Film Reviews

"The Old Guard" Is the Most Refreshing Comic Book Movie in a Long Time

The latest Netflix original film makes for the perfect cure to superhero movie fatigue.

Charlize Theron stars in Netflix's superhero movie as an immortal warrior.

Netflix

It's easy to suffer from superhero movie fatigue.

Even as someone who's seen every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at least twice and sat through an entire Nolan Batman trilogy marathon in a theater with a broken AC, it's exhausting to keep up with every sequel, origin story, and blockbuster reboot that get pumped out every year at least. It's gotten to the point where even the slightest deviation from the traditional comic book movie formula immediately earns a movie points for resuscitating what has otherwise become a tired, cookie-cutter genre.

To that end, The Old Guard (directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood) is a shining example of a wildly entertaining origin story that brings something new to the table without sacrificing any of its comic book charm.

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Culture Feature

Let Trans Characters Be Trans: The "Trap" Trope Is Still a Slur

Breaking down the difference between a problematic anime trope and a slur.

Lily Hoshikawa, a trans anime icon

MAPPA

One of my very first articles as an entertainment critic ended up being my most controversial thus far.

In it, I gave praise to a character in an anime called Zombie Land Saga, a show about a group of zombies who form a pop idol group. The character in question was Lily Hoshikawa, who is eventually revealed to be a trans girl in a very positive and affirming episode detailing her childhood and transition.

CW: Transphobic Slurs

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TV Features

Thank You for Everything, "Steven Universe"

What to say about a cartoon that's given us so much...

Here we are in the future, and it's been one wild ride.

Cartoon Network

With its many landmark episodes featuring diversity, mental health, and representation, Steven Universe has proven to be one of the most thoughtful and inclusive shows on TV.

The show has officially reached its conclusion in the final episodes of Steven Universe Future, wherein the eponymous Steven is undergoing some severe growing pains. With the series having come to a close, there's no better time for fans to express how grateful we are for all that it's done. Personally, even though it's a children's cartoon, Steven Universe has meant so much to me in my adult years. Series creator Rebecca Sugar and their team consistently used the show as a vehicle for inclusion, and its timely messages have made me feel seen and heard like no other show before it. Watching Steven Universe has truly been a life-changing experience for its viewers, and all we can do is thank the show for everything it gave us.

Now, where to start?

Steven and Connie's fusion is a firm representation for the transgender experience.Cartoon Network


Thank you for giving us Stevonnie

In a show that consistently blurs the line between gendered constructs, Stevonnie is the perfect representation of Steven Universe's ideals. As a physical fusion of Steven and his female friend Connie, they are a being that transcends the concept of gender to begin with. They're a confident presence and a wonderful role model for trans people. They're also heroic, valiant, and capable of exploring their identity in healthy and productive ways.

In Stevonnie's debut episode, "Alone Together," Stevonnie tests the waters of their new form by interacting with Steven's friends and family and going out for a night on the town. They explore their new identity, ask themselves questions, and become more informed of who they are through conversations with others. Stevonnie is a prominent example of intersex representation, and their ongoing development allows them to further understand what being Stevonnie—and beyond the gender binary—means.

(Personally, I'll always appreciate Steven Universe for giving me outlets like Stevonnie to help me understand my gender identity. One year, for New York Comic Con, I even cosplayed as Stevonnie. It felt so right to embody someone whose gender exploration very nearly lined up with my own, and it's a cosplay I'll always be proud to have worn.)

Ruby and Sapphire stand at the altar Few children's shows have been as bold as to show a marriage like this.Cartoon Network


Thank you for the lovely lesbian wedding

Too many other shows conflate LGBTQ+ storylines with "mature content." For the longest time, audiences, especially younger LGBTQ+ ones in the process of finding their identities, couldn't get that kind of representation in any show without at least a TV-14 rating. But there's no reason that two people getting married, regardless of gender, needs to be portrayed as "mature," and Steven Universe's marriage between two women completely shatters any argument to the contrary.

When Garnet, the Crystal Gems' leader, was revealed to be a fusion, we learned that her strength and wisdom come from the love between the two Gems who comprise her. To that end, Ruby and Sapphire's wedding is nothing short of iconic. The entire episode was reserved to let these two hopelessly-in-love gems to join each other in matrimony. As every character prepared for the wedding, the show celebrated an unabashed on-screen marriage in a show that's accessible to everyone. Once upon a time, it was unthinkable for a children's show to display a scene like this. Steven Universe shining an enormous spotlight on their pride sets a new bar for other shows to do the same in the future.

Lars mans the register at his own bakery Lars is one of few prominent Filipino characters in media today.Cartoon Network


Thank you for all the diverse racial representation

Between the show's characters and its real-life voice cast, Steven Universe has never shied away from diverse racial representation. People of color proudly fill a cast as colorful as, well, gemstones, as they work to illustrate a world as diverse as ours.

I, for one, am especially proud of all the Filipinix personalities. From Filipina voice actors like Deedee Magno Hall and Shelby Rabara as major characters Pearl and Peridot respectively to the quick reference to Lars' heritage when he made an ube roll, seeing my own culture receive such enormous visibility made me validated and happy.

Garnet and Stevonnie meditate The show has often presented itself as an outlet for emotional and mental health.Cartoon Network


Thank you for the guidelines on managing emotional health

The characters in Steven Universe experience a lot of hardships. Whether it be PTSD, struggles with growing up, or any form of dysphoria, the Crystal Gems are almost always dealing with some heavy emotional baggage. Steven Universe Future displays this prominently, as Steven himself struggles with the many ongoing changes in his life and has to work through both the physical and mental trauma that he's collected over the years. His growing powers are synced up to his turbulent emotional states, resulting in outbursts that cause more damage than he expects.

But rather than offering a simple solution to everyone's complex problems, Steven Universe prioritizes ways of working through them in our daily lives. Songs like "Here Comes a Thought" and arcs where even the show's most stoic characters become emotionally vulnerable are perfect examples of how this cartoon portrays healthy coping mechanisms. It never tries to be a one-stop shop for emotional recovery, nor does it try to limit anyone's trauma to a solitary explanation. Steven Universe simply states that your struggles are valid and that you can work through them.

Steven accepts a celebratory bouquet Celebrating every single one of the show's accomplishment's is no easy task.Cartoon Network

Simply speaking, it's impossible to overstate the kind of pillar Steven Universe has become for important social concepts and marginalized communities. So as we reach the show's long-deserved conclusion, expressing heartfelt gratitude will need to suffice.

Thank you for all the memorable characters and heartfelt moments. Thanks to Rebecca Sugar and their fellow creators for introducing us to this world. Thank you for everything you've done, Steven Universe. Thank you for being bold and groundbreaking, from beginning to end.

TV

What Anime You Should Binge on Netflix Right Now

Check out all the semi-original anime that Netflix has to offer.

'Beastars' is the latest entry to Netflix's anime library.

Orange

Among all of the binge-worthy shows that Netflix has to offer, don't forget their immense library of anime for you to get your fill on stylized action, intense drama, and gripping stories.

But we're not just talking about rewatches of Fullmetal Alchemist or Naruto. Netflix also features plenty of amazing anime that you can only stream on their platform. From down to earth stories about the music industry that take place on Mars to a teen wolf's harrowing coming-of-age story, there's a unique anime for everyone to add to their watch lists, no matter their taste.

Here are our picks for some great anime that you can stream exclusively on Netflix:

Carole and Tuesday (2019, 24 episodes)

Studio Bones

The duo make their first Instagram post to commemorate their indie music debut.

Director Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy) brings his artistic appreciation for western music to life in this musical sci-fi drama. When a struggling young orphan in between part-time jobs crosses paths with a rich girl fleeing from her pampered yet stifling lifestyle, the two bond over their desire to make music. Fueled by a shared passion for song, this ragtag duo tries to make it big in the Martian music industry.

While the show maintains the style and charm that Watanabe is known for, the real star of Carole and Tuesday is its diverse soundtrack. Nearly every episode introduces new songs from a wide variety of real life artists (see Nai Br.XX and Celeina Ann, the musical talent behind the titular characters), each offering a refreshing and nuanced understanding of the genre they represent. Catchy pop songs, gentle acoustic numbers, and smooth R&B tracks share the spotlight throughout the entirety of this heartwarming and inspiring anime.
TV Features

"The Outsider's" Holly Gibney Is the Best TV Investigator

Unlike your stereotypical TV detective, Holly doesn't need to learn how to feel for others.

HBO

After years of watching TV crime dramas come and go, the detective protagonists tend to blend together.

You take a unique individual (usually male), give him an irksome quirk or glaring character flaw that rubs his colleagues the wrong way, translate that quirk and/or flaw into a case-solving superpower, and bam, you're green-lit for at least a season or two. Just to be safe, maybe even give him introverted tendencies or a lack of overt sympathy that can only be cracked by a love interest. Taking all of the cliches into account, it's difficult for any of these protagonists to really make a statement.

the Outsider HBO HBO

Fortunately, Holly Gibney from The Outsider is not a collection of cliches, and she makes a hell of a statement.

The knowledgeable savant investigator from HBO's horror crime drama (portrayed by Cynthia Erivo) has proven to be a major highlight throughout the 10-episode miniseries (which could move into a second season if the finale is any indication). Among a sea of quirky, cookie-cutter TV detectives and investigators, Holly Gibney stands out as realistically talented, vulnerable, and emotionally available.

If you're not caught up on the show, The Outsider portrays the small town of Cherokee City, Georgia, plagued by the grisly murder of a young boy. Local little league coach Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman) is arrested for the crime by Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) after thorough forensics implicate him as the obvious prime suspect. But when conflicting evidence places Terry as far from the crime scene as possible, a deeper enigma is revealed, one that involves something more horrifying than Anderson and his team has ever dealt with before.

When the case becomes too complex and outlandish for the local police force to crack, they hire Holly Gibney to jump on the case. Though she carries with her a troubled past of being endlessly questioned for her autism and considerable mental capacity, she uses her capabilities as an investigator to get substantial results. By and large, Holly is the one responsible for broadening the scope of the case, magnifying even the tiniest details and shedding more light on crucial evidence that went overlooked by her fellow detectives.

What Holly brings to the table as a TV investigator is a willingness to keep her mind open to stranger possibilities and an unabashed level of empathy for the victims in her cases. As she traces the details of the murder across the country, she is the first to officially discover that something more supernatural may be at play. Rather than confront this information through unquestioning acceptance or balking skepticism, however, she lets the case lead her to its natural conclusion, regardless of how "unnatural" it turns out to be.

Holly also recognizes that her suspicions about urban legends and boogeymen will open herself up to rejection and ridicule. But since that's what the facts point to, she assumes the responsibility of presenting her evidence as honestly as she can. Holly's level of open-mindedness, coupled with her realistic approach, adds a refreshing perspective to the mystery genre. Her case-solving MO is not an obsessive desire to explain the inexplicable, but to simply find a tangible trail and follow it to its darkest corners.

Holly Gibney HBO

Yet despite Holly's intellectual efficiency, she still allows herself to be emotionally invested in her work. The further she dives into the case, the more she meets people whose lives were ruined by this paranormal entity. As seen in Terry's situation, the entity left behind a number of victims who were convicted of terrible murders that they didn't commit. With these people in mind, Holly becomes driven not only to locate a murderer but to find justice for those affected by it.

Unlike your stereotypical TV detective, Holly doesn't need to learn how to feel for others, nor does she view her emotional vulnerability as a hindrance. If anything, her ability to openly show compassion and remorse for victims is what further compels her to see her investigation through. Even toward the very end of the season, Holly presses forward with the desire to rid the world of something truly evil, almost forgetting about the context of a case entirely in lieu of making sure the killer never harms anyone again.

Like many viewers, I've never been particularly entertained by the "high-functioning sociopath" detective that most crime shows tend to romanticize. It's no longer particularly entertaining to watch a successful but introverted investigator learn, then unlearn, and learn again that being emotionally available isn't a bad thing. That's what makes Holly Gibney so special.

She wouldn't be as good of a savant investigator if she weren't so sentimental and thoughtful. Holly is determined and thoroughly analytical without sacrificing her heart. Even in a gritty HBO crime drama, she does her best to be as good a person as she is a detective.

So props to you, Holly Gibney, for being the best investigator on TV right now. Hope to see more of you in a second season.