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Night swimming & Italian dinners

The other day, my friends and I treated ourselves to a bit of night swimming, whilst watching a movie on my projector screen. The idea was for us to watch “Jaws,” but when that didn’t pan out due to my lack of being able to attach a DvD player to my projector and the total lack of streaming services offering it for free, we watched “Double Jeopardy” instead. The film consists of several boat scenes and a truly nail-bitingly suspenseful underwater action scene. It was a new experience, but one that I’d dreamt up a while ago. I had a perfect set-up, with me and my friends in my lukewarm pool, in the dark, watching a movie being projected onto my pool house. I showed the film to my two friends Anna and Mary Catherine, after we ate the paella I made for dinner.

Speaking of making dinner, for the past few days, I’ve been inhaling some of the most glorious foods that I have ever eaten. My brother and one of his best friends, Jonathan, came over to cook us a few Italian dishes, and by that I mean more-or-less change our lives. First we were treated to my brother Bobby’s penne alla vodka, which was just as flawless as I remembered it. I scarfed down half the pan, but still left room for the second course, which had to have been some of the best ravioli I have ever eaten. 

After three hours of other people’s labor, the ravioli was ready, with ten pieces for each person. Ravioli is an immaculate creation. It’s carbohydrates stuffed and doused with cheese and butter. What’s not to love? I then washed it all down with a slice of red velvet cake, because when you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound. Or in this case an extra 15 pounds. The ravioli wasn’t just glazed in butter, it was glazed in homemade sage butter, topped with delicious fried sage. I could die right now with no regrets. Whoever the inventor of ravioli was (he or she now resides in heaven) would be brought to tears over the pasta I was served a few nights ago. It was bursting with flavor and ended with me licking the plate.

To top it all off, there was some extra dough, which I put to good use the very next day. I spent the day slinging around homemade dough that was so long that I could drape it across my whole body. My brother and I used it to make homemade fettuccine. Together we made a new family favorite: cacio e pepe, only with homemade pasta for the first time. I came out of it stuffed to the gills, which is the most fun you can have while in quarantine. 
In other news, I’ve been nursing away my corner-of-the-mouth-zits, brought on by my incessant mask-wearing. The internet has cleverly dubbed this phenomenon “maskne.” I’ve been trying to read and write more because I fell into the inevitable slog of “if you skip one day you won’t do it for a week.” I look forward to the next couple of days, which hopefully will consist of more good food, more movies, and much more swimming. 

Acne cream to dry my face out. Oh, what joy!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

(Raquel’s song) Movin’ out

I am sitting at the island in my new house, as I write this. Having between 4 to 5 grown adults under one roof squeezed the life out of my parents and their solution to quarantine was finding a new place to live. I don’t mean this to sound bougie. We’ve been house-hunting for the past 7 years and now, after all that time, we finally have something to show for it. 

Moving has been incredibly hectic and crazy, with me misplacing almost everything I need and everybody collapsing in bed at the end of the day from exhaustion. I’ve always loved looking at houses, particularly those that I cannot afford. So when my parents asked me to come check out a house, not too far from our current house, I was eager to walk through it and judge whether or not I felt like I could live there. 

After spending 13 years in a house that we outgrew in about 6 months, we were eager to move, and being on top of each other during quarantine helped jumpstart us into a house-hunting frenzy. We made extensive changes to our house and made it ready to sell, which it did within 21 hours of being on the market. 

My brother and his friends helped us move our stuff into our new house, becoming sweat-drenched and exhausted, lifting boxes in and out of stuffy houses, along with the moving company, “GTFO.” Technically, for these guys, “GTFO” stands for “get that furniture out,” since this is south Georgia, but I think we all know what they really mean. The day was a brisk 93 degrees, which never fails to make heavy-lifting so much easier. 

I’ve spent the last couple of days unloading my family’s oversized book collection into what we now call “the book nook” as well as helping organize the kitchen, since those are the two jobs that we deemed my spindly arms capable of doing. 

The house has copious amounts of character and a style that fits my family just right. I’m going to miss the old place because I have so many fond memories there. One time I took a garden hoe and started axing a tree in my backyard in order to make it thinner, because my imaginary friend, Lucky, had her parents visiting and they were allergic to fat trees. 

The tree still has a long line down the middle of it to this day. 

There was also the small bust that my parents had in the hallway that I would makeout with on occasion, as a child, but mostly only to shock my friends. A friend and I once dressed my dog, Lady, up in my old “Beauty and the Beast” dress, which prompted her to run-away for the 9th time, on the spot, while my mom tried to take a picture.

My first brush with romance

I had two pets while living there, both of which died over the course of living at that house. I started off at a private, Catholic elementary school and graduated from the local public high school in that house. I learned how to tie my shoes, learned that I had gotten accepted into college, and endured most of my speech therapy in that house. While I have made better strides in my quest at being a friend to the environment and to small animals, I had been on a very steep learning curve whilst living in that house, but now I’m happy to move on to other things.

I’m looking at my new house as an opportunity to put all of my stuff into different and interesting places. I will, for instance, have to figure out where to put my 3’x4’  framed poster of Marilyn Monroe and my full-scale, Shawshank Redemption Raquel Welsh poster that borders on old school soft porn.

Photos from my old house

We have a pool at our new house, which I have practically been living in, perfectly in line with my swimming-loving, water-sign self. I’d love to have more guests over when we are no longer at risk of COVID, but right now I’m letting my friends come by so long as they socially distance with masks. 

I’m here for the long haul, most-likely doing my second year of SLC from the deep south, via zoom call for the next semester and thankfully will be in my new house. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Cancer Season

Cancer season is upon us and as a board certified cancer, I would just like to tell everybody welcome to the most wonderful time of the year.

Also:

You’re on my time now. 

I was born at the end of June, making me an “end-of-June-cancer,” notorious for our moodiness. We’re inscrutable. 

According to Co-Star, the bible of astrology-related apps, I have power in my non-existent social life, pressure in my spirituality, and trouble with routine, thinking & creativity, and self. I am also prone to blaming people for my own discomfort and I’m in need of some variety (aren’t we all). 

As much as I hate to say it, that couldn’t be closer to the truth. 

I have writer’s block, painter’s block (if that’s a thing), and a whole smattering of other things that are inhibiting the creative electricity that usually lights up this bulb. All of my possessions were shipped from school recently and I couldn’t find my copy of “Fear of Flying,” the one thing that I wanted to find. I also drove through the Wendy’s drive thru today in search of adventure, and scarfed down a double cheeseburger, just to feel something. 

While I might be less than prosaic at the moment, I’m still looking forward to this season, seeing as how my birthday is within spitting distance. My original plan for my birthday, which I made back in January, was to take a day trip to Savannah’s downtown historic district. I would be perusing their consignment shops and collecting costume jewelry, but to say that life had different plans for all of us is an understatement. I’m not going to Savannah because I will be socially distancing like a responsible adult. Instead I will probably spend my birthday much like I’ve spent the last few days of summer: sitting on the couch, binge-watching Cheers. 

Being a cancer, I am sensitive and dramatic. Please hold back your shock. 

Crab-themed memorabilia is what we live and die by, with it being our zodiac symbol. Whenever I become a proper adult, I will hopefully be spending my end-of-June-birthday by throwing a party with cream puffs in the shape of crabs. I also hope to one day be able to afford all of the expensive, crab-themed, gold-plated jewelry that I want. 

For now however, all I want for my 19th birthday is a movie projector, so that I can watch movies in the most obnoxious way possible, and to find my copy of “Fear of Flying.”

Your favorite cancer,

Raquel Goddard

Zoom class 2020

I’m not sure what I’m going through in this picture but I agree with my face.

I logged out of my first year of college the day before yesterday. The desk with which I have attended school for the past few days now lies vacant. The coronavirus is still sweeping the nation, something called “murder hornets” have just touched down in the US, along with a polar vortex, in May and I would like to know when the four horsemen of the apocolypse are slated to make their appearance. Seriously though, I think we can shut Pandora’s box already. We get the point.

My state has officially reopened and let me just say that I really could have used a new John Mulaney stand-up special and a new album track by Lizzo while in quarantine. Instead, I have been on a few disheartening zoom calls in which nothing is seen or heard properly, read a few heartwarming stories about people who have somehow managed to use this time effectively, and rolled my eyes at the all-important reminder that we are living in “uncertain times.” I spent the entirety of my last day finishing a ten page essay on homeboy William James’s perceptions of women and will now be rewatching “The West Wing” from start to finish up until I start my next semester. It’s my second day of summer vacation and I have already fully embraced being a parody of myself. I’ve been sleeping in, eating pizza and frozen yogurt, watching The West Wing, and occasionally helping my parents around the house. 

My one claim to fame so far this summer is that I have helped paint some doors around my house, when I haven’t been shoving white cheddar cheese popcorn in my mouth. I also went with my mother to take the recycling to a local place and after having a photoshoot while doing it I got bored and made memes out of the pictures.

I might mess around and start the book “The Lord of the Flies” tomorrow, but it’s probably more likely that I’ll read “Dune” so that I can watch it in December and ogle at Timothee Chalamet.  

These days, with raggedy eyebrows and split ends, I’m looking like a human disaster or as my grandmother would say “looking like ten cents worth of God help us.”

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

All the things I’m going to miss from Sarah Lawrence College

It took me longer than I care to admit to process the fact that I was done being up at Sarah Lawrence for the remainder of the semester and that my first year, as I knew it, was over. The separation has had me appreciating things that I took for granted while I was up there. I’m not going to miss the willfully ignorant Bernie Bros who start sentences by saying things like “Bernie Sanders should not have brought up Castro, but he actually made a really good point…” or the people who shamelessly air bomb the communal bathrooms as they watch youtube videos on the toilet. I won’t miss the copious amounts of work or the discomforts of dorm life, but I will miss many things, starting, of course, with the people. The level of character in the school and in the people is outstanding. But aside from them, there were many things that made my first year away from home really special. 

  • The TeaHaus for keeping me warm through the winter

The Teahaus is an on-campus landmark known for it’s hot tea and for looking like Hagrid’s Hut in Harry Potter. Most of the time, I’d just grab lemon tea from the Barbara Walters Student Campus Center but the Teahaus is a cozy little hub where one can drink obnoxiously large mugs of tea. When it’s not there serving the students their tea it is serving up looks as one of the most aesthetically pleasing parts of campus.

  • Sunsets like these

Some days the sunset would add in a pop of color at the end of the day and I still don’t know why the sky had to flex so hard by looking like a fresco.

  • That transcendent swimming pool

While it might be overly-chlorinated, this pool can really hit the spot over the weekend whenever I felt like swimming. There’s not much else to say, except that I love taking laps in this uncrowded and criminally underused pool.  

  • All of Bronxville  

For me, “Dumpling and Noodle” was that restaurant down the street that you could pop over to at any time, whenever you were sick of school food. “Slave to the Grind” was the altar for which many coffee addicts bowed in worship, though for me it was the place with the greatest chai tea in the world. “Topps Bakery” started my addiction to black and white cookies, thanks to a friend. “Taco project” has a healthy but still fast approach to Mexican food. “Bronxville Diner” is the place where I have gone for brunch and dinner with my friends, but I mostly only go for their patty melts and shakes. In other words, Bronxville has all the food a girl needs.

  • The proximity to the city

It’s the next best thing to being there. I didn’t want to live directly in the city the first year I moved away, not wanting to have a baptism by fire. Thankfully, I have ample opportunities to enter into the city at will. The school provides shuttles from the local train station, into Grand Central. On weekends, the school has a bus that takes you to The Met and being a student in New York, you get in for free. 

  • The immaculate winters  
Pics taken by a friend

Growing up in a sub-tropical climate, I was so looking forward to that satisfying crunch beneath your feet whenever you trek through the snow and this winter did not disappoint. I quickly learned that bright, glistening snow turns to sludge in a matter of days. Sometimes, however, when it really snows, the entire campus gets caked in ice and it looks like everything is sealed under glass, like in a museum. I was fed-ex’d a “Lands End” parka and snow boots by my dad, who knew that my fashion-forward, but ultimately thin coats, were not going to successfully keep me warm.

  • Spring days on campus

Granted, I didn’t get to see many of these. Basically, on days when it’s really sunny, everybody gets the same idea. It seems like everybody on campus is lounging around on a blanket on the lawn, throwing a frisbee, having class outside, skateboarding, or even serenading people on the guitar. It looks as though someone put a beauty filter on the campus. People are playing soccer all over campus and sometimes even in the streets. These also are the days when the ice cream man decides to pull up curbside and feed us starving college kids. 

In summary and in summation, my first year at college was a success, thanks to these things and more. While I will forever wish I had been able to finish my first year on campus, I finished my work at home in Valdosta and will be looking forward to my next semester. I will however miss the cafeteria in the Barbara Walters Student Center where I ate the same things every day, so much so that the lady at the salad bar memorized my order. I’ll also miss the library where I went almost everyday for Italian class, and where I’d choke out Italian words that sounded exceedingly less romantic when I said them.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Concocting glorious playlists while in quarantine

I like to pride myself on knowing obscure musicians and old music that I then can graciously bestow on others. All of these songs can be found on Spotify, as that is where I make my playlists. I am not attached to the order of these, so do to them what you will.

  • Happy Songs for Hectic Days

The type of playlist you press play on when you’re having one of those days that just won’t seem to fix itself.

“(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding

“(What A) Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke

“Stand by Me” by Ben E. King

“Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers

“I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin

  • All the feels

For when you want to wreck yourself emotionally.

“The Sound of Silence- acoustic” by Simon and Garfunkel

“Yesterday” by The Beatles

“Fix You” by Coldplay

“Hurt” by Johnny Cash

“Let her go” by Passenger

  • Butterfly Kisses

Mellow songs that make you think of sweet things.

“Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae

“Best Part (fet. Daniel Caesar)” by H.E.R.

“Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Fugees

“No One- Acoustic” by Alicia Keys

“Andante, Andante” by Lily James (Mama Mia: Here We Go Again!)

“Ocean Eyes” by Billie Eilish

“Lovers” by Anna of the North

“Location” by Khalid

“La La Land (feat. YG)” Explicit, by Bryce Vine

  • Ear Sex. Try not to get hearing aids

Some very luscious tunes in which the singer spouts pure poetry in their smooth voice.

“Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have” Explicit, by Lana Del Rey

“Lovely (with Khalid)” by Billie Eilish

“Moral of the Story” Explicit, by Ashe

“He Don’t Love Me- stripped” by Winona Oak

  • Angsty Middle School Tunes

This is a list of songs from my generation’s wonder years. I can practically smell the uncontrollable pubescent sweat whenever I look at this list of songs that I myself created. 

“Immortals” by Fallout Boy

“Teenagers” by My Chemical Romance

“I Write Sins Not Tragedies” by Panic! At The Disco

“DONTTRUSTME” Explicit, by 3OH!3

“Gives You Hell” by The All-American Rejects

“Stressed Out” by Twenty-One Pilots

  • Vibes

Drama-soaked songs for when it’s time to screw with your head. 

“Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

“Five Minutes” by Her

“Blood in The Cut” Explicit, by K.Flay

“One Time” by Marian Hill

“Downers” by Greentea Peng

“Pork Soda” Explicit, by Pork Soda

“Dear God” XTC

“Boyfriend (repeat)” by Confidence Man

“Terrible Thing” by AG

“I Go To Sleep” by Anika

“Talk Show Host” Explicit, by Radiohead

“Ode to Innocence” by Sasha Lazard

  • Workout Jams: 

Some wack ass tunes to move to whilst you burn some calories.

“Bloom” by ODESZA 

“Raindrops (feat. Kerli) -radio edit” by SNBRN, Kerli

“Angel” by Massive Attack

The Misadventures of Quarantine

After being steam rolled by my homework, I hunkered down, reviewed old powerpoints, watched language tutorials on YouTube, looked over my flashcards, reviewed my Italian verbs, and rewrote my notes, only for all of my classes to get cancelled due to the Coronavirus. Living 4 miles from New Rochelle, ground zero for the US cases of COVID-19, I wasn’t eager to hang around Bronxville any longer. Instead of running off like a thief in the night, I booked an $87 flight home for the next day, in an attempt to put some distance between me and the Coronavirus.  

Ignoring my generalized anxiety about flying, I was sardined in cabin two of a miniscule airplane, side eyeing the woman next to me every time the elderly gentleman behind us hacked up a lung. I thought that 2020 was going to be my year but then my mother, who met me at the airport, attacked me with lysol and then shoved me in the trunk of her car to change clothes. I was driven home by my mother, brother, and my brother’s girlfriend, who then, along with my father, became my quarantine buddies for the subsequent weeks.

I would just like to add that I have noticed no discernable difference between my regular anti-social, daily routine and my social-distancing, quarantine routine. I wake up whenever I want, don’t change out of my pajamas, turn on random TV shows and movies that I probably won’t finish watching, and just overall sit around waiting to heat up my next meal. My sleep schedule is unnecessarily off-balance and my diet has also been unnecessarily off-balance. I have eaten cake, crepes, brownies, and ice cream as legitimate meals. 

I have been home for the past two weeks. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

(See if you can spot the difference)

Week one:

  1. Making chocolate crepes for the group because morale is high. 
  1. Writing handwritten letters to my aunt and feeling like a character in a Jane Austen novel. 
  1. Being literary in a hammock in a romper in my backyard, trying to maintain my school work. The book that I am reading is a nice companion whilst in quarantine because it is a collection of stories about people in DC getting lost in their own worlds; the perfect combination of communal responsibility and going through individual struggles and I am suddenly struck by the similarities in circumstance.
  1. Making Chrissy Teigen pasta because it is the only recipe that I can make with any certainty.
  1. Watching a series of Hitchcock films like intellectual film snobs.

Week two:

  1. Listening to the Cranberries and doing an impossible, Christmas puzzle that has been laying on various surfaces throughout the house for weeks.
  1. I have made Chrissy Teigen’s pasta three times, because it is still the only recipe I can make with any certainty. 
  1. Disney plus has kept me occupied and by now I have watched “The Jungle Book,” “Inside Out,” “Coco,” “Zootopia,” and “Big Hero Six,”on repeat and cried throughout.
  1. I had many expectations for college but doing yoga with my psychology class via zoom was not one of them. Listening to my teacher’s dog howl in unison with us as we do elongated breathing has been a nice change from attending regular class on campus.
  1. I have watched several vine compilations, including “people vs slides,” but am dismayed by the fact that my favorite vines are no longer on the internet.  
  1. After much deliberation, I have decided that the Derry Girls character that I identify with the most is Orla. She doesn’t talk very much, always gets food on her face, and is kind of just there.
  1. I have contemplated faking technological difficulties at least once in class (if any of my teachers see this then your class is not the one I’m talking about)
  1. My mother has commandeered her bathrobe again so I am wearing my stained, two-sizes too big sweatshirt from summer camp when I was 12 as a substitute. 
  1. I go for a walk with my mother and father in our neighborhood. We hear a low growling sound and my mother and I take off running, thinking that it’s a dog growling. My mother nearly dislocated my thumb because that’s what she decided to grab me by. As it turns out, it was just someone closing a metal door, not a dog growling, because we’re that out of touch with nature.
Me wearing a shirt that a girl at my school designed for Timothee Chalamet, back when I still wore real clothes

In conclusion, if you read in the paper that I have turned towards a life of crime and/or alcoholism, then mind ya business. Overall, that is the riveting tale of how my quaranting has been going. We’ve all played Clue but I have yet to win. Yet despite all of this, I don’t actually mind being in quarantine, deep down in my heart of hearts. If there ever was a time to have a quarantine, this would be it. The technology that we have allows us to still attend school and work, all the while we sit at home reading books and binge-watching television; the things we like to do anyway.

My brother holding up the proof that I have yet to win “Clue”

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

La Traviata

One of the best parts of New York City, however obvious, is the art scene, of which I haven’t even scraped the surface. I had always been told of New York City’s often-cliched though nonetheless legendary, ballets, operas, art shows, fashion shows, art museums, bad standup, and of course, theatre. Never turning down an opportunity for any of the above, I went with my Italian class to see another opera at the Met.  

Like last time, I dressed to impress, which came in the form of a solid gold sheath dress that touched the floor and has an open back. This time, we were able to eat some snacks before we went to the opera, which consisted of cheese, grapes, and cookies. Having just rewatched “Ratatouille” earlier in the week I couldn’t resist the urge to bite into a piece of cheese and a grape at the same time, like he does in the movie. I sat at the table where they were serving the food and kept on slipping my hand into the box of cookies. I stuffed my face with so many chocolate cookies that when people asked which ones to try, I could actually give them recommendations. 

Since we still had time to kill before the opera, I drank some hot chocolate outside of the Met with my friend Hannah, as we stared at the moon. Then, it was time for us to usher into the theater, which had a scrim covering the stage with a large dew-soaked flower covering it. 

The opera that we were going to go see is called “La Traviata,” otherwise known as: the fallen woman. For those of you who don’t know “La Traviata” is an opera about a man who falls in love with a prostitute. It therefore was the opera that they watch in “Pretty Woman,” which is both clever and on the nose. They tell us that she is going to die from the beginning of the opera, even though they don’t really need to pregame us for the death of the heroine. It’s an opera; we know that the woman is going to die. 

It all begins with a down-pouring of snow onto a bed in the middle of the stage. Violetta, the fallen woman, emerges from the bed, wearing a puffy-sleeved nightgown that looks the way snow angels are supposed to look. She wakes up but no one else in the room notices. The music starts to play, initially beginning with a singular violin and then dramatically swelling into an overwhelming and awe-inspiring overture. She is dragged out of the room, reaching out in front of her, being literally pulled from a world that she isn’t ready to leave. The people make up her bed, as if she was never really there in the first place, and the opera commences. 

The whole set looked the way that the live action “Beauty and the Beast” should have looked. The actress who played Violetta looked and sounded immaculate. My throat hurt just listening to her. The whole opera was slick and gorgeous, taking place in aristocratic 19th century France, so the characters filed onto the stage wearing colorful but potentially anachronistic costumes. Her bed never leaves the stage, a friendly reminder of how she makes her money and that she will soon be needing it as a death bed. There was a dance interlude with the gypsies, who looked like the woodland fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The whole stage was bathed in a sensual orange glow as one of the dancers was tossed from one dancer’s arms to another, moving so lightly that they might as well have been tossing around a rag doll. 

Violetta staggers around stage for the entirety of the third act, flopping around against her bed, singing her heart out as she dies for several minutes, because why die quickly when you can die agonizingly slowly while singing about how you’re dying agonizingly slowly? When it comes time to finally die, she spins in her bed and collapses perfectly into her lover’s arms only for the scrim to drop down immediately and flash the audience the watered flower one last time before curtain call. 

As New York culture shuts down for a bit, one thing remains: women always die in operas. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel 

Theatre in the rough

A week or so ago, my friends Theo, Chiara, and Petra, invited me to go and see a play with them at an NYU theater. Naturally, I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to see live theatre, so I only asked a few questions before saying yes. My initial plans for Saturday night were to eat an entire sleeve of Thin Mints alone in my dorm room while rabbit-holing on internet videos. Just a reminder that Girl Scouts of America support transgender youth and teach girls leadership values. I, therefore, show my love for them by eating their cookies by the box.

A picture of me with my weekend plans

I postponed my cookie plans so that my friends could take me into the city to see experimental, post-traumatic theatre about the Japanese economy. Before the play, my friends and I went to a restaurant called “Tipsy Shanghai,” which, as their awning boasts, has been around for 100 years. The Chinese food could perfectly be described using the word “yummy,” filling me up with hot pork dumplings and noodles. 

Afterwards, we walked over to the theater at NYU. During the first act, I went cross-eyed trying to keep my eyes open. There were several lulls, I assume to make it seem pensive, and there were rows of tennis balls on stage despite having nothing to do with tennis. The play was entirely in Japanese, with the exception of subtitles projected onto the wooden panels hanging over the stage. The play did not consist of actual characters, scenes, or dialogue but instead was just people speaking in Japanese while touching the copious amount of objects on stage. Apparently, the play was supposed to be about the decline of the Japanese economy in the 90s and its ramifications. I could figure that out by the fact that the whole beginning part was about a washing machine that wouldn’t work, but then a time machine showed up that nobody used and that had something to do with immigration. I am unsure as to how it ended but it did seem like a fair amount of philosophizing happened in the final act but I was already too far gone to pay any attention. 

The underbelly of New York City theatre rears its ugly head. The play used “the emperor’s new clothes” model, meaning that it wasn’t good but no one will admit it out of fear of looking dumb. However, my friends did seem to like it and went on about what they thought the best parts of it were. My friends thought that I would like it the best, and quite frankly so did I, so you can imagine our disappointment when the play was done. 

I don’t think that it has anything to do with my imagination, education, or upbringing, but there are some things that I will never be able to wrap my head around, like abstract art, micro-food, extreme haute couture, and now conceptual fringe theatre. To some people, it might seem like I only like mediocrity, because I like more conventional media, such as, Hamilton, John Mulaney, and Fleabag. The truth is though that your average junk means everything to the person who likes it, despite whatever you might say about the “artist’s intentions” or “the underlying themes of the broken capitalist system” or what have you.

I like things that more closely resemble the human condition and the things that do show it deserve my love. I would rather give my money to profiles in humanity than participation-trophy-theatre. I don’t want to be the type of person who tells someone that there is something wrong with them for not understanding the meaning of art when in reality there was no meaning or art in the first place, nor do I want to be that liberal arts college student who annoyingly thinks that they have everything figured out and that they are artistic and deep because they once wrote rhyming couplets about breast milk. I do however want to be a great artist, since art is the spice of life. 

So go out into the world so that you might make good art and buy a box of Girl Scout cookies!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

How should we feel about celebrities making political commentary?

With the super bowl and award season wrapped up, there is no shortage of examples of celebrities using their clout to further a social agenda. In recent years, we can observe, with greater frequency, celebrities using their platform to make political messages, and being met with mixed reactions. Ricky Gervais’s recent Golden Globe speech impaled many of the people in the audience by calling them out on their hypocrisy and discouraging them from getting political in their speeches. The Super Bowl sparked a debate that the whole country weighed in on about female sexuality in performance art and the Latin American themes of the evening. 

Oftentimes, I hear celebrities making statements that I agree with, while other times it’s hard to read their comments without rolling my eyes. Unfortunately, it would seem that I can’t have it both ways. I can’t wail in frustration when a famous person says something that I disagree with, but support them when they say something that I do agree with. 

Maybe it’s Lady Gaga calling out Mike Pence’s wife at a concert or Spike Lee’s Oscar acceptance speech. Maybe it’s Kristin Bell saying that she does not allow her kids to watch “Sleeping Beauty” because it teaches problematic lessons in consent or maybe it’s Joaquin Phoenix’s recent BAFTA acceptance speech in which he calls for more diversity in Hollywood. Maybe it’s the Hamilton cast calling out Mike Pence at their performance or T.I. forcing his daughter to go to the gynecologist, but celebrities’ opinions on social issues can be found everywhere.

Celebrities have been pulled even further into the sociopolitical landscape with the “me too” movement and on top of that, the Trump administration has become a very contentious time of vocal activism regardless of where you look. The modern-day concept of cancel culture does have celebrities thinking more before they speak, but the ubiquity of celebrity political commentary can be overwhelming. Since people can’t decide on what social input is appropriate and what isn’t, it leaves us with a gaping question: how should we feel about celebrities making political statements?

Like many people, I find it annoying when an out-of-touch celebrity attempts to discuss a serious issue that they know nothing about and I am definitely not alone in thinking that most famous people are in no position to lecture the public on moral issues. On the other hand, it feels unfair to demonize an entire group of people and to tell them that they can’t express their opinions, especially when it can lead to positive social change. Freedom of speech does mean freedom of speech for everyone and I am not comfortable with telling people that they shouldn’t speak up about issues that they care about.

So where does that leave us? I arrived at the conclusion that we shouldn’t look at it like it’s a binary question: should celebrities speak up or not? Instead, I think that it can exist on a spectrum, by gauging celebrity responses the same way that we gauge the opinions of people in our everyday lives.

If the person isn’t well-educated in general or is ill-informed about the topic that they are discussing, then the public as a whole should take what they say with a grain of salt. Sometimes the decision does get easier, like supporting Jon Stewart’s crusade to get health benefits for 9/11 first responders. Since Stewart’s whole career consisted of him being a political commentator, it seems only fair that he should get involved in the actual participation and not just the commenting on the process. But should Jimmy Kimmel be taken seriously when discussing a complex and nuanced topic such as health care? Since his insight on the issue came from personal experience then probably so, but otherwise we would have to question why we’re listening to him. 

Despite his lack of knowledge in the area, Tom Cruise stated in 2004 that psychology wasn’t a real science and that postpartum depression did not exist. He is a prime example of someone who did not receive what is typically considered a substantial education in America and did not know what he was talking about, but still made dangerous comments on serious mental health issues anyway.

While Gwynth Paltrow did attend high school, she did not graduate from college and is now making more of a name for herself as an influencer. She has received some controversy for her advocacy of vaginal rocks, vaginal steaming, and many other “alternative medicine” products that she sells. Her selling of these products shows an alarming disregard for legitimate medical practices and women’s health, but as a public figure she has a massive following, giving her a platform to make these assertions. 

The next question should be if they are articulating their point in a comprehensive way. If they’re spouting off opinions with little to no filter then it doesn’t feel appropriate to take their ideas too seriously. Robert De Niro opening up an acceptance speech with “Fuck Trump” is a sentiment that you might agree with, but does not result in his cause being taken seriously and serves to make Trump supporters feel like they are being unfairly vilified. Kanye West’s pro-Trump rants on SNL did not come across as very wise, leading to further backlash. 

If their opinion does not have the merits of a well-crafted argument to back it up, then it might work against whatever they’re trying to achieve. Taylor Swift’s introduction to politics came when she endorsed a congressman running for office in her district, something that actually has some relevance to her life. Her statement, which she posted via Instagram, was well-written and well-thought out, making it a respectable entry into politics and in the state in which she votes. 

Finally, I believe that we should take into account whether or not they’re being hypocritical. If so, then they deserve the backlash that they receive. Sean Penn claimed that people should have their guns taken away in order to quell ensuing gun violence and yet has starred in countless films glorifying gun violence. Leonardo DiCaprio telling people to take action against global warming in his Oscar speech and then boarding a private jet to get to an after party, is a peak example of “do as I say, not as I do” and might explain why people are tired of celebrities lecturing the public. Mark Ruffalo led protests down Wall Street and rallied against the one-percent, despite being in the one-percent himself. Natalie Portman wore a Dior dress that was embroidered with the names of female directors that she believes have been snubbed by Hollywood, despite the fact that her production company has only ever produced one film directed by a woman— and that woman was Natalie Portman. 

However, not all political commentary is bad. I would argue that Meryl Streep’s now-infamous take down of Trump is an example of political commentary done well. She had remained silent on social issues for most of her career, she is well-educated having attended Yale, she is at the top of her field, she articulated her point well, and she brought up a specific event that took place that bothered her. 

In a similar vein, Jane Fonda’s recent escapades for climate change is another example of protesting done well. She has famously been an activist her whole life, she is willing to get arrested for her cause on a regular basis, and she has stopped buying new clothes in an effort to protect the environment. 

Matt Damon, who attended but did not graduate from Harvard, has taken a stand for teacher’s rights, having a mother who is a teacher. Matt Damon has also helped millions of people in developing nations receive clean drinking water through the water.org and the water equity foundations, which he co-founded. 

Jennifer Lawrence has recently taken time out of filming to speak to young people across the country about the importance of getting involved politically. In her quest to elevate the political-consciousness of teenagers she has attacked both sides of the aisle. She did not receive any higher education, having dropped out at age 14, but she was well-spoken and did not make lofty claims on topics that she could not speak on with authority. 

You might disagree with some of the people listed above, but it is worth mentioning that when political commentary is done well, it can do so much good. In previous decades, celebrities helped get the U.S. government to tackle the AIDS crisis and to help end Appartheid. I believe that overall, the rule should be about whether or not they have skin in the game. If a famous person is practicing what they preach, knows what they’re talking about, and stands up for it in a cohesive way, then they are deserving of our attention.