Review: 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons WhyThere is no sensible way of talking about assault, victimization and suicide – there is only the matter of fact way to address these problems and the new Netflix show does just that.

Based on the bestselling YA novel by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why the series, is elegantly shot and performed. It is focused on a group of teenage students dealing with the suicide of one of their own, the show travels easily through past and present scenarios. As a viewer you’re engaged with each emotion Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) are feeling and you’re left wanting a friend like the wise Tony (Christian Navarro) who will protect your secrets and honor your memory.

It is no secret that Hannah Baker commits suicide. What is yet to be determined is why. As depicted in the preview, Hanna Baker is dead – you can hear her voice hauntingly telling you that she is. You can see her face and Clay’s reaction when she says that the tape he’s listening to is the first of 13 tapes that list the reasons why she’s dead – true to the tone set on the preview, the show opens with Hanna Baker’s voice and the introduction to the tapes that reveal the reasons why she committed suicide. Placing the blame on each student that are mentioned in each one of them. But why does she blame them? What happens next is a slew of unimaginable happenings in teenagers’ lives that not only opens the door to traumas, but addresses the behavioral signs every parent or educator should pay attention to, and most importantly, it showcases the grief and love every parent of a child who dies or commits suicide goes through. It’s raw, emotional and educational all at once.

While slow paced (which I sometimes found infuriating) it is with purpose: there is a reason why there’s no rushing into the reality of things. In real life these issues don’t happen as quickly as one may think. It’s a buildup of everything and anything. As Hannah goes on to tell us, there is a start to her thoughts of suicide and she continues to narrate, she points out that every little thing counts – be it towards life or against it.

Along with mortality, the show also addresses rape, consent and the murky waters a teenager has to navigate to understand what it really means to be in a healthy relationship with another person. It addresses survivor’s guilt. Another thing that it addresses is the ongoing issue with teenagers today, especially since so many parents still don’t know how to speak to their children about sex, relationships and most importantly: consent. I did find the show lacking to address the issue properly since consent is a responsibility for both males and females; they both have to consent to have sex with one another – it’s not just the guy who has to make sure the girl wants to have sex.

The issue of sexual identity is also addressed here. There are plenty of characters who are gay, some are presented as ‘matter of fact’ others are presented as still struggling with their identity and do whatever it takes to protect their ‘secrets’. The issues teenagers face: sexuality, depression, anxiety, bullying, drunk driving, societal and peer pressures, self identity and academic responsibilities are a huge part of this show as it is in our daily lives. These issues drive the characters actions, choices and it affects them all in different ways. Like I mentioned before, the show is elegantly performed, directed and shot. Each episode is riddled with emotion that will cause you to feel everything its characters are feeling. It does a great job at not shying away from the uncomfortable topics and it addresses the complexities of victimization and predator like behavior with an equal complex view of it all – it is never black and white when it comes to these things.

But it’s not all heavy, within the heavy topics dealt with in the show; there is a tender awkward teenage love story. Similar to the awkward one we’ve all experienced in our youth – with misunderstood intentions and unsaid words that lead to further confusion and decisions made under duress and ignorance.

I highly recommend people to watch this show because it tells more than just one story. It tells a complex story about parents, teenagers, educators and life itself – and since I don’t want to give much of plot line away, so go stream it now.

I further recommend, as a survivor of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, as well as survivor of a suicide attempt – that if you have these feelings, to speak to someone about it – to be clear about your emotions, however hard they may be. There is no shame in being a victim, there is no shame in being depressed, and there is no shame in having dark emotions – but please, speak to someone because suicide is not the answer. There is light at the end of the dark tunnel you’re passing through at the moment.

For help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time 1-800-273-8255 (US) or if you’re outside of the States check this list of suicide prevention websites in your country: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html.

Review: One Day at a Time

Hey guys! I’m sorry for not posting in so long, but I’ve been engaged in the resistance to today’s increasingly tense political climate – while I’m fighting to keep the rights of POC, women, the LGBTQ community and immigrants both in the US and in Puerto Rico – I’ve also been watching some crazy awesome movies and television shows. One of them being Netflix’ One Day at a Time.

Creators Gloria Calderon Kellett, and Mike Royce did good by the reboot of the beloved sitcom that debut in 1974 and ran for 9 seasons.

one-day-at-a-timeStarring the incredibly talented Justina Machado as a former Army Nurse Penelope Álvarez, the legendary Rita Moreno as her widowed mother Lydia, and Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz as Penelope’s children Elena and Alex – they are the all-(Cuban)American family who reside in California – their landlord, Schneider (the hilarious Todd Grinnell) is more like an adoptive family member that doesn’t annoy with his quips or presence like many other characters do.

In the seven episodes (out of 13) that I’ve seen the show has dealt with  work place conflict, gender wage gap, sexism, immigration and deportation, Trump’s wall, domestic abuse, divorce, re-entering the dating scene after a long relationship followed by a painful separation, self love, and more.

All characters are well rounded, rich in complexities and all actors play each with such ease it’s easy to feel as if you’re watching your own (Latin) family deal with all the intricacies of day-to-day life dealings.

I especially love this show because it’s the first one I’ve seen that I can absolutely relate to. While I’m not Cuban, I know what it’s like to be a Latin person moving to a place where people either hate you, or just don’t know anything about you – therefore they…hate you. The strength of Penelope’s character is inspiring and Lydia reminds me of my own grandmother, but with more sass. I also love how the Latin-Caribbean language was not altered – something that is often misrepresented in films.

All in all, I give it a 10 star out of 10 and name it an absolute binge worthy show.

10 shows that have inspired me (2nd Edition)

Welcome to the second edition of the television shows that have inspired me; be it story-wise, visually, or overall. While the first list featured a set a older shows that made a difference in my life, this new list focuses on the newer shows and how they have inspired me in any way.

  1. Vikings (History Channel; Starring: Travis Fimmel, Clive Standen, Gustaf Skarsgård, Katheryn Winnick) – I love Vikings, their whole myth and reality of exploration, import, export I think it’s absolutely fascinating and have been reading up on the things Vikings have done since I can remember. One of the reasons why I love them so much: they were the first society that treated women with equality. There were shield maidens who fought side by side with men, and made their own decisions when it came to marriage, divorce, children, etc. So when History Channel decided they were going to make a show based on the lives of Ragnar Lothbrok, Rollo (who ended up being King of Normandy) and Shield Maiden Lagertha, I was thrilled! While some pieces of the show are not entirely accurate, the fact that Lagertha (Winnick) is such a strong and independent character from both Ragnar (Fimmel) and Rollo (Standen) reflects the realities of how women in Viking society were treated – including being able to hold positions on their own.
  2. Bates Motel (A&E Network; Starring: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Nestor Carbonell) – Let’s face it, for anyone who has seen Psycho the idea of Norman Bates being THAT obsessed with his mother is unnerving. However, I wanted to know, HOW, did he get to be that obsessed with his mother…Bates Motel gives a good look at the origin of Norman Bates, his relationship with his mother and brother and how he came to be, with a mixture of modern and retro looks this series is quite entertaining, unnerving and engaging, and Highmore is the perfect Norman!
  3. Fuller House (Netflix; Starring: Candice Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber) – I cannot make a list of shows without including the sequels to my childhood favorites. When the announcement came that they were going to revamp the series, I was worried, but after watching the first episode of the Netflix hit and laughing my face off, and crying during some episodes and laughing like crazy again – Fuller House is one of my new favorites. One thing that I would like is if they’d stop featuring the old characters (Danny Tanner, Uncle Jesse & Becky and Joey) so that the Fuller clan can shine on their own – because they’re more than capable of doing so.
  4. The Last Kingdom (BBC; Starring: Alexander Dreymon, Ian Hart, David Dawson) – Back to Viking land! This historical fiction drama that focuses on two characters that actually existed (it has been stated that they lived an estimated 200 years from one another in history) Uhtred of Bebbanburg and King Alfred of Wessex tells the story of how the ambition of man can lead to mixed loyalties and what men who have power ultimately want for their country. It’s greatly written, performed and engaging. Uhtred (Dreymon) is a young lord who saw his father killed in battle, was kidnapped by a gang of invading Vikings and raised as one of them, when he’s older he’s forced to flee from the land he grew to call his own and seek refuge in his former homeland where he is now considered and outsider. The story has multiple layers, lots of battle, some witchcraft and a Ragnar – although this one is called Ragnar the Young.
  5. The Get Down (Netflix; Starring: Justice Smith, Shameik Moore, Herizen Guardiola) – What is better than Hip-Hop, 1977 Bronx, Disco and Baz Luhrman put together? Nothing, the answer is nothing. The Get Down is also a historical fiction take on the rise of hip-hop from the poverty stricken South Bronx a-la-Luhrman, the filmmaker who has a passion for music but makes incredible films. The performances are amazing, the young actors cast a spell on you when you see them on screen navigating the realistic sets that resemble that of a broken down Bronx in the mid to late 70’s that brought me back to when I was a baby and my mother would take me down the street to the little shop my Dad set up to sell tostones, pollo frito, bacalaitos and other Puerto Rican favorites. The only thing I can’t get over is the forced Puerto Rican phrases from the actors, but everything else is fantastic.
  6. Chelsea & Chelsea Does… (Netflix; Starring: Chelsea Handler) – I’m a big fan of Handler’s, she tells it to you straight and I think that moving to Netflix from the E! Network is the best thing she could have done to her career. Many thought it was a crazy gamble because not all of us understood how late night and streaming would fit in. Still, it worked. Her transition show Chelsea Does, had her exploring tons of topics: drugs, marriage, children, racism while showcasing a more human, vulnerable Handler that not all of us knew existed. In Chelsea – she continues with the tone set up by her docu-series and talks about things that matter: politics, education, medicine, science, history, money with a dash of celebrity guests and skits. It’s fun to watch as she educates herself through what she’s called the Netflix University. Stream it, you’ll love it too.
  7. Stranger Things (Netflix; Starring: Winona Rider, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp) – Thank you Duffer Brothers for scaring the bejezuz out of me! I haven’t watched anything like this in a very long time. The mystery, the performances, the story, the reveal, it’s all amazing. I couldn’t stop watching it! Set in 1983, the time when kids could ride their bikes home at night after playing Dungeons and Dragons for hours in their BFF’s house and the parents were okay and not accused of child abuse for letting them be independent. When Will Byers (Schnapp) mysteriously disappears one night his friends set out to look for him and find an equally mysterious girl (Brown) close to where Will was last seen. What happens from there is a story of friendship that covers everything from bullying, homophobia, monsters, and a serious case of alternate reality that will make you think twice about your current universe.
  8. Tormenta de Passiones or Öyle Bir Geçer Zaman Ki (WAPA, Kanal D – Turkey; Starring: Ayca Bingol, Yildiz Cagri Aksoy, Aras Bulut Iynemli, Mete Horozoglu) – set from the 1960’s to the 1970’s – this series tells the true story of the Akarsu family, beginning with the events that were to change their family’s story in 1967: their father’s infidelity. The show is filled with riveting performances, two strong matriarchs and situations that are seems too unreal to be true – but isn’t that what life is filled with?
  9. Heartless (Netflix, Kanal 5 – Denmark; Starring: Sebastian Jessen, Julie Zangenberg, Nicolaj Kopernikus) I was intrigued by the description of this show “Two siblings with a deep dark and fatal secret. In order to survive they must suck the energy out of other people” – truth is, they are twins and they are a Succubae and Incubus set of twins who don’t know what they are, and go on a journey to find out why they need to feed off other people. The young actors portraying the (fraternal) twins have a great deal of chemistry and are amazing in each of their performances. The secrets are big and never obvious when they’re revealed, also – there’s tons of gruesome killings and cover ups. The interesting show is filled with magic, and how it can pragmatically work in the real world, tons of death, and tons of Danish sex – which I have to say has proven to be quite sexy from what I’ve seen on their shows…
  10. Queen of the South (USA Networks; Starring: Alice Braga, Veronica Falcón, Peter Gadiot) this much better version of La Reina del Sur follows the story of Teresa Mendoza (Braga) and her rise to power in the drug world. Reluctantly guided by the most badass, take no prisoners, no excuses, no-fucks-given-attitude-having Camila Vargas (Falcón) Teresa tries to do her best to stay alive, but her future self appears in the first episode and quickly guides her to doing much more. Camila is a character to be reckoned with – Falcón plays her with ease, poise and dangerous seduction that makes any person pee a little bit in their pants. She’s cunning and she likes to be underestimated because she will shut you down in two seconds flat. Each episode is full of moments that will make you tighten your grip, scream at the television and sometimes cover your eyes. Falcón, Braga and Justina Machado who plays the always hustling Brenda, shows women will do anything to not only come on top, but survive and protect their family and loved ones – even if it’s in the drug world.