Strong female leads: an adventure in anime

All I want in life is a kickass heroine.

Recently one of my friends and I were discusisng some of her favorite badass women in anime. Being lifelong weebs (or is otaku the cutesy “reclaimed” Western nickname major anime fans like to use?) this was an hours long discussion about different types of strength, the eras each anime came out, and character development. It also got me thinking about how people not familiar with anime view it as stereotypically sexist, when if done right it has some of the strongest, smartest, and most capable female representation.

One of the strongest instances of Chinese representation I remember as a kid isn’t Mulan. No, her name was Meiling, a sassy, fiery, martial arts expert from Hong Kong. She wasn’t from an American cartoon — she appeared in the classic magical girl anime Cardcaptor Sakura.

Seeing Meiling, a Chinese girl with long black hair and big brown eyes, influenced my aesthetic for years. She was Asian, loud, emotional, over confident, and kicked ass. Sailor Mars and Jupiter, Misty, and Jessie too. All of my love to Mulan and the other great Disney heroines, but when I think of empowering female leads from my childhood, the majority are all anime characters.

Like most anime fans my age, I fell down the hole watching the original Pokemon (Indigo League), some Yu-Gi-Oh, and the infamous dubs of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptors. After a brief time period when I was Too Cool For Everything, it was through watching the pop-up-fun-fact marathon of Avatar the Last Airbender when I remembered how awesome anime is. And how in a lot of ways it helped define the media I enjoy and character role models I love.

Now, I also get that anime has its fair share of very terrible role models, both male or female, but I’m focusing on the females ones. From over the top fan service to terrible writing and development, a truly strong female lead can be hard to come by sometimes. But that’s what makes really good ones so great. So if you’re at all curious about anime and not sure where to start, here’s my list of a few shows I’ve seen that all involve at least one awesome female lead.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

This is a classic series, great place to start, you can’t go wrong. And the strong women in this show are the best.

Kill La Kill

Not gonna lie, I almost didn’t finish this series because of the fan service. But I stayed with it, and am so glad I did.

Ouran High School Host Club

Another classic, you can’t go wrong. Like I said, there’s different types of strength and badasses, and I certainly think Haruhi is a badass.

Attack on Titan

This show is a ride, let me tell you. But it’s fun (sometimes) and it’s got some great women in it. Though I do wish one of them (Mikasa) would get a bit more depth other than “I fight good because I’m in love with a useless dumbass.”

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

If you liked Ouran, you’ll love Nozaki-kun. The same satirical take on shojo romance with a charming disregard for traditional character roles.

Soul Eater

Another classic, it’s a fun adventure story if you’re in for a longer plot and story.
Spoiler Alert: At the time, I was kinda bummed Maka x Soul weren’t OTP, but now I really appreicate their friendship.

Code Geass

Come for the angsty boys, stay for the girl piloting a giant robot like a boss. And because you get emotionally wrecked along the way.

Cowboy Bebop

Truly a classic, Bebop set the precedent for many of the anime that followed it. So I’m glad Faye and Ed were some of the first examples of fully formed and thought-out space cowgirls.

Akame ga Kill

Most of the main squad are women with huge-ass weapons they are highly trained to use, it’s great. I’m also always here for a powerful lady villain too.

Yona of the Dawn

A slow arc with true character development, it’s a really good series and the cast is a lot of fun. But a warning: this anime is technically “unfinished” in that the end of season 1 doesn’t answer any questions, but there’s also no signs of a season 2 — you have to read the manga if you want any closure.

And of course if you really want to go old school: Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon

Honorable Mention: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (aka Madoka)

A lot of people love this anime, but I’m not one of them. Check it out for yourself and let me know where I went wrong.

There’s a lot of jokes, stereotypes, and misconceptions about anime, especially the women in it. But I think anime is just like any genre of media: there’s nuances, great examples, and problems that need greater discussion. Along with these shows I recommend, if you’re curious about the greater dialoge about female rep in anime check out the blog AnimeFeminist. And if you’re worried about being judged for anime, take heart in Sailor Mars’s words of wisdom:

Other kickass female buddy movies we need in the works

Rihanna & Lupita Nyong’o are the first, but they shouldn’t be the last.

After one photo of Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o at a fashion show went viral, a user on Tumblr captioned, “They look like they’re in a heist movie with Rihanna as the tough-as-nails leader/master thief and Lupita as the genius computer hacker.” And a glorious, wonderful meme was born. But more importantly, fairy godmother on earth Ava DuVernay blessed us all and granted our wish.

I don’t know what we did to deserve such a nice thing, but this is amazing. According to Entertainment Weekly, Netflix got the rights to make the film, which will be written by the great Issa Rae of HBO’s Insecure. I have no idea when either DuVernay or Rae will have time to write this movie in the middle of their hectic schedules, but I’m here for it and willing to wait as long as it takes.

Since the announcement came out only a few days ago, there’s no word on the plot, other characters, or dates for the start of the project. Until then, fans are left with only social media accounts of the two stars to string together fan theories about what these two could be up to. The most popular theory revolves around Rihanna scamming white guys out of their fortunes and Lupita acting as the mastermind schemer — a plot I am here for. I’d also (no surprise) be 110% here for their remake as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.

That’s just wishful thinking, of course, but if we’re just brainstorming random ideas here… Because if the power of Twitter and Ava DuVernay can give us the Rihanna & Lupita Nyong’o movie of our dreams, I’m making some other requests.

Laverne Cox and Beyonce

Political drama: Laverne wants to be President of the United States, along with VP Beyonce, and their political savvy, cunning, and disregard for the rules of Washington will put them there.

Sofia Vergara and Priyanka Chopra

Raunchy comedy: The crazy escapades of entertainment’s two biggest stars and childhood best friends.

Chloe Bennet and Elizabeth Henstridge

Milennial/ Young Person comedy: Two news interns discover their governor is corrupt and go rouge to deliver the scoop.

Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon

Classic remake/ Reboot with a modern twist: Batman and Robin. Thelma and Louise. Kirk and Spock. Joe Friday and Bill Gannon. Lucy and Ethel. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Pick one or they could do them all.

Rachel Bloom and Gabrielle Ruiz and Vella Lovell

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Get ready for some Spice Girls action on Friday.

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Dystopian thriller (obviously): What does society look like in the year 3021 under the reign of Friendtopia?
(This movie is also a musical too. Obviously.)

Sasheer Zamata and Cecily Strong

Romantic comedy: Career-minded Cecily has always been unlucky in love until she realizes her best friend Sasheer was there all along.

Melissa McCarthy and Ellen

Goofy comedy: Secret service agent Ellen must protect President McCarthy from criminals, national security threats, and sometimes herself.

Brightening my week with the“Perfectly Imperfect” podcast

It’s like if Christine Chen and Regina Fang were you older sisters.

Y’know that feeling when someone tells you the exact thing you just really needed to hear, even if you didn’t know you needed it? That’s what listening to Christine Chen and Regina Fang’s new podcast “Perfectly Imperfect” feels like every week.

Hosts and long-time friends Christine Chen and Regina Fang decided to start “Perfectly Imperfect” as a chance to share their stories as women with others, having honest conversations about life, hopes, success, dreams, and failures. Both women know what it’s like misunderstanding your family, struggling through school, figuring life out post-grad, and working in a boy’s club and want to share their experiences.

Unlike my other fave women-led podcast “2 Dope Queens,” “Perfectly Imperfect” has a very casual, genuine feel. It really does seem as if Fang and Chen are your older sisters, just being cool and talking in the living room with you. Where “Queens” hosts Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson are putting on a (KICK ASS) deliberate show to entertain and educate their audience, Fang and Chen talk almost as if they’re not aware of their listeners. “Perfectly Imperfect” isn’t here to entertain the masses, but be friends to lean on.

They’ve only done nine episodes so far, and I love the variety of topics they cover — some submitted or requested by fans. When most people think of offering advice to young girls and women, they immediately go straight for romantic help. While healthy relationships are important (and a dominant ideal enforced on young women) it’s not our only concern. And I feel like Chen and Fang are one of the few people — probably because they, too, are young women — who really get that. They look at their (I assume) mostly young female audience and see them as multi-faceted people with all sorts of daily struggles, just like both of them.

Each episode of “Perfectly Imperfect” — also, I love this name! It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Jane Austen’s Emma, “Faultless, despite all her faults.” — is about half an hour long, perfect for most commutes. I’m excited to see where the hosts take the podcast in the future!

P.S.: Because Christine Chen is an amazing human being, she’s started a special series of one-on-one chats with her followers who need someone to talk to about anything and everything. Through Skype or Google, people sign up here and Christine handles the rest. It’s a really sweet opportunity for people who feel like they have no one to talk to, and trust me on this, Christine is an angel who makes it seem like you’re already old friends. What should have been a 30 or 40 minute interview turned into an hour and a half conversation and my favorite profile ever.

The conversation paramount needs to hear after ‘Ghost in the Shell’ bombed

Forget Ghost in the Shell and read this roundtable.

Surprise surprise: Ghost in the Shell is doing terribly in theaters. And if you, like me, opted out of seeing GITS, then I highly suggest you go straight for the Hollywood Reporter’s roundtable discussion.

THR’s Rebecca Sun invited a group of actresses, writers, and comedians of Japanese descent to watch GITS followed by a roundtable discussion. The result, not surprisingly, is a funny, honest, and cathartic take on a terrible movie and even worse plot twist. The gathered, Keiko Agena, Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Atsuko Okatsuka, and Ai Yoshihara (y’know, actually being Japanese and Japanese American actresses and all) provide the most important point of view and will hopefully be heard by the rest of Hollywood. Doubtful, but hopefully.

Ai Yoshihara: Major’s backstory is white people trying to justify the casting.
Okatsuka: And they f — ed up in the process because now it looks even worse. The text at the beginning of the movie explained that Hanka Robotics is making a being that’s the best of human and the best of robotics. For some reason, the best stuff they make happens to be white. Michael Pitt used to be Hideo.
Agena: That was the other cringe-worthy moment, when they called each other by their Japanese names. We’re looking at these beautiful white bodies saying these Japanese names, and it hurt my heart a little bit.

Okatsuka: It’s not even about seeing me on the screen as a performer. It’s a bigger concern. It’s 2017 and I don’t know why these representation issues are still happening. It’s overwhelming. This means so much to our community but is so on the side, still, for a lot of people.
Kato-Kiriyama: It’s dispensable. We still feel dispensable.

Agena: …But as a fan, as a human Asian-American, I want to see that star being born. That was the part that hurt. This is such a star-making vehicle. And they can find people. They found that wonderful girl [Auli’i Cravalho] that played Moana. They found the guy that’s gonna star in Crazy Rich Asians [Henry Golding]. Yeah, it’s hard. But they can be found, and this could have made a young, kick-ass Asian actress out there a Hollywood name and star.
Kato-Kiriyama: And they know it, too. They know that they had that kind of power to change someone’s life.

Yoshihara: Yeah, a bunch of the Asian people got killed. All the minor roles are Asians who didn’t have lines. But all the core characters except Beat Takeshi and the mother were mainly white.
Kato-Kiriyama: The question itself has to be challenged. Why are you trying to drum up examples of people of color or specifically Japanese who are OK with it? Is it so you feel justified in maintaining your norm? Don’t you want to know why people are hurt? Aren’t you curious, as an artist? Isn’t there anywhere in your progressive, liberal mind that’s curious about the people that are feeling hurt?
Kato-Kiriyama: It’s trying to get the conversation away from race yet again. Sure, it’s a great role for women. I don’t know if kick-ass white woman action stars is such a void, but even that aside, it’s trying to step over the dead body. That’s fine when there are empowered characters who are women, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re actually talking about race. Can we just stay here for a little bit?
Okatsuka: When white feminists don’t know what to say about race, they go for the feminist thing. That’s what happened with the Women’s March. When women of color were like, “Will you be there, though, for the next march, when the next black kid gets shot? Will you be there when women of color need you?” they were like, “Wasn’t it great for women all around?”

Agena: That’s what’s so exciting about this time. There is a Master of None, there is a Fresh Off the Boat, there is a Get Out. I love being alive at this point, and that’s why I’m just waiting for the thing that’s not this movie. The thing where we can go out not as five women sitting there chewing our teeth through this movie, but five women going, “Yeah! Let’s go see this movie because we’re celebrating it!” I want that experience.

This whole conversation is everything the top decision makers at Paramount — or really anyone who gave this movie the go-ahead — need to hear right now, tomorrow, and every day. Kato-Kiriyama, Agena, Yoshihara, and Okatsuka were really able to break down what many Asian Americans were feeling as they watched the movie, from the first announcement of ScarJo two years ago to its premiere a few days ago. They understood how hard it was to watch this whole project get further through the process, green light after green light, and feel like all our voices and concerns were completely ignored. And then to watch (or hear about) the movie and know our voices had been ignored.

When Asian Americans are going to the movies more often than most other communities of color, why aren’t we seeing ourselves in our own damn roles? It’s been amazing to see that we’re barely four months in to 2017 and we’ve already seen “Ghost in the Shell,” Netflix’s “Death Note,” and Netflix’s “Iron Fist” (not doing great Netflix. Try harder buddy.) I’m not sure how we got to a media landscape where I can list off a handful of amazing AAPI representation accomplishments in media — “Power Rangers” “Andi Mack,” “Moana”— and a whole series of disappointments in one breath.

A few days ago the studio finally admitted that maybe casting Scarlett Johansson as The Major wasn’t the best move. It’s a shame that it took a dollar amount to show them what most of what the AAPI community had been shouting for months. Too little, too late, seeing as the movie is now out and everyone’s been paid. But I am hopeful for the future of Hollywood what with “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Mulan” in the works. Well, hopeful and a little (a lot) scared.

The women of today’s Sherlock Holmes

Modern remakes of the famous duo also means updated takes on the women.

I love Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been working through the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle series for the past few years, loved Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s movies, wait (forever) for every season of Sherlock, and last fall I binged Elementary. With each new version of the classic stories, I always like seeing where they go with the same base characters — especially the women.

After the season four premiere episode, a Mary-heavy story, Sophie Gilbert wrote an article in The Atlantic (contains spoilers) talking about the women in Sherlock. Gilbert’s “The Troublesome Women of ‘Sherlock’” looks at all the different women in the show, their characters, backstories, development, and lack thereof. Looking at quotes from creators Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat, quotes from the original books, and articles written about “Sherlock,” Gilbert points out the faults of the show’s female representation.

“And when it comes to other female characters, in fact, Sherlock has sometimes been even more regressive than its Victorian source material. It’s a paradox: Why does one of the most dynamic and ingenious shows on television have problems fitting women into its universe?” Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic

Sherlock and its faults acknowledged, I still love the show and its interpretation with the Conan canon. Gilbert’s article also got me thinking about the other women in the Sherlock Holmes iterations that I watch. For the most part, I think any modern and more independent take on the Victorian-era females Conan Doyle wrote about is good, but each of my favorites — the ’09 RDJ- Law, Sherlock, and Elementary — took the same formulaic molds and made something different out of each of them.

Sherlock — (Netflix, Hulu, Season 4 on PBS)

The most popular of the Sherlock Holmes reboots, by far, is the BBC’s with Martin Freeman and Bumblebee Cummerbund. But, as Gilbert points out, it’s not a prefect retelling that could live up to all modern potential. However, I stand by their character building for the women. Each one has an interesting backstory, motivation, and depth… until the rest of the story enters in and nulls all that.

Irene Adler (Lara Pulver)


Let’s start with everyone’s favorite: The Woman. I really enjoyed the Irene Adler of “Sherlock,” she was clearly able to match wits with the defective detective. The spin on “the woman” was fun to watch, and the actress did a really great job teasing and challenging the men folk. The writers expanded on Conan’s woman with a compromising photograph nicely, and hopefully we’ll see more of Irene in season 6 when it comes out in 2054.

Mary Watson (Amanda Abbington)


Readers met Mary Morstan in “The Sign of Four,” as the pretty governess who hired the boys to solve a case before she up and marries Watson. That’s it. So the completely reworked backstory Sherlock gave Mary is amazing. A covert assassin running from her past? Brilliant. A seamless addition to the dynamic duo who understood both boys, I love Mary Watson.

Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs)


Sweet house keeping lady constantly put out by the shenanigans of her tenants, nothing more, nothing less. The former stripper and cartel backstory are fun, and I appreciate the sass she gives the boys.

Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey)


Molly is a non-Conan-canonical addition to the Sherlock Holmes cast. Adding a new character, especially a woman, to the tight crew of Holmes, Watson, Lestrade, Adler, and Mycroft isn’t an easy feat. Molly blends in as another character on the show Sherlock, canon be damned. Gilbert describes her as “a smart, intuitive, and realistic woman,” who adds one of the first real examples of women representation to the Sherlock world.

Elementary (CBS, Hulu)

The American remake of Sherlock Holmes shouldn’t be compared to Sherlock because they’re not on the same field. The BBC’s version is a modern retelling of the stories with their own twists. Elementary, as I best describe it, is like an American AU fan-fiction of Conan Doyle’s characters. A cross between CSI and Sherlock Holmes, each episode is more singularly-plot focused on a crime, usually a murder, with an over-arching plot here and there. Currently in the middle of its fifth season, I suggest Elementary to any Sherlock Holmes fan because it’s an easy show to pick up and put down any time. In some ways, Elementary has made more modern strides where Sherlock has fallen.

Joan Watson (Lucy Liu)


The biggest, most noticeable difference about Elementary is the detective stylings of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Joan Watson. When I first heard about the switch, I didn’t want anything to do with Elementary because I assumed it was an excuse to finally couple up Holmes-Watson. Then a friend assured me that was not the case, and five seasons later it doesn’t seem like it ever will be. Liu’s Watson is the doctor-turned-detective that other reboots (Sherlock) struggle to write. She’s a good doctor, genuinely helpful to Holmes and the case, gives Sherlock a heart and conscience, and is a fine detective on her own.

Irene Adler (Natalie Dormer)


I love this Irene Adler, though audiences don’t meet her for a while. She’s sassy, sexy, and smart in all the ways fans know the woman to be for Sherlock, but she’s so much more. I watch a lot of Sherlock Holmes, and this Irene’s twist is my favorite.

Kitty Winter (Ophelia Lovibond)


Kitty Winter is a character taken from one of the Conan Doyle stories, “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client.” Kitty only appears for 12 episodes in season 3, but they’re some of my favorites. Another smart detective-to-be under Sherlock’s tutelage, Kitty comes with her own strengths, weaknesses, backstory — real depth. Buzzfeed did an article with Lovibond, Liu, and showrunner Rob Doherty about Kitty’s character and what she brought to the show.

Mrs. Hudson (Candis Cayne)


Mrs. Hudson only appears in three episodes so far, once per season. She also got a modern back story: “an expert in Ancient Greek who essentially makes a living as a kept woman and muse for various wealthy men.” But more importantly and more interestingly, she’s a transwoman (and actress) so I hope she comes around “the brownstone” more than once a season and we get to know more about her character. She also makes little shell warmers for their pet turtle, Clyde, which is great.

2009 & 2011 Sherlock Holmes movies

These are first Sherlock Holmes reboot I saw, I love these movies. They are, however, sheerly about the famous duo and there’s not too much outside the box interpretations of the women. But they still do more than stand around and look pretty.

Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams)


Smart, teasing, fun, this Irene moved almost separately from the duo and the main mystery. I also appreciate how the movies hinted at what Holmes and Adler had instead of forcing a romance into the movie. This Irene was competent and independent, and I liked her inclusion into the final plot at the end of the movie. Her appearance in the second was much of the same, and I thought it was too bad the writers stayed “canon” and cut her out of that ending as well.

Mary Watson (Kelly Reilly)


The most Victorian-era of the characters, I am glad the writers gave her a few lines that weren’t about Watson and showed she had some brains.

Madame Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace)


A non-Conan-canonical addition in the second movie, A Game of Shadows, Madame Simza added some heart to the plot and she wasn’t some fine Victorian lady who couldn’t get her skirt dirty. A Roma fortune teller, Simza kept up with Holmes and Watson, helped them out when she could, and my favorite part: did not get romantically involved with anyone. Simza wasn’t there to replace Irene Adler, she was there to save her brother.

Each of the three series are fun to watch, I recommend them all to everyone, and of course these aren’t the only reboots of Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock, Elementary, and the movies each bring something different to the characters everyone knows and loves, including how they interpret the limited number of women Conan Doyle wrote. Each woman’s story isn’t perfect, and not all the female characters get the same development or attention they deserve. But they sure as hell don’t stand around fretting in their corsets as the men folk go dashing off to solve mysteries.

And if you ask me, the next logical step in this reboot chain is a female Holmes and Watson.


The best review of the worst restaurant

Tina Nguyen’s review of Trump Grill(e?) for Vanity Fair is a work of art.

Politics aside, Tina Nguyen’s now-famous review of the resturant inside New York’s Trump Tower is the stuff of legend and journalistic goals. She took a basic restaurant review and told a story out of her experience, from the atmosphere, the people around her, and most importantly, the food.

Nguyen is a political writer at Vanity Fair’s politics and business-focused magazine The Hive. Her other most recent pieces focus on breaking political news like Trump’s transition, Obama’s recent press conference on Russian hacking, and Democrats’ recovery post-election. Her articles all have the brutal honesty and voice of her Grill review, something I find refreshing in the always stoic news cycles of the NYT, AP, and so on.

Now I love a good Trump bashing as much as the next bleeding heart liberal, but I really loved Nguyen’s piece for its writing. Nothing about Nguyen’s writing sounds passive. I could easily talk about her use of analogy, metaphor, and her great use of imagery, but it’s something readers should see for themselves:

The restaurant features a stingy number of French-ish paintings that look as though they were bought from Home Goods. Wall-sized mirrors serve to make the place look much bigger than it actually is. The bathrooms transport diners to the experience of desperately searching for toilet paper at a Venezuelan grocery store. And like all exclusive bastions of haute cuisine, there is a sandwich board in front advertising two great prix fixe deals.

I asked the waiter what Trump’s children eat. He didn’t seem to understand the question, or, like Marco Rubio, appeared unable to depart from his prescribed talking points.“Oh, I’ve shaken hands with him before, and they’re pretty normal-sized hands,” he responded.

The steak came out overcooked and mealy, with an ugly strain of pure fat running through it, crying out for A.1. sauce (it was missing the promised demi-glace, too). The plate must have tilted during its journey from the kitchen to the table, as the steak slumped to the side over the potatoes like a dead body inside a T-boned minivan.

The fried shell, meant for one, contained a party-sized amount of lettuce and ground beef suspended in sour cream and “Dago’s famous guacamole”, which NASA might have served in a tube labeled “TACO FILLING” in the early days of the space program. Sadly, the taco bowl, perfectly adequate as it was, is not good enough to prevent Trump from deporting millions of Hispanics.

The Fifth Avenue — Grey Goose with Cointreau and a “splash of cranberry” — tasted like vodka mixed with Crystal Light, the ultimate drink for an 18-year-old pledging a sorority.

Savage. And wonderfully written, her own voice coming through clearly in her assessment of Trump’s restaruant as a possible metaphor for the man and his upcoming presidency. At the end she says she wanted to be generous in her review, but looks around the grill again and the parade of humiliated Trump enemies vying for postions on his staff going in and out of the lobby. Nguyen takes in the tourists and overwhelmed staff and has to “wonder if he cared about any of them, either.”

Of course the man who’s too busy to hold a formal press conference or attend intelligence meetings has more than enough time to respond to a bad review in Vanity Fair. He tweeted his anger, because that’s all he knows how to do, and specifically called out the editor of the magazine, Graydon Carter.

Interestingly enough, NPR reported back in March that Carter was the one who started the beloved running joke of Trump’s small hands. The satirical magainze he co-created, Spy, would lambast Trump and NPR says, “the magazine chronicled New York’s obsessions with wealth and social status, zeroing in on Trump’s questionable business dealings (of which there were many) and his outlandish personal traits (of which there were perhaps even more).” So really, this has less to do with the review and more with Trump’s easily wounded pride.

Fortunately, Nguyen, Carter, and Vanity Fair came out the stronger for the article. CBS Money Watch reported, “in the aftermath, Vanity Fair said Thursday’s subscriptions soared 100 times the level it usually gets in a day. Plus, Thursday saw the largest number of subscriptions sold in a single day for any Condé Nast publication. Further, Vanity Fair added 10,000 new Twitter followers.”

So I say read Nguyen’s article for its writing, stay for its scathing review of Trump’s attempt to con people into believing he offers a quality product — be it his restaurant, competency, or presidency.

I ain’t afraid of no bad reviews

The backlash against the new Ghostbusters showed the double standards for female comedies.

I loved the new Ghostbusters, and when it came out on DVD recently I had to watch it again. And yep, still a good movie. So the hate and backlash it received — before it even came out — was completely unwarranted, creating an unfair expectation for what should have been an average screwball comedy.

I get this reboot had a lot to live up to, and wasn’t as iconic or hilarious as people were expecting. It’s not The Big Lebowski or Bridesmaids, and it never had to be. It didn’t even have to be the original Ghostbusters because obviously that task would be impossible. Regardless most people believed in this Ghostbusters to buck all the nay sayers given the super talented cast, director, and modern premise. But like in any movie, when someone asks “How can this go wrong?” something very bad is hiding just around the corner.

In Ghostbuster’s case, the terrifying monster was misogyny. Anti fans tried to claim that their anger was at the reboot of a sacred franchise, however as the Atlantic points out, this is the only female-lead reboot in the long series of the current remake trend. No matter how the “critics,” mostly comment sections, YouTube videos, and Twitter trolls, tried to insist otherwise, their vitriol was based in unfounded sexism. The official trailer became the most disliked movie trailer on YouTube, over 1 million at the time of this writing.

Looking back now it’s admittedly not a great trailer, but at the time it originaly came out the dislikes were an organized protest. “The thumbs down votes aren’t organic, they’re part of a coordinated attack on the film by people who are opposed to its very existence.” Screen Crush reported. The website broke down the ratio compared to other disliked trailers, like Captain America: Civil War (5,237 likes to 1 dislike) and noted most of the videos on the YouTube most disliked list featured women from pop stars like Taylor Swift to “Let It Go” from Frozen.

“Here are just some of the major franchises Hollywood has rebooted in the last decade: Batman. Superman. Spider-Man. James Bond. Star Wars. Planet of the Apes. Halloween. Friday the 13th. The Evil Dead. The Thing. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Robocop. Every Disney animated classic, starting with Cinderella and continuing with The Jungle Book this year. The list could go on endlessly, even without counting TV spinoffs.” from the Atlantic.

Now Ghostbusters faced two challenges upon its release: it had to make a lot of money to prove female-lead movies were financially viable, and it had to be really funny. Anything less proved critics right: women weren’t marketable or funny. It immediatley set up the movie for disappointment because suddenly it went from a remake of a goofy comedy to the next iconic comedy of the 21st century. Ghostbusters can’t have greatness like that thrust upon it, no matter how many SNL cameos you throw at it, not when certain audiences were never going to give it a chance to begin with. The 2016 Ghostbusters was only meant to be a fun comedy retelling an old favorite with a new, all-female cast. But of course when you announce an all-female anything, there’s no way in hell that it can avoid becoming a political lightning rod.

Ghostbuster’s very existence meant discussions, think pieces, panels, and round tables debating its merit and role as commentary. How is it a a feminist piece? To many, it was not all that it could have been. The Washington Post’s columnist Alyssa Rosenburg lamented how this screwball comedy became a new feminist icon saying, “But they’ve succeeded in creating an environment in which this anodyne bit of corporate recycling gets positioned as daring, and where its box-office success or disappointment may have meaningful implications for other, more truly innovative, more explicitly feminist and certainly more funny movie projects.”

The movie also faced difficulites from viewers who felt that Leslie Jones role as Patty Tolan, the only non-scientist on the team, continued stereotypes against black women and perpetuated white feminism. It’s a fair argument because as Janessa E. Robinson pointed out in the Guardian, “This limits her character to an academically aloof, street savvy black woman who is apparently only allowed in the crew (and in the film) because of her familiarity with New York City.” Jones responded to these concerns on Twitter (which would become its own battleground later) and said she was happy with her role.

In an environment like this, Ghostbusters hardly stood a chance. From the moment it was announced, this movie had to be too many things in 105 minutes. With all the conversations about this movie, and it did start very important ones, I feel like people stopped watching it. The original Ghostbusters is remembered for being a ridiculous romp through New York City, and in that regard 2016’s Ghostbusters delivered. You can be disappointed in the movie for what it lacks as a symbol of feminism, POC character development, or reboot of a sacred franchise. Or you can sit down with some great salty parabolas and watch a damn movie.

Unrelated, here’s a great behind the scenes video with the cast:

Pride and Prejudice: I don’t want to share my princess

As Disney and Sony begin the casting process for their live-action “Mulan,” I worry that 1) She’ll be white or 2) She won’t be Chinese.

Today Disney announced the release date for its live-action Mulan, based loosely off the classic Chinese ballad and the truly classic 1998 animated movie. They announced the movie’s development late 2015, and immediately faced heavy expectations to cast the lead roles as Asian Americans — because of course the heroine of China should be Asian. But I also contend that Mulan should be Chinese.

There was so much anticipation that Disney (and now Sony’s own live-action take on Mulan) would whitewash this cast that a petition went around the internet, and gained over 90 thousand signatures. Natalie Molnar, who started the petition, wrote that “The character, story and fans deserve the best retelling of the story Disney can produce and although the film was only announced 30 March [2015] this disturbing trend of whitewashing in big-budget movies can’t get a chance to take root in Mulan as well.”

After the mess that was Emma Stone in Aloha, Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, Tilda Swinton in Dr. Strange, the whole cast of The Last Airbender, and most recently Matt Damon in next year’s The Great Wall, the Asian American community isn’t taking any chances with Mulan’s casting. There have already been a number of dream cast lists circling around the internet for the perfect Mulan and now it’s only a waiting game to see what Disney and Sony do next.

In that waiting, three big names have already come up as the fan-favorites for Mulan: Constance Wu, Arden Cho, and Jamie Chung. All wonderful actresses whom I love, but none really stand out to me as my ideal Mulan. Constance Wu doesn’t strike me as the fierce warrior the same way Ming-Na Wen, the original voice actress in 1998, does. To me, Constance Wu is fierce in a different, less physical ass-kicking way (but if she does get the part I’m 110% on board). I know Jamie Chung already played Mulan on TV, but for this live-action, return-to-the-big-screen Mulan, it’s different. Because yeah, Arden Cho and Jamie Chung are totally fierce warrior types, but I don’t picture them as Mulan for one obvious (and biased) reason — they’re Korean American.

From left to right: Constance Wu, Arden Cho, and Jamie Chung.

Is it prejudiced to say that I, as a Chinese American (adoptee), don’t want a Disney-fied Chinese heroine portrayed by an amazing Korean American woman? I think it’s a bit petty and unfair. It’s just when I heard that Arden Cho was being heavily suggested for the part, I cringed. Any other role in the movie could be cast with amazing Asian Americans, but not Mulan. Which doesn’t make any sense because any other time I don’t have a problem with Asian Americans playing other Asian roles. Like Randall Park as Louis Huang — he’s doing a great job and he approached the role with respect.

“After we did the pilot, and the show got picked up … I started wondering about my place in the show. Should I be playing this father, especially as a Korean-American actor?” He told NPR in 2015. After a phone call with the real Eddie Huang who assured him was a fine Louis, Park decided to stay in the show. “As long as I come at this with respect and work as hard as I can to make sure this character is as real as I can, then it would be fine.”

And I know Arden Cho, Jamie Chung, and any other actress Chinese or not, would approach the role of Mulan with the same respect. Not only because it’s a great leading role, but also because it’s a role that means so much to the Asian American community. Every little kid in America since ’98 has grown up knowing the words to “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” I was born three years before Disney’s Mulan came out, so I’ve only ever known a world with the most kick-ass Disney heroine. When my fifteen year-old cousin, also adopted from China, told me she had never seen Mulan, you can bet we sat down right then and there for movie night. It’s a rite of passage.

But it’s not only momentous for Chinese Americans. One of my Korean American friends told me about how her babysitter took her to see it in theaters, and my friend got really excited. She kept talking about what it was like to see someone on screen who looked like her. That’s the same story I’ve heard from many of my Asian American friends, because no matter who you are as a little kid, good representation in the media matters. Mulan is a great heroine, her story is awesome, the songs are even better, and who doesn’t love Mushu? Mulan is one of Disney’s best classic animated films and for Asian American kids it also matters when a Chinese heroine is all you’re going to get.

Think of it like the rule of “there can only be one” from Masters of None. Disney has been trying to check diversity off its princess list (some sooner than others) and since we, the Asians, have Mulan that means we don’t need a Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Indian, Burmese, Malay, Thai… another Asian princess. This November there’s the first Pacific Islander heroine, Moana, and most people (some within our own community, tbh) probably don’t even realize that Pacific Islander is the PI when we say AAPI. We had to wait nearly 18 years for another AAPI heroine, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for a more diverse Asian princess representation.

Now I have no idea how Disney or Sony is planning on going about their Mulan. NBC Asian America reported that Disney at least is “global casting search for a Chinese actress,” so I don’t know if that means they plan on going Memoirs of a Geisha-style or they’ll just end up casting Fan Bingbing. I’m of course rooting for a Chinese American actress because I think if it’s Disney’s version, the “American” is an important factor in the story. Regardless, I realize that if they cast Mulan as a non-Chinese woman, it’s not the end of days. I can be an adult 20 year old woman and share my Disney princess. Mulan is one of my favorite characters, so I’ll love whoever they cast as long as she’s written well and the movie does fans — and the story — justice.

And she’s Asian. Actually, forget everything I just wrote. Just please make sure she’s at least Asian.

If other sitcoms are the bottom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is the top

A show about a woman who gives up everything for a guy— okay wait, it’s a lot more nuanced than that.

My roommate and I have been spending many a night in LA with cheap food, an iPad, and Netfilx. We’ve seen a lot of Disney Channel Original Movies, Sweeney Todd, and some Bob’s Burgers. But hands down my favorite has been our recent marathons of Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

via NBCNews

The premise, neatly wrapped up in the theme song, follows the story of Rebecca Bunch, a big New York lawyer who realizes she’s not happy anymore. It also just so happens to coincide with with Rebecca running into her high school summer camp love, Josh Chan. They talk briefly, and Rebecca decided to move to Josh’s SoCal hometown, but totally not for Josh. The rest of the season falls into romantic comedy place, but not in the typical ways of sitcoms past. Show-stopping musical numbers, a diverse cast, and awesome women leads, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation heir TV has been waiting for.

Except Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (or CXG as the trendy TV writers refer to it) goes farther than 30 Rock and Parks and Rec. Show creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna worked together to make a new romantic comedy, and their show speaks to feminism, mental health, sexuality, and reflects the diversity of Southern Cailifornia. The writing for each episode goes well beyond the standard plot of girl-chases-boy, and the characters reflect honest depth in their roles on a sitcom. Rebecca deals with real anxiety, Josh Chan’s Filipino family isn’t a prop, and the base of all the relationships is real love and caring . Without making obvious bigger points, CXG hits home in the best, most musical way.

This show is “critical hit” with audiences and media, taking home a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award. After its first season, it had four Emmy nominations (none for best actress, actor, or comedy) and its second season airs next month. Vulture has done a number of pieces singing the praises of CXG (here, here, and here), and the New York Times did an great profile of Rachel Bloom. NBC Asian America added why CXG is an important representation of Filipino culture. Mainstream love for this show is important not only to keep it on air, but if more people talk about it, more people will want to watch it, and then its brilliance might make a difference on a lot of pre-conceived notions.

That may sound like a lot to hope for from a TV show, but look at the way people talk about Black-ish, Modern Family, Fresh Off the Boat, and Masters of None. All of these shows and more stress the importance of media representation, showing characters ans situations that are simultaneously culturally unique and universal. For instance, American audiences are familiar with Thanksgiving dinner episodes, but not traditional Filipino foods. But do they need to be? The episode focuses on Rebecca’s desire to ingratiate herself with Josh’s family, not the ins and outs of Filipino American identity. People without mental illness won’t understand all the nuances of Rebecca’s struggles, but they can relate to over-bearing mothers and using romance to distract from real problems. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s attention to the little details of the characters lives is what make the show really stand out.

via Glamour

Watch CXG because it’s funny and everyone loves a strong female lead. Stay because it’s funny, real, and everybody loves a strong female lead. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is now one of my favorite TV shows, for a lot of reasons. Mainly Rachel Bloom and the musical numbers, but for a lot of other really important reasons too. Seasons 1 through 3 are on Netflix and all the songs are on Youtube, so don’t Greg and go after the show you love.