The Mandalorian Season 2: What Really Matters

The narrative within The Mandalorian Season 1 was pretty straightforward. Mando’s character arc was to accept his newfound role as the caretaker for Baby Yoda (avoiding the actual name of The Child for spoilers).

In Season 2, however, the character arc isn’t as straightforward. It’s a lot more thematic. The theme for Season 2 is about Mando’s own identity and what it really means to be a Mandalorian.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert in all things related to the Star Wars universe. Season 2 of The Mandalorian brought in a lot of characters from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels and other unexpected characters from the Star Wars films. What I want to focus on is how Mando’s beliefs in the ways of the Mandalore change throughout the season.

Spoilers for The Mandalorian ahead!

In Season 1, Episode 3 (The Sin), we are introduced to the people who rescued Mando as a child and raised him in their particular belief system. Mando’s family taught him to never remove his helmet in front of any living thing and that the Jedi were enemies of the Mandalorians.

In Season 2, Episode 3 (The Heiress), Mando finds out (from the titular Heiress, Bo-Katan) that he was essentially raised in a “cult” as a “Child of the Watch,” a group of zealots who follow what people who were actually from Mandalore would consider outdated beliefs. (The Children of the Watch would be the Star Wars equivalent of Puritans or Christian Crusaders.) Without going too deep into the expanded universe, all I’ll say is that Bo-Katan was originally from Mandalore and her plan is to restore Mandalorian society. She’s a lot more flexible about what rules Mandalorians should adhere to, as she frequently goes around with her helmet off. By the end of the episode, Mando also learns that in contrast to what he was taught, a Mandalorian was friends with a Jedi, as Bo-Katan was friends with Ahsoka Tano. In the following episode (“The Jedi”), Mando is willing to help Ahsoka out with her own agenda

In Season 2, Episode 6 (The Tragedy), Mando discovers that the armor he got from the episode “The Marshal” belongs to none other than Boba Fett. Initially, Mando questions whether or not Boba Fett is a legit Mandalorian. By the end of the episode, however, Mando allows Boba Fett to have his armor back as Boba’s father, Jango, was taken in by the Mandalorians as a foundling. On top of that, Boba and Fennec are willing to help Mando rescue the Child, who was sadly taken by Moff Gideon’s Darktroopers.

The biggest change in Mando’s character arc came in Season 2, Episode 7 “The Believer.” Mando’s former comrade turned “frenemy” Migs Mayfield questioned Mando’s beliefs constantly both in this episode and in the previous season. However, we quickly learn why Mayfield is so skeptical about belief systems in general. As it turns out, former Imperial sharpshooter Mayfield was essentially betrayed by his commanding officer, who left him and his troop to die in a scorched earth operation and didn’t even lose any sleep over the collateral damage.

It was in this episode that Mando is forced to show his face in order for a terminal to give him the code that will help him find Moff Gideon’s ship and, by extension, the Child. Kudos to Pedro Pascal for conveying Mando being so uncertain without his helmet. I also liked that Mando (and Cara who hated Mayfield at the start of the episode) allowed Mayfield to live at the end of the episode.

So what does it all mean?

Throughout The Mandalorian, Season 2, Mando had to figure out what was most important to him. I don’t think he completely abandoned the beliefs he grew up with, but he is learning (much like a lot of people this year) that there is a lot more to the ways of the Mandalore than what he knew growing up. Not everything is as black and white as it used to be, but what Mando held onto is knowing what was most important. That meant making sure he took care of The Child. Everything he did throughout this season was motivated by the desire to raise the Child in the best way possible and find the people who can help The Child learn how to hone his powers.

As amazing as the Season 2 finale was, especially given the fact that Mando finally took off his helmet in front of The Child, we don’t know where Mando’s character arc is gonna go from here. He fulfilled his mission of finding the right people to take care of The Child, but now he’s stuck with the Darksaber and the possibility of fighting Bo-Katan for the right to rule Mandalore. It’s also clear that his heart is broken at having to let The Child go.

My advice to Mando (and for Jon Faverau and Dave Filoni, if they ever read this) is that all you can do when you essentially lose your sense of purpose is to figure out what the next right thing to do is. I hope that in the next season of The Mandalorian, Mando can somehow get his Child back and ride off into the sunset with a Jedi tagging along. But that’s just me.

A Christmas Carol: A Memento Mori Story

A Christmas Carol is a perennial Christmas classic with countless adaptations. What many people overlook, however, is the core moral of the story. It’s not just “be nice to the poor on Christmas,” but a call to action for those who are privileged to examine their consciences and to do what they can to help others year-round because at some point, we’ll die and be judged on our actions as well as what we neglected to do.

In other words, A Christmas Carol is a “Memento Mori” story. If you don’t know what “memento mori” is, Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble goes more into it. According to her website:

Memento mori or “remember your death” is a phrase that has been long associated with the practice of remembering the unpredictable and inevitable end of one’s life. The spiritual practice of memento mori and the symbols and sayings associated with it were particularly popular in the medieval church. 

Fun fact: My family and I saw a production of A Christmas Carol in Houston’s Alley Theatre. They really played up the aspect of “Memento Mori” right at the start, with skeletons dressed in fancy clothes dancing around Ebenezer Scrooge’s bed, foreshadowing what’s to come.

All the ghosts that visit Ebenezer Scrooge compel him to examine his conscience, that is his past actions and how he neglects to help those in the present. Let’s dive into this story and see how.

Stave One: Facing Judgment & Punishment

with Jacob Marley

Even though Charles Dickens wasn’t Catholic and had some anti-Catholic sentiments, the imagery of Jacob Marley and the other ghosts calls to mind the souls of Purgatory, at least for me.

Quotes from Stave One to reflect on:

“Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Similar to the souls in Purgatory, the ghosts in A Christmas Carol can’t really do much to help others on earth aside from intercession. If this is Charles Dickens’s idea of Hell, however, it’s a very good one. All the ghosts are faced with the suffering of humanity and are unable to do anything about it. Sure hits different in 2020, doesn’t it?

Stave Two: The Examination of Conscience

with the Ghost of Christmas Past

Ebenezer Scrooge’s trip down memory lane with the Ghost of Christmas Past is a mix of nostalgia and bittersweet memories, heavy on the bitter. While Scrooge had fond memories of his school days, the memory of his neglectful father and a lack of friends within the boarding school instilled an unhealthy sense of self-preservation in him. However, seeing the memories of his past also prompted Scrooge to think about things he neglected to do in the present, like how he should’ve been kinder to the boy who was singing a carol out in the street or how he keeps his nephew, Fred, at arm’s length even though Fred is the only living memory of his beloved sister.

A similar incident happens when Scrooge is taken to his first job at Fezziwig’s. The Christmas party is lively with dancing and music and merriment. Pay attention to the exchange between the ghost and Scrooge in this memory:

“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”

“Small!” echoed Scrooge.

The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said,

“Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?”

“It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

He felt the Spirit’s glance, and stopped.

“What is the matter?” asked the Ghost.

“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge.

“Something, I think?” the Ghost insisted.

“No,” said Scrooge, “No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all.”

But while Scrooge is feeling pangs in his conscience, small instances of regret, he’s not completely ready to change because the wounds of his past still hurt, as evidence as he relives Belle breaking off their engagement.

Which brings us to our next ghost.

Stave Three: Inactions & Consequences

with the Ghost of Christmas Present

The version of this particular stave shown in A Muppet Christmas Carol is my particular favorite version because the Ghost of Christmas Present is a very heartwarming, joyful spirit. Michael Caine’s Scrooge actually forms a friendship with this ghost.

I also love that in this particular chapter, Scrooge sees how his miserly attitude and lack of compassion are regarded by others in his life, particularly Nephew Fred and the Cratchits.

Of course, there are some things that the Muppet version neglected to show. One particular segment was essentially a tract on Dickens’s part to advocate for a continuation of practices that helped the poor. Scrooge is shown how many people that he regarded as the “surplus population” still do their best to celebrate Christmas in spite of their poverty. My favorite rendition of this comes from this little known animated version:

Fun fact: GK Chesterton (Catholic writer and apologist) was a huge fan of Charles Dickens. In one edition of A Christmas Carol, he wrote an intro to the story that echoes the Ghost of Christmas Present’s call to action and asks the reader to examine themselves.

The answer to anyone who talks about the surplus population is to ask him whether he is the surplus population; or if he is not, how he knows he is not. 

GK Chesterton in his intro to the 1922 edition of A Christmas Carol

As joyful and merry as the Ghost of Christmas Present is, the serious tone he takes on towards the end of his journey with Scrooge is a very sobering moment, especially when Scrooge sees the embodiments of Ignorance and Want. (See the animated version above for a reference.) But Scrooge doesn’t have time to let things sink in because once the clock struck midnight, the next ghost appears.

Stave Four: Facing One’s Death & Legacy with the

Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This description of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come often calls to mind how death is seen, usually as the Grim Reaper. This Ghost may not appear with a scythe and it’s not a walking skeleton (not even its outstretched hand is skeletal), but in my opinion, the Ghost is definitely an archetype of Death.

The reason why I see the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come as representing Death is that when Scrooge explores the future, he sees how the people he’s familiar with (and even people he never really met but people that are affected by his actions) react to his death, namely that nobody really mourned him. Scrooge is in a major state of denial, but it’s because he’s afraid of facing his death. Most people don’t usually want to think about their death, let alone how people might react if and when that day comes.

When Scrooge finally does come face to face with his gravestone, everything finally hits him. The idea of dying alone and unloved and possibly facing an afterlife burdened by chains is all too much.

Michael Caine’s performance is the best version. His remorse feels the most authentic here. He realizes, now, coming face to face with his death, that he has to make the most of his life while he can. The future isn’t certain or guaranteed, but facing his inevitable death compels Scrooge to take action.

That’s essentially what Memento Mori is. Knowing one’s death and knowing that one will face judgment and end up in either Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell compels people to make the most of their lives while they can without going all YOLO.

Stave Five: Scrooge’s Conversion

It’s one thing to have an epiphany to change. It’s another to really take action and live out what one has learned.

When Scrooge returns from his magical mystery journey, he immediately starts making the most of his time by asking a boy on the street (possibly the same boy he turned away earlier) to go by the prize turkey in the poultry shop and return to his house, promising some serious coin for it. (A shilling would be the equivalent of 12 cents and half a crown is 30 cents, which was worth a lot back then.) Once the poultry man arrives, he tells the man to send the turkey to the Cratchits, but stresses him not to tell them who paid for the turkey.

After dressing up, Scrooge donates some money to a group of carolers and makes amends with the gentlemen who were at his office earlier, promising to donate an amount that astounds them with the promise of more donations in the future.

What really cements Scrooge’s conversion is when he makes amends with Fred and his wife. The next day, Scrooge tells Bob Cratchit that he intends to raise the latter’s salary and promises to help the Cratchits to the best of his ability.

But the way the book (and the Muppet version) finishes the story is my favorite part, evidence of Scrooge keeping what he has learned for as long as he lived:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world… and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

folklore and evermore: A Two for One Album Review

Show of hands: Who had “Taylor Swift releases two new albums” on their 2020 bingo card? Cuz I didn’t! I also apologize for not blogging about folklore even though this blog has reviewed her past albums. So before I get into a track by track review of evermore, here are my thoughts on folklore.

Folklore

I was listening to this album on loop throughout the summer. So many tracks made me happy. What I didn’t expect was how often the tracks also helped me during times of anxiety. Overall, this album is warm and comforting. I also highly recommend watching folklore: the long pond studio sessions on Disney Plus or listening to the versions that are on Spotify. There’s an air of intimacy, like you’re in your own personal Secret Session. Taylor said that folklore’s aesthetic is more spring or summer and I’m definitely getting the vibe.

  1. the 1: The album starts off strong with a sweet sounding track. I’m not sure if this track is based on Taylor’s personal experiences or not, but it’s definitely relatable. It’s dedicated to the one that got away and thankfully very fond and not vindictive. The long pond studio session version really plays up the nostalgia. I love the piano track! As far as aesthetic goes, I can imagine swimming around to this track. Fave lyric: “In my defense I have none for digging up the grave another time.”
  2. cardigan: A track that brings to mind late summer or cold summer nights, just as fall is coming in. This was her first and technically only single. I loved the music video for this song as it brought to mind the videos she made before reputation. It’s a lot more fantastical and captures so many fluctuating emotions. The long pond studio version is very similar to the original track, albeit a lot more intimate, recalling chamber music or a really good open mic night performance. Fave track: “When you are young they assume you know nothing.” (Really that whole bridge gets me!)
  3. the last great american dynasty: I feel like this song is a feminist anthem. Even though it tells the story of Rebecca Harkness and how Taylor Swift connected her own life to the previous owner of her house, the song reminded me of Supergirl and Buffy and other female superheroes who are regarded as mad or shameless and most definitely ruined everyone’s lives in the best way possible. I loved dancing around to this track. The long pond studio sessions version is an equally good bop! I keep thinking of Taylor’s 4th of July parties and imagine beach parties with this song in the background. Fave lyric: “I had a marvelous time ruining everything.”
  4. exile: This was the track that everyone wished was the second single and for some reason was nominated for a Grammy even though there isn’t any music video for it. I love the story this song tells. Many people point out some similarities between this song and “If This Was a Movie” (from the Fearless deluxe edition) or “The Last Time” (Red album). Personally, I love the long pond studio sessions version and I found myself singing the backing vocals. I’ve definitely felt this song, recalling past relationships. I also love how casually Taylor talks about her and Joe working on this song together, like it’s only natural that he plays piano and writes lyrics. Fave lyric: “Didn’t even hear me out/Never turned things around/I gave so many signs.”
  5. my tears ricochet: Most people agree that this song metaphorically describes Taylor’s fallout with Big Machine Records and Scott Borchetta and I can’t help but agree. I also loved how Taylor explains the story in the long pong studio sessions special, how she sees it applying to how a superhero’s worst enemy was once their best friend. For me, this song reminds me of Kara and Lena’s tumultuous friendship (*sheds Supercorp tears*) or how Clark and Lex went from best friends to enemies on Smallville. The long pond studio version doesn’t have the high notes, but I still love the sadness in her voice. My favorite lyric: “We gather stones, never knowing what they’ll mean. Some to throw, some to make a diamond ring.”
  6. mirrorball: This is one of my top tier fave tracks. At first, I wasn’t sure how much I could really relate to it, but the song got stuck in my head a lot. I found myself listening to it while I went to the beach. I feel like this track is relatable because of how often I have to act in a certain way around people. It’s not easy to socialize and fake nice when you don’t really feel it. The long pond studio version reminds me of a live band playing at prom. Fave line: “Hush. I know they say the end is near. But I’m still on my tallest tiptoes spinning in my highest heels love, shining just for you.”
  7. seven: I love how this song evokes childhood nostalgia. It does sound like someone playing on the swings, especially from how Taylor sings. There’s an underlying sadness that implies a childhood friend dealing with a broken home, but the escapism is very relatable and innocent. The long pond studio version sounds very similar, but I seriously love how the piano comes across. Overall, this track is wonderful. Fave lyric: “Sweet tea in the summer. Cross my heart won’t tell no other.”
  8. august: Another top tier fave that I played on loop for how often that song got stuck in my head. Jack Antonoff, I love you so much for helping make tracks that end up becoming my faves (as I’ll mention later). Even though the song talks about a summer fling, the aspect of unrequited love, wanting someone who doesn’t really love you back, is very relatable. I love how this song sounds in the long pond studio sessions as well. Definitely a beachy track. Fave lyric: “I can see us lost in a memory. August slipped away into a moment in time.”
  9. this is me trying: This is my anxiety anthem. I found myself listening to this whenever I was processing my emotions (which happened a lot this year). Taylor’s story behind this song was one I related to and a lot of people wonder if this tied back to when she implied having an eating disorder in the Miss Americana documentary. This track really hits home for those struggling with addiction or the “genius” and “gifted and talented” kids who have a hard time adjusting to adulthood. The long pond studio session version really emphasis the exhaustion. Fave lyric: “I just wanted you to know that this is me trying. At least I’m trying.”
  10. illicit affairs: It surprised me how sad this song makes me feel. This song deconstructs the relationship an “other woman” can have and how toxic and addicting the relationship can be. I felt all sad because losing your identity in a relationship is an experience I know all to well. The long pond studio session version really evokes the “sad rain” aesthetic from the lyric video. Fave lyric: The whole bridge of this song.
  11. invisible string: Upon first listen, this song was my fave, but I didn’t listen to it as much as I did the other songs. I love how personal this song is to Taylor, like she’s drawing a map of how her life has been and how life seemed to be leading her to Joe even without her knowing. The long pond studio version invokes the summer feeling of flying a kite in a park, especially with the guitar. Fave lyric: “Time, wonderous time. Giving me blues and then purple-pink skies.”
  12. mad woman: Two words best describe this song–”tranquil fury.” This song is essentially how anger can be bottled up without exploding. More than a few of my Swiftie friends online related to this song and I can definitely relate to it, too. I really love the piano of this track, too, and it really comes out in the long pond studio sessions version! Fave lyrics: “Every time you call me crazy, I get more crazy/What about that?/And when you say I seem angry, I get more angry”
  13. epiphany: This one was a track I didn’t listen to much, but I love the story behind it and I loved how it sounded in the long pond studio sessions. I love that Taylor and her family did research about her grandfather and connected that trauma to the unprecedented feelings all the front line workers feel in the pandemic. Fave lyrics: “You dream of some epiphany/Just a single glimpse of relief to make sense of what you’ve seen.”
  14. betty: Although august, mirrorball, and this is me trying are my top 3 faves, “betty” has a special place in my heart. It would probably be in my top 5 list for sure. For one thing, I missed “Country Taylor.” I love the harmonica and how it was performed at the ACM awards. (Note: I seriously missed the harmonica in the long pond studio session.) I love the story this song tells and how it reminds me of high school and all the stupid things teenagers do. Fave lyric: The chorus. It gets me every time and I seriously don’t know why.
  15. peace: Another anxiety anthem. I like that with this song, Taylor is making peace with the fact that her life is tumultuous but that the love she has with Joe is stable in the midst of it all. The long pond studio sessions version is such a wonderful rendition. I love the guitar and the constant synthesizer in this track. The lyric video is perfect, as the song does remind me of a soft, distant summer thunderstorm. Fave lyrics: The devil’s in the details, but you got a friend in me/Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?
  16. hoax: This song broke me. It’s not a track I listen to much because the original version is way too emotionally overwhelming for me. I usually only listen to this song when I’m majorly sad. The long pond studio session version is thankfully a lot less emotionally intense, but it’s still such a sad song and I did not want this to be the way that folklore ended. Thankfully…
  17. the lakes: If I were to make a top five fave song list, this would be on it. I loved this track so much and felt so thankful as soon as I heard it. This is the proper way to end this album, capturing the desire to escape. As someone who was obsessed with English lit and poetry, I knew exactly what Taylor was talking about. The long pond studio session version sounds especially intimate and beautiful. Fave lyric: “I want auroras and sad prose. I want to watch wisteria grow over my bare feet cuz I haven’t moved in years.”

Evermore

I know it’s been a few days, but I still can’t believe that Taylor kept making songs even after finishing folklore. I am not gonna entertain rumors that either Taylor has a third album waiting or that this could be her last “new music” album since she’s also re-recording everything she did pre-reputation. I just want to enjoy all the new songs.

Compared to folklore, this album has a lot more upbeat tracks, which I love. It’s overall a happier album than folklore, but it’s hard for me to decide which album I love more. They’re definitely sister albums.

  1. willow: Taylor picked the perfect track as the album opener and lead single. With instrumentals that call to mind “invisible string.” I love the music video, too, as I feel like it captured Taylor Swift’s musical journey, from romantic daydreams to childhood memories to her time “boxed in” as a country artist to her reputation era and returns to the cabin. Incidentally, kudos for making the romantic lead an Asian guy (specifically a Korean who does not look like a K-pop pretty boy). The “witchy” remix is a total bop, too, like mixing this track with “Ready for It” from the reputation album. Fave lyrics: “The more that you say, the less I know. Wherever you stray, I follow.”
  2. champagne problems: This track reminds everyone of the Red era, specifically “All Too Well” (probably because of the piano). It tells the story of a runaway bride and implies she might be mentally ill to some capacity. For me, I feel like this song connects to “Sad, Beautiful, Tragic.” In spite of how bittersweet the song is, I love the piano outro. It’s kinda funny, like Aaron Dessner is just showing off and improvising. Fave lyrics: The first chorus.
  3. gold rush: I loved this song as soon as the beat started playing. Once again, I have to thank Jack Antonoff for producing a track that bops! This song, personally, makes me of those celebrity crushes. One question tho: Is that Eagles tshirt for the football team or the band? I seriously need to know. Aside from that, I seriously love dancing around to this track. Fave lyrics: “What must it be like to grow up that beautiful…My mind turns your life into folklore.”
  4. tis the damn season: What if “august” had a winter holiday fling? You get this song! Some people think this also calls back to “illicit affairs,” except it recalls a happier time. It’s not something you’d typically sing as part of the holiday season, though I can see this being a track for a holiday movie that goes beyond the typical Hallmark movie format. The bridge of this song gets me right in the feels! Fave lyrics: “And the road not taken looks real good now and it always leads back to you and my hometown.”
  5. tolerate it: This is just my opinion, but the story of this song calls to mind a child who identifies as part of the LGBT spectrum and lives with a parent who only “tolerates” their sexuality and doesn’t fully support them emotionally. Other people think this is about Princess Diana and her tumultuous relationship with Prince Charles. There’s definitely a lot of different ways to interpret this song. Some of the lyrics really hit me in the feels, especially “Always taking up too much space or time/You assume I’m fine.” 
  6. no body, no crime: Anyone remember when Taylor Swift guest starred on an episode of CSI? This song reminds me of that time. She essentially wrote a murder ballad, or an episode of Riverdale. Some people, myself included, recall songs like “Before He Cheats” and “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia.” I seriously love the country backtrack, reminiscent of “Should’ve Said No.” There’s already a mashup that mixes this track with “I Did Something Bad.” The chorus was stuck in my head the whole weekend. In short, I am loving “dark country Taylor” and I want more!
  7. happiness: This track is very bittersweet and while a lot of my friends like it, I’m still stewing over how I feel about it. From what the lyric video is invoking, my best guess is that it’s sort of a sequel to “hoax.” I think for me, it calls to mind finding happiness in spite of how messed up this year has been. Fave lyrics: “There’ll be happiness after you, but there was happiness because of you. Both of these things can be true.”
  8. dorothea: The song evokes a lot of nostalgia. Some people think this song links back to “tis the damn season,” as if the latter track is in dorothea’s point of view. I can buy into that theory as being “probable” or plausible, but I’m not 100% certain. Also, for those who don’t know, Tupelo is in Mississippi. It’s where Elvis was born. I definitely like this song a lot. There’s definitely more to this story than the lyrics convey.
  9. coney island: A sad song that kinda reminds me of “Til Summer Comes Around.” I’m not 100% sure, but I think this song links back to “champagne problems” and “august.” The aesthetic, based on the lyric video, reminds me of late November, long after the amusement parks are closed. There are a lot of lyrics that recall previous albums, especially in the bridge. Fave lyrics: “We were like the mall before the internet. It was the one place to be.”
  10. ivy: I have to wonder what inspired this particular song. I’m personally getting “Irish lesbian affair” from the lyrics. The instrumentals recall “invisible string” with a lot of folksy feels, evoking the aesthetic of the end of the winter, when spring is around the corner. It’s a track that I like a lot. Fave lyric: “Your ivy grows and now I’m covered in you.”
  11. cowboy like me: Does this song link back to something from the past? Anyone else hearing the guitar chord progression from “Tim McGraw”? I seriously need a mashup of these two songs like now! It’s crazy how “Tim McGraw” can sound so innocent but this song is anything but. It calls to mind old west romances, telling a story of two con artists that end up falling in love with each other. (The only lyric that doesn’t feel old-time western is the whole airport bar thing.) Fave lyric: “You asked me to dance, but I said ‘Dancin is a dangerous game.'”
  12. long story short: As of now, this is my all time fave track. Even though Taylor covered the narrative of her falling from grace, rebounding in the worst way, and finding real love in the aftermath of it all before, I still love the beat of this song. I wanna dance around to it. I love how happy this feels. I love that she talks to her past self and reassures that everything will be okay. The entire chorus is my fave part, but my favorite lyrics are the ending, which sums up 2020 in a nutshell: “Long story short, it was a bad time/Long story short, I survived.”
  13. marjorie: I feel jealous that Taylor Swift knew so much about her grandparents. The lyric video feels like an actual music video, reminiscent of “The Best Day” with footage of her grandmother. It’s definitely sad knowing that Marjorie never got to see Taylor’s career take off, but she lived such an amazing, fascinating life. And yeah, Taylor looks just like her grandmother. Beauty seriously runs in the family. I also love that she included her grandmother’s vocals. Like, how did she do that?! Fave lyrics: “Never be so kind/You forget to be clever/Never be so clever/You forget to be kind” and “Never be so politе/You forget your power/Nevеr wield such power/You forget to be polite.”
  14. closure: This is the only track that I’m not sure I really like 100%. I get where Taylor is going with this one, but the drum machine and synthesizer really clashes with the piano and Taylor’s singing. It only works with the chorus. It almost sounds robotic.
  15. evermore: I was so worried that the album would end the same way folklore did. What starts out as a song that kinda reminds me of being depressed shifts gears fast when Bon Iver comes in. I feel like by the time the bridge comes in, it’s like recovering from the loss of hope, finding that sense of purpose again. This is a very wintery song. And I like that it’s the closing track for this album, at least for now. I really look forward to hearing the deluxe edition’s tracks. Fave lyrics: “When I was shipwrecked, I thought of you. In the cracks of light, I dreamed of you. It was real enough to get me through.”

Adult Life Ruins Romance!

Tips on Writing Romance Plots and Subplots from a Demisexual

It’s amazing how romantic views can change over time. When I was a teenager, I used to read chick lit and the occasional romance novel. In college and throughout my 20s, Hallmark Channel Original movies were a comforting tradition every holiday season.

But I’m 30 years old now. And a working adult. Recently, I found myself becoming very picky about what I like in romantic comedies, rom-coms, and adult romance stories. Aside from the fact that I work for a living and got introduced to a lot of stuff that comes with adulting, the biggest disclaimer I have is that I am demisexual. Demisexuality is a type of asexuality. The basic definition is that I only develop an intense attraction/desire through strong, emotional connections. I can literally count the number of guys I consider myself in love with on one hand. And they’re all fictional.

Don’t get me wrong. I do find some guys aesthetically pleasing, but the guys I’m attracted to usually have a personality behind them. I feel like I’m the only woman in the entire world who doesn’t feel any attraction to Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Instead, I swoon over Chris Evans, Tom Holland, Matt Ryan from Constantine…you get the idea.

I think my demisexuality combined with a life of actual adulting changed my views on romantic comedies and romance stories as a whole. So with all that out of the way, here are my 5 tips for writing romance stories and romantic subplots, whether you’re writing a romance novel, a contemporary romcom, or a screenplay for a romantic movie/romcom.

1. Make sure the premise and conflict makes sense, plausibly.

There’s only so much suspension of disbelief can allow for, even by guilty pleasure rom-com standards. One of my favorite “guilty pleasure” romcoms had a lot of over-the-top stuff that didn’t make sense, but the premise was grounded on fairy tale archetypes and tropes (true love breaking a spell). So in spite of how ridiculous some of the characters are and some bad editing, I enjoy watching it because the movie still feels like a modern fairy tale.

In contrast, there was this movie that I used to like where the main characters frequented a dog park, but the problem of the conflict was that apparently the dog park would be closing down to break ground for a day spa. One of the characters said that dog parks don’t pay rent, but I immediately thought “Aren’t parks government funded, even dog parks?”

Basically, make sure that the premise and the conflicts of your novel have some semblance of plausibility. This also applies to the interpersonal conflict in the next tip.

2. Hating a person and finding them hot are majorly unmixy things

I literally cannot comprehend how you can intensely hate a person and find them hotter than Hades. There has to be something endearing about the love interest for both the reader and the love interest.

This is coming from the lady who swoons over Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but toxic issues regarding Season 6 aside, I mostly loved Spike from the start. If there’s something I loved about Spike as a whole, it’s that he owns up to what he is and what he does for better or for worse. He’s reckless and impulsive, but there isn’t any pretense to him. He’s a romantic and he’s a bad boy and while he hates his past as William the Bloody Awful Poet, his romantic tendencies still show. He clearly cares for Drusilla and in later seasons, we see him caring for Dawn and for Buffy as much as he is capable of doing without a soul.

What I can’t comprehend is when there’s a standard romance or rom-com and the two protagonists simultaneously hate each other while also wanting to jump each other’s bones. There has to be some kind of common ground here. If you’re gonna do enemies to lovers or some variation on hate-to-love, they need to respect each other about something. I recently read this short romance novella between a writer and a book critic and while it’s hard for me to buy the premise of a critic who’s so scathing over the romance novel genre, I could get behind the idea of the writer using that criticism to fuel her into doing better in her writing.

If the enemies have this sense of challenging each other, if they start out as something along the lines of rivals or frenemies, the hate-to-love becomes a lot more believable because they have something in common aside from being physically attractive.

3. Pretense can only go so far.

This isn’t a criticism against fake dating. When done well, fake dating can make for amazing stories. I literally reviewed a book centered on the premise of fake dating, for crying out loud. What I liked about that book in particular was the two of them finding the truth within the lie of their relationship.

What I mean by pretense is more along the lines of either party in a romantic plot or subplot pretending to be someone they’re not for a long term relationship. I get the initial first date awkwardness, trying to seem cool. But there’s only so long a person can go faking emotions. Unless you’re writing a romance story that involves a genuine sociopath, at some point, the mask is gonna come off, metaphorically.

I am a firm believer in authenticity when it comes to a lot of different things in life. As I have mentioned before, I loved Spike because he owned up to who he was and he was never pretentious about how he felt about anything. I think I developed a bias against men who do nothing but brood and feel guilty all the time because 1) I’m Catholic and I do enough self-guilting already and 2) guys who brood all the time don’t really change and I don’t feel like they’re owning up to whatever conflicting emotions they have.

Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite novels, has this reputation of being the archetypical hate-to-love story, but in reality, Elizabeth doesn’t really fall for Darcy until she actually sees him for who he really is, where he is most comfortable. And Darcy isn’t worthy of Elizabeth’s love until he comes to terms with his flaws and makes an effort to be a better person, even if it means not having Elizabeth in his life. She doesn’t magically fix him. He changes because of her influence in his life. There’s a huge difference!

Long story short, your characters have to acknowledge the hurt in their hearts, acknowledge their issues, then figure out how to work on healing those wounds. Which leads me to my next tip.

4. Love develops through emotional connection and shared experiences

I love slow burn romances. I love friends-to-lovers. Instalove is a hard sell for me because real love based on big gestures and intense attraction doesn’t really last long in the real world.

There’s a fine line between “shared experiences” and “trauma bonding,” so I advise against putting characters through something that would emotionally scar them for life unless you’re writing dystopia/sci-fi/fantasy, but even then, I advise to proceed with caution and not build the foundation of the romance on something that keeps them in the negative. The kinds of shared experiences I like is when the two people are working together on a project or share in holiday traditions or they go places together.

There also needs to be genuine emotional connection and understanding between the parties involved. By that, I mean that your characters need to be open and vulnerable and genuinely loving to each other at some point. While I realize that it takes time to get to that point, I have seen or heard of way too many “romance” stories where the characters don’t really communicate with each other and spend more time making out and fighting and playing manipulative mind games. (Points to the entire After series.)

Which leads me to the next tip.

5. Manipulation, Mind Games, and Stalking Aren’t Love

While there’s an initial emotional rush towards relationships that are, to quote Taylor Swift “screaming and crying and kissing in the rain,” relationships where people try to manipulate each other and play mind games or do something to trigger some kind of emotional reaction from their partner have major consequences that usually end up with people going to therapy.

There’s no genuine emotional connection when people are playing power games. Love isn’t about dominating or possessing some other person. Why do authors in the YA genre and writers of Netflix romance dramas find that concept so hard to believe?!

Long story short: Writers, stop writing stalking and romances that are founded on emotional abuse. Watch these videos.

In Conclusion

When you’re writing a romance, a rom com, or a romantic subplot, the key theme that ties all my tips together is authenticity. The premise of your story needs to feel real, even when you’re writing outside of the contemporary genre. The people in the story have to own up to who they are and overcome their pretenses.

Authentic love isn’t grounded in manipulation, mind games, or stalking. Real love is about the parties involved being genuinely happy with each other, even if they live in a dystopia. If the parties involved in a relationship of any kind can understand each other and talk their issues out, the relationship becomes all the more endearing because of the vulnerability.

I hope y’all liked these tips. And don’t let me stop you from enjoying your holiday romcoms!

Rent a Boyfriend: Interview with Gloria Chao

This post is an extension of my 15 thoughts on Gloria Chao’s new book Rent A Boyfriend which has been officially released today! If you’re a fan of fake dating, Asian-centric romantic comedies, and young adults in college surviving their sitcom-worthy embarrassing parents, give it a read!

I had the opportunity to ask Gloria Chao some questions about this book. Check out what she has to say!

1.  What inspired you to write this particular book?

RENT A BOYFRIEND is inspired by a real practice that happens in some Asian countries where women sometimes feel so pressured to bring home an acceptable significant other that they turn to hiring a fake boyfriend from the classifieds or a company. I understand this kind of pressure and wanted to write a book that fictionalized this practice and brought it to America. I drew a lot from my own experiences feeling pressured to walk a certain path in life and being set up by my mother.

2.  How familiar are you with the Palo Alto setting? Why did you choose that city as the main setting for the story?

I chose Palo Alto because I wanted a location with a large Asian American population to justify the existence of the boyfriend rental company, Rent for Your ’Rents, which caters to an Asian American clientele. I’m familiar with Palo Alto, so that felt like a natural choice, but of course the fictional community in the book is inspired by many different Asian American communities around the country with which I’ve had lots of personal experience. 

3.  Which character(s) do you relate to the most?

I relate to both Chloe and Drew in different ways. Chloe’s anxiety and her desire to please her parents while somehow walking the path of her choosing are taken from my experience. Drew’s voice, however, is closer to my own. And his backstory of his parents cutting him off for pursuing art is informed by my career switch from dentist to writer. 

4.  You’ve used Chicago as a partial setting for Our Wayward Fate and this novel. Have you ever considered setting an entire story in Chicago?

What a perfect question! I’m currently working on a story that is completely set in my hometown of Chicago! I hope I can share more about this project in the future! I love Chicago so much, and I hope that comes across when I write about it!

5.  What would you say to young adults who are struggling to have a healthy relationship with their parents? (Especially Asian-American young adults)

You are not alone. And it is definitely not easy. There aren’t really any right or wrong answers, only gray and more gray. I’m realizing that the only thing I can control is what I do and how I communicate, which is both fortunate and unfortunate. Hang in there!

6.  A lot of adults are still reading YA. What would you say to Asian-American adults who are reading this book while raising the next generation?

I don’t have kids so I don’t have any advice from experience, but I guess the least we can hope to do is not repeat the mistakes of the previous generation.

7.  Do you think there could be a possible sequel to this particular book? 

I am open to anything! But I personally think I would write a spin-off before I wrote a sequel. There are plenty of other possible Rent for Your ‘Rents stories to explore!

8.  How do you think Chloe and Drew would handle living in our current complicated year? What would they do in quarantine?

Like a lot of us, I think they would be taking it one day at a time. In quarantine, I think there would be plenty of couch-snuggling, watching feel-good movies, and playing board games like Takenoko, Splendor, or Ticket to Ride! 

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao: 15 Thoughts While Reading

Thank you to Hear Our Voices and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review this wonderful YA rom-com and including me on this Blog Tour!

Synopsis

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets The Farewell in this incisive romantic comedy about a college student who hires a fake boyfriend to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents, to disastrous results, from the acclaimed author of American Panda.

Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.

Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.

When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.

But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: November 10, 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pages: 320 pages

Links:

About the Author

Gloria Chao is the critically acclaimed author of American Panda, Our Wayward Fateand Rent a Boyfriend. When she’s not writing, you can find her with her husband on the curling ice or hiking the Indiana Dunes. After a brief detour as a dentist, she is now grateful to spend her days in fictional characters’ heads instead of real people’s mouths.

Her award-winning books have been featured on the “Best of” lists of SeventeenBustle, Barnes & NoblesPopSugarPaste Magazine, and more. American Panda received four starred trade reviews, was a Junior Library Guild Selection and Indie Next Pick, was a YALSA Teen’s Top 10 Pick, and on the Amelia Bloomer List.

Links: Author Website Twitter Goodreads Instagram

15 Thoughts I Had While Reading

  1. I love Chloe’s “mooncake points” aka her way of measuring her parents’ approval of either her boyfriend or herself.
  2. I low-key love that Chloe sort of has this “dual identity,” a version of herself when she’s at home (Jing-Jing), but wants to be her authentic self (Chloe). Drew has a similar dual identity, acting as “Andrew” when he’s being a fake boyfriend and wanting to just be himself when he’s off the clock. Bonus: This book shows scenes in Chloe and Drew’s POVs, though the story centers more on Chloe and her relationship with her family.
  3. I seriously wish that Chloe’s dad could’ve been more open and honest about how he regards Drew. He seemed very supportive of the relationship.
  4. Fun Fact: There’s a more famous Chloe Wang. You might know her better as Chloe Bennet aka Daisy from Marvel’s Agents of Shield. Before she became an actress, she was a pop star and one song came to mind as the chemistry between Chloe and Drew began to develop.
  5. The guy that Chloe’s parents want her to marry is a serious douche canoe and the excuses Chloe’s mother makes for him are a sorry sight to read. Double standards abound within Chloe’s family and their Chinese community. Mr. All-Wrong-For-Chloe is a shining turd example of the patriarchy! (Insert patriarchy jingle from Buffering Podcast here.)
  6. A lot of emphasis is put on one’s reputation within a community. I basically wanted to blast Taylor Swift’s “I Did Something Bad” during one particular scene centering on Chloe!
  7. I seriously imagine Drew having an Instagram account devoted to his art. He could make some serious merch from the little cartoon sheep, similar to this Instagram account.
  8. The word “verisimilitude” came to mind while reading through Chloe and Drew’s relationship. The word means “something having the appearance of truth.” It summarizes their fake dating perfectly!
  9. I had to unpack my bias about the value of a college education because I wasn’t sure why Drew didn’t go to somewhere like the Art Institute and Chloe had to set aside her own biases.
  10. I had a feeling that Gloria Chao really leaned into her previous career (she used to be a dentist) when she wrote the scene that centered on Chloe’s dad.
  11. I don’t understand why studying economics is frowned upon in these strict Chinese families. I’m speaking as a Filipino, but economics leads to a career in business, which is equally as lucrative as law or medicine.
  12. Given that Chloe’s dating a guy named Drew and that I’m a Taylor Swift fan, this song inevitably came to mind.
  13. Mahjong is featured in this book. I was instantly reminded of the famous scene from Crazy Rich Asians (which incidentally is a movie-exclusive scene). Even though I’m Filipino, I have very vague childhood memories of the various aunts in my very expansive extended family playing mahjong for money, though I never played it myself.
  14. Can this book have a sequel? No spoilers, but stuff they showed towards the end opens up the possibility of a majorly awesome sequel that centers more on Drew.
  15. I like the way that Gloria Chao included Chicago as a secondary setting, both in this book and in Our Wayward Fate. As she considers that city home, Chicago is her equivalent of Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice or Brigadoon. I look forward to seeing an entire story set in Chicago someday.

If you want to know more, check out my review of this book on Goodreads and get this book! It’s such a fun read and perfect for early holiday season rom com feels without buying into the Hallmark bandwagon.

Marcia Lane-McGee’s Buffy Story

Buffy shirt courtesy of jordandenenyc on Instagram

It started with a conversation on Instagram. I found Marcia Lane-McGee through fellow Catholics on Instagram. I follow her podcast Plaid Skirts and Basic Black. But being the opinionated woman that I am, I couldn’t resist commenting on this post:

I commented: “More like Kyo Ren is emo TRASH! But yeah. I named my anxiety Loki.”

Then meg_corr_20 commented: I absolutely love a Byronic hero, which prompted Marcia to reply “There’s just something about them, girl! It started with Angel for me.”

If you know me, you know which vampire from Buffy I stan, so I replied: “Angel is lame! His hair goes straight up and he’s bloody stupid! If you can guess who I’m quoting, you know MY type!”

One slide into her DMs later, and it out that Marcia and I have a lot in common. We both love superheroes, Taylor Swift, and Buffy. And don’t worry. She’s a total Spike fan, too. She even said “Spike had my heart by the time they stopped the apocalypse.”

So for this special Halloween “Throwback Thursday” blog post, I asked Marcia some questions regarding Buffy and being Catholic.

  1. For the sake of those who don’t know you, who are you and how do you live out the Catholic faith? Hi! I am Marcia Lane-McGee. I grew up Protestant and when I was 20 years old I went through RCIA and was confirmed at Easter Vigil. I live out my faith in how I love others and through sharing the Gospel as I share my story in my writing, speaking, and in the podcast I cohost.
  2. How did you get into Buffy? My childhood BFF loved the movie from the early 90’s and I was a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan from her time on Swan’s Crossing and later All My Children. I was really excited to see her on TV again!
  3. Which characters did you identify with the most and why? That’s a hard one! I would have to say Anya I’m a straight shooter who knows what she wants. I ask know my worth, don’t take anyone’s crap, and learns to be vulnerable and gain strength from it. I’ll also go down fighting. No question. 
  4. Fave characters: Anya, Spike, Xander, and Andrew. Fave Season: Season Two was phenomenal! I also loved season five. Fave Episode: Becoming (parts one and two) for sure is my number one as a set. “The Body” is a close second. That episode is so chilling and so beautiful and I love it. Fave Villains: Angelus. It broke my heart, but he was such a good villain! I also loved Glory. She was terrifying! 
  5. How do you think being Catholic affects your perspectives on the show? I was already into Buffy before I even thought about becoming Catholic so that wasn’t in my radar. Now that you ask, I may just have to do a rewatch with my Catholic lens! 
  6. What aspects of being Catholic do you see in the show?  I want to say how Buffy usually made the hard choice with the Common Good in mind instead of what she wants. Sending Angel to hell and dying for the world would go on that list. 
  7. What did you think of the BIPOC characters in Buffy and Angel?  Though there wasn’t nearly enough representation, I like how the characterization showed that Black people are not a monolith. 
  8. If Buffy was going to be rebooted, what issues concerning racism do you think should be addressed? I can’t answer that. Buffy should NOT be rebooted! Just like in every generation, a slayer is born, every generation has their own vampire lore. Anne Rice was 90s lore, Buffy was the millenium lore, we got Twilight for the late aughts and early 2010s. Right now we have What We Do In The Shadows. Our vampire lore is both timeless and has a time stamp. I think it should stay that way. Side note: if there was a reboot, Bianca Lawson could still play Kendra. That woman does not age.

Check out Marcia Lane-McGee on her Instagram, Twitter, and her podcast Plaid Skirts and Basic Black!

Why Inigo Montoya Is The Real Hero of “The Princess Bride”

In a traditional storytelling sense, Westley is the hero of The Princess Bride. The story, after all, centers around his love for Princess Buttercup.  However, I, along with many other fans of The Princess Bride, consider Inigo Montoya to be the real hero of the story and here are seven reasons why:

  1. Inigo the only one with an actual character arc. All the characters in The Princess Bride essentially remain the same throughout the story. Westley starts out as a farm boy and ends up a pirate, but he’s determined, devoted, and dashing from beginning to end. Inigo starts off being a mercenary without a sense of direction, driven by revenge. In his first scene, where he appears with Vizzini and Fezzik, Vizzini berates him for being a drunkard and threatens to fire him. We don’t really know much about Inigo until his sword fight with Westley. In this scene, we learn that Inigo insists on using his left hand when sword fighting. Jill Bearup analyzes the meaning behind this iconic scene. Some things she mentions are all part of establishing Inigo’s character arc: He’s impatient, but he’s also a man of honor (not cutting Westley down or killing Westley as soon as he gets to the top). Inigo opens up to Westley, a perfect stranger, and is willing to wait until Westley is ready to fight. Inigo likes a good challenge, but he also likes to win. Most of all, we learn that Inigo only has one goal in mind: to get revenge on the man who killed his father. And when Westley is on the verge of defeating him, Inigo is desperate and devastated, scared to die before fulfilling his goal.
  2. Inigo is smarter than he thinks. He’s smart enough to know that Vizzini isn’t using “inconceivable” in the correct way. Later on, upon hearing that Count Rugen was the man who murdered his father, Inigo tries to formulate a plan. He may not be able to figure out a specific way to storm the castle and find the count, but he’s smart enough to know that he has to find Westley. Once Inigo and Fezzik rescue Westley from the Pit of Despair, Inigo takes him to Miracle Max. And even as Westley formulates a plan to storm the castle, Inigo knows that he still has to find the Count, meet up with Westley and Buttercup after, and figure out a way to escape from the kingdom. For a guy who doesn’t consider himself as smart as Vizzini, Inigo definitely has a mind for strategy.
  3. Inigo is empathetic. When Westley screams under the agony from the life-sucking machine, Inigo is the only one who recognizes Westley’s voice and he’s smart enough to realize why Westley is being tortured and uses Fezzik to help him out. Aside from that, he is not willing to kill Buttercup, even if it’s part of the job. Once Inigo takes Westley to Miracle Max, he advocates for the noble causes of true love and avenging his father. When he realizes that Miracle Max was humiliated by Humperdinck, he argues that reviving Westley will ruin the wedding and humiliate the prince forever, empathizing with Miracle Max’s desire for a potential revenge.
  4. Inigo is determined. His desire for revenge aside, his fight with Count Rugen shows Inigo’s determination. Rugen runs like a coward and then tries to kill Inigo before they even have a chance to fight. In spite of being close to death, Inigo is determined to kill Rugen. And he knows that Rugen is offering false promises, so he won’t let anything the Count says stop him. Being able to fight in spite of his injuries, wanting to do the right thing even though Inigo didn’t see himself as anything special? That’s what makes him a hero.
  5. Inigo proves to be a good leader. Contrasted with Vizzini, Inigo knows the strengths of the people he’s with and he encourages them to lean into their strengths instead of threatening them. Inigo has to do a lot of the legwork once he, Fezzik, and Westley get inside Humperdinck’s castle. I’m not saying that he’s a perfect leader, as he prioritizes his fight with the Count over getting Westley to Buttercup, but he at least knew that Fezzik’s strength would be able to help them both. Later on, when Fezzik arrives with the horses, Inigo praises Fezzik for taking initiative.
  6. The meta-narrative part 1: Keep in mind that the framing device for The Princess Bride is a grandfather telling the story to his grandson. The kid literally asks his grandfather if Inigo kills Humperdinck. He never considers Westley to be someone who would kill Humperdinck. Granted, Westley was assumed to be dead when the grandfather stopped the story in the Pit of Despair, but Inigo was enough of an engaging character to make the kid think that Inigo could kill Humperdinck. It implies that if Westley was actually dead, Inigo had the potential to carry the rest of the story on his own.
  7. The meta-narrative part 2: This story is well-known amongst fans of The Princess Bride as well as Mandy Patinkin fans, but for those who don’t know, Mandy Patinkin, who played Inigo Montoya, went into this role seeing the six-fingered man as representing the cancer that killed his father. He identified with the loss that Inigo suffered. So when Inigo killed the six-fingered man, Mandy felt as if he also killed the cancer that took his father.

Super Bowl In The Convent: 2020 Vision from Catholic Sisters

Two years ago, a lot of nuns from Twitter decided to provide their own commentary for the Super Bowl. I was way too bored to care about the game last year to really share some of the highlights, but this year has some wonderful tweets! The best part is that lay Catholics like me got to join in on the fun, too.

Favorite commercials:

The nuns loved the New York Life commercial that talked about The Four Loves, with an emphasis on “agape.”

There were other commercials that the sisters loved:

This was created in response to the Scientology commercial. Follow Sr. Danielle Victoria. She’s an amazing, artistic nun!
This one was in regards to the Doritos Commercial with “Old Town Road” and Sam Elliot.

The sisters weren’t as enthusiastic about halftime as everyone else on Twitter….

And just to remind you that these sisters take vows of poverty:


Towards the 2nd half, a lot of nuns were going to sleep, as most nuns have to wake up early the next morning, but there were still some nuns that were going to stay in the end. And some of them started praying.

In summation: Kansas City Chiefs, you’d better make sure you donate to these sisters and thank them for their prayers.

The Mandalorian: The St. Joseph of Star Wars

If any of y’all out there are fans of Star Wars or saw your social media feed flooded with pictures of the Yoda Baby, you have probably heard all the hype about The Mandalorian. Lemme tell you that as someone who considers herself a casual Star Wars fan at best, I can tell you that I am really loving the new show. Every episode always makes me want more.
What you may not realize, however, are the Catholic aspects within The Mandalorian. Star Wars has always had some religious elements, obviously, but The Mandalorian has a lot of surprisingly Catholic elements even within its space western setting. It feels almost fitting that Episode 3 of the series is called “The Sin” because so far, it’s been the episode with the most Catholic themes.

One thing that gets established in this episode is the “family” that the Mandalorian is part of. Without going into a lot of info-dumping, it’s established that this particular order has a creed: “This is the Way.” As soon as I heard their creed, I thought “This sounds like something I said at church.” After a quick Google search, I realized that the creed of the Mandalorians is similar to what is said during Easter or during baptisms: “This is our faith. This is the faith of the church.” And, for those who aren’t familiar with Church History, Christianity was originally called “The Way.” 

Speaking of beliefs, I love that the Mandalorians prize adoption, that part of their creed is that “foundlings are the future.” The Mandalorians are a warrior race and based on what little I know, few if any of them don’t have the luxury of having families. And in spite of the fact that Mando was part of a bounty hunter’s guild, the morals of his order take precedent, which means that his new priority is protecting and raising the child and I love that his tribe supports him, even if it means having to relocate. They value the life of the vulnerable. It also reminds me of one of the themes from the Greek tragedy Antigone: that there’s a higher, natural law that takes precedent over whatever codes people have. 

Although I have no clue what’s to come in future episodes (even now after 5 episodes so far), it’s clear to me that Mando has now become like Saint Joseph. For those who don’t know Catholic tradition, Saint Joseph was the foster father of Jesus and there was a time when Saint Joseph had to raise Jesus in hiding. Mando and that adorable Yoda Baby are still on the run, but he’s determined to make a good life for his child. And yes, our dear Mando regards the Yoda Baby as his child. He cares for the child and, even if he isn’t the most perfect parent, wants to keep the child safe.

There’s another way that Mando resembles Saint Joseph. As any Catholic knows, Saint Joseph is only mentioned in the Bible, but he never, you know, actually says anything. Mary has at least three scenes where she says something. But St. Joseph is known more for his actions. One interesting aspect about The Mandalorian is that it’s not very dialogue-heavy. And the Mando hasn’t said anything that would make for a good quote or meme other than “This is the Way,” but that’s the creed of his order. What makes Mando stand out is that he ultimately wants to do the right thing. He may never say it out loud, but his actions speak volumes. 

If you want to know more about religious themes within The Mandalorian series, I highly recommend checking out Fr. Roderick’s youtube channel. You might know him as the Star Wars Priest and he has definitely backed that title up. He’s been examining different aspects about The Mandalorian episode by episode and we definitely agree that there are a lot of parallels between Mando and St. Joseph. Go check him out on Youtube!

I can’t wait to see where this show will go next.