Yes, But Where Are They Now?: The Burger King Kids Club

The Burger King Kids Club. If you were born sometime between 1986 and 1996, you remember fondly the adventures of the Burger King Kids Club, a diverse group of friends with various interests who all shared a love of the BK. According to Wikipedia, Burger King forcefully retired these iconic characters in 2005, leaving many fans wondering where they went.

After exhaustive and extensive research, I’ve managed to locate each and every member for you, dear Kids Club fans. Here’s what they’ve been up to:

Kid Vid

Kyle “Kid Vid” Vickers enjoyed several good years as the leader of the Burger King Kid’s Club. Once the group was disbanded, Kyle tried to market his love of video games and technology, investing all of his BKKC earnings into the ill-fated Dreamcast console. Kid Vid ultimately lost everything and moved back in with his parents. He later found a position at the local Best Buy with the Geek Squad and one day got into a heated argument with, unbeknownst to him, the editor-in-chief of TechToday magazine, who was so impressed with Kid’s tech-savviness that he hired him on the spot. Kyle is currently based in Seattle, working as a consultant for Fortune 500 tech firms as well as writing freelance articles and reviews for IGN, Wired, Gizmodo, and CNET. Kyle still visits with the rest of the Kid’s Club from time to time.

Boomer

Bonnie “Boomer” Meridian finished up school, eventually attending Dartmouth on a joint soccer/hockey/roller derby/badminton scholarship. Early her freshman year, she discovered the wonders of Dungeons and Dragons role-playing. After having her scholarship revoked for missing a game (the D&D session was too lit), Boomer penned a heartfelt letter to the school newspaper shaming the university sports association into reevaluating their rigid zero tolerance policy standards on athletic extracurriculars. Boomer soon realized she enjoyed writing and joined the newspaper staff, all three on-campus drama troupes, and the university debate team. In 2010, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked several PA jobs to pay the bills, eventually becoming a writing assistant on the first season of UnREAL before scoring a full-time position as a staff writer for Grey’s Anatomy. Boomer currently lives in Culver City, Los Angeles playing on several kickball leagues in her spare time.

I.Q.

Not long after the end of the Kids Club, Isaiah “I.Q.” Quentin found himself embroiled in a tense legal battle with his parents, who were eventually convicted of stealing I.Q.’s BKKC earnings. By age 16, I.Q. was granted full emancipation and moved into his cousin’s garage in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he continued his obsession with chemistry while moonlighting as a used car salesman. After accidentally engineering a strain of marijuana that made the user’s hands glow in the dark, I.Q. got a job working special effects for a theater group before moving to Los Angeles, where he slept on Boomer’s couch for almost a month. While there, I.Q. again accidentally created a very realistic synthetic blood usable as both a stand-in for blood in horror films and for treatment with diabetes patients. He now has several existing and pending patents with the EPA, the FDA, and the CDC. I.Q. currently resides in Austin, Texas.

Jaws

After leaving the BKKC, Jamal “Jaws” Williams, 45 pounds heavier, picked up basketball as a way to lose all that burger weight. He had intended on joining the Harlem Globetrotters so he could play basketball while seeing the world, another goal of his. Unfortunately, life had a different path in mind. In March 2006, his older sister was killed on a military mission and Jaws quickly became a quiet recluse, spending all his spare time studying. He graduated from college and went on to attend Yale Law School, graduating in the top 3% of his class. In 2011, Jaws got a job with a law firm in Boston where he met Caroline Foxx on a tax case involving her food truck. The two fell in love and Jaws eventually quit the law firm to open up a restaurant and a vineyard, La Lengua, traveling all over the world in search of new and exotic flavors. Jaws and Foxx married in 2015 and currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

J.D.

Unknown to many fans, J.D. was the most difficult of the group, refusing to be in the same room as his fellow BKKC members for photo shoots and commercials nearing the end of their run. Once the group disbanded, J.D. found work as a spokesman for Alpo though his tendency to show up to set inebriated quickly saw him replaced. On his last day, J.D. stormed off set, knocking things over, and biting a craft services employee. His last role was as an uncredited background actor in a deleted scene in the Garfield sequel.

Lingo

Banking on his fame as a child star, Lionel “Lingo” Garcia found success in his art soon after leaving the BKKC. Many of his sketches and paintings covering magical realism were bought for as much as $500,000 in Brazil, England, Portugal, and El Salvador and were featured at LACMA and MoMA. In 2010, he reconnected with Snaps and the two got an apartment together in New York City, though the relationship would only last for eight months. Lingo became an adjunct professor at NYU, resigning shortly into his third semester after a scandal with one of his female students which was settled quietly. In 2012, he moved to Silver Lake, Los Angeles, where he then reconnected with Wheels. The two dated for six months before Lingo unexpectedly broke things off and moved back to the East Coast where he became business partners with Jaws on the La Lengua Vineyard. He currently splits his time between a villa in Napa, California and a townhouse in Boston.

Snaps

Ashley “Snaps” Talbot graduated high school and went on to attend Sarah Lawrence, studying abroad every opportunity she got and always carrying her camera with her. Upon graduation, she volunteered for an extended tour with the Peace Corps in Swaziland, then moved to New York City to study under some of the greatest photojournalists in the United States. Snaps eventually won a Pulitzer for her photo entitled, “The Meaty King.” Snaps is currently retired (for now) in New Zealand where she runs a shelter for aging dogs.

Wheels

Wesley “Wheels” Elias, the shyest member of the BKKC, took his money and opened up an auto shop “Elias and Sons” in Daytona, Florida, with his father and brother. He took night classes at the nearby Bethune-Cookman University where he got an AA in auto engineering. Wheels eventually grew restless and took a trip to Los Angeles in 2012 to visit Boomer with whom he had become very close in their BKKC days. While there, he fell in love with a male celebrity (whose name he would not reveal) who he says, “sidetracked his ambition.” Wheels came out to his family who supported him, though his boyfriend was purportedly unready to settle down and the two broke up, leaving Wheels heartbroken and homeless. In 2014, Wheels soon became addicted to exercise, joining a local Crossfit gym where he would mop the floors in exchange for free training. Wheels finished his education, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Engineering with a minor in African-American Studies and Classics. Earlier this year, he married Raj Mahmud, his partner of three years. The two now live in Atlanta where Wheels works as a motivational speaker/personal trainer for disabled veterans.

Jazz

A late addition to the Burger King Kid’s Club (the early 2000s), Jason “Jazz” Zhou never felt as though he was really a part of the gang. Once the group disbanded, Jazz moved back to his hometown: Montreal, Quebec and began a journey of self-discovery that ended with him coming out as transgender. Jazz continues to enjoy his life and his music as the owner of a high-end jazz club in Montreal. In 2015, Jazz officially adopted J.D. The two share an apartment in downtown Montreal.

The chances for a reunion tour are not looking good.

Photo credit: FanPop

I Didn’t Hate It: A Review of Suicide Squad

In the age of social media, seeing a film with absolutely zero foreknowledge is impossible. While I hadn’t read any specific reviews for Suicide Squad, I managed to glimpse a few key descriptors, including: “a mess”, “a hasty response to Batman vs. Superman”, and “a really long music video”. Having seen the movie last night, I can tell you that all these phrases are unequivocally true, BUT, y’know, I didn’t hate it, and at this point in DC’s Cinematic undertakings, that’s saying something.

Spoilers below

The film opens with a song lifted directly from the trailer, “You Don’t Own Me” (though the scene itself features Lesley Gore’s original where the trailer features the Grace cover) as we tour Belle Reve prison, stopping in with our two favorite (read: most popular) anti-heroes: Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot and Harley Quinn aka… Harley Quinn. Within five seconds, we’ve established the film undoubtedly belongs to these two.

So far, so good.

We then move to Amanda Waller’s secret dinner with the cop from Stranger Things as they discuss the TOP SECRET dossier in her purse over a glass of cabernet. Here is where the movie begins to veer off course. While offering a speedy introduction (read: exposition dump) of each “potential” member of the Suicide Squad, one that could be overlooked for the sake of time, the scene zooms through too quickly. We’re given the necessary information then immediately, we’re following the villain. Off a cliff we go. In these first ten minutes, we’ve met everyone we’re going to meet, with the one exception the ill-fated Slipknot.

Actual footage from the movie.

Were this a 40 minute television pilot, the quick-and-dirty drive-by method would work, even be essential. But a two hour movie? We have time, guys. Slow down. As a result, the movie was less a movie and more a sequence of action shots meant to pack in as much fighting into 123 minutes as possible.

Admittedly, ensemble films are difficult tasks. By the end of the movie, everyone in the audience must sympathize with everyone on screen. But the wild box office victories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—to which this will inevitably forever be compared—as well as films like Spotlight and Straight Outta Compton shows that not only is finding emotional depth within a sea of characters possible, it’s paramount for a timelessly successful film.

Even Fox managed to get it right once. 

It seemed as though somewhere in the editing room of Suicide Squad, amidst all the chaos, explosions, and exposition, the reshoots and directorial changes, that emotional depth became lost, with vague hints of it turning up during the film.

The main character establishing beats made their way into the movie while the follow-through and the nuance were left on the cutting room floor. Colonel Flagg’s starcrossed relationship with Dr. June Moone could have been one of the great tragic love stories of cinematic history, but we were never afforded the opportunity to see what aspects of their personalities made them fall in love with each other. 

What the audience was fed instead was a meal of tragic Rubber Ducky backstories meant to explain why the characters behave the way that they do. Deadshot lost a fight to Batman in front of his daughter and so he wants to prove himself. Harley Quinn fell in love with Mr. J, so she wants to get back to him (and he to her). Katana’s husband was murdered by someone, so she… I’m not sure what she wants to do about that. Enchantress is really, really old and wants to rid the world of the Internet or something.

These attempts at endearing us to the characters present themselves entirely through dialogue, telling us about their goals rather than showing us with little “why” moments. Why should you care about these characters? Because we told you to! Sure we breezed through their tragic tales via 30 second voiceovers, but, man, it was sad! Sad, ya hear me?! Cry, dammit!

Sorry. It’s the voices.

I’m just kidding.

That’s not what they really said.

To be fair, my opinion of the film isn’t all nitpicky fanboy hatred. There were parts of Suicide Squad that I enjoyed thoroughly. Margot Robbie playing Harley Quinn, one of my favorite characters, was a joy to watch. The crazy love story between she and Joker was new twist on an old tale. In the comics, Harley’s new 52 origin story saw her pushed into a vat of chemicals by the Joker, who couldn’t give flying bat guano whether she lived or died. In Suicide Squad, Dr. Harleen makes the choice to become Harley on her own, providing a sort of mutualism to their relationship and giving Harley much more agency in her own narrative than in any previous incarnation of the character since her debut on Batman: The Animated Series.

And then there’s Viola Davis, the senior actor of this cast, who proved once again that she can handle any role thrown her way. Unlike the rest of the cast, Davis’ character Amanda Waller was given no tragic backstory, no redemption tale, no fable to make her more likable. Viola took a manipulative taskmaster and crafted a character that commanded loyalty by gravitas alone.

The action scenes were also a hoot. Watching an entire group of superpowered people take on zombies in the middle of Toronto Midway City was as fun and exciting as it sounds. I was left clutching my pearls and genuinely feeling as though Harley could die at any momen—hahaha. Yeah, right.

This lady’s got plot armor thicker than Killer Croc’s skin.

So, what the film lacks in substance, it more than makes up for in flash (pun intended). Was this Citizen Kane? No, but neither was it aiming to be. The simple goal of Suicide Squad was to continue building the universe that DC began with Man of Steel while giving us a chuckle or two, and in that, it succeeded.

Rating: Solid C. See it if you’ve got nothing better to do/wait until Redbox has the Blu-Ray.

Julienned Notes

  • Needs more women. I will say this until I no longer have to.
  • Harley’s slapping a smile on after the SPOILER death of the Joker was actually rather sad.
  • Any scene where Jai Courtney is fully clothed is a wasted scene.
  • Enchantress could have been a great villain, but then her dying words were, “you don’t have the balls.”
  • The Joker and Harley are totally worth their own film.
  • As Enchantress’ lightning bolts were destroying military ships, who had the cameras relaying the destruction of those ships back to ARGUS?
  • Also, I don’t think the word “ARGUS” was used once.
  • Ike Barinholtz in any movie is like the bacon garnish on a Bloody Mary: you didn’t ask for it, you’re not sure why it’s there, but someone somewhere thought it was a good idea.

Did anyone else get the chance to see Suicide Squad in their free time? What are your thoughts? Do you think this will make or break the DC Extended Universe?

 

Bingeing While Black: Stranger Things

strangerthingsposter_zpsblbcdx4pNumber of episodes: 8

Average episode length: ~50 minutes.

Length of binge: 1 day

I was going to say that an entire season in one sitting is a record for me, but I remember Games of Thrones‘ first season recuperating from my wisdom teeth removal.

Unlike then, this binge was not the product of incarceration, nor one borne of necessity. I sat through all 8 episodes in one day because the show was just that enjoyable.

As expected, spoilers abound.

The entire series had the sort of slow burn that I’ve come to expect of a Netflix series. Lord knows we don’t have the patience to watch one episode per week, so the story can be spread out without worrying about whether or not the audience will forget any details and thus don’t have to mention every episode Eleven’s backstory or what happened to the Chief’s daughter.

Having been raised on Disney, I don’t know much about film in the 80s. My film experiences of the time period began and ended with a firetruck red-haired mermaid. A friend in my bowling league mentioned that Stranger Things was rife with references and homages from the 80s and that heightened his enjoyment of the show even more.

Me, I simply enjoyed what was placed in front of me.

The tone was set from the very beginning as a terrified scientist (never a good thing) runs down a hallway trying to escape… what? He makes it as far as the elevator, breathing a tenuous sigh of relief until death comes from above. We’re then immediately transported to an idyllic 1980s house, replete with a colorful assortment of nerdy kids, an over-it older sister, a put-upon mom, and a useless dad.

The characters are all immediately likable, especially the main four, locked away in their basement playing D&D. Pokemon who? We’re later introduced to Winona Ryder’s frenetic mom character, a highlight of the show and Chief Hopper who has given up for reasons we don’t immediately know.

As the show progresses, all of these characters come into their own, each having moments to shine, particularly the surprisingly emotionally aware Dustin (him declaring that he knows he’s not Mike’s best friend was heartbreaking). Eleven, however, struck a chord with me and within her first appearance became my favorite. An androgynous heroine? Sign me up.

Again, I don’t know much of 80s films; I didn’t watch The Goonies until I was 22. But from the few I remember watching on UPN33 on Saturdays after all the kids’ shows had ended, Stranger Things had every 80s trope checked.

That being said, there is one trope I wish would have been left in the 80s.

While Stranger Things was recognizably one big love letter to the time period, the casual homophobia that was apparently so common at the time doesn’t translate as well. On more than one occasion, from episode one, the disappeared Will Byers was repeatedly referred to as a “queer” with the spectacularly loathsome bully Troy making the implication that Will was the unlucky victim of a child molester.

Now as a man of queerness myself, I have a soft spot in my heart for gay characters and was hoping that this information, whether true or not, would pay off. But it never did. The molester line in particular was only meant to enrage the straight character, to give the straight character some cause to finally “man up” and face the bully while the gay kid is off in limbo, probably dead.

In fact, as soon as Will’s queerness was brought into question, I was beginning to fear that Stranger Things would succumb to the Bury Your Gays trope also very prevalent in the 80s. Another character, Barbara “Barb” Holland, while not explicitly lesbian, shows no interest in anyone aside from her best friend, Nancy. (Verily, she doesn’t show interest in anything at all, but that more speaks to a lack of female character development which is another issue in and of itself). Spoiler alert, Barb, too, gets taken by the Demogorgon and giving us a tally of 2/2 of LGBT characters now gone. That’s literally 100% of the introduced queer characters dead (as far as we know). And we all know about LGBT and their math problems.

Now, for those who say that I’m reaching, I reply: you’re absolutely right. But reaches are all that LGBT people have in terms of representation, especially in the 80s. The fact that I even have to lump the acronym together is disheartening. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and queer people should each have their own form of on-screen representation. Until then, we have one character whose sexuality wasn’t explicitly declared in a heterosexual-dominated television landscape who has been given the task of speaking for every one of us.

Don’t worry, folks. I’m not going to attack every show I watch for not having LGBT representation. Unfortunately, heterosexuality is still the default, even in my own head. The writers of Stranger Things, however, chose to reference the possible sexuality of a ~12-year-old and thus elected to put themselves in the position where they could be criticized for their handling of a gay character. They could have made one of the surviving characters gay or, hell, not mentioned it at all (because, again, it never paid off).

And, as I said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the show. Eleven is by far one of my favorite characters and I would pay money to watch the adventures of Eleven and Friends. There’s a fantastic E.T. homage that I won’t spoil that made me laugh for being both expected and unexpected. I would definitely recommend it to any 80s horror/coming-of-age genre fan with a functioning nostalgia filter.

Heres-and-Theres:

  • Where did Will learn how to assemble/load a shotgun?
  • If the Demogorgon tracks by blood, why did it attack Will? Was it just really hungry? Were no females in town suffering visits from Aunt Flo that month?
  • Transdimensional telepathy, yo!
  • Those kids seemed remarkably unfazed by the massacre at the high school.
  • I would also pay money to watch Joyce Byers and Karen Wheeler talk about what their kids are up to while in the kitchen making casserole.
  • Why does Stacy have a blonde wig?
  • Karen Wheeler has a story to tell, I know it.
  • I’m absolutely glad Stacy called Jonathan out on the creep factor. I was hoping this wouldn’t be one of those stories where the misunderstood nerd gets the hot girl who understands him. The only thing Stacy “understands” is that that creature killed her best friend and Jonathan saw it first.
  • What was that egg in the Upside-Down??
  • What did the government say to Hopper?
  • Is Will simply having PTSD or is that vision a sequel tease?

Bingeing While Black is still a relatively new blog, so I’m experimenting with format. I think from here, I’ll start a rating system based on the four criteria I observe as a writer: plot/story, characters, dialogue, and acting.

For Stranger Things:

PLOT/STORY: A

CHARACTERS: C (Needs more females of agency, less dead gays)

DIALOGUE: A

ACTING: A+ (those are some fantastic child actors, but the plus is especially for Millie Bobby Brown and Winona Ryder)

Until the next binge,

Sir Windley.

My Favorite TV Zodiacs: Virgo Women

Confession: I have an unhealthy zodiac obsession. Among the first questions I ask when meeting someone is “hey, when’s your birthday? Oh, and also your name, I guess.” Knowing the star you were born under immediately gives me all the information I need to work you… er… work with you. (Scorpio? Let’s be BFFs. Gemini? Boy, bye. Until tomorrow.)

“That’s silly,” you might think. “There are only 12 types of people on Earth? Insane!” Actually, once you’ve thrown in moon sign, rising sign, and the 9 other influential planets floating around, there are actually 8,916,100,448,256 types of people on Earth. And since we [fortunately] don’t have that many people living and breathing, there are types of people that haven’t even been discovered yet! Exciting, right?

I often combine that unhealthy obsession with my other unhealthy obsession: the goings-on of television. As I blissfully rot away in front of the boob tube, I try to keep some brain activity going by ascribing zodiac signs to my favorite characters. “Maybe we’d get along in real life,” I think, as I wipe my Tostito-dusted hands on the dog.

So, while I’m catching up on my bingeing this week, and in lieu of any interesting or timely topics, I’m dedicating this blog post to the best zodiac sign: Virgo.

(Full disclosure: I myself am a Virgo, so this list is a bit of confirmation bias. But it’s my blog, so shut up.)

According to astrologists Starsky and Cox, authors of Sextrology: The Astrology of Sex and the Sexes and Cosmic Coupling, Virgo women share the distinctive traits of:

  • Pragmatism
  • Adaptability
  • Contemplation
  • Composure
  • Obligation
  • Perfection
  • Worry
  • Analysis
  • Reliability
  • Modesty
  • Self-righteousness

With these traits in mind, I’d like to present to you my nominations for favorite TV Virgo women.

Note: Since TV writers don’t often go out of their way to state a character’s birthday (birthday episodes are the worst), this is all speculation.

Jane Gloriana Villanueva of Jane the Virgin

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Jane the Virgin tells the story of one Jane Gloriana Villanueva who, in an accident of telenovelic proportions, was artificially inseminated with the sperm of some guy she kissed years ago and is now her boss.

Evidence

I mean, come on. The word “Virgo” is practically in her name. While obviously not all Virgos are virginal (some are proud closet hoes), they are obsessed with perfection, whether it be how their room is organized or how their day is planned. No one knows from planning like Jane, who has kept a calendar since her pre-teen days and with the birth of Mateo (spoiler alert?), has been color-coding every moment of her and his day.

Pragmatism: Jane literally took the bus to her own wedding once Rogelio’s car broke down.

Worry: According to Sextrology (and general life experience), many Virgos are nitpicky hypochondriacs, always looking for the pit in the cherry. Not a single episode goes by where Jane isn’t biting her nails (well, not literally, because she’s too perfect) over Mateo’s latest sneeze, being a good mother, Rafael’s commitment to their relationship, advancing her career, or her own mortality. Rogelio stopped speaking to her for two days (he was kidnapped, but) and Jane had already begun furrowing her eyebrows. And when Mateo actually did get sick—through absolutely unavoidable circumstances—guess how long Jane beat herself up about it? Too long.

Reliability: Petra’s own baby daddy wasn’t in the room to watch her give birth. But you know who was? That’s right, Jane.

Obligation: Jane will shoot a text whenever she can’t make it to an event, like when she had to skip Rogelio’s premiere to comfort Xiomara. One of my Virgo friends absolutely abhors her family with the one exception of her mother. She hates them so much so that she moved across the country to get away from them, but the moment her mother asks her to fly back home for even the most trivial thing, she’ll hop on the next plane.

Self-Righteousness: Jane, fed up with Xiomara’s lack of responsibility, gave her mother the extended cold shoulder after chastising her. Have you ever ended up on a Virgo’s bad side? They’ll stop speaking to you for months if they think that they’re right (which they often are), waiting for you to come around and see their point of view.

One particular moment when I absolutely knew Jane and I shared a sun sign was during Chapter 33, where Jane’s mother fed her advice on “reading the signs” with Professor Chavez. Every little detail of their interaction was analyzed and overanalyzed to the point where Jane had led herself into believing that the good professor wanted something more than a student/teacher bond.

I cannot tell you how many texts I’ve sent to my lady friends overanalyzing the tiniest moves made by any potential suitor. Each text, Facebook poke, or pat on the back was an unequivocal declaration of love and while I’d like to say I’ve grown out of that, there are still… times.

As it turns out, the actress that plays Jane, Gina Rodriguez is a Leo, the sign preceding Virgo, and I’m sure she’d be the first to say that while she and Jane are similar in many ways (their activism, their passion for the Hispanic/Latino communities), there are quite a few ways in which their methods diverge.

Look, people, guessing the birthdays of fictional characters isn’t exactly a pseudoscience.


Alicia Florrick of The Good Wife

Another person I want to be when I grow up whom I greatly suspect of belonging to the Virgo persuasion is Alicia Florrick.

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The Good Wife is a drama series following Alicia Florrick, who returns to her career in law after her husband, the State’s Attorney, was caught in a sex/political corruption scandal.

Evidence

In Sextrology, Starsky and Cox note that the Virgo tendency to look the other way or get lost in minutiae often leaves them the victim of cheating spouses.

From the very beginning, creators and producers Michelle and Robert King have stated that the series was about “the education of Alicia Florrick” as we watch her evolve from demure stay-at-home mom to a legal force to be reckoned with, all while navigating the constantly changing torrential atmosphere of the legal profession. Which speaks to Alicia’s prime Virgo trait-

Adaptability: In seven seasons, we have seen Alicia go from go-getter first year associate to equity partner to named partner at an opposing law firm to State’s Attorney candidate to head of her own law firm back to equity partner all while juggling being a single mom and the incessant needs of her perpetually philandering political candidate husband. You try thinking about handling that without your head spinning.

Modesty: After all, she is the good wife. But don’t let the name fool you. Alicia is the first to want to cast off the Florrick surname, fearing that by using it, she’s given advantages she didn’t earn. She’s received pep talks from friends and enemies alike about using the power of the Florrick name. After a few seasons, she’s the one calling the Florrick shots.

Contemplation: I once read a recap of TGW that specifically focused on Alicia’s reactions. To say that the woman is inscrutable is an understatement. There are several scenes in which Alicia shouts entire sentences with just a look, limiting her verbal reactions to simply one word. Virgos are constantly lost in their heads and while I do know one or two Virgos that wear their hearts on their sleeve, I know many more who come off as cold because Virgos don’t want anyone knowing they fear themselves incapable of doing it all (they can, though).

Composure:

Have you seen her wardrobe?

Even Michelle Obama, First Lady and actual American royalty, was caught in a Sophie’s Choice-level of “Who Wore It Best?” with Alicia.

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The only loser is us for not being as god-like as they.

Reliability/Perfection: If I could list every time Owen or Veronica called Alicia “the perfect one” or “the caretaker”, telling her that she would never leave Peter because it would be too messy or complicated for her to attempt, I most certainly would. Unfortunately, I don’t have a team of interns working around the clock to find me clips (though I am taking volunteers).

Like with Jane, I had a moment of shared Virgoness with Alicia Florrick during the season five finale where Zach took off for… Dartmouth, maybe? College. He took off for college. Anyway, wanting to avoid a messy goodbye, he left the very night of his graduation. Alicia stood in the doorway on the other side of the apartment as he left, not wanting to smother him. It was clear that she didn’t want him to leave, but that she knew that he should. The moment of distance enrapt in complex emotions, contemplating what the exact level of affection the situation calls for is something with which Virgos, myself in particular, struggle constantly.

Suffice it to say, Alicia Florrick is a bonafide, daughter-of-Demeter Virgo lady and while I will accept arguments that she might actually be, say, a Capricorn, I will also physically fight you if you take this away from me. So there’s that.

[Possible] Honorable mentions:

Until the next binge,

Sir Windley.

P.S. This zodiac series may or may not be a filler for BWB downtimes. You have been warned.

2016: A Garbage Year

I’m not usually compelled to speak on a great many things. Like Hamilton‘s Aaron Burr, my motto has always been, “talk less, smile more”. Except without the smiling.

However, 2016 has been admittedly and uncategorically a bad year. There ain’t nowhere to put 2016 but in a trash can. Toss it out. Take it to the junkyard. Send it to a dump in the middle of the ocean and let the Great Barrier Reef deal with it.

Let’s talk trash about this garbage year.

So far, we’ve got:

  • that whack Zika virus giving babies and pregnant a hard time
  • North Korea acting a damn fool with their nuclear weapons
  • Brexit morons
  • tiny-fingered, Cheeto-faced, mangled apricot hellbeast Donald Trump clinches the RNC nomination
  • Olympics are a complete mess
  • that utterly senseless Pulse nightclub shooting
  • the lord took it upon himself to remove from us Prince, Doris Roberts, Alan Rickman, and Natalie Cole

I tell you, as written television becomes greater and more abundant, reality seems to only be getting worse. And I’m not talking about the Housewives.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, two men, two actual human people, were added to the ever-growing list of unjustified police-involved shootings. The first, Alton Sterling, shot on camera for doing a grand precise total of nothing. The other, Philando Castile, according to reports, did the opposite: everything he was told to do. But because they happened to Black human people, people who did not fit the look of what our society (or perhaps just cops) deems a “good citizen”, these two men are dead.

After the tragedy in Orlando, I wanted to tattoo a small rainbow strip on myself, perhaps purchase a Pride bumper sticker for my car, something to demarcate that I am gay and I am proud and I am not going away. Only God and FedEx know where that bumper sticker is now.

But there is no bumper sticker for being Black. My Blackness is evident when I walk out the door, when I get out the car, when I wake up in the morning. Being Black is not something I have to tattoo on myself for people to see; it is absolutely something I live with every moment of every day. And the older I get, the more dangerous that becomes.

Yesterday, I sat in my car waiting for an order from a restaurant in a very nice, very affluent neighborhood here in Los Angeles. An old woman came out to sweep her porch (as old women do) and as I stepped out the car, I thought to myself, “Let me adjust my walk so she doesn’t find me threatening.” She could call the cops and I’d be just another hashtag.

Although… wait a minute, her discomfort is not my problem. I’m not a threat for existing. I can’t be. That’s not fair. Unless I am coming toward you waving a gun in your face, screaming, “I’m going to murder you if given the opportunity!”, I should not have to think about altering my physicality, justifying my general presence just to make someone else feel 3% less antsy.

And I’ll bet you NRA dollars to cop donuts a straight, white man has never felt and will never feel that way.

In high school, I struggled with several identities. Raised in the church from my womb-escape day, I tried to be a devout Christian, but they didn’t want me because I was gay. As I got older, traversing treacherous tenth grade, I discovered it seemed the Blacks didn’t want me for the same reason. I started exploring my gay identity more, reading books—both fiction and non-fiction—about being gay, our “lifestyle”, truly immersing myself in the knowledge of my fore-kweens. As I reached prime sexing age, I discovered that, guess what? The gays? Not that fond of Blacks.

Sounds like a difficult life, doesn’t it? It was. For a very long time, I resented both sides. But as I got older, got better at being me, accepted the fact that I was never going to be anything other than gay, black, and nowhere under 175 pounds, I learned to love myself, my lips, my people, everything that is me and them. Yes, there are intracommunity flaws, but since Eve said to Adam, “bae, what you think bout this apple, tho?”, humans who love each other have been flawed.

The point is, both of my identities are under attack, constantly, incessantly. In the media and in reality, I am twice a second class citizen. I live in a world where my quotidian, day-to-day walking and breathing and picking my nose is a threat to someone’s world view. And I am tired.

I’m tired of being killed for who I have crushes on and my wider-than-thou nose. I’m tired of having anxiety attacks when I see a cop car behind me, wondering whether to text my mom “i love you” now or later (or if I’ll get pulled over for texting!). I’m tired of my fight-or-flight response activating when being hugged by another man, even platonically. I’m tired of the way things are now.

Thus, I leave you with four simple solutions: 1) gun reform legislation, 2) better police training, 3) put women in charge of everything, and 4) empathy.

Until the next binge,

Sir Windley.

 

Bingeing While Black: Mr. Robot and the Art of Uncomfortable Silence

Another week, another show. (I wish I could say I had the wherewithal to keep up that kind of momentum, but I gotta work, kids.)

After a year, I was finally able to cross Mr. Robot off my to-watch list, having heard so many wonderful things about it, but never knowing what it actually was. I knew the main story revolved around an expert hacker dude played by professional cutie Rami Malek. I knew that Dahlia from Suburgatory was wandering around somewhere and that casting Christian Slater was a coup akin to scoring Kevin Bacon for The Following. Knowing the typical USA fare, I put all these facts together to guess that it’d be a quirky show about a crime-solving hacker and his dumb-blonde partner who would teach each other about life while trying to keep their activities secret from boss Christian Slater.

Girl, was I wrong.

The show started dark, giving Rami Malek’s Elliot Alderson several different personality disorders from his opening monologue, and not the fun, Monk kind. He breaks the fourth wall to address us, the viewer, as a conscious figment of his own imagination. Within minutes, we learn that he’s paranoid and as one of the best hackers in TV history (aside from Felicity Smoak, obvi), he has every right to be. There’s a conspiracy starting at the tippy top and at any moment, it’s going to come crashing down on his head.

By the revelation of episode eight, I was pleasantly confused, throwing an empty Ben and Jerry’s carton at my roommate wondering why he hasn’t finished this show yet.

I’m not going to spoil the twist because I, fortunately, was not spoiled despite the show being a year old. Instead, I’m going to answer another question.

A friend and my personal TV mentor asked me what I liked most about the show, if I did, in fact, like it. I did and I told him what intrigued me most were Rami Malek’s long pauses, and the quiet, absolute silence of some of the scenes. One could believe that, outside of his internal monologue, Elliot has the fewest lines of anyone in the cast.

I’m fascinated by the concept of silence, how many people, especially in Los Angeles, can’t stand sitting quietly when there’s someone else around. From riding in Ubers to standing in line at Starbucks, people fear not talking, preferring to fill the silence with conversation, not all of it vital.

I once had a neighbor tell me that she’d prefer I stopped using her recycling bin (my own apt. building didn’t have one) and rather than arguing with her, I simply blinked at her, listening to her scramble to fill the silence with a reasonable excuse as to why she didn’t want me to recycle. She eventually relented.

Mr. Robot excels at silence, using the power silence has to invoke the kind of creepy tension that keeps the show’s tone hair-raisingly fascinating, leaving the audience waiting with bated breath for the next moment.

Take for instance any scene between Eliot and his psychiatrist. Without voiceover, the scene exists as two people in a room staring at each other. The balance of power is a source of dramatic irony here. Eliot’s psychiatrist, Krista Gordon, played by the multi-talented Gloria Reuben, thinks that she’s in control by reasoning of the fact that she is, for lack of a better term, saner than he is (with sanity being the bellwether of societal typicality). The audience knows, however, not only what’s going on in Elliot’s head, that he has the power to demolish anyone he so chooses, but the audience also knows that Elliot has more information on Krista than anyone she’s ever known. And knowledge is power, after all.

In fact, unbeknownst to many characters, Eliot holds all the power in nearly every interaction. Even when you worry that brute force and violence may triumph, like it does when we encounter the drug dealer Fernando Vera or his less unhinged but equally dangerous brother, Isaac, ultimately Elliot knowledgeably finds the upper hand.  Because it is what goes unsaid that truly makes knowledge scary.

Why is that? Fear of silence, of pauses, of the unknown. Nothing is as scary as what your own mind can make up.

Some would argue that fear of silence is linked to a general fear of death. Other studies say that unease with silence is a learned behavior brought about by the abundant and constant onslaught of modern technology (which is an ironic statement given Elliot’s day and nighttime activities).

Whatever it may be, Mr. Robot drew me in and strung me along for all ten episodes, using silence to play with me as my own mind scrambled to fill and explain every moment on screen.

I look forward to season_2.0 and hope the silence is more than I can bear.

 

Until the next binge,

Sir Windley.

 

P.S.:

Elliot is initially surrounded by no less than four women, all brilliantly complex with different motives, and it is fantastic.

Bingeing While Black: Orange is the New Black

Last night, I watched the infamously heartbreaking penultimate episode of Orange is the New Black‘s fourth season, regarded by many (including myself) as a return to form after season three’s arguably middling storylines.

In the episode, beloved character Poussey Washington, played by the three-time Emmy-deserving Samira Wiley, gets tackled by one of the guards and accidentally held down until she asphyxiates. Ripped straight from the headlines, the incident was supposed to be OITNB’s take on the “Black Lives Matter” movement as a move to enlighten those viewers who may not understand the… uproar, the reasons that we as Black Americans continue to fight inequality in this “post-racial” society.

Now, while I was spoiled to the fact that Poussey was killed off, I was blissfully unaware as to the circumstances behind her death, only seeing the Tumblr backlash to yet another LGBT death in a major television show. I was ready to grab the pitchfork that I’ve had readily available for the last year now and storm the gates of the OITNB writers room. I’d already written a chant. “Hey ho, ho hey, stop killing off our gays!

Having seen the episode in question (and the heartbreaking episode that followed), I’ve realized the situation is a bit more nuanced than that.

For one, Poussey’s lesbianism was not called into question or even referenced. She wasn’t killed because she was gay; she was killed because she was black. She was killed because the system is broken and she (and her murderer) fell prey to the monster Warden Caputo had mentioned earlier.

Now, does that assuage my indignation? No, sirmam. If anything, it makes it more complicated.

The number of LGBT deaths, particularly lesbians, throughout the history of television is staggering to anyone paying attention. None of those characters were necessarily killed off because they were gay, but in a world where LGBT representation is still incredibly low, the statistics get skewed a bit. Imagine of millions of characters on television, twenty of them are gay, ten of those twenty are women. Five of those women get killed off. That’s 25% of the LGBT population and 50% of the female LGBT population.

So I’m not saying that writers aren’t allowed to kill off gay characters anymore. Instead, I propose that for every gay character that dies, two more should be introduced. Like a big gay hydra of representation. It’ll up the stats a bit.

Another fact drawing the ire of the interwebs: Poussey was black.

I know! Not only did they kill off a gay character to progress the straight storylines, they killed off a black gay character to progress the straight, white storylines.

Ain’t that a blip?

From a different perspective, I can understand why Poussey Washington was chosen by the mighty hand of the all-powerful, rather white Writers Room Gods. Her character was the most radiant, gentle, unequivocally good character you’ll ever come across on television. There are worse characters on the show, characters over who I myself would have thrown literal parties to have been crushed by Gerber Baby’s knee. Hell, I’d pay money to swap Poussey for Healy.

God, I hate Healy.

But no other death would have been nearly as evocative. No other death would have pulled the same emotions showcasing the indignities that people like Eric Garner and Michael Brown had to suffer at the hands of police brutality.

And I get that, I do. But the way the picture is painted opens the door to another interpretation: nothing in life, including race relations, is black and white.

Caputo seemed torn when it came down to whom he should throw under the bus, a good kid or a great woman. The media would never accept “it was an accident” as viable reasoning. We need to blame SOMEONE, dammit!

And to that, I call bullshit.

There is no other side to police brutality; there is no nuance. For millions of Black Americans, there is only injustice. For millions of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders, there is only inequality. To kill off a fan favorite for both groups for the sake of pushing an agenda seems gimmicky, if not a bit disingenuous.

I get the attempt to educate viewers on the Black Lives Matter movement, but it was handled very poorly and it was handled seemingly without the involvement of any actual Black voices.

For some people, television is the only exposure they have to other cultures, so if they are consistently seeing black people and gay people getting killed off, what message does that send? For those still struggling with their own identities, what are they taking away from this? “Even my favorite show doesn’t want me around.” Can you imagine the damage that does?

A few years ago, there was a rash of gay teens committing suicide at what seemed epidemic-level proportions. One district in particular, Anoka-Hennepin, Minnesota, became famous for having the highest number of LGBT or LGBT-related suicides among grade school students in one area. Like a scene straight out of Contagion, LGBT youth were dropping like flies, trying to rid themselves of themselves, having been told by their parents, by their pastors, by their peers that being queer was just a thing they would not abide.

Coupled with the fact that suicides among Black men is also steadily increasing, this information certainly makes for some detrimental evidence toward the damage our current societal makeup is having upon its residents.

What’s the alternative, then, when you want to enlighten a television audience about a topic that bothers you but doesn’t actually affect you? The answer is and always will be diversity behind the camera. Only when non-straight, non-white voices start contributing to the conversation, offering their insight about a topic that actually does affect them—before it airs—will there be a complete, whole, perfectly nuanced picture of a problematic subject.

And don’t even get me started on how Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren’s mental illness was used as a convenient plot device to move that story along. Talk about grinding my gears.

Until the next binge,

Sir Windley.

1) What can happen in a second

I could lose confidence and find it all over again. I could lose an idea and create a new one just that quickly. I could whisper a book concept. Hear a note that reminds me of a song that I’ll sing all day. Panic about leaving the gas on. Flick my lover’s elbow. Spill a glass of milk. Sigh. Scratch my nose. Type one and only one word. Hang a shirt. Half-a-shirt. Sneeze. Light a candle. Light a house. Decide on the best of two movies for the night. Like a Facebook status. Walk by a comfy rug I’d like for my house but simply cannot afford. Press a brake. Fill up 1/222nd of my gas tank. If I drove a compact. Put Chapstick on for cold weather. Take a sock off. For the beach.

In a second, you could trip. You could make a face that says, “I don’t believe you and am judging you for it.” Drop a piece of shrimp on the ground. Put that shrimp back. Win the lottery. Suck your teeth because you more than likely didn’t win the lottery. Read the cover of a book. Crack your toes. Hate someone else for cracking their toes. Drop a bra in the wash. Clip a toenail. Be embarrassed. Laugh. Snort. Be embarrassed because you snorted while laughing. Take a screenshot. Take a deep breath. Pick a brand new cereal. Open a box. Open the door. Say “no”. React to a text message. Realize you haven’t eaten since…Hm. Shock yourself. Shock someone else. Be kind. Be mean. Answer a phone call. Send an email of resignation. Skip a paragraph. Find the date. Check the time. Pretend you’re Zeus throwing a lightning bolt. Or Harry Potter casting a spell. Open a door. Pull a package of frozen burgers from the freezer.

In a second, you could remember that one chick’s name. Identify thyme (your favorite!) in this dish that you’ve never tried. You could figure out whether or not he’s joking, if he means it. You could hold your breath, feeling the weight of an old friend who hates you now. You could realize that you have no idea.

In a second, you could hit someone else’s car, listing all of the bills you have to pay just to cover how much your premium will skyrocket once they hear about this.

A man could fall to his knees, meaning to propose to you, and you could think of wedding colors, a honeymoon spot, how many children and which schools and if there is enough toilet paper in the house to support the both of you, because you know you use more than you should. Or you could think “no”, and wonder just how many feelings you’ll break and how long it’ll take him to get over it and maybe you can go on after this as friends, or lovers, even. But definitely unmarried.

In a second, you could wake up to eleven (11) text messages from your sister, each terse, with text number five declaring that your father is dead.

In a second, you could make up your mind to wage war on the neighbors who play awful music no matter what time of day.

You could wish to undo a slice of cake from nine years ago. You could wonder about heaven and it would perhaps be easier to be there than wherever you are.

In a second, you could realize that you’re an adult. You own a house and no one can tell you to go to bed if you aren’t tired. Though still wish someone would.

An Introduction

My name is James Windley. I am a writer. I write things for fun and, occasionally, for money. I’m starting this here blog because I’ve run out of outlets to express myself and am trying to corner the market on something. Anything!

The goal of this blog is simple: write 642 things. This is based on a book, 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, a book of various and hilarious (hilvarious) writing prompts. a gift from my great friend Janie Willison.

Twice a week, I’ll post my responses to these prompts in whatever format I feel like using: script, screenplay, short story, haiku, just to exercise my mind, as the good book says.

I hope you, reader, enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy writing them (an amount which will change regularly…)