We made it folks. The end of yet another week. Which means it is time for another set of Staff Picks.
Fargo is a black-comedy/crime show inspired by the Coen Brother’s film from the 90’s. The first season revolves around Martin Freeman’s character as he tries to navigate his way to freedom after being complicit in the murders of his childhood bully, wife, and the chief of police. It’s just a massive web of confusion involving a crime syndicate in another city, a random hitman, and only one deputy has enough wit to see through it all, but her superiors are ignoring her. The really neat thing about this show for me is that it’s filmed in my city, and I recognize some of the places caught on camera.
I recently started watching yet another battle-shounen anime (because you always need one in rotation!) called My Hero Academia. Currently in its third season, I thought I’d have plenty of episodes to watch over the next few weeks, yet after only ONE WEEKEND I’m already caught up! It’s a wonderful mix of character-driven comedy, intense one-on-one combat, and inspirational self-discovery. The show follows Izuku Midoriya, who aspires to become the number one superhero despite being born without a superpower (or Quirk). It’s the classic underdog story, as Izuku struggles to find recognition in a world where nearly everyone has special abilities. Against all odds (and with a little help from his idol All Might) he secures a spot at the most prestigious superhero high school and must vie against his classmates for the chance to become the world’s next greatest hero.
I am seriously obsessed with this show! The characters have very distinct personalities and unique Quirks that intersect in interesting ways. Beyond that, it’s a pretty typical battle shounen, but you’ll be hooked all the same! I do have some qualms about how they tackle their female characters. There’s a pretty large power imbalance between the boys and the girls, and some of the female pro heroes have questionable personas. Midnight’s Quirk, for example, is Somnambulist. She can produce a smoky pink aroma that puts people to sleep (which is more effective against males of course), and yet her hero costume is a dominatrix? I’m not the only one who sees the problematic implication there, right?! Overall though, My Hero Academia doesn’t shove the female characters to the side and some have really interesting Quirks that I’m excited to see develop!
Narrated by ten-year-old Claudia, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is a searing examination of conscience. Its narrative traverses exploitation–both within a family and within society at large–and other themes include traumatic girlhood, white supremacist beauty standards, sexual violence as a stand-in for love, and racialized gentrification. It only took me about a week to read, but it has stayed with me for weeks and will likely stay with me for years to come.
I also have to recommend Some Feelings by Julia Nunes. I first discovered Julia Nunes from her incredibly charming video for “Make Out,” featuring a delightful and diverse array of real-life couples, including Julia Nunes herself and girlfriend Danielle Owens-Reid. Her debut album Some Feelings is exactly what it says on the tin, from joy and lust in “Make Out” to reckoning with and recovering from an abusive relationship in “Fondly Enough” and wallowing in depression in “Don’t Feel.” It’s a lovely little album, clocking in at 37 minutes and 11 songs, that definitely packs an emotional punch.
I love fantasy and science-fiction. I study it for a living. But, I’m very particular about the kind of fantasy and sci-fi that I like. I’m not usually a fan of high fantasy or really convoluted sci-fi. I prefer stories that are as rooted in the real world as possible (urban fantasy is my jam), with relatable, imperfect characters and dark storylines. Similar to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky has given me the perfect blend of modern fantasy and sci-fi, with just the right amount of whimsy and depth. The stakes are high (the world is in danger of an all-out magical war), but the characters in Anders’s story keep it grounded and personal. Patricia, a witch, and Laurence, a science prodigy, might just be in love with each other, but they’re on opposing sides in an ancient war between science and magic. Can they reconcile their differences? Well, read it for yourself and find out! All the Birds in the Sky is a super fun read and perfect for achieving those summer reading goals.