An effort to be grateful in this clusterfuck, omnishambles of a time

Earlier today, I felt an innate numbness that I haven’t truly felt for a while.

I don’t know about you, but with everything going on, I haven’t really been paying as much heed to my mental health as I should have. I’ve been feeling the anxiety constantly – how can you not? – but today, that great big, oppressive storm cloud called depression really made itself known again. It’s sitting very heavily on my chest, even now, and I’m struggling to find much joy or interest in anything trivial. Anything important is also, I might add, just a bit too much right now.

But when I’m feeling like this, I’ve learnt that what I need to do is write. Writing is and always has been the ‘thing’ that I can do. It is the one way I can express myself and take shelter from the storm. So, here I am again, on this blog that has, regrettably, become the  vessel of my intermittent emotional turmoil.

Despite all this, and everything that is happening, I am trying to be positive. I’m trying to see the good and the hopeful in this shitty clusterfuck omnishambles of a situation. So, I’ve decided to list a few things I’m grateful for. I’ve always heard that’s a good thing to do when things are bleak. So here we go.

  1. Family 

I live with my family and, right now, I couldn’t be more grateful for the comfort and security of that. I’m so thankful for my Mum. I’m sad I can’t give her the Mother’s Day she deserves on Sunday, complete with all manner of gifts and sentiments, but I’m grateful that she is here and healthy and as resilient as ever. I’m also really grateful for her cooking – everyone in self-isolation knows that food becomes very important and she makes it so, so good.

I will be honest, my brothers are getting on my tits a bit. The younger one doesn’t seem to understand the concept of rationing or why everyone’s so stressed and the older-younger one is prone to being quite sullen. But I’m still grateful they’re also here and safe.

I’m also grateful that my Dad and my Nan are okay, albeit far away. I’m grateful that the last time I saw my Dad, a week or so ago, I got two cuddles rather than our traditional goodbye one. That extra one should tide me over for the time being. I’m grateful that my Nan is being looked after and amused that she has 64 toilet rolls in comparison to our final three. The rest of my family are also coping, and that, again, is something to be thankful for.

2. Friends (part one)

I’m very grateful for my friends. I’m grateful that I made the best ones at school and that I can still rely on them to stick with me. I’m sad that our plans have been cancelled and that we can’t treat ourselves any time soon like we usually would, but it’s one of the first things I’ll do once things get back to normal. I also find it funny that they’re more concerned with McDonald’s Monopoly and Eurovision being cancelled than anything else.

I’m also grateful for the friends I have online and the friends I’ve made elsewhere, but lost touch with. I hope they’re all safe and doing well – and there’s no better time to catch up!

3. Friends (part two)

Sadly, today, I learnt that I was being made redundant and that the one thing I always had to prove to myself that I was ‘doing okay’ – my job – is, for now at least, gone. That’s really the catalyst for this whole thing.

Sometimes I complained about it, but I really did love working at Harbour Lights. I’m so very grateful for the friends I’ve made there. They are all such kind, fundamentally decent people and I’m so very sorry that it’s all come to this. I’m clinging to the sliver of hope that when this whole shitshow finally comes to an end, I might be able to go back. It’s certainly not a chapter of my life I want to truly end just yet – I don’t think I can process the lack of closure at all right now – but I shall just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’m grateful for all the wacky, lovely things we’re all doing to see us through.

4. Cats 

I’m grateful for my furry pals. Before all this started, I lost my best and longest one, but I’m grateful for the efforts of the other four. I’m grateful for Spike’s cuddles and for the way Finn keeps checking up on me when I’m struggling to sleep. I’m grateful for Kylo and Buffy’s more vocal approach – I don’t speak cat and they don’t speak human, but we seem to be having conversations anyway and I’m grateful for the company! I’m also grateful that they’re all so kind as to be leading other cats into our house to share their food – I just wish the refugee cats would come and be my friends too.

5. Wi-fi and other ESSENTIALS

‘Essentials’ has come to mean something a bit different now, hasn’t it? We’re beginning to recognise the pointless materialism of some things and the all too neglected value of others. Well, I’m grateful for my house and the roof over our heads. I’m grateful for the hot, clean water – again, like mealtimes, bath/shower times are becoming something of an event in self-isolation. I’m grateful for the food and the electricity and the holy Wi-Fi. I’m grateful that, for now, we’re still able to afford all these things. And next week, I will be grateful for Disney+ and its access to old childhood favourites that I can lose myself in.

I’m sure there’s more to be grateful for, but I’ve waffled on enough – and feel a little better for it.

These are very, very scary and uncertain times. I’ve never known anything like this to happen in my life and the attempt to adjust is frightening and stressful. I keep worrying that it won’t ever get better and that ‘normal’ is a concept we might all have to change, whether we want to or not. But I sincerely hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that, eventually, we can all move on and look back at this with a newfound and more appreciative perspective.

Take care x

For Nahnah

I got him when I was eleven years old. He was the runt of the litter and we took him earlier than we should have. I carried him all the way home, not in a basket or a box, but clutched to my chest, wrapped in a tea towel. I was so pleased. I felt like a new Mum and he was my baby.

We named him Neo, after Keanu Reeves’ character in The Matrix and he certainly lived up to being “the one”. But in all my cooing and adoration, his cool name quickly devolved into affectionate phonetics. On paper, he was always Neo, but at home and in my heart, he was Nahnah. He didn’t mind at all.

He had one single white whisker for the first year of his life and he liked to chase around the small little containers that come inside Kinder eggs. He liked to sit in windows and watch the world go by. He loved to sit in cardboard boxes and paper bags.

He would wait for me to come home from school on the rooftop of our house everyday, readily watching from high up to spot me as I walked down. Once, someone saw him on the roof and called the fire brigade thinking he was stuck. He wasn’t – and he showed them all up by lazily, arrogantly making his own way down. He was a terrific jumper. He was always waiting for me to come home, whether up high or down on the ground.

He loved to duck under the covers and steal secret cuddles in the night. He enjoyed poking me awake with his paw when I was trying to lie-in. He made an effort to look guilty whenever I spotted him cuddled up with anyone else. He loved coming up and sitting on me whenever I was sat down. This included times when I was crazily typing away at articles and essays. He was unfazed. He’d come and lie in my lap anyway, insisting I give him love – which I always did.

He was a bugger for crisps. He loved them – especially Wotsits. We didn’t even give them to him half the time. If he saw an open packet, he’d be in it, slowly putting his paw in to get out one at a time before chomping them up. Every time he had milk, he’d walk around with a contented milky beard on his chin.

He once hid a live bird under my bed. I heard a weird cooing noise and got my Mum to investigate – the poor bird flew out from under the frame only for Nahnah to try and catch it again and put it back. He gifted me with mice from time to time. I never enjoyed these presents but I always forgave him pretty quickly.

He loved to sprawl out in the sunshine and have his belly rubbed. Not many cats like having their bellies touched – I always felt supremely proud to have been anointed the belly privilege. He didn’t much like being picked up by people, but he always let me – he flopped into my cuddles, acting unbothered, but secretly loving it.

He rarely meowed. His meow was high-pitched and squeaky – I think he was a bit embarrassed of it. Instead, he would communicate with a series of stoic, steady glances. Somehow, I always knew what he meant, even though he was only looking at me. I like to think he purred the most for me. He loved everyone in our family though. He was a proud Alpha cat – he kept the other cats in line and they loved him too.

A year ago, I quietly wrote an ode (that wasn’t really an ode) to him and how he has helped me as an emotional support animal. He wasn’t an ‘official’ one, but he took it on himself to be there for me when I needed him – more than any of the other cats. He would nudge at my head when I cried and gently knead at my skin in times when I felt particularly numb, as if to remind me that I was still here; still alive.

When I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I was about 15. I barely left the house and I was rarely at school, where all my friends were. So, for quite a while, all I really had was my Mum and my Nahnah. My adolescence and my early adult years have been the hardest of my life so far and he was there for all of it. A constant, perfect companion for a girl who is forever feeling lost in her own head.

And now he’s gone.

He’d been fading for a while and then suddenly, it was time. I had to watch him go and I’ve never felt so helpless. I should be grateful – so many cats choose to hide away and die alone. Nahnah died at the end of my bed. He stayed with me for as long as he could.

I’m so lost. I look to the end of the bed and expect him to be there. I look at the rest of the clowder (we’re now down to four) with puzzlement. I uttered and sang and crooned his name so many times a day for so many years, I feel tongue-tied at the sudden loss of it. It’s as painful to be alone in my room as it is to be in company. I feel horrible and for the first time, I can’t find solace in his fur.

We buried him today and I can’t stop thinking of how cold it is out there. I have this futile, desperate wish to make him warm again.

I’m beyond grateful that I had 13 years with him. It’s the longest I’ve ever had a pet and he was such a good, sweet-natured boy. I loved him with all my heart and I know he loved me back.

I was so very lucky to have him.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: All my feels, unleashed in a spoiler-filled blog post

It has risen again. This shitty blog ‘series’ of mine is back.

I’ve seen The Rise of Skywalker now and, as with the other blog posts, I’m feeling rather trapped in my feelings about it. I need an outlet to just rant freely and this is it.

It ain’t clever, it isn’t particularly coherent, but it feels necessary – just to get it all out.

I’m interested to know what other people think and whether I’m validated in any of my opinions but I also really don’t have the energy to genuinely argue about it, so please engage with caution. These are just my feelings and, full disclosure, they’re pretty negative, so if you don’t need that in your life, go forth and be happy and ignore this, I won’t judge you.

Do NOT read ahead of this if you haven’t seen the film, because I’m about to GO OFF in the most spoilerific of ways.

Continue reading “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: All my feels, unleashed in a spoiler-filled blog post”

Defining the Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy – with three hot mess examples

I’ve been thinking a lot about this trope since I first saw the idea raised on Twitter as the male equivalent to the infamous Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Firstly because ohmygod, this trope seems to describe a stupid amount of all the fictional characters I’ve ever loved, IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME? And secondly, because it is genuinely interesting to consider.

Having thought on it, I would define the Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy as a male character who is destructive, morally flawed and deeply emotionally damaged; men who lash out and seek to destroy, murder and/or conquer because they do not feel loved or acknowledged – usually as a result of childhood trauma/neglect.

There’s usually a vulnerability to the character, even if they commit heinous acts. They are rarely just evil for the sake of evil – they’ve been through some shit and have come out of it in a very bad way. Without a proper emotional outlet or support, they unleash their pain and frustration through violent acts and often behind a persona that (mostly) masks their true vulnerability. Like all ‘bad guys’, they also feel in some way justified in their actions.

It’s the tragic back stories that create the kind of empathy in audiences that is critical to defining the trope. The Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy is a troubled, often ‘villainous’ character that you may find yourself rooting for, because despite their obvious flaws and lack of moral judgement, there is the feeling that they could be “fixed” – if only they were to change their attitude or find a different path. Redemption isn’t always on the cards and often, because they are so regularly pitched as the main antagonist of a story, they  end up meeting grisly ends deserving of their crimes. But in some cases, the Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy can redeem himself – either by noble sacrifice in death (therefore eliminating his own toxic output from the world) or by actively choosing a better path and seeking forgiveness.

Often (but not always), these men will also seek out or find themselves attracted to a ‘pure’ partner with better, more desirable morals to join them in their destructive plots and/or save them from themselves. Generally, any romantic overtures they attempt to make come across as toxic or manipulative – often because they are blinded by their goals and are unable to communicate any of their true feelings in a healthy manner.

They also have a tendency to brood. A lot. Depressive Demon Nightmare Boys are damaged, but hot – which is probably why they tend to attract certain viewers (like me).

Here are a few examples of Depressive Demon Nightmare Boys in film that I have both enjoyed and thought about in the context of the trope. Television is also rife with DDNBs (Spike and Angel, Kilgrave, etc) but I decided to limit myself to film and these three for now.

I should also mention that the definition I’m working with seems to pertain to a particularly dramatic set of DDNBs – especially since two of them exist in fantasy franchises. I’m sure there is a place for more moderate DDNBs, but it’s not here! Not yet! Welcome aboard the male angst train, folks. I’ve tried not to sound like too much of a villain apologist, but I think understanding where the DDNB is coming from (even if all their subsequent choices are crappy) is integral to the trope itself. I’ve also tried to condense as best I can, but honestly I could write entire essays on these guys.

EDITED NOTE: Yes, the DDNB isn’t far off from a Byronic hero. All these examples have Byronic elements, for sure. But I find the term DDNB just a little more telling of certain aspects of that type. I’m under no illusions that this is brand new territory I’m stepping on, I promise you.

  1. Kylo Ren/Ben Solo in Star Wars: Episodes VII – IX (2015 – Present)

Kylo Ren is the archetypal Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy, steeped in conflict, denial and deep personal anguish. Thanks to a meticulously complex performance by Adam Driver, Kylo Ren has become an antagonist of genuine intrigue. His origins as the boy formerly known as Ben Solo inform (and often hinder) his current role as Supreme Leader of the First Order.

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By all accounts, as the son of rebellion heroes Leia Organa and Han Solo, Ben Solo should have had it made. However, as we have already discovered midway through this latest trilogy, his early years were marked with trauma and difficulty. Not only were his parents neglectful (with Leia pre-occupied by the rebuilding of the Senate and Han Solo being, well, Han Solo), he was also groomed by his eventual master Snoke – who began to whisper doubts and promises to him through the Force from a very early age.

What really did it though, was when he awoke to what he (understandably) assumed to be the ultimate betrayal from his master/uncle Luke. Geared by Snoke’s promises and the feeling that his family had abandoned him for fear he would turn out like his Grandfather (a connection he only learnt of later in life, via public announcement from one of Leia’s political rivals), he destroyed Luke’s temple, killed fellow padawans and established a new identity – complete with a mask to hide all his pain behind.

While his harrowed upbringing doesn’t excuse his later crimes (he murders his father, callously kills innocents, tortures people and stands idly by when Starkiller Base destroys an entire system), it does lend a certain understanding to why he feels justified in his mission to “let the past die”. Unable to reconcile or forgive his family for their various indiscretions, he seeks to obliterate all ties to them, not only by discarding his birth name, but also by seeking to destroy the Resistance and the Jedi because of their meaningful affiliations to Leia and Luke. Through Snoke’s influence, this has also been warped into a ploy for power and ultimate galactic domination. Only by “finishing what [Vader] started” does Ben Solo believe he will find peace from the past that haunts him.

Despite his resentment and anguish however, there is still light in Kylo Ren – a fact acknowledged not only by himself but also by Snoke (“you have too much of your Father’s heart in you, young Solo”) and later Rey, who goes so far as to ship herself off to his mercy in a naive attempt to turn him. When he kills Snoke and fights against the Praetorian guard, Rey assumes that he has become her ally for good – however, in a tantalisingly murky move for the next instalment, Kylo instead petitions her to join him in creating a new order. Were he a more straight-forward villain, you could argue that this was his plan all along – to manipulate Rey through the Force bond and create an opportunity to usurp Snoke in the process. But being a Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy, it’s not so simple. Instead, his petition to Rey comes across as more of a desperate, ill-prepared plea, complete with problematic reasoning (“you come from nothing, you’re nothing… but not to me”), yearning hand offering and that painfully vulnerable little “please“.

It’s hard to tell whether or not Ben Solo will be redeemed in the final episode, either in  death (like his Grandfather before him) or through his emotionally weighted connection to Rey, but the fact that it is possible within the story so far is telling of his status as a Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy. That little spark of light is enough to convince us that maybe, just maybe, he might not succumb to the dark side entirely.

2. Jason “J.D. Dean in Heathers (1989)

Unlike my dear emotionally stunted Kylo (who, bless his heart, hasn’t quite inherited his scoundrel Dad’s ability to charm), there are Depressive Demon Nightmare Boys who appear incredibly charismatic on the surface. Such is the case with Christian Slater’s character in Heathers.

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J.D. enters Westerburg High with a cool, unaffected swagger that intrigues Veronica Sawyer immediately. Even though he shows a few warning signs early on, such as a propensity for violence (by pulling an unloaded gun on two assholes in school), casual stalking (turning up at Veronica’s window uninvited) and a desire to kill (“Heather Chandler is one bitch who deserves to die”), Veronica is initially blinded by his flirty “greetings and salutations” and promises of cherry slushies and strip croquet.

Even as he ropes her in to his increasingly daring “suicide” plots (by manipulating her with casual lies – “ich luge bullets” – and seemingly rational solutions), it takes Veronica some time to see past his effortlessly cool façade and realise the weight and implications of their actions. When she finally breaks free from his hold, he begins to lash out in increasingly manic ways, desperate to get her back and resume his plot to send his “fuck you all” message to society. He even goes so far as to threaten to kill her himself.

But as he pitifully reveals in the film’s climax (and as is also hinted to in the fucked-up interactions with his Dad), his need to kill stems from a deep sense of loneliness, depressed apathy for his situation of moving from school to school and the feeling that “nobody loves me.” The loss of his Mother, who seemingly killed herself on one of his Father’s deranged demolition sites, has traumatised him in such a way that his only way of dealing with it is to externalise and take his anger out on his peers. As with Kylo Ren, there is a backlog of family dysfunction and trauma that has abetted J.D’s evolution as a Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy.

His Depressive Demon Nightmare reign is eventually curbed when Veronica prevents him from blowing up the school. Resigned to the fact that his plot has failed, but still acutely focused on putting an end to his own misery, he blows himself up. Despite the explosive nature of his demise, he doesn’t go out with the bang that he had hoped for – alongside peers he never really belonged to – but with the whimper of a boy in turmoil.

3. Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (2011- 2018)

There’s a reason Loki is the most popular villain in the MCU – and it’s because of all the Avengers’ nemeses, he is perhaps the most three-dimensional. Raised as the lesser, younger son of Odin, Loki had a bee in his spectacularly horned bonnet early on. His lust for power – and more specifically the Asgardian throne – may seem megalomaniacal on the surface, but it seems to stem from feelings of not truly belonging – in either the family or the realm that he so desires to call his own.

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The revelation that he is in fact the son of Laufey, the frost giant king of Jotunheim and sworn enemy of Odin, was a tough blow that clearly sent Loki into something of an identity crisis. Being “the monster that parents tell their children about at night” is no easy thing to come to grips with, but the revelation also managed to add more fuel to Loki’s burning resentment towards Thor as the mighty “favoured” son.

More than anything, Loki wants to belong and sit in a place of power that he believes he has earned through loyalty – but being a Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy, he seeks to take it using violent, treacherous means. True to the Demon Nightmare aspects of the trope, Loki kills, manipulates and conspires in his various plots to reign over Asgard and beat Thor. “Mischief” seems too jovial a connotation to associate with a man so emotionally fraught, but he sometimes uses his trickery as a smoke screen (as in the scene following Frigga’s death in The Dark World) to guard the ugliness of his true anguish.

Despite his many sins and betrayals, Loki is one of the few members of this trope who manages to redeem himself. By the time of his death at the hands of Thanos, Loki had finally come to terms with his heritage, both as Odin’s son and Laufey’s heir – accepting his true identity as a frost giant as well as his place among Odin’s family.

 

As I see it, all three of these characters fit the trope of Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy. They have all experienced trauma, held resentment for some aspect of their upbringing, lashed out violently and hidden their more vulnerable feelings behind a persona. The fact that they are each popular (and more crucially, sympathised with) among their respective fan bases is also a testament to the complex construction of their characters.

While the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is often regarded as something of a joke, detrimental to the crafting of real, respectable female characters, the Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy offers up an interesting perspective on toxic masculinity and how it can translate real pain, anguish and trauma into acts of violence, destruction and chaos.

Discussions and suggestions on other DDNBs in film and TV are welcome in the comments!

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: All my feels, unleashed in a spoiler-filled blog post

*Kylo Ren voice* Forgive me. I feel it again… The call to the blog. 

I wasn’t actually intending on doing a feels post for this film – I was just gonna do a Letterboxd review. But then that review got loooong. Too long . So I’ve put it all here instead. Depending on whether you like these or not, you’re welcome/I’m sorry.

I adore the original Jurassic Park and I personally really loved Jurassic World, so maybe my expectations were a little too high for this film. It wasn’t as good as JW – it was more than a little disjointed, often predictable and a bit ridiculous in places.

But it’s dinosaurs, man. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Below the cut are some thoughts (both positive and negative) about the film that I’ve scrambled together. Spoilers, uh, find a way into this (obviously) so if you haven’t seen the film, you should avoid this until you have.

Continue reading “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: All my feels, unleashed in a spoiler-filled blog post”

Avengers: Infinity War: All my feels, unleashed in a spoiler-filled blog post

I literally only use this blog for this ‘series’ of inane, overemotional reactionary posts, but whatever. Hello, if you’re reading this!

Unlike Stranger Things 2 and The Last Jedi, this post comes with a little bit of thinking time in between watching the thing and unleashing the feels – and that’s purely because this film broke my brain a bit. But in the best way… I think.

I came home feeling as exhausted as I was exhilarated by the experience. And when I say ‘experience’, it’s not nerdy hyperbole. Infinity War is genuinely a cinematic event, and seeing it in a cinema with other people (no matter how loudly they chewed/rustled/reacted during it) really added to the overall feeling that I had once the film was over. It’s a film that needs to be shared in – for emotional support, if nothing else. Because while it’s great fun for the first two hours, those last forty minutes are harrowing.

As always, and as is very, very clearly signposted in the title of this series, I’m going to  unleash some spoiler-y feelings I have about the film now. They’re slightly more coherent than previous posts have been, but it’s still a pretty loose dialogue.

If you haven’t seen the film, go away, watch it and then come back. Also, I share these feels mostly for cathartic fangirly reasons, but I’m totally up for lengthy discussions – feel free to @ me if you wanna get into the nitty-gritty and cry about this film with me.

Continue reading “Avengers: Infinity War: All my feels, unleashed in a spoiler-filled blog post”