If you haven’t watched Queer Eye yet, do it immediately. I was a big fan of the original show, so of course I was intrigued about the Netflix reboot.

I quickly fell in love with the new Fab Five, and was surprised by how moving each episode is. It truly is a joy to watch, from start to finish. After binge-watching the whole series, I was left with a huge smile on my face and a tear in my eye (though I’ll deny this if anyone asks).

All the guys are awesome, but Antoni (the food and wine expert) was always going to be my favourite, because…well, he’s obsessed with food.

Oh, and he’s not bad to look at either.

Antoni

As well as being super sweet and a bit of a dork, he’s also the type of guy that makes you say, ‘that’s SO me!’ at least 15 times per episode. Here are just a few of the times he was relatable af.

When he showed he’s just a big ol’ romantic

http://michael-arden.tumblr.com/post/171310161843

Pretty much every time he saw a dog

http://fionapplesauce.tumblr.com/post/171734086324

When he was just a *tad* dramatic

https://tan-antoni.tumblr.com/post/171528516296/bloodycranberry-queer-eye-is-poetry

When a spectacular grilled cheese left him lost for words

http://pointedahead.tumblr.com/post/170949218712/when-your-food-finally-arrives-at-your-table-and

This is the man who declared he’s ‘never met a cheese he didn’t like’, after all…

Antoni in a cheese hat

When his face said what we were all thinking

http://michael-arden.tumblr.com/post/171054798391

I mean, really. Pickle juice?

When he confessed his love of a good bad smell

http://michael-arden.tumblr.com/post/171094168326/bonus

As my tweet below might suggest, I appreciate someone with a keen olfactory sense.

When he was just a big kid

https://bawling.tumblr.com/post/171036500348

I mean, it was  a pretty cool hat.

When he really, really loved chilli

http://extrajordinary.tumblr.com/post/171196’never met a cheese I987697/get-someone-who-feels-the-same-way-about-you-as

When he couldn’t quite handle AJ’s leather harness

http://extrajordinary.tumblr.com/post/171195824362/antoni-and-aj-in-leather-a-thrilling-saga

When he was just a big kid (part 2)

Riding a scooter

Happy birthday, Antoni!

Keep being your ridiculous self.

 

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed that Friends is now on Netflix.

You will probably have also noticed the numerous angry think pieces about how the show is ‘problematic’ (ugh, I hate that word), and the endless lists ranking the characters from best to worst (like we didn’t all decide our favourites twenty years ago).

However, this little gem, in particular, incensed me.

Firstly, the guy who wrote it seriously needs to lighten up. He describes the characters as ‘quite terrible people’, before going on to ask, ‘could they be anymore [sic] “first world problems”’?

Yes, he’s right; they’re all white, heterosexual and cisgender. Yes, some of them do come from ‘incredible privilege’ – I won’t argue that. Obviously, there are many jokes that don’t quite sit right with audiences today; this is true of a lot of shows in the 90’s, but I’m not going to use the ‘product of its time’ argument here. I’m also not going to list all the things the show did right, though there are many.

But to argue that they’re terrible people is, to me, slightly ridiculous.

They make questionable decisions, tease each other and yes, sometimes make inappropriate jokes. But if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, isn’t that what all groups of friends are like?

While I can’t deny his points about their socio-economic status, I do think this ‘first world problems’ rubbish and whining about ‘privilege’ stuff is just…well, it’s a load of crap to be honest.

The show is about a group of twenty-somethings, struggling to make their way in New York City. We see them go on disastrous job interviews, have money problems, endure break-ups and become single parents. Rachel goes from a broke waitress to a successful, independent career woman. Over several seasons, we see Monica work hard, pay her dues and become a head chef at a prestigious restaurant. Joey is a struggling actor and Chandler is stuck in a dead-end job he hates. At one point, the issue of money is not only brought up, but threatens to divide the friends.

Do all these things sound relatable? Yes – that’s because they are.

Suggesting that Friends tackles trivial issues (or ‘first world problems’) kind of misses the point of what the show was trying to achieve. Let’s stop trying to make out that Friends was trying to be ground-breaking. It was light entertainment about a group of ordinary people; crucially, it was designed to be relatable.

At the same time, it still did a fair job of challenging gender stereotypes, promoting LGBT rights (as much as you can argue the characters were ‘homophobic’, let’s not forget that two women get married, raise a child and have a happy, loving marriage – not something that happened in a lot of shows in the mid-90’s) and had plenty of serious storylines – Monica and Chandler’s infertility, for example.

Can’t we all just enjoy Friends as what it is – a snapshot of life in 90’s America, as shown by six regular people?

As for Monica being the worst character? Well, I disagree there too. The author says this can’t come as too much of a surprise, given that Monica is controlling and obsessive. Am I the only person who sees that she was also generous, kind-hearted and loving? Let’s also not get started on calling ‘obsessive’ a flaw (ugh). It’s funny, because I see lots of people criticising the other characters for mocking Monica’s ‘OCD’, yet these same people supposedly hate her for being obsessive. Hmmm.

Oh, and what is this guy’s beef with Monica losing weight because of a man? Sadly, she won’t have been the first person to do this, and I fail to understand why this makes her a bad person (also, great job on shifting the focus away from Chandler, who made the rude comment in the first place). If anything, it just makes her more – you guessed it, I’m going to say it again – relatable.

The bottom line is, Friends is supposed to be light entertainment. Sure, some of the jokes miss the mark now, but again, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, haven’t we all made jokes that were slightly questionable?

On the show, problematic opinions were challenged, and the characters ultimately grew over time – as we all do in real life.

Is this what makes us so uncomfortable, knowing that at one time or another, we’ve probably all made a tasteless joke, or laughed at something we shouldn’t have? Is it that Friends reminds us that we’ve all had problematic misconceptions of our own?

If the characters on Friends had been perfectly nice to each other all the time, not had problematic opinions or made inappropriate jokes, would the show have been as relatable as it was?

I would argue probably not.

A while back I talked about how mental illness and therapy are portrayed in various TV shows.

I found this a really interesting post to write and since then, I’ve been particularly impressed by how mental health has been explored in two particular shows. Spoilers ahead – though I’m talking about season 5 of Suits and Star Trek TNG, so I wouldn’t worry too much!

Suits

This may sound strange, but when Harvey started having panic attacks at the start of season 5, I was thrilled. It was great to see a strong, confident man experiencing severe bouts of anxiety, rather than the tired, predictable portrayals I’m used to seeing (Big Bang Theory’s Stuart, I’m looking at you). I think this helps to drive home the point that mental illness can happen to anyone – regardless of wealth, success or any other factors – and remind people that outward appearances can be deceiving.

Harvey Specter having a panic attack

Harvey up until this point had been portrayed as a stoic character who, it could be argued, is not very in touch with his emotions. Problems in his personal life began to take a toll on him however, and his panic attacks frightened him so much that he started seeing a psychiatrist.

In these sessions with Dr Agard, we see him resisting her efforts to help him, as he struggles to be honest with her. She starts to dig a bit deeper and it becomes clear that his current problems stem from much larger, more deep-rooted issues. I’m only a few episodes into the season, but I’m excited to see how this story line develops.

What I liked…

  • Harvey’s honesty with Mike when he tells him he’s having a panic attack.
  • Straight after, when Mike asks if Harvey’s alright, rather than brushing it off, Harvey admits he’s not.
  • The realistic way the panic attacks are portrayed, showing the overwhelming physical symptoms: racing heart, sweating, vomiting. I thought these scenes were very well done.
  • The fact that Dr Agard insists Harvey talks to her, refusing to simply prescribe him medication. One thing I’ve learned is that talking therapies and medication go hand-in-hand, and I’m glad this is being explored on the show.
  • The balance between Harvey being vulnerable, while also still being his usual self. Though I suspect he may continue to unravel and I’m interested to see where the show takes him, at the moment I like that he’s struggling, while still being high-functioning. It’s a realistic portrayal of what many people go through each day, and the way the anxiety is slowly creeping its way into his life and affecting his work as he tries to keep afloat is very relatable.
  • The way it showed that therapy isn’t an instant fix. My heart sank when Harvey triumphantly threw his medication away, because I thought the writers were just using the panic attacks as a one-off dramatic device. I’m so glad the therapist didn’t just say a few magic words and instantly ‘fix’ him. It’s much more realistic that he didn’t experience an immediate breakthrough and again, I’m excited to see how his experiences continue to develop his character.

…and what I didn’t

  • The ‘mind-reading therapist’ trope. When Dr Agard told him, ‘I had you pegged from the moment you walked in’ I have to admit I rolled my eyes slightly.
  • Dr Agard’s openness with Harvey. Some of what she divulges to him and the poker game they have later on didn’t really ring true to me, but then again, I’m not a psychiatrist, so who knows?
  • This hasn’t happened yet, so it’s possibly unfair to put it in the dislikes column, but I have a feeling they will end up dating and I really hope they don’t.

The verdict

I’m a big fan of Suits and absolutely love Harvey as a character, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how he continues to try and overcome his anxiety. I sincerely hope he doesn’t just end up in a relationship with Donna (or Dr Agard!) and that’s the end of his panic attacks. I’m so sick of the ‘love fixes everything, even mental illness’ rubbish we see so much in films and TV shows.

Very important scientific side-note:

Would you just look at him? *Inserts a million heart eyes emojis*

Harvey Specter GIF

Star Trek: The Next Generation

I’ve been a huge fan of Star Trek since I was a kid. Everyone knows it’s always been ahead of its time in many ways, but I’ve started to notice recently that it was also ahead of its time in the way it tackled ‘difficult’ subjects like suicide and grief, while normalising the idea of seeing a counsellor.

What I liked…

  • The fact the Enterprise not only had a ship’s counsellor, but that she was an integral part of the bridge crew and a close confidant of the captain. It’s a shame this wasn’t a role that the other Star Trek franchises had.
  • The episode ‘Hero Worship’, in which a young boy attempts to avoid confronting the grief of losing his parents by ‘becoming’ an android and mimicking Data’s mannerisms. With Troi’s guidance, Data forms a strong bond with the child and helps him work through his feelings slowly rather than avoiding them.
  • The episodes following Picard’s assimilation into the Borg collective, as he tries to cope with his trauma and readjust to life back on the Enterprise.
  • The episode where Troi has to help her mother uncover repressed memories of the child she lost. This is all done very symbolically, with Troi delving into her mother’s Betazoid psyche to try and understand the self-preservation mechanisms her mind has put in place. Look out for a very young Kirsten Dunst!
  • Troi as a character. I always admired her integrity, compassion and empathic abilities.
  • Voyager also had a couple of great episodes, my favourite being ‘Extreme Risk’. After finding out all her Maquis friends are dead, B’Elanna starts to deal with her grief in unhealthy ways, such as taking part in extreme holodeck programs with the safety controls off.

…and what I didn’t

  • Nothing! Unless there are any episodes I’ve forgotten about (please comment if so!), as far as I’m concerned, any episodes that dealt with mental health, grief or suicide did so cleverly and sensitively.

Side-notes:

  • Deanna had the most incredible curls and was very much the envy of my frizzy-haired nine year old self.
  • I adore both of these kick-ass ladies and their friendship.

Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher

And a cheeky but very special mention to…Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I could (and probably will) fill an entire blog post with reasons I adore this show – go and watch it, now! It’s funny, relatable and moving in equal measures, and I promise you will fall in love with Rebecca Bunch.

Rebecca Bunch

If you want to watch any of the shows I’ve mentioned, they’re all available on Netflix. You’re welcome.

Ahead of my #TalkMH chat this Thursday, I wanted explore two of my favourite TV shows and look at how they portray mental illness.

Gilmore girls

As much as I hate to say it, because GG is my absolute favourite TV show, I strongly dislike how it portrays therapy.

In season 6, episode 11 (‘The Perfect Dress’), Rory is asked to attend therapy following her recent time away from college. From Lorelai’s initial reaction (‘I can’t believe you’re going to a therapist’ followed by a joke about the old cliché of therapists asking about your mother) to the actual session itself, nothing in this episode is handled sensitively at all.

The scene itself is an absolute farce, starting with Rory’s obvious disdain towards her therapist and ending with over-the-top crying. It makes me cringe every time.

Rory Gilmore crying

Afterwards, she calls Lorelai and opens with, ‘Guess who’s crazy?’

Huh.

I’ll forgive it though, because this episode first aired back in 2005 and let’s be honest, Gilmore girls was never particularly PC.

Fast-forward to 2016 though, and we have the revival episodes. *Warning: Spoilers ahead!*

Sigh. Where to start?

I had high hopes when Lorelai sensitively suggested Emily see a professional to help her through her grief. But then we get to the therapist who seems alright at first, but quickly becomes more and more ridiculous.

Firstly, can we talk about the obvious frustration and lack of empathy she shows when she’s rushing them out of their sessions?

And then, when she turns up in Stars Hollow (I’m sorry, why?!), bounds up to Lorelai (so unprofessional!!) and announces she’s auditioning for the musical, I couldn’t stop myself from sighing. So we’re supposed to believe that Emily and Lorelai were such difficult clients they drove her to give up her career as a therapist in favour of performing in small town musical? Sure. That makes sense.

Girl rolling her eyes

I feel like the therapy was used more as a comedic device than to drive the plot. Case in point: the infamous letter that Emily mentions to Lorelai that never comes up again. I’m not saying therapy can’t or shouldn’t be portrayed in a funny way, I just think the humour here missed the mark. And I was disappointed that we didn’t see the whole thing handled more sensitively.

That said, I liked that Lorelai continued to go by herself, and ultimately her sessions did lead her to somewhat of an epiphany about her own life.

Overall though, not impressed.

The Big Bang Theory

Now, I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.

I know a lot of people don’t particularly like how Sheldon’s OCD is portrayed but personally I can relate a lot to him.

The rituals (knocking three times), the obsessive need for closure and to an extent his cleanliness, all struck a chord with me.

Sheldon knocking on the door

This is perfectly illustrated in season 7, episode 8 (‘The Itchy Brain Simulation’), when Sheldon likens his need for closure to an ‘itch on his brain’ that leaves him feeling uncomfortable and anxious. I can’t think of a better way to describe OCD. He urges Leonard to walk a mile in his shoes by wearing an itchy jumper. OCD is so difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, so I think it’s particularly clever that Sheldon suggests mimicking it with a physical sensation.

Though Leonard gains a better understanding of his friend’s struggles, he still teases him and calls him crazy. Rather than taking offense though, I applaud the show’s accuracy. It’s been my experience that people often can’t relate, so Leonard’s lack of understanding rang true with me.

In another episode, Sheldon’s girlfriend Amy tries to help him overcome his OCD, by encouraging him to start various tasks without finishing them. Challenging his compulsive need to see everything through is very difficult for Sheldon and I really related to his struggle. The strain is visible on his face and the episode ends with him doing the tasks again, this time to completion.

While some could argue that The Big Bang Theory stigmatises OCD, I would personally disagree. I think it’s great that the show is helping to ‘normalise’ OCD and bring it into the mainstream. More than that, I like that it doesn’t just focus on cleanliness, as of course there’s so much more to it than that. Anything that helps more people realise this is a good thing in my book.

It’s not always a perfect representation, but I find it relatable and at times very sensitively handled.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. If you can’t make it to the chat (this Thursday 13th April at 8:30pm) please feel free to tweet me, or leave a comment below.

 

 

I’ve been mulling over the latest series of Mr Robot, in particular the complicated relationship between Elliot and Tyrell, and I have some theories.

First of all, while there’s no way Elliot could have completely made up Tyrell (there are far too many holes in that theory), I definitely believe he’s ‘glamorized’ him somewhat, and let his imagination fill in some gaps.

Tyrell has too much power

Elliot has made E-Corp the enemy in his mind (case in point, the fact he refers to it as ‘Evil Corp’), so it makes sense that Tyrell would be an embodiment of this idea. He takes on the role of the ‘classic corporate bad guy’ right from the start, when he ‘kidnaps’ Elliot and has him brought to his boardroom full of lawyers.

Even as interim CTO, it’s hard to believe that he would have that kind of influence, to the point that even the police turn a blind eye. He has a table full of lawyers for a meeting with Elliot, which seems as unnecessary to me as it does unlikely. I suspect that this whole encounter has been warped in Elliot’s head. He even questions it in his mind – ‘Please tell me you’re seeing this too?’

In contrast, when Elliot as Mr Robot meets with Tyrell, it’s very much on his own turf. Tyrell goes out to Coney Island, where Mr Robot leads the meeting and even manages to intimidate him. The balance of power has shifted, and the way the scene is shot is darker, gloomier, and missing the gloss of the earlier boardroom scene.

Tyrell Wellick

Tyrell represents what Elliot wants

I believe that on some level, Elliot wants what Tyrell has. Not the money or power, but the family. Elliot on numerous occasions references his own loneliness and desire for ‘normality’, and as far as I can tell, Tyrell is the first person to enter his life who has that, or at least a version of it.

His therapist has had a string of failed relationships, Angela is dating a douchebag who cheats on her, his sister has commitment issues, and he grew up in an unhappy household. Tyrell on the other hand has an outwardly perfect life, with a beautiful wife, nice home and a baby on the way.

Elliot romanticizes this life. When he meets Joanna for the first time the sky noticeably brightens behind her and the focus softens. In contrast to her threatening words, the scene has an eerie serenity about it, a visual representation of the rose-coloured glasses Elliot sees the Wellicks through.

Joanna Wellick

Tyrell’s life is exaggerated

While it’s clear that Sam Esmail enjoys throwing in homages to classic movies, I think there’s more to it than that.

The American Psycho references turn Tyrell into an extreme version of the typical ‘corporate villain’, and while Tyrell has obviously done some very questionable things, I think there’s an element of exaggeration on Elliot’s part here.

The salute to Fight Club towards the end of season one (‘Where Is My Mind’ playing softly as Elliot and Tyrell stand together in the arcade) led many to believe that Tyrell was Elliot’s Tyler Durden. As I’ve mentioned already, I don’t think this is the case, but I think it could be a subtle suggestion that there are elements of Tyrell’s life that Elliot has made up or embellished.

Fight Club

Another thing I noticed was that we only ever see Joanna eating pickles. It’s the ultimate pregnancy cliché, and perhaps the sort of thing a person like Elliot, whose limited understanding of pregnant women probably comes from movies, would come up with. This one’s a bit of a stretch, as Elliot never actually sees Joanna eating, but I think it’s another subtle suggestion that there’s an element of fiction to Tyrell and Joanna’s life together.

Tyrell’s Facebook profile, where he lists Swedish Hard House as his favourite music and lingonberry jam as one of his likes, could either be interpreted as Tyrell messing with Elliot, knowing he was going to try to hack him, or it could be Elliot’s mind filling in the gaps with Swedish stereotypes. What if he never actually found Tyrell’s profile?

During the sitcom episode in season two, Tyrell continues to be somewhat of a caricature, caring more about his designer shoes than his own well-being. Obviously this whole episode is meant to be darkly funny, but the humour relating to the other characters stems from much deeper things (the abuse Elliot and his sister suffered as children, for example), while Tyrell’s never scrapes below a superficial level. He remains comically shallow, suggesting a lack of deeper understanding of his character on Elliot’s part.

We know that Elliot is an unreliable narrator and we also know that Tyrell is a very complex character. I think in general there’s so much about most of the characters we’re yet to learn, but I predict that the biggest surprises in store will be to do with the Wellicks, and the dynamic between Elliot and Tyrell.