When the Golden Globe Nominees were announced this month, many took to the internet to express their outrage at the disappointing ‘snubs’ and the outrageous nominations. A common theme that most found in the nominations was that many excellent BIPOC-led movies and TV shows were ignored or not given enough attention, while mediocre white-led ones were nominated instead. Among the 40 acting nominees for TV, only two Black actors were nominated, while only two Black women were nominated across all TV and film categories. Perhaps the most shocking of the nominations was the fact that ‘I May Destroy You’, a Black-led TV show that blew up last year and explored sexual assault in a helpful and deep way, was completely ignored by the Golden Globes, while ‘Emily in Paris’, an overdone chick flick, was nominated for two awards. This is, of course, not a new phenomenon – just a few years ago, the Oscars were criticized for not having sufficiently diverse nominations, with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trending. But why is it so common for excellent works of art by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to be ignored, while mediocre projects by white artists are excessively celebrated?
A common answer to this question used to be that awards reflect the majority’s preferences, and because the white majority cannot relate to stories centering around BIPOC, they do not do as well in the box office or award nominations. However, BIPOC directors have dispelled this myth by creating movies and TV shows featuring the stories and cultures of BIPOC, which have gone on to do extremely well in ticket sales and streams. For example, Bridgerton, featuring an incredibly diverse cast and a Black co-lead, became the biggest Netflix show of all time. However, it received zero Golden Globe nominations. It seems that diversity in stories actually increases relatability and ticket sales than the other way around. Therefore, there is clearly a disconnect between popularity and awards nominations.
Perhaps this disconnect could be explained by looking at who is in charge of the Golden Globe nominations. Unfortunately, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the body responsible for the Golden Globe awards, is a secretive body of around 90 people whose membership list is not published anywhere. While this means that nothing can be conclusively said about the potential systemic racism in the HFPA, there is a possibility that this secrecy is a tactic to escape accountability regarding its members’ diversity. If its members are mostly white, it is possible that they subconsciously (or consciously) pick movies and shows that they relate to the most. Sociologists have termed this as the ‘Racial Empathy Gap’ – where people empathize less with performances by artists of another race. This idea of relatability may be why ‘Minari’, a critically acclaimed film about a Korean American family, was sidelined into the foreign language film category despite being an American story created by an American. While this decision is said to have been made purely because more than 50% of Minari’s dialogue is in Korean, it may be a signal of a greater problem, where any story that is not about or relatable to white Americans is automatically dismissed as “foreign” and undeserving of equal praise.
However, even this, the idea that the inability of the white majority to relate, keeps BIPOC projects from receiving the awards they deserve, seems too simplistic an explanation.. There needs to be a deeper analysis that reflects society’s differing criteria when judging work by white and BIPOC people, respectively.
One possible explanation draws from the idea that society is built around applauding white mediocrity while dismissing BIPOC excellence. ljeoma Oluo wrote that society is built on the “idea that white men deserve political power and wealth and safety and security just because they’re white men.” While her analysis focused on white male mediocrity, which white women are undoubtedly victim to, the same logic can be applied to how white mediocrity as a whole is applauded. A symptom of such a society is that white people are automatically perceived as more talented and intelligent than BIPOC, regardless of their actual skill or achievements. This may explain why films and TV shows made by and centering white people, such as ‘Emily in Paris’, are automatically seen as more worthy of praise and recognition since they feature people who ‘must’ be more talented. Oluo even goes so far as to say that people (like the members of the HFPA) are ‘brainwashed’ into upholding the system that applauds white mediocrity.
However, this system goes beyond praising mediocre works by white people to forgiving serious errors and offenses in their films and movies. This pattern is seen in this year’s surprising Golden Globe nominations. In addition to being an insubstantial ‘hate-watch’, Emily in Paris was filled with damaging stereotypes. It portrayed Parisians as mean, exotically sensual and unprofessional. Emily’s Chinese friend, Mindy Chen’s backstory perpetuated the stereotype that all Chinese people come from big money, and by portraying Chinese culture in juxtaposition to Western culture, depicted it as restrictive and dull. Finally, its poor discussion of the dangers of female objectification portrayed feminism as shallow, performative, and ultimately dismissible. Despite these harmful stereotypes being criticized by many, the show went on to earn two nominations at the Golden Globes. Similarly, James Corden was nominated for his performance on “The Prom,” even though he, a straight man, played a caricature of a gay man, which critics denounced as “homophobic” and “aggressively flamboyant.” Perhaps the most surprising and harmful was Sia’s movie, ‘Music’, receiving two nominations. It has repeatedly been denounced for being ableist and damaging. Sia chose to cast a neurotypical actress to play an autistic character, filled it with stereotypes on autistic people, and included restraint scenes that advocate a harmful way of interacting with autistic people. Despite mass criticism on the above performances and their very real and detrimental consequences, it seems that they have been forgiven or ignored by those who nominated them for the Golden Globes. This implies that protecting white people’s image and achievements is more important to society than rectifying damaging stereotypes and their effects on marginalized communities and de-platforming those that perpetuate such stereotypes.
While all of this might explain why mediocre and damaging projects by white people are celebrated, it does not fully answer why brilliant works of art by BIPOC are dismissed. While it is true that in current society BIPOC have to go above and beyond to prove themselves and their art, it is clear that many of the projects that were ignored have ‘proved’ themselves beyond a doubt as being excellent and ground-breaking. Why then are they still ignored?
One speculative analysis is that society has very specific criteria on what counts as art when it comes to projects that center BIPOC. When sorting through BIPOC movies and shows that are awarded and those that are not, there seems to be a pattern (granted, with anomalies). It appears that BIPOC stories that are counted as art and deemed worthy of praise are those that satisfy the white gaze. In the case of the Golden Globes, it seems to restrict BIPOC stories to those that exclusively discuss racial issues but leave white people comfortable, usually by incorporating elements of white saviourism. Examples of these include movies like The Help, Green Book, The Blind Side and Django Unchained– all of which discussed race but with major white saviour characters, and went on to be nominated for several Golden Globe awards. Most of these movies are written by white people and end with the misleading idea that racism can be easily ‘fixed’, leaving white viewers feeling comforted. This helps create a society where white people severely underestimate the pain and damage of racism and how deeply ingrained it is in society and themselves. Meanwhile, brilliant films and shows that generally fall into the following two categories are ignored. First, movies and shows about the experiences and struggles which BIPOC share with white people, such as Bridgerton, Never Have I Ever, I May Destroy You, and Insecure, are sidelined (all of these shows were wholly ignored by the Golden Globes this year). This reflects a pattern in mainstream media, where celebrated stories centering BIPOC are exclusively about their oppression and racial struggles as if they are not capable of beautiful, nuanced, and messily normal lives. Secondly, stories about race that leave white people extremely uncomfortable by discussing everyday white people’s role in perpetuating racism, such as When They See Us (no nominations this year) or Get Out (an eye-opening exploration of racial microaggressions that had zero wins at the Golden Globes) are ignored. This policing of what stories BIPOC are allowed to explore is both a symptom and cause of white supremacist culture – it both results from the idea that only stories that satisfy the white gaze should be celebrated, and further restricts the growth of society by disallowing people from learning from and empathizing with BIPOC stories.
Ultimately, the solution to the problem of BIPOC projects going unawarded is not straightforward or easy since the problem results from our white supremacist culture, which cannot be so quickly resolved. Perhaps while we work towards dismantling our racist society, we can, in the short run, focus on supporting awards organizations that prioritize BIPOC creators, such as the BET awards, hold organizations like the HFPA accountable for their implicit racism, and support movies and shows centering BIPOC so that it is clear that society’s discriminatory way of judging art must and will change.
Elisabeth is from Sri Lanka and is currently studying economics at Amsterdam. She hopes to use economics to work on and inform policies that economically empower marginalized communities. In the meantime, she writes for other websites (including ourchurchtoo) and educates herself on social movements. In her free time, she loves playing with her dog and cat, listening to other people talk about their animals, trying to convert her family to vegetarianism, playing board games very competitively, reading murder-mysteries, and discussing social issues with family and friends.
In 2017, Tolu Olowofoyeku, Hamid Ibrahim, and Fikayo Adeola, three friends from Nigeria and Uganda, found Kugali Media. Their vision was to create a pan-African media company aimed at telling stories of the African continent by Africans. They created a sci-fi Afrofuturistic comic-book called “Iwájú,” which roughly translates to “the future” in the West African language of Yoruba. 3 years later, in December of 2020, Disney announced a partnership with the company; it will be adapting the comic book into a science fiction animated series for Disney+ coming out in 2022. The show is to be set in Lagos, Nigeria and will explore issues like “class, innocence, and challenging the status quo”–themes all too relevant today.
The company is not alone in tapping into the stories from all over the continent. Streaming giant Netflix has partnered with local talent on the continent to create original shows like Lionheart, Mama K’s Team 4, and Blood and Water. In June of last year, Netflix also announced a partnership with Mo Abudu, an esteemed Nigerian producer, to develop adaptations of novels by Nigerian writers Wole Soyinka and Lola Shoneyin.
These developments show an increased commitment to diversifying our screens. This news is historic for Disney: it’s the first time the company is partnering with an African company to authentically tell stories of the continent. This is important to note considering the massive power it has as a media company and how, historically, it has been plagued with a lack of diversity. Furthermore, although the company found immense success with movies set on the African continent like Black Panther and The Lion King, which each grossed over a billion dollars at the box office, it has lagged in terms of partnering with Africans to tell their stories. Iwájú could help change that.
Given Disney’s immense power and vast audience–Disney+ currently has over 80 million subscribers globally–Iwájú could have the power to create more visibility on the African continent, its stories and people past the success of Black Panther, which had an immense cultural impact and gave Black people all over the world to see themselves represented on screen. Doing that again with Iwájú is a step in the right direction. (It is important to note, however, that as of right now, ironically, Disney+ is not available in a large number of African countries. However, given the show is to premiere in about 2 years, that could change.)
Moreover, Iwájú, would not only put pan-Africanism into the limelight, but Afrofuturism specifically–a genre that has immense power in shifting the narrative in how Black people see themselves, and how the rest of the world does too. We all know that fiction has power. However, historically, fiction, and science fiction specifically, has suffered from a lack of diversity. In 2014, of the 100 top-grossing sci-fi films only 8% featured a protagonist of color. According to Vox writer Alex Abad-Santos, “ Science fiction, many people believe, developed from pulp magazines in the 1930s. White men, many of whom were practicing scientists, were the authors for those magazines.” Ultimately, this led to the stories of the future centering White people. Imagining a future that effectively erases people of color is extremely detrimental, perhaps unintentionally implying that they do not deserve to be seen or have a place in the future.
Afrofuturism changes that by centering Black people in the stories of tomorrow. According to the Oxford Dictionary, Afrofuturism is a movement in literature, music, art, etc., featuring futuristic or science fiction themes which incorporate elements of Black history and culture. Works by renowned creators like sci-fi writers Octavia E. Butler and Nnedi Okorafor, artist Angelbert Metoyer, photographer Renée Cox, and, of course, films like Marvel’s Black Panther all fall in this category. Janelle Monae, who has been noted for her use of Afrofuturism in her videos and personal aesthetic, says this about Afrofuturism: “Afrofuturism is me, us… is Black people seeing ourselves in the future.” More than that, it is a future where Black people can see themselves thriving, as heroes and heroines; with it Black people can define their future as whatever they wish. In short, it is a tool for Black empowerment.
Although the first was first coined in 1993, the ideals of the genre have existed long before that. Writer Taylor Crumpton writes that the first Afrofuturists were the enslaved Africans who “envisioned a society free from the bondages of oppression.” He continues that “Afrofuturism imagines a future void of white supremacist thought and the structures that violently oppressed Black communities.” This is Afrofuturism’s power: hope for Black people all over the world. It imagines a future where Black people thrive, where their rich histories and older traditions are tied into social and technological advancement. It is a model for a world of Black liberation that so many social movements today are fighting for, be it everything from Black Lives Matter to End Sars. This blueprint for a better future can be what inspires the leaders of today to become innovators and problem-solvers, fighting for radical change as they envision a better world full of possibilities. It can encourage Black people to continue to prosper in fields that they have historically been underrepresented in. The power of hope that Afrofuturism has is one that makes the genre so appealing and necessary to not just Black people, but many across the world. It’s one of the reasons the genre has broken into the today zeitgeist.
Renowned Africanfuturist (Okorafor uses the term Africanfuturism to describe science fiction “directly rooted in African culture, history, mythology and point-of-view”) author Nnedi Okorafor said in a 2016 interview said that “literature provides Africa with a mirror to inspect itself.” While Afrofuturism is rooted in the African-American experience, it has drawn from African influences, and the movement is also gaining traction in Africa. Reminiscent of Okorofar’s words, Fikayo Adeola, one founder of Kugali said in an interview that “Afrofuturism was a tool that they could use to imagine a better future and the movement continued into the contemporary era. Kugali Media recognizes the power that Afrofuturism can have in inspiring new conversations on the diverse issues facing the African continent. Given Iwájú is set to explore “challenging the status quo,” it might become an avenue for young Africans and Black people all over the world to look past the problems of what currently is, and continue to boldly imagine the necessary ways to ensure the continued flourishing of Black people and Black culture, what is undeniably a cornerstone of the Afrofuturist genre.
Lucy Damachi is a 16 year old high school junior in Nigeria. She has interests in climate justice, racial justice, indigenous rights, and sustainable development. Growing up in Nigeria has shaped many of these passions. She is a member of her school’s Student Council, served as vice president for her school’s Green Club, and is in love with community service. In her free time, she love to sing along to her favorite songs, read all sorts of literature, and explore the world of spoken word poetry. She is very excited to be working with the Zenerations team!
Why are derogatory phrases like ‘ching chong’ so ingrained and embedded into people’s vocabulary, and are often dismissed as harmless jokes?
How does the Model Minority Myth and East Asians’ perceived proximity to whiteness act as an underlying factor?
East Asians’ perceived proximity to whiteness.
East Asians, out of all people of color (POC), are believed to have very close proximity to societal ‘whiteness.’ When this is coupled with the fact that many only regard East Asians under the term ‘Asian‘ without taking into consideration South, Central, West, and Southeast Asians, it results in the racism experienced by Asians being seriously downplayed.
One possible reason for this is the model minority myth. It creates a wedge between Asians and other POC because many find it difficult to accept that the Asian community’s relative economic privilege can coexist with their identities as minorities and people of color.
Perhaps, other POC see this disconnect…
…between their lives and the Asian community’s experiences as a correlation between Asians and whiteness – which is an extremely flawed and harmful mindset to harbor.
By viewing the entire Asian community as a monolith,
harboring colorist ideals, and reducing Asians to theirrelationship to whiteness, the unique racism and violence faced by different groups within the Asian community iserased and left unconfronted.
At the end of the day,
despite their perceived proximity to whiteness, whether economically or societally, Asians can never be white. Despite East Asians being light-skinned and often white passing, when the social environment became decidedly anti-Asian this year, East and South-East Asians were hunted down on the streets and violently attacked.
While they themselves could not use their percieved ‘whiteness’ as a shield against these attacks, others’ categorization of Asians as white allowed them to turn a blind eye to the violence they were facing.
The Model Minority Myth
The model minority myth credits Asian success, especially in East Asians, to a “good familial structure and a greater work ethic”. Keep in mind that this is a pillar of the myth specifically designed to discredit Black struggles by implying that Black people need to work harder and have more traditional family structures.
One portion of the model minority myth is the assumption that Asians are socioeconomically “better off” than other minorities.
However, this pillar of the myth assumes that Asians are a monolith, assuming most Asians are economically well-off. The myth completely leaves out Asians who do not have a high fiscal standing, often refugees or post-second generation Asians, for the sole purpose of erasing Asian struggles and promoting anti-Blackness.
The Model Minority Myth, Despite Being Easily Debunked, is Still Popular.
The myth has directly led to the greater tolerance of racism against Asians. Asians are seen as ‘more successful’, which not only erases the economic hardships that Southeast, South, and Central Asians face, but also reduce the other kinds of racism that all Asians face.
The myth has also led to an increased tolerance of anti-Blackness and has divided Asians and other POC. Without nuance and a deeper level analysis of Asian issues, the model minority myth is a way to enforce racism and microaggressions onto both Asian and Black people.
Society essentially becomes desensitized to violence against Asians because it no longer sees them as a vulnerable group.
In addition to some relative economic privilege, many perceive East Asians particularly as white-passing because of their lighter skin tones, believing that it gives them access to the societal privilege that white people experience.
While it might seem harmless, and sometimes even beneficial, to only view Asians in their proximity to whiteness has harmful consequences. When we only see Asians in relation to whiteness, their identities as a marginalized minority and people of color are erased, and their painful experiences with racism are dismissed.
Another dangerous side-effect of only viewing Asians in their proximity to whiteness is that the diversity in identity and experience within the Asian community is diluted. Some Asians, such as South Asians, are dark-skinned and can never experience white-passing privilege, while other Asians have lower economic privilege.
As xenophobia marks its reign against Asians and Asian-Americans, the mass media platforms stay silent.
More often than not, popular news outlets tend to dismiss racist attacks towards Asians which is linked to the lack of public knowledge about the jeopardization of the Asian population. In this racist climate that remains nurtured by civilians and mass media alike, the result usually leads to the murder of an innocent individual that scars our lives in unimaginable ways.
The lack of media coverage that is supposed to highlight this violence adds onto the frequency of the attacks because there are very few platforms that stress the prejudice Asians face when walking down the street or living in their own homes.
The traditional racial slurs and xenophobic attacks against Asians have become so normalized that it almost seems accepted into societal and cultural norms.
In this new trajectory of the 21st century in America, Asians remain under siege of a regime who chooses to constantly neglect them.
Namely, the media didn’t talk about when the middle-aged Filipino man had his face sliced with a box cutter, leaving him with a scar of racism. Not only are Asians being attacked, but elderly Asian people have red targets mounted on their back. The surge of onslaughts just proves how lack of media coverage to steer audiences in a non-racist direction serves as an awakening, that without the proper direction from those who should inform us from a nonpartisan angle, attacks are encouraged by not being universally denounced.
Now that more Asian Attacks surface the web, such as Angelo Quinto suffocated in Antioch, and a 91 year-old man fatally pushed to the ground in Oakland (both in California), the incentive to protect Asians from the grim reapers of humanity remains at the very top of America’s to-do list.
The media should to do their part to help save Asian lives,
to actively speak against it but do so in an unbiased manner. If not, they will continue to prewrite the obituaries of the Asians who hope only to live and be recognized in a world who chooses to throw them under the rug.
We as a generation must acknowledge how these ideals contribute to Asian discrimination and violence, and put in efforts to UNLEARN these mindsets.
As an epidemic of hatred continues to plague the Asian-American community, little has been done to address this crisis. Many choose to turn a blind eye to the hate Asian-Americans face on a day-to-day basis.
This ties into how racism is normalized towards Asians. The model minority myth, which alludes to the idea that Asian-Americans are all inherently wealthy and successful, plays a great role in this because it creates a fallacy that Asians are immune to racism and discrimination.
The narrative that Asians are exempt from any troubles because of harmful stereotypes provides an excuse for America to ignore the impending crisis that is threatening the safety of Asian-Americans.
Let’s try to Combat Asian Racism in Order to Reverse the Mindset for the Next Generation.
To effectively combat the racism faced by Asian Americans, we must recognize the vast span of Asian communities. There is no single Asian identity; Asia is a continent with nearly fifty countries, and far more cultures and people. The most populous community cannot be attributed to a single set of traits, it is imperative to recognize their differences. When Asians stop being seen as a single group, it will be harder to justify these cruel attacks on Asian humanity.
In addition, pay attention to the large diasporic communities of Asians, as well as those who reside in Asia. No matter where Asians reside in the world, they have been victim to hate crimes, and this is simply unacceptable.
However, please recognize that we are not saying other forms of racism have not been normalized; we are trying to shine a light on the plight of Asians in the wake of recent attacks. All people of color are disadvantaged by white privilege, some more than others. We recognize the longstanding struggles of the Black, Latine, and Indigenous communities, and we are in no way trying to invalidate their experiences. Comparing the struggles of POC benefits no one but the oppressive system, it is more important for us to stand in solidarity with each other.
“Always follow your dreams and don’t let anybody take it away from you.”
Alyssa Carson (a.k.a Nasa blueberry) was born on March 10, 2001, in Hammond, Louisiana. After watching an episode of The Backyardigans about space travel, three year old Carson told her father that she wanted to become an astronaut and visit Mars. She graduated from Baton Rouge International School, a pre-school through 12th grade private school in 2019. Currently, Carson is studying astrobiology at the Florida Institute of Technology. She previously attended classes focused on space physiology at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University.
In 2014, Carson was the first person to complete the “NASA Passport Program” visiting each of NASA’s fourteen visitor’s centers across nine states. She was then invited to participate as a panelist at the MER (Mars Exploration Rover) 10 Panel at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
At just 19 years old, Alyssa’s list of accomplishments include witnessing 3 Space Shuttle launches, attending Space Camp 7 times, Space Academy 3 times, Robotics Academy once, youngest to graduate Advanced Space Academy, and multiple Sally Ride Camps. In 2012 and 2013, she furthered her education at Space Camp Turkey and Space Camp Canada, becoming the first person to attend all three NASA Space Camps in the world.
Alyssa was also selected as one of seven ambassadors representing Mars One, a mission to establish a human colony on Mars in 2030. In 2016, Alyssa was the youngest to be accepted and graduate from the Advanced Possum Academy, officially making her certified to go to space and an astronaut trainee.
Alyssa has also self-published “So, You Want to Be an Astronaut” in 2018, a book she wrote based on her passion for space flight. She has given several TEDx talks encouraging young girls to pursue careers in STEM.
In 2014, Carson was featured as the Youngest Female Groundbreaker on the Steve Harvey talk show. Carson was featured in the 2017 documentary, The Mars Generation.
In 2017, Carson was named one of nine Louisiana Young Heroes, an award given to exceptional high school students by Louisiana Public Broadcasting. In 2019, Carson was given the LSU Women’s Center Esprit de Femme Award and was the youngest recipient of that award to date. Carson was honored by Louisiana Life magazine as a 2020 Louisianan of the Year in the science category.
Alyssa is driven by an insatiable desire to live life to the fullest; to break through the ceiling of possibility and make a positive and lasting impact on the world. She is always breaking the paradigm, and strongly believes that if you are passionate about something, you can surely achieve it.
Krisha is a freshman in high school. She is an International Chess Player and a trained Indian Classical Singer. She is extremely passionate about STEM, Writing and Reading, and advocates actively for mental health awareness. She is the co-founder of “Project Injoy”, a non-profit which empowers young children and helps them unlock their true potential
As the world has become increasingly busier in recent years, podcasts have become one of the most popular mediums for news and entertainment for just about anyone. With about 25% of the United States population listening to podcasts weekly, they have completely swept the nation. This boom in popularity for audio content can mainly be contributed to one major advantage over reading an article or watching a video on a screen — its ability to allow listeners to multitask. From cleaning the house to driving to work, podcasts can be listened to while doing just about anything, making them extremely appealing to those constantly battling the hustle of everyday life.
Though they have just recently become more mainstream, podcasts have been around for years and actually predate the internet itself. This form of audio content goes all the way back to the 1980s and was originally called ‘audio blogging,’ but due to a lack of ways to distribute these recordings, it took another 25 years to truly launch the genre. Following the rise of popularity for audio streaming devices in the early 2000s, including the iPod and other audio players, Apple added podcasting to their iTunes Music Library in 2005. Since then, 700,000 podcasts have been created with over 30 million episodes of content.
Even though podcasts work great for multitasking and fitting in with a busy everyday life, the last few months at home have also opened thousands up to this genre. From binging a true-crime series to staying updated on the latest news, many have used podcasts to take their minds off of their stressful lives over quarantine. This latest rise of podcast creators, including almost all of your favorite influencers, has promoted the release of thousands of new shows, many of which you’ve probably already heard of. So if you’re looking for your next obsession, or completely new to the genre and looking for a place to start, we’ve got the perfect line up for you. Here is our guide to finding your perfect podcast to binge along with our own recommendations because, let’s be honest, surfing the iTunes store or Spotify can be a bit overwhelming. From true crime to relatable shows run by other members of Generation Z, there’s something for everybody.
NPR’s Up First gives you the news you need to start your day every morning — covering the three biggest stories of the day accompanied with the reporting and analysis from NPR News, all in under 15 minutes. Perfect for the drive to work or to go with your morning coffee, Up First delivers unbiased reporting for you to incorporate into your morning routine. For news without the headlines or flipping through channels, this podcast is great for everyone.
Serial is typically regarded as the podcast that put podcasts on the map. The first season of this investigative journalism podcast (my personal favorite of the three seasons currently available) that grew its popularity dives into the murder of Hae Min Lee, and the conviction of her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed based largely on the unreliable account of one witness. Host and journalist Sarah Koenig sorts through thousands of documents, trial testimonies, police interrogations, and conducts interviews with just about everyone involved to find out just what happened to the 19-year-old from Maryland. If you’re looking for a multi-part deep drive into a true-crime case, look no further.
If you’re another true crime junkie like me, you’ll love the way this podcast tells the stories of murder victims, missing persons, and conspiracies that will not only keep you on the edge of your seat, but will make you question the intentions of those around you. Unlike Serial, each case is told in one 40 minute episode — so you can get your true crime fix every week without the wait to see how each story unwinds. Hosts Ashley Flowers and Britt Prawat from Indianapolis not only tell each story in an easy to follow manner, but you’ll fall in love with their friendly banter and intelligent remarks. Whether your cooking dinner or doing a workout (but maybe not a walk by yourself), these short episodes will give you exactly what you’re looking for.
Your Wrong About, an American cultural-history podcast, explores some of the most misunderstood media events discussing why and how the public got things wrong. From generation-defining events like the O.J. Simpson Trial, the life and death of Princess Diana, and the Challenger Disaster, to focusing in on people like Anna Nicole-Smith, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Lorena Bobbitt, this podcast challenges everything you think you know about pop culture events and common philosophical ideas. Hosted by journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall, this extremely well-researched podcast will not only teach you something new to bring up at the dinner table, but show you just how often the media can mistell a story.
Typically regarded as the number one trendsetter and influencer to come out of Generation Z, Emma Chamberlain’s podcast isn’t a new find to any of her close followers. Anything Goes is a podcast about, well, anything. From relationship advice to relatable stories of friends to handling success and failure, Emma talks about whatever’s on her mind. This positive influence for many members of Gen Z not only offers advice from her own experiences, but uses her platform to do exactly what launched her career — provide good entertainment.
This podcast focused on everyday advice and self-improvement is hosted by and from the perspective of your average Gen Z girl, Abby Asselin. Gen Z Girl has hour-long episodes on just about every struggle most teenagers face and advice on how to handle them — from gaining confidence and self-love to dealing with school stress, this show’s got it all! This is the perfect podcast for motivating yourself and finding inspiration to create the life you want to live, all by a fellow member of Generation Z.
For anyone with a passion for American history, American History Tellers tells the stories we read in our textbooks in a way that is far more engaging and easy to understand. Every part of our lives today can be traced back in history, but how well do you know the stories that made America was it is today; that made us the people we are today? This podcast lays it all out for you. Outside of just listening in your free time, this podcast can be super beneficial for those of you learning about America’s past in class — I know Lindsay Graham, the host of American History Tellers, has definitely gotten me through a few lessons of my APUSH class.
Stuff You Should Know is one of the biggest podcasts available right now and for good reason. This podcast has almost daily hour-long episodes on exactly what the title suggests — stuff you probably don’t know, but should. From explaining how Groundhog Day works to diving into chaos theory, Hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark teach you stuff you actually want to learn about in a fun and engaging way, providing great educational entertainment. Whether you just want to unwind after a long day or actively work on your trivia skills, this is a great show for just about anyone.
Black Girl Blueprint is a show dedicated to giving a voice to the raw and unfiltered Generation Z Black girl perspective. From social injustices to finals week, these girls discuss everything and commonly bring on guests to help them do so. The natural chemistry and complementary personalities of the hosts, Lauren Ritchie and Makeen Zachery, make you feel like your having a conversation with friends while engaging in refreshing and relatable topics. From the first episode, you’ll fall in love with this funny and authentic podcast highlighting the accomplishments of young black women.
Business Wars gives listeners the unauthorized, real stories of what drives major companies and their leaders, inventors, and investors to success — or failure. This podcast dives into the origins of competing companies, like Dunkin and Starbucks or Nike and Adidas, and tells the whole truth of what they’ve done to win our attention and money in our wallets. Did you know that Snapchat’s original name was Peek-A-Boo and was almost bought by Facebook in its early days? Neither did I, until I listened to this podcast. Host David Brown tells the untold stories of these multi-million dollar empires in a way that feels like your listening to a true-crime podcast.
Reese Trowbridge is a 16 year old junior at Bayonne High School with interests in biology and medicine. Along with being a Zenerations writer, she has served as many positions in Student Government and is apart of Model UN. Her work mainly reflects her passions which include the environment, music, and mental health.
How small we were at first
Perhaps blissfully ignorant
and in matters of the world, unversed
Little eggs, unbeknownst to the reckoning-
The growth the not so distant future would bring
II: The Caterpillar
And then, we hatched
And almost instantly we knew it wasn’t a match–
This world we lived in and the one we wanted
And in such conviction so many of us were bonded
We searched for intellectual food
For the sake of learning to do good
We sought quiet introspection
Or learned through joining coalitions
Aching for change, we changed ourselves:
through conversation, films,
Finding new truth
or the books on our shelves
We ruptured from comfortable cases,
Interacted with new or marginalized faces
And coming to view the world anew,
We found ideas that would help us build societies we look forward too
And finally we burst
And what a metamorphosis
How we all say to each other: “I’m so proud of you,
For how we changed and how we grew”
After some rest and recuperation,
After a difficult transformation
We earned our wings,
Ready to soar to new beginnings
Lucy Damachi is a 16 year old high school junior in Nigeria. She has interests in climate justice, racial justice, indigenous rights, and sustainable development. Growing up in Nigeria has shaped many of these passions. She is a member of her school’s Student Council, served as vice president for her school’s Green Club, and is in love with community service. In her free time, she love to sing along to her favorite songs, read all sorts of literature, and explore the world of spoken word poetry. She is very excited to be working with the Zenerations team!
On July 24, singer Taylor Swift surprised the world with her 8th studio album, folklore, an unexpected move that quickly became number 1 in sellings and streaming platforms. The release of folklore broke the pattern Swift had been following for years, building eras for her albums and leaving a span of at least two years between releases. Now, five months later, she has done it again. On December 11, Swift unexpectedly released her 9th studio album, titled evermore, as a sequel to folklore’s alternative style. On the Instagram post where she announced the record, she explained evermore is “folklore’s sister” and was born out of a prolific song-writing process where she “just couldn’t stop writing songs”. The escapism she felt when telling these stories and the warm welcome the fans gave to them encouraged her and her team to keep exploring this theme.
The album debuted at the top of the Billboard list in just over a week, and it also sold more than one million copies worldwide in the same seven-day period, an achievement Swift has managed to do with every album since Fearless. Regarding streaming platforms, individual global streams passed the half-billion mark in week one, with more than 100 million of those streams for the lead single, willow.
As it was done with folklore, the lyric videos for all 17 songs have already been released on Swift’s youtube channel. In just two weeks, the most viewed lyric video (champagne problems) has surpassed 7 million views, and the least viewed one (right where you left me) is almost at 2 million. The music video for willow has over 44 million views.
In the following paragraphs I’ll discuss the songs this record includes, which were written by Swift, Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff and William Bowery (who was confirmed to be actor Joe Alwyn by Swift herself in the documentary folklore: the long pond studio sessions). Many people expected to find a continuation to the stories we found in folklore, especially the love triangle between James, Betty and James’ lover. Swift explained in the documentary that in her mind, Betty ends up forgiving James and they spend their lives together, which means she has a vision of where this story went. However, there is no apparent connection to that storyline or any other folklore plot in evermore.
As it was stated in folklore’s review, these opinions and theories are the writer’s own and don’t pretend to be a representation of the whole Zenerations team. The beauty of Swift’s music relies on finding one’s personal meanings depending on each individual situation.
The first track of the album, which is also the first single, is willow, a sweet love song that may seem simple but sticks to the listener’s head as time goes by. Swift also declared it sounds like “casting a spell to make someone fall in love with you”. The video for willow starts right where the cardigan video ended, with Swift sitting in an attic, wet and wearing the iconic cardigan, and she seems to follow a golden string that takes her to her lover (which could be connected to folklore’s invisible string – “One single thread of gold tied me to you”). The whole video has a homely and rustic aesthetic that fits perfectly with the guitar background.
The lyrics “But I come back stronger than a 90’s trend” are once again a reference to her big comeback with the reputation era after her disappearance in 2016, which Swift feels proud after the online hate campaign launched against her. Finally, some people on social media have pointed out the wise choice of an Asian American actor to play her lover in the video, as racism against the Asian community has increasingly grown due to the current pandemic.
The second track is a fan favourite: champagne problems, a beautiful ballad written by Swift and Alwyn. The song follows the story of a girl who unexpectedly leaves her boyfriend after he proposes without an apparent reason. She talks about having “champagne problems” which everyone has linked to mental health issues. Furthermore, in the bridge she sings “this dorm was once a mad house / I made a joke ‘well, it’s made for me’” and “she would have made such a lovely bride / what a shame she’s fucked in the head” further proving the theory of the mental health struggles the girl is going through. She also sings about everyone around them warning him about her, and how now her boyfriend will be able to find another person without such issues – “But you’ll find the real thing instead / She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred”. These lyrics were really hard to listen to, because the audience learns she was aware of people stigmatising her for her mental health issues.
Swift has been open about the eating disorder she went through during the 1989 era, and how she’s been learning to take better care of her mental health since then. She also referred to herself as a “mad woman” in folklore, when she sang about the figure public opinion built of her and how everyone pushed her to the edge until she fought back. All of this has led some fans to believe this song might have a part of truth in it instead of just being a made up plot, with Taylor reflecting on the girl who tells the story.
Gold rush is the third song in the album, and Swift explained it “takes place inside a single daydream where you get lost in thought for a minute and then snap out of it”. The song has a quicker and happier rhythm than the previous two, and it reminded me of the “crush culture” we live in nowadays. It’s a sweet story of a person daydreaming about their crush, finding nothing but perfection and imagining their lives beside them, and then realising that’s not real life. It felt realistic and youthful, especially during a time where people invest themselves so much on love, whether it’s platonic or real.
Now it’s time for the apparently only plot of the album, which is developed in two songs: ‘Tis the damn season, the fourth track, and dorothea, the eighth (and the first song written for the album). I’ll be discussing both now so the connections between the two can be clearly seen. ‘Tis the damn season is written from the perspective of a girl who left her little hometown to follow her dream of becoming a Hollywood star and now comes back for the holidays, while dorothea is sung from the point of view of a person whose teenage love left the town to make it big in LA. We can then assume that the girl singing in the first song is Dorothea, and the pair meets when she comes back to town. The relation between the two songs can be seen in lyrics such:
You got shiny friends since you left town (dorothea) – So I’ll go back to L.A. and the so-called friends / Who’ll write books about me if I ever make it (‘tis the damn season)
But are you still the same soul I met under the bleachers? (dorothea) – And thе school that used to be ours (‘tis the damn season)
However, the connection between the two is better understood as a whole when one listens to both full songs. It can be understood that Dorothea is feeling nostalgia in ‘tis the damn season, telling her ex-lover that Hollywood life is fake and that maybe her choices would be different if she made them now (“And the road not taken looks real good now / And it always leads to you and my hometown”). On the other hand, the person singing dorothea is aware of how different her life is from the quiet life of their youth, and also understands she’s not fully happy and invites her to stay. Regarding a possible relation of this storyline and the betty/james plot in folklore, Swift said it’s “not a direct continuation of the betty/james/august storyline, but in [her] mind Dorothea went to the same school as Betty, James, and Inez.”
Although this is the main and most notable meaning of the songs, many fans have also noticed dorothea could be inspired by Swift’s best friend Selena Gomez. Firstly, Gomez’s favourite movie is Wizard of Oz, whose main character’s name is Dorothy. Secondly, the lyrics suggest the singer and Dorothea have known each other since they were very young, just like Swift and Gomez. Moreover, the lyrics “Honey, making a lark out of misery” may refer to Swift being by her side supporting her during the miserable time Gomez went through during her relationship with Justin Bieber (“making a lark” is an informal British expression that means “having fun”). Thirdly, the last time the pair was physically seen together was in 2018, but they recently reunited through facetime on Gomez’s cooking show, which could be referenced in “A tiny screen’s the only place I see you know”. Some other lyrics that have been used to prove this theory are “And if you’re ever tired of being known for who you know” (Gomez is still usually mentioned next to Bieber’s name even though it’s been years since their break up) and “You’re a queen selling dreams, selling makeup and magazines” (Gomez has recently launched a beauty line and has been the cover of several magazines). Finally, Gomez played a character named Dot, short for Dorothy, in the movie The Fundamentals of Caring. Is it true the story was inspired by Gomez? As always, nothing is confirmed when it comes to Swift’s inspiration for her songwriting, so every option is valid.
On the other hand, fans have noticed the only two names used to title songs in the album, Dorothea and Marjorie (which is the title of track 13), are the names of the West sisters, who lived in Pennsylvania during the late 1930’s and were part of a well known unsolved mystery: the disappearance of 5-year-old Marjorie in 1938. Swift enjoys true crime and she grew up in Pennsylvania, and although the thirteenth track is titled marjorie in honor of Swift’s grandmother, it is also an interesting theory.
Back to the regular order of the tracklist, the fifth song of the album is tolerate it, an incredibly powerful record that fits with Swift’s tendency to locate her most vulnerable song on track 5. Tolerate it tells the story of a woman who realises her husband doesn’t appreciate and celebrate her love, but rather he just tolerates her and barely pays attention to anything she does, even after she worshipped him and supported him. Swift stated she got the inspiration from the book Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, because Rebecca does her best to impress her husband but he simply tolerates her, and “There was a part of [her] that was relating to that, because at some point in [her] life, [she] felt that way”. As I see it, these lyrics are eye opening and necessary in this time where awareness is being raised every day regarding healthy relationships and every person being worthy of love. No one deserves to live a life with a person who barely pays attention to the details their partner tries to prepare, and tolerate it sends a message of a need of self appreciation (“I know my love should be celebrated”).
Track 6 is different from everything we’ve listened before: no body, no crime, which features the band HAIM, is a country-pop rock song that narrates a murder mystery in which the main character (which can be assumed is Swift) tries to avenge the disappearance and possible murder of her friend. At the beginning of the song, we learn the singer and her friend Este (one of HAIM’s members) always meet on Tuesdays for dinner, and one day Este shares her worries that her husband might be cheating on her, although she can’t prove it. Next Tuesday, Este doesn’t appear for her dinner with her friend and her husband reports her disappearance. However, the singer suspects he has something to do with it since his car has been renewed and a new woman (his mistress) moves in. Determined to avenge her friend, the narrator sings about a boating license, covering up a scene, making it seem like the mistress was involved in the crime, and Este’s sister providing her with an alibi, which leads the listener to conclude she killed the husband. The chorus varies from the beginning of the song (“I think he did it but I just can’t prove it”) to the end (“She thinks I did it but she just can’t prove it”) to switch from the narrator’s suspicion of the husband to the mistress’ suspicion of the narrator. However, there isn’t a literal confession of this vengeance, which leaves the mystery unresolved. As I previously mentioned, Swift recently revealed her obsession with true crime, which might have inspired this song too.
Happiness is the seventh track of the album and one of the most vulnerable ones for me. This ballad deals with the topic of moving on after a break up, which is recurrent in Swift’s discography. However, it feels different from any of her other songs, as this one leaves the hopeful message that happiness can also be found after sorrow (There’ll be happiness after you / But there was happiness because of you / Both of these things can be true). Ultimately, the song beautifully expresses the confusion and hurt a person can go through after breaking the relationship with someone, not necessarily a significant other but also a friend, knowing that there will be happiness after the hard times but also acknowledging they were happy before everything went wrong. The whole song is filled with this ambiguity of being sad and angry but also moving on, as can be seen in “I hope she’ll be a beautiful fool / Who takes my spot next to you / No, I didn’t mean that / Sorry, I can’t see facts through all of my fury” where she realises the girl who comes after her is not guilty of anything. Also, “You haven’t met the new me yet” brings up once again her transformation after 2016 and how she came back as her true self, but is still figuring things out.
On the other hand, the lyrics “When did all our lessons start to look like weapons / Pointed at my deepest hurt?” Were especially powerful to me, because they show how someone who knows you can be the one to hurt you the most because they know where to aim.
As the eighth track of the album has already been discussed (dorothea), it’s time now for one of my personal favourites: coney island featuring The National, which was also co-written by Joe Alwyn. I don’t know if it’s because the album came out during an especially vulnerable and low moment for me, but coney island hit right into my feelings from the first listen. That doesn’t seem to be the general opinion, but again, that’s the beauty of Swift’s music! Everyone can find themselves in the lyrics and stories and can feel differently towards the songs depending on the moment. Following the format of folklore’s exile, the song is a ballad sung as a duet from two different points of view, two people who reflect on their relationship after separating, although we don’t know if they’re thinking about a relationship between them or separate ones. Both of them question themselves and the behaviour they had during the relationship, wondering if the choices they made hurt the other and ultimately ended the romance. The general sensation is that they both feel very sorry, they are sad the other person might have felt abandoned or disappointed, and they seek each other’s forgiveness. The lyrics “And when I got into the accident / The sight that flashed before me was your face / But when I walked up to the podium, I think that I forgot to say your name” are very deep and complex, and they show how important the other person was in their lives but how uncaring they were when they were together. For me, this is one of the saddest and melancholic songs in the album, which contrasts with the place that names it, as the neighborhood Coney Island (New York) is known for being lively and cheerful.
The tenth record is ivy, which has a more happy rhythm than the previous one, and it almost reminds of folklore’s invisible string (especially in the lyrics “Oh, goddamn, my pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand” and “Time, curious time, gave me no compasses, gave me no signs”). The story follows a girl who’s engaged to a man but starts falling in love with another, who can transform her pain into happiness (My house of stone, your ivy grows / And now I’m covered in you). It’s a very simple yet catchy and beautiful song that transports the listener to Swift’s old records. So does cowboy like me, the eleventh track of the album, a country-style song about two swindlers who fall in love while hanging out in fancy resorts and tricking rich people. When the narrator sings “Telling all the rich folks anything they wanna hear / Like it could be love / I could be the way forward / Only if they pay for it” she’s explaining how she tricks the people for their money, but things drastically change after she meets the other swindler: “Never thought I’d meet you here / It could be love, we could be the way forward / And I know I’ll pay for it”, she knows she’ll regret falling in love with a swindler like her.
Evermore’s twelfth song, long story short, is another one that can be connected to Swift’s personal experience rather than an invented story. It’s the most explicit track about the feud with Kanye West and the massive online hate that led to disappearing for a year: “And I fell from the pedestal / Right down the rabbit hole / Long story short, it was a bad time”. It also addresses her relationship with Tom Hiddleston and how that was born during the wrong time for her: “Pushed from the precipice / Clung to the nearest lips / Long story short, it was the wrong guy”. However, instead of only focusing on this miserable time for her, she sings about Alwyn and the peace and safety she found after she met him. Actually, the lyrics “knocked on your door / And we live in peace” might also reference the song peace from folklore, in which Swift wonders if Alwyn could handle their relationship when she will never be able to have a fully quiet life. She finishes the song with lyrics of strength and hope: “Pushed from the precipice / Climbed right back up the cliff / Long story short, I survived”. After everything she went through and believing her career was over, she came back stronger, and this time with a stable support system that made her be ready for whatever happened.
The thirteenth track, marjorie, is, as I mentioned before, a tribute to Swift’s late grandmother, Marjorie Finlay (just like track 13 of folklore, epiphany, was a tribute to her late grandfather). Finlay was an opera singer who had a big influence in Swift’s life and artistic career. The verses of the song seem to be a reproduction of Finlay’s words, encouraging Swift to find balance in her life, while the pre-chorus and chorus show the singer missing her grandmother. However, the music and rhythm are not as sad as other Swift’s songs about loss, it has an aura of nostalgia and sweetness as someone remembers past times.
It’s one of the songs who can definitely affect people in different ways. I have never experienced the loss of a relative, but my grandmother is like a mother to me, and I know I will go through the toughest time when she’s no longer with me. The lyrics “I should’ve asked you questions / I should’ve asked you how to be” hit especially hard because it makes me think of that moment when I will find myself without her, and the fear that I will not have seized my time with her enough. However, talking to another fellow Zenerations writer I realised the meaning for her was slightly different. She sadly lost her grandmother a few months ago, and when she listened to marjorie it reminded her of acceptance, that peaceful moment of grief when one is still missing the person but they’re finally accepting they’re gone and they’re reflecting on the amazing times together. Although it’s not one of the most commented tracks, I think it’s a really personal and beautiful one. Additionally, Marjorie’s voice is credited in the song, and it can be heard in the background towards the end.
Track 14, closure, has a surprising electronic opening that then leads to an industrial-folk song about a narrator who receives a letter from her ex. During the record, she explains how her ex wants to be on good terms with her after a bad break up because their bad situation is the tiny part of his new life he’s not happy about. However, she doesn’t want to be friends after what she went through, and she won’t accept his offer just so he can keep everything in order. She states she “doesn’t need his closure” because she knows everything is over now and she doesn’t need a relationship with him to keep going with her life. When I first listened to this song, I immediately thought of DJ Calvin Harris, as they had a very public break up and he tweeted some very damaging information that makes it clear they didn’t end up on good terms. Especifically, the lyrics “Guilty, guilty, reaching out across the sea” gave me this idea as Harris is from Scotland and Swift is from the United States. However, this is not a very popular theory and, as we know, folklore and evermore are partly based on invented stories she came up with, so there’s a chance the song isn’t about her life at all.
The last song from the regular album is evermore, which she sings with Bon Iver (who was also part of folklore with exile) and was the third song co-written with Joe Alwyn for this album. This song came out during a time where the weight of everything that’s happened this year was finally settling on my shoulders: I felt unmotivated, tired, I was overwhelmed with online classes,… and listening to Swift sing about that pain made me feel less alone: “Gray November / I’ve been down since July”, “Hey December / Guess I’m feeling unmoored / Can’t remember / What I used to fight for”. Towards the end of the song, it also felt as if the singers were referring to everything everyone has been through in 2020, all the anxiety and pain that’s been felt everywhere: “Can’t not think of all the cost / And the things that will be lost / Oh, can we just get a pause?” Of course, if this song had come out at another point, it would have had a different meaning, but all we can think of now is how hard this past year has been and how it will affect the years coming. The song also features the lyrics “To be certain, we’ll be tall again” which can be seen as a ray of hope.
Finally, the deluxe version of evermore came with two extra songs that came out January 7, 2021. One of them is it’s time to go, whose lyrics refer to that moment in everyone’s lives when we realise leaving is the best option to handle an unsustainable situation. She sings about realising a friend is not a friend anymore, a couple not separating because of their kids, an unhappy person at their job, etc. The third verse is particularly interesting because she seems to refer to the Scooter Braun situation again, as she sings about giving everything for a man who gave her nothing but then wondered why she left. She sends a powerful message with the chorus “Sometimes giving up is the strong thing / Sometimes to run is the brave thing / Sometimes walking out is the one thing / That will find you the right thing”. It seems to follow Swift’s tendency in her recent albums to talk about one’s own mental health and well-being, as walking away from bad situations is an incredibly complex choice to make, but sometimes the right one that helps us move on. Swift herself mentioned that the song “is about listening to your gut when it tells you to leave”. The other song, right where you left me, is according to Swift “ about a girl who stayed forever in the exact spot where her heart was broken, completely frozen in time”. The lyrics give that overwhelming feeling of being stuck, of seeing people around moving on and achieving goals but one’s still in the same place. Probably everyone can feel identified with that feeling of inferiority, as if we haven’t worked enough or life hasn’t been kind. Despite the lyrics being incredibly emotional and sad, it’s a quick and relatively happy tune, which gave me a sensation of hope as if the girl who sings has accepted she was stuck and now prepares to move on.
In conclusion, this album is the perfect continuation to the folklorian narrative started last summer. It took me a little while to get used to it, especially when folklore was so recent, but looking back, that happened to me with folklore as well: it’s different from everything Swift had done before, but it eventually wins the fans over. It felt like evermore had more connection to her life than folklore, which can be seen in songs such champagne problems, happiness or long story short. Finally, I have to say Joe Alwyn has surprised me greatly this year, as he’s not only a very talented actor but also a great songwriter: most of my favourite songs from folklore and evermore (exile, betty, coney island, champagne problems) are co-written by him, and it’s nice to know a little about the beautiful relationship Swift and Alwyn share. My final top for now would be:
‘Tis the damn season
No body no crime
Will Swift surprise the world again with another unexpected release this year? We can never know, but what can be assured is that 2020 was one of the greatest years for her and her audience.
Bea is a rising Junior in the Autonomous University of Madrid, studying to be a teacher. Her dream job would be working for education institutions and promoting change in order to achieve a feminist education. She is specially focused on amplifying the historical women whose time silenced. She would also like to work on interculturality and inclusion in education, as she believes an educative system with those values will lead to social change. In her free time she enjoys watching TV Shows, movies, listening to music and dancing.
With the rise of online criticism of conservative beliefs, figures, and news outlets has come a new form of “activism” that extends these criticisms into a mockery of red states. Even more, this has formed a new belief that red states and the people who inhabit them deserve to be the punchline of all “jokes” because of who the majority of people in those states vote for; this discounts the minority communities in each of these states that not only suffer because of their states’ legislators, but now are placed in a position where they are forced to hear about how everyone in their state deserves the lot they receive in life. It disregards the blatant voter suppression that these states imposed on marginalized voters and fails to recognize that not everyone living in a red state aligns with conservative beliefs. Making online jokes surrounding the unfortunate circumstances of red states was a common practice after Florida was declared a red state in the 2020 presidential election, which placed the state at the mercy of various hurricane and natural disaster jokes, and is now becoming commonplace following the spike in Texas winter storms and record freezing temperatures.
Jokes on Twitter made the past week at the expense of Texans have covered a broad spectrum of undeserved hatred– Tweets along the lines of how “Ted Cruz’s state had it coming” or “This is what we call a normal weekday in the north” have cruelly discounted the fact that Texas infrastructure was not made for natural occurrences such as winter storms and millions of Texans were not equipped for consecutive days of power outages. Many have taken this as their cue to involve Texas in their “weird cold takes,” as Twitter user @zzzsartorialist deems it, and draw a line between “superior” and “weak” states. The situation in Texas goes beyond people whining over a few sprinkles or snow or shivering over a slight temperature drop; millions of Texas homes are without power or heating, and people have died due to incredibly unsafe roads, freezing in their own homes, and being unable to safely stay warm. The need for normally cold states to make jokes telling Texans to “suck it up” and for online takes saying that next time Texas should vote with instances like this in mind overall undermine the situation.
Rather than making Texans the tail end of overused jokes that do not aid the situation, there needs to be a collective realization that infrastructure changes need to take place. Buildings, roads, and power supplies in Texas are not equipped to deal with natural instances outside of the normal yearly occurrences, which completely disregards the reality of climate change and the desperate need for an infrastructure bill in America. If the government does not step up and increase infrastructure investments, there’s a good chance that what is occurring in Texas at the moment will become a common risk rather than a one-off fluke. Now, more than ever, is the time to put pressure on the Biden-Harris administration and demand that they go big on infrastructure, which would start with the implementation of their promised “Build Back Better” infrastructure plan. This plan would ultimately provide $400 billion to expanding clean vehicle technology and steel production, among other building materials.
Dylan is a 16-year old junior at Bayonne High School, who displays multiple interests in politics, activism, writing, reading, and journalism. She is passionate about making changes in the world as a member of Generation Z, and strongly believes that the youth can influence and change the world in the best way possible.
In Greek, the word ‘Medusa’ symbolizes guardian, or protectress. Athena herself wears the Gorgoneion, an amulet with a gorgon’s face, as a protective pendant. So why, when learning of all the stories about Medusa, is she seen as evil, or someone who needs her head chopped off? When Medusa’s name and self has the meaning of a guardian, why is she depicted as someone the world needs to be guarded from? That Medusa, the only mortal gorgon, is to be feared, and Perseus did right by decapitating her?
The most well known of Medusa’s stories is written by the Roman poet, Ovid. In his epic Metamorphoses, he writes about Medusa, a beautiful maiden turned gorgon, and Perseus, the son of Zeus who eventually kills her. Poseidon was seduced by Medusa and her beauty, so he raped her in Athena’s temple. Athena, angered by such desecrations at the steps of her temple, blames Medusa and turns her into a gorgon with serpents as hair. She can now turn people who look at her into stone. Later, Perseus cuts her head off with the help of the gods through their gifts to him. Athena is then given Medusa’s head, and she puts it onto her shield as a protective amulet.
In Ovid’s tale, he crafts a story where Medusa is the perpetrator, and Perseus is the protector of mankind when he kills her. But what if the story could be interpreted differently, with Medusa is as a victim, and Athena as her protector. A tale of seduction and anger, Ovid uses Medusa’s past as justification for her murder. He makes it easy to hate Medusa, easy to see past the flaws in his story. She’s turning people into stone–how dare Medusa kill people like that!–with no thought to the lives she’s ended. She was asking for it, when Posiedon raped her, and he did nothing wrong at all. Written with harmful thoughts and ideas against women like victim-blaming and rape culture, this story has many holes, so reading from a different perspective might change the blame and fill in the gaps. Why would Athena, the goddess of wisdom, blame the victim of a rape? Why did Athena choose a gorgon as punishment? Why exactly, was it important to kill Medusa? Ovid pits woman against woman, Athena vs. Medusa, as a way for men to hide the fact that Medusa is the victim throughout the entire story, her entire life. I invite you to change your perspective, and step into the shoes of Medusa. Look at this story through the eyes of a woman who just went through a terrible event, and now has a way to protect herself from others who could repeat it.
Hold onto this perspective, and let us travel to Athena’s temple. Medusa, a young and beautiful maiden, has pledged a vow of chastity. She is now one of Athena’s priestesses for her temple. Poseidon, a powerful and important god, has taken a liking to Medusa. He knows of Medusa’s vow of chastity, and doesn’t care. So, one day, he corners her at the steps of Athena’s temple where she was flagrantly raped. Let’s end the scene there for now, with Medusa, a mortal woman, and Poseidon, one of the most powerful gods in Greek mythology, and talk about it. If you think about the power imbalance between these two people, Medusa never had a chance to safely say no. Imagine what could have happened if she had resisted, he could have killed her, or done any manner of terrible things as an almighty god. She had also taken a vow of chastity, and an almighty god decided to ignore her wishes anyways. If someone takes a vow as important to them as their virginity, they wouldn’t act against it in such a blasé way consentingly. Medusa survived a traumatizing event, and in turn, she was blamed and ridiculed for it.
Continuing with the story, Athena finds Poseidon and Medusa at the steps of her temple. Realizing what’s going on, she’s justifiably angry about it. She knows, as she is only a goddess below Poseidon, that she can’t punish him for his disgusting acts. Athena also realizes that Poseidon will likely blame Medusa, and she will be forced to punish her in some way. As the goddess of wisdom, she recognises all of these things, and understands that she will have to be complicit in the victim-shaming of the greek gods. But, is there a way for her, or Medusa to come out on top? She decides to use the system set up against women and mortals and turn it against itself. By turning Medusa into a gorgon, something seen as a punishment but is actually a blessing in disguise, Athena and Medusa can turn against the patriarchy that is set against them. Medusa was cast away as evil, with snakes for hair, and finally, had a chance to say no.
When Athena turned Medusa into a gorgon, she was given enormous power: to transform people into stone and to freeze someone in time and stop their life. To kill someone with just a glance is frightening, and can be used to cause destruction. But she lived on an island, isolated from anyone except her sisters, or anyone who came to kill her. On Sarpedon, her home, she lived with the power to kill others, and yet wasn’t able to utilize it unless someone came for her. To turn people to stone as self-defence, now suddenly doesn’t seem so terrible. For it is not her fault that people decided to try their fate, and attempt to kill her. These attackers became just like Poseidon, set on destroying her. Are they not so similar? And maybe she should’ve become a protector of women, taken more to her name-sake. But I think protecting herself is just as important, as that is the first step towards helping others. But one day, her power turns against her, and one man comes to kill her.
Polydectes blames Medusa for all of the men she’s killed and asks Perseus to kill her. Of course, this is a foolish claim, as Medusa only killed the people who have tried to kill her. Polydectes either does not understand the concept of self-defence, or doesn’t care either way. Remember, she lived on an isolated island, with only her sisters for company. Either way, Perseus accepts Polydyctes’ query for murder. But he needs help, so he asks the gods for gifts, and along with other things, he obtains Athena’s shield. Now why, some may ask, would Athena give up a gift to help murder the women she protected? Maybe she thought that the shield would be useless, and needed to keep up the guise of being angry with Medusa. Maybe she was forced to, and had no power to say no to the other gods. We can never really know, but with her shield, Perseus chops off Medusa’s head and kills her. Forever the victim, Medusa is destroyed first by the god Poseiden, then by Perseus, a man who was charged to kill her by another man, Polydectes. But, this is not the end of her tale, because while dead, her power still persists.
Medusa is now used as a weapon against others, turning people to stone even after her death, with no control over who dies. She was used by Poseidon, then tossed away like vermin, then used again by the man who killed her. These men used Medusa, a powerful woman, only when it was useful for them. After Persues is done using Medusa’s head, he gives her to Athena. She adds Medusa to her shield, Aegis. Athena, seen as the protector of life, now utilizes Medusa’s to protect others. This can also be seen as giving some power back to Medusa. To be affixed to the object that killed her, gives Medusa back to herself in a way. Medusa, a protectress, alongside Athena, a protector. And this ends the tale of Medusa.
Medusa lost her sexual autonomy and was hunted by blood-thirsty men looking to destroy her, so some may see her as the original “angry woman.” With a male-focused hero story, she is seen as enraged and vindictive, killing men as a way to get back at Poseidon. Killing others is not okay, but the anger makes sense. Don’t women have a right to be angry at the people who rape them? Some people, like Hélène Cixous, French feminist writer, in her 1975 manifesto The Laugh of the Medusa, approach Medusa’s story as men fearing female desire. Another woman, Elizabeth Johnston, an english professor, writes in an essay about how Medusa seems to reappear when talking of certain women in today’s society. However people interpret her, Medusa’s legacy lives on as an important figure in Greek mythology.
This story is a prime example of rape culture. By blaming Medusa and then getting mad at her for being angry and defending herself, the story perpetuates the idea that it’s the woman’s fault. Especially in an era around the #MeToo movement, it’s important to address and denounce these ideas. The normalization of rape culutre and vtctim-blaming is not a new concept. As evidenced with this myth, blaming women for the terrible acts of men is a timeless tradition passed down throughout society. Through this interpretation of Medusa’s tale, we can educate and change the narrative to hopefully help people understand and support others like her.
There has been a lot of feminist revisionist mythology, because it is important to learn about the myths from different perspectives. Especially because children and teens read these stories, and are impacted by the views and opinions of the characters. Reading stories containing victim-blaming and rape, specifically by an all-powerful god, impacts how people see those things. So by reading these stories with a perspective that doesn’t blame the victim, and focusing on a woman protecting herself, we can impact how society sees these things. Changing narratives helps change society.
Sage is a 16 year old junior in Howard County, MD. She spends her time drawing, painting, and participating in her community through protests, and fighting what she believes is right. She’s very passionate about art, and believes that it can bring communities together, impact people into learning new things, and can change peoples opinions towards a better future.
As we move forward in this pandemic, more and more people are becoming sick with COVID-19, with many dying as well. Thankfully, scientists from around the world have come together to collaborate on vaccines, 2 of which are already being rolled out in the United States.
While reading this, keep in mind that the US has over 23 million cases and greater than 400,000 deaths within ten months. Globally, there have been over 90 million cases and about 2 million deaths. The primary objective of getting a vaccine is safety. Keeping yourself and those around you (who might not be able to get a vaccine at this time, like children) protected is the number one priority.
What vaccines are available currently?
As of January 15th, the FDA has granted an EUA for two vaccines. One is from Pfizer, a biopharmaceutical company, in collaboration with BioNTech, a biotechnology company. The other approved vaccine is from Moderna, another biotechnology company.
How were vaccines developed so quickly?
Because of the widespread global effects of the coronavirus pandemic, global research and collaboration was done in order to safely and effectively develop vaccines. Globally, scientists and researchers worked together to contribute to vaccine development, research, clinical trials, and distribution methods. mRNA vaccine technology has been worked on for years. Because COVID-19 is a coronavirus, researchers and scientists were able to build off of another coronavirus study that began research in 2002. The sequence of COVID-19 was discovered and immediately shared with others roughly 10 days after the first suspected case in Wuhan, China. Fast-tracked clinical trials and research was due to worldwide cooperation between scientists. Funding for the research and trials was also increased. The urgent need for a vaccine gave various governments around the world a great reason to push large amounts of money into research and development.
BioNTech and Pfizer Vaccine Timeline
BioNTech began working on a vaccine in January of 2020 after one of the founders was convinced COVID-19 would become something larger than only a problem in China. In March, Pfizer and BioNTech began to work together on a vaccine. In May, the two companies launched phase 1/2 combined trials (more on combined trial phases here https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html#pfizer) on two different versions of an mRNA vaccine. One version, the currently available version, had fewer side effects. In July, the companies launched phase 2/3 trials with over 30,000 participants in the US and other countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Germany. In September, the US trial was expanded to 44,000 patients. In November, preliminary data shows that their vaccine is over 90% effective with no serious side effects. Final data shows a 95% efficacy rate. On December 11th, the FDA grants an EUA and vaccinations began on December 14th.
Moderna Vaccine Timeline
In January 2020, Moderna begins to work on their vaccine. In March, their vaccine is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be put into human trials. In April, Moderna partnered with the National Institute of Health (NIH) who oversaw most of the research and trials. In July, phase 3 clinical trials begin. On November 16th, preliminary data shows roughly a 94% efficacy rate. In early December, Moderna registers a trial for children ages 12-18. On December 18th, Moderna was granted an EUA by the FDA and vaccinations began on December 21st.
What is an EUA? Does it mean the vaccines have not been adequately tested?
EUA’s are granted in emergency situations in which treatment is needed as fast as possible. This however, does not mean the vaccines are not safe or have not been adequately tested. EUA’s have been granted as data from the manufacturers and clinical trials have shown the vaccines to be safe and effective. The CDC states that the potential side effects known from the vaccines outweigh the harms and risks of contracting COVID-19.
What limitations do the vaccines have?
While extensive clinical trials and research have been done already, both vaccines currently available have some limitations. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently approved by the FDA for those 16 years of age and up, with the Moderna vaccine being approved for ages 18 and up. Anyone with known side effects to ingredients in the vaccines should also not take them at this time (Ingredients of authorized vaccines can be found on the FDA’s website). There are also limitations on a local and state based health capacity for distribution as well. Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at roughly-70 degrees Celsius, colder than winter in Antarctica. Moderna’s vaccine only needs to be stored at -20 degrees Celsius. In addition, both of the vaccines require two doses to be fully effective.
How do the vaccines work?
The vaccines themselves are mRNA vaccines encoded with spike proteins similar to those of the actual COVID-19 virus. This does not mean that the vaccine contains a weakened or inactive virus, similar to that of other vaccines you may be familiar with. The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the virus at all, but rather instructions. The instructions contained in the vaccines introduce a similar structure to the spike proteins on the COVID-19 virus into your body, allowing your body to build an immune defense against viruses with the spike structure. This means that when/if your body comes into contact with the COVID-19 virus and it’s spike proteins, your body will know how to fight it off.
Safety and Effectiveness
Now that you know how the vaccines work, let’s take a look at their safety and efficacy. mRNA vaccines are fairly new to the vaccine world, but researchers have been working with them for many years. They can be easily developed in laboratories, which is why the COVID vaccine was able to be developed so quickly. As soon as scientists got the DNA structure for the virus, they were able to replicate the mRNA sequence in a lab. mRNA vaccines are strongly regulated by the FDA and held to the same standards as any other vaccine currently available. The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective against preventing COVID-19, and the Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective. These percentages are actually extremely good, as scientists were expecting around 50% efficacy rate.
Efficacy vs Effectiveness
Efficacy can be defined as the performance under ideal and controlled conditions, whereas effectiveness takes into account real world conditions. A 94-95% effectiveness is an extremely high rate and much more effective than scientists initially believed.
The most commonly reported side effects of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (which typically last several days) include pain at injection site, tiredness, headaches, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. The FDA notes that more side effects were reported after the 2nd dose, however side effects after both are still possible.
The most commonly reported side effects of the Moderna vaccine (typically lasting several days) include pain at injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as injection, nausea and vomiting, and fever. These symptoms are also more likely to appear after the second dose, but should be expected after both.
It is also important to remember that just because these vaccines have been granted EUA’s, that does not mean safety tests or clinical trials will stop. Neither of these vaccines is approved for children under 16 currently, and those trials are going on now. Side effects are also continuously monitored and taken into account.
Hesitancy to Vaccines
Due to the extremely fast development of the vaccines, many are hesitant as to whether to get a vaccine or not. The development timeline combined with the ever-growing anti-vaxx movement contributes to a lot of hesitancy and misinformation around these vaccines.
To be clear, the vaccine does NOT contain COVID-19 at all. It simply contains harmless instructions for a spike protein similar to that on the COVID-19 virus. Mutation rates should also not be a concern, and the mutation rate of COVID-19 is less than that of other viruses, such as the flu. There is also no evidence to show that the vaccines will not protect against mutations.
Natural immunity is also not a sufficient way to build herd immunity. Allowing the virus to spread rampant would cause many unnecessary deaths, which is both problematic and unethical. It is unclear after having the COVID-19 virus how long your body builds up immunity. Herd immunity can rather safely be achieved after a certain amount of people have been vaccinated. The exact percentage of vaccinations needed to reach herd immunity is unclear at this time. However, when people are hesitant to take the vaccine, it is much harder to reach any percentage of herd immunity. Herd immunity is designed to keep those who are physically unable to get vaccinated safe, not so that those who refuse to believe in science can be safe as well.
Getting a Vaccine
After becoming available to you in your state during phased rollouts, you will most likely have to sign up to receive your first dose of a vaccine. After receiving your first dose, it is imperative that you continue to social distance, frequently wash your hands, wear a mask, and follow any related government-issued orders.
Side effects are not uncommon, even with other existing vaccines such as the flu vaccine. For that reason, there should be no fear of the common side effects.
Depending on the vaccine you recieve, you will then go back for a second dose either 21 days later (Pfizer) or 28 days later (Moderna). Even after you receive both doses of a vaccine, it is still important to social distance and continue to wear a mask until it is designated safe by officials, which likely won’t be until much later this year (although a timeline is not sure).
Why is all of this important?
For not only personal safety, but the safety of others, it is vital that if you are able, you should sign up to receive a vaccine. Public health officials are doing everything possible to keep us safe, and you can be assured that these vaccines are held to no different safety standards than other vaccines. Again, it is important to follow federal, state, and local guidelines even after getting vaccinated. These vaccines are not 100% effective, although no other vaccines can be 100% effective, so wearing a mask and social distancing is extremely important until designated otherwise by government officials.
It is also important to be personally educated about what the vaccine is in order to speak with those hesitant to vaccines. In addition, speaking to an anti-vaxxer on vaccines and speaking to a Black person about vaccines are two completely different situations and should therefore be handled differently.
Being vaccinated is something that you must do (if you are able) in order to protect yourself and your community. These vaccines were developed safely and effectively, and will continue to be monitored for safety purposes. You can be assured that these are safe, as many public health officials and other prominent figures such as newly inaugurated President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have received either 1 or 2 doses already. Again, the most important thing to everyone is keeping people safe. To prevent unnecessary death and suffering, we must do as we are advised and take recommended measures. So, when the opportunity arises, you are strongly encouraged to do what is best, and receive a vaccine.