Monday, December 31, 2012

General Kenobi's Top 10 of 2012

 It's hard to believe, but the tumultuous, emotionally uneven year of 2012 has finally come to an end.  Rather than focusing on how rough this year has been, I thought I'd do a list of pop culture moments that made this year suck way less.  Full disclosure:  I'm not caught up fully on Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Justified, or Downton Abbey for that matter.  I'm sure these shows have been amazeballs, but I can't speak with authority, and I HATE SPOILERS.  So there's that.  This list comprises TV, movies, and events I (I'm) loved (loving) this year.


10.) ABC's Nashville - I scoffed at the idea of this show when I first heard about it:  why would anyone want to watch a dramatized version of CMT?  I had visions of story lines involving one character burning another's Lynyrd Skynyrd album collection because his/her tractors were stolen, etc.  Turns out that this show is actually well written, and in my opinion, one of the strongest entries in the 2012-2013 television season.  It's lovely to see Mrs. Coach (Connie Britton) as Rayna back in a starring role (I also haven't watched American Horror Story), as well as Charles Esten (who before this played Josh from the Stamford branch on The Office, and more importantly, went by Chip on Whose Line?).  Plus, I don't even irrationally dislike Hayden Panettiere anymore--I think she's, as well as the rest of the cast, doing a fantastic job on the show.  The drama never feels too heavy handed, the music and singing is great, and most importantly, there hasn't been mention of a single tractor theft yet.  The only downside:  no Coach Taylor.  Otherwise, I'll definitely be tuning in next year.

9.) CW's Arrow - Up until now, the only show I watched religiously on the CW was Reaper (and, now that I think about it, that one where SMG played twins; whatever, Buffy fan 'till I die), and the only superhero stuff they were associated with was Smallville, which I never bothered with.  Admittedly, though, I have a bit of a superhero issue, so I gave Arrow a shot.  The show has some issues, but as far as CW standards go, it's really, really good.  There's intrigue, tons of drama, a lot of shirtless training scenes with Oliver, and the relationships aren't the worst either.  Even though Oliver's sister looks like she's at least 25 rather than 17, I'm really enjoying their brother-sister bonding scenes, and I absolutely love Diggle as Oliver's reluctant mentor.  Plus, CAPTAIN JACK HARKNESS!  There's definitely a lot of white collar issues, and the familiar CW television tropes, but the action scenes are just as good as the addictive drama.  Special props to Emily Bett Smoaks, who plays the IT expert at Oliver's dad's company.  Every time she's on screen, I crack up.  Her interactions with Oliver are hilarious.  If you're not watching this yet, what's wrong with you?

8.) The London Olympics - Okay, admittedly, the opening ceremony was a little . . . odd. But it did feature Bond skydiving with the Queen, Professor Lockhart, and a massive Voldemort puppet of sorts.  Plus, the village-y part looked a bit like the Shire.  What do you want from me?  I'm only human.  I can't remember many of the names from people, but the whole thing was just fun.  U.S. swimming was in fine form (is there possibly a more adorable person than Missy Franklin?), and I watched Rhythmic gymnastics for the first time in my life (those girls are unnaturally flexible).  I also watched five hours straight of men's cycling for, like, the first day.  That's how dedicated I was to the Olympics this year.  Seeing Gabby Douglas win gold in the all-around and Misty Mae-Traynor and Kerri Walsh win their third consecutive gold filled me with joy, tears, and national pride.  For at least two weeks, it was okay, nay encouraged even, to "USA!" chant.  God Bless, America.

7.) FOX's The Mindy Project - Anyone who knows me understands that The Office played a significant part in my life during high school.  Obsession may not be a strong enough word.  All I know is that the summer of 2005 is when I realized I loved comedy, and that someday, I wanted to incorporate it into whatever I did as an adult.  Mindy Kaling played a huge part in that.  I know a lot of critics have felt lukewarm toward her new show, but I kind of love it.  It's not what I was expecting, but Kaling's voice is so strong, there's no doubt that it's all hers, and that's definitely a good thing.  It's a little rough in patches, but the entire cast is wonderful and hilarious, and the chemistry between Mindy and Danny (played by Chris Messina) is so Han/Leia, I can't even handle it without totally fangirling.  B.J. Novak is supposed to guest star next year, so all those Kelly/Ryan feelings will most likely resurface as well.  Highlight:  Mindy asking Danny to be her gynecologist, and the subsequent survey and breast exam.

6.) Mass Effect 3 - My first introduction to RPGs was in 2003 with BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It rocked my video gaming world.  It was the first time I was fully submersed and emotionally invested in the universe of a video game.  I wouldn't experience that same feeling again until 2010, when BioWare's other sci-fi epic, Mass Effect 2, was finally released for the PS3.  This year marked both the release of the third and final installment of the trilogy featuring Commander Shepard finally confronting the Reaper invasion face to face.  Many have complained about the ending, and I totally get that, but a small part of me didn't even care.  The journey up to that point was everything I could have wanted from a game:  I laughed, I cried, I "oh, snap"-ped at some of the more intense action sequences, and I was invested in the story and the characters.  Seeing Garrus, Tali, Liara, and Joker for the last time was like having to say goodbye to dear friends.

5.) Saturday Night Live - Lately, this show has really been a hit or miss, and there seems to be a massive Kristin Wiig shaped hole.  However, there have been some solid moments, and most of those have been due to some talented MVPs.  Bill Hader is always amazing, but Taran Killam has pretty much killed everything he's done, including those hilarious Brad Pitt ads, and the super creep Mokiki.  Also, I don't know how much love is out there for Jay Pharoah, but I am always so blown away by his impressions.  Plus, his inner city, high school principal character KILLS me to the point of bladder control issues.  Let's not forget the ladies, though.  Kate McKinnon was fantastic as Jodie Foster and Ellen DeGeneres, and Cecily Strong's "Girl you wish you hadn't started a conversation with at a party" is so absurdly funny every time.  Highlights for me this season so far included: Eastwood and Chair; Undecided Voter; the Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney gameshow; and finally, Swarvoski Crystals.

4.) Telltale's The Walking Dead - Now, while I'm not caught up on the TV show, I have played through Telltale's game, and even more so than Mass Effect 3, this game was an emotional roller coaster.  It served as a nice respite from your typical FPS or even your typical zombie shooter.  Like Robert Kirkman's graphic novels, the idea for the game was to focus on the human element of the story, while also including some satisfyingly creepy zombie gore.  My mom's not a fan of the genre or video games at all, but I even got her into it.  I would argue to say that Lee and Clem's relationship was one of the most moving ones of the entire year.

3.) Pitch Perfect - I fought against watching this movie.  I was like, "No, thank you.  I have had enough of Glee to last me a lifetime."  But then I started hearing positive critical reviews, and my friends finally roped me into seeing it.  In short, it was one of the funniest things I watched this year.  Anna Kendrick was surprisingly funny and endearing in her role, and I'd be completely remiss if I didn't mention the true MVP of the show, Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy.  There were a lot of great cameos, too, by Jason Jones and Donald Faison.  And admittedly, the singing was acca-awesome.  I finally understand what it means to be truly pitch-slapped.

2.) ABC's Castle - I'll admit it:  when this show started, I only watched it for Nathan Fillion, and I never admitted it out loud because I felt it was too embarrassing.  Four years later, and I have completely changed my tune.  I think this show works because the cast and crew understand exactly what their show is:  it's not trying to reinvent the wheel, it's simply concerning itself with solid characters and story lines, while appealing to fans.  It's also fun, which I think some shows forget is the whole point of TV.  Stana Katic continues to impress me this season, balancing drama and comedy so well, and while Castle will never be Malcolm Reynolds, Fillion does his character justice.  The best part is that even though the two are finally a couple this season, they're still totally fangirl worthy, which I think is due to their acting and Marlowe's showrunning.  Special props to Esposito and Ryan who are always charming and hilarious.  Not ashamed anymore:  I love this show.

1.) The Avengers and The Hunger Games - This year seemed to be the year of fantastic, action adventure blockbusters.  I feel like the Hunger Games proved that a female lead could carry a major franchise without resorting to smut or vampires of any kind.  Jennifer Lawrence was awesome in X-Men: First Class, and she seriously kicked butt as Katniss.  I am totally psyched for Catching Fire, regardless of Liam Hemsworth's marital status in real life.  As for The Avengers, it's about damn time Joss Whedon gets his due.  I mean, between Buffy, Angel, Dr. Horrible, and the greatest thing to hit the FOX network, Firefly, this man has created some of the coolest universes ever.  I have never left a movie feeling as excited, exhilarated, and entertained as I did leaving The Avengers at 2 a.m the week of finals before graduation.  Mark Ruffalo as Bruce was truly something to behold, and Coulson, well, I can't actually talk about it without getting misty eyed.  Well played, Whedon. Well played.

SPECIAL MENTION:  On a personal note, I got a call back from Conan O'Brien's show in regards to an internship I applied for back in April.  I didn't actually get the gig, but it was seriously the most exciting thing to happen to someone who has been a huge fan of Coco's since middle school.  It can truly only go up from here!

Happy New Year, and Keelah Se'lai!

The General

Saturday, December 1, 2012

General, Generalissima: Episode II

It wasn't until I got to college (a school where, like, ninety-seven percent of the female population is obsessed with finding husbands, getting married, and having kids in that order)(I also went to a conservative, Baptist university, go figure) that I couldn't take it any longer. Everywhere I turned, marriage became the topic of discussion, and everyone had an opinion on when it should happen (now, apparently, seemed to be the consensus), and I can remember a girl on my hall one year was seriously crying because her boyfriend hadn't proposed yet, and all I recall thinking was, Are you serious? There has to be way more than this. And just like in high school, I found myself not fitting in with my own gender. It was absolutely infuriating. But mostly disheartening.

Finally, I sat down with one of my female government professors my junior year, a woman I considered to be a mentor. She was essentially the real life Wonder Woman, so I will refer to her as Diana. Diana was an incredibly intense woman. I think she owned three suits (two of which were in navy blue), she listened to the Federalist Papers on her iPod when she ran, and she had a Ph.d from Cambridge. I came to Diana's office, exasperated with my career prospectives and more than infuriated with the entire vibe toward the females on campus. We had an enlightening talk about a lot of things, but what I remember most about that afternoon was a statement she made regarding femininity. She herself had chosen her career and ministry over marriage, and she told me that despite these things, her church still approached her to watch over the nursery. In her very dry, Diana-esque tone, she told me she had responded as such: "Which of my credentials suggests to you I would be best suited for this task?"

She went on to say that as a woman, femininity stems from the mere fact that you are a woman, not from abiding by any specific standard society or Christian culture holds you to. Honoring God, or exemplifying Biblical Femininity, comes from reading scripture and obeying God as a woman. There's no secret formula. There's no one mold. Some women want to start a family right away, and some want to write a science fiction epic before the age of thirty, but God calls both to the same standard of holiness. Some women will be Buffy Summers and some will be Pam Beasly, and some, like the judge Deborah, will balance both with a sawed-off Repeater like Zoe Washburne from Firefly. Either way, as a woman you are an essential part of God's plan, and your value is intrinsic, not stemming from your own desires or preferences.

After that meeting, I ran to the restroom and cried for about ten straight minutes (yeah, that's right, like a girl; deal with it). It was like all those years of believing the lies--that women would always be second rate, that because I wasn't into make-up or The Bachelor or whatever I wasn't feminine, that because I didn't dress a certain way or look a certain way that made me less of a lady, or even that because I didn't desire motherhood from day one, God had no use or love for me--were finally dead and gone. It was truly a William Wallace moment for me. God had created me (minus the sin nature) exactly the way I was supposed to be. No mistakes.

I know this (these) post(s) has (have) been super long, but this issue has always resonated with me ("Obviously, General."--Everyone reading this). My design wasn't to get all political, but to share my own struggles. I know I made a crack at the Duggers earlier, but I seriously harbor no dislike of them. My mom always said that giving up her teaching career to raise her kids was the greatest decision she ever made, and I have always had such tremendous respect for that. Same goes for the Duggers. My point is just that at this stage in my life, I have no interest in having/rearing/working with/standing near small children. I'm sure they're wonderful. Either way, I believe I have said everything that needed to be said on the topic. Until next time.

Keelah Se'lai
The General

(Episode I, in case you missed it)

General, Generalissima: Episode I

In the past month or so, I feel like there have been an escalated amount of questionable (to say the least) articles, posts, campaign ads, etc. depicting women in a rather negative light.  Politically, women from both sides have been at each others' throats during a campaign that focused on reproductive rights in order to appease the female demographic (as if we cared about nothing except our uteruses this election, but, ugh, whatever; I digress).  The issue of what it means to be a woman, what it means to be feminine, were once again drudged up from ye olde stomping ground, and rather than discussing it sensibly and civilly, tensions rose even higher thanks in no part to the media's calming (not) effect (not).  So in the spirit of civility and suppressed opinion (as well as the fury boiled within after reading this), I have decided to finally make my voice heard(ish) on this issue of femininity.  My credentials regarding this issue are the following: a) I am not an old, white man, and b) I have a blog, and c) I have a uterus.  Other than that, you can really take it or leave it as you please.

As far as I can remember, I have always struggled with the concept of "femininity," and what it truly entailed.  See, most little girls spent their time watching Disney movies, wishing they could be a princess and have Prince-Too-Pretty-to-Be-Absolutely-Straight-But-Significantly-Rich come whisk them away to a faraway land where they would get married and live happily ever after.  But I wasn't most little girls.  I literally wanted to be Indiana Jones (like, not the female equivalent, just him), and instead of a prince, I kept hoping a space captain would come recruit me (not whisk; never whisk) to join his ragtag crew and help save the universe from impending organic/synthetic doom.  And then maybe, if there were, like, a few free moments before the big showdown, we would accidentally make-out while taking inventory of mess rations, or something like that.  And if we survived the impending doom, then we'd talk about permanenting our relationship.  But the relationship was never the primary; saving Earth took precedence.  It's not that I had no interest in getting married, having kids, etc., but there were always things I cared about a little more, like getting into college, becoming a professional comedienne or writer, or Lord willing, both.

Growing up in a conservative, Baptist family, I can remember this idea of "Biblical Femininity" had always sort of floated around in my brain, but it never really settled in. And, really, up until middle school, as long as I could read, build my LEGOs, or keep trying to collect all 120 stars on Mario 64, I wasn't bothered by it too much. But then by about fourth or fifth grade, girls were suddenly obsessed with boys, make-up, swearing, the melodic crooning of N*Sync, and carrying purses (really, my pockets would be sufficient if jeans makers didn't insist on making the pockets on lady jeans practically nonexistent; CONSPIRACY, PEOPLE!). As if that wasn't hard enough, my two sisters (both of whom I love dearly) were both cheerleaders, the height of femininity as far as high school and 90s teen movies go. I had no interest in any of that at the time, but there was so much peer pressure coming from a desire to be a not outcast that I tried to sort of fall in with all the other girls and stop spending my time practicing accents (SNL sort of played a huge part of my comedienne path).

I thought at least I could turn to the church for refuse from this "girl world" I clearly didn't jive with. I figured I'd be too busy participating in youth group to be hung up on the fact that even though these guys I was supposed to be obsessed with didn't seem to be too keen on the idea of dating me. But I was wrong. Youth group turned into a Noah's Ark, singles' mixer, situation of sorts, but I refused to let it get to me. I decided I'd push ahead and ask to lead a lesson one Sunday, which coming from a shy kid who's ideal social interaction came from The Sims or conversation options on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, was a huge deal. Excitement escalated and fell just as quickly when I was told I couldn't lead the youth group because I was a female. I was truly crushed.

That left a huge impact on me. I started questioning my faith. If--as a female--my role was defined only in relation to males, and my primary function consisted of either having children or taking care of them, I was like, kindly pull the divine trigger now, God. There's no way. No freaking way. I'll be a guy and follow you because they get all the cool jobs, like anything they want to do, but I do NOT want to be the next Sixty Kids and Hemorrhaging, thank you very much.

Since I didn't have a lot of mentor-type ladies at my disposal to talk through this crisis, I started turning to television and books for answers (which is always a mixed-bag as far as legitimate answers go). My love affair thus began with author Meg Cabot and the shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS) and The Office.

To me, Meg Cabot was like the Judy Blume of my adolescence. Her books always included these abnormal heroines (some of whom were as obsessed with Star Wars as I was) who were awesome as ladies, but who also got the nice, attractive guy (and sometimes even he was obsessed with Star Wars, too, so double win). Her characters were always funny, too, which was a relief for someone who started to wonder if maybe guys wanted girls who knew what bronzer was and how to apply it properly rather than one who knew what the name 'Lorne Michaels' meant to comedy. Turns out, there were other girls who thought like me, just not at my high school.

BTVS and The Office affected me in different ways. Buffy was essentially my first introduction to a superheroine. Outside of Princess Leia (okay, I lied, if I had to pick one princess to be, it would be her), I had a limited exposure to super ladies at that age (my mom can't stand sci-fi; my dad's into weird sci-fi). Buffy was a breath of fresh air. Here's this girl, close to my age, chosen to defend the universe against vampires and such, but throughout it all, her calling comes first. She had boyfriends, some worse than others (coughRileycough), she had friends, and she made a lot of mistakes. Through it all, though, she didn't lose her femininity or her identity as a female. In fact, both of those features actually emboldened her ability as the Slayer, I would say.

Then there was Pam Beasly on The Office. She represented the girl I identified with rather than the one I wanted to be in a secret life. Pam was quiet, reserved, funny (but not in a show-y way), and she was stuck in a relationship because it was safe and familiar, even though she was in love with Jim Halpert. For two seasons, I sat frustrated that she wouldn't just choose Jim, but also empathizing with her fears of the unknown. Then in season three, Pam did the bravest thing I have ever seen a character of her caliber do on television. After walking across a bed of coals, Pam finally confessed her feelings to Jim. And it was so raw and beautiful, I'm pretty sure I may have cried. To me, both Buffy and Pam were strong females, in different ways perhaps, but nonetheless. They were both women, displaying femininity.

So if television could get this, an institution I have no faith in, whatsoever, why couldn't any of my circles (school and church) understand this concept of all females being different? WAS I SERIOUSLY THE ONLY ONE GETTING THIS?

(continued in next post)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

God Bless You, General Kenobi!

After months of simultaneously desiring to start a blog and wondering if doing so would make me self conceited, I decided to throw all precaution to the wind and go through with it anyway.  I've been to the internet.  Anything I have to say can't possibly drag it any further into the depths of depravity it's been marinating in for a good decade or so.  Then again, only on the internet can you find people who want to debate television fandom and write Harry Potter/Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover fanfiction, so perhaps I'm shooting myself in the proverbial Catch-22.

My name is General Kenobi (Ms. Kenobi, if you're nasty).  I am neither a general, nor a member of the Kenobi bloodline (despite my through the roof midichlorian count).  The name actually comes from part of my gamertag, which I have become quite fond of over the years.  Not only does it allow me to escape most sexual harassment while playing Call of Duty online, but I also get to represent one of the greatest mentor figures in the history of popular culture.  It's a win-win-win as far as I'm concerned.

As far as starting this blog goes, there are four things I care about in this world:  God, my friends and family, American government, and popular culture.  Now depending on how "the worst" my family is being, and how far into election season we are, the last three are subject to change priority at any time, but the first one never does.  Sadly, in real life I've realized that people will only listen to one's (i.e., mine) thoughts on the electoral college and why Friday Night Lights is one of the greatest dramas prime time television has ever seen for so long before they stop caring/talking to you.  The beauty is that the internet never stops caring.  With this blog, my goal is to hit on those four things I care about without feeling guilty that at least eighteen percent of it concerns the unjust cancellation of Firefly.  I'm still getting the hang of this whole blog concept, so it may be awhile before it's running smoothly, but I'd appreciate any friendly tips, comments, prayer requests, etc.  I'll take it all :)

Finally, for anyone wondering, the title of this blog comes from the 2001 Drew Barrymore classic Riding in Cars with Boys.  Initially I thought of the title, and I laughed so hard that three years later I couldn't even come up with anything even remotely less embarrassing.  This is the kind of childish absurdity you can come to expect from this blog.  Followers beware (but welcome:)

Keelah se'lai

The General