Glow: Take a Trip Back To The Eighties with The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

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           One month ago, Netflix released its new series Glow, created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensc. The story is a fictional story about the 1980s women’s professional wrestling circuit called “The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” (or GLOW) orginally created by David McLane. Ruth Wilder, an actress looking for a job, is invited for a secret audition with dozens of women. She later discovers that she could be a potential character in a wrestling show directed by tortured artist Sam Sylvia and has to adapt to this new situation. The series also explores her conflicted relationship with her best friend Debbie Eagan, a former soap opera actress, as Ruth had an affair with her husband.

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         Glow has been already praised by critics – and it is clear why. The series is an amazing trip back to the Flashdance era with numerous references that will take you back to the decade of Rocky, but with a touch of feminism this time around. The eighties have recently become a trend in TV shows. The success of Stranger Things, another Netflix series that sparkled last year, shows that there is a sort of fascination even nostalgia for this period. The eighties revival in fashion has idealised this decade which feels both recent and far from us nowadays. More and more, the eighties seem like a new Golden Hollywood era in which our parents grew up during these years. In Glow, you will rediscover those neon clothes, those fitness courses that won’t appear during your Facebook daily scrolling, and that lacquered hair, exaggerated make-up and funny jeans. Less serious than Stranger Things, Glow is a genuine wink to the dynamic eighties while celebrating feminism.

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         While Sam appears as a sexist and mysognistic artist, he truly changes his mind with his new actresses. The girls all have different shapes, sizes and backgrounds. They are not “perfect” and are eager to know more about wrestling. They don’t consider the activity masculine one and do not hesitate to fight in order to improve what they do. The tension between sexism and feminism explores how the women are perceived and how the Gorgeous Ladies want to dismantle these ideas by performing wrestling. Each of them has a story, a unique personality that you won’t even find in your average eighties movie.

         If you haven’t watch Glow yet, just open your Netflix account and enjoy. Compared to Orange is The New Black by many reviews (Jenji Kohan, creator the series is the executive producer), Glow is a less dark version of the show with similarly incredible women.

3…2…1…Let’s GLOW !

 

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Kilgrave is not only a comic book character: how to identify a manipulator and to overcome a destructive relationship

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               Two years ago, Netflix released its series Jessica Jones, inspired by the famous Marvel comic book. Jessica Jones, a super-heroine, was involved in a relationship with Kilgrave (David Tennant), a villain who can mentally manipulate people in order to get what he wants from them. David Tennant gives a unique touch of madness to this character and his performance was indeed excellent. However, Kilgrave is definitely not a simple character that does not exist and entertain people when they’re “Netflix and chilling”. There are hundreds and hundreds of Kilgrave destroying the minds of men and women every day – and there are no Jessica Jones to save them. The “Kilgrave Syndrome” has a real name: these are manipulators.

                 In France, we call them “les pervers manipulateurs”, but there is no official term in English to talk about this kind of people. However, “manipulators” seems to be a perfect word to describe their methods. According to Isabelle Nazare-Aga, author of Manipulateurs parmi nous (Manipulators among us, 1997), they represent 3% out of the population. Like Kilgrave, they master the art of perversion and mental abuse by powerfully controlling their victims in the name of love. That is why Kilgrave pretends to love Jessica Jones more than anything to justify his murders, numerous acts of violence and mental torture particularly when he forced her to kill Luke Cage’s wife, which explains why our favourite super-heroine lost confidence in herself. They want their victims to self-doubt so that their power takes over the person’s mind successfully. They become more and more dependent of manipulators and think they only exist in their gaze. No matter what Jessica Jones does, she cannot help being constantly afraid of facing Kilgrave and to share her life with him again. It is also important to add that manipulators can take different forms: parents, lovers, friends, teachers, boss… Conversely, manipulators are extremely versatile – the most important criteria remains to have built a close relationship with the victim.

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          It is understandable: manipulators always choose the same type of person such as someone looking for affection and love, nice and generous souls or people in a difficult situation. Jessica Jones had lost her parents in a car accident and Kilgrave appeared as the stereotypical rich and sexy man that could save her from her fears. Why? Probably because they are extremely easy to manipulate. Above all, manipulators are cowards. Remember how Kilgrave is terrified by Jessica’s rebellion at the end of the TV show? They won’t fight against a strong personality. Once you’ll discover that their kryptonite is your freedom, they’ll just run away – escaping again and again their own responsibilities and will probably ghost their partner.

         However, most people do not perceive that they are prisoners of manipulators. The pressure of love, friendship, parenthood and work make them forget that they are victims of a psychological phenomenon that is rather common. When they realize the problem, they understand how much the relationship was toxic and unhealthy. But sometimes, it’s too late – and victims suffer all their lives and feel guilty. And if he was right ? And if I was truly mad ? Truly stupid ? Maybe I’m mean. I’m bad. It shows manipulators still have a strong power on their victims – even after a potential break-up. In France, manipulators are today more and more recognized by the law and can be punished for what they do such as harassing text messages or suspicious attitudes.

         Like Jessica Jones, the only way to fight against manipulators is to be free again. That is why it is essential to talk about it, to express what we feel if we are developing this kind of relationship with someone – a therapist, a member of the family, friends. So be a super-heroine/super-hero and have your say about this cause. Some words are even sometimes better than magic powers, aren’t they?

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Why X + Y is one of the best movies about Asperger’s Syndrome that I have ever seen

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             X +Y, also known in the U.S as A Brillant Young Mind, is a 2014 British drama directed by Morgan Matthews, Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins. Inspired by the documentary Beautiful Young Minds and by the life of the mathematical genius Daniel Lightwing, the movie focuses on Nathan Ellis, a young man suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome who enters a mathematics competition at Cambridge University. While his mental illness causes him to struggle emotionally, he strives to understand the world around him.

            Nowadays, it is true that Asperger’s Syndrome is considered an inspiring subject for many writers and directors. Indeed, pop culture is building some stereotypes about this mental illness which affects many people in the world, even if there are still many mysteries surrounding the spectrum. From Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) to Sherlock (BBC’s Sherlock), the typical Aspergers man is perceived as a self-centered genius that cannot communicate with the others. However, is this representation true? Let’s face it. Not only is this portrayal completely romanticized, but it also makes it impossible to dissociate the myth from the reality. I absolutely think it contributes to feeding the audience with preconceived ideas about a mental illness that is unfortunately rather difficult to understand. Even if there are some advantages to cast Aspie (a word which means “someone with Aspergers”) characters, they should not be the heirs of the mad genius’s myth that came accross the nineteenth century. Do you like Sheldon and Sherlock? Fine. Ultimately, if you want to support Aspies, don’t get mad at the young man or woman who wants to find a job and struggles during an interview. Don’t laugh at these people’s reactions, conversations and whatever. You should open your eyes and see that people with Aspergers are not only fictional characters on TV. Asperger’s Syndrome is different for each person – and that is why it is extremely difficult to diagnose.

            However, I have been pleasantly surprised by watching X + Y. This movie tends to challenge the stereotypes concerning people with Aspergers. At the beginning of the movie, Nathan Ellis seems to be a genius: he enjoys mathematics, he has a private professor with advanced courses and he is selected to take a difficult test at Cambridge University. However, Nathan is not the best student in his class. As the professor in Taiwan states, Nathan’s results were rather disappointing. While he is not interested in his peers, particularly not his mother, he falls in love with Zhang Mei, a girl he met during his two-week math camp in Taiwan. If you have seen movies such as Adam, by Max Mayer, you will realize that someone with Aspergers cannot fully integrate into society and, above all, cannot fully immerse themselves in a relationship. That is why I did not like Adam despite Hugh Dancy’s impressive performance. It did not give the autistic character a chance to have a “ happy ending”, while X + Y’s director, Morgan Matthews, gives Nathan Ellis an opportunity to face his illness in order to live a “normal” life.

            In addition to this, I am certain that the other interesting characters that take part in Nathan’s adventures also help to spread another perception of Asperger’s Syndrome. All charactes are somewhat “broken” too. There are no “villains” in X + Y, instead there are human beings trying to fight their personal issues. Martin Humphreys, his private professor and Julie Ellis, his mother, are both particularly touching. Martin appears as a fatherly and comforting figure who supports Nathan in order to make him reach his goals while Julie embodies the unconditional mother’s love. What’s more, Zhang Mei plays a key role in Nathan’s life as she is both his friend and his lover. She awakens him to physical and emotional feelings as demonstrated in the “kiss scene” shows. This large palette of characters has an impact on the way Morgan Matthews draws on some compelling features of Asperger’s Syndrome. However, if you look further, the director extends his thought by pointing out a social question: how can being different affect us? Aren’t we all different? Nathan is not the only character to be deemed as “different”. Martin Humphrey lost control of his own body because of sclerosis. Julie is a lonely widow. Zhang Mei, who has been taught all her life to dedicate herself to work, falls in love for the first time and chooses to give up the competition when her uncle discovers she has feelings for Nathan. Although they certainly do not fit in our society’s ridiculous models, they all find what they have been looking for since the beginning.

            Even the minor characters in the film are “different” from the norms and aim to question their place within society. For example, Luke Shelton, another autistic teenager taking part in the competition, is the hero of a powerful scene when he learns that he is not selected to take the exam in Cambridge. Later, Nathan finds him alone in the bathroom cutting his wrist. Luke explains that being a genius was his only way to exist as a person with Asperger’s Syndrome person and that now, he could only be considered a “weird”person: “It’s alright being weird as long as you’re gifted. But if you’re not gifted, then…That just leaves weird.” Once again, this moving moment constitutes an incredible revelation to all of the Aspies you can find in pop culture: if you aren’t a mysterious, intelligent young man with memorable punchlines, you’re just an “odd” person.

            X + Y celebrates the minds of autistic peoples Nathan himself says : “I find any communication of a non-mathematical nature very difficult. Because I don’t talk much, people think I don’t have anything to say or that I’m stupid. Or, that’s not true. I have lots of things to say.” It is not about creating a fake universe and pretending to put forward people with Aspergers as a charitable gesture. It is about revealing every side of the spectrum – regardless of whether it is “good” or “bad”. That is why Nathan can be as fascinating as well as irritating – particularly when he treats his mother badly. Yet you cannot help but sympathise with him because it is part of how his brain works.

            In reality, the whole movie is about facing our fate and fighting against our fears. Even if Nathan is different from his peers, he does not want to be defined as a man with Aspergers but rather as a human being. That is why I really love the final scene of X + Y. Nathan realizes he neveranted to win the competition in order to fit in the “autistic genius” stereotype. Nathan runs away and expresses his feelings about love to his mother for the first time. He starts to cry when he talks about his dead father and hugs Julie. At the end of the movie, Nathan communicates with his mother by showing different expressions: laughing, crying, smiling and by showing a strong physical connection to her by holding her in his arms. The last scene of the movie exposes Nathan and Zhang Mei together in a train hugging. Where will the train lead them? Where will they go? The “ train ” is often associated with Asperger’s Syndrome as something that most of Aspies are interested in. However, in this case, Nathan is not alone in the train. The shot emphasizes both Nathan and Zhang Mei laughing and being happy.

            I see this movie as a positive interpretation of Asperger’s Syndrome and a tribute to those who feel they are “ odd ”. I would even go further by asserting that X + Y is a progressive movie about Aspergers as it portrays the condition as a social problem rather than a mental illness. That’s why it gives an idea of love and hope that could help considerably people on the spectrum to feel more integrated in society. It could even help them realize that they can love and be loved in return. No matter who you are, you’ll always find your own path. We should all remember this beautiful lesson.