The Importance of Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is not just a superhero. She’s an icon of strength, of justice, of feminism. Ever since her creation in 1941, she has become a magnetic figure as part of the holy DC trinity along with Batman and Superman. But, aside from her immense iconography, her most recent adaptation – the first EVER on the big screen, finally! – is huge for a variety of reasons.

I can’t really express what I felt while watching the film. I’ve already seen it twice and both times I was overcome with feels and internal flails because it is so fucking powerful and matters so much.

aHR0cDovL3d3dy5uZXdzYXJhbWEuY29tL2ltYWdlcy9pLzAwMC8xODMvMjI3L29yaWdpbmFsL1dXX3Bvc3Rlcl9Qb3N0ZXIuanBnIt’s the first time we get a superhero movie of this caliber that centers on a female hero. Take a second and look at Batman’s filmography, for example. He has appeared in everything from Tim Burton to Christopher Nolan. Take Marvel heroes like Spiderman, who is now going on his third cinematic incarnation, or the Avengers, the team that includes Black Widow and Scarlet Witch basically swimming upstream in a sea of men who get their own independent films while they are relegated to mostly feature in them (*CROSSING MY FINGERS for Captain Marvel though*). And even though it’s ridiculous that it has taken this long for the world to be ready for a Wonder Woman standalone film of this scale, I’m ecstatic because it’s both a win for gender equality and just SO BADASS!

Now, the plot itself may not be world changing, but it is well-crafted. The narrative is enjoyable and action-filled, balancing perfectly the physicality of the movie with the emotional growth of the character. It beautifully arcs Diana’s journey into becoming THE Wonder Woman and seeks to ground the DC cinematic universe within a historical frame. At the same time, it’s a complete story. In a world where superhero movies are all about team-ups, followups and sequels, it’s great to watch a movie that is solid on its own. It tells a story, HER story, independently and lets Diana stand tall on her own two feet without any need for cameos or post-credit scenes. It proclaims it’s ALL about Wonder Woman, leaving the focus on her alone.

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This aspect is where the film succeeds. Not in the specifics of the plot, but rather in the way Patty Jenkins uses detail to empower rather than oversimplify Wonder Woman. It would have been all too easy to over-sexualize a character like Diana. As a superhero, a lot of attention is placed on the movement of her body, and, as a woman, there is a fundamental difference in how that movement is depicted and followed cinematically. Unfortunately, when the camera focuses on a woman’s body, be it fighting or walking, it will typically scan and linger. It will emphasize the curvatures of her body, the size of her breasts and butt, etc. Sometimes, she may not even be the focus of the scene, yet her positioning and framing will highlight those assets. The same can be said for poster art and any kind of film promotion. (No one will ever forget the infamous Order of the Phoenix poster that photoshopped Emma Watson’s body to make her more curvaceous. Argh, don’t even get me started.)

And this is the entire point. The WAY in which the female body is represented in film is important because it can reinforce patriarchal notions that are extremely damaging. Most of the time, this scanning of the camera becomes voyeuristic and constructs the eye of the viewer around the male gaze even without actively realizing it. It is limiting and positions the female body as something to be deconstructed and observed for others’ enjoyment. It also disregards the potential for a different type of audience perspective, creating a more gendered space at the movies. The worst part is that we are so used to this type of visual representation that we don’t even notice it being done. It comes as a given that, for example, when a woman is shown swimming there is almost always a sensuality attached to the movement of her body in the water.

But, Wonder Woman does not do that, and I think that’s what is so paradigm-shifting to me and to so many women I have spoken to since my initial viewing. After the movie, my friend – a.k.a. my favorite narcoleptic sloth/warrior princess – told me that in the scene where Diana jumps into the ocean to save Steve, she was expecting the camera to at some point focus on the curb of her butt. This never happened and she was pleasantly surprised. This detail may seem insignificant, but it demonstrates the prevalent issues present in the depictions of women on screen and how this movie fights to break those conventions from the very start.

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Throughout the film, her body, along with those of the other Amazons, is shown not as an object to be viewed, but as pure power, strength and ability much like the bodies of her male counterparts. Diana is a full-fledged character and her journey is given the same treatment and respect. The fight scenes are not only AWESOME to watch – she truly kicks SO MUCH ASS! It’s majestic! – but brilliantly and carefully choreographed. She fights with the same intensity and zeal and looks cool AF doing it. Just because she is a superhero and a woman, it doesn’t mean that her body needs to be dissected and made purely desirable. Instead, her body is her vessel and she is in control both narratively and visually, and this is powerful to watch. It shows that something different and more representational is possible.

Patty Jenkins claims that her intent was to make a story about a hero from HER point of view. This concept is central to the construction of the camera’s eye as it frames the story around Diana’s own vision of herself and her perception of the world. She is learning who she is, coming to terms with the brutal reality of humankind and trying to understand her purpose. As viewers, instead of simply observing her, we see through her eyes and get to experience her internal struggles along with her agency and independence. We are with her as she stands at the very center and battles with the dangers of war, misogyny and sexism.

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This is all thanks to Jenkins’s vision. I am a hundred percent convinced this movie is what it is because of her brilliant directorial work. As a woman in an industry dominated by men, she is fighting the good fight and succeeds here, showing the world you don’t have to objectify women to sell movie tickets and that having a film led completely by a strong woman can kill it at the box office. I’m impressed by the choices she made, from her casting of badass real world athletes to play the Amazons of Themyscira to her spotlighting of Diana’s depth, to make a movie that, though incredibly physical, emphasizes Diana’s power and complexities as a PERSON over her body as a sexual object. It makes the character more relatable on a human level, while at the same time making her inspirational. In a way, despite being a superpowered goddess, she is more real than many female characters who are visually relegated to imbalanced gendered constructs.

I am grateful this movie exists and is getting such great reviews; however, I wish we wouldn’t have to applaud a movie that does right by a woman for once because all movies should. I wish this wasn’t such a “refreshing” take, but I remain hopeful that there will be more feminist content like this. I praise Patty Jenkins, and I believe only a woman could have taken such great care of Diana and prevented this film from becoming a complete mess. We need more women in spaces of authority and agency, more women making choices in Hollywood to create better content for all.

Personally, Wonder Woman was a total revelation. I came out of the film feeling strong and empowered. I am beyond happy that the newer generations have a movie like this and that she can inspire adults and kids of all genders and non-gender abiding identities to find agency through her story. I think that’s exactly what we need to truly progress. Movies that will create spaces for people to relate, understand and feel represented. I hope Wonder Woman will follow in the footsteps of its pioneer lead character and usher in an era of female-led movies because the world needs more feminist characters breaking the archetypal boxes that foment gender inequality and injustice. We need more little girls AND little boys to want to be like Wonder Woman and not view femininity as weakness.

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~~~

Artsy Quotes Part 2: Of Poems & Stars

Artsy Quotes are back! Finally, am I right?

Many moons ago, I claimed this would be a recurring segment on my blog and then completely forgot about it (#typical), but here we are! More quotes made from an interesting combination of too much time, my love of weird fonts and the wannabe tortured artist vibe I try on every once in a while. These were inspired by Sarah William’s beautiful poem (featured below). Enjoy!


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Inspired by: The Old Astronomer to his Pupil 

by Sarah Williams

Reach me down my Tycho Brahé, – I would know him when we meet,
When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;
He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how
We are working to completion, working on from then to now.

Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,
Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,
And remember men will scorn it, ’tis original and true,
And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.

But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,
You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,
What for us are all distractions of men’s fellowship and wiles;
What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles.

You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,
But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant’s fate.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

What, my boy, you are not weeping? You should save your eyes for sight;
You will need them, mine observer, yet for many another night.
I leave none but you, my pupil, unto whom my plans are known.
You “have none but me,” you murmur, and I “leave you quite alone”?

Well then, kiss me, – since my mother left her blessing on my brow,
There has been a something wanting in my nature until now;
I can dimly comprehend it, – that I might have been more kind,
Might have cherished you more wisely, as the one I leave behind.

I “have never failed in kindness”? No, we lived too high for strife,–
Calmest coldness was the error which has crept into our life;
But your spirit is untainted, I can dedicate you still
To the service of our science: you will further it? you will!

There are certain calculations I should like to make with you,
To be sure that your deductions will be logical and true;
And remember, “Patience, Patience,” is the watchword of a sage,
Not to-day nor yet to-morrow can complete a perfect age.

I have sown, like Tycho Brahé, that a greater man may reap;
But if none should do my reaping, ’twill disturb me in my sleep
So be careful and be faithful, though, like me, you leave no name;
See, my boy, that nothing turn you to the mere pursuit of fame.

I must say Good-bye, my pupil, for I cannot longer speak;
Draw the curtain back for Venus, ere my vision grows too weak:
It is strange the pearly planet should look red as fiery Mars, –
God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.

~~~

Living with Anxiety

Real talk.

As I’ve made very clear, I’m a rollercoaster of emotions personified. Half of the time I’m tripping over my feels and the other wallowing in an existential mess. However, what I haven’t really talked about is something that affects me in a very real way: my oh, so charming friend, ANXIETY.

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I have lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember. At school whenever my teacher told me politely to be quiet, I would spiral into internal CODE RED: “Oh my god! What have I done? I am a worthless pile of banana peels! Why do I even bother?” Similarly, when, by some cruel twist of fate, I couldn’t answer a question on a test, forgot to put on deodorant, or – worst of all – waved awkwardly at someone in the hallway who didn’t acknowledge my existence, my mind would sucker punch me right in the shins and the self-esteem like a ton of farts.  

Ranging from small paranoid thoughts – “Did I turn the stove off?” – to life and death dilemmas – “Omg, am I going to get cancer from eating way too many canned beans?” – to even existentially crushing moments – “What am I doing? Am I wasting my life away?!” – my anxiety sometimes makes life a tad more complicated than it needs to be with its self-doubt, melancholy and compulsive sighing at random hours of the night while staring up at the ceiling.

As I explained it to my therapist, I would compare my entire existence to me ambling along a path up a hill. Most of the time I’m just whistling and having a fabulous time, smiling at the sun a la Disney princess, but there are moments when suddenly everything falls apart. Something springs up on the road ahead or drops from the sky and, instead of assessing the situation with some degree of composure, I simply react by swan diving off the hill, tumbling round and round all the way down and falling face first on the dirt.

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Of course, after minutes, hours or days, I do stand up. I dust myself off, my hair looking slightly more disheveled than before, and amble up the hill once again pretending nothing happened until something else pops up and I fling myself off the hill like an idiot again. 

It can be something small or intense, but in the moment of surprise it’s hard not to react. It’s hard not to freak out and jump off, scratching myself all over and falling on my face like a derp. It really is. Afterwards, I remember that moment of anxiety as something far away. I feel myself so removed from it that I can hardly recall what caused me to lunge off the hill in the first place. I feel strong and impenetrable until it happens again.

Image result for hermione frizzy hair gifIn my case, I think this anxiety catting results from both my paranoid parrot self and my total inability to NOT overthink things. It stems from my fear of being wrong and making any form of mistake, be it paradigm-shifting or simply causing me to look the fool. (It’s my damned Ravenclawness. I know it!) That coupled with my indecision – I spend more time deciding what to watch on Netflix than actually watching anything – results in a moment of panic that starts at the pit of my stomach and travels all the way up the ends of my hairs, making it extra frizzy and extra insane.

Over the years, I have tried to manage my anxiety and definitely gotten better at it. Compared to my poor little middle school self who bit her nails and hid behind house plants at parties (shout out to house plants for always being reliable AF), I’ve become more of a pro at dealing with it. However, I can’t completely shake it. Anxiety is like that inconvenient third cousin who comes to crash in your couch once in a while and won’t leave no matter how much you try. It’s like being struck by a bolt of lightning or stepping on something sticky. There is no knowing when it will come, but when it does, it takes all your resolve to prevent yourself from crumbling down.

It can be destructive and all consuming. That is why over the years I’ve developed ways to manage it, or at least try to pretend like I got it on lockdown even though most of the time I just flail in despair.

Mafe’s How to Be a Baller and NOT a Ball of Anxiety List

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  1. Talk about it: Call someone up. Bother your narcoleptic sloth of a best friend and force her to listen to your whirlwind of constant feels. It helps to put your emotions into words with someone who won’t judge you, but will instead give you a different perspective. (Thank you, friend. You know who you are!)
  2. Treat yo self: Can’t concentrate on your work? Take a freaking break and watch some cartoons instead. Feel like you are so overcome with stress from overthinking even what color socks to wear? That’s okay. Put them all on, or forgo socks altogether and pretend to be a hobbit.
  3. Write: That’s a personal one. But really any form of creative expression that helps liberate intensity is welcome. So if your thing is throwing paint at a wall, playing the piano with your feet or even making Dorito art, do it up, chicken butt!
  4. Impromptu house karaoke: Sing it ALL out. There is no better way to take the edge off than jumping around your living room jamming out to your favorite anime theme song. (Crossing Field, I’m looking at you, you beautiful bastard.)
  5. Take a deep breath: A solid deep breath can be the only thing that prevents you from turning into a puddle of feelings and ruining your brand-new carpet. 
  6. Drink some tea: It’s freaking magical, okay? #matchalatte
  7. Go to therapy: There is nothing weird about talking to a professional someone who is there to guide your thoughts and help you out. (Shout out to my therapist for letting me flail around her office once a week.)
  8. Be honest to yourself: Everyone gets anxious and it doesn’t make you less of a functional person to live with it. It’s important to acknowledge it and try to help yourself be happier.

The bottom line is there is NO shame in wanting to empower your mental health and in coming to terms with your own issues and emotions. There is still such a ridiculous stigma in our society surrounding this that is frankly unproductive and damaging. It’s okay to go seek professional help. It’s okay to feel nuts sometimes. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Talk about it and don’t be afraid to get help because we are all mad here in some way or another.

BONUS: My anti-anxiety song

Credit for banner art: CosmicPonye

Getting Real

Coming off the feminist high of last weekend’s Women’s March (shout out to all my fellow ladies and allies fighting for our basic human rights!) and the sad chain of events of the last few days, I realized I’ve got a lot of shit to say and it’s about damn time I said it.

For some time now I’ve mulled over the idea of speaking more openly about politics in this here blog – why I should, why I shouldn’t. And I’ve actually strayed away from mixing in any kind of political commentary for fear of making this space too heavy handed. I thought that my confessional style served better outside of any kind of policy discussion, anxious that perhaps it would be too polarizing or limiting.

But the truth is that politics permeates every area of life. It is actively a part of our collective existence in society and, as such, we cannot just simply change the channel. Politics affects us all – ALL THE TIME!

The decisions we make come election day, the causes we support and defend and the leaders we allow to represent us matter. They affect everything and everyone around us and choosing to not be part of the conversation is frankly irresponsible and short-sighted.

That being said, in choosing to avoid making political comments, I realized I was actually limiting my own expression, keeping a part of myself hidden from a space that is meant to be open, therapeutic and creative. And maybe that’s the reason why I haven’t been able to sit down and write anything in the last couple of months. Because I’ve felt too conflicted by everything going on.

So, I’ve decided to be more honest in this platform. I want to speak openly about more topics that matter to me without worrying about being too opinionated. That is not to say that I will turn this blog into a list of political diatribes and accusatory posts, by no means. That is far from what I want to convey. I still want to write about the reasons I fail at life, or rant about cartoons and the latest Disney OTP. I still want to talk about my baes and cry over my feels. But I also want to be able to give these thoughts a voice and the dignity of expression they deserve, not forgetting the optimism and humor that makes this space what it is.

I am still a derpy AF twentysomething who’s trying to survive the work week, awful hair days, an obvious lack of hand eye coordination and a slew of existential crises. That is who I am.

But, I am also a politically driven person, and those two don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Marching in Tallahassee last Saturday taught me about community, strength and perseverance as I listened to some of the most badass warrior queens IRL, sang all the songs and whooped for days. It made me want to use my voice and allow myself to organically discuss things without stopping to think: “Is this too real life?”

Because I believe we all have a duty to speak our minds when it matters and we are living through a time when it very much does.

More thoughts to come.

Peacing out.

KPOPTACULAR SPOOKTACULAR

There’s no word in the vernacular…

Halloween is finally upon us! *muahAHHAaahahaHAHAH*

A time of spooky spooks, pumpkin faces, ghostbusting, buckets of jolly ranchers, hocus pocusing and PHENOMENALLY GHOSTLY adventures.

By now you should all be more than ready to go with your evil laughters and crazy get ups, and have prepped yourself with all the Halloween cinematic classics. Because what is Halloween without breaking out into an interpretive rendition of “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” while sweeping your kitchen floors? Or, maybe you are like me and spend the days leading up to the 31st struggling furiously to make the greatest of Halloween garments and finally fulfill your dream of becoming a bossass cosplayer, only to end up looking derpy AF because you have no manual skills and can never cut in a straight line.

But who cares, right?

It’s all about having fun and not giving a fuck anyway! So, HALLOWEEN ON!

In honor of this spookiest of days, thus, I’ve decided to combine two of my greatest loves and give you a list of my favorite Halloween-inspired KPOP music videos.

I know, I know, you are SO welcome.

ENJOY!

1) Party responsibly

Or, how to make the perfect Frankenstein version of your baes in 5 easy steps.

2) In the dead of the night… a wild Sunmi appears!

Or, how to creep out your childhood crush by tiptoe dancing in the snow.

3) Right in the literal feels

Or, how to be your creepiest self and pratice your sewing skills in the process.

4) #TTlife

Or, how to scare children who stray into weird mansions with random dancing girls crying on Halloween.

5) BOOM BADA BOOM!

Or, how to knock a group of supernatural beings unconscious without throwing a single punch.

BONUS: So. Much. Face.

Or how to wear silky suits and ruffles and look mysterious AF.

~~~~~HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!~~~~~

Expectations vs. Happiness

tumblr_nopuhzjdyp1uo7ecuo1_400So last, last, last Friday, I sat down with my BFF Pau (one of the greatest human otters in all existence) for our customary movie night extravaganza. Because nothing says weekend like comfy sweaters, popcorn in smiley face bowls, Netflix (of course!) and a glass of white wine. By a glass of wine I mean ONE SINGLE glass because we are actually 85 and more than one leaves us snoring mid movie, especially Pau (she’s a total narcoleptic sloth in the best of ways).

As you can see we are definitely exciting AF people.

In any case, we sat down to watch Dirty 30 and, let me tell you, it hit us right in the existential feels.

The movie centers around an orthodontist’s assistant (shout out to assistants errywhere) about to turn 30 who realizes her life is nothing like she pictured it would be at 16. She has a mild existential crisis (#storyofmylife) prompting her two best buds to throw her a blowout birthday bash rager filled with keg stands, jello shots, TP-ing, emergency tooth extractions, surprising blasts from the past, matching T-shirts (the best kind), flannel and lots and lots of wacky BFF shenanigans.

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Now, the movie is great. It’s funny, charming and ridiculous enough for Friday night bonding friendship time, but it also made me think about the crazy, nagging monster called EXPECTATIONS.

Expectations of careers, lifestyle choices, friendships, romance, family, beliefs, or even suitable gym routines and proper footwear.

Expectations of who we should be and how successful we will be or deserve to be.

But where do these even come from?

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#thatswassup

They are dictated to us, forced down our throats, by culture, parents, strangers on the subway, and, most unfortunately, by our own selves. We create these unreal expectations for ourselves all the time and then feel constantly let down by reality when it doesn’t look as rosy, as brilliant and as flashy as we imagined in our personal dreamscapes.

We are all scrambling to be “fulfilled” in life, at work and in love. But what is it to be fulfilled anyway? How do you even know if you are? Is there a checklist? Where can I get it?

It’s almost as if we are under this insane internal pressure to excel above all else and be unique and inspiring, forcing ourselves to question our own happiness on the reg as we eternally reach for loud and grandiose future selves.

This anxiety is at the core of the movie: how expectations frame our views, or rather, how our happiness is conditioned by expectations.

At the end of the movie, Kate, our newly 30-year-old protagonist, realizes she doesn’t want to go to grad school and become an orthodontist, but is actually happy where she is, doing what she is doing, feeling how she is feeling.

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It’s a refreshing outlook, especially nowadays when most optimist movies focus more on reinvention and success. A protagonist who feels stuck in her life/job/relationship one day decides to take a leap of faith, turn her life around and FINALLY follow her dream of becoming a boxer/ballerina/french pastry chef/stand-up comedian/mystery novelist/environmental lawyer and live in a vineyard with her adopted dogs or whatever.

tumblr_nr33bk40d31ql6crio1_500And while I am not condemning these narratives  – I’m a sucker for a good “follow your dreams” story and I’ve kareoke’d hardcore to “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” more than I should – I think there is something enriching in accepting your own happiness and not letting others/your own expectations drag you down.

Just because you had dreams as a child doesn’t mean those dreams don’t change over time. It doesn’t mean that you can’t find happiness and fulfillment from doing what you are doing regardless of how simple and real it may look to your 16 year old self.

Dear diary, I’m in a funk…

Hey there, dear reader!

It’s been a while.

I know, I know. I took forever and I know, I know. You were all just refreshing the page anxiously awaiting my return. But I am finally back with yet another post about yet another reason I fail at life.

Image result for spaz cat gifI will not say I’ve been busy because that’s a ridiculous excuse.
If anything I’ve been busy procrastinating and anxiety catting all over the place, too nervous to even write a single thing.

Why, you ask?

Well, let me explain. Sometimes during this existential year I’m having (*cough* more like existential life *cough*), I get in what I scientifically classify as a FUNK.

Now, what is a this so-called “funk”? And is it a serious condition?

A funk is a period of time in which you are too stuck in your own head, feeling too many feels and overthinking everything around you, to be an actual human being.

Had to research grad schools today? … NOT HAPPENING.

Had to file taxes? … YEAH, RIGHT.

Had actual plans with actual real life people? … I DON’T THINK SO, ASSHOLE.

Yup. This is my life.

During funk moments I become a total and absolute #FAILWHALE. Yeah, I have stuff to do and, yeah, I have plans, but none of that is getting done today because Mafe, my friend, you are in a funk.

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A funk can manifest itself in many ways. Its symptoms include:

  • Running away from problems in a rapid, flailing fashion.
  • Hiding in a closet, or otherwise enclosed space, while in fetal position, crying because your favorite ship was just destroyed forever.
  • Binge watching 1, 2 or even 3 series on Netflix depending on the season, time of day and choice of tea.
  • Eating way too much cookie dough because you are too lazy to actually bake it.
  • Watching anime while in the bath for so long even your butt cheeks start to get wrinkly.
  • etc.Image result for head desk

Side Note: In extreme cases, a funk can even reach ULTIMATE FUNK LEVELS. Moments in which not even a well-timed Harry Potter weekend marathon on Freeform (R.I.P. ABC Family, you beautiful caterpillar), or Kim Soo Hyun’s beautiful face can assuage. It can be so funky not even a large earl gray bubble tea with extra boba can break it. 

Funks come in six basic parts:

1. Avoidance, in which you try to ignore the funk to your own detriment.

I am fine. Everything’s fine. We are all fine. At least we have pizza.

2. Irritability, in which you can’t even.

Argh, I suck. Everything sucks. We all suck. I want to punch myself in the shins.

3. Compromise, in which you actually think you’re in control.

Maybe if I just watch one more episode of LOST I’ll feel better.

Twelve episodes later… All I need is to finish the season and then I’ll be solid.

Three seasons later… I might as well just finish the whole show, then I can be a real person again.

End of show… WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER?

4. Self-deprecation, a.k.a. “I am a horrible human being,” The Movie.

Forgot to call my grandma… I am the worst.

Left my laptop charger at home and only have 10% battery… What is my life?

Broke my only black color pencil… Who do I think I am??

Accidentally dropped the last glazed donut on the floor… Why are you his way? WHY?!

5. Feels, in which you just crumble from all the emotions.

Maybe I should just get a job at a bank. I mean, look at all these banks everywhere. And who decides to be a writer anyway? Would I even amount to anything? Am I even any good? Why can’t I ever think of a good synonym?? Gaaaah, my dreams are over! Besides my youth is slipping away like a tiny tropical fish swimming away from a bigger, scarier-looking tropical fish. I’m so old. I don’t even get text slang anymore. Oh my god! My best years are behind me. Even my back hurts. I can’t do a single cartwheel to save my life and I need to eat more fiber in my breakfast, but I can’t even do that right…

6. Acceptance, in which you finally get it.

Okay, you are in a funk, dude. Get it together. It will be alright.

It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

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But just as suddenly as it comes, it also ends. Sometimes it only takes a moment – a bit of luck and pixie dust and it’s over. The funk passes and you feel like a functional member of society again, ready to grab life by the unicorn horn and fly through a rainbow in a flurry of glittery promises and unbounded optimism. It’s as if all that repressed happiness comes flooding out like a cascade of confetti.

Maybe this has happened to you too, or maybe I am just a wonderful cocktail of totally insane and slightly neurotic. Maybe this happens to me because I am so stupidly sensitive, but if anyone out there has ever been in a funk, I feel you, bro. And you know what? It’s okay. It’s totally okay.

It’s okay to sometimes feel shitty. That doesn’t make anyone a horrible person. Sometimes life gets you down and your emotions get the best of you. 

But when it happens and we can’t seem to look past our own limitations without being our harshest critics, instead of judging, we should learn to be kind to ourselves. We should learn to love and appreciate who we are and not be bogged down by our so-called insufficiencies. At least that’s what I’m trying to do, even though I still fail at it most of the time. 

I think we should try to listen to ourselves a little more. We are all just trying to navigate the chaos of human emotions, relationships and adulthood without driving ourselves mad.

So, take a moment and give yourself a hug, light a pine-scented candle, grab some wine and cut yourself a break.

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Because you will get out of that funk. You will survive the swampy wallowing waters and emerge victorious like a magnificent mermaid queen.

The Fangirl Life

Being a fangirl or fanboy is no laughing matter.

It takes courage, dedication and a special brand of contemplative obsession that cannot be faked or reproduced. It takes proper motivation – a true love of the trade.

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Now, what does fangirling actually entail?

Let me tell you, it takes a lot of work. It’s tough and emotionally draining.

As a self-proclaimed and longtime fangirl, I have had my fair share of obsession and #FANFEELS. I have cried in the pages of books, rewatched movies on loop for days straight, listened to the same song for weeks at a time, read my weight in fanfiction, stalked the internet for pictures of my baes and queens and spent more than I would like to admit on merchandise. I mean slap a lightning bolt and an HP on anything and I buy it. NO QUESTIONS ASKED. I’m a total sucker.

Probably my earliest fan memory is being four years old and watching The Fox and the Hound, one of the most heartbreaking movies Disney has ever made (the bastards!). I remember spending many afternoons watching the movie on my parents bed, sobbing hysterically, then rewinding the VCR (shout out to VCRs for making my childhood that much more socially deprived), rewatching and crying all over again. I couldn’t stop. I was stuck in a masochist cycle of rewatch-cry-repeat, too overcome by friendship feels and cute forest animals to stop.

Side Note: Not much has changed to be honest. Writing this now, I realize this one anecdote explains the entire essence of my life.

Many could say that being a fangirl is a waste of time and energy. That spending all that time fantasizing over fictional things, celebrities or just plain things you enjoy doing is not healthy or productive. And while excessive obsession is not good, I think a healthy amount of fangirling is necessary in everybody’s lives.

So here’s a post on the valuable qualities of fangirls and fanboys everywhere.

Let’s roll.

1. Fans are resourceful AF

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No concert tickets? NO PROBLEM. Hit that Twitter, scroll down that Tumblr, call your local radio stations and scour the internet until you find someone somewhere who has an extra ticket.

Not enough money to fly yourself to the Game of Thrones premiere? NOT AN ISSUE. Just host your own premiere party, invite your friends, make some dragon cupcakes and dress up as your favorite version of Dany T.

There is a mystery to be solved concerning your favorite member of your favorite boy band? NOT TO WORRY. Make a list of suspects, break out your case file and call the NYPD, Oprah or your best friend’s dentist – someone somewhere will have the answer.

There is no fandom problem or mission that can’t be solved by pure fan will and ingenuity. A fan’s loyalty overcomes the negativity of the world and strives to conquer it all.

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2. Fans are super creative

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Creativity is a must for any one who attemps proper fangirling. Everything from Steven Universe fanart, Draco/Harry fanfiction, Time Lord Rock music and WOW cosplays to even actual world-changing projects and fundraisers can all result from a fan’s love of fandom.

Finished watching your favorite anime, but can’t seem to get enough of that Mako/Haru shipping? (They’re meant to be! I know it!) Don’t worry. Your shipper heart is safe. Break out your pen, grab your nearest notebook and let those words flow.

Just spend an evening scrolling through Tumblr tags or visit your nearest Con to see just how much art and creativity can originate from the passion of fans. Be warned though, it can get pretty crazy up in there.

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3. Fans make excellent research specialists

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Fans know how to find everything and anything about their favorite books, TV series, idols and movie stars. Down to analyzing every picture to the reflection on a tiny spoon (you’d be surprised how many times this has happened before), fans will put their research skills to the test and not surrender until they’ve gathered every piece of information available.

Fans are not daunted by breaking news and gossip. They’ll cross reference 20 different articles, look for official statements and not rest until they have evidence to back up their points of view. They know their sources! And isn’t that the basis of effective argumentation? #FANGIRLLIFESKILLS 

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4. Fans are extremely detail-oriented

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On that same note, fans take pride in being precise when it comes to their fandom.

A dedicated fangirl of any Kpop boy group, for example, (*cough cough* me + SHINee = TRUE ❤ *cough*) will make sure to remember every detail – from heights, birthdays and hobbies to blood types, favorite Avengers and favorite brands of Japanese candy. This may seem extreme, but being a fan is #SERIOUSBUSINESS. 

Also you never know when that information will become relevant. Knowing every piece of trivia related to your favorite TV series down to the color pattern on a scarf or the paradoxes of inter-dimensional travel could make or break trivia night at your local bar. An unprepared fangirl or fanboy could be the downfall and disgrace of an entire team. *shameeee… shameee… shameeeee…*

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5. Fans are team players

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Half the fun of being a fan is getting to share that fan love with other nerds like you. Magical fandom adventures include, but are not limited to: dressing in matching Halloween costumes, attending premiere nights, stalking kpop groups, going to book release parties, hosting sleepover marathons, and even planning epic themed birthday scavenger hunts. Getting to share those magical fan feels with others is an important part of every fangirl’s life.

Sharing fan love can also lead to actual real world projects like the Harry Potter Alliance, a nonprofit organization that was started by a group of fangirls and fanboys looking to combine their love of Harry Potter and their passion for service. #GETTINGREAL  #FANGIRLSQUADGOALS

Some shout outs:

  • To all my non-fangirl friends who have humored me throughout countless Harry Potter marathons and many fangasms (especially Masiel, you flawless thunderbird, you! <3).
  • To my nerdy friends for always being true and totally awesome.
  • To my family for being subjected to it on the daily. This is your life.
  • To the majestic dolphin Pauli for planning the most amazing Steven Universe birthday excursion of all time and sharing in the cat whisker appreciation life. ^-^

friends 6. Fans are experts

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Fangirls are nothing if not experts. Like scholars of Russian literature, biological anthropology or Armenian history, they are the authority when it comes to their specific fandom. I cannot tell you how many times my friends have reached out to me when they were suffering through a Harry Potter related conundrum:

Mafe, what is a grindylow?

Mafe, what ingredients do you need to brew Felix Felicis?

Mafe, can you give me an in-depth description of the identity politics behind the four Hogwarts houses?

Can I??? I got you, friend. Fear not! *cue a 5 hour long rant*

In a way, fans can be proud voices of knowledge, using their above mentioned research and perfectionist skills to the benefit of everyone around them. You’re welcome, friends! *-*

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7. Fans are passionate AF

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Fans are intense and will go down with their ship to the end of the universe and back. Fangirling means being really enthusiastic about something not in an ironic, cynical way, but in an amazeballs, flying-off-the walls way. It means spazzing out or crying all over your face from emotions about fictional things, people you will never meet and even over your favorite snack.

I see you, french fries. *cries*

It means being a little ridiculous, but also having tons of fun and not caring what other people think. What’s so wrong with that, haters?

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So to all the bizarre snowflakes out there who have never experienced fangirl feels, I don’t understand you but I feel for you. Hopefully now you can understand what fangirling is all about and be more mindful of your nerdy-ass friends.

And to all my fangirls and fanboys out there, keep on keeping on and fangirl responsibly. Liking something that makes you happy doesn’t mean you are weird, crazy or abnormal. Well, maybe a little…

But then again, who isn’t a little abnormal?

We are all weird AF and it’s time we embrace it.

So you think you don’t like KPOP…

What is this… KPOP you speak of?

Kpop, or Korean pop music, comes from the magical land of South Korea, a place of hiking, bibimbap, Samsung everything, soju, cute oppas and more.

Kpop is not just music or pop music as we understand it in the West. It’s a powerhouse production experience. Everything from:

mamamoo_ipad_background_by_misscatievipbekah-d8yohx2Synchronized dancing

On point vocals

Perfect harmonies

Cool formations

Stylish looks

And promotion, promotion, promotion…

It involves years of training and big musical productions that while nascent in the mainstream U.S. scene, have been taking over the world in Asia and reached as far as Europe and Latin America.

I got into Kpop one random morning in 2011 when I got out of class early, my roommate was out and I was feeling adventurous but didn’t feel like going outside – it’s way too hot here in Florida to NOT be a couch potato.

So in the spirit of staying in with my computer – one of my favorite hobbies – I decided to google that good old friend of mine: JPOP. (My relationship with Jpop is one of deep anime feels and merits its own space in this blog, but later.)

In my search for Jpop, however, I accidentally stumbled upon Kpop and remembering that one video I had seen once upon a time in high school, I fell down a rabbit hole of endless videos, dance practices, performances, bossass ladies, fabulous dudes and SO MUCH MUSIC.

Needless to say, I have spent the better half of the last 6 years in the company of my Koreans baes and queens. No regrets there.

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Now, I could list the thousands of reasons why everyone should listen to Kpop: because it’s impeccably made and full of flawless performances, because it combines interesting mixes of sounds and melodies in one genre, or simply because it’s fun and COOL AF. Instead I’ve decided to compile a list of Kpop songs and music videos that I think would impress and surprise non-Kpoppers out there.

So, if you have a tiny inclination, are mildly interested or just have time to kill waiting for your tea to brew, here is a list of some songs and videos I think are totally awesome.

1. DAT DANCING THOUGH: BTS – Dope

BTS, or Bangtan Boys, debuted in 2013 and have since taken over the Kpop scene with their bad boy look and hip hop concepts. (Those bad boy charms though.. *swoon*). BTS are known for their tougher style and musical attitude, heavily influenced by hip hop and even rock elements. I chose this video because it showcases the amazing danceability and edginess in Kpop and because it’s one of my favorites. I’ve seen it and forced my friends to watch it a hundred times. It’s just THAT good. When I was in Korea, my girl students and I would fangirl over them on a daily basis much to the annoyance of my 5th grade boys. They were such haters. But c’mon, HOW can you not fangirl? They are super talented, coordinated and beautiful.

2. Vocals, Vocals, Vocals: Luna – Free Somebody

I’m OBSESSED with this song! It came out over a month ago and it’s pure Kpop gold. Everything from its cool blend of electro-house music to its powerful, dreamy vocals simply SLAYS. The funky beat and surreal visual art in the music video only add to its alternative, retro appeal. Just listen to it!

Luna is the main vocalist of girl group f(x) and this is her first solo album.

3. My Cutie Cherry Pies: GFRIEND – Rough

This song holds a special place in my heart because it is one of the last songs I listened to before leaving Korea. Also, my friend Nathalie – gracious host and YouTube sensation extraordinaire (check out her channel, yo) – and I spent a good two weeks trying to learn the lyrics and dance. Due to my total lack of dancing coordination and my awkward flailing limbs, I was not very successful and have yet to achieve even the simplest of moves. Why do you do this to me, genes?!

Regardless, this is a great song. GFRIEND may seem like a bunch of cutesy school girls, but with their strong and powerful dance moves and energetic beats and melodies, their songs transform into the theme music for an anime about badass magical girls breaking hearts and fighting to save the galaxy from evil while acing their exams. Also, #THEFRIENDSHIP is real!!!

4. PERFORMANCE KINGS: SHINee – Evil

SHINee is THE boy group! And it’s not just because they are my ALL TIME faves and are perfect and beautiful in every single way. (I admit I maaaaay be slightly biased, but I don’t care.) The boys of SHINee are performance GODS, on point with everything from concepts, choreographies and vocals in every comeback. I struggled for hours, and I mean HOURS, trying to decide which music video to post here, but finally decided a live performance would actually be the perfect way to show their epicness.

SHINee is a group that has been around the block, debuting in 2008 and having one of the strongest debut singles out there. Since then, they have just been killing it. KILLING IT. They are known for their intricate dances, their R&B sounds and are considered perhaps the best live dancers and vocalists in Kpop. I mean, look at this video! They’re dancing with blindfolds for crying out loud! What EVEN?!

Also, shout out to Jonghyun, the ultimate bae. ❤

5. BOSSASS LADIES: 4MINUTE – Crazy

4MINUTE is a group that evolved in style through the years and, in my opinion, made some of their best music before breaking up this year in what I am calling the KPOPCALYPSE of 2016. They are no longer with us, but their hardcore and badass attitudes live on.

I chose this song because of its energizing beats and awesome synths and basslines. I also just love their “taking names and giving no excuses” attitudes. Oh my god, #GOALS.

6. Reggae Vibessssss: Wonder Girls – Why So Lonely

I have the biggest crush on the Wonder Girls. BIGGEST. And this comeback is definitely my favorite from them. Like SHINee, they have been around the block, debuting in 2007, and one of the farthest reaching groups having collaborated with many artists abroad. Their roster of members has changed over the years, but with the return of Sunmi and their new musical instruments concept, these 4 are not just a girl group but an actual band. They are amazing.

Also, who would have thought reggae and Kpop could mix so well??

7. THE Summer Bop: Sistar – Shake It

I love this song. It’s probably the most “pop” out of all the songs on this list. I wanted to include it to show the range and cheerfully vibrant colors of Kpop. It’s a song by Sistar, a four member girl group, and it was released June of last year, becoming one of the catchiest songs of the summer. It’s rainbows of fun that make you want to take over the world one booty shake at a time.

8. Going Dark!: EXO – Monster

SM Entertainment might be the devil incarnate, but they do produce catchy AF songs. This one is a song off EXO’s latest album and it’s AWESOME. EXO like BTS is a boy group that has reached mega-popularity in Korea and a favorite of my 6th grade girls. It debuted as a 12 members group, but following a series of conflicts and dramatic exits now sits at 9 members.

I like many of EXO’s songs, but this one is particularly fantastic. I love the darker concept and more aggressive choreography. They are definitely #GETTINGIT.

9. WHAT EVEN?!: Big Bang – Bang Bang Bang

Big Bang is one of the most established and famous groups in Korea and the rest of Asia, and a MUST LISTEN for anyone at least slightly intrigued by Kpop. Their irreverent and out-of-control videos and T.O.P.’s deep voice just do it for me every time. This song was one of the biggest hits when I was living in Korea in 2015. My students would come into class, throw themselves dramatically on the floor and yell “BANG BANG BANG” everyday for a good month. They are weird AF, but I love them.

BONUS. The Story: 2NE1 – Come Back Home

I chose this music video not only because it’s one of my favorite 2NE1’s songs, but also because of its beautiful cinematography and storyline. It’s set in a dystopian future in which people are estranged from each other and addicted to virtual reality. It’s a really cool video and the ladies of 2NE1 are nothing short of flawless. As opposed to GFRIEND, 2NE1’s concepts feature more urban dance pop influences and their look is based on a more rebellious brand of femininity.

Also, I’m obsessed with CL, the leader of the group, who is currently working on her American debut.


So that concludes my first ever Kpop post. I couldn’t contain myself! I missed so many of my babies though, so I might make more posts.

I hope that if you were interested in Kpop or at least in listening to different music and watching unique videos, this helped you out.

Have a wonderful day and safe Kpopping!

Mafe out.

For the Love of Cartoons

Hi there! It’s been a while.

Today I want to talk about the wonderful soda pop and rainbow skittles world of ANIMATION.

Let me start by saying that I’m a fierce defender of animated content in all its forms. Some people think it’s because I’m actually 11 years old and would rather live in a brightly colored fantasy world than in the dreary dregs of Adult Land. *shivers* Oh, Adult Land, will we ever be friends? 7c5467dd60cca03b5bb33c966215d0552

In any case, while all those things might be somewhat true and while I should at some point accept that as a twenty-something mortgages, taxes and unemployment are all ever-looming problems, I don’t think it’s fair to discredit cartoons as “childish” programming.

I cannot tell you how many times people have stared at me like I’m a total FREAK (I’m starting to realize this happens way too often, but I kind of dig it) for spazzing out over the Power Puff Girls – I know I’m a total Bubbles, but Buttercup was always by fave – or for crying all over my tea from my Steven Universe feels – GAHHHH! It’s such a good show though! *cries*

So, I wanted to write some thoughts on the merits of the incredibly profound story-telling behind animation. Now, in this post I will not talk about anime. Though it is amazing and flawless, and if you don’t watch it, you should immediately. Instead, I want to talk about Western animation as it stands today. As opposed to wacky and beautiful Japan, in the West we tend to look at cartoons as mostly made for children.

Of course, there are “adult” cartoons out there, like Family Guy, Archer or Bob’s Burgers, that are definitely not marketed to kids, but these shows constantly try to highlight their distinction from the genre with the monicker of “adult” programming. As such, they affirm they are “adult” shows that happen to be animated and, therefore, are “more mature” than their child counterparts.

But I think this is limiting for a series of reasons. I would argue that animation targeted to kids can be equally if not MORE mature. Shows like Adventure Time explore extremely complex and dark themes creatively, seamlessly tying them into the outlandish and colorful world of its protagonists. Kids cartoons, much like children’s literature, not only frame our understanding at an early age and provide us with necessary tools to grow, but they remind us as adults that we are still growing, changing and discovering who we are.

adventure-time-vol-2-9781608863235_hrZeroing in on AT for a minute, I want to discuss reasons why I think it is not just a great animated show, but an amazing piece of broadcast TV. At first glance, it might seem like a bunch of randomness and non-sensical situations. It follows the adventures of Jake the Dog and Finn the Human in the magical world of Ooo, filled with slap-stick humor and silly catchphrases.

However, the show is far from just an episodic string of events. Rather, between its bubblegum colors and googly expressions, it hides darkness, harrowing existentialism and nostalgia. The Land of Ooo is not an absurd dream, but a post-apocalyptic reality – its magical textures and surreal inhabitants rising from the (*SPOILER ALERT*) nuclear devastation of the Mushroom War. A war that destroyed humanity and left Finn as the last surviving human.

Like the realm they inhabit, characters are also equally complex. They are not one dimensional caricatures, but beings that suffer from loss of love, abandonment, madness, grief and deep identity issues, growing from episode to episode.

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Take, for example, the Ice King and his heartbreaking descent into madness, Marceline and her troubled self-image, Princess Bubblegum and her obsession with control, or even Finn himself, the only human left, who is trying to understand his place in the universe amid chaos.

Side Note: I’ll talk more in depth about Adventure Time in a later post because I have way too much to say. I could fill an entire dissertation. Geez.

As an adult, I appreciate the richness of AT‘s story and the surrealism with which it is told. I identify with its long list of characters, even when they are at their most ridiculous. Even the Earl of Lemongrab, who is beyond insane, makes me think deeply about the Frankensteinian consequences of power and human creation. Also, his face has spawned an entire generation of fabulous memes that give me life.

The show explores important lessons on human nature that make me think and feel deeply, and it does so without talking down to the audience, be it adults or children. It uses humor and wit, and speaks directly to the viewer not shying away from hard truths.

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tumblr_mu4sb1xpbm1qhjcclo1_1280Steven Universe
, the first show to be created by a woman on Cartoon Network, is equally compelling. It’s not only a beautiful, majestic rainbow of badassery and silliness, but THE most representational and progressive show on TV maybe ever.

From its representation of cultural diversity and its inclusion of non-heteronormative relationships to its portrayal of gender beyond destructive binaries and body positivity, this show exudes so much humanity and heart for a show about alien crystal gems.

Steven, like Finn, can be silly, but he can also be profound. He is a hero who doesn’t have to be bound by the outdated norms of masculinity, but finds heroism in his own self-worth. His relationship with his three gem guardians – Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet – promotes feminism and gender empowerment, and his unyielding belief in goodness is nothing short of inspiring. I always end each episode thinking we should all be a little more like Steven.

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(Please, WATCH IT! I cannot promote this show enough. It is up there as one of my favorite programs of all time and I take my TV very seriously. No joke.)

It’s also easy to forget that behind all these animated landscapes are a team of incredibly talented artists and writers, all highly capable adults who put a lot of time and effort into each work. People like Patrick McHale, Natasha Allegri, Pendleton Ward, Alex Hirsch and Rebecca Sugar.

rhkdy7ontpmhveyvka0dI have to take a moment and praise Rebecca Sugar who is not only a BOSSASS ukulele player and the creator of Steven Universe, but one of the most inspiration women working on TV right now. I owe her so much. *tears*

And let’s not talk about the teams upon teams of storyboard artists, writers, voice actors, editors, musicians and animators that work tirelessly to develop compelling stories and beautiful artwork. Animation is art and making a 10 minute episode can take anywhere from 9 to 12 months! That’s insane!

These creators have brought on what many are classifying as a Cartoon Renaissance of animated content that is not just beloved, but also critically acclaimed – series like Regular Show, Gravity Falls, The Legend of KorraPhineas and Ferb, Over the Garden Wall and more. These are shows that try to say something without being a Sunday school lesson in morality, and without forgetting the lightheartedness and fun of animation. As much as they are deep and dark, they are also hilarious and full of light.

gravity-falls-54dbcc014c26aDisney’s Gravity Falls is a show that embodies this perfectly, as twins Mabel and Dipper come face to face with the supernatural and mysterious while on vacation in the town of Gravity Falls.

Their humorous shenanigans are intertwined with the paranormal – from their time travel escapades and their feud with the vindictive rainbow-puking gnomes to their discovery of the biggest conspiracy in American history. While they are pseudo-detectives unraveling the dark corners of the town’s history, they are also working through the even more paradigm-shifting mysteries of growing up.

However, like Adventure Time and Steven Universe, Gravity Falls never forgets to be hilarious and goofy. I find myself laughing out loud and choking on my breakfast on the regular when I watch it in the morning.

What can I say? I’m a hardcore like that.

Cartoons like these provide a perfect balance, teaching us as adults that it’s okay to be silly and loopy from time to time, and that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously or lose track of who we are and what gives us life. They allow us to escape into rainbows of color and humor, but also ground us in our reality by never straying too far from it.

I don’t discredit live-action programming, but I think animation deserves more recognition and respect for all it’s work in rearing generations and making us all better people. As a kid and now an adult, I feel enriched by animated shows. I believe more adults should stop their snobbery and watch cartoons with their kids, with their friends or by themselves while taking a a bubble bath. The possibilities are endless.

Maybe I’m just a crazy fangirl and maybe I’m super in tune with my inner-child, but I really do believe in the power of animation to enlighten, entertain and make us dream.

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So, take some time. Watch some cartoons. I guarantee it will be well worth it.