Please let me in?
If you weren't aware, Frank Ocean's Blond was just ranked the number one album of the decade by Pitchfork—a well-deserved accolade.
Blond is a transcendent masterpiece, a work that is musically and lyrically innovative while also packing the kind of emotional punch that always leaves me seeing stars.
Tonight, somewhere in New York City, Frank Ocean will be hosting his first club night. If you haven't already received the event invite, you won't, as this is a super-exclusive kind of thing. I'm still waiting for my invitation, but that's probably for the best, because I think if I were in the same room as Frank Ocean, I'd pass out or dissolve into a pool of glitter and tears. I know he says, "I'm just a guy, not a god" in "Futura Free," but I'm not sure. I think if God wrote a song, it would probably sound something like that track.
Entitled PrEP+, the club will be 80s-themed. It's named after the pre-exposure prophylaxis drug used by people at risk of contracting HIV. According to the press release, the club will be a "homage to what could have been if the drug PrEP... had been invented" during the 1980s club scene. PrEP was first adapted in 2012 and is available only by prescription.
By the 1980s, HIV and AIDS had reached epidemic levels in America, and people with these illnesses were often dehumanized and refused treatment. Associated with queerness and poverty, HIV/AIDS was largely ignored and heavily stigmatized. In order for the government to allocate the funds needed to search for a cure, mass protests had to occur.
Though treatments are available today, people with HIV still face discrimination and stigma, and many don't realize that even people who have HIV have the option to become "undetectable" with treatment. That's why an event like Ocean's is so important—it emphasizes that there are ways to prevent and cure HIV, and it reminds us that no one should have to live in fear of it or of their preferences for how to love and experience joy.
Club life was a vital part of queer and alternative culture in the 1980s. Queer clubs were rare places where gay people and others who didn't fit into mainstream society could go to let loose and be themselves. Though many queer nightclubs have become heavily corporatized (or infiltrated by straight, often wealthy, and white people) beginning with Rudy Giuliani's moral craze around nightclubs in the 1980s, it seems that Ocean's club will be dedicated to pulling from the radical spirit of 1980s club culture while putting a futuristic and idealistic spin on the problems and struggles that plagued those years.
Among its rules, Ocean's club reads that "consent is mandatory" and says there will be "zero tolerance for racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism or any form or discrimination." Sadly, no photography will be permitted. Okay, maybe I really do want to be there. But as I listen to Nights for the thousandth time on the train home tonight, I'm going to be happy just knowing that somewhere in this city, Frank Ocean is dancing.
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Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
It's so hard to find queer games that are not only accurate portrayals of gay teens, but are also hella fun. This is one of them.
Not going to lie guys, I'm kicking myself in the head for not getting to this title sooner. Most of you have probably heard of Brianna Lei's Butterfly Soup, a visual novel that took the gaming world by storm last year. For those that haven't, it's about four queer Asian-American teens attending their first year of high school in California.
It's astounding writing, characters, and overall depiction of Asian American queer teens have led to other sites like Polygon, PC Gamer, and Kotaku calling it a stand out game of the year. And, after playing through most of it, I can see why.
The beautiful title screen!Brianna Lei
Listen. I don't like visual novels half the time. Even something like Dream Daddy, which I loved, gets incredibly boring. I suffer through them, because it's where a lot of queer content gets produced It's not because they're bad, I just have a specific taste and I don't want to spend three or four or ten hours just reading text on a screen. But, I was happy to do it with Butterfly Soup, because it's just so fun.
And that should be a given, right? Dream Daddy was fun, wasn't it? And so was Gone Home (which isn't necessarily a visual novel, but close enough)? And Life is Strange (which also isn't necessarily a visual novel, but again, close enough)? That's true, but I think what separates Butterfly Soup from them is that has a sense of honesty without taking away the humor and light-heartedness at all and making it either super campy or super depressing.
As much as I love Gone Home, it focused a lot on the negative experiences of queer youth. You hear a lot about how it's main character struggled with both her identity and helping her partner. While this is a very honest representation of what a lot of young gay folks through - it's not the only experience that we have.
Diya, the main character of the story.Brianna Lei
We have a community and we have a lot of queer friends, and often times we surround ourselves with other queer people. That's what happens during the entirety of this game. You are dropped in on the life of a young queer girl and her other queer friends. You see how they interact, and how they find love - and while it does have moments that can be on the serious side - it never gets sad or weepy. We never see these characters go on long monologues about how they can't accept themselves and how they'll never be happy.
This is accomplished through Lei's decision to give the player no control over the story. You occasionally get a few dialogue options, but in the end, you see what Lei wants you to see. You are on a guided tour of the story - not a participant in it. So, you aren't mired in finding extra stuff here or there (although, there are some extra observations you can make when prompted). So, while I did find myself getting bored, Lei managed to reel me back in with some pretty choice story-telling techniques that even AAA titles can learn from.
Throughout the game, you are treated to flashbacks, which show the four main characters' friendship through the years, instead of just one specific point of time. Each one makes the characters more dynamic and provides and insight that informs previous scenes. It's not disjointed and it's all connected.
Akarsha, one of the four main cast!Brianna Lei
And aside from the main cast, we are treated to actual diverse characters of different races and sexualities. You have people of color, you have a trans character, bisexual characters - and even if they aren't big, they're still real. Even in a lot of queer-themed visual novels, you usually only get a lesbian or a gay man's story - and while this story does focus mainly on a relationship between two women - we still get a solid cast of fleshed out characters that are not exclusively gay and cisgender.
As I play through - I'm just smiling and relating. I don't feel sad and I don't feel that same sense of, "Man it's so hard being gay," that so much media gives me. That kind of media is important, we should always remember/be reminded of the struggle that people - especially young people - in the community deal with. But it's also important to show that it doesn't always have to be that way. It is possible to be young and happy - even if you're struggling, you can find people who loves and accepts you.
Butterfly Soup is a special game - it uses fun characters and brilliant storytelling to give you an honest and non-sad portrayal of a diverse group of young, queer women in a time where it's very difficult to be a young, queer woman. While it doesn't offer a huge variety in terms of gameplay, it weaves something that leaves you smiling and cheering and laughing.
Please, please, please go play it. You can get it for free right here - and make sure you leave Brianna Lei a damn good review when you're done.
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