Whoooooo’s going to see Queen of Everything Beyonce this Sunday with her beautiful girlfriend ME
Unfortunately, the venn diagram of decent television and shows about ladies who like ladies is not a circle. This is a short series on what’s out there and why you should watch it.
Starring? Sugar is played by the gorgeous Lenora Crichlow aka Annie from Being Human.
Main character Kim is played by lovely ginger Olivia Hallinan, probably best (and only) known to British audiences for Larkrise to Candleford, which was a really twee period drama. Olivia Hallinan was all over my childhood in some really awesome shows including the adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls In Love, but her best work was clearly as “Julia Jekyll” in Julia Jekyll and Harriet Hyde.
Series One features a young Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spiderman, Never Let Me Go), if you’re into that sort of thing.
What’s It About? So Kim is Fifteen, she’s just moved to Brighton and she has urges, most of which are focused on her unfortunately straight and ridiculously sexy best friend, Sugar. Hilarity (and also, some really sad, sweet drama) ensues as Kim tries to be straight, forget Sugar, handle her alcohol, get herself off with an electric toothbrush…
In Series Two Kim nabs herself a girlfriend named Saint who wore a red beret. I was sixteen when this aired and I was obsessed, like, I bought a red beret and I wore it all the time. One night, when the show was on, my sister and I were staying at my kind of homophobic Auntie’s house but I insisted on watching it and I knew there would be dildos and generally awkward scenes you don’t want to watch in the same room as your kind of homophobic Aunt but yeah, I made us all watch it anyway. Saint!
Why Should I Watch It? Sugar Rush is really fucking funny. Like, we all know that adolescence is messy and painful and confusing and sometimes that’s sad, but a lot of the time it’s hilarious. Like you caught crabs from the girl you fancy BUT not from having sex with her, just by sharing a towel or whatever and THEN you gave them to your Mum when she borrowed your jeans. Or you have a crush on this girl that works in a shop and you want to talk to her but you can’t work up the nerve so you keep going into the shop and just buying stuff BUT the problem is she works in a sex shop and now you have way too many dildos to hide from your parents. Or you’re in love with your best friend but she’ll only kiss you when she’s wasted or trying to get some guys’ attention. That last one was sad.
Basically it’s a hysterical, but also pretty realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be young and realising you’re gay and, inevitably, “in love with a straight girl”.
But Like, Will It Rip Open My Still Beating Heart? It might, occasionally bring a tear to your eye, the way funny shows do when they get serious for just a moment, but the only, really tragic thing about this series is it’s unjust and SUPER premature cancellation on kind of a cliffhanger after just two seasons. You were warned.
But Like, Do They Kiss? This show is not afraid to go there. Or anywhere, really, I remember they could only air it at 11pm, I had to stay up so late on a school night. Expect lots of women kissing, having sex, flashing female prison guards…
Where Can I Watch It? This show was made by Channel 4 in 2005. If you live in the UK you can still watch this on 4onDemand or buy both series on DVD. HOWEVER I just want to point out that if you do this, I’m guessing you are probably lining the pocket of the author of the (terrible) novel this series is loosely based on - noted transphobe (author of that Observer article) and all round disgusting human, Jule Birchill. Proceed as you will, I would never suggest anyone should illegally stream or download anything.
I can cry on cue, which I guess could be useful in certain situations.
Tip, just remember that one time Van Gogh ate yellow paint because it was the colour of happiness and he wanted so much to be happy.
Problems include not being able to stop crying.
UGH who took the url of my name. I have such a great name I bet that’s not even your name.
The National - I Need My Girl
I’m under the gun again.
I know I was the 45% of then,
I know I was a lot of things -
But I am good, I am grounded,
Davy says that I look taller,
I can’t get my head around it,
I keep feeling smaller and smaller.
I know I say this everytime I reread The Prisoner of Azkaban or The Order of the Pheonix but I WILL write that epic poem about Sirius Black one day.
I really just love all those Shakespearian, too angsty to live, anti-hero boys. Your Theon Greyjoys, your Sirius Blacks, your Boromirs. The beautiful ones who can’t do anything right because there’s a perfect storm of their own really poor choices and fate (but mostly bad choices) out to get them - it’s my favourite thing I love those characters so much and I just want it for a girl, I really do but I guess people can’t imagine a woman so sure of herself she’d fall down again and again and if they could they’d hate her for it.
"you want to get in her friendship pants"
After Christmas I joined a writers group. I’m the youngest one there and everyone is very serious about finishing a project in a year. We meet every week in a room above an expensive French Cafe near the river. When the host is away I help run the meetings. Everyone thinks I’m very sweet and last week a man described me as, “earnest and over the top”. I’ve finished the outline for my novel, after about ten years, I know how it happens and how things end. I’m writing more every week, I’d like to finish a draft by the end of the year.
I’ve watched every single episode of The Mindy Project.
I’ve been enjoying my job more, feeling like it’s something I can do, like I’m someone the people I work with like, can talk to and trust to get things done. They don’t think I’m weird, or boring and they laugh with me. I don’t hate being there.
I’m still in love. It’s like a terrifying light inside of me, you don’t want to know.
When it comes to standing up to people in the street, I haven’t made a lot of progress.
I went to Amsterdam on a coach that took twelve hours and visited Anne Franks house and The Van Gogh museum and walked along the river. I’d like to live there one day.
My best friend came home. Straight away it’s hard to picture a whole year where she wasn’t here - last year’s hard to remember at all. When I flew to Canada I lugged this huge, heavy rucksack around the airport and it almost weighed me to the floor. I feel like I carried it all year - like missing people is heavy but so is finding someone, being stuck in a place you hate is heavy and so is trying to carve out a life somewhere new.
I bought a pair of curling tongs for £7.99 from Argos and I don’t think I’ve ever owned something more efficient and perfect. I feel like a princess every day.
I’ve been making myself a lot of promises and then breaking them immediately. Keep on top of the laundry and the dusting and pay your bills and quit smoking and exercise and eat right and read at least a book a week and hoover and save some money and blog. This has been a record of my life for the last three years and I’m not ready to let it go.
I want to answer your question about Sherlock before I get going properly and just get it out of the way.
I came to watching BBC Sherlock pretty late, not too long before the second season aired and I really enjoyed it. I watched all three episodes in one go and wasn’t even that bothered by Bamboozle Crabapple’s face. I liked Martin Freeman, I thought the show was fun and clever and most importantly, as a HUGE fan of the original stories I enjoyed how close of an adaptation it was. This is a thing neither Elementary nor Luther do, taking the original mysteries and putting a modern spin on them. V. clever, I thought, mobile phone not watch, so modern, much update.
And then I heard that in the first episode of the new series, my favourite one shot character in all of Sherlock Holmes canon, my fictional feminist hero, Irene Adler who is good and kind and moral but doesn’t work for the law because the law don’t work for her and also SHE BEATS HOLMES SHE’S THE ONLY ONE WHO EVER BEATS HIM, was in this new episode. And she was a lesbian. It said it right there in the press release thingy. Gay Irene Adler. I cried, like I actually cried it was the best thing ever.
And then you know what happened, we don’t really need to go over how shitty and disappointing that episode was (“I’m gay, but the amazing Sherlock Holmes could turn me, and save me from beheading via vaguely terrorist looking guy. P.S. I never outsmarted any one it was that other smart guy the whole time and I let everyone down as a result of my foolish womanly emotions”). I was like, actually incredibly hurt by that episode and I didn’t watch any further. I pretty much started to really resent the show and as a result I look back at it far more critically, and see a lot wrong with it that I either didn’t see before, or did see but glossed over because that is what we do you know, pretty much subconsciously.
And the more I think about it, the more I think BBC Sherlock’s problems come from what I originally liked about it - it’s too close to the source material. It isn’t original, or brave, or ambitious. It’s characters are tired because the Sherlock Holmes archetype (that mean jerk who is allowed to be mean because he is a GENIUS - actually, interestingly, the original Holmes wasn’t really this way) is tired.
So to sum up, I really dislike BBC Sherlock, I think it is a lazy, insulting, sexist, homophobic (don’t get me started) show with a lead character who looks like an inside out glove puppet.
I really enjoy both Luther and Elementary and obviously they have their source material and lots of different elements in common - I especially love how both of them created this Irene Adler/genderswapped Moriarty fusion in Alice and Jamie. But even though Elementary and Luther are both based on Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, their approach to translating them to the screen is so different, it’s actually really hard to compare the two and say which one is better.
I mean, it’s easy to forget but Elementary is essentially your standard police procedural, and it runs in a 20-24 episode season, which in my opinion is way too long for a tv show, to keep each episode of a consistent and good production and writing quality and to let the story arc…flow? Maybe that’s not the right word, but you know what I mean. There’s a reason why all those earth shatteringly great dramas people talk about - Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Sopranos - stick to 13 episodes. You need time to develop your characters and build your audience up to something, but too much time (combined with not having a plan at all and making it up as you go, sorry Lost, sorry Heroes) will basically just leave you in a big tangled messy mess.
So Elementary doesn’t really have that on it’s side and if we’re being honest, it’s monster of the week crime plots go between seriously ridiculous and kind of boring on a regular basis. While the basic Sherlock Holmes element (you have to notice the little details to figure it out - whatever remains, however improbable blah blah blah) is there, there isn’t actually a lot of tension and OH MY GOD HOW to these mysteries, I’ve figured a lot of them out early on and none of them are all that memorable. Except that one with the kid and the balloons I did not see that coming.
So I don’t watch Elementary for the same reasons I watched Jonathan Creek or something like that, but what it lacks in plot it more than makes up for with characters. This is a great show with one of the best casts on TV and they really go there with developing those relationships. As I’m writing this I can’t get the scene where Joan gives Sherlock the framed Robert Frost poem out of my head. It’s really subtle, it’s really beautiful.
It’s also one of the only shows on air at the moment that doesn’t regularly use misogyny, homophobia, transphobia or racism as a comedic or dramatic crutch. I’m not saying there aren’t shitty lines, scenes or even whole episodes, but it’s a show that I think strives to not pull that crap and it’s not afraid to let women win, without any caveats, any, “oh actually he helped and here’s how” bullshit. Moriarty outsmarts the smartest man, the main character and then Joan outsmarts her. Moriarty goes on, not to see Joan as a romantic rival but as a figure of obsession and admiration. It’s really fucking refreshing and also awesome because you know what (and I am loosely quoting something I read somewhere, no idea who by, here) sexist, racist writing is bad writing because it’s boring, because it totally relies on old, tired cliches. Elementary does away with those and it’s characters and their interactions with one another are so much more compelling for it.
Luther is a whole other kettle of fish. It takes Sherlock Holmes as a really vague baseline and goes from there into something a lot more original, a lot more polished and honestly, of a much higher quality. Everything about this show is impressive - the soundtrack! Have you heard the soundtrack for this show it’s so good it’s unreal, honestly, check out the soundtrack. Every episode is like a movie; it makes so much of it’s location and it has this really cinematic quality, without losing that gritty, London feel. It’s also, again, got a really, really strong cast (Indira Varma, Ruth Wilson and Warren Brown in particular) and, all talk about how he’s such a beautiful human aside, it stars Idris Elba, who I think it probably one of the greatest actors working today, in one of his strongest performances.
The writing and format are just better too, like I said, less episodes, less mess (saying this, they should have stuck to six each series, not enough Luther) and because Luther uses that howdhecatchhim format instead of the whodunnit, we really have time to get to some really good, angsty, moralizing, philosophising, in your seat, screaming at the screen, having nightmares about creepy roleplay twins writing.
So yeah, I guess this mini essay has brought me to my own conclusion, which is that I love both of these shows so much BUT Luther is technically better BUT they’re not really all that comparable and you should watch both.
Hair error, my curling tongs are too efficient and I pinned the curls and slept in them and now I look like a poodle and they won’t go down.
“I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside of us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are. All we can say is that this is a good deed, because it helps someone or that’s an evil one, because it hurts them. People are too complicated to have simple labels.”
Today I’d like to talk about harrowing, yet philosophical children’s literature with ties to seventeenth century romantic poets and awful movie adaptations. I mean it, don’t any of you ever watch The Golden Compass, it’s really bad. Not The Last Airbender bad but still, really bad.
I’ve read Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials three times; at eleven, sixteen and twenty two - just a couple of weeks ago. As I come to write this I’m starting to feel like my picking the book up at these ages was particularly serendipitous. It is, after all, a series that deals with the difference between innocence and experience, grace and knowledge, between children and adults, with what happens to us when we grow up, what changes within us. At eleven I read three books about the wonderful adventures of Lyra and Will as they travelled between parallel dimensions, fought monsters and spectres and wars and encountered angels and armoured bears, but at sixteen it was a tragedy, like most everything I loved in that year. It spoke to something in me; my sadness and fear and lack of faith, my contempt for religion and wilful ignorance - that spark of hope in me, “this is what people are for”.
A fortnight ago I picked up an old favourite and read it knowing how much I’d cry and at which parts. Knowing where my favourite characters would appear and where the best words were. Since last reading the series I’ve been introduced to both William Blake, John Milton and their poetry; all of which featured heavily in the inspiration for and writing of these books, all of which make reading them an entirely different experience. I think there’s something to understanding an obscure literary reference that has to do with, just for a moment, being a genius, having your ego stroked, feeling like you and the author are sat in the smart people house, sharing an in joke. Reading the books this time around was nice; indulgent; revelatory. Part of a larger tradition.
His Dark Materials is a trilogy made up of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Northern Lights introduces us to Lyra Belaqua, apparent orphan of a count and countess, niece of the imposing Lord Asriel and feral child of Jordan College in the Oxford of Lyra’s world - which is sort of like our world only more steampunk and with Zeppelins. Also everyone wears their soul on the outside in the form of an animal that talks and changes into different animals at will until adolescence.
Northern Lights was, initially for me, the slowest of the three books that make up this trilogy and, without the inclusion of daemons, the name given for the animal souls each human in Lyra’s world has, it might be nothing more than a well written but otherwise unremarkable piece of children’s fantasy. Daemon’s fascinated me when I first picked up this book, I wanted one, I longed for one - a beautiful, soft, animal Jiminy Cricket that I could love, who would love me, who would allow me to love myself. Like all the great children’s authors (who can honestly say Enid Blyton changed their life?) Pullman doesn’t sugar coat, he isn’t afraid to scare a child, in fact he seems to relish it as he puts the more than capable Lyra through one ordeal after another. The menacing gobblers steal her friends away, she meets the beguiling/morally repugnant Mrs. Coulter, she encounters a probable paedophile, she learns some harsh truths concerning her parentage (illegitimate, some murder went on, both Mum and Dad are negligent and super self-involved), she fights off kidnappers and evil lobotomised scientists and creepy monkeys and I haven’t even gotten into the armoured bear stuff yet. Lyra gets through all this by being the sort of stubborn and precocious child that adults in stories just seem to adore. Also by lying, Lyra’s lies get her further than anything else and earn her, by the novel’s conclusion, a new name - “Lyra Silvertongue”.
The end of The Northern Lights marks a real shift in the series, which goes from charming and clever fantasy to something a lot more ambitious when, as the book comes to an end, Lord Asriel rips open a gateway between the world Lyra lives in and countless more, including our own. The second installment in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife, opens in our world and introduces us to the second protagonist a disarmingly capable twelve year old boy called Will Parry. Will is a young carer, struggling to cope with a cat and a deteriorating Mother and accidentally murdering some guy, possibly a burglar or a mobster or someone from MI6 it’s not too clear, what is clear is that Will has to hide, which he does when he finds a gateway to another world. Unfortunately, a wandering Lyra has found this parallel place, which connects the world of daemons and our own and she’s gone a bit feral. Will, a practical kid, cleans her up and shows her how to use a can opener and a fridge and I guess they become sort of friends?
What follows is both an endearing and engaging children’s adventure fantasy story and an epic reworking and reinterpretation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, with Will and Lyra recast as Adam and Eve.
One of the most difficult things about really loving a book, really losing yourself in something is that you have to accept the author’s truth as your own and once you’re finished that’s a hard thing to let go of, to stand back from and examine critically. It’s something that’s especially true of fantasy novels, books like His Dark Materials, really captivating children’s literature but unlike it’s contemporaries; other works of fantasy or sci fi, other books for young readers, HDM isn’t just a gripping, immersive read. It’s a lesson, it’s a vision of Pullman’s morality, his alternative to the teachings and the lessons of the Christian faith.
Most of the legitimate criticism levelled at the trilogy (I’m choosing to disregard the Catholic Herald’s ”Parents, do you know the evil words your children are reading?”) was concerned with the heavy handedness of the whole thing, Subtle is not a word Pullman has ever come across. Except it is, because the second book is called The Subtle Knife and I guess he’s pretty subtle about the way he handles a lot of things, but, whatever, you know what I mean.
It’s not even that I disagree with what Pullman is saying, I think we should be talking about these things; we should be discussing the Churches role in shaping our society and our personal morality, the influence it has upon the way we choose to behave as human beings, how it affects our autonomy, the way it controls it’s followers with fear and promises of scientific improbabilities, how it interprets it’s own source material to best benefit those already in power, the obsession with innocence, the loopholes, the hypocrisy, the get out of jail free cards, the lies. Serefina Pekkala (a sexy nordic witch who can fly) tells Lyra that, "all the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity. The rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed." I suppose what I really object to is Pullman’s “new atheist” rhetoric; religion is the root of all evil and knowledge and intelligence the root of all goodness, religious people are stupid and the scientifically minded, enlightened, knowledgeable members of society are the righteous - that our worth can be measured by these things, literally measured within the trilogy by the amount of dust a person, human endeavours and intelligence attracts.
It’s very simple, to write off the nastier chapters of our history and the parts of our society that we know do us harm and keep us back, as ignorant, as stupid and call religion the source of that ignorance but to me it’s starting to feel increasingly like a cop out. Bad things are not always ignorant things, more often they are selfish and cruel and free from empathy and compassion and human solidarity - all things you don’t need a great deal of intelligence to express and yet we continue to say - homophobia is ignorance, sexual repression is ignorant, racism is ignorant, the church is ignorant. This feels way too easy to me, a predictable conclusion drawn by someone who surrounds himself and fills his life with knowledge and wisdom and reasoned thinking - because those are all wonderful things but they’re not the only wonderful things and they’re not free or unrestricted or exclusive ingredients in what makes, “a good person” or, “a real person”.
So yeah, Pullman, and these books, have a number of things going on in them that I have a problem with, but what His Dark Materials really does have going for it is beauty. How stunning and intricate the world Pullman creates is and how seamlessly he folds a thousand references to Blake and Milton and all sorts of spiritual philosophy into the text. As a lesson, His Dark Materials is flawed; heavy handed and preachy and predictable but as a vision, as an odyssey, as a love story? It’s beautiful, it’s heart-breaking. And as a re imagining of a story so fundamental, so ingrained into the way we see the world, it’s staggering. This is a book for children that’s brave and bright and complicated. In one scene towards the end of the series final installment The Amber Spyglass, Mary Maloney, serpent, tempter, tells the two children about love and her life with it and without it.
"…But it gradually seemed to me that I’d made myself believe something that wasn’t true. I’d made myself believe that I was fine and happy and fulfilled on my own without the love of anyone else. Being in love was like China: you knew it was there, and no doubt it was very interesting, and some people went there, but I never would. I’d spend all my life without ever going to China, but it wouldn’t matter, because there was all the rest of the world to visit… And I thought: am I really going to spend the rest of my life without feeling that again? I thought: I want to go to China. It’s full of treasures and strangeness and mysteries and joy.”
In a lot of ways the character of Mary Maloney, a Nun who left the church to become a physicist, who proudly declares, “The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.” is the embodiment of everything I don’t like about Pullman’s approach, but in this scene there is nothing jarring about her or her words, she is not a snake holding out an apple but a woman talking frankly about her life and when it started to make sense and why and Will and Lyra are not the first man and the first woman, the downfall of man but a boy and a girl who recognize love the way millions did before and will do after them.
I would recommend this book for any number of reasons; it made me cry my heart out, it made me question things I might not otherwise have started to question, it frustrates me and it engages me. I think my daemon would be a fox and I would really like to go to China.