Ten things Televison Showrunners Need to Stop Doing, Immediately

I love television. This is no secret. Sometimes I find TV comforting in a way that real life could never be, and I always find myself thinking of “tv vs. IRL” possible outcomes for a situation. I usually use TV in a way that most people use music: I put it on while I study, or read, or clean, or cook. I watch TV right before bed. I love many kinds of television, from shows with critical acclaim (Dexter, Arrested Development), to classic sitcoms (Friends), to serious guilty pleasures (Glee, Gossip Girl).  The problem with all this, however, is that I have noticed a lot of things about television that, to me, pierce my brain like Gilbert Gottfried’s voice. Here are what I find to be the ten worst crimes perpetrated by even (and sometimes especially) the television show runners whom I have come to love. I have listed them from least to most annoying for your reading pleasure.

Boots

10. Selecting Wardrobe Pieces for Characters Way Too Poor to Afford Them

Miss Fabray is one of the most well-off characters in Glee, but she still goes to public school in a one-horse town in rural Ohio. These boots, spotted by the kind people over at Fashion of Glee, cost a cool 358 dollars. Many of the other characters like Rachel and Kurt (whose father owns a tire shop by the way) aren’t as upper-middle class as the Fabrays, and yet they wear equally expensive clothes. They never mention the clothes being pricey on the show, but fashion savvy viewers can spot a Marc Jacobs jacket or an Alexander McQueen scarf from a mile away. This is especially annoying on a show like Glee, where youngish girls emulate Rachel Berry and Quinn. In one episode  Rachel claims to shop at Kids ‘R’ Us. Last time I checked, they don’t tend sell Versace flats. I understand that TV is different from real life, but why do they have to dress them like that? Most of the shows guilty of this aren’t even about fashion. None of these characters would wear this stuff. It may seem trivial, but it’s details in props and set dressing that make a huge difference in production quality. Seriously, what is the fucking POINT of putting characters in designer couture fashions when the brands are not differentiated nor mentioned? It doesn’t make a lick of sense.

https://i2.wp.com/static.tvfanatic.com/images/gallery/dear-emily-and-richard-picture.jpg9. Choosing Actors For Flashbacks Who Look Nothing Like Their Current Selves
“Dear Emily and Richard” is one of my favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls, but that doesn’t stop me from cringing every time I watch these two talentless wastes of space portray young Lorelai and Christopher. Are you telling me, that out of the millions upon millions of young, desperate actors out there that Amy Palladino couldn’t have found a girl who doesn’t look fricking LATINA to play a famous character on national television? Seriously. This happens over and over again. Another noteable examle happens in Supernatural, when Dean and Sam revisit their previous high school. Something I’ve noticed: people’s entire skulls don’t normally change shape between age 18 and age 27. Los Angeles and New York are heavily populated with young people who would leap at the chance to be on national TV like dogs for a bone. How hard is it to hold up a picture of your star and glance back and forth a few times between the auditioning actor and the head shot? Also, why do they coach these younger actors to try to imitate the voices of their present-day selves? Why? It sounds so forced, and horrible, and awkward.  Newsflash: sometimes people talk differently when they are children.

https://i1.wp.com/images.wikia.com/scrubs/images/3/34/7x6_Turk_JD_and_Cox_at_Coffee_Bucks.jpg

8. Fucking Up With Extremely Basic Props
If I were being extremely self-indulgent (even more self indulgent than I had to have been to co-create a blog where I bitch incessantly), this one would be number one on my list. I put it up here, however, because I feel like you might not notice it the first time around watching a show.  Still though, It bothers me like little else in this world, and some shows (Gilmore Girls: I’m looking at you) are so bad with it that sometimes I can’t even focus on the scene at hand. I’m talking about when women are walking around with purses that are flapping in the breeze because they are so obviously empty. I’m talking about to-go coffee cups that are also obviously empty. I don’t understand why they can’t just fill the cups with water or marbles or rocks I don’t care, but no one fucking waves their cups around like people do on television. I want everyone to picture their last trip to Starbucks. You just paid for your Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte, and you are now walking down the street, having a conversation with your friend. How are you holding that cup? Are you whipping it around while you gesticulate? Not unless you want 2nd degree burns all over your knuckles. Forget that, are you even holding it with one hand? Probably not at first. Do you tip it at a complete 90 degree angle when you take the first sip? FUCK NO. You squint into the little slit as if trying to use your eyeballs to determine if it is a safe drinking temperature. You then stick your tongue in the slit and inhale, getting a minuscule drop on your tongue.  It seems safe, so you take a teensy, delicate sip, tilting the cup so slowly it’s as if you’re trying to tip coffee into your mouth one molecule at a time. I’m not sure on the statistics here, but I feel like there should be enough people working on a fucking television set who have drunk coffee before that at least one of these lazy ass prop-making motherfuckers could coach the actors, or suggest filling the cups. Come on, people.

https://i1.wp.com/www.fringefiles.com/gallery/albums/episodes/115/normal_fringe115-090.jpg

7. Failing To Do  Basic Research About Your Settings Before Deciding to Set a Show There
Sometimes you can’t film a television show where it’s set. Some of my favorite shows, like Supernatural and Fringe, are very expensive to produce, and are thus filmed in not-so-desireable filming locales, like Canada. I understand this. I don’t expect the episode of Fringe that takes place in South Station that the set should actually be identical to South Station. I do expect, however, that before spending millions of dollars producing a televison show that people could do a  fucking google search. “What do people in Boston call the subway?” “How do you pronounce these crazy town names?” “Are these places anywhere near each other?” “Is that big fucking glass building in the middle of Boston where the FBI field office is located?” “Or better yet, what is that big fucking glass building even called?” Seriously. The  Hancock Tower is probably the most famous building in Boston and it is PRIVATELY OWNED. IT’S ALSO NOT CALLED THE FEDERAL BUILDING. Like seriously, wtf. In this day and age there is actually no excuse for this. Judging by the product placement/commercial break tie ins, I think every person who works on that set owns a Sprint Smart phone. Why do none of these people know how to use google?

https://i0.wp.com/www.wallchan.com/images/sandbox/28841-breaking-bad-car.jpg

6. Having Characters Drive in Reckless Fashions While Having Conversations With Each Other
Okay, so the above picture might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I really don’t understand why directors don’t coach their actors to keep looking forward while talking to each other in the car. I know it’s Television and we have to suspend our disbelief, but let’s be real here. Seeley Booth from bones literally NEVER looks at the road. He is always deep in conversation with Bones, and his eyes only ever so rarely flick towards the windshield. I don’t think the scene would suffer that much from the characters being shot in profile. If anything, it allows for more challenging acting! No one could drive like this and live for very long, especially because most car scenes in shows like Bones are high speed emergency chases. Booth is careening around DC streets, racing towards a crime scene and not ONCE is he looking at the cars, small children, shrubberies and cafe tables he is no doubtedly swerving in and out of. Just once I would like this to be adressed. Just once, I would like someone on TV to accidentally crash their car, or smash into a woman pushing a stroller, while having a long, poignant conversation with the person riding shotgun.

https://i0.wp.com/www.cammilicious.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/sex-and-the-city-opening-shot-movie-1040x693.jpg

5. Letting Characters Spend Way More Money Than They Should, Especially When Money Problems are Often a Plot Point, and How Much They’ve Been Spending is Not
In this hilariously detailed Thought Catalog post, Stephanie Georgopulos guesstimates how much debt Carrie Bradshaw would have spent vs what she would have earned at the start of the show. SATC is probably the show that most famously does this, but my favorite show, Gilmore Girls, is pretty guilty too. Lorelai and Rory get takeout every night, eat at Luke’s diner once per day (and multiple times per episode), and many times they just leave the food, or throw it out. It’s not until season 4, when Lorelai is trying to get her Inn off the ground that she actually acknowledges this unhealthy spending.  Rachel Greene s also afflicted. It is part of her character to be really into shopping, but for the first two seasons she’s a waitress at a coffee house. All the friends eat out a lot, and obviously buy coffee and breakfast all the time at Central Perk. Occasionally Joey, Phoebe and Rachel discuss their money problems but it really doesn’t affect their spending habits at all. It’s really frustrating because no one could expect to live like the Friends, or the SATC ladies, or the Gilmore Girls without going completely flat ass broke, or tens of thousands of dollars in the hole.  A lot of these scenes are nothing but filler. It pisses me off mainly because I wish I could work a low paying job and afford to buy takeout almost every night, and shop whenever I want. It makes me bitter. And I hate being bitter; it’s bad for the complexion. IRL money is a bitch. 

http://tvrecappersanonymous.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/gossip-girl-bed.jpg4. Creating or Preventing Romantic Entanglements For the Sake of Dramatic Intrigue But Without a Ring of Emotional Truth
The “will they, won’t they” trope is a time honored television tradition. Some shows do it well: Ross & Rachel, JD & Elliot, Jim & Pam, to name a few. However, some shows keep their main love interests apart for basically no reason whatsoever for way longer than any two people interested in each other would stay apart in real life. Bones and Booth, for example, are probably the worst. They spent five years without either of them having a serious relationship, making up excuses and supposedly Bones wouldn’t risk it because “she was a scientist and didn’t gamble like that” WTF. Did that actually ring true to ANYONE? In one earlier episode, Booth holds off telling Bones about his feelings because he was afraid that if things didn’t work out, Bones would take a long time to get over it. WHAT. In what universe does anyone actually care about that? None. I’ve found that for the most part, people do the opposite. We are ultimately a very selfish species: we want something, then go for it. Period. Many of my breakups, and friends breakups have taught me that if nothing else. If I liked, nay, loved, a friend, and I knew beyond reasonable doubt that he or she loved me too, no way in hell would I wait SIX YEARS before broaching the subject.  It’s fucking exhausting as viewer. Similarly, when shows are near the end of thier shelf life, I think the staff writers get together and start pulling characters’ names out of a hat and pairing them up. “Hey, have we tried Rufus and Chuck Bass as a couple yet? No? Perfect. Let’s get cracking.” Yawn.

https://i2.wp.com/www.forensictechnology.com/Portals/71705/images/csi-miami--screenshot-5.jpg3. Creating Unnecessary Spin Offs
I really never understood the need for showrunners to make spin-offs that don’t atcually make any sense as spin offs. They introduce the cast in what is known as a “back door pilot,” as a way to get the “new” show going. It’s essentially the same show template but set in a different location, with a different cast, or with a slightly different format. Sometimes the shows are good, like SVU or criminal intent. Sometimes they’re terrible and get canceled in due course, like The Finder, and sometimes they last way too long like friggin Horatio Cane. I really don’t get why they can’t just make a new show. Even if it has a similar premise, it doesn’t actually make sense to frame it as a spin off. Whenever I see this, I feel like I’m being patronized. Like I’m too dumb to accept an entirely new show, so I have to be spoonfed the premise by a show I already like. It’s infuriating. The only other, and equally likely, explanation is that it is a shameless plug for ratings. For fuck’s sake, let your damn show speak for itself. I guarantee it’ll say a lot more.

https://i2.wp.com/www.wikinoticia.com/images2//s2.tvlia.com/files/2011/07/Monica-Geller-The-One-Where-The-Stripper-Cries-10-11-monica-geller-9850424-720-480-e1311683043404.jpg

2. Fucking Up Their Own Continuity
I’m not talking about in one scene there’s a magazine on the table and the next shot it’s mysteriously gone. That’s understandable. I’m talking about showrunners forgetting important plot points and ret-conning them well after the fact. Many shows are very guilty of this, especially when they run on the longer end. This drives me ape shit. Do you know how much work goes into producing an episode of television? There are days, maybe even weeks, of writing the script. Then there are table reads, and then the actors have to memorize all the lines. Then there are dozens upon dozens of takes of every scene, and then of course there’s editing. Are you seriously fucking telling me that the writers of Gilmore Girls “forgot” that they established that Richard’s mother was dead in one of the first few episodes? Or that Rachel had supposedly never met Chandler before the pilot of Friends? Or that Rachel originally only had one sister, and later had two? Or that Spike’s age was changed multiple times throughout his tenure on Buffy? They seriously can’t take a quick glance at old scripts, or old reels? Really? They should keep a fricking bio cheat sheet on each of their main characters that they can take a look at from time to time. That should be some bitch intern’s job, to maintain a spreadsheet, or lie a time line graphic, of the basic events and facts of the world within the show. I think this’d be much more useful than getting coffee or sleeping with the producer.

https://i0.wp.com/4.bp.blogspot.com/_gIsmEby1LjU/S9iXttdfMAI/AAAAAAAAA7A/VOJmL3GlwS8/s1600/walt.jpg

1. Create Plot-lines with A lot of Potential That End Up Going Nowhere
To me, there is nothing worse than this. In fact, I was considering doing an entire post about this, and still might. It infuriates me to no freaking end. As an addict of television, I have watched many of my favorite shows from beginning to end ad nauseum until I know them (clearly) much better than the creators ever did. The one downside to this is that I am repeatedly exposed to the things that could have been. Pictured above is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALT from Lost. He is introduced as a potentially telekinetic wunderkind, and a lot (and I mean a L-O-T) of  screen time is devoted to developing his back story, and how he might have freaky weird powers. It is then NEVER ADDRESSED AGAIN. Lost is probably the worst offender of this phenomenon, at least that I can think of. I also never forgave them for neglecting to tell us why Aaron was so special, too. Another huge offender: Friends.  I maintain that Ross & Rachel was a perfect use of the will they/won’t they; however, Rachel and JOEY was one of the most disappointing realizations of a ‘ship in television histrory. With nearly two seasons of buildup to their amazing kiss in Barbados, Rachel and Joey remained a couple for TWO. EPISODES. wtf. They could have (should have) done so much more with this. Aniston and Le Blanc had amazing chemistry together, and they completely squandered it. Other bad ones: Spencer Reid’s drug addiction “story” on Criminal Minds, the ZFT group on Fringe, the Santa Muerte Killings on Dexter, and the ever so slightly less offensive Marty & Rory’s relationship on Gilmore Girls. I know that realistically, shows can’t really do everything during their time on the air, but really, why even broach the subject? Just to piss of your fans? That’s a great strategy.

And there you have it folks, a cool 3000 words proving beyond reasonable doubt that I seriously need to get out more.

10 Songs That Make Me Want to Kill Myself

Obviously there is no shortage of bad music in the world. There are people who, like Paris Hilton, have no talent to speak of and can get away with making (or at least singing) less than stellar songs just based on their reputations and the fact that sometimes audiences are too stupid to understand that music is supposed to be an art. A lot of the drivel that’s out there certainly doesn’t live up to that name.

In the same way that I feel all people think they can write well just because they have a decent story in them, I also feel many people believe that making music is easy; that if they insert a couple of key lyrical concepts (mainly revolving around love) and a reasonably danceable beat, they’re golden. And being able to sing doesn’t make you good at making music. American Idol and The Voice have long since been the bane of my existence because it has nothing to do with the creative process of writing songs and feeling it from the heart. Instead, it’s pretty much glorified karaoke that gets the best or most popular (the latter of which has never been a great measurement of talent) singer a recording contract worth millions. And real artists get left in the dust.

That said, this is not a blog post about songs that I think are awful. That would take me probably ten years to write and would result in a book the size of the Oxford English Dictionary. This is a blog post about the songs that make me want to hurl myself out the window every time I hear them — and here they are from least heinous to most.

10. “Lucky” by Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat.

“Lucky” is everything a bad love song could possibly be. The lyrics manage to reach new astounding levels of insipid sappiness. It’s number ten on the list because it’s not quite as offensive as some of the others, but the lyrics actually make me want to puke. “Lucky to be in love with my best friend”? “Lucky we’re in love in every way”? My gag reflex just went haywire writing that. And that’s without having listened to the actual tune. The sparse instrumentals are reminiscent of a bad Jack Johnson song, and I really hate Jack Johnson. It’s the kind of song you might serenade your lover with on a ukelele if you hated them and wanted them to leave you. It’s the dopey surfer version of “Hey There Delilah.” And it probably doesn’t help that I think Colbie Caillat has a vocal style equivalent to Pac-Sun — a store, which for my friends on this side of the world, specialises in faux-surfer duds and is found almost exclusively in malls. She has a voice made for elevator music. And no one likes elevator music.

9. “American Boy” by Estelle featuring Kanye West

I can’t pinpoint exactly why I detest this song. I think it’s probably because the tune is just so grating. Estelle has the flimsiest voice ever, and although I generally really like Kanye, his rapping style in this song just went down the drain. It’s more singing along with the tune, which, if you remember from about two lines ago, is not good. It’s like a hip-hop easy listening song, and those two things should not mix. Not now, not ever. You will probably notice that in this list, there are a few recurring themes within the songs chosen. One of them is monotone vocals. Or at least vocalists that fluctuate between two or three notes like a retarded child playing a butchered rendition of chopsticks. “American Boy” is very guilty of doing this and it makes me die. Everywhere.

8. “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt

Oh god do I hate this song. It bothers me in the same way that “Lucky” bothers me, but worse. His voice disgusts me — it kind of sounds like the guy from Five for Fighting and a wild turkey mated and their unfortunate child started subscribing to the emo lifestyle. The video’s emo as fuck, too. He just strips awkwardly, looking all soulful and shit, and then jumps into the ocean because this beautiful girl doesn’t love him back. Get with the program, James Blunt, you’re not the only person who has wanted to date someone miles out of their league and has been spurned. This happens to me very frequently. But do I write bad songs and then strip and jump off a cliff? No. You know why? Because I’m not desperate. And Blunt sounds like a desperate guy, even though he’s famous and could easily snag a pretty lady if he wrote better music. Between his “soulful” caterwauling and inspired words, it’s no wonder he hasn’t got the girl. “My life is brilliant, my love is pure”? Sure, Blunt, we’ll be the judge of that.

7. “Fireflies” by Owl City.

Have you heard this guy’s voice? If you look up the term “whiny” in the dictionary, this asshole’s name would be the entire definition. Back in the day when emo groups were all the rage, Owl City may have fit in. He certainly sounds like someone’s been pounding him with a brick since he entered middle school. He was probably the kid who went home, cried about being bullied, and made “music” a la Ross Geller on his snazzy keyboard and computer. Every time he attempts to sing a vowel it’s like he’s trying to emulate a flock of Canadian Geese, both in timbre and volume, something not helped by the bad audio effects. And then we hear the tones he’s so carefully crafted into a song. It’s boring. He’s boring. And I swear to god he’s just a thirteen year old boy who did this instead of masturbating one day and he should have just stuck with the good old right hand. I could write a better song than this and I can’t write music for shit. I remember hearing this song once while skiing back home. I’d decided to take a rest because my legs were killing me. But Owl City’s wailing drove me from the beautiful cold bench to the slopes once more. And I preferred the ache in my legs heaps better than the brain aneurysm “Fireflies” would have soon caused me.

6. “Judas” by Lady Gaga

So I used to like Lady Gaga’s music a little bit back when it first came out. It wasn’t that it was anything that fresh; she borrows all of her material from Madonna and Bowie and Marilyn Manson, after all. But back in the day she wasn’t trying too hard. She just made danceable music that had weird lyrics. Then she got popular for her crazy antics and released Born This Way. This album itself isn’t exactly the most cohesive or coherent record that’s ever been made, but the track “Judas” takes the cake. First off, I’m sick of Lady Gaga’s “style” where she repeats vowels and then says her name. Like “Juda-a-a-a-as Gaga”. You know. That. I think the song started out okay — but then it just goes haywire after the first minute. “Judas” starts off like a dark rock song and then, without any warning, slips right into upbeat pop territory. Her little “oh oh oh ohs” in the background don’t seem to fit, either. And then have you heard around halfway through the song? If you haven’t, listen now — around 3:25 in this video. It’s like Gaga forgot what sort of song she was writing … again. I won’t even go into the fact that the instrumentals need some heavy work; they sound like that odd keyboard effect from way back in the day that made me think of a gorilla in a weird, synthesized jungle. Or a really bad fake bass riff. But then from that very weird departure into electro-land, she goes back to the pop song without any reasonable or logical transition. It’s as though she took all the scraps of melodies she recorded in studio, realised she needed one more song to flesh out the rest of her CD, and then hurriedly mixed and matched these little musical tidbits to create a bad song. Plus, can we just talk about how Lady Gaga is just totally trying to shock the general public? No one writes a song in which they state their undying love for Judas if they’re not gagging for attention.

5. “My Humps” by The Black Eyed Peas.

….There is really nothing good to say about this song. Honestly. Give me one good thing to say about it and I’ll punch you in the nose. Let’s start with the fact that I don’t like The Black Eyed Peas. They have no substance aside from singing about going to clubs and having sex and partying and whenever they do have a “deep” song, like “Where is the Love” (that was going to go on here, too, but I didn’t want to put two songs by the same artist on it. That would be cheap), it comes out as disingenuous. But while I really hate “Pump It” and “I Got a Feeling,” this song is leagues below their usual low standards in terms of maturity, lyrical sophistication, and melodic virtues. There is no acceptable lyric in this entire song. Not a single one. “What you gon do wit all that breast, all that breast inside that shirt?” is actually a line. No lie. And the most frequently repeated phrase in the entire track is “My humps,” followed closely by “My lump.” Not only are these horrendously unsexy terms for a lady’s parts, they’re completely nonsensical. And “milky milky cocoa puff”? Look, dude, we get it, you like sexytimes. Get over it. Plus, Fergie’s got a halfway decent voice (when she doesn’t sing notes that are way too high for her to hit), and to hear her just sing in the breathiest, whiniest voice known to man is somehow even almost as offensive as the rest of the song. There is no reasonable explanation for why this song was made or how it became so bloody popular, and I’d pay good money for it to disappear off the playlist of every bad bar mitzvah/wedding/sweet sixteen/prom DJ in America.

4. “Tear You Apart” by She Wants Revenge.

First of all, I want to preface this one by saying how damn much I wanted to like this song and band. The video is deliciously eerie, their style’s a hundred percent my aesthetic, and the background music’s got a lot of potential. But then the singer. Oh, the singer. Most people know that nothing will ruin a song for me like a bad vocalist, and the lead singer of She Wants Revenge is one of the worst I’ve ever heard. This asshole sings in a complete monotone but he doesn’t even manage to be dull. It’s like a cheese grater to the head. It’s like the worst rapper and the worst rock crooner came together and forgot how to do everything. Even when She Wants Revenge’s singer does attempt other notes they somehow — magically — sound the same as all the other notes. It would fuck with my dad’s ear, and he’s got perfect pitch.

3. “The Beautiful People” by Christina Aguilera

Holy fuck. Holy fuck. The first time I ever heard this song I was at work, minding my own business, probably restocking some bath bombs or something … and this song came on. My head snapped up in awe when I heard the intro. Was it possible that Lush was playing Marilyn Manson in store? And then all my hopes and dreams were shattered when I heard Christina Aguilera’s voice soaring over the stolen beat. Now, look, I like covers. I have no problem with people covering songs. I really don’t. But this isn’t a cover. This is a bastardization. It’s cruel and unusual punishment to the ear. Aguilera — or whoever wrote this, because it is from the film Burlesque — changed all the lyrics to the song except the words “the beautiful people,” undermined the entire meaning, and made it shallow. She took one of the most iconic drum sequences and put this bizarre tune over it. It’s totally incongruous — the lyrics, the music, everything about it. It just does not make any fucking sense and it makes me want to slit open my eyeballs with scissors, to borrow a phrase from my sister. Like where did they get the idea to put that set of notes with this drum beat? Tell me. I must know. And who is responsible for this mess? How did this happen? What did Marilyn Manson do to deserve this absolute destruction of his song? I mean, granted, “The Beautiful People” is one of my favourite songs by him, and probably one of my favourite songs of all time, and this is most likely why this track horrifies me so fucking much, but … it’s not just because I like the original. It’s because Christina Aguilera did not do a very good job covering it. Or, you know, making it listenable. Or anything. I need to stop ranting about this one now because I could actually go on forever about it, it makes me that furious. So, next!

2. “Friday” by Rebecca Black

Yeah, yeah, picking on Rebecca Black might be too easy. But this is a list of the songs that make me want to kill myself, and “Friday” is … dear lord. I can’t express how much I hate it. I know she didn’t write it and that annoying black dude did, and I don’t necessarily blame Rebecca Black for this travesty, but let’s call a spade a spade: this song is easily one of the most aggravating pieces of shit ever. There are too many elements to trash here, but let’s start with the words. There has never been anything more stupid written, except maybe all the other songs this same dude made happen in his artistic ability. The depth is astounding. “Which seat do I take” is a classic existential question that everybody faces. I know every time I get into Craig and Lil’s Waka, I’m paralysed for a moment about the implications of the seat that I take — how will this choice affect the rest of my life? And then the spell is broken because I realise that in my few seconds of indecision, Ali has already called shotgun and I’m relegated to the back. Again. But I digress. “Yesterday was Thursday. Today it is Friday. We we we we so excited … Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards.” Really mind-blowing stuff there. But I guess aside from the stupid lyrics, there’s Black’s voice. I’ve heard she’s not actually half bad at singing, but this remains to be seen. The autotune on “Friday” is atrocious. And god, the way she actually says the title word is like an audio kick to the genitals. FRAWIIIIIIIIIIIDAAAAY. Just. Like. That.

1. “That’s Not My Name” by The Ting Tings.

The second this beat comes over the loudspeaker I want to run very, very far away. My brain shuts off. Or it tries to, but the horrible screeching of The Ting Ting’s lead singer permeates my brain and drills little tiny holes into it. Instead of singing — and the girl does know how to sing, as I’ve heard her on rare occasions actually hit some real notes — she yells like a cheerleader on crack. But the screeching … it haunts my dreams. It’s the Boylston Screech of music, and the Boylston Screech, for those non-Bostonians reading, sounds exactly like this:

And then there’s the clapping. Clapping plus high-pitched shouting equals more cheerleading. And who wants a song to sound like it belongs on the sidelines of a bad high school football game? Not me. I can’t stand anything put out by this band, but this song in particular is the one I’d describe as being my personal hell. In my version of hell, The Ting Tings are dancing around me, shouting this song over and over and over again until my skull explodes. Then my head reassembles and we go through the process again until the universe ends.

Why 50 Shades of Grey is the Bane of The Universe

Image

Let’s face it: there are a lot of bad books out in the world. For every masterfully crafted novel there’s one filled with lusty wereotters or heaving bosoms or whatever the fuck else is in bad books these days. The ratio of shitty books to those with standards has, of course, become skewed due to the advent of self-publishing, but most of these books are just shoddily crafted and poorly edited. They are not dangerous. They’re just bad. 50 Shades of Grey, though — it’s both.

50 Shades of Grey is — and I fully believe this — the worst piece of literature to come out in the past decade. Back in the day when Twilight was becoming all the rage, I was convinced that I would never find anything I hated more. I was wrong. Twilight is a comparative masterpiece. Now, I’ll say right off the bat that I’ve read the first book of Twilight and none of the others. And I’ve certainly never actually read 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve read excerpts and that’s more than enough for me. I know it’s a bit of a faux pas to lambast something you’ve never actually read yourself, but I think I should mention that I don’t hate 50 Shades of Grey because it’s a shitty book. That’s only part of the reason.

So let’s start off with the fact that it’s terribly written. As a writer, I find it incredibly upsetting that Time magazine included E.L James as one of the most influential people in the world, because her writing style is just that awful. The main character, in the midst of sexy times, will say “Holy cow!” or spin long-winded metaphors about how her inner goddess enjoys sunning herself on the back porch sipping lemonade while — wait what’s happening in the book again? The  passage “I’ll agree to the fisting, but I’d really like to claim your ass, Anastasia…. Besides, it’s not something we can dive into. Your ass will need training.” is actually present. Some other gems include:

“‘His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.”

and

“I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of the communist manifesto.

These sorts of lines are cringe-worthy. The relationship is cringe-worthy. Everything about this book is cringe-worthy.

“But Kendra,” you may say, “What makes this terrible erotica/romance novel so much worse than every other terrible erotica/romance novel?”

I’m getting to that.

The reason I hate 50 Shades of Grey more than probably every other bad novel out there is because originally, it was a fanfiction. And let it be known that I think fanfiction is a glorious thing. I think it allows young writers to find their voices, and I think it helps people hone their craft while not worrying so much about worldbuilding. There’s still imagination, there’s still characterisation — but it’s an easier way to improve than just starting everything from scratch. But fanfiction is still only fanfiction. It stops being okay to write fanfiction when you start making money off it and when, god forbid, you start passing it off as your own.  And that’s what E.L James did.

Let me tell you a little story: way back before 50 Shades of Grey was a thing, there was a Twilight fanfic writer (known hilariously as “Snowqueen’s Icedragon”) who wrote a highly praised alternate-universe erotic trilogy called Master of the Universe.  This series featured the familiar characters of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan in a universe where supernatural creatures did not exist. Instead, Edward was a high-powered, sexually deviant millionaire who tempted Bella, a naive college student, into joining him in his world.

Fast forward a few years. Master of the Universe has done brilliantly among the sexually repressed housewives and horny teenagers who read Twilight but were disappointed with the lack of sexytimes, so good old Snowqueen Icedragon, high on anonymous praise from reviewers on The Interweb, decides to take the next step. She has put so much time and effort into crafting this series that, gosh darn it, why shouldn’t she get some kind of reward for all her hard work? So what if she didn’t create the characters or the relationship — she came up with the “plot,” right? So she changed the names from Bella Swan to Anastasia Steele and Edward Cullen to Christian Grey and published her reworked version of Master of the Universe (split into a three-part series) with a virtual publisher based in Australia, choosing the much more sophisticated pen name E.L. James. And eventually this heinous plague was unleashed on the rest of humanity.

Up until this point, the moral responsibility of stealing someone else’s characters and passing them off as  original creations lay solely on E.L. James’s shoulders. But that all changed when Vintage Books (a Big Six imprint) decided that this trilogy would make them heaps and heaps and heaps of money and offered her an incredibly enormous book deal. And here’s where I start to hate pretty much everything about the book series, its author, its situation, and its publisher: it does not matter one bit whether it’s a brilliant masterpiece or a deformed dog turd — what matters is that no one saw the slightest thing wrong with publishing fanfiction as a real work of art.

I know the characters names have been changed. I’m also aware that the selling point has nothing to do with vampires. But my point still remains: the characters, which the entire trilogy depends on, are complete and utter ripoffs of Stephenie Meyer’s characters. And while I know I wrote earlier that I find Twilight a literary abomination, I still feel that every author, regardless of how talentless he or she may be, deserves at least a little bit of credit for coming up with something in its entirety and seeing it through to the bitter end. Twilight may be a series filled with terrible role models for young girls, unrealistic (and dangerous) standards for relationships, and mediocre turns of phrase, but at least Stephenie Meyer didn’t rip anybody off to write it. No matter how much I dislike her books, I have to give the lady props. She dreamed up characters, she loved them, she wrote them, and she happened to make millions off them. And what I find terribly unjust is that now, someone else is taking these characters she loved and (presumably) put a lot of work into. She’s changed their names and stuck them in a slightly different plot — which, if you remove the supernatural creatures from one and the BDSM from the other, really isn’t all that different — and Stephenie Meyer gets no credit. Instead, James is making bank. Lots of bank.

A publishing house should know better than this — especially one that’s so influential, especially after all the book scandals of the past few years (James Frey, I’m looking at you, you big worst). Vintage shouldn’t sit there and say “oh, it’s okay” — they should be outraged! No work is, of course, wholly original, as it’s all been said and done before — but this is conceptual plagiarism. Without Twilight, this novel would not exist — and Twilight, unlike Jane Eyre, is not exactly in the public domain just yet. Without Edward Cullen, Christian Grey would not be a character — and Christian Grey is Edward, just as Anastasia is Bella. A rose by any other name, in this instance, smells exactly the fucking same.

So why does this bother me so much? Two reasons. The first is the implication this has in the publishing and writing world. I know the publishing industry is struggling in some respects. But is it really that far gone that we have to resort to skirting around copyright issues just to make a buck? Does it mean I can publish my novel and four or five years down the road find someone else making money off characters that resemble mine in every way but name? I know imitation is a form of flattery, but that is taking things too damn far.

James wrote fanfiction about a series she enjoyed by an author she liked. She liked it so much she used Meyer’s characters and wrote her own little stories about them. And then she turned around and slapped Meyer in the face wearing a shit-eating grin that said, “Hey! You’re great but I’m going to make ALL the benjamins and I’m not going to give you any credit at all for making my work what it was.” Now what kind of person does that make her?

The worst part about all of this is that, unlike the James Frey situation (in which he lied and the publishing house got slammed for not checking into things sooner), Vintage was well aware right from the beginning that 50 Shades of Grey originated as a Twilight fic. In an article I read long ago, a spokesperson from Vintage stated that the book barely resembled its fanfiction roots — and just a few paragraphs later claimed that 50 Shades of Grey had been left virtually untouched. And I know that they’re trying to cash in on the Twilight craze; they even vaguely referenced Twilight in the similar cover art styles! But there are other ways to make money that don’t infringe on other writers’ rights.

The other scary implication for me is what this will do to the fanfiction community. Yeah, fanfiction isn’t the most glamourous thing, but as I said above, it really can help young writers. It gives them a sense of community, a place where they can get feedback on whatever they’ve done, and this can really help boost their confidence. Certain authors, such as Anne Rice, have already expressed a dislike for fanfiction, and will not permit it written about their book. Many more authors are okay with fanfiction — so long as the writers adhere to the stipulations that A) they write a disclaimer that explains that the characters and world are someone else’s brainchild and B) they make no profit. 50 Shades of Grey crosses both lines. It claims to be a standalone work, derived from nothing (though paradoxically James freely talks about the books’ beginnings as a fanfic) and is making millions upon millions of dollars. Will this set a bad precedent and make other authors more leery of allowing an otherwise harmless hobby? And will it teach aspiring writers that it’s okay to cheat and to steal so long as your work makes it big?

I won’t tell you not to read the books. If you feel the need to lower your IQ and turn your retinas into goo, please, by all means, read them. But don’t buy them. Pirate them, get them from your local library, read snippets online — because after all, it’s a book and it is meant to be read. But by giving this harpy your hard-earned cash, you’re telling her — and the rest of the world — that creativity and respect mean nothing.

Ten Pokemon Who Were Clearly Afterthoughts

Just about everyone in my generation at least experienced the periphery of the Pokemon craze, and though I’d say it’s not nearly as popular now as it was then, I and and millions of other gamers worldwide still shell out about 30 bucks every year or two to buy the latest version. Whenever someone asks me what I’m playing on my DS and I answer, “Pokemon!” I get a number of responses. One of the most popular is the following:

“EW! I don’t like ANY Pokemon besides the original 150.”

Now, while I agree that most of the originals put recent iterations to shame, I find this perspective extremely narrow minded. First because let’s face it, some of the original 150 were ugly as (I’m looking at you, Magmar). Second, because some of the new ones are actually really cute, pretty or awesome (personally, I am a huge sucker for Umbreon and Espeon, two additional evolutions developed for Eevee). However, I do give the people who hate all new Pokemon some credit: many of the newly designed Pocket Monsters are ugly, weird, and completely uninspired. I debated making a list of the ugliest pokemon since Mewto, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that MANY of the original 150—Mr Mime, Eggsecutor, Koffing—were just as ugly. I decided instead to make a list of Pokemon whose designs, names, and abilities are so unimaginative that it’s clear the designers were like “Ah shit, we only made 97 new ones for this game, we need 13 more.”

Wobbuffet

I think it’s important to mention that my cousins and I nicknamed this pokemon Condom-on, mainly because he just looks like a condom that somebody blew up with air. And what the hell is coming out of his ass? Solid flatulence? Apparently they are very protective of it though. According to bulbapedia, this pokemon will turn aggressive if it feels as though its tail is being threatened. Got to protect your only friends, I guess… Its species is listed as Patient Pokemon. What does that even mean? My best guess is ‘mental patient drew this pokemon.’

Pineco

 Literally, they just took the word pinecone, struck the “ne” off the end, and stuck some googly eyes on him. “Hmmm…he still just looks like a pinecone…” “I know, make him grey!” Another feature that Pineco has that most average pinecones don’t is that, when agitated, it will drop to the ground from its tree and explode violently without warning. 

Luvdisc

This Pokemon is a fish, in theory, but what it really is is a heart drawn by a drunk, blind four year old. They then rotated it ninety degrees, slapped a fishy face on it and called it a day. The reason this Pokemon exemplifies what’s wrong with recent editions of the game is effort, or lack thereof. Like, come on. Compare this with Pokemon like Rapidash, or even a simple one like Oddish. You could draw this stupid thing in 10 seconds. It’s made of approximately three lines and some blush pink color. Just sad. Its type is listed as Rendezvous Pokemon. Coupled with its name, I can only guess that eating this pokemon will cure erectile dysfunction.

Gulpin

This Pokemon’s species is literally listed as “stomach Pokemon.” What on god’s green earth could have convinced an art director that a sentient, green human stomach with a yellow feather on its…head? Back? Membrane? would be a good character for a game for children? It’s “hidden” ability? Gluttony. No Shit. One of the moves this pokemon can learn is called Gunk Shot. Gunk. Shot. Someone at nintendo actually thought up this move, put thought into what the animation would look like, and how much damage it would do. Thinking about that too hard makes my soul sore.

Trubbish

This Pokemon is a sack of garbage. But actually. It is a bag of trash, and in fact its species is listed as “trash bag Pokemon.” It is 100% obvious to me, and anyone with half a brain in his or her skull that this character design took zero thought or imagination. Seriously, I’m thinking that perhaps their office was just kind of dirty when they thought this up. In Pokemon Black V. 2, I was just recently engaging in a fierce showdown with Team Plasma, and “Team Plasma Grunt” leapt out at me and said, literally, “It’s Trubbish Time!” And then my Vulpix burned it to death. And I was glad. 

Spiritomb

Who drew this? Seriously. Unless the answer is “an adorable three year old with her first box of crayons,” the artist should be hit by a bus, and that result should be turned into a new Pokemon design, and it would be 10x better than this P.O.S. It is made of exactly 108 malevolent spirits who did bad deeds 500 years ago. But actually. This is 100% official data from Nintendo.

 

Cottonee

Pokemon trainers have precious few spots in the party, and are often faced with really tough calls on who makes the cut and who doesn’t. Do they really have room for a Pokemon whose only real use is removing chipped nail polish? In the wild, cottonee’s only form of movement is to be blown around on gusts of wind. It literally cannot move during rainy seasons,because it gets soggy and has to lie under a tree in a heap until it dries. Super useful.

Vanillish

I think one of the most ridiculous about this one is that the creators took this idea, which wouldn’t intimidate any other Pokemon in battle unless it was lactose intolerant, and ran with it for three fricking evolutions. I chose the middle evolution because it really represents the derpiness best. But just so we’re clear, the final evolution is a mutant two headed icecream that, it appears, someone has put a cigarette out in. Top notch, people, top notch.

Klink

Two gears stuck together. Oh, but they’re creative because they’re winking charmingly! Right? Right? Righttttttt?

Sudowoodo

Sudowoodo This crap heap reeks of lost potential. Pokemon has turned inanimate objects into cute or cool looking creatures since day one. Trees are pretty, trees are strong, trees are wonderful forces of nature. There are pines, willows, oaks, birches, so many beautiful things to choose from! And somehow, they landed on this. And that name? Sudo Wood. Like…put him with condomon and there you go!

I would like to say that it was hard to narrow down this list to ten Pokemon, and the universe of this game series there are many, many terribly designed creatures. Who would you have included on this list?