and “Loser,” but the song never lost its appeal (the music video, which was the only reason I watched MTV in junior high, has more than 25 million YouTube views, y’all) and remains authentic to this day, so Eiffel 65 definitely cemented their place in the 90s boy band hall of fame.

3. LFO

Nikki suggested this one. While their lyrics were only slightly more sophisticated than those of Rebecca Black, LFO put out some very catchy tunes. “Summer Girls” and “Every Other Time” still have the ability to instantly put me in a good mood.

4. LMNT

LMNT’s “Hey Juliet” defined summer 2001 for me and my buddy Nikita. “Hey Juliet” inspired many inside jokes among our social circle, and we soon found out that one of the bandmates was a cousin of our friend Melissa. Another lesser-known fact that would show up on Trivial Pursuit if new versions of that game were still being created: “Glee” actor Matthew Morrison was recruited to join LMNT, but replaced by the time their first album went on sale. It crushed him, but everything happens for a reason, and he definitely came out ahead of the other dudes.

5. BBMak

Though another fabulous, overlooked British boy band, BBMak did manage to guest star on “Even Stevens,” for which I’ve already professed my love. In middle school, I considered this an accolade, but because BBMak peaked around the time they popped up on the kids sitcom, my good old college educated brain tells me the network appearance didn’t work its Disney magic. What a shame, I just want you “Back Here,” baby!

6. Dreamstreet

Okay, so they kind of sounded like girls and make Justin Bieber seem macho, but these boys were adorable. They were gifted dancers and so loyal to their fans that spikey-haired heartthrob/lead singer, Chris Trousdale was nice enough to star in a horrendous movie with one of his most loyal followers. Dream Street was also more wholesome than a lot of the boy bands to which we were exposed, and we were lucky they allowed us to maintain our innocence in our beginning teen years. It was all downhill from there, as Dream Street was basically the last boy band before the trend shriveled up and died.

Five Songs By Disney Actresses You’re Glad You Forgot About

If you were anything like me, the Disney Channel was a major part of your late elementary school and junior high years (Nickelodeon was my life until the most talented comedians on “All That” left the show). You lived for Disney Channel original movies like “Xenon: Girl of the 21st Century,” enjoyed “Lizzie McGuire” even though Hilary Duff sometimes got on your nerves, and were charmed by clownish goofball Shia LaBeouf from the very first episode of “Even Stevens.” The late 90s and early 2000s were great years for the Disney Channel, and I’m lucky to have dodged the awful programs that debuted after I’d outgrown the network, but Disney still had its weaknesses when I was a faithful viewer. Disney higher-ups seemed think turning the channel’s popular actresses into singers was always the obvious next step for each of the entertainers, and while this undoubtedly worked from a marketing standpoint, the songs were dreadful more often than not. Here are some tunes by Disney actresses that I am embarrassed to remember and would pay a large sum of money to wipe from my brain:

1. “Dive In” – Christy Carlson Romano

Several days ago, a colleague wondered aloud why “Even Stevens” star Christy Carlson Romano’s entertainment career never took off. Without explanation, I emailed him a link to her music video for “Dive In,” a 2004 pop song that used to appear onscreen during Disney Channel show commercial breaks. For the record, I think Carlson Romano is a talented singer and performer, so it’s unfortunate that this song defined her as a musician. Towards the end of high school, one of my friends began working at the Disney store and said this song made her want to resign, as it played every five minutes on the job. She quit before long, and there’s no question in my mind that “Dive In” played a role in her departure:

2. “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” by Hilary Duff

Let’s be honest: Hilary Duff’s name is attached to plenty of silly pop tunes, but among her worst is definitely “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room,” which she sang for the DisneyMania album. I actually kind of liked her first hit, “Why Not?” as a high school freshman, so it’s a shame she followed up with this:

3. “Rumors” by Lindsay Lohan

Back when she was 18 and first garnering a party girl reputation, LiLo put out the song “Rumors,” which is a rant about paparazzi reporting on her wild ways. The song is whiny, but you’ll actually enjoy LiLo’s personality and sex appeal in the music video, as she hasn’t put forth energy like this in half a decade and is basically permanently comatose now.

4. “I’m Not Your Girl” by Lalaine

I always thought Lalaine got shortchanged in terms of an entertainment career, and this song of hers only confirms my argument. Several years after Lalaine’s colleague Hilary Duff fell off the face of the music scene, Lalaine came out with “I’m Not Your Girl,” and let’s just say I expected more from Lizzie McGuire’s ballsy, fearless BFF:

5. “That’s So Raven” – Raven Symone

No explanation necessary:

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” Explores Guilt, Unconditional Support For Family Members

When a book is adapted into film, critics often argue that the movie does not do the written work justice. That’s absolutely the case for the thriller, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and the novel by the same name, but I’m glad to have experienced both, as the book has ample details and back story on each character whereas the film gives us visuals that simply do not have the same powerful effect on paper. Though the flick received mostly poor reviews, I think it’s important for all parents and adolescents to watch, as it shows one mother’s commitment to standing by her son after he has done one of the most horrendous things imaginable.

Little Kevin and Eva

As noted by The New York Times, the story line is every parent’s nightmare. Worldly travel writer Eva tries to make sense of her life as she reflects on her failed marriage and comes to terms with the fact that her 15-year-old son Kevin (portrayed by the ever handsome Ezra Miller, and I don’t care that he’s only 19!), whom she identified as a sociopath the moment she first picked him up, has gone on a murder spree at his high school, and not in a typical way. It’s even more horrifying than a shooting, if you can imagine it. From the beginning, you think you have an idea of what will transpire, but I’ll just say there is plenty of room for twists and jaw dropping events in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” even though you know from the get-go that he is going to orchestrate a massacre. The movie begins with Eva (played by the outstanding Tilda Swinton) shuffling out of bed to investigate the ruckus outside only to see that vandals have spray-painted her house and vehicle bright red. Maintaining the same comatose expression as she wears before examining the damage, she strolls back into her tiny home and climbs back into bed.

We’re then transported to Eva’s pre-children days, when she and her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) couldn’t be happier. Though Eva has never desired a child, she decides to become pregnant in hopes that she will catch the maternal bug upon bringing life into the world. The phrase “it takes time” is quite an understatement with respect to Eva’s connection with Kevin. She merely floats through pre-natal yoga, where her fellow classmates can’t stop smiling and gushing about their pregnancies.

Birth comes and goes and Eva still doesn’t feel the powerful motherly love she has heard about all her life, but she tries very, very hard to be a solid parent nonetheless. She has little to work with though, as young Kevin develops an aversion to her immediately. In the book, he rejects her breastmilk and screams whenever she’s around. The latter takes place on film, but only to an extent, and probably for the better. A movie with excessive howling would scare audience members away just as Kevin’s constant wailing prompts the downstairs neighbor in the book to move elsewhere. Kevin becomes an even bigger terror each year, spending his early elementary school years in diapers to infuriate his mom, shooting nasty looks and comments at her several times a day, and pretending to be a good kid in front of Franklin, who either refuses to believe or cannot see that his son is malicious and destructive.

Kevin in high school

In school, I learned a lot about what’s called an unreliable narrator, which is a storyteller who only provides you with his/her perspective. At first, Eva seems to be the classic unreliable narrator, as she blames Kevin for everything that goes wrong in her life, a reaction that ultimately pushes her husband away. When her second child Celia’s hamster goes missing, Eva assumes Kevin must have been involved in the animal’s disappearance. When little Celia becomes the victim of a terrible household accident under Kevin’s watch, Eva is confident that her son devised the disaster. When toddler Kevin still won’t utter any words, she faults him for the turn her life has taken, saying, “Before widdle Kevin came along, mommy was happy. If widdle Kevin weren’t here, mommy would be in France.” This antagonism strains her relationship with Franklin, who is simultaneously a charming all-American guy and a blissfully ignorant father. When Franklin says their marriage needs to end, Eva believes it’s all because of Kevin, who actually takes responsibility for the crumbling of his family. He walks in on their divorce discussion, and when Franklin advises him not to take what they said out of context, he responds, “I don’t need any context. I am the context.”

It’s easy to assume Eva is just looking for reasons to fault her son for her own choices, but as the film and book go on, you learn she was correct in her assessment of Kevin from his first day on earth. He’s just as vicious and dangerous as she fears, but the big question is whether she is equally evil herself. At the Times points out, Kevin and his mom are very similar. She doesn’t carry out a rampage, but she’s clever and harsh nonetheless, and Kevin definitely inherits his dark side from her.

The film weaves through the present and walks us through Eva’s life in small town New Jersey, where she is a pariah and ostracized by everyone around her. We watch Eva turn the other cheek and accept abuse as strangers gawk at her, slap her across the face, poke holes through each of her eggs when she steps away from the shopping cart to hide from one particular customer at the grocery store, betray and manipulate her, and even sexually harass her. At one point, we suspect we can trust one of her new colleagues, who happens to be the only person in the office who doesn’t look at her with disdain, but even he turns out to be a total creep.

Ezra Miller as Kevin

One film critic said he disliked Eva being framed as a martyr, especially since she never wanted to be a mother, but I wouldn’t be so hard on her character. If anything, she’s likable because she owns her flaws and knows she has made some major mistakes at home. Though she could have easily fled the country and continued her travel writing elsewhere in the post-killing period, she sticks around the neighborhood she has hated since the day her husband forced her to move there because she wants to be in close proximity to her son’s jail. You also get the sense that she is atoning for her sins, and while this could be perceived as martyrdom, I can imagine it takes a lot of courage to show one’s face in a town after such a life-changing incident.

You’ll appreciate “We Need to Talk About Kevin” if you’re at all interested in different family dynamics and what unconditional love or support really mean. In spite of everything Kevin has done to Eva, her family, and so many people, Eva is there for him, and she hints that she’d be open to letting him start over and be a part of her life again after he serves his jail time. In spite of everything that takes place (and believe me, you don’t even know the half of it yet), she’s still dedicated to him, and not because she is obligated to care for him as a parent, but because she really does love him.

Women Talking to Women, and Why It’s Important

Commenting on my post on Zooey Deschanel’s totally irritating perfection and the problematics of resenting her for it, one reader wrote:

“This conversation and almost every conversation on here makes me confused about feminism. From what I’m hearing, I’m pretty sure I hate modern-day feminists, especially if they question my polka dots. Will someone please write what modern-day feminism means to them?”

I’ve been putting off responding to that comment, partly because I chafed at the phrase “hate modern-day feminists,” but mostly because I’ve been having trouble coming up with a way to define my very complicated, nuanced, and sometimes fraught relationship with “feminism,” its definition(s), and its role in my life. Five or six years ago, I don’t think I would have called myself a feminist, partly because I thought that would impress boys (believe me, you do not want to be dating the kinds of boys who’d be impressed by that statement) and partly because feminism seemed like a lot of hollering about injustices that I didn’t see, or really feel part of.

College, my early twenties, and generally living life in the wider world changed me drastically, and among other things, brought me around to perhaps a more modern, less bra-burning brand of feminism, with which I now feel aligned. But how to define that? There are so many things I could say about what feminism means to me. In part, it’s about something I might, if pressed and at some kind of camp, call “sisterhood” – that is, the value of supporting, and of deeply loving, other women and celebrating rather than cutting them down. It is the rejection of the notion that women need to hurt or step on other women to get ahead in a “man’s world,” and the assertion that instead of trying to beat each other at a game someone else invented for us, we need to work together to forge a world in which there aren’t just one or two slots into which all of us are meant to fit.

It’s also about allowing for, and indeed embracing, all types of womanhood, from, yes, a love of polka dots to a penchant for short hair and cargo shorts. It’s about not letting ourselves be told that either of those modes are wrong, or don’t represent womanhood in the appropriate or most flattering way. It’s about our right to be represented in debates about our bodies and our health care, and (at least for me) about our right to make safe choices about our bodies without undue and ridiculous measures being put in place to hinder those choices.

As I was struggling to articulate all this (I still am struggling, and I know my meagre definitions don’t even scratch the surface of what feminism can do and mean for women), I came across the video above. It’s a little longer than your average YouTube clip, but seriously, watch it, especially if you’re trying to formulate a definition for modern feminism.

Because, at its core, it’s about women talking to women. And as the video, and the Bechdel Test on which it’s based, point out, that’s simply not happening enough. Not in our pop culture (though TV blows film out of the water when it comes to passing the test), not in our politics, and maybe not even in our daily lives. Although the Bechdel Test is not necessarily the only, or even the best way to gauge the overall feminist slant or success of a piece of art or culture, for me, it’s a really good place to start. Women sharing with women about issues in their lives other than men is perhaps the most important, the most basic and grassroots, and the most alive way of sharing “feminism,” whatever that means for you or your best friend or your mom or grandma or professor or sister or hairdresser or accountant or any of the other women you interact with.

So I guess what I’m trying to say to that commenter, who wanted to know why we hated her polka dots (we don’t — they’re adorable) and what we thought a feminist looked like is simply this: Ask. Talk to the women you love about what they’re about and what they’re trying to accomplish in the world, and you’ll get a pretty good sense of what feminism means today.

The Five Best “Twilight” Video Parodies

As one of the most prolific and well-known series across the globe, “Twilight” has spawned many fans – and many foes. So if you’re anything like me, you probably enjoy laughing at “Twilight” more than you actually enjoy “Twilight.” Thankfully, we’re not alone! Over the years, thousands of parodies have been inspired by this popular series, and given watchers tons of enjoyment. So instead of you having to weeding through the thousands and thousands of pages on YouTube tagged “Twilight,” I did it for you! Here are the best of the best.
5) “Twilight”…with Cheeseburgers

The story: The video pretty accurately follows the original “Twilight” trailer except for one notable exception: instead of Bella, Edward falls for a cheeseburger!
Why it works: It’s a great commentary on how ludicrous it is that Edward so quickly falls in love with Bella, and it will have you laughing out of disbelief.
Professionalism: It’s pretty well- made for amateurs in terms of video editing, but the costumes and makeup are sub par. That almost makes it funnier, though, when you see “Carlisle” pretending to be serious in a wig that obviously doesn’t fit him!

4) The Jersey Shore Version of “Twilight” (Friggin’ “Twilight”)

The Story: Snookie and team mock the most notable characters in the first three “Twilight” movies, while putting their own Guido/ Guidette spin on the story. Edward is played by The Situation, Pauly D is Jacob, and the other cast members fill in supporting roles.
Why It Works: It’s the perfect blend of staying somewhat true to the movies and a lot of Jersey Shore traditions. You might not know much about the “Twilight” series, but you know enough that “Jacob” shouldn’t be living in a doghouse and “Bella” shouldn’t be downing shots of tequila while Edward fights Victoria. But my personal highlight was watching a bloodthirtsty Ron/ Jasper punch Snookie/ Bella in the face.
Professionalism: This was originally made for Jimmy Kimmel Live, and what makes it is that this is the actual cast of “Jersey Shore”. Costumes range from realistic to absurd; while I didn’t even recognize The Situation as Edward thanks to his fluffy wig, I was shocked to see J- Woww not changing a bit to play her role as Bella’s friend and guide.

3)  “Twilight”’ Cast Gives Sneak Peek at ‘Breaking Dawn, Part 2′!

The Story: Aired on “The Ellen Show,” this version of “Breaking Dawn, Part 2” centers on the Cullen family gathering to celebrate Bella and Edward’s one- year anniversary, when a woman from Edward’s past, Linda (played by Ellen DeGeneres), shows up and wreaks havoc on the entire family.
Why It Works: Ellen DeGeneres spouts out so many amazing lines that I had to watch it five times to actually make it through the video without laughing hysterically. It’s great to see the “Twilight” cast making fun of their story, and with Ellen’s added wit and humor, it’s definitely one to watch. Example: Ellen to Taylor: “Hey, didn’t I see you at a Taylor Swift concert? Weren’t you trying to imprint her?”
Professionalism: Although there are no props, costumes, or blocking, this version gets extra points since it is acted out by the actual cast of the “Twilight” movies, plus Ellen DeGeneres. Thanks to giggling cast members (seriously – Kristen Stewart laughs) and shocked faces from Robert Pattinson, there’s almost no degree of seriousness, but that’s what keeps it fresh and funny.

2) SNL Digital Short: Firelight (NBC doesn’t allow embedding, video at the link)
The Story: Originally aired as a Saturday Night Live Digital Short, this mock trailer follows Taylor Swift’s Bella lookalike (“Stella”) falling for – not Andy Samberg/Edward Cullen – but Bill Hader/Philip Frank, a progeny of Frankenstein.
Why It Works: This story centers around the fact that, while Stella is attracted to Philip Frank, she can’t quite be with him because he and his family (“The Franks”) have a tendency to strangle people. It’s an excellent interpretation on the unique physical situation between Bella and Edward.
Professionalism: With fabulous costumes, quality special effects, and the same music and text used to create the original “Twilight” trailer, this mock trailer stands on the ground that it could really blend right into anyone’s cinematic experience these days.

1) Breaking Dawn Parody by The Hillywood Show

The Story: Staying relatively true to the storyline of Breaking Dawn, Part 1, this story uses well- known songs to personify the situations occurring. A highlight is Jacob randomly appearing to sing “(Give Me Everything) Tonight,” originally by Pitbull, Ne-Yo and Afrojack. For her part, Bella is constantly singing Gaga’s “Marry the Night” … Except it’s “Gonna marry Edward.”
Why It Works: The music adds an unexpected and hilarious twist. You are constantly excited to see what song they’re going to choose next, and the surprises had my friends and I constantly bursting out in laughter.
Professionalism: This video is shockingly well- made – the sets, costumes, and makeup are extremely similar to the movie’s, and the credits that are almost as long as the video prove that this was not made spontaneously over a weekend. Most of the signing is lip- synching, but the change between “Marry the Night” and “Marry Edward” is so flawless that it’s clear that there’s singing talent.

Sorry I’m Not Sorry That “Friends” Saved My Life (or: Why This Smart Girl Loves Sitcoms)

No one told me life was gonna be this way.

I know, I know — the late ’90s called, and they want their sitcom mania back.

But hear me out. My freshman year of college, I went through a really nasty breakup with my high school boyfriend. And I mean drunken-fights-in-front-of-a-haunted-house, being-called-a-Nazi-via-AOL-instant-messenger nasty. The breakup period lasted for about two months, from mid-October until the first day of finals in December (I know!), and for a long, long time after that, I was a black hole of dispair. I looked, felt and walked around like the dead girl from The Ring who pops out of televisions and drowns people.

In addition to writing a lot of incredibly pathetic fragments of poetry during those dreary post-breakup days, I also relied heavily on the three seasons of “Friends” on DVD.

I only own seasons four, six, and seven, plus a weird DVD my mom got for me, probably at one of those Blockbuster sales (remember when video stores were still a thing?), which contains just five episodes from season one. But let me tell you. I have watched every single episode on every single one of those DVDs way more times than I can count. I could probably recite Monica and Chandler’s tag-teamed proposal word for word, complete with Chandler’s super-smooth opening line of “Oh my God.” I know all the answers to the game Chandler, Joey, Rachel, and Monica play in the episode where the girls lose the big apartment (and Phoebe gets artificially inseminated by her brother). In fact, I know these episodes so well that I often find myself about to quote lines from the show, only to realize that would be the actual lamest thing a young adult could do in 2012. Besides maybe gush about “Whitney.”

In part, I watched “Friends” because I needed something, anything, in my own head besides my thoughts, which, at the time, felt like they were trying to jailbreak out of my head with homemade shivs. Being inside my brain was so painful that I needed something loud, brash, and totally banal to drown everything else out.

But I think that explanation is too easy, and too desperate in its attempts to find a reason that a smart girl would like less-than-smart entertainment. After all, there were lots of ways to drown out my own sad thoughts. I could have read “Anna Karenina,” and inhabited a lot of other people’s sad thoughts, instead. I could have volunteered to help people with real problems, or concentrated on turning my pain into art, or all the other things that would have been considered more productive than memorizing sitcom lines. But I didn’t. And I didn’t want to, more to the point. I wanted to watch “Friends.”

There’s something truly comforting — not in a bland, mask-the-pain way, but genuinely palliative — about the relationships on shows like “Friends,” or even its slightly edgier counterparts, from “Seinfeld” through “Community,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “30 Rock” (what can I say — I’m an NBC gal). On those shows, so vastly unlike in real life, bonds between people bend, but do not break. The continuity and audience maintenance of the sitcom genre depend on the characters’ ability to forgive and, very quickly, to forget past wrongs and embark on a new adventure every week. Ross thought he and Rachel were on a break? No problem; aside from some snide remarks, the two managed to repair their friendship within a few episodes. And the same goes for all these shows — by and large, no one holds grudges, or hurts one another irreparably, or breaks up and never speaks again. Exes can be friends, because they’re both signed for at least the rest of the season, and anyway, fights that go on too long are boring and uncomfortable for audiences.

So in a way, I think watching ungodly amounts of “Friends” actually did help heal my broken heart. After all, as I watched, all the friends had hearts broken and put back together again, and they managed to do so with a laugh track. And just like I’ve learned lessons from great novels and great films, I have learned a whole lot from crappy television. Most importantly: Joey, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe taught me that everything hard will eventually be less hard – you just have to wait a couple of episodes.

“Modern Family” Incorporates Guns, Sex Talk in Latest Episode

The opening screen depicts the three families ...

"Modern Family"

One of the best qualities of the ABC sitcom “Modern Family” is its willingness to overstep boundaries. It may be a family program, but as many of us know, family dynamics of today hardly reflect Cleaver life. Since hitting the airwaves in 2009, “Modern Family” has tackled several issues that could have easily been deemed inappropriate for cable a few years ago: Kids catching their parents in the act, parents engaging in roleplay sexcapades at hotels, children dropping the “F” bomb, gay dads, and parents trying to make sure their oldest daughter is not sleeping with her musician boyfriend.

I love “Modern Family” for its depiction of the contemporary American home, especially coming from a modern, blended family myself, but was a little chafed by the latest episode, which explores guns and teen sex. I welcome the latter subject, as pretty much all of my friends started doing the deed in high school, but I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the inclusion of weapons.

Gloria and Claire outside the yoga studio

DISCLAIMER: This article contains spoilers, but nothing that would ruin the sitcom experience.

At the beginning of the February 22 episode, Gloria asks to accompany Claire to yoga. Claire says she’d love for them to do a raincheck on that, and when Gloria surprises her at the yoga studio, Claire complains of a headache and returns home. We’re made to think Claire simply doesn’t want to spend time with stepmother Gloria, as these two have never exactly been buddy-buddy, but we learn towards the end that Claire has been keeping a big secret for a long time. While everyone believes she is doing the downward facing dog and child’s pose in yoga, Claire is actually at an indoor firing range blowing off some steam. She and Gloria take turns firing pistols, and Gloria promises not to tell the others about her private activity of choice.

Meanwhile, 13-year-old Manny tries to impress a classmate by driving past her house in a hot red car. All is well until he reaches a dead end and awkwardly moves the vehicle in reverse. Phil is also upset to hear that his 17-year-old daughter Haley is no longer a virgin, but even more dismayed that all the women in the house have known this fact for months. This happens in many families, and I feel “Modern Family” handled it well.

The gun plotline, however, left me a little lost. I’m all for the right to bear arms, but Claire chalks her hobby up to being a mother of three, and this simply didn’t sit well with me. It’s one thing to say family life can be stressful, but another to cite one’s children as the reason for needing a release at the gun range. “Modern Family” does a nice job showing that no family is perfect and that everyone has their bad days, but I didn’t find it particularly funny that Claire needs to shoot stuff to remain sane. I have dated an arms enthusiast before and appreciate that he taught me how to use handguns and rifles in the event of an emergency, but I could never understand how it’d be a source of pleasure or fun. The fact is that many people enjoy shooting for sport, they just don’t admit their kids influenced this area of interest.

“Modern Family” fans, tell me: Did you actually find humor in Claire’s dirty little secret, or did you think is was an unnecessary addition to the otherwise brilliant comedy show?

I Love Award Shows: The Oscars!

Every year, award show season goes out with a bang with my personal favorite: The Oscars! I love watching the red carpet preshows on E! and was lucky to catch every. Single. Minute. this year, from Darren Criss’s duet with Kermit the Frog, to “The Dictator” aka Sacha Baron Cohen spilling Kim Jong Il’s “ashes” (Bisquick?) on Ryan Seacrest, to the starling amount of Hunger Games spots on commercial breaks. This what people are going to talk about at the watercooler the next day, and the show hadn’t even started yet!

Of course, the red carpet is a design for actors and actresses to fill in their interviewers on how excited they are “to simply be nominated” and that “just being here is a dream come true.” It’s also a great chance to pass judgment on some of the most gorgeous women in Hollywood, and is a truly phenomenal feeling when you see a knockout lady wearing a really awful dress. For one moment, you look more fab than her in your plaid pajama pants. There weren’t many obvious misses this year (though I do have to say Emma Stone was a disappointment) – my personal favorite dresses were worn by Stacy Kiebler, Angelina Jolie, and Natalie Portman.

…And just like that, six hours of my life were sucked away and it was time for the main event!…which Billy Crystal totally brought down. I knew I wasn’t going to love him as a host, but really, Academy? Clearly a lot of work was put into the opening song, but I could barely hear it over the band. The opening really seemed to age the show – despite Justin Bieber being present for all of ten seconds to help Billy get that “18 to 24 demographic.” I felt like Billy Crystal has seen better days. Maybe nine times hosting is too many for anyone.

The beginning of the show is of course peppered with a few serious categories (you go, Octavia!) and a lot of what-the-hell-does-this-even-mean awards (sound mixing vs. sound editing, anyone?), most of which went to “Hugo” this year. I did like how the awards were presented – various people associated with the movie talked about how the nominee impacted the movie. There were some very heartfelt moments in those, which almost made me interested in who was winning. I said almost.

The only thing that I was really invested in was the fact that “Harry Potter” did not win any of the awards it was nominated for, which if you ask me was already too few. Presenters kept it interesting – the cast of “Bridesmaids” brought back the “Scorsese” drinking game by downing mini bottles in the middle of presenting the year’s best shorts. Zack Galifanakis and Will Ferrell woke up the award show with their cymbal “performance” before introducing best original song, and Emma Stone stole the trending topics when she invited Jonah Hill up on stage to dance with her. We didn’t get a funny host, but we can thank the lively presenters for keeping me glued on The Oscars, and not switching to “Aladdin” on ABC Family.

I believed I knew who was going to win, so it was a refreshing twist to see that the Oscar predictors aren’t always right. Both best actor and best actress did not go to who was expected, but I think they both went to good people. A lot of people are disappointed that Viola Davis didn’t win, but I think Meryl Streep’s performance was flawless and deserving of recognition. (Also, she’s won 3 out of 17 times! Stop saying that she always wins, people! Simply not true.) Her speech reminded me of why she was so truly deserving of that award – it was one of the best of the night. It was funny and touching, and never overly saccharine. However, I loved that she thanked her husband first, and then her makeup artist. Way to prioritize, Meryl!

“The Artist” won five awards at The Oscars, and was deserving of them all. Best picture, best director (Michel Hazanavicius), best actor (Jean DuJardin), best costume design, and best soundtrack all went to that shockingly amazing silent, black and white film. I am one of the lucky people who have been privy to that amazing treat of a movie, and I left the theater thinking that it was my favorite movie of the year. “The Artist” winning best picture marks the first time since 2003 (when “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” won) that my favorite movie of the year and the best picture have matched up. After a year like last year, when I was yelling at the TV every ten seconds in rage, it was great to see some excellent films that really pushed boundaries get recognized. All in all, I think it was a great year. Only about 364 days until the next Oscars! I’m already counting down!

Were you happy with the winners this year? Who wore your favorite dresses? What was your favorite moment? I want to hear about it in the comments!

Till next year, folks!

Ke$ha! Or, How I Learned To Love The Glitter Bomb

No matter who you are, hearing the name Ke$ha brings a very distinct picture to your brain. Based on what I’ve heard from my intellectual counterparts, most people with any taste in music see her as lacking depth due to her promotion of nonsensical partying and total debauchery. There may be some truth to the argument that K$ (K-dollar, as I lovingly call her) is just another pop star playing to the masses to make a buck, but I tend to think there is something deeper going on there. It just takes some work to see it.

Ke$ha was raised in LA by a single mother, Pebe Sebert, living off food stamps and welfare until they relocated to Nashville, where Pebe, a singer-songwriter, found success in the country music scene. Ke$ha wasn’t a Mouseketeer or Star Search contestant like her pop icon counterparts. She didn’t weasel her way into the spotlight by appearing on MTV reality shows or getting a tattoo on LA: Ink. She built her career off of co-writing some of the biggest pop hits of the last 5 years, not by making a sex tape or being the heir to one of America’s famous fortunes. Ke$ha got her start by making demos with her mom in their apartment in Nashville and passing them around to producers—the old school way of breaking into the music industry.

Ke$ha claims the title of songwriter above all else. When you really listen to Ke$ha’s lyrics, they aren’t the most intelligently-worded bits of poetry, but they say some really important things, aside from it’s okay to wake up in unknown front yards sometimes or throw up in the occasional stranger’s closet. They say things like, “We R Who We R.” I know that phrase is grammatically problematic and isn’t spelled with every letter it deserves, but it asks the listener to tell the world they deserve to be who they want to be in very few words. It promotes letting go of the world’s expectations of you and living by your own, even if that might mean brushing your teeth with a bottle of Jack everyday. Who are we to say that Ke$ha shouldn’t live her life that way? Frankly, it seems to be working out for her.

Her lyrics don’t appeal to us because they are smart. They are catchy phrases that the masses can relate to, even when others have said the same thing in more complex and sophisticated language. Even though it is simplified, the message is still relevant and important. Who ever said her intent was to appeal to the intellectual? Why does everything need to be held up to that standard? If it isn’t Nitchze, is it garbage?

Ke$ha never claimed to be anything other than what she is: a glitter glam pop princess with natural 20-something desires to party and push boundaries. She promotes sexual confidence, being comfortable in your skin and, most importantly, “not giving a fuck” what the world thinks of you. Her fan base just happens to appreciate the encouragement in simpler words than Proust or Rilke can offer. I’m a 25 year-old college grad. I’ve read Rilke and Proust. But Ke$ha’s music has still cultivated a confidence that allows me to let go of myself and dance more freely than those dudes’ musings ever did. Her lyrics have taught me that in the scheme of living up to the world’s expectations, I should have no fucks to give as long as I am making choices that foster self-expression and don’t hurt anyone.